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Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  19,832 ratings  ·  1,248 reviews
Over the remote Pacific island of Chichi Jima, nine American flyers-Navy and Marine pilots sent to bomb Japanese communications towers there-were shot down. Flyboys, a story of war and horror but also of friendship and honor, tells the story of those men.
Over the remote Pacific island of Chichi Jima, nine American flyers-Navy and Marine pilots sent to bomb Japanese commun
Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Back Bay Books (first published September 30th 2003)
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Oct 28, 2008 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
Apr 17, 2014 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
Oct 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written. Historical narrative.

It is so unfortunate and horrible how the history of mankind parallels the history of War. Every nation is guilty of this destruction and death.

You will have a complete understanding of the devastation caused by "3 dimensional" war (including the nuclear aspect of this).
Aug 06, 2014 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
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
...."With men the normal state of nature is not peace but war".... Immanuel Kant

James Bradley in his book unveils the secret stories of eight flyboys executed far out in the vast pacific in WWII
Let me be honest, friends....
I wasn't the least prepared for what I was up to reading "Flyboys: A True Story of Courage"; I mean I was expecting somewhat like adventure and Heroismus a la Hollywood, with simple black and white, the good guys against the bad ones.....
Instead I've become crushing Realität a
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
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Every so often a book comes along which goes beyond excellent or informative. It goes beyond all the customary accolades critics heap upon a fine book and its author. A book sometimes reaches the level of being an important, if not an essential, part of the literary canon. Flyboys—if not for historical reasons, then for philosophical ones—is such a book.

Written by Bill Bradley and published in 2003, Flyboys tells the story of eight American Navy pilots who were shot down and captured by the Japa
Aug 06, 2009 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
May 21, 2009 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
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2-in-the-air
Mr. Bradley has really written an eye opening book here. It is more than just the harrowing tale of the flyboys who met a gruesome end on Chichi Jima, it is a book about how they and the world at war got to that point of horror and beyond. The book is amazingly researched and very thorough on all the details given. I really like Mr. Bradley's view on everything he discusses in the book. Great book, even if you are not a fan of war books.
Oct 03, 2009 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
Positive Kate
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 28, 2011 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
Jan 15, 2014 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
Fred Shaw
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It has always been my belief that the Japanese were as brutal as the Nazis. This book proves my conclusion. 10 US Navy pilots were bombing some Japanese island when they were shot down. All were captured except for one, future President George Bush. He was picked up by a American. submarine. The others were brutalized, beheaded and cannibalized by the Japanese soldiers on the island.
Jan 11, 2012 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
Mar 03, 2009 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 23, 2008 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
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book. Wow. It unlocks the secrets that even the parents of these flyboys didn’t know about. It started off slow, but by the second and third chapter, I couldn’t put it down. It starts at the beginning of the Second World War, and follows a handful of pilots through the war, and in most cases, all the way to their tragic deaths. It was heart wrenching reading about what happened to them, what they went through, what their families went through, etc. SO awful. I appreciated the pictures at th ...more
David Eppenstein
I am not a big fan of WWII histories but this was probably among the best histories of any period I have ever read. Bradley has given us an incredibly fair and objective treatment of WWII in the Pacific and what lead up to it. This is a book that should be required reading in every high school and of every college history major.
Jennifer (the_pumpkin_reads)
Grateful to have read the stories of these men's lives ...more
Laura Leaney
Jul 01, 2010 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
Blaine Welgraven
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Bradley's work is a terrific read, thoroughly engaging at all times, even if his desire for politically-correct history occasionally detracts from the narrative his own sources are clearly detailing.

Just as in Flags of our Fathers, Bradley wants desperately to paint a nuanced, progressive picture of the "good war," and he succeeds on occasion in an attempt that is nothing if not earnest. However, where Flyboys falters is the author’s determined yet faulty attempt at making a false equivalency b
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I learned a lot of things I didn't want to know. War is hell! I knew that. I didn't know that the war in the Pacific in the waning days World War II was worse than the European/North African Theater - body-count-wise (even before the BIG bombs were dropped). There was torture and ritual cannibalism of downed American fliers on one side and mass liquidation of civilians by the American fliers with incendiary bombs in densely populated areas of Japan on the other side. Flyboys focuses on the fact ...more
Carol Bakker
I broke all my own "reading rules" with this one. I borrowed the audio, only to discover that it is abridged. I refuse to read abridged books. Except. This. One. I started listening and reading concurrently, but the switching off the audio to read the unabridged sections became annoying, so I put the book away and just listened.

Tinnitus is my mild affliction. To combat it, I fall asleep listening to books or sermons or podcasts. I usually go back and re-listen to parts I'm fuzzy on. I didn't go
Bhavana Singh
May 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, war
Informative and well researched. The horrors of Pacific War during Second World War, will make your skin crawl after knowing the extents to which human can degrade but at the same time, one needs to know what human himself is capable of, in time of crises. The philosophical questions it dealt with, are so required to be pondered on and not only with sense of war but also blind faith, revenge, morality, history and many.
And most importantly, who's right? Well mostly, the one who won(historically
Nikola Novaković
Apr 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Out of all the endless, senseless carnage and brutality, Bradley manages to unearth a story so touching and personal that I feel as if I had lived through it. Each chapter left me shaken, but the end finally reduced me to tears; I will never forget its last, incredible sentence. If you like history told well, don't miss this. ...more
Rachel Xoconostle
Jun 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It took me awhile to read because sometimes the scenes described were so disturbing that I'd need a break, then I'd later pick up to keep reading. I'm really glad I read it though, I learned a lot about the war from preservatives completely different than I've ever heard. I was really touched by the memories and courage of the flyboys and the struggles of so many people's lives on both sides of the war. ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating story of the Pacific air war in WWII, with a side focus on the fates of nine American flyers who were shot down over the tiny island of Chichi Jima. One of them was former American president, George H.W. Bush, while the others were executed by the Japanese.

Bradley, famous for his other book Flags of Our Fathers, writes a very compelling story. As someone who has lived in Japan, he comes at it with a different perspective and seeks to convey a little of the way the Japanese
Jan 13, 2008 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
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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.” 9 likes
“The American people will regret the day I was crucified by politics and bureaucracy."
Billy Mitchell”
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