"Tears in the Darkness"
"There are no winners in a war."
I sometimes listen to The Diane Rehm show while I'm exercising and today I checked out a program aired in June, that featured an interview with the husband and wife team , Michael and Elizabeth Norman, who wrote the just published book "Tears in the Darkness," the story of of what happened to the 76,000 Phillipine and American troops who were forced to surrender to the Japanese in 1942 after a four-month war fought under the command of Douglas MacArthur.
The Japanese followed up their attack on Pearl Harbor with an air attack on Battan, a peninsua in the Philipine Islands. Incredibly MacArthur had not learned the lesson of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese began their invasion of Bataan with an devestating air attack. After a four-month land battle MacArthur was evacuated, abandining his troops who had no option but surrender. While MacArthur had been sending false communiques describing American victories the truth was the opposite and even before their capture, rations were scarce and their situation hopeless.
This set the stage for the "The Bataan Death March" a 66-mile trek to a prison camp on which 11,000 soldiers died. Those who survived the march and the their treatment as prisoners of war were not liberated for three more years. .
The Normans interviewed American, Filipino and Japanese soldiers who survived the 66 mile trek from Baatan to a prisoner of war camp as well as people along the route of the march who surreptitiously fed the prisoners. 11,000 died on the way -- some from deydration and starvation and some beaten to death by the Japanese.
This is not a book glorifying war, but a gut-wrenching story of death and survival told in by hundreds of American, Filipino and Japanese soldiers, whom they have interviewed, and also Japanese soldiers themselves still haunted by the death march.
They describe the extremely brutal system of army discipline enforced by the Japanese on their own soldiers, who were routinely beaten, to explain who they themselvs were brutalized. And they graphically evoke the horrors of war and torture: the physics of suffocation: how deprivation of water effects the human mind as well as the body.; what happens when a bomb blast kills a person; how a bomb blast actually kill a person.
The Normans began their book ten years ago, before 9/11 and the Iraq war, and before the use of terror against prisoners of war or so-called "enemy combattants" was authorized by the Bush Administration. Their book is even more relevant today: There are no winners in a war.