Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath

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Macmillan, Jun 9, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 463 pages
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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; it makes clear, with great literary and human power, that war causes suffering for people on all sides.

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Tears in the darkness: the story of the Bataan Death March and its aftermath

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The battle of Bataan in the Philippines in 1942 resulted in the Japanese taking about 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war, America's worst military defeat ever. The prisoners were ... Read full review

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Very, very sad; I certainly didn't need to read it. At least "The Good Soldiers" told me something about what's going on in my world today, but both reinforce a message I no longer need to hear
: war sucks, there aren't really any heroes, and the cost of creating those heroes for the people back home to celebrate is much, much too high. For America, armed conflict is a method of avoiding the truly tough national questions. Our reflexively pro-military mind-set prevents us from really thinking about our goals and objectives; it is, strange as it may seem in light of the intractable "War on Terror", an attempt to provide a quick and essentially meaningless illustration of American potency in action, divorced as it is from a clear discussion of its actual relevance to our national needs and aims. Maybe I should stick to broader histories of the Civil War and WWII - you know, the good wars, the ones with a clear purpose. 




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About the author (2009)

Michael Norman, a former reporter for The New York Times, teaches narrative journalism at New York University. Elizabeth M. Norman, the author of two books about war, teaches at New York University's Steinhardt School of Education.

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