When you make the drive from the small town of Redway in northern California to Shelter Cove on the Pacific coast, no matter how many times you may have made the drive before, that first view of the cove and the blue Pacific beyond is always a welcoming sight. If you are one who feels this way, that the view does something to you, then you will understand the message behind the book Under the Rising Sun, Memories of a Japanese Prisoner of War. When you read the book. It was that same view, and memories of Shelter Cove, that kept the author Mario Machi alive during the grim days of World War 11 when he was a prisoner of war under the Japanese.
Kicked and savagely beaten, Machi was forced to march through malaria infested jungles for nearly sixty miles, with neither food norwater to drink. He was able to survive the Bataan Death March and the years in a prison camp that followed by keeping his mind filled with pleasant images of the peaceful and serene Shelter Cove.
Born and raised in San Francisco, as a boy Mario spent his summers at the Cove, and while imprisoned by the Japanese he vowed that one day he would make it back to the cove. He did.
When World War II ended and he was freed from Bilibid Prison in the Philippines, he returned to San Francisco with the intent to put the war behind him. He finished his education, and for 22 years taught elementary and junior high school in Miranda, California. Aside from teaching school, he opened a restaurant, the Grotto, and drove a school bus to earn extra money. Finally he and his two brothers were able to buy land in Shelter Cove, his dream fulfilled, and Mario’s Marina today is the product of that dream.
Mario said he did not write Under the Rising Sun with the intent of producing a war story. For fifty years has kept his thoughts hidden, from his many students and from all the sailors and fishermen who used his services at his marina. He kept to himself the memories of prisoners who marched side by side with him, some too weak to continue, who dropped 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. Somehow 10,000 others died on that march, some 178 men for every mile they tread, but Mario Machi lived.
What makes Mario’s story so extraordinary is that it is not simply an account of an ex-soldier recalling a dreadful act that happened long ago. Mario’s account of the Bataan Death March was recorded as it was happening, in a diary that he managed to keep on the march. Each day, often under actual heavy gun fire, he recorded what he had seen and witnessed, first hand, and most miraculously, this leather-bound diary–a written confession that would certainly have meant immediate death had it fallen into enemy hands–has survived to this day. He slipped the diary to an unknown Filipino civilian; years after the war the diary arrived in the mail at Mario’s home in San Francisco. Mario has kept the diary hidden away all these years, until now.
Mario’s life story is for both the generations who remember Bataan and World War II 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 own.
On his return to the United States in 1945 Mario Machi was awarded the Bronze Star for the work he did in the camps. Mario died in Shelter Cove in the fall of 1999, and is survived by his wife and two daughter. A bronze statue and plaque over looking the Pacific Ocean stand is solemn memory of this great man.