The greatest manhunt of World War II.

The history behind current events.
May 29 2008 12:33 PM

The Greatest Manhunt of World War II

How a black soldier killed an officer, disappeared into the Burmese jungle, and joined a tribe of headhunters.

Click here to launch a slide show on The greatest manhunt of World War II.

In his new book, Now the Hell Will Start, Brendan I. Koerner tells the story of an epic World War II manhunt: the quest to find Herman Perry, a black soldier who shot and killed a white commanding officer, then disappeared into the jungles of Burma, where he joined a tribe of headhunters and eluded capture for months. The book is an amazing piece of reporting—part thriller, part history—that got its start as a Slate "Explainer." When Koerner wrote the column back in 2003, he came across an account of an Air Force translator who'd been charged with spying for Syria. "If convicted of the spying charges," noted the New York Times, "he could face the death penalty." As Koerner researched this "Explainer" (detailing which offenses, when committed by military personnel, are punishable by death), he encountered the following tidbit: "Pvt. Herman Perry, murderer who long evaded capture by living with Burmese tribe, 1944-1945." Koerner's curiosity was piqued—it sounded so very Kurtz. Five years later, Koerner presents Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier's Flight From the Greatest Manhunt of World War II, which tells Perry's story in full.

Click here for a slide show about Herman Perry.

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Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for Gizmodo. His first book, Now the Hell Will Start, is out now.