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Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,689 Ratings  ·  853 Reviews
The classic New York Times bestselling story of heroism and sacrifice--by the author of Flags of Our Fathers, The Imperial Cruise, and The China Mirage.

This acclaimed bestseller brilliantly illuminates a hidden piece of World War II history as it tells the harrowing true story of nine American airmen shot down in the Pacific. One of them, George H. W. Bush, was miraculousl
Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Back Bay Books (first published 2003)
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Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenLone Survivor by Marcus LuttrellUnbroken by Laura HillenbrandHiroshima by John Hersey
Best Non-fiction War Books
45th out of 908 books — 1,258 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
118th out of 3,777 books — 5,595 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 28, 2008 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Joseph by: My dad
This book literally changed my view of the world. I was amazed, shocked, disgusted, astounded and inspired. This is one of those books that gives you a different perspective on history than the one you receive in school and it turned my perception of the world on its head (in a good way.)
If you've never wondered how horrific tragedies are perpetrated on mankind, you are like probably 95% of the rest of the civilized world, and you should probably read this book. This is a bit of history that sh
May 20, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Caroline by: Shaun Bevins
Shelves: 5-star-books, history

My ignorance about the Second World War in the Pacific was shameful, but thanks to this brilliant book that has been to a degree rectified. It presents a marvellous overview not only of crucial events, but of the history leading up to both Japan and America's involvement in that war.

It's a difficult read, purely because the book contains so much about violence and human degradation, but I personally feel these are things I ought to know. In my spoiler I give a very long and thorough synopsis of
Apr 23, 2014 Shaun rated it it was amazing
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 W
I tried to read Flyboys: A True Story of Courage twice before and always stopped when the author tells the story of a Japanese soldier who rapes and kills a young girl after he kills the father. What turned me off was the author appends the honorific “–san” to this soldier. It pissed me off to show that respect. Well I powered through on the third try and glad I did. There is a reason the author did that which you only find out about later. This is a 5 Star history if there ever was one! You wil ...more
Dec 11, 2013 Jeff rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 24, 2011 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Flyboys, WWII history buffs
This is a searing look at the War in the Pacific. James Bradley (author of Flags of our Fathers) writes as an American who clearly has a great deal of love and pride for his country, but is too intellectually honest to look away from our hypocritical record. This is not a book that presents World War II as a "good war" in which America was good and the Germans and the Japanese were evil. Neither does it make a false equivalency with some of the terrible things America has done and thus imply tha ...more
Oct 05, 2009 Matt rated it it was amazing
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 t ...more
Aug 06, 2009 JBradford rated it it was amazing
I have contended that books should not get a 5-star rating unless they are must read books; this is a must read. There are many people who will bypass this book because it is about an old war, not worthy of their interest. Many others will put it down without finishing it because it is, as the lady who loaned it to me said, rather gruesome. Both of those types should read it, however, because it is full of hard truths about the nature of man in general, and about the nature of men at war in part ...more
Jan 30, 2014 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm shocked by this book. I used to teach secondary school history and also have taken courses in Japanese history, so I am very familiar with WWII, but I learned many new things from this book. Although I already knew about the first third of this book (where he sets up the historical basis for the actions and mindset of both sides) and about Iwo Jima, bombings, etc I was not prepared for the graphic detail in which he describes the stories of the Flyboys fates. I actually cried several times w ...more
Mar 03, 2009 Nick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
There were several times in this book where I had to tune it out. Learning of the atrocities committed by the Japanese commanders on United States Navy pilots was enough to make me sick.

James Bradley plunges into the stories of several young American naval pilots who attempted to dive-bomb and destroy the Japanese communications outpost on the island of Chichi-jima, an island 600 miles due south of Tokyo and 150 miles away from Iwo-jima. He does a wonderful job of describing the lives of the pil
Jen Mendeck
Mar 31, 2008 Jen Mendeck rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
OK, so I didn't actually finish this book. I picked this up off my husband's night stand. The book is by the author of Flags of Our Fathers, which I haven't read and haven't seen the movie. I thught it was worth a try, though; the movie was nominated for Academy Awards. And I need to expand my reading horizons again.

After 120 pages I asked my husband if the book was going to be about torture all the way through, and when he said yes I decided to stop reading. Really, it was just one greusome quo
Stacy Sullivan
Nov 11, 2014 Stacy Sullivan rated it really liked it
For Christmas, I got this as a book on tape, but I enjoyed the first chapters so much that I went out and bought the book. James Bradley's writing is elegant and well researched. I enjoyed learning about the Doolittle Raid, Tokyo Fire Raid and hearing about President George H.W. Bush and his time as a flyboy.

I would have liked to hear more details on the daily life of different fliers and more about some of the boys that survived. The book was very focused on the war crimes committed on Chichi J
Jan 29, 2008 Susie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
James Bradley offers an amazing overview of the Pacific War and the impact America's commitment to an aerial war made upon its victory. I appreciate Bradley's ability to examine the war from both the America and Japanese perspective. He does not gloss over the American atrocities of strafing innocent fishermen, firebombing Japanese cities, and even dropping the atomic bombs. He does, however, also paint a clear picture of the Japanese world view, impressing upon his reader's the importance of un ...more
Jan 11, 2012 Relstuart rated it did not like it
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 Chi
Austin B
I decided to read this book for summer reading because I saw that I had to read a non-fiction book and I have always been interested in World War II. At the beginning of this book, Bradley provides several chapters of history of Japan and America, discussing the circumstances of how and why they came to enter World War II. I found this part of the book very interesting because previous to reading this book, I did not really understand the motivation of the two nations and why they had entered th ...more
Nov 16, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing
I read this book a while back and absolutely loved it. It gave me a lot of perspective about America's involvement in the Pacific during WWII, what the mentality of the Japanese was, and America's decision to use the A-bomb.

Here's a couple of my favourite takes from this book:

Few people now reflect that samurai swords killed more people in WWII than atomic bombs. WWII veteran Paul Fussell wrote, "The degree to which Americans register shock and extraordinary shame about the Hiroshima bomb correl
Laura Leaney
Jul 05, 2010 Laura Leaney rated it liked it
Recommends it for: WWII history buffs
Recommended to Laura by: My dad
This is ostensibly the story of eight WWII flyboys (and one unknown flyer) who were shot down in attempting to take out the radio communications center on Chichi Jima, a much less notable location than its sister island, Iwo Jima, where most history focuses. One of those pilots was George H.W. Bush, who was rescued by a submarine. What happens to the captured men shows the depravity of war and the perversion of the ancient Japanese way of Bushido. If you've read much about war crimes, you should ...more
May 30, 2010 Seth rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history, war
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--hel
Apr 15, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm having trouble deciding where to begin my review of "Flyboys." From the very beginning of the book, I was held in absolute awe.

The author goes into great detail to demonstrate the ruthlessness of mankind and how bias and prejudice can lead us to justify the killing of our fellow man. He compares "Manifest Destiny" of the USA to Japan's need to expand into China. This lust for land and national expansion ultimately leads to war. War, as author James Bradley so well explains, causes the human
Diana Petersen
Jun 07, 2008 Diana Petersen rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure I wanted to finish this book because it started to make me hate, but the more I read the more it made me think. I then realized that racists, military leaders, govenments, polititians and terrorists use the same tactics so that they can train their people to hate so they are willing to do what they want them to do. I came to the conclusion that I don't hate the people who fight wars I hate wars. I truely felt sad for the people on both sides who had been taught to hate the other si ...more
May 22, 2012 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Flyboys is an amazing book. As a World War II buff, I was excited to read this because it was one of the most guarded secrets in military history, especially when it included one of our nation's presidents, George H.W. Bush. I feel that Flyboys should be mandatory reading for any history course, especially if the main topic of the class is World War II.

Not only did James Bradley do his homework, he did extra-credit too. Flyboys isn't just about the flyboys of World War II, it's about the Japanes
Apr 10, 2009 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Very well written and an incredible eye opener for me.

What an emotional rollercoaster. At first I was angry at the japanese, then I was angrier and disallusioned with Teddy Roosevelt and the 1890s-1950-s government, then I was pissed at the American people. Next I cried with mothers who sent their too young sons off to fight a war when they couln't even sit with their girlfriend alone because they were too young. I cried for the Chinese people, the phillipinos people and for my own ignorance an
Jul 22, 2011 Graceann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who want to know history, in order to avoid repeating it
Shelves: history
What an astounding, thought-provoking, troubling book. While Flyboys easily earns its five stars, that does not mean that it is an easy, or even what I could call an "enjoyable" read. There is much here that is very difficult to see; I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like to endure.

Chichi Jima is a tiny island between Iwo Jima and Japan. Its importance in the Pacific campaign was that it had a radio station which could give Tokyo two hours' warning when B-29s flew over on their bom
John69 Wodetzki
May 24, 2013 John69 Wodetzki rated it really liked it
Over the years I have read many books related to WWII, but this book certainly ranks as one of the best. The primary focus of this writing is a comprehensive recount of the fate of the aviators who were captured and perished at the hands of the enemy on the Japanese held island of Chichi Jima. The stories were compiled through extensive research of governmental records combined with personal accounts of those who were there, those who flew the missions and family members of those who never retur ...more
Dec 15, 2012 Elissa rated it it was amazing
This was fantastic, though pretty depressing. What I liked about this book wasn't just the story that Bradley told, but the context and backstory that he provided about the relationship between Japan and the US before and during the war. Like, he started at the start of the relationship between the two countries, their first contact. Instead of making it all American-based, he also explained why the Japanese acted the way they did, their feelings towards the crumbling negotiations before the Pea ...more
Robert Sparrenberger
Apr 11, 2014 Robert Sparrenberger rated it it was amazing
This is the third book I've read by mr Bradley.

First of all,excellent book. I really, really enjoyed the sections featuring President Bush. Especially when the president asks Mr Bradley if he knows any additional information about his lost buddies during the crash. Very powerful.

That being said, this is the second book that I've read by him where he suffers from "white mans burden." I think he feels some guilt for other peoples racist comments from previous generations. Teddy Roosevelt is a pa
May 20, 2011 Codys rated it really liked it
I choose this book because Its a war book first of all and second I notised that it had the autor of James Bradley and iv read his other book flags of my fathers which was also a great book. historicul fiction. The flyboys is a group of men who are sent on specil missions to kill and this book is about the flyboys heading into japan to pretty much destory there whole conutry. The main character is not really evident in this book. The flyboys are in japan to distory their country but they run int ...more
Amanda Ferrell
Jan 16, 2013 Amanda Ferrell rated it it was amazing
Harrowing, horrifying. I can't describe the terrible facts in this book. What was most interesting was the balanced was James Bradley presented the atrocities. I have felt awful about the atomic bomb and that two were dropped on Japan. Now I know that the people who said the Japanese would never surrender were right, after the explanation of the culture of the people of Japan and the military culture in Japan. And, dropping the atomic bombs stopped the napalming of the cities and civilian people ...more
Jack  DeStefano
May 06, 2011 Jack DeStefano rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff Dawson
Jun 14, 2015 Jeff Dawson rated it it was amazing
My son gave me this book for Christmas back in 2007 or 2008. He did something I never thought he’d do, read a book.
When I unwrapped the wonderful present, I noticed how the cover was bent back a bit. You know what I’m talking about. It didn’t quite sit flat. When I enquired him about the anomaly, he informed me, he read the entire book to make sure I would like it. He was correct!
I could go on for hours how captivating this read is, but I won’t.
If you’re a World War Two fan or someone who love
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Bradley is an American author of historical non-fiction. His subject is the Pacific theatre of World War II.
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“The Flyboy who got away became president of the United States. What might have been for Warren Earl, Dick, Marve, Glenn, Floyd, Jimmy, the unidentified airman, and all the Others who had lost their lives?...And what might have been for those millions of doomed Japanese boys, abused and abandoned by their leaders? War is the tragedy of what might have been.” 7 likes
“The American people will regret the day I was crucified by politics and bureaucracy."
Billy Mitchell”
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