Henry Chamberlain was one of the longest-term prisoners of war in World War II. Taken prisoner in the American surrender at Bataan in April 1942, he remained in Japanese captivity until September 1945. During three and a half years of imprisonment, as a medic he was a unique and unfortunate witness to the horrors and terrors the Japanese inflicted on their prisoners during the Bataan Death March and at the notorious Cabanatuan prison camp, where for two years he tended to the sick and wounded, all too often without medicine. In October 1944 the Japanese put Chamberlain on a “hell ship” to forced labor in sugar cane fields in Formosa (now Taiwan) and again, in January 1945, to a Mitsubishi lead and copper mine in Japan. U.S. military forces reached the camp in September 1945, liberating Chamberlain and his fellow soldiers.
Chamberlain’s is a story of excruciating hardship, abiding endurance, and transcendent courage, and writer Claire Swedberg tells it beautifully, with great style and deep pathos, from Chamberlain’s fraught Depression-era boyhood in Nebraska, through his World War II captivity, to his return to Japan in 2018. Like Adam Makos’s Spearhead and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, this is the account of one man fighting for and with his fellow soldiers against the forces of war in the twentieth-century.
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