BOOK REVIEW: Black Snow by James M. Scott

40611189Title: Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

Author: James M. Scott

Audiobook Length: 12 hours 58 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, WWII, Aviation

Read Start Date: August 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Seven minutes past midnight on March 10, 1945, nearly 300 American B-29s thundered into the skies over Tokyo. Their payloads of incendiaries ignited a firestorm that reached up to 2,800 degrees, liquefying asphalt and vaporizing thousands; sixteen square miles of the city were flattened and more than 100,000 men, women, and children were killed.

Black Snow is the story of this devastating operation, orchestrated by Major General Curtis LeMay, who famously remarked: “If we lose the war, we’ll be tried as war criminals.” James M. Scott reconstructs in granular detail that horrific night, and describes the development of the B-29, the capture of the Marianas for use as airfields, and the change in strategy from high-altitude daylight “precision” bombing to low-altitude nighttime incendiary bombing. Most importantly, the raid represented a significant moral shift for America, marking the first time commanders deliberately targeted civilians which helped pave the way for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later.

Drawing on first-person interviews with American pilots and bombardiers and Japanese survivors, air force archives, and oral histories never before published in English, Scott delivers a harrowing and gripping account, and his most important and compelling work to date.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The description above pretty accurately describes the subject matter of the book, so I won’t go into plot details here.

Although the beginning of the book dragged a little bit, the pace picked up speed when America starting bombing the Japanese. The description of the animals and people, especially children, being burned to death was so heart wrenching that I nearly broke down in tears several times. I would even go so far as to provide a trigger warning here, as at times it was really hard to listen to. People being burned alive, boiling to death in super heated rivers, or drowning to death while trying to escape the flames. Yikes. It is the stuff of nightmares — and this really happened.

If this were fiction, it would be classified as a horror novel.

It is unfathomable to me that after seeing all this death and destruction, humans CONTINUE to do engage in war, death, destruction — right now we are amidst a war that is decimating an entire people and culture. WHY DO WE NEVER LEARN???

The book is immensely well researched and well written and is regarding a subject that I had not known about previously. Yes, everyone has (surely) learned about the atomic bomb in school, but I do not remember ever learning about prior incendiary attacks on Tokyo.

My emotions on the subject are so torn. On the one hand it is shameful that America was responsible for such atrocities. On the other hand, the Japanese were not saints, and they were also guilty of their own atrocities for which they should feel equally ashamed. That is not to say that anyone “deserved” it — especially not the innocent children and babies who were killed in the air raids. I hugged my daughter a little tighter after hearing some scenes.

I think war is ugly and stupid and that there must be better ways to resolve conflict. It is for this reason that books like this are important to make people SEE / HEAR / LEARN about what the impact of war is, in the hopes to avoid the same in the future.

I highly recommend this book.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

18143977Title: All The Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 2 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII

Read Start Date: August 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 16, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My Review: Living in Austria / the Netherlands, and having been to Normandy, France, a few weeks ago, it is really surreal to read about WWII events. As I was listening to the book, I was running in a place where abandoned WWII Nazi bunkers were. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. They are forced to flee Paris when the Germans start bombing it. Werner, an intelligent orphan German boy, is recruited into the war by the Nazis. The book alternates between the stories of these two characters, but it isn’t really until the last part of the book that the stories intersect.

The identities of these main characters makes the book more interesting because you experience two very different sides to the war. The Germans are of course portrayed as the bad guys, but Werner is somehow a sympathetic character, as he was brought into the war unwillingly and I got the feeling that he does not agree with what the Germans are doing. I really liked the character of Marie-Laure, as she is a courageous young woman despite her disability and able to accomplish things that not many others were brave enough to do.

When the novel begins in 1934, Werner and Marie-Laure are children. As the story progresses and the children age, the author gives you a window into growing up under the shadow of war.