MacArthur’s Triumphant Return to Philippines

U.S. #1424 – MacArthur considered the Philippines his second home, having married his wife and raised his child there.

MacArthur’s Triumphant Return to Philippines

On October 20, 1944, General Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his promise to return to the Philippines.

In 1935, MacArthur was made military advisor to the Philippines, tasked with helping them create an independent army. (The Philippines had been an American colony since the Spanish-American War at the turn of the century). MacArthur established a home there with his family and retired two years later. In July 1941, as tensions were rising around the globe as World War II escalated, President Roosevelt federalized the Philippine army and recalled MacArthur to active duty as commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East.

Item #20035 – MacArthur received the Medal of Honor for his service during the Philippine Campaign of 1941-42.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, forcing America into the war. Ten hours later, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. MacArthur and his men first retreated to the Bataan Peninsula. As the attacks continued, he moved his headquarters to Corregidor, but that too became a target of air raids and other attacks. By February 1942, the situation was bleak and President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to leave for Australia. Forced to leave his men behind, MacArthur did as he was ordered, but promised, “I shall return.”

U.S. #2838i – Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle of the war with over 300 Allied ships and 1,500 planes against 67 Japanese ships and 300 planes.

While MacArthur took over the defense of Australia, 70,000 of his American and Philippine soldiers were captured on Bataan in April and embarked on a death march that took the lives of thousands of men. Corregidor surrendered the following month, adding another 15,000 Allied prisoners. The Philippines were firmly in Japanese control and the Allies had no clear plan for their liberation.

But MacArthur wouldn’t forget his promise. He repeated it frequently in interviews, and resolved to follow through. Over the next two years he won a string of victories in the New Guinea campaign and was ready to invade the Philippines by September 1944. However, Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, had planned to strike Japan through a more direct route that wouldn’t involve the Philippines. MacArthur made his case and the Joint Chiefs agreed to invade the Philippines.

Item #4902610 – Leyte Gulf proof card picturing Admiral William Halsey, who commanded the Third Fleet there.

The Allies assembled the largest landing force ever used in a Pacific campaign – more than 300 ships approached the Philipines that fall. Then, on October 20, 1944, MacArthur’s troops stormed the beach at the Philippine island of Leyte. MacArthur waded ashore hours later and declared via radio broadcast: “People of the Philippines, I have returned!”

The ensuing Battle for Leyte Gulf was one of the greatest naval battles in history. It marked the first appearance of Japanese kamikazes – suicide pilots who would crash planes filled with explosives into Allied warships. In spite of this, the Japanese retreated and wouldn’t launch another major offensive for the rest of the war.

MacArthur continued his drive through the Philippines, liberating his imprisoned troops in January 1945. Though he re-took the capital of the Philippines in March and considered the offensive over in June, sporadic fighting continued until the end of the war in August.

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10 responses to "MacArthur’s Triumphant Return to Philippines"

10 thoughts on “MacArthur’s Triumphant Return to Philippines”

  1. MacArthur was also the commanding general in the Korean War until President Truman fired him for gross insubordination. He was undoubtedly an able general, but President Roosevelt referred to him as the “most dangerous man in America,” because of his egomania.

    Reply
    • President Roosevelt fired many important people including Supreme Court Justices. Roosevelt was certainly not willing to allow any “true” Americans stay in places of power. General MacArthur was a true American hero.

      Reply
      • President Roosevelt died in 1945. He had nothing to do with General MacArthur being fired. He was fired due to his activity in the Korean Conflict.

        Reply
      • He did not “fire” any supreme court justices. They are appointed for life and cannot be removed. He tried to pack the supreme court with additional judges, more favorable to his plans, but he could not remove any.

        Reply
  2. I enjoyed this lesson and of course the first reply from Mr. Gaunt. We must always be ready to look at both sides of every story. McArthur was both brilliant and provocative.Truman was correct in his decision to fire him but let us be thankful that he did save many lives with his leadeship. Do we ever learn from our mistakes? Hopefully yes – in practise – not always.

    Reply
  3. I have read many books and articles on D. MacArthur, and film, and am always interested in his history. He came by his beliefs, I think, from his father, Arthur MacArthur Jr, who joined the army in 1865 and won his Medal Of Honor at Missionary Ridge. The book American Caesar (William Manchester) tells the story of both. Pick it up.

    History is real, Mystic Stamps provides very readable material.
    More heroes (U.S., Canada and the world) should have stamps for them.

    Thankyou for continuing this series

    Reply
  4. I was involved in the Battle for Leyte Gulf having served in the US Navy during WW II.
    I also saw General MacArthur when he returned to San Francisco after being fired by President Truman. He was leaving SFO with the mayor of SF in an old convertible Cadillac, traveling to the City Hall in SF. I also saw President Roosevelt in the same Cadillac ( which the city used for visiting dignitaries) in the early 1930’s when he was campaigning for president.

    Reply
  5. I’m not sure what Ally’s comment on (October 20) about “true Americans” means, but there is a slight correction. Presidents can’t fire Justices of the Supreme Court; they are appointed to lifetime positions. The President did ask Justice James F. Byrnes to resign from the Supreme Court (after serving for just a little over a year) to serve in the Roosevelt Administration during World War II. During the war, Roosevelt was forced to deal with General MacArthur with kid gloves because of, shall we say, MacArthur’s difficult personality.

    Reply

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