The Liberation of the Philippines
Pen and Sword's latest "Images of War" publication is Jon Diamond's The Liberation of the Philippines. This is a hefty paperback of 239 pages, 7 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches, with 250 black and white photos and several maps. The book is well bound, with good quality paper.
Glancing at the cover, one would think this book is entirely about the US invasion of the Philippines in 1944-45. However, the author uses a full 66 pages (so almost one-quarter of the book's length) to provide background on that campaign. Diamond goes all the way back to the Spanish-American War of 1898-99 to provide background on the Philippines, the initial US conquest, and the development of Philippine defense strategy up to 1941. He also provides background on Japanese intentions pre-war, and finishes up the intro with descriptions of the 1941-42 Philippines campaign and the initial Allied offensives in New Guinea in 1943-44.
Along the way encounter a few junior and field-grade officers who would later be pretty famous. Below, for example, is 2LT Joe Stilwell, who would command the CBI theater in WW2.
There's also a young Major Eisenhower, aide to MacArthur. Eisenhower famously quipped that he "studied drama for four years (under MacArthur) in the Philippines".
We also get a few maps such as the one below showing the general axes of advance of the Allied offensives against Japan in 1942-45.
There are some great photos of the early war period, showing US, Filipino, and Japanese troops. The photos are great, although the captions are often weak or incorrect. A lot of equipment is misidentified.
As an introduction to the 1944-45 campaigns, there is a short (7 page) section summarizing the major phases of the 1944-45 campaigns, with basic maps showing the islands and major events. The strategic overview portion of this intro was very weak, and the reader is left wondering (if they did not already know) why the US or Japan pursued the operations they did.
Next is a short 30-page middle section describing the opposing commanders and the forces they led. This includes brief biographies of figures such as MacArthur, Halsey, Yamashita, Krueger etc. There are multiple photos of these officers, followed by a more-or-less random assortment of photos of US and Filipino troops and guerrillas.
The last 70 or so pages describe the US invasion landings in Oct 1944- Jan 1945 and subsequent land and aerial campaigns. The naval battles around the Philippines, which were the largest naval actions of WW2, are given extremely brief treatment. The emphasis here is almost wholly on the ground war. Once again the photo collection is pretty good, with plenty of photos of US and Japanese troops and equipment.
Below, an LVT(A)4 disembarks from an LST.
The author is pretty good at describing the limitations imposed by the mountainous terrain of most Philippine islands and the underdeveloped road network. Engineering support is not neglected. Here, US troops assemble a Bailey Bridge.
The Philippines campaign was almost unique in the Pacific in having friendly civilians liberated by US forces.
Ground combat operations in the islands are described in some detail throughout the final part of the book. Here, a US Army unit lines up a whole bunch of BARs.
This is a pretty good photo collection, but a very poorly-organized and poorly-written history. Although I found the deep background on the campaign encouraging, at 66 pages it is too long compared to the rest of the book, and does not do a good job of giving the military basis for the 1944-45 campaign. While it is important for readers to know the US was involved in the islands in 1898, the course of that campaign and the personalities involved are not all that important to the 1944-45 offensive. Also, the well-known debates between the SWPA (MacArthur) and the POA (Nimitz) - which was a highly politicized and essentially Army-v-Navy argument - is hardly touched upon. Operations of the US Navy and USAAF are nearly ignored. This is extraordinary considering the size and significance of the Leyte Gulf battles.
The 'meat' of the book comprises the account of ground force operations from October 1944 to September 1945. The lack of maps, poor organization, errors, and poor quality of writing make these operations nearly impossible to follow, much less understand. The US Army's 6th Ranger Battalion, for example, was famously responsible for the liberation of US POWs in a classic Ranger operation. This unit is erroneously called the "6th Raider Battalion" or the "6th Battalion Rangers" on different pages. The narration jumps from unit to unit, with occasional company-size actions along with much larger operations, with no sense of direction or cohesive narrative. The author's run-on sentences were painful to read. There was no concluding analysis of the campaign.
There is some value in the 250 photos here, but the text is frankly very poor.
Thanks goes out to Pen and Sword for this review sample.
Reviewed by Dan Egan
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