Frederick LaCroix, author of The Sky Rained Heroes, is the son of a World War II fighter pilot who survived combat in the war’s Pacific Theater despite being shot from the air on one occasion and barely surviving another mission. Captain Robert Edward LaCroix came home after the war to carve out his own piece of the American Dream, and it was only a short while before his death that the captain passed on to his son the Imperial battle flag he had been given to commemorate his significant role in a battle to push the Japanese out of the Philippines. When, a year after his father’s death, LaCroix found a stack of his father’s World War II correspondence, he decided to place the Imperial battle flag back into the hands of the family whose son lost his life defending that flag in 1945.
Frederick LaCroix was fortunate that his work took him to the same part of the world in which his father had seen so much combat during the war. This would allow him to spend six years retracing his father’s wartime footsteps in the Pacific while searching for surviving family members of the Japanese soldier whose flag had been in LaCroix hands for more than 60 years. Despite the high odds against his success - and the frustrating dead-ends he encountered - LaCroix persevered long enough to see his search end in a moving Tokyo ceremony during which Lieutenant Ishizuka’s family gratefully accepted the bloodied flag once carried into battle by their lost relative.
The Sky Rained Heroes (“The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth.” – H.G. Wells, The World Set Free - 1914), is told largely through the war letters written by Captain LaCroix to his parents. LaCroix was a dedicated letter-writer and his letters set the perfect tone for his side of the World War II experience. It is, at times, difficult to remember that the letters were written by a young man barely into his twenties – except when he loses his struggle not to brag about the danger of his training and flight missions while in the next breath telling his parents there is no need to worry about him.
LaCroix researched Lieutenant Ishizuka’s war record to such an extent that he is able to recreate the lieutenant’s Philippine experiences right up to the fateful day on which he lost his life to shrapnel created by bombs being dropped on the Japanese by Captain LaCroix and his fellow fighter pilots. By alternating the book’s chapters between the viewpoints of Lieutenant Ishizuka and Captain LaCroix, the author manages to put a human face on both men, treating them as the equals they were, two men caught up in the whirlwind of war.
The Sky Rained Heroes offers a brief history of the war’s Pacific Theater but, more importantly, it is the story of how two families were brought together 60 years after the war to honor the memories of two brave men who fought that war from opposite sides of the battlefield. Frederick LaCroix has done his father and Lieutenant Ishizuka proud.
Rated at: 4.0