Great Spies and heroes: The Story of Claire Phillips

“…toughness of spirit, … heart, and humanity. … Claire did not fit the easy mold of a noble hero…in the end she was a hero and a survivor…”

This is the story of Claire Phillips:cropped-macspies_facebook.jpg

“Good spies and heroes are not necessarily Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Claire Phillips was deceptive and foolish at times, but she also fought on behalf of the United States to defeat Japan in occupied Manila. For the eighteen months she was running her nightclub, Claire and the women who worked for her risked their lives nightly to gather intelligence faster than it could be assimilated and used by MacArthur’s intelligence headquarters in Australia. .. First she sweet-talked men who, hopelessly drunk with love, provided the names of their crews, their travel dates and itineraries. And then, after a final kiss, they would have been blown out of the water by U.S. ships and airplanes.” …  from MacArthur’s Spies

MacArthur’s Spies:

From the Washington Post:

“It’s a barn-burner of a story, a fight for love and glory, and Eisner’s impeccable research and reporting bring it to life. Here’s looking at you, Claire.”

“This is a spy story about a remarkable woman who, through her own cunning and considerable charm with the men in her life, manages to survive—a triumph of the human spirit.”  From Thomas Maier, author of Masters of Sex and When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys.





Casablanca had Rick. Manila Had Claire

The female American spy who lured secrets from Japanese officers in WW II

A review in Washington Post Book World

By Daniel Stashower

Claire Phillips is greeted by Maj. Kenneth Boggs at La Guardia Airport in New York in 1951. Phillips supplied information to the Allies that saved Boggs’s life. (Bettmann Archive)

The Soldier, the Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II

By Peter Eisner

Viking. 368 pp. $28

On April 19, 1951, in the wake of his dismissal as commander of American-led forces in Korea, Gen. Douglas MacArthur stood before Congress and famously declared that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Three weeks later, as Peter Eisner notes in his gripping new account of Allied espionage in the Pacific theater during World War II, a low-budget movie called “I Was an American Spy” opened to considerably less fanfare in theaters across America, purporting to tell, as one poster breathlessly proclaimed, “the startling TRUE story of America’s ‘Mata Hari’ of the South Pacific!” This was the enigmatic Claire Phillips, an “alluring chanteuse” from Michigan whose covert activities in the Philippines had brought a Medal of Freedom on the recommendation of “Big Chief” MacArthur himself. MORE


Our Fathers and the War


A few years ago, I started out trying to track details about what my father, U.S. Navy Ensign Bernard Eisner, (1919-1996),scan17 was doing during the war. I knew he was an officer on LST 463 in the South Pacific. But he only told the funny stories and sidelights. Nothing serious.

He conspired with the others on board, he told me, to tell visiting admirals that they had to walk bow-legged to avoid broken legs if a torpedo should strike the welded hull of  their landing ship. The admirals complied, patrolling the deck like Groucho Marx.

As supply officer, he once found a stash of Japanese cigarettes in a cave onshore and brought them back to the ship. He and all the men got sick, lying on the deck, puking, and he never smoked again.


He hkillsad used his engineering skill to figure out the parabolic movements of ordnance in the air, drawing imaginary lines to shoot down a diving airplane.  He shot down two or three zeros.

Then I found his deck logs: He was on watch the morning of October 20, 1944 as the U.S. fleet moved in for the start of the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte Gulf. The ship came under fire as it opened its forward ramp to unload men and supplies. Later that day, they took on the wounded.

Fragments of the battle pushed me to look for more. The search directed me toward writing “MacArthur’s Spies,” about people surviving and fighting  in the Philippines during World War II.

When I visited the Philippines, I went up to the Manila US. Military Cemetery. There are 17,191 people buried there, and 36,286 are listed as missing in action. My dad sscan12urvived the Philippines, but I went to the memorial wall to look for familiar names. I found one man with my last name. Jacques Eisner from New Jersey where my dad was born. Born in 1919, just like my dad, died back then during the war, never made it beyond 25, out there in the Pacific.

My dad had survived. The story deserved to be told. These are the underpinnings of MacArthur’s Spies.