The story of a mission over North Korea in 1950 when, in an almost suicidally brave gesture, a Navy pilot tried to pull his friend from burning wreckage.
Given the subjects—pilots Tom Hudner, white, and Jesse Brown, black—many authors would be tempted to write an inspiring story of racial tolerance, the brotherhood of warriors, and patriotic sacrifice. Journalist Makos (co-author: A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II, 2012) yields to that temptation, resulting in worshipful biographies of two men who overcame adversity to achieve their dreams as Navy pilots, bonded despite vastly different backgrounds, and risked their lives for freedom. The book, writes the author, is “an inspirational story of an unlikely friendship. It’s the tale of a white pilot from the country clubs of New England and a black pilot from a southern sharecropper’s shack forming a deep friendship in an era of racial hatred.” Brown died in his plane, and the author’s interviews with those who knew him turn up only good things. He endured humiliating racial persecution but excelled at school, worked his way through college, enlisted in the Navy, and became the first black carrier pilot. Raised in a prosperous Massachusetts family, Hudner had an easier time achieving his dream, but Makos’ portrait of him is equally admiring. Their final flight took place to support Marines trapped around the frozen Chosin Reservoir, and Makos detours regularly for shorter biographies of several who fought and suffered on the ground. For more than half the book, the author describes peacetime service of a naval band of brothers: training, camaraderie, horseplay, etc. There follows the stories of two months of ground-attack missions culminating in the action that won Hudner the Medal of Honor.
An account of a genuinely inspiring deed written as a breathless docudrama.