New York Times Bestselling Authors Offer Dual-Time Story Commemorating the Bataan Death March
Inspired by true stories, The Long March Home is a gripping coming-of-age tale of friendship, sacrifice, and the power of unrelenting hope.
Jimmy Propfield joins the Army for two reasons: to get out of Mobile, Alabama, with his best friends Hank and Billy and to forget his high school sweetheart, Claire.
Life in the Philippines seems like paradise—until the morning of December 8, 1941, when news comes from Manila: Imperial Japan has bombed Pearl Harbor. Within hours, the teenage friends are plunged into war as enemy warplanes attack Luzon, beginning a battle for control of the Pacific theater that will culminate with a last stand on the Bataan Peninsula and end with the largest surrender of American troops in history.
What follows will become known as one of the worst atrocities in modern warfare: the Bataan Death March. With no hope of rescue, the three friends vow to make it back home together. But the ordeal is only the beginning of their nearly four-year fight to survive.
An Interview with Marcus and Tosca
The Long March Home is set against the backdrop of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. When did you first learn about the Bataan Death March, and why did you decide to write a novel about this era?
MARCUS: It all started about fifteen years ago when Lt. Buck Compton and I were waiting for a plane during a speaking tour. Buck—who’d been a commissioned officer with the legendary Band of Brothers—was talking to me about World War II, and I remarked about the difficulty he’d experienced during the wintry siege of Bastogne.
Buck agreed, then said, “Yeah, but at least I wasn’t fighting in the Pacific. Man, those guys had it really rough.”
That line stayed with me for years.
I began to read up extensively on the era. In 2013, historian Adam Makos and I interviewed veterans who’d fought in the Pacific for our bestselling oral history project, Voices of the Pacific. I grasped more fully what Buck was hinting at then. But I hoped to do more.
When it came to this era, I wanted to take readers right into the action and pathos and connect with not only nonfiction readers but fiction readers too, which ultimately led to the creation of The Long March Home.
TOSCA: Honestly—and this was one big reason I wanted to do this book—I had not heard about the Defenders of Bataan or this harrowing chapter in World War II history until Marcus approached me with the idea of working together on this project.
What a sobering education researching this story has been and what an honor it is to share it with others who, like me, may not be aware of it or its heroes.
The Long March Home is the story of three friends, Jimmy “Propper” Propfield, Billy Crockett, and Hank Wright. Can you provide some background information on each of these young men?
Jimmy is our main character. He’s a good kid, a pastor’s kid, a kid who always tries to do the right thing. He and Claire, Billy’s older sister, have been companions practically since birth, as their mothers are best friends.
Billy, who is a couple years younger than Jimmy, is the happy-go-lucky sidekick.
Hank, the oldest of the boys, is a natural leader, a bad boy, and the kind of kid others want to be around. The only problem is, Hank’s had a soft spot for Claire since meeting her in third grade… and Claire is the only girl Jimmy’s ever loved.
Jimmy, Billy, and Hank are determined to survive the unthinkable: “If we have to run—if we have to swim off this island—we’re gettin’ through this. The three of us—all home alive.” Can you provide examples of how the friends band together to survive the war?
One of the working titles of the book for a few months during the writing process was All Home Alive. That’s the boys’ goal from the moment they begin to understand what dire straits they’re in.
From the sharing of provisions to their familiar banter in an effort to buoy spirits during the grueling miles of the Death March, the three friends make a constant effort to stay together and protect one another.
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