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Flyboys. A True Story of Courage. By James Bradley. (Back Bay Books: 2004. Pg. 464.) ISBN: 0316159433.

Reviewed by Herbert White - October 27, 2003

The son of one of the men who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima, James Bradley is the author of the best-selling book, Flags of Our Father. In his newest book, Flyboys, Bradley chronicles the lives, and deaths, of nine American Flyboys who were shot down while on a mission to bomb a Japanese communications tower on the Pacific island of Chichi Jima. One man, George Herbert Walker Bush (the first President Bush) was rescued from the icy grip of the Pacific Ocean, the other eight were captured by the Japanese. Flyboys is their story, a story which was purposely hidden from the world. The fate of these eight men had been hidden in the sealed records of a top-secret military tribunal, records which were only recently unsealed.

Flyboys is a work of outstanding historical detective work. The fate of the eight men captured by the Japanese had been shrouded in mystery, until Bradley revealed their tragic fate. In telling the story of these courageous men, Bradley also tries to explain the mind set of the Japanese military, and how age old traditions contributed to their barbaric treatment of POW's, and civilians in areas captured by the Japanese. Bradley also tries to outline the historical and military background surrounding the American decision, during World War II, to blatantly attack civilian targets in Japan.

Flyboys is a riveting book. This story is important, not only for its retelling of a forgotten aspect of the War in the Pacific, but also for its acknowledgment of the sacrifices made by those on both side of the conflict. Throughout, Bradley tries to tell the story of the eight POWs' from both their perspective, as well as that of their captors. While he is not always successful in seamlessly weaving the two viewpoints, he does succeed in providing a unique narrative about the plight of American POW's at the hands of the Japanese. Be forewarned, this is a disturbing book, and many of the events that Bradley describes are extremely graphic and brutal. Flyboys highlights the courage of those compelled to fight for honor and country. Most important, Flyboys is a moving book that puts a human face on the tragic consequences and the human cost of warfare. In short, Flyboys is a compelling and memorable read.

Related Reviews:

Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission, By Hampton Sides.
Ghost Soldiers chronicles the daring rescue, from behind enemy lines, of 513 survivors of the Bataan Death March.

Given Up For Dead, by Flint Whitlock.
The history of the 'American GI's in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga'.

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