Background of the book
The original title of this book was “The Emperor’s Hostages” written by the same author. However, another writer, Harold Stephens, who also was a Second World War veteran in the Pacific Stage got a copy of it, shared the same feeling and enthusiasm and eventually encouraged him to rewrite it with its new title, “Under the Rising Sun”. Here is Stephen’s introductory comment:
Introduction of Harold Stephens
Harold Mendes is a businessman, born and raised in northern California, and he knows just about everyone and anyone who lives in Humboldt County. If he doesn’t know them personally, he knows all about them. It wasn’t long after I got to know him that he told me about Mario Machi. “You’ve got to meet him. He’s a writer, like yourself,” he said. “He was a prisoner-of-war, you know.” Then he added, “He lives in Shelter Cove, has a marina there.”
I usually don’t fancy meeting writers “like myself’ and probably would have declined his offer had I not been anxious to visit Shelter Cove. I was new to redwood country and had heard about the merits of this beautiful hidden cove tucked away on the Pacific Coast.
We made the 24-mile drive one Sunday afternoon and found Mario talking to a couple of boat owners in front of his marina overlooking the cove. A dozen boats were at anchor, waiting to be pulled ashore; others were entering the harbor.
Mario greeted us warmly and we shook hands. He was soft spoken and easy mannered. He was past 70 then, a bit stocky, suntanned and obviously very fit for his age. His hair was white and he had a neatly trimmed moustache. He sported a well-worn captain’s hat with an anchor emblem at the peak. In a conversation that was all too brief (more pleasure boats with their salmon catches were coming in), he mentioned something about serving in the Philippines and that he had a great admiration for the Filipinos, but he spoke mostly about the cove and the fishing season not being what it used to be.
Other bits of information about Mario had come from Harold Mendes on our drive down to the cove. It seems that after Mario was discharged from the army, he completed college and then taught school for twenty-two years at an elementary and junior high school in Miranda, a small town in northern California. Later I met another teacher, Rip Kirby, who had taught school in Miranda the same time as Mario did. “Mario was the hardest working man I had ever met,” Rip said when I asked him about Mario. “He drove a school bus in the morning, taught school all day and then in the evening ran the Grotto Restaurant in Redway. He did the cooking as well. He’s a man that just can’t be idle.”
Mario had acquired some land in Shelter Cove and when he had the capital, he developed it. Mario’s Marina is one of the biggest and most prosperous enterprises in Shelter Cove today.
As I was leaving Shelter Cove that first time, Mario thanked me for stopping by, and as I was getting into the car, he handed me a book, a small book less than a hundred pages, titled The Emperor’s Hostages. His name appeared below the title. “It’s one of my last copies,” he said. “You might want to read it.”
I began reading the book the very next day. Once I started, I couldn’t do another thing until I finished it. As I read I kept picturing Mario, standing at the Marina in Shelter Cove, a proud successful man, and then I saw the same man, almost fifty years before, being kicked and savagely beaten, forced to march through malaria infested jungles for nearly sixty miles with neither food nor water to drink. 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. Somehow, Mario managed to survive the brutality, the hunger, the thirst, the disease, and the dreadful feeling that he had been abandoned. Some 10,000 men died on that march, an average of 178 men for every mile they tread. But Mario Machi lived.
I wanted desperately to talk to Mario again; there was so much to ask him. I couldn’t help wondering about the many people who had read The Emperor’s Hostages, his students, the fishermen who used the marina, even his friends, how many of them knew anything about Mario the prisoner-of-war, a soldier who had survived the notorious Bataan Death March? How can one equate Mario the soldier with Mario the devoted husband and father, the schoolteacher, the man who runs the marina in Shelter Cove?
I can’t remember but I may have seen Mario a half dozen times after that, at the bank in Garberville, and at the Cove when I took friends down to visit. Each time I saw him I thought about the war in the Pacific. Always in the back of my mind was the hope that one day I might be able to sit down with him 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 that left an impression so deep I won’t ever be able to forget it. And it was at that moment that Mario’s book took on a 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 inside the tunnel, not knowing what to expect, the lights dimmed and then went out. We were in total darkness. Suddenly this was not May6, 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 through 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 collapsed.
The god-awful feeling, the sensation we encountered, was about as close as we could get to the real thing. In fact, it was so realistic I wanted to break loose from the others and run from the tunnel. Any of us could very easily 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 else surrender to the Japanese.
On May 6, 1942, after defending the island fortress for five long months, General Jonathan Wainwright did just that-surrender. He gave the orders to raise a white flag. Corregidor had fallen.
Following the presentation, I stood on Corregidor with a half dozen former prisoners and looked across the water toward Bataan. The peninsula appeared peaceful and serene, like a color photograph in a travel magazine. But the men who stood beside me remembered another Bataan. And it was then, standing there on Corregidor, that I remembered Mario Machi and his book.
Corregidor was only half the story of what had happened to American forces in the Philippines. The other half, what took place on the Peninsula of Bataan, was Mario Machi’s story, and I knew then that I had to talk to him again. The story he told in The Emperor’s Hostages was all too brief. I read through the text again, and came up with hundreds of unanswered questions. I wanted to know more about Manila and the Philippines, and, of course, more about the Japanese. Why did these men, the prisoners as well as the Japanese guards, act the way they did? The story that Mario has to tell the world is history in its purest sense. It’s not history told by a scholar who gets his information from research but by one who had been there, one who had seen and witnessed it first hand, and who had recorded in a diary many events as they were happening. And most miraculously, this leather-bound diary-a written confession that would certainly have meant immediate death to Mario had it fallen into enemy hands-has survived to this day. Mario’s story is a story for this generation and for future generations to read and ponder. Then, perhaps, we might better understand what went wrong with the world back in 1941, and hopefully learn from those mistakes.
I finally met with Mario, now nearing eighty years old, in Shelter Cove, and he was receptive to my suggestion that he republish his memoirs. When we did sit down together to discuss the new book, often with his wife Shirley present, I was surprised to find he could recall with minute accuracy every detail of his war years experiences. And Shirley added greatly to his story. She could relate the more intimate details, about death and suffering, and about loving too, that Mario had revealed to her in their years together.
Sometimes when talking to Mario our conversations took painful twists. Mario’s eyes occasionally filled with tears as he recalled a particularly painful incident. At other times, he corrected my assumptions. I remember saying to him; ”You really had to be a wheeler-dealer to survive.” In a stern voice, he fired back, “I survived because I was not a wheeler-dealer.”
Mario immediately set to work on the revision with the new title Under the Rising Sun. He has expanded the original text and answered many questions that had gone unanswered. Some questions, however, cannot be answered, and it is up the reader to find his own interpretations.
Under the Rising Sun is written for both the generations who remember Bataan and for those who have yet to hear. It is the story of survival under conditions of utmost brutality and depravation, but more importantly, it stands as witness to the values that sustained the author on his terrible journey: his sense of humor, his love for country, family and friends, and finally his commitment to work and to helping those whose circumstances were even worse than his. On his return to the United States in 1945, Mario Machi was awarded the Bronze Star for the work he had done in the camps. Now, a half century later, he has told his story, and we are all made the richer for it. Readers will notice some chapters contain headings in italics. Most of these are historical notes that I prepared and are not necessarily the opinion nor the conclusion of the author. I have added them in hope that they serve to enlighten readers to other events that were happening at the time. It is impossible to set all the facts straight. For example, every history text and every source material lists a different number for prisoners lost during the death march. Some sources believe the figure is well over 10,000. But such figures and facts are not what concerns Mario Machi. He leaves that to the writers of textbooks.
California, June 1994