The Trial Of General Homma

Was he the Beast of Bataan, or was his true war crime defeating Douglas MacArthur? A troubling look at the problems of military justice

On the morning of December 16, 1945, Lt. Robert Pelz steeled himself to meet a monster. A young Army lawyer not long out of Columbia Law School, Pelz was stationed in Manila, where he had been assigned to work on the trial of the most notorious Japanese war criminal of them all: Masaharu Homma, the general who had handed America a staggering military defeat—the surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on the Philippine island of Luzon.Read more »

America’s First Iraq

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN WE DELIVERED THE PHILIPPINES FROM TYRANNY A CENTURY AGO

All happy occupations may, like Tolstoy’s families, be alike; but each unhappy occupation is definitely unhappy in its own way. Of course it is too early to tell which our occupation of Iraq—not to mention Afghanistan— will be. As of this writing, the portents are ominous, with mounting numbers of Iraqis dead in violent street demonstrations, the Iranian-backed Shiite clergy clearly positioning themselves to make a power grab, and the remnants of the Taliban still conducting hit-and-run attacks in Afghanistan.

 
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“Little Colonel Funston”

That’s what the newspapers called him, and he spent an increasingly reckless career trying to edit out the adjective. But even winning a war single-handed didn’t get him what he wanted.

On the night of March 22, 1901, as fierce rains battered his campsite in the wildest reaches of Luzon Island, Frederick Funston pondered what awaited him the next day. In a career that had been full of mortal risks, he was about to take by far the greatest risk of all. Ten miles to the north lay his prey, Emilio Aguinaldo, formerly dictator of the Philippines but now, having tailored his title to fit American expectations, president of the Philippine Republic.Read more »

1898 One Hundred Years Ago

The White Man’s Burden

When an armistice ended the Spanish-American War on August 12, the United States found itself with three major new territories obtained in three different ways. The first was Hawaii, annexed on July 7 with the President’s signature on a joint congressional resolution. The islands, controlled by a friendly American-installed government, had shown their value as a naval base, and in the exhilaration of impending victory over Spain, America took up a long-standing offer to absorb them.Read more »

The Meaning of ’98

Our war with Spain marked the first year of the American Century

One hundred years ago, in April 1898, the American Century suddenly began. “Suddenly” because what happened then—the declaration of war against Spain—led to a rapid crystallization of a passionate nationalism. The American longing for national aggrandizement existed before 1898—indeed it was gathering momentum—but as the great French writer Stendhal wrote in his essay “On Love,” passion has a way of “crystallizing” suddenly, as a reaction to external stimuli. Such a stimulus, in the history of the United States, was the Spanish-American War in 1898.

 
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My Search For Douglas MacArthur

An overheard remark sent the author off on a years-long quest to discover the truth about a man whose power to inspire both rage and reverence has only grown after his death

In the Summer of 1958 I joined the army straight out of high school and two years later found myself, by now an Army journalist, flying into the Philippines. Strapped into a bucket seat aboard a C-54, I was seated next to a pair of sergeants, both of them combat veterans of World War II. As the plane began its descent toward Clark Field, the two NCOs started talking about the disastrous Philippine campaign of 1941–42.

Homer Lea & The Decline Of The West

Early in the century a young American accurately predicted Japan’s imperialism and China’s and Russia’s rise. Then he set out to become China’s soldier leader.

In October 1941 Clare Boothe Luce, the playwright, journalist, politician, and wife of the magazine tycoon Henry Luce, had dinner with half a dozen army officers in their quarters on top of an ancient Spanish fort beside the harbor of Manila. The main topic of conversation was the threat of war with Japan. Everyone assumed that if hostilities began, the Philippines would be target No. 1 of the Japanese war machine. Read more »

The Gun The Army Can’t Kill

“I don’t want this thing often,” one soldier said of his .45 automatic pistol, “but when I do, I want it damned bad.”

IN COMMON with all good jungle fighters, the Moros liked to work close up. During the nightmarish warfare that marked the Philippine Insurrection of 1899, a favorite tactic of Moro fanatics was to work themselves up into a religious frenzy, get within twenty yards of an American unit, and then rush in brandishing double-edged swords and bolos. A soldier had only a few seconds to stop his onrushing attacker or be killed. The scene described in after-action reports to Manila and Washington was often the same.Read more »

Forbidden Diary

During three harrowing years as a prisoner of the Japanese, an American woman secretly kept an extraordinary journal of suffering, hope, ingenuity, and human endurance

On December 5, 1941, Natalie Crouler, an American housewife living in the Philippines, started a chatty letter to her mother in Boston: the children ‘s cat had died, and she described the tearful funeral. But the letter was never mailed. Within three chaotic weeks, the Crouter family were prisoners of the Japanese, trying to adjust to an internment that was to last more than three years. Read more »