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Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War [Kindle Edition]

John D. Lukacs
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $12.74
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc


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Book Description

On April 4, 1943, ten American prisoners of war and two Filipino convicts executed a daring escape from one of Japan's most notorious prison camps. The prisoners were survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March and the Fall of Corregidor, and the prison from which they escaped was surrounded by an impenetrable swamp and reputedly escape-proof. Theirs was the only successful group escape from a Japanese POW camp during the Pacific war. Escape from Davao is the story of one of the most remarkable incidents in the Second World War and of what happened when the Americans returned home to tell the world what they had witnessed.

Davao Penal Colony, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, was a prison plantation where thousands of American POWs toiled alongside Filipino criminals and suffered from tropical diseases and malnutrition, as well as the cruelty of their captors. The American servicemen were rotting in a hellhole from which escape was considered impossible, but ten of them, realizing that inaction meant certain death, planned to escape. Their bold plan succeeded with the help of Filipino allies, both patriots and the guerrillas who fought the Japanese sent to recapture them. Their trek to freedom repeatedly put the Americans in jeopardy, yet they eventually succeeded in returning home to the United States to fulfill their self-appointed mission: to tell Americans about Japanese atrocities and to rally the country to the plight of their comrades still in captivity. But the government and the military had a different timetable for the liberation of the Philippines and ordered the men to remain silent. Their testimony, when it finally emerged, galvanized the nation behind the Pacific war effort and made the men celebrities.
Over the decades this remarkable story, called the "greatest story of the war in the Pacific" by the War Department in 1944, has faded away. Because of wartime censorship, the full story has never been told until now. John D. Lukacs spent years researching this heroic event, interviewing survivors, reading their letters, searching archival documents, and traveling to the decaying prison camp and its surroundings. His dramatic, gripping account of the escape brings this remarkable tale back to life, where a new generation can admire the resourcefulness and patriotism of the men who fought the Pacific war.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lukacs’ contribution to WWII POW literature reconstructs an escape by Americans from the Japanese-occupied Philippines. From biographical introductions of the dozen Americans involved, dramas of their captures at Bataan and Corregidor, and ordeals of imprisonment and maltreatment, Lukacs launches into their breakout scheme and the nail-biting danger of putting it in motion. Ably declaiming the ensuing intrepid events, Lukacs readily evokes the high tension and strenuous travails of the fugitives’ evasion of enemy patrols en route to evacuations by American submarines. But, as Lukacs recounts, their stories of Japanese atrocities (which included revelation of the Bataan Death March), in which their heroic saga was wrapped, were too hot for officialdom to handle. Fearful of endangering remaining POWs, but also tempted by the opportunity to put to use the inevitable intensification of popular anger against the Japanese, FDR expressly delayed release of the news until it coincided with a war-bond sales drive. Built from every available research source, Lukacs’ diligent, impassioned history will aid and abet the ever-growing interest in the WWII fighting experience. --Gilbert Taylor

From Kirkus Reviews

"A fast-moving, real-life escape story, and an unexpected chronicle of a fight against censorship." —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

  • File Size: 2766 KB
  • Print Length: 452 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743262786
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 11, 2010)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003IYI6W4
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,768 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
87 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about a little-known subject June 13, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
[i]Escape From Davao[/i] by John D. Lukacs. Simon & Schuster, 2010. 429 pp.

I heard about this book only about a week or 10 days ago. Although I meant to wait a bit, I just couldn't (My mother always said I lacked patience!) and an order through Amazon followed. I received the book late last week.

I had read William Dyess' book [i]The Dyess Story[/i] in junior high. Then, my occasional meeting with Sam Gashio, increased my interest. I was a bit suspicious of Lukacs' credentials, since this was his first book and he is a sportswriter by trade.

Lukacs did an excellent job on the book and it sort of capped all the other stories of the escape from Davao Penal Colony in early 1943 by 10 Americans and two Filipinos. Althought the story has been told by several of the escapees, this is the first recent history. ("10 Escape From Tojo" was a gathering of the "Life" Magazine articles of 1944).

The book was divided roughly into four parts: 1) biographies of all twelve and what they did prior to the surrender. 2) The Bataan Death March and capture (a few were captured on Corregidor or on other places; 3) Life in prison camp and the escape; 4) Arriving home and the attempts to get the story of the POW camps published (one escapee was recaptured several months later and executed).

Many of the wartime accounts had to skim over what happened during the actual escape attempts until arrival in Australia. Lukacs did a good job of showing the troubles and difficulties in reaching the guerrillas and proving they were legitimate escapees. He also describes the rivalry between Wendall Fertig and other guerrilla leaders. I had always thought the escapees left together, but they were evacuated in three groups over several months.
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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering this part of history June 6, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As June 6 is observed as a day of commemoration for D-Day, the world pays their respect to those who fought the European theater of World War II off the shores of Normandy in 1944. But another greater part of the war had also been occurring within the other side of world, the War in the Pacific, and a war within the home front involving disclosure of POWs within this front of the war and uplifting the censorship that same year that would reveal the complexities and misconceptions that took place two years prior, a few months later after Pearl Harbor, and in the Philippines, the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942. John D. Lukacs takes into account and clarifies the major events by acknowledging and recognizing the forgotten heroes that returned as well as those who did not in his detailed narrative Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War.

Lukacs elaborately documents the circumstances surrounding the Bataan Death March and the American and Filipino forces that were taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army and sent to Davao Penal Colony awaiting the imminent. However, this would be one of the successful prison breaks to occur during the war, and Major William E. Dyess would be responsible for leading the men to freedom earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and later recommended to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor but also pursuing another war, exposing the horrid conditions that thousands of individuals had to experience during the torrential ordeal that would eventually be posthumously shown in his own account Bataan Death March: A Survivor's Account.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Powerful Today as it Was Then June 6, 2010
Due to John D. Lukacs' excellent reporting, this gut-wrenching story of the defeat of American forces in the Philippines and their inhumane treatment at the hands of their Japanese captors still has the immediacy today that it did in 1942 and 1943. And the escape of ten of those prisoners has a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction ring, despite the passage of time. And nearly as amazing as their escape was the remarkable reaction of the War Department and of the White House to the message they brought home. They were forbidden to tell anyone what they'd seen. They weren't even allowed to speak to the families of prisoners who were still in captivity. Policy makers were perfectly aware that America's "Europe First" strategy would be questioned once the Japanese atrocities were known. But once the story was told, the American public began purchasing war bonds with a frenzy, proving that the gag order was a monumental blunder.

Lukacs brings every scene to life with recreated reality: "Leaning his angular frame against a post, Dyess struck a match to light a cigarette; the flame illuminated his hunger-chiseled features and serious demeanor. After a whispering sizzle of glowing red tobacco and burning paper, he exhaled his thoughts in hushed tones." And as the escapees listened to jungle drums in the night, "It must have seemed as though they were traveling not just through a wild jungle, but through time itself."

Lukacs puts the Japanese atrocities in stark perspective: While only one percent of Allied prisoners died in captivity, thirty-seven percent would perish at the hands of the Japanese. Lukacs also concludes that this incident would forever shape the way Americans got war news; even the most shocking news would never again be suppressed.

Here are a couple of errata for a subsequent printing: p. 77: "pastry" should be "pasty." P. 144, in two places, "Abes-san" should be "Abe-san."
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 days ago by Joan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story to Be Remembered
The well written story of twelve brave men caught in an extremely bad situation who acted for the good of all when otherw were just giving up.
Published 10 days ago by J. Mugg
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!!!!
Can't wait to view the documentary, once it comes to DVD. Another example of how the military and our government operated and thought during these times of war. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Jeffrey A. Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting story of strength and determination.
A riveting story of strength and determination.
Published 18 days ago by Jim54
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book about wonderful men.
The book rates 5 stars. But my Kindle edition did not have clickable notes. What is the reader supposed to do, read the notes in sequence after finishing the text and... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Dan
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for Pacific WWII afficionados
If one has an interest in the Pacific war component of WWII, this is a good read. The secrecy surrounding the prisoners escape and the sequestering of the information they... Read more
Published 1 month ago by michael manyak
5.0 out of 5 stars We tend to forget the horrors of war.
Should be mandatory reading for all High School Students.
Published 1 month ago by Ken Sorrick
4.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing tale of bravery and determination.
This is a detailed account of the capture of American servicemen in the Philippines, their brutal treatment on the Bataan Death March and subsequently in Japanese prisons, their... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robert J. Schaefer
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Started very well but ended slowly
Published 1 month ago by larry gilbert
5.0 out of 5 stars should never be forgotten
Amazing story. Very disturbing how government always feels they know what is best for the people it is supposed to serve.
Published 1 month ago by Janine Lipke
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More About the Author

Writer, adventurer, historian and documentary filmmaker John D. Lukacs specializes in one-of-a-kind stories--the unusual, the unprecedented and the virtually unknown.

His first book, "Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War," was called "a most impressive authorial debut" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and "diligent, impassioned history" by Booklist. Lukacs's first documentary film, titled "4-4-43," was an official selection of the 2014 GI Film Festival.

Recognized as a "gifted stylist and storyteller" and a "top-notch non-fiction writer," his work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, ESPN The Magazine and on He is a regular contributor to World War II Magazine. Lukacs has made numerous local and national television and radio appearances, including on ESPN and C-SPAN, as well as Sirius Satellite Radio.

A hands-on historian who enjoys forensic documentary research and believes that first-hand knowledge of a geographical location is essential to fashioning a riveting narrative, he has explored World War II battlefields and historic sites throughout both Europe and the Pacific, including: Attu, the Ardennes, Bastogne, Bataan, Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden, Cabanatuan, Corregidor, Coral Sea, Dachau, Dutch Harbor, Fiji, Guadalcanal, Guam, Hiroshima, Hong Kong, Iwo Jima, Kiska, Manila, Midway, the Maginot Line, the New Hebrides, Paris, Pearl Harbor, Okinawa, Rabaul, Reims, Saipan, the Siegfried Line, Singapore, Tarawa, Truk and Wake Island.

A veterans' rights advocate and staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, Lukacs received the 2011 Senator John Heinz Community Advocate Award from the Veterans Leadership Program of Pittsburgh.

A former resident of New York City's famed Hotel Chelsea, Lukacs, 37, is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.


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