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Ghost Soldiers, A Book Review

Discussion in 'The Pacific and CBI' started by belasar, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Ghost Soldiers, The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission, By Hampton Sides, Anchor Books, 2001, 344 Pages, 16 Pages of Photos, Softcover, Amazon New From $4.15

    Ghost Soldiers is the account of elements of the 6th Ranger Battaion's raid to rescue 500 Allied POW's from Cabanatuan POW camp in the Phillipines in early 1945. Most were survivors of the 'Bataan Death March', but there were English, Australian and other European's within the camp. By the time of the raid nearly all the able-bodied men had been transfered to Formosa, Korea, China and Japan. Those that remained were the sick, lame, blind or for some other reason considered unfit to work for the Empire of Japan. Japan no longer wanted them, yet could not bear to release them or see them returned to the US. They had seen and endured too much to be allowed to live and tell their tale of neglect, hardship, cruety and yes, even murder.

    The book opens with the Massacre of 150 American and Allied prisoners at Puerto Princesa POW Camp, Palawan, Phillipines. A satalite work camp for the construction of a airstrip. The POW's would work on the strip, only to see American aircraft come over and wreck it again and again. The raids were so regular the POW's were given permission to construct small makeshift shelters for airraids. It was clear that US forces were coming near, the Japanese guards were becoming evermore skittish at the prospect. On Dec. 14th, 1944 the POW's were ordered into their shelters for an American air raid, but they were uneasy and for good reason. Soon gasoline was poured into the openings, grenades thrown in afterwards and any POW attempting to flee were shot or bayoneted. A few miraculously escape and tell the story to US forces.

    After the Landing on Luzon American and Fillipino gurrillas report the Cabanatuan Camp with its 500 Allied prisoners to the US 6th Army and the plan to rescue them is formed. A reinforced Company of Rangers led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci is dispatched to rescue the POW's. Joined by two groups of Phillipino Gurrillas who have been fighting the Japanese occupation for years they cross into enemy controlled territory for the raid.

    At this point the story is told in a converging storyline. The Bataan Prisoner's story from the the surrender to night of the raid is interspaced with the progress of the Rangers toward the camp. To be candid I am not a fan of this style as you move somewhat jarringly from topic to topic and time to time. As the prisoner's ordeal is a story that must be told and understood, I am prepared live with a style I do not particularly enjoy.

    Check your preconceptions of WWII POW's at the door, for the story of their ordeal has nothing in common with the image of POW's in film and TV. At times shocking, and often unsettling, little is left to the imagination, even though words cannot fully describe what they endured. As a Trustee on this forum, on occasion I have counciled some members not to hate any particular group or nation for the act of a relative few, yet I must admit reading the accouts of some of these Japanese guards and officers it is quite difficult for me to suppress the feelings of anger and contempt I feel for them. Fortunately Sides points out the acts of cruety were not universal and at least some of the guards could and did show moments of humanity. On balance however any Japanese soldier of that time should feel shame at treatment of these helpless men.

    The Raid was a huge success and all prsoners were liberated. Two Rangers lost their lives as well as two former POW's too weak to endure the journey to American lines. Hundreds of Japanese were killed in the raid, the last General Homma, was executed after the war for the "Death March", but the book makes it clear that this sentence was more about revenge than it was about justice.

    This book is not everyone's cup of tea, but tells an important element in war and is one any serious student of the period should read if they get the chance.

    BR-XIX
     
  2. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Saw the movie..least think it was the movie of that book in UK few months ago. Movies do not show the true picture I know, but if this was anything to o by then the book should be even better.
     
  3. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    That was the movie's title. I kind of liked it but it took liberty's as all movies do. Interestingly many critics here on the forum had problems with Connie Nielson's charecter. Interestingly there is a women in the book that closely resembles the part she played, but the movie overplayed the love interest. Thats Hollywood.
     

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