'Biggest tragedy': American historian looks back at World War 2's impact on Manila

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 11 2019 05:48 PM | Updated as of Feb 11 2019 06:15 PM

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MANILA - The month-long battle to liberate Manila from Japanese forces in 1945 was unlike all other battles that American forces dealt with in the Pacific, an American historian said Monday. 

James Scott, author of "Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita and the Battle of Manila" also said the destruction wrought on the Philippine capital during the war completely changed it. 

Scott said around 100,000 civilians were killed in the Battle of Manila, which gave American forces a taste of urban warfare. 

"It was a battle in which American soldiers, up against the Japanese, had to go block by block, home by home, and even room by room," Scott said in an interview with ANC. 

Japanese soldiers systematically torched Manila's neighborhoods and killed civilians, while American forces fired 42,000 artillery rounds while retaking Manila. 

A blurb from the book said: It was harder to tell who had done more damage, the Japanese defenders or the American liberators.

Destruction at the Walled City (Intramuros district) of old Manila in May 1945 — after the Battle of Manila. Creative Commons

But Scott said while American's concentrated their artillery on occupied Intramuros and on government buildings, the Japanese under military commander Sanji Iwabuchi systematically committed atrocities such as chaining people inside buildings before setting them on fire, decapitating hundreds of men and raping women. 

When the Americans finally liberated Manila on March 3, 1945, a hundred thousand civilians lay dead.

This, Scott said, was the war's biggest impact on Manila--the loss of human capital. 

"Think of how many families were wiped out-- doctors, lawyers, inventors, judges," Scott said. 

"It was that priceless human capital that really was one of the biggest tragedies."

Scott is touring the Philippines to promote "Rampage." The book will be formally launched on Tuesday Feb. 12 at the Filipinas Heritage Library in the Ayala Museum, Makati.