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

by Hampton Sides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,304455,214 (4.12)88
On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. 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 hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March left in the camp, and their extraordinary will to live might soon count for nothing. As the Rangers stealthily moved through enemy-occupied territory, they learned that Cabanatuan had become a major transshipment point for the Japanese retreat, and instead of facing the few dozen prison guards, they could possibly confront as many as 8,000 battle-hardened enemy troops.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
An excellent, well researched account of the Bataan Death March and the rescue, 3 years later, of the prisoners' who remained alive.

The chapters alternate between the voices of the Allied forces who were captured after the Battle of Baatan, and those of the Americans who would eventually rescue those prisoners. The authors research included interviews with actual prisoners/rescuers and access to diaries and letters.

One of the best accounts of, sadly, a forgotten story. Highly recommended ( )
  JBroda | Sep 24, 2021 |
A quick read for me. Ghost Soldiers didn't seem as detailed a POW story as the other WWII POW story I recently read, [b:Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption|8664353|Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption|Laura Hillenbrand|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1327861115s/8664353.jpg|12946965], perhaps because this focused on a group of POWs and their rescuers, rather than on an individual. In some of the language Sides uses, I felt this book wasn't so much a recent publication, but more in line with something published in the 60's or 70's. Maybe not as much detail in some cases, and a more flourish-y style of writing. This book is worth reading for WWII historians because it's a great story that is not well known. At the end of the book, Sides even comments that this story was front-page news for a few days, but was quickly overtaken by news of Iwo, Okinawa, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the end of the war. Not my most recommended WWII book, but ok. ( )
  Jeff.Rosendahl | Sep 21, 2021 |
I thought this book was just excellent. It pointed out the hardships and cruelties that Allied soldiers faced in POW camps, and in an exciting manner detailed the preparations for the raid and ultimate results, while also detailing the stories of those doing the raid and those that were saved. It also provided background on individuals' stories, and the sad demise of some of the individuals among both the raiders and the POWs. Any student of WWII needs to read this easily read tale. I highly recommend it! ( )
  highlander6022 | May 31, 2021 |
A group of 121 personally picked soldiers are called into action. Their mission: to march thirty miles to rescue 513 prisoners of war; survivors of the Bataan Death March. Sides is thorough in his storytelling. Side by side narratives of the rescued and the rescuers. One minute the reader is with the Rangers, planning the daring rescue; the next getting to know the prisoners of war. All the while the Japanese are launching deadly attacks and no one can predict their next erratic move. Using reliable documentation to recreate the drama, diaries, scrapbooks, oral recollections, interviews, correspondence to loved ones, and autobiographies make for an intimate feels-like-you-are-there narrative.
For me, the most moving exploit of the Rangers was when they had the villagers assist them in building an airstrip in one night (a mere five hours) to evacuate a critically wounded doctor. It brought me to tears to think of every man, woman, and child working their hardest in the dead of night to create an airstrip in the jungle for a complete stranger.
An interesting side story is the one of Claire Phillips, aka "High Pockets" working as a spy disguised as a cabaret owner. After she is exposed as a traitor, Sides seemingly ends her story but there is a postscript to her tale. ( )
1 vote SeriousGrace | Mar 30, 2021 |
3.5 stars

Close to the end of WWII, there were American (and a few other nationalities) prisoners of war being held by the Japanese in the Philippines. When one POW camp was brutally massacred, the American Rangers decided to go in to rescue the POWs at another one before the same thing could happen there. This book goes back and forth between the POWs: how they came to be in the camp and their life there leading up to the rescue and the rescuers and their dangerous mission to get them out. In the end, they saved over 500 POWs, many who were sick.

This was good. I found the POWs story more interesting than the rescuers, though there were still portions of both that held my interest. The book started with a “bang”, describing the other POW camp and how almost all of them were murdered except for a very few who managed to escape. Then, it switched to the story at hand, going back and forth. It did pick up in the last half to third of the book, as the rescue was about to happen, and as it happened. ( )
1 vote LibraryCin | Nov 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sides, Hamptonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carella, MariaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Naughton, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Jeffrey L.Mapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Let us not speak of them; but look, and pass on.
Dante's Inferno

[ followed by list of prisoners held at Cabanatuan at time of Ranger raid ]
Dedication
To my Mother,
for her grace and equanamity,
and for teaching me to keep my eyes open

...

And to the mothers and wives of the men of Bataan
First words
All about them, their work lay in ruins.
Quotations
In August 1944, the War Ministry in Tokyo had issued a directive to the commandants of various POW camps, outlining a policy for what it called the "final disposition" of prisoners. A copy of this document, which came to be known as the "August 1 Kill-All Order," would surface in the war crimes investigations in Tokyo. [23]
Colonel Mucci had proposed the sweetest imaginable use of force, to defend and avenge in the same act. [64]
Over time, the prisoners perfected the sport of gastrosado-masochism. At night the men would swap recipes for dishes that were ludicrously, obscenely rich -- chocolate syrup on mashed potatoes, molasses and whipped cream over a whole stick of butter. They would torment each other with elaborate recitations of the meals they were going to prepare. They'd be lying on their bunks in the dark, and without preface or provocation, someone would say, in a tone of perverse glee: Bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich! Everyone would writhe and groan. A few minutes would pass, and someone would break the silence: New England clam chowder! On and on it would go until they finally became sated and drifted off to miserable sleep. [142]
In the [prison camp] hospital for the critically ill, known as Zero Ward, the doctors labored with improvised equipment and conducted operations with nothing more than what was termed vocal anesthetic ("It won't hurt much"). [151]
Rumormongering was an assiduously practiced sport around camp. The rumors spread even faster than disease. [...] It was not a malicious tendency, however. Very seldom were rumors hatched that prisoners didn't want to hear. If the rumors preyed on people's hopes, they were themselves a reflection of hope. They were spread in the spirit of certain universal understandings, the main one being that prisoners of war are not interested in the truth. [159]
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On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. 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 hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March left in the camp, and their extraordinary will to live might soon count for nothing. As the Rangers stealthily moved through enemy-occupied territory, they learned that Cabanatuan had become a major transshipment point for the Japanese retreat, and instead of facing the few dozen prison guards, they could possibly confront as many as 8,000 battle-hardened enemy troops.

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