Updated: May 2, 2020
If you like to read history in general, American history in particular, and WWII history specifically, The First Heroes by Craig Nelson is a great read.
Immediately after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to restore the honor of the United States with a dramatic act of vengeance: a retaliatory bombing raid on Tokyo. On April 18, 1942, eighty brave young men, led by the famous daredevil Jimmy Doolittle, took off from a navy carrier in the mid-Pacific on what everyone regarded as a suicide mission but instead became a resounding American victory and helped turn the tide of the war. The First Heroes is the story of that mission. Meticulously researched and based on interviews with twenty of the surviving Tokyo Raiders, this is a true account that almost defies belief, a tremendous human drama of great personal courage, and a powerful reminder that ordinary people, when faced with extraordinary circumstances, can rise to the challenge.
Dictionaries define “hero” something like this: a person who is admired for their courage and outstanding achievements. Historically, the label “hero” has been applied to individuals whose exhibited courage and actual achievements are above and beyond the average. Oftentimes way above and beyond.
By my lights, we have demeaned the word “hero” by over-using it. Just because someone serves in a combat zone doesn’t make him/her a hero. Many are simply doing their assigned duty. Seeing a crime being committed and calling 911 on one’s cell phone doesn’t make the caller a hero. It’s something any concerned citizen would do.
Sixteen B-25s each with a crew of five. The eighty men who took part in the Doolittle raid are true heroes. Nelson’s account makes that crystal clear.
This is not to demean the hard work on necessary tasks – be it in wartime or not – that people perform with dedication and diligence. We are all called to be faithful in the use of our talents for the good of self, family, and society. Yet some go way beyond the necessary-but-ordinary. Way beyond. Read The First Heroes.