Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission

Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission

by Hampton Sides

Hardcover(Large Print)

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A tense, powerful, grand account of one of the most daring exploits of World War II.

On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty miles in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POWs who had spent three years in a surreally hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March left in the camp, and their extraordinary will to live might soon count for nothing—elsewhere in the Philippines, the Japanese Army had already executed American prisoners as it retreated from the advancing U.S. Army. As the Rangers stealthily moved through enemy-occupied territory, they learned that Cabanatuan had become a major transshipment point for the Japanese retreat, and instead of facing the few dozen prison guards, they could possibly confront as many as 8,000 battle-hardened enemy troops.

Hampton Sides's vivid minute-by-minute narration of the raid and his chronicle of the prisoners' wrenching experiences are masterful. But Ghost Soldiers is far more than a thrilling battle saga. Hampton Sides explores the mystery of human behavior under extreme duress—the resilience of the prisoners, who defied the Japanese authorities even as they endured starvation, tropical diseases, and unspeakable tortures; the violent cultural clashes with Japanese guards and soldiers steeped in the warrior ethic of Bushido; the remarkable heroism of the Rangers and Filipino guerrillas; the complex motivations of the U.S. high command, some of whom could justly be charged with abandoning the men of Bataan in 1942; and the nearly suicidal bravado of several spies, including priests and a cabaret owner, who risked their lives to help the prisoners during their long ordeal.

At once a gripping depiction of men at war and a compelling story of redemption, Ghost Soldiers joins such landmark books as Flags of Our Fathers, The Greatest Generation, The Rape of Nanking, and D-Day in preserving the legacy of World War II for future generations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375431104
Publisher: Diversified Publishing
Publication date: 05/15/2001
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 6.42(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.24(d)

About the Author

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Hampton Sides is a contributing editor for Outside magazine, and the author of Stomping Grounds, a book of stories about American subcultures. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, DoubleTake, The New Republic, the Washington Post, and on NPR's "All Things Considered." He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt


December 14, 1944Puerto Princesa Prison Camp, Palawan, Philippines

All about them, their work lay in ruins. Their raison d'etre, the task their commandant had said would take them three months but had taken nearly three years. A thousand naked days of clearing, lifting, leveling, wheelbarrowing, hacking. Thirty-odd months in close heavy heat smashing rocks into smaller rocks, and smaller rocks into pebbles, hammering sad hunks of brain coral into bone-white flour with which to make concrete. Ripping out the black humus floor of the jungle, felling the gnarled beasts of mahogany or narra or kamagong that happened to be in the way. Above the bay, in a malarial forest skittering with monkeys and monitor lizards, they had built an airstrip where none should be, and now they were happy to see it in ruins, cratered by bombs.

One hundred and fifty slaves stood on a tarmac 2,200 meters long and 210 meters wide, straining with shovels and pickaxes and rakes. Ever since the air raids started two months earlier, Lieutenant Sato, the one they called "the Buzzard," had ordered them out each morning to fill the bomb pits, to make the runway usable again. This morning had been no different. The men had risen at dawn and eaten a breakfast of weevily rice, then climbed aboard the trucks for the short ride to the airstrip. As usual, they worked all morning and took a break for lunch around noon. But now the Buzzard said no lunch would be served on the strip, that instead the food would be prepared back at the barracks. The men were puzzled, because they'd never eaten lunch at their barracks before, not on a workday. It didn't make sense to driveback now, for they still had considerable repair work to do. Sato offered no explanation.

The prisoners crawled into their trucks again and took the bumpy serpentine road back to the prison. In the meager shade of spindly coconut palms, they ate their lunches squatting beside their quarters in an open-air stockade that was secured with two barbed-wire fences. The entire compound was built at the edge of a cliff that dropped fifty ragged feet to a coral beach splashed by the warm blue waters of Puerto Princesa Bay.

Around 1 p.m. the air-raid alarm sounded. It was nothing more than a soldier pounding on an old Catholic church bell splotched with verdigris. The men looked up and saw two American fighters, P-38s, streaking across the sky, but the planes were moving away from the island and were too high to pose a danger. Having become discriminating appraisers of aerial threat, the prisoners ignored the signal and resumed their lunches.

A few minutes later a second air-raid alarm sounded. The men consulted the skies and this time saw an American bomber flying far in the distance. They didn't take the alarm seriously and kept on eating. Presently a third air-raid alarm sounded, and this time Sato and a few of his men marched into the compound with sabers drawn and rifles fixed with bayonets. Sato insisted that everyone heed the signal and descend into the air-raid hovels. "They're coming!" he shrieked. "Planes–hundreds of planes!"

Again the men were puzzled, and this time suspicious. When planes had come before, Sato had never registered any particular concern for their safety. Many times they'd been working on the landing strip when American planes had menaced the site. The Japanese would leap into their slit trenches, but often made the prisoners work until the last possible minute. The Americans had to fend for themselves, out in the open, as aircraft piloted by their own countrymen dropped out of the sky to bomb and strafe the airstrip. Several weeks earlier an American from Kentucky named James Stidham had taken a piece of shrapnel from one of the American bombers, a B-24 Liberator, and was now paralyzed. During the lunch hour he lay on a stretcher in the compound, silent and listless, with a fellow prisoner spoon-feeding him his ration.

"Hundreds of planes!" Sato shouted again, with even more urgency. "Hurry."

The slaves moved toward the air-raid shelters. They were primitive, nothing more than narrow slits dug four feet deep and roofed with logs covered over with a few feet of dirt. There were three main trenches, each about a hundred feet long. On both ends, the structures had tiny crawl-space entrances that admitted one man at a time. Approximately fifty men could fit inside each one, but they had to pack themselves in with their knees tucked under their chins. The prisoners had constructed these crude shelters for their own safety after the American air raids started in October, to avoid more casualties like Stidham. With Sato's reluctant approval, they'd also painted "POW" on the galvanized-metal roof of their barracks.
Sato was behaving strangely today, the prisoners thought, but perhaps he knew something, perhaps a massive air attack was indeed close at hand. All the signs pointed to the imminent arrival of the American forces. The tide of the war was turning fast*#8212;everyone knew it. That very morning a Japanese seaplane had spotted a convoy of American destroyers and battleships churning through the Sulu Sea en route to Mindoro, the next large island north of Palawan. If not today, then someday soon Sato and his company of airfield engineers would have to reckon with the arrival of U.S. ground troops, and their work on Palawan would be finished.
Reluctantly, the American prisoners did as they were told, all 150 of them, crawling single file into the dark, poorly ventilated pits. Everyone but Stidham, whose stretcher was conveniently placed beside one of the trench entrances. If the planes came, his buddies would gather his limp form and tuck him into the shelter with everyone else.

They waited and waited but heard not a single American plane, let alone a hundred. They huddled in the stifling dankness of their collective body heat, sweat coursing down their bare chests. The air-raid bell continued to peal. A Navy signalman named C. C. Smith refused to go into his pit. Suddenly the Buzzard set upon him. He raised his saber high so that it gleamed in the midday sun, and with all his strength he brought it blade side down. Smith's head was cleaved in two, the sword finally stopping midway down the neck.

Then, peeking out the ends of the trenches, the men saw several soldiers bursting into the compound. They were carrying five-gallon buckets filled with a liquid. The buckets sloshed messily as the soldiers walked. With a quick jerk of the hands, they flung the contents into the openings of the trenches. By the smell of it on their skin, the Americans instantly recognized what it was–high-octane aviation fuel from the airstrip. Before they could apprehend the full significance of it, other soldiers tossed in lighted bamboo torches. Within seconds, the trenches exploded in flames. The men squirmed over each other and clawed at the dirt as they tried desperately to shrink from the intense heat. They choked back the smoke and the fumes, their nostrils assailed by the smell of singed hair and roasting flesh. They were trapped like termites in their own sealed nest.

Only a few managed to free themselves. Dr. Carl Mango, from Pennsylvania, sprang from his hole, his clothes smoldering. His arms were outstretched as he pleaded–"Show some reason, please God show reason"–but a machine gunner mowed him down.

Another prisoner crawled from his trench, wrested a rifle from the hands of a soldier, and shot him before receiving a mortal stab in the back. A number of men dashed toward the fence and tried to press through it but were quickly riddled with lead, leaving a row of corpses hung from the barbed strands like drying cuttlefish. A few men managed to slip through the razor ribbon and leap from the high cliff, but more soldiers were waiting on the beach to finish them off. Recognizing the futility of escape but wanting to wreak a parting vengeance, one burning prisoner emerged from his trench, wrapped his arms tightly around the first soldier he saw, and didn't let go–a death embrace that succeeded in setting the surprised executioner on fire.
All the while, Lieutenant Sato scurried from trench to trench with saber drawn, loudly exhorting his men and occasionally punctuating his commands with a high, nervous laugh. At his order, another wave of troops approached the air-raid shelters, throwing grenades into the flaming entrances and raking them with gunfire. Some of the troops poked their rifle barrels through the entrances of the trenches and fired point-blank at the huddled forms within. James Stidham, the paralytic who had been watching all of this from his stretcher, quietly moaned in terror. A soldier stepped over to him and with a perfunctory glance fired two slugs into his face.

When Lieutenant Sato was satisfied that all 150 prisoners were dead, he ordered his men to heave the stray bodies back into the smoky pits. The soldiers splattered additional gasoline inside and reignited the trenches. They tossed in more grenades as well as sticks of dynamite to make it appear as though the victims had perished in an air raid after all, with the shelters receiving several "direct hits" from American bombs. The immense pall of smoke curling from the three subterranean pyres was noted by observers five miles distant, across Puerto Princesa Bay.
Entries from Japanese diaries later found at the camp spoke hauntingly of December 14. "Although they were prisoners of war," one entry stated, "they truly died a pitiful death. From today on I will not hear the familiar greeting 'Good morning, Sergeant Major.'" Another mentioned that on the beach below the camp, the "executed prisoners [are] floating and rolling among the breakwaters." Said another: "Today the shop is a lonely place. There are numerous corpses...and the smell is unbearable."

On January 7, 1945, an officer from the Army's intelligence branch, known as G-2, sat down with a man named Eugene Nielsen, who had a remarkable story to tell. Their conversation was not casual; it was an official interrogation, and the intelligence officer, a Captain Ickes, was taking notes. At the time of the debriefing, Nielsen and Ickes happened to be on the tropical island of Morotai, a tiny speck in the Spice Islands of the Dutch East Indies that had become a crucial stepping-stone in General MacArthur's drive toward Japan. Eugene Nielsen was an Army Private First Class who had been with the 59th Coast Artillery on the besieged island of Corregidor–directly across from Bataan–when he was captured by the Japanese in May 1942. Born and raised in a small town in the mountains of Utah, Nielsen was twenty-eight years old, and three of those years he had spent languishing in a prison camp near the Palawan capital of Puerto Princesa. There he had done backbreaking work on an airfield detail, crushing rock and coral and mixing concrete by hand.

Nielsen had been evacuated to Morotai along with five other ex-POWs. He was convalescing while awaiting shipment home to the United States. Although he was racked with the residual effects of the various diseases he'd contracted while starving in the tropics, he had recovered much of his strength since his escape from prison. He had two bullet wounds which were still on the mend.

The officer from G-2 sat horrified in his chair as Nielsen told his story, which concerned an incident on Palawan several weeks earlier, the full details of which no official from U.S. Army intelligence had apparently heard before.

The trench smelled very strongly of gas. There was an explosion and flames shot through the place. Some of the guys were moaning. I realized this was it‹either I had to break for it or die. Luckily I was in the trench that was closest to the fence. So I jumped up and dove through the barbed wire. I fell over the cliff and somehow grabbed on to a small tree, which broke my fall and kept me from getting injured. There were Japanese soldiers posted down on the beach. I buried myself in a pile of garbage and coconut husks. I kept working my way under until I got fairly well covered up. Lying there, I could feel the little worms and bugs eating holes in the rubbish, and then I felt them eating holes into the skin of my back.

When he looked around, Nielsen realized that a surprising number of Americans had made it down to the beach–perhaps twenty or thirty. Some, like Nielsen, had torn bare-handed through the barbed wire, but the largest group had made it down by virtue of a subterranean accident: a natural escape hatch that led from one of the trenches out to a shallow ledge in the eroded cliff wall. Several weeks earlier, while digging the air-raid pits, some of the Americans had serendipitously discovered this small fissure, and they'd had the forethought to conceal it by plugging the opening with sandbags and a veneer of dirt so the Japanese would never see it. They had thought, in a not very specific way, that this tunnel might come in handy someday, and they were right. One by one, they escaped the incinerating heat of their shelter by crawling through the hole and burrowing out to the rock landing. From there they jumped down to the beach, where they hid among the various crevices and rock outcroppings.

By doing so they gained only a temporary reprieve, however, trading one form of butchery for another. Eugene Nielsen, still lying in the refuse heap, heard gunfire sputtering up and down the beach. Systematically, the soldiers were searching the rocks and hunting down fugitives. It was obvious that they intended to exterminate every last one. The prisoners camouflaged themselves with slathered mud and cringed in the rocky clefts and folds, lacerating their legs and feet on the coarse coral as they tried to squeeze into ever tighter recesses. Other prisoners took refuge in a sewage pipe that was half filled with stagnant water, while still others concealed themselves in thick mattresses of jungle weeds higher along the banks.
The seaside massacre went on for three or four hours. The Japanese would pluck the prisoners from their hiding places and slay them on the spot, either by gunshot or by bayonet. Squads of soldiers combed the weeds in tight formation, plunging their bayonets every foot or so until they harpooned their quarry. One American who'd been caught was tortured at some length by six soldiers, one of whom carried a container of gasoline. Seeing the jerry can, the American understood his fate and begged to be shot. The soldiers doused one of his feet with gasoline and set it alight, then did the same with the other. When he collapsed, they poured the rest of the gasoline over his body and ignited it, leaving him writhing in flames on the beach.

Not far away, a prisoner from South Dakota named Erving Evans, realizing he'd been seen and hoping to avoid the same fate, leaped up from a trash pile where he'd been hiding and blurted, "All right, you bastards*#8212;here I am, and don't miss."

They didn't.

They were bayoneting guys down low and making them suffer. They shot or stabbed twelve Americans and then dug a shallow grave in the sand and threw them in. Some of these men were still groaning while they were covered with sand. Then the Japs started to cover the grave with rubbish from the pile where I was hiding. They scraped some of the coconut husks off, and found me lying there. Then they uncovered me from the shoulders on down. They thought I was dead, and seemed to think I had been buried by my friends. I lay there for about fifteen minutes while they stood around talking Japanese. It was getting to be late in the afternoon. One of the guys hollered it was time to eat dinner, and every one of the Japs there went off somewhere to eat. I got up and ran down along the beach and hid in a little pocket in a coral reef there.

Down among the coral, Nielsen encountered seven other survivors. One of them was very badly burned. His hair was singed and "his hide was rubbing off when he brushed against anything." They were all crouched among the rocks, hiding from a barge that was methodically trolling the coves and foreshores. Having exhausted their hunt by land, the Japanese were now searching by water. Aboard the barge were three or four soldiers armed with rifles as well as a tripod machine gun.

Nielsen peeked around the corner and saw the barge coming. He decided he was insufficiently hidden, so he broke off from the group and crouched behind a bush close by. From where he was secreted, he could watch the barge approaching. The Japanese were whispering among themselves and excitedly pointing out crannies that looked promising. One of the seven Americans, a marine from Mississippi named J. O. Warren, wasn't leaning back quite far enough. The Japanese saw his foot protruding from a rock and immediately shot it. Warren dropped in agony from his wound. In what seemed to be a sacrificial act intended to help his comrades, Warren hurled himself out in the open so as not to tip off the whereabouts of the other six. He was immediately shot and killed. The barge passed on.

I left that area and started down the beach. About fifty yards ahead I ran into more Japanese. Suddenly I realized I was surrounded. They were up above me and also coming in from both sides. I was trapped. So I jumped in the sea. I swam underwater as far as I could. When I came up there were twenty Japanese firing at me, both from the cliff and from the beach. Shots were hitting all around me. One shot hit me in the armpit and grazed my ribs. Another hit me in the left thigh, then another one hit me right along the right side of my head, grazing my temple. I think it knocked me out temporarily. For a short period I was numb in the water, and I nearly drowned. Then I found a large coconut husk bobbing around in the bay and used it to shield my head as I swam.

They kept shooting at Nielsen from the beach. He decided to swim back toward the shore so they'd think he'd given up and was coming in. He hoped they'd momentarily let up on their fire, and they did. Nielsen then angled slightly and swam parallel to the coastline for about a hundred yards. The Japanese followed him down the beach, patiently tracking alongside him, step for stroke. Occasionally they pinged a shot or two in his direction, but mostly they just kept a close eye on him.

I came down to a place along the shore where there were a lot of trees and bushes in the water. I knew they were following me, so I went toward shore and splashed to make a little noise. I wanted them to think I was finally coming in. Then I abruptly turned around and went out just as quiet as possible and started swimming across the bay. They never shot at me again. Probably it was too dark for them to see me. I swam most of the night. I couldn't see the other side of the bay but I knew it was about five miles. About halfway out I ran into a strong current. It seemed like I was there for a couple hours making no headway. Finally I reached the opposite shore and crawled on my hands and knees up on the rocks. I was in a mangrove swamp. I was too weak to stand up. It was about 4 a.m. I'd been swimming for nearly nine hours.

Washed up on the far shores of Puerto Princesa Bay, Nielsen was a pitiful sight–naked, nursing two bullet wounds, his skin crosshatched with lacerations. He rested for a few hours and then stumbled half delirious through the swamp until he encountered a Filipino who was walking along a path, wielding a bolo knife. In his current state, Nielsen was suspicious of anyone carrying a knife. The Filipino seemed wary of Nielsen's hideous castaway appearance but was not especially frightened. "I couldn't imagine how he could be so cool," Nielsen said. At first Nielsen worried that the man was a Japanese sympathizer, but then the Filipino offered him water. Nielsen asked the man to take down a letter. "I think I am the only one alive from the Palawan prison camp," he said. "I want you to write to the War Department to tell them about the Japanese massacre of the Americans at Puerto Princesa." Without uttering a word in reaction, the Filipino began to walk away from Nielsen. Then he abruptly turned around and said cryptically, "You have friends here."

Perplexed, Nielsen followed his new acquaintance down a path through dense jungle to a hideout where Filipino guerrillas were stationed. There, to his amazement, Nielsen encountered two more American survivors from the camp, Albert Pacheco and Edwin Petry. "I didn't believe it at first," said Nielsen. "I thought I was seeing things." Each of the two men had his own grisly story to tell, the details varying only slightly from Nielsen's account. Pacheco and Petry had hidden together in a coral cave that was half flooded with seawater. "The crabs ate on us pretty good down there," Petry said. The two men were forced to vacate the cave when it became completely flooded at high tide. Like Nielsen, they started swimming across the bay around dusk, but they'd enjoyed more favorable currents.
Later Nielsen, Pacheco, and Petry hooked up with three additional escapees. Still others would wash up over the succeeding days, bringing the total of known Palawan survivors to eleven. One had endured an encounter with a sand shark. The last arrival, Glenn McDole, from Des Moines, Iowa, was found clinging to a Filipino fish trap out in the bay. Local fishermen hauled him in, half alive, with the morning catch.

By guerrilla escort, Nielsen and the original five survivors made their way out of the Japanese-held province of Palawan, first by foot and then by an outrigger canoe, or banca, powered by blankets that were thrown up as makeshift sails. On January 6, the half dozen men were finally evacuated by a Catalina flying boat to the island of Morotai, where they came under the care of the U.S. Army.

Copyright © 2001 by Hampton Sides

Copyright 2001 by Hampton Sides

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Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 234 reviews.
silencedogoodreturns More than 1 year ago
This is a disturbing book, well written and hard to put down. The publisher's notes and other comments make it clear what the story is about. My main comment: Why does no one know of this raid/rescue mission? I've read WWII history all my life, been in the military 20+ years, and never heard of it. It is almost as if it has been erased from our history. Was the US Army so ashamed at how it abandoned the Bataan prisoners that it indeed drew a cloak over the survivors? I don't know...but I do know this is a story every American should become familiar with. Also a movie...not as good as the book, but has actual video footage of the survivors at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An engrossing read, though sometimes I had to put it down because I was truly troubled by the treatment our soldiers endured. Well written account -- a story that had to be shared
SkiSky More than 1 year ago
The novel takes the reader on an emotional journey while following the horrific experiences of the American soldiers stationed on the Philippine island of Bataan during World War II. With help from American not arriving, the soldiers are forced to surrender to the Japanese Imperial army. From here the reader is shown horrific personal accounts of innumerable war crimes committed against these Americans. While recalling these hellish experiences in a story like manner, Sides gives readers equal insight to the army group known simply as the Rangers. These men were called upon when the American army returned to the island of Bataan three years later. They were given an intricate precarious mission that would finally prove themselves as an elite fighting force. The mission's main objective was to secure all of the POWs in the Japanese death camp known as Cabanatuan. Yet to get there the men would have to march countless mile deep into enemy territory all the while keeping the element of surprise. The entire mission proves to be gripping and highly suspenseful, that will make it hard for readers to put the book down. Sides masterfully shows how cultural differences, racial aggression, and new found power come together to form a deadly cocktail that consumes thousands of American lives. The suspense of the novel takes a fare amount of chapters to develop, but the wait proves to be worth it in the end. The realistic elements of the novel, such as interviews and army documents add to the authenticity of the story, yet also add gruesome and sometimes gory scenarios. Due to these situations, if readers are offended by gore and fowl language, this book might not be suited well for them. Sides is also the author of Stomping Grounds and Americana and lives up to his reputation in Ghost Soldiers. This novel truly deserves all the accolades it receives which is why it deserves five stars.
AKC82 More than 1 year ago
Ghost Soldiers would definitely be one of the top three books I have read in my life. It surpassed my expectations. Had me in tears as I read it. My professor even said that my book review made her cry. If you are debating on buying this book, buy it. I am planning on keeping mine and having my kids read it when they get older.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book. Hampton Sides did such a great job describing the surroundings, characters and emotions that it was difficult for me to continue to read the book because I was an emotional mess. And because it was so heart wrenching I could not stop reading because I needed to know what was going to happen next and how it would end. I highly recommend this book but be warned that it is very detailed and emotional.
Octlow More than 1 year ago
Most people would recognize and understand what the Bataan Death March was and who was involved. Also most Americans would not know why it happened, how many people there were, and where was support from America to help these men and women. The author tells us about the men who were on the Death March, their lives as POW¿s on Bataan and the rescue mission by Army Rangers in 1945 of Cabanatuan POW Camp on Bataan. From this book I attained a deeper appreciation for the Filipino guerilla soldiers who were left behind by McArthur, and the determination of the American soldiers who marched, died and endured during this time. Many of these men and women felt ¿abandoned¿, lied to and discarded; but they never gave up. The rescue mission was a brilliant tactical operation attempting to free these forgotten soldiers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Mr. Sides' "Blood & Thunder" a year or so ago and enjoyed it so much I did an E-book search and bought "Ghost Soldiers". I'm glad I did. I don't even know how to describe this book other than to say it's unbelievable what those men survived. Well written and painstakingly researched, it is an excellent book.
Ameley More than 1 year ago
This is an absolute must read! I love reading about the wars, but even people not interested in military history would have to enjoy this story! It is heroic and exciting! It bounces around perfectly to provide the reader with the bigger picture! This book never drags, and I would recommend it to anybody!
hiii More than 1 year ago
The book that I am reviewing is Ghost Soldiers. The author of the book is Hampton Sides. The book takes places in World War 2. This book is about the prisoners of war (POW) and about a rescue mission. This book will tell you what it was like in World War 2 as a POW. Also it will get in depth into how they were treated. My personal reaction to this book is that I enjoyed it. The reason I enjoyed the book is because of all the action that happens throughout the chapters. There are some disgusting parts in this book, like when a soldier digs out a women's fetus with a butane. The book has a lot of graphic scenes. I think this book is a must read for people who enjoy history, action, and war books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very eye opening about Bataan and disturbing the way the Japanese treated it's prisioners -- shame on them!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story and good detail about the people helping the POWs. Very moving descriptions of the good and bad during war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ghost soldiers... is a thrilling World War 2 book and Mr. sides tells the story very well giving the captives, captures, and rescuers personalities alike. My opinion is that this book is vibrantly, powerful and seems alive on the page. This book is a thrilling tale of American courage and heroism ghost soldiers Hamton side brings to life a fogotten rescuer mission that changed the lives of 513 POWs in a hellish POW camp This rescue mission alone is one that you will always remember. This book is recommended to childern interested in America's greatist World War 2 rescue mission.
Ranger82 More than 1 year ago
An exceptional book, it gives the reader a non-stop adventure from start to finish. It provides a full & heartfelt perspective of the heroic men and women from the beginning of the end at Bataan up to one of the most perfectly executed raids in American history. Mr. Sides' research and ability to express what these great men and women went through in war is a true gift to the reader. It combines courage, love, heroism, patriotism, humility.........and so much more. The veterans of Bataan, the brave Filipino guerillas, the courageous men of the Alamo Scouts and 6th Ranger Battalion, the dedicated women like "High Pockets"...... WOW!!You're talking real-life heroes here, not "Rambo" crap.The worst thing about this book is that it ends; you don't want to stop reading it. It's regretable there's not a higher rating, because giving this book a five star rating doesn't do it justice. Reading it is a gift from the author.
Gilli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
what a great way of telling an awful episode in the war
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This really is a gripping story about the rescue of the Bataan Death March survivors/POWs by U.S. Army Rangers and two aligned Philippino guerilla forces (not to mention, assistances from the Philippino citizens as well). The book is not new and has been summarized many times, so I won't do that again. It is a book, and real life story, that is hard to put down. It's very tragic, but also, the rescue defies a great many odds. My only complaint is while Hampton Sides is an outstanding non fiction writer and I love his work, it's a bit over the top on hyperbole and crescendo. Time and time again, he leads up to what the reader thinks will be the rescue, leave the chapter hanging, then the next chapter will be filler about another happening. After ten or so times, that got old, and it was so over-used it lost its effectiveness. It got to when the actual rescue happened, it was not very exciting. But that is a small complaint, it was his way of crafting the story to keep the reader engaged. Also, it truly is one of the most important stories of World War II. Overall, highly recommended.
kcslade on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good story of commando raid to rescue long-held prisoners of the Japanese in the Philippines. They were survivors of Bataan.
xenchu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story of cruelty and barbarism, heroism and endurance. The men of Bataan drew the shortest straw. No one who actually survived were treated worse or survived more. The clash of cultures, the cruelty and the barbarism can't be overemphasized or understated I don't think even the POWs of Vietnam suffered more.Then the US Army decided to rescue these POWs when they invaded Luzon. They sent a company of the 6th Rangers (plus a platoon) to bring them out. They were well-armed, well-trained and very well motivated. But they couldn't have done the job without the Alamo Scouts and the tough Filipino guerillas who gave them the information and guidance they needed and the protection and help they had to have.The operation worked almost perfectly with only four fatal casualties among the Americans and a lot of dead Japanese. The guerillas fought a tremendous battle to protect the operation without a single casualty. The kind of operation commanders dream of.There was only one minor jarring note to me. The author kept writing about 'razor wire'. Razor wire was not invented until the 1960s. This was minor but it grated.The author did his research well, talking to survivors, reading documents, generally doing the research needed for the book. The writing was good and flowed well. I recommend the book.
spartacula2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There appears to be no limits to the cruelty inflicted on the remaining survivors of the battles at Corregidor and Bataan. Faced with no alternative but to surrender, the POW's Death March was just the beginning of the brutality and nightmarish arrangements awaiting them. Their ultimate destination was Cabanatuan, a POW camp that provided a hell-on-earth for the hunters and their prey alike. In addition to the daily hardships that they endured: tropical heat and disease, starvation, physical and psychological trauma; news, such as the massacre at Palawan had permeated the camps moral. Isolated from the rest of the war for so long, the POW's thought they were forgotten about, that is to say, left behind. Hampton Sides introduces us to all of the key performers without assaulting our senses (or what's left of them). His method of storytelling is clear and direct. With two detailed maps and a handful of vintage pictures for guidance, you get the experience firsthand by the POW's, their captors, the combined forces dedicated to liberating the POW's, and, you'll witness the results of the all-important life and death decision making from the mouths of those that actually pulled off one of the Pacific Theatre's most astonishing rescue missions. Not all the liberators were American. Filipino guerilla's had a stake in ridding their land of the invading Japanese, and even though they didn't have the current weaponry afforded our Armed Services, their combative desire stood the test when it was called for. In opposition to the darker side of this forgotten historical event, there's constant recognition and appreciation for the bravery, patriotic inspiration and self-sacrifice it took to accomplish this triumphant mission. Some readers may feel that the lack of footnotes detract from the validity of all that transpired, but as Sides admits, he had chosen to ignore the tradition in the name of style and pacing. I agree with his decision. 'Ghost Soldiers' is a must read for anyone that's intrigued by what the human spirit can accomplish when the odd's are clearly stacked against you. I highly recommend this book.
elsyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great historical work besides just being an exciting read. My husband and I were both really impressed with this book, even before we realized that Capt. Prince was my father-in-law's old friend, Bob.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not being a WWII expert, I can't really say yay or nay on the "most dramatic mission" claim on this book's title, but I got so caught up in this book I read the whole thing in one afternoon. The basic outline is this: The US has decided that it's time for the Army to take Manila from the Japanese in 1945, after the landing at Leyte Gulf. There is a slight problem, however; directly in the path that the soldiers would take on the push to Manila lies a prisoner-of-war camp holding Americans and others. By this time the camp is a way station for Japanese soldiers and the road to the place is loaded with Japanese vehicles & army. Since the Japanese know that everything's coming to a close, the US fears that (as in earlier examples) the prisoners stuck in the camp are in danger of being exterminated. So the Army decides it needs a small force of men to go in, liberate the camp, and clear the way for the bulk of the troops to get on the road to Manila. This book is the story of how this was achieved. The structure of the book is such that there are actually two alternating stories here. The main story is of course, the attempt to liberate the camp, and interspersed is the second story, that of the Bataan Death March and then life inside the prison camps, told by the survivors. The author's writing style is so good that you'll think you're reading a novel rather than history. Now comes my only complaint: my graduate degree is in History, and I cringe every time I read something like this where there are NO footnotes or endnotes. The author does say what sources he relied on in the back of the book, but I like to be able to trace exact quotations, references, etc., in case I want to follow up with another source. That's just my thing, and I would guess that the great majority of readers do not give a fig about footnotes.Even if you know nothing about WWII, or if you're not particularly interested, any reader would find this book captivating. It is written for readers -- no bogging down with overly technical details. Very well written and worth every second of reading time. Recommended.
elenchus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A popular historical account of a WWII rescue mission / prison camp break at the onset of MacArthur's return to the Philippines, Sides interleaves stories of life in the prison camp with the buildup to the coordinated rescue mission on part of U.S. Rangers, Alamo Scouts & Filipino guerrillas. In doing so, he recounts the stories of three groups of U.S. and allied soldiers held by the Japanese Imperial Army on the Philippines:Group 1: those left in Cabanatuan because too weak / ill to be useful, and threatened with massacre when Camp overrun by MacArthur¿s advancing troops.Group 2: those split off from main camp and shipped off Philippines during strategic defense / retreat of Imperial Army (late 1944-45). Group 3: those who passed through Cabanatuan prior to 1945 and at time of Rangers mission either dead or in other camps. This group by far the more numerous, but their story is told only as reflected in story of Groups 1 & 2. (On the other hand, this group is the focus of other published personal accounts or histories.) The alternating story lines means the narrative hops between the raid (occurring over 3-4 days in 1945) and what led up to the raid: Bataan Death March, daily life in prison camp, Group 1 in camp, Group 2¿s travel to Japan (a span of years, essentially late 1941 - 1945).Sides's story is itself a reflection of the strange relationship between Filipinos and (U.S.) Americans ¿ as it focuses on the U.S. Rangers and the U.S. prisoners, yet far more Filipinos were on the March and in the camps; and about twice as many Filipino guerillas (2 bands & leader names) participated in the raid led by the U.S. Rangers. Sides does provide numerous examples of the disparity in this, and makes clear the Filipinos remain loyal and aligned with the U.S. (except for the Huk guerillas at very end). Legacy of colonialism.The origin of U.S. Rangers is also referenced ¿ this raid being the first real mission (?) but overshadowed by later events in WWII, so seemingly ¿forgotten¿ now. (C Company and F Company, 1 platoon)Sides also takes up the Japanese account of motivations and intentions with respect to Bataan Death March; taking Corregidor; treatment of prisoners. The peculiar challenge faced by the Imperial 6th Army, needing to take Corregidor in order to secure access to Manila Bay and its natural harbor, but the masses of retreating U.S. / Filipino forces being forced into a corner that directly impedes the Imperial Army's later objective in laying siege to Corregidor. However, Sides does pretty much take up the Japanese perspective in Chapter 3, rather than weave it throughout his narrative.Sideline stories of High Pockets, Siege of Corregidor, Puerto Princesa Prison Camp (Palawan, PHilippines) in prologue that was massacred in Dec 44, demonstrating the real danger faced by the men held at Cabanatuan. There are many great examples of gallows humour, typical of concentration camps and other places of horror. It's also amazing (though perhaps it shouldn't be) how much ingenuity the prisoners had: building a radio, making fake pills resembling the actual pharmaceuticals to sell to their guards for STDs, a full-blown black market.Very readable, provides a nice thumbnail sketch of the Philippine role in WWII and its place in the Pacific theater.
theageofsilt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A deeply moving and often horrifying account of the mission of a group of Rangers charged with the liberation of the survivors of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. Sides also attempts to examine the cultural differences and desperate circumstances that contributed to the remarkable brutality of the Japanese.
readerray on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even though this was a very interesting and fulfilling book, at times it had a tendency to break your heart thinking about all the suffering the prisoners went through.
aaronball8620 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ghost Soldiers tells the story of the greatest war stories ever told. It details the heroism of Col. Mucci and his Rangers. In the months preceding the Japanese Imperial Army's surrender during WWII the US Army learned of the location of POWs--men who had survived the infamous Bataan Death March were being held at Cabanatuan in the Philippine islands. Brutal Massacres of American POW had begun in other prison camps in the Pacific. To prevent this from happening again at Cabanatuan the US Army ordered Col. Mucci to rescued survivors.Enthralled, I turned to page after page intent on what awaited at the prison camp. The physical hardships of the prisoners were excited my senses of both compassion and adventure. Imagining their hardships, I could not help wanting to be a part of such a historic mission.
danrebo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sides presents an often heartwrenching and difficult story with respect, seriousness and (where appropriate) humor. In many ways this book tells two stories. The interspersed timelines or threads of these two stories seemed confusing to me at first. The first presents the US retreat and surrender at Bataan, followed by the POWs experiences over several years in the camp. The second thread covers the much shorter period after the US reinvasion during which the prison rescue took place. Ultimately he brought both together well, focusing on the stories of imprisonment in the first and on the adventure of the rescue in the second. Military history buffs may not appreciate the lack of attention to units and other military details, but for me this was the right approach. He clearly respects the veterans and spent a great deal of time with them, bringing out many details that ring true.