Customer Reviews: Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War
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on May 13, 2010
Found information in this book about my uncle that til now was unknown by any family member. A great read about those until now were forgotten.
These men lived thru hell and all the Japs could throw at them and escaped. And all made it home except my uncle. I now know him thru this book.
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The author, John D. Lukacs, completed a brilliant, well-crafted, and painstakingly researched book. He traveled throughout the United States and the Philippine Islands to research and gather impressions and first-hand accounts of this story - a truly courageous story of heroic escapees including Marines, air corpsmen, soldiers, and a naval officer.

There have been many historically valuable stories written about the events in the Philippines during World War II, and several written about the Battle of Bataan, the Bataan Death March, and escapees from the inhumane treatment by the Imperial Forces. That includes some revealing books written about this specific escape from Davao Penal Colony... Dapecol on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines. I recently finished a remarkable book entitled Return to Freedom by Sam Grashio, one of the army air corpsmen pilots who participated in this successful escape. Return to Freedom: The War Memoirs of Colonel Samuel C. Grashio U.S.A.F.

The central character in this story is Major William Edwin Dyess. Ed Dyess was one of several thousand American military men who fought the invading Japanese in the Battle of Bataan, survived the Bataan Death March, and a year of imprisonment, torture, starvation, disease, and slavery at the hands of those Imperial Forces. Dyess and nine other American POWs performed a miraculously successful escape of Dapecol in order to "get the word out" to America - the word about the inhumane, sadistic violations of the Geneva Convention and the beastly atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese military. However, when the escapees returned to the U.S., the Roosevelt administration didn't want that information released to the general public. The escapees were even threatened with courts-martial in order to silence them. This is a dark day in U.S. history. The Roosevelt administration would look very callous if this information was released. After all, our federal government had abandoned the American armed forces to pursue a Europe First policy - a strategy that left thousands of besieged Americans with no reinforcements and no resupply of food, medicine, arms, or ammunition.

Eventually the story was uncensored when the government realized that the public outrage would be primarily directed toward the enemy in the Pacific. The accompanying bond drive immediately stimulated double the sales of the War Bonds.

Lukacs performed a remarkable task in shedding light on every aspect of these events. This story should be read and appreciated by everyone. And these events in the Philippines are especially personal to me since my uncle was one of those unaided air corpsmen left on Bataan. I can empathize with all these abandoned Americans. Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War

Buckshot Pie is another interesting book covering the abandonment of our troops on Bataan. You can discover more about the subject at This intriguing and emotionally powerful book can be purchased through Barnes and Noble or at Thank you for your time and consideration. Buckshot Pie, a Family's Struggle Through Homesteading, the Great Depression, and World War II
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on May 23, 2013
My review is biased, and perhaps doubly so, because I am a Marine and I personally knew the last surviving member of the escape party. For me the author sets an appropriate stage by establishing just who the men in the book were as individuals and how they reacted before and during the fall of Corregidor. This was a bit of a tip of the skirt although no one really knows how they will react when faced with an absolutely barbarous captor for whom surrender was the ultimate disgrace and by whom captives should be shown no mercy, let alone treatment as civilized human beings. The reader soon discovers the ten American captives and their two Filipino comrades were tough men indeed, possessed of indomitable courage, extraordinary endurance and an unwavering goal of successful escape. If the reader expects a blind 'em, burn 'em, blast 'em epic fit for a Hollywood enhanced mega-dust up he will be disappointed. On the other hand, the reader looking for a straight forward story of truly heroic warriors determined to succeed despite leadership challenges, extraordinary fatigue, disease, terrain and weather, and ever present danger from an abominable enemy determined to hunt them down will be very just rewarded. It's a real slice of the Greatest Generation on its way to becoming great.
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on December 23, 2015
The interesting thing about first person accounts of the battle for the Philippine Islands is how personal an event the war was in many ways. This book is no exception. It focuses on a very narrow person history of a few men who managed to escape from a terrible Japanese prison camp at Davao.

The book starts with the terrible situation of becoming a prison of war and the horrors the Japanese inflicted on our captured men and women. The list of offences is quite extensive and ironically, if memory serves me, the officer in charge of this prison managed to escape justice.

Regardless, we can all agree, the situation was beyond repair and many men chose to escape to fight another day. This is the story of one of those men and his escape from Davao Prison. He was the ring leader of a dozen men who escaped that day.

What follows is the story of men dealing with inhospitable jungles, potentially dangerous locals, and a desperate attempt to avoid the Japanese on the way to freedom. Ultimately, it leads to a daring escape by sea.

The book is solid enough to be made into an interesting movie. It is well written and very entertaining. It also provides a good deal of historical information regarding the situation within the Philippines and the desperate situation involving so many Americans on that island during the war.

I liked the book a great deal. If you enjoyed this book you might also want to read, “Lt. Ramsey’s war,” about Lt. Ramsey’s experiences as a guerrilla leader behind enemy lines. I would also suggest, “South from Corregidor,” by Lt. Cmdr. John Morrill
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on July 22, 2010
John Lukacs' book Escape From Davao is an extremely well researched and extraoridarily well written account of the most amazing POW escape in WWII. The successful mass escape from a Japanese prison camp brought the first word of the death marches in the Philippines, but the story gets really interesting when Roosevelt orders the death march news held secret.

The escaped prisoners went on to continue to serve during WWII, with some of them losing their lives in later combat, and one becoming a German POW - just amazing.

Lukacs' book provides an excellent view of a long neglected event in WWII. If you are a student of WWII or military history, this is a "must read."
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on February 19, 2015
As a child I heard many horror stories about the Japanese treatment of POW's in the Pacific arena. Clearly a lot of research went into this body of work which details descriptively for the reader, events and environment surrounding this epic WWII horror. The reader is faced with painful facts such as the corporation Mitsubishi was engaging in POW slave labor, that beheadings - which tragically is now is an ugly issue facing us - was enacted on POW's and innocent Filipino's. A most sad commentary on this, is that those brave POW's who made it back Stateside, were muzzled by government censorship. They were panic stricken by being forced to remain silent all the while knowing their peers still in POW camp in the Philippines were being tortured, starved and brutally treated. The countries' resources were apparently stretched thin between Europe and the Pacific wars, and it seemed that for most of the years of WWII most resources went into the European arena. The reader will have to make their own judgement on MacArthur as have so many historians. In the bitter end, everything seems to pale in comparison to the Bataan Death March. It was beyond horrific. The author did a fine job in doing outstanding detailed research and authoring this book documenting the full and amazing story of a time and place where the unthinkable happened. The author also does a great job of concluding the story and giving updates on survivors. A must read.
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on May 15, 2014
I really liked this book. I am very interested in survival stories. I never had any idea of the atrocities the Japanese did to the American prisoners until I read this book. For those men who escaped, it is unbelievable since nobody had ever escaped from the prison before. Then working with the Phillipinos after they asked to get them to Australia was another adventure in itself. When the U.S. held the news of what was actually taking place in the prisons for 20 months until they let the news out just blew my mind.
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on September 6, 2012
History can be painful, but heroes are forever. The men who were captured on the Bataan Death March and survived have an awesome unbelievable story to tell. My heart was heavy as read this true account, but the story should be told. It is not just a living history story, it is the story of overcoming personal doubts and setting aside any thoughts of failure. A call to inner strength in times of unimaginable horrors - these horror being lived daily without a seeming end ... the wondering if America had forgotten them; if their families remembered. This story is a testament to the bravery of all, those who died and those who lived. In overcoming obstacles that were foreign; in overcoming hungry and cruelty, and making this escape with untold challenges ahead of them, these heroes made it possible to tell America and the rest of the world of the horrific conditions American prisoners of war were being subjected to in the Philippines. Yes, this is a story of the past, but is all Americans story and it is the story of our future. I started reading the book, tried to put it down when the story became so painful, but found myself drawn back instantly to the survival of brave Americans and the Philippine people who assisted in making "Escape from Davao" a reality. A "must read" for all history lovers and all who need to find a way to thank our World War II heroes.
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on February 10, 2013
I have read many books on WWII, and this is surely one of the best. It's such a compelling story, and is very well written. To anyone who likes this book, I highly recommend "Ghost Soldiers", by Hampton Sides.
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VINE VOICEon January 10, 2012
At the heart of "Escape from Davao" is a great story - the daring escape of 10 American prisoners of war from Japanese captivity in the Philippines during World War II. The escape itself, dramatic and suspenseful, falls in the middle of the book and is the highlight of the work. The other parts of the book, which look at fighting that led up to the capture of the Americans and the events after their escape, have some interesting parts, but are not as gripping as the middle section.

I didn't know much about World War II events in the Philippines going into "Escape from Davao," so the first section showing the desperate fighting by outmanned American troops trying to defend the islands in 1942 was enlightening. Author John D. Lukacs describes how the U.S. government basically abandoned the American forces there, forcing the surrender that led to the brutalities of the Bataan death march. Lukacs further details the starvation and abuses of Japanese prisoner of war camps (for more on this, read Laura Hillenbrand' compelling bestseller "Unbroken").

Lukacs writes competently, but even given good material to work with, his storytelling is fairly flat and he sometimes bogs down the book with excessive minutiae. He tells the story entirely from the point of view of the American soldiers, giving it a simple good-guys-versus-bad-guys storyline. This is not terrible (their captors really could be awful), but more from the perspective of the Japanese or from the Filipinos who helped the Americans would have given the book greater depth.

In the middle section, as the Americans plot and then execute their escape plan, the action proves page-turning, but it's sometimes hard to tell the characters apart. Lukacs profiles the Americans so similarly -- tough, gung-ho young men all willing to chip in to help the team -- that it is difficult to distinguish one from another.

The last part of the book shows how the escaped prisoners' tales of Japanese brutality struggled to be told in the face of extreme military censorship and message control. Lukacs wanders quite a bit in this section before finally coming to a remarkable point: It took nearly two years for the horrors of the Bataan death march and Japanese POW camps to be revealed to the American people. In this day of instant news updates and Twitter bulletins, it's amazing to realize how different things were back then.

One minor annoyance is that Lukacs uses military time ("1700 hours" and so forth) throughout the book, making me wonder if he expected only members of the armed services to read the book.

The book has some nice maps, but they are introduced too early and give away some of the story. Similarly, the book has a batch of photos at the middle of the book and if you look at them too soon, they reveal what happens to the characters.
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