Saturday, October 27, 2018

Rampage Review: MacArthur’s Bloody Promise

click to purchase
Imperial Japan's Brutal Destruction of Manila in 1945

Book Review By Jonathan W. Jordan
Wall Street Journal, October 25, 201

Battles in World War II’s Pacific Theater tended to be more savage than those in Western Europe. The struggle for Manila was the cruelest of them all.

Before Pearl Harbor, the Philippines capital was an old Spanish city with an American-style makeover. Acquired by the United States as a spoil of war in 1898, Manila featured clean neoclassical buildings, designed by U.S. architects, flanked by frescoed missions and old colonial forts. The city’s broad streets boasted top-brand department stores and golf, polo and social clubs. Fords and Buicks jockeyed for space with horse-drawn kalesas on Dewey Boulevard and Taft Avenue. Suffused with cash and culture, the Asian face of the American empire lived up to its billing as the “Pearl of the Orient.”

Then came the invasion. A month after Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops swarmed down Manila’s boulevards, bayonets fixed. Gen. Douglas MacArthur quickly abandoned the city, then the archipelago, vowing to return. For three grim years, Manila’s citizens endured starvation, disease, humiliation, rape and repression as they waited for MacArthur to fulfill his promise.

At last, on Jan. 9, 1945, MacArthur, commanding a fleet of 818 ships and 280,000 men, landed at Lingayen Gulf to begin the conquest of Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands. Awaiting his men were 260,000 Japanese defenders under Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, some 10,000 American and Filipino prisoners, and a million inhabitants of Manila who had survived the Japanese occupation.

The fate of the Manileños, and the soldiers who turned their city into a deathtrap, is the subject of James M. Scott’s illuminating “Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila.”

Unlike typical Pacific War histories, Mr. Scott’s account drives the tragedy through two outsize personalities, Yamashita and MacArthur. Though quick to pounce on MacArthur’s flawed tactics and deafness to a still-raging battle, Mr. Scott spends little time dwelling on Mac’s towering ego or his squabbles with Roosevelt and the Navy, all of which have been fodder for longer works by William Manchester, Arthur Herman and Walter Borneman*.

Far more interesting is MacArthur’s opponent. From the recollections of aides, postwar briefings and letters to his wife, the Japanese commander emerges as a luckless stoic dispatched on a suicide mission to delay, not triumph. As Mr. Scott writes, Yamashita’s orders to Manila’s defenders reflected his own struggle to balance death and duty: “ ‘It is easy to die with honor but it is much more difficult to hold up the enemy advance when you are short of ammunition and food,’ Yamashita told his men. ‘Those of you in the front line will be doing your duty if you hold them up for a day—or even half a day.’ ”

Those days totaled 29, and during that month the city was shredded in a crossfire of shot and shrapnel. In large part, the carnage was the diabolical work of the book’s villain: Rear Adm. Sanji Iwabuchi, who commanded 17,000 marines and soldiers in charge of destroying Manila’s harbor and bridges before evacuating. Yamashita ordered Iwabuchi to wreck the harbor and retreat to the Luzon uplands, but Iwabuchi intended to stay and fight, turning the Pearl of the Orient into a funeral pyre for himself, his men and as many Americans as his ammunition allowed. If Filipino innocents were caught in the fire, it was their fate to die, too.

Mr. Scott finely balances large battles, such as the U.S. 11th Airborne Division’s attack against the Genko Line—a defensive band south of Manila—with small-unit firefights, where grenades flew from behind walls and machine-gun chatter broke the darkness. “No one dared sleep in such close quarters with the enemy, who had placed machine guns inside boilers and hoisted them up in the rafters,” he writes of a two-day battle for a power plant. “The Americans resorted to using grenades and even bazookas inside the building.”

The battle’s sound and fury is but a small part of Manila’s heartbreaking story. Because the Japanese soldiers knew they would die in Manila, moral constraints fell from them like broken fetters. Heavily armed, often drunk and holding the power of life and death over thousands of unarmed civilians, troops that were holed up in the city’s center had one month to indulge in any form of sadism they wished.

The doomed men spent their last days painting Manila in blood. At St. Paul’s College, they herded families into a dining hall lined with explosives; they detonated the bombs, then dispatched survivors with bayonets and grenades. The jail at Fort Santiago, which the Japanese had used as a torture center, became an incinerator for hundreds of political prisoners and common criminals. “Troops marched into the cellblocks armed with drums of gasoline, tipping them over and letting the fuel flood the floors. Another marine tossed a torch,” Mr. Scott writes. “The Japanese machine-gunned those few who managed to escape.”

At a nearby Catholic chapel, Japanese troops massacred missionaries and refugees, gutting and raping their victims. “Japanese marines had killed or mortally wounded forty-one men, women, and children, turning this once holy place into a hellhole,” Mr. Scott puts it. “Blood not only stained the green-and-white tiled floors of the chapel but splattered the walls.”

Page after page, tales of systematic and impromptu massacre parallel the battle’s liberation narrative. A common element of both stories is the triumph of death, in varied and degrading forms.

Mr. Scott leans heavily on first-person accounts to tell his story. Unlike most other battles, Manila was treated as a crime scene by the U.S. Army after the shooting stopped. The Inspector General’s branch scoured churches, colleges and hospitals for testimony from teachers, priests, mothers, children and soldiers as they built cases for war-crimes trials. Thousands of pages of testimony, according to Mr. Scott, “offer a chilling and personal view of the horror that unfolded during those few weeks.”

The book’s descriptions of this horror are jarring, as if the Battle of the Bulge abruptly lurched into “Schindler’s List.” Yet not all the vignettes are tragic. Mr. Scott describes the joy of Filipinos who pressed scarce eggs and papayas into the hands of their liberators; a UPI correspondent reunited with a wife he hadn’t seen since her capture in 1941; and children singing “God Bless America” on Rizal Avenue to a group of cavalrymen.

MacArthur had vowed to hold Yamashita personally responsible for the actions of his men, and the story’s denouement is a four-chapter narrative of Yamashita’s capture and war-crimes trial, a legal battle that led to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Scott sympathetically follows the general’s journey from surrender to the gallows, recounting a serene poem he wrote shortly before his execution and setting the table for why his conviction remains controversial to this day.

Mr. Scott does one of the finest jobs in recent memory of cutting out the middleman and letting the participants—hundreds of them—tell their harrowing bits of a kaleidoscopic wartime tragedy. The result is an eloquent testament to a doomed city and its people. “Rampage” is a moving, passionate monument to one of humanity’s darkest moments.

—Mr. Jordan is the author of “American Warlords: How Roosevelt’s High Command Led America to Victory in World War II.

*Few scholars recommend MacArthur biographies by Manchester, Herman, Boerneman, or Perret. Manchester writes beautifully but his anger colors his work and there are some real errors of fact. The last three are much less well-written conservative screeds that ignore facts to prove their great white man theories. Recommended are D. Clayton James, The Years of MacArthur (3 vols); William Leary, MacArthur and the American Century and his We Shall Return; and Michael Schaller, Douglas MacArthur.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Intergenerational Trauma of POWs

Andersonville, GA
What Civil War soldiers can teach us about how trauma is passed from generation to generation

Study shows that severe paternal hardship as a prisoner of war (POW) led to high mortality among sons, but not daughters, born after the war.

Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2018

An experience of life-threatening horrors surely scars the person who survives it. It also may have a corrosive effect on the longevity and health of that person’s children and, in some cases, on the well-being of generations beyond.

click to order book
About the Author
The latest evidence of trauma’s long shadow comes from the families of American Civil War veterans. Focused on the children of Union soldiers who were held in Confederate prisoner of war camps, it offers tantalizing clues about the means by which a legacy of misery is transmitted from parent to child — as well as a way to disrupt that inheritance.

After tracing the births and deaths of nearly 10,000 offspring of Union combatants, researchers found that the sons of men who served time as POWs lived shorter lives than the sons of men who were not held captive. They also lived much shorter lives than their brothers who were born before the war began, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

REPORT: Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among US Civil War ex-POWs

UCLA economic historian Dora L. Costa inherited stewardship of a trove of Civil War service documents in 2013 after the death of her mentor, Nobel laureate Robert William Fogel. She had always assumed the records would tell a story of how education, class and economic differences influenced the adjustment of former soldiers and their families back to civilian life.

“I was wrong,” Costa said.

Instead, she found evidence to suggest that no matter how poor or prosperous his background, a father’s extreme hardship and privation alter the function of his genes in ways that can be passed on to his children.

In the annals of organized human suffering, the POW camps of the latter half of the Civil War rank way up there. For the first two years of the conflict, the North and the South held informal POW swaps. After the swaps ceased in 1863, desperation among Confederate commanders and indignation among leaders of the Union prompted both sides to deprive their prisoners of food, medicine, sanitation and shelter. As a result, hunger, overcrowding, cold and pestilence killed close to 16% of POWs from the North and 12% of POWs from the South.

The conditions at one of the most notorious Confederate prison camps — Andersonville in southwest Georgia — were particularly well-documented. Built for 10,000 people, Andersonville held more than 45,000 Union soldiers during the 14 months it operated, and 29% of them died of starvation and disease before they could be released. The camp’s commandant, Capt. Henry Wirz, was tried and hanged after the Confederate surrender in April 1865.

The fates of the survivors who staggered north to resume their lives as husbands and fathers were also well-documented. And like many large groups of trauma victims studied by researchers, these veterans and their children told a powerful story.

Drawing on thousands of handwritten military and pension records preserved in the National Archives, as well as on U.S. Census data from the era, Costa’s team pieced together the fates of the children of Union soldiers who survived the war and lived at least until 1890.

The researchers identified offspring of 1,999 Union soldiers who were held as POWs — more than half of them at Andersonville — before returning home. They also found the children of 7,810 Union soldiers who survived the war without being captured by the South.

On average, Northern veterans who spent time in Confederate POW camps had 3.3 children, while those who avoided the camps had 3.1 children.

The differences between the two groups were stark — at least for the sons.

After reaching the age of 45 — old enough to see the effects of any inherited factors that might influence longevity — the sons of POWs were roughly 11% more likely to die at any given age than were the sons of men who had not been held prisoner.

In an even more telling comparison, the researchers turned up 342 POWs who had at least one son conceived before the war began and at least one more born after the war ended. The researchers found that, at any age after 45, the younger brothers were more than twice as likely to die than their older brothers had been when they were the same age. (With only 1,067 sons in this part of the analysis, the researchers said this finding should be interpreted with caution.)

The shorter lifespans of the POWs’ sons didn’t become evident until they had reached what, in that period, would have been late middle age. Though death records were not uniformly detailed, these premature deaths were largely attributable to cerebral hemorrhages and cancer, the researchers reported.

The longevity gap remained after Costa and her colleagues accounted for a welter of socioeconomic factors that might drive differences in lifespan, such as family real-estate holdings and occupational class.

None of these patterns were evident among the daughters of the Union soldiers. That led the study authors to dismiss the idea that the psychological legacy of the POW camps could account for the differences. If a father’s trauma resulted in family violence, paternal absence or emotional distance, the effects would likely be seen in daughters as well as sons, they reasoned. And they weren’t.

The fact that sons, but not daughters, appeared to have inherited some life-shortening bit of their father’s misery does suggest that a genetic actor may be at work — one that is passed along with the Y chromosome, Costa said.

Epigenetics also might be at work here, she added. That’s the chemical signaling process by which genes turn on and off in different tissues at different times, often in response to environmental factors like food supply. While epigenetic marks don’t alter a person’s genetic code, they can profoundly alter how that code is expressed. And they appear to powerfully influence the expression of genes that are passed on to a growing embryo.

Consider the evidence from a series of studies tracking several generations in the isolated Swedish community of Overkalix, Costa said. That research has linked parents’ food availability to the midlife health of their children and grandchildren. Those studies’ complex findings have shown that dietary abundance or scarcity at specific points in time exert sharply different influences on men and women and their progeny. They’ve also furnished evidence that dietary stress may transmit certain vulnerabilities to future generations through paternal DNA.

Other studies of traumatized groups have found evidence that the experience turns genes on and off in ways that are carried down to the next generation and beyond.

In the nine months before the Allies defeated the Nazis in May 1945, Germany blocked all food supplies to the Dutch and caused a famine that killed 20,000 people in the Netherlands. Decades later, researchers would find that, in middle age, the children of Dutch women who were pregnant during that period — daughters especially — went on to suffer higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and schizophrenia. They also died earlier than their compatriots who were born before or after the famine. Six decades after their birth, the Dutch famine offspring still bore distinctive epigenetic signs of stress linked to poorer health.

Another study of Finnish children evacuated abruptly from their homes in the midst of World War II found that the daughters of evacuees were more than twice as likely to have been hospitalized for a mood disorder than were their female cousins whose mothers had not been evacuated. (There was no such relationship for sons.)

SEE ALSO: Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children's genes: New finding is clear example in humans of the theory of epigenetic inheritance: the idea that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children, The Guardian, August 15, 2015.

The new research on Civil War soldiers builds on this work by offering an intriguing bit of hope: evidence not only for the corrosive power of paternal stress, but also for the possible role of maternal nutrition in countering it.

The life-shortening effect of a father’s POW status was magnified for the sons who were born in April, May and June, when food supplies tended to be leanest. But that effect virtually disappeared among sons born during September, October and November, when harvests are in and food is typically more plentiful.

This disparity jibes with studies in animals that have shown the power of dietary supplementation before and during pregnancy to counter worrisome epigenetic effects, Costa said.

In an era when food is mostly plentiful, the lessons from an earlier America may not seem relevant, Costa acknowledged. But supporting the nutrition of childbearing women in communities under stress seems like a no-brainer, said Costa.

“Maternal nutrition seems like a safe and do-no-harm policy, and it is likely to have positive effects,” she said.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Books of the Thai-Burma Death Railway

Building the Death Railway: The Ordeal of American Pows in Burma, 1942-1945 by Robert S. LaForte (Author), Ronald E. Marcello (Editor) (1993)

River Kwai Railway: The Story of the Burma-Siam Railroad by C. Kinvig (2005)

These two books are considered the most rigorous in presenting how the railway was built and the workers and slaves were treated.

The famous illustrator Ronald Searle who drew cartoons for the New Yorker was a British POW of Japan on the Death Railway. Another British POW Jack Chalker was an accomplished artist who also recorded his experience through drawings.

To the Kwai—and Back: War Drawings 1939-1945 by Ronald Searle  (2007)

The two most famous books, one fiction and one non-fiction, about POWs surviving the Thai-Burma Death Railway are:

Railway Man A POWs Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness by Eric Lomax (2008)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Won the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

75th Anniversary of the opening of the Thai-Burma Death Railway

Death Railway Engine at Yasukuni
Manufactured by Nippon Sharyo
Seventy-five years ago today, 17 October 1943, the Thai-Burma Death Railway opened. The ceremony was timed to coincide with the first day of the Autumn Festival [Shuki Reitaisai  秋季例大祭at the Emperor-focused, war-memorializing Yasukuni Shrine. The train engine, C5631, that ran that first day is now displayed at the entrance of the Yasukuni Shrine's entrance.

What distinguishes the Spring and Autumn Yasukuni rites above all is the presence of an emissary (chokushi) from the Imperial Court. The emissary brings the Emperor's offerings of silk in five colours to add to those which the shrine priests place before the kami at the start of the rites. Whereas the Emperor has not visited Yasukuni since 1978, an Emperor’s representative has attended the principle ceremonies that merge the Emperor with the state.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe celebrated today's Yasukuni fall festival by sending his usual ritual offering. A number of members of his Cabinet also sent offerings to Shrine and some members of his Party visited. No mention was made of the Railway anniversary.

What gave the Death Railroad its gruesome notoriety was not its uniqueness as an engineering achievement, remarkable feat though it was, but the ruthless determination of its architects to have it completed on time, however daunting the task in the inhospitable climate and topography of the region, and regardless of the cost in human life.

In many respects, it was this callous pursuit that was celebrated on this day in 1943. A group of high-ranking Imperial Japanese Army officers and engineers gathered in the tropical heat in Thailand, some 11 miles south of the Three Pagodas Pass, to ceremoniously mark the completion of the Burma-Thailand Railroad construction project. Since June 1942, the Japanese had forced some 200,000 Asian and 61,000 Allied POW laborers to construct two sections of railroad tracks—one originating in Nong Pladuk, Thailand; the other originating in Thanbyuzayat, Burma.

Some 80,000 Asians and approximately 13,000 Allied POWS had died of starvation, beatings, and various tropical diseases from lack of medical care while building hundreds of trestles, placing thousands of railroad ties, and laying over 258-miles of tracks. But now, as the two sections of railroad tracks were about to be joined together at Konkuita, the Japanese had decided that “the final act of labor” in the railway construction project—the installation of the last spike into a wooden sleeper—would be a special celebratory moment, carried out and shared by the senior Japanese officers and engineers, themselves.

By this time, 668 (of the 902 total) American POWs who had been captured on Java—survivors of USS Houston (CA-30) and soldiers of the 131st Field Artillery/2nd Battalion (known as the “Texas Lost Battalion”)—had joined the Allied POW labor force working on the railroad Most of the 220 USS Houston (CA-30) survivors and the 448 Lost Battalion soldiers had worked on the Burma side of the line. On this particular day, none of these Americans was at Konkuita to witness the senior Japanese officials as they pounded in a “final spike” into a railroad tie, and congratulated each other on the railroad’s completion.

Officially, the railway project was finished. But, for the Allied POWS who’d survived its construction, their ordeal was hardly over. Nearly two more brutal years were to pass before Japan would surrender and Allied prisoners of war would be liberated. 

And during those two years, the railroad—built to carry some 3,000 tons of Japanese supplies per day, which included Comfort Women—would become the constant target of allied bombing attacks, and thus, would require constant repair. The rail line would never stay completely “finished,” per se. In the end the so-called “completed” Burma-Thailand Railroad would never achieve the Imperial Japanese Army’s objectives; most of the tracks would be dismantled after the war; and the Japanese-controlled rail line, which once linked Nong Pladuck and Thanbyuzayat and cost approximately 100,000 lives—including the lives of 77 USS Houston (CA-30) survivors and 89 soldiers of the 131st Field Artillery/2nd Battalion—would become known forever as “the death railroad.”

It should be noted that Nippon Sharyo, the company that manufactured Engine C5631, still exists and is active in the U.S. The company was able to maintain production during the war due to POW slave labor: Nagoya POW Camp #2-B, Narumi

The founder of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, Sam Moody (Reprieve from Hell), was a POW who was tortured at the Narumi factory. The company is now owned by JR Central. This company, created by a close friend and adviser of Prime Minister Abe, Yoshiyuki Kasai, heads the main consortium bidding on high-speed rail projects

If you want to know more about the Lost Battalion and the USS Houston (CA-30) see:

Sunday, October 07, 2018

POW Descendants undertake trip of reconciliation and healing

Hellship Hokusen Maru
On October 7, 2018, seven descendants of American POWs of Japan who were surrendered on the Philippines in April and May 1942, left for a week in Japan as guests of the Japanese government. Below is the ADBC-MS press release and a link to full biographies of the POWs represented. We wish them well.

Seven children and descendants of POWs are visiting Japan this week as guests of the Japanese government. They are the 10th delegation of the U.S.-Japan POW Friendship Program to promote reconciliation and remembrance between the two countries. This program began in 2010.

The families represent five American POWs of Japan who were members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Artillery Corps, and U.S. Army Air Corps. Japan attacked the Philippines and other American Pacific territories hours after their surprise air raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. All the men fought to defend the Philippines against invading Japanese forces and all endured years of brutal captivity. Four survived the Bataan Death March, four were slave laborers for Japanese companies, and one perished in the bombing of the “hellship” Enoura Maru in Takao Harbor, Formosa.

The delegation is composed of:

LINDA, 70, and DAVE ANDERSON, 70, of El Paso, Texas are the daughter and son-in-law of the late Clarence Delbert Neighbors, a Private with the U.S. Army Air Corps, 20th Air Base Group, 28th Materiel Squadron at Nichols Field. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details on the Philippines, a hellship to Manchuria, slave labor for Mitsubishi at Mukden, and slave labor for Mitsui at their lead mine in Kamioka.

CAROLYN BUNCH DIAZ, 82, of Santa Ana, California and CATHY MATZEK, 55, are the daughter and granddaughter of the late Wilbur J. Bunch, who was a Master Sergeant with the U.S. Army, 54th Signal Maintenance Company (Aviation) stationed at Ft. Stotsenburg. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details at the Cabanatuan POW Camp, and the sinking of the hellship Oryoku Maru. He died January 9, 1945 from the bombing of the hellship Enoura Maru in Takao Harbor, Formosa.

ANNA KEEVER LYON, 69, of Greensboro North Carolina is the daughter of the late Joe W. Keever, a Staff Sergeant with 60th Coast Artillery Corps of the U.S. Army stationed on Corregidor. He survived imprisonment on Corregidor and at Cabanatuan as well as a hellship to Manchuria to be a slave laborer for Mitsubishi at Mukden.

DAVID A. TOPPING, JR, 65, of Chestertown, Maryland, is the son of the late David A. Topping, a Private with the 27th Bomb Group (Light), 91st Bomb Squadron. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details on the Philippines, hellships to Japan, and slave labor for Kawasaki Steel in Maibara.

JAMES WRIGHT, 82, of Madison, Alabama is the son of the late William R. Wright, a Tech Sergeant with the 24th Pursuit Group, 17th Pursuit Squadron. He survived the Bataan Death March, work details on the Philippines, a hellship to Japan and slave labor for Meiji Mining in Keisen.

Full profiles of the POWs can be found HERE

They will visit the sites of their loved ones’ imprisonment and rescue as well as a number of Japanese cultural properties.

This is the 10th trip of this much appreciated Japanese government-funded program of remembrance and reconciliation. Jan Thompson, president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society that works with the U.S. State Department to identify participants, applauded the inclusion of POW children and grandchildren in the program.

Ms. Thompson said, “It confirms Japan’s commitment to overcoming its dark history and shows their modern understanding that the traumas of past atrocities and war crimes are intergenerational and enduring. The goodwill and healing resulting from these trips are a model for more Japanese efforts to acknowledge and console Imperial Japan’s wartime victims. The result strengthens the personal ties that undergird the U.S.-Japan Alliance.”

Wake Island Massacre 75th Anniversary

Requiescat in pace

October 7th, is the 75th anniversary of the Wake Island Massacre. On this day in 1943, Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, commander of the Japanese garrison on the island, ordered the execution of 98 Americans POWs, who had been civilian contractors building an airfield. They were part of the 1,150 civilian team  employed by the Morrison-Knudsen Company on Wake with 450 some Marines who fended off a Japanese Armada from December 12-23, 1941. This is a feat that was never accomplished before nor after.

Three platoons of  sailors mowed the POWs down with machine gun and rifle fire. The Americans then were dumped unceremoniously into the ditch and covered with coral sand. The indignity suffered by the prisoners was not complete, however. The following day, a report from an enlisted man that he saw one of the prisoners escape during the confusion of the massacre prompted the disinterment of the bodies. The corpses were dug up and counted, then hastily reburied. The sailor had been correct; one American was missing. That man, whose identity has not been discovered, was re-captured and was beheaded personally by Admiral Sakaibara three weeks later. [Hubbs]

But before he was murdered, he carved for all time on a large rock near the massacre, "98 US PW, 5-10-43".

Building for War: The Epic Saga of the Civilian Contractors and Marines of Wake Island in World War II by Bonita Gilbert (click to order)
Victory in Defeat: The Wake Island Defenders in Captivity, 1941-1945 by Prof. Greg Urwin, (click to order)
Massacre on Wake Island By Major Mark E. Hubbs, U.S. Army Reserve (Retired), Naval Inst Pres