Monthly Archives: November 2011

Escape from Davao : the forgotten story of the most daring prison break of the Pacific war

This is no story of gentlemen plotting to outwit one another by escaping from Colditz castle and using their knowledge, gained from touring Europe at their leisure during the 1930’s, to be back in London for tea time. It is the story of real men, betrayed and abandoned at Corregidor, forced through every deprivation imaginable on the Bataan Death March and dumped in a rotting swamp with the worst the society had to offer in order to provide slave labor for their Japanese masters.

Ten Americans said, “NO!”, and escaped. The tale of their journey to freedom is both harrowing and exhilarating full of heroics on the part of the men and those who helped them. The story of their being censored and manipulated by their own government is almost as disgraceful as their treatment at the hands of the Japanese.

Escape from Davao : the forgotten story of the most daring prison break of the Pacific war  John D. Lukacs Philippines, History, Japanese occupation 1942-1945, Prisoner-of-war escapes, Davao City New York : Simon & Schuster, 2010 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiii, 433 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 405-413) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

On April 4, 1943, ten American prisoners of war and two Filipino convicts executed a daring escape from one of Japan’s most notorious prison camps. The prisoners were survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March and the Fall of Corregidor, and the prison from which they escaped was surrounded by an impenetrable swamp and reputedly escape-proof. Theirs was the only successful group escape from a Japanese POW camp during the Pacific war. Escape from Davao is the story of one of the most remarkable incidents in the Second World War and of what happened when the Americans returned home to tell the world what they had witnessed.

Davao Penal Colony, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, was a prison plantation where thousands of American POWs toiled alongside Filipino criminals and suffered from tropical diseases and malnutrition, as well as the cruelty of their captors. The American servicemen were rotting in a hell hole from which escape was considered impossible, but ten of them, realizing that inaction meant certain death, planned to escape. Their bold plan succeeded with the help of Filipino allies, both patriots and the guerrillas who fought the Japanese sent to recapture them. Their trek to freedom repeatedly put the Americans in jeopardy, yet they eventually succeeded in returning home to the United States to fulfill their self-appointed mission: to tell Americans about Japanese atrocities and to rally the country to the plight of their comrades still in captivity. But the government and the military had a different timetable for the liberation of the Philippines and ordered the men to remain silent. Their testimony, when it finally emerged, galvanized the nation behind the Pacific war effort and made the men celebrities.

Over the decades this remarkable story, called the “greatest story of the war in the Pacific” by the War Department in 1944, has faded away. Because of wartime censorship, the full story has never been told until now. John D. Lukacs spent years researching this heroic event, interviewing survivors, reading their letters, searching archival documents, and traveling to the decaying prison camp and its surroundings. His dramatic, gripping account of the escape brings this remarkable tale back to life, where a new generation can admire the resourcefulness and patriotism of the men who fought the Pacific war.

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Defenders of fortress Europe : the untold story of the German officers during the Allied invasion

If you have ever wondered why most Americans forgave the Germans long before the Japanese we would submit it was because we finally found out that their principal aim in the war had been the defeat of the savage and Godless hordes massed in the east. It took the cold war – and more tens of thousands of American lives – to clarify what that threat really was. It persists today and we may well need men like this to defend our homeland before all is said and done.

Defenders of fortress Europe : the untold story of the German officers during the Allied invasion Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. World War, 1939-1945, Campaigns , France, Normandy Washington, D.C. : Potomac Books, c 2009 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing.     ix, 257 p. : ill., maps, plans ; 24 cm.     Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

The year 1944 bore witness to the fifth long year of World War II. Death rained from the skies of Germany, her cities were ablaze or in rubble, the extermination camps operated with cold-blooded efficiency, and the Eastern Front’s guns roared day and night. Hardly a German family had not lost a loved one. Most terribly, the Russian Front’s floodgates creaked ominously. If they gave way, the Red Army would engulf the eastern marshlands — and perhaps the entire Fatherland — in a flood of barbarism not seen since the Dark Ages.

Yet, as the Wehrmacht retreated, Germans still had hope. If the men of the Western Front could repulse the great invasion, dozens of units — including panzer divisions, SS regiments, and paratrooper formations —would arrive to thwart the Red advance. German scientists needed at least another year to develop their “wonder weapons,” such as V-2 rockets, submarines, jet airplanes, and perhaps even an atomic bomb. Everything depended on the Western Front’s warlords.

Defenders of Fortress Europe introduces the men who had once believed they would conquer the world. By 1944, however, they were trying to throw the Allies back into the sea or just check them before they could reach Germany. The Fatherland’s defense was in the hands of Nazis, non-Nazis, and anti-Nazis; professional soldiers and professional troublemakers; heroes, murderers, and war criminals; the efficient geniuses and the incompetent; the famous, the infamous, and the unknown; soldiers, sailors, SS men, and air force officers — all men who fought out of fanaticism, courage, personal ambition, a sense of honor, duty, love of country, misplaced patriotism, or, simply, habit.

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In Death or Liberty, Douglas R. Egerton offers a chronicle of African’s history in America stretching from Britain’s 1763 victory in the Seven Years’ War to the election of slave holder Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800.

There is an interesting myopia at work here and Egerton comes so close to a really valuable insight without ever quite getting there. The blacks in the north who achieved their freedom were able to do so because of the 10th amendment to the Constitution, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” , which is the ultimate recognition of the principle that ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL. In the instances cited Massachusetts and Delaware were free to allow or deny freedom to slaves just as Virginia was free to try and hang those guilty of insurrection.

Everyone wants to get all warm and fuzzy over the Preamble to the Constitution without realizing that what is being said is that in order to do these generally accepted good things we commit to do the following specific things. By the time the Bill of Rights had gotten drafted the elegant, if equivocal, prose had given way to no less eloquent, but a good deal less equivocal, prose when it’s preamble stated, “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

Finally, what has to be realized is that there is a huge difference between liberty and equality. Liberty – being the condition of being free – may be granted by law. Equality – being a condition wherein both the civic and private virtues are attained and practiced – can never be legislated into existence.

Death or liberty : African Americans and revolutionary America       Douglas R. Egerton United States , History , Revolution,  1775-1783 , Africans Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. x, 342 p. : ill., maps, ports. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [283]-332) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

While American slavery is usually identified with the cotton plantations, Egerton shows that on the eve of the Revolution it encompassed everything from wading in the South Carolina rice fields to carting goods around Manhattan to serving the households of Boston’s elite. More important, he recaptures the drama of slaves, freed blacks, and white reformers fighting to make the young nation fulfill its republican slogans.

Although this struggle often unfolded in the corridors of power, Egerton pays special attention to what black Americans did for themselves in these decades, and his narrative brims with compelling portraits of forgotten figures such as Quok Walker, a Massachusetts runaway who took his master to court and thereby helped end slavery in that state; Absalom Jones, a Delaware house slave who bought his freedom and later formed the Free African Society; and Gabriel, a young Virginia artisan who was hanged for plotting to seize Richmond and hold James Monroe hostage.

Egerton argues that the Founders lacked the courage to move decisively against slavery despite the real possibility of peaceful, if gradual, emancipation. Battling huge odds, African American activists and rebels succeeded in finding liberty – if never equality -only in northern states.

Canvassing every colony and state, as well as incorporating the wider Atlantic world, Death or Liberty offers a lively and comprehensive account of black Americans and the Revolutionary era in America.

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From beginning to end, this masterful biography peels off the layers of legend to reveal for us the real George Armstrong Custer.

Custer : the controversial life of George Armstrong Custer  Jeffry D. Wert United States. Army ,Biography, Custer, George A. (George Armstrong), 1839-1876 New York : Simon & Schuster, c 1996 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing.     462 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [417]-443) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

George Armstrong Custer has been so heavily mythologized that the human being has been all but lost. Now, in the first complete biography in decades, Jeffry Wert reexamines the life of the famous soldier to give us Custer in all his colorful complexity.

Although remembered today as the loser at Little Big Horn, Custer was the victor of many cavalry engagements in the Civil War. He played an important role in several battles in the Virginia theater of the war, including the Shenandoah campaign. Renowned for his fearlessness in battle, he was always in front of his troops, leading the charge. His men were fiercely loyal to him, and he was highly regarded by Sheridan and Grant as well. Some historians think he may have been the finest cavalry officer in the Union Army.

But when he was assigned to the Indian wars on the Plains, life changed drastically for Custer. No longer was he in command of soldiers bound together by a cause they believed in. Discipline problems were rampant, and Custer’s response to them earned him a court-martial. There were long lulls in the fighting, during which time Custer turned his attention elsewhere, often to his wife, Libbie Bacon Custer, to whom he was devoted. Their romance and marriage is a remarkable love story, told here in part through their personal correspondence. After Custer’s death, Libbie would remain faithful to his memory until her own death nearly six decades later.

Jeffry Wert carefully examines the events around the defeat at Little Big Horn, drawing on recent archeological findings and the latest scholarship. His evenhanded account of the dramatic battle puts Custer’s performance, and that of his subordinates, in proper perspective.

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A very good anecdotal history that unfortunately leaves out the best evidence.

Egnal is 100% correct in his assumption that the civil war was engineered by the north for economic reasons. Unfortunately he does not fix the blame four square and steadfast on the shoulders of Lincoln who was the hireling of the railroads who were the largest beneficiaries of the westward expansion. Go back to the debates over slavery in the western territories and you will find that the objection was not to slave ownership but was to black presence in the New Jerusalem. Lincoln’s alliance with the abolitionists only came only after he lost the 1858 Senate race to Stephen Douglas and even after winning the presidency he had to “arrange” for the first shots to be fired in much the same way that Hitler would justify his invasion of Poland three-quarters of a century later.

The book is a valuable reference and a good starting point but if you start and finish here you will only have a fraction of the story.

Clash of extremes : the economic origins of the Civil War  Marc Egnal United States ,History ,Civil War, 1861-1865 ,Economic aspects New York : Hill and Wang, c 2009 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xii, 416 p. : ill. maps ; 24 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. 349-398) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

Clash of Extremes takes on the reigning orthodoxy that the American Civil War was waged over high moral principles. Marc Egnal contends that economics, more than any other factor, moved the country to war in 1861.

Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Egnal shows that between 1820 and 1850, patterns of trade and production drew the North and South together and allowed sectional leaders to broker a series of compromises. After mid-century, however, all that changed as the rise of the Great Lakes economy reoriented Northern trade along east-west lines. Meanwhile, in the South, soil exhaustion, concerns about the country’s westward expansion, and growing ties between the Upper South and the free states led many cotton planters to contemplate secession. The war that ensued was truly a “clash of extremes.”

Sweeping from the 1820s through Reconstruction and filled with colorful portraits of leading individuals, Clash of Extremes emphasizes economics while giving careful consideration to social conflicts, ideology, and the rise of the antislavery movement. The result is a bold reinterpretation that will challenge the way we think about the Civil War.

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