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Prisoner of War

Part of the WWII Adventures Series

A book for Older Kids

Prisoner of War is based on a true story of a fifteen-year-old boy who left a horrible home situation to join the Marines.  The day he was discovered to be underage and sent home, the Japanese attacked the Philippine’s. When the U.S. Forces surrendered, young Henry Forest is forced to survive in a Japanese Prison Camp.

In the camps he finds the best and worst of humanity. He survives brutal torture, disease and the loss of friends. Before the end of the war he is shipped off to Japan and placed in forced labor at a steel mill. Will Henry survive the hardship of life as a prisoner? Or will he make the ultimate sacrifice.

Prisoner of War

Part of the WWII Adventures Series


A powerful read.

School Library Journal

Gut wrenchingly vivid.

Kirkus Reviews

Enjoy an Excerpt

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A note from Mike: This is excerpted from Chapter 1, but it’s not from the beginning of the book.

Jams and I spent a lot of nights like that. Talking about all sorts of things. It helped pass the time. But I soon found myself wishing the Japanese would attack. At least then something would happen. The boredom was unbearable. Everyone’s nerves were as frayed as an old piece of rope. Gunny did his best to keep our spirits up, but passing the hours in the machine gun nest was growing unbearable. Especially for Jamison, who started getting more and more jumpy as the days went by. One afternoon he finally cracked.

“I can’t take this no more,” he said. “I’m done.” He stood and climbed out of the hole and up onto the ground.

“Where ya think yer goin,’ Jams?” Gunny asked.

“I’m gettin’ outta here. I’m gonna find me a boat and get off this rock,” he said. He shrugged his pack onto his scrawny shoulders and grabbed his rifle.

“Good luck, then,” Gunny said. “If you find one, come back and get me and Tree. We’ll go with you.”

Jamison muttered as he adjusted the straps on his pack. He cursed the Marines, the Army, the Navy, General MacArthur, President Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, the Japanese, and a bunch of other things I couldn’t quite make out. Once he was ready, he set out toward the tree line.

“You think I should go get him, Gunny?” I asked.

“Nah,” he answered. “He’ll be back. Just goin’ a little stir-crazy and burnin’ off steam is all.”

“What are we going to do, Gunny? I hate to keep asking, but isn’t there somebody in charge with a plan?”

“There’s only one man in charge when the shootin’ starts. And his name is Jack Squat. Ain’t nobody got a plan then, and if they do it’s usually a poor excuse for one. We got caught with our pants down. Pearl. Guam. Wake. Here. The Japanese invaded China and Korea almost four years ago, and ain’t nobody in the entire so-called US of A military intelligence stopped to think they might come here next? They been buildin’ planes, tanks, subs, and ships for years, and it never occurred to one of yer so-called experts they might eventually take a poke at Uncle Sam? We wasn’t ready. Not by a darn sight. No, Tree, there is no plan. Except survivin’.”

“I heard a guy from the 104th Tank Battalion in the chow line this morning say we was getting evacuated to Corregidor.”

“Evacuated in what?” Gunny said, pointing to the beachfront and the ocean beyond. “You see a fleet a troop transports out there ready to carry us away? We’re sewed up tight. Boxed in. We ain’t gettin’ to Corregidor, and General Wainwright fer sure ain’t comin’ here.”

Gunny leaned back against the sandbags and tipped his helmet over his eyes to block out the sun. General Wainwright had been left in charge of all Philippines defense forces when General MacArthur had bugged out for Australia. Wainwright was commanding from Corregidor. Working radios were in short supply, but from what we knew he and his forces were in no better shape than we were on Bataan.

“Sorry, Gunny. I didn’t mean to get you riled up,” I said.

“Ah, don’t worry about it, kid. Yer a good Marine, Tree. And a good man. I just get the feelin’ ya ain’t figured that out yet, or more likely, as young as you are, ain’t nobody ever told ya. But you’ve done good, kid. Course, you had the benefit of my trainin’, which is a huge advantage fer even the below-average Marine.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“I almost wish they’d come back,” I said.

Gunny raised his helmet and looked me straight in the eye.

“Believe me, boy, that is one thing ya don’t want. Ever. Right now they’s doing the smart thing. They know they got us. Why get a bunch of their men killed if they don’t have to? They can drop bombs on us all day long. Make everybody as jumpy as a cat on roller skates. Old Yamamoto knows if reinforcements don’t get here, all they gotta do is wait. They skirmish. Get us shootin’ at their planes outta frustration, till we run out of ammo. Then they can walk right up the beach and all we’ll be able to do is chuck coconuts at ’em. If we ain’t ate all of ’em by then.”

“Then what do we do?”

Gunny was quiet a minute. “We’re makin’ it out of here one of two ways. We’re either goin’ out feetfirst or wavin’ the white flag. And to tell ya true, I ain’t quite sure which way is best. The first way ain’t nobody got no control over. But the other . . . Ya gotta find a place way down deep in yer soul. A place ain’t nobody can go to but you. Not me, not Jamison, just you. gotta make a promise when yer in that place to make it through whatever comes. No matter what happens to any other leatherneck stuck on this miserable patch of dirt. We’re facin’ an enemy that ain’t just fightin’ for land or rights or on account of we took somethin’ belonged to ’em. We’re fightin’ ’em because they hate us. And if we surrender they’s gonna hate us even more.”

“What do you mean? Why would they hate us? If we surrender, don’t they win?”

Gunny sat up and wiped his forehead with his arm. “With some other enemy maybe that’d be true. But the Japanese got a code. A buddy a mine worked maintenance with the Flyin’ Tigers over in China before this shootin’ match started. Says the Japanese don’t believe in surrender. Goes back to when they still had them samurai in the old days. It’s called Bushido, and one of the rules of the code is ‘no surrender.’ They fight to the death. And when an enemy surrenders, it means they’s less than human. Not worthy of honor or fair treatment or any of that other hooey. So if we surrender it’s gonna get way worse than anything you seen on the beach. We’ve all gotta find a way to live through it, kid. Promise me. No matter what happens, ya gotta find a way.”

I gulped, and as hot as it was, felt myself sweating even more. “, Gunny, I pro—”

I was interrupted by the abrupt return of Jamison. He came charging back into the foxhole, slid down the side of the sandbags, and landed in a heap.

“Tell me ya found a boat, Jams,” Gunny said.

Jamison could hardly breathe. He’d obviously been running for a while.

“Word just came down, Gunny. Wainwright surrendered. We’re to lay down arms.”

end of excerpt

Prisoner of War

by Michael P. Spradlin

is available in the following formats:

Jul 9, 2023



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