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Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  9,987 ratings  ·  737 reviews
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 miraculously rescued. The fate of the others-an explosive 60-year-old secret-is revealed for the first time in FLYBOYS.
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 LuttrellFlags of Our Fathers by James D. BradleyUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Best Non-fiction War Books
27th out of 792 books — 973 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)
113th out of 2,885 books — 4,942 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 19, 2014 Caroline rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Caroline by: Shaun Bevins
Shelves: 5-star-books

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
Oct 28, 2008 Joseph rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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
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
Jen Mendeck
Mar 31, 2008 Jen Mendeck rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Laura Leaney
Jul 05, 2010 Laura Leaney rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
Diana Petersen
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
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
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
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
John69 Wodetzki
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 28, 2007 Nick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a terrific account of the war in the Pacific between the US and Japan. The book starts with some background on both nations' war histories, explaining the significance of their cultural differences and the effect those differences had on the way each nation conducted war. The story explains the critical importance of the air war and traces the paths of soldiers shot down over Chichi Jima, for the first time revealing their full story.

Very well researched, at times gruesome, but very tho
Horton Deakins
Bradley may not be the best writer who ever lived, but this book should be required reading for every college student. I would say "high school student," but I'm not sure even all college students could "handle the truth" recorded in this story. It's not, as the cover may lead you to believe, about flying--not at all. It's about what happened when the Japanese captured American pilots and their crews at the Island of Chichi-jima in the Pacific. It is horrific, and you may be tempted not to belie ...more
I knew that I was going to like this book when I read in the book’s opening paragraph that Bradley had been encouraged by Iris Chang to look into the experiences of a WWII veteran that she was in contact with. To me, the relationship of the author to Chang who wrote the powerful “The Rape of Nanking” was a peek into the detailed and honest way that Bradley would approach his material. That proved to be just the case.
Bradley details General Billy Mitchell’s campaign to develop a world class air
Lee Ann
Sometimes a non-fiction book gets you right in the heart. James Bradley's Flyboys is one of them. This is the story of the American pilots who flew missions over the Pacific during World War II. It was not an easy story to read, and it can't have been an easy one to write.

Flyboys is not a tough read because of the writing style. Bradley does not slog through mounds of data. Rather, he sometimes leaves a reader wishing for more information, while at the same time not wanting to read anymore accou
I don't think I have been quite so moved by a book in a very long time. I'm a long time reader of books having to do with history, and especially World War II, so I am not unaware of the atrocities and horror that accompany such conflicts. However, I was unaware of this particular episode in the Pacific in which American pilots and crew were captured, tortured, beheaded and in some cases, even cannibalized.

It would be so easy to take sides in the telling of such a volatile event. And while Bradl
Robert Sparrenberger
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
Wyatt Fairlead
I want to say I do not recommend this book. James Bradly has an incredible way of making history alive and real. What he makes alive and real in this book is something that I hope I never want to face until God may make it absolutely necessary. I cannot even review the whole book because I could not keep reading it. If you want masterful writing, here is a prime example, but I say find a different one. This is rough stuff.
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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.
More about James D. Bradley...
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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.” 6 likes
“No one ever won a war by dying for their country. They won by making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his” 3 likes
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