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“Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides was a phenomenal novel. It was most definitely the most desirable book I have read about WWII history. It was written intelligently well while giving facts and dates that go along with the story. I would have to say his points are portrayed from what he saw as it was a non-fiction book. The details goes through the 6th Ranger Battalion going past enemy lines in attempt to rescue Americans and British POW’s, the encampment of many U.S. soldiers in Japan, the Bataan death march, and how they all planned to escape. It goes to detail on how Japanese soldiers behaved through the torturing of Americans and Philippines, how the Embargo placed by the U.S. forced the Japanese to take drastic measures in infantry rather than oil guzzling machinery.
Hampton Sides tells his story which opens up the minds of anyone that read this book. He gave many factual details on the Japanese actions during WWII and how many known generals like General Douglas McArthur handled it. Coming from his point of view, it is quite amazing how much detail he had installed into this novel. It would make me believe that most information would be pretty accurate about the Bataan Death March.
The details of the Bataan Death March were impeccable. Hampton Sides had surly captured the scene of search and rescue to the true meaning and to its true potential. He portrays each and every one of them as it was happening right now. The re-telling of this epic story that was almost truly forgotten by some people in history has now risen up again. During the Death March, American captives were tortured if they were not to cooperate. Be-headings took place, as well as beatings, stabbings, and much more. Water was almost never given to them as well as food. Many tried to escape out of the camp but very few made it out alive. Most were shot dead by the Japanese soldiers and guards nearby, and the survivors hid for days contemplating what to do next, or where to go next. Some swam all the way to Australia from the camp in Philippines and some hoped to get captured and not get killed later.
Hampton sides didn’t exactly show a lot of contentions in the novel at all. It rather showed heroism, joy, sorrow, and many other emotions to portray each character. It started out as the beginning of the United States entry of WWII. After the invasion of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin called upon war against Japan shortly. With troops and captives in the Philippines slowly piling up in 1942, the rescue mission had been initiated. What they didn’t know was the there was about 8,000 Japanese soldiers docked onto the island which later would be conflicting towards the Americans. The Japanese had already moved in towards the East Indies in attempt to get more oil. Fighting from captivity the mission has nearly failed.
After the following years still before the ending of WWII, the American Captives struggle in hope to reach Camp O’Donnel. There weren’t many survivors and many were weak, and dying from thirst, starvation, or wounds from being shot, stabbed, or beaten. The ruthless Japanese continued their tortures and the continuation of raids of the entire pacific coasts. He wanted to let the readers know the details of Japanese encampments and how brutal they were towards the Americans and to the Pacific countries such as the Philippines.
Hampton Sides has a pretty normal style of writing like any other novels. Considering that this is a history non-fiction, it’s pretty typical to get most of the dates, people, and the battles correct. He was pretty straight forward with his responses and his details on the raids. He can be compared to many other authors that right similar books like this. However, I don’t have any names at the top of my head. Hampton wrote this deliberately to show the contingency in the Philippines and the Japanese Army.
Hampton’s style continued throughout from more of a third person view. You know everything that is going around you, and you know what’s going on with yourself. This really gives the book a meaning. The hundreds of miles to get the Camp O’Donnel was almost a near impossible destination with many dead, and diseased. Hampton tells us that even if they made it to camp, many still perished after waiting for the U.S. Army to finally come after FDR’s order.
I didn’t suspect a lot of flaws throughout this novel. It wasn’t a very difficult read as anticipated either. It is however a harder level of reading, but not as hard as a more historically accurate based books like “Founding Brothers” or “A Peoples History of the U.S.” Those books were meant to clear up some things that people found confusing. This novel was meant to expand the event of Japanese forces taking a major role in the Pacific’s and how the United States was affected greatly with a near 2 front war. There isn’t much more to ask for something this magnificent.
“Ghost Soldiers” wasn’t a typical book that many people would just pluck of the shelf to read. It is a book that sparks interest to one’s mind towards history. I personally think that history is interesting and how many, many things are still not cleared up, even for hundreds of years, maybe even thousands of years. American History is actually quite short considering the fact that many other countries were already being formed and accelerating. WWII is perhaps one of the greatest wars people would come to know and would have the most interest personally. With his main points on Japanese heritage and ruthlessness, it compiles a lot of information on the colonels like Lt. Colonel Mucci, who was the head of the 6th Ranger Battalion in attempt to save the Americans and the rest that were being held captive the Japanese.
Reading this book actually changes my view of WWII just a little bit. I have never realized how brutal the Japanese Empire was in the war, and how many occupied areas they had and tried to proclaim. Surprise attacks on small islands of the Pacific, and the decision of Kamikaze planes for the final spring of attack if all goes wrong. To die killing the enemy is what the Japanese did, and the people that drove the planes were more honorable to them and their families. It opened up more perspectives on how the Japanese viewed Americans, and how they viewed the Philippines, and the Chinese. It let the readers see the vivid views on their concentration camps, and the Bataan Death March.
I’m not an expert on history, but this novel did raise a question high. Why was the Japanese empire so ruthless, brutal, and all of that in the first place? The Japanese were very stringent on their attack plans and orders when taking over cities, and keeping people prisoners. It always leads me to think why. Even if it gets answered, it comes right back at you as why. Many things is left unspoken in WWII, and I’m pretty positive that nothing in American history will be told truthfully. Hampton may have left questions for me, but may not have left questions of others. Especially the Veterans of the war, and their spouses/children/grand-children, none was questioned. Stories like these touches the heart of honor in the eyes of an American that served, or was part of the March/Survivor of the raid.
In conclusion, “Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides was a wonderful read. It is a great novel if you like WWII era things. Reading the first few pages automatically hooks you on for a novel filled with adventures. For people that enjoy reading non-fiction war classics, this would suit you quite well. Hampton is quite the intelligent man in depicting the horrors of war. It showed the spirit of man-kind to live, and the fight for freedom to those who were all affected by Japanese raids. I would rate this book 9.5/10 because of its simplicity of understanding and its pure orchestrated form of written words combined.
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