Finch, A.L. Child
P.O.W.—A Memoir of Survival.
This book is a
personal account of abuse to the author and her mother by the Japanese during
World War II in the
exaggeration is her tale of flying to the
This is nonsense, but rather harmless nonsense. Much of the rest is not so benign. The following review will highlight some of the many inventions and inaccuracies in this book.
As she and her mother had limited
finances, Finch credits her “Aunt Alice”, stationed in
No such submarine evacuation
occurred and no Major Alice is on the roster of
In Chapter 9, “Death at Tea Time,” Finch claims that after she and her mother were arrested by the Japanese, they were transported to the Bay View Hotel, which she described as “second rate” and “across the tracks” in downtown Manila (p. 113).
At this point
Finch launches into one of her most serious inventions when she describes
seeing piles of dead women and children at the hotel, many of whom appeared
beaten and raped (p. 114). Finch
further claims that well under half the women and children taken to the Bay
View left alive. Among these victims she
lists a wealthy Filipino family that had befriended her and her mother because
of Finch’s friendship with their daughter when both were attending a private
school in the
hotel was good quality, located across the street from
In addition, this
entire episode is fiction. The Bay View
Hotel was a gathering place for foreigners (not Filipinos) to be interned by
the Japanese, but no violence took place there during this period. Violence did occur at Bay View three years
later when the Japanese used it as a rape hotel during their murderous rampage
as American liberation forces approached
In Chapter 10,
“Evil Swords,” Finch claims that she and her mother were imprisoned with a
mixture of military men and civilians in a series of 7 or 8 sub-camps to
In actuality, the Japanese separated male military prisoners from most male and all female civilian internees; and there is no listing of “sub- camps”, which Finch claimed totaled around thirteen (p. 119).
She also describes a camp commandant, whose hobby was raising roses, which he regularly watered by decapitating prisoners while the survivors were forced to watch. According to Finch, she and her mother were always placed in the front row, so were regularly splattered with the victim’s blood (pp. 125-6).
Finch further charges that this camp commander “became a mega-millionaire” and a member of the Japanese Diet following the war. And that he was protected from prosecution by the American government which “needed…men to run the new Japanese government.” (p. 128) Later she claims General Douglas MacArthur placed this man as “the American head of an immense electronic corporation, which MacArthur helped establish.” (Ch. 21, “A Long Road Home,” pp. 248-9)
Finch also describes torture where victims were crucified face-first against wooden buildings, doused with gasoline and set on fire (p. 125).
These two execution stories aren’t found elsewhere in wartime accounts of Japanese abuse and the flaming crucifixion incidents surely also would have burned down the buildings to which the victims were nailed.
No evidence is
offered to support the charges against Gen. MacArthur and the
An excuse Finch uses for not identifying such people is fear of retaliation. By the time her book was published it is unlikely that any still would be living. Hundreds of war criminals were prosecuted due to eyewitness testimony and scores were executed.
In Chapter 13,
“The Basket Man,” is another of the more serious inventions in Finch’s
book. Here she claims that, upon the
never happened, nor were patients and medical personnel massacred at the two
large field hospitals on
In Chapter 16,
“The Jumping Frogs,” Finch’s account of five months in a Japanese officers’
brothel in the mountain resort city of
In this chapter (and elsewhere) Finch alleges the Japanese broke her fingers, burned her with cigarettes, tore out her toe nails and broke bones in her feet “solely to amuse” themselves. She further stated that x-rays taken of her feet after her release showed “more than 50 healed fractures”. (p. 176) Finch also claims that, when repatriated, she initially weighed just over 25 pounds, despite being nearly 12 years old (p. 269).
appears to exist of this brothel, which she describes as “near the former
summer home of Philippine kings….and emperors.” (p. 162-3.) Moreover, there were no Philippine kings or
emperors, unless you count the series of Spanish kings who never visited the
Indeed, her tale of more than three years of starvation, disease, physical abuse and incredibly long hours at hard labor makes it difficult to conceive of her (or her mother) surviving. In Finch’s case, this all allegedly began when she was only eight years old and recovering from polio.
In Chapter 18,
“Lennie and the Rose Garden,” Finch writes that an Australian friend “Dear
Lennie” was beheaded for no apparent reason in front of her and her mother
accompanying this beheading account appears on p. 198. At the bottom of this photo is a link to the
Australian War Memorial website (www.awm.gov.au). The Australian site identifies this as a
famous photo of Sgt. Leonard George Siffleet being decapitated on a beach in
In Chapter 19,
“The Hell Ship,” Finch claims that she and her mother were sent from Fukuoka to
Manila in early February 1943, and then shipped back to Japan (Kobe) less than
a week later along with “nearly 800” POWs.
The trip to
However, there is
no record of a “Hell Ship” departing the
Finch claims they
traveled to multiple camps in the
No accounts of
prisoners being moved around this much appear to exist. Furthermore, civilians seized in the
In Chapter 20, “
In Chapter 21, “A
Long Road Home,” inexplicably, at the end of the stint on the
Such repatriation missions didn’t occur late in the war. Furthermore, wounded (or unwounded) military POWs never were repatriated by the Japanese.
A constant Finch
complaint is the refusal of military authorities to believe the stories she and
her mother told, but couldn’t document.
Her mother finally obtained counterfeit state-side documentation from a
sympathetic unnamed colonel in military intelligence to assist her in getting a
job. This included “personnel records
and paycheck stubs”; along with tax receipts showing she had worked in
“aircraft companies in
Upon finishing this book, one is left wondering if the stateside “cover story” supposedly provided by military intelligence, is actually the true account of Finch and her mother’s wartime experiences. In her final chapter, Finch warns Americans against “charlatans” and advises that “when we hear an unusual fact or claim…we must check the sources carefully.” (p. 383)
Her book illustrates the wisdom of that advice.
Reviewed by J. Michael Houlahan
Norman, Elizabeth, We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses
Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese, Random House,
Houlahan, J. Michael, In Harm’s Way: The
Valiant Nurses of
Houlahan is a retired U.S. diplomat, who
was stationed at the American Embassy in