The War Journal of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause: The Firsthand Account of One of the Greatest Escapes of World War II


"This incredible journey is truly a remarkable account of the guts and patriotism of a genuine World War II hero."—H. Norman Schwarzkopf, General, U.S. Army, Retired

"The tale he's left us has the feel of that moment when America was desperate for heroes, and reading it now is as much a trip back in time as it is a journey across the dark Sulu Sea."—New York Times Book Review

"His story is utterly amazing, and so too is this book. We are in his sons debt for permitting us to read it."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

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"This incredible journey is truly a remarkable account of the guts and patriotism of a genuine World War II hero."—H. Norman Schwarzkopf, General, U.S. Army, Retired

"The tale he's left us has the feel of that moment when America was desperate for heroes, and reading it now is as much a trip back in time as it is a journey across the dark Sulu Sea."—New York Times Book Review

"His story is utterly amazing, and so too is this book. We are in his sons debt for permitting us to read it."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

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Editorial Reviews

H. Norman Schwarzkopf
"This incredible journey is truly a remarkable account of the guts and patriotism of a genuine World War II hero."
New York Times Book Review
"The tale he's left us has the feel of that moment when America was desperate for heroes, and reading it now is as much a trip back in time as it is a journey across the dark Sulu Sea."
Jonathan Yardley
"His story is utterly amazing, and so too is this book. We are in his sons debt for permitting us to read it."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This newly discovered memoir relates one WWII soldier's extraordinary escape from the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the fortress of Corregidor as he made his way through jungles and villages and then across the Pacific in a leaky boat. A pilot, Gause was stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese launched their attack on the American-controlled islands just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Retreating with the American forces to the peninsula of Bataan, he was captured as that area fell to the overwhelming forces of the Japanese. He made an amazing escape from a prison camp to the American fortress of Corregidor, off the coast of the Philippines, and then, when that bastion fell, escaped again; with another American officer, he managed to reach Australia in an old motorboat. They were helped by a beautiful Filipino woman, residents of a leper colony and the isolated inhabitants of various islands on which they landed. The author's repeated references to "japs" and "nips" and his description of the Japanese conquerors as "victory-crazed sadistic devils" may offend readers of a more ethnically sensitive era, but despite these lapses and his merely workmanlike prose, the drama of the events described will hold readers' attention. Gause died in a plane crash in the European theater later during the war. His long-buried journal, found in his foot locker by his son, offers a real-life adventure for fans of The Thin Red Line. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Among all the war stories of World War II, this memoir stands apart as a remarkable true story of a great escape and a miraculous sea voyage. Maj. Rocky Gause, an American pilot in the Philippines, was trapped on the Bataan Peninsula as the Japanese invaded in 1941; when U.S. and Filipino forces surrendered in spring 1942, he escaped from the Bataan Death March and began a 159-day odyssey of survival that ultimately took him from Corregidor to Australia. Accompanied by another American soldier, Capt. William Osborne, Gause sailed a leaky, 20' wooden motorboat across 3200 miles of treacherous waters, dodging Japanese warships, aircraft, submarines, and coastal patrols. Using a hand compass and an old National Geographic map of Oceania, Gause and Osborne navigated all the way to Australia and safety. Rich in detail, suspense, and drama, this memoir was written a year after Gause's escape using notes and a journal he kept during the journey. Gause died in a plane crash in 1944, but his son has resurrected and published this inspiring and exciting tale of human courage and endurance. Recommended for all public libraries.--Col. William D. Bushnell, USMC (ret.), Brunswick, ME Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Christopher Dickey
The tale [Gause has] left us has the feel of that moment when America was desperate for heroes, and reading it now is as much a trip back in time as it is a journey across the dark Sulu Sea.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
An American pilot's remarkable diary, copied in a small notebook hidden in a footlocker for over 50 years, records his amazing escape from the notorious March of Death ordeal inflicted by Japanese soldiers on American and Filipino POW's and his further dangerous adventures during the last days of Bataan and Corregidor in the 1942 Philippines. The diary records how Gause, an army pilot without a plane since MacArthur's aircraft were destroyed on the ground after the Japanese sneak attack on Luzon, joined an American infantry unit to continue fighting against a swarming, ruthless enemy that pushed the gallant defenders from Manila to the dense jungles and killing fields of Bataan. Gause was one of the 78,000 American and Filipino soldiers running out of food, medicines, and ammunition who were captured by the Japanese. Nearly 60,000 died in captivity from hunger, thirst, disease, and murder. Gause escaped into the jungle after killing a Japanese sentry and swam through shark-infested waters to Corregidor amid brushes with death from enemy patrols. He found and repaired an abandoned fishing boat and undertook an unbelievable voyage to other islands and Australia after meeting another escaped American officer. Only the constant help and courage of patriotic Filipinos and other natives protected the two Americans from tropical storms, hunger, mosquitoes, and Japanese planes and ships. Gause and Osborne subsisted on raw fish, coconuts, bananas, rice, and rainwater. A Nazi agent dressed as an American colonel tried to kill them while they slept, but they were able to overpower the spy and leave him for dead. After many close calls during a harrowing 3,200 mile voyage to Australia and freedom,they were presented to General MacArthur ten months after the fall of Manila. The two were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses and then sent home for a well-deserved furlough. A suspenseful odyssey, rescued from obscurity, that honors two valiant and resourceful soldiers who never gave up hope to survive an impossible nightmare. A worthy addition to the rich lore of WWII. A movie is planned. (Author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786884216
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 11/22/2000
  • Pages: 186
  • Sales rank: 427,945
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

All morning on the 5th, the sounds of battle grew in intensity. We expected a flanking attack because we knew that the Japs were catching hell although advancing steadily. But at noon General Jonathan "Skinny" Wainwright walked out on the battle line and, with tears in his eyes and voice trembling, he ordered the surrender of the last American stronghold in the Far East. The orders were to destroy all small arms and raise a white flag in our individual sectors. Then we were to march our men, disarmed, to their headquarters to await the arrival of our captors.

After the danger, privations, and hardships the men had undergone during the siege, I expected and would have understood had they cheered and rejoiced at the order to surrender. I looked at Manuel, a 40-year-old Filipino who had left his family on Bataan. He had been manning a machine gun. Then there was young Philipe, who had volunteered for every assignment. My eyes roved up and down the loose ranks of unkempt but courageous men. Not one had even the trace of a smile. Some cursed and swore, and a few cried, as they obeyed my order and broke their rifles on the rocks and threw the bolts into the sea.

Leaving their arms broken and useless I marched my company to headquarters, placed them in charge of the first sergeant and went into the tunnel to report to Lt. Col. Herman Anderson and Capt. Pat McMakin of the Fourth Marines. Even then I had completed plans with Lt. Alberto Arranzaso to escape Corregidor, because I knew what would happen to me if the Japs should catch me again, as they had a good description from several sources. The colonel nodded at me when I approached his desk, and I noticed deep lines at the corners of his eyes. I told him about my men and he stood up and said, "Gause, you've done a good job and I'm not telling you to leave but I understand. Bon voyage!"

I saluted, did an about-face, and rejoined Arranzaso in the tunnel. We hoped to reach the mainland and find shelter with his mother in the hills. We were both absorbed in our plans when someone grasped my arm at the tunnel exit. It was Millie Dalton, a frightened Millie Dalton and not nearly as crisp-looking as the girl who nursed me when I reached Corregidor. Another girl, a Miss Kennedy of Philadelphia, Mississippi, was with her. "I'm horribly afraid of what will happen to us when the Japs arrive," Millie said in a rush and her friend nodded emphatically. She wanted me to take them to the mainland, but neither Lt. Arranzaso, who stood quietly by, nor I was sure that we'd finish the journey alive, so I reluctantly refused. When I last saw Millie at the tunnel entrance she waved and bravely wished me good luck. I had never felt so low, but I turned and ran with the Filipino for whatever cover the northern edge of the island might afford until nightfall when we could start for the mainland, six miles across the bay. We hadn't covered a quarter of a mile when we heard motorized equipment, Jap, of course, thunder up to the main tunnel, and then there was loud talking and shouts and screams. We got away fast.

Arranzaso and I at last flopped breathless under the protective shadows of a beach cliff on the northern edge of Corregidor and damned the Japs. They had resumed their bombardment of Corregidor, undoubtedly out of anger because General Wainwright refused to order men on other islands in the Philippines to surrender also. American and Filipino soldiers were standing around unarmed and helpless in the barrage.

About seven o'clock, we ventured out of our hiding place to scout around in the gathering dusk for some means of getting across the bay to the mainland. A short walk up the beach revealed a sluggish-looking native outrigger that had washed up on the sands. It was duly launched, and the Filipino flyer and I were heading into the waves about 200 feet offshore when Japs on the cliff several hundred feet above caught us in the beam of searchlight that combed the water searching for anyone foolhardy enough to try and leave Corregidor. They fired at us, of course, but we were too far out in the sea for their shots to be effective.

When it was quiet again we heard someone calling to us in English from a rock on the shore. I cautioned Arranzaso that it might be a ruse to draw us back, but we paddled parallel with the island and after close scrutiny called to the figure that we would come in for him. The logy craft hadn't been turned, however, when the man who hollered that he was a Filipino scout was in the water and swimming out to us. We helped him over the side, handed him a piece of plank without asking any questions, then the three of us began making energetic whirlpools in the water, and the outrigger moved faster than it had moved in its lifetime.

I was beginning to think that getting to the mainland would be a cinch when, once again, we were framed in a searchlight from one of the Jap cruisers that continually circled the island to discourage and pick up fleeing soldiers. The cruiser's gun crews must have been at their stations because a shell went sighing over our heads a few seconds after we were sighted, and several more followed, none very close. In the excitement, however, the boat was overturned, and we were unceremoniously dumped into the water. The sailors, probably slapping each other on their backs and telling each other what marksmen they were, promptly forgot us. Arranzaso couldn't swim, I was dismayed to learn, so we righted the outrigger and swung our dripping bodies aboard. We paddled along with the gunwales submerged, but it was a bit comforting to have something beneath my feet after so many hours in the water previously.

The night was dark and the sea was choppy. We headed into the wind and our paddles lifted and dipped, lifted and dipped. Shells and bombs were still bursting on Corregidor and every once in a while one would come sailing over the island -- the Japs couldn't always hit the island -- and burst near us. Whenever I heard one whistling in our direction I instinctively drew in my neck and hoped that it would keep on going. When dawn broke, we weren't a third of the way from Corregidor to the mainland. Treacherous crosscurrents carried us sideways during the night, and we made little headway in the water-filled boat.

We were debating what to do next when a Jap fighter plane peeled off from a formation and fired a few bursts at us. The bullets spat into the water alongside the boat as the three of us went over the side, and when I came up Lt. Arranzaso's voice rang in my ears.

"I've been hit!"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    not the best WWII escape book I've read

    I'm a huge fan of WWII escape books. The one that I read just before this was 'The Long Walk'. That was a truly amazing story of human triumph. It was very well written & was well worth the read. This one, in part because it was written by the main character's son and not himself, just isn't nearly as gripping. I simply got the impression that "Rocky" was lucky more than anything. While luck is certainly a crucial part of any successful escape, there didn't seem to be any amount of thought or real planning. It's an easy quick read. If you haven¿t read many of the other escape stories of this era you will most likely enjoy it.

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