Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Flyboys - A Soaring Tale of Courage, Nancy Sundstrom

Book Editor - February 5th, 2004
Much like Doug Stanton‘s “In Harm‘s Way,“ there are two tales that make up James Bradley‘s “Flyboys: A True Story of Courage“ -- the one that makes up the book itself, and another that led to the book being created.
Both work in tandem to tell the previously untold saga of nine American Navy and Marine pilots who were shot down over the remote Pacific island of Chichi Jima in 1944. One of the men escaped and was rescued, a 20-year-old by the name of George Bush, who would one day become President of the country he was serving. The other eight were tried and condemned as war criminals by the Japanese and eventually executed.
Bush himself has said that he never knew the complete story of what took place on Chichi Jima, and he was not alone. The events were conspiratorially hidden by both the American and Japanese governments for nearly 60 years until Bradley, the highly-regarded author of “Flags of Our Fathers“ (2000), went on a fact-finding mission to uncover them. The result is a compelling, emotionally-charged read that puts a very human face on the atrocities of war and challenges bureaucracies such as those that would shroud an important piece of history like this in secrecy.
In the first chapter, “Declassified,“ Bradley sets the stage for how the book came to be written:

“The e-mail was from Iris Chang, author of the groundbreaking bestseller ‘The Rape of Nanking.‘ Iris and I had developed a professional relationship after the publication of my first book, ‘Flags of Our Fathers.‘ In her e-mail, Iris suggested I contact a man named Bill Doran in Iowa. She said Bill had some “interesting“ information.
This was in early February 2001. I was hearing many “interesting“ war stories at that point. ‘Flags of Our Fathers‘ had been published recently. The book was about the six Iwo Jima flagraisers. One of them was my father... Bill quickly focused our call on a tall stack of papers on his kitchen table. Within twenty minutes I knew I had to look Bill in the eye and see that stack... The papers were the transcript of a secret war crimes trial held on Guam in 1946. Fifty-five years earlier, Bill, a recent U.S. Naval Academy graduate, had been ordered to attend the trial as an observer. Bill was instructed to report to the “courtroom,“ a huge Quonset hut. At the entrance, a Marine guard eyed the twenty-one-year-old. After finding Bill‘s name on the approved list, he shoved a piece of paper across a table... Bill signed the secrecy oath and he signed another copy late that afternoon when he left the trial. He would repeat this process every morning and every afternoon for the trial‘s duration. And when it was over, Bill returned home to Iowa. He kept silent but could not forget what he had heard.
Then, in 1997, Bill noticed a tiny newspaper item announcing that vast stashes of government documents from 1946 had been declassified. “When I realized the trial was declassified,“ Bill said, “I thought, Maybe I can do something for these guys now.“
As a lawyer, Bill had spent his professional life ferreting out documents. He made some inquiries and dedicated 11 months to following where they led. Then one day, a boxed transcript arrived in the mail from Washington. The transcript contained the full proceedings of a trial establishing the fates of eight American airmen, “Flyboys“ downed in waters in the vicinity of Iwo Jima during World War II. Each was shot down during bombing runs against Chichi Jima, the next island north of Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was coveted for its airstrips, Chichi Jima for its communications stations. Powerful short- and long-wave receivers and transmitters atop Chichi‘s Mount Yoake and Mount Asahi were the critical communications link between Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo and Japanese troops in the Pacific. The radio stations had to be destroyed, the U.S. military decided, and the Flyboys had been charged with doing so... On the same day my father and his buddies raised that flag on Iwo Jima, Flyboys were held prisoner just 150 miles away on Chichi Jima. But while everyone knows the famous Iwo Jima photo, no one knew the story of these eight Chichi Jima Flyboys.
Nobody knew for a reason: For over two generations, the truth about their demise was kept secret. The U.S. government decided the facts were so horrible that the families were never told. Over the decades, relatives of the airmen wrote letters and even traveled to Washington, D.C., in search of the truth. Well-meaning bureaucrats turned them away with vague cover stories.
“All those years I had this nagging feeling these guys wanted their story told,“ Bill said.
Eight mothers had gone to their graves not knowing the fates of their lost sons. Sitting at Bill‘s table, I suddenly realized that now I knew what the Flyboys‘ mothers had never learned.“

Structurally, “Flyboys“ has much in common with “Flags of Our Fathers,“ particularly in the well-crafted characterizations of the nine aviators. We come to know them individually and as a unit, and see them as young men growing up in the country they were proud to defend to their harrowing final days of torture and brutality. The graphic details of their imprisonment and execution are not for the faint of heart and never feel gratuitous, even while there are some faint undercurrents of political incorrectness and racism that primarily serve to reinforce why Americans held the attitudes they did towards the Japanese then, and for years to come.
Book-ending what took place on the small Japanese-held island is a fairly concise examination of Pacific war history, including how America and Japan became strange bedfellows after the conflict due to incidents like this one, and paved the way for attitudes that would come into play during the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts. Bradley builds a strong case of guilt for both sides, which is carefully documented and now has the perspective of time and distance to aid in his impartial telling. Still, what the reader will carry away is the horrific tale of nine brave men, and the hope and courage that somehow managed to shine brighter than the darkness they eventually couldn‚t escape.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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