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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Disturbing, inspirational and totally memorable

I was interested in reading a book on the Bataan death march as I didn't know much about it. This book was an amazing portrayal of the inhumanity of war and the darker side of our world. The vivid descriptions of the brutal treatment of the POWs was almost too much to...
I was interested in reading a book on the Bataan death march as I didn't know much about it. This book was an amazing portrayal of the inhumanity of war and the darker side of our world. The vivid descriptions of the brutal treatment of the POWs was almost too much to bear. At times you could feel the evil that must have been evident during this time pouring off the page. Very well written and engaging, a must read and sure to remind you that our young men and woman give their lives for our freedom on a daily basis.

posted by Paul-T on August 7, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Should be best hit in Japan

Only 2 people who were the product of the 1960's could have written such a book. The story is a great one but in it the Norman's project a not so subtle agenda. The authors can hardly contain their anomosity towards Douglas MacArthur. In the first few pages they hurry t...
Only 2 people who were the product of the 1960's could have written such a book. The story is a great one but in it the Norman's project a not so subtle agenda. The authors can hardly contain their anomosity towards Douglas MacArthur. In the first few pages they hurry to blame him for the defeat in the Philippians and attribute it to his personal flaws and to his lack of generalship. They come within inches of accuring him of being a coward, though conceed in earlier days he did show some signs of bravery. Maybe they were referring to the Congressional Medal of Honor he won as a young officer during WWI, although they never mention it. To them, this general who graduated first scholastically in the history of West Point, was a bungling egotistical idiot. Maybe the don't know that he had the lowest casualty rate of any general in the history of warfare. Maybe no one told them that his stroke of brilliance Inchon in Korea was arguably the most genius stroke of generalship of the 20th century when he was already past his 70th birthday. They belittle his escape from Corregidor in the middle of the night through ther Jap naval blockade with his wife and small son on a vessel not much more than a pleasure boat. General Wainwright, when he saw MacArthur after the liberation wept and begged forgiveness for his surrendering. He obviously believed, what the authors do not, that MacArthur would have fought to the death rather than surrender. At long last this book is not about MacArthur, but the authors distorted view of the greatest American general since Grant requires an answer.
Gerneral Homma, the Japanese commander during the Bataan Death March, is treated much kinder. You get the feeling that the authors would rather MacArthur had been hung than Homma. They tell us that Homma's lawyer liked him. Really! The American gaurds gaurding Goering were also enamored by the fat Nazi's charisma. So, was Goering innocent also?
We are told about how the Japanese robbed whatever valuables the American's had, but quickly are reminded that Americans did the same. They did? Do I hear moral equivalency here? Yes! Not once throughout the book - a book about one of the most ugly horrible events of the 20th century - do you hear any moral outrage from the authors. Nothing! The only thing that really bothers them is the execution of the Japanese general responsible for Bataan. His 6 week trial was unjust in their very biased opinion. It is the only person opinion they have, except for the view that Douglas MacArthur is responsible for the initial losses of WWII, even though he had been in command of America forces onl several months before the war began.
The narrative and details of the Death March are breathtaking and get ready to cry and be upset. And, if you are like me, a little angry at the authors inspite of this enthralling book.

posted by lfphd on December 13, 2009

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  • Posted August 7, 2010

    Disturbing, inspirational and totally memorable

    I was interested in reading a book on the Bataan death march as I didn't know much about it. This book was an amazing portrayal of the inhumanity of war and the darker side of our world. The vivid descriptions of the brutal treatment of the POWs was almost too much to bear. At times you could feel the evil that must have been evident during this time pouring off the page. Very well written and engaging, a must read and sure to remind you that our young men and woman give their lives for our freedom on a daily basis.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Tears in the Darkness

    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 mou

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    OUTSTANDING ACCOUNT ON THE BATAAN DEATH MARCH..!!

    I am a military historian by hobby and as such have read many thousands of books on the military, POW's, and the common soldier. Having said that this book is one of the best I have read on the Bataan Death March and the subsequent POW work camps in Japan.
    The author tells his story in vivid detail without garnishment. This is a true tale of heroism, survival, and man's inhumanity to man. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the human toll of war and being taken prisoner. Outstanding...!!!!
    Also recommended is CAGED DRAGONS by Robert Haney...also about POW's in the Philippines and Japan during WW2.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2011

    Brutally graphic

    The tears became mine.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    Powerful

    My father served in the Pacific aboard a navy destroyer during WW II. He never could for give the Japanese. I understand his point of view. Heartbreaking reading that is at the same time so well written that you can hardly put it down. This book is a must read for those seeking to understant the history of WW II.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Must Read on WWII in Philippines

    This extremely well-written and carefully researched book is the definitive study of the Bataan Death March and its aftermath. It is a must read for those interested in World War II in the Philippines. It also is a detailed and often shocking chronicle of the horrors of combat and the incredible inhumanity with which the victorious Japanese treated their prisoners.

    The book serves as a monument to the courage of the Filipino and American soldiers whose courageous stand slowed the Japanese juggernaut sufficiently for the allied reinforcements to save Australia, which then would become the launching pad for the counter attack which eventually won the war in the Pacific.

    Finally, it is a story of survival. The survival of Ben Steele and others who through both luck and determination lived through the years of abuse and deprivation to rejoin their families following the Japanese defeat.

    The book relies on extensive interviews with Americans, Filipinos and Japanese who took part in the events described. It follows Ben Steele, a young cowboy and evolving artist, through the horrific events of combat, the Death March, prison camp, the Hell Ships, slave labor in Japan and liberation. The book is illustrated by sketches made by Steele of his experiences. Surviving the war, he would become a successful artist and university instructor.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    Great Read!

    The research on this book is extensive. This should go down as a must read for anyone having any interest in the Bataan Death March. The narrative gets gruesome at times. Our WWII soldiers suffered greatly in the Philippines. This book gave me an even greater respect for our Veterans and what they endured to maintain our liberty. The younger generation needs to read this book. I did find after reading most of the book that it was helpful to me to print off maps of the area. I should have done that right away. It helps to have a map when reading the narrative.

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  • Posted September 8, 2012

    THIS BOOK WAS A REVELATION . It is beautifully written and tel

    THIS BOOK WAS A REVELATION . It is beautifully written and tells an amazing, and heartbreaking, story of courage, determination and incredible suffering. I could not put it down. And even though I read it several months ago, I cannot forget it.

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  • Posted April 26, 2012

    Stunning portrayel of the bataan death march. I found it hard to

    Stunning portrayel of the bataan death march. I found it hard to believe someone could survive such an ordeal, but Ben Steele does just that. This book was fantastic, and quite a quick read. If you purchace this book, you won't be disappointed.

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  • Posted March 7, 2012

    A very interesting and informative book. A must read!

    My father was in the Air Force and always talked about how great General MacArthur was and how it was a shame that President Truman fired him during the Korean conflift. This book painted a different picture than the one my father had painted. This book talks about the mistakes that General MacArthur made that contributed to the Japanese' success in the first bombing of the Phillipines in 1941 which eventually led to the surrender of American and Filipino solders and sailors and the Bataan Death March. What an awful ordeal the prisoners of war went through. I know I wouldn't have survived it. An interesting part of the book is when the authors discussed the arrest and trial of General Homma, one of the Japanese military officers convicted of "crimes against humanity". It makes you think about these two generals. One of them was shot by a firing squad and the other one lived to be fired by President Truman. I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and hard to put down when you're reading it.

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  • Posted October 21, 2011

    Well written! It describes a side of WWII rarely ever seen before. An absolute must read

    As a young airman. I was stationed at Clark AFB aka Clark Field in the late 1960s I worked with Filippinos who had friend and family who fought side by side with us and who suffered through the same things. Rather than describe the event in detail they suggested that I visit Corregidor and Fort Drum to truly appreciate what our troops went through. This book described in srartling detail the events after our surrender by someone who had been there done that. Absolutely superb! This book is so good that I've made it required reading along with Hrrshey's Hiroshima for my sons. The authors did not attempt to attack MacArthur but they did show how many of the combatants felt, desserted by their commander.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

    Well written-poignant-well worth reading from either a military or personal standpoint.

    You're taken through the life of a survivor of the death march. For any former military person you can relate to the bonding, rigors, hardships, and in this case, the atrocities as experienced by those in arms. The presentation of the societal development for the Japanese prior to and during the war years is inciteful and, although it does not diminish the acts taken, helps explain and understand the basis of their behaviors. In the chronical of the war crime trials provides an insight into the apparent American legal atrocity committed. In all it was a complete and thorough encapsulation of one man's life story with the Bataan Death March, and its impact on him and those around him, as a centerpiece.

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  • Posted April 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    If you are interested in World War II History this is a must read.

    There is an amzaing amounht5 of detail covering the lives of soldiers left in the Philipines at the start of WW II in the Pacific/ One of the real interesting story lines shows not only the battle experience but life after the war ended.

    If you have every read anyting about the West, Charles M. Russel, or stories of cowboy life in the early years of the country, you will have a great surprise and interesting conclusion to a great personal story.

    While the soliders fought for their lives and ours, you will learn about how the US worked to protect the troops.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    WWII brutal Bataan Death March through those that lived it

    The "Bataan Death March" during WWII in the Philippines was one of the most deadly and brutal excursions mandated by any enemy. The Japanese captured this area shortly after the beginning of WWII, which started when Japan destroyed Pearl Harbor in the Pacific. This scenario is captured through the eyes of those that lived it and the records they had kept. The writings or diaries that these men, mostly from the United States and the Philippines, wrote and managed to hide somewhere or wrote after their rescue after a harrowing ordeal that killed so many. The map included in the beginning of the book shows the Luzon Island, Manila, Bataan, and surrounding areas. All of this area was where most of this story occurred.

    The attack on Pearl Harbor is described through both the American and the Japanese eyes and minds. Ben Steele was a young cowboy from Montana who rushed to join the Air Force once the war had begun. Being a country boy he wasn't used to war or people that acted much different than his wild western style. The story tells a bit of training then moves rapidly to the Philippines where Ben and his units were sent to defend an area that had many Philippine and American soldiers, along with some other nations. The military leaders felt there was plenty of military in the area to repel any Japanese attack attempting to take the entire area. They were dead wrong. Some of the natives took off for the hills of the island but most stayed and fought the oncoming enemy that sent unending lines of men to attack and capture all they could. Many on both sides were killed, but eventually the Japanese did overtake the entire island, making the forces fighting surrender to the Japanese.

    Eventually the men were herded in lines as the victors moved inland and north and forced to march regardless of physical condition, without food and water for the most part. If they fell or faltered for any reason, they were bayoneted or shot with their bodies thrown off the dirty, bumpy road. The description of what they endured as seen through Ben Steele's eyes and many others, officers and enlisted men alike, was in most cases beyond human comprehension. When they did get something thrown at them to eat it was usually leftovers from the Japanese meals, bits and pieces of rice, moldy, maggot filled, flies included along with any foreign substances that would come from the dirt. Water was almost non-existent even though there were areas along the way that contained wells or cisterns but the prisoners were not allowed to drink. A few managed to secretly obtain some water but all it did was give dysentery even worse than the food did.

    You have to read this story to understand what our military endured, if they lived through it, which many didn't. The Japanese would stop the march, separate lines of men, march them in small groups to the edge of a ravine, then bayonet them until they fell into the ravine dead or mostly dead. Very few did survive this method of killing. When the few that did survive arrived at Camp O'Donnell, they again were kept in very primitive enclosures and given very little to eat or drink.

    Eventually over the many months as prisoners, the Japanese knew they were losing the war and they pulled back or were killed or taken prisoner, allowing the ravaged men to roam the camp until friendly forces rescued them. For most of the men that did survive this tortuous trek their physical and mental lives were forever

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  • Posted September 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The story of the Bataan Death March and its aftermath.

    We all think we know what the Japanese did to our POWs in the South Pacific during WWII. A beating here, an atrocity there . But now, Elizabeth and Michael Norman can take you step by grisly step from the arrival of GI's on the Filipino shore, to their ultimate repatriation at the end of the war.
    This book is not for sissies. You have to take on the chin the fact that 46000 Japanese fought 130000 American and Filipino troops, and 76,000 of them surrendered. The largest single defeat in American military history. Add to this the ineptitude and flat-out incompetence of their higher command, and you have a disaster of epic proportions.
    But 'Tears in the Darkness' is not an analysis of failure, it is a chronicle of courage over adversity. It is a harrowing account of the treatment of American soldiers at the hands of their captors after their defeat.
    The husband and wife authors are uniquely qualified to write this book. Elizabeth Norman has already written of the plight of non-combatants in the South Pacific, and her husband Michael has written about men in combat from personal experience.
    The plight of POW's in the hands of the Japanese is a very difficult subject to write about effectively. Not least because of the way the Japanese treat each other and the prisoners in their care, is so unspeakable as to be almost unbelievable. It is difficult therefore to describe on page after page atrocious activities without blurring the enormity of the offense. The Normans however succeed admirably. Their prose is elegant and eschews sensation. They are scrupulously fair to all sides, save for an unnecessary deprecation of the Brits towards the end of the work (page 320). It baffled me how the authors could indulge in a detailed love-fest with General Masaharu Homma who was the ranking commander during the abuses (and was executed for it), while deprecating the Brits who, after all, were victims too.
    However, this lapse into Anglophobia does not detract from what is a beautifully constructed work of history and human endeavor. The authors brilliantly hang the historiography onto a detailed biography of Ben Steel: an American titan who endured the dreadful experience from start to finish, and lived (and I hope still lives), to tell the tale.
    I know that this is a hackneyed phrase; but it is important that everyone reads 'Tears in the Dark'. Some will find it disturbing, others will be upset by it - but you must know what went on. And if Ben Steel's return to his family does not bring a tear to your eye - shame on you. But be warned - when you have completed this book, you may see your Toyota in a totally different light.
    Ends - 590 words.

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  • Posted September 16, 2009

    Riveting, compelling

    I recently read this book and found it to be one of the best on this subject. Although I have no particular connection to this piece of history (no relatives or acquaintances) who were POW's, I have taken a sharp interest in this subject (Bataan POW's).
    Ben Steele is a man I'd like to meet; one of many Bataan veterans who survived unbelievable odds. How these guys survived the death march, starvation, mental and physical torture and the elements (jungle, tropical diseases, etc) all at once (let alone one of these horrors) is nothing short of a miracle. The book was obviously well researched and well written by the Normans. Thanking those who sacrificed their lives and those who lived to tell the tale. Glad to be an American and living in the Home of the Brave.
    I also recommend "Some Survived" by Manny Lawton.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2009

    Tears in the Darkness

    Tears in the Darkness provides a great deal of new insight in to the Bataan Death March, and even more about what happened to the survivors. The accounts of their ordeals as they were packed into transport ships and sent to slave labor camps in Japan are heart-rending. The author clearly articulates that the attitude of the Japanese toward the prisoners stemmed from their so-called Bushido Code, that required them to die fighting rather than ever surrender; hence, the allied soldiers who surrendered had disgraced themselves and were less than human.

    After reading this book, read Conduct Under Fire for a similar account of the Japanese treatment of POWs.

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  • Posted September 6, 2009

    Evil afoot

    If you have yet to be convinced that evil stalks this planet, this recitation of WWII's Bataan death march and its aftermath should remove the last vestige of doubt. Evil - in all its rottenness - is nowhere more evident than in the despicable treatment by the Japanese to the 192,600 allied prisoners of war in the Philippines, among them American, British, Australian, Indian and Dutch .
    Reading this book proves a harrowing experience, one that while turning the pages turns your stomach.
    Japan may excuse itself but the stains on its nation's soul cannot ever be washed away. The passage of time, a mere blink over 65 years, will never dull the shame of those actions in the far away Philippine Islands as our country concentrated on the war raging in Europe, practically abandoning our allies in the Philippines. An embarrassing smear on our honor as a nation is our neglect at providing support to General Mac Arthur and the valiant troops defending that country in the early stages of WWII. Eventually, the General himself became complicit in the tragedy through stoicism and political expedience.
    The Philippines were practically written off along with the rest of Southeast Asia, left to fend for itself. Hollow communiqués from Washington rattled with false promises and outright lies. Help was never over the horizon.
    So the beleaguered peninsula fell, stumbling from military mishaps along with logistical lapses, and the victorious Japanese marshaled what was left of some 76,000 troops of mixed Filipino and American forces, 70,000 of whom would leave Mariveles northward to San Fernando. So began the infamous march, some 66 miles of blood, sweat, murder, mayhem and tears that would last up to two weeks. San Fernando was a railhead where the teeming prisoners would be loaded aboard cattle cars for the trip to Camp O'Donnell, a horror only slightly less than the infamous march.
    To paraphrase another author, history has a long echo and now you should be able to understand why some veteran POWs cannot bring themselves to enter a taxi if it is driven by an Asian. They see the face of a sadistic guard who smashed their face with a rifle butt. They see the face of an officer who swung a sword and took off the head of a fellow trooper.
    The march was only the beginning. What followed was months of thirst, starvation and disease, Geneva Convention be damned. These decrepit souls would gasp for air in the dark 'hellships' transporting them to the Japanese mainland for a bare existence as slave laborers. There, they would be disbursed, some to the coal mines. Some would survive on dirty rice and foul water - never enough of either. Starvation stalked them from the day of surrender. All of this is told, humanized by one survivor, Ben Steele, a cowboy from Montana, who just barely made it after unbelievable hardships. He went through everything described in the book sometimes barely alive (he received the last rites from a catholic priest twice.) Diseases ran rampant through the prisoner ranks and medicines were in meager supply. Beriberi, dysentery. malaria to name a few and other critical medical conditions, plus lice, filth, lack of basic sanitation haunted these beleaguered captives If there is one area of criticism of this book, I would place it at the repeated translations of English words and phrases into Japanese. It doesn't add much and creates stumbles in the otherwise smooth cadence of the writing.
    Af

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  • Posted August 11, 2009

    stunning

    Even those well familiar with the American military debacle in the Philippines at the start of WWII will find this book a thoroughly original contribution to war literature.

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  • Posted August 9, 2009

    WW II and the toll on mankind in a well written and researched volume focusing on the Bataan cruelties and the will to survive..

    This is an absorbing, richly detailed account (via interviews and historical research) of the Bataan death march in the Philipines in the early months  of WWII. Using a central soldier and his personal story, it brings it home. Unfortunately for some readers , it presents all too vividly man's inhumanity to man. It is, however,  part of our history and unknown to some of the younger generation. Whether WWII or the wars still in progress, it is , by its truthfulness, an anti-war story. How could one arrive at any other conclusion !  Highly recommended reading as long as one is prepared for the inhumanity it so vividly portrays. Kudos to the authors on documenting this tragic time in our past and on the tribute to those who did or did not survive it.

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