Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race Against Time

Reviewed by:

Linda Taylor, assistant professor of Professional Writing at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.

Book Title:

Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race Against Time


Jon Erwin and William Doyle


Thomas Nelson

Publication or Release Date:



Print book


220 pages


Staff Sergeant Henry “Red” Erwin didn’t set out to be a hero. He never considered receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. He set out to do his part to end World War II as the radio operator aboard a massive B-29 bomber sent to attack Japan from a station in Guam. Many times, Red and the crew of 11 other men headed out over the Pacific in the massive airplane. One of Red’s jobs, in addition to monitoring the radio, was to drop a 20-pound phosphorous bomb into a chute so that it could ignite below the plane as a location signal to the other planes in the squadron. He had done this many times before, but on one particular run, something went terribly wrong. The bomb jammed in the chute, ignited, and went back up into the plane, coating Red with burning phosphorous, filling the plane with smoke, and threatening to kill everyone on board.

This book tells the story of that moment, what Red did, the lives he saved, and the long-term results of his split-second heroic decision.

Co-written by Red’s grandson Jon Erwin and writer William Doyle, the book places Red Erwin’s heroic act (which occurred on April 12, 1945) in the context of the war in the Pacific and the transition of president from FDR to Truman. The authors’ research into some of the military strategy behind the bombings of Japan (pre-nuclear bomb), the building of the B-29 aircraft, and the history of the Congressional Medal of Honor provides a great backdrop to fill out the story. In addition, the interviews with various crew members and men who flew similar missions gives the description of these bombing runs sobering—and horrific—reality.

So many singular stories of great heroism get lost to time. This book isolates a moment when one man, a Christian who constantly prayed for God’s guidance and help, did something beyond the call of duty. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end.


Rating (1 to 5):

5 out of 5 stars

Suggested Audience:

Anyone who has a heart for the military and those who serve and protect—especially those who sacrificed to at last end the horrors of WWII—will appreciate this book. It will be a difficult read for those who don’t understand the military, the requirements of following orders, or the difficult decisions made in a time of war. The descriptions of the deaths of civilians as a result of bombings is horrifying. There is no way to glamorize war, and its reality is indeed “hell” (a word used to describe it in the book). The perspective of the story is a man who was following military orders, did his job, and ended up making a heroic decision that saved his life and the lives of the crew members. The book is not meant to be a treatise about warfare; it is simply the story of a man who did a heroic act.

Christian Impact:

Henry “Red” Erwin is presented as a man of great faith, but there aren’t Bible verses all over the place. The authors simply tell his story, knowing that behind it all, Erwin’s God was in control.

Other Notes:

This is a story about warfare—specifically those crews flying B-29 bombers toward the end of World War II when stopping Japan was the highest priority. The focus on bombing runs and the gruesome details of the results of those bombings of cities in Japan is are described in graphic detail that is difficult to read. In addition, the description of Henry Erwin’s injuries as a result of third-degree phosphorous burns is equally difficult to read.

The book has black and white photos on various pages throughout. The story itself ends at about page 170, with the final pages of the book including “Seven Prayers”—stories of prayers prayed during times that shaped our nation—from the American Revolution, the writing of the Constitution, the Civil War and Emancipation, World War I, D-day, Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War.

Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time

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