For the first four months of 1942, U.S., Filipi, 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 Filipis 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 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.
Elizabeth M. Norman is director of the doctoral program at New York University's Division of Nursing in the School of Education and the author of We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese. Michael Norman, a former reporter and columnist for the New York Times, is on the faculty of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and is the author of These Good Men: Friendships Forged in War. Michael Prichard is a professional narrator and stage and film actor who has played several thousand characters during his career. An Audie Award winner, he has recorded well over five hundred books and has earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards. Michael was also named a Top Ten Golden Voice by SmartMoney magazine.