RETURN FROM THE RIVER KWAI by

RETURN FROM THE RIVER KWAI

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The untold story of what happened after the British and Australian POWs built the famed bridge on the River Kwai is even more ghastly than what went before. Orders came down from Tokyo for 10,000 of the most ""fit"" of these men to be shipped to the homeland as factory labor. They were to be called the Japan Party. Perhaps five percent of the 2,000-plus first selected for transfer were fit in any sense of the word. Most were half-dead. Then, after the group had traveled by rail and river steamer to Saigon, it was seen that ships couldn't be run all the way through the Allied submarine blockade to Japan. So--as the story tenses up--the work party is sent by a horror train to Singapore, where they are kept under appalling conditions before embarking by convoy to Japan. All 2,000 men are jammed into the sweltering holds of two Japanese ships, each designed to carry 300 troops. And then two American submarines, unaware that the ships Carry POWs, sink the Rakuyo Maru and the Kachidoki Maru. What follows is heavy with echoes of Walter Lord's A Night to Remember, as the 2,000 men--in a sense free at last--prepare to drown or struggle for survival as the tilting ships slowly slide under. The Japanese sailors are eventually rescued and the 2,000 POWs left to drown. Day after day they float, die, or go mad. On the fourth day two American subs happen upon them. There are only 250 men left alive--and the subs can't accommodate all of these! Some must be left behind, screaming, as the friendly ships submerge. . . . Strong, straightforward writing, researched in depth, with several powerful moments.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Simon & Schuster