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Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Captured Honor

POW Survival in the Philippines and Japan

Bob Wodnik


Northwest author Bob Wodnik masterfully depicts the agonizing experiences suffered by American prisoners of war during World War II, in a non-fictional work with the feel of a novel. As a counterpoint to the riveting views of Japanese concentration camps, letters hoarded by a quiet Everett, Washington, hotel night clerk provide intriguing glimpses of hometown life back in the states.

“Wodnik’s book is uncompromising and unsanitized.”—Seattle Times

2004 Best of the Best from the University Presses, American Association of School Librarians


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The time is November 1945, not long after Jack Elkins has returned from a prison camp in Japan to his hometown of Oakesdale, Washington.  An autumn evening finds him before a gathering of townspeople clamoring to hear about his experiences.  Jack is in turmoil.  What they really want, he senses, is nice, neat stories of heroes who beat the odds.  They want “blood without spatters” and death with dignity.  What can he tell them? Burned forever in his mind are images of Japanese blood staining blue Manila Bay; of maggots assaulting the corpse of a buddy; of prisoner after prisoner relegated to small wooden boxes holding their cremated remains. Jack is unable to talk about what happened during his three years in Japanese prison camps. “There is no middle ground,” in his estimation. “You either tell them all or tell them nothing.”  Standing up to the microphone, he whispers barely ten words to the audience, then sits down—and tries for the next half-century to forget.

It was fifty years before Jack could talk about his experiences as a prisoner of war; and he wasn’t alone. In Captured Honor, author Bob Wodnik presents the stories of several Washington POWs. Yet this book is much more than a series of memoirs. Wodnik opens a variety of windows on World War II. Readers see prison-camp life in unrelenting detail.  They glimpse the impact of firebombing on Japanese cities. They hear the difficulties of World War II veterans in adapting to life after the war. In an intriguing counterpoint, Wodnik anchors the entire work in the lobby of the Strand Hotel in downtown Everett, contrasting the horrors of a Japanese prison camp with the quiet life of a bibliophile desk clerk during World War II.

Photographs / index / 192 pages (2003)


2004 Best of the Best from the University Presses, American Association of School Librarians

“Wodnik’s book is uncompromising and unsanitized. A former reporter for the (Everett) Herald, Wodnik has an ear for the detail that delineates the whole.”—Seattle Times

“What sets Wodnik’s book apart from most other histories is the quality of the writing. I can’t remember the last time the first chapter of a book had me wiping tears from my eyes.”—Spokesman Review

“The author has an uncanny ability to capture in words the experiences of ex-POWs.  If there were one book I could recommend to explain the experience of being a POW under the Japanese, this would be it.”—Tom Thompson, former U.S. Army officer

“First and foremost, the manuscript is beautifully written.  The author demonstrates an ability to blend dialogue, letters, and narrative into a seamless fabric, which enfolds the reader.” —Stephen Balzarini, PhD., Associate Professor of History, Gonzaga University

“[Jack Elkins’] brutal experiences—forty months squatting with dirty mess kits tins in the company of camp flies and dead men—are chronicled candidly and realistically, although with a journalistic flair.”—Military Heritage

“Riveting, historic and moving… Captured Honor is not to be missed.”—Book critic Denise M. Clark

“It’s like reading a well-structured novel, only the stories he’s telling are the truth,”— Third Place Books events coordinator

“Wodnik’s intriguing book offers a number of selective glimpses of the face of war of Everett residents, in combat and on the domestic front, during World War II. “—Military Heritage


Additional information

Weight .69 oz
Dimensions 9 x 6 in