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Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America's I mperial Dream Hardcover – February 7, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This work reflects Jones’ deep immersion in the American counterinsurgency war of 1899–1902 in the Philippines, where he once was a foreign correspondent. Fitting his research of primary military documents into a wider narrative of the war’s effect on domestic American politics, Jones’ attentiveness to the latter importantly reminds readers of the popular backing the war had—confirmed by its Republican Party advocates’ victory in the 1900 election—which should ameliorate the general disrepute of the war and America’s colonial episode among current historical commentators. Jones shows himself a quite evenhanded presenter of contemporary anti- and pro-imperial exponents, Theodore Roosevelt most prominent among the latter. Opponents of overseas expansion, however, strengthened their stance on allegations of abuses of Filipinos by American forces in Luzon, Samar, and Panay, in particular, the on-the-ground details of which Jones sorts out and sets forth as they entered venues such as the U.S. Senate, courts-martial, and the press. Informative as to sources and fluidly readable, Jones’ account effectively introduces this controversial war in its contemporary context. --Gilbert Taylor


"Honor in the Dust is a lively, documented narrative about an important but often neglected story in American history. Though it was not Roosevelt's finest hour, it was an important one that should not be forgotten." - The Dallas Morning News

"...Jones shows himself a quite evenhanded presenter of contemporary anti- and pro-imperial exponents, Theodore Roosevelt most prominent among the latter.... Informative as to sources and fluidly readable, Jones' account effectively introduces this controversial war in its contemporary context." - Booklist

"A well-researched, generally disinterested account whose parallels to today are obvious." - Kirkus Reviews

"Fascinating....In the end, Honor in the Dust is less about the freedom of the Philippines than the soul of the United States. This is the story of what happened when a powerful young country and its zealous young president were forced to face the high cost of their ambitions." -
Candice Millard in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Honor in the Dust is a dramatic page-turner, told with marvelous reporting, crackling writing, and original insights. Gregg Jones presents a fascinating cast of characters and gripping battle scenes in a story that moves with the speed and power of a battleship. Utterly absorbing.” -Jonathan Eig, New York Times best-selling author of Get Capone

“America's brutal war of conquest in the Philippines is amazingly little-known, largely ignored in our schoolbooks and history museums. Yet its imperial hubris and its torture scandal eerily foreshadow events of the last decade. In his much-needed, highly readable book on this forgotten war, Gregg Jones has written both a compelling page-turner and a work of careful scholarship.” -Adam Hochschild, National Book Award finalist and author of King Leopold's Ghost

"Gregg Jones has produced a masterful and fast-paced book. Honor in the Dust may be classified as a work of history, but it reads like a thriller. Jones wisely stays focused and does not project events immediately following 1898 into the future, but the reader does. Foreshadowed are the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan-and on. This book is the vital prequel to understanding the state of American empire today." -Dale Maharidge, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of And Their Children After Them

“Extraordinary… Honor in the Dust is a work of monumental consequence, and its important historical lessons, though they've been frequently unheeded by subsequent administrations, are in any case most worthy of remembrance.” The Christian Science Monitor


“A ripping read—facts and context interspersed with the smells and sounds of jungle warfare.” —The American Spectator

"History teaches us how to act, or how to not act as the case may be. Honor in the Dust is both good history and good teaching...Contributes significantly to an ignored and marginalized period of American history...concise and compelling."—Marine Corps Gazette

"Honor in the Dust is an absolutely riveting page-turner, a terrific read. Gregg Jones resurrects a long forgotten, but very important slice of American history, in which the country's imperialistic dreams clashed with its sense of honor and justice, severely testing Theodore Roosevelt's young presidency and forcing Americans to confront the horrors of war. Anyone interested in how America uses and abuses its power during times of war should read this book." -Eric Jay Dolin, author of Fur, Fortune, and Empire and Leviathan

"The Philippines Occupation was the first of the United States' quagmires, yet its lessons have been willfully ignored by later generations. Honor in the Dust recovers this essential history, the bombast of Washington's jingoism to the terror of the lost patrol in Samar. Gregg Jones does an admirable job of bringing this extraordinary period and its remarkable characters to life." -Anne Nelson, author of Savages

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 1st edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451229045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451229045
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a book review of "Honor in the Dust" written by Greg Jones.

I like to browse the new books in the book aisle at Costco, while my wife does her grocery shopping. When I saw that this was a book about Theodore Roosevelt, I was immediately interested in buying it. I find him to be a fascinating and inspirational character and have read other biographies about him. Although some of the book is directly related to my favorite president, the majority of the book is a detailed wartime account of the US conquest of the Philippine islands. Much of the justification for the United States to invade the Philippine Islands and wrest it from Spain was the inhumane and barbaric treatment of the islanders by the Spanish rulers. The bulk of this book tells the story of how we mishandled the relationship with the Filipinos and how they came to view us as enemy conquerors rather than liberators. Naturally, they fought for their independence with the limited resources that they had. The US soldiers had rifles and machine guns, whereas the Filipinos only had knives and their ingenuity to resist the invasion.

As the Americans tried harder and harder to stifle resistance, the Filipinos fought back using guerrilla tactics and trickery. Before long, the Americans were employing tactics as brutal as the Spanish had done before them. The war had started under Pres. McKinley, but when he was assassinated Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency and the responsibility for the war effort. Although the military tried its best to hide its scandalous behavior against the Philippine natives, the truth leaked out to the American people. President Roosevelt and the Republicans were embarrassed and defensive. One item interesting to me, was that one of their most vocal critics was Mark Twain.
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Format: Paperback
I've read a lot of books on American history, especially military history. Many concentrate of course on wars, and one of the things I enjoy is reading about the more obscure wars of American history, the ones that don't get talked about much. This book is more or less a recounting of America's adventure in the Philippines, between our Declaration of War on the Spanish and the end of the insurgency around 4 years later. Author Gregg Jones does a pretty good job of recreating the era and the personalities involved, and provides a good introduction to the various events of the period. The book is therefore in general worthwhile.

Jones starts his narrative by explaining how the war came about. As far as I'm concerned he puts a bit too much emphasis on Theodore Roosevelt's role in starting the war, but that's a matter of perspective; there's no argument that TR, despite his junior status in the Administration at the time (he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy) had a lot more to do with the beginning of the war than you'd expect. The author provides a brief recounting of the events in Cuba that culminated in the end of the war (and curiously less about the American attack on Manila, which ended the war in the Philippines) before moving on to how the insurgency in the Islands started. He provides a reasonably clear narrative of the guerilla war that Aguinaldo (the Philippine resistance leader) led, and how he was captured. The book then spends a great deal of time discussing the war crimes allegations against the various soldiers in the American army who, in their frustration at continued Philippine resistance, used torture to extract information from reluctant civilians or insurgents they'd captured.
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Format: Hardcover
While about a specific period in American and Philippine history, this very good read has a timeless quality to it. Our bloody takeover of the Philippines was to turn-of-the-(20th)century America what Vietnam and Iraq were to later generations. That is, it was an awful mess full of hypocrisy, brutality and even torture (including what was then called the "water cure," which we imposed on Filipino combatants and civilians alike. Jones tells a compelling story about how we got into that mess, how Teddy Roosevelt spurred and justified and led it, the debates swirling around it, and how it played out so horribly on the ground.

Having lived in the Philippines for several years, I thought I knew a good bit about it's history and especially the US involvement there. But Honor in the Dust taught me a lot, including about how salient and controversial an issue that involvement was in the United States at the time. And given how Roosevelt is praised today as a great, trust-busting reformer (for which he does indeed deserve tremendous credit), the book also legitimately paints a portrait of a fellow driven by ego and imperialist ideology

Yet you don't have to be an expert on the Philippines, or even know anything about it at all, to appreciate this book and to enjoy the fine way in which it flows. And while it is of course focuses on the Philippines, it is much more about American policies and personalities and about how we became an empire.

As I was reading Honor in the Dust, I often thought that it was a shame that it did not come out several years ago, because much of it resonates with how we were misled into Iraq and how we justified torture and brutality there (or denied that what we condoned was either).
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