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Counting the Days: POWs, Internees, and Stragglers of World War II in the Pacific Hardcover – May 8, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books; First Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588343553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588343550
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,534,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Smith (How the Great Pyramid Was Built) has collected compelling survival memories by both civilian and military WWII prisoners. After tape-recording their accounts, he sought a deeper understanding, and visited the sites of their harrowing imprisonment to answer the question, “Would I be a survivor?” He visited camps, battlegrounds, and war memorials, and he went to Guam, Japan, and the Philippines to retrace routes taken by prisoners. European expatriates Simon and Lydia Peters, civilian noncombatants in the Philippines, fled the Japanese and spent the war surviving in the jungle. Californian Mitzi Takahashi, who viewed herself as “an ordinary American girl,” was forced to join 100,000 other West Coast Japanese at an internment camp. Marine Garth Dunn recalls the brutality of guards in Japanese prison camps. Smith recorded “horrors beyond imagining—starvation, harassment, threats, humiliation, beatings, torture,” but his subjects also spoke of human kindness, sacrifice and friends taking great risks. These powerful and poignant interviews have been skillfully edited chronologically to present lives before, during, and after the war. 15 b&w photos, 4 maps. (May)

KIRKUS REVIEWS

A retired engineer who has taken up writing delivers fascinating accounts of six Japanese and Americans who passed the war in enemy hands.

Smith (Lightning: Fire From the Sky, 2008, etc.) delivers first-person stories of a GI who endured more than three terrible years as a POW in Japan and a Japanese soldier who spent a more comfortable time in the United States but felt guilty about surrendering. Casting his net widely, the author describes an Russian mining engineer and his wife, hiding and starving in the occupied Philippines, a Japanese soldier who escaped to the jungle after the U.S. reconquered Guam in 1944, emerging only in 1960, and a young Nisei woman, born and raised in Los Angeles, caught up in the shameful American internment of Japanese Americans after 1941. Smith pulls no punches portraying the cruelty of the Japanese to those under their power, but, like many amateur historians and not a few professionals, he justifies this as a consequence of the samurai Bushido tradition, which teaches that warriors fight to the death and that those who surrender are beneath contempt. In fact, traditional Bushido does not excuse brutality or require warriors to die except to preserve honor. The Japanese did not abuse prisoners from the Russo-Japanese war and World War I. Their suicidal behavior and inhumanity during World War II sprang from a new policy by 1920s military leaders who believed it would toughen Japanese soldiers, enabling them to overcome less-determined but technically advanced Western armies.

Readers can take comfort knowing that all six subjects survived, perhaps the only good news in these gripping though mostly painful stories about one of the many grim aspects of WWII. PUB DATE May 2012

LIBRARY JOURNAL

Using hours of interviews, diaries, military records, and onsite visits, Smith crafts a read-in-one-sitting narrative of six men and women whose lives were changed by the war in the Pacific: one young woman of Japanese descent who found herself in an internment camp; a Japanese sailor who had the misfortune of being the first American POW; a Japanese soldier who emerged from the jungles of Guam 15 years after war’s end; a European couple in the Philippines on the run from both the unpredictable cruelty of the Japanese and Filipino guerrillas; and a marine captured at Guam who spent the war as a POW in horrific Japanese camps. ­VERDICT These narratives, and Smith’s interpretive framework, capture the determination and spirit of their subjects and what they endured to survive and share their stories. Those interested in the human toll of war will want to read this book.

Counting the Days tracks six prisoners during the Pacific War.  Craig Smith has conducted in-depth research and interviews to bring to life their suffering, courage and eventual triumph, creating a compelling portrait of war’s extremes and how these individuals struggled through the darkness to survive.
James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise


Craig B. Smith takes the reader behind the barbed wire and into the jungle to expertly chronicle the resourcefulness and the resiliency of the human spirit through a variety of unique vantage points.  As a result, Counting the Days thoroughly captures the complete essence of the POW/internee experience during the Pacific war.
John D. Lukacs, author of Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War

About the Author

Craig B. Smith is former president of a global engineering, architecture, and construction firm that has been involved in many major public works projects, including the renovation of the Pentagon before and after 9/11. He is the author of How the Great Pyramid Was Built and Extreme Waves.

More About the Author



Craig B. Smith's forty-year career combined engineering design and construction of major projects involving advanced technologies with a love for writing. His career began as an Assistant Professor of Engineering at UCLA. After leaving UCLA, he formed a high technology R & D company (ANCO Engineers, Inc.) that developed advanced instrumentation and data acquisition systems and some of the world's largest structural vibrators for seismic tests of high-rise buildings, dams, and nuclear power plants. In 1992 he joined AECOM, a large, international architecture/engineering firm, where he held several positions before retiring in 2003 as President and then chairman of AECOM subsidiary DMJM-Holmes and Narver, where he was responsible for the direction and management of many large public works projects such as airport expansion, mass transit, schools and courthouses, and took part in a joint venture responsible for the Pentagon renovation, before and after 9/11.

During his professional career, Smith wrote over 100 technical publications but also published poetry and short fiction. He wrote a textbook, "Energy Management Principles" (Pergamon Press, 1980), in addition to serving as editor of several books on energy conservation and efficiency. In 2003, he began writing full-time and published "How the Great Pyramid was Built" (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004). A paperback edition was published in 2006 by HarperCollins and a Spanish language version, "Guiza: Cómo Se Construyó La Gran Pirámide," was published Editoria Crítica, Barcelona, Spain, in 2007.

In connection with this work Smith was featured on the Arts and Entertainment Channel's "Great Builders of Egypt" and in PBS's three hour series "Secrets of the Pharaohs." In 2006, he appeared in the History Channel's "Egypt: Engineering an Empire and in the National Geographic Magazine's "Naked Science series: Pyramids."

A sailor, Smith has always been interested in the sea and "Extreme Waves" was published by the Joseph Henry Press of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006, followed by "Lightning: Fire from the Sky" in 2008. His latest non-fiction book, "Counting the Days," will be published by Smithsonian Institution Press in May, 2012. It tells the amazing survival stories of six POWs from both sides of the Pacific conflict in WW II. In addition, he has published three novels, "House of Miracles," 2010, "Stirrings," 2011, and "Malaika's Miracle," 2012.

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Customer Reviews

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Reads like a novel.
R.A. Stammerjohan
It has been scholarly researched, and is well organized in a manner to keep the reader's interest.
Fran Conley
Highly recommended for high school age and up.
Phyllis Scheffler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Mary Bomba on February 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I just finished reading Counting the Days. There were nights when I could hardly put it down. The research that went into it, the care taken in recording and transcribing the interviews, the commitment to accuracy, and the empathy so obviously felt by the author for all his subjects make for an amazing read. Far from resurrecting any wartime hatred, Smith expands the reader’s understanding of what happens in war and the cultural differences that lead to misunderstanding. I have warmly recommended the book to my family, especially a cousin who reads deeply in military history. I know they'll love it.

Mary Bomba
Los Angeles, CA
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By S. Moore on November 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting book that broadened my knowledge of prisoners of war in World War II. I especially was interested in the Japanese Americans that were citizens of the US and put in camps.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The particular interest of this volume is that it looks at incarceration in wartime from multipleperspectives, including US personnsl interned by the Japanese as well as the exerience of Japanese civilian internees in the US during WWII
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By Russell Spencer on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Counting the Days..." was written over more than a 20-year period. It was well researched and the six personal stories of WW II POWs were compassionately presented to easily imagine the scenes and situations described. It was particularly impressive how the author (Craig B. Smith) visited many of the places described in the personal POW stories to gain a first-hand look and feel for their actual environments.
Russ
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very well written and easy to read descriptions of several prisoners held during World War II. Reads like a novel.Thoroughly researched and very interesting.
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By G.K. Johnson on July 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The author has provided us with engrossing accounts of survival from six individuals who experienced different kinds of confinement during the hostilities in the Pacific theater of WWII. One wonders where the strength to endure and the will to live come from under such severe and extreme conditions. Their stories are certainly a testament to the human spirit. I was particularly moved by the kindness and generosity of friends and fellow participants such as: the employer who stored and protected the personal property of the Japanese family sent to internment camp; the Filipino wife of the farmer who shared what she had with the European couple, even as her husband was taken prisoner; the POW's who shared with each other what food they could steal and the Japanese soldiers who shared with other soldiers hiding in the jungle. Overall, an enjoyable and fascinating read.
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By sixpence on July 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Received ok and believe the book is interesting with a lot of personal observations. A good chronical of the challenges of that time/
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