The Bridges at Toko-Ri: A Novel

The Bridges at Toko-Ri: A Novel

by James A. Michener, Steve Berry

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In one of his beloved early bestsellers, Pulitzer Prize–winning author James A. Michener crafts a tale of the American men who fought the Korean War, detailing their exploits in the air as well as their lives on the ground. Young and innocent, they arrive in a place they have barely ever heard of, on a ship massive enough to carry planes and helicopters. Trained as professionals, they prepare for the rituals of war that countless men before them have endured, and face the same fears. They are American fighter pilots. Together they face an enemy they do not understand, knowing their only hope for survival is to win.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from James A. Michener's Hawaii.
Praise for The Bridges at Toko-Ri
“A vivid and moving story, as well as an exciting one . . . The humanity of the people is deeply felt.”Chicago Tribune
“The Banshees screaming over Korea, the perilous landings on an aircraft carrier deck ‘bouncing around like a derelict rowboat,’ a helicopter rescue from the freezing waters . . . all are stirringly rendered.”The Denver Post
“Michener’s best . . . a story of action, ideas, and civilization’s responsibilities.”Saturday Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804151474
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/18/2014
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 78,937
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

James A. Michener was one of the world’s most popular writers, the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tales of the South Pacific, the bestselling novels The Source, Hawaii, Alaska, Chesapeake, Centennial, Texas, Caribbean, and Caravans, and the memoir The World Is My Home. Michener served on the advisory council to NASA and the International Broadcast Board, which oversees the Voice of America. Among dozens of awards and honors, he received America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1977, and an award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1983 for his commitment to art in America. Michener died in 1997 at the age of ninety.

Date of Birth:

February 3, 1907

Date of Death:

October 16, 1997

Place of Death:

Austin, Texas


B.A. in English and history (summa cum laude), Swarthmore College, 1929; A.M., University of Northern Colorado, 1937.

Read an Excerpt

The sea was bitter cold. From the vast empty plains of Siberia howling winds roared down to lash the mountains of Korea, where American soldiers lost on patrol froze into stiff and awkward forms. Then with furious intensity the arctic wind swept out to sea, freezing even the salt spray that leaped into the air from crests of falling waves.
Through these turbulent seas, not far from the trenches of Korea, plowed a considerable formation of American warships. A battleship and two cruisers, accompanied by fourteen destroyers to shield against Russian submarines, held steady course as their icy decks rose and fell and shivered in the gale. They were the ships of Task Force 77 and they had been sent to destroy the communist-held bridges at Toko-ri.
Toward the center of this powerful assembly rode two fast carriers, the cause of the task force and its mighty arm. Their massive decks pitched at crazy angles, which for the present made take-offs or landings impossible. Their planes stood useless, huddled together in the wind, lashed down by steel cables.
It was strange, and in some perverse way resolutely American, that these two carriers wallowing in the dusk bore names which memorialized not stirring victories but humiliating defeats, as if by thus publishing her indifference to catastrophe and her willingness to surmount it, the United States were defying her enemies. To the east, and farther out to sea, rode the Hornet, whose predecessor of that name had absorbed a multitude of Japanese bombs and torpedoes, going down off Guadalcanal, while the inboard carrier, the Savo, would forever remind the navy of its most shameful defeat in history, when four cruisers sank helpless at Savo Island, caught sleeping by the audacious Japanese.
Now, as night approached the freezing task force, the bull horn on the Savo rasped out, “Prepare to launch aircraft!” And it was obvious from the way her deck was arranged that the carrier already had some planes in the skies over Korea, and every man who watched the heaving sea wondered how those planes could possibly get back aboard.
The bull horn, ignoring such problems, roared, “Prepare to launch helicopter!” and although the deck pitched in abandon, rotors began to turn, slowly at first and then with lumbering speed.
Now the great carrier struck a sea trough and slid away, her deck lurching, but relentlessly the bull horn cried, “Move jets into position for launching,” and the catapult crew, fighting for footing on the sliding deck, sprang swiftly into action, inching two heavy Banshees onto the catapults, taking painful care not to allow the jets to get rolling, lest they plunge overboard with some sudden shifting of the deck.
“Start jet engines,” roared the insistent bull horn.
The doctor, who had to be on deck in case of crash, looked at the heaving sea and yelled to the crane operator, “They may launch these jets, but they’ll never get ’em back aboard.”
The craneman looked down from his giant machine, which could lift a burning plane and toss it into the sea, and shouted, “Maybe they’re planning to spend the night at some air force field in Korea. Along with the ones that are already up.”
But at this instant all ships of the task force swung in tight circles and headed away from the open sea, straight for the nearby cliffs of Korea, and when the turn was completed, the deck of the Savo mysteriously stabilized. The effects of wind and sea neutralized each other, and planes returning from the bombardment of Korea now had a safe place to land.
But before they could do so the bull horn cried eerily into the dusk, “Launch helicopter!” and the crazy bird, its two rotors spinning so slowly the blades could be seen, stumbled into the air, and the horn cried, “Launch jets!”
Then, as the great carrier rode serenely amid the storms, the catapult officer whirled one finger above his head and a tremendous, almost unbearable roar arose and twin blasts of heat leaped from each Banshee, burning the icy air more than a hundred feet aft. Now the officer whirled two fingers and the roar increased and white heat scorched the deck of the carrier and the twin engines whipped to a meaningless speed of 13,000 revolutions a minute and the Banshee pilot, forcing his head back against a cushion, saluted and the catapult officer’s right hand whipped down and the catapult fired.
Nine tons of jet aircraft were swept down the deck at a speed of more than 135 miles an hour. Within less than 150 feet the immense Banshee was airborne, and by the time it reached the forward edge of the carrier, it was headed toward its mission. Four times the catapults fired and four times heavy jets leaped into the darkening sky and headed for the coastline of Korea.
As soon as they had left, the bull horn wailed, “Respot planes. On the double. We must recover the Korean jets immediately.”
When this announcement was made thirty old-fashioned propeller planes were already lashed down on the after part of the flight deck in precisely that area needed for landing the jets which now appeared overhead. The prop planes had been stowed there to permit catapult take-offs, and now they must be moved forward. So on the wooden deck, swept by icy winds, hundreds of young men in varicolored uniforms sped to the task of clearing the landing space. Men in green stowed the catapult gear so that no remnant of the powerful machine was visible. Other men in yellow leaped upon the deck and began to indicate the course each plane must follow on its way to forward stowage. Dozens of tough young men in blue leaned their shoulders against the planes, swung them laboriously into position and pushed them slowly into the biting wind. In blazing red uniforms other men checked guns or fueled empty craft while plane captains in brown sat in cockpits and worked the brakes to prevent accident. Darting about through the milling, pushing, shouting deck hands three-wheeled jeeps of vivid yellow and lumbering tractors in somber gray hurried to their jobs, while over all towered the mighty arms of the enormous black and sinister crane. Behind it lurked two weird men in fantastic suits of ashen gray asbestos, their faces peering from huge glassine boxes, ready to save the pilot if a crashed plane should burn, while in back of them, clothed in snowy white, the doctor waited, for death was always close upon the carrier deck.
So in an age of flight, in the jet age of incredible speed, these men pushed and pulled and slipped upon the icy deck and ordered the heavy planes with their bare hands. Upon trailing edges burdened with ice they pushed, their faces open to the freezing wind, their eyes heavy with frozen salt and the knuckles of their hands covered long since with protecting scars. And as they moved, their bright colors formed the pattern of a dance and after they had swarmed upon the deck for some minutes the Savo was transformed and from the lowering shadows the jets prepared to land.
This intricate operation was guided by one man. From the admiral’s country he had directed the task force to run toward the communist coast. The last four jets had been dispatched at his command. He had placed the ships so that the operations of one would not trespass the allotted space of the other, and it was his responsibility to see that his carriers faced the wind in such position that smoke trailed off to one side rather than directly aft and into the faces of incoming pilots. Now he stood upon his bridge and watched the mountains of Korea moving perilously close.
Admiral George Tarrant was a tall narrow man with a sharp face that was sour and withdrawing like those of his Maine ancestors. Battlewizened, he had fought the Japanese with his own carrier at Saipan, at Iwo Jima and at Okinawa, where his austere and lonely presence had brought almost as much terror to his own fliers as it had to the enemy.
He was known through the navy as George the Tyrant, and any aviator who wanted to fetch a big laugh would grab a saucer in his left hand, a coffee cup in his right, lean back in his chair and survey the audience sourly, snorting, “Rubbish.” Then the mimic would stare piercingly at some one pilot, jab the coffee cup at him and growl, “You, son. What do you think?”
But men who served with Tarrant soon forgot his tyranny and remembered his fantastic skill in operating a task force. His men said flatly, “He can do it better than anyone else in the world.” He knew the motion of the sea and could estimate whether a morning swell would rise to prevent recovery of afternoon planes or subside so that even jets could land freely. He was able to guess when new gales of bitter Siberian air would rush the line of snowstorms out to sea and when the snow would come creeping softly back and throw a blizzard about the task force as it slept at night. And he had a most curious ability to foresee what might trouble the tin-can sailors serving in the remote destroyers.
He fought upon the surface of the sea and in the sky. He sent his planes inland to support ground troops or far out to sea to spot Russian submarines. His was the most complex combat command of which one man’s mind was capable and on him alone depended decisions of the gravest moment.

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
BabyKiller More than 1 year ago
This book pays tribute to the unsung hero's that defend and fight this Nations wars, a true masterpiece that is fiction but, gets to the truth about those who fight courageously. Read this book now, then see the movie base on the book. If you never served and this story doesn't humble you, your a slacker.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for summer reading. I usually enjoy reading very much, but i couldn't stand this book. I read 15 pages carefully, and i basically couldn't understand anything! I do not reccomend this book to anybody.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazing account of the Forgotten War. The perils that men face is depicted in an extraoridinary manner. War is a realm of life that few will ever experience, and Mr. Michener tells the trials and tribulaitons of war with a poets heart. Read this book to see a different approach on war; read this book to enjoy a deeper meaning of why men fight and die for thier country.
Cecrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An early work by Michener. Simpler language than I expected from him, but then the characterizations kicked in and the evocation of time and place. A reflection upon the purpose and necessity of wars that the general public pays little attention to; might speak just as well to today's Afghanistan. A respectful salute to under-appreciated men of war. Fifty years on, this is still a great read.
LivelyLady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Must have been an early Michener. Definitely not developed like other books by him. This is about a pilot in the Korean War. Did not seem to have much research or story.
mmallory on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have loved Michener's books since I first read Centennial in 7th grade...even the 200 pages on dinosaurs!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was looking for some insight into the Korean War. This gave a shot look at life in and around a carrier that I could not have gotten elsewhere . Pretty good
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He sat on the bed, waiting patiently.