cover image Captured


Frances B. Cogan. University of Georgia Press, $44.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-8203-2117-2

The U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII is well-known, but this captivating history depicts a virtually unknown tale: the story of Japan's wartime imprisonment of Americans living in the Philippines. More than 5000 Americans were living on the U.S.-controlled island when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and when the U.S. military--in accordance with previous strategic plans--did not fight the Japanese invasion of the island in 1941, the Americans were fair game. Through her use of prisoners' diaries, Cogan turns this history into compelling drama. While the Japanese invasion took the mostly upper-class Americans living on the island by surprise, some families were still able to go into hiding and avoid captivity for nearly two years. Cogan demonstrates in straightforward, lucid prose how, once the Americans were captured and interned, their once-comfortable lives devolved into subsistence. She carefully avoids both understatement and exaggeration, noting, for instance, the kindness shown by some guards. The life she describes is worse than that suffered by Japanese-Americans in the U.S. camps--adequate rations and medical treatment were not available, and there was occasional torture and death--but it still appears to be markedly better than that suffered by most prisoners in Nazi camps. As the end of the war neared in 1945, however, conditions deteriorated, and starvation and death became more common. As one nurse said, ""The tremendously active kids that used to tear around the campus like savages were now little old men and women. Hollow-eyed, skinny, and listless, they sat around and talked about food."" An epilogue tracing the struggles and triumphs faced by the survivors after liberation completes this original addition to WWII history. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)