Brickmania Reading List: Hell’s Guest by Col. Glenn D. Frazier
Hell’s Guest is an autobiographical account of Col. Glenn D. Frazier’s experiences during World War II, of which almost three and a half years was spent as a Japanese-held prisoner of war. Frazier was only 16 when he enlisted in the army in 1940 and volunteered for service in the Philippines. He writes in detail about his participation in the Battle of the Points and other fighting to defend the Bataan Peninsula after the Japanese attack began on December 8th, 1941.
His unit was tasked to provide ammunition to the various front line fighting units and air bases, which inevitably led him into face-to-face combat with the invaders. He writes first hand on the unpreparedness and ineptitude of the Army’s leadership and two unforgivable blunders: the total destruction of American air power on the ground and the failure to move adequate food supplies into the defensive perimeter at Bataan. When the beleaguered, starving defenders of Bataan finally surrendered in April 1942, Frazier was became a prisoner of War.
The next three and a half years would be a hellish experience for Frazier and his fellow POWs, starting with at journey into hell, known by its survivors as the Bataan Death March. Tens of thousands of captured American and Filipino soldiers were force marched into captivity for seven days and seven nights without food, water or rest. Those that fell behind were shot or bayoneted.
This was just a taste of the depravities and atrocities inflicted by the Japanese against their POWs and Frazier provides a very vivid, detailed, gut-wrenching first-hand account. As a prisoner, Frazier spent time in various Japanese slave labor camps in the Philippines, and survived the Hell Ships, traveling in the crowded, prisoner-filled hulls of old freighters en route to Okinawa and then finally mainland Japan. Allied POWs were forced to work on various projects for the Imperial war machine, but also sabotaged their masters’ efforts at ever opportunity.
Frazier is one of the lucky ones who survived to the end of the war and the end of captivity. Like many other ex-POWs, Frazier had a difficult time of adjusting to normal life after returning to the States. Haunted by reoccurring nightmares of captivity, he was consumed by an overwhelming hatred for the Japanese for several decades. The final chapter of this book talks about overcoming the emotional scars and how he was able to finally find peace through his faith and purpose.
For the history reader this a worthwhile first-hand account of one man’s journey during an important period in history. I was lucky to meet Colonel Frazier at the USS Alabama Memorial in January. There are fewer and fewer WW2 veterans surviving today, and soon we will only have books such as this to re-tell their tales.