Devotion tells the inspirational story of the U.S. Navy’s most famous aviator duo: Lieutenant Tom Hudner, a white, blue-blooded New Englander, and Ensign Jesse Brown, an African American sharecropper’s son from Mississippi. The heir to a Massachusetts grocery store empire, Tom passed up Harvard to fly fighter planes for his country. Jesse, fascinated by aircraft since childhood, defied the odds—and the prejudices of his time—to become the Navy’s first black carrier pilot. Barely a year after President Truman ordered the desegregation of the military, the unlikely pair joined forces as wingmen in Fighter Squadron 32. While much of America remained in the grip of the odious Jim Crow segregation laws, Jesse and Tom flew above the fray as brothers in arms.
Adam Makos takes us over the sea and around the globe with these two bold young aviators as they cut their teeth at the world’s most dangerous job—landing Corsair fighters on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Deployed to the Mediterranean, the two men revel in the perks of their newfound status, partying on the Riviera with millionaires and Hollywood starlets—including a young Elizabeth Taylor. While Jesse delights in a world he thought he’d never see, Tom meets the girl of his dreams. Then comes the war no one expected in far-off Korea.
Devotion brings us along on white-knuckle dive-bombing runs over North Korean territory, as the pilots of Fighter Squadron 32 man the front lines of what many of them believe is the opening battle of World War III. As the fury of the fighting escalates, Tom and Jesse fly, guns blazing, into waves of Communist troops to defend a group of Marines cornered in a hellish winter landscape. When one of the duo is shot down behind enemy lines and pinned in the burning wreckage of his fighter, the other faces an unthinkable choice: watch his friend die, or attempt one of history’s most audacious one-man rescue missions.
A tug-at-the-heartstrings tale of heroism and sacrifice, Devotion asks, How far would you go to save a friend?
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)|
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Excerpted from "Devotion"
Copyright © 2015 Adam Makos.
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Reading Group Guide
1. Discuss the evolution of the friendship between Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown. What surprised you? How did individual growth in each man change the shape of their relationship with one another?
2. Who would you cast to play each character in a film adaptation of Devotion? Why?
3. How do you think Tom and Jesse’s story would have been different if it took place in the present?
4. The role of faith is especially important in the lives of Jesse and Charlie. Even John "Red" Parkinson credits Charlie with leading him to his faith in God in chapter 35. What effect do faith and hope have during times of war? How do attitude and mindset contribute to one's ability to persevere in times of hardship?
5. Though Tom and Jesse are the most central figures in the book, Devotion features a wide cast of colorful characters who take us back in time and bring their stories to life. Which secondary character did you identify most with, and why?
6. Discuss the dynamic relationship between the Navy and the Marines throughout the book. How does it change from beginning to end? What stays the same?
7. In chapter 39, “Pilot Herb Sergeant flew the recon mission that confirmed Jesse’s death. He says it was ‘the saddest flight’ he ever made.” What insight does this give us into their squadron? How does this defy the time in which this story takes place?
8. Discuss the scene in which the men meet Elizabeth Taylor. How would things have been different if they were meeting a celebrity in the present?
9. How did technological advances for the military affect the story? In your opinion, what was the most exciting development? Which piece of our modern technology do you think would have had the biggest benefit back then?
10. Discuss the aftermath of coming home for Tom, being praised as a hero while mourning the loss of a dear friend. In what ways did he continue to honor Jesse’s legacy?