Book Review





James Bradley


Little, Brown and  Company, Boston, MA



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

June, 2004


Flyboys tells a story that was until recently classified by the government. During the Second World War, Navy flyers  were assigned to destroy the Japanese radio station at Chichi Jima in the Pacific.  This is the true tale of their fateful mission.

Get more information about Flyboys at amazon.comLocated  near the more famous Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima was a main relay point for radio communications between the Japanese homeland and their vast war empire. Furthermore, due to its location, Chichi Jima also served to alert the Japanese when strategic  bombing missions were passing overhead. This advance notice gave the Japanese  airmen two hours notice to prepare to intercept the American bombers. Highly  fortified, Chichi Jima could not be successfully invaded by sea, leaving tactical bombing as the only practical solution to the destruction of its radio facilities.

Because of the island's terrain features and highly trained anti-aircraft crews, few airplanes could reach the area of its radio station without being shot down. Several different attempts were made, with the crews being killed or captured  by the Japanese. For those Americans that were captured, death awaited as the Japanese executed the prisoners one by one. Although the details of their deaths  came to light in secret war crime trials held by the Americans, the relatives of these brave men often went to their graves without knowing their fate.

Among the pilots shot down in this series of raids was a future president, George  Bush. He was plucked from the sea by an Allied submarine just as capture by the Japanese seemed to be a sure bet. However, the other pilots were not so lucky. One of the reasons their deaths remained classified long after the end  of the war was that their captors cannibalized the prisoners after their execution. The author demonstrates that this occurred very often in this theatre of the  war, and the United States government kept the information classified so as to not create panic with the troops.

In addition to telling the story of the final weeks of the airmen assigned to  bomb Chichi Jima, James Bradley also puts a fresh face on the mindset of the Japanese people leading up to the start of war. He colors the national personality by re-examining the empire and its relations with the west over two centuries. This helps the reader to better understand how culture influenced the perception  of the conflict for both sides.

Flyboys is another interesting micro-history look at a small piece of the big  battle. Any reader interested in learning more about the battle for the Pacific will find this resource useful with its attention to small personal details.


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