This is the story of Ernest Pickett, a typical American with dreams of becoming a pilot. Beginning as a young cadet Pickett thoroughly describes life during basic training, the planes he flew, and typical military life. He started out flying a PT-19 while stationed at Chickasha, Oklahoma. Next stop was four months of basic training in Waco, Texas, where he advanced up to the BT-13. Upon graduation from basic he was given a choice of going to multi-engine or single -engine school for advanced training. He had always dreamed of flying a bomber like the B-24, so he continued his multi training at Waco. He was assigned to the B-24 transition school at Davis-Monthan in Tucson in preparation to being sent overseas. A change of plans sent him instead to Great Bend, Kansas, to be involved in a top secret project. He soon learned that there was a giant super bomber being produced called the B-29 Superfortress, and his outfit was scheduled to be the first to take it overseas. Pickett goes into great detail concerning the many problems encountered with the early B-29s. He was assigned a crew and spent ten months in Salina training.

In the spring of 44 they were ready to head overseas and make an assault on the Japanese homeland. The story of their trip to their final destination near Calcutta is most interesting. Flying the hump was a real adventure. After years of preparation Picketts crew and their B-29 Reddy Teddy were finally ready for their first mission over Japan. He had absolutely no fear of his upcoming combat missions because he felt "invincible" in the best bomber in the world. What could possibly happen to him? At briefing he was informed his first mission would be the first daylight raid over Japan. They were to launch a massive attack on the largest steel mill in Japan, the Imperial Iron and Steel Works in Yawata. The long trip over was mostly uneventful until they reached their target. They were immediately attacked by Zeros and suffered direct hits by the very accurate antiaircraft fire. The Reddy Teddy was on fire and Pickett gave the order to bail out. Pickett landed in the middle of an angry group of civilians and armed soldiers. He was brutally beaten and smashed in the face with rifle butts. The B-29 crews were singled out for extreme torture from the Japanese. He was badly burned from the aircraft fire which caused painful injuries. He was taken to a prison where he was continually interrogated, giving only his name, rank, and serial number. This infuriated the Japanese and this caused more severe beatings. Pickett uses half of the book telling of the inhumane and barbaric treatment given the POWs. Many B-29 crewmembers were tried and beheaded the same day. Many others died from the beatings and lack of food. One airman with an injured foot bled to death when they cut his foot off with a sword. Others had sword injuries which were full of maggots. Since the B-29 crews were "criminals" that was reason enough to behead them. They had to dig their own graves, they were beheaded and kicked in the graves. Other airmen covered them up. The book details the savage actions of the Japanese and the torture of our airmen. Pickett was moved from one place to another, always in solitary confinement. He was not allowed to bathe and dysentery was unbearable. Given only small portions of rice his weight began to fall off and he became very sick, with no medical treatment. His weight dropped to 97 pounds from the long periods of dysentery, Crohn's disease, internal bleeding, beriberi, continual beatings, and infection from his burns. All the prisoners were covered with lice. His life was a living hell, and every day he expected to be executed. At one prison camp among the prisoners was Pappy Boyington. Pickett described him as a strutting, cocky sort with a boastful big shot attitude about him that he did not like.

Finally after all the firebombings the war came to an end. Probably more prisoners were killed after the surrender than during the war. Pickett was transferred to Madigan Hospital in Tacoma, Washington for three months. The Japanese had never offered any medical treatment. Most POWs ended up with endemic heart disease which became another problem. Psychologically he was changed forever. He expressed his anger and hatred for his experience.

Eventually Pickett was back home with his wife, raised a family of two sons and a daughter. He believes the bomb was an absolute necessity, as the Japanese were of such a fanatical nature they would have never surrendered had the bomb not been dropped.

This book is actually written by his daughter Kristi, after ten years of Pickett relating his experiences to her. Unfortunately he never got to see the book. He died on Sept. 7, 1999. He was 80 years old. This book is a must read for all B-29 crewmembers, a story of honor, courage, duty, loyalty, and survival. Sometimes under the worst circumstances the best in us can prevail.

As I flew my missions over North Korea many times I looked down and wondered exactly what I would do if captured and tortured. I wonder if I could have withstood half the mistreatment received by Ernest Pickett. He suffered in an environment of atrocities by a barbaric country who subjected America's finest to unthinkable treatment. Can I ever forget? Can I ever forgive?

This book report is written by Wayland Mayo

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