Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael NormanFor the first four months of 1942, U.S., Filipino, and Japanese soldiers fought what was Americas 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 Steeles story and the sobering tale of the Death March and its aftermath is the story of a number of Japanese soldiers.
The result is an altogether new and original World War II book: it exposes the myths of military heroism as shallow and inadequate; it makes clear, with great literary and human power, that war causes suffering for people on all sides.
The Bataan Death March
Bataan Death March
During the first stages of the war in the Pacific the Japanese Army invaded the Philippine islands rapidly cornering the defending US and Filipino forces in the Bataan peninsula and naval fortress of Corregidor. Hoping, perhaps, in an improbable intervention from outside, the defendant abandoned key defensive positions to close themselves inside a supposedly impregnable fortress at Corregidor. The result was a disaster and a lot of soldiers surrendered after a heroic but futile resistance. The Japanese were surprised by the number of captured soldiers and didn't have any provisions to deal with them transportation, medicines or food. On top of this the Japanese apparently couldn't understand the idea of surrender or to become a prisoner; basically the prisoner was a non-entity in their military code and consequently not worth living or be shown any mercy! Anyway, the Japanese forced the prisoners to march for more or less km before reaching their assembly areas from where to be placed into captivity. By the hundred prisoners were dying each day of exhaustion, sickness, aggravated wounds or killed by the guards by random executions, beatings or sadistic "games" Filipino soldiers were a preferred target because resisting to their "liberators".
Survivors of the Bataan Death March. During World War II, on April 9, , 75, United States soldiers and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces after months of battling in extreme-climate conditions. The U. Soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, , Japanese forces began the invasion of the Philippines. It would bring them one step closer to the control of the Southwest Pacific. The Philippines were just as important to the U.
Bataan Death March: Background
The total distance marched from Mariveles to San Fernando and from the Capas Train Station to Camp O'Donnell is variously reported by differing sources as between 60 and Differing sources also report widely differing prisoner of war casualties prior to reaching Camp O'Donnell: from 5, to 18, Filipino deaths and to American deaths during the march. The march was characterized by severe physical abuse and wanton killings, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime. When General MacArthur returned to active duty, the latest revision of plans for the defense of the Philippine Islands—called WPO-3—was politically unrealistic, assuming a conflict only involving the United States and Japan, not the combined Axis powers. However, the plan was tactically sound, and its provisions for defense were applicable under any local situation. If the enemy prevailed, the Americans were to make every attempt to hold back the Japanese advance while withdrawing to the Bataan Peninsula, which was recognized as the key to the control of Manila Bay.