The Airmen and the Headhunters

Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Book Category: Non-Fiction, History

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Reviewed by Jan Warren

The Airmen and the Headhunters is a true account of eleven young American crewmembers of a B-24 bomber, Lucky Strike, shot down over an unexplored mountainous region in Northern Borneo during WWII. It is also a touching story of heroism by not only the airmen, but of those who risked everything to protect and care for them during the six harrowing months before the survivor’s liberation by Australian special forces.

Because of the torturous cruelty of Borneo’s Japanese invaders and their determination to find and kill the airmen and any who aided them, the Lun Dayeh tribe was forced to return to the gruesome ritual of headhunting against their Japanese enemies.

As I read the airmen’s vivid accounts of trudging exhausted, starving and sick through the dense Borneo jungle with their feet and legs covered in leeches and bug bites, I felt their hopelessness and pain.

The deeper I delved into the story of the unimaginable hardships of these brave men and those of Borneo’s jungle inhabitants, I found myself giving thanks for even the simple comforts I usually take for granted, like clean running water and a comfortable bed.

If you are looking for a true story that will stir your emotions, then I can recommend The Airmen and the Headhunters. Heartfelt gratefulness may rise within you, as it did me in honor of all of the heroes who suffer for the cause of freedom past and present.

The author, Judith M. Heimann spent ten years compiling the detailed information before writing this book. Included are maps of the places in Borneo mentioned within the story, photos, acknowledgements, a detailed glossary and index, all of which are impressive.

I would rate this non-fiction book PG-13 not only because of the intense subject matter but for the occasional “colorful” vocabulary used by those who lived through it.

Armchair Interviews says: Yet another stirring story of WWII events and the people who survive them.

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