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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II by Judith M. Heimann

An odd and interesting bit of history from the Pacific Front in World War II

The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II  is a well-researched telling of the story of two sets of American fliers (one Army and one Navy) who were shot down over Borneo by the Japanese. The survivors end up living with the Dayaks, the famous headhunters of the highlands of Borneo.
Borneo was largely unmapped and unknown to the West. It was, and still is, one of the remotest locations on earth. Most of Borneo's interior is like the old line, "You can't get there from here." Well, you can if you jump out of an airplane.


The author, Judith Heimann
doing research in Borneo

The author, Heimann, does a good job of giving the reader a feel for the Dayak way of life, but the shortage of maps makes the story of the soldiers being moved from village to village for their protection a frustrating experience. At times, the story bogs down in a series of descriptions about a series of malarial infections, boils that need lancing and endless rice-based meals.

Don't let that stop you from reading this book, though. Any student of World War II should pick this one up just to learn one of the more interesting tales from a remote location in a truly world war.

A PBS documentary was also made with the same title based on the book.

I rate this book 4 stars.

Reviewed on August 11, 2009

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