Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Sky Rained Heroes: a Journey from War to Remembrance by Frederick E. LaCroix

Reviewed for Front Street Reviews

This is a true story of two families, American and Japanese, and the fateful moment in WWII when they literally met head on. One lived, one died. At the beginning, I found this book to be a bit of a disappointment as far as the basis of the story goes. There is little said about the actual event of returning the Japanese flag to the descendants I was expecting. Rather, this event in the first half of the book felt more like an episode running in the background. I was mistaken in my judgement. It is a well-meaning story, certainly informative, and written in a consistent manner albeit switching time and location. This does not seem to hamper the flow.

Putting my erroneous perception aside, what we have is a very well-researched and constructed history of Japan and China, dynasties, culture, and methods and thought processes in the training of their military, written in verbose prose. I have not read so many convoluted words in a sentence since I retired from working for professors and typing manuscripts. I often use these overblown words of an earlier style myself, but rarely find it in books written today. This could deter some readers from carrying on, but it is well worth reading even if you might need an older dictionary alongside.

We also have a very well-researched history of American culture, approach to the war, and the training and thought processes of the military of the time. It is amazing to me that they were so far behind technically in 1939 and I got a new slant on why they entered the war so late. The speed at which they trained and improved is amazing. The use of personal letters, written home by the author's father, was brilliant, and definitely picked up the pace. I learned so much about the making of an American fighter pilot in these chapters, more personal and real to me than in other books.

The letters must be taken in the context of the time. The arena is the war in the Pacific. LaCroix has interspersed them with his research into each event or series of events, and this is where the original concept begins to take form and grows right to the end of the book. Some fascinating coincidences appear throughout the book, adding more personality. The author has invested time and self in the construction of a story before, during, and after the historic and disastrous meeting of the two men, Japanese and American. The reverberations of this event have affected both families an ocean, indeed a world apart. I felt that the final chapters of the book were very comforting and a fitting closure, and the Afterword is personal and enlightening.

Rich with historical research, there are many cites as endnotes. I chose to view these after reading the book as I didn't want to interrupt the flow. I believe this book has a lot to offer the reader.

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