TITLE: Tropic Born War Torn
AUTHOR: Susan Vance
PUBLISHER: Inkwater Press
REVIEW PUBLISHED IN CITY BOOK REVIEW.COM
While the scope and horror of war can never be fully realized, personal life stories encourage one to learn history surrounding these events. The author’s mother and grandfather, Gloria Haube Vance and William Haube, were caught up in the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II. On the evening of Gloria’s engagement party, December 7, 1941, her life changed direction and she was plunged into survival mode. Reinforcements for the Philippines were diverted to protect Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attack, leaving the Philippines to the Japanese. Gloria’s fiancé was captured, endured the Bataan death march — only to die on a Japanese ship bombed by American planes.
“Against these odds you try to survive, always at the mercy of the whims of the invaders. Failure to carry out their orders offered only the prospect of horrible torture or death. Blanketing all of one’s mental and physical suffering is the endless feeling of fear that you live with 24 hours a day.”
Gloria’s story is augmented by the diary of her father, who managed a mine taken over by the Japanese. The photographs bring authenticity to the straightforward narration. Even though there are hundreds of books about this period of the bloody battle for the Philippines, this compelling story could have been helped along by greater historical context, better maps and reference to the ongoing battles. Since 1521, the Philippines have been colonized and battered by wars. The heroes of the book are the two natives who hide, shelter, and feed the Haube family. The natives and Japanese are referred to by pejoratives commonly used at that time. This book will ultimately lead the reader to an interest in this fascinating part of the world and the rollercoaster ride of war, subjugation, and liberation, along with the nightmares caused by war.