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The Secret Camera: A Marine’s Story: Four Years as a POW Military Prisoners of War Terence S. Kirk Lyons Press 3rd edition

21st June 2012 History Books 18 Comments

“They may be the only images in existence of American prisoners in Japanese prisoner camps. And they sat unpublished for more than fifty years, apparently ignored by a U.S. government that seemed indifferent to the atrocities the images documented.”–Fort Worth Weekly

Terence Kirk, a retired master gunnery sergeant, served thirty years in the U.S. Marine Corps, nearly four years of which were in a Japanese POW camp. He lives in Walnut Springs, Texas.

“They may be the only images in existence of American prisoners in Japanese prisoner camps. And they sat unpublished for more than fifty years, apparently ignored by a U.S. government that seemed indifferent to the atrocities the images documented.”–Fort Worth Weekly

On the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the twenty-three marines stationed in North China were at the peak of physical condition. They were young, brave men who were willing to die to defend their country. But on that day, they were forced to surrender to the Japanese and spent the rest of the war-all 1,355 days-as POWs. They didn’t know the statistic that stated a marine was 17.5 times more likely to die in a Japanese prison camp than in battle-or that 38 percent of all Americans captured by the Japanese died in labor camps. But they were soon to find out on their own.

The Secret Camera is the true story of how one North China marine struggled for survival. From his capture on Pearl Harbor Day, through the bombing of Nagasaki, Corporal Terence S. Kirk spent years as slave labor for the Japanese war machine. Watching himself and his fellow marines wither from strapping young men to mere skeletons, ravaged by starvation, abuse, and disease, he decided to make a difference-by recording the atrocities they all endured. With the help of a Japanese interpreter and a handful of other brave marines, Kirk managed to build a pinhole camera from scraps of cardboard, take a handful of photos, and then hide them away until the end of the war. These are the only photos ever taken inside a Japanese POW camp. A record of courage, faith, and ingenuity, his is a story of heroism, unimaginable adversity, and the will to survive.

His photos sat unpublished for more than fifty years, ignored by a U.S. government that seemed indifferent to the atrocities the images documented. But Kirk would not let them languish, and this book is his legacy.

“They may be the only images in existence of American prisoners in Japanese prisoner camps. And they sat unpublished for more than fifty years, apparently ignored by a U.S. government that seemed indifferent to the atrocities the images documented.”–Fort Worth Weekly

The Secret Camera: A Marine’s Story: Four Years as a POW

Shadows In The Jungle: The Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines In World War II

One of those rare works of nonfiction that does indeed read like a novel and also sheds light on a heroic and almost unknown group of men, while reminding us of just how brutal and unforgiving the war in the Southwest Pacific was.
Michael Korda, New York Times bestselling author of Ike: An American Hero

A new account of World War II heroism from the national bestselling author of Biggest Brother.

Determined to retake the Philippines ever since his ignominious flight from the islands in 1942, General Douglas MacArthur needed a first-rate intelligence-gathering unit. Out of thousands, only 138 men were chosen. They were the best, toughest, and fittest men the Army had to offer. They were the Alamo Scouts.

Larry Alexander follows the footsteps of the men who made up the elite reconnaissance unit that served as General MacArthurs eyes and ears in the Pacific War. Drawing from personal interviews and testimonies from Scout veterans, Alexander weaves together the tales of the individual Scouts, who often spent weeks behind enemy lines to complete their missions. Now, more than sixty years after the war, the story of the Alamo Scouts will finally be told.

Shadows In The Jungle: The Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines In World War II

  • 18 responses to "The Secret Camera: A Marine’s Story: Four Years as a POW Military Prisoners of War Terence S. Kirk Lyons Press 3rd edition"

  • MagnumPI
    4:10 on June 21st, 2012
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    Terence Kirk could be a poster boy for the Marines. From his swearing in to his retirement he acted with initative and self-confidence, qualities of not only the Marines but that of young Americans of his generation. He was part of the “China Marines”, a small contingent of U.S. Marines assigned to help the Chinese against Japanese aggression in the late 1930s. When they were overrun by the Japanese army and taken captive Kirk and his fellow Americans endured almost unbearable hardships as POWs. Their captivity was a little less horrible than the men held in the Philippines but nonetheless almost beyond human endurance. Still, and maybe because they were hardened Marines, Kirk and his buddies kept some organization. Even when transferred to Japan they schemed to harass the Japanese with minor sabotage. Kirk, along with help from others in the camp as well as a friendly Japanese guard, devised a way to photograph the physical condition of the POWS. He felt it would be the best way to tell the story of the cruelty they endured. Kirk’s writing helped the reader feel the terror as he completed the plan under threat of death. His description of the end of the war, his camp’s rescue with food and supplies and his eventual trek to freedom was one of the best like this I’ve read. I was once again struck by “Yankee Ingenuity” when the first couple of supply drops to the POWs by U.S. planes failed to work. The guys back at the air bases figured out a better way to get supplies to the POWs until ground help could get to them. A can’t put down book and one that will make you proud to be an American. Thanks, Sgt Kirk, and to all your buddies.

  • don conrad
    5:33 on June 21st, 2012
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    A little known group, formed by necessity, managed to save a lot of Allied lives. They were heros. This book is a great read, but a bit charitable to General McAuthor.

  • Real Reality
    8:05 on June 21st, 2012
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    It was an interesting first hand account of how prisoner’s were handled during WWII. The camera was actually a small part of the story. I would recommend reading this book.

  • newsgirl
    9:42 on June 21st, 2012
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    This book is a realistic view of living in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. It also is a man’s very creative way to document what happened during his four years as a POW.
    I served with this man at Camp Pendleton,after the war, and he was an exceptional person. He was a living lesson to all of us that man can survive man’s inhumanity to man.

  • puente genil
    14:23 on June 21st, 2012
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    I picked this book up on I read this book quickly for a couple of reasons, it was about an interesting subject that I hadn’t read about before, and the book was a well written balance between high level strategy and personal experiences. The subject of this book is SIMILAR to that of a book I hated concerning the Australian commandos. [The reason that I hated the Australian commando book was that it was written entirely from the after action reports from the war. There were NO first person accounts in it.]

    The author of the Alamo scouts book used a few diaries, and interviewed a lot of the surviving Alamo Scouts in order to get his information. Since the book was written in 2009 and since the Alamo Scouts worked in small groups (4-12), Larry was unable to get a full history of the scouts. Considering that the only losses of the Alamo Scouts were in training, this is an important book for a Special Forces type to read. The book as written is a 5, but since everyone waited until the half of the scouts had died of old age to write the book, it got a 4.


  • Ex Aol India
    16:23 on June 21st, 2012
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    Excellent account of the Alamo Scouts from their humble beginnings to their importance to the war effort in the Pacific. The book depicts many of their missions behind the enemy lines and the perils they faced. These were the first of many were to be called “Special Forces”. Many of their tactics are still in use today.

  • David Bain
    19:37 on June 21st, 2012
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    I bought the book because I know the gentleman the intro was written about. A true American Hero……I read the book because it was very well written and so interesting I couldn’t stop reading it.

  • Highland
    23:41 on June 21st, 2012
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    One of the best books on WW II I have ever read and I have read extensively on this subject.

    It is great to know someone is still uncovering stories that for so many years were “Top Secret” and are only of late becoming available to writers…late because most of these men are now dead of natural causes.

    A must read for WW-II readers on another special group of men who led the way by working behind the lines of the enemy to get vital information for both minor and major campaigns (landings) in the Pacific Theatre.

    Mr Alexander has outdone himself once again!

  • ParisExpat::
    2:05 on June 22nd, 2012
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    I found the book to be accurate. The book had quotes that my Father had made. It sounded just like him talking. I would like to thank the author for his detailed research and honest protrayal of these unsung Heroes!!!

  • tellls usss
    4:55 on June 22nd, 2012
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    Stories from the Alamo Scouts, an intelligence-gathering unit which served in the Pacific in covert operations during WWII. The beginning of the book starts off with a big WOW!, recounting the story of an elderly man with a cane being attacked by a mugger – and then promptly taking down the mugger using his cane. Immediately following that is another exciting story of an actual jungle operation. Compared to that incredible beginning, it gets a little dull while it explains the history behind the founding, recruitment, and early training of the Scouts. But it doesn’t last long before getting back to exciting stories of dangerous missions.

    For most of their history, the Alamo Scouts were considered secret and they and their heroic stories remained largely unknown. So it’s unfortunate that by the time this book was written most of the men had already passed away. But Larry Alexander makes the most of the information he was able to get from the surviving members. There’s a lot of dialog in the book, which seems a bit dubious given the 60 years that have elapsed since the events, and much of it sounds very Hollywoodish, but it’s still a very exciting read. Readers who enjoyed Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides will likely enjoy this one, too.

  • mobeerdon
    7:53 on June 22nd, 2012
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    The story of the Alamo Scouts is definitely a 5 but the writing is only a 3 for me. It is unfortunate that the exploits of Alamo Scouts was kept secret so long, which of course wasn’t necessary but typical of the government. The scouts were an all volunteer group of very young, very couragous Americans. Their feats were literally amazing. 108 missions behind enemy lines and never lost a man while providing Gen. Krueger vital information which no doubt save many lives. I have read a lot on WWII and knew very little about this group. It is a fascinating story.

    I did however have a problem with the writing particularily the narrative style with lots of direct quotes. It read more like a historical fiction book where real events are told through fictional characters so dialog can be made up. I just find it hard to believe that a lot of dialog wasn’t made up. These were events that happened 60 years ago. Most of the scouts were dead and I can’t imagine that the ones that were interviewed remembered all this dialog that they said at the time. It seems more likely to be a literary device to make it a narrative style of writing. I don’t think it was necessary at all since it was a great story. I can remember what I did last week but not much of the dialog. I can’t remember very much of what I did 40 years ago even the really important things, except in very broad strokes.

    The Alamo Scouts were the real deal. If you are a WWII buff read this book.

  • Robyn Lofaro
    11:43 on June 22nd, 2012
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    Just a brief update: According to an Associated Press story dated May 12, 2006, the author died on Wednesday, May 10, 2006 at the age of 89, apparently after a heart attack. In light of the present controversy surrounding the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, Cuba and elsewhere by the U.S., understanding some of the history of how wartime prisoners have been treated in the past is of particular relevance today. From Fukuoko to Abu Graib…

  • Rachel Verona
    13:29 on June 22nd, 2012
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    The book arrived arrived in a timely manner. My wife is pleased with the shape the book is in & is looking forward to reading it

  • Saffron Samson
    17:04 on June 22nd, 2012
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    this could make an excellent movie …i had never heard of the alamo scouts but the cover leaf caught my interest & has been well worth the purchase..the book condition was brand new & received seeminly overnite…so seller does a ‘bangup’ job & comes highly recommended from my viewpoint…i would definitely recommend the reading to anyone interested in wwll history….

  • Contrast
    21:55 on June 22nd, 2012
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    There is an exhilarating scene in John Dahl’s 2005 wartime film, The Great Raid (Full Screen Edition) when soldiers swarm the Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp. Dressed as local farmers, the Alamo Scouts pretended to work in the cultivated fields next to the camp all the while reconnoitering its defenses. With this information, the main attack by Rangers and Filipino guerrillas set free 561 suffering men, many who had survived the Bataan Death March.

    Larry Alexander has chosen to build his rousing war narrative “Shadows In the Jungle” around those Alamo Scouts. Mr. Alexander’s book tells us pacific war adventure stories straight from the 108 missions carried out by Gen. Kruegar’s Alamo Scouts (named for the shrine in Kruegar’s hometown of San Antonio, Texas).

    “They collected data on possible invasion beaches, tides and currents, troop numbers and locations, enemy morale, defensive positions, the availability of roads and fresh water, and other much-needed information. While their main mission was to collect intelligence and not fight the enemy, they were sometimes called upon to perform raider duties, such as destroying enemy supply depots, and rescuing civilian hostages and prisoners of war from the Japanese”, states the author.

    Mr. Alexander is the talented author of Biggest Brother : The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers. There is great attention to historic detail and graphic story telling of these deadly men paddling ashore, lurking in the shadows, then leaping up to attack unwary Japanese soldiers.

    “Shadows In the Jungle” contains a gallery of twenty-six photographs of the Alamo Scouts, three area maps, and an appendix of the Alamo Scouts team roster.

  • MiniMe
    6:55 on June 23rd, 2012
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    Just halfway through this fascinating account of the Alamo Scouts, I am greatly impressed by the work that this Special Forces Unit did to help prepare the way for the US combat troops during WWII. Praise goes to the author who carefully unearthed the unheralded and little-known work of the Alamo Scouts. These average men were transformed into brave heroes during the war years, and then returned to their everyday lives as upstanding American citizens and family men.

  • David Modell
    13:54 on June 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Most of us remember December 7th, 1941 as Pearl Harbor Day. To Terence Kirk, it is more memorable as the day that he (and 202 other China Marines) were captured by the Japanese. They were to remain prisoners for 1,355 days, the entire length of time the U.S. was at war with Japan.

    American Marines in Japanese prisoner of war camps were 17.5 times more likely to die from the treatment in those camps than they were to die in combat. Mr. Kirk survived. and as of the time of writing this book there were 31 survivors of the 202 China Marines.

    Unique to Mr. Kirk, so far as is known he was the only one to have built a camera while in the POW camp and taken pictures. This is his story and some of the pictures.

    Mr. Kirk ends this book: ‘If not for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki , we would have met certain death.’ I think he’s right.

  • sdddda
    19:54 on June 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    In 1944, American General Walter Krueger developed the idea of a unique force of scouts and raiders who would infiltrate behind Japanese lines to scout enemy locations, troop strength, strongholds, and aid guerrilla groups. This idea turned into the Alamo Scouts, and “Shadows in the Jungle” describes the birth of this outfit and the numerous missions they conducted behind enemy lines.

    These men were the toughest the army had to offer. Their job was to slip in behind enemy lines and assess enemy troop strength, morale, and conditions, while at the same time, remaining undetected by the enemy. To accomplish this task, the teams were made up of only six men. They were usually dropped off by PT boat and picked up at the end of their mission. The scouts went ashore in rubber rafts and rowed back to the waiting PT boat. The scouts conducted over 100 missions behind enemy lines and, miraculously, didn’t have a single member killed in combat. Conversely, the scouts killed over 500 Japanese soldiers, took many others prisoner, and participated in several prisoner liberation raids, the most famous being at Cabanatuan prison camp. Here, many of the survivors of the Bataan Death March were kept. The scouts, in conjunction with the Army Rangers, led a surprise attack against the camp and freed 516 prisoners.

    I was fascinated by author Larry Alexander’s story of the Alamo Scouts. This is the first book I’ve read that has been totally devoted to their story. I found the reading informative and exciting, and I’ve developed a new respect for these brave men. I have read previous books about the raid on Cabanatuan prison, and these only mention the Alamo Scouts. Alexander has dug much deeper, and this fine book gives a complete history of the scouts. The book is well-researched and well-written, and I learned about a group of soldiers that I knew little of before. Highly recommended.

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