"BACK TO CORREGIDOR"
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Book Review

 

 

 

 

Back to Corregidor: America Retakes the Rock
By Gerard M. Devlin
St. Martins Press, 1992.
260 pp., HB, New York:
ISBN 0-312-07648-7

Reviewed by Bolling W. Smith

Corregidor is the holiest site of the Coast Artillery Corps. Only in Manila Bay did American coast artillerymen die manning their guns. This book recounts the recapture of Corregidor by the U.S. Army's 503rd Regimental Combat Team in February 1945. Although immeasurably assisted by overwhelming air and naval power, the recapture of Corregidor from some 5,000 Japanese (only 600 Japanese were expected to be on the island) by half their number of Americans is a monument to both skill and courage.

This book must inevitably be compared with Corregidor: The Rock Force Assault, by Edward M. Flanagan (Presidio Press, 1988). Flanagan, a lieutenant general, gives a more organized, systematic account, with a better grasp of the terrain, and he deals more even-handedly with the Japanese defenders.*

On the other hand, Gerard Devlin was a sergeant in the 503rd Parachute Infantry following the Korean War, and served alongside veterans of the assault on  Corregidor. He shows his familiarity with airborne operations and effectively captures the human element. The battle naturally makes a great story, and Devlin tells it well, capturing the valor and skill, the glory and the horror of a desperate contest.

Devlin, however, seems unfamiliar with physical Corregidor. His descriptions of the terrain are sketchy, and his understanding of the seacoast artillery batteries is limited to calling all concrete structures bunkers. Even those who have visited Corregidor will find it difficult to trace the progress of the battle through his narrative.

Additionally, Devlin accepted some accounts too uncritically. He reports, for instance, that the Japanese had a 14-inch naval gun on Corregidor, hidden in a cave. The absence of footnotes makes it impossible to identify the sources for such statements.

In summary, this was a bloody, desperate struggle against almost overwhelming odds. Devlin set out to do justice to the memory of those who fought and died there, and he does so, in the process telling a great action tale. However, his understanding of Corregidor and its structures may disappoint those with a particular interest in the island itself.

Bolling W. Smith Editor
Coast Defense Study Group Journal

* William T. Calhoun and Paul F. Whitman have written an article about a significant  inaccuracy  Flanagan's description of the attack against Battery Monja.  Refer to The Lost Road

Reviewed by:
 Paul F. Whitman

Gerard Devlin is a paratrooper and a fighting man. He probably understands paratroopers and fighting men better than any other writer, and it shows. He knows what it's like to get a slugging match, and he brings that gutwrenching feeling into his writing.  Yet he is able to meld the  stories of the men into a factual and human history, never departing from the essential spirit of the troopers. 

When a person gets serious about Corregidor, this is one of the acquisitions that needs to be made. No exemptions.  The Belotes', Devlin, Flanagan and Guthrie. Most people start with the Belotes - yet one of the experts on Corregidor, Danny Howell, has painstakingly analysed this widely respected book and critiqued it virtually into mincemeat. 

One can only begin to appreciate Devlin's skill as he grappled with the difficulty of establishing the humanity of what was essentially, a most inhuman campaign - moving and killing.  

Unfortunately,  Devlin has not been in print for several years, and must be located either through used book dealers or the internet auction houses.  Finding him in a second-hand book store is a jewel in the dust. Find it and buy a lottery ticket. Either way you win. If you haven't got it, get it, and enjoy it.

One wonders how many Corregidoros we need to get together to persuade the beancounters at St. Martin's Press to release a new printing of this book. I would hope they have heard of us here at CT&N.  For those interested in the history of paratroopers, Devlin's book PARATROOPER also traces the history of the entire U.S. Airborne effort, and is also worth the acquisition.

It too, is unfortunately out of print.

 
 

    

 

 

 

         

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