Kirkus Reviews (04/01/2010):
Sports and military historian Lukacs tells the story of the only successful escape of a group of POWs from a Japanese prison camp during World War II.
Lukacs effectively conveys the horrors of life for American POWs in the Philippines. The central figure of the story, Maj. William Edwin Dyess of the Army Air Forces, was an ace fighter pilot who sunk numerous Japanese boats. He was one of thousands of prisoners in the infamous Bataan Death March, in which prisoners were marched with little or no food or water in blistering heat; many were randomly bayoneted or beheaded. At the prison camps, conditions were scarcely better; the Japanese refused to follow the Geneva Convention rules for prisoner treatment. Prison-guard duty was seen as a lowly assignment in the Japanese army, given to the worst soldiers, who took out their frustrations on the Americans in the most brutal ways imaginable. Occasionally, prisoners would try unsuccessfully to escape; once, when three escapees were recaptured, the guards tied them to stakes and beat them for three days before shooting them. Nonetheless, Dyess and nine others were determined to escape, and they slipped away during a work detail, trudging through miles of marshland infested with leeches, crocodiles and stinging wasps. They met up with sympathetic Filipino guerrillas, and after many delays, ably captured by Lukacs, they eventually made it to freedom. However, in a strange twist, Dyess and the others were ordered not to discuss their brutal prison treatment. Among other concerns, higher-ups in the U.S. government were worried about Japanese retaliatory action against American prisoners still in the Philippines. The author's account of the escapees' determination to break their silence is one of the most engaging parts of the book.
A fast-moving, real-life escape story, and an unexpected chronicle of a fight against censorship.(COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
Lukacs contribution to WWII POW literature reconstructs an escape by Americans from the Japanese-occupied Philippines. From biographical introductions of the dozen Americans involved, dramas of their captures at Bataan and Corregidor, and ordeals of imprisonment and maltreatment, Lukacs launches into their breakout scheme and the nail-biting danger of putting it in motion. Ably declaiming the ensuing intrepid events, Lukacs readily evokes the high tension and strenuous travails of the fugitives evasion of enemy patrols en route to evacuations by American submarines. But, as Lukacs recounts, their stories of Japanese atrocities (which included revelation of the Bataan Death March), in which their heroic saga was wrapped, were too hot for officialdom to handle. Fearful of endangering remaining POWs, but also tempted by the opportunity to put to use the inevitable intensification of popular anger against the Japanese, FDR expressly delayed release of the news until it coincided with a war-bond sales drive. Built from every available research source, Lukacs diligent, impassioned history will aid and abet the ever-growing interest in the WWII fighting experience.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)
"Like the event it covers, "Escape from Davao" is unique. Many World War II books chronicle American POWs escaping from German camps. You are holding in your hands the story of the only successful American group escape from a Japanese camp. "
--James Bradley, author of "Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys", and "The Imperial Cruise
"John Lukacs has justifiably brought attention to one of the Pacific War's most overlooked stories in his riveting book about the escape from Davao. Lukacs so breathes life into the tale that readers feel the drama and suspense as if they were present."
--John Wukovits, author of "Admiral "Bull" Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy's Most Controversial Commander"
""Escape from Davao" is an extraordinary book for at least two reasons. One is the quality of the author's storytelling; the other is the richness of his research. His reconstruction of this almost entirely unknown episode of World War II is formed into a superb and inspiring narrative. And more than commendable is the evidence of his truly exhaustive research - rare in the historiography of that war."
--John Lukacs, author of "The Legacy of the Second World War" and "The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler"
""Escape From Davao" is a remarkable story that explores the heights of human courage and compassion even as it reveals the depths of brutality that one set of human beings is capable of inflicting on another. Exhaustively researched and superbly written, the book incorporates many elements of a well-crafted suspense novel. Indeed, readers may wish at times that it were fiction, rather than cruel, distressing fact."
--Bill Sloan, author of "Brotherhood of Heroes", "The Ultimate Battle" and "The Darkest Summer"
Table of Contents:
Author's Note -- Prologue -- Part I. War -- 1. Ten Pesos -- 2. A Long War -- 3. The Raid -- 4. God Help Them -- Part II. Hell -- 5. The Hike -- 6. Goodbye and Good Luck -- 7. A Rumor -- 8. The Erie Maru -- 9. A Christmas Dream -- 10. A Big Crowd -- 11. The Plan -- 12. Cat-and-Mouse -- Part III. Freedom -- 13. A Miracle -- 14. Another Gamble -- 15. Unexplored -- 16. Little Time to Rest -- 17. A Story that should be Told -- 18. Duty -- 19. Greater Love Hath No Man -- 20. Legacies -- 21. Conditional Victory -- Epilogue -- Acknowledgments -- Notes -- Bibliography -- Index.
On April 4, 1943, ten American prisoners of war and two Filipino convicts executed a daring escape
from one of Japan's most notorious prison camps. The prisoners were survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March and the Fall of Corregidor, and the prison from which they escaped was surrounded by an impenetrable swamp and reputedly escape-proof. Theirs was the only successful group escape from a Japanese POW camp during the Pacific war. Escape from Davao is the story of one of the most remarkable incidents in the Second World War and of what happened when the Americans returned home to tell the world what they had witnessed.
Davao Penal Colony, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, was a prison plantation where
thousands of American POWs toiled alongside Filipino criminals and suffered from tropical diseases and malnutrition, as well as the cruelty of their captors. The American servicemen were rotting in a hellhole from which escape was considered impossible, but ten of them, realizing that inaction meant certain death, planned to escape. Their bold plan succeeded with the help of Filipino allies, both patriots and the guerrillas who fought the Japanese sent to recapture them. Their trek to freedom repeatedly put the Americans in jeopardy, yet they eventually succeeded in returning home to the United States to fulfill their self-appointed mission: to tell Americans about Japanese atrocities and to rally the country to the plight of their comrades still in captivity. But the government and the military had a different timetable for the liberation of the Philippines and ordered the men to remain silent. Their testimony, when it finally emerged, galvanized the nation behind the Pacific war effort and made the men c