About Terence S. Kirk

The Story of a Wartime Veteran and a Life Well Lived


Terence Sumner Kirk

was born in Harrisburg, Illinois, June 10, 1916.

Sadly at the age of 3, with a tragic turn of events, he and his siblings were sent to Mooseheart Orphanage to be raised.

There he was educated and graduated from high school.

Kirk entered the Marine Corps in 1937. He trained in San Diego, California, and later in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Coveted orders arrived in 1939 when he received orders to serve with the elite North China Marines, as a legation guard in Peking, China. The assignment offers him status and prestige until his capture on Pearl Harbor Day.

Terence S. Kirk died peacefully on May 10, 2006

Moments in Time


Distinguished Quotes

"A great book by a brave man who weathered the worst possible treatment at the hands of our enemies... and lived to tell the story."

Col. Oliver L. North, USMC (Ret.)


"This is a 'must read.' Terence Kirk's The Secret Camera recollections begin and end with dramatic events. The story of his capture and years as a prisoner of war are disturbing and graphic in his struggle for survival, and at the same time, an amazing testament to the American spirit. It is one of the best first-hand account POW stories from World War II that I've read.

Helen McDonald

Assistant Director Emeritus
National Museum of the Pacific War

"Terry Kirk repeatedly risked his life to document atrocities against his fellow POWs only to have the country he loved refuse to acknowledge his sacrifice and contribution for nearly four decades. If you're looking for heroes, look no further.

Dan Malone

Pulitzer Prize Winner, Professor of Journalism, Tarleton State University
Author of America's Condemned

"Terry's story is a testament to the gallant young men who served the cause of freedom as prisoners of war. The Japanese violated every tenant of the Geneva Convention, forcing the men to work as slaves while imposing horrendous abuse and deliberate starvation. His pictures of the actual physical conditions of starving prisoners, taken by a secret camera, give permanent testimony to their sacrifice. Had the Japanese discovered the pictures, Kirk would have been beaten to death or summarily executed by beheading. An exciting fitting tribute to the China Marines of 1941 who inspire the men of today's Marine Corps.

Roger Mansell

Director Center for Research Allied POWs Under the Japanese

"The American dream of freedom and liberty has been secured and fertilized by the blood of warriors, and with the eye witness, hands on reminder of courageous U.S. Marine, Terence Sumner Kirk, we have a powerful celebration of the ultimate sacrifices by which our quality of life has been determined. All Americans should fight for the American dream, by improvising, overcoming, and adapting as these brave heroes did."

Ted Nugent

Rocker, Author, American

"World War II has provided some of the most fascinating tales of survival and heroism in history. Few stories match that of Terence Kirk's The Secret Camera. Kirk endured hunger, biting cold, loneliness, separation from family, and despair with an unfailing courage that inspires anyone who reads his noble account. The fact that he fashioned a makeshift camera makes his story even more remarkable. His memoir again shows the amazing ability of the human spirit to triumph under extraordinary circumstances."

John Wukovitz

Professor Notre Dame and Author of "Pacific Alamo: The Battle for Wake Island"

"The history of POWs of the Japanese- well over 100,000 of the them- is an appalling record of brutality: slave labor, torture, disease, starvation, amounting to one of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century. Yet the story of each POW is unique, every last one of them a man trapped in the valley of the shadow of death, struggling to stay alive and stay human. Tens of thousands did not make it. Terence Kirk did, and his book brings that terrible time alive."

Gavan Daws

author of Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific

"Kirk's is an incredible story- one of the old China Marines who was captured by the Japanese at the onset of World War II. Cpl. Kirk's will and determination to survive transcends his own well-being in order to live long enough to tell the world the true story of life as a POW in the hands of the Japanese....A true American hero who relates an epic adventure that includes personal accounts of incredible hardships suffered in China during the early parts of the war, and surviving the final air attacks on Southern Japan....

Thomas A. "Beans" Benes, Brigadier General

Director of Strategy & Plans Div, Plans, Policies & Operations Headquarters, USMC, Washington, D.C.

"Terence Kirk's willingness to risk his life in order to record how and why the Japanese were letting his fellow prisoners die, stands as one of the bravest acts in any war. Shame on the U.S. military for suppressing these photos!"

Linda Goetz Holmes

Author of "Unjust Enrichment: How Japan's Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using American POWs."