12 May 2009

New & Notable - 12th May

Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War
by Bruce M. Petty

The battle for Saipan is remembered as one of the bloodiest battles fought in the Pacific during World War II, and was a turning point on the road to the defeat of Japan. In this work, the survivors—including Pacific Islanders on whose land the Americans and Japanese fought their war—have the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words. The author offers an introduction to the volume and arranges the oral histories by location—Saipan, Yap and Tinian, Rota, Palau Islands, and Guam—in the first half, and by branch of service (Marines, Army, Navy, Airforce & Home Front) in the second half.

Available from:

The Bamboo Cage
The POW Diary of Flight Lieutenant Robert Wyse 1942-43
Edited by Jonathon F. Vance

Robert Wyse enlisted in the RAF in the late 1930s. Too old to be trained as a pilot, he became a flight controller and served throughout the Battle of Britain. In late 1941, his squadron was despatched to the Far East. The Japanese soon invaded, and Robert Wyse, along with tens of thousands of his comrades, became a prisoner of war. Shortly after arriving in his first prison camp, Wyse returned to keeping the diary he had begun en route to the Far East. Although P.O.W.s were forbidden to keep diaries, Wyse persevered and hid his journal, usually in a bamboo pole beside his bed. Over two years, he kept a detailed record of life in various camps in Sumatra, only ending in December of 1943 when it became too dangerous. He buried his notes, intending to return to claim them after the war.

The diary is a remarkably detailed and frank portrayal of life as a prisoner. Wyse was sharply critical of some of his fellow P.O.W.s, either for botching the defence of Java and Sumatra or for failing to provide the proper leadership in captivity. Nor did he hesitate to describe the savage conduct of his captors, although sometimes clearly struggling to find the words to adequately describe the brutalities he had witnessed.

Wyse spent over three years in enemy hands (the first two of which are described in this diary) before being liberated in the late summer of 1945. He was hospitalized for some time and didn’t return home until late 1946, his health ruined by the privations of his imprisonment. He died in 1967 at the age of 67.

Available from:
Goose Lane Editions

1 comment:

val said...

Bob Wyse was my great uncle. My mother's family remembers the terrors of not knowing where Bob was for years. As a child, I remember visiting their home in New Brunswick and Uncle Bob being so startled by sudden noises and having trouble eating, especially tomatoes. At home, he was a good carpenter and was first to teach me how to pound a nail.