The book should not be judged by its title, since it actually has a lot of good information in it other than just information on the men in the airplanes. It also deals with the events on Chichi Jima, where American pilots were not only killed but eaten by the Japanese. A lot of space is taken up going over just why the Japanese soldiers were so horrible in their behavior, but it also brings up some U.S. misbehavior in its own past, especially against Native Americans.
There's also some interesting historical information. For example, In December of 1864, a Methodist minister spoke about how he led an attack days earlier on a Native American village in Sand Creek, Colorado. 150 Native American women, children and old men were massacred. The minister ended up a deputy sheriff. Teddy Roosevelt praised the massacre.
The U.S./Mexican war was started by the U.S. forces provoking a fight. Who said this? Ulysses S. Grant, who fought in the war, later led the Union army, and was elected President.
The book goes into historical of how the U.S. and Japan made contact. The author goes on to talk about Japanese military training. When the recruits entered boot camp, '...they entered a brutal gulag of horrors.' The officers were the highest in the pecking order, of course, and could basically do whatever they wanted to the recruits.
He writes that the military distorted the essence of bushido, and twisted it into a cult of death. The approach was psychological; remove the fear of death by substituting an expectation of death and the soldiers will fight without any fear of dying at all.
Brutality was also an accepted norm. '...the IJA actively encouraged regular and vicious abuse of its charges.' This ranged from slaps up to and sometimes beyond severe beatings. The other thing the military instilled was an '...absolute, unhesitating, unthinking, blind obedience to orders.'
The book then talks about Billy Mitchell and how he foresaw that the U.S. and Japan would eventually go to war.
There's a chapter on the Rape of China where the author notes around 100,000 Americans died in the Pacific war. Japan had around 2.5 million military and civilian deaths, but China had around 30 million Chinese deaths (starting with the 1931 invasion by Japan.) The chapter also discusses Japanese atrocities in China.
The author is also not afraid to point out U.S. hypocrisy. FDR condemned the Japanese bombing of Chinese cities and civilians, but later the U.S. did exactly the same thing when it firebombed Japanese cities, and then used two atomic bombs.
He discusses racism, noting the white vs. Native American racism that was recognized by the Japanese, and the Japanese dislike of Christianity.
Then there's a long section on the biography of individual pilots who were shot down over and near Chichi Jima, including any who got away (like the first George Bush), and those who were captured and killed. The Dolittle raid and its results are covered, along with how the Japanese took their anger out on the Chinese for that raid. This included more atrocities and the use of biological weapons. The book also discusses what happened to the captured Dolittle raiders.
The difference in military production is noted. In the two years after Midway, for example, the Japanese launched six fleet carriers. In the same period of time, the U.S. launched 17 regular carriers, plus 10 medium carriers and 86 escort carriers. The U.S. also had the planes for the carriers and enough fuel to fly them, neither of which the Japanese had.
The racial hatred on both sides is discussed with specific examples given. There was a world of difference between how the German soldiers were seen, and how the Japanese soldiers were seen. There was also a massive difference in how American P.O.W.s were treated by the two sides. The Japanese tendency to kill their own wounded is also discussed, again with specific examples.
The Japanese drive for banzai attacks and not being taken prisoner is covered, noting that the death rates of Japanese on some of the battles included 98.9 percent on Attu; 99.7 percent on Tarawa; almost 100% on Makin, and 98.4 percent on Kwajalein.
Also discussed is how the Japanese grew to totally hate American plane crews, more so than they hated American infantry.
The book then deals with the Chichi Jima atrocities against American fliers, and the details of what was done to them are quite gruesome. This was pretty much barbarity at its worst. Still, the book offers other tidbits in addition to the Chichi Jima story. American and British bombs killed 650,000 Germans, of whom 130,000 were children. 800,000 civilians were maimed. The firebombing of Japan is also covered, including the Tokyo raid of March 9/10 where at least 83,000 Japanese were killed.
There also may have been a plan to kill for the Japanese to kill their own infirm old people, very young people and very sick people in case of an American invasion of the homelands. Soldiers would also wear regular civilian clothing, and all civilians were expected to help defend the home islands. Another Japanese military person expected around 20 million Japanese to die in kamikaze attacks of one kind or another against the Americans. (This would include regular kamikaze planes, midget subs, attack boats, underwater swimmers carrying explosives, etc, plus civilians doing things that today would be termed suicide bombing.)
There were also Japanese plans to kill all 350,000 Allied prisoners of war.
The author's position on Hirohito's role is quite clear. 'Emperor Hirohito was a war criminal if there ever was one.' He also thinks Japan's worst crime was the work Unit 731 did, and the use of their biological weapons on the Chinese.
Japan main page
Japanese-American Internment Camps index page
Japan and World War II index page