The Dyess Story (1942)


Lt. Col. William Dyess's First-Person Story
of the Bataan Death March and His Imprisonment
in Japanese POW Camps

Dyess, William E. The Dyess Story. The Eye-Witness Account of the Death March from Bataan and the Narrative of Experiences in Japanese Prison Camps and of Eventual Escape. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1944.

Octavo. Hardcover. 1st Edition.

First book edition, published posthumously, of William Dyess's harrowing experiences as a prisoner in Japan, including his contemporary account of the Bataan Death March, his imprisonment in Japan, and his eventual escape--the only major escape from Japanese captivity of the entire war. A native Texan and graduate of a Texas agricultural college, William Dyess joined the Air Force in 1937 and commenced what would ultimately be a lifetime military career. As leader of the 21st Squadron, Dyess was responsible for supporting his airmen through the catastrophic Battle of Bataan in late 1941. When losses proved so severe that planes ran short, Dyess became an infantryman. His sense of responsibility did not waiver and he stayed with his wounded when the Bataan Peninsula fell to the Japanese.  On April 9, 1942, Dyess was captured and forced to join the Bataan Death March. His experiences of Japanese captivity were unthinkable. Captured militarymen suffered from starvation, dehydration, malaria, dystentary, and brutal torture--often leading to their deaths. The Japanese camp administrators withheld sanitation, edible food, potable water, and all but the most horrific perversions of medical care. After a year and a camp transfer, Dyess became part of the only large-scale escape from the Japanese during the war, fleeing with nine other military prisoners and two Philippinos prisoners. Their jailbreak did not lead to the United States, but rather to substantial time evading the Japanese and even joining a guerrilla resistance force. When the group finally split up, Dyess and two of his fellow escapees were not evacuated by Navy submarine until the summer of 1943. While recovering at a hospital, Dyess told his story to a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, carefully detailing every torture and deprivation he had witnessed during his long captivity. The federal government stepped in repeatedly to block the story, likely aware of the deleterious effects such a story could have on enlistment and draftee morale. Publishing his story--and the stories of the men who had died--became the great battle of Dyess' life. He died shortly before the story saw publication, in a tragic plane crash in Glendale, California. While he might ejected from the plane, Dyess chose instead to avoid injuring civilians on the ground and crash-landed his plane onto a vacant lot. A month later, Dyess's story finally went to print in newspapers all over the country, the first time Americans truly knew of the abuses that POWs were facing in Asia. This first book edition was published soon after and became a bestseller. Book near-fine, with only faint soiling. Corner-clipped dust jacket very good with wear to extremities and faint dampstains along flap folds. An extremely good copy.