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Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War Paperback – May 3, 2011

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Like the event it covers, Escape from Davao is unique. You are holding in your hands the story of the only successful American group escape from a Japanese camp."
-James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise

"Escape From Davao is a remarkable story that explores the heights of human courage and compassion even as it reveals the depths of brutality that one set of human beings is capable of inflicting on another. Exhaustively researched and superbly written, the book incorporates many elements of a well-crafted suspense novel. Indeed, readers may wish at times that it were fiction, rather than cruel, distressing fact."
-Bill Sloan, author of Brotherhood of Heroes, The Ultimate Battle and The Darkest Summer

"John Lukacs has justifiably brought attention to one of the Pacific War's most overlooked stories in his riveting book about the escape from Davao. Lukacs so breathes life into the tale that readers feel the drama and suspense as if they were present."
-John Wukovits, author of Admiral "Bull" Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy's Most Controversial Commander

"(Lukacs's) careful and detailed research plus his personalization of those directly involved provided creditability that captures the attention."
-Admiral Ronald J. Hays, USN (Ret.), Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Chairman, Pacific Aviation Museum, Honolulu, HI.

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

"...diligent, impassioned history..."
-Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"This story of airman Ed Dyess' escape from a Japanese labor camp in the Philippines is as epic as Unbroken. Lukacs is a top-notch nonfiction writer who can put together the facts of warfare, distance, hunger, and fear and still make a compelling and engaging full-length book. Escape From Davao goes to the top shelf of my book case."
- Duff McKagan, Seattle Weekly

"In this...exceptional account...of individual triumph and collective failure, Lukacs's supple style must be noted. He writes vibrant prose and creates powerful action scenes. ...Lukacs's skill as a storyteller makes this book very rewarding."
-Thomas Mullen, America in World War II Magazine

"Escape from a story unequaled among all the detailed books written about the war in the Pacific...a tale filled with insurmountable courage and the ultimate victory of the human soul."
-Regis Schilken,

"...Lukacs is a gifted stylist and storyteller. ...And he knows how to build suspense...At bottom, 'Escape From Davao' is a morality tale, not unlike the war movies of the 1940s and '50s, about pluck, luck, courage, comradeship, Yankee humor, ingenuity, and religious faith, featuring easy-to-identify heroes (the Americans) and villains (the Japanese)."
-Glenn C. Altschuler, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"...A most impressive authorial debut...Lukacs manages to recreate the drama of the escape...with a richness not often found in historical works. ...Lukacs does full justice to this complex, inspiring, but also heartbreaking story."
-Richard R. Muller, World War II Magazine

"Escape From Davao is an outstanding adventure story, framed by superb cultural and historical analysis, recommended for an audience beyond World War II buffs."
-Raymond Leach, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 4.3.2011 edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451234103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451234100
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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, 38, is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 92 people found the following review helpful By R. Slater on 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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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on 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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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Ralph White on June 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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