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Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945 Hardcover – January 27, 2000
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Captured is an important and powerful piece of World War II history, as well as a fascinating human interest story, and offers a foundation on which broader studies of international internments might be made. There is no other book that attempts as much coverage.(Carol M. Petillo Author of Douglas MacArthur: The Philippine Years)
Cogan has given us a truly remarkable and important book. Her work is a labor of love and is significant not only for students and scholars of World War II, but also for those interested in the wider American historical experience.(American Historical Review)
The U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII is well-known, but this captivating history depicts a virtually unknown tale: the story of Japan's wartime imprisonment of Americans living in the Philippines. . . . Through her use of prisoners' diaries, Cogan turns this history into compelling drama. . . . Cogan demonstrates in straightforward, lucid prose how, once the Americans were captured and interned, their once-comfortable lives devolved into subsistence. She carefully avoids both understatement and exaggeration, noting, for instance, the kindness shown by some guards. . . . [An] original addition to WWII history.(Publishers Weekly)
A valuable study about American civilians interned in the Philippines by the Japanese during the Pacific war. Cogan's Captured is part of a slowly growing historiography on Americans taken prisoner by the Japanese during the war, and she is to be commended for completing a more comprehensive study of civilian internees than has heretofore been attempted.(Journal of American History)
Captured is a wake-up call as to what Americans need to know about atrocities that occurred to civilians during World War II.(McCormick Messenger)
About the Author
Frances B. Cogan is a professor of literature in the Honors College at the University of Oregon, Eugene. She is the author of "All-American Girl" (Georgia).
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Cogan derives her information from both primary and secondary sources. She tells a brief description of the Philippines, and what attracted Americans to live and work in the Islands. The most revealing part of the book is the internees' experiences. With much detail. Within her examination, Cogan attempts to integrate what was happening on the war front, the Bataan Death March and criticism of Gen. MacArthur's plans in the Pacific theater, as well as conditions within the prison walls, such as how food was distributed and how internees endured and occupied their time; the most interesting aspect is how the Philippine people helped to provide food and medical aid to the internees despite the conditions.
The only weakness of Cogan's examination is her very brief description of Filipino internees. They too had suffered under the Japanese occupation, and experienced extreme casualties and brutal treatment. Their experience is merely noted within a few pages near the conclusion of the book. In addition, the American internees suffered fear and unbearable experiences during their ordeal, but their stories appear briefly between the quantitative details.
Nevertheless, CAPTURED is a fresh perspective of the conflict in the Pacific during World War II. With Frances Cogan's historical narrative, readers will understand how this little know event in Social history relates to one of the most examined periods in 20th century history.
The books theme is about several controversies surrounding civilian internment. For one, Cogan claims that overtime as the Japanese began to lose in the war; their treatment towards the civilians became harsher. The book also discusses Japanese administration and how each camp was controlled by, "the personality of the commandant and the location of the camp" (112). Another issue surrounding camp life involved how the Japanese did not follow international regulations in regards to food, health, and safety for the internees. As Cogan suggests, "during those earlier months, the internees, left to their own resources... forced to finance, find, beg, or sign IOUs for food to feed them and for medical supplies" (151).
The value of this book is extraordinary. Not only does Cogan focus on using many first hand accounts from both internee's, guerillas, and soldiers alike, she points out the contradictory accounts and pieces together an accurate story of what happened. Cogan uses, "government documents, modern historiography, a variety of accounts now published, access to a number of unpublished manuscripts and diaries" as resources for writing a thorough history of the Philippines (5). By explaining the background history, Cogan is able to help the reader imagine the thought process, feelings, and emotions of all involved. One example is in the first chapter when Cogan explains the relationship between Filipinos and Americans. This gives the reader a good understanding about why many Americans were able to survive camp life. Another major topic discussed was the rescue of the Los Banos camp by the US military. Cogan does not disappoint when describing this dramatic situation. Using both soldier's and internees first hand accounts, one gets a feeling of what is was like to be in the camp during the rescue.
There are problems with the writing style. Many times throughout the book Cogan fails to deliver an appropriate transition when changing subjects. On page 223, Cogan abruptly switches subjects in the chapter focusing on shelters and living space. When comparing the different camp living spaces, Cogan stops cold and switches to a new subject, "The July addition of 520 missionaries" (223).
Other problems include her use of sources. Though her large amount of research provides plenty of info, at times the use of so many sources confuses the reader. For example, in chapter 1 explaining the days before the Japanese invasion, Cogan uses too many people's perspectives. It seems as if every new page introduces a new character. It takes until the 3rd or 4th chapter to realize which families Cogan decides to follow for the rest of the book. Another problem is the feeling that there are too many sources quoted, which makes the reader feel like the book is just a book describing other books. In chapter one, the reader can find seven large excerpts from other books. These problems make the book feel unoriginal.
A final problem with the book is its organization. In the introduction, Cogan explains that the subject of each chapter will be based on topics such as shelter life or administration. This however is not the problem. The real problem is that many times throughout this book Cogan will go off into tangents that have little to do with the intended purpose of the chapter. One instance relates back to the discussion of missionaries during the shelter chapter. This misplacement devalues the theme of the chapter. Another problem with the organization is that on Cogan's whim she will break the chapters up into different sections. Again this is not bad but the fact that she uses it only on some chapter's makes the chapters weak. A last note on organization, both chapter 6 and 7 are discussing relatively the same topic, food. In reading chapter 7, I felt as if it was only an extension of chapter 6.
Cogan's work describing the lives of civilian internees in the Philippines during World War 2 is rich both in detail and in analysis. Using many primary first hand accounts, Cogan puts the many controversies during the time in the spotlight and tries to explain what happened. The reader can almost envision what it was like to be in the internment camps in the Philippines. However there are problems. Cogan fails to deliver clear transitions between topics. There are also too many sources, the reader becomes confused and has to re-read sections to remember specific characters. For anyone interested in learning about civilian internment camp life in the Philippines, I would highly recommend this book.