I am extremely glad I chose this book to read to kick off my Read 50 Books in 2015 challenge. Interestingly enough this story was based on actual historical facts and is supposed to make the story that much more real. As I read through this book I still can’t believe the stuff that I read that happened in the war. This may be one of my longer blog posts. It’s because there is just so much to say related to this book.
I am going to start off with this YouTube video video that I found online which wraps up in a little over 3 minutes the gist of the book. If you’re into history and particularly the Philippines and its involvement in World War 2 this is a must read. My only disappointment is that I didn’t read it until now.
Bataan Death March
60,000-80,000 Filipino & American Prisoners of War
The Japanese Soldiers were trained to never surrender if they were captured they had to commit suicide for in their mindset surrendering to the enemy shows you have no honor. The book highlights how the Japanese were notorious for making decisions despite new information and conditions they never diverted from their plan. Even when they discovered that their calculations were off of how many prisoners they would acquire they did not change course and still tried to move the prisoners at the same expected pace with the same quantity of food and medicine. Even when hoards of their troops were being obliterated by the Filipino Guerrillas they just kept sending groups of them over the same bridge.
In September of 1941, 1800 soldiers from New Mexico were sent to the Philippines. In memory of the fallen soldiers every year he Bataan Memorial Death March is held in White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico which is approximately 27 miles long.
One of the leaders that made an impression with me was Henry Mucci who was the Colonel of the United States Army Rangers. He was the type of leader who was described as intense yet his soldiers had no problem following him for they knew that Mucci would never ask them to do something he was not willing to do himself. He was not the smartest only ranking #264 out of 276 in his class but he was very influential and had the ability to successfully motivate and lead his soldiers.
There is one detail in this book that still haunts me even after I finished reading. I consider it worse than the prologue where Hampton Sides writes about how 150 men were told to dig their own trenches for protection for air raids. 50 men could fit in each trench if they crawled in and kept their knees to their faces. The Japanese Lieutenant ordered the men to crawl in the trenches which they hesitantly did so and promptly lit the trenches on fire with flame and gasoline. For those that didn’t die from the fire unsuccessfully escaped were killed. No the other part that I personally thought was worse was when Sides wrote about the pregnant Filipina. She was handing out cassava cakes to the prisoners as they marched through. A Japanese guard saw this and dragged her near a tree and gouged her fetus out of her right there for everyone to see with hit bayonet.
“The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke
How can someone do this? Out of fear for their own lives the prisoners felt they couldn’t do anything to save that woman. How can one have so much hate that in their mind an act like this would be ok in honor of their country? I suppose this is nothing new and can still be found happening today, but what can we do?