Book Review, Guest Post, War

Book Review by Seawriter: A Memoir of Endurance and Survival

In January 1945 Major Donald J. Humphrey commanded a B-29 Superfortress. During a 1900-mile mission from India to bomb Singapore, his bomber was shot down over Malaya. Humphrey and four other members of the crew of Postville Express successfully parachuted out of the dying bomber. The rest of the crew failed to escape.

8 Miraculous Months in the Malayan Jungle: A WWII Pilot’s True Story of Faith, Courage, and Survival, edited by Donald J. “DJ” Humphrey II, tells what happened next.

The fiver survivors landed in Malaya, then occupied by the Japanese. Had they been found by the Japanese or the pro-Japanese militia they would likely have been executed or spent the rest of the war in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. The Japanese even offered a $10,000 reward for every Allied airman turned over to them.

Instead they were found by Talib, an English-speaking native, and his son. The pair were sympathetic to the Allies and spirited the American fliers to the local anti-Japanese resistance.  From that point on Humphrey and his men lived an underground existence. It was not until September 1945 that they were finally repatriated.

The story is told by Donald Humphrey, recorded in a memoir he wrote well after the war. In it, he documents his experiences and those of his men. They were taken in by the Communist Anti-Jap Army of Malaya. It was a marriage of convenience. The Malay Communists hated the British, who possessed Malaya as a colony. But they hated the Japanese even more. As Humphrey relates everyone hated the Japanese, even those collaborating with them.  (On occasion Humphrey was sheltered by those technically in league with Japan.)

The result is a highly personal narrative. Humphrey had to balance personal survival against his desire to fight for his country. He could never be sure his hosts were not putting him deeper in danger. He endured eight months in a deadly tropical environment, where crocodiles and venomous snakes were lesser dangers than the Japanese and Allied international rivalries.

There are few new first-person accounts of World War II veteran’s wartime experience. Like 8 Miraculous Months, most are the effort of the children of veterans bringing previously unpublished memoirs to publication. This book offers a fascinating story, one that serves as a fresh window into the past. DJ Humphrey is to be commended for making his father’s story available to the world at large.

8 Miraculous Months in the Malayan Jungle: A WWII Pilot’s True Story of Faith, Courage, and Survival, edited by Donald J. “DJ” Humphrey II, DJH INC, 2021, 237 pages, $29.99 (hardcover), $16.99 (paperback), $9.99 (ebook)

*Mark Lardas is an engineer, freelance writer, historian and model-maker living in Texas.  Mark posts on Ricochet as “Seawriter,” and is well-known for his regular and much appreciated reviews of books on all subjects.  Of his reviews, he says “I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review.”  His website is marklardas.com.

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