3 July 2009

Prisoner of the Rising Sun

This is the story of Stanley Wort, a young man thrust into the Royal Navy in distant Hong Kong. He relates some of the humorous situations in which he found himself and provides a realistic account of what life was like for servicemen in pre war Hong Kong.

It describes the prelude to war from his point of view and his part in the Battle for Hong Kong. There follows the story of what happened to him when taken prisoner and life and death in prison camps in Hong Kong and Japan. It tells what it was like to be shipped to Japan in the hold of Japanese merchantmen with constant fear of being torpedoed.

In Japan itself he and his fellow prisoners were used as slave labour. Treatment was harsh and brutal and although many of them died the Japanese never broke the spirit of the survivors.

The author explains how it felt to be a prisoner working in a Japanese factory when a major earthquake struck. He also relates what it was like to be on the receiving end of a B29 fire raid and what the Japanese did to downed American airmen. In August 1945 he saw the Japanese bow before loudspeakers and although he did not realize it then, heard the Japanese Emperor announce the surrender of Japan. The book contains a tribute to the efficiency and kindness of the American forces that got him out and on his way home.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

Cockleshell Commando: The Memoirs of Bill Sparks DSM

One of only two survivors of the famous Cockleshell Hero raid, Bill Sparks' war and post-war career has never before been told in full. In this gripping book, he describes not only his part in Operation FRANKTON, the daring Gironde raid, and his escape back to Britain, but how he fought with the Greek Sacred Squadron thereafter. Operating in small groups they raided and liberated islands in the Aegean Sea. After the war, bored with life as a bus driver, he joined the Malayan Police and saw action aplenty during the Emergency. Always something of a military maverick, Bill's memoir is truly action-packed. The book benefits from the inclusion of the official German investigation report into the Cockleshell Raid.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

Night Action: MTB Flotilla At War

This memoir is Peter Dickens' account of his experiences as the young commander of the 21st MTB Flotilla during 1942-43, mainly in the North Sea and the Channel. In all the annals of the war at sea, comparatively little has been written about the role of the torpedo boat, and yet these small and vulnerable boats, travelling at high speed amid storms and gunfire, and usually under the cover of darkness, managed to closely engage enemy convoys and escorts in high-speed attacks and wreak havoc among the German supply lines.

Like the sailors who fought against the U-boats in the battle of the Atlantic, Dickens and his comrades were experiencing a new kind of warfare and had to hit upon the techniques and tactics as they went along; their kind of action called for great courage, spilt-second timing and complete understanding between captain and crew.

Night Action is a lively and thrilling account, but also one which is frank and carefully considered; there is humour but the horror of war is never far away and the author conveys to the reader a sharp sense of the reality of those operations in a way that no history book can do.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

Heartland Heroes: Remembering World War II

Heartland Heroes is a collection of remarkable stories from ordinary men and women who lived through extraordinary times. They resided in places like Lee's Summit, Independence, and Kansas City, yet their experiences were very much like those of World War II veterans everywhere. Some were marines, nurses, or fighter pilots, others were simply civilians who lived through the war under the martial law imposed on the Hawaiian Islands after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In Heartland Heroes, Ken Hatfield gathers the stories of more than eighty men and women, whom he began interviewing in 1984 while reporting for a small weekly newspaper in Liberty, Missouri. Hatfield's first subject was a marine named Bob Barackman, the uncle of one of Hatfield's coworkers. That interview, which lasted for several hours, had a profound effect on Hatfield. He began to realize that as a journalist he had a unique opportunity to preserve that small piece of history each veteran carries with him.

Hatfield spent the next seventeen years interviewing nearly one hundred World War II veterans and other individuals, but it was not until August 2001 that he decided to compile the stories into a book. The interviewees, most of whom lived in the Kansas City area at the time of the interviews, included Jim Daniels, a Grumman Wildcat pilot, who while trying to land at Pearl Harbor on the evening after the Japanese attack survived a blizzard of friendly fire, which claimed the lives of three of his friends and fellow pilots; Charles McGee, a pilot with 143 combat missions to his credit, who fought the Germans in the air and racism on the ground as one of the Tuskegee Airmen; and Dee Nicholson, who was just six years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and her home on Hawaii. She and her father recall what life was like for them and others, including Japanese Americans, after that fateful day. Through their stories, Heartland Heroes effectively captures this fading period of time for future generations.

Available from:
University of Missouri Press

Japanese Eyes...American Hearts

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, set Hawai`i on a new course of history that would affect every living soul in these Islands. How Hawai`i's people, particularly those of Japanese ancestry, responded to the act of aggression by Japan changed Hawai`i's social, economic, and political history forever.

Much has been written about how Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA) in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion answered their country's call through military service - and the high price they paid in human lives in freedom's cause.

Not as thoroughly recorded, however, are the thoughts and innermost feelings of the nisei soldiers who put their lives on the line for their country, and what those experiences meant to them. Those stories have always been the most difficult to pry from the hearts and souls of the AJA men who served our country in World War II. It was that void in the story of Hawai`i's nisei soldiers that Bishop Ryokan Ara of the Tendai Educational Fund asked members of the Hawai`i Nikkei History Editorial Board to fill.

Japanese Eyes... American Heart is the result of that effort. It is a rare and powerful collection of personal thoughts written by the soldiers themselves, reflections of the men's thoughts as recorded in diaries and letters sent home to family members and friends, and other expressions about an episode that marked a turning point in the lives of many.

Available from:
University of Hawai'i Press

World War II Reflections: An Oral History of Pennsylvania's Veterans

Thirty veterans of World War II from Pennsylvania recall their time of service in France, Italy, Burma, Guadalcanal, the Philippines, and the Pacific in this new volume based on Pennsylvania Cable Network's award-winning series "World War II - In Their Own Words".

The very personal and deeply human accounts are presented in the veterans' own words, giving a perspective of the war through the eyes of ordinary citizen-soldiers. The stories range from profound experiences of dealing with death on a daily basis to the everyday facts of camp life, such as food, clothes, and leisure.

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Memoirs of a Hungary Soldier

Memoirs of a Hungary Soldier provides an insight into an area little covered by English language books - the experiences of a soldier in the Hungarian Army in World War II.

Joseph Gyokeri was a sergeant (Szakaszvezeto) in the Royal Hungarian Army field artillery. Enlisting in 1940, he fought in the Yugoslavia campaign in April 1941, and he was wounded twice, shot through the right thumb, and through the top of his left foot. In 1941, he was transferred to Hajmasker where he served until 1943, then in September of that year he was transferred to the 68th Border Guard Group located in Szekelyudvarhely (Transylvania, currently Romania). He remained there with his family until September 1944 when the Russians invaded.

For the next 8 months he, with his wife and young son retreated across Hungary and into Austria, where all three were captured by Russian forces near the city of Linz. His wife and son were released, but Joseph remained a prisoner from April 1945 to August 1945.

Thanks to the author, Joseph's grandson Joe Gyokeri, for this information.

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On A Green Twig

On a Green Twig is the memoir of Anna Klein Spencer who grew up in Germany during the Depression and World War II. Her lively, richly detailed recollections of rustic life in a Rhineland village provide invaluable perspective about German life before and after Hitler, Nazism and World War II. This personal account tells how a young girl’s family life and her community were turned upside down by world events. It offers a lesson in how perseverance and courage can transform tragedy and misfortune into a new lease on life – on a green twig.

The author has a blog dedicated to the book, and it is also possible to read selected pages on the publishers website.

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