THE SOURCE: “The Trial of General Homma” by Hampton Sides, in American Heritage, Feb.–March 2007.
Tall, English-speaking, and aristocratic, General Masaharu Homma was a familiar figure in English society before Pearl Harbor. Openly pro-Western, he had lived in Oxford, London, and India; met Gandhi, Churchill, and Mussolini; and been escorted to the top of the Empire State Building by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. A brilliant student and friend of writers, painters, and dramatists, he lacked the temperament for the military career that family tradition required him to pursue.
Nevertheless, in April of 1942 he succeeded in wresting the Philippines from General Douglas MacArthur, becoming the only Japanese general ever to decisively defeat a U.S. army. When the Americans surrendered, about 70,000 starving and malarial men staggered out of the jungle into prisoner of war compounds administered by a much smaller force of Japanese, also short of food and medicine. The movement of this unexpected number of POWs to a concentration camp some 60 miles away became universally known as the Bataan Death March, conducted with unimaginable cruelty. About 10,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers perished.