PHANTOM WARRIOR by Forrest Bryant Johnson


The Heroic True Story of Pvt. John McKinney’s One-Man Stand Against the Japanese in World War II
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Worshipful biography of a Georgia sharecropper’s son who won the Medal of Honor for a spectacular feat in May 1945.

Johnson (Hour of Redemption, 2002) decided to retell the story of John McKinney (1921–97) to remind readers that America “still produces brave, unselfish warriors who are willing to sacrifice for what our country believes.” Posthumous interviews with friends and fellow soldiers revealed only that McKinney was a quiet, pleasant fellow, so Johnson fills most of the book with a fictionalized account of his youth, his unit’s exploits and a description of the war in the Pacific. Four months after American forces invaded the main Philippine island, McKinney’s unit was guarding an isolated outpost when the Japanese attacked, quickly capturing the single machine gun that commanded the area and could determine the battle’s outcome. A crack shot, McKinney killed the two Japanese soldiers at the machine gun and took his position there. When it jammed, he used his rifle and several others, often fighting hand-to-hand against overwhelming odds. When fighting stopped after 40 minutes, observers counted more than 100 Japanese dead, most killed by McKinney. Three wounded men witnessed his heroics, so plenty of documentation exists, though the uneducated Georgia farm boy left no personal papers. Sadly, the author converts what may be the greatest individual American feat of any war into a lurid, comic-book adventure replete with invented, highly macho dialogue: “ ‘You boys are running into a Georgia cyclone!’ he muttered. Then his finger reached for the machine gun trigger…”

Another in the long line of books describing the exploits of modest, freedom-loving soldiers in purple prose that would surely embarrass their subjects. Strictly for fans of the genre.

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-425-21566-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Dutton Caliber
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2007