Class Notes

In my WW II reading class this semester, we just finished reading Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides.  This book was popular a few years back, but I did not get to it then, but I loved Blood and Thunder by Sides and so took the opportunity to assign it now.  I highly recommend this book.  It tells the story of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and about the army rangers who led a daring raid to rescue them.  The book explains that in Japanese culture surrendering was a sign of weakness, so much in fact that their own men would rather fight till the death or even kill themselves rather than surrender.  This is evident in the kamikaze pilots.  Because of this belief the Japanese did not respect any soldiers who themselves surrendered.  For the thousands of Americans left behind in the Philippines, who surrendered this meant three years of torture and death at the hands of Japanese soldiers.  Rather than having their prisoners rescued, the Japanese killed all the prisoners at Palawan by putting them in bunkers then pouring in gas and lighting them on fire.  To try to avoid such a fate at Bataan, a ranger squad was sent ahead of the main American force to try to rescue the prisoners before they could be terminated. 

The story is one of pain and suffering for the American POWs that brought memories of accounts of the Holocaust in Europe.  The treatment of the men and the pure lack of humanity by the guards is described in this book, but so is heroism and sacrifice of the POWs, the rangers, and the Filipino people.

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