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Tears in the Darkness
Cover of Tears in the Darkness
Tears in the Darkness
The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
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For the first four months of 1942, U.S., Filipino, and Japanese soldiers fought what was America's first major land battle of World War II, the battle for the tiny Philippine peninsula of Bataan. It ended with the surrender of 76,000 Filipinos and Americans, the single largest defeat in American military history.

The defeat, though, was only the beginning, as Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman make dramatically clear in this powerfully original book. From then until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the prisoners of war suffered an ordeal of unparalleled cruelty and savagery: forty-one months of captivity, starvation rations, dehydration, hard labor, deadly disease, and torture---far from the machinations of General Douglas MacArthur.

The Normans bring to the story remarkable feats of reportage and literary empathy. Their protagonist, Ben Steele, is a figure out of Hemingway: a young cowboy turned sketch artist from Montana who joined the army to see the world. Juxtaposed against Steele's story and the sobering tale of the Death March and its aftermath is the story of a number of Japanese soldiers.

The result is an altogether new and original World War II book: it exposes the myths of military heroism as shallow and inadequate; and it makes clear, with great literary and human power, that war causes suffering for people on all sides.

For the first four months of 1942, U.S., Filipino, and Japanese soldiers fought what was America's first major land battle of World War II, the battle for the tiny Philippine peninsula of Bataan. It ended with the surrender of 76,000 Filipinos and Americans, the single largest defeat in American military history.

The defeat, though, was only the beginning, as Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman make dramatically clear in this powerfully original book. From then until the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the prisoners of war suffered an ordeal of unparalleled cruelty and savagery: forty-one months of captivity, starvation rations, dehydration, hard labor, deadly disease, and torture---far from the machinations of General Douglas MacArthur.

The Normans bring to the story remarkable feats of reportage and literary empathy. Their protagonist, Ben Steele, is a figure out of Hemingway: a young cowboy turned sketch artist from Montana who joined the army to see the world. Juxtaposed against Steele's story and the sobering tale of the Death March and its aftermath is the story of a number of Japanese soldiers.

The result is an altogether new and original World War II book: it exposes the myths of military heroism as shallow and inadequate; and it makes clear, with great literary and human power, that war causes suffering for people on all sides.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Elizabeth M. Norman is director of the doctoral program at New York University's Division of Nursing in the School of Education and the author of We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The Japanese attacked U.S. bases in the Philippine Islands on December 7, 1941, the same day as the Pearl Harbor raid. The poorly trained American and Philippine troops retreated to the close-by peninsula of Bataan, eventually surrendering to the Japanese. Hell began for these soldiers on a sixty-mile march to a prison camp and, for those who survived it, continued during their next three years of internment. Narrator Michael Prichard has a way of sounding authentic with foreign languages simply by sounding so sure of himself. He does this with the abundant Japanese names and places herein without trying to imitate a native speaker or create characters. Prichard's serious presence fades into the background as the authors' tales of brutality, disease, starvation, and death take the spotlight. J.A.H. (c) AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 20, 2009
    This grimly absorbing history revisits the worst ordeal Americans experienced during WWII. Michael Norman, a former New York Times
    reporter, and Elizabeth Norman (Women at War
    ) pen a gripping narrative of the 1942 battle for the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines, the surrender of 76,000 Americans and Filipinos to the Japanese and the infamous death march that introduced the captives to the starvation, dehydration and murderous Japanese brutality that would become routine for the next three years. Focusing intermittently on American POW Ben Steele, whose sketches adorn the book, the narrative follows the prisoners through the hell of Japanese prison and labor camps. (The lowest circle is the suffocating prison ship where men went mad with thirst and battened on their comrades’ blood.) The authors are unsparing but sympathetic in telling the Japanese side of the story; indeed, they are much harder on the complacent, arrogant American commander Douglas MacArthur than on his Japanese counterpart. There’s sorrow but not much pity in this story; as all human aspiration shrivels to a primal obsession with food and water, flashes of compassion and artistic remembrance only occasionally light the gloom. 8 pages of b&w illus., illus. throughout; maps.

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Tears in the Darkness
Tears in the Darkness
The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
Elizabeth M. Norman
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