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The Bataan Death March (Hardback)

A Soldier’s Personal Story of Survival and Captivity under the Japanese

Military > By Century Military > Frontline Books Military > Reference

By Chad Godfrey
Frontline Books
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 32 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036113438
Published: 30th September 2024

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RRP £25.00

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Shortly after the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor in late 1941, over 70,000 American and Filipino servicemen were captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. What ensued for these young men is considered by many military historians to be one of the most barbaric sequences of war crimes in history, yet it remains an incredibly inspiring story of unmatched heroism and survival.

According to the Japanese code of Bushido, a soldier captured alive had dishonoured himself and his country, so their new prisoners were often regarded with utter contempt. Second Lieutenant Patrick Rafferty and his fellow “Battling Bastards of Bataan” had just forfeited the right to be treated humanely, at least in the eyes of their captors. Forced to march shoeless over sixty-five miles northward in unbearable heat with no water or food, men were routinely executed if they showed any signs of slowing the forward progress towards their internment camp. Some estimates suggest that nearly 18,000 men perished during the infamous Bataan Death March, bones and souls left unceremoniously in shallow graves on a dusty roadside.

Ghastly Japanese prison camps awaited those ‘lucky’ enough to survive the Death March. Long, hard days of unrelenting slave labor under the watchful eyes and beating sticks of the prison guards drove many a young soldier to his early grave. If the torture and executions did not take one’s life, any number of intestinal diseases could, and often did.

Having no communication with the outside world, the prisoners were assured the US and its allies had surrendered, stacking heavy layers of mental anguish on top of the gruesome physical toll endured. Adding to this tortuous uncertainty, prisoners like Rafferty were routinely shuffled to new locations, sometimes via the notorious ‘hell ships’ like Oryoku Maru, where Allied soldiers were routinely drowned or murdered by the thousands, often by friendly fire. Still, tales of unwavering friendship and comradery thread beautifully throughout Rafferty’s account, often charmed by his Boston-Irish sense of humor, offering well-placed balance to the horrors.

Decades later, then Lieutenant Colonel Rafferty would finally, bravely share his long-suppressed memories and the pain they brought. Speaking into a handheld tape recorder with striking detail, he revealed the true story of what he and his captured brothers endured. Amongst other jaw-dropping anecdotes from his three-and-a-half years as a POW, perhaps his most gripping personal horror was burying his American soldiers alive as a bayonet pointed into the back of his own neck to ensure the shovelling continued.

This, then, is a moving first-hand account of survival at its most brutal core.

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