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Abandoned on Bataan: One Man's Story of Survival Paperback – 23 Jul 2002
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Oliver Allen had always valued his education wishing for nothing more than to escape the, "nasty, greasy garage my father ran," (p.3) but what Oliver really wanted to do was to fly. Sadly his quest to become a pilot not only fell short of his dreams, it led him into a brutal situation that would profoundly affect his life forever.
After failing to make the cut via a federally granted Civil Aeronautics Course, Oliver joined the Army Air Corp in the hopes of achieving his aim. With World War II raging, Oliver shipped out to Clark Field in the Philippine Islands arriving on October 24th, 1941, as part of the 19th Bomb Group. The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Clark Field would be bombed too - "Our world as we knew it came to an end. Our Age of Innocence was over." (p.28)
When the Japanese eventually pushed through the islands, Oliver 'Red' Allen, along with his companions eventually came under enemy control. The six-day, seventy-five mile march from Cabacaben to San Fernando forced upon them by the Japanese became known as "The Bataan Death March." With minimal water and food, and dysentery rife throughout the line, the route they took became littered with dead men. Sadly, the brutality had only just begun.
What Oliver and his fellow POW's would endure is a testament to the strength and courage that lies at the heart of the American spirit. Many friends and military comrades would never see freedom again in their lifetimes and yet remarkably Oliver's sense of humor creeps into every page. Despite being at the mercy of volatile Japanese guards, one cannot help but smile at the things accomplished beneath the guards noses. From small triumphs to out and out sabotage, one sees that while the Japanese may have possessed their bodies, they were very far away from securing their souls.
Private Oliver Allen it seems was a man with more than the nine lives afforded to a feline. Determined to survive, Allen overcame obstacles that many would have succumbed to. Unfortunately, Oliver would never fully escape the horrors inflicted upon him, for illnesses from his time in captivity plague him to this day. It would be years after their release that the Japanese POW's would learn the extent of their abuse for unbeknown to them; camp inmates were subjected to biological experiments.
'Abandoned on Bataan' is a tribute to the courage of man. At the beginning of the book, we are told that Private Oliver Allen is not a hero. I beg to differ. His strength of character earned his survival and any person that dons a military uniform and essentially offers their life for their country, will always be one of America's finest.
This book should be widely read, from young to old and all those in-between, for despite the atrocities within its pages, this book is a celebration of life. The story told is often tragic and regularly humorous but it is a tale of experience that based upon authenticity can only produce a first-rate book.
There was one paragraph within the book that captures the book's essence completely -
"Since America was built on the idea of freedom - individual freedom, freedom of the spirit - and grew by the endeavors of individuals "spreading their wings," it is difficult, if not impossible, for Americans to be completely subdued by any people or ideology." p.131
We would all do well to remember but for the grace and sacrifice of men like Private Oliver 'Red' Allen, we might not have our freedom today. This man gave to his country and to its future, and for those that may have forgotten, 'Abandoned on Bataan,' is a worthy reminder.
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