Review by Choice Review
Between December 1941 and May 1942, Japanese forces seized control of the Philippine Islands, taking more than 20,000 American military POWs and interning some 6,000 American civilians. The fate of the military POWs has received much scholarly, journalistic, and literary attention. What happened to the civilians is scarcely known. Cogan uses American and Japanese published accounts, government documents, personal interviews, and formidable analytical skills to describe the personal experiences and to examine improvisations by people forced to create communities inside the wire and walls of five camps and prisons. Incidents of brutality were common and went unpunished by occupation authorities. The paradox of wartime captivity is that one depends for survival on the enemy. As American destruction of Japanese shipping reduced food supplies to the Philippines, the internees felt the impact quickly in the form of starvation rations. Cogan refutes claims that the Japanese treated civilian internees humanely or fed them as well as Japanese soldiers (a requirement of the Geneva Convention) and points to cases when Red Cross relief packages were deliberately withheld from the intended recipients. See Van Waterford's Prisoners of the Japanese in World War II (CH, Jan'95). All levels. G. H. Davis; Georgia State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII is well-known, but this captivating history depicts a virtually unknown tale: the story of Japan's wartime imprisonment of Americans living in the Philippines. More than 5000 Americans were living on the U.S.-controlled island when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and when the U.S. military--in accordance with previous strategic plans--did not fight the Japanese invasion of the island in 1941, the Americans were fair game. Through her use of prisoners' diaries, Cogan turns this history into compelling drama. While the Japanese invasion took the mostly upper-class Americans living on the island by surprise, some families were still able to go into hiding and avoid captivity for nearly two years. Cogan demonstrates in straightforward, lucid prose how, once the Americans were captured and interned, their once-comfortable lives devolved into subsistence. She carefully avoids both understatement and exaggeration, noting, for instance, the kindness shown by some guards. The life she describes is worse than that suffered by Japanese-Americans in the U.S. camps--adequate rations and medical treatment were not available, and there was occasional torture and death--but it still appears to be markedly better than that suffered by most prisoners in Nazi camps. As the end of the war neared in 1945, however, conditions deteriorated, and starvation and death became more common. As one nurse said, "The tremendously active kids that used to tear around the campus like savages were now little old men and women. Hollow-eyed, skinny, and listless, they sat around and talked about food." An epilogue tracing the struggles and triumphs faced by the survivors after liberation completes this original addition to WWII history. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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