The First Heroes

ISBN: 978-0786193424
Review Date:

Full Title: The First Heroes: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raid-America's First World War II Victory

When the United States was entered into WW2 by the attack at Pearl Harbor, its military was not ready. Nevertheless, various leaders of its military wanted a strike on Japan, even if insignificant, to show that the US had offensive capability, thus raising morale. In Apr 1942, Jimmy Doolittle and his airmen conducted such a strike, impossibly launching their Army bombers from Navy carriers on an one way operation against Japanese cities. Craig Nelson's The First Heroes told of the famed Doolittle Raid, an early victory scored by the Americans during the war.

I had found what the author mentioned in the forward somewhat odd. While he stated that his family had WW2 involvement, he had little knowledge of the Doolittle Raid until he began researching this book. He also made the observation that most Americans lacked this knowledge as well. Perhaps because of my Chinese upbringing and my personal interest in military history, I had known about the Doolittle Raid since about the age of 10, so I found Nelson's observation odd. Additionally, the book was originally published in 2002, and in the year prior to that the successful Hollywood film "Pearl Harbor" was released; given Hollywood's influence on Americans, more should have known about this event since it was a major component of the film.

Nevertheless, the book did a good job describing the planning, execution, and what happened to various crews. Nelson's research on this strike, some of which came from interviews with surviving Doolittle Raiders, was excellent. Especially when dealing with the aftermath, which was filled with gruesome wounds, heroic Chinese civilians, and a dramatic escape from Russia into Persia, his book provided excellent detail on this operation. While his narration of the core subject was excellent, he fell short when he expanded the subject matter. His research seemed to have been lacking, thus ending up either providing irrelevant information (such as the inclusion of Joseph Rochefort's cryptoanalytic operation which had little to do with the raid itself), making mistakes (there were a few rather obvious mistakes on technical matters about military equipment), or making assumptions (such as claiming Chinese regional warlords were "nomadic").

I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Raymond Todd did a fine job in terms of pace, clarity, and volume. However, there were a few mispronunciations in English ("ensign" being one of them) and in Chinese (the production house of the audio book apparently did not bother to hire a Chinese speaker for a couple of hours to give Todd a crash course on Postal Map romanization).

My review for The First Heroes was mixed, but the information on the core subject, the Doolittle Raid, was good. While I would not rate the entire book highly, I would not discount the effort that the author placed in the raid itself; the reader, however, would have to be able to separate out the side topics which were lacking at times.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
26 Nov 2014 06:35:11 PM

Is this review written in English?

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