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

MacArthur's Spies: The Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II

"MacArthur's Spiesreads like Casablancaset in the Pacific, filled with brave and daring characters caught up in the intrigue of war and the best part is that it's all true!" Tom Maier, author of Masters of Sex A thrilling story of espionage, daring and deception set in the exotic landscape of occupied Manila during World War II. On January 2, 1942, Japanese troops marched...

Title:MacArthur's Spies: The Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0525429654
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:368 pages

MacArthur's Spies: The Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II Reviews

  • Elizabeth
    Feb 24, 2017

    by:

    4.5

    what is it about:

    MacArthur's Spiesreads like Casablancaset in the Pacific, filled with brave and daring characters caught up in the intrigue of war and the best part is that it's all true!" Tom Maier, author of Masters of Sex

    A thrilling story of espionage, daring and deception set in the exotic landscape of occupied Manila during World War II.

    On January 2, 1942, Japanese troo

    by:

    4.5

    what is it about:

    MacArthur's Spiesreads like Casablancaset in the Pacific, filled with brave and daring characters caught up in the intrigue of war and the best part is that it's all true!" Tom Maier, author of Masters of Sex

    A thrilling story of espionage, daring and deception set in the exotic landscape of occupied Manila during World War II.

    On January 2, 1942, Japanese troops marched into Manila unopposed by U.S. forces. Manila was a strategic port, a romantic American outpost and a jewel of a city. Tokyo saw its conquest of the Philippines as the key in its plan to control all of Asia, including Australia. Thousands of soldiers surrendered and were sent on the notorious eighty-mile Bataan Death March. But thousands of other Filipinos and Americans refused to surrender and hid in the Luzon hills above Bataan and Manila. MacArthur's Spies is the story of three of them, and how they successfully foiled the Japanese for more than two years, sabotaging Japanese efforts and preparing the way for MacArthur s return.

    From a jungle hideout, Colonel John Boone, an enlisted American soldier, led an insurgent force of Filipino fighters who infiltrated Manila as workers and servants to stage demolitions and attacks.

    Chick Parsons, an American businessman, polo player, and expatriate in Manila, was also a U.S. Navy intelligence officer. He escaped in the guise of a Panamanian diplomat, and returned as MacArthur s spymaster, coordinating the guerrilla efforts with the planned Allied invasion.

    And, finally, there was Claire Phillips, an itinerant American torch singer with many names and almost as many husbands. Her nightclub in Manila served as a cover for supplying food to Americans in the hills and to thousands of prisoners of war. She and the men and women who worked with her gathered information from the collaborating Filipino businessmen; the homesick, English-speaking Japanese officers; and the spies who mingled in the crowd.

    Readers of Alan Furst and Ben Macintyre and anyone who loves Casablanca will relish this true tale of heroism when it counted the most."

    what I thought of it:

    Peter Eisner has a way of bring to life the characters that was and are in this book , as I was reading it felt like I could feel and hear everything his characters went though, it shows how strong and how brave and resourceful the people in the Philippines were during this time as they were in the face of danger ,knowing that if they were caught they could lose their very lives , how the Japanese were cruel ,and how they forced march the prisoners of war with the intent to kill, brutalize ,weaken and or demoralize the prisoners as possible along the way. This is a book that I think everyone should at lest pick up and read , so with that said I would love to say thinks to Netgalley for giving me a change at read and review this book in a change for my honest opinion. Will be picking up an actual copy when I can.

  • Sherwood Smith
    Apr 20, 2017

    With meticulous, sometimes bulldoggishly exhausting detail of minor points, Eisner paints a vivid picture of Manila before the war, a jewel of a city, cosmopolitan and pleasant to live in, cultured and beautiful. Business people from all over the world, including the USA traded there—and many settled to live.

    Especially relevant today, Eisner shows how at first no one can believe that the peace will be disturbed—Japan won’t make it that far—and when that is proved wrong, just how unsettlingly fas

    With meticulous, sometimes bulldoggishly exhausting detail of minor points, Eisner paints a vivid picture of Manila before the war, a jewel of a city, cosmopolitan and pleasant to live in, cultured and beautiful. Business people from all over the world, including the USA traded there—and many settled to live.

    Especially relevant today, Eisner shows how at first no one can believe that the peace will be disturbed—Japan won’t make it that far—and when that is proved wrong, just how unsettlingly fast the fragile infrastructure of a city can fall apart, leaving people scrabbling for food and clean water, and medicine as the conquerors stride among them slapping and striking anyone who doesn’t bow, or get out of the way, or who looks suspicious. He also describes what happened when the defeated forces surrendered—the lies the Japanese commanders told, before the atrocity called the Bataan death march.

    And at the end of the war, with equally vivid description, he shows how the POWs under the Japanese were either slaughtered or forced into hell ships to be taken to labor camps in Japan; many of those ships were bombed, as no one knew that thousands of men were jammed knee to knee in the hold. He estimates 21,000 American POWs died this way.

    So the rescue action to try to liberate the prisons became extra tense, as MacArthur’s forces fought, inch by inch, building by building (sometimes floor by floor) to retake Manila.

    But that’s the general shape of the book. The main focus are the colorful figures who ended up as resistors and spies.

    Central is the enigmatic Claire Phillips, a not-quite-professional American torch singer who had as many aliases as she did husbands—married serially, without benefit of divorce. She went back to Manila in 1941, with her adopted two year old daughter, and when Japan struck, at first she stayed with relations of one of her husbands, then she ended up a fugitive in the hills, working as a nurse until she was too ill to move.

    After she ended up back in Manila, she eventually started a nightclub, which served as a cover for supplying food to Americans in the hills and to thousands of starved, beaten, an abused prisoners of war.

    The girls who worked for her elicited info from the Japanese officers who visited the club, and she conveyed the info as well as what supplies she could garner to Colonel John Boone, an American soldier, who led a force of Filipino guerrilla fighters, most of whom hid in the hills under great privation, but many of whom sneaked into Manila under cover as workers, to fight back with covert strikes.

    Then there was Chick Parsons of the U.S. Navy intelligence, who was also a businessman, polo player, and expat living in Manila. When Japan took over, he managed to escape by faking an entire embassy—he became the envoy from Panama, and pulled it off! When he returned, it was as a spy for MacArthur, coordinating the guerrilla efforts with the planned Allied invasion.

    A host of others get less attention, such as Peggy Utinsky, who courageously followed her husband to Manila when he was ordered to report. She ended up taking care of Claire’s little daughter while Claire was acting under cover, and when Claire got violently ill. When he was killed in action, Peggy became an alcoholic, but still kept working undercover; in the brutal last days of the war, when Claire was captured and taken for interrogation and torture, she ran to the hills, where she began to break down. Later she ended up in prison with Claire, and the two women’s relationship unraveled, to the point that after the war, they each accused the other of various things.

    Also with less attention were the Filipino heroes working against the conquerors, many alongside the foreigners caught there: the Roxas brothers, famous in Manila, who maintained a dangerous line between cooperation with the conquerors and secretly helping the resistance. Then there was Fely Corcuera, who faithfully helped Claire and acted as courier; Lorenza Amusategui, whose husband Ramon was a real hero, working tirelessly for the underground resistance, and in the last days of the war, when the Japanese commander became even more savage at hunting down resistance, insisted that all his contacts, including Claire, blame him for everything, as he knew he would get caught and eventually killed. And he did. Naomi Flores was another largely unsung hero, then there was Roy C. Bennett, who endured over a year of torture and privation.

    Eisner shows how complex these people were: heroism comes in many types, and it can have its fallout. The after war story is particularly messy, as after war stories often are. Overall, it makes absorbing reading, touching on the heroism of the Filipinos under horrible conditions, and relevant today, what with self-absorbed pirates masquerading as politicians thumping their chests and threatening to make war into a game.

    Copy courtesy NetGalley

  • Ben
    May 14, 2017

    "McArthur's Spies" by Peter Eisner is an engrossing and informative account of those people in the Philipines, and there were many, who risked their lives working as spies against the Japanese who occupied their country.

    Although the subtitle mentions " the Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster" the greater part of the narrative is about the singer, Claire Phillips, an American born woman of mixed parentage. A woman of numerous names and many invented personal histories, she found herself in Man

    "McArthur's Spies" by Peter Eisner is an engrossing and informative account of those people in the Philipines, and there were many, who risked their lives working as spies against the Japanese who occupied their country.

    Although the subtitle mentions " the Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster" the greater part of the narrative is about the singer, Claire Phillips, an American born woman of mixed parentage. A woman of numerous names and many invented personal histories, she found herself in Manila at the star of the war. Mr.Eisner begins his book with a brief overview of the beginning of the war in the Pacific, focusing on the defeat of the Allied forces in the Philipines and the beginning of the long and brutal occupation. The book's pages illustrate the daily brutalities the people faced. He also relates in chilling detail life in the POW camps and internment camps. This is done by focusing mainly on Claire Phillips, though the author does include stories of other important resistance leaders.

    After the Japanese victory, Claire, now calling herself Dorothy, eventually set herself up as a nightclub owner. She designed the Tsubaki Club to cater to Japanese officers. Claire ( to use her most commonly attributed name) used the club to mine the Japanese clientele for informstion.

    Claire was also an important part of the local network worked to supply whatever food and medicine that could be scrounged to POWS. This was exceedingly dangerous work. If arrested by the Japaneses, members of the underground seldom survived imprisonment.

    Claire Apperars as an enigmatic figure. Her background was full of holes. She was hardly honest or forthcoming about her many husbands and lovers. She admittedly embroidered her exploits to sell her book. But, she was a hero. What she did in the Philipines as a spy, and as part of the resistance to aprovide food and medicine to starving POWs and safeguard their stories of brutal treatment in the prison camps was a great danger to her life.

    The book is mainly her story. It is about a forgotten woman who should be remembered, as all those who put themselves in danger to help others survive and achieve victory.

    Recommended not only to those interested in WW2 history, but to anyone who would enjoy a biography a how a coo on woman became an uncommon hero.

  • Nancy Oakes
    May 13, 2017

    thank you to Nora @ Viking.

  • Paromjit
    May 15, 2017

    This is an unusual history book that sheds light on the brutal occupation of Manila and the Philippines by the Japanese in the Second World War. The Japanese were not expected to invade, perhaps explains why the Japanese took over so easily, with huge numbers of soldiers surrendering and set on the harrowing eighty mile Bataan Death March. This books looks at three expatriate Americans who played a central role in garnering and co-ordinating the resistance against the Japanese. The author, Peter

    This is an unusual history book that sheds light on the brutal occupation of Manila and the Philippines by the Japanese in the Second World War. The Japanese were not expected to invade, perhaps explains why the Japanese took over so easily, with huge numbers of soldiers surrendering and set on the harrowing eighty mile Bataan Death March. This books looks at three expatriate Americans who played a central role in garnering and co-ordinating the resistance against the Japanese. The author, Peter Eisner, is particularly interested and obsessed in the life of singer, Clare Philips, a woman with a multitude of names and a talent for deception that renders her an able spy. There is much myth and untruths about Clare, much of it perpetrated by her. Eisner untangles the truth and finds a story that deserves to be told as he uncovers material hidden in the National Archives in Washington DC and Maryland through sheer persistence.

    The Japanese invaded in January 1942, with the strategic aims of cutting supplies to the Allied Forces and to give them a key position in Asia. Eisner looks at the role played by enlisted soldier, Corporal John Boone, who led the guerrilla resistance with attacks and sabotage in Manila. Businessman and Naval Intelligence Officer, Chick Parsons, is an important spy for MacArthur in paving his return with the planned Allied invasion. Parsons shows real chutzpah in posing as a Panamanian diplomat of a fake Panamanian Embassy. The men occupy a minor role in a story that revolves around Clare who also has a daughter to look after. Clare, known as High Pockets, opens a nightclub, the Tsubaki Club, catering for Japanese officers. She gained and collated intelligence from her girls and passed it on to the resistance. She supplied the resistance and those in the prisoner of war camps with food as well. Eisner paints a picture of the privations, deaths and suffering in Manila with detailed descriptions and at the end gives us information on what happened to key individuals after the war.

    Perhaps the greatest shortcomings of the book is the too brief look at the efforts of the key local individuals who played a major role in undermining the Japanese regime. This is not an area of history I am overly familiar with and I was surprised at the ease in which Eisner draws me into the characters and this period of history. I particularly enjoyed the black and white photographs in the book of the characters, Manila, detainees and the return of the Americans. Eisner does a good job of placing the Philippines resistance amidst the broader canvas of World War Two. I recommend this book strongly for those interested in espionage, history and the role women played in the conflict. Many thanks to Nora Alice and Random House Viking for an ARC.

  • Chris Sanford
    Jun 08, 2017

    I was pleasantly surprised at this in depth and detailed portrayal of the history of WWII in Manila. Eisner did an outstanding job portraying the lead up, events and follow up to what happened there. It has been awhile since I have read a nonfiction that has drawn me in and that I enjoyed this much. The cultured multinational business city of Manila did not believe the reach of Japan and the war would come to them but when it did their infrastructure crumbled. As the cruel lying Japanese invaded

    I was pleasantly surprised at this in depth and detailed portrayal of the history of WWII in Manila. Eisner did an outstanding job portraying the lead up, events and follow up to what happened there. It has been awhile since I have read a nonfiction that has drawn me in and that I enjoyed this much. The cultured multinational business city of Manila did not believe the reach of Japan and the war would come to them but when it did their infrastructure crumbled. As the cruel lying Japanese invaded, people were left without medicine, food, clean water and safe living areas. When our forces surrendered some escaped into the high country to try to survive and fight back until MacArthur could return. As these rebel forces set up smuggling lines, raids, and to gather information on the enemy while combating the harsh environment, enemy and sickness those who surrendered were lied to rounded up tortured and sent on the famous Bataan Death March to prison camps. Things were dangerous and bleak for all, but this set up a few brave souls to make a difference like John Boone, and Claire Philips.

    Claire was the main character of focus. She is an unlikely hero and most of the book is based off of her personal journal. She has a habit of marrying many men with or without divorce or death papers and she is not the most honest woman with as many aliases as husbands but this really makes her the perfect spy. Motivated by her love of her daughter she does what she must to help them survive and help those in need especially the prisoners while always trying to supply information to the rebels and MacArthur for his return. It amazed me no only how much people could and would do and withstand but the conviction they showed in doing it. Claire set up a night club for the Japanese commanders it was not a brothel but was a way to pump them for information by helping them relax and drink. Her club also became a hub for hiding and smuggling people, medicine, food and other supplies needed by both the prisoners and rebels. Claire became sick and close to death many times and was eventually caught and tortured but MacArthur returned before she was killed. I believe the true injustices were done to her when she returned to the states, by bad publishers and vindictive people.

    Eisner showed an amazing arch in the story from pre war Manilla to the main action both in the hills and in the city with Claire. He showed the struggle of all the people prisoners, civilians, rebels and how they survived and worked together. Eisner showed the struggles of the government and false accusations after the war and all the court cases that developed due to it. What impressed me most is how Eisner showed the people's unwavering faith that MacArthur would return no matter what, and the drive they had to help him succeed. I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys books of history, especially on WWII, the South Pacific, and Spies/espionage.

  • Casey Wheeler
    May 28, 2017

    I received a free Kindle copy of MacArthur's Spies by Peter Isner courtesy of Net Galley and Penguin Group Viking, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my history book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.

    I requested this book as I have read a great deal about World War II and the description presented something that I had not read about. This is the first bo

    I received a free Kindle copy of MacArthur's Spies by Peter Isner courtesy of Net Galley and Penguin Group Viking, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my history book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.

    I requested this book as I have read a great deal about World War II and the description presented something that I had not read about. This is the first book by Peter Eisner that I have read.

    While the premise of the book, The Soldier, the Singer and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese In World War II, is interesting, the author's writing style leaves something to be desired. The book tends to be herky jerky with abrupt endings to chapters and no smooth transition from one subject to the next. The content is good, although it gets a little tedious at times in exhaustive detail that adds little to the story.

    My prejudice is that I have read other books dealing with World War II where the author's style makes it very engaging and the book progresses like a piece of fiction versus a somewhat dry recitation of facts.

    I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in World War II and especially what occured in the Philipines, but be ready for a challenging read.

  • Cassie Troja
    Jun 19, 2017

    MacArthur's Spies is a harrowing tale of heroism and espionage in the Philippines during World War II. The author chose to focus on the people and events surrounding three main players: Claire (the primary character and the "Singer" in the title), Boone (the "Soldier"), and Chick Parsons (the "Spymaster"). It is broken into five parts: 1) Claire's life before WWII and the Philippines leading in

    MacArthur's Spies is a harrowing tale of heroism and espionage in the Philippines during World War II. The author chose to focus on the people and events surrounding three main players: Claire (the primary character and the "Singer" in the title), Boone (the "Soldier"), and Chick Parsons (the "Spymaster"). It is broken into five parts: 1) Claire's life before WWII and the Philippines leading into war with Japan; 2) war in the Philippines and the US surrender; 3) life in the Philippines under Japanese occupation; 4) liberation by the US and life immediately following the war; and finally 5) Claire's life in her later years and her battle to get compensation from the US government.

    I call myself a World War II history nut, but I have a shameful confession - I am one of those who focuses mostly on the European theater, especially the Holocaust. I know very little about the Pacific theater, especially other than Pearl Harbor. Shameful, I know! I chose to read this book in an effort to remedy that and I'm sure glad I did. Despite the somewhat misleading title, the book mostly focuses on Claire - her life, her relationships, her many aliases, and her contributions to the resistance efforts. She was a woman of many mysteries, having married at least four times and somehow adopted a little Filipino girl along the way. Though she aspired to be a performer, she wasn't successful until she opened a nightclub in Manila during the Japanese occupation. At that point she became "Madame Tsubaki," and one of the leaders of the efforts to surreptitiously support both the American POWs interred on the islands and the guerrillas hiding in the densely forested hills. Boone was her contact with the guerrillas. He had escaped capture during the US surrender and led a large contingent of American and Filipino fighters. He was in direct contact with General MacArthur himself via the spymaster, Chick Parsons. Chick had originally escaped imprisonment by masquerading as a somewhat-legitimate diplomat. After his escape, he asked to return and be put to work in the efforts to recapture the Philippines. Without spoiling too many details, we know the historical outcome - MacArthur did indeed return in resounding triumph to liberate the Philippines and vanquish the evil (in this instance) Japanese. He credited much of the success of his campaign to the intelligence gathered by Claire, Boone, Parsons, and their extended network. Many American POWs and guerrillas also owed their lives to Claire and others who provided supplies and money whenever possible. Claire returned to the US a hero. She even wrote a book and had a movie made, although both suffered from the Hollywood effect of an over-eager ghost writer. She spent years trying to get compensation from the US government for all of the money she spent of her own funds to help the guerrillas and POWs. Due to many factors, including the incredible number of people making similar claims, Claire only received a fraction of what she spent. The Filipino people honored her sacrifice after her death by memorializing her in the capitol building in Manila.

    This book was written by a reporter, and as such it carries with it that style. It is fast-paced and filled with facts expounded by conjecture. Mr. Eisner did a ton of research, even dusting off the court documents from Claire's claim. He is to be commended for his hard work in being thorough, even traveling to the Philippines and interviewing family members and survivors. Claire was a mysterious character and given what little is truly known about her identity, Mr. Eisner did a wonderful job of making her an intriguing character. I only wish he'd been able to expound more on Boone and his troops, or on Chick Parson's harrowing experiences being spirited back and forth behind enemy lines on submarines. There's no doubt that Claire was a hero in her own right; I just would have liked to know more about the other heroes listed in the title (namely Boone and Parsons).

    The format in the digital version was all over the place and at times this made it difficult to read. However, I have a feeling this is due to it being an advanced copy adapted for Kindle (similar to a PDF) and is not the fault of the publisher or author.

    There were also times that sentences and/or phrases were awkwardly repeated, or the editing wasn't complete so that the sentence structure was clumsy. Again, with a final edit I'm sure this will be corrected. It in no way detracted from the story itself.

    My only other criticism is that I would have like to have seen any photos that survived. The author mentions a specific photo - that of Peggy in front of the Tsubaki Club - several times. Why wasn't it included? Again, this might be due to the nature of this particular digital format. Still, I might have to google that photo as well as others of Claire, Boone, etc. They're such intriguing characters!

    While I still maintain that the title is a little misleading (this is really a book about Claire, with asides about her "supporting cast" and "costars"), the book itself is very enlightening. I had no idea that the Philippines were so crucial in the Pacific war, let alone how much the American POWs and Filipinos suffered (aside from the Bataan Death March - everyone knows about Bataan...I hope...). I would definitely recommend this book for it's educational value alone, let alone the heroism of the people it portrays. I will always have the utmost respect for "The Greatest Generation," especially after reading accounts such as this. I am grateful to Mr. Eisner for highlighting these international heroes!

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