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An excellent book about a great commando raid!
on 9 December 2013
This book describes the daring raid executed on 30 January 1945 behind Japanese lines by US Army rangers and Philippino guerillas with the purpose to free allied prisoners held captive by the Japanese in the Cabanatuan camp on Luzon island.
It was crucial to free those POWs, as Japanese intended to murder them, if allied troops came too close. Also, most of the POWs were in extremely poor health because of malnurishment and bad treatment and almost every day somebody was dying. In fact once the allied soldiers reached the camp they found that more than 2500 allied POWs died (or were executed) there since 1942 and were buried in common graves. The raid, although risky, was a success - 489 POWs were liberated, along with 33 civilians and they were safely evacuated to allied lines. The total included 492 Americans, 23 British, three Dutch, two Norwegians, one Canadian, and one Filipino. Americans and Philippino guerillas suffered some casualties during the fight and the retreat, but they were ultimately lesser than expected.
This raid is less well known than other commando exploits during WWII, like raid against St. Nazaire in 1942 or the attack of the Pointe du Hoc on the D-Day in 1944. Therefore reading this book is a good occasion to learn about it and believe me, this is a great story and very well told! The book is very clearly written, with every next chapter logically following the previous one, the style is very pleasant and there is a big effort of objectivity - the crucial participation of Philippino guerillas is very strongly stressed and the courage under fire of Japanese is not omitted. I read many books about WWII, and this one is certainly amongst the best ones.
The same raid is also described in great detail in the book "The Cabanatuan Prison Raid" published by Osprey in its recent series "Raids". Being written from a more military point of view, it can be a very useful companion to this book. Once you read one or both of those books you may also want to see the movie "The great raid" realised in 2005, which describes quite faithfully this daring mission.