Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club: Volume LI.
As a self-described pseudo-intellectual, I’m not pretentious about my pretensions. So when I say that “Tears in the Darkness” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman is all too real — a page-turning description of a heart-rending, four year nightmare — you can believe it.
That’s why this story of the Bataan death march and its aftermath is my latest recommendation to those unfamiliar with this tragic chapter in World War II history or simply interested in learning more about what happened. I fell into the latter category and came away a far better understanding of what and how/why it transpired.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that started U.S. involvement in World War II was one of a series of dramatic assaults on onAmerican bases in the South Pacific, one of which occurred in the Philippines.
The Japanese cut off the Philippines from assistance and waged a bloody, four-month campaign to take the islands. U.S. and Filipino soldiers fought bravely, taking a heavy toll on the attackers. But eventually they were forced to take refuge on the tiny peninsula of Bataan, starved into submission and forced to surrender.
But the worst was yet to come — the long, torturous march to a prison camp and then a barely subsistent existence at the hands of their mostly brutal Japanese captors.
The story is told through the eyes of a handful of protagonists from both sides, including American soldier Ben Steele, a Montana cowboy and aspiring artist, and, most interestingly, the top commander of the Japanese troops attacking the Philippines. After the way, the Japanese general, who was fired by his commanders for not taking the islands quickly enough, was tried for war crimes and shot. Among the others whose stories are told is that of army pilot William E. Dyess, who was married to late News-Gazette publisher Marajen Stevich Chinigo.
Dyess survived the death march and imprisonment and later escaped. After he made his way back to the U.S., he collaborated with an American newspaper on a multi-part series about what happened, sparking outrage from coast to coast.
It’s an incredible story. Over and over, the book relates man’s inhumanity to man. But the book is not just about death and cruelty, it’s also about the will to survive in inhuman conditions and the struggle to build a normal life after such a shattering experience.
Here are previous recommendations from Jim’s Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[-] “Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission” by Hampton Sides.
[-] “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris.
[-] “A Night to Remember” by Walter Lord.
[-] “April 1865: The Month That Saved America” by Jay Winik.
[-] “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand.
[-] “Lindbergh” by A. Scott Berg.
[-] “The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963” by Laurence Leamer.
[-] “The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case” by Sam Roberts.
[-] “Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy.
[-] “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” by Ben Mezrich.
[-] “Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World” by Steve Neal.
[-] “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone” by Martin Dugard.
[-] “In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors” by Doug Stanton.
[-] “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.” by Bryan Burrough.
[-] “Flags of our Fathers,” by James Bradley.
[-] “Cary Grant: A Biography” by Marc Elliot.
[-] “Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager” by Buzz Bissinger.
[-] “Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York” by Kenneth Ackerman.
[-] “They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967” by David Maraniss.
[-] “Flashman” (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[-] “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink” by David Margolick.
[-] “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City” by Jonathan Mahler.
[-] “Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires” by Selwyn Raab.
[-] “The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball.” by John Taylor.
[-] “American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies” by Michael Kauffman.
[[-] “The Looming Tower: al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11” by Lawrence Wright.
[- ) “A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports” by Brad Snyder.
[-] “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis.
[-] “The Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam.
[-] “Arc of Justice: A Sage of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age” by Kevin Boyle
[-] “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan.
[-] “The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case” by James Neff.
[-] “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House” by John Harris.
[–] “FDR” by Jean Edward Smith
(-) “The Unlikely Spy” (a novel) by Daniel Silva.
(-) “Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal” by Ben Macintyre
(-) “The Interpretation of Murder” (a novel) by Jed Rubenfeld
(-) “The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country” by Laton McCartney.
(-) “The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changes Their Lives Forever”
by Joe Layden.
(-) “The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958 and the Birth of the Modern NFL” by Mark Bowden.
(-) “Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family” by Joaquin “Jack” Garcia.
(-) “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
(-) “Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi” by Neal Bascomb
([--]) “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Goodwin.
([--]) “His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph Ellis.
([--]) “Clemente” by David Maraniss
([--]) “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963” by Robert Dallek
(-) “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler.