Tears in the Darkness

  • by Michael Norman, Elizabeth Norman
  • Narrated by Michael Prichard
  • 17 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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: 41 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. The result is an altogether new and original World War II book: it exposes the myths of military heroism as shallow and inadequate; and it makes clear, with great literary and human power, that war causes suffering for people on all sides.

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Audible Editor Reviews

On April 9, 1942, more than 76,000 American and Filipino soldiers on the island of Batan surrendered to the Japanese, who set them walking 66 miles to prison camp, a notorious walk that came to be known as "The Bataan Death March". Their surrender meant defeat in the first major land battle for America in World War II. Tears in the Darkness, the result of 10 years' research and interviews, weaves a strikingly vivid tapestry of voices from all sides to bring this crucial episode to life. Its central narrative traces new Army Air Corp recruit Ben Steele from his cowboy upbringing in Montana to his shattering experience as a prisoner of war. From this quintessential American tale, other individual stories — including those of Filipinos and the Japanese — hang together, fleshing out the narrative and providing a remarkably rounded account. This balance is an important part of the book; although there are many detailed descriptions of the inhuman acts committed against prisoners, the authors treat the Japanese with sympathy and respect.
Michael Pritchard's delivery encompasses the campfire setting of Steele's Montana youth equally as well as the General Masaharu Homma's addresses to his Japanese troops, or the harrowing descriptions of the execution of surrendered captives. Pritchard's audiobook credits include titles by Zane Grey, Tom Clancy, and numerous works on American history, and it's not hard to see why: his dust-dry voice has a no-nonsense authority, an unforced sturdiness that honors the book's military milieu without ever being starchy or dull.
Tears in the Darkness stands apart from many military histories through the pungency of its writing: the steaming jungle, agonising thirsts, and overwhelming desperation are conveyed with a color that is more common to novels than history texts. However, the main achievement of the book is the cohesion of its myriad fragments: we get an appraisal of US military strategy in the Southwest Pacific, Filipino children running through Japanese soldiers' legs to get banana-leaves and handfuls of rice to their starving fathers, one survivor's agonisingly slow crawl to safety from under the corpses of executed captives. And throughout, the book's hold never flags, due as much to Pritchard's powerful yet restrained narration as to the sense of unflinching truth. —Dafydd Phillips

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Powerful, anguishing story

I can't remember the last audio book that I enjoyed so much that I had to run out and purchase the hardcover version just to see the pictures and re-read some of the sections at my leisure, but I did so with Tears in the Darkness. It is the story of the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippine Islands during World War II. Manila was a plum assignment for anyone in the military. That all changed suddenly and dramatically with first the news that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and next when Japan attacking the Philippines. The Japanese army, built with men who had been subjected to cruelty from the day they entered the service of their country and had thus most had all humanity snuffed out of them during their introductory military training, took over the Philippines faster than the Americans could have ever anticipated, then went on to brutalize them in an unimaginable way. On the famous Bataan death march, which although is part of the title of this book is not a huge aspect of this book, men were routinely beaten, starved, and deprived of even water. They were shot or bayonetted for stopping to assist another. When it was inconvenient to transport men at one point, the Japanese simply decided to bayonet them in small batches and throw them over a cliff. When they were transported in a ship they were unable to breathe, given no food or water. This book will leave you with a lasting impression of true suffering endured by so many. If you don't understand why military tribunals exist for passing judgment for crimes committed on fields of battle, you may after reading this. (Dead men simply can't provide testimony.) There can be no excuse for what was done by the military of the Empire of Japan. Also a good reminder for us to maintain our military strength and stay vigilant at all times. Friends become enemies overnight.
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- Book and Movie Lover

Riveting and heartbreaking

This chilling book reveals the barbaric treatment of allied soldiers by the Japanese army in WW2. The level of cruelty is as shocking as anything perpatrated by the Nazis in Europe. Some scenes of torture and murder caused me to cringe. That any of the soldiers survived is a testament to the will to live, as well as the kindness of fellow soldier's. This is a story of humanity-the loss of it by the Japanese, and the retention of it by those seemingly without hope.

Michael Pritchard did his usual superb job of narrating.
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- Parusski "Loyal member since 1998"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-09-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio