Fighting the Night: Iwo Jima, World War II, and a Flyer's Life (Hardcover)

Fighting the Night: Iwo Jima, World War II, and a Flyer's Life By Paul Hendrickson Cover Image

Fighting the Night: Iwo Jima, World War II, and a Flyer's Life (Hardcover)


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From the acclaimed and best-selling author of Hemingway’s Boat, the profoundly moving story of his father’s wartime service as a night fighter pilot, and the prices he and his fellow soldiers paid for their acts of selfless, patriotic sacrifice

In the fall of 1944, Joe Paul Hendrickson, the author’s father, kissed his twenty-one-year-old wife and two baby children goodbye. The twenty-five-year-old first lieutenant, pilot of a famed P-61 Black Widow, was leaving for the war. He and his night fighter squadron were sent to Iwo Jima, where, for the last five and a half months of World War II, he flew approximately seventy-five missions, largely in pitch-black conditions. His wife would wait out the war at the home of her small-town Ohio parents, one of the countless numbers of American family members shouldering the burden of being left behind.

Joe Paul, the son of a Depression-poor Kentucky sharecropper, was fresh out of high school in 1937 when he enlisted in mechanic school in the peacetime Army Air Corps. Eventually, he was able to qualify for flight school. After marriage, and with the war on, the young officer and his bride crisscrossed the country, airfield to airfield, base to base: Santa Ana, Yuma, Kissimmee, Bakersfield, Orlando, La Junta, Fresno. He volunteered for night fighters and the newly arrived and almost mythic Black Widow. A world away, the carnage continued. As Paul Hendrickson tracks his parents’ journey, together and separate, both stateside and overseas, he creates a vivid portrait of a hard-to-know father whose time in the war, he comes to understand, was something truly heroic, but never without its hidden and unhidden psychic costs.

Bringing to life an iconic moment of American history, and the tragedy of all wars, Fighting the Night is an intense and powerful story of violence and love, forgiveness and loss. And it is a tribute to those who got plunged into service, in the best years of their lives, and the sacrifices they and their loved ones made, then and thereafter.
PAUL HENDRICKSON is a three-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a winner in 2003 for his book Sons of Mississippi. The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War was a 1996 finalist for the National Book Award. Hemingway’s Boat was a New York Times best seller and also a best seller in the UK. He has been the recipient of writing fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lyndhurst Foundation, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation. Since 1998, he has been on the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and for two decades before that, he was a staff writer at The Washington Post. He lives with his wife, Cecilia, a retired nurse, outside Philadelphia and in Washington, DC.

Product Details ISBN: 9780593321133
ISBN-10: 0593321138
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English
“Here is another magnificent work of non-fiction literature from the master craftsman Paul Hendrickson. Like the others, this book is scrupulously honest, deeply felt and beautifully written. But now he turns his art to a timeless subject: a son’s quest to know—really know—his father.”​ —David Von Drehle, author of The Book of Charlie

“In Fighting the Night, Paul Hendrickson has managed to revive the vanished world of his father, whose formative moment came long ago, when he flew a fighter plane over the Pacific. This is a heroic act of reporting, which doubles as a son's tribute to his dad.” —Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War

"Tender, heartwarming, occasionally frightening, and written in a conversational style that invites the reader into his family, Hendrickson pilots this richly illuminating chronicle across Depression-era Kentucky farmlands to flight school and through his father's deployment in the Pacific and his postwar career as a pilot for Eastern Airlines... An excellent, engrossing work of family and world history that leaves readers thinking in new ways about the consequences of military service."—James Pekoll, Booklist

"Former journalist and best-selling author of Hemingway's Boat, Hendrickson recounts the story of Joe Paul Hendrickson, his father...Detailing the challenges of a young military family, Joe Paul's dangerous wartime missions, and the lingering effects of war, Hendrickson poignantly examines a life and a historic time."Library Journal

"[A] detailed, vivid narrative, which benefits from intensive archival research and exhaustive interviews...An expert account of a father’s WWII experiences that gives his fellow airmen equal attention."Kirkus Reviews

"Biographer Hendrickson (Plagued by Fire) offers an intimate exploration of the life and military career of his father, U.S. Army Air Corps pilot Joe Hendrickson (1918–2003)... Coupling a poignant personal journey with propulsive aviation action, this WWII history flies high."Publishers Weekly

"With deep vision, Paul Hendrickson narrates his search for what his Dad and his combat buddies experienced in the Pacific. It is beautifully reported and written, like all of Paul’s work. What makes this book special is that it’s a much larger journey into the collective psyche of the members of the Baby Boom generation who have lived in the light and shadow of their parents’ experiences in combat long ago."—David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post

“Paul Hendrickson has long stood apart from other writers because of his singular, lyrical voice, and Fighting the Night is the work of a great author at his very best. The themes have universal appeal — fathers and sons, love and war — but the true heart of Fighting the Night is Hendrickson’s reckoning with the ghosts of a life in a book that is hypnotic, profound, achingly honest and compulsively readable." —David Finkel, author of Thank You for Your Service

Fighting the Night is beautiful, searing, and poignant, an investigation of the human heart, of sky, and of father and son, prewar and postwar. I thought it might be another WWII book, and while there’s war, sure enough, it’s what happens in the hearts of men (and mothers on the home front) that distinguishes this book. Paul Hendrickson was walking toward the batter’s box through all his books, leading up to this moment. And when it came time to finally lay this one down, he swung with the fierceness of a Babe Ruth. It takes a certain kind of mountain climbing to write a book like this. Readers are going to be mighty grateful.”—Wil Haygood, author of Colorization

“There are countless books about World War II, the war in the Pacific, and the fight for Iwo Jima. Paul Hendrickson’s Fighting the Night is unique — a son telling the story of his father’s experiences as a combat pilot in the aftermath of the Iwo Jima campaign but written with extraordinary intimacy about how he got there, what he did there, and the impact it had on the rest of his life and on his family. It is a story of friendships forged, the emotional scars, and just coping after the war. Fighting the Night is more, though.  It is the story of every war, every man in combat, and the scars each man — and his family — bears. It is a beautiful book, a stark and raw one in many ways, and a magnificent tribute to the author's father.”—Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense 2006-2011