Before the colors fade and history replaces memory, Henderson (Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War, 2010, etc.) lucidly narrates a World War II story of captured civilians and their resolute rescuers.
The Imperial Japanese Army occupied most of the Philippines soon after Pearl Harbor. American, British, and other civilian residents were quickly rounded up, and the men and some Navy nurses were transferred to a camp at Los Baños. Then the women and children came. More than 2,000 were eventually interned there, where a governing internee committee convened to negotiate with their captors, and a camp hospital was established to care for the increasing numbers of sick prisoners. It was a sweaty, gritty, and cruel wartime imprisonment, made worse by the advent of a new, sadistic commandant. Though food was readily available just beyond the fences, rations were cut below subsistence levels. The internees were slowly starving, and many died of beriberi, dysentery, and gunshots. After harsh captivity of nearly three years, rescue was urgent. On the orders of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the 11th Airborne Division assumed the difficult and dangerous job. Henderson recapitulates the story of the careful preparation and exact execution of the prison raid, which proved to be a textbook operation. The intelligence was superb, the planning was excellent, and the timing was exact. The tricky parachute assault, the firefight, and the amphibian evacuation of the internees—all went according to plan. Certainly, the successful mission was the result of deliberate, detailed work and considerable, sustained heroism. Based on copious research, personal interviews, and many memoirs, the author achieves a high standard of popular history. He artfully blends vibrant character sketches with equally clear military fact, all rendered in vivid color.
A dramatic story of bravery in which individual personal accounts converge with the waging of war for a riveting history.