Ballentine Books, 2015. Hardcover, 464 pages.
Devotion is the true story of a pair of naval aviators set during the Korean War. This pair, despite their very different backgrounds, provide an example of friendship that should inspire all. Ensign Jesse Brown grew up poor as the son of a sharecropper in Mississippi. He always had a fascination with flying, something many did not think a black child would ever learn to do. However, he proved them wrong. Lieutenant Tom Hudner grew up a merchant’s son on the East Coast. It was a privileged life and he turned down admission to Harvard to attend the Naval Academy. He served in Naval Intelligence for years before he decided to try flight school.
The pair met when they are assigned to the same squadron. In those early years, Makos shows how the friendship grew and how Hudner did not accept the fact skin color should bar Brown from anything or anyplace. Once war is declared and their carrier is transferred from the Mediterranean, where much downtime led to parties, to Korea, the struggles of war are shown. Missions are depicted as is life on the carrier. As the only black officer, Brown is shown as an inspiration to the enlisted colored men on the ship. When tragedy struck, as it usually does somehow during wartime, what will happen to Brown and Hudner? Read this narrative to find out.
I enjoyed this touching story. Making it even more touching is the fact it is true. Hudner and Brown demonstrated that color should not be a barrier in an era when it still was. Then the fact Brown succeeded in his career goals despite his skin color showed bravery of a high degree. Makos used a combination of documents, books, oral histories, and conversations to create a compelling novel-like narrative to tell the story of not just these two men, but the others in their squadron and life. With the facts both are exceptional pilots, Brown’s family life, Hudner’s bachelorhood, and their strong friendship, it is reminiscent of that of Maverick and Goose in the movie Top Gun. In fact, I wonder if Hudner and Brown’s story may have somehow been an inspiration for the movie. In all, this compelling story is for a wider audience than just readers of biographies and history; it has an appeal to all through its focus on the friendship over battle.
And what else would be a better book to share with readers on this day that is for the remembrance of those who fell in the service of their country?
The hardcover of this dual biography came out in late 2015, but the paperback was just released in March. I checked a copy out from the library shortly after its intial release and truly enjoyed it. I have recommended it to several of my library’s patrons since.
Have you read this work before? If so, share your thoughts. If not, do you think you will read this work and why? Do you have any other titles on either the Korean War, race relations in the military, or others similar to this one?