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Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  18,359 ratings  ·  880 reviews
On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. A recent prison massacre by Japanese soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines made the stakes impossibly high and left litt ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published May 7th 2002 by Anchor (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Jesse Whitehead
The Bataan Death March is one of the most shameful acts in human history. In 1942 General Edward P. King Jr., against orders from General MacArthur, surrendered 75,000 troops to the Japanese army infiltrating the Philippines. This act concluded the Battle of Bataan and forced MacArthur to withdraw his own troops, vowing to return and free, not only his soldiers, but the Philippines from Japanese control.

The result was the Bataan Death March. The Japanese marched the prisoners 60 miles through th
...more
A.L. Sowards
An amazing true story, well told.

As Allied forces in the Philippines begin pushing the Japanese from Luzon island, the US Army hears of the Japanese massacring POWs. Next at risk: Cabanatuan prison camp, where about 500 prisoners (mostly American) are being held. Those who remain are the men who were too sick to be shipped elsewhere for use as slave labor. They’re ghost soldiers: starved, diseased, and doomed.

Without time for much preparation, a group of US Army Rangers sets out for a jail brea
...more
Alice
Although I know this is a great book - I am really struggling through it. I am so hurt and offended by the treatment of soldiers during wartime I can't bear to turn another page. :( I'm going to try though (june)
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I finally finished it. (july)

When I was younger and would watch SciFi - I noticed that every time there was a peaceful alien visit - it would be always be said that the alien culture was so advanced compared to ours - and no longer warred. I didn't understand how that comparison wou
...more
Sarah
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this well written account of the rescue of the POWs of the Bataan Death March and the Rangers who rescued them. Hampton Sides writes so beautifully as he transitions back and forth between the rescue efforts, over the period of a few days, to accounting the years that the POWs experienced. Even though some of what happened in this book is difficult to read for the sheer horror of what the POWs faced, the author brings this event to life again, assuring those who read t ...more
Bruce
Born in 1943, I have no direct memories of the events of or public reaction in the United States to World War II. True, over the years I have gleaned a general understanding of the history of that war, much of it from Winston Churchill’s multi-volume The Second World War. Other than that I must confess to a lack of burning curiosity leading to a deeper knowledge and understanding of that conflict. Now, however, facing a trip to the southwest Pacific in another month, I find myself with many ques ...more
Michael
Outstanding account of the raid to save the survivors of the Bataan Death March. Sides' compelling prose make the narrative read like a novel, with effective pacing of the heroic actions by this early cadre of Army Rangers alternating with the human stories of the survivors and their liberators.

Of the nearly 80,000 who surrendered to the Japanese in the Bataan peninsula in 1942, about 600 Americans and 5-10 thousand Filipinos died on the three week forced March north to a camp in central Luzon.
...more
Linda Munro
My father, "Pa" died 13 years ago, I spent my entire life shadowing him; I knew I was loved and I knew I was the favorite; yet there were things about him I didn't know. The part of his life that most shaped Pa was the years he spent on the Pacific Theater during WWII. In an attempt to understand my father to a greater extent, I chose to start reading books concerning the Pacific Theater....'Ghost Soldiers' was my first.......

When most people think of WWII they think of Nazi's, the Holocaust, an
...more
Aimee
This is a great book about the Americans in the Pacific during World War 2. It begins with the troops that were fighting the Japanese in the Philippines and their abandonment by McArthur as the Japanese slowly took over the island. It discusses the Bataan Death March, a forced march to the POW camps the troops were kept. The conditions of the camps the POW's had to live in are discussed in great detail also. The Sides goes into how the rescue mission came about...the reason behind it, the decisi ...more
Heather
Once again, I’m made to realize just how much I don’t know about the Pacific theater of WWII. But I’m learning! This was a great book…very well written. It tells the story of a rescue mission that took place in the Philippines during WWII in which a group of US Rangers were sent in to rescue POW’s from a Japanese prison camp. These POW’s had been in the camp for three years and were the remaining survivors of the Bataan Death March. The story alternates between the POW’s point of view and that o ...more
Nate
Yet another WWII story that makes you say: "where did they find the courage to do this?", and "only Americans would do this". After being abandoned in Bataan and Corregidor, most American soldiers eventually made there way into Cabanatuan prison camp where they were ritualistically beaten down by Japanese guards, disease and malnutrition. As liberation became more of a certainty, a desperate and frantic Japanese Army ordered the slaughter of all POWs, basically to "hide the evidence". 500 mostly ...more
Paul
More than simply a story about the raid that liberated the prison camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines in early 1945, this book does a great job in letting the reader who may not be aware of the whole background learn about why it was important to liberate the camp (before the Japanese killed the prisoners or sent them all to Japan); about the nature of the resistance (including expatriated Filipinos and other civilians and their activities and the factions who were in support of the U.S. and t ...more
Susanhayeshotmail.com
Four plus stars. An amazing tale told very well.

I am always looking for books and stories to fill in the woeful gaps in my history education. I had a couple of very good history teachers but there's just so much history and so little time. One of those woeful gaps is the Pacific theater of WWII. Not to make light of serious things irreverently but it was a big war, a world war after all, lots of ground to cover and as far as history classes in school went it was pretty much the Reader's Digest
...more
Zarah
This is the kind of history I love.
I know some or maybe a lot may be not all that accurate, but I love the personal aspect of the story.
And that's what I mean by 'the kind of history'. I love the grandpa-telling-me-about-his-time-in-war affect.

This story definitely drew me in. It made me want to weep for each and every soldier that had to suffer through this, and ask them how they did it.

Just the fact that these events actually occurred, made the story so emotional- and obviously tragic.

But
...more
David
Though the title claims to be an account of the rescue mission, the author spends a great deal of the time dealing with what is often termed as the Bataan death march and the subsequent squallid and diseased condition of the POWs in a Japanese POW camp in World War II Philippines. While the details are fascinating, horrifying, etc. the real focus is the deplorable conditions of the camp, rampant with disease and starvation, and rather than outright cruelty, primarily just terrible neglect from t ...more
George Bradford
This may be the greatest war story ever written. It's certainly the best World War II story I've ever read. And if asked "What's the one book I should read about the United State's experience in World War II in the Pacific?" I would not hesitate to answer "Ghost Soldiers" by Hampton Sides.

In 1942 the Japanese military routed the United States. Douglas MacArthur retreated and the U.S. surrendered the Philippines. For the Americans left behind the horrific misery was just beginning.

Hampton Sides d
...more
Jerome
Three things struck me as I read Hampton Sides "Ghost Soldiers". First, as a young boy I read an account of the Bataan Death March which, I believe, is one of the references cited in the author's acknowledgements. Ghost Soldiers brought back memories of the incredible suffering of the American and Filipino prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese. Mr. Sides tries to justify the actions of the General Masaharu Homma and the troops under his command. He doesn't succeed and he ignores the fact ...more
Steve
If the events in Hampton Sides book Ghosts Soldiers werent backed up by historical documentation and a number of surviving eyewitnesses, some might have a hard time believing it ever happened. It reads like an old John Wayne movie, chock-full of colorful military leaders, hardened and eager fighters, a few truly evil villains and a daring, frighteningly perilous WWII rescue mission. Part of the reason it almost feels like a movie is Sides, a contributing editor for Outside magazine, who tells th ...more
Grace
'Ghost Soldiers' is an exciting account of the rescue of American POWs of WWII being held by the Japanese in prison camps in the Philippines. I listened to this story on audio and it was such a touching story, that it had me close to tears on more than one occasion.

It is such a gratifying feeling to know that there are people out there in this world who truly care about their fellow men. The Army Rangers and the Filipino guerrillas who went on this rescue mission risked everything to rescue the
...more
Mark Soone
I flirted with the idea of 5 stars for this book, but it landed just shy. I have been on a historical fiction/non fiction kick recently and the War in the pacific has just started gaining my attention. I felt this was vastly superior to Tears in the Darkness or perhaps better worded personally more enjoyable and enriching. The writing style connected better with me, and I sensed a more personal touch and felt that I could see and feel what was being described as opposed to cursory information wi ...more
Jeff
Apr 13, 2012 Jeff rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: wwii
A quick read for me. Ghost Soldiers didn't seem as detailed a POW story as the other WWII POW story I recently read, UnbrokenUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, perhaps because this focused on a group of POWs and their rescuers, rather than on an individual. In some of the language Sides uses, I felt this book wasn't so much a recent publication, but more in line with something published in the 60's or 70's. Maybe not as much detail in some cases, and a more fl ...more
Joy Magno
One of the best books I've read my entire life!

My late grandfather was a Filipino soldier and survivor of the Death March during WWII. I really wanted to know what went on during that time because no one in my family could really tell me what he went through as he never spoke about it.

This book told me why he couldn't speak of it: It was so atrocious and traumatizing, he probably didn't want to relive that horrible nightmare. This tells the story of the brave and resilient American and Filipino
...more
Amber
Reading this book, it's hard to imagine we need a place called Hell.

This saga unfolds the nightmarish true story of American POWs who spent three years as captives of the Japanese in the Philippines, and the heroic, nearly suicidal mission to rescue them.

The author's minute-by-minute narration chronicles the last survivors of the Bataan Death March and the surreal, hellish three years that followed, imprisoned. Hunger, disease, torture and constant fear threatened to send these brave souls over
...more
Allan
Excellent work! Thoroughly researched and written with respect, "Ghost Soldiers" spoke to me about an event I was unfamiliar with. The Bataan Death March is quite familiar to my generation, but the rescue of the surviving POWs in January, 1945, was new.

Sides tells the stories of how all four groups came together - the Imperial Japanese Army with its Bushido code equating surrender with cowardice, the 600-odd survivors of the March who were awaiting execution when rescue came, the U. S. Army Rang
...more
Gina
I feel badly about giving this book only three stars because it is a well written book; however, I had to begin my skim and scan technique to get through it because I was having nightmares from the graphic depictions of the Japanese torture of American POW's. I have no idea what possessed me to think I'd enjoy this book- it is definitely written for men who are interested in non fiction war information. Ironically, when I read about Holocaust victims being treated the way they did, I'm no longer ...more
Jefflanham
I thought that this book was an excellent example of how a non fiction book can be generated in a manner that would make it almost seem like a fictional story. The best feature of this book for me was of Hampton was able to take the stories from not only the POW's but also from the Rangers and bring all the stories so they collide with each other at points and than eventually become one larger story. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good non fiction book on World War I ...more
Steve Bomgaars
This is an excellent book on the US Ranger raid on the POW camp in the Philippines to free the survivors of the Bataan Death March. Hampton Sides writes alternately from the perspective of the POW's and the Rangers. Sides gives a vid account of the treatment of the prisoners and the extremely harsh conditions they had to endure. There is heroism on every page - the Rangers, the POW's - the Filipino guerrillas who risked their lives and their families lives for the imprisoned Americans . This is ...more
Amber
This was a great story from history to read.
I really enjoy reading about the events that surrounded the 1940's and world war II.
This was a fascinating look at the first group of Army Rangers (now known as Special Ops), and the rescue of survivors from the Bataan Death March who were being held as POW's.
Every American soldier and prisoner are such hero's!
The things the prisoners lived through really made me re-evaluate (everyday) the blessings and quality of life I take for granted.
If you like h
...more
Jeremy Perron
Ghost Soldiers is duel story of soldiers who were captured in the Philippines, made prisoners of the Japanese for years--many forced to undergo the Bataan Death March--, and the team of soldiers that rescued them. It is a story of human suffering, war, inhumane cruelty, and heroism.

Sides tells a great tale and writes incredible book. Nevertheless the book is a difficult read, and despite being only three hundred pages, it took me almost a month to get through it. The reason it is difficult is no
...more
Terry
This is an amazing story of the effort to rescue American soldiers who survived the Bataan Death March and then spent 30 months in a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. It is a story of resilience and bravery. The Philippines were attacked on the same day as Pearl Harbor (because of the international dateline, Dec. 8, 1941) and the strength of the US air forces was as completely surprised and destroyed at Clark Field in the same way as the navy ships at Pearl Harbor. Approximately ~78,000 Amer ...more
Peter
This is my third experience with a Hampton Sides history (see reviews of “In the Kingdom of Ice” and “Blood and Thunder”) so I opened it with a Pavlovian response of anticipation: his histories are always exceedingly compelling tales of events and times off the normal reading radar screen. Just set aside the off-putting titles (“Blood and Thunder,” really?) and settle in for a good experience.

“Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue” is mix of “Bridge on the River Kwai
...more
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“The War Department in Washington briefly weighed more ambitious schemes to relieve the Americans on a large scale before it was too late. But by Christmas of 1941, Washington had already come to regard Bataan as a lost cause. President Roosevelt had decided to concentrate American resources primarily in the European theater rather than attempt to fight an all-out war on two distant fronts. At odds with the emerging master strategy for winning the war, the remote outpost of Bataan lay doomed. By late December, President Roosevelt and War Secretary Henry Stimson had confided to Winston Churchill that they had regrettably written off the Philippines. In a particularly chilly phrase that was later to become famous, Stimson had remarked, 'There are times when men have to die.” 10 likes
“These men suffered enough for a hundred lifetimes, and no one in this country should be allowed to forget it.” 9 likes
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