Review Blog

Jul 26 2018

Dear Grandpa, Why? Reflections from Kokoda to Hiroshima by John L. Read

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Wakefield Press, 2018. ISBN 9781743055762
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Highly recommended. Non-fiction. The cover shows John L. Read's grandfather Edward Mobsby and his wife holding their year old twin daughters. It is this photograph that sparks Read's curiosity as to what would make the father of adored twin daughters sign up to fight a war in another country, flying bomber aircraft over New Guinea jungle, and ultimately give his life, shot down by the Japanese. Read's quest to understand the motivation of the man in the photograph - obviously an elated and proud father - leads him to retrace Mobs's steps and search out the site of the plane wreckage and burial in New Guinea.
Read gradually comes to understand the gut-wrenching courage required to fly the B52 planes repeatedly into enemy territory, facing certain fire from the Japanese Zeros - and wants to know whether the sacrifice was worth it. He is driven to research the causes of the war in the Pacific, and questions whether we have learnt from that time. We say 'Lest we forget' but it's not enough just to remember the deaths and grieve, we want to make sure that we don't repeat the same mistakes. Resource scarcity as a trigger for war could easily occur again, and foreign aid has been cut despite its significant role in reducing likelihood of regional conflict. Australia seems set on a dangerous path.
In his quest for understanding, Read encounters a Japanese woman on a similar undertaking, honouring her grandfather's death in the same part of New Guinea. It is in Read's family's developing friendship with Miyuki and the honest communication that they share that offers the best hope for the future.
This compelling book is written from the heart, and easily draws the reader in on the journey with Read seeking answers about his grandfather's sacrifice. I recommend it to all readers, but particularly students of World War II. It provides a personal entry-point for understanding the events that led to the war in the Pacific and raises many questions about what causes war and what we should do in the future to prevent such terrible loss and waste of life.
Helen Eddy

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