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Darkest Hour: The True Story of Lark Force at Rabaul - Australia's Worst Military Disaster of World War II Hardcover – December 15, 2006

62 customer reviews

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Hardcover, December 15, 2006
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Editorial Reviews


World War II, June 2007

“The author takes a grunt’s-eye view of not just the battle, but its horrid aftermaths for POWs.”

WWII History Magazine, May 2007
"For whatever reason, far too few books about Australia's participation in World War II make it to these shores. Had it not been for Bruce Gamble's remarkable history of Aussie courage at Rabaul, comparable at least with the American and Filipino doomed defense of Corregidor Island or the brave but futile U.S. stand at Wake Island, few Americans would know what went on there...Author Gamble pored over forgotten files and official reports and conducted interviews with the handful of surviviing veterans to craft this tragic, heroic story. A terrific tale about a little-known (to Americans) battle."

WW2 Database (online), February 2007

“Exhaustively researched and descriptively written, Gamble's narrative of Darkest Hour is rich in detail but yet still easy to read. Pick up a copy, settle into your favorite chair, and be careful not to get lost in the wild growth of the South Pacific jungles.”

Book Description

Darkest Hour tells the story of Australia’s worst military disaster as it was experienced by survivors of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul, New Britain, in 1942. Bruce Gamble, critically acclaimed author of Black Sheep One, follows members of Lark Force, the Southwest Pacific island’s defenders, through their harrowing flight into the jungle, their struggle against an unforgiving environment and a cruel enemy that massacred its prisoners—and the further torments of fate, when a Japanese ship transporting prisoners is torpedoed by an American submarine. Exhaustively researched, this is a gut-wrenching account of courage and sacrifice, folly and disaster, as seen through the eyes of the few who survived. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Zenith Press; 1st edition (December 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760323496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760323496
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A disabled veteran and cancer survivor, Bruce Gamble has used an ultra-light wheelchair for much of his adult life, but it hasn't slowed him down. He's also an award-winning author and historian who travels widely, whether conducting research and interviews for his nonfiction books, giving public presentations, or sitting in front of the camera for a documentary.

Raised in Pennsylvania, Bruce served as a Naval Flight Officer from 1980 to 1988, deploying aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans during the closing years of the Cold War. Diagnosed with a malignant spinal cord tumor, Bruce underwent a complicated surgery and was medically retired in 1989. Soon thereafter he began volunteering at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida, and later worked part-time for the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. After several years as the staff historian, Bruce made the leap to freelance writing and published his first book, The Black Sheep (Presidio Press), in 1998.

With six titles now in print, Bruce is rapidly gaining recognition as one of the most respected authorities on World War II in the Pacific. His narrative style and depth of research have earned critical acclaim in numerous publications. Bruce also does a substantial amount of public speaking and is listed among the distinguished historians in the American History Forum. In addition, he is featured in documentaries produced by the History Channel, Fox News Channel, PBS, and the Pritzker Military Library.

The winner of two literary awards in 2010 and a Florida Book Award in 2013, Bruce is a member of the Authors Guild and holds life memberships in the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and Paralyzed Veterans of America. Cancer-free for more than 25 years, he lives near Panama City, Florida.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By W. H. McDonald Jr. on December 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The book "Darkest Hour: The True Story of Lark Force at Rabaul" is a compelling historic accounting of those Australian men and women on the southwest Pacific island of New Britain that was run over by the invading Japanese Army. Their fateful encounter began at the early morning hour of 2:30 a.m. on January 23, 1942. The Japanese rushed ashore to completely overwhelm the 1500 men and six nurses in the garrison; thus begins one of the most tragic tales of WWII.

Less than 25% of those in the garrison were able to escape and evade and after many weeks of hardship found their way off the island to safety. However, those that remained were captured and endure cruel and sometime lethal treatment at the hands of the Japanese. In one incident alone, two hundred POWS were executed. But a worse fate was still awaiting 850 of the survivors when they were torpedoed by an American submarine and went down with the ship while locked in their holding cells below deck.

The book is obviously researched very well. Author Bruce Gamble writes this historic story as if he were an eyewitness to the events. It is a most compelling and entertaining tale that shows the courage, sacrifices and horrors of war first hand. Gamble makes us feel the emotions of that group as he shares with the reader some of the small details of the events by the people involved. The writing is top notched and goes beyond a mere reporting of what happened. It captures the heart and soul of that time and place. Reading this true story will change you; you cannot help but be moved by what happened to these men and women.

This book is one of those that once you begin reading it you do not want to pout it down until you are finished with it. I give this book my personal endorsement and highest recommendation.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sue on May 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Darkest Hour is a moving book about one of Australia's least known World War Two incidents.

My grandfather died on the Montevideo Maru and for years I've searched for information about his death and his time on Rabaul. This book provided me with many answers others haven't.

Bruce Gamble writes about the members of Lark Force as real men and honestly discusses the controversy surrounding their fate.

A compelling, disturbing book that brings this darkest hour in Australian war time history into the light.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dusty Punch on June 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Pearl Harbor, Normandy, Stalingrad, Iwo Jima. These are just a handful of the battles that come to mind when people think about World War II--and rightfully so. Thankfully, though, Bruce Gamble extends his vision to one of the most gripping, and tragic, stories of the entire war. The story of Lark Force. Not only a true page turner (Gamble is an excellent story teller), Darkest Hour is obviously well-researched and filled with detail. Put simply, their story deserved to be told, and Bruce Gamble provided a fitting tribute to their legacy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James Vaughan on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Darkest Hour is not only an excellent historical account of one of the most important "battles" at the beginning of World War II but also an entertaining read that is hard to put down. The author does a good job at character development, which is often something lacking in these kinds of books. He follows the Lark Force from its inception in Australia to its demise (mostly) in the wretched hold of a Japanese cargo ship. All is not hopeless as the stories of those who did manage to escape the island and get back home are told in adequate detail. This book made we want to read more about this period of World War II in the Pacific theater.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Pitts on January 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a son of a member of Lark Force this is the best account I have read.
My father was one of the "lucky ones". He avoided capture , he avoided Tol Plantation bayonetting, he avoided being drowned on the Montevideo Maru and he turned up in Port Moresby after 99 days as missing presumed dead.
And he never spoke about it - but he did record the saga in a gripping journal.
Bruce Gamble tells it all so accurately with incredible research.
So sad that my father never got to read this account.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rodney J. Szasz on September 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With few exceptions the Japanese attack in the South Pacific and South-east Asia was met by British Commonwealth or American troops fighting under poor leadership, using older equipment and facing a psychologically superior enemy with a demoralised mindset. Lark Force at Rabaul was such a force. Their collapse was perhaps even more poignant and certainly more speedy, than almost any other in the region -- within two hours of the Japanes landing at Rabaul, the entire force of 1400 men was completely dislodged from their initial positions. Within 24 hours the rag-tag remnants were running in every direction, some through dense trackless jungle to avoid the fate of imprisonment or worse...

The author reminds us that none of this was foreordained. The dispositions of the Australians were poor, their leadership abysmal and their planning probably some of the worst in the theatre. In Bataan the Americans set up a jungle base to battle the Japanese, without support for 6 months. At Rabaul, the requests of the junior officers to build up just such jungle redoubts was regarded as defeatist and overuled.

When the storm struck however, there were innumerable tales of individual courage, treks through the jungle, encouters with headhunters, and the individual resources of few sometimes triumphing over the hundreds of Japanese soldiers trailing them.

In the end however, 1000 soldiers of Lark Force went into the bag.
About 200 were massacred outright after being taken prisoner, further down the coast. The rest were aboard the Montevideo Maru being transhipped to Hainan Island when they were torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon. Not a man survived. It is still the worst marine tragedy in Australian history.
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