Non-Book Review: Captured: The Forgotten Men of Guam

Captured: The Forgotten Men of Guam, by Roger Mansell, Edited by Linder Goetz Holmes

It is rare that one finds an example of an aspect of World War II that has been forgotten. In the thousands of books on World War II, almost every aspect of the war has been covered over and over and over again. This book greatly intrigued me because I had never heard anything about the story of the men who had been captured at Guam and their grim fates as Japanese prisoners of war. Indeed, the cruelty of the Japanese is not something that is particularly well known by many many casual readers of World War II history, as the rehabilitation of the Japanese emperor and the postwar rise of the Japanese economy (and its focus on quality) have made Japan seem more praiseworthy as a culture than actually is the case. This book, from what I have seen of it, makes a troubling connection between the cruelty of the Japanese to the prisoners of Guam and other places and the present cruelty of Japanese youth towards the homeless and other weak. It would appear that the lack of Christianity within Japan and the cruel, bullying attitude that the Japanese have towards those who are weak and vulnerable is related, and that this dark strain remains in Japanese culture, which is a worrisome conclusion to draw.

Roger Mansell, the author of this book, who worked on the manuscript for ten years before he died (and before his work was edited posthumously by Linda Goetz Holmes), apparently did not know anything about the captured prisoners of war of Guam either until his research into and interviews of American prisoners of war, and the absence of any treatment of the prisoners of Guam in particular (as opposed to the prisoners of Singapore and Bataan and other places) led him to desire to create a book to fill that void. From the looks of the book so far, this book appears to meet his aims as well as comment on the present implications of the Japanese behavior to the prisoners of war of the little island of Guam, both among the Americans and the native population of the island, it should be noted.

Captured, which comes in at about 200 pages of text, along with a little more than 40 pages of notes and indices and supporting bibliography, has 26 chapters along with an afterward that compares the World War II behavior of the Japanese to present-day Japanese behavior. These chapters are roughly chronological, and include accounts of the local Chamorro people as well as accounts of different prisoner of war camps within Japan and other places, and the effect of American military actions on the prisoners of war, including their repatriation after victory. Despite the grim subject material of the book, my interest in finding out a forgotten aspect of World War II, and my own interest into the continuing pathology of Nazi/fascist beliefs in nations that were part of the Axis (including Japan and Thailand) leads me to think that this will be a very useful book indeed for my own research purposes, and I am pleased that Mr. Mansell devoted the last ten years of his life to this work. It is my hope and belief that the work will honor the devoted labor he put into it and serve to honor the forgotten men who were captured in Guam and whose story is unknown even now, though hopefully not after this book becomes more widely known.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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