Survivors of the notorious Bataan death march, members of slave labor teams, soldiers in Douglas MacArthur’s army in the Philippines, and other prisoners of war tell the stories of their capture, stories often ignored in official accounts.
Gavan Daws has written books about Hawaii, the Pacific, and Asia–among them Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific and Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai the biography of a nineteenth-century missionary priest who gave his life in the service of Hawaiian leprosy sufferers and was made a saint in 2009. For a decade and a half, Daws headed historical research on the Pacific and Southeast Asia in the Australian National University’s Institute of Advanced Studies. During that time, he was a member of the UNESCO Commission on the Cultural and Scientific History of Humankind, and he was elected to the Academy of the Humanities in Australia.
According to the author, during the first months following Pearl Harbor, the Japanese captured more than 140,000 Allied prisoners. More than four died at the hands of their captors–denied medical treatment, starved, or worked to death. In Japan, the killing went on to the last moments of the war. Downed airmen were tortured by the hundreds, and even beheaded. The book includes extensive Sources, including interviews, POW diaries, and 27-volume The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, and official histories. There are also several pages of notes.
My uncle, Dale R. Wilson, may have been a POW of the Japanese during World War II, when his B-25 was shot down in New Guinea in late 1943. This book has been a resource in trying to learn what may have happened to Dale. When I learned how the Japanese brutally mishandled downed airmen in the Southwest Pacific Theater, maybe it would have been better if he’d perished with their plane and rest of the crew on the day they were shot down.