Henry Chamberlain was one of the longest-term prisoners of war in World War II. Taken prisoner in the American surrender at Bataan in April 1942, he remained in Japanese captivity until September 1945. During three and a half years of imprisonment, as a medic he was a unique and unfortunate witness to the horrors and terrors the Japanese inflicted on their prisoners during the Bataan Death March and at the notorious Cabanatuan prison camp, where for two years he tended to the sick and wounded, all too often without medicine. In October 1944 the Japanese put Chamberlain on a “hell ship” to forced labor in sugar cane fields in Formosa (now Taiwan) and again, in January 1945, to a Mitsubishi lead and zinc mine in Japan. U.S. military forces reached the camp in September 1945, liberating Chamberlain and his fellow soldiers.
Chamberlain’s is a story of excruciating hardship, abiding endurance, and transcendent courage, and writer Claire Swedberg tells it beautifully, with great style and deep pathos, from Chamberlain’s fraught Depression-era boyhood in Nebraska, through his World War II captivity, to his return to Japan in 2018. Like Adam Makos’s Spearhead and Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, this is the account of one man fighting for and with his fellow soldiers against the forces of war in the twentieth-century.
Claire E. Swedberg is an historical nonfiction author, journalist, and writing instructor. Her books include Work Commando 311/I: American Paratroopers Become Forced Laborers for the Nazis, In Enemy Hands: Personal Accounts of Those Taken Prisoner in WWII, Three Years with the 92nd Illinois: The Civil War Diary of John M. King, and In the Valley of Mystic Light. She lives with her family north of Seattle, Washington, where she is at work on her next book.