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This is by far one of the best books I've read in a long time, not to mention one of the best history books I've ever read. I'm rating it 4.5 out of 5 stars, and the only reason I can't give it a full 5 stars is because in writing this book, the author did tend to jump back and forth between the stories of the prisoners of Cabanatuan Camp in the Philippines and the stories of the Army Rangers who rescued them, while also throwing in asides about other people (for instance, "High Pockets" a female American spy, and the prisoners of Puerto Princesa camp), without warning. There were a couple of times when I had to go back to figure out where he was at that moment, which can get a bit frustrating when a story is so good as to make you want to keep moving forward without putting it down!

Having been a history major in college, I have read my fair share of history textbooks, research books, articles, historical fiction, etc., and as I mentioned above, this is by far one of the best history books I've ever read. It seems obvious to me that Mr. Sides did his research, and the fact that he wrote this book "for the masses", if you will, doesn't bother me at all. I've had my fair share of dry history textbooks/research books/articles and this book was a breath of fresh air. There is a quote from a New York Times review on the front of my copy, and it says "Riveting and patriotically stirring"--I simply couldn't put it better than that.

"Never had the U.S. Army fought against an enemy about whom it knew so little. The initial encounter between victor and vanquished would involve an extreme clash of two proud cultures whose profound ignorance of one another predictably generated intense feelings of racial animus and mutual disdain."

"...the emotional texture of warfare was vastly different from that of prisonerhood. Fighting, even fighting a losing battle, was mercifully busy work. There was always something to do, and having something to do could be a godsend. It kept one's mind off the brutal panorama, it kept the focus on martial craft and the necessities of personal survival. Not being able to take action to save oneself or one's comrades, not being able to pick up a weapon and strike back, was a terrible, unnatural feeling. Prostration and inactivity violated everything they had learned as soldiers."

"Why was I in love with this place when it never did a thing for me? Sometimes I would look up from whatever I was doing, and I would understand nothing of what was going on around me. Is it really me rotting here in this bright Philippin sunshine? Is there nothing left of what I was before?"

"'During the first few days of war I also prayed for personal protection from physical harm, but now I see that is something for which I have no right to ask, and I pray now that I may be given strength to bear whatever I must bear...Life and my family have been good to me--and have given me everything I have ever really wanted, and shoudl anything ever happen to me here it will not be like closing a book in the middle as it would have been had I been killed in the first days of the war. For in the last two months I have done a lifetime of living, and have been part of one of the most unselfish cooperative efforts that has ever been made by any group of individuals.'"-this is from a letter that Lieutenant Henry Lee, a prisoner of Cabantuan Camp, wrote home, not long before he died

"Even when the fear of a massacre had passed, even when most of the prisoners understood that the Rangers were Americans come to liberate them, many were still curiously reluctant to go. They seemed suspicious of their good fortune. They couldn't shed the dour pessimism of captivity long enough to understand that captivity was over. Or perhaps on some half-conscious level, they still found it hard to transgress the order of the Japanese, the only authority they'd known for three years."

"The Rangers had forgotten, or never knew in the first place, that Cabanatuan Camp held men from other nationalities--Norwegians, Canadians, Dutch, and, the largest non-American contingent of all, British. A Ranger cried out, 'You're free--all Americans assemble at the main gate!' To which one of the proper English prisoners yelled gleefully, 'I'm not American, but shall I come too?'"

"They talked about the two wars, the war that was lost three years ago and the war that was now being won. 'We wanted to know where they had been and what they had seen,' wrote Tommie Thomas. 'And they were anxious to know how it had been with us, and whether it was as rough as they had heard. We regarded them as heroes. They regarded us as heroes. It was a mutual admiration society.'"

"'We are all ghosts now
But once we were men.'
from an unsigned diary recovered from Cabanatuan camp"



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