October 20, 2005

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

I picked up and started reading this book over the past couple days:


Flyboys, by James Bradley.

It purports to tell the story of a group of WWII American pilots shot down in the Pacific off the island of Chichi Jima in February, 1945, including a young George Herbert Walker Bush, and to detail the gruesome fate that awaited the majority of them at the hands of their Japanese captors.

I'm only a couple chapters into the book, but I'm wondering if it is really worth while to keep going. Bradley hasn't got to the stories of the individual pilots yet, but instead starts off with a rather extraordinary history lesson. You see, Japan had been peaceful and civilized for millenia, but only turned into a savage, psychotic, empire-building monster because she saw us hypocritical Westerners at it and thought she should get involved, too. After all, what she did to the Chinese and Koreans was no different than what WE did to the Indians and the Mexicans. Right? Right? And she had no choice in bombing Pearl Harbor because America forced her into it economically. You see, we really deserved it. Oh, and perhaps my favorite bit - Bradley sings the praises of everybody's favorite guerilla leader, Mao, because of the respect with which he and his people treated non-combatants. Sixty-odd million Chinese deaths later, this strikes me as something of a reach.

Anyhoo, I mention all this because I find this kind of pop-revisionist history extremely aggravating. I'd like to push on to where he actually starts talking about the individual men he sets out to write about. My question to anybody out there who's read this book: Is it worth the effort to go on?

Posted by Robert at October 20, 2005 01:01 PM | TrackBack

Keep reading. The author lays the blame for Japanese savagery during WWII squarely on the shoulders of the "Spirit Warriors" who he argues twisted the samurai and Bushido code into a cult of death. The accounts of the fate of each pilot is sobering.

Posted by: LMC at October 20, 2005 02:35 PM


Posted by: Chris at October 20, 2005 04:44 PM

Agreed. If you can stomach the moral equivalency crap early, the substanive stuff is pretty good. There a fair amount of good info on why ChiChi Jima was an important target, although the Bush connection is a small part of the overall narrative. If you really want a good air war overview, check out "Clash of Wings" by Walter Boyne.

Posted by: Lumps at October 21, 2005 10:27 AM