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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Surviving The Sword: Prisoners of the Japanese 1942-45
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on 29 July 2006
As my grandfather worked on the Thailand-Burma railway, I was keen to read this book to get an understanding of those who experienced captivity under the Japanese. The book highlights the complete disregard for human life and evokes completely different images of the romanticised, Hollywood images of European POW's in Colditz, The Great Escape etc etc. Although the book illustrates the suffering experienced by many, it also shows how the smallest graces in life can galvanise morale and band of brothers spirit against the greatest of odds. The book itself, is well structured, with well-placed interludes to give more rounded information on important characters/situations pertinent to Far Eastern POW's (FEPOWS). All in all, this adds further understanding to a marginalised issue of the 2nd World War.
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on 21 December 2012
To me, this is the most comprehensive book to date concerning the horrors of those unfortunate to fall into Japanese hands. As someone has already stated, it would be impossible to produce such horror on film. I can now appreciate the relatives of the officer in the film "The Bridge over the River Kwai" being so incensed with the complete inaccuracy of the film as well as the Officer it was supposed to portray. In real life he was one of the few officers who actually worked manually alongside his men forcing officers under his command to do so.
It was also his attention to detail that saved many prisoners lives because through his total commitment to cleanliness, it was the only Japanese Prisoner of War Camp to escape Cholora. He also encouraged his men to leave out bolts or try and use sections of rotted would in the hope that the bridge would collapse.
An amazing soldier who was much admired by ALL the prisoners under his command. A friend of mine who was taken prisoner, along with the rest of his unit as soon as they landed, actually went along to see the film. He thought is was a joke as he said that their clothes rotted very quickly and the prisoners in the film were far to fat. Another friend, whose father was lucky enough to survive, was kept in Hospital in England still being fed via a fountain pen filler until; fit enough to rejoin his wife and son.
I agree with all the other readers, and hope that many more will take time to read this very worthwhile book to try and understand what actually did happen and the thousands of soldiers who died in agony from horrific diseases.
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on 9 May 2006
While nearly everyone has heard of the Escapes in the European theatre during WW 2,The Colditz Story, The Great Escape etc. very few have heard of the FEPOW's. (Far East POW's). Mr Mc Arthur has described the experiences of these forgotten troops after the fall of Singapore at the hands of The Imperial Japanese Army. The conditions that these troops were imprisioned and there treatment during their captivity was surely the worst of the entire conflict. Mr Mc Arthur has included diaries and interviews from the troops themselves and they make harrowing reading. Some of these diaries recorded on toilet paper were buried with there comrades and retrieved after liberation to describe the pure hell of their imprisionment. A particullary gruelling chapter describes the building of the famous railway through Burma where men reduced to skeltons were forced to build the railway through terrain where no one had trod since time began. The rations these men had to endure along with the constant companionship of mosquitoes, flies, rats and diseases such as Cholera, Beri-Beri, and Typhoid made for a nightmare of there imprisionment. If you have any interest in the Far East campaign during WW 2 this book is for you.
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on 15 October 2009
This is the only book I have had to purchase three times due to the amount of people who have read it!
On a recent diving holiday, I had left "Surviving The Sword" on a communal table whilst I was on a dive boat.When I got back in the evening, five people had been sampling the book and over the next few days,they couldn't wait for me to finish it, so that they could borrow it!

It is an account of the suffering and triumphs of the prisoners of the Japanese in WW2.Reading about the conditions of starvation and beatings they had to endure, it is amazing any-one came back.The book also gives vivid accounts of the dedication and bravery of various officers and doctors that kept several thousand men alive in those terrible times.

The spirit and resourcefulness of the Australian, British and Dutch prisoners is brought to life in this wonderful book.
In WW2 about 4% of German prisoners of war died.27% of Japanese prisoners of war died.Reading Brian McArthur's book, you can see why there was a huge difference in the numbers.However, the author manages to capture the prisoners' determination to help each other, whilst struggling to survive themselves.
Buy this book, but you will have trouble keeping hold of it!
Adrian Grant
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on 30 April 2017
My father in law loved it
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on 16 June 2017
An amazing book.
How these poor men coped is unbelievable.
They were so brave.
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on 20 February 2012
For anyone interested in Japanese POW camps, the treatment of prisoners, the lives of the prisoners whilst in captivity as expressed in their personal diaries, written and hidden from their captors, then this is the book for you. Their existence in the camps, the work on the railways, the horror of the hellships, the death marches and horrific brutality they experienced is covered in this book. How they survived is a testimont to the human spirit and how much the human body can endure. It was amazing to read about their resourcefullness in equip their camp hospitals from virtually nothing and to create medicines, drips, etc from what they could find in the camp and from the surrounding jungles. I think this book covers every aspect of their time as a FEPOW and also their struggle to return to the normality of everyday living for those lucky enough to survive. If you think you are having a bad day just read this book!
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on 1 February 2007
As the 60th anniversary of VJ Day approaches, books on all aspects of the war in the Far East seem to appear on the shelves of high street book sellers. I can honestly say, I have read a great many of these in the last few months and this excellent work by Brian Mac Arthur ranks amongst the best to date.

There is no doubt that any member of the British or Allied forces who had the mis-fortune to be taken prisoner by the Japanese suffered in one way or another. Some suffered more than others. Many as we now know, did not live to tell the tale of their suffering or experiences and death was I am ashamed to say, was a merciful release from the agony and torture of their life in captivity.

The author consulted over 150 diaries of ex prisoners of war and spent an unbelievable amount of time delving into the depth of the archives to research what it was really like, in the notorious Japanese prison camps and along the many hundreds of miles of the infamous "Death Railway".

As one would expect, the subject of torture and deprivation is covered in great detail, however the reader is also treated to a fascinating insight into the inspirational way s in which the men boosted their morale - they entertained themselves with camp concerts, sporting events and education courses, however it is the most resourceful way in which they made improvised medical equipment and drugs and performed life saving surgery that I found the most remarkable.

Many readers will be shocked at what they read and once again, many will also ask the question, "how could another human being treat their fellow men like this?" Besides being an interesting read, this book with its superb black and white photographs and excellent maps on the inside covers, will provide an ideal source of reference, however it will also serve as memorial to the brave men who suffered in the cause of freedom many decades ago.
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on 5 April 2011
For some obscure political reason, the plight of the allied soldiers captured by the Japanese in World War Two was not greatly publicised.

They were in fact exposed to an extermination policy just as ruthless as that perpetrated by the Nazis, albeit not using poison gas. Stabbings, shootings, beatings, starvation, dehydration, extreme forms of slave labour, and witholding basic essential medical care, were the chosen instruments of slaughter.

The particular Japanese regime responsible for the genocide, like the Nazis, had arisen quickly in the previous two decades, and took the world partly by surprise with the ferocity of its evil onslaught.

This book, an assimilation of stories provided by the minority of captives - the survivors - is a factual account of the horrors and atrocities. It makes for slow reading ; a civilised mind can only digest so much at one sitting. The heroes are there - quietly determined to preserve human dignity in whatever way possible - in the face of barbaric and sadistic brutality.

Read this moving book - much of which is too shocking to convey in a film or TV representation - and acknowledge the sacrifices made by the thousands murderously executed by the Japanese `Sword'.
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on 3 March 2013
I read this book a couple of years ago but after just returning from the River Kwai area I'm reading it again. We really cannot possibly imagine what it must have been like to live in those times - it's a wonder any of them came back alive after enduring such conditions. I've read several books on this subject including Alistair Urquhart's amazing story ('The Forgotten Highlander') and I'm still so appalled that human beings can behave so inhumanely to others. What I thought was dreadful was that they had to sign a form to say that they wouldn't discuss what happened to them and also that when they eventually did arrive back in England they were not given a hero's welcome and no one was there to greet them. This was because what happened in Singapore was such an embarrassment to the Government and they wanted to move on and have 'relations' with Japan. Do visit the River Kwai if you are interested in this period of history - it's so interesting.
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