Defiance in the Philippines

 

Lt. William Frederick “Bill” Harris was an officer with the China Marine, the elite 4th Marine Regiment stationed in Shanghai, China, prior to World War II to protect American citizens. In the summer of 1941, with war clouds gathering, Harris and the 4th Marine were withdrawn from China to the presumably safer Philippines.

“Valor: The Astonishing World War II Saga of One Man’s Defiance and Indomitable Spirit,” by Dan Hampton, shows how illusory that presumption was. Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941. The 4th Marine ended up defending the American Philippines, first in Bataan and later as part of the garrison at Corregidor, the island fortress guarding passage into Manila Bay.

Harris led a platoon during the siege, commanding a company after Japan landed on Corregidor in May 1942. The overwhelmed and outnumbered Americans were forced to surrender. Although Harris was taken prisoner, he refused to quit. With two fellow officer friends he escaped, swimming eight hours in the shark-infested channel between Corregidor and Bataan to reach freedom.

Hampton traces Harris’s activities through the rest of the war. He shows how Harris eluded capture in Bataan, joined forces with Filipino guerrillas, and fought the Japanese in the Southern Philippines. The whole time he was part of the guerrilla army, Harris had another objective: to escape to Australia and rejoin the war in a regular Marine unit. Hampton describes that voyage, ending with Harris’s capture by the Japanese at Morotai Island. He spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp in Japan. When finally liberated, he represented the Marine Corps POWs at the Tokyo Bay surrender ceremony.

“Valor” follows Bill Harris through his ordeals. It also follows his family at home. His father was a decorated Marine general, himself fighting in the Pacific. Neither he nor Harris’s mother learned what happened to their son until the war ended, despite his father’s best efforts. He was simply “missing.”

Harris would go on to command a Marine battalion during the Korean War. Fighting the Chinese at Chosin Reservoir, he went on to acts of further valor.

Hampton tells an incredible story. He used military records and an unpublished memoir Bill Harris wrote after World War II to provide an intimate picture of an American officer who, although captured, never surrendered. The resulting story is an inspiring tale of triumph over adversity. The book often reads like an adventure novel. Yet it is a true story of endurance and courage by an American hero.

“Valor: The Astonishing World War II Saga of One Man’s Defiance and Indomitable Spirit,” by Dan Hampton, St. Martin’s Press, 2022, 341 pages, $29.99 (Hardcover),  $20.00 (Paperback),  $14.99 (Ebook)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com. It appeared in a different form in American Essence magazine and Epoch Times.

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There are 11 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    It sounds excellent, Seawriter.

    • #1
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Percival (View Comment):

    It sounds excellent, Seawriter.

    I thought it was.

    • #2
  3. Bunsen Coolidge
    Bunsen
    @Bunsen

    Thank you for the review.  Going on my Christmas list.  

    • #3
  4. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I’ll be asking for this on my Christmas list too.  

    Sounds like it will be a refreshing book after trying to wash out the experience of “Unbroken” from my literary palate.  I found the conclusion of that book to be particularly distasteful the way he “forgave” his torturers, as though he had the moral authority to cleanse these animals of the crimes of killing so many others.

    • #4
  5. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Reminds me of this one:

     

    • #5
  6. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Will check this one out for sure. Was trying to find out how close the island he got captured was to the Solomons.  Probably not close enough.   Dad’s first duty in the Marine Corps was as a pilot at Bouganville in early 1943 about 6 months after Guadacanal.  He later worked with Army pilots at Leyte Gulf in 1944 and met some of the American soldiers who worked with the Philippine resistance. He was impressed with them.  And wanted to fly them to  back to US bases to get better food. 

    • #6
  7. Painter Jean Moderator
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    Thank you  – that was an excellent review.

    • #7
  8. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    navyjag (View Comment):
    Was trying to find out how close the island he got captured was to the Solomons.  Probably not close enough. 

    It was at the southern end of what used to be called the Dutch East Indies. West of New Guinea and a long way from the Solomon Islands. Basically he got caught just before making the voyage to Northern Australia. 

    • #8
  9. Max Knots Member
    Max Knots
    @MaxKnots

    Great review as always! Going on the list. Just finished “Vietnam – An Epic Failure” by Max Hastings. Would recommend it to anyone interested in this history. Seems a fair telling of the situation.

    • #9
  10. Jeff Petraska Member
    Jeff Petraska
    @JeffPetraska

    This book’s description reminds me of an excellent book that I just finished last weekend, Whatever It Took by Henry Langrehr and Jim DeFelice.  Henry was a kid from Iowa who joined the Army, became a combat engineer with the 82nd Airborne, jumped into Normandy on D-Day, was wounded and captured in the bocage country, shipped off to a work camp for months until he escaped, and made his way to freedom as the war was coming to a close.  His description of being on the run was, well, eye-opening.  You’ll have to read it to see what I mean.

     

    • #10
  11. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Jeff Petraska (View Comment):

    This book’s description reminds me of an excellent book that I just finished last weekend, Whatever It Took by Henry Langrehr and Jim DeFelice. Henry was a kid from Iowa who joined the Army, became a combat engineer with the 82nd Airborne, jumped into Normandy on D-Day, was wounded and captured in the bocage country, shipped off to a work camp for months until he escaped, and made his way to freedom as the war was coming to a close. His description of being on the run was, well, eye-opening. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean.

    Loved that one. 

    • #11
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