This is how history is supposed to be written, and narrated. Michael and Elizabeth Norman present a powerful work stitching together the overall story of horrific events with the common thread of a central soldier, Bud Steele, and a few other American and Japanese who appear throughout the captivating pages. Michael Pritchard delivers a brilliant interpretation of the text with a voice that is sensitive at all times to the mood of the moment - soft when necessary, urgent when called for, and always entertaining. The authors go deep into the psyche of the ordinary Japanese soldiers and their campaign commander to help the reader understand how the horrible events that took place were part of a chain of seeming inevitability. This work is an admirable marriage of comprehensive research, skillful writing and a narration of artistry. If there is a fault it is in leaving the fate of some of the people mentioned in the text hanging in historical mystery. Even so, this is a fantastic read and will probably rank among your favorites.
I am the most amazing version of myself that I have ever met.
This book is a perfect blend of story telling and research that deals with a very dark and atrocious period of WWII. The authors tell the whole story - not only from the American point of view, but also from the perspective of Japanese soldiers and Generals. It is important to recognize that there were victims on BOTH sides - and such is the tragedy of war. This is one of my favorite books, both in terms of the authors who masterfully told this tragic story, but also due to its narration. Great listen!
Nothing prepares you for the hell that encompasses the men you encounter in this book. Ben Steel endures horrific and dehumanizing treatment at the hands of his captors and yet... and yet, he emerges scarred, but triumphant as a human being. Finding within himself the courage to face his own shortcomings and to forgive two nations, the one that betrayed him and the one that criminally abused him. March with these men and weep at their plight. Emerge a different person. I applaud the Norman's for shining a fresh light into these dark places and to Michael Pritchard for lending a human voice to this most tragic recounting of the Bataan Death March and its aftermath.
Former Marine 4321, former State Department public diplomacy officer. Current USAF Public Affairs Specialist
This book is so powerful. It turns so many classic ideas around - like the difference between defeat and victory. It opens with a discussion about the surrender of Japan, then works its way through the near defeat of Japanese forces on Bataan, the ultimate surrender of US forces on Bataan and ultimately back to the final surrender of Japan.
Like an amazing and painful sports game, this book kept me deeply engaged by detailing not only battles and dates, but snippets of people's diaries - from enlisted and officer, from Japanese and Americans and not only their battle lives, but also the memories of lives they left behind. The authors have humanized and illustrated with powerful clarity the people involved in this painful, seemingly distant struggle.
I had always suspected, but this book makes it clear, that the Japanese government of World War II didn't only oppress foreign lands, but also its own people. Through detailed descriptions of the lives of common Japanese soldiers, the authors bring to life a myriad of miseries they had to endure.
This book doesn't demonize anyone. It shows war for how stark and bitter it was for all and it brings history to vivid clarity. I love the way the authors hold out the detail of the American officer who surrenders, showing him from the eyes of a Japanese lieutenant, so that it is only at the end of that page that we learn he was the general in charge, not just a subordinate filling orders. The author details how pained the defeated Americans felt about the idea of giving up. How frustrating it was for them from senior to most junior to do the unthinkable. And yet to continue fighting under the conditions was pure suicide.
I love the rhythm and the literary feel of the writing. The author includes short, declarative sentences that add a marvelous staccato beat to an otherwise complex, entwined sequence of words.
I love the small details of Japanese and Tagalog language, like the gatakoto, gatakoto sound of a train in Japanese language. The cultural detail, like the observation that people believed Filipinos to be a mostly passive people and they would "just go along with everything," until someone's honor was threatened and then they were just as likely to turn a machete from harvesting crops to harvesting someone's head.
I love the details about the lack of training and equipment for the American and Philippine forces combined with a deep will to win and the details that despite a rage against the Army, Japanese men felt an obligation to protect their families.
I just LOVE this book.
I'm listening to it on my commute, a download from Amazon's audible and the narrator's voice is fantastic. This book makes the commute fly by. I get so wrapped up in the story, I don't mind the traffic.
The narration in this book is great. Is well-read and well-produced.
This book should be required for any graduate level class on the Japanese Theater of Operations in the Phillipines, beginning with McArthur's "I shall return," to the surrender of Gen. Wainwright's division, the Bataan Death March, prision hospitals and punishment, and the subsequent war crimes trial of Japanese leader Homma. Long, but comprehensive. Great for lovers of military, legal, and political history. Well narrated by Michael Prichard.
I disagree completely with the reviewer who defined this as a man's book (in fact, it was just a little offensive). You will need to be interested in military history, historical documentary, etc.--but you don't need to be a man to hold those interests. I will, however, issue a couple of caveats (without defining it as a male/female issue), At times, the detail on military strategy can be numbing. (I "read" during a long commute, and found my mind wandering at times in the first several hours). It will matter farther on in the book, so try to keep focused. Second, some of the descriptions of the brutal treatment of the POWs is extremely graphic and difficult to hear. I'm female (but not weak stomached or hearted), and yet I found myself close to sobbing at times. The depravity and inhumanity that war can create (particularly this one, where the broad differences in culture led the Japanese to see their captives as subhuman and not having any value) subjected Americans AND Filipinos (whose casualties were much higher than the Americans) to horrific abuses. It's tough to listen to.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. I just had to look up the main character on google after listening this. It is a remarkable true story of bravery
I find it difficult to use the word "enjoyed" when I speak of this book because it is a narration of the tragic events and treatment of the US POWs in Bataan and Japan. However, I feel enriched by learning of the things these men and women endured or died trying to endure. This is the type of book that anyone wanting to know what American spirit is all about should read and learn from. I think the tone of the narration of this book lends it the gravity that it deserves.
The thing that struck me most was that the Holocaust in Germany is common knowledge and the Bataan Death March is not. The atrocities committed against our own servicemen is an incredible and extremely moving story of survival.
At first I thought the book too graphic, but I now realize that nothing I knew before could have prepared me for the unbearable agonies and deaths that these men endured, nor for the inhumanity of war.
I was on the edge of my seat the entire book and by the time I got near the end, I wanted to drop the bomb on Hiroshima myself!
One comment though...the author's personal portrayal of General MacArthur is less favorable than historical accounts that I'm familiar with.
An incredible story and a must read for history buffs or anyone who loves a gripping read.
This is a well written book from beginning to end. Michael Prichard's narration puts you in the march and in the prison camps. Money well spent.