Pattyrflg's Reviews > The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II

The Airmen and the Headhunters by Judith M. Heimann
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Aug 05, 2012

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bookshelves: historical
Read in February, 2012

World War II is virtually over in Europe, but still raging in the Pacific. An Army Air Corp plane is shot down during a bombing raid over Borneo. The pilot and copilot are seriously injured, but are able to keep the plane in the air long enough for the crew to prepare to parachute out. They are over the mountainous area of central Borneo where the purported headhunters live, but they must jump. The copilot and one crewmember never make it out of the plane—it crashes. The pilot is pushed out with a parachute, but no one sees it open and he is never found. The seven remaining crewmembers make it to the ground, but in various spots in the jungle. This is their story of survival, with assistance from the tribesmen of Borneo. All had been headhunters, but some had been converted to Christianity by missionaries and had stopped the practice of head hunting. Borneo was occupied by the Japanese, but the tribesmen did not like them because they had taken away their beloved missionaries. They hid these airmen and naval personnel from a later plane crash from the Japanese at their own peril.

This was a true story—another of those little known stories from WWII. What really impressed me was the change in attitude expressed by each of the airmen as they lived with and got to know these native people. They learned to love and trust these wonderful people whom they had previously thought of as ignorant natives.
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