DELIVERANCE AT LOS BANOS: The Dramatic True Story of Survival And Triumph in a Japanese Internment Camp by Anthony Arthur

DELIVERANCE AT LOS BANOS: The Dramatic True Story of Survival And Triumph in a Japanese Internment Camp

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The true story of survival and triumph in a Japanese internment camp for civilian prisoners in the Philippines. The great day of deliverance for over 2,000 prisoners (with the astonishing sight of 11th Airborne Division paratroopers dropping out of the sky to free them) came on the same day that Joe Rosenthal locked up America's front pages with his photograph of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, and so a phenomenal rescue story of mass barbarism averted never had the impact it deserved. With the fall of Manila, 4,000 American and British civilians were rounded up and interned at Santo Tomas University. Painfully, the Americans came to recognize that the Pacific was not Washington's first concern--indeed, it was later revealed that much of America's war effort was devoted to Europe. Even so, as the tide of battle shifted, the Philippines became crucial to the Japanese, the last barricade between their revered homeland and the American forces. After a year at Santo Tomas large groups of internees were moved to an isolated agricultural college campus 30 miles to the south, Los Banos. The prisoners at both Santo Tomas and Los Banos elected executive committees to help keep order; committees were given responsibility without power, and often abused by fellow prisoners for trying to mollify the Japanese. Sometimes members were beaten--for unwitting infractions such as not bowing to the commandant's empty desk--and sometimes they paid with their lives for the privilege of representing the internees. Los Banos became a typical American town, with its profiteers, gamblers, a whore (""I'm an All-American girl, and there are 10,000 million more at home just like me !"") as well as straight-arrows and Jesus salesman. To combat idleness a faculty of gifted teachers opened a university, conducting courses from memory. A dance is held, with musical numbers including a smash ""Singin' in the Rain"" using ""real"" rain from an overhead irrigation pipe. But as the war wound down the inmates foresaw the retreating Japanese slaughtering all as a matter of policy. When deliverance comes, the 11th Airborne Division paratroopers coordinated their drop with a ground attack that found the Japanese completely off-guard and allowed the whole camp to be evacuated. Although the triumph of release is short, due to the massive flight from enemy territory (poor Filipino civilians who lived in the area took the brunt of Japanese fury at the whole camp's incredible escape), this is gripping, uplifting reading.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's