Ghost Soldiers

by Hampton Sides

Doubleday, May, 2001.
Hardcover, 342 pages.
ISBN: 0385495641

Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides In World War II some American soldiers became overwhelmed by the Japanese forces in the Philippines. The American soldiers fought hard and bravely, but a lack of supplies and reinforcements led to an eventual surrender with thousands of Americans were taken prisoner. The conditions these men had to endure as prisoners was horrific. Some prisoners were beheaded with machetes, beaten and tortured. One of the tortures (which seems even more sadistic today because of our knowledge of skin cancer) was what the soldiers called the "sun treatment", where soldiers were forced to stand in the sun for long periods of time without water. One particularly dreadful event was the Bataan Death March, in which thousands of prisoners were forced to walk hundreds of miles with very little food and water. Men who stopped marching were either slain or left to die. Ghost Soldiers then goes on to tell the tale of the prisoners who survived the Bataan Death March and gives extensive details of every aspect of the soldiers' imprisonment -- from what they ate to the many terrible diseases they endured. At the same time it also tells a tale of the men's incredible spirit, what they did to survive and the heroic U.S Army 6th Ranger Battalion who came to rescue them.

Ghost Soldiers is an amazing tale of some very heroic Americans during the unusual and violent times of World War II in the South Pacific. Author Hampton Sides shows remarkable skill in bringing this story to life, making the reader feel a part of these soldiers' lives and reliving the war all over again. The book also gives an interesting account about how the men interacted with their captors, and also looks at the personalities of the Japanese soldiers who were in charge of them. Some were unnecessarily cruel, some were indifferent and a few were even sensitive to the prisoners' needs. Hampton Sides also explains how the opposing armies misunderstood each other. For example, Japanese soldiers would rather die than be taken prisoner, and would often eviscerate themselves rather then be captured. The story of the Rangers coming to rescue them is just as interesting, because if they had been discovered at any time during their covert journey to the prison camp they would have annihilated. Sides also gives the big picture of World War II and the role the Ghost Soldiers story played in the War. Anyone interested in World War II, war stories or history will find Ghost Soldiers fascinating. Highly recommended.

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This review was published in the September, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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