Vanishing Act

Vanishing Act by Dan Hampton

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Vanishing Act:

It’s more fun when the Russians don’t know you’re coming.

Quick synopsis:

The story of why one of the Doolittle Raiders may have ended up in Russia.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

In just two hours of the Pearl Harbor attack, 18 warships and 2,403 Americans were killed.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

In September 1939, 84% of the American people were against military intervention in World War II.

My Take on Vanishing Act:

I know this may be difficult to believe right now, but Americans and Russians were not always best friends! In fact, during World War II, there was a real question if the then Soviet Union was going to help at all in defeating Japan. This question is at the center of Dan Hampton’s Vanishing Act.

Hampton tells the story of a particular plane during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo a few months after Pearl Harbor. If you don’t know this story, then I assure you it is one of the most amazing missions in military history. Action movies play on the trope of the “suicide mission” and the Doolittle Raid is a real-life version of it. Hampton is not trying to retell the entire story of the raid but to focus on the only plane that ended up in Russia. (Note: For the complete story of the raid, James M. Scott’s Target Tokyo is the definitive account.) If you are a World War II nerd, Hampton’s book will mostly be things you already know. He speeds through most of World War II to set up his investigation into the plane piloted by “Ski” York. Hampton is, as usual, a great writer and this is an easy read.

As far as his investigation, I would say Hampton has some good points, but I felt like he didn’t do enough to discount the accepted story while building his own narrative. To put it another way, he is persuasive, but I wanted more narrative devoted to exploring how arguments against his theory could be shot down. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the book and I’d especially recommend this to anyone who wants an entry point into the raid who knew nothing about it before.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press.)


An interesting viewpoint on a legendary World War II mission. Buy it here!

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