Academic journal article Military Review

TEARS IN THE DARKNESS, the Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath

Academic journal article Military Review

TEARS IN THE DARKNESS, the Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath

Article excerpt

TEARS IN THE DARKNESS, The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2009, 464 pages, $30.00.

The story of the Bataan Death march has been told many times before, but never quite like this. In, Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath, Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman combine hundreds of interviews with combatants from both sides with the personal story of Ben Steele, a Montana cowboy. Steele's cowboy lifestyle gave him an opportunity to work outdoors learning skills that would help him survive the brutal years of forced labor during captivity.

The great outdoors inspired Ben, a self-taught artist, to portray his captors, the starvation-riddled bodies of his fellow prisoners, and to recreate pictures of his Montana home through pencil drawings. The authors brilliantly use Ben's drawings to tie together their writing and the scenes only he could depict.

Steele enlisted in the Army in 1940 at the suggestion of his mother. "You really ought to get in before they draft you," she said. He chose the Army and one year later, on 8 December 1941, the Japanese bombed Clark Air Base in the Philippines, destroying the American air fleet (surprisingly still on the ground and unprotected) and thrusting Steele into war. Two weeks later the Japanese invaded the Bataan Peninsula. After months of fighting, the Japanese overran the starved, outnumbered, and exhausted American forces, forcing the surrender of 76,000 American and Filipino troops. …

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