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

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  24,333 Ratings  ·  1,116 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

(showing 1-30)
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Jesse Whitehead
Mar 24, 2010 Jesse Whitehead rated it it was amazing
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
Steven Z.
Sep 08, 2016 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing
After reading Hampton Sides’ GHOST STORIES: THE FORGOTTEN EPIC STORY OF WORLD WAR II’S MOST DRAMATIC MISSION that deals with the treatment of American POWs by the Japanese during World War II it fosters the bizarre wonderment about people’s inhumanity toward people. Hampton Sides, the author of numerous books that include IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE and HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL, concentrates on the January, 1945 rescue of 513 American and British POWs from the hellish Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in ...more
Jim
Feb 04, 2017 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was aware of the Bataan Death March but did not know anything about the daring rescue mission to liberate 513 prisoners of the Cabanatuan POW camp where many of the survivors were imprisoned. The time is the end of January 1945. The United States Army is advancing in the Philippines and the retreating Japanese have already executed American prisoners elsewhere. 121 hand-picked troops from the elite Army 6th Ranger Battalion are selected to slip behind enemy lines and march 30 miles to Cabanatu ...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
Jill Hutchinson
If this book is on your TBR list, move it to the top. If it isn't on your list, add it!! It is simply excellent as it tells the story of the Bataan Death March, those survivors who ended up in Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines, and the subsequent greatest rescue mission of World War II.

Most reader of WWII history are familiar with the brave and seemingly impossible mission taken on by US Rangers and Filipino guerrillas and this book fleshes out our knowledge as well as introducing some of
...more
Alice
Jul 09, 2010 Alice rated it it was amazing
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)
-----

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
Sweetwilliam
Feb 02, 2015 Sweetwilliam rated it it was amazing
"You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners"

Ghost Soldiers is about a US Ranger mission to liberate a POW camp in WWII during the reconquest of the Philippines. The US Army high command felt It was imperative to liberate the camp before the retreating Imperial Japanese Army unburdened themselves of their prisoners. The POWs were survivors of Bataan and Corregidor, the Bataan death march, and 3 years captivity in a prison run by the Japanese. The Japanese were brutal captors and
...more
Book Concierge
Book on CD performed by James Naughton

From the book jacket On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty miles in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POWs who had spent three years in a surreally hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March. …. Elsewhere in the Philippines, the Japanese Army had already
...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
Jul 25, 2011 Linda Munro rated it it was amazing
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
Bruce
Feb 16, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate
Jul 01, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, wwii
Very engaging narrative, that covers the fall of Bataan, the 'Bataan Death March' and the internment of POWs captured by the Japanese into Camp O'Donnell, know also as Camp Cabanatuan. This is a story about the rescue of the final remaining 530 prisoners who were rescued after information came out that the Japanese were slaughtering POWs as the war was drawing to an end. The men that were to perform this rescue were the Army's new category of soldier, the Rangers. It also covered the courageous ...more
Joy Magno
Oct 03, 2013 Joy Magno rated it it was amazing
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
Natasha
May 03, 2015 Natasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, world-war-ii
I taught a class on WWII a few years ago so read many WWII historical accounts. This was one of my favorites. It tells the story of the Bataan Death March and their subsequent imprisonment. Hampton Sides tells their story expertly, in a way that helps you re-live it with them. He shares many amazing stories. I've summarized one of my favorites below.

***Spoiler alert***
December 1944

The survivors of the Bataan Death March were desperately hoping they would be liberated from their POW camp in the
...more
Jerome
Feb 09, 2012 Jerome rated it it was amazing
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
George Bradford
Jul 08, 2011 George Bradford rated it it was amazing
Shelves: truth, america, heroes
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
Paul
Nov 02, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing
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
Zarah
Feb 27, 2013 Zarah rated it it was amazing
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
Nate
Jan 25, 2009 Nate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Erik Graff
Dec 15, 2015 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Better than the movie, this is an account of the largest allied prisoner escape of WWII. Well written and suspenseful, it's a gripping narrative. Although some of the prisoners are believably portrayed, the story gives little background as regards the Japanese invasion of the islands and virtually no insight into the character of the Japanese themselves. Furthermore, although playing a vital role in events, even the Huk nationalists are left as shadowy, alien characters. Everything is strictly f ...more
Edwin Priest
Nov 17, 2016 Edwin Priest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Tense, poignant and personal, this book recounts the story of the daring rescue of the Bataan Death March survivors from their Japanese POW camp on the Philippines by an elite group of Army Rangers. Hampton Sides deftly flips the narration between the Rangers and their native Filipino supporters and the POWs themselves, thereby telling the terrible and yet heroic story in its' entirety. It is filled with personal anecdotes and back stories that truly make it all too real. 5 stars.
Regina Lindsey
“One other thing. There’ll be no atheists on this trip…I want you to swear an oath before God. Swear that you’ll die fighting rather than let any harm come to those prisoners.”

On January 29, 1945, the U.S. Sixth Army, with support from Filipino guerillas, launched a rescue of 500 prisoners who remained at Camp Cabanatuan, the largest continuously running POW camp in the Philippines and the largest POW camp ever established on foreign soil. The camp held what remained of survivors of Bataan and C
...more
Aimee
Jan 19, 2009 Aimee rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 29, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Allan
Feb 03, 2009 Allan rated it really liked it
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
Amber
Jul 04, 2012 Amber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Zachary
Jan 06, 2017 Zachary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very reminiscent of "Unbroken." To be fair, I read Unbroken first and they take place in the same time and place, Japanese POW camps in 1942-1945. I enjoyed this book and it was an emotional journey. From the depths of despair during brutal internment to the joy of a daring rescue mission. A great historical example of the range of human emotion, and a story not widely known.
Martha Sargent
Feb 29, 2016 Martha Sargent rated it it was amazing
Although not drawn to stories of war, I could not put down this book. Hampton Sides tells the story well, with excellent pacing and blend of general information with personal stories. What an incredible tale, even as it is such a sad one.
Abbey Deffenbaugh
May 20, 2017 Abbey Deffenbaugh rated it it was amazing
This is not a genre that I typically read so it felt slow at times but it is a great, well told account of this WWII mission.
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Narrative History 4 55 Feb 24, 2012 10:37PM  
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“These men suffered enough for a hundred lifetimes, and no one in this country should be allowed to forget it.” 11 likes
“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
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