Book Review: To Soar with the Tigers: The Life and War Diary of Robert Brouk by Jennifer Holik-Urban and Robert R. Brouk

Prepared by Gena Philibert-Ortega.

Author and editor Jennifer Holik-Urabn (now known as Jennifer Holik) has the most enviable task, to edit the diary of someone who has contributed to history. It was through learning more about her family history that she learned about Robert Brouk and eventually found his widow and learned of his diary.

"To Soar with the Tigers" is the war diary of Flying Tiger Robert Brouk who in this volume chronicles his time fighting the Japanese over China and Burma during the World War II years. Holik begins this book with a short biography of Robert's life growing up in Illinois and photos of school-day activities including the drum and bugle corps, clubs and wrestling. Brouk's diary begins in April 1941 and ends July 1942. Holik continues the narrative by detailing the events surrounding Brouk's return home to a hero's welcome in Illinois to his final day flying which resulted in his tragic death. Ironically, Brouk writes of his near death experience in combat only eight months prior to his actual death during maneuvers in Florida.

Holik ends this book with information about Robert's widow and her life after her husband's death at the young age of 25 years. I have to admit that I found the story of Robert's widow Virginia as compelling as his own. While I realize that this book is about Robert's war time service I enjoyed reading more about his widow Virginia who after the untimely death of her husband joined the WAACs (Women's Auxiliary Air Corps) and then later the WACs.

I love that the author has brought the story of Robert Brouk to print. His story along with the stories of other World War II veterans documents a time period that is important to genealogists and historians. I would have liked to have seen a larger introduction to the book with more history about the Flying Tigers. For many of us that are of a later generation, the Flying Tigers are a subject that we don't have a lot of background knowledge about. Especially since this might be a topic of interest to younger generations, it would have been nice to have some more historical detail added to the narrative. But then again, after reading this journal, the reader may want to go ahead and start researching more about World WarII, the Flying Tigers and aviation which may lead them to discoveries that will help piece together their own family history narrative. This book is a wonderful tribute to one of the "greatest generation" complete with a soldier's own words and photos.

Jennifer Holik is a genealogist who has written other books in addition to "To Soar with the Tigers." You can read more about her and her writings at her website Generations. I hope this book inspires others to tell the story of their family who served during World War II.

"To Soar with the Tigers: The Life and Diary of Flying Tiger, Robert Brouk. CreateSpace, (2011).

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