Top positive review
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A great book about a little-known subject
on June 13, 2010
[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. One small surprise was that Grashio was evacuated by the submarine [i]Bowfin[/i], currently on display at Pearl Harbor (which I saw in 2005.
One point that Lukacs made over and over, was without the help and cooperation of the local Filipino population. Two were convicted murderers. Lukacs writes touchingly of one of the escapees visiting a dying Manuel Quezon and obtaining pardons for both.
The last hundred pages of the book (besides the epilogue) details the attempts to get the story told to the American public, which was one of the main reasons the prisoners escaped. What followed was nearly six months before the red tape could be removed. Tragically, William Dyess was killed in a P-38 crash before this could happen.
The epilogue was interesting to me, personally. All but one of the escapees has since passed away. Sam Grashio, my personal hero, in 1999. At least two of the Marines saw further combat in the Pacific towards the end of WWII, which surprised me. I recognized several names that I had contacted during the time I wrote my magazine articles in the 1980s.
The book is a great compilation of what happened during the only large-scale prison break from a Japanese POW camp of World War II. It describes well the tragedy, horror and bravery of the prison camps and the "March". It is well-written and very readable.
Well worth purchasing, or at least, reading.