Prather’s Pick: An act of heroism — a true story
I don’t often review books about the military (I should) because I have a hard time getting through them, but this week I have an extraordinary book to recommend to readers. My husband Lyle brought the book to my attention; he had just finished reading it and thought it was written in such a way that I would enjoy reading it, too. He was right.
It’s “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice.” This nonfiction book was written by Adam Makos who, according to his short bio, lives in Denver.
In an introduction to the book, Makos wrote that, “Our goal was for you not to read ‘Devotion’ but to experience it.”
Makos believes that there’s “no more powerful means to tell a story” than by dialogue so he relied on recorded dialogue and on memories from the people involved and put plenty of dialogue in his book. As far as I’m concerned, it makes all the difference when reading nonfiction.
The book is the inspirational story of two men who were U.S. Navy aviators during the Korean War. Their job was to fly their planes off an aircraft carrier and defend the Marines. The men became good friends.
Lieutenant Tom Hudner was a “white New Englander” who had been accepted at Harvard but passed up the opportunity so he could fly a fighter and defend his country. Ensign Jesse Brown was “an African American sharecropper’s son from Mississippi” who was the Navy’s first black carrier pilot. (During this time, some regions of our country were struggling with segregation; this comes out in the book, too.)
Tom was not married when he was an aviator, but Jesse was married to Daisy, and they had an infant daughter. The reader learns about Tom and Jesse’s lives before they became pilots, and Makos has included other “characters” in the book as well, including both aviators and Marines.
Jesse and Tom were wingmen in Fighter Squadron 32. It seemed to me that I rode along with them as they engaged in combat, and that’s not all — the reader is with the Marines on the battlefield, too. It’s all so very real.
One day Jesse and Tom tried to save Marines that were cornered in the Chosin Reservoir, but disaster ensued, and one of the aviators was shot down and became as a result was pinned in his plane. The other aviator made a heroic decision to rescue his friend. (You will have to read the book.) This part of the book brought tears to my eyes.
There’s so much to this book, even memories about meeting Elizabeth Taylor when some of the men were on the Riviera, while they were still in the Mediterranean.
There are several insert pages of photos, plus photos scattered throughout the book; an extensive bibliography; and an Afterword with information about some of the men after the war.
This is an incredible book that I will not forget — not ever. It’s a must read.
“Devotion” is published by Ballantine Books (2015). The hardcover book costs $28.00. You can also find the book at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Library. Adam Makos had also written “A Higher Call” that was a “New York Times” bestselling book.
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