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Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

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On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left litt On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left little time to plan the complex operation. In Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp. Sides shows how the POWs banded together to survive, defying the Japanese authorities even as they endured starvation, tropical diseases, and torture. Harrowing, poignant, and inspiring, Ghost Soldiers is the mesmerizing story of a remarkable mission. It is also a testament to the human spirit, an account of enormous bravery and self-sacrifice amid the most trying conditions.


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On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left litt On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left little time to plan the complex operation. In Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp. Sides shows how the POWs banded together to survive, defying the Japanese authorities even as they endured starvation, tropical diseases, and torture. Harrowing, poignant, and inspiring, Ghost Soldiers is the mesmerizing story of a remarkable mission. It is also a testament to the human spirit, an account of enormous bravery and self-sacrifice amid the most trying conditions.

30 review for Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Whitehead

    The Bataan Death March is one of the most shameful acts in human history. In 1942 General Edward P. King Jr., against orders from General MacArthur, surrendered 75,000 troops to the Japanese army infiltrating the Philippines. This act concluded the Battle of Bataan and forced MacArthur to withdraw his own troops, vowing to return and free, not only his soldiers, but the Philippines from Japanese control. The result was the Bataan Death March. The Japanese marched the prisoners 60 miles through th The Bataan Death March is one of the most shameful acts in human history. In 1942 General Edward P. King Jr., against orders from General MacArthur, surrendered 75,000 troops to the Japanese army infiltrating the Philippines. This act concluded the Battle of Bataan and forced MacArthur to withdraw his own troops, vowing to return and free, not only his soldiers, but the Philippines from Japanese control. The result was the Bataan Death March. The Japanese marched the prisoners 60 miles through the Philippine jungle heat. In many cases they did not allow the prisoners food, or water. In one instance recorded, they stopped near a stream for several hours and beheaded any prisoner who tried to drink. Thousands died in the week long march. If a person stumbled, or fell or became ill they were shot or bayonetted and left on the side of the road. Prisoners were beaten to death, starved, exposed to disease, shot, stabbed and worse. The Japanese believed that surrender was the worst form of cowardice and they did not feel like these prisoners deserved to live. After the march the prisoners were placed into camps where they were forced to work hard labor on farms, building airstrips, clearing jungle and digging ditches. They were fed only a handful of sticky rice every day and were not allowed any medicines or vitamin supplements. The lack of nutrition, combined with the jungle brought multiple diseases that rotted the flesh and brought debilitating effects. Thousands more died, sometimes at the rate of several per day. Three years later, fulfilling his vow, General MacArthur returned to the Philippines and began the work of liberating the islands. The Japanese Commandant at the Puerto Princesa Prison Camp on Palawan panicked when he heard of the approaching American forces. He rounded up all of the prisoners in his camp, forced them into cramped dugouts, poured jet fuel down the opening and lit them on fire. Guards stood outside and shot anybody who tried to crawl out through the flames. Nevertheless, one of the prisoners made it over the fence and escaped back to American lines, carrying his story. MacArthur, appalled at the actions of the Japanese army decided that he had to stage a rescue of the prisoners in the other camp near Cabanatuan. He feared that if he waited until the army reached that deeply into enemy territory it would be too late to save the rest of the prisoners from the same kind of massacre. He picked Colonel Mucci to lead a group of Rangers deep into enemy territory, stage a rescue from a heavily guarded camp, in the middle of an empty field, and bring 600 prisoners – most of them too weak to walk on their own – back to friendly lines. Thus began one of the greatest rescue missions in U. S. Military history. Hampton Sides gives snippets of personal accounts from both the Rangers and the prisoners. He details the life that the prisoners lived inside the walls of Cabanatuan prison camp in vivid detail. He describes the diseases, the pain, the psychological games they played with themselves, and the sadistic humor of the Japanese officers that commanded the camp. He explains the feelings of the Rangers, slinking across twenty five miles of enemy territory to rescue prisoners so weak that they couldn't walk back out. This book is beautifully told. Hapton Sides is a great writer and makes the history of these soldiers and prisoners and Philippine guerillas and even civilians come to life. The story recorded in this book really happened and it became apparent several times that none of their plans would have succeeded without the aid of divine providence. Anybody who can think of wars as glamorous or exciting needs to read this book. Anybody who has anything less than profound respect for our soldiers of past or current wars needs to read this book. It should be required reading in high school history classes – although the frankness of the descriptions of some of the violence might be a little too much for some people. I don't think that any other history book (I haven't read that many) has affected me with such power. This was an experience that left me feeling saddened and triumphant at the same time. I only wish that I could meet some of these great men and women who suffered so greatly. (5/5)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joe Krakovsky

    Good read for WWII history buffs. My second read review follows. "It's going to be extremely dangerous," he said. "Some of you might not make it back." An escapee from a Japanese POW camp had given a firsthand account of prisoners being massacred in cold blood in areas being liberated by the Allied forces. The US Army was going to send their Rangers on foot 30 miles behind the enemy lines to try and rescue POWs from such a fate. They would also have to walk back. "You're going to bring out every la Good read for WWII history buffs. My second read review follows. "It's going to be extremely dangerous," he said. "Some of you might not make it back." An escapee from a Japanese POW camp had given a firsthand account of prisoners being massacred in cold blood in areas being liberated by the Allied forces. The US Army was going to send their Rangers on foot 30 miles behind the enemy lines to try and rescue POWs from such a fate. They would also have to walk back. "You're going to bring out every last man," he said, "even if you have to carry them on your backs." "One other thing," Mucci said. "There'll be no atheists on this trip." Such was the tone, motivation, and dedication of the men volunteering for a suicide mission that few thought had a chance in hell of succeeding. But they had to try. The men they were going to attempt to rescue were the survivors of the battles of Bataan and Corregidor in early 1942. These men thought they were abandoned and forgotten when the war started. As they said, "No ma, no pa, no Uncle Sam, and nobody gives a damn." The author doesn't just tell the story of one of the greatest raids in American history, but gives extensive background information as well to set the stage. My hat off to him, for he has done an amazing amount of research for this book. It is one thing to create and populate a fantasy world but quite another to travel the globe seeking out survivors and visiting places were events transpired. The movie, "The Great Raid" tells this story and is one awesome movie, but as in many a case, this book is so much better. By the way, there actually is a book by the same title of the movie, but I have not read it, so I can't judge it. This book, Ghost Soldiers" is outstanding! I might add that a portion of the author's paperback royalties will be donated to The Ghost Soldiers Endowment Fund to preserve the memories of the sacrifices made by the Bataan and Corregidor veterans. I am going to have to buy one. WARNING: SPOILER FOLLOWS! I think it was Napoleon who said that the finest laid battle plans are thrown out the window after the first five minutes of battle. This was paraphrased, because I can't remember the quote word for word, but I think you understand. There are a million things that can go wrong, much like Murphy's Law. A good, or should I say, a bad example of this is the ill-fated rescue attempt Operation Eagle Claw by the Delta Force and Army Rangers in Iran in 1980. That attempted rescue mission turned out to be a terrible fiasco that was aborted in its initial stages after a terrible accident that killed eight servicemen. It made the US a laughing stock in some circles and maybe caused Carter the election. By comparison, not only did everything go right for the Rangers in the Cabanatuan mission, but it seemed to those involved that the hand of God protected them. Every time some obstacle arose that could have thrown a monkey wrench into the works, it was solved or avoided time after time after time. For instance, Philippine guerrillas could have broke the prisoners out at any time over the years, but where would they hide them, let alone make a clean get away? The POWs were too weak and sick to move on their own. Thousands had died in that camp alone through Japanese neglect. The healthy ones were shipped out for slave labor. Left behind were some 500 of the weakest and sick. In the weeks before the Rangers came the Japanese guards panicked and abandoned the camp for awhile. As soon as they left the POWs raided the camp stores and recovered much of their stamina from the looted food. Another example was when the Rangers got to the camp they found they had to crawl a very long distance across open fields. Anyone looking in their direction could easily see them, as did one of the POWs inside the camp. The guerilla leader said that the guards feared American planes so their eyes were always skyward when planes flew over. So a P-61 Black Widow was sent. This plane, a twin engine, black painted night fighter of a new design, not only flew over the camp but did numerous acrobatic maneuvers which provided the cover needed. After the raid, as the mile long slow moving column was heading towards the American lines, they found that the carts with the sick could not cross the steep banks of the highway. The only alternative was to travel a length of the highway before continuing on the other side. That was the scariest part of the whole operation, but they never saw as much as a shadow of a Japanese soldier! This story was truly amazing, and the only reason it was sort of lost to history was because of the events that followed it, such as the battles for Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the atomic bombings. If you want to read a good action book of a true event that reads like a movie script, this is it! You will be amazed that this really happened.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I was aware of the Bataan Death March but did not know anything about the daring rescue mission to liberate 513 prisoners of the Cabanatuan POW camp where many of the survivors were imprisoned. The time is the end of January 1945. The United States Army is advancing in the Philippines and the retreating Japanese have already executed American prisoners elsewhere. 121 hand-picked troops from the elite Army 6th Ranger Battalion are selected to slip behind enemy lines and march 30 miles to Cabanatu I was aware of the Bataan Death March but did not know anything about the daring rescue mission to liberate 513 prisoners of the Cabanatuan POW camp where many of the survivors were imprisoned. The time is the end of January 1945. The United States Army is advancing in the Philippines and the retreating Japanese have already executed American prisoners elsewhere. 121 hand-picked troops from the elite Army 6th Ranger Battalion are selected to slip behind enemy lines and march 30 miles to Cabanatuan on a daring rescue mission ... and then march 30 miles back with the liberated POW's whose condition is unknown after 3 years in a hellish camp. The story was at times difficult to read. It begins with how the Japanese commandant at the Puerto Princesa Prison Camp on Palawan ordered all of the prisoners in the camp into cramped trenches, poured jet fuel down the opening and lit them on fire and tossed in grenades. Guards stood outside and shot anybody who managed to crawl out. Nonetheless some did survive and their story reached MacArthur thus setting in motion the rescue mission. The atrocities of war are appalling and clearly hit home in this narrative. The chapters alternate between the story of the Rangers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci, on their mission and the story of the POW's who strive to survive the hell on earth that is Cabanatuan. It is a story of the indomitable human spirit. I also learned the important role Filipino guerrillas played. The mission was a success and at the time was a major story and morale booster for the United States and Allies. As the war progressed it was largely overshadowed and forgotten by other events ... Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Hiroshima. Anyone who thinks that war is exciting and glamorous should read this book. If you enjoyed books like Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and Flags of Our Fathers you will enjoy this book. It is an important story and should not be forgotten.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Supratim

    I have always been interested in World War II. Therefore, when the blurb promised a heroic mission by the US Rangers to rescue American POWs from Japanese prison camps in Philippines, I knew I had to read it. The said POWs were survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. The rescue mission so dangerous that Lt Colonel Henry A. Mucci, the officer leading the mission had said, "I only want men who feel lucky." Did a certain Inspector Harold Francis Callahan, better known as Dirty Harry, get som I have always been interested in World War II. Therefore, when the blurb promised a heroic mission by the US Rangers to rescue American POWs from Japanese prison camps in Philippines, I knew I had to read it. The said POWs were survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. The rescue mission so dangerous that Lt Colonel Henry A. Mucci, the officer leading the mission had said, "I only want men who feel lucky." Did a certain Inspector Harold Francis Callahan, better known as Dirty Harry, get some ideas from this comment? I wonder. The book is extensively researched, well written and engrossing. The author has provided the historical context and not limited the narrative to the rescue mission only. He has done a good job of describing the plight of the POWs. On one hand there was the constant specter of massacre and on the other hand they had to survive the debilitating diseases aggravated by undernourishment and unhygienic living conditions. Cultural difference between the Japanese military, based on the Bushido martial code, and the Western army was also responsible for the aggravating the situation. Unfortunately, atrocities are common across prison camps irrespective of who is the captor. Brief background of the key characters involved helped the reader to connect and feel for the characters. Moreover, the author has also given due credit to the Filipino guerrillas and humble villagers, without whom the raid wouldn't have been a success. Fans of military non-fiction and WWII enthusiasts would certainly enjoy the book. However, if you are disturbed by gore, then this book is definitely not for you.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    After reading Hampton Sides’ GHOST STORIES: THE FORGOTTEN EPIC STORY OF WORLD WAR II’S MOST DRAMATIC MISSION that deals with the treatment of American POWs by the Japanese during World War II it fosters the bizarre wonderment about people’s inhumanity toward people. Hampton Sides, the author of numerous books that include IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE and HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL, concentrates on the January, 1945 rescue of 513 American and British POWs from the hellish Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in After reading Hampton Sides’ GHOST STORIES: THE FORGOTTEN EPIC STORY OF WORLD WAR II’S MOST DRAMATIC MISSION that deals with the treatment of American POWs by the Japanese during World War II it fosters the bizarre wonderment about people’s inhumanity toward people. Hampton Sides, the author of numerous books that include IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE and HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL, concentrates on the January, 1945 rescue of 513 American and British POWs from the hellish Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines. Sides has done a significant amount of research interviewing survivors, those that rescued them, and mined the memoirs and secondary material dealing with this amazing operation. Sides immediately sets the tone of his narrative by describing through Private First Class Eugene Nielson’s eyes the mass burning of POWs on Palawan Island by the Japanese. The goal was to burn alive 150 POWs, of which, after a number escaped, eleven survived. After General Douglas MacArthur had landed on the island of Leyte he dispatched General Walter Krueger, the Commander of the US Sixth Army toward Manila. As his forces neared the city of Cabanatuan he came across Major Robert Lapham who led a band of Filipino insurgents against the Japanese. Krueger learned there were roughly 500 POWs, many survivors of the Bataan Death March and Corregidor, remaining in the Cabanatuan camp. Lapham also learned there were 8-9,000 Japanese soldiers around the city. Army intelligence understood Japanese contempt for POWs in general and feared that the remainder of these men who would suffer a horrible death at the hands of the Japanese if nothing was done. With 27% of all POWs killed by the Japanese, Krueger needed little convincing to attempt a rescue mission, an action that forms the basis of Sides intimate and at times horrific narrative. Sides introduces all the major characters involved in the mission from Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci, the Commander of the Ranger Battalion that would carry out the rescue, Captain Robert Prince, the assault commander and the man who implemented the strategy needed, to Dr. Ralph Emerson Hibbs who did his best to keep the POWs alive. American soldiers had no concept of the Japanese cultural view of surrender. They had never been trained in the concept or how to behave as a POW. Since the Japanese culture saw surrender as cowardice and dishonorable their treatment of those who did surrender was appalling. Sides structures the narrative by alternating chapters between the plight of the POWs from their capture, the Bataan Death March, their treatment at Camp O’Donnell, to their incarceration at Cabanatuan; with the training and implementation of the Army Ranger assault on the camp, and the resulting freeing of the POWs. The Japanese Commander, Lt-General Masaharu Homma actually believed that 25,000 POWs could be taken to Cabanatuan. He believed that they could march to the camp, however he had little knowledge of their health and strength, and that the prisoner figure was closer to 100,000 resulting in a murderous calamity. Sides does a superb job describing the recruitment and training of the Army Rangers. He provides a number of character profiles of the men and allows the reader to feel as if they know them. They would move out on January 28, 1945 along with their Filipino allies, without whom the mission would have been doomed. These Filipinos led by Captains Eduardo Joson and Juan Pajota knew the topography of the region as well as having important insights into Japanese strategy. Side’s offers intimate details of the inhuman conditions that existed at Cabanatuan. The POWs lacked food leading to malnutrition and starvation, suffered beheadings, bayoneting, and torture and human cruelty that was unimaginable. Sides takes us back to 1942 and describes the three years of captivity. Food became an obsession to the point where POWs actually traded recipes, and perhaps their happiest moment occurred on Christmas day, 1942 when Red Cross packages arrived. For the POWs, who had learned to rely on themselves during the Great Depression “self-reliance” became their mantra as “stealing, hoarding and scheming” dominated their behavior. The key for the Rangers was to complete the rescue before the Japanese killed all of their prisoners. The Rangers were “flying blind” because no amount of training could have prepared them for what they were about to attempt. As the narrative progresses Sides introduces many important individuals. One of the most interesting was Clara Fuentes, a.k.a. “High Pockets,” a.k.a. Madame Isubaki, a.k.a. Claire Phillips, an American spy who ran a night club that was a clearing house for information and used the proceeds of her business to supply medicine, clothing and whatever supplies could be smuggled into the camps. Her story was one of the many amazing ones that Sides offers. Sides places the reader next to the Army Rangers as they crawl a good part of the thirty miles to reach their target. We witness the thought processes of Captain Prince and his Filipino allies as they approach the camp and begin the assault. The stories that Sides conveys as he takes us through the assault are heartwarming as they reflect the suffering that these men endured. At first when the Rangers entered the camp, prisoners were confused, fearful, suspicious, and in shock to the point where the Rangers had to forcefully remove a number of them. The rescuers were appalled at what they saw, in particular the condition of the POWs as many were emaciated and sickly. What is interesting is that once the escape takes place and the men have to march miles and miles to freedom they take on a different persona as their pride is somewhat restored and they dig deep down and find strength and emotions that they thought that the Japanese had beaten out of them. Sides follows the narrative with an epilogue that touches the heart as he describes the voyage on the USS Anderson through enemy waters to return to the United States and a hero’s welcome. Sides then summarizes how a number of the US Army Rangers and the men they freed lived the remainder of their lives. GHOST WARS is a triumph of the human spirit that I recommend to all.

  6. 5 out of 5

    A.L. Sowards

    An amazing true story, well told. As Allied forces in the Philippines begin pushing the Japanese from Luzon island, the US Army hears of the Japanese massacring POWs. Next at risk: Cabanatuan prison camp, where about 500 prisoners (mostly American) are being held. Those who remain are the men who were too sick to be shipped elsewhere for use as slave labor. They’re ghost soldiers: starved, diseased, and doomed. Without time for much preparation, a group of US Army Rangers sets out for a jail br An amazing true story, well told. As Allied forces in the Philippines begin pushing the Japanese from Luzon island, the US Army hears of the Japanese massacring POWs. Next at risk: Cabanatuan prison camp, where about 500 prisoners (mostly American) are being held. Those who remain are the men who were too sick to be shipped elsewhere for use as slave labor. They’re ghost soldiers: starved, diseased, and doomed. Without time for much preparation, a group of US Army Rangers sets out for a jail break. Their mission: travel 30 miles into Japanese-held territory and rescue the POWs before the Japanese slaughter them. The mission is one of mercy, rather than military expediency. They know the POWs won’t be able to help them win the war, but rescuing them is the right thing to do, and the Rangers are willing to die in order to save them. On their mission, they receive vital help from the Alamo scouts and several groups of Filipino guerrillas. The story is told in alternating chapters, switching between the rescue mission and what happened with the POWs. Most of the latter were captured during the fall of the Philippines in early 1942. They somehow survived the Bataan death march and three long years in squalid prison camps. Sides does a good job telling the story, and it’s told in a way that even those who haven’t read a lot about WWII will probably understand and enjoy it. I’ve read other books that talk about Japanese cruelty during WWII, but Ghost Soldiers added some new information about why they acted the way they did. Japanese forces had taken longer than expected to defeat US and Filipino forces on Bataan, and the Japanese were under pressure to clear Bataan ASAP so they could begin the assault on Corregidor. When forces on Bataan surrendered, the Japanese captured more men than they were prepared for. It also took them a while to realize how dramatically wounds, tropical diseases, and lack of food had weakened their new captives. Typical Japanese soldiers were only given partial supplies and were expected to scrounge if they didn’t want to starve. So swiping food from starving POWs would seem normal to them. It was also common in the Japanese military for men of higher rank to physically abuse men of lower rank. So when a Japanese soldier at the bottom of the totem pole was given command of a bunch of POWs, it’s easy to see how some of them would go a little crazy with their new-found power. Of course, nothing justifies what happened, but it was good to know some of the reasons behind such widespread inhumanity. I also enjoyed learning more about the close relationship between the Filipinos and the Americans. I think it would have been easy for the Filipinos to harbor animosity toward the US after it took the Philippines in the Spanish-American war, but they were allies of the most loyal kind during WWII. It’s doubtful the prisons could have survived in Cabanatuan without the help they received from the local population. And the raid was only possible because of Filipino help. Recommended for history buffs and readers who enjoy stories of survival and rescue.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    If this book is on your TBR list, move it to the top. If it isn't on your list, add it!! It is simply excellent as it tells the story of the Bataan Death March, those survivors who ended up in Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines, and the subsequent greatest rescue mission of World War II. Most reader of WWII history are familiar with the brave and seemingly impossible mission taken on by US Rangers and Filipino guerrillas and this book fleshes out our knowledge as well as introducing some of If this book is on your TBR list, move it to the top. If it isn't on your list, add it!! It is simply excellent as it tells the story of the Bataan Death March, those survivors who ended up in Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines, and the subsequent greatest rescue mission of World War II. Most reader of WWII history are familiar with the brave and seemingly impossible mission taken on by US Rangers and Filipino guerrillas and this book fleshes out our knowledge as well as introducing some of the POWs and the roles they played in everyday prison camp life which kept many of their comrades alive. These were men who wanted to live, knowing that every day brought the possibility that all would be put against the wall and shot as the war started turning against Japan. The bestiality of the overseers of Cabanatuan was almost beyond belief and became worse as the Japanese slowly retreated from the islands. It is amazing that anyone in the camp survived. The rescue plan is detailed in these pages and you rejoice as the "Yanks" break into the camp to rescue men that thought they had been forgotten. The last line of the book taken from the diary of one of the prisoners will touch your soul....We are all ghosts now. But once we were men This is a must read and I highly recommend it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Interesting & well-written. I might reread it. I'm sorry I didn't keep notes. I recall Sides giving an excellent book talk at the Eldorado, NM Public Library. We both lived there then. He wrote the book just in time to talk to the last survivors of the Bataan Death March, who were mostly from New Mexico. If you haven't read this, well, you should. Though it gets pretty grim. Here's the GR review to read: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Interesting & well-written. I might reread it. I'm sorry I didn't keep notes. I recall Sides giving an excellent book talk at the Eldorado, NM Public Library. We both lived there then. He wrote the book just in time to talk to the last survivors of the Bataan Death March, who were mostly from New Mexico. If you haven't read this, well, you should. Though it gets pretty grim. Here's the GR review to read: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sweetwilliam

    "You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners" Ghost Soldiers is about a US Ranger mission to liberate a POW camp in WWII during the reconquest of the Philippines. The US Army high command felt It was imperative to liberate the camp before the retreating Imperial Japanese Army unburdened themselves of their prisoners. The POWs were survivors of Bataan and Corregidor, the Bataan death march, and 3 years captivity in a prison run by the Japanese. The Japanese were brutal captors and "You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners" Ghost Soldiers is about a US Ranger mission to liberate a POW camp in WWII during the reconquest of the Philippines. The US Army high command felt It was imperative to liberate the camp before the retreating Imperial Japanese Army unburdened themselves of their prisoners. The POWs were survivors of Bataan and Corregidor, the Bataan death march, and 3 years captivity in a prison run by the Japanese. The Japanese were brutal captors and didn’t provision their own troops very well let alone POWs in their care. The book starts out with a very interesting and extremely ghastly story of a massacre of nearly 150 American prisoners in a POW camp adjacent to an air strip in the Philippines. The Japanese tried to trick the Americans to go into air raid shelters to protect them from an American bombing mission. The POWs knew better because they saw no planes. During past raids the Japanese occupied the shelters and the Americans were left above ground to fend for themselves. This was a ruse so that the Japanese could stuff them in the shelters to burn them alive with gasoline. Miraculously, there were 11 survivors that were able to escape into the jungle to be rescued by Filipino guerillas. The POWs were taken to the American front lines to tell their story. The Cabanatuan POW camp was one of the last POW camps in the Philippines (most relatively healthy prisoners had been ferried to Japan to work in the mines). The 500+ POWs in Cabanatuan were considered too sick to move. An American General put in motion one of the most daring raids that you never heard of so that these prisoners would not meet the same fate of the prisoners at the air strip. The author Hampton Sides tells the story from the point of view of the survivors of the camp and the Rangers that made the raid. This is the same author that gave us Blood and Thunder. Sides occasionally goes on very interesting tangents just like he did in Blood and Thunder. He alternates between the story of the surrender of Bataan, the famous death march, conditions inside the POW camp, POWs shipped off to Japan, and the Rangers organized to liberate the camp. He is more disciplined in Ghost Soldiers than in Blood and Thunder. I do enjoy the tangents though such as the telling of the story of the network of spies and smugglers like "High Pockets" the American woman that risked everything to help the men in the camp. Everyone should try to read a story like Ghost Soldiers and learn about POW camps like the Cabanatuan camp and learn about the horrific conditions and the terrible treatment of our POWs at the hands of the Japanese. One interesting statistic that Sides shares in this book is that for every one soldier killed while fighting a western army 4 or 5 prisioners were taken. For every 120 Japanese killed, a western army would take one Japanese soldier or sailor prisoner. This about sums it all up. This book may help to understand why the generation that proceeded us felt the way they did about the Japanese. It may clarify the cost of freedom a bit. Whatever the case it Ghost Soldiers is a good read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Outstanding account of the raid to save the survivors of the Bataan Death March. Sides' compelling prose make the narrative read like a novel, with effective pacing of the heroic actions by this early cadre of Army Rangers alternating with the human stories of the survivors and their liberators. Of the nearly 80,000 who surrendered to the Japanese in the Bataan peninsula in 1942, about 600 Americans and 5-10 thousand Filipinos died on the three week forced March north to a camp in central Luzon. Outstanding account of the raid to save the survivors of the Bataan Death March. Sides' compelling prose make the narrative read like a novel, with effective pacing of the heroic actions by this early cadre of Army Rangers alternating with the human stories of the survivors and their liberators. Of the nearly 80,000 who surrendered to the Japanese in the Bataan peninsula in 1942, about 600 Americans and 5-10 thousand Filipinos died on the three week forced March north to a camp in central Luzon. At the initial horrific staging camp, about 1,500 more Americans and 15,000 Filipinos died within the first two months there. When the Allied Forces returned three years later in fulfillment of General MacArthur's pledge, the fate of the remaining survivors at a replacement camp in Luzon became a pressing concern. Because of a case a few months earlier where Imperial forces slaughtered prisoners before vacating one of the retaken islands, the risky strategy of a raid behind enemy lines was set in motion. In teamwork with a few hundred Filipino guerilla forces, 121 Rangers executed a brilliant rescue of over 500 very debilitated prisoners, killing over 1,000 Japanese in the process. In the sensitive telling of this tale, Sides elucidates much about drives humans to extraordinary achievements and some about the origins of egregious inhumanity on the part of the Imperial soldiers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    This story is the account of the attempt to free over 500 American and British POW's who had spent over 3 years in the Cabanatuas Japanese Prision Camp. They had already survived the Bataan Death March. The author kept the reader in apt interest in the way he protrayed what was happening in the camp. These men fought and died for our freedom. They all experienced great hardships of which is hard to imagine.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    When I saw this on the table at the Library Book Sale last spring, I knew the title looked familiar. I saw when I brought it home that Kate had posted it a couple of years ago (and thanks, Kate!). While I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, this is exactly the kind that suits me. Although the sub-title lets us know the rescue was likely successful, it was still a bit of an adventure. I have complained my knowledge of history is woefully inadequate. In this case, I *had* at least heard of the Bataan d When I saw this on the table at the Library Book Sale last spring, I knew the title looked familiar. I saw when I brought it home that Kate had posted it a couple of years ago (and thanks, Kate!). While I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, this is exactly the kind that suits me. Although the sub-title lets us know the rescue was likely successful, it was still a bit of an adventure. I have complained my knowledge of history is woefully inadequate. In this case, I *had* at least heard of the Bataan death march, and in what pitiful condition the soldiers were in as they went on this forced march. MacArthur had evacuated Manila to the Bataan peninsula so as to have a better vantage for the coming battle. This would have been fine had Pearl Harbor not been bombed and the US Navy almost nonexistent. Unfortunately, there was no way to resupply the men now penned on the peninsula, with their backs to salt water. While that was indeed unfortunate (!), the troops were promised supplies “any day” while Roosevelt decided to ignore the war in the Pacific and turned his attention to Europe. Essentially, these men were abandoned. They were starving and eventually they surrendered. This is all to say that the condition of the men on the forced march was our fault, not that of the Japanese. But what came afterward was barbaric. Hampton Sides does a great job of telling this story in alternating chapters of the POWs and the Rangers who were eventually sent to rescue them three years later. Also part of the rescue were Filipino guerrilla forces. In fact, it is quite likely the rescue would have failed without them. While I’m happy to give this 5-stars, I think it just barely crosses over into that territory. I will be looking for more nonfiction titles from Hampton Sides.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ron Wroblewski

    Took me along time to read as I got bogged down with the POWs life in the camp, all that background. I wanted to read the book for the raid itself, not for life from 1942 to 1945, So that part went very slow, But the fall of Bataan and the raid itself I really enjoyed, The planning was brilliant - to carry off a raid with very few casualties was unique. Good history.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    More than simply a story about the raid that liberated the prison camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines in early 1945, this book does a great job in letting the reader who may not be aware of the whole background learn about why it was important to liberate the camp (before the Japanese killed the prisoners or sent them all to Japan); about the nature of the resistance (including expatriated Filipinos and other civilians and their activities and the factions who were in support of the U.S. and t More than simply a story about the raid that liberated the prison camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines in early 1945, this book does a great job in letting the reader who may not be aware of the whole background learn about why it was important to liberate the camp (before the Japanese killed the prisoners or sent them all to Japan); about the nature of the resistance (including expatriated Filipinos and other civilians and their activities and the factions who were in support of the U.S. and those that fought the Japanese but also didn’t like the Americans and wanted a Marxist “independence” for the post-war future); and the U.S. attitude toward MacArthur and the feelings at the time of the liberation. The background information is interwoven with personal stories of tragedy and survival, as one would expect, and tells the tangential stories (such as what happens to those healthy enough to be sent to Japan to be in work camps) and, after the story of the raid itself, gives an epilogue describing what happened to those main figures in the narrative. It was a very readable book about a heroic mission by U.S. Army Rangers to save heroic POWs (of more than just Americans), and the writing made it easier to read a lot of information without becoming overwhelmed or bored, and the background helps the reader who has little knowledge of the war in the Philippines understand without dwelling too long on it for the reader steeped in the background to lose interest – just the right mix of these, in other words.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Linda Munro

    My father, "Pa" died 13 years ago, I spent my entire life shadowing him; I knew I was loved and I knew I was the favorite; yet there were things about him I didn't know. The part of his life that most shaped Pa was the years he spent on the Pacific Theater during WWII. In an attempt to understand my father to a greater extent, I chose to start reading books concerning the Pacific Theater....'Ghost Soldiers' was my first....... When most people think of WWII they think of Nazi's, the Holocaust, an My father, "Pa" died 13 years ago, I spent my entire life shadowing him; I knew I was loved and I knew I was the favorite; yet there were things about him I didn't know. The part of his life that most shaped Pa was the years he spent on the Pacific Theater during WWII. In an attempt to understand my father to a greater extent, I chose to start reading books concerning the Pacific Theater....'Ghost Soldiers' was my first....... When most people think of WWII they think of Nazi's, the Holocaust, and Pearl Harbor; but what about the thousands of Americans who fought, were captured and died?... Ghost Soldiers holds every piece of today's best fictional thriller; but it's a true story; the story of the 'Bataan Death March' life as a POW of the Japanese Imperial Army and the courage group of newly created 'Special Ops' men who liberated the POWs of Cabantuan. This book tells the story of murder and cruelty; how one group of men literally watch the world move on without them and how one group of men and an impossible mission created what we today know as 'Special -Ops.' This is a must read book; not only for those who are interested in history, not only for those whose father's spent time on the Pacific Theater, but for everyone! This is more than a true story, this will help everyone understand the men who shaped the leaders who are now shaping the world!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this well written account of the rescue of the POWs of the Bataan Death March and the Rangers who rescued them. Hampton Sides writes so beautifully as he transitions back and forth between the rescue efforts, over the period of a few days, to accounting the years that the POWs experienced. Even though some of what happened in this book is difficult to read for the sheer horror of what the POWs faced, the author brings this event to life again, assuring those who read t Thoroughly enjoyed reading this well written account of the rescue of the POWs of the Bataan Death March and the Rangers who rescued them. Hampton Sides writes so beautifully as he transitions back and forth between the rescue efforts, over the period of a few days, to accounting the years that the POWs experienced. Even though some of what happened in this book is difficult to read for the sheer horror of what the POWs faced, the author brings this event to life again, assuring those who read this book will never forget. These men all deserve to be remembered for what they experienced. This was a great read! I am a Hampton Sides fan now because of this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Book on CD performed by James Naughton From the book jacket On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty miles in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POWs who had spent three years in a surreally hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March. …. Elsewhere in the Philippines, the Japanese Army had already Book on CD performed by James Naughton From the book jacket On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty miles in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POWs who had spent three years in a surreally hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March. …. Elsewhere in the Philippines, the Japanese Army had already executed American prisoners as it retreated from the advancing U.S. Army. My Reactions Sides crafts a story that is gripping, informative, horrifying and inspiring. I was captured from page one and mesmerized throughout. I felt that I really got to know the men involved – prisoners and rescuers. My reaction to this book was somewhat personal. I could not help but think of my father, who served in the Pacific for 33 months, making seven landings with MacArthur’s forces. I remember his stories of how the Filipino guerillas helped them “string wire around Manila Bay. They said it couldn’t be done, but we did it.” I have a collage of photos of him hanging over my desk – including one where he stares into the camera, cigarette in one corner of his mouth, while he and six other men stand holding a large snake that Daddy had killed (Daddy holds the head). And I thought of my husband, an Airborne Ranger who served in Vietnam. In the 1990s, when visiting the Philippines on business, he walked about a hundred meters of the Bataan Death March route – “Just to get the feel of what they endured.” This is a history that will appeal to fans of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken or Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way. James Naughton does a fabulous job of narrating the audio book. I really felt I was in the heart of the action.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    Although I know this is a great book - I am really struggling through it. I am so hurt and offended by the treatment of soldiers during wartime I can't bear to turn another page. :( I'm going to try though (june) ----- I finally finished it. (july) When I was younger and would watch SciFi - I noticed that every time there was a peaceful alien visit - it would be always be said that the alien culture was so advanced compared to ours - and no longer warred. I didn't understand how that comparison wou Although I know this is a great book - I am really struggling through it. I am so hurt and offended by the treatment of soldiers during wartime I can't bear to turn another page. :( I'm going to try though (june) ----- I finally finished it. (july) When I was younger and would watch SciFi - I noticed that every time there was a peaceful alien visit - it would be always be said that the alien culture was so advanced compared to ours - and no longer warred. I didn't understand how that comparison would always be made. Now I understand. Why must we torture and kill each other to (attempt) to solve problems? Why are we not advanced enough, honoring enough, valuing life enough to find a way to peacefully solve a problem or at least be willing to compromise? It breaks my heart - thinking of the suffering on BOTH sides a war - typically a young man on either side of the conflict who has his teenage sense of right and wrong fired up. I also think war changed when leaders removed themselves from the front of battle and safety-ed themselves in offices where the decisions for charges and battles do not affect their own lives. How different from all the years in our world's history when the leaders LED the battle and accepted the same danger they were imposing on their followers. Anyway - sorry for the rant - but I am so offended for all our young men (and women)who have died - defending the *honor* of our country - but what was too many times found out later to be $$ driven. :( BUT - since this is a review of the book and not the historical time it recounted - this was excellently written. Factual yet human. What a huge research undertaking it must have been. I loved it ending with the paragraph about the flag - excellent emotional close.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Very engaging narrative, that covers the fall of Bataan, the 'Bataan Death March' and the internment of POWs captured by the Japanese into Camp O'Donnell, know also as Camp Cabanatuan. This is a story about the rescue of the final remaining 530 prisoners who were rescued after information came out that the Japanese were slaughtering POWs as the war was drawing to an end. The men that were to perform this rescue were the Army's new category of soldier, the Rangers. It also covered the courageous Very engaging narrative, that covers the fall of Bataan, the 'Bataan Death March' and the internment of POWs captured by the Japanese into Camp O'Donnell, know also as Camp Cabanatuan. This is a story about the rescue of the final remaining 530 prisoners who were rescued after information came out that the Japanese were slaughtering POWs as the war was drawing to an end. The men that were to perform this rescue were the Army's new category of soldier, the Rangers. It also covered the courageous Filipino resistance fighters who were integral in this rescue mission, and a special intelligence gathering behind the lines force known as the Alamo Scouts, and the many villagers who contributed to the rescue. This narrative also covers to some extent camp life and some of the horrors and distractions and comradery that develops in any type of prison system. The author follows particular people through this narrative, a method of storytelling that I appreciate, as history far to often follows the commanders giving little effort to give credence to the valor of the men in the ranks. I have to admit that I had to pause as I couldn't read through my tears in the passages which described the tenderness the Rangers displayed to the men they liberated....and the beautiful poetry of Henry Lee. The author wove this story in a manner that brings the reader close to certain men that are followed from the beginning to the end. I always think as I read these stories about how young these men were, mere children who took on awesome responsibilities and prevailed. Very moving account of an amazing rescue where for some reason everything went right, as though the gods all gave their approval of the venture.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    I've seen the movie two or three times, the movie seems to be very true to the book. Hampton Sides is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. This is a very well told story.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Better than the movie, this is an account of the largest allied prisoner escape of WWII. Well written and suspenseful, it's a gripping narrative. Although some of the prisoners are believably portrayed, the story gives little background as regards the Japanese invasion of the islands and virtually no insight into the character of the Japanese themselves. Furthermore, although playing a vital role in events, even the Huk nationalists are left as shadowy, alien characters. Everything is strictly f Better than the movie, this is an account of the largest allied prisoner escape of WWII. Well written and suspenseful, it's a gripping narrative. Although some of the prisoners are believably portrayed, the story gives little background as regards the Japanese invasion of the islands and virtually no insight into the character of the Japanese themselves. Furthermore, although playing a vital role in events, even the Huk nationalists are left as shadowy, alien characters. Everything is strictly from the perspective of the allies. Still, considered strictly as a story, however slanted, it was a good read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    What an epic story of courage missing all these years from the WWII narrative. I am awed by what these men did and how the POWs survived terrible conditions. Living in NM, we hear about the Bataan Death March all the time from survivors from the NM 200th Coast Artillery. This story brings it to life. The bravery of the rescuers, POWs, Filipinos and others burns bright against the savagery of the Japaneses jailers. What other similar stories of WWII heroism lie hidden?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tim Martin

    _Ghost Soldiers_ opens with a chilling account in January 1945 of an American POW camp inside the Japanese-held Philippine territory of Palawan. Home to 150 prisoners, under the ruse of an air raid, the prisoners were ordered into trenches to avoid an American air raid but instead of gaining shelter from bombs they were massacred with machine guns, grenades, or burned alive with aviation fuel. Those that did manage to escape the deadly trenches were hunted down in the jungle and along the beache _Ghost Soldiers_ opens with a chilling account in January 1945 of an American POW camp inside the Japanese-held Philippine territory of Palawan. Home to 150 prisoners, under the ruse of an air raid, the prisoners were ordered into trenches to avoid an American air raid but instead of gaining shelter from bombs they were massacred with machine guns, grenades, or burned alive with aviation fuel. Those that did manage to escape the deadly trenches were hunted down in the jungle and along the beaches; in all, thanks in part to native Filipino help, six men managed to escape the camp and make it to American lines where they told their grim tale. As American forces were poised to retake the Philippines, would other massacres occur, or was this an isolated incident? Would it be standard operating procedure for Japanese forces to terminate POWs rather than allowing them to be liberated? American intelligence was aware of a POW camp near the city of Cabanatuan that housed 513 American, British, and Allied POWs, largely remaining survivors from the infamous Bataan Death March after the American loss of the Philippines, the largest surrender in American history. The camp had once held 8,000 prisoners, but disease had taken a toll as well as the fact that in the months preceding most able-bodied prisoners had been sent on ships to Japan or Japanese-held territories to work as slave labor. What was left at Cabanatuan were "the dregs, the sickest and the weakest," the "ghosts of Bataan" as the prisoners called themselves; an "elite of the damned" that were too starved, weak, and/or sick to prove useful to the retreating Japanese. Located close to 30 miles behind enemy lines, could they be rescued before they were massacred? Fearing time was rapidly running about for these men who had languished in the camp for close to three years, on January 28, 1945 121 specially selected troops from the as yet still largely untested U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion, 10 Alamo Scouts, and 280 Filipino guerillas set out on foot to go deep behind enemy lines and liberate the prisoners. Working with numerous source materials, including interviews with survivors (including living Rangers, ex-POWs, and Japanese soldiers), author Hampton Sides put together a vivid narrative of the bold mission, a mission that was much lauded in the day but was quickly eclipsed by later events such as the invasion of Iwo Jima and the bombing of Hiroshima, an epic tale perhaps not that well known to today's readers. He did a good job portraying the personalities of several of the Rangers, notably Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci, commanding officer of the 6th Ranger Battalion, Captain Robert Prince, the assault commander of the Ranger raid on Cabanatuan, and Dr. Jimmy Fisher, the Ranger battalion surgeon. Sides not only recounted the rescue mission; in alternating chapters he detailed the experiences of those who endured the Bataan Death March, from their initial surrender, the March itself (grimly referred to as the "Hike" by the POWs), to their various experiences in the prisoner camps up to their liberation. Much of this, particularly their time on Bataan prior to its fall, the Death March, and their first camp, Camp O'Donnell (the latter was extremely macabre and disturbing, a place where scores died daily), made for very grim reading. It is one thing for someone to rattle off a list of tropical diseases, but another thing entirely to read first hand what amebic dysentery, cerebral malaria, beriberi, and diphtheria can do to a person; these and other disease ran through the prisoners' ranks like wildfire, the prisoners particularly vulnerable owing to their near starvation levels of diets and sometimes near complete lack of vitamins and minerals (indeed a number would go blind and suffer other maladies from a lack of such nutrients, something sympathetic Filipino insurgents would try to combat at Cabanatuan by smuggling in when they could such things as fruit juice). I found it particularly interesting that Sides tried to present a balanced picture of the Bataan Death March. While in no way whitewashing some of the petty cruelty, torture, and outright murder of not only American and Filipino prisoners but even in some cases Filipino bystanders who sought to merely give food and water to the marching prisoners, he does try to show that the horrid conditions of the March were more due in part to bad planning rather than malice. General Masaharu Homma had sought to prepare for the evacuation of the POWs months earlier; having foreseen that this would be a huge logistical problem, he prepared a place called Camp O'Donnell, a former training installation of the Philippine Army located about 75 miles north of Bataan's tip, as a way station for the prisoners. Homma thought that those prisoners who were healthy enough would march, the rest riding in vehicles - marching no more than ten miles a day - and taking a 25 mile train ride for the last leg of the journey. In reality the plan was massively flawed. Homma estimated 25,000 Filipino and American prisoners; in reality there were almost 100,000, which made the amount of food, vehicles, and other supplies planned for completely inadequate. Further, the Japanese were surprised at just how weak the American prisoners turned out to be, how close to starvation many of them were; this combined with the fact that the largely mechanized American army was not used to the amount and level of marching that the Japanese soldier daily endured produced a true humanitarian nightmare. The trek north to Camp O'Donnell took about a week for the average prisoner, yet owing to the huge numbers of prisoners and their widespread distribution the Japanese needed three weeks to finish the evacuation, during which time 750 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos died, with a further 1,500 Americans and 15,000 Filipinos dying at horrid Camp O'Donnell. An excellent and stirring book, at times grim, exciting, and even humorous.

  24. 4 out of 5

    S.

    Hampton Sides, Yale graduate, is a fine stylist and careful historian. this is a solidly-written work, fluent and articulate. it was intriguing to read about a POW rescue mission towards the end of WW2. 4/5

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pam Walter

    As a lover of history and historical fiction, Hampton Sides is a favorite author. Ghost Soldiers took us to Cabanatuan, Philippines in 1945, where 513 American and British POWs languished. These last remaining prisoners of the Japanese were victims of unspeakable cruelty and brutality, in addition to disease and starvation. Many prisoners were survivors of the Bataan death march. In early 1945 the Japanese were being run out of previously occupied territories. Prisoners correctly assumed that th As a lover of history and historical fiction, Hampton Sides is a favorite author. Ghost Soldiers took us to Cabanatuan, Philippines in 1945, where 513 American and British POWs languished. These last remaining prisoners of the Japanese were victims of unspeakable cruelty and brutality, in addition to disease and starvation. Many prisoners were survivors of the Bataan death march. In early 1945 the Japanese were being run out of previously occupied territories. Prisoners correctly assumed that the Imperial troops would shoot them all before allowing their rescue. Prisoners returning to the U.S. would shed light on the ghastly crimes of their captors and the countless violations of the Geneva Convention. Prisoners watched the sky but were certain they had been forgotten and were filled with foreboding. Meanwhile, U.S. Army Rangers hatched an absurd rescue mission. They hand-selected a group of 121 troops who were advised of the perilous nature of the mission and were offered the chance to back out. None did. Once on Philippine territory, the Rangers were aided by Guerillas who had long tangled with the Japanese but it was only on their approach that they found out that Cabanatuan had become a major point for Japanese retreat. They could face as many as 8,000 battle-hardened soldiers with a code of ethics known as "Bushido" (do or die). The rescue examines elements of the human spirit both exhilaration and under extreme duress. As the Rangers encountered 513 dumbfounded living shadows, they were met with various responses from euphoria to fear and disbelief. Most prisoners embraced their "saviors", while some refused to believe that the rescuers were U.S. Rangers. These few thought that the Japanese were playing tricks on them. Their captors had done this before. They sent in English speaking impersonators to lure them out, only to be shot en mass, lest they face trials for violation of the rules of the Geneva Convention. It was, after all, the end of the war, and the Japanese were leaving the Philippines. Many POWs were so adamant that they had to be carried from the compound. One of the POWs was an MD. " Moments of something like humor intervene, as when the Bataan prisoners were asked by desperate Japanese camp guards to help them fight off an epidemic of venereal disease. The resourceful Americans created a cottage industry to manufacture a counterfeit sulfa drug (tooth powder, pulverized rice grains and water) that they sold at a high price." Hampton Sides' retelling of the actual raid was masterful and carried off with perfect precision. "Ghost Soldiers" is a remarkable tribute to the men who saved the lives of those soldiers who thought their sacrifices in the war had been forgotten. Hampton Sides reminds us that in all the books written about WWII, there are few with happy endings. The story of the Rescue mission at Camp Cabanatuan is one.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    Three things struck me as I read Hampton Sides "Ghost Soldiers". First, as a young boy I read an account of the Bataan Death March which, I believe, is one of the references cited in the author's acknowledgements. Ghost Soldiers brought back memories of the incredible suffering of the American and Filipino prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese. Mr. Sides tries to justify the actions of the General Masaharu Homma and the troops under his command. He doesn't succeed and he ignores the fact Three things struck me as I read Hampton Sides "Ghost Soldiers". First, as a young boy I read an account of the Bataan Death March which, I believe, is one of the references cited in the author's acknowledgements. Ghost Soldiers brought back memories of the incredible suffering of the American and Filipino prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese. Mr. Sides tries to justify the actions of the General Masaharu Homma and the troops under his command. He doesn't succeed and he ignores the fact that the Japanese have never acknowledged the atrocities committed during World War II. In fact their government's official position is that they were the victims and the war was caused by the U.S. embargo on oil to their island empire. Next is how Mars smiled on the 6th Ranger Battalion's efforts to liberate the Cabanatuan prison camp survivors. They were guided and escorted by two bands of competent Filipino guerrillas. The little known Alamo Scouts provided invaluable intelligence without which the mission could not have be attempted. The battalion surgeon found two Filipino doctors in the village closest to the camp. The Filipino civilians provided oxen and wagons to transport the emaciated and sickly prisoners back to American lines. The weather cooperated. As Napolean said, "In war it is better to be lucky than good." Finally, the author errs on some military facts. For example, he says the M-1 carbine is a lighter version of the M-1 Garand rifle (not true) and seems awed by the Browning Automatic Rifle's cyclical rate of fire of 550 rounds per minute. This is the theoretical rate of fire. The BAR is fed by a 20 round box magazine. At 550 rpm a rifleman would use up 28 magazines in a minute (impossible) which is more than he carried. Some might argue that this is picking at nits but if one is going to write military history one should get the military facts straight. Overall, this is a quick, engrossing read that is a testament to the human spirit. It reinforces the cruelty of the Japanese military in WW II as previously described in current books such as "The Rape of Nanking" and "Flags of Our Fathers." The description of the welcome given to these brave POW survivors will bring tears to your eyes.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joy Magno

    One of the best books I've read my entire life! My late grandfather was a Filipino soldier and survivor of the Death March during WWII. I really wanted to know what went on during that time because no one in my family could really tell me what he went through as he never spoke about it. This book told me why he couldn't speak of it: It was so atrocious and traumatizing, he probably didn't want to relive that horrible nightmare. This tells the story of the brave and resilient American and Filipino One of the best books I've read my entire life! My late grandfather was a Filipino soldier and survivor of the Death March during WWII. I really wanted to know what went on during that time because no one in my family could really tell me what he went through as he never spoke about it. This book told me why he couldn't speak of it: It was so atrocious and traumatizing, he probably didn't want to relive that horrible nightmare. This tells the story of the brave and resilient American and Filipino soldiers who were enslaved in interment camps by the Japanese, and how they were finally rescued. It chronicled how the prisoners were treated less than animals in the camps, and how the American GIs collaborated with Filipino soldiers to rescue them. It was so glorious and uplifting to read a TRUE heroic story. I've recommended this book to my uncle, several friends and my husband and they were all rejoicing after they've finished it. If you're a WWII buff, this book will not disappoint you!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dax

    Another piece of impressive work by Hampton Sides. Alternating chapters jump between the Bataan Death March/Camp Cabanatuan and the rescue effort that takes place a couple of years later.Sides introduces us to some memorable characters; from Army medics, chaplains, POWs, Philipino rebels and even a female US spy. Even in these dreary settings, Sides is able to introduce the occasional slice of humor to provide a reprieve from the dark details of camp life and Japanese brutality. And let's be hon Another piece of impressive work by Hampton Sides. Alternating chapters jump between the Bataan Death March/Camp Cabanatuan and the rescue effort that takes place a couple of years later.Sides introduces us to some memorable characters; from Army medics, chaplains, POWs, Philipino rebels and even a female US spy. Even in these dreary settings, Sides is able to introduce the occasional slice of humor to provide a reprieve from the dark details of camp life and Japanese brutality. And let's be honest, some of these scenes are rough. It's amazing that any of those POWs made it out alive. A dark read at times but Sides really does an amazing job with this story. Well structured, well written, and an unforgettable story.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Once I started this book, I could not put it down. It is the extraordinary story of the soldiers who survived the Bataan Death March and the US Rangers who rescued them from their captivity. Initially the chapters alternate between their stories, which are equally riveting. You really get to know many of the soldiers as people and you worry for them as they endure horrific hardships. It all comes together as the rescue raid begins and the tension as you read it is almost unbearable. Such is the Once I started this book, I could not put it down. It is the extraordinary story of the soldiers who survived the Bataan Death March and the US Rangers who rescued them from their captivity. Initially the chapters alternate between their stories, which are equally riveting. You really get to know many of the soldiers as people and you worry for them as they endure horrific hardships. It all comes together as the rescue raid begins and the tension as you read it is almost unbearable. Such is the writing skill of the author. The last chapter was read with tears and smiles. This is an absolute must read for history buffs and those who just like a well written book of non-fiction.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    ************************ *Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman 5 stars *We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan by Elizabeth M. Norman TBR ************************ *Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman 5 stars *We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan by Elizabeth M. Norman TBR

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