THE LONG MARCH HOME by Marcus Brotherton & Tosca Lee
A World War II Novel of the Pacific
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Fiction
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2023
“[A] tour de force.”–Publishers Weekly starred review
Jimmy Propfield joined 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.
Inspired by true stories, The Long March Home is a gripping coming-of-age tale of friendship, sacrifice, and the power of unrelenting hope.
December 7, 1941
I admire the new cut of my khakis in the latrine mirror, flexing just enough to test the stretch of the shirt across my shoulder blades. I’ve filled out in the six months since we arrived as raw recruits. Grown half an inch too, I reckon. And even though I’m only a private, I got a fresh haircut and fifteen dollars left in my pocket after picking up my uniforms from the Chinese tailor, who was worth every penny.
The eighteen-year-old preacher’s kid from Mobile, Alabama, is gone.
A soldier of the Thirty-First Infantry stands in his place.
I tuck my tie into my shirt between the second and third buttons and straighten up tall. Raise my fingers to my brow in a perfect salute.
Not the same Jimmy “Propper” Propfield at all.
“Prop!” A lanky form rounds the corner. “Can we leave already?”
I drop my arm—too late. Even in my peripheral vision I can tell Billy’s snickering. He gives a low whistle.
“Dang, we even wearin’ the same uniform?” He looks down at himself. His shirt hangs from his shoulders, but at least he ain’t the string bean he used to be. I wonder if his mama would recognize him with this much meat on his bones and without his freckles, which didn’t fade so much as the rest of his skin just finally caught up. A state track star back home in Alabama, Billy was called “the Ginger Streak” by everyone on account of his red hair. He was so fast, that’s all you’d see—a streak of ginger flying by. But the first two months here we called him the Lightning Lobster on account of his regular sunburn.
“I told you, you need to get at least one uniform cut down for parades,” I say as we head out. “You wanna move up in rank, you gotta look the part.”
Billy shrugs. “Don’t know as I care about that. ’Sides, I think I’m still growin’.”
Given that he’s only sixteen and had to lie about his age to enlist, he’s probably right. I also know he signed to have half his pay sent home to his mama and sisters.
I turn toward Billy as we don our caps beneath an overcast Manila sky. It’s weird, him being nearly as tall as me. “Tell you what,” I say. “Tomorrow afternoon we’ll go down and get you fixed up. On me.”
“Aw, I couldn’t—”
“We’re goin’ and that’s final. Call it an early birthday present.”
“You’re a good friend, Jimmy,” Billy says. “I’m lucky to have you and Hank lookin’ out for me.”
Never mind that Hank’s version of “looking out” for Billy has been to recommend he pick up a prophylactic kit with his weekend pass if he wants to avoid the clap. Ain’t sure whether Hank learned that one the hard way since he got assigned to another company—a thing none of us was happy about until we found out his barracks was directly across from ours and that we could meet up any afternoon and head out together on pass.
Which we did, hitting town on payday to dance with the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen at the first flashy cabaret we came to. We’d had a real good time too, first time out—before someone slipped Hank a Mickey and swiped Billy’s and my wallets. We learned real fast to stay off the main strip on payday when the prices double, and to divide our money between our socks and pockets.
After waiting most of the day on my uniforms, Billy and me are the last ones we know to sign out. Everyone else—including Hank—left the Cuartel de Espana in the old walled city hours ago for Manila’s restaurants, bars, and brothels.
There are only a few hawkers left on the cobblestone street beyond the sally port. The second we emerge they swarm us with souvenirs, candy, and postcards. Kids pull at our hands and pockets, hoping for coins.
Billy produces a pack of chewing gum with mock surprise. “Say, look what I just found in my pocket!” He asks a grinning little girl, “Did you put this here?” Kids flock to him like seagulls as he gives away the pieces.
As I wait for him, an old woman with a leathery face pushes a corsage toward me, her other hand outstretched. “For your sweetheart, Joe!”
“Ma’am, when I find her, I promise to buy them all.” I press the flowers back into her palm with a ten-centavo coin. She smiles with a silent nod of thanks.
According to the news, there’s tension on these islands. Here on Luzon, especially. We’ve been gearing up for war in the Philippines now for months—the reason General MacArthur was recalled to active duty and the Army started shipping out green recruits like us to do our basic training here.
But if there’s tension, we don’t feel it. And the war in Europe might as well be a world away.
A breeze blows through the park outside the old Spanish walls as I hail a brightly painted calesa. Just this morning we were out here running drills beneath pink-flowered trees. The calesa’s driver brings the carriage to a stop and we climb in.
“The Metropolitan, please,” I say as Billy and me climb aboard. The two-wheeled cart lurches forward and the pony clip-clops down the street. I gaze out the side of the carriage as we pass the Manila Hotel, where General MacArthur lives in a fifth-floor penthouse and officers have parties nearly every night. The portico’s white columns are wound in red and green garland and I realize it’s almost Christmas.
Billy starts talking about volcanoes. He’s been going on and on about wanting to see one since we got here.
“We can take a bus to Lake Taal,” Billy says. “There’s a volcano right in the middle of the lake. Ain’t that somethin’? A volcano in the middle of a lake!”
“That sounds real swell,” I say before leaning forward to ask the driver, “Sir, can you take us by the Army-Navy Club?”
Billy groans. “We’re gonna be late.”
“No, we ain’t.” To the driver I say, “Is it true they got a fifty-foot-long buffet in there?”
“Buffet, yes,” the man says. He’s weathered and missing most of his teeth, but—like everyone else here—he smiles. “Bowling alley . . . swimming . . . restaurant . . . bar . . .”
We ride up the street, past the Army-Navy Club’s tennis courts toward the university. What I ain’t told anyone is that I’ve been looking into some courses there. Billy and Hank have already been making names for themselves on the regiment track and boxing teams since we arrived. But I was never a star athlete or fond of getting my nose broke.
So I got other plans.
Drills end at one o’clock every day on account of the heat. But while everyone else heads to the slop chute for cold beer and card playing, I’m fixing to earn me an education. By the time my tour’s up, I intend to have a college degree and be lined up for a commission. I’ll re-up and take out a furnished room at the Army-Navy Club. Take up tennis. Try out that fifty-foot buffet.
I glance back in time to see an officer toss the keys of his Chevy to a bellman out front of the club.
Maybe even buy me a sweet set of wheels.
But one thing I don’t plan on: going back to Mobile. I was ruined for it the minute I saw the old Spanish shipwrecks in the harbor and tasted my first mango. The bells of Santo Domingo were still ringing their hellos when I swore I’d stay as long as I could. Because if this ain’t paradise, I don’t know what is. A place a young man like me can start fresh, prove himself, and build a future. Live like a king, even. We already eat better than we did at home and the dollar goes farther. True, there’s no Crimson Tide football and I ain’t seen grits or chocolate gravy. But as long as I got my two best friends, I have all I need.
The grand Metropolitan Theater looks more like a palace than a place to watch Mickey Mouse movies. Sergeant York just opened last night, and the line today is out the door and full of enlisted men. Billy and me get out and I pay the driver, but I don’t see Hank anywhere.
“Don’t tell me he ain’t here,” I mutter.
“Maybe he’s already inside,” Billy says.
I’m about to go in and look around when I hear a familiar shout farther up the street.
“Streak! Propper!” And then, with more belly, “James Pierce Propfield!”
It’s the same voice that used to yell for me to pass the football, that egged me on to victory in the only fight I ever got in without him, and that announced we were enlisting back in July.
Which is how I also know its owner is drunk.
I scan the line of cabs letting passengers off at the curb and find Hank standing beside a taxi, hands cupped around his mouth like a megaphone.
“William Miles Crockett! Billyyyy!” he calls, voice going up an octave like he’s calling in pigs.
Billy grimaces. “Why’s he gotta carry on like that?”
“Hurry up!” I shout, waving him over as it starts to rain. “Movie starts in fifteen minutes!”
“Forget the movie!” Hank hollers. He sticks his hands in his pockets, turns sideways, and poses like some two-bit Gary Cooper. “The three of us are celebratin’. Get over here!”
Billy jogs to the curb. Next thing I know, he’s whooping and slapping Hank on the back—I got no idea why . . .
Until I see the stiff new stripe on Hank’s sleeve. I sigh and walk over.
At first I think it’s a joke. That he must’ve stolen someone’s uniform.
But then Hank’s telling Billy thanks and grinning dimple to dimple with his chewing gum between his teeth.
Hank’s been promoted to private first class.
I clap Hank on the back as we pile into the taxi, shaking my head the entire time. Because I know Hank ain’t pulled half the guard duty Billy and me have. Those three days we spent marching one hundred miles to and from Subic Bay in the heat, Hank was chauffeuring officers around Manila in a car from the motor pool. Hank’s the last of us three I’d have guessed would get promoted and the first I’d have predicted to land in the brig.
But I’m glad for him. He’s nineteen and the oldest of us, so I guess it makes sense. Besides, Hank’s the main reason we’re here.
We hit the Silver Dollar Café first for fried chicken and local beer. By the time we land a table at our fourth bar, Hank and Billy have put away a dozen San Miguels and a couple jiggers of gin between them while I’ve nursed a series of Cokes. And because we’ve already toasted everyone from the company commander who approved Hank’s promotion to Uncle Sam, the Crimson Tide’s winning season, and Betty Grable’s legs, I finally raise my glass and say, “To Private First Class Hank Wright.”
Hank bows his head as we each take a drink.
“I got one,” Billy says. “Remember this? To . . .” He wiggles his brows and starts gassing it up so hard the next part comes out as a squeak. “The Lady Killers!”
I sputter and Billy nearly falls out of his chair with a howl at the name Hank and me dubbed ourselves at the start of seventh grade.
“Boy, weren’t we somethin’!” I laugh. “I got hold of my daddy’s pomade and slicked back my hair and Hank thought for sure he was sprouting a Clark Gable mustache.” I point my beer at Billy. “What were you in—sixth grade? How d’you even know about that? You know we can’t let you live.”
Hank chuckles, but he’s staring at the bottle in his hand, not saying a word.
Billy and me fall quiet.
“You got one, Hank?” Billy asks after a minute.
Hank pauses and then nods, lifting his beer, if not his head.
“To . . .” He stops. Presses his lips together. The lower one trembles.
He sets down the beer, gets up, and walks off without a name.
But we all know who he meant.
Marcus Brotherton & Tosca Lee, The Long March Home
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2023. Used by permission.
Marcus Brotherton is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author or coauthor of more than twenty-five books that have been called “fascinating,” “brilliantly arranged,” “magical,” and “refreshingly frank.” Connect with Marcus at marcusbrotherton.com.
Tosca Lee is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels, including The Line Between, The Progeny, The Legend of Sheba, and Iscariot. Lee’s work has been praised as “deeply human,” “powerful,” and “mind-bending historical fiction.” Connect with Tosca at toscalee.com
Revell is offering a print copy of The Long March Home by Marcus Brotherton & Tosca Lee to TWO of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read The Long March Home by Marcus Brotherton & Tosca Lee?
THE LONG MARCH HOME by Marcus Brotherton & Tosca Lee sounds like a book that tells a compelling story.
My uncle was stationed in the Philippines at the beginning of WWII. He became ill and was sent stateside just before the fall of the Allies and the Bataan Death March which took most of his unit. I would be interested in reading the story of the soldiers that served there at that time.
I enjoy WWII novels!
me too! 🙂
Most of my WWII novel reading has been about the Holocaust and Europe. I need to read more about the Pacific theatre.
i do too!
Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.
This sounds like a wonderful book.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. This sounds like a good one. Can’t wait to read it.
And share with my grandson who is an avid history buff!!
aww i love that!
Sounds amazing! My grandpa was a WW2 vet, though he served in Europe.
mine too 🙂
Just the thought of this book addressing WWII, makes it intriguing enough for me to want to read it, especially because my own father, who later became a long-time missionary in Paraguay, was a WWII veteran in the navy, on the USS Saratoga. . . Thanks for the opportunity to enter this giveaway. Also, both authors are new-to=me, although I’ve been aware of them, particularly Tosca Lee, but haven’t had an opportunity to read any CF books by her as yet 🙂
that’s really interesting about your dad, Lual!
I enjoy reading historical fiction.
me too 🙂
This looks likeva fascinating novel. Very excited!
He’s new to me. I read all of Tosca books up till now.
This historical sounds meaningful, profound and interests me greatly since Word War 11 novels are my favorite era.
I’ve heard very good things about this book!
Love the sound of this one and look forward to adding it to my reading list.
I spent some time in the Philippines a few years ago. It’s a really interesting place, really nice people, still have some friends over there. Thanks
My dad was a WWII veteran who served in the Philippines. Sounds like a fascinating read.
This sounds like a great story, definitely going on my to-read list.
Sounds really good. I haven’t read anything set in the Philippines before.
Story sounds very compelling.
I like Historical Books
I’ve never read anything by Tosca Lee, but I recently read Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton. I loved it! That’s why I’m excited for the Long March Home. 🙂
Three buddies still together in the army looking for fun and finding that and troubles. It looks like a story which lets the reader glimpse life in the before and after with new experiences while bringing up old times.
looks like a fun one
sounds so good.
I love books written in the era! This looks like a very compelling read.
Sounds like a very interesting and informative book. Thanks for sharing.
WWII is one of my favorite time periods to read about.
I studied the Bataan Death March as part of a history class that took us to Hawaii to study on site last summer. I’d love to learn more about this.
My father and 4 uncles served in WWII. I read everything book I can about the war and how it shaped the Greatest Generation. I’m looking forward to reading this one.
The subject matter and the authors make me want to read this!