When I heard about Unbroken, the movie coming out, I had to first read the book to prepare myself. The book had been in my pile of 'to read' books so had been on my radar for some time but I after hearing about the much hyped and much deserved hyped movie, I put it to the top of my list and then went and saw the movie to boot. The movie was great but not nearly as good as the book but I suspect all you already knew that.
Reading that book reminded me that I knew very little about the Pacific Theater part of World War II. I was especially interested after my last trip to the Philippines and visiting Corregidor Island to learn about World War II in and around the Philippines. I searched online, found a half dozen books and read up on the subject. I learned the lot and have a punch list of other places I would like to see firsthand the next time I return.
Having read numerous books on the subject which necessitates many horrible prison camp stories of American's being tortured during their years in captivity, only strengthens my political views and distances me from the majority of the Republican party when it comes to defining what constitutes torture. If we use the excuse that we are saving lives to get information, we are showing other nations that it is acceptable to do these things on our soldiers. It is not acceptable in my opinion.
But what I really wanted to write about in this post is about what is known as The Great Raid. When General MacArthur returned as promised to the Philippines to rid the island of Japanese occupation, he was worried about the fate of the thousands of U.S. and Filipino prisoners in various prison camps. The Japanese fearing the United States return, had issued kill orders to the prison camps that specified that all captives were to be killed if the prison camp was in danger of being liberated by the U.S. In at least one case in Palawan, prisoners were herded into a trench covered in wood, doused with gas and set on fire. Escapees were shot and clubbed to death. Of 150 prisoners, only 11 survived to tell the tale.
Fearing this possibility with other prison camps, the U.S. set in motion a daring plan to have 100 Rangers and Filipino guerrillas sneak in 30 miles behind enemy lines and free the prisoners at Cabanatuan prison camp before they too were executed. The raid was a success and 513 prisoners were freed, many having to be carried, many so malnourished that a ranger would carry two of them upon his back. They were carried and carted behind carabau drawn wagons the 30 miles back to the front lines all the while Japanese troops and tanks tried to intercept them... unsuccessfully.
Back behind the relative safety of the front lines, the prisoners started telling stories of their years in captivity and the world began learning for the first time of the infamous Bataan Death March. This raid took place 70 years ago today and these stories should be remembered. The Japanese are still looked down upon by many in the Philippines for the deeds of their ancestors. Seventy years has not been enough to shape the memory into something less than pain and anger. Will it be 70 years before we are forgiven for waterboarding and making nude pyramids with our prisoners?