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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Children of Yesterday: The 24th Infantry Division in the Philippines (War) (Autobiography)

by Jean Valtin  

Publisher: Battery Press (March 30, 2014)

Softcover, 354 pages

“During an island raid in the Sibuyan Sea I saw a Japanese prisoner tied to a tree and tortured to death by guerillas. The censors refused to pass this not uncommon truth about the war in the tropics. They also stopped an account of Mindanao guerilla groups fighting on the enemy’s side, and a story about an American officer who “built morale” among Moro volunteers by having them mix fresh Japanese blood with hot G I coffee; or an account of the Tacloban brothels where soldiers stood in queues two blocks long in the hot sun with military police allotting no more than five minutes to each man. The censors were sensitive, too, about the unprotested practice of robbing Jap corpses of money, watches, and fountain pens; of the occasional killing of Jap wounded to save labor of nursing and feeding them; about the mere mention of the effects of tropical diseases on our troops; about casualty figures; about the fact- long known to everyone-m that enemy cadavers, if ever buried, were dumped into shallow trenches dug out by bulldozers, or about an Army chaplain who during the burial of an American soldiers was forced by snipers to jump into the grave atop the dead man and fight back. However in a story of an infantry division’s deeds, these are minor details, significant only in their accentuation of the two-sidedness of the misery and the graceless brutality of war.”

This is the follow up biography to Jan Valtin’s Out of the Night where the author described his indoctrination into the Communist party in 1920s Germany, his disillusionment with the authoritarian Leftist policies and their rank hypocrisy, his capture by the Gestapo and being forced to work as an informer for the organization, and his eventual escape to the United States. The previous book was also the first one reviewed on this blog.
Author Jean Valtin aka Julius Krebs

Jan Valtin, as has been since discovered after his demise, was the pseudonym for Richard Julius Herman Krebs. After he resettled in the United States, he published the first book, a best seller, which was later on cast into doubt in certain claims he made in the book. The New York Mirror called it, “A huge literary hoax”. Others defended it. Whatever the case, Children of Yesterday is cut from an entirely different cloth.

Being drafted in 1943, Valtin was deployed to the 24th Infantry in the Philippines to defeat invading Japanese forces. Perhaps mindful of the claims against his last book, which lambasted the lack of official documents to back up his statements, Valtin writes his accounts hand-in-hand with excerpts from the Division Record of the Infantry’s movements. He adds more flavor and color to each action, he was involved with by personal accounts from the men involved in the fighting.

24 Infantry Division
In fact, this barely is an autobiography and is more of a military journal, accentuated by official records and the anecdotes of his fellow fighting men. After the first chapter, he barely mentions himself at all. The results is an excellent, blow-by-blow of the divisions’ actions in the Philippines, the bloody tool it took, and personal snapshots of the men who died to defeat the enemy, from October 1944, until the Japanese surrender.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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