Fire from the Sky: A Diary Over Japan
Author: Ron Greer
Publisher: Greer Publishing (2005)
Binding: Hardcover, 240 pages
"May 26, 1945 target Tokyo; the target was the eastern part of the industrial section of Tokyo. It was hot as hell too, because the Japanese were waiting for us. We went into the target individually and as we made our sweep, one Jap twin-engine fighter was waiting about 20 miles off the coast and followed us over the target. Flak was very heavy and searchlights were estimated at about 400 in number in the Tokyo area. We were in the searchlights all the way through the target. Losses were estimated to be about 18 B-29's. One crew came back with the tail almost shot off and the tail gunner had been killed instantly. On both raids the industrial centers we hit had an estimated civilian population of 50,000 to 75,000 people per square mile area. Fires started by the incendiary bombs covered 10 square miles and could be seen 200 miles out to sea."
If this dialog sounds like a plot from a war movie it well could be, however the account consists of the bombing mission quotes taken directly from the diary of S/Sgt Herb Greer, Radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress named the "City of Monroe" during the war with Japan. The diary takes each of the 28 missions flown by the B-29 "City of Monroe" one by one and details those events as they happened over Japan. The accounts are filled with such phrases as "Great Fires, clouds of thick black smoke, horrific smells meaning flesh burning, which permeated the aircraft over the target area and lingered until they landed some 8 to 10 hours later on Guam. Bombing missions were repeated until most of the industrial areas of Japans major cities were nothing but ashes. The final days were approaching when Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be devastated with the two atomic bombs. The gentleman that I speak of is my father, Herbert L. Greer and this is a book of his diary, supplemental comments and pictures that reflect on a period of time that the United States freedom and liberty were highly at risk.
2005 Silver Medal Award for Best Military Memoir!
A B-29 Aircraft Crewmember’s Eye Witness View of History. I picked up “Fire From The Sky” and was just going to look take a casual stroll through the first few pages to see what it was about—but I got hooked on the reading of the air battles over Japan and of the men who flew these missions. The authors make great use of Herbert Greer’s personal diary that he kept during those dangerous and historic flights. You get some wonderful insights and not just facts and data about what happened. You read about the fears and feelings of the real men and what it was like to be a member of a B-29 Bomber crew.
The diary they use to set up the storyline of the book deals with more than just the 28 air combat missions that Greer flew over Japan as a radio operator. We get a little glimpse about his early life before his service; as a youth on the farm and to being involved with the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam. However, it is the riveting stories of those fire bombing missions of Japan’s largest cities that becomes spell binding.
The authors make great use of the actual diary entries along with comments and thoughts from the now much older Greer to make you feel like you are a part of the flight crew. The reader will begin to feel and almost experience their emotions, as the stories of their missions unfold. These men took great risks and put their own personal lives on the line for their country; this book captures this piece of history, preserving it for future generations. Even though these men were all heroes; they were not supermen of any kind but regular flesh and blood men who did some very astonishing things in their young lives. They really did help to end the war with Japan.
This is a book you will not be able to put down until you are done. It is a well told memoir of the men whose missions will live forever in history! Meeting them in this book is a cherished privilege for the reader. It was my honor to have read the book; it felt almost sacred to be allowed to look inside a crew member’s personal diary—truly a treasured artifact of historic and sentimental value. This is a book worth reading several times. Great black and white photos as well. I fully recommend buying and reading this wonderful book about aviation and the men who crewed B-29s.
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2005)