The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II

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9780151014347: The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II

N ovember 1944: Army airmen set out in a B-24 bomber on what should have been an easy mission off the Borneo coast. Instead they found themselves unexpectedly facing a Japanese fleet—and were shot down. When they cut themselves loose from their parachutes, they were scattered across the island’s mountainous interior. Then a group of loincloth-wearing natives silently materialized out of the jungle. Would these Dayak tribesmen turn the starving airmen over to the hostile Japanese occupiers? Or would the Dayaks risk vicious reprisals to get the airmen safely home? The tribal leaders’ unprecedented decision led to a desperate game of hide-and-seek, and, ultimately, the return of a long-renounced ritual: head-hunting.

A cinematic survival story that features a bamboo airstrip built on a rice paddy, a mad British major, and a blowpipe-wielding army that helped destroy one of the last Japanese strongholds, The Airmen and the Headhunters is a gripping, you-are-there journey into the remote world and forgotten heroism of the Dayaks.

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From the Back Cover:

Praise for THE AIRMEN AND THE HEADHUNTERS:

"At first the downed flyboys thought their hosts to be savage. But by the end of their remarkable journey, the Americans learned just how civilized headhunters can be. Judith Heimann has uncovered a dramatic, touchingly human tale in the jungle forests of Borneo." -- James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys

"Sixty years later, World War II is still giving up its secrets. The Airmen and the Headhunters recovers a forgotten tale from the far Pacific that should interest anyone who cares about the gallantry of our aviators who flew into harm's way." --James D. Hornfischer, author of Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR's Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors

"The Airmen and the Headhunters is an engaging and unique tale of courage and rescue. Heimann has created a nuanced portrait of Borneo and a fascinating group of truly heroic tribesmen." --Alex Kershaw, author of The Few: The American "Knights of the Air" Who Risked Everything to Fight in the Battle of Britain

About the Author:

JUDITH M. HEIMANN is a career diplomat and the author of The Most Offending Soul Alive. She spent seven years living in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and speaks Indonesian. She traveled to three continents and interviewed all the surviving Dayaks and airmen in her research for this book. She lives in Washington, D.C., and Brussels.

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