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"Children of Yesterday" – Jan Valtin’s dramatic eyewitness account of the Pacific War in the Philippines 1944-45

mardi 21 novembre 2017, par Jan Valtin

After the quite phenomenal success of his monumental political memoir Out of the Night in 1941 [1], Richard Krebs (nom-de-plume : Jan Valtin) was arrested and tried for an attempted (political) murder he was accused of having committed in the twenties – for which he was acquitted – in 1942, and then in 1943 he was drafted into the US Army, which sent this expert on German affairs, after training, to the Pacific front.

Where he served as a combat reporter with the crack 24th Infantry Division, and accompanied them on the front lines throughout the long, very bloody and extremely violent landings and subsequent conquest of the main Japanese strongholds in the Philippines, notably Leyte [2], Mindoro, Bataan, Corregidor and Mindanao.

The Philippines were a former American colony that had been attacked by the Japanese only 10 hours after Pearl Harbor in early December 1941, and totally conquered by them by May 1942 |The infamous treatment of the 76,000 American and American-led Filipino troops captured on the peninsula of Bataan in April 1942, when 10,000 men had died during a 10-day forced march with almost no food or water, had struck the American consciousness to an extraordinary degree ; and the bitterness over this outrage – for which the Japanese commander was sentenced to death after the war – was no doubt to a certain degree responsible for the incredible animosity and indifference to the dignity of their redoubtable foes manifested by the American soldiers during the re-conquest that is so well described here by “Jan Valtin”.

Developed formally as a report of the 24th Infantry Division’s campaign in the Philippines, this sizable (330 pages, 141,000 words) document concentrates on the day-to-day, even hour-by-hour, experiences of the individuals in the front-line combat troops.

Written with an even greater intensity than Out of the Night and, we would say, with an even more developed sense of style and evocative language, notably by the widespread and highly effective use of dialogue, this report contains innumerable first-hand accounts of jungle, mountain and urban warfare that make it the most gripping, the most moving and the most significant narrative of warfare that we have ever read [3].

An e-book of this exceptional document is available for downloading below.

Children of Yesterday (e-book)

[1that sold a million hardcopy copies in the USA alone that year.

[2the initial American landing in the Philippines, so brilliantly and realistically described here, was on the island of Leyte on October 19, 1944, at the aptly-named "Red Beach".

[3with Xenophon’s The March of the Ten Thousand and Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War.