Friday, March 28, 2008

South to Bataan, North to Mukden: The Prison Diary of Brigadier General W. E. Brougher

General William E. Brougher's diary kept while he was a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II was my reading list selection for March.

Although it was skillfully edited by D. Clayton James (who also provided a very good summary of the events leading up to General Brougher's capture by the Japanese), Gen. Brougher's talent as a writer is evident throughout this book. He did not write his diary with the intention of ever publishing it (in fact, it was published six years after his death in 1965), but it reads as though it was written with an audience in mind.

In the preface Mr. James writes:

"Through his diary Brougher reveals the anatomy of the mind of a good professional soldier. Straightforward and matter of fact, he accepted his enslavement with some grumbling and criticism, but unlike the more high-strung and deeply introspective prisoners, he suffered no serious emotional effects.... He stoically found his happiness and peace in memories of loved ones, a small group of close friends in prison, and such humble activities of daily life as gardening and writing. He almost seemed, at times, to be independent of the depressing, sordid external world about him, as if he had overcome it by mastering himself, his passions and moods. A man of strong character and high morals, Brougher refrained from vulgarity and meanness with amazing restraint. His simple and conventional, yet sincere and meaningful, beliefs about his nation and his religion, as well as his deep devotion to his family and friends, provided him with a hope which seldom wavered even when prison life was at its worst."

His kindness, humility, and his love for his family and concern for his fellow prisoners are evident in his diary entries. I especially liked his entries about the books he read while a prisoner, and his thoughts on them.

He also was able to see humor and enjoy it. On June 2, 1945 he wrote:

"...but we have with us an Argyle Scot, Brigadier Moir, who is almost a typical Wodehouse Englishman in speech and a really loveable character. Here are a few 'Bobby Moirisms':
(1) I met Bobby returning at noon from working on the farm at Shirakawa. His section had been picking worms off cabbage. I asked, 'Well, Bobby, what have you been doing this morning?'
'Searching for slugs. Deucedly uninspiring task, you know. There was an air of general lassitude about the whole affair.'
(2) Bobby lost his N. mittens. On being questioned by N. inspecting officer about the loss, he said: 'I looked here, I looked there, I looked everywhere, and they were nowhere.' "

Good book.

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Anonymous hopeinbrazil said...

I really like books about WWII, not necessarily military strategies, but the human interest stories of how people coped with the horrors of it. Thank you for a great book suggestion.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Sherry said...

I took a look at your reading list for 2008, don't remember seeing it before, and I'm impressed with all the fascinating sounding nonfiction. I like nonfiction that reads like a story, and I think I'm going to have to read some of the books you picked out.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi. this diary was written by my grandfather. it's wonderful to see that the diary is being read and appreciated by others. he was a remarkable man and i loved him dearly. my mother was his youngest daughter, Frances. he also wrote a volume of poetry, The Long Dark Road,
poems about the Bataan Death March.
thanks for acknowledging his courage and dignity. morgan o'cailleigh

12:14 AM  

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