Was MacArthur really a hero? A fresh look at MacArthur and Yamashita.
James M. Scott's Rampage, named as one of the Best Books of 2018 by Amazon, Kirkus and Military Times, weaves meticulously researched, multiple firsthand interviews of Manila's surviving civilian population with an insider's glimpse of the politics of war.
Mr. Scott's fast-paced and smooth-flowing narrative provides vivid context that inevitably invites comparison between these two military opponents.
Scott's early anecdotes depict MacArthur as sheltered and cosseted by his ambitious mother and not quite of the same steely character as his military father. In 1942, the Japanese controlled nearly all of Southeast Asia.
They forced MacArthur to retreat and hide in relative safety in Corregidor, where he was known as "Dugout Doug" to his suffering, starving American and Filipino troops. Eventually US President Roosevelt ordered him to secretly evacuate to Australia so as to deprive the Japanese of the propaganda of capturing such a renowned figure.
MacArthur was gone by the time of the largest United States surrender since the American Civil War. He abandoned many thousands of troops to their fate as prisoners of war in the Bataan Death March with only the famous promise, "I shall return.
" Almost three years of Japanese Occupation in the Philippines passed before MacArthur was able to fulfill his promise. Scott describes the fight MacArthur waged against President Roosevelt and senior naval leaders who believed that Manila should be bypassed in favor of Formosa (now Taiwan) for tactical reasons.
It is also possible that the Battle of Manila, and its attendant atrocities, might not have happened but for MacArthur's insistence on fulfilling his promise to return. Rampage makes clear from MacArthur's own words that his motivation to return was his reputation, but even so, he did not return until he had amassed an overwhelming force.
At the time of MacArthur's return, General Yamashita was sent to the Philippines with orders to bog the Americans down. After hearing that the Philippines had 7,000 islands and that there were poor relationships between the Japanese and the Filipino population, Yamashita understood he had inherited a disaster and inevitable defeat.
Yamashita had studied MacArthur and he believed that he would die in the Philippines. Against Yamashita's advice, the first engagement took place in Leyte where the Japanese lost 60,000 troops.
MacArthur declared premature victory and wanted a military victory parade, both of which incensed his own troops who were still in danger. Yamashita ordered the destruction of Manila's docks and infrastructure to slow the American forces.
Once American forces had landed on Luzon, Yamashita split his troops and went north, planning to reconsolidate and regroup outside the civilian arena. Yamashita ordered Rear Admiral Iwabuchi to withdraw from Manila without combat.
Iwabuchi repeatedly refused to obey orders and decided that he had to redeem his own past military failings by entrenching troops in Manila. Iwabuchi commanded 15,000 undisciplined marines and 4,000 army troops who were responsible for the rampage and the ensuing carnage.
Rampage chronicles, in excruciatingly painful detail, the American bombings and Japanese atrocities that decimated innumerable families, including Manila's most prominent, such as the Perez-Rubios the Nicanor Reyes of Far Eastern University and family members of Antonio Cojuangco and President Elpidio Quirino. But the tide inevitably turned and Iwabuchi eventually committed suicide at his command post.
After the war, Yamashita was hauled in to answer for war crimes. There was no semblance of an impartial trial the defense was overwhelmed by the monstrosity of the carnage and the judge had a limited grasp of what was legally permissible.
Any attempt to appeal was challenged by MacArthur who stated any order by the Supreme Court of the Philippines would be ignored and that the Supreme Court of the US had no jurisdiction. Nevertheless, Yamashita had a reputation as an honorable commander, and many people came to believe in Yamashita's defense that he had no knowledge of the carnage and would have punished those guilty of it.
It also became clear that Yamashita, though the titular head of the Japanese force in the Philippines, was not in fact in charge of the third of the forces that remained in Manila. The notion that superiors are responsible for the crimes of their underlings became known as the Yamashita standard.
Yamashita became the first to be charged solely on the basis of responsibility for his omission (in failing to prevent subordinates from commission of war crimes). MacArthur eventually ordered Yamashita stripped of his uniform and hung like a common criminal.
In contrast, post-WWII, Philippine President Elpidio Quirino pardoned, released and repatriated Japanese prisoners despite the fact that Iwabuchi's immediate superior was responsible for the murders of Quirino's wife and three of his children. By validating Yamashita's defense, and by delineating MacArthur's key mistakes from his lobbying against Formosa convincing himself that the battle was won at Leyte disregarding the Leyte guerilla reports and sending a single platoon to capture Southern Manila, resulting in the need for heavy artillery destruction and loss of life Rampage seems to imply that Americans shouldered a portion of the responsibility for the loss of life and destruction of Manila.
The author also references Filipino historian Afonso Aluit who states that MacArthur bears as much responsibility for Manila's fate. By retelling the history, Rampage describes the paving of the way for recognition of the need for normalization of international diplomatic relations to prevent war.
All of these factors contributed to a lasting post-war peace. Author James M.
Scott is visiting Manila for the book launch of Rampage at the Ayala Museum on Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 4:30 to 8 p.
m. Scott, a historian and former Harvard Nieman Fellow, has written The Attack on the Liberty, a Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison Award winner, as well as two other books on the WWII Pacific Theater: The War Below and Target Tokyo, a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist.