Quote of the Day: Hampton Sides

What a name for an author: Hampton Sides.

With a name like that, you’ve got to become a writer. If only because it fits the profession like a hand in a glove.

Yesterday, self finished reading The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine and began reading Hampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission.

Sides’ sources — a handful of them, anyway — have a familiar ring. Then she realizes: she’s read their diaries and witness accounts long ago: in the Hoover Archives on the Stanford campus. She was doing a lot of research for a World War II novel she was contemplating.

Sides’ writing is so engaging. It feels ridiculous — even, pointless — to write fiction about World War II because nothing can equal the excitement of reading a factual account. She has a 300-page manuscript of Bacolod under Occupation. She’ll just put it aside.

And here’s that quote, finally. It’s about the fall of Bataan in April 1942 and the fate of the  31st Ranger Battalion who were crowded onto the tip of the Bataan peninsula with the rest of the U.S. Army. By this time, the retreat had become chaotic:

Hibbs never forgot the sight of the blood-smeared boy dangling over the shoulders of the medics like a sodden rag doll as they retreated into the jungle. They would set the kid down on the ground and resume the fight, then pick him up and withdraw again, then set him down and fight some more. This went on all day, with the boy becoming like a terrible mascot of the retreat.

Captain Robert Prince, leader of the assault division of the 31st, was from Stanford. Lieutenant Henry Lee, “who would dash off lines of poetry from his foxhole” had studied at Pomona. About Lee: “Whenever he wasn’t holding a gun, he could usually be found with a pen in his hand.”

Here’s one of Lee’s poems:

Drained of faith
I kneel and hail thee as my Lord
I ask not life
Thou need not swerve the bullet
I ask but strength to ride the wave
and one thing more —
teach me to hate.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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