cover image Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike

Donald A. Davis. St. Martin's Press, $25.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-312-30906-0

World War II enthusiasts probably already know about the controversies surrounding the American mission to kill Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the man who orchestrated the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. What the uninitiated will find interesting is Davis's account of the lives of the soldiers who participated in the attack. Through a series of vignettes, the reader sees both American and Japanese perspectives. Good and bad guys can be found on either side, and Davis appears to be a fair judge of character as he considers different perspectives of these historic events. Davis also does an excellent job supplementing a bird's eye view of the war with minute detail, i.e. ""honor ribbons blossomed on the chest of the green uniform, and the right hand rested upon a long sword."" Davis portrays Yamamoto not as a villain, but as a man who ""captured the imagination of his crew and pilots"" and was an inspiration to his people. (The real villain appears in the form of a glory-seeking American who uses his connections to rewrite history.) Yet, in this account, individuals are minor players compared to the war itself, which takes us from Japan and Pearl Harbor to the Philippines, Australia and Guadalcanal, where the bulk of the action takes place. Increasingly, readers are shown the more subtle but no less vicious war regarding the truth of what happened during the Yamamoto mission, and herein lies the thrust of Davis's book: to shatter the air of conspiracy that surrounds the mysterious mission and reveal the truth. Despite a thrown-together feel in the first 70 or so pages, Davis both informs and entertains, and shows the ease with which history may be rewritten.