Prison of War: A Novel of World War II
Written for readers ages twelve and up, Prisoner of War is the harrowing story of 15-year-old Henry Forrest, who lies about his age to enlist in the Marines to escape his abusive, alcoholic father. Henry winds up in the Philippines on the island of Luzon, his lie uncovered, and on the verge of being returned to the US when the Japanese invade, trapping Henry and his brothers-at-arms on the southern peninsula of Baatan. After surrendering to the Japanese Imperial Army, Henry must “dig deep” to endure horrific brutalities—surviving the Baatan Death March and three years as a prisoner of war.
The Bataan Death March and the conditions in which Allied prisoners of war were held in the Philippines was declared a war crime. Based on historical events, the descriptions of the conditions and horrific treatment of the prisoners are vivid and visceral. Unfortunately, those descriptions come off as a reporting of events and lack substance. Spradlin’s characterizations are one-dimensional; Allied soldiers are portrayed as virtuous and loyal heroes, while the Japanese are all sadistic monsters. Spradlin uses the Japanese ideal of bushido—the code of the samurai including respect, loyalty, and honor until death—to explain the behavior of Japanese, but he does so with little nuance.