I’d read about Last Mission to Tokyo by Michel Paradis in Military History Magazine in late 2020 and absolutely had to get my hands on it. I did but didn’t start reading it until earlier this year. I finished it a few weeks ago and loved it. I was about halfway through Jake Tapper’s The Outpost when I started reading Last Mission to Tokyo and by the time I had read just over half of the latter, I’d developed a deep admiration for how necessarily different are the voices, tones, and styles of Jake Tapper’s journalistic/investigative writing and that of Michel Paradis’s creative non-fiction.
Paradis points out in the Author’s Note that he had intended originally to “write a more scholarly examination of the case of United States v. Sawada, et al. and the lessons it has for contemporary international and national security law,” but the more he researched and worked on it, the more he realized that this history would appeal to a wider audience, not just law professors, students, and experts (343).
Upon reading just a few chapters of Paradis’s book, I kept thinking to myself, “Did I learn about the US military bombing Tokyo before the atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? Why is this piece of knowledge so shocking? The Doolittle Raid is referenced and briefly depicted in Roland Emmerich’s war film Midway?” Honestly, je ne me souviens pas.
Last Mission to Tokyo chronicles the aftermath of The Doolittle Raid and what happened to the crew of two planes, the Green Hornet and the Bat Out of Hell, when they made their way to China (hoping they’d found themselves in US-friendly, Chiang Kai-Shek-backed communities). Captured, tortured, executed (but not all of them); bringing a trial against those responsible for ordering the deaths of American airmen, having to navigate through not just Japanese military bureacracy to get names but also post-war socio-political stability in the region, and finding yourself having to serve as defense counsel for the accused Japanese officers? There was so much to compile, consider, and process to find a modicum of justice.
If you like reading books on history in general, military history in particular, international law, World War II, or creative non-fiction overall, please give this book a try. If you want to learn things you never knew you’d derive pleasure from learning, read this book. For example, did you know that “the Philippines had been the United States’ largest colony for more than forty years” until the Japanese kicked them out in WWII for three years, at which time “MacArthur had made good on his promise to return and wiped out the Japanese forces in the Battle of Manila” (85)?
Part of me is under the impression that the Philippines being an American colony was in the AP US history textbook, but when I came across this passage in Last Mission to Tokyo, my response was not of “oh, yeah, I knew that,” but rather, “what?!”
It goes without saying that I want to read more about Asian countries during WWII. Anyone have recommendations?