Book Review: Bataan Survivor: A POW’s Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II


by David L. Hardee

Columbia: University of Missouri, 2017. Pp. xxx, 290.. Illus., maps, append., notes, index. $50.00. ISBN: 0826220827

A Personal Account of War and Survival

David L. Hardee (1890-1969), joining the Army as an enlisted man during the First World War. Remaining in the service, by 1941 he was a lieutenant colonel on the Army Air Forces staff of Douglas MacArthur’s command, U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. He served in the defense of the Philippines and then spent nearly three years as a prisoner of the Japanese. After the war, he wrote of his experiences for his family.

Hardee opens with a brief account of his early military career. He then spends about a quarter of his memoir on his experiences during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the defense of Bataan. As most American aircraft were destroyed by the Japanese in the first days of the fighting, like most airmen, Hardee ended up on the front lines. After more than two months of fighting, he was captured on the surrender of Bataan and the endured the hardships of the “Death March”

The balance of Hardee’s memoir covers his experiences as a prisoner-of-war. It’s a grim tale, with occasional moments of personal or group triumph, demonstrating how coincidence, luck, ingenuity, and courage combined to help some survive, and others perish; one chapter is titled “A Hernia Saved My Life”. Hardee gives up little pictures of some of his comrades, and even some of the Japanese, a few particularly brutal, others less so, and even friendly. Liberated in early 1945.

After the war, Hardee wrote left memoirs for his family. These eventually came to the attention of Dr. Blazich, of the National Museum of American History, who edited the several versions of Hardee’s writings, provided explanatory notes, and an appendix listing Hardees decorations (The Distinguished Service Cross, and four awards of the Silver Star).

Bataan Survivor offers some comments on the defense of Bataan, and also some interesting insights into the experiences of follows of Hardee and his comrades as they sought to survive under the vagaries and brutalities of imprisonment by the Japanese. A volume in Missouri series “The American Military Experience”, this is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the defense of the Philippines or the experience of being a prisoner-of-war.


Note: Bataan Survivor is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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