Evan Thomas is the author of The Very Best Men: Four Who Dared: The Early Years of the C.I.A.; Robert Kennedy: His Life; The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst and the Rush to Empire, 1989; Sea of Thunder: The Last Great Naval Command, 1941-1945; and John Paul Jones. His most recent book is Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World.
On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss, a blow that destroyed the offensive power of their fleet. Pacific Crucible—through a dramatic narrative relying predominantly on primary sources and eyewitness accounts of heroism and sacrifice from both navies—tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history to seize the strategic initiative.
In February 1945, as the U.S. victory in the Pacific drew nearer, the Japanese army grew desperate, and its soldiers guarding U.S. and Allied POWs more sadistic. Starved, shot and beaten, many of the 2,146 prisoners of the Los Baños prison camp in the Philippines—most of them American men, women and children—would not survive much longer unless rescued soon.
Deeply concerned about the half-starved and ill-treated prisoners, General Douglas MacArthur assigned to the 11th Airborne Division a dangerous rescue mission deep behind enemy lines that became a deadly race against the clock. The Los Baños raid would become one of the greatest triumphs of that war or any war; hailed years later by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell: “I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid. It is the textbook operation for all ages and all armies.”
Combining personal interviews, diaries, correspondence, memoirs, and archival research, Rescue at Los Baños tells the story of a remarkable group of prisoners—whose courage and fortitude helped them overcome hardship, deprivation, and cruelty—and of the young American soldiers and Filipino guerrillas who risked their lives to save them.