Review: MacArthur’s Spies

Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

MacArthur’s Spies: The Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II by Peter Eisner

Viking, 2017. Hardcover, 368 pages.Cover: MacArthur's Spies

Hawaii was not the only Pacific island threatened in December, 1941.  Other islands were also attacked, including the Philippines.  The American forces retreated to Bataan and the Japanese invaded Manila on January 2, 1942.  In the months to follow, life for all in those islands was turmoil.  Civilians fled, troops fought until they had nothing left.  Then when surrender came, some chose to fight on and that is the heart of this narrative.

Eisner tells the tale of three individuals who helped to lead this struggle. John Boone, a former enlisted soldier, became a guerilla colonel operating out of the jungle.  His men would stage attacks both in the jungle and in Manila itself.  Claire Fuentes, known to most of the guerilla network…

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Revisited Myth #115: In the Revolutionary War, the Americans used guerrilla tactics to beat the British, who fought standing in straight lines.

History Myths Debunked

The myth, which is reinforced in textbooks, at historic sites and battlefields claims that during the Revolutionary War, the American army used guerrilla tactics and hid behind rocks, trees, and walls, and mowed down the British who stood in nice straight lines out in the open. Ben Swenson, historian and former reenactor, comments on this myth, as does John Hill, Supervisor of Military Programs for Colonial Williamsburg. Thank you, gentlemen.

“There were a couple battles where the colonial militia, not the regular American Army (an important distinction), used these tactics, but in most battles, both sides used the classic linear tactics,” says Swenson. “It was the way that armies met on the field of battle then, and General Washington wanted more than anything to be recognized as a legitimate commander of a respectable military, so he used the conventional tactics of the day.”

John Hill agrees. “First of all, I…

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A Visit to Buford’s Knoll

Emerging Civil War

Interpretive Signs at Buford’s Knoll

Earlier in the week, I took a morning and headed out to the Brandy Station and Kelly’s Ford battlefields. It was quite warm, the hottest day we’ve had so far this year in Virginia. By the time I got back to Fredericksburg early in the afternoon, the temperature was already pushing into the mid-90s. The heat, however, did not prevent me from visiting Buford’s Knoll at Brandy Station.

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U.S.Grant and the U.S. Mail

Presidential History Blog

Ulysses S. Grant was one of the first supporters of systematic wartime mail service.

Mail call has always been one of the key ingredients of soldier morale and  frequently the high point of his day.

A Literate War

The Civil War is considered by most historians as the “first modern war” for a variety of reasons. Not the least of those reasons, is because it was the first “literate” war. An estimated 90% of Union soldiers, and more than 80% of Confederates could read and write. This meant an abundance of letters, diaries, reports and newspaper articles. Thus “mail call” was arguably the high point of the average soldier’s day, apart from battle. Receiving and sending letters to loved ones provided incalculable comfort to both the soldiers and their families.

The telegraph had been around for nearly two decades. Both sides used it constantly to transmit messages both internally…

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Zinn-ister Intent

Who needs sources? I've got Jason Bourne!

Who needs sources? I’ve got Jason Bourne!

The New York Times boldly proclaimed Howard Zinn’s…. A People’s History should be required reading for all college students.  Professors and high school teachers alike have responded by making Zinn’s screed one of the top ten requested academic books.  The only justification can be found in celebrity endorsement and the book’s adherence to politically correct platitudes about our past.  Zinn egregiously claims:

  • Maoist China was “the closest thing, in the long history of that ancient country, to a people’s government, independent of outside control.”
  • Castro and his executioner Che Guevara  “had no bloody record of suppression.”
  • American actions following 9/11 were morally equivalent to the terror attack  “It seemed that the United States was reacting to the horrors perpetrated by the terrorists against innocent people in New York by killing other innocent people in Afghanistan.”
  • America’s very founding was a fraud  “They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from the favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.”
  • World War II was never about ridding the world of German Fascism or Japanese Militarism- the war was America’s fault!
    “Was it the logical policy of a government whose main interest was not stopping Fascism but advancing the imperial interests of the United States? For those interests, in the thirties, an anti-Soviet policy seemed best. Later, when Japan and Germany threatened U.S. world interests, a pro-Soviet, anti-Nazi policy became preferable.”


Where’s the research?  Where’s the scholarship?  Where’s the objectivity?  


Zinn himself, said it best,

I wanted my writing of history and my teaching of history to be a part of social struggle”

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Young and No Head

As long as young adults seek ways to… “discover themselves” and anger their parents- there will be audience for Howard Zinn’s A People’s History.   Parental units are part of the so-called establishment and our farthest reaching right-of-passage in America is fighting the conformity of the “the man.”   The biggest error in judgment these young rebels make is seeing the establishment as encompassing every facet of our existence- even our history…. Zinn is where too many young minds are exposed to distorted, often lazy examinations of these crucial moments.


The failure to see our Founders as truly revolutionary… is the most damaging element in Howard Zinn’s rambling.  That’s what A People’s History is really, unsubstantiated neo-Marxist rambling.  Europeans were murdering oppressors driven by greed; Natives were peaceful environmentalists seeking harmony with nature.  The Founding of America was perpetrated by an elite few looking for a more efficient way to accrue wealth.  To Zinn and his readers this is all very provocative, but when placed under the scrutiny of peer review it is amateurish.

Maybe there's hope

Maybe there’s hope

Zinn’s work fails on many levels… but contextually he refuses to surrender bias to the complexities of human interaction.  The Pequot war was not as simple as “Red Man Good, White Man Bad.”  Our Founders were not only motivated by greed- trying explaining that to Robert Morris.  To impressionable undergrads, these arguments are their first bites from the apple of nonconformity.  To the middling academics who refuse to take Zinn to task, the book is an opportunity to gain some anti-establishment credibility with the youngsters.




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Facts in Five

Mr. FJ Hooker edition…

"People will think I am a highwayman or a bandit."

“People will think I am a highwayman or a bandit.”

  • “Fighting Joe” was a nickname Hooker despised-  Lee often referred to him as Mr. F J Hooker in correspondence
  • Hooker’s delayed entry into the war was largely caused by his testimony against General-in-Chief, Winfield Scott, at a prewar court marshal proceeding. 
  • Before the War, Hooker unsuccessfully tried his hand at politics- losing a California assembly election 
  • Hooker was a member of the West Point class of 1837- classmates included Jubal Early and Braxton Bragg
  • Despite his reputation, there is little evidence that Hooker abused alcohol during his military service. 

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