Given Up For Dead by Bill Sloan


367 - Tuesday, 23 December 2003:

Meanwhile, starting Given Up for Dead by Bill Sloan, about the Siege of Wake Island. Leafing through it, pp. 243-244:

"To hell with gallant last stands like the Little Big Horn," Poindexter said later. "The Marine Corps had taught me that the only way to accomplish anything is to take the offensive. If we were going to fight ‘to the very last man,' we might as well die on the attack."

Within minutes, the Japanese - who hadn't bothered to dig in because they thought they were on the offensive - were retreating in disarray....

Later, pg. 245:

"A few of the civilians had no weapons to bring with them, but they lugged bags of grenades and as much extra ammo as they could carry. Others sported a weird assortment of hunting rifles, shotguns, target pistols, and .38 revolvers retrieved from the ruins of the Pan Am Hotel...."

Gawd. Must- put- book- down. I'll be reading it on purpose later!

368 - Wednesday, 24 December 2003:

While waiting for film time, reading Given Up for Dead. "Alamo of the Pacific" is no exaggeration. Sixteen Days of Glory! Jacket blurb says the author is working on a story of another little-known WWII Pacific battle.

Wake Island is "little-known"? I've heard of it before. But then I'm an American, as opposed to the sorry excuses for citizens we've got these days. For example, on pg. 19:

Airline officials even tried to utilize Wake's boisterous, burgeoning rat population as a form of entertainment. Clipper passengers were given a pamphlet called "Welcome to Wake," which invited them to pick up air rifles at the Pan Am office and join nightly rat-hunting expeditions....

Page 68:

More than 150 civilians, some of them military veterans like [Pan Am construction superintendent Nathan Dan] Teters himself, had been training voluntarily to work and fight alongside the Marines in case of emergency. Now Teters offered to round up all these volunteers and put them at [Marine garrison commander Major James P.S.] Devereux's disposal....

Library has the 1942 film, put it on hold. What the hell has happened to this country? We've degenerated from a nation of Heroes to one of SNIVELING WORTHLESS COWARDS!

370 - Friday, 26 December 2003:

Page 246:

...ENEMY ON ISLAND. ISSUE IN DOUBT.

About 7:00 A.M. Wake time [the morning of 23 December 1941], with the issue still very much in doubt, CinCPac ordered [Rear Admiral Frank Jack] Fletcher's Task Force 14 to reverse its course and return to Pearl [Harbor]. On the flight deck of the [aircraft carrier USS] Saratoga, Marine aviators beat their fists against the wings of their planes, and some wept openly. On the bridge of the cruiser Astoria, Fletcher's flagship, some of the admiral's staff pleaded with him to disregard the order and push on. Rear Admiral A. W. Fitch found the talk so mutinous and himself in such total agreement with its tone that he had to excuse himself and leave the bridge. Aboard the seaplane tender Tangier, replacement Marine ground troops cursed the "chickenshit" Navy for "selling out" their comrades.

I haven't seen the film in years but obviously much propagandistic license was taken with it. Page 252:

Simply stated, the Marines on Wake were smarter, tougher, and more capable than their commander realized. Contrary to what Devereux believed, Potter's defenders were actually on the attack and moving forward - as was every other major American unit on Wake proper and Wilkes [a smaller island to the west, separated by a narrow channel] at this moment. [The Japanese landing on Wilkes Island was wiped out, "The Victory Nobody Noticed," by a counterattack led by USMC Captain Wesley McCoy Platt on the morning of 23 December.]

I highly recommend this book and will keep an eye out for Bill Sloan's next work. You couldn't cram this into a two-hour film, or even a three-and-a-half hour one, this is more like a full-season "mini"series, and then Hollywood would screw it all up anyway, unless they did like Mel Gibson in The Passion, with a quest for authenticity, genuine directorial control and all-unknown actors so the audience could concentrate on the story. But Hollywood was trying, as I understand it, to suppress that film, which Gibson apparently made largely out of his own pocket. I haven't seen the film and am not religious enough to want to, but reviews and discussion are on the patriot lists, with which there is much crossover with Christian lists.

In the thoroughly-researched history book, for which the author interviewed both American and Japanese survivors, the Japanese invaders bayonetted captured civilian construction workers in the testicles, in the hope that their screams would cause the defending Marines to reveal themselves. Hollywood would probably have Ben Affleck doing the stabbing on some mild-mannered Japanese medic or company clerk. There'd probably be some oppressed native population and idyllic environment laid waste too (Wake has no native inhabitants and, starting in 1568, the first several mariners or explorers to discover or rediscover the place declared it "useless"), suffering the brutality of nasty ol' Amurican whitey.

371 - Saturday, 27 December 2003:

Given Up for Dead, pp. 322-3: Sub-Lieutenant Shigeyoshi Ozeki by all accounts did much to alleviate the suffering of the American prisoners after the controversial surrender, and was probably directly responsible for the survival of PFC Wiley Sloman, who suffered a gruesome head wound on the final day of the siege, 23 December. The book also contains a photo of Sloman and Dr. Ozeki at a 1995 reunion. Captain Morita Matsuda of the Japanese propaganda corps is also mentioned for his efforts to allow the prisoners to send letters home. "There are princes and curs in every folk and nation."

But some nations have them in different proportions. Reading about the POWs' four-year ordeal is enough to start the war all over again. "Many of the food packages shipped to the POWs by the International Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese...." "Letters and packages from the States were routinely pilfered, destroyed, or held in limbo for months...." This is besides the regular beatings, torture, starvation, disease, deadly slave-labor, and occasional beheading, of course. And let's not forget the hundred-odd civilian construction workers left on Wake as prisoners of Japan's garrison there. Most of these civilians were massacred with machinegun fire on 7 October 1943, on orders from garrison commandant Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara, who confessed that he also personally hacked to death the sole survivor of the massacre. (Sakaibara was later tried, convicted, and hung.)

Author figures that enemy combat fatalities during the siege outnumbered American deaths by thirteen to one. I believe the Alamo only claimed three-to-one. Included in that 13:1 figure are two Japanese destroyers and one submarine sunk, two destroyer-transports blasted to scrap ("not technically sunk") after deliberately running aground to deliver troops, at least five other ships disabled or damaged, and 21 to 29 enemy aircraft destroyed. Japanese sources, known for under-reporting their own losses, indicate about twice that number of aircraft lost in the siege. Perhaps most exasperating is the fact that Admiral Kimmel, scapegoat of Pearl Harbor, had a relief force en route which could would have arrived in time to make the difference. Author suggests Kimmel has been mistreated by history, I may have to look into that.

Probably won't enjoy the 1942 film as much, now.


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