on March 30, 2013
I bought this book for my husband because he loves to read true WWII stories. He said it was very enlightening about the conditions in the prison camp and our own government at the time. The few men who escaped were very brave. He enjoyed reading the book.
on November 15, 2014
Excellent book on the warrior ethos; to include survival, evasion, resistance, and escape during WWII. Capt Ed Dyess survives the Bataan Death March, and is subsequently imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell, and Cabanatuan. Both camps are notorious for their brutalities, war crimes, and horrible living conditions. The POW sites are located on the island of Luzon, Republic of the Philippines. After about a year of imprisonment and unspeakable treatment, Capt Dyess and approximately 1000 fellow POW's volunteer to be shipped to a labor camp, (prison), at Davao's Penal Colony. This labor camp is found on the most southern island of the archipelago in the Philippines, (Mindanao Island). It was thought at the time that a change in venue, (slave labor), would increase their survivability, as slave labor had it's rewards of being fed and looked after. The prison is surrounded by a crocodile infested swamp that was long thought to have been escape proof... similar, (in a way), to the geographical constraints of the island of Alcatraz, CA. Well, the title of the book gives that notion away, as Ed Dyess and nine of his fellow Americans, and two Filipino convicts, manage to pull off an amazing escape. The planning and execution of this ordeal is well documented. This is the only mass escape orchestrated by Allied prisoners from a Japanese POW camp during WWII. Some of the escapees rendezvous with the famous American guerrilla, Col Wendell Fertig. After much coercion, Col Fertig sets in motion for the repatriation of Capt Dyess and two of his liberated officers. General Douglas MacArthur arranges for the USN submarine, (Trout), to evacuate the former POW's. Upon Ed's rest and recuperation in the USA, he teams up with a reporter and tells his story of the atrocities inflicted by the Japanese. The report is immediately censored by the War Department. The prevailing wisdom of the day was that if this story got out, the Japanese would execute all remaining prisoners. Essentially no one would be left alive to verify the hellish treatment experienced by the Allies.
Capt Dyess is promoted to LtCol, and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and also the Distinguished Service Cross. He unfortunately dies in December 1943 in an aircraft accident in Burbank, California. His P-38 had a catastrophic engine failure. His name sake will live on, barring any future base closings, as Dyess AFB, (Abilene, Texas). By the way it was soon after his death that Ed's story was put to print, (January 1944) -- which was thought to have been the most important and widely disseminated story since that of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now America could shift some of it's focus and needed resources to the Pacific War.
on March 29, 2014
I first read this book when I got a copy of it from a friend from the Phillipines. It was was most interesting to read about the escape from the Davao Penal Colony by 10 US servicemen and two Filipinos was the largest breakout from a Japanese POW camp in all of WWII.
Having been stationed for a time at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, I had met some of the survivors of the infamous "death march" up the Bataan Peninsula on the way to Camp O'Donnell. Thousands died on the march and thousands more in the camp. It was interesting to read that one of the Chaplain's at that camp was supposed to break out, but was hindered by one of the Senior US Army Chaplains, and eventually died.
It was most interesting to see the corruption of power and authority by the "guerrilla general" Wendell Fertig, was a civilian who had received a commission as junior Army Reserve officer after the outbreak of war, and set up his own fiefdom in northern Mindanao. Much of a egoist like COL KURTZ .
It allows the readers to read about a real positive hero....when they met a Naval reserve officer LCDR "Chick" Parsons who was on Mindanao on a secret mission that their quest to be evacuated was finalized.
Once they reached freedom and safety in Australia, that their story needed to be told, but quickly found out that the POWERS THAT BE...in General Douglas McArthur, and his Senior Intelligence Officer knew that these escaped POWs story was SOOOO powerful, that Washington, D.C. and the Democratic Party did NOT desire that their story be told. If it would be told, the people would DEMAND more attention given to rescuing the POWs and less attention to EUROPE's war against Hitler.
The author Mr. Lukacs has done an outstanding job of telling the story, and all historians and WWII or Pacific War readers will easily see that this book needs to be in their own personal library in their homes.
on October 1, 2010
I truly enjoyed reading John Lukacs' "Escape from Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War". It is one of the best books I have read about the war in the Pacific. It deserves a five-star rating.
I learned about the book serendipituously. One Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I was in the library of the university where I teach and went to the new book acquisitions section, as I often do. I came across this book. The title rated a second look from me because, although I have read books about the escape of American missionaries via submarines from the Visayas during WW II, I did not know anything about the escape from Davao by American survivors of the notorious Bataan death march. I was curious.
I am originally from Mindanao, but have been in the United States for decades now and teaching law in an American state university. My wife and I maintain close ties with the Philippines and go "home" to Mindanao just about every year. I borrowed the book from the library and then first flipped through it at home. That turned out to be a pleasant and informative experience. I did not know John Lukacs and was unaware he is a sports writer by profession. Knowing this later convinces me he has a bright future writing about events during WW II. He is blessed with a good grasp of day-to-day history and a way of making historical events come to life such that readers feel they are "also there."
A few minutes after reading the book, I searched for Lukacs' email address and then sent him this message:
"I just read your book, 'Escape from Davao,' from cover to cover. Powerfull stuff - well-written and exhaustively researched. You are one heck of a writer.
"I was skeptical at first about the authenticity of your narrative and the depth of your research. I was wrong. Your book is riveting and exhaustively research and a distinct contribution to scholarly literature. I am glad I read the whole book.
"You did a masterful job - and for that you merit a loud applause from this academic. I had not heard about the escape prior to reading your book. I am glad I am now informed about this interesting, albeit sad, saga in WW II history. You have done the Philippines, the families of the escapees, and all war veterans a great service. Thanks for revisiting and virtually reliving for us this slice of history. Without your painstaking research, this collective heroism by Americans and Filipinos would have been forgotten forever."
The book has many interesting features. The narrative flows and, as noted above, the characters come out vivid and alive. It it as though the reader was experiencing the events themselves. The thrill and drama of the minute-by-minute life-and-death experiences of the escapees are there, but they do not sound contrived or hyped. Lukacs' documentation is copious and although there are no footnotes (I am biased for footnotes, but I do not think books of this type should be footnoted), each chapter is well documented for readers who want to ascertain sources or verify facts.
Two features stand out for me: First, although applauding their escape under the most trying of circumstances, Lukacs does not make superheroes of the American solders. He simply narrates and let events speak for themselves. No sports hype here; instead, just the facts. Second, the last chapter contains a long Epilogue, which informs the readers of what happened to the many dramatis personae in this thrilling drama, not just the American escapees. He is not only interested in events; instead, he is truly concerned about the twists and turns in the lives of people and what happened to them in their later lives. It is, for instance, sad to know that all, save one, of the veterans are now gone. Yet, it is consoling to be told that at least Sam Grisho is still around to see his heroism retold and celebrated.
And yes, Lukacs commendably notes that the heroes themselves valued the contributions of the Filipinos who helped them escape and literally nurtured. guided, and protected them prior to their departure by submarine for Australia. This comes through loud and clear in his narrative. This is refreshing because in many quarters in the United States, WW II in the Philippines is still viewed almost solely as an American tragedy. There is reason for that if one were writing solely for an American audience and sell books. Lukacs goes beyond that and gives credit to those who, along with the American veterans, did all they could to win the war against Japan. My thanks to the author for acknowledging that WW II in that part of the Pacific was not just an American war. It was also a Philippine war where the Filipinos lost a lot more lives and property than did the United States. I know that because, although young at that time, I also lived and suffered through that part of WW II history.
The book should be read by those interested in heroic episodes in history, Americans or Filipinos. It is well worth the investment in money and time.
on August 15, 2010
John D. Lukacs has written about an extremely important, yet little known event in World War II, transporting his reading audience back to that place to live the drama of the day. Lukacs has given his readers the account of the American soldiers' escape from Davao in a riveting, can't put down the book, style. Although I have been an avid reader of World War II events since I was fifteen years old, like most Americans, I am more knowledgable regarding the European front than the Japanese front. (This, despite the fact my father's only brother was a soldier serving on the Japanese front. Something my Uncle Claude would never discuss, much to my dismay.) This great book by Lukacs has greatly increased my knowledge and subsequently, my understanding of the Pacific war.
A few years ago I was lucky to be able to tour Corregidor, along with two dearly loved Filipinos-Frank & Lydia Iglesias... That was quite an experience and for the first time I learned that Frank was an infant during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Tragically, in the heat of occupation, some Japanese soldiers commenced murdering Filipino babies by tossing those babies into the air and stabbling them with their bayonets. Frank was saved from an early death after his mother dashed to the soldier who threatened her son, offering a ripe waternmelon for the infant Frank's return. Thus Frank Iglegias lived another day, surviving a terrible occupation to grow up and one day marry the beautiful Lydia, have 9 children, and then travel to Saudi Arabia with his wife to become a "treasured family member" of the Sasson household.
While reading this book I was caught up with the drama of the prisoner soldiers' lives, YET reminded of how much we Americans owe our Filipino allies. Most who meet Filipinos find that they are extremely hard-working and loyal... Therefore, it was without surprise that I learned that without the Filipinos, many more Americans would have perished, including the ten brave men who walked away from Davao only to find that the vast jungle surrounding the camp was nearly as hard to survive as the enemy soldiers. Once again, Filipino rebels fighting their Japanese occupiers saved the day... I say thanks to those generous hearted Filipinos!
(For those of you who have access to old LIFE MAGAZINES, the February 7th, 1944 issue has a 36-page article interviewing three of the survivors of the escape. It's a marvelous reading addition to Lukacs' fabulous book.)
For anyone with the smallest interest in gaining knowledge about one of the most amazing prisoner escapes of World War II, I highly recommend ESCAPE FROM DAVAO.
Bravo to John Lukacs...
on August 30, 2013
If you love escape and survival stories and WWII history then this book is for you. This book not only tells the brutality and gory details of the Bataan Death March but also provides us with vivid accounts of the horrific and inhumane conditions in Japanese prisoner of war camps in the Philippines.
These brave men had such a will to live, survive and to extract revenge and then managed to do so against all odds is the ultimate triumph of this story. These men endured the unimaginable and somehow lived through the barbaric and extreme cruelty of their Japanese captors and then accomplished an impossible mass escape in order to enlighten the American people to the truth of the suffering of survivors of the Bataan Death March. The only disappointment, to me, was the harsh truth that US government suppressed the true horrors of this story which was their reason to escape. Since this did not fit the strategy or narrative the US government wanted to pursue to end and win WWII, the Europe first strategy.
I feel history could have been different and the Philippines recaptured much sooner had Americans known this story back then. Nevertheless, it is no wonder that over 60 years later the Philippine people have the world's highest favorability rating of Americans. Probably due, in part, to the fact we eventually rescued them from these Japanese animals just as they helped to rescue these American servicemen from the hated and cruel Japanese conquers. Every American and Filipino should read this story so as both peoples might never forget whom we owe our respective freedoms: brave, courageous and resolute American and Filipino men of WWII.
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
on September 2, 2010
John Lukacs had us all traveled in a time machine 70 years back. The agonies of the 2nd world war were so vivid they send shivers into our spine. The author has skillfully laid before every reader how a global fury-- which preceded a victorious state of social consciousness for both American and Filipino--has opened a forgotten chapter of the second world war in the pacific.
Escape From Davao also illustrates the might of the free press. For Filipinos, the book is a stark reminiscence of their national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who exposed to the world the barbaric atrocities inflicted upon on every Filipino "Indios" by the Spaniards. In the same breath, aided by the might of Rizal's pen, freedom was ultimately regained.
For the POW escapees, who would be in a "damn if they do, damn if they don't" condition, theirs were seemingly the lives that the "Grand Old Man" has personally picked to do the role as catalysts in levelling the field of man's deadliest game, war. They rescued not just the captive comrades but the decadence of mankind's moral standard in the face of global chaos.
By and large, Lukacs's book is a hard copy testament of how a nation, under the auspices of democratic principles, should adhere, preserve and fight for media freedom equally as the struggle for the preservation of the right to live by its citizens.
And if I have to recommend, John Lukacs's brilliant crafting of historical facts into an action-packed novel qualifies a recognition from the governments of the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.
on December 8, 2013
A well written and researched book about the start of WW2 in the Pacific and how ill-prepared we were for war with Japan and how the U.S. ignored the troops in this area of the world until the war in Europe was almost over.
on February 18, 2011
The author's passion and research really shine through in this book. The story of this escape and the treatment of American troops in the Philippines are vividly told throughout the book. Dyess is a true american hero.