As some of you may know from my posts on Facebook and elsewhere, my father survived the 1942 Bataan Death March in the Philippines during WWII. The Japanese then interred him in a POW camp until 1944, so two years, more or less. Ironically his father had sent him to a Japanese school in Hawaii when he was five years old (1915,) in the hopes that having Americans better understand Japanese culture, we would not end up in a war with Japan. Came in handy when Daddy was a prisoner. His camp was the best run one in the Philippines. But that didn’t stop the Japanese from putting Daddy on an unmarked POW ship going to Japan. The ship did not make it out of Subic Bay, where it was sunk by Allied Forces. So my father ended up drowning as he tried to save another person on the ship. Anyway, back then nobody had the equipment to dive deep enough to recover the bodies. I was three when he died and have spent my whole life wondering if he did indeed die, or miraculously survived and ended up spending his life in the South Pacific, not remembering who he really was. That’s the hope all children who have lost family members and had no closure, I’m sure. The bottom line is now researchers hired by the Department of Defense are “repatriating” the bones from service members lost during the WWII, Korea and Vietnam wars. I was contacted because I was the sole descendant the genealogist could find. The problem is, being female, I don’t have the particular DNA strand to make a match. I put the researcher in touch with my two brothers’ sons and with my 83-year-old brother who lives in Florence, Italy. Now maybe we can get some answers. The contact person from the Army says Daddy would be eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, but I’m not fond of military funerals, having been to too many of them. I hate Taps.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I just reviewed a book written about Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, who was in the Hanoi Hilton for eight years with little way to contact his family. (If you don’t know what the Hanoi Hilton was, be sure to research it. Senator John McCain was also there.)
And here is a hug to all who are suffering from what I’ve gone through all my life.
If you don’t read this book, look for Alan Gratz’ books on prisoners of war.
This biography of US Navy Aviator Commander Jeremiah Denton’s internment by the North Vietnamese from July 1965 to 1973 is horrifying. How one human being can perpetrate such savagery on another is beyond my comprehension. But it has happened for as long as humans have interacted with each other. Mr. Townley tells this tale with gripping attention to detail and makes the reader admire with great fervor what Commander Denton and his fellow inmates endured. Senator John McCain was also in his group. The reader learns of the torture both physical and mental these men suffered, but through it all the prisoners’ tenacity as encouraged by Jerry Denton to adhere to the Naval Code of Conduct is admirable. He promoted communication amongst the prisoners by encouraging use of a Morse Code series of taps. He withstood more torture than one would think possible. And though he occasionally broke because of treatment, he never gave out usable information and sent out coded messages with twitches or blinks of his eyes. Though the language is bit stilted, it’s hard to think how to write this story without using a “just the facts” style of writing. The reader will leave this tale of courage with a further understanding of how evil war is. Any child reading this should have someone to talk to about it.
BIBLIO: 2019, Focus/ Scholastic Inc., Ages 16 +, $18.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
Next week, I’ll about something funny, I promise.