Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

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FLYBOYS is the true story of young American airmen who were shot down over Chichi Jima. Eight of these young men were captured by Japanese troops and taken prisoner. Another was rescued by an American submarine and went on to become president. The reality of what happened to the eight prisoners has remained a secret for almost 60 years. After the war, the American and Japanese governments conspired to cover up the shocking truth. Not even the families of the airmen were informed what had happened to their sons. ...
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FLYBOYS is the true story of young American airmen who were shot down over Chichi Jima. Eight of these young men were captured by Japanese troops and taken prisoner. Another was rescued by an American submarine and went on to become president. The reality of what happened to the eight prisoners has remained a secret for almost 60 years. After the war, the American and Japanese governments conspired to cover up the shocking truth. Not even the families of the airmen were informed what had happened to their sons. It has remained a mystery - until now. Critics called James Bradley's last book "the best book on battle ever written." Flyboys is even better: more ambitious, more powerful, and more moving. On the island of Chichi Jima those young men would face the ultimate test. Their story - a tale of courage and daring, of war and of death, of men and of hope - will make you proud, and it will break your heart.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In 1945, eight young American pilots were shot down over Chichi Jima. Seven of these officers were captured by Japanese troops and taken prisoner. The eighth, George H. W. Bush, was rescued by an American submarine -- decades later, he became president of the United States. In Flyboys, James Bradley reveals the never-before-told story of the seven brave airmen who subsequently disappeared from history. This is not only an arresting story of humans under astonishing adversity; it is the riveting account of a U.S. government cover-up that persisted for two generations.
Publishers Weekly
The author of Flags of Our Fathers achieves considerable but not equal success in this new Pacific War-themed history. Again he approaches the conflict focused on a small group of men: nine American Navy and Marine aviators who were shot down off the Japanese-held island of Chichi Jima in February 1945. All of them were eventually executed by the Japanese; several of the guilty parties were tried and condemned as war criminals. When the book keeps its eye on the aviators-growing up under a variety of conditions before the war, entering service, serving as the U. S. Navy's spearhead aboard the fast carriers, or facing captivity and death-it is as compelling as its predecessor. However, a chapter on prewar aviation is an uncritical panegyric to WWI aerial bombing advocate Billy Mitchell, who was eventually court-martialed for criticizing armed forces brass. More problematic is that Bradley tries to encompass not only the whole history of the Pacific War, but the whole history of the cultures of the two opposing countries that led to the racial attitudes which both sides brought to the war. Those attitudes, Bradley argues, played a large role in the brutal training of the Japanese army, which led to atrocities that in turn sharpened already keen American hostility. Some readers' hackles will rise at the discussion of the guilt of both sides, but, despite some missteps, Bradley attempts to strike an informed balance with the perspective of more than half a century. And with a CNN prime-time documentary to air at publication and a 25-city author tour, he should have no trouble reaching all comers. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The wartime exploits of George Herbert Walker Bush are well known. The youngest pilot in the Navy at the time, flying the burly Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, Bush had an exciting but unremarkable war up until the day when his squadron bombed an enemy stronghold and the young man's luck ran out. His plane riddled with flak and burning fiercely with two dead crewmen in the back, Bush had to bail out into enemy waters. At that, he was lucky. This book is the tale of nine Navy airmen whose planes were shot down over Chichi Jima that day. Eight of them were soon captured, and suffered unimaginably before they were barbarously executed. An American submarine fished the ninth from the sea, and he lived to become the 41st president of the United States. Bradley revisits this tale of what happened in one day in 1945. Without cringing, he confronts the reader with war as it sometimes can be. While the Japanese brutality toward their prisoners is boldly presented, the book is not a polemic against the island's defenders. Instead, Bradley presents the tragedies as he sees them; both sides fight fiercely, average people do their jobs with unselfconscious bravery, and young people die. Bradley knows something about battlefield bravery. His father was one of the six Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, and he wrote about it in the best-selling Flags of our Fathers (Bantam, 2001). Meanwhile, even as the historic episode was being photographed for posterity, the distressing events were taking place on nearby Chichi Jima. Unfortunately, however, Flyboys also has some inherent shortcomings. Retelling historical events through the eyes of its characters inevitably meansinventing dialog and putting thoughts into the heads of people long dead. This technique, now called "literary nonfiction," is becoming ever more popular among writers today. The author's motives are probably pure, but inevitably he must portray their most intimate behavior as he himself sees it. This book is also peppered with small technical errors—even the term Flyboy is mildly disparaging—that greater familiarity with the subject would have prevented. That said, the book remains a vivid and exciting lesson of one episode in WW II. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Little Brown, Back Bay, 404p. illus. notes. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.
—Raymond Puffer, Ph.D.
Library Journal
How can you follow up a blockbuster like Flags of Our Fathers? With a book that reveals what happened to seven U.S. airmen shot down over Chichi Jima and captured by Japanese troops, never to be seen again. An eighth airman who managed to escape happened to be named George H.W. Bush. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An episodic account of a little-covered arena in the much-covered genre of WWII: close air combat in the war against Japan. Bestselling Bradley (Flags of Our Fathers, 2001) renders due homage to the exploits of long-distance bomber crews in the Pacific campaign, and particularly the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942, the net effect of which, along with 90-odd burned buildings, was that "Japanese belief in their invincibility had been rudely shaken." At the same time, half a year after Pearl Harbor, Americans got a good morale boost out of the bombing, and young men rushed to become flyers—who were already, thanks to Charles Lindbergh and company, perceived as "the coolest of the cool." Bradley’s account centers on the new crop of pilots, many of them teenagers when the war broke out, who piloted fighters and dive bombers against the Japanese in the last two years of the war. Most famous of the nine men he treats in detail is George H.W. Bush, who was shot down over the island of Chichi Jima in 1944, but not before delivering his payload of bombs. Bush survived, was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism under fire, and went on, of course, to the White House. Bush’s eight fellow pilots were not so lucky: they were captured, and treated so brutally that the US Navy effectively whitewashed their story, offering only a censored version of events to their families while executing many of the Japanese captors for their war crimes. Bradley writes vigorously, if graphically, about torture, beheading, disemboweling, and other unpleasant realities of POW life on Chichi Jima, though he takes great care to air those events from the Japanese point of view, one that equated surrenderwith dishonor and that did not honor the Geneva Convention. Yet, American pilots acknowledged, they, too, behaved similarly in the name of duty. Said one survivor, wisely, "I believe any culture can be indoctrinated into any attitude that the leaders want to teach them." A memorable portrait of men in battle. Author tour. Agent: Owen Laster/William Morris
From the Publisher
"Bradley combines his tenacious detective skills with his gifts as a master storyteller to produce a tragic epic of two empires." --Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking

"Flyboys is not just a 'true story of courage' but a frightening reminder of the savagery human beings are capable of and the terrible moral choices nations at war must make." --James D. Fairbanks, Houston Chronicle

"A gripping story.... Bradley tackles thorny issues head-on." --Mark Lewis, Los Angeles Times

"Bradley has written a clear-eyed, heartfelt approach to a little-known corner of the 20th century's largest and most violent upheaval, while at the same time shining a light on some of that generation's finest." --Tom Walker, Denver Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316159432
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 57,332
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

James Bradley is the author of Flags of Our Fathers and the son of one of the men who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima. He lives in Westchester County, New York.
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Read an Excerpt


By James Bradley

Time Warner

Copyright © 2003 James Bradley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0316105848

Chapter One

All these years I had this nagging feeling these guys wanted their story told.

The e-mail was from Iris Chang, author of the groundbreaking bestseller The Rape of Nanking. Iris and I had developed a professional relationship after the publication of my first book, Flags of Our Fathers. In her e-mail, Iris suggested I contact a man named Bill Doran in Iowa. She said Bill had some "interesting" information.

This was in early February 2001. I was hearing many "interesting" war stories at that point. Flags of Our Fathers had been published recently. The book was about the six Iwo Jima flagraisers. One of them was my father.

Indeed, scarcely a day passed without someone suggesting a topic for my next book. So I was curious as I touched his Iowa number on my New York telephone keypad.

Bill quickly focused our call on a tall stack of papers on his kitchen table. Within twenty minutes I knew I had to look Bill in the eye and see that stack. I asked if I could catch the first plane out the next day.

"Sure. I'll pick you up at the airport," Bill offered. "Stay at my place. It's just me and Stripe, my hunting dog, here. I have three empty bedrooms. You can sleep in one."

Riding from the Des Moines airport in Bill's truck, I learned that Stripe was the best hunting dog in the world and that his seventy-six year-old owner was a retired lawyer. Bill and Stripe spent their days hunting and fishing. Soon Bill and I were seated at his Formica-topped kitchen table. Between us was a pile of paper, a bowl of popcorn, and two gin and tonics.

The papers were the transcript of a secret war crimes trial held on Guam in 1946. Fifty-five years earlier, Bill, a recent U.S. Naval Academy graduate, had been ordered to attend the trial as an observer. Bill was instructed to report to the "courtroom," a huge Quonset hut. At the entrance, a Marine guard eyed the twenty-one-year-old. After finding Bill's name on the approved list, he shoved a piece of paper across a table.

"Sign this," the Marine ordered matter-of-factly. Everybody was required to.

Bill read the single-spaced navy document. The legal and binding language informed young Bill that he was never to reveal what he would hear in that steaming Quonset hut / courtroom.

Bill signed the secrecy oath and he signed another copy late that afternoon when he left the trial. He would repeat this process every morning and every afternoon for the trial's duration. And when it was over, Bill returned home to Iowa. He kept silent but could not forget what he had heard.

Then, in 1997, Bill noticed a tiny newspaper item announcing that vast stashes of government documents from 1946 had been declassified. "When I realized the trial was declassified," Bill said, "I thought, Maybe I can do something for these guys now."

As a lawyer, Bill had spent his professional life ferreting out documents. He made some inquiries and dedicated eleven months to following where they led. Then one day, a boxed transcript arrived in the mail from Washington. Bill told Stripe they weren't going hunting that day.

The transcript contained the full proceedings of a trial establishing the fates of eight American airmen-Flyboys-downed in waters in the vicinity of Iwo Jima during World War II. Each was shot down during bombing runs against Chichi Jima, the next island north of Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was coveted for its airstrips, Chichi Jima for its communications stations. Powerful short- and long-wave receivers and transmitters atop Chichi's Mount Yoake and Mount Asahi were the critical communications link between Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo and Japanese troops in the Pacific. The radio stations had to be destroyed, the U.S. military decided, and the Flyboys had been charged with doing so.

A stack of papers my brother found in my dad's office closet after his death in 1994 had launched me on a quest to find my father's past. Now, on Bill's table, I was looking at the stack of papers that would become the first step in another journey.

On the same day my father and his buddies raised that flag on Iwo Jima, Flyboys were held prisoner just 150 miles away on Chichi Jima. But while everyone knows the famous Iwo Jima photo, no one knew the story of these eight Chichi Jima Flyboys.

Nobody knew for a reason: For over two generations, the truth about their demise was kept secret. The U.S. government decided the facts were so horrible that the families were never told. Over the decades, relatives of the airmen wrote letters and even traveled to Washington, D.C., in search of the truth. Well-meaning bureaucrats turned them away with vague cover stories.

"All those years I had this nagging feeling these guys wanted their story told," Bill said.

Eight mothers had gone to their graves not knowing the fates of their lost sons. Sitting at Bill's table, I suddenly realized that now I knew what the Flyboys' mothers had never learned.

History buffs know that 22,000 Japanese soldiers defended Iwo Jima. Few realize that neighboring Chichi Jima was defended by even more-Japanese troops numbering 25,000. Whereas Iwo had flat areas suitable for assault from the sea, Chichi had a hilly inland and a craggy coast. One Marine who later examined the defenses of both islands told me, "Iwo was hell. Chichi would have been impossible." Land troops-Marines-would neutralize Iwo's threat. But it was up to the Flyboys to take out Chichi.

The U.S. tried to blow up Chichi Jima's communications stations for quite some time. Beginning in June of 1944, eight months before the Iwo Jima invasion, American aircraft carriers surrounded Chichi Jima. These floating airports catapulted steel-encased Flyboys off their decks into the air. The mission of these young airmen was to fly into the teeth of Chichi Jima's lethal antiaircraft guns, somehow dodge the hot metal aimed at them, and release their loads of bombs onto the reinforced concrete communications cubes atop the island's twin peaks.

The WWII Flyboys were the first to engage in combat aviation in large numbers. In bomber jackets, posing with thumbs up, they epitomized masculine glamour. They were cool, and they knew it, and any earthbound fool had to know it too. Their planes were named after girlfriends and pinups, whose curvy forms or pretty faces sometimes adorned their sides. And inside the cockpit, the Flyboys were lone knights in an age of mass warfare.

In the North Pacific in 1945, the Flyboys flew the original "missions impossible." Climbing into 1940s-era tin cans with bombs strapped below their feet, they hurtled off carrier decks into howling winds or took off from island airfields. Sandwiched between blue expanses of sky and sea, Flyboys would wing toward distant targets, dive into flak shot from huge guns, and drop their lethal payloads. With their hearts in their throats, adrenaline pumping through their veins, the Flyboys then had to dead-reckon their way back to a tiny speck of landing deck or to a distant airfield their often-damaged planes never made it to.

The Flyboys were part of an air war that dwarfed the land war below. In 1945, the endgame in the northern Pacific was the incineration of Japan. This required two layers of bombers in the sky-huge B-29s lumbering high above with their cargo of napalm to burn cities, and smaller, lower-flying carrier-based planes to neutralize threats to the B-29s. My father on Iwo Jima shared the same mission with the Chichi Jima Flyboys: to make the skies safe for the B-29s.

Japanese military experts would later agree that the napalm dropped by these B-29s had more to do with Japan's surrender than the atomic bombs. Certainly, napalm killed more Japanese civilians than died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

Most of the Chichi Jima Flyboys fought and died during the worst killing month in the history of all warfare-a thirty-day period in February and March of 1945 when the dying in WWII reached its climax. If you look at a graph charting casualties over the four years of the Pacific war, you will see the line jump dramatically beginning with the battle of Iwo Jima and the Flyboys' assaults against mainland Japan. And few realize the U.S. killed more Japanese civilians than Japanese soldiers and sailors. This was war at its most disturbing intensity.

It was a time of obscene casualties, a time when grandparents burned to death in cities aflame, and kamikaze sons swooped out of the sky to immolate themselves against American ships. It was the time of the worst battle in the history of the United States Marine Corps, the most decorated month in U.S. history, a valorous and brutish time of all-out slaughter.

By February of 1945, logical, technocratic American military experts had concluded that Japan was beaten. Yet the empire would not surrender. Americans judged the Japanese to be "fanatic" in their willingness to fight with no hope of victory. But Japan was not fighting a logical war. Japan, an island nation, existed in its own moral universe, enclosed in a separate ethical biosphere. Japanese leaders believed that "Japanese spirit" was the key to beating back the barbarians at their door. They fought because they believed they could not lose.

And while America cheered its flyers as its best and brightest, the Japanese had a very different view of those who wreaked havoc from the skies. To them, airmen who dropped napalm on defenseless civilians living in paper houses were the nonhuman devils.

This is a story of war, so it is a story of death. But it is not a story of defeat. I have tracked down the eight Flyboys' brothers and sisters, girlfriends, and aviator buddies who drilled and drank with them. Their relatives and friends gave me photos, letters, and medals. I have scoured yearbooks, logbooks, and little black books to find out who they were and what they mean to us today. I read and reread six thousand pages of trial documents and conducted hundreds of interviews in the U.S. and Japan.

The families and friends of the Flyboys could only tell me so much. Their hometown buddies and relatives had stories of their youth and enlistment. Their military comrades had remembrances from training camp up until they disappeared. But none of them-not even the next of kin or the bunkmates who served in the Pacific with them-knew exactly what happened to these eight on Chichi Jima. It was all a dark hole, an unfathomable secret.

In Japan, some knew, but they had kept their silence. I met Japanese soldiers who knew the Flyboys as prisoners. I heard stories about how they were treated, about their interrogations, about how some of the Flyboys had lived among their captors for weeks. I met soldiers who swapped jokes with them, who slept in the same rooms.

And I ventured to Chichi Jima. Chichi Jima is part of an island chain due south of Tokyo the Japanese call the Ogasawara Islands. On English maps the chain is called the Bonin Islands. The name Bonin is a French cartographer's corruption of the old Japanese word munin, which means "no man." These islands were uninhabited for most of Japan's existence. They literally contained "no peoples" or "no mans." So Bonin translates loosely into English as No Mans Land.

I hacked through forest growth in No Mans Land to uncover the last days of the Flyboys. I stood on cliffs with Japanese veterans who pointed to where they saw the Flyboys parachute into the Pacific. I strode where Flyboys had walked. I heard from eyewitnesses who told me much. Others revealed a great deal by refusing to tell me anything.

Eventually, I understood the facts about what happened to Dick, Marve, Glenn, Grady, Jimmy, Floyd, Warren Earl, and the Unknown Airman. I comprehended the "what" of their fates.

But to determine the "why" of their story, I had to embark upon another journey. A trip back in time, back 149 years, to another century. Back to when the first American military men walked in No Mans Land.


Excerpted from Flyboys by James Bradley Copyright © 2003 by James Bradley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 Declassified 3
2 Civilize-ation 9
3 Spirit War 29
4 The Third Dimension 41
5 The Rape of China 52
6 The ABCD Encirclement 63
7 Flyboys 79
8 Doing the Impossible 98
9 Airpower 118
10 Yellow Devils, White Devils 133
11 To the Pacific 151
12 Carrier War 168
13 No Mans Land 181
14 No Surrender 202
15 Kichiku 218
16 Fire War 248
17 Enduring the Unendurable 278
18 Casualties of War 306
Acknowledgments 337
Notes 339
Bibliography 371
Index 379
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 364 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 365 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2005

    Flyboys- Good, Bad and the Ugly!

    'Flyboys', a term that actually doesn't seem to really have any sort of meaning to many men who actually served as pilots during World War Two, vividly illustrates the pain and suffering that both civilian and military combatants endured in regards to the Pacific Theatre. That being said, the fact that it illustrates this suffering is no major achievement. The acts themselves, that being the firebombing and obliteration of Japanese cities, and the severe cruelty and animalistic barbarity of certain Japanese combatants, are inherently illustrative. A teen-ager could have written about these subjects in a research paper, and his or her paper would have had the same visceral impact. In fact, many times one wonders if this book was actually written by a teen ager. I realize the point of the book is to illustrate the barbarity of war, and in that 'Flyboys' succeeds. However, the sheer seriousness of the subject does not excuse Mr.Bradley from the overall poor to mediocre writing in this book, nor does it absolve him from giving quoted sources due credit. In fact, one would think the serious nature of this book would add to the importance of skillful conveyance of ideas and supposed facts. Paying tribute to this subject certainly doesn't excuse Bradley from getting his research correct in something as simple as famous Japanese 'hold outs' of World War Two. In this example, he refers to 'Lieutenant Onoda', which is correct, but also to 'Sergeant Yoko'. There is in fact no Sergeant Yoko,as Bradley writes, but a Corporal YOKOI. To make matters worse, Yokoi was actually in Guam- not some 30 mile square piece of Earth off the coast of who knows where! It takes seconds on Google to find this information, yet this misinformation makes it to press as FACT? What sort of credibility does such a disregard to simple facts lend to the rest of the information contained in this book? One can only wonder, especially considering the great barbarity of Bradley's claims regarding the Japanese. Of course, there is more than just Bradley and this book regarding this topic, but how do we know as readers that other facts weren't overlooked by Bradley? These are not simply arguable ideas that Bradley puts forth to substantiate his thesis, but sentences written as statements of FACT. Throughout 'Flyboys', one encounters Gen.Curtis LeMay, who becomes Curtis, General Billy Mitchell, who becomes Billy, and of course numerous others of significance being referred to on a first name basis. This isn't to mention the idea of the B-25 being called 'Billy'. In referring to men of stature, it is ridiculous to refer to them by their first names. I am almost positive that 'JAMES' knew none of these men personally, and had no right to reference them as if he did. Yes, this is an argument about mechanics, however, 'Flyboys' is a published book that claims to accurately portray history. Throughout the book, this 'cutesy' informal style of writing becomes very irritating to students of history, to whom it is painfully obvious that little care was taken in the final editing stages. There are other ways in which this book is written that simply do not conform to actual scholarly studies of historical events. True, Bradley is not claiming to be the Pacific Theatre's version of Hans Mommsen or Ian Kershaw, but if you are going to write history, historians such as Mommsen and Kershaw are the ones to measure works by. This is 'dime store' history, which is great for selling books, but not so great for giving the men in this book, the airmen of the United States Navy, the respect they deserve. Two stars for this book from me. This is not because the book was 'fair to good', but because it is only fair to respect the men in this book, such as General LeMay, General Mitchell, Warren Earl Vaughn, and the other AIRMEN by honoring their ACTS as soldiers. Otherwise, read at your own risk, especially if you are used to more scholarly works of history.

    11 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    surpasses Flags

    This book truly surpasses Flags of our Father. The true characters of the book gave it the ability to be part of the story. Enjoyed every minute of it.

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2007

    Packed with Historical Events

    Based on the cover and what you can read on the back of the book, it would seem that Flyboys is centered solely on some of the experiences that American fighter pilots endured in the Pacific during World War II. But, to say that this is all the book covers would be quite a misstatement. Before and between the stories about heroic American pilots, author James Bradley provides historical events that help the reader to understand why the war fought the way it was. Although major portions of the book are dedicated to the brave actions of the flyboys, I would say that the major theme of the book is actually about understanding why the war was fought. Bradley not only includes information about the fanatical culture that engulfed Japan during the war, but also provides examples of events centuries ago that helped lead Japan and the World towards WWII. I found that these insights into Japanese life in the early 20th century were among the most interesting parts of the book to me. One part of the book I wasn¿t fond of was the way that Bradley seemed to sympathize with the actions of the Japanese by blaming them on American actions. Although I think Bradley does a good job of supporting the major theme of the book, understanding the war based on historical facts, I do not always agree with the conclusions he reaches. For instance, attributes Japan¿s actions in China far more than I do to the actions of the United States in places like Hawaii and Central America. It is clear that Bradley did extensive research to write this book, talking to many of the flyboys and their families and friends, and even interviewed George H.W. Bush about what their life was life before during and after the war. Overall I would say that this was a pretty good book that included a lot of interesting historical info that you don¿t hear a lot about from many other places. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn more about the Pacific Campaign in WWII and won¿t be overly offended by certain ideas that contradict many mainstream views of the war. I would not recommend this book to the squeamish however as some of the horrific actions depicted in the book can only be described as grisly.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2011

    A waste of time...

    Poorly written baised account time and events in American history where extreme measures and distasteful alliances were necessary to preserve democracy and establish peace. Bradley obviously set out to make a politcal statement instead of writing an entertaining story. His observations may be true but his context is unwelcome and out of place. No doubt it sold well in Japan...

    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    Not for the faint of heart - but a very touching story

    It was clear from early on in the book that I would have to be very stoic to get through the descriptions of the horrendous war crimes. This book is very fair to both sides and gives a unique perspective on how easily morality is blurred when engaged in war. This book was heartbreaking and stirred feelings inside of me that I have never felt from any other war account. At the end of the book I felt like I was mourning with the families of those Flyboys who were so brutally murdered. But my tears were also tears of gratitude for these brave boys who were forced to become men at such a young age. I wish I could have known them, and I thank God for them and pray that America will always be worthy of their sacrifice. Every American who is old enough and mature enough to handle the graphic descriptions in this book should read about these heroic men.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2008


    Great book. Told a great story and was filled with good facts about the war. Some of the facts are not known by most people, i think. Its a good book goes great with Flags of our Fathers. Its a great read for someone who wants to learn about the war or someone who just wants to read a good book. Not for young kids though, sometimes a little gory and gruesome. All in all a pretty nifty book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2004

    Unconvincing balancing act for Japanese atrocities

    The footnotes are not fitted to the text. The quoted text is tied together by questionable interlineations and interpretations. For example to quote George Washington (calling Native Americans 'wolves') as if this were equivalent to the racism of Tojo and Hitler is obnoxious in the extreme. Washington learned his military lessons from the allied French and Indians and knew them to be fierce opponents. The attempt to balance the Japanese perspective with the view that we were once just as bad may as well be an attempt to justify Hitler on the basis that he was no worse than barbarians of centuries past. 'Civilization' takes a pounding in this book that seems to ignore that there are civilizing forces at work in the world that in the long term improve our lives.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2011


    While the subject matter could have been very interesting and Bradley did approach the subject in new ways, his complete absence of respect for the United States military is appalling. Its one thing to try to see from another point of view, its something completely different to attempt to change recorded history.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2007

    This book was very disappointing.

    While the information in this book was good, it was unnecessarily gruesome and became just a medium to communicate Bradley's personal political agenda. Very disappointed.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2004

    WWII Vets Should be Outraged

    It's surprising that the man who wrote such a beautiful book as Flags of Our Fathers could turn on the memory of America's honorable military veterans and write a book that equates their actions with the brutality of the Japanese. Mr. Bradley makes no bones about his view that America's military conduct in wars dating to the 19th century is as brutal and illegal as the Axis nations'. Any WW2 vet should be outraged by this moral equivalency. 'Flyboys' insults their memory.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2003

    A Story that Should be Told---but it was soiled by the author

    During my 18th & 19th years I was what Bradley called, a 'Flyboy'. I read and enjoyed Flags of Our Fathers, as well as Flyboys which I just finished. But I must tell you I am surprised and shocked about how----and mystified by why---- he made such an effort to equate American military actions toward Japan with the brutal treatment, including enslavement,by the Japanese of Allied POWs. In my case, the war was ended----and the killing stopped----just as I was finishing Bombardier School and slated to go to the Pacific in the nose of a B-25. Except for the B-29 battering of Japan by Gen LeMay and the dropping of the A-Bomb----both of which he seems to suggest to be at least quasi-atrocities----I , along with many thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of other teenaged Americans would have become candidates for the same fate as the eight he wrote about. Mr Bradley is obviously a brilliant man and a gifted writer. Hence ----whether he will admit it or not----- he is surely aware of the absurdity of these comparisons. I have searched my mind for a wholesome reason for his actions and I am truly sad to have to say that the only reason that makes any sense (but dubious morality) is that he is pandering to the Japanese market in order to sell books. In doing so he insults the memory of every American who sacrificed so much---many with their very lives----in World War II to preserve his right to do so.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013


    A fantastic novel covering multiple stories that keeps your interest.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Flyboys: Barnes & Nobles Book Review

    Following completion of James Bradley's Flyboys, my overall impressions are complete satisfaction. Throughout the novel, Bradley offers an abundance of information not only concerning the tale of the eight American pilots who were shot down, but also a brief yet thorough explanation of World War II. As a teenager, prior to reading, my knowledge of WWII was very limited to only what I had seen in the movies, or quick facts learned from history text books. While allowing the reader to get attached to the heroic story of the eight airmen, Bradley does a fantastic job by providing enough background and basic knowledge to inform an unknowing individual of everything that occurred during the war. Despite the general discussion of the war, an even deeper and more detailed story begins with the eight naval airmen, entailing the story of each from start to finish.The adversity between cultures is clearly revealed when the horrific truths of this story unfold. Unimaginable circumstances are unveiled to the reader time after time. The unfortunate events compel the reader to continue with the reading despite the undesirable outcomes of seven of the airmen. The heroic story goes onto explain the rescue mission of George H.W. Bush who eventually became the 41st president of the United States. Bradley concludes the novel with the outcome of the war and the overall effects across the world. Despite the gruesome truths of this sad story, an history fan should be encouraged to read this fantastic novel with anticipations of unforgettable moments.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2005

    they were only boys

    Maybe the best book on WWII I've ever read...very informative...very inspiring...very humbling. My two sons are now 20 and 17. I cannot begin to imagine them going through the hell those boys, and many thousands of other like them, had to go through...for a cause much bigger than themselves...what sacrifice...what loss...what a tremendous loss to their families...they were just boys. The book left me numb and speechless, but it also instilled a deeper appreciation of my freedom earned by the supreme sacrifices of those who went before me. This book touched my every emotion. War should never be portrayed a a glorious event...makes me wonder why a major war zone is refered to a a 'theatre'. Thank you veterans for your hardships endured for those of us who will hopefully never have to experience were just boys...thank you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2005

    Too Flighty for Such a Heavy Subject

    While his overall goal is worthy, Bradley's style, inaccuracies, and lack of solid authority make this book more of a miss than a hit. He should have stuck to the basic story of the downed flyers on Chichi Jima, a story which he tells well. The preface, which attempts to explain Japanese-American relations for the past 200 years, is sophomoric and in need of deeper inquiry. The Washington Post review of the book sums it best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2005

    Story that should have been told in 1945.

    ¿Flyboys¿ is an excellently researched and very informative book. The title is somewhat misleading as I was expecting the book to be about the flyers like other books I have read in this genera such as, ¿War¿s End¿ by Charles Sweeny and ¿Flight of the Enola Gay¿ by Paul Tibbets. However I was not disappointed in the story that Mr. Bradley chose to tell. The book begins by illustrating the events that led to war with Japan and the strategical significance of Chichi Jima in that war. This information is interesting but it does make the beginning of the book a little slow. I urge the reader to keep reading, the rest of the book will make the effort worthwhile. Mr. Bradley then introduces the reader to a group of common young men, typical of those who fought and died in WWII. After a short background is established on each he tells their story, and how their story fits with the bigger story of the war. Mr. Bradley has taken a great deal of care to use direct quotes from eyewitnesses to the events wherever possible. His writing style tends to be more of a textbook style than that of a novel, but in doing so he has paid the respect to the events that they deserve, without adding much of his personal feelings about the events. I have known many WWII veterans and several of them were Flyboys, this book accurately portrays what many of them have expressed to me. Parts of this book are disturbing to read, but it will provide the reader with a better understanding of the events leading up to the beginning, and the end of WWII.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2005

    Enlightening and Balanced

    Bradley told it as it was!! The brutality of the Japanese captors as well as the ruthless tactics of the Americans. War is a filthy buisness and Bradley detailed it all. I learned a lot about Japan as it evolved towards WWII and what the citzenry endoured. I enjoyed this book cover to cover.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2004


    Amazing account of a group of flyboys in the Pacific Theatre during the madness that was the destruction of the war against Japan. Bradley also introduces the fact that the hatred that culminated in Pearl Habor and ultimatley the Atomic Bombs had its beiginnings when Commodore Matthew Perry landed in Japan in 1853, unknowingly bringing an isolationist Japan into the forfront as an industrialized nation. Also, the book refelcts the facts that both governments viewed each other as 'uncivilized barbarians' and pushed these feelings into the minds of the public through propaganda, fueling the hatred. The human element is also brought into the equation from both sides with horrifying accounts from the U.S. fire bombing of Tokyo, which killed 100,000 civilians in one night, to the atrocities Japan brought upon our captured flyboys and other military personnal. Definatley a great read and a lesson for generations to come that war is not as glorious for the winners as well as for the losers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2004

    The Real Story

    Mr Bradley lived in Japan for a few years and has let his experiences and admiration for the Japanese people color his acceptance of the Japanese Army in WW2. His attempt to justify their actions is hard to take. Please try reading 'The Rape of Nanking' by Iris Chang to get a real picture of the actions of the Japanese Army. Mr. Bradley's father never forgave them for what he saw on Iwo Jima.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2015

    A real story of WWII.

    I knew some facts of WWII but this book covered a lot of the war in the Pacific . Great read for WWII students.

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