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Read Flyboys: A True Story Of Courage (2004)

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage (2004)

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4.13 of 5 Votes: 5
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0316159433 (ISBN13: 9780316159432)
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Flyboys: A True Story Of Courage (2004) - Plot & Excerpts

I don't give out 5 stars too often, and this one should get a six. The stories in this book had to be told, and they had to be told in a particular way. Bradley does a masterful job in relating the horrific details of what happened to 8 U.S. pilots on a speck of earth called Chichi Jima. The fact that this island is not a WWII household place name such as Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, or Dunkirk is by design: the tale was kept secret by the U.S. military. However, I'm surprised Bradley never revealed the best part: Chichi Jima means "tits island" (owing to its two prominent mountains)!These stories, and the greater context in which they played out, will stay with me for a long, long time. I couldn't stop reading despite the rapid descent into unthinkable atrocities committed by nations and individuals on each other. Just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. I'll spare those details here. What is important is that Bradley is using primary sources. He interviews the individuals who witnessed, or even committed, the crimes related. This book is not propaganda based on 5th hand accounts of war crimes. These things happened and cannot be denied. I always try not to stand in judgment of things I did not witness especially when it's over 6 decades removed from the events. But that is a challenge with this one.To be honest, when my dad first recommended this book to me and I read the covers, I thought great, more overly patriotic "America: World Police" as in what South Park creators poke fun at ("America, F- yeah! Gonna save the motherf-n' world yeah!"). On the contrary, Bradley gives insightful context and pulls no punches in his depiction of both the Japanese and Americans. He doesn't gloss over the strafing of schools and hospitals by U.S. pilots or the nightmarish details of firebombings of major cities (Bradley points out the British and American strongly condemned the Germans and Japanese for bombing city centers as uncivilized barbarism, then proceeded to do the same on a much larger scale and with complete air superiority under the euphemistic term "strategic bombing"). I'm still extremely disturbed and angered at my own ignorance of the American war on Filipinos from 1898-1902 which killed an estimated 250,000 civilians. To illustrate, one U.S. general ordered, "Kill everyone over ten years of age" as a policy for clearing villages in the Philippines. Throughout history when the West (U.S., Britain, France, etc.) wanted something (oil, sugar, labor, farm lands) they took it regardless of its lands being inhabited or if the "barbarous" locals had the audacity to rebel or reject the colonists' god (e.g. American Indians, Chinese, basically the entire African continent). Japan being a latecomer, felt they were only doing what others have done to build empire and why should the West complain? Their mistake was in being non-white.This book has really left me torn. I had always been aware of the Japanese atrocities: Bataan death march, Rape of Nanking, horrendous death camps. But reading the first hand accounts was still shocking. I've always felt balanced. I have Japanese and haole ancestry. One great-uncle died for the U.S. while serving in his segregated unit, the AJA 100th Infantry Battalion. My other great-uncle survived the Bataan death march only to succumb to disease and starvation later on in the Japanese prison camp. I spent two and a half years living in Japan and met many veterans of the war. I've always held to the belief that these were extraordinary times and conscripted Japanese regulars were only slightly better off than their enemies or conquered subjects. But this book still shook my faith. Could the people I know have really done these things? On a broader level, how could the Japanese culture, even in its grotesquely twisted form as created by the militarists, have generated such horror? On the one hand I know the Japanese to be so simple and peaceful, just barely separated from our roots in nature (If have you seen Pom Poko, that anime film really captures that side of Japanese culture). Shinto is such beautiful and simple animism more akin to Native American and African religions than anything else in principle if not in practice. On the other hand are the tales in this book. But there was something much worse for me in reading this book. I can't help but feel that equally horrendous things are occurring today right under our noses, and that these crimes will repeat themselves over and over again. Not until these terrible kinds of things happen again to people we care about (i.e. white Americans) will we ever hear about them. Knowledge of horror and survivor guilt will not be enough to prevent further acts of atrocity.

This is the first time I've read a book that has made me feel like I needed to take a shower afterwards.It's brutal. It's in your face graphic. It's violent. If this had been a movie, I would've gotten up and walked out.I have almost no tolerance for violence. None. Zip. Nadda.But, I realized this book was important. This wasn't gratuitous violence meant to thrill and excite. This was honesty at its best...or at its worst depending on how you look at it, but honesty nonetheless.When I think of World War II, like many I think of Germany and Hitler and all the horrendous things the Nazis did. But when it comes to war, it would seem all parties involved have something to feel shameful about.At times Flyboys made me ashamed to be an American. At other times it made me ashamed to be part of the human race, period. This General Curtis LeMay quote sums it up: "Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you're not a good soldier."Bradley doesn't sugar coat...he doesn't rationalize as he reveals the hypocrisy of war. It's only barbarous until you do protect your men...or to further your agenda.This book made me feel so many things. Ultimately, it reinforced that while not all things are fair in love or war...they also aren't simple or demarcated in black and white.Was dropping the A-bomb...killing all those innocent civilians wrong even though ultimately it may have prevented more death than it caused? For that matter, were the brutal napalm attacks any more humane than the A-bomb? Were the Japanese attempts to claim uncivilized China really any different than America's campaign against the native American Indians? What makes this account which focuses on the flyboys and America's air fleet so compelling is that Bradley seems to hold nothing back in the telling. He doesn't decide for you...just lays it out in all its ugliness. Often a good book leaves you with more questions than answers and that is the kind of book this was. Excellent read, even if it was a hard one.

What do You think about Flyboys: A True Story Of Courage (2004)?

This book was my introduction to World War II non-fiction. More than any other book I have read, it made me rethink my views about war in general. His premise is that there are no "Great Wars." Some wars are "Necessary," but never "Great." War is horrible, and this was a hard book to read. I had no idea before reading this how brutal the Japanese were at the time, the atrocities they committed in the name of their Emperor, and how willing they were to carry out his orders no matter the cost--helped me to better understand why the U.S. felt it had to drop the Bombs. This story is about a group of Americans who were shot down over Chichi Jima, and how they were mercilessly tortured to death by the Japanese forces there. Only one man who was shot down escaped before the enemy got to him--George Bush. I have a new respect for him after learning about his heroism.The most amazing thing to me is how quickly everything changed after the war. I have Japanese friends that are wonderful people. Rather than seek revenge after the war (like the Russians), we helped our enemies to reconstruct, and within a generation they had completely changed their hearts and actions. I wonder if that could happen in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . .

I've been reading historical non-fiction for a LONG time, and it's rare to find a book about as threadbare a topic as World War 2 that is both informative and, at the same time, causes one to re-examine ones perspective of those events. Flyboys was one of those books for me.All I knew (or thought I knew) about Flyboys when I bought it last week off the bargain book shelf at Borders was that it was the story of downed US aviators and their horrific treatment at the hands of their Japanese captors. And at its core, that is exactly what it is. What I did not expect, however, was how Mr. Bradley wraps that core story with a broader description of US and Japanese histories, including social evolution and atrocities committed by both countries at various times in their pasts, up to and including the end of World War 2. In the earliest parts of this book I began to suspect I had bought a revisionist liberal diatribe, as Mr. Bradley describes the treatment of the American Indian in the late 19th century as "ethnic cleansing", and then went on to describe how US soldiers wiped out entire villages during the Philippine insurrection of the early 20th century. As I continued reading however, I discovered that Bradley was setting the groundwork for a comparison between US and Japanese cultural history up to WW2. And while he pulls no punches in describing the horrific atrocities visited upon the Chinese by the Japanese invaders before and during WW2, and makes no excuses for the treatment of the US fliers captured on Chichi Jima, the reader is reminded that the US didn't exactly come away from WW2 with clean hands, either. The fire bombing of Japanese cities and the resulting heavy civilian casualties is a powerful example of actions taken by the US that, had it been inflicted upon us instead, would have led to screams of war crimes. And yet, Bradley makes clear that the fire bombing of Japan was key to bring the war to an end prior to a US invasion, and also places the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the proper historical context.Some reviewers on have levelled the charge of "moral equivalency" against this book. I was thinking that way as I read the early chapters as well, but I did not come away with that feeling by the time I read the final page. Nowhere does Bradley make the claim that the US was "just as bad" as Japan, or that the US and Japan were morally equivalent. What I took away from this book is that the perception of morality in wartime and what constitutes war crimes is very much in the eye of the beholder (or more accurately, the recipient). For example, in the US we hold the Doolittle raiders as real military heroes - an opinion that I continue to hold. Bradley effectively conveys that, from the Japanese point of view, the raiders (or at least some of them) bombed a hospital, strafed civilian fishing boats, and killed schoolchildren. While the bomb-related casualties can be excused as unintentional, one cannot say the same about the intentional strafing of civilians. It injects a little bit of dirty reality to the US perception of events, which in the end is what the entire book accomplishes. Bradley doesn't argue that US and Japanese behavior was equal, but rather that our conduct of the war in the Pacific was a lot more gritty and morally ambiguous than we tend to believe. In the end, I found that Bradley had given me a fresh perspective on the Pacific war, and the morality of its conduct by both sides. I appreciate that.

Post-Modern. First off this is kind of garbled. You start out learning there is some secret trial during WWII. Just when that starts to get interesting all the sudden we are subjected to a chapter of how American's have a history of committing atrocities and wiping out the Indians starting from the very beginning of Western civilization coming to the New World. Then we get a history lesson on Japan and then a chapter on Japanese atrocities. Japan committed terrible terrible atrocities on the Chinese. It talks about how new officers were required to cut off the head of a unarmed civilian tied up to prove they could handle being an officer in a war zone. It talks about for bayonet practice they would circle a Chinese man or woman's heart and then stab them everywhere but in the circle to get as much practice in killing someone before the person actually died. But his point here is that the American's were just as bad because of the way we treated the Indians. So there is really no one that was better than anyone else the Pacific WWII conflict according to this author. Then we learn that because the Jimmy Doolittle raid when the Americans bombed the Japanese mainland for the first time during WWII we hit a hospital that made us actually worse than the Japanese because they only attacked military targets in the Pearl Harbor sneak attack. Then there are lots of random stories including one on George H.W. Bush's experiences in WWII. And he finally comes back to his original story but it ends up being lost and overshadowed in everything else he writes. Don't worry, he also gets in his withing distaste for Teddy Roosevelt worked in here too. Poorly written. Avoid.

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