RETAKING THE PHILIPPINES: AMERICA'S RETURN TO CORREGIDOR AND BATAAN, JULY 1944-MARCH 1945 by William Breuer (St. Martin's: $18.95; 336 pp.). There have been a number of books written on the savage battle over the Philippines as World War II ground toward its end; notably, S. E. Morison's "The Liberation of the Philippines" and the two towering biographies of Gen. Douglas MacArthur written by D. Clayton James and William Manchester. (Equally important, though frequently overlooked in this country, is T. A. Agoncillo's "The Fateful Years," which provides a scholarly Filipino perspective.) Now William B. Breuer has produced a well-researched narrative of the Philippine campaign that is as concise as it is vivid--a battle-level of a pivotal turning in the war.
Breuer, the author of a number of military histories, draws his power in this book from 40 interviews with combat participants, in addition to a compact source list. He has an eye for a good story; he has skillfully selected those that are representative of a sprawling, complicated, drawn-out campaign and also are affecting in the most human terms. In only one instance out of many, attacking GIs are momentarily transfixed by the improbable sight of Japanese soldiers crossing a battlefield in a bright red sports car; they watch dumbfounded for a number of seconds before blasting it away.
Retaking the Philippines is illustrated with maps and dozens of photographs, many of which appear to be published for the first time. Sadly, the publisher has spared every effort to present these well; otherwise vivid photos are muddily reproduced on cheap paper that is used throughout the book. Before too long, this edition will begin to yellow and fall apart; nonetheless, the author's achievement will live on, and for that, we must be glad.