U.S. Marine George Burlage was part of the largest surrender in American history at Bataan and Corregidor in the spring of 1942, where the Japanese captured more than 85,000 troops. More than forty percent would not survive World War II. His prisoner-of-war ordeal began at Cabanatuan near Manila, where the death rate in the early months of World War II was fifty men a day. Sensing that Cabanatuan was a death trap, he managed to get transferred to the isolated island of Palawan to help build an airfield for his captors.
Malaria and other tropical diseases caused him to be sent to Manila for treatment in 1943 (a year later, 139 of his fellow POWs were massacred on Palawan). After another year of building airfields, Burlage survived a 38-day voyage in the hull of a Japanese hell ship and ended the war as a miner for Mitsubishi in northern Japan. By sheer luck, strength, and a bit of sabotage, he survived and was freed in September 1945 after the Japanese surrendered. He had endured starvation and torture and lost half of his prewar weight, but no one had killed him.
After the war Burlage became a journalist and wrote about his POW experiences. His daughter Georgianne discovered his writings after George passed away in 2008, and edited them with additional historical material to provide context for his World War II experiences in the Pacific.
About the Author
GEORGIANNE BURLAGE, daughter of George Burlage, is a fifth-generation Texan and teacher of secondary history and journalism for more than thirty years. She is a national officer of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, and lives in Denton, Texas.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix
Editor's Introduction: The Recruiter Didn't Mention This Possibility 1
Chapter 1 Country Boy 27
Chapter 2 Travel, Adventure, Romance 35
Chapter 3 The Good Life 39
Chapter 4 Paradise Lost 49
Chapter 5 Corregidor Bound 55
Chapter 6 Surviving the Dartboard 63
Chapter 7 After Surrender 71
Chapter 8 Manila to Cabanatuan 83
Chapter 9 No Thanks, Cabanatuan 131
Chapter 10 Working for the Emperor at Palawan 135
Chapter 11 What We Did to Them 143
Chapter 12 Back to Bilibid 151
Chapter 13 The Worst Camp 157
Chapter 14 Living in Hell 169
Chapter 15 Beginning Another Year 179
Chapter 16 The Last Camp 185
Chapter 17 Restarting Life 199
Afterword: A Descendant's Journey 207
Tributes to George Burlage: The Quiet Heroism of George Burlage 217
Thank Yous 221
Background Information on POWs 223