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Monday, December 15, 2014

A Book Well Worth Reading

I rarely do book reviews, but today's an exception. This particular volume moved me deeply, and I hope that you'll consider reading it.

As a straight-up disclosure, I bought this book from Amazon, and liked it so much I decided to review it here.

The book is The Last Zero Fighter, by Dan King. It's the stories of five of the last surviving Japanese naval aviators from the Second World War; but what they tell is not so much of war.

It's really about love, loyalty, and honour.

Mr. King is well-qualified to tell the stories of these men; he spent many years living in Japan, and is fluent in the language and well-versed in Japanese culture and history. He has worked as a consultant on many films dealing with Japanese history, such as The Last Samurai, Windtalkers,  Flags of our Fathers, and Letters from Iwo Jima.

The stories introduce the aviators as they were at the time of the interviews (sadly, several have since passed away), and then drops back in time to let them tell their stories, from childhood through training, to their operational assignments...and the aftermath of a war their country lost.

The first thing you'll find, as a common thread, is love. Love of country, yes, but also love of family, of comrades, and of life itself. We have a Western conception of the Japanese fighting man of WW2 as being a suicidal fanatic, but these fellows - and they are, I think, fairly typical - do not fit that mold.

They wanted to fly. They wanted families. They mourned their fallen friends, and they feared for their country. Making war wasn't up to them, but fighting to the best of their ability was, and that was their path of honour.

Hard questions are not avoided. An officer whose performance bordered on cowardice is pilloried by one of Mr.King's interviewees, who felt that with an officer's rank came the obligation to take a path that would lead to certain death. It was expected.

And one of the aviators, Isamu Miyazaki, spent some time on Wake Island, where 98 American civilian construction workers were captured by the Japanese in late 1941, and kept working on the island. This particular pilot had a dental problem, and was treated by one of the prisoners. Miyazaki liked them, and said they were "a nice bunch of guys".

During King;'s interview, Miyazaki was horrified to learn that none of the prisoners had survived the war. They had been executed in late 1943, when the garrison commander thought the Americans were about to invade.

We share so much with these men, who were our erstwhile enemies.And their stories were nearly lost, but for the efforts of a diligent few who have had the gumption to seek out these elderly, and sometimes reclusive veterans.

To hear them clearly, we have to look at ourselves, and put aside prejudice.

To see their faces, we have to pull the stereotypes from our lenses.

To know them, we have to recognize our common humanity.

And why am i reviewing a book about Japanese naval aviators in a Christian marriage blog?

Simple. We have and obligation to God and to our mates to be better than we are, for them, and for the relationship.

These stories, in The Last Zero Fighter, will inspire you to do just that.

Click here to see the Amazon page.


  1. Andrew, We all have blinders on that cloud our judgement, don't we. I love how you end this post, Andrew telling how much we share with our enemies. It is so powerful. If we could take your words and carry them into our life; into the lives of everyone in the chaos we currently live in, perhaps the violence would begin to subside. We are not so different from one another.

    1. It's said that every enemy killed is a small tragedy, because that person could have been a friend.

      We are so very similar, we and those we would slay. We need only open our hearts.

      Thank you for being here, Kim.