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Surviving The Sword: Prisoners of the Japanese 1942-45

Brian MacArthur

4 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, History

Magisterial history of the Japanese prisoner-of-war experience, a gut-wrenching narrative that resonates to this day.

Many of the prisoners held by the Japanese during the WWII were so scarred by their experiences that they could not discuss them even with their families. They believed that their brutal treatment was, literally, incomprehensible. But some prisoners were determined that posterity should know how they were starved and beaten, marched almost to death or transported on hellships , used as slave labour - most notoriously on the Burma-Thailand railway - and how thousands died from tropical diseases. They risked torture or execution to draw and write diaries that they hid wherever they could, sometimes burying them in the graves of lost comrades. The diaries tell of inhumanity and degradation, but there are also inspirational stories of courage, comradeship and compassion. When men have unwillingly plumbed the depths of human misery, said one prisoner, the artist Ronald Searle, they form a silent understanding of what solidarity, friendship and kindness to others can mean. The diaries and interviews with surviving prisoners drawn on in SURVIVING THE SWORD will tell a new generation about that solidarity, friendship and kindness.

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Praise for Surviving The Sword: Prisoners of the Japanese 1942-45

  • Brian MacArthur has made a significant contribution to the literature of the war in the Far East, which is still much less known to us than the matching struggle in Europe - SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

  • MacArthur does justice to these men. He lays bare the horrors, so awful that, reading of them, one is amazed that there were any survivors. But he also pays tribute to the courage the vast majority showed in their determination not to die, and especially to the work of their doctors and medical staff, improvising ways of carrying out operations in appalling conditions. Excerpts from the diaries that some of them managed to keep make you realise that the Japanese camps, like the Nazi death camps, were all that we have imagined of ell translated to the surface of the Earth and made reality. There are pages of this book that will bring tears to your eyes, tears evoked by horror pity and often admiration - Allan Massie, TIMES

  • Commendably, in this first essay into military history, he has allowed the voices of these veterans of the Far East Prisoners of War Association to speak to us directly across the 60-year void; they echo from the mouth of a tropical hell with an awful eloquence...a deeply moving read - John Crossland, SUNDAY TIMES

  • Brian MacArthur s compelling story of the extraordinary suffering of British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners of the Japanese provides excruciating detail...the capacity of men to inflict misery on each other is almost balanced by their ability to find little pleasures in the most terrible of circumstances - TLS

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Brian MacArthur

Brian MacArthur works for the Daily Telegraph, having for worked many years as an executive editor on The Times. He is the editor of THE PENGUIN BOOK OF 20TH-CENTURY SPEECHES and THE PENGUIN BOOK OF HISTORIC SPEECHES among others.
Author Location: London and Norfolk

SURVIVING THE SWORD (978 0 349 11937 3)

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