I started this one with the audiobook which I borrowed from my library. For those of you who complain about audios that are performed, this is the audiobook for you. Hoffman's narration was technical and dry with zero emoting at all. It was incredibly difficult for me to listen to. I found my mind often wondering and having to rewind several times, and even then I couldn't keep my attention on the story for very long.
I got to about 75% and gave up, switching over to the paperback. I spent most of yesterday skim-reading the first 340 pages to pick up all the stuff I missed while listening, and finished up the last few chapters last night and this morning and looked at the various photos and maps that the audio obviously doesn't have. The writing flowed much better once I was reading it.
The Korean War is known as the Forgotten War, or as the veterans of that war call it, the Forgotten Victory. Many of them were already veterans from WWII, and many others had been too young to fight in WWII but were now fighting in this war. I didn't know much about the Korean War before going into this, so it was interesting to learn more about it, what forces were involved, what the stakes were and all that.
This war also started just a few years after Pres. Truman desegregated the military, but there was still Jim Crow in the south, and segregation laws throughout much of the US, including D.C. and California. The book gives some accounts of the early lives of Tom Hudner, a white man from a wealthy New England family, and Jesse Brown, the navy's first black officer, from a poor sharecropper family in Mississippi. They would become friends once they both got assigned to the U.S.S. Leyte. It also focuses on a number of the other pilots in their squadron, and how they all bonded in their first year together.
Once the book gets to North Korea and the battles that took place there in the first year of the war, up to the battle of Chosin, it includes accounts of the Marines that the pilots of Squadron 32 helped to defend. There's also an account about a third of the way into the book of their stay in Cannes where many of them met a young Elizabeth Taylor, and I felt that part was rather meandering and didn't really amount to much.
Makos doesn't stray into dramatics. He reports the facts and relays them in an approachable manner. He interviewed many of the men he portrays here, as well as their friends and family, and even went to North Korea to interview veterans there when Hudner returned there years later, which is true dedication. The writing is simple but not unmoving when it needs to be.