genre: narrative nonfiction
synopsis: the story of dieter dengler, who grew up in wartorn and postwar germany, served in the united states navy as a pilot, and escaped from a laotian pow camp after being shot down and captured during the vietnam war
setting: germany, 1940s & 1950s; united states, 1950s & 1960s; laos, 1966
thoughts: henderson does a really good job of mapping out why events unfolded as they did. a lot of the beginning of the book is about dieter’s childhood and his efforts to become a navy pilot, and while it felt briefly like we were taking awhile to get to the point of the book, by the time i was reading about dieter getting shot down, i felt like i had a much better understanding of his character than i would have otherwise had. (this is a deliberate effort on henderson’s part; he makes pointed remarks about this as he’s telling you about dieter as a child and aspiring pilot.)
he also does a good job of explaining the escalation of involvement in vietnam and then in laos – but not, unfortunately, of the gulf of tonkin incident, which was the potentially fabricated catalyst for increased american involvement in vietnam.
if you liked unbroken, i would recommend hero found. i would also recommend it to people who enjoy reading military history or about the vietnam war in particular. this is also a good book if you’re looking for an introduction to those topics; it’s easy to read, engaging, and doesn’t delve too deeply into military parlance. about the only time i felt out of my depth was when he was talking about planes (the only ones i know anything about are b-17s and b-29s, which were two of the most frequently used bombers in world war ii and which dieter would have seen flying over his home as a child in germany), but you don’t need to fully understand that to enjoy the story.