By: Jim Plotzke

Theme One: War is Hell

In the book Raider, Galen Kittleson's service in WW2 lead him along the battle front, and into the hostile territory behind it. His encounters with the Japanese allowed him to see who his enemies were, people, not unlike himself. He then was forced to end their lives. Galen saw the horrors of war firsthand. In one night mission, he and his fellow Alamo Scouts were to locate a Japanese mortar buried in the mountainside. In order to locate the gun and destroy it, they first had to let it fire, which would reveal its location. It also spell immediate doom for his fellow soldiers downrange. Casualties were inevitable. Twice during missions, his commanding officer died despite his attempts to save them, even tackling one of them to keep a grenade from killing him.

(new paragraph) Throughout the war around Galen, cruelty and death were the only constants. The Japanese soldiers believed in death before defeat, and would regularly participate in ¨banzai¨ charges, suicidal advances to try and overrun the enemy. Waves of humans would run at full speed, directly into a waiting wall of lead. Because the Japanese believed in never surrendering, they considered American P.O.W.s to be no better than swine, and treated them as such. After American forces were captured in the Battle of Bataan, they were forced to march 85 miles over six days with little food or water. Japanese would play ¨games¨ with each other. They would tell a P.O.W. to stand with his arms outstretched; the goal of the game was to cut both of his arms off one at a time before he fell to the ground. Others were used for bayonet and target practice, with the Japanese laughing as the dying soldier writhed in the dirt. In war, nothing is sacred.

Theme Two: The Indomitable Human Spirit

American P.O.W.s faced the worst conditions humans can possibly endure. If they were allowed to make it to the prison camps alive, they faced even worse troubles. Torture and execution awaited some, while all others were used as slave labor in rice paddies until they succumbed illness, malnourishment, from their captors' aggression. Death whittled away at their population, and prospects of survival were dim at best. But despite these unimaginable hardships, the prisoners never gave up hope. They devised plans for communication, such as spelling out words with their laundry as it hung up to dry and stomped words and symbols into the mud. American spy planes flying over recognized their pleas, and plans were set in motion to rescue them.

Even then the prisoners didn't stop. They stole what little supplies the Japanese wouldn't notice and began to stockpile the ammunition and scrounged weapons for a breakout. On the night that the Raiders, Kittleson being one of them, stormed the camp in a P.O.W. raid, the american prisoners were 3 hours from attempting their own excape without the aid of troops. Upon finding themselves free, the skeleton men charged through the gate to freedom, some hopping there due to missing limbs. They couldn't be stopped.

The Alamo Scouts

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How the Themes Relate...

Galen Kittleson would have never made it through the macabre battles that he did without his fierce spirit and unwavering faith in god. He prayed before every mission, for his own men and for those he would mow down in combat. Once, a bullet grazed the tip of his nose, but he continued relentlessly into the fray of enemies, his iron will keeping him from retreating. He struggled with family matters, too. He had to cope with being separated from his girlfriend, who later became his wife. He then had to leave her and their children when he returned to the army for the Vietnam War. Collectively, Galen fought in two wars and went on four P.O.W. raids, more than any other American in history. He took part in his last raid at age 46, training longer and harder in order to keep up with the much younger members of his platoon. Galen Kittleson was a caring, honest, red-blooded American hero who fought to the gates hell and back.