January 23, 1942, New Britain. It was 2:30 a.m., the darkest hour of the day and, for the defenders of this Southwest Pacific island, soon to be the war's darkest hour. Fifteen hundred men and six nurses, Lark Force, had been deployed to New Britain to fortify and defend Rabaul, capital of Australia's mandated territories. Once they'd completed their work on the strategic port and its two airfields, the group-mostly volunteers from Victoria-had settled into the routine of garrison duties, confident of being relieved within a year. But the Japanese had other ideas. Rabaul was the linchpin of their campaign to conquer the Southwest Pacific-and in the early hours of January 23 their invasion force swarmed ashore. What ensued is the story told in The Darkest Hour, a gut-wrenching account of courage and sacrifice, folly and disaster, as seen through the eyes of the few who survived. Bruce Gamble, the critically acclaimed author of Black Sheep One, follows key individuals-soldiers and junior officers, an American citizen and an Army nurse among them-through their experiences in Lark Force. Together their stories comprise a harrowing picture of the Australian forces overrun and driven into the jungle, prey to the unforgiving environment and a cruel enemy that massacred its prisoners-and tormented further by fate, when a Japanese ship transporting prisoners to Hainan Island was torpedoed by an American submarine. The dramatic stories of the Lark Force survivors, told here in full for the first time, are among the most inspiring of the Pacific War.
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Published December 15, 2006
by Zenith Press.