Under the Rising Sun
Against the advice of his father, Mario Machi dropped out of college and enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 17, 1941. War in the Pacific seemed imminent and he believed it was best for him to enlist early and get himself into something he liked. He'd had three years of college behind him at San Francisco State. With a major in physical education, he'd studied anatomy and biology, and some medicine, and decided the medical corps was the place for him. However, he'd received very little training and in September he asked to be transferred to the infantry.
Like all soldiers readying themselves to go overseas, Mario Machi had a dinner with his family and friends on Fisherman's Wharf, made wishes, tossed pennies into the water, began a diary and naively entered into his diary that he hoped this would be an "experience of value" and that he and all his friends would return safely. Two months later, they were thrown into a world they had not thought humanly possible.
After his first air raid at the hands of Japanese bombers, Machi spent the day picking up bodies and pieces of bodies. He wrote in his diary: "I have always wanted action and experience. I think I have had enough now."
But the air raid was just the beginning. Between his first air raid and his return to San Francisco on the troop ship USS Monterrey, Mario Machi and his comrades and buddies would endure more than four years of insane war, killing and blood; the hopeless campaign to save the Philippines: the infamous Bataan Death March, starvation, cruelty, and deaths in the middle of the night of people -- friends -- sleeping next to him.
Machi's book retells the horrors, the inhumanity, the courage and -- yes, also, in the midst of it all, the humanity, the love and the humor -- of Mario Machi and the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and Filipino natives that endured the War in the Pacific. To the text of Under the Rising Sun, editor and journalist Harold Stephens adds fascinating historical anecdotes and footnotes, photographs of bombed-out Manila, the Bataan Death March, and inmates of prison camps, to bring together a historical account so vivid the person who has never been through the hell of war can almost feel, hear and smell the sounds and fury of one of the most infamous military episodes in this century.
From the Introduction to Under the Rising Sun
By Harold Stephens
Always in the back of my mind was the hope that one day I might be able to sit down with Mario Machi and ask about those days of long ago. But I didn't. The days passed, the months, and the years. Then, on May 6, 1992, an event took place so deep that I won't ever be able to forget it. And it was at that moment that Mario's book took on new meaning and came to life for me.
On that day, in the heat of the afternoon, with eighty former prisoners-of-war, I entered Malinta Tunnel on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines. As a journalist, I was invited by the Philippine government to attend a ceremony marking the 50th Anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor. The Corregidor Foundation was staging a light-and-sound presentation of the siege of Corregidor that they called 'The Malinta Experience.'
As we stood there in the tunnel, not knowing what to expect, the lights dimmed, and then went out. We were in total darkness. Suddenly this was not May 6, 1992, but May 6, 1942. From somewhere deep in the tunnel a bomb blast ended our silence. It was followed by another, and another. Shock after shock vibrated the rock walls! A string of light bulbs suspended from the ceiling came on, dimly, flickering, swinging from side to side. The concrete floor beneath our feet trembled with such violence I reached for something to grab. Soon the sound was deafening, like a weight pressing down, about to crush us. Dust fell from everywhere, and the walls seemed as though they might collapse.
The god-awful feeling, the sensation we encountered, was about as close as we could get to the real thing. I wanted to break loose from the others and run from the tunnel. Any of us could have done that, run for the light at the far end, but for the soldiers who were defending the rock fifty years ago that would have been impossible. They were doomed to die, or to surrender to the Japanese.
On May 6, 1942, after defending the fortress for five long months, Gen. Jonathon Wainwright did just that -- surrendered. He gave the orders to raise the white flag.
The fall of Corregidor began what was to become known as The Bataan Death March -- 70,000 Americans and Filipinos crowding, staggering and stumbling mile after mile down crowded jungle trails, jostling and rubbing elbows with fresh Japanese troops going the other way, to the front, on the same trails; 10,000 dying en route of dysentery, hunger, thirst, exhaustion and the bayonet. Thousands more escaping into the jungle.
From Under the Rising Sun, pages 70 and 81
The dust that enveloped the road was being stirred up by trucks and big guns on their way to the front. American and Filipino soldiers emerged through the pall of smoke and dust in endless lines and groups of suffering humanity.
Many suffered from dysentery and in answering nature's call, ran to the side of the road. Guards kicked at them and pounded them with rifle butts and ordered them back in line. Human forms writhed in the hot dust of the road, and the further we trod hungry and disillusioned, the number of dead increased proportionately. We stumbled over bodies, the dead and the dying. They lie on both sides of the road and soon became commonplace to us.
I remember some things quite vividly, like the incident where a squat Japanese guard with a fixed bayonet saw a soldier on the road with his pants down. The soldier grinned and then ran his bayonet into the poor soldier's behind. Maybe I remember the incident so well because I can't forget the grin on that guard's face.
... Mile after mile the lootings and beatings continued. They cared not whom they struck. High-ranking officers were no exception. I watched one three-star Japanese private attack Major General Edward King, the US commander who surrendered our troops on Bataan. The soldier was so short that he had to jump to strike the general in the face with his fist. He did it time and time again, and the general just stood there. No one could do anything. Guards with pointed rifles waited for us to do something. Finally, the private gave up in disgust and walked away.
"I began reading the book the very next day. Once I started, I couldn't do another thing until I finished it.... And I could see, marching side by side with him, other prisoners, men too weak to continue, dropping by the roadside, only to be bayoneted for failing to keep up.
--Gordon Nix, Death March Survivor
Some 10,000 men died on that march, an average of 178 for every mile they tread. Somehow, Mario Machi managed to survive the brutality, the hunger, the thirst, the disease, and the dreadful feeling that he had been abandoned.
--Retired Officers Review
Under the Rising Sun is engrossing yet free of rancor. . . It is equally clear that what he had witnessed and the sacrifices he and his comrades endured should not be forgotten.
--Ashi News, Japan