MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines

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For many, Douglas MacArthur was a general to be ranked with Grant and Lee; for others he was much bluster and some cowardice, the "Dugout Doug" who abandoned his troops at Corregidor. The truth, according to military historian Richard Connaughton, lies somewhere in the middle. MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines is a judicious and hard-headed portrait of a courageous general and deeply flawed man.

Douglas MacArthur was born into a military family in 1880, and the need to ...

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For many, Douglas MacArthur was a general to be ranked with Grant and Lee; for others he was much bluster and some cowardice, the "Dugout Doug" who abandoned his troops at Corregidor. The truth, according to military historian Richard Connaughton, lies somewhere in the middle. MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines is a judicious and hard-headed portrait of a courageous general and deeply flawed man.

Douglas MacArthur was born into a military family in 1880, and the need to measure up to the heroic example set by his father would be the driving force behind MacArthur's career. But MacArthur's best qualities would forever be undone by his arrogance, vanity, deviousness, and a truly breathtaking capacity for making enemies -- F.D.R. chief among them -- so that when MacArthur arrived in the Philippines in the mid-30s it was as an exile from Roosevelt's anger.

The Philippines were something of a family business for the MacArthur clan (his father had distinguished himself there at the turn of the century), and MacArthur's attitude toward the pre-war situation smacked of the military equivalent of papal infallibility. Against all the odds, he assured both Washington and the Philippine government of the islands' security in the case of a Japanese attack, and he consistently underestimated Japanese militarism and overestimated the strength and readiness of the Philippine army. In holding these views, Connaughton argues, MacArthur was proceeding on a notion as much fueled by romance as military good sense. Willfully blind to the impending crisis, and brashly confident of his own powers, the Philippines and MacArthur's troops were vulnerable to attack when it finally came in late December of 1941.

MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines is a fascinating study of Douglas MacArthur and the crisis of leadership, as well as a focused study of one of the pivotal moments in World War II.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The loss of the Philippines to Japanese invaders in the first half of 1942 was the largest defeat ever suffered by American forces. The lack of supplies, regular troops, and equipment was a very serious factor, but all blame cannot rest there. The Japanese would still have been successful owing to their air and naval superiority, but the beleaguered defenders could have held out longer had they been better prepared. Troop training, deployment, and logistical preparations all proved inadequate when tested by combat, and the blame, according to military historian Connaughton (The Battle for Manila), must rest squarely on General Douglas MacArthur. Connaughton argues that he was insecure, egotistical, oblivious to weaknesses of his forces, and overconfident of possible help from the States. MacArthur was protected from blame owing to his potential to cause political trouble for President Roosevelt, the fact that America needed a hero figure at that time, and his ability to inspire people. This book is well-researched, but Connaughton overstates his case; the reader is not persuaded that MacArthur "lost" the Philippines, though clearly he could have made better decisions. Suitable for public and academic libraries. (Illustrations and maps not seen.) Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A defining episode in the career of the martial prima donna, dispassionately examined by British military historian Connaughton (The Battle for Manila, not reviewed). MacArthur, the favored son of a general, always looked upon his own image and found it good. After graduating at the top of his West Point class, he began service in 1903 in the Philippines, whence he wrote fawning messages to superiors much in the style of Uriah Heep. Quickly rising in the ranks, he even had the effrontery to steal the affections of Black Jack Pershing's mistress, while later on during the Depression he broke up with great zeal the hungry veterans of the Bonus Army when they marched into Washington. During his putative retirement, MacArthur, sporting many ribbons and a baton, became field marshal of the Philippine military—and assumed command of all US forces in the region when WWII broke out. Undeniably brilliant, he and his five-star vanity caused vexed relations with President Quezon, subordinates like Eisenhower and Wainwright, the US Navy, and the US government in general. Most of Connaughton's text analyzes the archipelago's military predicament, and, despite his assertions of MacArthur's mastery of the situation, it's made plain that his reaction to Pearl Harbor was dilatory and confused. Exhausted forces (ill-equipped, ill-trained, ill-served, and ill-led) sought refuge in doomed Bataan and Corregidor—where they subsisted on half-, then quarter-rations until the cavalry horses had to be butchered. Throughout, MacArthur filed reports that only lightly resembled reality. Before escaping from the scene of the awful defeat, the Potentate of the Pacific secured a considerable emolument fromthe Philippine government. The historic rout may not have been all his fault, but he sure didn't help either. Connaughton's report ends with the famous vow: "I shall return." Which he did. A powerful, terrible story told in exacting detail. (14 b&w photos, 2 maps).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585673940
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/25/2003
  • Pages: 394
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 8.64 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Grand Strategies

On Monday 8 December 1941, Manila time, the Pacific War,which had begun so emphatically with the infamous attack onPearl Harbor, flowed outwards to the Philippine Islands. At 2 a.m. onthat fateful Monday, American fighter and bomber pilots left a partyat the Manila Hotel. Why was the U.S.A., this most decidedly anticolonialstate, in the Philippines? Rudyard Kipling, Britain's imperialbard, wrote his poem The White Man's Burden in response to theU.S.A.'s annexation of the Philippines in 1898,

Take up the white man's burden
—Ye dare not stoop to less
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your
Gods and you.

    For a more pedestrian answer, it is necessary to go back to theyears when the commanding general of the Manila-based UnitedStates Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), the sixty-one year oldLieutenant General Douglas MacArthur, was growing up in the 1880sand 1890s.

    The completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1895 changed theregional power balance in the Far East. In time, Russia would be ableto move men and materiel from the west into Siberia and from thereto capitalize upon the perceived collapse of the Chinese Empire. Thisdevelopment had the coincidental effect of putting Russia on acollisioncourse with Japan's growing regional aspirations. In 1895, theGerman Kaiser pointedly commissioned a painting emphasizing the"Yellow Peril" and the threat posed to the interests of the Europeanpowers, which he then presented to the Tsar. The situation in theUnited States was seemingly less convoluted. The principle of isolationismhad been established with the Founding Fathers. "We wantwith the outside world," said George Washington, "as little politicalconnection as possible." But in reality the U.S.A. expanded steadilythrough the 19th century, starting with the purchase of Louisiana andFlorida from France and Spain, then the 1867 purchase of Alaskafrom Russia, and a large parcel of land bounded by California andTexas taken from Mexico. The concept of "Manifest Destiny" had itsorigins in 1845 and was a stimulus to acquire the Oregon territoriesin 1846 and America's expansion out towards her natural domesticborders. However, with the exception of the New Mexico and Californiaterritories, U.S. expansion in the nineteenth century cameabout through purchase and not by conquest. Manifest Destiny wasnot a militarist concept. By the 1890s there was no further scope forreasonable expansion in Continental North America.

    Until 1870, the use of steam power by the minuscule U.S. Navyhad actually been forbidden. In 1880, there were only 48 ships in theUSN capable of firing a shot in anger, but ten years later the situationhad been transformed. This was in no small part attributable tothe writings and influence of one man, Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.naval officer and theorist, who insisted that America's prosperitydepended upon free access to world markets and that this could onlybe guaranteed through the development of a strong navy supportedby an effective merchant marine. Mahan found influential backersfor his assertive, expansive theories, including Theodore Roosevelt,Henry Cabot Lodge and John Hay. These white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants,mostly North-East Republicans, believed the U.S.A. had thecapability to become a global power and that this was its new manifestdestiny. "The U.S. must not fall out of the line of march," said Lodge.

    In 1895, there was a dispute with Britain regarding the Venezuela-BritishGuiana border, but America's principal source of aggravationcame from Spain. The 1895-1898 Cuban Revolution, brutally suppressedby the Spaniards, came to a head on 15 February 1898 withthe (accidental) blowing up of the battleship USS Maine in Havanaharbor with the loss of 266 lives. On 25 April 1898, America declaredwar on Spain and, on the 27th, the U.S. Asiatic Squadron of five cruisersand two gunboats, under Commodore George Dewey, left HongKong for Manila, also part of the Spanish Empire. Dewey's purposewas to prevent Spain's Pacific fleet from reinforcing the Caribbean. Atthe Battle of Manila Bay, Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet of fourcruisers and three gunboats and then blockaded the city of Manilauntil the arrival of ground forces.

    On 13 August 1898, after a token defense, the city surrendered.Following Dewey's victory, Hawaii, which had applied to join theUnion in 1893, was annexed. In the summer of 1898, only forty percent of U.S. newspapers had been pro-annexation, but by year's endthat figure had increased to sixty per cent. The Treaty of Paris tidiedup America's conflict with Spain, which relinquished sovereignty overCuba, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the U.S.A. and sold thePhilippines for 20 million dollars. This sudden transformation of theUnited States into not merely a Pacific but an Asiatic power was notreceived with universal enthusiasm. President William McKinleyadmitted he did not want the Philippines but, in effect being deliveredon a plate, he thought it best to accept what had happened and"by God's grace, do the best we could do for them."

    In 1899 the Philippine Insurrection against the U.S.A. began, andthis caused a moral quandary and much heart-searching at home,with considerable sympathy for the Filipinos' attempt to achieve theirfreedom. American troops had been fired upon in the outskirts ofManila and the subsequent American military response under DouglasMacArthur's father, Major General Arthur MacArthur, broughtthe situation in the north under control by 1902. The conflict continuedin the south of the country until 1905 when American forceswere confronted by fanatical Muslim tribesmen. It was no minorinsurgency. 100,000 American troops were engaged, of whom 4,243were killed and 2,818 wounded in action. The Filipinos lost 16,000killed and a further 100,000 died from famine. The war effectivelyended American territorial expansion. Public opinion had reverted toform, eschewing foreign adventurism, and regarding the Philippinesas a liability vulnerable to attack from Japan.

    After William Howard Taft returned to Washington in 1904 afterthree years as civilian Governor of the Philippines, he commissionedDaniel Hudson Burnham, the architect of the city's post office andUnion Station, to go to Manila. Burnham only stayed for forty days,but the results were profound. He laid down plans for a boulevardrunning the length, north to south, of Manila's stunningly beautifulnatural harbor. On the Luneta extension nearby, he catered for thesocial needs of the 15,000 Americans with an Army and Navy Club,an Elks Club for those of Masonic persuasion and, most important ofall, he planned one of the world's famous hotels, the Manila, "a hotelwhose size, surroundings and appointments are intended to deliverManila once and for all from the standing reproach of inhospitalitytoward a traveler."

    The New York Medical Journal, in an apparent damning with faintpraise, judged Manila's climate to be healthier than that of Chicagoand Philadelphia. But then again, Edwin W. Stephens, a Missourieditor, had written in 1908: "Manila is the most thoroughly typicalAmerican city I have ever visited outside the United States." The conclusionis that turn-of-the-century Americans did feel comfortableand at home in the Philippines, perhaps because the cultural andracial differences within the city were reflected in a de facto caste system.There were the Spaniards who had been born in Spain (peninsulares),Spaniards born in the Philippines (insulares), those of mixedSpanish and Malay birth, of which Manuel Quezon was one, the mestizos,and the bulk of people of Malay stock who spoke dialects. Therewas also an appreciable number of Chinese. What these disparategroups had in common was the belief in, and practice of, the extendedfamily. It was automatic that the local population, when ontrips, would stay with family, so there had been no overwhelmingneed for hotels. The Manila Hotel formed part of the white enclavewhich excluded native citizens. Generally, Filipinos could not join theManila Polo Club, the Manila Golf Club or the Army and Navy Club.There were exceptions to this rule, a rule which was bent in order toinclude within the American social circle Filipino citizens predominantlyof Spanish ancestry—the peninsulares and insulares. Filipinoswere not technically barred from visiting or staying at the ManilaHotel. There is the story of a prosperous Negros sugar planter invitingVisayan congressman José Romero to lunch in the hotel diningroom. Becoming conscious of a child staring at them, they heard himsay to his mother: "What are those Filipinos doing in here?"

    There was a convention that American men could have queridas,female mistresses, but they should not marry Filipinas. It was quitecommon for unaccompanied American men to have "a bit on the side."General Wood, who became Governor of the Philippines, makes mentionof his adversary, General Pershing, having fathered two or threeillegitimate children whilst posted to the islands. There was the exampleof an American Sergeant who did marry a Filipina woman andhad six children. The Asian Exclusion Act and his State's laws againstmixed marriages prevented repatriation and re-enlistment. "He wasdoomed by his marriage to stay in the Philippines until he died."

    In 1912, the same year the Manila Hotel was opened, the U.S.Army in the Philippines was established as a permanent overseascolonial force. The total U.S. army manpower in the Philippines was19,002 (compared with a total U.S. Army strength of 91,461) of which13,007 were U.S. and 5,995 Philippine Scouts. The Scouts had anauthorized establishment ceiling of 12,000 but rarely exceeded 6,000.Unusually, the Regiments were permanently based in the Philippinesand the men came and went on trickle postings, first for three years,then two. The two-year tour involved a rapid and destabilizingturnover of personnel. Although the Philippines had a Governor-General,jurisdiction was exercised from Washington by the WarDepartment's Bureau of Insular Affairs. This unusual reversal of theaccepted civil-military relationship reflected the predominance of themilitary and their stake in the government of the Philippines.

    If the mind can conjure a state on its toes, prepared to act decisivelyand quickly to optimize every opportunity, that was Japan at theend of the nineteenth century, a Japan convinced that the Dynasticcollapse of China would not be permanent and hence the need to actwhen the right opportunity either presented itself or was engineered.After a short war, 1894-95, fought with exceptional military competenceby Japan's armed forces in Manchuria and Korea, the feebleChinese sought peace. Under the bilateral Treaty of Shimonoseki of17 April 1895, China recognized Korean independence, thus pavingthe way for Japan to exercise what was in effect a protectorate overKorea. In addition, China paid Japan £25 million in reparations andceded Formosa to Japan, as well as the Pescadores, and the LiaotungPeninsula in Manchuria upon which lies the warm-water port, PortArthur.

    Germany, France and Russia saw Japanese territorial ambitions assomething to be nipped in the bud. Fleets were moved, the Russianarmy mobilized in the Amur region and, on 20 April 1895, a form ofultimatum was delivered to Tokyo. The Japanese Emperor recognizedthat Japan by herself did not have the power to resist the Europeancoalition and consequently was obliged to withdraw from theTreaty of Shimonoseki. "I have," he said, "yielded to the dictates ofmagnanimity and accepted the advice of the three powers." As aresult of the triple intervention, Russia took over the Liaotung Peninsulaand Germany the Shantung Peninsula.

    As a sweetener for the retrocession of the Liaotung Peninsula andfor the return of Port Arthur into the limp hand of China, China paidJapan £5 million (60 million tael). The indemnities far exceeded Japan'swar expenses and, as shall be seen, were wisely invested. What thisepisode taught Japan was the need for her to find an ally. That muchbecame clear from the events of December 1897 when a Russianfleet appeared off Port Arthur as a preliminary to leasing the ice-freeharbor and for building a railway northward to Harbin to connectwith the Trans-Siberian. The 1902 marriage of convenience betweenBritain and Japan, whilst a shock to the world powers, was perfectlylogical. The Japanese had a substantial army while Britain did not,and the British had a substantial navy while Japan did not. Moreover,Britain and Japan shared a common interest in containing Russia.Russia was seen as a threat not only to Britain's interests in China butalso in India. Japan's perception of the Russian threat was altogethermore immediate both in time and in space since she had a burgeoningpopulation accompanied by a huge expansion of her industrialand trade base. Japan's market for the sale of her manufactured goodsand source of food for her extra mouths were in East Asia. If thearea were to be closed to Japan, the country would be brought to itsknees. Of the East Asian markets, the most important to her wereManchuria and Korea. She attempted to negotiate with St. Petersburgbut was rebuffed.

    Japan had used her Chinese war indemnities well, investing in newbattleships ordered from British yards. On 8 February 1904, shelaunched concurrent attacks against Russian forces over the beachesat Chemulpo (now known as Inchon) in Korea, and, led by AdmiralTogo's flagship the Mikasa, against the Russian fleet at Port Arthuron the Liaotung Peninsula, though neglecting to declare war until10 February 1904. Russia fought a disastrous, limited war with only asmall percentage of her forces engaged, at the end of a 6,000-milerailway, while the Japanese fought a total war over short lines of communicationsbut with limited national resources. Both were thereforeamenable to the entreaties of President Theodore Roosevelt to negotiatepeace.

    The Russo-Japanese War proved to be a watershed for Japan andthe U.S.A. due to the latter's role as negotiator at the Portsmouthpeace conference. In defeating a significant European state, Japanhad profoundly altered the international balance of power. The warhad been a foretaste of what was to come—the machine guns, trenchtactics, barbed wire and pounding artillery. The majority of militaryobservers who witnessed all this dismissed what they saw as irrelevantto European warfare because the Russians had been so inept and theJapanese so fanatical. One exception was the British observer Major-GeneralIan Hamilton who, after the Battle of Liaoyang wrote: "Ihave today seen the most stupendous spectacle it is possible for themortal brain to conceive—Asia advancing, Europe falling back, thewall of mist and the writing thereon."

    General Arthur MacArthur, then Commander of the Division ofthe Pacific at San Francisco, pleaded to be allowed to observe the warbut, by the time the visit was authorized and MacArthur arrived inManchuria, it was mid-March 1905 and all was over, bar the negotiating.On 6 August 1905 the Japanese and Russian delegations assembledaboard the Mayflower at Portsmouth, New Hampshire andremained locked in negotiation until 6 September when the peacetreaty was signed. At the outset of the war, Theodore Roosevelt hadfavored Japan but at war's end he had adopted a more balanced view,having been persuaded of the threat posed by her as a political andeconomic competitor. Europe judged him favorably as an arbitrator:he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Others saw inequity in the peacethat he had brokered, best summed up in an article in the New YorkTimes: "The judgement of all observers here, whether pro-Japaneseor pro-Russian, is that the victory is as astonishing a thing as ever wasseen in diplomatic history. A nation hopelessly beaten in every battleof the war, one army captured and the other overwhelminglyrouted, with a navy swept from the seas, dictated her own terms tovictory." In Japan, the humiliating rewards for the victors—half offrozen Sakhalin but obligatory withdrawal from Manchuria and noindemnity—caused widespread anti-American rioting. This is thepoint, September 1905, when the lines were drawn between Japanand the U.S.A., the point at which fatal rivalry in the Pacific was identifiable.In March 1905, Roosevelt told Representative J.A.T. Hull,Chairman of the House Committee on Military Affairs: "It may bethat the Japanese have designs on the Philippines. I hope not. I aminclined to believe not. But I believe we should put our naval andmilitary preparations in such shape that we can hold the Philippinesagainst any foe." In 1906, the militarist, Giichi Tanaka began a studyof possible Japanese operations targeting the Philippines. In 1902,Washington had passed legislation against further immigration ofChinese and more pointedly, in 1906, the San Francisco School Board,reflecting the decades-old fear of the yellow horde in California,passed a rule segregating Japanese students in a separate elementaryschool. In the 1907 War Plan Orange, Japan formally became recognizedas a potential enemy of the United States of America.

    In 1905, Secretary of War William Taft approved an overseas tourwhich would take Major General Arthur MacArthur, his wife "Pinky"(the former Mary Pinkney Hardy) and his aide-de-camp, his sonDouglas—now a Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers—on a grandtour of South East Asia. The General had encountered Taft in thePhilippines in 1901 where the latter was civil governor. They had adifficult, tense relationship due, no doubt, to the General's outspokenness,particularly in making his animosity towards Germanypublic. It may therefore have been a matter of political convenienceto have this potentially difficult general touring the military outpostsof Southern China, Malaya, Burma, India and Ceylon from November1905 to August 1906. On his return to his Headquarters in SanFrancisco, MacArthur senior resumed his duties but did not producea substantive report of what he had seen and heard. However, it isknown that Arthur MacArthur told Taft that Japan's imperialisticambitions were the core "problem of the Pacific" and that the Philippinesrequired stronger defenses to prevent the territory's "strategicposition from becoming a liability rather than an asset to the UnitedStates." The "ordinary citizen"—the Japanese man in the street—hadimpressed his son Douglas. "But I had the uneasy feeling that thehaughty, feudalistic samurai who were their leaders, were, throughtheir victories, planting the seed of eventual Japanese conquest of theOrient."


Excerpted from MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines by Richard Connaughton. Copyright © 2001 by Richard Connaughton. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Introduction xi
Chapter 1 Grand Strategies 1
Chapter 2 Early Days 16
Chapter 3 A Whiff of Politics 30
Chapter 4 Plans 48
Chapter 5 To Build An Army 72
Chapter 6 Relative Values 93
Chapter 7 Internal Conflicts 118
Chapter 8 Serenity And Confidence 144
Chapter 9 "One Of The More Shocking Defects of the War" 162
Chapter 10 To Corregidor 179
Chapter 11 "... Their Freedom Will be Redeemed" 198
Chapter 12 "A Time When Men Must Die" 226
Chapter 13 "I Will Bring You In Triumph On The Points Of My Bayonets To Manila" 251
Chapter 14 "I Shall Return" 269
Chapter 15 Epilogue 292
Notes 309
Bibliography 355
Index 363
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