The Twilight Warriors
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 21 May 2011
Although they might not have known this, when the "Tail End Charlies" joined the air group of USS Intrepid, the Pacific War was moving toward its conclusion. Appropriately named The Twilight Warriors, author Robert Gandt told the story of these fresh pilots flying combat missions over and around Okinawa, Japan. Seen through the eyes of the airmen of VBF-10, the narration necessarily placed more weight on aerial combat with some inclusion of navy life. The sinking of battleship Yamato by air power, for example, was described in excellent detail, while also interweaved by quoting from established Japanese accounts, such as those from Yoshida Mitsuru's Requiem for Battleship Yamato. Kamikaze special attacks were also given special attention particularly later on in the book; these suicide attacks were also described from the first-hand experience of American airmen and sailors who faced the attacks, and then supported by the inclusion of previous works on the Japanese perspective. While this book did not dive into depth on the campaign nor did it introduce much new material, Gandt's great storytelling made this an entertaining and dramatic narrative of the air war over the region in the final months of the war, a collective memoir of VBF-10 airmen that enriches other works on the history of the campaign for Okinawa.
I had reviewed this book in its audio book format. John Pruden read the book very clearly, albeit a little slow, though it was something I had forgotten about just a few tracks into the audio book. Two things stood out with Pruden's reading in my mind, one good and one bad. First, I very much enjoyed him singing "I Wanted Wings" early on in the book. Very often, when encountering lyrics, narrators would simply read them like any other text; Pruden's singing of the song showed me that he wanted to present the listeners a richer experience, something I very much appreciated. It also indicated to me that he did not simply pick up the book and read it, leaving all the work to his natural talent; instead, he performed the research, finding the tunes that went with the lyrics. The other item, the bad one, which stood out was his Japanese pronunciation, a common complaint from me. While I very much commend him for doing the research to find out the music that went with the lyrics of "I Wanted Wings", I was disappointed that he did not do the same for the pronunciation for even the few Japanese words that were used in the book frequently. Kamikaze would be a prime example, where most of the time he misread as "kah-mee-KAH-zee"; occasionally he would read the final syllable correctly as "zeh", which showed that he had the ability to read it correctly but he failed to detect his own inconsistency on the reading.
Looking across the good and the bad, I had enjoyed The Twilight Warriors, both the content by Gandt as well as the reading by Pruden. Too weak to stand on its own as a history of the campaign for Okinawa, I would nevertheless still recommend it as a complement to other works especially in the area of the air war with an American perspective.
Update, 14 Dec 2011
John Pruden contacted WW2DB in response of the review of his narration of The Twilight Warriors, noting that while he preferred the Japanese pronunciation of "kamikaze", the team chose to read it in the commonly-mispronounced manner. For his full correspondence, please see the comments section below.
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