Prisoners of the Japanese

POWs of WWII in the Pacific.

Gavan Daws. Quill Publishers, 1994.


This intriguing book is the result of ten years of documentary research and hundreds of interviews. Its expansive scope is reflected by the bulk of this text (396 pages not including notes). The author exhibits a fluid narrative style that is sometimes reminiscent of Stud Terkelís biographical works, making it interesting and easy to get lost in.


The stories contained within the narrative are far ranging and cover most, if not all, of the prisoner of war campaigns in the Asian and Pacific theatres.


Sometimes these are related from a personal perspective and other times from piecemeal accounts from various sources. The former technique is especially compelling because it often draws not only on the recollections of certain individuals, but it also introduces their personal idiosyncrasies and those around them.


Statements related are often verbatim. Oftentimes they are brutal and frank, making for a very graphic description of the elements of manís inhumanity toward one another. As such, the stories are not simply confined to the relationships between captors and captives, but also detail how prisoners exploited one another. At the same time, the author is quick to acknowledge those moments when humanity overtakes even the antagonist.


This book served to expand my own feelings about the war, both pro and con. Because of its sometimes brutal content, it is not for the faint-of-heart. On the other hand, the reader will benefit from the personal and engaging style that successfully relates history as a living experience.


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