"RAMPAGE: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila," by James M. Scott, W.W. Norton & Company, 640 pages (nf)
In Victor Davis Hanson’s 2017 book “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Struggle Was Fought and Won,” one of the author’s main theses was that the vast majority of death in World War II was caused by the Axis militaries murdering unarmed civilians. James M. Scott’s new book, “Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila,” highlights one of the war’s most gruesome episodes and supports Hanson’s argument by examining the critical 1945 battle.
The book begins by examining the careers of Douglas McArthur and Tomoyuki Yamashita, the two generals who commanded the American and Japanese armies in the Philippines. McArthur, who fled the Philippines in 1942, returned nearly three years later to honor his promise to the Filipino people. Yamashita, who had risen to legendary status when he took Singapore in 1942, had then been sidelined for much of the war. He was finally returned to service and given the command of the defense of the Philippines against the American juggernaut.
Scott details the liberation of the civilian internment camp at Santo Tomas, a former university campus that held over 3,500 prisoners, mostly American. The prisoners, many of whom had been held there since the Japanese occupation began over three years earlier, had been starved, beaten and mistreated constantly. Many had died. The arrival of MacArthur’s forces after such depravation and misery had been a dream come true.
The heart of this book, however, is the stories of death and suffering inflicted upon the Filipino people, as well as other ethnicities, at the hands of a vengeful Japanese military whose soldiers knew they could not defeat the Americans. Scott examines massacre after massacre, such as the butchering that took place when Japanese marines entered a Red Cross hospital and indiscriminately bayonetted and shot both patients and staff despite pleas for mercy. No one was spared, not even Filipino film star Corazon Noble, who lived to later testify that she had been bayonetted nine times by the Japanese. Her infant had been bayoneted three times and died. Similar tales of death occurred at places like the German Club, De Le Salle and at St. Paul’s College, as well as countless other incidents that wove together during the battle like a macabre tapestry.
In many cases, the Filipinos hid in order to wait for the Americans to arrive, an agonizingly slow advance to those facing certain death at Japanese hands if they were to be discovered. To make matters worse, American artillery often accidentally killed Filipinos along with the Japanese enemy. Despite this, for most Filipinos, American soldiers were not just liberators, they were very literally their saviors.
Because of the horrific subject matter, Scott’s book is difficult to read, but it is an incredibly important story told by a gifted journalist-historian. Within the pages of this book, Scott honors the many victims and heroes of the battle and reminds the reader that true evil does exist in the world — and that it absolutely must be fought. Once again, Scott has given a human face to those who suffered so horribly during World War II.
Content advisory: “Rampage” contains wartime violence and descriptions of extreme violence toward civilians including torture and rape, as well as occasional instances of profanity.