Indestructible: One Man's Rescue Mission That Changed the Course of WWII (Paperback)

Staff Pick Badge
Indestructible: One Man's Rescue Mission That Changed the Course of WWII Cover Image
Usually Ships in 1-5 Days

Staff Reviews

This is edge of your seat non-fiction that takes the reader into a story of bravery and ingenuity set in the Pacific theater of WWII.  Pappy Gunn, spent twenty years in the Navy, he served in WWI, and after retiring he was living the good life with his family in Manilla as Operations Manager for Philippine airlines.  Then Pearl Harbor happened and everything changed.  Pappy was called back to serve as a Captain in the Army Air Corps and ordered to fly the top brass out of harm’s way.  It was clear the Japanese were heading for Manilla, but MacArthur’s people led Pappy to believe there was ample time to remove their men from the area then come back and fly his family out.  They were disastrously wrong.  Pappy was half a world away when the Japanese, not known for their kindness to prisoners, took Pappy’s wife Polly and his four children. They were taken to Santo Tomas Interment Camp, notorious for its harsh treatment of prisoners. Imagine how he must have felt, he adored his family and now they were in danger, enduring horrible conditions.

A chest full of medals attest to the ferocious way Pappy did his duty; a Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and nine Purple hearts.  Pappy was a man who had his priorities straight, his family was never out of his thoughts, rescuing them his top priority. He was also a man who believed strongly in doing things his way, enraging highly ranked desk bound officers while winning the admiration of those fighting in the field.  For instance, he “borrowed” (okay, steal might be the correct description) a squadron of B25 bombers from the Dutch Air Force in Australia,  in order to fly them on a raid to the Philippines, the planes did not return in the same condition, it was rough going.  Pappy devised modifications that helped win the war, but he was not the darling of the supply clerks, once pulling a gun on a reluctant supplier.  Pappy was a patriot, but he was not always bound by rules if he knew a better way.  General Kenney realized he had a bit of a boffin on his hands and gave Pappy free reign.  His innovations are still being used today; in 2010 they saved the author’s life when he was reporting on the conflict in Afghanistan.   John Bruning was in a helicopter that went down, leaving him vulnerable to a considerable force of Taliban fighters, he was protected by Apache gunships using firepower innovations devised by Pappy Gunn back in WWII.  How is that for an interesting twist, the author of Pappy Gunn’s biography was saved by his subject. 

“May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be a Chinese curse; it certainly fits Pappy’s life.  From bootlegger to ace pilot to war hero to an escort for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Pappy definitely lived in interesting times.  Probably longing for a bit of boredom! There is a lot of well researched history in this marvelous book, but it reads like a thriller, because that was the way Pappy Gunn lived, full speed ahead and the Devil take the hindmost. 

— Deon Stonehouse


In this remarkable WWII story by New York Times bestselling author John R. Bruning, a renegade American pilot fights against all odds to rescue his family -- imprisoned by the Japanese--and revolutionizes modern warfare along the way.

From the knife fights and smuggling runs of his youth to his fiery days as a pioneering naval aviator, Paul Irving "Pappy" Gunn played by his own set of rules and always survived on his wits and fists. But when he fell for a conservative Southern belle, her love transformed him from a wild and reckless airman to a cunning entrepreneur whose homespun engineering brilliance helped launch one of the first airlines in Asia.

Pappy was drafted into MacArthur's air force when war came to the Philippines; and while he carried out a top-secret mission to Australia, the Japanese seized his family. Separated from his beloved wife, Polly, and their four children, Pappy reverted to his lawless ways. He carried out rescue missions with an almost suicidal desperation. Even after he was shot down twice and forced to withdraw to Australia, he waged a one-man war against his many enemies -- including the American high command and the Japanese--and fought to return to the Philippines to find his family.

Without adequate planes, supplies, or tactics, the U.S. Army Air Force suffered crushing defeats by the Japanese in the Pacific. Over the course of his three-year quest to find his family, Pappy became the renegade who changed all that. With a brace of pistols and small band of loyal fol,lowers, he robbed supply dumps, stole aircraft, invented new weapons, and modified bombers to hit harder, fly farther, and deliver more destruction than anything yet seen in the air. When Pappy's modified planes were finally unleashed during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, the United States scored one of the most decisive victories of World War II.

Taking readers from the blistering skies of the Pacific to the jungles of New Guinea and the Philippines to one of the the war's most notorious prison camps, Indestructible traces one man's bare-knuckle journey to free the people he loved and the aerial revolution he sparked that continues to resonate across America's modern battlefields.

About the Author

John R. Bruning is the author or collaborating writer of the national bestseller, Indestructible, as well as Outlaw Platoon written with Sean Parnell, Shadow of the Sword with Jeremiah Workman, How to Break a Terrorist with Matthew Alexander, House to House with David Bellavia, The Devil's Sandbox, and Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent with Fred Burton.

Bruning is well traveled as an embedded combat correspondent. For his reporting in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense presented him with the Thomas Jefferson Award in 2010. For his work with the Oregon National Guard, he was inducted into the 162nd Infantry Regiment in September 2011 as an honorary member. John lives in Independence, Oregon, and has two children.

Praise For…

"This is a beautifully told story of a family separated by war, and of an extraordinary father, driven to avenge his family, who by sheer force of character changed the nature of warfare. A superbly told tale of love, honor, courage and devotion."
Alex Kershaw, author of Avenue of Spies

"This thriller-like narrative not only reveals the disturbing plight of courageous American families held in Japanese internment camps, but also delivers a gripping portrait of a uniquely American hero, Pappy Gunn, who fought two wars--one for his country and one to rescue his wife and children."
James Bradley, bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, The Imperial Cruise, and The China Mirage

"Paul Irvin Gunn's time in World War II is the stuff of legends - and its fast-paced, page-turning telling in Bruning's book does the man's Herculean feats justice.... The book reads more like an overly-detailed movie script than a work of historical non-fiction, complete with a heart-wrenching love story and heroic conclusion....Indestructible offers a glimpse of the Pacific theater like you've never before seen."
Men's Journal

"Here is a true story with something for everyone. Love, war, treachery, adventure, and above all an intimate portrait of the made-for-Hollywood life of a man who broke all the rules and remade them to his liking. Finally, we have a book that does justice to the legend of Colonel Paul 'Pappy' Gunn, a giant among heroes of World War II. John Bruning shows us a big-hearted man determined to save his family--and a brilliant scientist-pilot who was determined to win the war along the way."
Adam Makos, author of A Higher Call and Devotion

"From the opening pages, Bruning grabs you by the collar and pulls you into the story, not letting go as he masterfully guides you through a part of World War II that is largely unknown. This is the work of a skilled wordsmith who knows how to tell a story."
Gregory A. Freeman, author of The Forgotten 500

"Set against the sprawling and violent Pacific War, Indestructible is the incredible story of one man's courage, tenacity and dogged fight to rescue his family caught behind enemy lines. The book left me with chills."
James M. Scott, author of Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid that Avenged Pearl Harbor

"Bruning's gripping account of 'Pappy' Gunn's mission to save his family might seem to some like over-the-top fiction, but Gunn's rage really did drive changes to tactics and modifications to aircraft that changed the course of the Pacific War... every lover of bigger-than-life-but-still-true tales of wartime heroism will want to read this vividly written history."
Booklist, starred review

"This is a compelling story with strong characters and a wealth of fascinating incidents, set against some of the fiercest action of the war."
Kirkus Reviews

"[A] story of honor, faith, endurance and love. Indestructible is a worthwhile read for anyone interested not only in the history of the war in the Pacific but also of determination in the face of daunting odds."—Yakima Herald

"Fast-paced, sweeping, and often haunting."—The Oregonian

"It's a massive understatement to say that Pappy Gunn was an American original. In this new book, journalist Bruning looks at the improbable life of the one-of-a-kind Arkansas daredevil pilot who took matters into his own hands when his wife and children were captured by the Japanese in the Philippines."
Men's Journal, Best Books of 2016

"In INDESTRUCTIBLE, Bruning does a fine job of recounting two parallel storylines, alternating between Gunn's unconventional brilliance in cobbling together aircraft for the defense of Australia and the campaign in New Guinea, and his family's battle against starvation, the Japanese, and-not least-their fellow internees in the notorious Santo Tomas camp."
WWII Magazine
Product Details
ISBN: 9780316339414
ISBN-10: 0316339415
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pages: 560
Language: English