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A Prisoner's Duty: Great Escapes in U.S. Military History Hardcover – September, 1997

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A prisoner of war's first duty is to survive; his second duty, writes Robert C. Doyle, is to escape. This anecdote-driven history of escapes and escape attempts recounts harrowing acts of bravery, such as when an American lieutenant captured in the Philippines swam eight miles to secure his freedom. There are also several humorous episodes in this colorful book. One Confederate prisoner during the Civil War who entered an escape tunnel got stuck and blocked the exit because he was so fat. Another Southerner, General John Hunt Morgan, broke out of his cell block after digging through two feet of masonry with table knives. He later sat next to a Union major on a train that passed the Ohio penitentiary that had once confined him. "That's where the rebel General Morgan is now imprisoned," said the major. "Indeed," replied the disguised Morgan, "I hope they'll always keep him as safely as they have him now."

Doyle's history spans from the Colonial period through the 1980s. His book focuses on American prisoners of war, but a chapter on slaves and the Underground Railroad, plus substantial attention to America's British allies during the two world wars, demonstrates a broader ranger of interest than the subtitle suggests. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"No one has studied the American POW experience more thoroughly than Robert C. Doyle, and with this book he has again shown us the beauty and heroism in the heart of the American POW who refuses to knuckle under. A Prisoner's Duty is a book not merely for those interested in military history but for anyone who wishes to understand the true essence of human freedom." --William J. Miller, editor, Civil War magazine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (September 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557501807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557501806
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,090,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Great Escapes" sounds like a collection of exciting escape stories, but you might be disappointed if you buy it for that purpose - most of the individual stories are one page long or less. It's a scholarly look at every documented escape by an American from the frontier wars until the present, and the psychology of the escapers. If you're into the escape genre, this should be a great reference for the big picture and a huge listing of related books. Here's an overview:
Introduction - 30 pages - the history of escapes; Chapter 1 - why people escape; Chapter 2 - frontier war; Chapter 3 - mexican war; Chapter 4 - escapes from American slavery; Chapter 5 - Civil War; Chapter 6 - World War I; Chapter 7 - World War II - Europe; Chapter 8 - World War II - Asia; Chapter 9 - The Korean War; Chapter 10 - Vietnam; Chapter 11 - Civilian escapes (e.g. Iran); Chapter 12 - Rescue Raids; Chapter 13 - Reflections, and experience of enemy POW's held in American camps from frontier to present.
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Format: Hardcover
With apologies to the Bard, but, to escape or not to escape, that is the question. Robert Doyle does an outstanding job of describing a subject that does not get much publicity unless it is in a movie that usually is all glamour and fiction and nothing near the truth. This book is a wonderful introduction to describing how man reacts to the loss one's basic right, the right of freedom. Many take freedom for granted, and it takes the harsh reality of imprisonment to make many realize what they have lost. I am a prisoner, do I risk death and try to escape? Or do I sit and wait and hope to be freed? A wonderful book on the subject of "escape."
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
On the plus side, this is the only comprehensive look at US Military escapes available. It ranges from the American Revolution to our experiences in Beirut and Somalia. It's extraordinarily well researched and documented, with nearly 50 pages worth of sources listed. On the minus side, it's sort of an anecdotal look at escapes, and sort of a scholarly historical study. There's just enough of a first hand account given to gain your interest, but then the author trails off and heads somewhere else. The author is very repetitive, providing the same thoughts several times in a chapter, and sometimes across several chapters. There is also a fair bit of extraneous material, from the Underground Railroad to the experiences of foreign POWs in US custody. Interesting areas, but not related to the book's title. There is some great information here, but you have to do some slogging to get it. I'd recommend you buy the book, mark the references of the more interesting first-hand accounts, and then read those books for the more in-depth look at an individual escape.
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