Singlehandedly repulsing a Japanese attack in 1945, Pvt. John McKinney won the Medal of Honor for one of America's most heroic wartime feats, and here Johnson (Hour of Redemption) presents the event as a docudrama. Private McKinney was the nearly illiterate son of a Georgia sharecropper who served quietly throughout the New Guinea and Philippine campaigns. With victory assured in the Philippines, his unit was sent to defend a remote spit of land far from the fighting, where no one expected the attack when it came. Recovering from his surprise, McKinney recaptured a machine gun from the Japanese, firing until it jammed, then fought on alone with his rifle (he was a crack shot) and bayonet. Afterward, witnesses counted over 100 enemy dead-so many that superiors wanted a lower number before submitting their report. McKinney died in 1997, leaving no personal papers, so the author relies on interviews and official documents, and also on his imagination. The lurid invented dialogue accompanied by his hero's thoughts ("His mouth went dry, his muscles tightened, his heart beat slow and steady...") will leave history buffs gnashing their teeth. (Aug. 7)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Worshipful biography of a Georgia sharecropper's son who won the Medal of Honor for a spectacular feat in May 1945. Johnson (Hour of Redemption, 2002) decided to retell the story of John McKinney (1921-97) to remind readers that America "still produces brave, unselfish warriors who are willing to sacrifice for what our country believes." Posthumous interviews with friends and fellow soldiers revealed only that McKinney was a quiet, pleasant fellow, so Johnson fills most of the book with a fictionalized account of his youth, his unit's exploits and a description of the war in the Pacific. Four months after American forces invaded the main Philippine island, McKinney's unit was guarding an isolated outpost when the Japanese attacked, quickly capturing the single machine gun that commanded the area and could determine the battle's outcome. A crack shot, McKinney killed the two Japanese soldiers at the machine gun and took his position there. When it jammed, he used his rifle and several others, often fighting hand-to-hand against overwhelming odds. When fighting stopped after 40 minutes, observers counted more than 100 Japanese dead, most killed by McKinney. Three wounded men witnessed his heroics, so plenty of documentation exists, though the uneducated Georgia farm boy left no personal papers. Sadly, the author converts what may be the greatest individual American feat of any war into a lurid, comic-book adventure replete with invented, highly macho dialogue: " ‘You boys are running into a Georgia cyclone!' he muttered. Then his finger reached for the machine gun trigger . . . "Another in the long line of books describing the exploits of modest, freedom-loving soldiers in purple prose thatwould surely embarrass their subjects. Strictly for fans of the genre.