Book Review: Escape From Davao

The author, John D. Lukacs, completed a brilliant, well-crafted, and painstakingly researched book. He traveled throughout the United States and the Philippine Islands to research and gather impressions and first-hand accounts of this story – a truly courageous story of heroic escapees including Marines, air corpsmen, soldiers, and a naval officer.

There have been many historically valuable stories written about the events in the Philippines during World War II, and several written about the Battle of Bataan, the Bataan Death March, and escapees from the inhumane treatment by the Imperial Forces. That includes some revealing books written about this specific escape from Davao Penal Colony… Dapecol on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines. I recently finished a remarkable book entitled Return to Freedom by Sam Grashio, one of the army air corpsmen pilots who participated in this successful escape.

The central character in this story is Major William Edwin Dyess. Ed Dyess was one of several thousand American military men who fought the invading Japanese in the Battle of Bataan, survived the Bataan Death March, and languished through a year of imprisonment, torture, starvation, disease, and slavery at the hands of those Imperial Forces.

Dyess and nine other American POWs performed a miraculously successful escape of Depecol in order to “get the word out” to America – the word about the inhumane, sadistic violations of the Geneva Convention and the beastly atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese military. However, when the escapees returned to the U.S., the Roosevelt administration didn’t want that information released to the general public. The escapees were even threatened with courts-martial in order to silence them. This was a dark day in U.S. history. The Roosevelt administration would look very callous if the information was released. After all, our federal government had abandoned the American armed forces to pursue a Europe First policy – a strategy that left thousands of besieged Americans with no reinforcements and no resupply of food, medicine, arms, or ammunition… abandoned in the field!

Eventually the story was uncensored when the government realized that the public outrage would be primarily directed toward the enemy in the Pacific. The accompanying bond drive immediately stimulated double the sales of War Bonds.

Lukacs performed a remarkable task in shedding light on every aspect of these events. This story should be read and appreciated by everyone. And those events, horrendous events in the Philippines, are especially personal to me since my uncle was one of those unaided air corpsmen left on Bataan. I can empathize with all those brave, abandoned Americans – the Bastards of Bataan.

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