Saturday, November 17, 2007

Book Review: HAP HALLORAN 'Hap's War'

I received Hap Halloran's 'Hap's War' today, along with the pictured card and two photos Hap annotated on the back. The top photo shows Hap getting inducted into the American Combat Airmen Hall of Fame in 2001. The bottom photo shows Hap with Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbetts in Great Bend, Kansas, a few years back. Tibbetts passed away a little over a week ago.

Today in the mail I received my copy of Hap Halloran's 'Hap's War: The Incredible Survival Story of a POW Slated for Execution" by Ray 'Hap' Halloran with Chester Marshall. This book is a real piece of World War Two history. First of all, I cannot believe the incredible value of this large hardback book, which Hap sells himself out of his home in Menlo Park, California. The price, includiing shipping, must make this book the best buy in America, even if it were to come unsigned. However, Hap took the time to personally inscribe the book and also included two photographs of himself, one with Paul Tibbets, the Enola Gay pilot, and the other of himself after being inducted into the American Combat Hall of Fame in October of 2001. On top of that, he took the time to include a personalized card.

For those of you who have never heard of Hap Halloran, he is one of the most celebrated heroes of the Pacific War. He overcame incredible odds to survive as a Japanese prisoner of war after his B-29 Superfortress was shot down over Japan on January 27, 1945. His tale is one of torture, starvation, and ultimately, survival. It was Hap who was taken to the Tokyo Zoo and put on display in a cage as an example of what the terrible American invaders looked like. This was the low point of his life, according to him. What is more amazing is that this former POW has just returned from Japan, where he is an honored speaker about the effects of war and is an advocate for peaceful solutions to problems where possible.
Hap and Japanese survivors at the Peace Park in Japan.

I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in WWII buy this book from Hap. There is a hyperlink below in his biography from which to order.

The book is filled with Hap's story, his ordeals, and his ultimate triumph. It is also filled with rare photographs. The book is a large hardback and even came Priority Mail in a matter of days.
Hap's Prisoner of War Armband from his Japanese imprisonment. POWs in Japan were treated brutally.

Hap Halloran, you are one of a kind. Thanks again for the book, and even more, for your service to our country and the cause of freedom.

Below is Hap's biography, taken from his website at:

The Autobiography of Raymond "Hap" Halloran

Ray "HAP" Halloran, was born February 4, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio of parents, Paul and Gertrude Halloran; the second of 5 boys.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) Hap volunteered for the Army Air Force at Wright-Patterson air base in Dayton, Ohio.

He completed training as Navigator (Hondo, Texas) and Bombardier (Roswell, New Mexico) Volunteered for training in new bomber (B-29). Trained at Smoky Hill Air Base in Salina, Kansas. Our crew of 11 was referred to as "Rover Boys Express". We were assigned to 878th Squadron, 499th Bomb Group VH, 73rd Wing, 20th Air Force.

After completion of operational training in Kansas we spent a short period of time in Lincoln, Nebraska; then Herington, Kansas where we received our brand new B-29 (flown to Herington from the production line at Boeing Wichita Plant). We then received orders to fly to Mather Field, California; then to John Rogers Field, Honolulu. We then flew to Kwajalein Atoll and our final leg was to Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands. We traveled alone the entire trip.
Saipan was the base of operations for the 73rd Wing in that battle against targets on the Japanese mainland.

On our forth mission against Japanese targets we were shot down on a high altitude mission against target 357; Nakajima Aircraft plant in Musashino on the west edge of Tokyo.
A twin engine Japanese fighter plane (Nick) came in head on and critically damaged our plane (V Square 27). The comfortable temperature in our pressurized B-29 immediately assumed outside air temperature of -58 degrees. We lost two engines and our major controls within the plane. We were doomed; we fell behind the formation. We realized we must abandon our plane over enemy territory east of Tokyo.

Painting of our B-29 V Square 27 passing Mt. Fuji on bomb run against Target 357 1/27/45.
All crew members were alerted to necessity to parachute. (Tail Gunner Dead). I left the bomber thru the front bomb bay (nose wheel blocked normal front escape route).

I fell free for an estimated 24,000 feet before opening my chute at about 3,000 feet over Chiba Prefecture East of Tokyo. Japanese fighters closed in as I hung in my chute. One saluted me from in close. A rarity. Six of The Rover Boys crew did not survive that day.

As could be expected I was treated brutally by civilians before being taken on a truck to Kempei Tai torture prison in downtown Tokyo across from the moat at the north end of the Imperial Palace grounds. I was confined in solitary in a cold dark cage in a wooden stable near the Kempei Tai headquarters building. Food was a small ball of rice several times a day; no medical treatment. Silence was a firm rule except during interrogations. One desperately tried to survive.

Survived the massive low level March 10th, 1945 fire raid on Tokyo by fellow B-29 crews. The fire, heat, smoke and resultant firestorm was terrifying. Never expected to survive that night.
Shortly thereafter I was removed from my cage and taken to Ueno Zoo where I was put on a display naked in a tiger cage and civilians could walk in front of cage and view this hated B-29 prisoner. I had lost perhaps 80 or 90 pounds by then and my body was dirty and covered with running sores from bed bug, flea and lice infestation. Conditions were extreme. I cried (a form of relief) and prayed constantly.

Was moved early in April 1945 to Omori Prisoner of War facility on SW edge of Tokyo. Was with fellow B-29 prisoners and other Americans including Gregory "Pappy" Boyington and 8 survivors of the submarine Tang. What a wonderful thing to be out of solitary and being able to talk with fellow B-29ers. We each had a space 24 x 70 inches. We learned to live together under a demanding situation. Food was the dominant subject of all conversations. We were subject to bombings and strafings by our planes. Our facilities were not identified as a POW compound. Those were extremely difficult days as we tried to survive.

The war ended on August 15, 1945. We were liberated from Omori on August 29th by Marines in landing craft and taken aboard the Hospital ship Benevolence in Tokyo Bay. Spent two weeks in Benevolence (not physically fit to travel). Was on the Benevolence when the Peace Treaty was signed on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Admiral Halsey visited me in my room on the Benevolence.

Eventually flown home. Spent months in Ashford government hospital in West Virginia. Adjustment to normal life came slowly. Experienced almost 40 years of nightmares; very disruptive to my family life. In the early years after the return from POW days I absolutely tried to wipe out all those bad memories of my time in Japan. I failed.
Finally in 1984 - after much preparation and help from the US ambassador, Mike Mansfield, I returned to Japan. I hoped I could void all my memories of "those long ago days" and view people and places as they are presently.

Positive results slowly became evident in my outlook, feelings and judgments.
Understanding and reconciliation became a reality.

I have subsequently returned to Japan seven more times and visited all the major cities and with much help able to meet Isamu Kashiide, the pilot of the Nick plane that shot us down in 1945; he died on June 3, 2003. Also visited with Kaneyuki Kobayashi a former good guard.
Eventually made many new friends including Saburo Sakai, WWII Zero ace. We golfed and did air shows together. He died of a heart attack in August of 2000 while guest at a luncheon with U.S. military officers. At his request I continued to mentor his daughter, Michiko. She graduated from Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas.

By invitation I speak to groups in museums, temples, Peace Parks and other assembly points throughout Japan. Among other places on my 2002 visit I spoke to groups in Peace Parks in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many of those folks were there (or their families impacted) on August 6th and 9th in 1945. They also were seeking closure almost 58 years later. I was guest and keynote speaker at dedication of a new museum on Tokyo on March 9, 2002. 31 folks from Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, Hiroshima, Osaki, Nagasaki and other cities visited my home in August of 2002.

I also exchanged emails on frequent basis with historian friends in Japan and tour with them on my return visits. My return visits to Japan generally include visits to Saipan, Tinian and Guam.
I left the military service in the latter part of 1946. The road to normalcy proceeded slowly. In 1958 I joined former Consolidated Freightways, an eventual 3 billion dollar motor carrier and was associated with them for 44 years. Attained position of Executive Vice President and member of the Board of Directors.

I have three children. Dan lives in Boca Raton, Florida. Tim is presently relocating to Brentwood, California. Peggy lives in Redwood City, California.

I live in Menlo Park, California and travel extensively (over 5 million commercial air miles). Have done things with ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, History and Discovery Channels and participated in a Dan Rather NBC "Victory in the Pacific" two hour special in 1995; filmed in US, Pacific and Japan.

There isn't a day that goes by that my memories do not flash back and recall events of those long ago days. I remember Rover Boys who did not come home. I have visited their graves in Punch Bowl National Cemetery in Honolulu and in Portland, Oregon.

I appreciate and love Freedom. I appreciate even the simple things in life. I know how fortunate I was to survive and come home.

I refer to all the days as "Bonus Days." Now that I am in my golden years I refer to them as "Double Bonus Days!"

He has also written a book called "Hap's War" in 1998. You can order one through this web site. For more information, click here.


Les said...

This hard cover book is truly an unbelievably great value. Hap's is one of the most powerful stories of survival and forgiveness I have ever read.

My wife, who is Japanese, and I visited the Ueno Zoo in Japan in the late 90s. I had no idea at the time that almost 60 years earlier, an American Air Man was caged like an animal in that zoo in addition to his horrific POW experience.

Japan is a wonderful country and a beautiful people. Visiting there is a great experience (and the best, friendliest, customer service on the planet can be found in Japan!) It is almost hard to believe that we were ever at war with that country. This, contrasted with Hap's experience, just shows what horrible things war does to people.

For a different perspective on the war, I was saddened to read in the tour book on the plane over there, how much of Japan had been leveled by American bombs. This, undoubtedly contributed to the brutality experienced by American P.O.W's. (not trying to excuse anyone's behavior here)

One must go to Kyoto, a city that was spared, to enjoy ancient Japanese architecture. That great and strong people lives on, however. I would recommend visiting Japan to anyone.

I would recommend this book, Dan Culler's Black Hole of Wauwilermoos and Lester Tenney's "My Hitch in Hell. The Bataan Death March" for an education about what it was like for these heroes to go through the horrific P.O.W. experience. These books were all lessons to me in survival AND forgiveness. I'm sure there are many others I haven't read yet.

Hap had sent me a signed photo that he had taken from his B-29 of Mt. Fuji during one of their missions when I ordered his book. I'll scan it and send it along.

God Bless!


r morris said...

As William Tecumsah Sherman stated in our own War Between the States: "War is hell".

None know this better than she men of all nations who have either lost their lives or ended up POW.

As Robert E. Lee said, and I paraphrase: "It is good that was is so terrible; otherwise, we may grow to love it too much."

And in the words of Jesus Christ: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall inherit the earth."

Hap, you are a peacemaker. Bless you!


Milt said...

Thanks for the review of Hap's book. I am curious if it mentions the Pratt Army Air Field which is just 60 miles from Great Bend's Air Field? As the developer for the website, ,
I am always on the lookout for related stories, photos, videos, books
and other resources.
Hap was the speaker for the opening of the B-29 All Veterans Memorial in 2002 in Pratt, Kansas. There are plans to build a Museum to honor those who served adjacent to the Memorial as donations allow. Thanks for sharing these stories.

r morris said...

Milt, I checked and didn't see a mention. However, I may have missed it.

b29Bill said...

Hap has been instrumental in research about my Uncle , Lt Robert Copeland, who was rammed
over Kobe, Japan, Mar 17, 1945.
His B-29 and the rammer fell into an allies POW camp. Without Haps help, I would know nothing of the Memorial placed at the crash site for the crew and the Japanese pilot.

Bill said...

There is no forgiving by those B-29ers that suffered at the hands of the Japanese. You can blame little old ladies with pitchforks to an police force that was brutal beyond belief.
Hap's return to Japan, several times, has helped to alleviate his nightmares. .. they are still there and will always be.. Read the book..

Les said...

Bill, I'm not trying or pretending to speak for any of the B-29ers about forgiveness. Hap himself has told me that he had about 30 Japanese people at one time as guests in his own house and that he has made friends all over Japan. He even suggested to me that I go see "Letters from Iwo Jima" which controversially paints a human picture of the Japanese in WWII.

I don't mean to imply that forgiveness means forgetting or that it makes the nightmares go away, but Hap's friendship with the Japanese, all things considered, is about as powerful an act of forgiveness as I've ever seen, as is Lester Tenney's (who survived more than 4 years as a POW in Japan after enduring the Bataan Death March). According to his book, Lester Tenney let a Japanese exchange student live at his own home for several years while the boy studied in the U.S.. After such horrific treatment by the Japanese, I don't know if I, myself, would be able to be so kind. Probably not.

I did read Hap's book. I also read the "Rape of Nanking" by Iris Chang and "My Hitch in Hell, the Bataan Death March" by Lester Tenney and Henry Commager/Donald Miller's The History of WWII, all which describe in detail the unimaginable atrocities committed by the Japanese in WWII.

My comments about Japan being a great country (which I stand by) was not meant to try to diminish these atrocities but rather to point out the irony that atrocities can be committed by a country which, in a different time and place, can be a wonderful, peaceful place to visit.

We can't ignore the fact, that although Japan declared war on us and was a ferocious enemy, that our bombs levelled a very large percentage of that country.

Now, I'm not trying to excuse the behavior of litte old ladies with pitchforks or a police force that was brutal beyond belief, but I have to ask myself when reading this history: "How would I behave, regardless of who was responsible for starting the war, in war time, if bombs were falling in my back yard and just wiped out half my family?"