Girocho: A GI's Story of Bataan and Beyond

Girocho: A GI's Story of Bataan and Beyond

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Overview

Girocho: A GI's Story of Bataan and Beyond by John Henry Poncio, Marlin Young

After surviving the brutal Bataan Death March in spring 1942, Louisiana native John Henry Poncio spent the remainder of World War II as a Japanese prisoner, first at Camp Cabanatuan in the Philippines and later at Hirohata in Japan. In those three and a half years, U.S. Army Air Corps sergeant Poncio suffered severe beatings, starvation, disease, and emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of his captors. However, his resiliency, sense of humor, and cunning helped him to persist and to recover from the traumatic events without rancor toward the Japanese. In Girocho, he relates his experiences as a POW with touching honesty, vividly describing the harsh conditions he and his comrades endured as well as the sometimes-funny clashes with Japanese culture.

Girocho was a samurai who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, a Japanese Robin Hood. Early on, Poncio was given this name in jest by one of the prison guards, and it suited him perfectly. During his internment, he took part in a vast smuggling operation that brought food, money, mail, and other supplies into the POW camps; he reported enemy troop movements to Filipino guerrillas and participated in acts of sabotage. He and the other prisoners worked together incessantly to subvert the Japanese war effort even under the threat of death, going so far as to bury expensive calibration equipment in wet cement and build irregular gears for planes. To frustrate their captors and to stay alive, the American POWs developed the technique “going Asiatic” — maintaining a blank expression during interrogations and beatings and escaping mentally for a time. Although he and his fellow captives were treated with cruelty by many, Poncio recalls the camaraderie of the prisoners and encounters with humane guards and kind civilians, proving his remarkable gift for finding the positive in the most dire of situations.

Girocho is an inspiring memoir, transcribed verbatim by Poncio’s wife, Inez, from nine hours of cassettes Poncio recorded some years after the war. Marlin Young verified her uncle’s stories, placed them in chronological order, and set them within the greater context of the war, creating a compelling tale of one soldier’s courage, honor, and resolve to overcome life as a prisoner of war. Their book is a fitting tribute to the POWs in the Pacific, who fought in their unique way for the U.S. war effort, their friends, and their very lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807165195
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Publication date: 05/01/2003
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

John Henry Poncio (1918--1998) continued to serve in the in the U.S. Air Force from 1945 to 1953. Following his military career he worked as deputy tax assessor for St. Mary Parish in Morgan City, Louisiana. He was active in local and state politics and a popular speaker on World War II.

A native of Louisiana, Marlin Young lived in Indonesia for three years and traveled extensively throughout Asia. She lives with her husband in Baton Rouge.

Table of Contents

Prefacexi
Acknowledgmentsxv
1Lightning Strikes Twice1
2The Beginning of the End6
3Escape to Corregidor14
4"Please Bomb Us, We're Hungry"27
5To Hell, via Bataan33
6Surrender52
7The March of Death59
8"This War Will Last a Hundred Years"65
9Girocho Rides Again69
10"Hey Joe, You Want to Get Even?"88
11Inside the Wire108
12The Zero Ward120
13Miss U's Boys127
14R&R134
15Going Asiatic144
16Shanghaied152
17Guests of the Emperor161
18Slaves of the Emperor168
19Gyangus of Japan174
20Donald Duck and Company187
21Rules of the Establishment201
22A Matter of Life or Death205
23Time Out214
24Life in the Hirohata Hilton223
25Friendly Faces232
26The Man in the Top Hat236
27Skinning the Cats242
28Dogs Eat Dog250
29Ashes to Ashes259
30Hamming It Up266
31From Rags to Riches275
32All Ahead, Slow292
33Freedom Train307

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