Ghost Soldiers

The Forgotten Epic Story of World War IIís Most Dramatic Mission.

Hampton Sides. Doubleday, 2001.

 

Although, I must admit, that I was a bit skeptical that yet ďanotherĒ POW camp liberation book could unearth fresh material, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall demeanor of Hampton Sideís accounting. By far, it is one of the most balanced accounts of the Bataan siege Iíve ever read. Most importantly, it gives a here-to-fore unacknowledged aspect, the Japanese explanation for this catastrophe, clearly indicating that both sides of the military leadership (American and Japanese) could take blame for staging the Death March.

 

Most of the dialogue is a skillful recreation of the incidents that led toward the liberation of the infamous Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines. The author deftly switches between various voices engaged in the liberation, including those of the POWs, underground citizenry, American soldiers, Filipino guerrillas and the Japanese command. Toward the latter, we finally get an inkling of the Japanese mind-set (one that goes beyond a 2-D, evil-empire profile) that sets the wheels in motion as well as a thorough look of some of the idiosyncratic personalities who were caught-up in the campaign.

 

I recommend this book, without any hesitation, for any level of readership (of course, not at the youngest juvenile level). It has the right formula that doesn't overly romanticize, glorify nor sensationalize this campaign. Instead, you get a compelling picture of the circumstances as they unfolded, event-by-event. By the time all the pieces of the puzzle are laid out, you go away with a gutsy rendition of a human landscape created out of wartime adversity and challenge.

 

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