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MacArthur’s Spies: The Soldier

Average Reading Time: 2 minutes

From Viking Books notes on Facebook page

Meet Colonel John Boone: the enlisted American soldier who led an insurgent force of Filipino fighters to attack during World War II – all from a jungle hideout:

In those early days of the Japanese occupation, John Boone could only hope to gather enough troops and ammunition to fight a guerrilla war. However, after starting with several dozen men and eight World War I bolt-action Springfield rifles, his luck changed. An old Filipino stumbled into his camp one day, a man too old to fight but bringing tantalizing news. “I know where there are guns,” he said. “Many guns and much ammunition.”

Major John P. Boone and Filomena (Mellie) Guerrero Boone, circa 1945. They were married in the hills of Bataan in 1943. Mellie carried messages and supplies between Claire Phillips and the Bataan guerillas.
Major John P. Boone and Filomena (Mellie) Guerrero Boone, circa 1945. They were married in the hills of Bataan in 1943. Mellie carried messages and supplies between Claire Phillips and the Bataan guerillas.

With the old Filipino as his guide, John Boone organized his first major insurgency mission, accomplished with surprising results even before his guerrilla army was fully constituted. He took advantage of the chaos after surrender and gathered up more volunteers, a corps of Filipino civilians willing to retrieve surrendered American weapons before the Japanese had a chance to seize them. Under Boone’s command, teams of three dozen Filipinos hiked down to sea level just south of the main coastal highway that Claire had once used to drive to Pilar. “We knew we would find weapons there,” Boone said. “But we were amazed to find . . . great quantities of medical supplies.” It was almost a field hospital supply of ointments and antiseptics and bandages, but also drugs, including large amounts of quinine tablets. This was life saving medicine.

Along with the hospital supplies, they hauled in automatic weapons and crates of ammunition. The men ported everything up to Boone’s base camp quickly and stealthily, knowing the Japanese could come at any moment. The hoard of drugs included sulfa drugs that would combat dysentery and other diseases, as well as injuries. Digging further, they came upon the quinine—the only reliable treatment against malaria. “Five grain American quinine tablets,” Boone said, still recalling his amazement years later. “I can remember it now. There were thousand-pill bottles” in quart-sized jugs. The contraband also included “surgical instruments and bandages and antiseptics and so forth.”

Major John P. Boone pictured with six other U.S. guerrilla leaders at Manila City Hall on June 13, 1945 after receiving medals from MacArthur

The medical supplies lasted for months. After that, he realized there was one other ready way to obtain medicine and food. Claire could take on a wider role than she or Boone had originally envisioned. Boone had one more meeting with Claire while she was in the hills. He needed a base for gathering and sending intelligence reports, but he also needed critical supplies in the jungle. Claire was ready and willing to help.

Continue reading Colonel John Boone’s journey to foil the Japanese by ordering your copy of MacArthur’s Spies today:

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Stay tuned for the next installment, where you’ll meet Claire Phillips: the singer turned spy.

Article written by Peter Eisner
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