Early in 1945, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, who had fled the Philippines three years earlier, returned to wrest the capital, Manila, from the Japanese—just as he had promised. Facing him were just over a quarter of a million soldiers, led by one of Japan’s top generals, Tomoyuki Yamashita, the conqueror of Singapore. The Japanese were well positioned to thwart the American advance but had little ammunition or food. Manila itself was home to one million civilians, many of them close to starvation, and 10,000 prisoners of war, including many Americans. During the ferocious battle for the city, which raged for 29 days, some 100,000 Filipino civilians died. Some were killed by U.S. artillery, but most were murdered by unhinged Japanese troops who used bayonets and grenades to avenge their imminent defeat. Scott’s masterful reconstruction of the horror of the battle intersperses accounts of massacres with happier moments of liberation.
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