LIEUTENANT RAMSEY'S WAR by Edwin Price & Stephen J. Rivele Ramsey
Kirkus Star

LIEUTENANT RAMSEY'S WAR

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A low-key but riveting memoir from a sometime Army officer who spent most of WW II behind Japanese lines in occupied Luzon. By his own account, Ramsey was an unlikely candidate for heroism. A scapegrace fatherless boyhood in Wichita landed the author at Oklahoma Military Academy, where he became a top-notch polo player. His tentative plans to pursue a law career after graduating were interrupted when his sister Nadine, a noted aviatrix, suffered a near-fatal accident. After nursing her back to health, Ramsey volunteered for active duty with the Philippine Scouts. Arriving in Manila during June of 1941, the author (then 24) was assigned to a cavalry post about 75 miles north of the capital. Ramsey's Filipino idyll was brief. Within days of Pearl Harbor, Japan assaulted the Philippines. An invasion campaign allotted 50 days by the Imperial high command, however, required six months to complete. In the thick of the fighting for Luzon, the author (who led the last mounted charge in US military history) was cut off from his own forces. When first Bataan and then Corregidor fell, he decided to cast his lot with the resistance rather than surrender. The bulk of the text here is devoted to Ramsey's harrowing experiences organizing and directing a 40,000-member band of irregulars from mountain hideouts. To avert reprisals against the civilian population, his guerrillas rarely engaged in sabotage or attacks on Japanese troops. While waiting for General MacArthur's return, though, the partisans were crucial sources of intelligence, and, once formal combat resumed, they proved formidable (if savage) allies. In the meantime, Ramsey battled collaborators as well as dysentery, malaria, and madness that had him contemplating suicide. When US soldiers reclaimed the islands, he weighed less than 100 pounds and was not strong enough to support the weight of a pistol around his waist. After suffering two breakdowns, he was ordered back to the States in mid-1945 with the rank of lieutenant colonel and a chestful of medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross. An inspiring, unsentimental tale attesting to the reality that the costs of war cannot be wholly reckoned in blood and treasure. Many readers will probably welcome a sequel detailing how Ramsey has fared on the home front.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1990
Publisher: Knightsbridge (255 East 49 St., New York, NY 10017)