Stevensville – John “Mac” MacDonald of Missoula has just issued a book detailing his experiences as a prisoner of war under the Japanese in World War II in the Philippines. Titled “A Normal Life: Mish Kid and Prisoner of War,” the book outlines the story of his missionary family during the harrowing years they were imprisoned by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945.
Fourteen at the time of his family’s capture by the Japanese, MacDonald, now 90, has been a resident of Stevensville and Missoula since his retirement from the U.S. Air Force in – a career he pursued four years after returning to the United States in 1945 at the age of 16, just after the war had ended.
MacDonald’s missionary family was serving in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, when the Japanese invaded the country in December of 1941. He details in the book how the entire family at first “took to the hills” near Manila to evade capture, but were ultimately found by the Japanese and imprisoned, first in Manila and then in the infamous Los Banos Internment Camp roughly 30 miles south of Manila.
He details the day-to-day struggle of the internees to stay alive during their imprisonment as both threats of brutality and a starvation diet were constant factors in the time spent at Los Banos. MacDonald uses both text and period photographs to tell his story, including a number of fantastic pictures of the prisoners’ daring rescue by the United States Army and Philippine guerillas from miles behind enemy lines on Feb. 19, 1945, by the chance of fate the same day that the invasion of Iwo Jima was made by the U.S. Marines.
MacDonald has lived in the Stevensville and Missoula area since his retirement from the Air Force, where he served as a pilot and flew 130 combat missions over Communist lines in Korea, followed by an intelligence assignment in Virginia and then 10 years flying B-47 jet bombers for the Strategic Air Command. Upon completion of his military career, MacDonald returned to Missoula – his mother’s hometown – where he completed a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Montana and subsequently taught in a Missoula high school for two years.
In 1975, the family moved to Stevensville, where he had built a home six miles east of town. He later became active in Christian ministry through the Cursillo program with a special emphasis on prison ministry – first in Montana, then in Washington and now at a second prison in Montana. In 1992, he and his wife opened a video rental store in Stevensville and later participated in a Christian outreach program to Moscow, Russia. In all, he was invited by the Russians to participate in such programs some 25 times over a 14-year period. His wife died in a car accident in December of 1992 and he sold the video shop a year later. He remarried in 1998, moving to Missoula where he still lives.
MacDonald’s new book of 160 pages was issued in 6×9-inch softcover format. “A Normal Life: Mish Kid and Prisoner of War” retails for $19.95 and is available at many bookstores, gift shops and other outlets, or direct from Stoneydale Press, 523 Main Street, Stevensville MT 59870; phone 406-777-2729 or website www.stoneydale.com.