For the first four months of 1942, American, Filipino, and Japanese soldiers fought over the tiny peninsula of Bataan. It ended with the single largest defeat in American military history, though this was only the beginning of the trial for 76,000 American and Filipino soldiers, who as POWs were to suffer three and a half years of unparalleled cruelty. Michael and Elizabeth Norman trace this horrendous story through the experiences and drawings of Ben Steele, a young Montana cowboy and aspiring sketch artist who joined the army to see the world and ended up on a death march. But juxtaposed with Steele's story are the previously untold accounts of Japanese soldiers who struggled to maintain their humanity while carrying out inhuman orders.
"Readers learn how news of Japanese atrocities inflamed an American passion for vengeance and justified horrific bombing raids—incendiary and then nuclear—against Japanese cities. But readers will find it hard to view such raids as fitting punishment of a bestial enemy after reading the Normans' chronicle of the bitter experiences of very human and often guilt-wracked Japanese soldiers. The narrative even humanizes the anguished Japanese commanders condemned by a victors' justice that held them accountable for offenses of out-of-control subordinates. An indispensable addition to every World War II collection."—Booklist (starred review)