Saturday, July 25, 2009

TEARS IN THE DARKNESS: THE STORY OF THE BATAAN DEATH MARCH AND ITS AFTERMATH - Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman


As a child, my grandfather would read the newspaper and say things like, "Those damn Japs, trying to take over ." I knew that was not the right thing to say, and I would look at my sister with big eyes until one of us would break out into giggles. My grandmother would tell us that he had fought in the war and tell him to hush that talk.

Twenty-some years later, I think I understand why he held such long-standing hatred of the Japanese. This book details the atrocities of American prisoners-of-war, and it is so emotionally choking that I had to read it in spurts.

In 1942, American and Filipino soldiers fought for months against the Japanese over a sliver of land called the Bataan peninsula. Ben Steele of the United States Air Force became adept with his rifle, as did many others (cooks, machinists, pilots), but the battle ended with the surrender of 76,000. This is the largest defeat in American military history.

The book mixes biography with heart-wrenching journalism. As we follow Ben Steele's fight for survival - first, the Bataan death march, which was a 66-mile horror; next, the series of POW camps - readers are also told of the struggles of other people, as told through diaries, interviews, and painstaking research.

While Germany is often the "bad guy" of WWII and Japan is considered guilty of Pearl Harbor, this shows another detailed history of the war. It should not be missed by anyone. The beautiful, poignant writing and organization of the material only adds to the powerful tone of the book.

4.75 out of 5.0 Teas.

3 comments:

jenclair said...

We had a friend, the same age as my father, who survived the Bataan Death March. I also had a college professor who was in a Japanese prison camp as a child. I'm really interested in this book. Thanks!

stacy said...

I think WWII is one of the reasons there was so much backlash against Japan in the '80's.

This book looks heartbreaking, but a necessary read. On my wishlist.

Kristin Dodge said...

I should have stated that it shows the Japanese side, as well, though it does focus on the cultural reasoning. None of us can imagine the choices all of them made.