Rampage MacArthur, Yamashita and The Battle of Manila by James M. Scott is a wonderful book, must reading for anyone interested in World War Two, the Philippines or Douglas MacArthur. In order to hope to understand the Philippines today you have to ponder the terrible consequences of the Battle for Manila. For five years after the battle was over the population of the city declined due to lives shortened by injuries, poor diets and rampant diseases.
The book very interestingly begins with a chapter on MacArthur detailing his life long involvement with the Philippines. MacArthur had a giant ego, many of those who served under him worshipped him while others nicknamed him "Dug out Doug", feeling he kept himself safe, eating steak while his men were abandoned on Corrigidor Island to the Japanese, he escaping to Australia. Many of his troops despised him, including his one time aid Eisenhower. Scott does not take sides here, just shows us the facts.
The second chapter tells us of the pre War history of General Yamashita, a fascinating account that helped me understand the command structure of the Japanese military. Yamishita was a poet, served in Europe as an envoy before the war and had a German mistress, as MacArthur a Filipina.
The book goes into great detail on the battle for Manila. The Japanese were determined to destroy Manila, they nearly succeeded, and to kill as many civilians as they could. They behaved just as they did during the battle over Nanking, raping thousands of women and young girls, killing babies for sport. The purpose of the Japanese was to delay an American invasion of Japan. The Japanese were enraged by the very pro-American attitude of the Filipinos. Additionally they seemed to love causing as much misery as possible. The Japanese acted in a barbaric subhuman fashion. Scott spares no details in showing the pointless cruelty of the Japanese.
December 10, 1898 - Spain Cedes The Philippines to The United States
December 7, 1941, a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan launched an invasion of The Philippines
January 2, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur declared Manila an open city hoping to spare the residents from the war, the Japanese take over Manila
Manila then has a population of 684,000
April 9, 1942 - The American forces were now headquartered on Corregidor Island. General Douglas MacArthur, acting on orders from President Roosevelt, leaves the Island, along with Manuel Quezon then president of the Philippines,
for Australia. His men are taken as POWs. MacArthur's pledge that he would return became the mantra of his life.
Americans as well as Canadians and Europeans were placed in detention. The largest prison site with about 3400 captives was at The University of Santo
Thomas. James Scott greatly details the terrible conditions endured by the captives and made me sense their joy when the Americans liberated them. The university, founded in 1611, predates Harvard by 25 years. Our middle daughter graduated from college there in 2017. Scott does a great job describing the campus converted to a prison.
October 17, 1944 - The Americans invade, coming ashore on the beach at Lingayen Gulf, near the birth place of my wife, about 150 miles north of Manila, on the big Island, Luzon.
October 17, 1944 Douglas MacArthur comes ashore, with coverage from Life Magazine and American army reporters filming it, says “I have returned”.
The Japanese had 432,000 troops in The Philippines.
February 3 to March 3 1945 - The Battle For Manila. The Japanese were determined to kill as many civilians as they could and destroy the city. As they did in Nanking, the Japanese embarked on a rampage of murder and rape. Babies were bayoneted for sport. The Japanese military knew they could not win, their mission was to delay the Americans in their anticipated invasion of Japan. The Japanese burned or killed with a sword as many as they could, needing to save bullets. By the end over 100,000 civilians were killed, many by American bombs and strafing.
Sporadic Japanese resistance, mostly near Baguio, continued until September 5, 1945 when Japan surrendered. An estimated one million Philippines citizens were killed in the war. In the war crimes tribunal, over 125,000 incidents of murder of civilians were listed. The Japanese also executed American and Filipino POWs, contrary to international laws agreed to by the Japanese. About 10,000 American troops were killed and 225,000 Japanese in the fight to retake the Philippines. Even though I knew the outcome, Scott made it very exciting.. The incredible fanaticism of the Japanese was a factor in the decision to use the Atomic Bomb. For five years after the war, the population of Manila continued to decline from war injuries, poor medical facilities, and pestilence. The economic basis for Life was destroyed. A once beautiful city, known as “The Pearl of the Orient" was 90 percent destroyed.
General Yamishita, the Japanese commander in the Philippines, was found guilty of war crimes and hung. His defenders at his trial, as shown by Scott, tried hard to advance the claim that Yomishita did not know of the atrocities committed by his troops. Most of the Japanese troops in Manila were under the command of an admiral, in theory subordinate to Yamishita. The admiral killed himself rather than be captured. Yamishita was headquartered in in Bagio, about five hours even today from Manila. Scott does a very good job helping us to understand the Japanese mentality.
July 4, 1946 - Philippines Independence Day
Even though we know the outcome, Scott made the battle very exciting if horrifying. This is just a wonderful book, full of great details and fascinating people.
A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard, James M. Scott is the author of Rampage and Target Tokyo, which was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist and was named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus, The Christian Science Monitor and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. His other works include The War Below and The Attack on the Liberty, which won the Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison Award. Scott lives with his wife and two children in Mt. Pleasant, SC.
From the publisher
"American General Douglas MacArthur, driven from the Philippines under the cover of darkness at the beginning of World War II, famously vowed to return. This is the untold story of his homecoming.
The twenty-nine day battle to retake Manila resulted in the catastrophic destruction of the city and a rampage by Japanese soldiers and marines that terrorized the civilian population. Landmarks were demolished, houses torched, suspected resistance fighters were tortured and killed, countless women raped, and their husbands and children murdered. An estimated 100,000 civilians were slain in a massacre as heinous as "The Rape of Nanking."
Based on extensive research in the Philippines and the United States, war crimes testimony, after action reports, and survivor interviews, Rampage recounts one of the most heartbreaking chapters of the Pacific war.
James M. Scott is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and the author of several critically acclaimed books of military history."
If you are into World War Two history, you will binge read this book, as I did.
(My father served with General MacArthur in New Guinea as a junior officer. I dedicate this post to an observation of his 100th Birth Anniversary