top of page
  • Writer's pictureJody Ferguson

Rampage - Book Review

This history of the little-known battle to free Manila from Japanese occupation in early 1945 is largely forgotten among the American public. MacArthur's return to the Philippines in October 1944 garnered tremendous attention across the globe, and the photo of the general wading ashore on the island of Leyte is among the enduring images of WWII. Background to this is the forgotten campaign to liberate the rest of the country, which as an archipelago contains thousands of islands. The final big battles took place after the U.S. landing in January 1945 at Lingayen Gulf on the main island of Luzon, a distance of a little over 200 miles from Manila. The main concern for MacArthur and his staff was to free U.S. prisoners, civilians and soldiers who were interned in early 1942, and had to endure the most horrid of conditions during their three years of captivity at various camps.

As Scott describes in great detail, the POWs were mercifully rescued in daring dashes and raids by U.S. forces, sometimes behind enemy lines. Then the story turns ugly and almost too difficult to read and comprehend. Embattled in the old center of Manila and facing the overwhelming firepower of the U.S. Army and Navy, Japanese troops engaged in a most brutal orgy of violence, rape, and bloodshed against the residents of this fair city that was at one time known before the war as the 'Pearl of the Orient' for its beauty and charm. Scott goes on to describe the ten-day butchery that included babies being bayoneted in the arms of their mothers, children slaughtered before the eyes of their parents, hundreds of innocent civilians being beheaded in churches, and numerous other atrocities too difficult to mention. U.S. Army forces were eventually able to root out and kill the remaining Japanese forces, but only after having shelled and destroyed almost every building and home standing. The end result was more than 50,000 dead Philippine civilians and thousands of other citizens of various nationalities, including Chinese, French, German, Spanish and even Americans. The Japanese commanding General Yamashita, who was holed up in a mountain area hundreds of miles north of Manila, was eventually held responsible and hung after a trial that Scott describes as pre-determined.

Having read this (and several other accounts including Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking) it is understandable the mindset of American military planners, politicians, and soldiers (including my uncle who as a young Army private was slated to be among the first wave of the invasion of the Japanese home islands) in the summer of 1945 when the decision was made to undertake the firebombing, and ultimately the atomic bombing of Japan to end the war. Eighty years later people are quick to judge and criticize the U.S. for using such horrendous tactics to bring Japan to its knees. It's easy to snipe with the benefit of hindsight. But anyone who questions the sagacity of the use of the atomic bomb must try and put themselves in the shoes of U.S. decision makers in that horrible and bloody first six months of 1945. I also urge them to read Scott's incredible history of the Rampage of Manila. The only reason I do not award this book five stars is because the gory details are sometimes too difficult to even read.



bottom of page