The Battle of Buffalo Wallow

James R. Odrowski

Book Cover

GENRE

ACTION WAR BIOGRAPHICAL

    Core Theme

    COURAGE

    TIME PERIOD

    1940s & '50s,1960s & '70s

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), BAND OF BROTHERS (2001; TV), THE PACIFIC (2010; TV)

    CHARACTER LIST

    EDWARD ODROWSKI: 27. COURAGEOUS. INTELLIGENT. AMBITIOUS.

    JAMES ODROWSKI: TEENAGER. SON.

    STELLA ODROWSKI: EARLY-20S. WIFE.

    GENERAL MACARTHUR: 60S. SUPERIOR.

    LT. COL. WALTER TEAGUE: LATE-20S. SUPERIOR.

    JAPANESE SOLDIERS: VARIOUS. ENEMIES.

    Logline

    A U.S. Army medical unit is under imminent attack by the Japanese. Untrained in combat and with no option to retreat, the unit faced a fateful decision. A controversial and courageous story of World War II as told by a father to his son.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    Kansas City, Australia, New Guinea, The Philippines

    Based on a True Story

    Yes

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: self-published

    Publisher: Amazon

    Year Published: 2020

    Starting Description

    Captain Edward A. Odrowski is a WWII veteran who served with the 44th General Hospital in the Pacific. Ed joins the Army Medical Corps, expecting to be far from the front lines. But, in the invasion of Leyte, his unit is under attack. He later tells his stories of the War to his young son Jim.

    Ending Description

    As Japanese infantry infiltrated and enemy paratroopers dropped around them, the hospital staff faced imminent death. With over 200 patients, the Japanese surrounding them, and no option to retreat, they had to decide whether to "do no harm" or defend. Their fate depended upon their decision.

    Group Specific

    World War II history interest

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    978-0-578-78674-2

    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Philosophical Questions,Happy Ending

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain,Voyage and Return,Internal Journey/Rebirth

    Main Character Details

    Name: Edward Odrowski

    Age: 27

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Masculine,Aspiring,Patriotic,Confident,Decisive,Leader,Heroic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Stella Odrowski

    Age: 23

    Gender: Female

    Role: Emotional

    Key Traits: Empathetic,Faithful

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Jim Odrowski

    Age: 12

    Gender: Male

    Role: sidekick

    Key Traits: Aspiring,Empathetic,Engaging

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Japanese Soldiers

    Age: 20

    Gender: Male

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Aggressive,Honorable,Power Hungry,Desperate

    Genre

    ACTION, WAR, DRAMA

    Brief

    Edward Odrowski is First Lieutenant of the 44th General Hospital, a US medical unit in the Philippines during WWII. Untrained in combat, unprotected, and with no option to retreat, Edward's unit attempts to survive imminent attack by the Japanese.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: FAIR

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: EXCELLENT

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Yes, it is accurate.

    Draw of Story

    The obvious research undertaken by the author and the wealth of detail provided, including quotes by the people who were there, make this book a fascinating, engrossing read. Based on the true story of the courageous actions of the 44th General Hospital -- a US medical unit active in the Philippines during WWII -- this tale is told in a concise, detailed manner which allows the bravery of the 44th's actions to shine through. The author cleverly fills in some of the background information surrounding other generals and units -- including the Japanese -- and this helps to build a portrait of this little but bloody slice of WWII on the island of Leyte and provides some explanation as to why this tale of the 44th's bravery has faded from mainstream historical record. Told in a fast pace as the author passes concisely and episodically through Edward's various stages in the war until the story culminates in the Battle of Buffalo Wallow, this is ultimately the tale of an ordinary American father and husband who is pushed toward acts of extraordinary courage in a life-or-death situation, and who then survives to tell the tale and returns to his family. This is a universal story perfect for adaptation on the big screen, or even a premium limited series.

    Possible Drawbacks

    Very little would make the reader put this book down; it's well-written, fascinating, and concise. What the book could use, however, is more detail, more narrative. The author writes the story in the detached manner of a historian but, from the perspective of potential adaptation, this story would be much more effective as a film if it contained less pure historical record and more fact-based fiction, following Edward relentlessly as its protagonist from Edward's perspective, allowing the reader to sink into Edward's mind and experience the story from his perspective all or most of the time (subplots from the perspective of other characters could work very well, too). The detached, bird's-eye overview prevents the story from becoming as vivid and immersive as it could be if it were written from the perspective of Edward and others on the ground as the events happen, in the style of a conventional novel. The intercutting passages from the perspective of young James as his father recounts these tales is unnecessary as well, and a film adaptation would be better served if it remained in the past at all times.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES HEAVILY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The hook is that this film would put in the spotlight a forgotten but courageous group of people who put their lives on the line to save the lives of others as a US medical unit during WWII, and then were forced to fight for their own lives during a tense and frightening attack by the Japanese as this unit was left stranded and unprotected. By telling the tale of this largely unknown unit in one small slice of the Pacific War, the film would serve as a metaphor for all the similar units and people who served in the war with their own tales of courage and have similarly been forgotten by the passage of time. Audiences would watch this film for its combination of exciting battle scenes, scary survival sequences, romance, drama, and history.

    Fanbase Potential

    It could have as large a fanbase as any big war film.

    Awards Potential

    Yes, big-budget war epics tend to fare well at awards season.

    Envisioned Budget

    LARGE BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), BAND OF BROTHERS (2001; TV)

    What’s New About the Story

    Original is the subject matter concerning a specific, forgotten medical unit during the Pacific War which survived a unique, terrifying ordeal. The story would be made more original if its detached presentation of historical fact was replaced by an immersive narrative in the conventional fictional style which follows protagonist Edward and others as they embark on this life-altering experience.

    Lead Characters

    As a history book, there are few characters in the classic sense and therefore none really stand out. The book highlights facts and information in place of character. Having said that, the plural character of the members of the 44th General Hospital stand out for their courage and selfless desire to save lives, while Edward stands out for his ambition, boldness, courage, and intelligence. Other generals/soldiers stand out at points for their actions and wit.

    Uniqueness of Story

    This is almost a rare gem. If the story was presented as a fact-based fictional narrative rooted in character it could become a thrilling, fascinating and moving rare gem.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Studio TV Series: Limited Run / Mini-Series

    Analyst Recommendation

    CONSIDER

    Justification

    This is a universal story, rooted in historical fact, about a forgotten and courageous medical unit during WWII. Audiences would greatly enjoy a sweeping war epic set in the exotic Philippines as a group of soldiers, doctors, dentists, supply men, and cooks fight for their survival and to return to the ones they love back in America.

    Brief

    Edward Odrowski becomes First Lieutenant of the 44th General Hospital, a US medical unit in the Philippines during WWII. Untrained in combat, unprotected, and with no option to retreat, Edward's unit attempts to survive imminent attack by the Japanese.

    What We Liked

    The obvious research undertaken by the author and the wealth of detail provided, including quotes by the people who were there, make this book a fascinating, engrossing read. Based on the true story of the courageous actions of the 44th General Hospital -- a US medical unit active in the Philippines during WWII -- this tale is told in a concise, detailed manner which allows the bravery of the 44th's actions to shine through. The author cleverly fills in some of the background information surrounding other generals and units -- including the Japanese -- and this helps to build a portrait of this little but bloody slice of WWII on the island of Leyte and provides some explanation as to why this tale of the 44th's bravery has faded from mainstream historical record. Told in a fast pace as the author passes concisely and episodically through Edward's various stages in the war until the story culminates in the Battle of Buffalo Wallow, this is ultimately the tale of an ordinary American father and husband who is pushed toward acts of extraordinary courage in a life-or-death situation, and who then survives to tell the tale and returns to his family. This is a universal story perfect for adaptation on the big screen, or even a premium limited series. Audiences would eagerly this film or series for its combination of exciting battle scenes, scary survival sequences, romance, drama, and history.

    Film: A feature film is the most obvious choice for adaptation of this book, the structure of which provides the perfect framework for an epic war movie which follows Edward from enlisting in the Medical Corps of the US Army to surviving a Japanese assault on the hospital, to then returning home to his family a man forever changed. If running length is no issue, the film could also follow subplots from the perspectives of Edward's fellow soldiers/generals in the Pacific, or could even follow that of Japanese soldiers as they similarly fight for their country at the behest of their superiors, and also could follow Edward's family at home as they anxiously wait for news of Edward's situation. The classic hero's-journey template and war-epic format would combine perfectly with the film's unique subject matter concerning the story of the largely unknown 44th General Hospital's fight for survival in December, 1944, allowing the uniqueness of the tale to shine through the conventional structure/format of a war story rooted in character.

    TV: The episodic style of the book combined with its subject matter -- all-out war in the Pacific during WWII -- provides the perfect opportunity to adapt this true story into a gripping limited series such as HBO's highly successful BAND OF BROTHERS (2001) and THE PACIFIC (2010). Beginning with Edward's enlisting in the Medical Corps of the US Army, the series would follow Edward's journey from private to first lieutenant -- from Camp Berkeley in California to Australia, New Guinea and, finally, blistering battle and the fight for survival in Leyte, Philippines -- culminating in the tense, exciting and scary Battle of Buffalo Wallow in which Edward and his fellow members of the 44th General Hospital must fight to survive a Japanese attack. The series would end perfectly in a circular fashion as Edward returns home to his family a man forever changed by his experiences in the war, and in this manner the structure of this limited series would perfectly fit Edward's hero's journey undertaken throughout while subplots could focus on any number of Edward's fellow soldiers and doctors and could even follow Japanese soldiers in the interest of creating a fascinating, historically accurate, and unbiased look at what life was like in this small slice of the Pacific during WWII.

    Key points:
    1) Based on a true and compelling story of courage and selflessness
    2) Perfect big-budget-Hollywood blend of battle scenes, thrills, drama, and romance
    3) True-story war blockbusters like this fare well both in the box office and at awards season
    4) Rooted in character yet plot-driven; ie best of both worlds
    5) Ideally structured for Edward's hero's journey as either a film or limited series

    Synopsis

    In Kansas City suburbs on the back patio, EDWARD ODROWSKI tells his son, the young narrator, JAMES ODROWSKI, stories of his time in WWII. As Hitler’s Germany conquers Europe, Edward, realizing the war would likely put his career plans on hold as a student of business in college in Kansas City, proposes to Mom. After the honeymoon, Edward joins the army’s Medical Corps at 27 years old. The US is not in the war yet. Edward is trained relentlessly and decides being the one to order is better than being ordered; he plans to become an officer. Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and US enters the war. Edward stationed at Camp Cooke, California, and is promoted to sergeant in February, 1942. Transferred to Camp Barkeley, TX, shortly after. Graduates OCS a commissioned second lieutenant in the US Army’s Medical Administrative Corps, and, in February, 1943, is sent to Fort Sill, OK, where he would join his permanent unit the 44th General Hospital, a unit made up of largely civilian doctors and nurses. April, 1943, Edward is promoted to 1st Lieutenant and prepares for deployment as Mom becomes pregnant.

    October, 1943: Ship reaches Sydney, Australia. A couple weeks later, they board a train to Brisbane and then a ship to Cairns. The ships hit the Bougainville Reef in the northern Coral Sea and must be rescued. They reach Cairns, and are sent to Black River near the city of Townsville, Queensland, where they set up a 1000-bed hospital. Tensions between the American soldiers and Australian soldiers. US Army is segregated and racial tensions abound. Female nurses are heavily protected since, earlier in the war, some nurses were sexually assaulted by soldiers. The punishment for such is now death. Due to the Geneva Convention, it is a war crime attack a hospital, so the 44th General Hospital unit is supposed to be immune from attack. The Japanese ignore this rule for the most part. After some time, the unit is shipped to New Guinea, where regular fighting occurs.

    In New Guinea the American soldiers offer cigarettes to the adult natives and candy to the kids. It’s a tropical paradise. Often overlooked today, the New Guinea campaign was the longest-running of the Pacific War; approximately 216,000 soldiers from all sides died there. Holding onto New Guinea was crucial for the Japanese strategy so they invested huge numbers of troops and equipment into it. Malaria, schistosomiasis and dengue fever affect many Allied soldiers. Mosquitos and blow flies everywhere. Humid. Hot. Dutch missionaries preached Christianity to the natives.

    On October 20, 1944, the invasion of Leyte, Philippines, is undertaken by the Allies with General MacArthur as Supreme Commander of all air, sea and land forces—one of the largest battle armadas ever assembled. The Japanese were caught off-guard by the attack, and the suicidal kamikaze pilots made their debut. Edward watches the armada leave for the battle from New Guinea, anxiously waiting news on what role the 44th General Hospital will play. Three days later, the Battle of Leyte Gulf begins—the largest naval battle of WWII and perhaps in all of history with over 200,000 naval personnel involved, resulting in a defeated Japanese navy much weakened.

    On November 11, the 44th General Hospital board a transport ship bound for Leyte. Escorted by Navy destroyers and recon planes, the ship sailed through the combat zone on the 7-day journey. The ship switched lights off at night to protect from bombing. Edward would look back at the ship’s wake from the top deck at night and see the water alive with phosphorescent marine life.

    The ship reaches Leyte. Black smoke hangs above the island. US Army battleships and destroyers shoot shells which roar like freight trains. The Japanese control the skies. A kamikaze pilot flies his plane straight into the adjacent transport ship where it explodes, killing 135 US Navy soldiers as the 44th look on in horror, and later sinking the ship. The transport containing the 44th approaches the land and many of the passengers puke as they anxiously await the moment when they must rush onto land. As they land, the 44th immediately gathers their supplies and launches into action as a medical unit. They set up a makeshift hospital on the beach to treat the many wounded while gathering the many dead. It is a shocking introduction to the Pacific War.

    The 44th is assigned to the village of Burauen, 20 miles inland, where 30,000 natives live. The Natives had been brutalized by the Japanese, and many of the women had been forced into sex slavery. The 44th begins building a hospital; locals and even the doctors must join in construction. A water supply and sewage system must also be built. They manage to build a 1000-bed hospital in a few days. The battle is closer to the hospital than was intended; every night, sounds of battle are heard and the Japanese bomb the nearby beach while Japanese snipers are active near Burauen.

    Faced with the prospect of losing the Philippines, the Japanese set their eyes on Leyte as the site of the decisive battle. The Japanese eagerly want to regain control of the Burauen airfields. The Japanese launch the counter-attack, which they view as crucial the war effort as, if they can prolong the war for long enough, a peace deal may be brokered. At night the 44th General Hospital blacks out the windows, and Edward instructs his troops to fire at the tops of coconut palm trees to take out snipers. The Japanese had no issues attacking the hospital, even using the red crosses for target practice. As the battle escalates, the 44th realize that infantry support had largely been moved from the area and the 44th is without protection. The 44th request protection from the US Army but are denied it. The 44th request weapons and ammunition but are denied it on the grounds of medical units bearing arms being a violation of the Geneva Convention. The 44th considers an evacuation but sees it as too dangerous, and there are too many wounded patients. The 44th generals ignore their superiors, and set about arming the 44th. Officers, doctors, corpsmen, cooks, and supply men would stand together and fight. On the evening of December 5th, a Japanese infantry division nears the 44th, but only 300 of the Japanese unit are left, all with low morale, nearing starvation, and racked with disease. Their mission was to eliminate US air operations and they planned to strike the airfields.

    The Japanese sneakily attack the airfield. The 44th hear the fighting and are surprised to see many American soldiers rushing to the hospital for protection, many of them without clothing as it had been burned off their backs. Edward assigns some soldiers to guard the perimeter of the hospital in case of a Japanese attack, but the 44th would not last long in such an event. They radio for protection once again as the Japanese take control of the nearby airfield. A group of 44th generals and soldiers takes three ambulances to White Beach ten miles to the East and obtains 400 M1 carbines for the members of the 44th (90% of them untrained in combat) to use in defense against the Japanese. They make it back to the 44th with the carbines and begin training everyone how to wield the guns. With the aid of 100 Filipinos, the 44th hastily builds a defensive perimeter around the hospital and dug foxholes that would be manned round the clock. Edward sets up trip wires with grenades on trees 50 yards outside the hospital so that approaching Japanese would explode the grenades, alerting the 44th which would beam flare guns onto the area while his men fired. The Army sends in units to clear the airfield, which they do, taking it back for the US.

    On December 6, Japanese paratroopers fly over and the airfields. US fire takes out half of the planes. The 44th watches as the planes fly over and are shot down. They grab their weapons and sprint to the foxholes dodging debris as Japanese paratroopers descend, masked by smoke. Edward is out hitting golf balls two hundred yards from the hospital when a group of Japanese paratroopers lands in the wrong place between him and the hospital. They look at Edward, then walk by him peacefully to join the rest of their group. Battle commences as the US soldiers fight to defend the airfields. Many of the Japanese paratroopers wear US Army clothing under their jump smocks hoping to confuse the Americans. By Dawn on December 7, the Japanese hold the Buri airstrip. Japanese also advance ahead of the hospital, so that the 44th is surrounded by Japanese as they keep watch in the foxholes.

    On December 8th, the US Army succeeds in driving the Japanese from Buri Airstrip. On the 10th, the 44th has spent many nights keeping watch for Japanese. Filipino informants give reports of Japanese activity to the west, and US infantry support is low for the 44th. Night descends, along with heavy rainfall. The foxholes fill with water and must be intermittently emptied. Finally, the Japanese 26th Infantry arrives from the west—250 of them, en route to the Bayug Airfield, directly in the path of the 44th. At 10 p.m. that night, the Japanese attack the 44th's perimeter, beginning with the Signals Corps’ machine gun, which they take after some fighting. The members of the 44th lay silently in wait in foxholes, not wanting to give away their position, as the Japanese taunt them. One of the grenade trip-wires explodes and the 44th beams a flare up in that direction, lighting up the field below as the 44th open fire on the Japanese. The overrun Signal Corps crawl through the mud toward the 44th, almost getting shot by the 44th. The men hide in foxholes as Japanese snipers attempt to kill them.

    The 44th's long night defending themselves comes to an end at dawn on December 11. The soldiers, doctors, corpsmen, cooks, dentists, supply men and drivers had courageously repelled a Japanese assault on the hospital. The 44th counts the Japanese dead and finds 33 bodies, but it is likely the Japanese moved some of the dead and wounded before they left. The men of the 44th collect souvenirs of the Japanese weapons. Edward would return to America with a Japanese sword.

    On Christmas Day, 1944, the 44th General Hospital was transferred to the 8th Army. General MacArthur announced that the Japanese had experienced their biggest defeat of the war, and the US would keep pushing to eliminate the Japanese from Leyte. In January, the nurses of the 44th arrive from New Guinea. On May 8, 1945, Germany surrenders, marking the end of WWII in Europe. On August 6, the US drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing 80,000 instantly, and double that by the end of the year. Then Nagasaki. Japan surrenders shortly after, on August 15, and the Pacific War, finally, ends. But there is still much work for the 44th in treating the wounded and transporting the dead. On November 13, 1945, Edward and other members of the 44th board a ship bound for San Francisco. Later, the members of the 44th receive the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their performance at the Battle of Buffalo Wallow, as well as the Philippine Liberation Medal.

    About The Author

    From an early age, James Odrowski grew up listening to his father's WWII stories in the Pacific as an officer in the US Army's 44th General Hospital. Later in life, James developed a desire to connect the dots between his father's stories and their historical context.