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

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Tears in the Darkness is an altogether new look at
World War II that exposes the myths of war and shows the extent of
suffering and loss on both 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.


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

5

Mar 31, 2019

My knowledge of the WW2 waged in the South-East Asia is general, based mainly on some films or documentaries. I requested this book after reading the latest John Grisham’s novel as I felt I wanted to learn more. The Tears in the Darkness is a thorough analysis of the war and the surrender of the American and the Filipino forces and the atrocities that were committed against them after the surrender. And yet it offers more. The Authors try to explain the Japanese mentality regarding the military My knowledge of the WW2 waged in the South-East Asia is general, based mainly on some films or documentaries. I requested this book after reading the latest John Grisham’s novel as I felt I wanted to learn more. The Tears in the Darkness is a thorough analysis of the war and the surrender of the American and the Filipino forces and the atrocities that were committed against them after the surrender. And yet it offers more. The Authors try to explain the Japanese mentality regarding the military issues to an average non-Japanese reader such as myself, and they do it magnificently. The descriptions of the Bataan Death March and unspeakable suffering in POW camps were harrowing and devastating, and I admit I occasionally had to put the book down due to their intensity. ...more
4

Jan 04, 2010

The “Epic of Defeat” is history’s way of looking at the bright side of things. It says, “Hey, we might have gotten our asses kicked, but some day, it’ll make a great movie.” Western Civilization’s first “Epic of Defeat” was Thermopylae, where Leonidas’ merry band of Spartan Chippendales fought off a million Persians under Xerxes. Even though all the Spartans died, they saved Greece.

America loves the “Epic of Defeat.” Probably because we’re an optimistic people who get defeated a lot. Heck, the The “Epic of Defeat” is history’s way of looking at the bright side of things. It says, “Hey, we might have gotten our asses kicked, but some day, it’ll make a great movie.” Western Civilization’s first “Epic of Defeat” was Thermopylae, where Leonidas’ merry band of Spartan Chippendales fought off a million Persians under Xerxes. Even though all the Spartans died, they saved Greece.

America loves the “Epic of Defeat.” Probably because we’re an optimistic people who get defeated a lot. Heck, the American Revolution was born of a meaningful loss at Bunker Hill. After that came the Alamo, Custer’s Last Stand, and Pearl Harbor. On one of the darkest days in American history, September 11, 2001, we latched onto the story of United 93 and a handful of brave passengers who tried to take back a plane. They all died, but it was the kind of courage around which to rally. That is another purpose of the “Epic of Defeat.”

Of all American defeats, none was greater than the loss of the Corregidor garrison on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. In terms of gross manpower, it was probably the largest Army to ever surrender under the Stars & Stripes. Unlike Pearl Harbor, which became a rousing battle cry (“Remember Pearl Harbor!) – a key indicator of an “Epic of Defeat” – the fall of Corregidor is shrouded in shame and indignity. There were the initial blunders by Douglas MacArthur, that allowed the Japanese to send the American and Filipino troops into full retreat; there was the American Government’s inability to resupply the stranded soldiers; there was MacArthur’s nighttime escape on a PT boat; there was General Jonathan Wainwright’s surrender, and the death march that followed; there are those pictures of the survivors, shriveled and emaciated, true ghosts of Bataan.

On its surface, it is not a story to embolden the human spirit. Certainly it doesn’t sell war bonds. Oh sure, that didn’t stop the US Government from trying to use Bataan to sell war bonds. The difficulty of this task, though, is made clear by two contemporary films: Bataan (1943) starring Robert Taylor and Desi Arnaz (!) and Back to Bataan (1945) starring John Wayne. Both films are so over-the-top inaccurate, jingoistic, and chest-thumping, that they essentially screamed in the faces of a World War II audience: “We lost. Now don’t ask any more questions.”

In Tears in the Darkness, Michael & Elizabeth Norman revisit the Bataan Death March and find the “Epic of Defeat” that is buried in the corpse-lined trails and the fetid, stinking prison camps. Unlike Thermopylae or the Alamo or Pearl Harbor, this “Epic of Defeat” is not a story of patriotism, of sacrifice for one’s country. Instead, it is the rather more meaningful story of human endurance; not man verses man, or man verses wild, but something far more primitive: man verses himself.

Tears in the Darkness is ground-level, character-based history. For the most part, it follows the grunts, not the generals. For this reason, the book’s subtitle – “The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath” – is misleading, because an editor somewhere screwed up the articles. It’s actually a story of the Bataan Death March. If you want a full overview of the battle, including troop dispositions, battlefield maneuvers, and a full accounting of Dugout Doug MacArthur’s mistakes, you will want to look elsewhere. This is not that type of book.

The main character of the book – bearing in mind that by “character” I mean a real life person who is still living and breathing – is a young Montana ranch-hand with the Hemingway-esque name of Ben Steele. Ben, who later gained repute as an artist, and who’s sketches are featured in the book, is the spine of Tears in the Darkness. Indeed, for the first several chapters, in a literary ploy borrowed from The Naked and the Dead, the happenings in the Philippines are interspersed with flashback chapters to Ben’s life on the Great Plains.

Having read a lot of war novels, I see the allure of this framework, the contrast between the heat, filth and violence of the jungle and the crisp, big-skied peace of the windswept Montana grasslands. However, it’s just too on-the-nose for my taste. Moreover, no matter how well written those Montana scenes are, they are a distraction, and their dramatic import pale in comparison to what is going on in Bataan.

The flashbacks also add to the confusion of the opening chapters, which tend to jump around a lot. Though Ben is our protagonist, the Normans introduce several other soldiers, and follows them through arcs of various length. In and of themselves, many of these guys have stories worth telling; however, in the midst of everything else that is going on, it becomes hard to keep them straight.

The first part of the book is saved by the inclusion of the stories of some Japanese soldiers. Without this input, Tears in the Darkness would have run the risk of caricaturing the Japanese as inhuman devils. Instead, a fuller picture – though one that still includes many ghastly instances of cruelty – is derived. The description of Japanese training methods was especially fascinating, in a sick sort of way. Essentially, learning to be a Japanese infantryman in the early 20th Century was like an extended Los Angeles gang jump-in. The lowest ranking soldiers were pounded on by the higher ranking soldiers, until the lower ranking soldiers were promoted, at which time, they started wailing on the guys below them. It’s classic violence conditioning, and without spelling it out, the Normans have provided some insight into how many (though certaintly not all, as American survivors themselves point out) Japanese soldiers were able to commit such atrocities against American and Filipino captives without flinching.

The heart of the book is its second half, following the surrender of Corregidor. The Normans follow Ben and his companions on the infamous Death March, where they were tortured by thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, and where any stumble might end in death by gunshot or bayonet or a rifle stock to the skull. At the end of this road, hell awaited, prison camps so remote and deadly that guards were almost superfluous. When you read of the conditions there, you are left amazed that anyone could have survived at all, in body or in soul.

Thousands of men were suffering from dysentery, and the ground where the prisoners were forced to sit and sleep became coated with layers of excrement, mucus, urine, and blood. Japanese sanitation units had dug slit-trench latrines, but so many men were sick that the open pits (some eight feet long, two feet wide, and four-to-five feet deep) filled after a day or so and started to spill over the edges. Hundreds of men, meanwhile, never made it to the latrines; they stumbled into the compound too enervated, too far gone to take another step. Helpless against the exigencies of the disease – the wrenching cramps and resistless urge to evacuate – they soiled themselves where they stood right through their clothing, then lay down half conscious in a pool of their own filth.

As if the camps weren’t bad enough, the unluckiest prisoners of all were shipped to Japan on the so-called Hell Ships. These ships beggar description, though the Normans do an admirably shiver-inducing job of describing them. The ships were as terrible as the prison camps, with the additional horrors of darkness, suffocation, and claustrophobia. These things were so miserable, that their inevitable sinking by oblivious American subs and pilots must have come as a relief to many.

Even the best narrative histories strive for some level of objectivity. With that objectivity, of course, comes distance between reader and subject. Tears in the Darkness is not a history book in that sense. It is striving for something more, and succeeds, mostly, as a great work of empathy. It invites you into a world of suffering and pain and cruelty and redemption, and it elides the big-picture warring of nations to focus instead on the small-picture struggle to survive, and to survive with one’s morality intact.
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4

Apr 14, 2019

In early 1942 the Japanese Army invaded the Philippines, landing on the largest island of Luzon. The Allies (Americans and Filipinos) under the command of Douglas MacArthur were less than prepared for the onslaught and were driven down to the southern peninsula of Bataan. MacArthur left his army under the supervision of Jonathan Wainwright and fled to Australia with his famous statement "I shall return". Without food, rampant with disease, and dying by the thousands, the Americans/Filipinos In early 1942 the Japanese Army invaded the Philippines, landing on the largest island of Luzon. The Allies (Americans and Filipinos) under the command of Douglas MacArthur were less than prepared for the onslaught and were driven down to the southern peninsula of Bataan. MacArthur left his army under the supervision of Jonathan Wainwright and fled to Australia with his famous statement "I shall return". Without food, rampant with disease, and dying by the thousands, the Americans/Filipinos (72,000) surrendered on April 9, 1942. It was the largest defeat in American military history. And thus started the horror.

The book has many levels - both American and Japanese viewpoints - in an attempt to clarify and explain the attitudes of each side toward their enemy. The author uses the device of following one American soldier, Ben Steele, who survived the Death March and was transported to Japan to work in the coal mines as slave labor.(He was freed in 1945,) But this is not a biography of Steels and his story is only part of the overall narrative as the reader also becomes familiar with various soldiers, both American/Filipino and Japanese and the particularly graphic descriptions of the Death March and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

The author has some very definitive opinions which will cause the reader to reflect; he obviously hates MacArthur and his decisions in the Philippines; he feels that the war crimes tribunals of the Japanese military were "kangaroo courts of revenge" and reflected badly on the Americans. Although the reader may not agree with him, he offers a different perspective that offers food for thought. Recommended. ...more
5

Jul 02, 2009

I know that there are some out there that shy away from revisionist histories. The entire genre has gotten a bad reputation due to the power of the truly crank cases, whether it be Holocaust denial, Howard Zinn’s indictments on American History (or western civilization in general) or Pat Buchanan’s ode to Nazi Germany. Yet, there are plenty of other works that fall into the genre that are not meant to do anything more than to increase our understanding of the events of yesteryear. Tears in the I know that there are some out there that shy away from revisionist histories. The entire genre has gotten a bad reputation due to the power of the truly crank cases, whether it be Holocaust denial, Howard Zinn’s indictments on American History (or western civilization in general) or Pat Buchanan’s ode to Nazi Germany. Yet, there are plenty of other works that fall into the genre that are not meant to do anything more than to increase our understanding of the events of yesteryear. Tears in the Darkness is of this second order.
Written by Michael and Elizabeth Norman, Tears in the Darkness is a fine example of how new histories should written. The authors have achieved a wonderfully rich narrative that manages to give the reader insight into the minds of all three sides of the battle for Bataan and the well-known aftermath. This look at the largest defeat in American History is needed to further explain just why it happened, something that many times has been lost with the depictions of the minutiae of individual histories and stories.
The history is laid out into a dual track, as the chapters that are numbered tell the overall story and the named sections at the end of each chapter introduce and follow Ben Steele, the one survivor that had dealings with most aspects of Bataan, from being one of the garrison soldiers, battlers and prisoners. He was one of the defeated forced to march and then suffered the barbaric prison system that the Japanese put in place.
One of the great aspects of this book is the inclusion of the Japanese point of view. What does get glossed over in many histories of Bataan is the fact that it was a defeat for America that could have been prevented, but the egoism of MacArthur as well as the inherent racism on all sides of the conflict did much to ensure that it would not be easy for wither side in the war. There is much benefit for researchers to see exactly how closed the Japanese system was, the devaluation of their own lives for the idea of Emperor and chain of command needed to be stressed, as we know that not all of the officers agreed with the policies of their governments. The inside look at the letters of the common soldier also was a nice plus.
As we enter the 4th of July weekend, books like Tears in the Darkness should be added to reading lists for all interested in the continuing battle for freedom and history. I could not have asked for a more meaningful book at this point of year.
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5

Jul 29, 2013

Disclaimer - my uncle survived the Bataan Death March, but died at Bilibid prison hospital in Manila just weeks before it was liberated. I read this to get a sense of what his 3 yrs in captivity must have been like.

The book loosely follows the life of a Montana cowboy through the ordeal, though the cowboy gets sent to Japan as a slave laborer while it appears my uncle never left the Philippines.

I was expecting the book to be full of Japanese atrocity against the prisoners and there is plenty of Disclaimer - my uncle survived the Bataan Death March, but died at Bilibid prison hospital in Manila just weeks before it was liberated. I read this to get a sense of what his 3 yrs in captivity must have been like.

The book loosely follows the life of a Montana cowboy through the ordeal, though the cowboy gets sent to Japan as a slave laborer while it appears my uncle never left the Philippines.

I was expecting the book to be full of Japanese atrocity against the prisoners and there is plenty of that. However, I think the authors do a good job of reminding the reader that nothing is ever completely black and white. They explain the brutality of the Japanese army in general and how the brutalized easily become brutalizers. Surrender was not an honorable option to a Japanese soldier so they were disdainful of Allied soldiers who surrendered. Significant questions are raised about the extent to which the Japanese commander (Gen. Homma)knew what was happening during the March.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII in general and certainly to all with interest in the war in the Pacific. ...more
5

Feb 13, 2017

Visceral and shocking.

This book is such an important read and an absolute testament to the overall strength of the human spirit.

Written from both American and Japanese perspectives, I found it unique and very well researched. An incredible story that will leave you speechless.
A must read for history buffs.
0

Jul 11, 2009

That people now understand MacArthur's failings. Here is the back story on Bataan: Everyone who has read "Tears in the Darkness" by Michael Norman calls it the best of the best, and I agree. Here is what I know about the events that led to the horriffic Bataan Death March.
On Pearl Harbor day, church bells pealed from cupolas in Manila, the sounds cresting, suspended, and six-inch long monkeys went swinging from lily to lily as if the flowers were trees. In Malacanan Palace, cleaning men That people now understand MacArthur's failings. Here is the back story on Bataan: Everyone who has read "Tears in the Darkness" by Michael Norman calls it the best of the best, and I agree. Here is what I know about the events that led to the horriffic Bataan Death March.
On Pearl Harbor day, church bells pealed from cupolas in Manila, the sounds cresting, suspended, and six-inch long monkeys went swinging from lily to lily as if the flowers were trees. In Malacanan Palace, cleaning men polished the ballroom floor by skating over it on banana leaves, chefs prepared sweets called bibingka, and florists filled vases with fragrant purple frangipani and yellow butterfly orchids. Tonight the twelve hundred men of the 27th Bombardment Group would host a glamorous party.

On what would be the last night of American Manila, a laughing crowd swayed on the dance floor, uniformed men swapped stories and downed their whiskey. Just after midnight, the band played:

Good morning, good morning, we danced the whole night through

Good morning, good morning to you



Douglas MacArthur swept out of the party, making elaborate gestures of farewell to his admirers, and returned to his penthouse apartment. At three in the morning, the telephone screamed into his sleep.

“The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,” an aide gasped. “They devastated our Pacific Fleet.”

MacArthur jumped out of bed, looking as if he had hit an electric fence. He quickly shaved and dressed in uniform, took stock of himself in the mirror. His waist had thickened, and he slicked his hair across a balding head. He had steely eyes and large-pored skin, well tanned and glistening with lotion and a row of large square teeth huddled behind thin, dry lips. His narrow face formed a rectangle.

He called his Chief of Staff, Richard Sutherland, and a few key advisors for a meeting at headquarters. They came at a gallop. Sutherland warned that the Japanese would bomb the Philippines next, and MacArthur needed to get his planes in the air and out of reach.

Though eager to gloriously defend the Philippines and win more medals, MacArthur replied there was no hurry as far as he was concerned. The Japanese would not strike before January 1, so he would disperse the aircraft later on. He lit his corncob pipe.

The flabbergasted Sutherland desperately explained that Japan would strike immediately to avoid the usual January storms that hamper visibility. Clark Field’s planes should instantly head north to bomb Formosa or south out of danger. Captain Joseph McMicking agreed.

“Stand by and wait,” MacArthur replied, twirling the pearl handled pistol he always packed.

Sutherland averted his eyes; he had never been able to endure MacArthur's fixed gaze for long. He looked out on Manila Bay toward the island of Corregidor and, on its right, the Bataan Peninsula. If the Japanese invaded and overran Manila, MacArthur could retreat to the peninsula and from there to the island. He urged the general to quickly stock the two areas with ammunition, medical supplies and gas, while they still could.

MacArthur raised his fist, and, in a shrill, piercing voice, proclaimed that his men would never retreat. After all, he had spent the past four years training them. He began pacing, his arms moving back and forth, while he orated about his loyal troops, describing their impregnable defense strategies. They would thrash the enemy back into the sea in a matter of days.

Sutherland stood, stricken-looking, his mouth aslant. He knitted his brows, a habit he had developed, and no wonder. MacArthur, he bitterly reflected, listened only selectively, at best. After the war, he wrote a letter to Claire Booth Luce, saying, “When MacArthur said to stand by and wait, I was closer to weeping from sheer rage than I had ever been in my life.”

Nine hours later, a long, bright flock of Japanese planes streaked across the sky and attacked Clark Field where our entire force of three—dozen B-17 bombers conveniently nestled wingtip to wingtip. Molten metal smoked on the airstrip as the lords of the rising sun flew back to their carriers, and terrified Filipinos ran for cover, shouting, “Los Japanese, they bomb, they bomb!”

Two days later, the Japanese bombed Manila Bay until the antennae and funnels of sunken ships bobbed above the surface of the water like crosses. Chaos rippled through the city as looters roamed the streets, hotels emptied, and the last army horse unit, the 26th Cavalry, rode out of Fort McKinley. As the horses and their riders galloped north to head off the Japanese, the Filipinos waved good-bye to them.

Reading about Douglas MacArthur’s conduct during World War II becomes curiouser and curiouser as you go along, at least that was my experience. Brilliant, charismatic, worshipped and hated, he could be noble or despicable. Eventually I decided the tangle of his character, though obscured by intellect and dazzle, defined the man.

Unfortunately, his claim that he did not need to stock Bataan and Corregidor turned out to be another tragic error. On December 22, Japanese troops invaded the main Philippine island of Luzon, and in no time, MacArthur's men beat a retreat to Bataan and Corregidor. Without adequate provisions, they soon began dying from starvation and malaria, as well as enemy firepower.

MacArthur established headquarters in the dimly lit Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor and holed up there, only once visiting Bataan to “hearten” his men. To the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” they sang:



Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the rock

Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock

Dugout Doug is eatin’ of the best food he can find

And his troops go starving on.



Ignoring them, he busied himself issuing 109 press releases describing himself as “The Lion of Luzon” and “going in everywhere.” With the tenacity of a fly hitting a window, he kept repeating his mantra. Pair an eager press with a man enamored of self—expression, and you have a fine romance.

On February 22, 1942, Roosevelt decided the general could not save the Philippines and ordered him to leave for Australia to plan a counteroffensive. MacArthur eagerly agreed, and off he went. Some staff members accompanied him, the Filipinos motivated by a hope of helping their country, more than adoration of him personally.

He wanted his wife and son to leave Corregidor in a submarine, but she said she had drunk from the same cup as her husband and would stay by his side.

When his P-T Boat made it through the Japanese blockade to an airstrip, he regretted abandoning his men, so, once safely in Australia, he raised his fist and screamed at the waiting press, “I give the people of the Philippines my sacred pledge: I shall return!”

Water had soaked the "scrambled-egg" cap he had nicknamed with the fondness he accorded everything involving himself, so he promptly sent it to a hat stretcher.

- Ann Seymour author of "I've Always Loved You," a true story of WW II in the Pacific

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5

Jul 07, 2010

Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman wrote an incredible book when they wrote Tears in the Darkness: the Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath. The surrender of more than 76,000 American and Filipino troops on the Bataan peninsula is not a part of World War II that I learned much about in history classes, and I am so thankful that I stumbled upon this book at the library.

Captivating and well-written, this book also dredged up academic memories from college experience at Whittier Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman wrote an incredible book when they wrote Tears in the Darkness: the Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath. The surrender of more than 76,000 American and Filipino troops on the Bataan peninsula is not a part of World War II that I learned much about in history classes, and I am so thankful that I stumbled upon this book at the library.

Captivating and well-written, this book also dredged up academic memories from college experience at Whittier College. Initially, I found some of the facts so horrific and disgusting they were nearly unbelievable. And then, I found myself intensely disappointed with a four-star general; so disappointed that I started to think about the classes I took on history and theory. This general is so celebrated, and when I read what he did, I wondered why this bit of his military career is kept so quiet.

Then I remembered how history is an account influenced by a historians experiences, the questions they ask and the answers they seek (something I learned at Whittier). Even now, after I finished the book, I wonder what made the authors chose to tell this particular story in this way. Tears in the Darkness is told from the American point of view, I found that the Normans also give you a flip-side perspective, so you cannot help but question our own country's actions.

It was a humbling and emotional experience to read this book. I cannot even begin to understand how American and Filipino prisoners of war endured, nor can I wrap my mind around the inhumanity we humans inflict upon one another. Then there was anger, shame, and pride. Anger and shame for both the Japanese and the Americans. Pride in how these POWs withstood the degradation, helped one another and most of all, survived. ...more
2

Jun 29, 2010

I was prepared to love this book in a really emotionally moving way; but ultimately I was disappointed by several aspects of Tears in the Darkness. I commend the author on his research and presentation of the individual stories of many of the participants in the Battle of Bataan and subsequent tragic events. The March itself was horrifying, of course. And then, all of a sudden, the reader is thrown into the "unfair" trial of General Homma, who is portrayed as merely a victim of circumstance who I was prepared to love this book in a really emotionally moving way; but ultimately I was disappointed by several aspects of Tears in the Darkness. I commend the author on his research and presentation of the individual stories of many of the participants in the Battle of Bataan and subsequent tragic events. The March itself was horrifying, of course. And then, all of a sudden, the reader is thrown into the "unfair" trial of General Homma, who is portrayed as merely a victim of circumstance who is railroaded by the U.S. Government. I'm sorry, but I don't find it so outlandish to hold a superior officer responsible for the actions of his subordinates, especially when these actions are atrocities of epic proportions performed in plain sight over a substantial period of time. Perhaps Masaharu Homma was just a really nice guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Boo Hoo. General Douglas MacArthur is presented as a true villain in the story. I admit that my knowledge is insufficient to judge the man or his actions, but I find it hard to believe that the extremely pejorative portrayal of him by Michael Norman is accurate and unbiased.
I am glad I read this book because it was very informative and gave me an even greater appreciation for the horrors of war suffered by our veterans and those of other nations. But certain annoying aspects of the writing style and the extreme bias in some areas detracted from the intrinsic power of the story. ...more
5

Nov 20, 2009

It is a true story of tens of thousands of American and Filipino POW's forced to march to their prison by the Japanese during WWII. Even though everything in the book is factual, it read like a fiction. The authors did extensive research from countless books, records, newspapers, diaries, and interviews. And I appreciate that the authors stayed neutral throughout the book and offered bits of accounts from both American and Japanese sides; there were plenty of stories within the book to It is a true story of tens of thousands of American and Filipino POW's forced to march to their prison by the Japanese during WWII. Even though everything in the book is factual, it read like a fiction. The authors did extensive research from countless books, records, newspapers, diaries, and interviews. And I appreciate that the authors stayed neutral throughout the book and offered bits of accounts from both American and Japanese sides; there were plenty of stories within the book to contradict the myths and stereotypes of the two races.

Having a grandfather who fought in the Japanese Imperial Navy during WWII and later taken in as a POW by the Americans, I felt this story very close to me. My grandfather told me about his experience during the war and how well he was treated by the Americans and the native people of New Zealand where he was taken as a prisoner; it transformed his view of life forever. It was common for the Japanese soldiers to die in honor of the emperor and my grandfather was no exception. However, as he got to see the kindness and hospitality of his enemy and captors, he started to change his mindset. Because of this, I felt embarrassed and ashamed at how the Japanese treated their POW's and forced them into slave labor.

It is a mindblowing story of struggle and survival and an important one that should be passed on from one generation to the next. ...more
5

Mar 09, 2010

A devastatingly sad account of the events of 1941-'42 in the Philippines, and the aftermath of the war told from the perspective of several people, including Sgt. Ben Steel of Hawk Creek, Montana as well as former Japanese soldiers. Cut off, outnumbered, and by all war plans written off, the U.S. Army in the Philippines fought bravely for four months on the peninsula of Bataan, inflicting terrible casualties on the Japanese and then suffering the "Death March", a 66 mile trek to a railroad head A devastatingly sad account of the events of 1941-'42 in the Philippines, and the aftermath of the war told from the perspective of several people, including Sgt. Ben Steel of Hawk Creek, Montana as well as former Japanese soldiers. Cut off, outnumbered, and by all war plans written off, the U.S. Army in the Philippines fought bravely for four months on the peninsula of Bataan, inflicting terrible casualties on the Japanese and then suffering the "Death March", a 66 mile trek to a railroad head without food, water or shelter, all the while being beaten, bayoneted and abused. What followed were squalid POW camps, disease, starvation and malnutrition and then, as the U.S. geared up to recapture the Philippines in 1944-'45, "hell ships" to Japan. A brilliant, shattering account of the forgotten American and Filipino troops who fought and were captured in World War II. ...more
5

Jan 29, 2017

If ever you come across a person who wonders why we stand for our flag, please do hand them a copy of this book. What went on during this death march was so appalling that oftentimes I found myself unable to continue, to turn a page, or to find in my heart and mind a way to comprehend the vile cruelty displayed to these American and Filipino soldiers and non combatants. Sometimes I found myself crying reading of the agony, the atrocities that the Japanese stationed in the Philippines inflicted If ever you come across a person who wonders why we stand for our flag, please do hand them a copy of this book. What went on during this death march was so appalling that oftentimes I found myself unable to continue, to turn a page, or to find in my heart and mind a way to comprehend the vile cruelty displayed to these American and Filipino soldiers and non combatants. Sometimes I found myself crying reading of the agony, the atrocities that the Japanese stationed in the Philippines inflicted on their prisoners. The courage, the will to live, the sheer determination of some to place one foot in front of the other, to carry forth with an indomitable spirit was awe inspiring. With the many problems of today, one should take a long hard look at what these soldiers of WW 2 dealt with. The inhumane mindset of the Japanese soldier stationed along this Death March is unfathomable. May the many men (10,000) who perished on this march and the thousands who died in the Japanese POW camps, and Death Ships rest in peace always with the blessings of God and the thankfulness of our nation. (Today there are about 1,000 men who are survivors of this march.) ...more
4

Mar 21, 2011

This remarkable book was sent to me by K.D., a GoodReads friend from the Philippines, because I had expressed an interest in learning more about his country. As K.D. had explained, it’s an American book, focussed primarily on their experiences as POWs under Nippon, but because the notorious Bataan Death March took place in the Philippines, the victims also included Filipino soldiers. The numbers are appalling: of 75,000 captives, 67,000 were Filipinos, 1,000 were Chinese Filipinos, and 11,796 This remarkable book was sent to me by K.D., a GoodReads friend from the Philippines, because I had expressed an interest in learning more about his country. As K.D. had explained, it’s an American book, focussed primarily on their experiences as POWs under Nippon, but because the notorious Bataan Death March took place in the Philippines, the victims also included Filipino soldiers. The numbers are appalling: of 75,000 captives, 67,000 were Filipinos, 1,000 were Chinese Filipinos, and 11,796 were Americans. Approximately 5,000–10,000 Filipino and 600–650 American prisoners of war died en route to their destination, Camp O’Donnell, from where they were eventually shipped as slave labour.

To read the rest of my review, please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201... ...more
5

May 17, 2016

While reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand I became interested in the Bataan Death March of WWII. I had heard about it growing up. My uncle was a Death March survivor. I was told the ordeal had changed him. He was not the same man who had left for war. After reading Tears in the Darkness I understand why. The Death March and the events after, forever changed the men and women serving in Philippians during WWII.
Along with the story of the Bataan peninsula, the authors followed the stories of While reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand I became interested in the Bataan Death March of WWII. I had heard about it growing up. My uncle was a Death March survivor. I was told the ordeal had changed him. He was not the same man who had left for war. After reading Tears in the Darkness I understand why. The Death March and the events after, forever changed the men and women serving in Philippians during WWII.
Along with the story of the Bataan peninsula, the authors followed the stories of other men, and one man in particular Ben Steele, from Montana. A cowboy before the war, Steele became an artist during the war. Some of his stretches are scattered throughout the book, giving the story continuity and a depth.
What surprised me was as horrible as the Death March was, for 3 more years; things went from bad to even worse. The story continues from the March to the concentration camps, and then the hell ships. The hell ship were how the Japanese transported allied soldiers and Japanese personnel and their families to Japan.
As I read this book I wished my uncle could have told me where he fit in the story. The closest I got was reading about a man from my uncle’s hometown. Tears in the Darkness tells such a horrific tale it is astounding anyone lived to tell about it.
...more
5

Mar 07, 2010

Released in June of 2009, Tears in the Darkness is the story of the Bataan Death March and the POW camps of the Japanese in the Philippines and Japan. Absolute must read. I was hesitant about this purchase because it seemed like such a depressing story. But it was actually an exciting read and life-affirming.

My one criticism concerns the authors' viewpoint about the executions of Gen. Homma and other senior Japanese military leaders for war crimes. The authors believe these executions were Released in June of 2009, Tears in the Darkness is the story of the Bataan Death March and the POW camps of the Japanese in the Philippines and Japan. Absolute must read. I was hesitant about this purchase because it seemed like such a depressing story. But it was actually an exciting read and life-affirming.

My one criticism concerns the authors' viewpoint about the executions of Gen. Homma and other senior Japanese military leaders for war crimes. The authors believe these executions were unjust. Prior to these trials, there was no precedent for prosecuting war crimes against leaders who were not actually present during atrocities, but who had ultimate command of the prison camps where American, British, and Phillipino pow's were tortured, starved and killed. The Japanese committed so many atrocities and yet only a small number were executed for war crimes. Homma and Yamashita were tried by military tribunals with very loose rules of evidence and with "jurors" who were hardly impartial. So the trials were hardly fair by American standards. MacArthur drew up the charges himself, and he got the verdicts he wanted.

While Homma and Yamashita may not have been given due process, it does not necessarily follow that Homma and Yamashita were innocent. The evidence is fairly strong that the POW treatment was a deliberate policy and a product of Japanese attitudes about the supposed cowardice of those who surrender. If a commander fails to commit any resources to feed, transport, and house prisoners, and also turns a blind eye toward torture, even though responsible for training and oversight of prisons, then I say death by firing squad is a just sentence for that commander. The authors seem to think Homma's death turned on whether he was in some car that drove by during the Bataan death march. Whether that occurred made no difference to me. Just how did Homma expect 100,000 starving prisoners to march 70 miles chained together in 100 degree heat in just a couple days without any food and water? But the book was still outstanding. General Homma's sentence of death was just, and if anything, many more Japanese soldiers should have been prosecuted.

It was still one of the best books of the year, and Amazon readers agree. ...more
4

Sep 24, 2009

This is a must-read books for all Filipinos. Once again, it tells us not only what atrocities Japanese and injustice Americans did to Filipinos. I wish that there will be a cheaper version of this book so that it will be more affordable to us. Tata J lent me this 1st edition (2009) book that he bought at around US$20. Thanks again, Tata J for another perspective- if not life-changing book!

This is my 3rd book read this year alone on what happened during World War II here in the Philippines. Last This is a must-read books for all Filipinos. Once again, it tells us not only what atrocities Japanese and injustice Americans did to Filipinos. I wish that there will be a cheaper version of this book so that it will be more affordable to us. Tata J lent me this 1st edition (2009) book that he bought at around US$20. Thanks again, Tata J for another perspective- if not life-changing book!

This is my 3rd book read this year alone on what happened during World War II here in the Philippines. Last April, I read John A. Glusman's COURAGE UNDER FIRE (2004) and in August, Louis Morton's FALL OF THE PHILIPPINES (2005). If COURAGE is about four American doctors who were assigned in Corregidor hospital, this book TEARS IN THE DARKNESS is about a American private soldier Ben Steele, a ranger in Montana, who experienced each stage of the war from the bombing of Clark, to the retreat to Bataan, the eventual surrender, the work camp in O'Donnell, ride on the hellship to Japan, Japanese surrender, his return to the USA but most especially the highlight of the book - THE BATAAN DEATH MARCH.

If the FALL OF THE PHILIPPINES is about the fall of the whole country including its facts and figures making it a plan historical book, TEARS is written just like your amazing war novel. The writing is crisp, incandescent without being melodramatic. It also gives a balance view by having almost half of the book to the Japanese characters. Even the trial of Homma (because this was not tackled in the other two books) kept me guessing for the outcome.

My only regret is that there was not a single Filipino main character. It was often said that Americans and Filipinos fought the Japanese side by side and Filipinos even consider Americans their big brothers. Just like what Tata J said, it could have been more balanced if the bravery and gallantry of Filipino soldiers were also highlighted in the book. After all, Philippines had more casualties compared to Americans and Japanese combined.

In any of the 3 books, Filipinos are described as untrained (except the Filipino scouts who were trained by the Americans), ill-equipped (coconut husk as helmet and canvas shoes) and always count on the Americans to save them. This dependency to Americans is something that we are slowly shaking off. We made the right decision not to renew the military bases agreement in 2001 (or was it because of the Pinatubo volcano?). However, most Filipinos still welcome the intervention of America to help settle our political or economic issues.

This is similar to what most Filipinos of today still think of Gen. Douglas McArthur. That he was an American hero to us having a major thoroughfare in Luzon named after him. However, as this book again illustrates, he was a coward by having violated one of the most important rule in any battle: A good soldier does not leave another soldier behind. He left our Filipino soldiers suffering for 3 years - hoping each day that he would fulfill his promise to return.

The death march was covered in details in this book. If you do not get teary-eyed while reading the actual accounts of that 66-kilometer walk under the hot April tropical sun - with no food and water - and with the Japanese soldier not wanting you to break the line (otherwise, you would be killed or punished), you have a heart of stone. This was the book I was reading during the typhoon Ondoy onslaught last Sept 26-27 and when I saw Filipinos complaining of being foodless for 1-2 days, I told myself that it should be nothing compared to what Filipinos and Americans suffered in the hands of the Japanese soldiers.

Filipinos, read this and weep. ...more
4

Jun 29, 2013

An incredible chronicle of the events leading up to, surrounding and following the Bataan Death March, April 1942.

The protagonist in this non-fiction chronicle is Ben Steele, a native of Billings Montana and still with us. Ben's story is interwoven with material from diaries and journals as well as other source material from those Americans, Filipinos and Japanese who were there.

Ben, developed the ability to sketch while a captive and his sketches are scattered throughout the narrative. This An incredible chronicle of the events leading up to, surrounding and following the Bataan Death March, April 1942.

The protagonist in this non-fiction chronicle is Ben Steele, a native of Billings Montana and still with us. Ben's story is interwoven with material from diaries and journals as well as other source material from those Americans, Filipinos and Japanese who were there.

Ben, developed the ability to sketch while a captive and his sketches are scattered throughout the narrative. This story is not for the faint-hearted as the descriptions of what, not only the defenders went through, but also the Japanese aggressors is the stuff of nightmares.

The authors intersperse the description of events in 1941-46 with flashbacks of Ben Steele's earlier years. They cover the impending conflict with Japan, the invasion, the Battle of Bataan, The Death March, the prisoners life as captives at Camp O'Donnel, the Bicol peninsula, Bilibid prison and hospital, Camp Cabauantan, the hellships and the mines of Japan, all places Ben Steele survived.

The book ends with Ben as a survivor, art student,family man and eventually an art teacher at Eastern Montana College in Billings.

The authors also added a non-essential chapter on the trial of General Homma who commanded the Japanese forces in the Philippines. They obviously sympathized with the General and try to show that he really had no idea of what was going on but was railroaded in a trial and eventually executed by firing squad. The authors are also less than admiring of General MacArthur and take many opportunities to imply he was less than a great leader.

It was that aspect of the book that moved me to rate it as a four rather than a five star read. Not that I am an unquestioning admirer of the General but rather see both his talents and his faults. If you are interested in an excellent biography of MacArthur, I suggest reading "American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964" by William Manchester. I review it elsewhere in Goodreads. ...more
4

Aug 29, 2010

I gave this book five stars because I thought the research was exceptional, it was an absolutely fresh look at a very worn-out topic (WWII), and it was the first book on war I've read that captured the mindset, worldview, and experiences of BOTH sides (in this case, American and Japanese). The couple who co-wrote it obviously brought in their own areas of expertise and experience, and I just can't imagine how much time and effort it must have taken to interview so many people and dig up the kind I gave this book five stars because I thought the research was exceptional, it was an absolutely fresh look at a very worn-out topic (WWII), and it was the first book on war I've read that captured the mindset, worldview, and experiences of BOTH sides (in this case, American and Japanese). The couple who co-wrote it obviously brought in their own areas of expertise and experience, and I just can't imagine how much time and effort it must have taken to interview so many people and dig up the kind of information that is interlaced throughout. The nice thing is that it's a gripping and captivating read, using as the main thread the true story of a boy from Montana who endures the Bataan Death March in the Philippines, in part by discovering his talent for drawing (his moving sketches are found throughout the book). The bad thing is that it's a really gruesome tale: gory details, crushing disappointments, depressing medical diagnoses, and the horror of man vs. man. I'll never forget one quote of a survivor describing the emaciated body of his comrade whom he comforted in his final hour: "If his parents could see his body, like hide stretched over a skeleton, they would never stop crying." Sigh. So you might want to have an upbeat, funny book to turn to when this one seems like the pain will never end. However, it's just such an important story that I feel everyone should know what really happened there in the Pacific. I will say that the rosy synopsis I was given of General MacArthur in high school history was seriously challenged by these authors, and I was hanging onto each word in the last chapter to find out the fate of the Japanese general whom I came to love. This is one of those books that helps you put your life and challenges into perspective, and is a sobering reminder of how many blessings we take for granted. ...more
5

Dec 07, 2009

This was an excellent history of World War II and the Bataan Death March. Some reviews have called it revisionist history, but maybe it was just the truth coming out. As school children, we were taught about the greatness of MacArthur, but my dad, who served in the force that liberated Bataan, never had a lot of good things to say about the general. If the views held in the book are as common as I now think, I understand why my dad felt the way he did and who others do also.

MacArthur left his This was an excellent history of World War II and the Bataan Death March. Some reviews have called it revisionist history, but maybe it was just the truth coming out. As school children, we were taught about the greatness of MacArthur, but my dad, who served in the force that liberated Bataan, never had a lot of good things to say about the general. If the views held in the book are as common as I now think, I understand why my dad felt the way he did and who others do also.

MacArthur left his men to the Japanese and left the Phillipines just before the Japanese overran the island of Luzon. The soldiers and civilians left behind were terribly treated by the Japanese occupiers. Japan did not recognize the Geneva Convention, so the captives were tortured, starved, made to march from place to place. Some of the POWS were conscripted to go to Japan and work at various jobs, including coal mining.

A very well written and reseached history of Bataan. The reading could be a little dry, but it wasn't. the book was hard to put down. ...more
3

Aug 01, 2009

Stories of war can be told from the viewpoint of the generals and politicians who make them; or by analysis of strategy and topography; or, as in Tears in the Darkness, in the words and actions of the men and women who do the fighting and the dying. This book is gripping and moving. The Death March and what follows is told in horrifying detail. We meet Ben Steele: cowboy, artist, survivor. Steele becomes as memorable as Major Richard Winters in Ambrose's Band of Brothers. The authors also do a Stories of war can be told from the viewpoint of the generals and politicians who make them; or by analysis of strategy and topography; or, as in Tears in the Darkness, in the words and actions of the men and women who do the fighting and the dying. This book is gripping and moving. The Death March and what follows is told in horrifying detail. We meet Ben Steele: cowboy, artist, survivor. Steele becomes as memorable as Major Richard Winters in Ambrose's Band of Brothers. The authors also do a commendable job of showing the state of the Japanese Army at the time of the American surrender. But, I'm sorry, there is accountability for such monstrosity. The authors' attempt at the end to suggest Japanese commanders were railroaded to verdict was not convincing. You can't not know what happens to 76,000 prisoners. I just finished this book, thought it great till the last 50 pages, and I'm actually angry at the authors as I type this. ...more
5

Jan 09, 2010

This is an excellent overview of the fall of the Philipines during 1942 and the subsequent trials endured by Allied POWs. Although the authors introduce us to many men who made the Bataan Death March, they wisely focus on a young Montanan, Ben Steele, who preserves the atrocities committed in enemy custody through his drawings. The Normans also cover the military tribunal that heard the case of General Homma who was in command of the Philipine campaign.
5

Jul 22, 2009

Absolutely fantastic! I attended a book-signing and met the authors and Ben Steele himself. He is an awsome man. What a great story.
5

Jun 02, 2019

“Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman was an engaging read. Right when you think you’ve read about most of the major themes of World War II you come across another. For me, it was the Bataan Death March. I had heard of it but never read about it. After reading this tale, I suspect the reason I never read about it is that so many other supposedly more heroic stories grabbed the headlines. Writers didn’t focus too much on “Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman was an engaging read. Right when you think you’ve read about most of the major themes of World War II you come across another. For me, it was the Bataan Death March. I had heard of it but never read about it. After reading this tale, I suspect the reason I never read about it is that so many other supposedly more heroic stories grabbed the headlines. Writers didn’t focus too much on what was – at that time – the biggest surrender/defeat of American forces ever.

The narrative begins with some backstory of the Philippine conflict but doesn’t spend the whole book rooted there. The tale quickly gets to the last battle and surrender on the Bataan peninsula. Then the tale segues into the Death March, resettlement in a camp, transfer for some prisoners to other horrible work places, and finally to the shipment of hundreds back to the mainland of Japan for slave labor. The war’s end and the justice meted out to various Japanese leaders concludes the story.

The authors take on General MacArthur in this tale and treat him with contempt – justifiably or not. If the reader assumes the authors' POV, one ends up thinking less of General MacArthur, and feeling a bit sorry for the Japanese General Homma (who was in command mostly in name only but takes the full blame). The tale is wrapped around an American private – Ben Steele – who we watch experience all the tragedy. Threads of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” (Louis Zamperini) and Larry Guarino’s “A POW's Story: 2801 Days in Hanoi” (Larry Guarino) are comparable to what Steele suffers.

This was a well written and balanced telling of the Bataan Death March. Its biggest strength is that it shows points of view from all sides … something not often seen. All in all this was a compelling and informative read, especially if you have never read on the subject of Bataan. Recommended.
...more
5

Jul 23, 2018

An interesting study on Japanese War Crimes, the Bataan Death March and more importantly a miscarriage of justice and abuse of legal authority as it relates to the infamous Tokyo Trials. So Japan may not have been a signatory to the Geneva Convention on treatment of Prisoners of War and that may have given them the authority to mistreat the American POWs. When Japan surrendered, Japan's military personnel became the Allies' POW. Rather than conducting the theatrics of a sham trial and trying to An interesting study on Japanese War Crimes, the Bataan Death March and more importantly a miscarriage of justice and abuse of legal authority as it relates to the infamous Tokyo Trials. So Japan may not have been a signatory to the Geneva Convention on treatment of Prisoners of War and that may have given them the authority to mistreat the American POWs. When Japan surrendered, Japan's military personnel became the Allies' POW. Rather than conducting the theatrics of a sham trial and trying to show the World that US is a beacon of justice, why just not simply execute the Japanese POWs, especially considering the fact that they never signed the Geneva Convention. While Japanese mistreatment to the POWs is an outright violation of Human Rights, America's show of conducting a sham trial is a mockery of sorts - no constitutional safeguards, no due process, no fifth amendment, etc. was ever accorded to the Japanese prisoners. ...more
0

Jul 19, 2019

I haven't figured out, stars-wise, how I feel yet about this title. It's a bit strange, but I don't feel like it lived up to it's potential, writing-wise, though it offered up some interesting points to ponder.

The Normans had obviously done a lot of research, but I feel like the title and the write-up led me to expect two different books. The title indicated an overall perspective of the Death March and its participants, with perhaps equal weight to the march and the aftermath. The write-up led I haven't figured out, stars-wise, how I feel yet about this title. It's a bit strange, but I don't feel like it lived up to it's potential, writing-wise, though it offered up some interesting points to ponder.

The Normans had obviously done a lot of research, but I feel like the title and the write-up led me to expect two different books. The title indicated an overall perspective of the Death March and its participants, with perhaps equal weight to the march and the aftermath. The write-up led me to expect a book focused on Ben Steele's experience. The actuality was a hodge-podge-mish-mash-up of both.

The book spent A LOT of time in the first half kind of fleshing out Ben "Bud" Steele's early life, often flashing back in a kind of disjointed way to cover the same time period, but suddenly to reveal stuff like Ben's father being arrested and the family losing the farm (which didn't at all feature in his backstory discussed before about being a country boy who loved his farm life until--it seemed--the moment he went off to war), but then kind of dropped the Ben theme and talked about a (seeming, though sometimes truly) random assortment of people. I feel like the authors did just a ton of research and interviews, and decided to throw it all in, regardless of how it shaped their narrative. The result was kind of a cluttered tale, with no clear pacing, a constant struggle to figure out where in the timeline one was, and . . . I don't know--I wasn't super-engaged.

But I found it interesting, as a civilian who hasn't given enough thought and consideration to war, to ponder some of the questions that bubbled up for me. To me, war is such a bizarre concept at times. I recognize that there are times when war may be the only answer, and there are many things worth fighting for. But still, really? What a strange concept. Two countries may be having a problem with each other with may have nothing at all to do with borders, etc., but hey, I'm going to send out the young men of my nation to kill the young men of your nation and whoever is best at it wins our argument. It doesn't resolve the actual issue we have with each other, and--even though you and I are doing something incredibly barbaric (trying to end the lives of perfect strangers, and the grunts of the armies, usually), it had better be done in a "nice" way because there are rules. You can kill people, but it can't be done in a malicious way and you can't be cruel to them? And, if our agreed-upon codes are broken, who should we blame? Are officers responsible for the actions of their men?

I've got lots of others thoughts about these issues, but I'm not articulating myself well, so I'll just ruminate until I think of a better way to say them. ...more

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