On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite US Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty miles in an attempt to rescue more than 500 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 US 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' 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 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 unspeakable tortures; the violent cultural clashes with Japanese guards and soldiers steeped in the warrior ethic of Bushido; and the complex motivations of the US high command, some of whom could justly be charged with abandoning the men of Bataan in 1942.
Before listening to
Ghost Soldiers, I must admit I hadn't heard of the harrowing rescue of U.S. and British POWs from the Cabanatuan camp in the Philippines, following the Bataan Death March. In fact, I'm not much of a WWII buff, but Hampton Sides' detailed descriptions, drawn from survivors both of the camp and of the elite U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion, were extremely compelling. Once the U.S. soldiers and Filipino guerrillas infiltrated the POW camp, they had to move 500 prisoners - many of whom were extremely sick after three years of tropical conditions and limited access to medicine - 30 miles to safety, avoiding thousands of Japanese soldiers encamped around them.
Ghost Soldiers is one of the best accounts of heroism I have ever heard. (Kerry, Producer of Original Programming)
"[It] took me on a queasy journey deep into the realm of pure evil - then rescued me in a blaze of heroics and righteous vengeance. There's grief, despair, and terror here, but there's also adventure, courage, and joy. (Erik Larson, author
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Not the full book but a great story