Long Hard Road: American POWs During World War II
Scores of World War II POWs offer lessons of wartime as they remember the terror and hardship of their days in captivity.
Between 1941 and 1945 more than 110,000 American marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors were taken prisoner by German, Italian, and Japanese forces. Most who fought overseas during World War II weren’t prepared for capture, or for the life-altering experiences of incarceration, torture, and camaraderie bred of hardship that followed. Their harrowing story—often overlooked in Greatest Generation narratives—is told here by the POWs themselves.
Long hours of inactivity followed by moments of sheer terror. Slave labor, death marches, the infamous hell ships. Historian Thomas Saylor pieces together the stories of nearly one hundred World War II POWs to explore what it was like to be the “guest” of the Axis Powers and to reveal how these men managed to survive. Gunner Bob Michelsen bailed out of his wounded B-29 near Tokyo, only to endure days of interrogation and beatings and months as a “special prisoner” in a tiny cell home to seventeen other Americans. Medic Richard Ritchie spent long moments of terror locked with dozens of others in an unmarked boxcar that was repeatedly strafed by Allied forces. In the closing chapter to this moving narrative, the men speak of their difficult transition to life back home, where many sought—not always successfully—to put their experience behind them.
- By: Thomas Saylor
- Format: Paperback, 324 pages, 6X9, 50 b&w illustrations
- Publisher: MNHS Press (Paperback edition Feb. 15, 2017)
- Paperback ISBN: 9781681340562
Thomas Saylor is an associate professor of history and the director of the Faculty Scholarship Center at Concordia University in St. Paul. He is the author of Remembering the Good War: Minnesota’s Greatest Generation (MHS Press).
Related Links Read personal stories from World War II online at Minnesota's Greatest Generation.