Veterans Day

Today's Review of the Week revisits a WW II POW’s powerful memoir

Bataan survivor : a POW’s account of Japanese captivity in World War II
Hardee, David L. ed. by Frank A. Blazich Jr Missouri, 2016
290p bibl index, 9780826220820 $50.00, 9780826273598 $50.00

The brutal Japanese “death march” of US/Philippine POWs across Bataan Peninsula is a well-known, notorious episode of WW II. This and other POW captivities during the rest of the Pacific war have been chronicled by diaries, and interpretations have been published by veterans, journalists, and scholars. Col. David L. Hardee had recorded his personal life in Japanese POW camps in the Philippines shortly after liberation in 1944, but he never published his account. Military historian Blazich (Smithsonian) recently recovered and edited the manuscript, providing large-scale historical context. Hardee detailed major events and the daily experience of POW officers. He describes the hopeless defense of Bataan, the surrender, the 60-mile “death march,” and life in various camps, work sites, and hospitals. With minor exceptions, Japanese captors were vicious, corrupt, and dishonest. POW officers were regularly humiliated, overworked, beaten, and starved, and some were murdered or died in notorious “hell ship” transports. Survivors tried to keep up morale, self-respect, and discipline, but they also quarreled among themselves. Some escaped, but others suffered for it. Hardee wrote mostly about officer POWs but said little about enlisted ranks. His text is easy to read and well organized.

Summing Up: Recommended. For readers at all levels.
Reviewer: G. H. Davis, Georgia State University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies
Choice Issue: Aug 2017