THE LEPER SPY

The Story of an Unlikely Hero of WWII

Ben Montgomery

The GIs called her Joey. Hundreds owed their lives to the tiny Filipina woman who was one of the top spies for the Allies during World War II, stashing explosives, tracking Japanese troop movements, and smuggling maps of fortifications across enemy lines for Gen. Douglas MacArthur. As the Battle of Manila raged, young Josefina Guerrero walked through gunfire to bandage wounds and close the eyes of the dead. Her valor earned her the Medal of Freedom, but the thing that made her an effective spy was a disease that was destroying her.Guerrero suffered from leprosy, which so horrified the Japanese they refused to search her.

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The GIs called her Joey. Hundreds owed their lives to the tiny Filipina woman who was one of the top spies for the Allies during World War II, stashing explosives, tracking Japanese troop movements, and smuggling maps of fortifications across enemy lines for Gen. Douglas MacArthur. As the Battle of Manila raged, young Josefina Guerrero walked through gunfire to bandage wounds and close the eyes of the dead. Her valor earned her the Medal of Freedom, but the thing that made her an effective spy was a disease that was destroying her.Guerrero suffered from leprosy, which so horrified the Japanese they refused to search her. After the war, army chaplains found her in a nightmarish leper colony and campaigned for the US government to do something it had never done: welcome a foreigner with leprosy. The fight brought her celebrity, which she used on radio and television to speak for other sufferers. However, the notoriety haunted her after the disease was arrested, and she had to find a way to disappear.

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  • Chicago Review Press
  • Hardcover
  • October 2016
  • 288 Pages
  • 9781613734308

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$26.99

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About Ben Montgomery

MontgomeryBen Montgomery is the author of the New York Times bestseller Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, which won the 2014 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography. An award-winning staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times, Montgomery was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2010.

Praise

“Some of the most poignant moments of war lie not in the savage atrocities but the quiet moments of valor risked by the smallest unsung heroes. With the eye of a historian and the soul of a storyteller, Ben Montgomery paints a tender portrait of an unlikely paladin, who turned the curse of her cruel disease into a shield and a sword. We can all learn from this.”—Kim Cross, New York Times best-selling author of What Stands in a Storm 

“Written with grace and elegance, The Leper Spy tells a surprising—and affecting—espionage story.” —Howard Blum, the author of The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal

“Montgomery offers a fascinating tribute to the slight Filipina who courageously saved thousands and chose anonymity.”Booklist

Discussion Questions

1. The book opens with the death of the protagonist, Josefina Guerrero. Why do you think the author chose to start the story at the end?

2. When Joey learns that she has leprosy and cannot live under the same roof as her 5-year-old daughter, the author writes that she “died a thousand deaths.” (p. 25) In what ways do you think this changed Joey? Do you believe she would’ve agreed to help the underground resistance, risking her life, if it weren’t for the diagnosis and forced separation from her young family?

3. General Douglas MacArthur was a paternalistic, well-regarded character in the Philippines, but lost favor with many of the soldiers he left behind on Bataan and Corregidor. His role in the Pacific Theater has been criticized and questioned. Do you believe he made the right decision retreat to Australia? Do you think he was right to retake the Philippines, despite disagreement by many military leaders?

4. In your reading, do you think Joey had any intention of returning to Manila after she arrived in the United States? Do you feel like her decision to stay and become a citizen was disloyal to her family, or was there some other explanation that makes her choice more palatable? Is such a question even fair?

5. Once she was released from Carville and gained citizenship, why do you think Joey chose to change her name and try to disappear into American society?