The First Heroes is the story of this extraordinary mission, a moment in history that is surprisingly unfamiliar today. To give these heroes their due, Craig Nelson interviewed 20 of the surviving participants and researched more than 40,000 pages of archival documents.
Here is a true account of great personal courage and a powerful reminder that ordinary people, when faced with extraordinary circumstances, can rise to the challenge of history.
©2002 Craig Nelson; (P)2003 Blackstone Audiobooks
This was an heroic attempt by the author to present a detailed recounting of what at the time was an heroic effort by the fledgling AAF to retaliate for Pearl Harbor and give the United States a psychological lift at the beginning of World War II after the U.S. had suffered defeat after defeat. It is long, it is detailed, it is tedious, yet most of it is good listening, but you have to want to hear it.
But, where do they get readers who pronounce "ensign" as "en sign" rather than "N-sn", or "cpl", the abbreviation for corporal as "c.p.l."? Would you believe "boatswain"?
I can't recommend this book to anyone unless they have an abiding interest in hearing the details of this mission, and what happened to each of the eighty crewmen who took part in the raid.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I'd just finished Hornfischer's outstanding "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" and wanted some more inspirational reading. Unfortunately, the author has no - and I repeat no - required knowledge of the US Navy. There are many, many small, factual errors that are really annoying - referring to the HMS Repulse as a "cruiser", describing the Japanese torpedoes as "two feet long", etc, etc. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of the US Navy in WW2 should have been given an opportunity to preview this book before publication. Additionally, his overuse of military jargon - bombs referred to as "cabbages", torpedoes as "eels" by such a rank amateur was just too much.
The narrator has no idea regarding correct pronunciation of naval terms - (en-sine, indeed.)
I find that when there are so many factual errors in an area that I'm familiar with, I have a tough time accepting the new - often interesting on its face - data that an author brings up. It's too bad that such a terrific topic couldn't have been treated more professionally. I read "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo" as a kid and really was looking for some new information. I blame the editors completely for this second rate attempt.
This book satisfied my desire to know more about the Doolittle raid, and it was interesting to learn so much more about the aftermath than you normally encounter in books dealing with military actions. However, I gave the book only three stars because it is, indeed, distracting to hear "ensign" mispronounced literally dozens of times. Other mispronunciations reveal that the narrator has no familiarity with the subject matter, or military knowledge in general. Other examples of mispronunciations (in addition to those mentioned in the previous review) include, but are not limited to: Swigert (the Apollo astronaut), AFB (always read as letters, not "Air Force Base") and virtually every Japanese name, Fuchida Mitsuo being the worst.
The book was tedious in places, but I would recommend it for its coverage of facts you won't find anywhere else (at least not in one place).
This book is one that you love and hate. The detail of the Doolittle raid is great but the organization and editing of the book are poor. There is not much new here and it goes into much detail using legitimately copied sections from other Dolittle raid sagas such as "30 Seconds Over Tokyo". The narrator had obviously no military background with his mispronunciations of military rank and equipment which are extremely irritating. The audiobook is long and I slogged through but it was a chore. It only proves I will read or listen to anything involving the Doolittle raid.
I am very much enjoying this selection for several reasons. First and foremost, it's a really good story that keeps you wanting more. At no point did it ever for a moment become slow.
As a historical reference it offers an excellent gateway to understanding, and wanting to learn more about the pacific campaign.
It does an excellent job covering both the tactical aspects of the raid, as well as the strategy shifts that Japan (wrongfully) adopted as a result of the raid.
What I really liked was that the author leads you in a very logical progression to the battle of Midway, where I'm going to continue on from here.
The reader did make some wackey reading errors, but that was offset by a nice smooth, well paced, and comfortable style.
I've heard a lot of books here on Audible, and this is clearly amoung my favorites. For that I am grateful to the author, the reader, and to Audible.
The First heroes gives great insight and detail into the planning, execution and aftermath of the Doolittle Raid on Japan. You hear from the flyers involved, the planners and the Japanese point of views. It explores the history of the crews and what they endured after the raid.
However, near the end there seems to be a great deal of emphasis on how Christianity altered the flyers and allowed them to embrace and change their enemy. While I can understand that the comfort of God and religion can help some in difficult circumstances, it just seemed to dwell too much on this aspect.
There are also several significant fact errors in the book but none of importance to the overall material. These mostly deal with locations and or procedures
I still recommend First Heroes but be ready for religious preaching in the last quarter of the book.
I found the text to be intelligently written and informative. I did not like the reader though. When quoting, he tried to sound like Bogie and other 40s and 50s charactors! He also made many quotes to sound like hick southerners with little education. I'm sure this isn't the case. There were also too many mispronounced words and places. I will be looking out for this reader in the future and avoid him.
This was an outstanding book undertaking both a panoramic view of the Doolittle raid, and well as a good study of the individuals involved.
I really appreciated the fact that the author did not cut out the spiritual aspects of some of the characters. Even including the part of Missionary John Birch's part in the rescue of Jimmy Doolittle.
This is a great story, and well done. Definitely too long for one sitting.
Do yourself a favor and stay away from this audio book. The author was clearly out of his league in attempting to write about anything related to aviation, and the narrator makes it even worse. The factual errors and mispronunciations left me laughing and cringing at the same time. The author takes deep excursions into subjects that are so far from the Doolittle Raid, you wonder if you have accidentally downloaded the wrong book. Sorry to be so harsh, but other readers/listeners need to be warned not to waste your money on this one. The books by Carroll V. Glines are the best ever written on the Raid. His work was so valuable, they made him an honorary member of the Raiders. Read his books if you can.
While the pilots of the Doolittle Raid flew at treetop level, the author Craig Nelson tells their stories from 30,000 feet, far too high to get into the B-25 bombers with any of the crew members who took part in this historic mission. The story reads like a history lesson, and includes long passages about the Pearl Harbor and Midway battles before and after the Doolittle Raid to put the mission into historical context, rather than getting personal with the men of the mission itself. The reader will come away with a good overview of the mission, and it's importance, but in the process learn very little of the 80 men on the 16 B-25 bombers who took part in the mission. The narrative bounces around from crew to crew so frequently, without connecting to any individual crewmen, that it never touches any of them deeply. This is made far worse by a narrator who reads this book like one run-on sentence, far too often without as much as a pause as the author changes from crew to crew. The narrator reads this book as if he's in a race to get to the end of it, which unfortunately comes without ever really learning who these amazing men of the Doolittle Raid really were.
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