Book Review: Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time, Jon Erwin and William Doyle. Hard cover/August 18, 2020. Publisher Thomas Nelson
On April 12, 1945, a fleet of American B-29 bombers flew toward Japan. Their mission was simple: stop World War II by burning the cities, factories, and military bases of the Japanese empire, thereby forcing an unconditional surrender. Yet the mission did not go as planned. On board one of the B-29s, the City of Los Angeles, a phosphorus bomb detonated inside the plane. Staff Sergeant Henry E. “Red” Erwin absorbed the blast of burning phosphorus yet managed to throw overboard the still-flaming bomb, before collapsing from the third-degree burns over much of his body.
Breaking protocol, the plane diverted to a military hospital at Iwo Jima. President Truman quickly ordered that Erwin be awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest honor of the American military, before the young airman died of his wounds. There was just one problem: no Medals of Honor were available in the entire Pacific theater. General Curtis LeMay dispatched a squad of airmen on a 1,000-mile mission to smash their way into a display case and steal a medal to give to Erwin before time ran out.
Meanwhile, Red’s courageous young bride set out on her own mission, one of against-all-odds healing. Her success would determine the fate of the twenty-three-year-old warrior–and years later make possible the birth of the book’s author: their grandson, Jon Erwin.
Drawn from in-depth interviews with eyewitnesses and deep archival research, Beyond Valor is an extraordinary tale of bravery, heroism, faith, and devotion.
About the authors: Jon Erwin is the grandson of Medal of Honor Recipient Henry E. ‘Red’ Erwin, is an American film director and producer. With his brother, Andrew he is among only eight directors to receive the incredibly rare A+ Cinemascore not once but twice, joining a list that includes Stephen Spielberg and Robert Zemekis. Their film, I Can Only Imagine, was the #1 independent movie of 2018. The brothers have a multi-layer film and TV deal on Lionsgate and are developing Beyond Valor into a major motion picture.
William Doyle is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of ten nonfiction books, and has produced TV shows for HBO, the History Chanel, and PBS. He is the coauthor of American Gun, with Chris Kyle and of Navy SEAL, with Dick Couch. He is also the author of the highly acclaimed 2015 book PT 109: An American Epic or War, Survival, and the Destiny of John F. Kennedy. Doyle is a Fulbright Scholar and the son of a US Army combat veteran who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.