Gregory Hall’s father served as a paratrooper in the U. S. Army Airborne division that liberated the Japanese Internment Camp at Los Banos in the Philippines where more than 2,000 American, Australian, and British civilians were being held.
Not Forgotten (Trafford, 504 pp., $37.25, hardcover; $31, paper; $9.99, Kindle) is a novel about this event—“a compilation of a number of years of research and the cooperation of numerous individuals who deserve recognition,” Hall, a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, tells us.
The author is a former Army 82nd Airborne paratrooper. Not Forgotten “has been a work of passion” for him. The desire to write it, he says, goes back to 1976 when he was stationed at Fort Bragg. His father, like many World War II veterans, rarely talked about the war. Hall took advantage of being in an airborne division and began researching his father’s unit. The day that the prisoners were rescued was February 23, 1945, the same day the American flag was raised on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima by the U. S. Marines.
This enthralling novel carefully introduces the reader to the characters we’ll get to know much better in the next few hundred pages. These people come alive on the page. Most are clueless that war with Japan is a few days away and that they will be heavily involved in it. The author well communicates the security and entitlement of Americans in the Philippines—the women caught up in the excitement of shopping for dresses, for example, just a short time before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor—and then the Philippines.
I’ve read many accounts of how the Japanese treated prisoners of war during World War II. This novel does a good job with that. There are many beheadings and other unnecessary acts of cruelty by the Japanese. The novel also shows that all the Allied prisoners were not ennobled by being captives. There was some compassion and kindness along with much cruelty on their part, too.
The book leads up to the liberation of the camp, done in just the nick of time, as the Japanese were preparing a site for a mass grave for the prisoners. The heroic rescue is well-portrayed and exciting. There is a History Channel documentary on the liberation. I hope to get to see it one day. Gregory Hall was much involved in preparing that doc, so I am certain it is well worth seeing.
I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to those interested in a historical depiction of the cruelty of war, leavened with some small kindness.
The author’s website is www.notfogottennovel.com