Tanya Lee Stone has done a fantastic job writing the history of America’s first black paratroopers. Many of us have already learned about the Tuskegee Airmen, but I dare say that few even knew that the 555th airborne division existed during World War II.
Stone starts with a discussion of the racial discrimination that was prevalent in the military at the time. She takes the reader through the steps toward getting the all black paratroopers ready to jump. Although they never served overseas during the war, they did provide necessary service to the country here at home in the battle with forest fires.
As it turns out, military service was actually needed in the area where the forest fires were occurring. While none of the fires that the 555th actually worked with were clearly of enemy origin, what the American public did not know was that the Japanese had actually launched balloon bombs to the U.S. One of those bombs killed a woman and five teenagers in Blye, Oregon in 1945.
The government managed to keep the news that a Japanese bomb had made it to the U.S. out of the news, but they sent the 555th to the Northwest in case others made it to shore and were exploded. This was one of the best kept secrets of the war. The U.S. did not want Japan to know that they had succeed. When no news of any bomb attacks made it to Japan, they assumed that the mission was a failure, and they gave up on it. Imagine what would have happened had they known that they really had succeeded!
The story of the 555th continues clear up until the actual integration of the military in 1953. It is fascinating, and very easy to read. The book is well researched, fully documented and excellently illustrated with photos, drawings and maps. It is written for middle school to high school students, but I think any history buff will thoroughly enjoy reading it.
I really don’t know how much more I can say about it. The only problem I had with it was that it felt unwieldy to me. I wanted to read the story in its entirety, which I did. But, in doing so I had to hold the book in both hands while reading. It is too wide and heavy to be held in one hand, even if one switches hands in the process.
For those of you who are interested, this has an A.R.of 8 With 5 pts.