• New Five-Star Review for Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan

    July 21, 2017

    Posted in: Hooper's War

    This review comes from A Girl Who Reads:

    Nate Hooper fought in Japan in World War II, fighting on the ground and following the orders of his superiors. Along the way, he lost fellow combatants and his innocence, though superiors don’t care much about the loss of spirit and hope. They care about orders followed, Japanese opponents fought, and painting a heroic picture for those left behind in the United States.

    The story is told in reverse chronology; it opens in 2017 with Nate returning to Japan, then we go backward in sections to see the events referenced, interspersed with Nate’s musings in 2017, First, we see the battle at Kyoto, then the “daring escape” his superiors talked about and changed the nature of in reports, the train station attack, the fields, etc. We keep going further and further back, seeing the origin of his disillusionment. Death is never pretty, but he sees it in various kinds of ways. It’s vividly described, and brings home the horror of war on soldiers. We also get scenes from the perspective of Sergeant Eichi Nakagawa, and the horrors are the same for Japanese soldiers.

    “…the opposite of fear out there isn’t safety, it’s love. And you do insane things for those you love, including die for them.” (page 102)

    War, as seen on the ground, is one that carves out humanity in pieces. Battles aren’t grandiose, and the losses are glossed over for the media back home. It’s an entirely different world, one where the casual cruelties are rewarded. Saving lives is actually punished if that goes against orders, further lessening the hope in the field.

    “War isn’t a place that makes men better. Flawed men turn bad, then bad men turn evil. So the darkest secret of my war wasn’t the visceral knowledge that people can be filthy and horrible. It was the visceral knowledge that I could be filthy and horrible.” (page 115)

    The end of the book feels melancholy, and Van Buren adds commentary to explain the historical significance of the events he chose to portray in the novel. This is definitely a book that will haunt you long after you put it down.

    Buy Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan now, in paperback or Kindle, at Amazon!

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      Nolte as Nate Hooper. Release date- 2020! Let’s get positive.

      07/21/17 10:59 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...



      07/21/17 11:16 AM | Comment Link

    • chuck said...



      07/21/17 11:18 AM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...



      Here is a real life story that would make a good movie:

      April 26th is the 70th anniversary of the death of Major Thomas Bolyn Smothers, Jr. He was a West Point Graduate and a member of the 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts. He was the father of the Smothers Brothers comedy team.

      Major Smothers survived Battle of Bataan and the Bataan Death March. He endured harsh captivity for nearly three years in Cabanatuan, a POW camp on the Philippines. It is the trip to become a hostage, slave laborer for Japan that he did not survive.

      On 13 December 1944, he was among 1621 prisoners, the majority officers, who were marched from Bilibid Prison to Pier 7, Manila. At dusk, they were marched aboard the Oryoku Maru, divided into three groups, and forced down into three dark holds.

      What followed was probably the most infamous of the Hell Ship voyages. American bombers sunk the Oryoku Maru barely out of port. POW survivors were kept for five tortuous days on an abandoned tennis court, exposed to the tropical sun with little water or food.

      On December 27. the men were again packed aboard a freighter, the Enoura Maru to Formosa. This ship’s holds were not cleaned of its previous cargo, horses. They arrived in Takao, Formosa on New Year’s Day only to be left on board for over a week, where they were again bombed by American planes. The Japanese took days to remove the dead and did little to help the wounded.

      Finally on January 13, 1945, the survivors were packed on the Brazil Maru to Moji Japan arriving January 31st. Smothers was judged as one of those in the worst shape and sent along with 109 others to “Moji Hospital” more properly known as Kokura Army Hospital.

      After a month he and most of the few survivors of Kokura Army hospital were brought to Fukuoka #22 camp that provided POW slave labor to Sumitomo steel.

      Smothers was never well enough to perform any labor at the camp. He was taken from Fukuoka #22 to the Fukuoka city docks (Moji) on April 25th. Either on the dock or at sea on the steamer to Fusan, Korea, Major Smothers died. Some report he was buried at sea, others say his body was carried on to Korea and cremated.

      Only 36 of the 110 men brought to Kokura Army hospital survived the war, with Smothers being the last to die. Only 404 of men from the Oryoku Maru–374 Americans, 19 British, and 11 Dutch–survived through to liberation in late August 1945.

      07/21/17 1:14 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer- I’m not aware of either of the Smothers brothers mentioning their dad in any interviews. I must be that they never really knew him or his grim fate didn’t resonate with them. They were more “civil rights” guys than anti war. I wonder why? Perhaps it is because they were too old for the Viet draft.

      07/21/17 2:26 PM | Comment Link

    • RICH BAUER said...


      It was the thought of those boys that kept him going.

      07/21/17 2:58 PM | Comment Link

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