The Great Raid
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 26 Mar 2014
At the start of the Pacific War, the Americans in the Philippines were unprepared for war. Some of those who survived the death march and brutal imprisonment unwillingly played a part in one of the greatest rescue operations conducted by the US Army toward the end of the war, and author William Breuer presented its history in The Great Raid.
Despite the book's title, only the final pages of the book were actually devoted to the raid itself. The author began with the opening days of the war, focusing on the gallantry of the doomed defense; the author painstakingly discussed that while Douglas MacArthur had a myriad of personality flaws, he had been inaccurately blamed for spreading the false rumors of incoming reinforcement, and that those false rumors came from the mouth of Franklin Roosevelt. Moving into the occupation years, Breuer introduced a cast of resistance fighters who fought the Japanese in each of their own ways, whether it was with a pistol or with a high slit dress. Once he moved into the raid itself, the formation and training of the Alamo Scouts did not escape the pages, while the raid itself was told in an exciting manner. The book's biggest weakness was its one-sidedness, telling the story entirely from the American (and Filipino) perspective, while a bias against the Japanese lurked skin deep, thus making me group The Great Raid with memoirs rather than with actual histories. Finally, for a book published so recently, I found that while the author might have conducted new interviews with the Cabanatuan camp survivors, no new historical fact had been uncovered.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. I could not quite put my finger on the reason, but Patrick Lawlor's reading voice somehow gave me the feeling that it matched the author's writing style very well. Lawlor's reading speed and clarity was fine, but his pronunciation of Japanese names was a bit off.
The Great Raid was a quick and fun read, but I would rank this work of Breuer's lower than other books I had previously read about the Cabanatuan raid.
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939