Last Good War, by Charles J. Brauner
A solid read, and a fascinating twist on history
Book blurb: The Japanese Rape of Nanking and her sneak attack on Pearl Harbor along with Nazi Germany’s villainous use of the gas ovens gave the World War Two Allies a moral justification seldom found in warfare. Yet the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have cloaked the last days of the Pacific war in endless controversy ever since. Was Japan so badly battered by August 1945 that she would have surrendered anyway? Why didn’t America explode one on a nearby deserted island and let the enemy surrender without such horrific loss of life? The Last Good War addresses these issues in a vivid and violent re-enactment of the final months of conflict.
Soon after Pearl Harbor two mature fifteen year old Canadian cousins enlist in the U. S. Navy and become radioman-gunners flying in dive-bombers in the Pacific. As seasoned combat aircrewmen off the U.S. aircraft carrier Brandywine, the two Canadians take part in a 1945 attack on the Japanese naval base across the bay from Hiroshima. The aerial battle reshapes the conduct of the war. As a result Aviation Radioman’s Mate Second Class Carson Braddock and ARM2/c Max Bryson are called upon to help the crew of the Enola Gay on their historic flight to Hiroshima. Soon after, two young Japanese sailors confront Carson and Max in combat. With great courage and ingenuity Gunner’s Mate Takijiru Sugihara and Bosun Chikonori Kaijitsu provide their country with a fresh opportunity to redress the balance of military power. A major moral decision must be made. The outcome of the war is in doubt. Indeed, Carson and Max face an enemy who is eager and able to use the most cruel weapon in anyone’s hands. And in the struggle that ensues the two cousins discover what veterans world-wide have learned from war over the last half century. What separates warring nations is their beliefs; What unites enemies on the battlefield is their courage.
About the Author: C.J. Brauner was raised in America during the depression. The death of his father in the South West Pacific led him to quit high school to fly in U.S. Navy dive-bombers during WWII. After the war he worked as an installer for N.J. Bell Tell. The G.I. Bill enabled him to earn a B.A. and a teacher’s certificate from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He took his Masters at Columbia Univ. in NYC. In the 1950s he taught English in the Michigan public schools until he received a Fulbright Scholarship to Greece. After his wife’s death at the American Farm School in Salonica he brought his infant daughter back to the U.S. and earned his Doctorate at Stanford U. in California. His early academic career took him to Purdue U., Syracuse U., and Ohio State Univ. For 30 years he was a professor at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada where he resides with his second wife and four grown children.
Review by Gerry Burnie
If you like solid adventure and raw action that moves at a heart-pounding pace, then The Last Good War by C.J. Brauner [Trafford Publishing; Reprint edition, 2006] is right up your alley. Indeed, within the first few pages one of the protagonists, Carson Braddock, is involved in a good-ole-fashioned punch-up with a brawny Southerner; thus setting the tone for what is to come.
And for these two—including Max Bryson—there was plenty to come, i.e.
“A flurry of one-inch shells rose to meet them and mark their speed and precise direction. Black puffs from three-inch shells blossomed above and below to bracket their altitude. Five-inch shells spiralled up to their flight level for effect. Audible bursts that erupted beneath the wings rocked the blue dive-bombers like angry hands on a cradle.
““Christ,” Max Bryson commented. “They’re throwin’ up enough tonnage to beat our bomb load five to one.”
“And explosion just ahead of Carson’s banking dive-bomber sent the sizzle of hot steel rushing through the propeller arc and along the slipstream. The shredded smoke filled his cockpit with the bitter tang of cordite. Regardless of the hazard and discomfort, however, both Canadian rear-seat gunners concentrated on the final preparations for the dive.
““With gunnery like that,” Carson Braddock observed, “the bastards don’t need the proximity fuse.”
“Suddenly, a Japanese four-inch shell blew the cowling off a Helldiver in the leading flight as it dove into a narrow gorge. The wounded pilot slumped forward and struggled with the controls. The battered dive bomber banked hard as the pilot pulled the plane into a steep stall. Slowly, she flopped over on to her back, dove down, rolled right side up, and fell off into a violent spin. The fatally injured pilot smeared blood all over the inside of his cockpit canopy as he fought to gain control and unload his bombs. The five-hundred-pound bombs spilled away from the plane like pebbles from a wagon wheel. Knifing down, they exploded and the trees as the damaged wingtip began to fold.
“MAY DAY! MAY DAY!” the radio-gunner in the rear seat broadcast. “This crate is coming apart like a peeled banana!”
“In slow motion, a nylon parachute blossomed from the rear seat. Caught in the spin and the churn of the slipstream, the canopy snagged on the tail fin and wrapped the rudder and the elevators in white cloth. Wild centrifugal force tore the hlpless gunner out of the cockpit and spun him around at the end of the shroud lines in a wide and accelerating arc. Shedding cockpit covers and torn wing panels, the doomed plane dropped far into the steep and incredibly narrow valley. As the fliers above watched, the parachute’s long nylon cords whipped the your airman into the face of a cliff just before the plane crashed and exploded. Crushed like a fly on a windscreen, the inert body of Chris Foreman from Gila Bend, Arizona, clung to the sheer granite wall as flames and smoke engulfed it.
““Their luck ran out,” Chief Flannigan declared in a somber voice over the squadron frequency. “Now let’s all get back to work.””
It is this sort of ‘visual’ realism that makes this novel darkly fascinating and compelling to read. One is at once repelled by the violence and bloodshed portrayed, and yet drawn into at the same time; wondering if our young, likeable heroes’ luck can hold out against the odds.
In this regard, all the characters are well developed; however, the introduction of Miss Shirley Hashimoto seemed oddly out-of-place in an otherwise, decidedly male story. I may be a bit biased, as well, but I thought the scenes involving her were somewhat contrived.
Altogether a good solid read, and an interesting twist on history. Four-and-one-half stars.
Progress report on Coming of Age on the Trail. It is now in the hands of the editor. Probable release date, January, 2011.
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