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Letters Home

Letters Home:
A Reflection of a Man's Survival
by Maxwell M Andler, Jr. M.D.
$17.95

Letters Home; A Reflection of a Man’s Survival is a shocking account of life as a prisoner of war written by a man who was trained first as a doctor and later helped lead his captured team of soldiers through fours years as POWs of the Japanese during World War 2.  Although his family was led to believe he was killed in action, Maxwell M Andler, 1st LT. USAAC, continued to write secret letters home that he was forced to hide and never send. These harsh conditions only strengthened his survival instincts.

This book is a compilation of letters Max composed to his mother, brother, and college friend Bud while he was in the Philippines and Japan. Some of the letters were mailed and some of these were kept by the recipients and given to Max when he returned.  After the war began he continued to write, hoping to be able to send the letters later.  Many times these letters were lost but he recomposed them.  After the start of hostilities, Max's family tried to find out where he was.  On May 1942 he was listed as missing in action, so the letters they had received were treasured. It was not until May 1943 he was listed as a prisoner of war in the Philippines.

“Maxwell Andler was an unusual man who could get things done even in difficult situations.  I was fortunate to know him for over sixty years: first at Los Angeles County General Hospital. Later I knew him when he was a flight surgeon at Nichols Field near Manila, and as a prisoner of the Japanese in a number of prison camps.  We were on the same ship, the Kenwa Maru, when we were sent to camps in Northern Japan. After the war, we continued our friendship. Dr. Andler was a man who knew his own worth. Just to be with him made you feel important. He was able to get things from the Japanese captors without being a collaborator.  One of our friends, who was about to die, owes his survival to what Dr. Andler was able to get for his needs.  On several occasions, Max Andler was able to get extra food from the Japanese. He did not benefit from this for himself, but distributed it to the group.Looking back, if I ever had to face the same difficult situation as when I was a prisoner of war, the man I would want to be with is Maxwell Andler.
From The Foreword by Harry Levitt

A word from his editor and wife,
Valeda Andler.

“I met Dr. Maxwell Andler, Jr.. at the Los Angeles County, USC General Hospital in May 1946 when I was a student in the Cadet Nurse Corps.  There was a severe shortage of nurses then, and as a first year student, I was assigned to staff the Neurosurgical admitting room.  It was my first time in that position and I was to be alone on the 3 PM to 11:30 PM shift. As a Sophomore Class fundraising project, I was selling donuts in the main hall that noon, when Dr. Andler passed by.  I asked him to buy some of my donuts so I could get ready to go on duty for my first time in Neurosurgical-admitting at 3 PM. He bought all of the donuts. After I was on duty, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, Dr. Andler arrived and started showing me how things were done.  We got very busy and he stayed all evening helping me assist the interns and residents, from other services, who were caring for all of the new admissions.  As he was the chief neurosurgical resident and not on call that night, it was quite a surprise to those present. We were kept busy until after 12 midnight so Dr. Andler called the nurse's residence to tell the Matron that we were very busy and I would be late. Students were not allowed to be out after midnight, nor to walk from the hospital to the residence after midnight without a guard, so he said he would walk me to the residence when I could be replaced. 
  After all of the patients were sent to the wards and my replacement took over,  Dr. Andler said that he did not date student nurses but as he was hungry after all that work, he would allow me to buy him a hamburger at the local all night restaurant.  To go there he borrowed the car of Dr. Pete Lindstrom's wife, who was in New York doing a play. This happened several times, even when I was transferred to a different assignment.
  One night, two months later, when he walked me to the residence, I asked what I should call him, as some of his friends called him Max and a few people called him Buster (that is what he called his child patients). He answered that I could call him Dr. Andler and he kissed me goodnight and left.  I learned that that was Max, serious, proper and had an unbelievable sense of humor (and he always called me Miss Johnson).
  Max continued to maintain that he did not date student nurses, but he did make an exception for me.  I worked on many different services at the hospital, sometimes with Max and with his friends. All of that time I received humorous letters from him on stationery from the morgue, meetings, dining room, dull lectures, and even on my test sheets from the class he was teaching student nurses on Neurosurgery. 
  I chose as my specialty, the operating room, and after I graduated in 1948, I continued to work at the County Hospital because that is where Max was, and I could not imagine returning to my home in Redlands where I would not see him again.  We were married in 1950 in the Hollywood home of Stanley Freeman, his School chum from Brookline, Mass.
  Over the years we kept close friendships with the Doctors from the County Hospital. Their conversations and stories over dinners recalled many of their exploits
with the Japanese and they laughed a lot. Some of the stories are here in this book but some are not.  Max never let anyone read this collection of letters except one or two dear friends, who he let look at them when they were in the hospital with serious illnesses.  After his death I started reading them but it took a long time, and a lot of encouraging before I was able to think of publishing.  I do this out of love and as a tribute to him.”

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updated 11/25/07