McArthur in Australia

McArthur in Australia 1942-44

By Bill In Oz

Some Australian Background

Macarthur in parliamnetAt the start of 1941 Australia was still a ‘dominion‘ within the British empire. One of 4 such British dominions at the time : Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. They were all self governing with their own parliaments and laws but still with close bonds to Britain when it came to foreign affairs and defence. When WW2 started in September 1939, Australia was as part of the British empire, automatically at war with Nazi Germany & later Fascist Italy.

At that time Canberra was the recently designated capitol of Australia and the location of the newly built Parliament house. However Melbourne was still the effective capital of the Australian government, the public service and the military head quarters.

The Australian Labor Party was in government led by John Curtin as prime minister. He became PM in October 1941 after the previous conservative government lead by Robert Menzies lost it’s majority in the House of Representatives.

John Curtin was a former union official & journalist before entering parliament in 1928. He is remembered here as a very, very good prime minister in that time of major crisis. He is also remembered as a heavy regular drinker. Ironically he became leader of the ALP opposition only because he was an ‘outsider’ and neither of the two dominant factions in the ALP had the numbers to get their man up. By way of compromise the ALP party faction bosses agreed to back him as opposition leader, but only if he stopped drinking! And he did. Curtin also suffered from heart disease and this grew worse after he became Prime Minister especially during much of 1944-45. This affected his ability to be on top of the many problems he faced as prime minister during the war. Curtin died in his sleep in July 1945 while still prime minister from a heart attack.

In April 1942 the total Australian population was just seven million. Over the course of the war 1939-1945, almost one million served in the armed forces. More than 730,000 men served in the army during the war. The rest in the Royal Australian Navy & Royal Australian Air force.

Despite this there were very few trained and battle hardened troops in Australia when Japan entered WW2 in December 1941. Almost all “were overseas fighting the Germans and Italians in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. The 8th Division was scattered across the northern approaches to Australia. Australia’s Air Force was mostly in England serving beside the Royal Air Force in the defence of Britain while Australia’s Navy was scattered around the world serving Britain’s interests in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian and Pacific operational theatres.” James Bowen

Three divisions ( roughly 52,000 men ) were serving in North Africa with the British army fighting Germany & Italy. Another division the 8th, was sent in 1941 to Singapore & Malaya to support the British forces there against a Japanese attack in 1941. These men 17,000 men became prisoners of war when Singapore was captured by the Japanese in February 1942.

The Geopolitical Context in early 1942

In the early 1940’s Japan was the dominant conquering power in the East Asia & the Western Pacific. In 1941-2 all the colonies of the old European countries were occupied or conquered: French Indo-China; the Dutch East Indies, British Malaya, Singapore and Borneo, Portuguese East Timor, Guam, and the Philippines which Japan saw as a US colonies. Thailand became a Japanese ‘protectorate’. British controlled Burma was attacked and occupied. The Japanese army reached the eastern fringe of British India. Japan also launched attacks on the Australian controlled part of New Guinea, & the British controlled Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides. The Japanese started planning to attack & occupy Hawaii. The Curtin ALP Australian government believed that Australia would be invaded and occupied next. Prime Minister John Curtin said in an official press release on the 16th of February 1942. “The fall of Singapore can only be described as Australia’s Dunkirk…The fall of Dunkirk initiated the Battle for Britain. The fall of Singapore opens the Battle for Australia.”

The Japanese air force attacked Darwin & Broome numerous times in 1942-43. The Japanese navy attacked Australian shipping. There were 2-3 landings by Japanese on various isolated parts of the Northern coastline to check out possible future invasion points.

The Australian government wanted the 3 divisions fighting the Germans & Italians in North Africa to be sent home to help cope with this very dangerous situation. The British government lead by Winston Churchill was reluctant to allow this happen. He thought it would weaken the Allied position in North Africa and imperil the Suez canal and the oil fields in the Middle East.

Following the attack on Pearl harbor in December 1941, Churchill went to Washington to meet Roosevelt at the ‘Arcadia conference’. Also attending were their major military Chiefs. This major war conference decided that the Allied war strategy would give priority to defeating Germany. This reflected Churchill’s view the war with Japan in the Pacific could wait till later. In his view South East Asia was expendable. The Philippines was expendable. As for Australia in his view the Japanese were unlikely to invade Australia, but even if they did Australia was expendable. (A side note: In Churchill’s view British India was not expendable!) Fortunately for Australia, the Philippines and the other peoples of South East Asia, the Commander in Chief of the US Navy, Admiral King spoke up about the necessity for the US to also prevent further Japanese attacks & expansion. And Roosevelt listened to his views. The surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor was viewed as treachery by the US public because there Japanese made no declaration of war & continued to negotiate with the US in Washington until the last days before the attack happened. Roosevelt listened to US public opinion despite Churchill’s attempts to persuade him against it.

The Australian government was not represented at the Arcadia conference. Neither was the government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines lead by President Quezon. But the Australian government heard about it and heard found out out that the Pacific war with Japan was not a priority & and in Churchill’s view Australia did not matter.

At this time of crisis Curtin decided that enough was enough. Curtin made a public New Year message at the end of 1941 in the aftermath of the fall of Singapore and the defeat of the US in the Philippines. It was a turning point in Australian history for Curtin decided to appeal to give Churchill and Britain ‘the flick’, and appeal for American help to defend Australia against the Japanese.

Curtin said “without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”

Later Curtin also made a radio broadcast to the American people in which he referred to Australia as ‘the last bastion between the West Coast of America and the Japanese”. He was keen to establish direct communications between Washington & the Australian government. In March 1942 Curtin sent his foreign minister Herb Evatt to the USA and to Washington to ask for more US troops and equipment.

The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was annoyed. He claimed that the statement would `cause resentment throughout the Empire’. However in Australia public opinion massively supported Curtin’s declaration.

Curtin also continued to demand of Churchill that the Australian troops in North Africa be sent home to defend Australia. Perhaps Churchill realised that Australian troops would not fight for the empire if they found out he had refused to send them home to defend their own country. Perhaps someone told to stop being an arrogant bully. Starting in February 1942 Australian troops in the Middle East were sent by troop ships across the Indian ocean to Australia Most arrived in April 1942. But it took a year for all of three divisions to come home. Royal Australian Navy ships also came home at the same time. Australia also stopped sending it’s RAAF pilots to Britain.

The return home voyage of these troops was not without incident. Burma was under Japanese attack. Churchill ordered that the ships carrying 7th Division divert towards Burma. He did so without first seeking Australian approval. Curtin was enraged. Top secret cables flashed between the two leaders. Curtin told Churchill of the Australian government’s complete & total refusal to allow Australian troops to go to Burma. Churchill finally agreed to their return to Australia and the ships changed course for home. To save some of Churchill’s ‘face’ a brigade of troops was temporarily left at Columbo in Ceylon to boost the garrison there.

But the press in Australia published the details of what had happened. Churchill was not a popular man. He was seen as someone who had betrayed Australia’s trust. Since 1942 no Australian troops have fought under British command. On occasion they have fought with and alongside British troops ( Malaya 1950’s ) but never under British control. Really this was the moment that Australia left the British ‘empire’. Later on the Curtin government passed the ‘Statute of Westminster Adoption” Act which legally confirmed Australia’s international position as a nation independent from Britain not subject to any more British parliamentary or executive ‘oversight’.

Curtin & McArthur: The Odd Couple 1942-45

Curtin and McArthur (Source: Australian National archives)

When McArthur arrived in Australia in March 1942 he thought that there were newly deployed US army waiting for him to take command. It was not so. At that time there were just 32,000 US servicemen scattered all over Australia and many of them were Air Force personnel not army. He is reported to have said “ God help us” when he found out. Most of these US forces had arrived in Australia because they were diverted from their original mission of reinforcing US forces in the Philippines. The conquest of the Philippines by Japan & Japanese control the air and seas of the western Pacific meant no US convoy ships could safely reach the the Philippines.

After spending some days recovering from the long journey from the Corregidor, on the 26th of March 1942 McArthur travelled to the new national capital Canberra 400 kilometers North East of Melbourne.There he met John Curtin the Australian Prime Minister. Here is a photo of their meeting McArthur was also feted aa a war hero in Australia.He was invited to attend and make an address to parliament. There is a photo of McArthur seated close to Curtin on the floor of the House of Representatives. In April 1942 McArthur was appointed supreme commander of the South-West Pacific Area, with authority over all Australian & US and other allied naval, land and air forces in Australia. This happened with the support ( indeed the request ) of the Australian government led by John Curtin.

In placing the Australian forces under MacArthur, the Australian Commonwealth government surrendered a part of our national sovereignty. But it was seen as a necessity. Australia had a small population and limited limited military forces at the time. By contrast the Japanese threat seemed huge and imminent.

These two men quickly developed a warm and trusting relationship which lasted as long as Curtin was healthy enough to lead Australia as PM. McArthur is reported to have said to Curtin after his appointment : “ we two, you and I, will see this thing through together . . . You take care of the rear and I will handle the front”.

And in the 30 months that McArthur was in Australia up to 1945, there is no report that they ever had a major argument. But their relationship is curious because they were so very different in character and political sympathies. There were huge personal & political differences between these two men It puzzled Australians at the time and was a source of annoyance at times.

Curtin was the son of poor Irish immigrants to Australia. His father managed various ‘hotels’, licensed bar that sold alcohol. Curtin never finished secondary school. He gained his education from reading in public libraries. He was a dedicated unionist. He worked as a journalist and was employed as the ‘secretary’ of 2 different unions before entering Parliament in 1928. Politically he was a ‘democratic socialist’ and joined the Australian Labor Party at a time when the ALP’s main policy platform was the “nationalisation of the means of production and distribution”. A second major ALP policy was maintaining the “White Australia” policy which Curtin also supported. Curtin never joined the armed forces. In fact he probably had an anti military bent in his younger years. 1917 he was an ardent ‘anti conscription’ leader. He opposed Billie Hughes, the then ALP Prime Minister who wanted to introduce military conscription in Australia to support the British forces on the Western Front in WW1. Such was the character of the man.

This character emerged during his years as Prime Minister. Curtin in 1943 started the process of creating the Australian welfare state. He introduced “a wide range of nationally based social service benefits including unemployment benefits, widows’ pensions, health and medical benefits and services and allowances for ex-service men students” (David Black page 7)

General Douglas McArthur was a complete contrast to Curtin. MacArthur was the son of a US Army officer. His father was sent to the Philippines as an army officer to suppress independence the revolution in 1899. Later on his father became the Colonial governor of the Philippines. Later on McArthur went to West Point to become a US army officer as well.He served in the US army on the western front when US troops arrived in 1917. In the 1920 & 1930’s McArthur again served as an army officer in the Philippines. After the war he was gradually moved up the hierarchy and became a general. But McArthur was not just an army officer. He was also profoundly conservative politically. During the depression when the Veterans March on Washington took place McArthur mobilised 800 troops and evicted the veterans from public buildings with bayonets and tear gas. He then issued a comminique saying that an insurgency and insurrection had been suppressed. (Karnow 268-9 ) Curiously (in contrast to Curtin’s support for the white Australia policy) McArthur was extremely liberal in his views on Asians. He was against racial segregation in the Philippines.

So why & how did the two so different men get along so well ? Well it helped that at the start McArthur’s strategic ideas and ambitions were almost the same as those of the Curtin Labor government. McArthur wanted the US government to send as many US troops, ships and air force planes to Australia as quickly as possible. Even at this early stage McArthur had in mind returning to the Philippines with a major invasion force to attack & defeat the occupying Japanese forces. And courtesy of Admiral King’s advocacy to Roosevelt for strengthening US forces in the Pacific, as troops, equipment and aircraft became available, this started to happen in April & May 1942.

This is exactly what the Australian government wanted to happen. Fearing a Japanese invasion they wanted military support from the US. And in fact there is some speculation that the Australian government supported McArthur’s appointment as Supreme Commander of the South West pacific Area in order to encourage it to happen. McArthur also realised that the return to the Philippines could,only happen through using Australia as a base for building up the invasion army. He also decided that the road to the Philippines lay through New Guinea just North of Australia.

The Japanese had in early 1942 occupied a large part of Dutch New Guinea, New Britain with it’s large deep water port at Rabaul, and part of the northern coast of Australian controlled Papua &  New Guinea.

McArthur & The Australian Military

Roosevelt, MacArthur & Nimitz in Hawaii

Roosevelt, MacArthur & Nimitz in Hawaii

After arriving in Australia in March 1942. McArthur made his headquarters in Melbourne. At the time this was also the head quarters of the Australian armed forces. And while relations at the political level, between McArthur & Curtin were good, things were very different at the the military levels. McArthur was Supreme Commander of the South-West Pacific Area. But until late 1943 the only trained and battle hardened troops available were Australian. There was just one single division of US army troops in Australia but it was untrained and inexperienced ‘green’. So it was Australians who did the fighting. And many of these troops were men who had come back after doing well fighting the Germans & Italians in North Africa for 2 years. They were experienced, they were battle hardened & they were proud men with their own military traditions. They arrived back in Australia to be told that ‘the man in charge’ was a just arrived foreign general named Douglas McArthur who had just been defeated & lost the Philippines to the Japanese. They did not respect him. And as time went by they discovered other reasons for loathing him.

This situation could have been managed if there had been a level of recognition and mutual understanding by McArthur of his military ally. But McArthur had trouble cooperating with US Navy & Air Force staff. Cooperating with lesser local Australian military was beyond his capacity. Here is an example. McArthur was ‘ordered’ by Washington to include Australian, British & Dutch officers in his head quarters staff. However McArthur headquarters staff consisted almost entirely of Americans with members of his defeated ‘Bataan gang’ at the heart of it. There was just one exception: General Sir Thomas Blamey, the commander of the Australian Army. As a member of McArthur’s command Blamey was given the title “ Commander Allied Land Forces”. But as he later said,he had little practical control over any American troops during the entire war. (Karl James page 45)

Major problems between the Australian military and McArthur emerged in July 1942 when the Japanese landed troops on the North coast of Papua New Guinea at Gona/Buna. They then pushed South over the Owen Stanley range to try and capture Port Moresby.

This lead to a very famous and well remembered series of battles between Australian & Japanese troops on the Kokoda Track.

The Kokoda track in 1942 was a single file walking 120 kilometer trail over the Owen Stanley Ranges from the North coast to Own’s Corner 60 kilometers from Port Moresby. The mountains range up to 2500 meters high. They were covered in jungle and were so tortuous, steep with razer backed ridges. No roads existed. Malaria & dengue fever were endemic. Both the Japanese attackers and the Australia defenders had to carry by hand everything they needed to fight and survive. Australian wounded had to be carried out over the steep terrain by stretcher.

There were Australian troops posted on the Kokoda track in July 1942. Initially these were ‘mobilised’ militia battalions rushed North from Australia because there were no regular troops available. And they were few in number just a few hundred. The Japanese invaders were specialist attack troops and numbered in thousands. The Australian troops were forced into a series of managed fighting retreats back Southwards on the Kokoda track in July-September 1942. It was savage jungle warfare. This was a successful way of stopping the Japanese. For as they got further & further into the Owen Stanley mountains they had greater & greater difficulty supplying their men. They also got sick from malnutrition and disease. And as the Australians retreated it became easier for them to be supplied and reinforced.

Meanwhile McArthur based back in Melbourne, roughly 3500 kilometers away was furious & blind panic. He feared that this the first battle he commanded in Australia would be a defeat. He feared that a defeat at Kokoda, after the loss of the Philippines would lead to him being dismissed from his new command. He ordered General Blamey to immediately send reinforcements to Port Morseby. He demanded that Blamey go to Port Moresby himself to oversee the battle. Curtin who was also the minister for Defence, later on admitted that he “did not know that the commander of the national military forces cannot afford to be supervising a brigade of 3500 men on the front line’.

McArthur also moved his own headquarters from Melbourne to Brisbane so he could be closer to the battle. But it was still over 2000 kilometers away from Kokoda and neither he or his staff went there during the course of the campaign. And though he had no knowledge of the Owen Stanley Ranges he started trying to order the Australian troops there to stand & fight to the death rather than stage a fighting retreat. He commanded the Kokoda troops to ‘dynamite the passes’ to stop the Japanese advance. What ‘passes’ ?

General Blamey was sent to Port Moresby by McArthur to take charge and stop the retreat at Kokoda. Blamey without actually checking the terrain sent up fresh troops & removed 2 brigade officers who has been in charge of the fighting retreat. Then to top it off he addressed the Australian troops who had just been relieved from the fighting at Kokoda on the parade ground at Port Moresby. He told them ‘not to run like rabbits’ & hold their ground. The men were furious. The officers still with the units were furious. Usually at the formal end of a parade ground event the troops will salute & do an “eyes right” to acknowledge a commanding general officer’s presence. On this occasion they ignored him and marched straight off with no salute or eyes right. They snubbed him. He could get away being short and tubby. He could get away with being a womaniser and a drunkard. But calling them cowards and being McArthur’s lap dog was beyond their
limit. It took considerable efforts on Blamey’s part over the next three years to regain the respect of his army. He was known as “that Bastard”. Standing up to McArthur for his own fellow Australian men was a necessary part of that process.

In the face of tenacious Australian resistance, the Japanese push over the Owen Stanley Ranges over the Kokoda track petered out. Then the Australian troops went on the offensive. Gradually the Japanese retreated fighting back to the North coasts at Buna/ Gona. For the first time since the Pacific war started the Japanese army was defeated in a battle campaign.

Thus MacArthur discovered that the Australian Army was very capable of winning battles. And over the next 2 years he built his own reputation as their victorious commanding general fighting the Japanese on the the abilities of these Australian troops. The Battle of Buna-Gona is a good example. Initially MacArthur keen to show how good his US troops were, sent in The US 32nd Infantry Division, But it was ‘green’ just out of training camp and had had no training in jungle warfare, The result was a disaster. MacArthur relieved the division commander and instructed Lieut. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, commander of the US I Corps, to go to the front personally with the charge “to remove all officers who won’t fight … if necessary, put sergeants in charge of battalions ..I want you to take Buna, or not come back alive.” However it was only after the battle hardened & experienced Australian 7th Division joined the battle that Gona fell to the Australians on 9 December 1942, Then Buna to the US 32nd on 2 January 1943.

After this the Australian army went on to defeat the Japanese at Milne Bay, Lae, Markham Valley, Salamis, Nazdab and Finsdchafen. All these battles happened in Papua New Guinea. (Stanley 2003)

And all of these battles were reported in the press & radio in Australia & America. However all,of them were reported by communiques released by McArthur. And in all of the communiques McArthur reported victories “By allied troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur”. In truth they were Australian victories fought without much benefit from being “Supremely Commanded” by MacArthur.

This sort of behavior breed a deep resentment among all the Australian army against MacArthur and his “Bataan gang’. But it was specific and did not extend to the US forces in Australia as a whole. There was close cooperation between the Australian & US navy & Air Force personnel. And when US Army forces started arriving in the region, they too cooperated closely together. A key driver in this was that McArthur’s press releases & communique’s did not even acknowledge the role of his US colleagues. As in the Philippines he kept the limelight for himself. And so generated animosities against him by his fellow US military officers.

Animosities can linger for a long time and be passed down the generations. I had an odd experience a few days ago when I met a 60 year Australian friend. He asked me what I had been doing since retiring and I mentioned writing this blog about MacArthur. His immediate response was to tell me about his father who served in the Australian Army in WW2 in North Africa, Greece, New Guinea & Borneo. He served as a RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major, the highest non commissioned rank in the Australian army). The last two campaigns in New Guinea & Borneo were served under McArthur’s ‘Supreme” leadership. “My dad thought he was an arrogant a******e”. This is very anecdotal..But the force of the expression 70 years later was unmistakable.

So McArthur’s arrogance, ignorance and stupidity was obvious to all in the Australian military. But this was happening in a war with extensive censorship. The Australian public were kept completely ignorant. So was the public in the USA. The only ‘news’ that could be published were the propaganda communiques released and often written or edited by McArthur himself. His communiques unique. And they were entertaining. Here is what one Australian historian has written about them. “McArthur as a general had an unrivaled ability with propaganda… The American public were bombarded with stories about valiant defenders, and glorious victories. Not only were the Japanese dying in their thousands, and being shot out of the sky, but their battleships were being sunk apparently at will by McArthur’s vastly outnumbered but indomitable forces. For an American public receiving a steady diet of failure and disaster in the Pacific and Atlantic, MacArthur was presented as a shining beacon of steadfast endurance and indomitable will.” (Source: Nigel Davies)

The US Navy & The war against Japan

I have missed out asking an important question so far in my discussion of the Kokoda Track campaign in Papua New Guinea. It is a crucial question.

Why did the Japanese try to attack and capture Port Moresby by walking 120 kilometers over the Kokoda track across rugged Owen Stanley Ranges?

It would have been far easier & quicker to send an invasion force by sea around the coast from Rabaul. And in the answer to this question lies part of the reason why Japan lost the Pacific war with the USA : the US Pacific fleet.

In fact in May 1942, Japan did send a strong convoy or troops and warships to attack & conquer Port Moresby. But the convoy was forced to turn back and return to Rabaul after Japan lost the battle of the Coral sea. The attempt to capture Port Moresby via the Kokoda track was not the preferred option at all. It was a ‘last throw of the dice’ to capture Port Moresby.

What happened to force the Japanese to try such a desperate measure ?

In the Pacific theatre 1942 – 45, a second very different war was being waged with Japan : the war between the ‘allied’ navies and the Japanese Imperial Navy. I just used the word ‘allied’ here. But after the British warships, the Rodney & the Prince Of Wales were sunk off the coast of Malaya in December 1942, after Singapore surrendered in February 1942, there were no British ships in South East Asia or the Pacific. The British fleet retreated to the Indian ocean & did not return until late 1944. The war at sea against Japan was fought in the Pacific, overwhelmingly by ships of the US Pacific fleet with Australian navy ships having returned from the Mediterranean, helping & taking part.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7th 1941 the US Pacific fleet was badly damaged with 12 battleships sunk and 3000 men killed. The US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Kimmel ,was effectively sacked because of that defeat. In his place Admiral Ernest Nimitz was appointed by Roosevelt, to command the US Pacific fleet. Nimitz became the “Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas“, with operational control over all Allied units (air, land, and sea) in Pacific, & the seas of Australia, The Pacific islands, The Philippines and the rest of South east Asia. Nimitz first action was to go to Hawaii to inspect Pearl Harbor. After the inspection, he is reported to said to his officers and men that the situation was not as dire as he had been told. When they asked him ‘why’ in great surprise, he replied:

  1. The Japanese attack happened early on a Sunday morning and most of the crews of the fleet were on shore leave. Only 3200 men were killed while another 30,000 navy seamen, were ashore and uninjured.
  2. The massive US navy fuel tanks storage site with 5 million gallons of fuel, remained undamaged. The Japanese had not attacked it even though it was 4 ks. away ‘over the hill’ from the ships.
  3. The carrier fleet (of four carriers) was out at sea conducting exercises when the Japanese attacked. None of the US Navy carriers were damaged or sunk.
  4. The submarine fleet was not targeted or damaged in the Japanese attack and was available for immediate offensive operations.

All of these things were major miscalculations by the Japanese. And sowed the seeds of their future defeat. Another major factor was that Admiral King the Commander in Chief of the US Fleet & Admiral Nimitz were determined that whatever the British Prime Minister Churchill thought, Japan would be punished for it’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. King became known for his “Anglophobia ‘ in these years. But these two Admirals, King & Nimitz were the real American ‘Commanding heroes’ of the Pacific war.

With King directing from Washington, it was who Nimitz implemented the key USA military strategies of the Pacific war to defeat Japan. In 1942 Japan was an island ‘maritime’ empire scattered across South east Asia and the Pacific Ocean. It depended on it’s navy and air force to move men, supplies, and diesel fuel. It depended on it’s merchant marine to move essential supplies like crude oil, iron ore, rubber, rice, sugar and other commodities to Japan itself. And this were it’s major weak spots.

Thus Nimitz first adopted the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare targeting any Japanese shipping to shut down the Japanese merchant marine, & prevent the Japanese occupying forces from being resupplied, re-equipped or reinforced. And as mentioned already the US submarine fleet based in the Philippines and the submarine fleet based at Pearl harbor were not damaged at all in the initial Japanese attacks. The US submarine fleet increased in strength gradually in 1942-3. And their range & design also improved. They became thus more effective.

From 1943 the US submarine fleet operated at will in the seas of Japan’s maritime empire. And Japan gradually lost the capacity to resupply it’s armies with food, ammunition or fuel. They lost the capacity to reinforce or reposition their occupying army units scattered over the Pacific Islands and South east Asia. These army units became isolated and as far as the war was concerned of no value at all. This had major consequences in the conduct of the war.

Second in a series of major naval battles Nimitz targeted the Japanese carrier fleet to degrade and destroy it. It was aircraft from ships of the Japanese carrier borne fleet arm which attacked at Pearl harbor. It was aircraft from ships of the carrier fleet which attacked the Philippines on the 8th of December. It was aircraft from ships of the carrier fleet which sank the British battleships the Rodney & Prince of Wales at the start of the invasion of Malaya. So destroying this Japanese carrier fleet was crucial to defeating Japan. These naval battles In the Pacific were :

  • The Battle of the Coral Sea in 4-8th of May 1942, : this prevented the sea borne attack on Port Morseby
  • The Battle of Midway 3-7 of June 1942 : this prevented the Japanese from occupying Hawaii which was planned for August 1942
  • The battle of the Eastern Solomons 24-25 of August 1942: this prevented the Japanese from cutting off the sea lanes & communications between Australia & the USA.
  • The battle of Santa Cruz 25-27 of October 1942 Prevented the Japanese winning in the US Navy’s campaign ( using US Marines ) to defeat the Japanese occupying Guadalcanal

As a result of these navel battles many of the Japanese carriers were either sunk or damaged and forced to return to Japan. Also most of the aircrew of Japan’s carrier fleet were killed or wounded. of the seas & the air in the Pacific ocean. Thus of the 750 aircrew who took part in the PearL harbor attack over 400 were dead by the end of 1942. In the latter stages of the war, Japan adopted ‘Kamikaze’ tactics with young inexperienced pilots being instructed to crash their planes into US ships. They did this because they no longer had an elite ‘corps’ of experienced highly trained carrier pilots. All they had were young newly trained & commissioned inexperienced ones.

Japan gradually lost control of the air above it’s scattered maritime empire. By 1945 it had lost control of the air even above the Japanese home islands. This in combination with loss of control of the seas laid the ground for Japan defeat in 1945.

Nimitz had a third strategy against Japan : attack and defeat the Japanese army only at ‘key’ islands locations in the Pacific. These ‘key points’ then became jumping off points for waging the war closer to Japan and thus attack Japan on it’s home ground. The names of these ‘Key points “ are remembered well in US history of WW2 and especially in US naval history : Guadalcanal, the Mariana Islands, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, Iwo Jima. The Japanese realised the nature of the US strategy. So they resisted and fought to the end. These battles were mostly fought by US marines not the US army. And they were under the operational command of Admiral Nimitz. They were not under the command of General McArthur. As each of these key points was captured it became a base for US Air Force air craft who also helped to ensure that the Japanese lost control of the air above their maritime empire.

Meanwhile Nimitz ordered that most other Japanese occupied areas be ignored and isolated. He decided that there was no point in attacking every island that the Japanese army had occupied. The Japanese could not be resupply them. They were isolated and neutralized. Towards the end of the war in 1945 some of these positions were gradually mopped up. The Australian & American troops found that the Japanese soldiers had become farmers & gardeners to feed themselves.

This strategy meant that local inhabitants suffered under Japanese army occupation for more time. But had the virtue that far fewer of the local people were killed, injured or destroyed in the course of endless land battles between the Allied forces and the Japanese. Nimitz & King both believed that destroying Japan in it’s home ground would be better than ‘liberating’ the people that Japan had occupied and in the process destroying them. One of the fundamental principles of waging war is that “it is far better to hit & hurt the enemy’ than it is to impose suffering & destruction & death on your own people or allies I think this was very important. Unfortunately this strategy was not employed in the Philippines.

McArthur Launches the Campaign to Return to the Philippines

At this point we need to return to General McArthur in Australia. He was the Supreme Commander of the Australian forces during 1942-43 & they gradually degraded, defeated and isolated the Japanese forces in New Guinea. Toward the end of 1943 more & better trained US army troops started arriving in Australia and New Guinea. They were integrated into his strategy. McArthur saw how successful the ‘island hopping’ strategy devised by Nimitz & King was. So after 1943, he implemented the same strategy in his own South West Pacific Army command area with a series of attacks along the North coast of New Guinea in early to mid 1944. Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea and then Morotai Island were attacked and became bases for further advances. However McArthur’s long term goal was very different to Nimitz or Kings’.

In early 1944 Nimitz and King proposed to Roosevelt that the US an invade the Japanese island of Formosa. Formosa had been a Japanese colony since 1894. It had been settled by many Japanese and it’s original inhabitants brought up to think of themselves as Japanese citizens. Many Formosan men were part of the Japanese armed forces. So from attacking Formosa would be hurting the enemy. Also Formosa had been developed by Japan as one of their industrial & military centres. Nimitz & King believed that capturing Formosa would weaken significantly weaken Japan’s capacity to continue the war and also cut off Japanese communications with occupied Philippines, Indo-China, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies.

There were additional reasons for attacking and occupying Formosa. The US military were seeking an easier way to supply arms & other military equipment Chiang Kai Chek’s Kuo Min Tang (Nationalist) government in China in it’s fight against Japan. China was being supplied with at great cost & great difficulty from India via planes flying over the Himalayas. Attacking & seizing Formosa would make it much easier to supply Nationalist China via the Chinese coastal ports. Finally Formosa would become a base to mount major attacks on Japan itself. Such was the plan and it had the support of some of the US Chiefs of staff in Washington. It had the definite support of the US navy.

However it did not have the support of McArthur. He saw the plan to attack Formosa as a direct threat to his personal crusade to return to the Philippines. And so he turned his attention and his considerable propaganda abilities to having the Formosa plan scuttled and replaced by his own to ‘return’ to the Philippines. There is no doubt McArthur was sincere. He believed that the USA had a moral ‘obligation’ to liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation. And he had made his own personal pledge to return.

McArthur wanted his share of military glory so he would not be overshadowed by his former assistant General Eisenhower who in June 1944 commanded the D-Day Invasion in June 1944 that lead to the liberation of France. Winning victories over the Japanese in New Guinea was all very well for MacArthur but it was a minor part of the world war. Returning to & liberating the Philippines would provide him with a place in history.

In July 1944 McArthur, Nimitz & Roosevelt met in Hawaii. Among the major topics discussed was the the alternative strategies for pursuing the the next stage of war with Japan : invading & liberating the Philippines or Formosa. It has been suggested that 1944 was a US Presidential election year. Roosevelt wanted to avoid alienating US voters who saw McArthur as America’s national war hero. Vetoing MacArthur’s plan to return to the Philippines would have done just this. So Roosevelt instead of approving Nimitz & King’s gave the go ahead to McArthur plans for the ‘liberation’ of the Philippines. It can be argued that Roosevelt with this decision betrayed the Filipino people. But he had already done it before in 1941-2 at the ‘Arcadia conference’. Remember that is when Roosevelt & Churchill decided to give priority to Britain’s war against Germany and let the US Troops on Bataan and Corregidor go unsupported until they were forced to surrender.  Such are the decisions made in war.

What happened next ? Instead of Formosa, Nimitz & King went on to plan and execute the attacks on the Japanese islands of Okinawa & Iwo Jima. The US marines who fought there had a hard battle and many died. But they won the battles. And Okinowa & Iwo Jima islands then became the US bases used for more intense air attacks on Japan. And Formosa was spared an American invasion. Yes it was bombed in air raids by the Americans as a part of the Japanese empire. But in large part at the end of WW2 it was still functioning normally. It’s major cities had not been destroyed and the inhabitants had not been forced to flee their homes. In August 1945 Hirohito told the Japanese military to surrender and obedient to the emperor, this is what they did. Little damage was done to the infrastructure or the people of the island. Thus when the Chinese nationalist government took the island over at the end of 1945 and renamed it Taiwan, it inherited an
already well developed province which in the next 20-30 years was well on the way to being a prosperous modern society. This was also helped by the fact that the Japanese sugar plantation ‘settlers’ in Formosa were expelled back to Japan. This lead to a massive redistribution of land and other property.

The Philippines however was propelled along a different path. The fate of the Philippines was to be liberated.

Sources Used :

Thanks once more to Bill in Oz for this entire McArthur series, which is excellently researched and detailed.

The next article about the return to the Philippines shall be most interesting.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20. February 2016

General McArthur leaves

McArthur goes to Australia

00680_1lby Bill In Oz

McArthur in his public communiques from Corregidor in January/February 1942 announced that he would stay at Corregidor in the Philippines and share the fate of his troops. But in late February Roosevelt ordered him to leave and go to Australia. In March 1942, he was instructed to go to Mindanao & fly to Australia from an airfield on the Del Monte pineapple plantation near Bukidnon. Traveling with McArthur were his family and 13 US Army officers from his staff and two naval officers.

McArthur and his party left Corregidor at dusk in three PT Boats on at 6:30 pm on 13 March 1942. The PT boats travelled at night & hid during daylight hours, because of the danger of being spotted by Japanese aircraft or warships. The PT boats travelled the western route past Mindoro & Panay island & then South through the Sulu sea. There was a severe storm during the journey with high 6 meter waves. The boats arrived at Cagayan De Oro on Mindanao on the morning of the 13th of March after a journey of 1200 kilometers.

McArthur then had to wait for the US Air force to send aircraft to pick him up from the Del Monte air field. Two B17’s arrived from Australia just before midnight on the 17th of March.The aircraft were unloaded and then MacArthur party quickly boarded. The aircraft took off again at 1.30 am. for the flight to Australia. The intended destination was Darwin but a Japanese air raid was happening there so they flew on another 50 miles to Batchelor airfield.They landed at 9.00 am after a journey of 2400 kilometers.

After he arrived in Australia, McArthur told the press “that his aircraft had been closely pursued by Japanese fighter planes and had narrowly escaped Japanese bombers as it was landing at Batchelor Field.” This story was good headlines stuff & captured the public imagination but it was all a lie. The wireless operator on McArthur’s flight from Del Monte Field in the Philippines, Master Sergeant Dick Graf, later said that McArthur’s story was a figment of his imagination. The flight to Australia was uneventful & McArthur’s aircraft was never under threat from the Japanese. ( James Dunn )

There is a photo of McArthur standing next to the US Air force B17 just after it landed at Batchelor airfield with his assistant General Sunderland.

(An Aside : Philippine President Manuel Quezon, his family, doctors, chaplain, and senior staff also escaped from the Philippines via the Del Monte airfield on Thursday, March 26, 1942. Quezon & his party escaped from Corregidor before MacArthur by a US submarine. they were then landed at Cagayan De Oro. Two US Air force B-17’s flew from Batchelor near Darwin to collect the Filipino Commonwealth government party. )

At Batchelor Field there were 2 new Australian National Airways DC3’s waiting to take the McArthur party to Melbourne. The DC 3’s cruised at 330 kilometers an hour with a range of 2,400 km. So flying to Melbourne would have taken about 3 days with a refueling & rest stops in Alice Springs and Adelaide. However Mrs MacArthur refused refused to fly any further. McArthur’s young son Arthur was suffering from severe airsickness. McArthur asked for cars to take them all to the nearest railway station. But the nearest rail way station was at the small town of Alice Springs 1600 kilometers away on an unsealed track across dry hot dessert country. The McArthurs then agreed to board the DC3’s to Alice Springs.

While flying to Alice Springs in the middle of Australia, McArthur had the opportunity to see the nature of the Australian continent below him : generally flat, dry & hot dessert country with no rivers and no large towns or cities. In fact the only sign of human presence were a few scattered homesteads of the large 1000 square kilometer cattle ‘stations’ or properties. Similarly in March 1942 the ‘town’ of Alice Springs itself had a population of just 950 people. But in March 1942 there were also roughly 3000 Australian military personnel recently deployed there because of the war. The only important thing about Alice Springs was that it was the end of the narrow gauge railway South to Adelaide.

At Alice Springs, the US party split up. On the 19th of March McArthur, his family and some close officers took a train organised by the Australian government. His son was still sick and his wife refused the offer of flying to Melbourne. The rest of MacArthur’s staff flew down to Melbourne via Adelaide in the DC-3’s McArthur and his family then traveled the 1531 kilometers of narrow gauge track to Adelaide in South Australia. It was not a luxurious train. It was just three wooden carriages with a steam locomotive. Passengers sat in a carriage with two hardboard seats running lengthwise along the carriage. The second carriage was a dining car with a long wooden table. It also had some washtubs full of ice and a wood stove for cooking. To move from one carriage to another the train had to stop.

This journey took another 70 hours. The train travelled through yet more hot flat ‘outback’ desert & salt lake country. There was no air conditioning. In March in this part of Australia the temperature can reach 48 degrees. At night because of the lack of clouds the temperature can fall almost to zero. So it was not a comfortable journey for the US Army commander & his family. They must have been exhausted.

But once again MacArthur had a hands on experience of the Australian ‘Outback.” and it’s physical nature. I think MacArthur realised that in Australia he had a a major military advantage he completely lacked in the compact and vulnerable islands of the Philippines : ‘Depth in defence’ with over 3000 kilometers of desert separating the North coast of Australia from the major populated areas & big cities in the South.

The MacArthur train stopped on 20 March at a very small town named Terowie then a major railway junction. Locals had heard from journalists that MacArthur was on the train and greeted him at the station. It was here in this tiny town that he was asked by Australian newspaper men if he would keep going to the USA. He then made his famous speech :

” “The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed “from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organising an American offensive against Japan, the primary purpose of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return.” ( Peter Dunn website)

Finally on the 21st of March, MacArthur’s journey ended eight days after leaving Corregidor, when his train arrived at Spenser Street Station ( now renamed Southern Cross Station ) in Melbourne. The total distance travelled was 7400 kilometers by small PT boat, planes & 3 different trains. He was welcomed by Frank Forde the Australian Minister for the Army.

I have looked at the various photos of MacArthur available on the WWW. All of them show a fit well built older man. And that is interesting. When the Americans & Filipino troops retreated to Bataan & Corregidor in mid January, they were all placed on a ration of 2000 calories a day. By mid March they were very malnourished and prone to disease like malaria and A G E. Look again at the photo of MacArthur immediately after his arrival at Batchelor on 21/3/1942 (photo above, credits: John Curtin). Or take a look a the Youtube film clip of MacArthur arriving at Spenser’s St. Station in Melbourne. He does not look thin or malnourished at all. He looks fit, strong and proud. Sometimes a picture really does tell a thousand words, if you know what to look at !

Thank you once more to Bill in Oz for this informative article!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 15. February 2016

General McArthur’s debacle

Gen. Douglas McArthur Statue, CorregidorMcArthur’s Role in the Philippines Debacle in 1942-3

by Bill in Oz

In 1934 Quezon president elect of the new Commonwealth of the Philippines in Washington, asked Douglas McArthur if the islands could be defended after independence. MacArthur replied “I don’t think so, I know they can defend themselves.” Quezon was reassured and asked McArthur to be his military adviser for the new republic. Later Quezon made McArthur Field Marshall of the new Philippines defence forces.

How to defend the new Commonwealth of the Philippines was an urgent problem. Starting in the 1890’s Japan embarked on a policy of making war and seizing territory. Formosa was occupied in 1894 and made into a Japanese colony. In 1905 Korea was attacked & occupied. During WW1 Japan seized the German colony ( Tsingtao ) in China’s Shandong province. The Japanese navy seized Germany’s island colonies in the Pacific – the Marianas, Caroline and Marshall Islands. In 1931 Japan attacked the Chinese province of Manchuria and made it a ‘province’ of it’s own empire. In 1935 Japan started an all out war to occupy China and incorporate it into it’s empire. In July 1941 50,000 Japanese troops occupied French Indo-China. The key to Filipino fears was the simple fact of geography. The Japanese colony of Formosa ( now named Taiwan ) with large Japanese army, air force & navy bases, was just 250 kilometers north across the straits of Luzon.

In the period from 1935 till 1941 under McArthur’s leadership the Philippino defence forces developed into a force of one hundred thousand American & Philippine troops. They were largely poorly trained and poorly armed. But McArthur issued press releases and reports saying that that they new Filipino army was an effective defence. In July 1941 after the occupation of French Indo-China President Roosevelt appointed McArthur the commander of US Army forces in the Far East. Thus from 1935 until 1942 MacArthur was thus the man responsible for developing the Philippines defence forces. He also commanded the US forces. McArthur was also responsible for the ‘strategy’ adopted for the defence of the Philippines. This was also a key aspect of what happened. The US defence forces had since the 1920’s adopted a defence strategy of attempting resist any attack by holding on to just the Bataan peninsula & Corrigidor Island at the entrance to Manila bay, until US relief forces arrived. This was the US “Orange Plan”. This strategy required concentrating troops, vehicles, weapons, medicines , munitions & food in these strategic locations.

But in late 1941 McArthur ditched this strategy. He decided that the whole of the Philippines must be defended from a Japanese attack.And so the armed forces started dispersing weapons, vehicles, munitions, medicines and food stocks all over the country. This had enormous consequences once the war started in December 1941. Within weeks it was obvious that it was impossible to defend all of the Philippines from the Japanese attacks.The only available strategy was to try and defend key defendable points like Bataan & Corrigidor island. But by then the weapons, munitions, food, fuel, vehicles & medicines were not there. The attempt by Philippine & Us forces to withstand Japanese attacks at Bataan and Corrigidor in early 1942 were undermined by  MacArthur’s strategic stupidity.

The start of the War

On Sunday morning the the 7th of December 1941 Japanese naval forces attacked the US Navy base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. This attack was a surprise. But the fact that Japan had started the war was not. US cryptographers were already able to decode Japanese radio coded signals. An attack was expected. In early November 1941 the US War Department ordered MacArthur to prepare for hostile action by Japan “at any moment”.

McArthur decided to ignore this warning and order. He announced to his US colleagues that he knew ‘from the existing alignment & movement of Japanese forces” that there would be no attack until the Spring. When the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, happened, in Manila it was Monday the 8th. of December. That morning Japanese air force planes in Formosa and carrier based aircraft were warming up ready to fly and attack. The attacks on the Philippines were supposed to happen simultaneously with the Pearl Harbor attack. Meanwhile in Manila it was the last day of a long weekend. It was the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception. Following McArthur’s ‘knowledge & expertise’ Philippine & US defence personal were all enjoying the last day of a nice relaxing long weekend. The US bomber force having been asked to relocate all it’s planes to Mindanao out of range of Japanese aerial attack, had huge party in Manila on the Sunday night.

But all was not yet lost.There was some time to mobilise the defence forces. The weather early on the 8th was very foggy in Formosa and on the surrounding seas.The planes could not take off to launch their attack at the planned time. They were delayed for over 7 hours by the weather. If McArthur had acted immediately some defence could have been mounted. But this did not happen.

MacArthur was awakened very early on that Monday morning by one of his staff with the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly afterwards at 5.00 am his air commander Major General Brereton attempted to ask McArthur for approval launch an attack on Japanese bases in Formosa and the convoys bringing troops to invade Japan. McArthur’s chief of staff General Sutherland denied him access to McArthur and told him to await further orders.

McArthur stayed in his office that day and saw nobody except Sutherland. Later he said he was studying intelligence reports. There were no orders for 7 hours after he was told of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then McArthur issued an order allowing an an initial attack o take place at sunset that day. Some aircraft ignoring the lack of orders form McArthur did take off. But It was all too late and too uncoordinated. Clark & the other air force bases were attacked.Virtually all the US air force bombers & fighters in the Philippines were destroyed in these attacks as they were being serviced, before they could get off the ground..

The Japanese air force also attacked the US Naval bases at Cavite. It was a ruin. Faced with no effective base from which to operate from and no air cover, most of the US Navy ships in the Philippines left for the the Dutch East Indies or Australia within a few days. This included the the 27 strong US submarines force. Only a few patrol oats remained. In the space of a few days the US & Philippines lost all their air force and naval power. It was a total disaster.

In the fog of war many things can go wrong. Commanders can lose their nerve just as much as privates. Stalin went missing for 3 days when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. And in these key hours at the start of the Japanese attack on the Philippines, McArthur, the commander, the field marshal, the hero, for the first time since WW1, went ‘missing’ & hid in his office.

Japanese Invasion

The destruction of US Air power & the destruction or withdrawal of US naval power opened the Philippines up to Japanese invasion. There was no way to prevent this invasion. It started on December 22, 1941 when 43,000 Japanese troops landed in Lingayen Gulf 200 Kilometers North of Manila. On the 24th of December a second force of 10,000 Japanese troops landed at Lamon Bay in South Eastern Luzon. A third Japanese force landed at Legaspi in Bicol at the same time. A fourth invasion force landed in Mindanao. It was planned well in advance and the forces well equipped with tanks and artillery..

The Commonwealth of the Philippines armed forces & the US army forces were no match for the Japanese. Philippine & US troops could not defeat the Japanese. Philippine troops were unable to defend the Philippines from the invasion. In a month the Japanese had control of Northern Luzon and of Southern Luzon & Mindanao.

There were a number of reasons for this. One major reason was that McArthur’s policy was to recruit conscripts on low pay from all over the Philippines for the Commonwealth armed forces. This meant that they new troops spoke many different languages or dialects. And the low pay did not attract men with high levels of schooling. Also most did not speak English or spoke very limited English.They spoke Visayan, Tagalog, Illocano, Bicolano etc etc. This was true both among the troops and among the lower officer levels. The higher officer levels were filled by Americans. And while they spoke English well often they had no local language skills. This made for massive communications problems and a lack of understanding or empathy between the troops and American officers. A more sensible, effective policy would have been to offer good pay to selected volunteers with a higher level of education who knew some English language.

A second major reason was that the Commonwealth Philippines forces were very poorly equipped compared to the Japanese.There was a shortage of rifles and light artillery. And many of the rifles sold to the Philippines were old WW1 ex US army vintage. Modern armaments were promised by the US after July 1941.But most did not arrive before the Japanese invasion. Again the cheap defence had a price.

The third reason for Japanese victory was that the Commonwealth Philippines forces were completely inexperienced.They had not fought in battle before. By contrast the Japanese army had been training and engaged in battles since 1932. They were battle hardened.

The fourth reason was that McArthur had committed the stupid strategic mistake of spreading his troops thinly across the islands of the Philippines, instead of concentrating them on the main target of Japanese attack in Luzon and Manila.

The Retreat To Bataan & Corregidor

Faced with defeat in the plains of northern Luzon and Batangas, MacArthur decided to reverse his strategy. On the 24th of December he abandoned defending Manila and the rest of the Philippines. The US army headquarters & the Commonwealth of the Philippines government lead by President Quezon relocated to the Island fortress of Corregidor the small fortified island at the mouth of Manila Bay. Manila was declared an ‘open city’ that is ‘ an undefended city’. He did this to spare Manila being bombed or attacked by Japanese troops .He ordered all US & Philippine troops to retreat to the Bataan peninsular . However he made this declaration without any consultation with Admiral Thomas C. Hart, commanding the US Navy Asiatic Fleet at Cavite. Although most of the ships had already left this uncoordinated action forced the Navy to destroy all their valuable stockpile of military supplies at Cavite.

In the midst of all this major defence activity on the 28th of December 1941, McArthur is reported to have called from Corregidor & asked the mayor of Manila Jorge Vargas to buy $35,000 worth of shares in Lepanto mining company for him. This single special purchase was done the following day. It made McArthur a millionaire by the end of the war.

This fighting retreat to Bataan took three weeks up to the middle of January 1842. By all accounts it was well done. And for this McArthur was given a lot of credit. One wonders why as it was a consequence of his incompetence.

This did not stop him from seeking ‘awards’ for what he had achieved. James Bowen says of McArthur on Corregidor that he

“spent his first two weeks … pestering President Quezon for rewards for his “distinguished service” to the Philippines… Quezon responded to McArthur’s pressure for rewards by granting him the sum of $500,000 from the impoverished Philippine Treasury on Corregidor. MacArthur’s closest staff officers received smaller sums.”

Some may ask also why Bataan ? Why not defend Manila itself and the surrounding plains ? The problem was that the US & Philippine troops were not equipped to defend the city. And an attempt at defending Manila would have meant a huge number of civilian deaths. So But McArthur reverted to the original US “Orange Plan” which he had abandoned in July 1941.

Karnow says that McArthur also

“knew Bataan’s rugged terrain from his days as a young engineer. It’s five hundred square miles, dangling like an ear lobe from Luzon, are dominated by a spine of jungle clad mountains…..Few regions in the Philippines were better equipped for defensive warfare- on condition that it’s defenders had adequate supplies.” ( Karnow page 292 )

A total of 90,000 troops on Luzon reached the Bataan Peninsula in the fighting retreat. They were immediately all put on half-rations. Adequate military equipment and supplies for a lengthy defence of the peninsula were not there. In July August 1941 McArthur had ordered that huge quantities of military equipment, food, and medical supplies be spread across the nine major islands of the Philippines.

US army ‘Plan Orange’ developed in the early 1030’s with the threat of Japan in mind, required the Bataan Peninsula to be stocked with sufficient food and medical supplies to enable 43,000 troops to withstand a siege for six months. In the three weeks of the retreat only enough food was shipped to Bataan by barge from Manila, for a thirty day siege. By contrast enough supplies were ferried by barge to Corregidor, from Manila to supply 10,000 men for 6 months. What made it worse was that MacArthur issued orders forbidding his army commanders from buying or or seizing food & clothing from warehouses, even those owned by Japanese citizens. MacArthur also enforced a law stopping the movement of rice stockpiles across provincial boundaries. MacArthur also stopped army quartermasters buying rice to ship to the troops at Bataan from a stock of 50 million bushels located at the town of Cabanatuan. Later on specialists looking back at this decision came to the conclusion that 20% of this stockpile of rice would have fed the Bataan troops for a year ( Karnow page 294 )

MacArthur’s successor as commander of US & Philippine forces, General Wainwright said after the war when asked about the Bataan siege “ If we had something in our bellies……things might have been a bit more endurable”

Plan Orange was also predicated on the USA being able to come to the assistance of the Philippines.However in early 1942 this was not possible. The Japanese navy & it’s carrier force dominated the seas & air of the Western Pacific ocean. And at a political level the USA was gave a higher priority to assisting Britain against Germany. Reinforcements and supplies could not be sent and no attempt was made to send them.

The troops ill-equipped and poorly fed fought with great courage lead by General Wainwright. For the first 2 months they held off the Japanese attacks. But gradually they succumbed to malnutrition & diseases like malaria & dengue fever. There were also very inadequate medical supplies for the sick & injured. Psychologically they lost hope.They realised they were expendable. And they expressed this feeling is this verse reported by Rovere & Sclesinger ( page 57)

“We’re the battling bastards of Bataan
No momma, no poppa, No Uncle Sam
No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces,
No rifles, no gums or artillery pieces
And nobody gives a damn”

Rovere & Arthur Sclesinger, page 56, also say this about McArthur :

“Most people when they think of Bataan, think of McArthur.Yet he visited Bataan only once during the months of grim resistance. “ The troops noticed McArthur’s absence from Bataan. They noticed he stayed well fed & safe in the Malinta deep tunnels on Corregidor. The following derisive verse was coined about McArthur in this period by an anonymous GI. It was sung to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic’

“Dugout Doug McArthur lies a shakin’ on the Rock
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on…”

Another verse went :

“Dugout Doug not timid, he’s just cautious not afraid
He’s carefully protecting the starts that Franklin made
Four star generals are as rare as good food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on.”

MacArthur was tagged behind his back ‘Dugout Doug’ for the remainder of the war both in Philippines, in Australia, in PNG & Japan.

Meanwhile McArthur was sending communiques back to the USA reporting on the war in the Philippines. These communiques he personally wrote & edited. These communiques made very little mention of the other officers or men fighting in the battle. Richard Connaughton writes in his History of MacArthur in the Philippines:

“In the first three months of the war, McArthur or his staff wrote 142 communiques; 109 of which mentioned one man, McArthur. They carried brave, exciting, heartwarming, gripping though often imaginary accounts as to how McArthur’s guile, leadership, and military genius had continually frustrated the evil intentions of Japan’s armed forces. His picture appeared on the cover of Time at the end of 1941 and, early in the new year, the effect of these press releases upon the American public served to whip them up into a frenzy of fawning adulation of McArthur, American hero.” (page 225 )

They were exercises in self glorification. And as they were published in the US press McArthur became a US national hero.

In late February 1942 President Roosevelt decided to order McArthur to leave Corregidor and the Philippines. He was told to make his way to Australia and take up the role of Commander of US Forces in the South West Pacific. McArthur left Corregidor on a PT boat with his family and aides on the 11th of March. General Wainwright moved to Corregidor & became the commander of US & Philippine troops. Major General Edward King replaced him as commander of troops on Bataan itself.

Although ordered by General Marshall to take only one senior staff officer with him MacArthur took with him a large contingent of 14 of his closest and most trusted staff officers. They included his Chief of Staff, Major General Richard Sutherland who was involved in the stuff on the 8th of December when MacArthur was unavailable to his senior Air force general. . In the opinion of James Bowen these staff officers were notorious for their sycophancy and lack of combat experience. They were known in Australia as the “Bataan Gang”. A week later McArthur was in Australia.

On the 3rd of April 1942 the Japanese renewed their offensive against Bataan with fresh troops supported by heavy artillery, tanks, and air attack. McArthur from Australia ordered a general counter attack. He commanded that under no conditions should they yield. Instead they should seize a Japanese supply dump at Subic bay and then move into the Northern Cordillera and continue the fight as a guerilla war. McArthur also said that reinforcements & supplies were on their way. But it was a lie. Afterwards Brigadier General William E. Brougher, one of the US generals involved in Bataan defence said “A foul trick of deception played on a large group of Americans by a commander-in-chief and his small staff who are now eating steak and eggs in Australia”.  (Bowen )

But by then the Philippine & American troops on the Bataan were unable to offer any effective resistance. Their rations amounted to a 1000 calories a day. They were malnourished & starving. Malaria afflicted almost all the troops and seventy five per cent had dysentery. After 5 days of constant Japanese attacks, King decided to surrender. On the 5th of May Corregidor was also attacked. Wainwright surrendered a day or so later.

In the days & weeks after the surrender the Japanese ordered US & Filipino prisoners of war to walk to Camp O’Donnell about 130 kilometers to the North. This became know as the Death march.In the course of this death march many thousands of prisoners either died from lack of food, dysentery or were wantonly killed due to Japanese brutality.

Bowen says something about the Death March that is absent in all the other sources. More than 60,000 Filipino and 20,000 American prisoners of war were forced into the Bataan Death March to camp O’Donnell.“ That is there were 4 times more Filipinos than Americans fighting the siege of Bataan & the defence of Corregidor. However none of the accounts I have seen name any of the Filipinos who were involved. The only persons named are American.


  • James Bowen 2009 : This source is an interesting one as it reflects the Australian view of MacArthur for decades after he was there in 1942-45. The site was developed by James Bowen with the blessing of the Australian Returned Servicemen’s League ( RSL ) Bowen also has an extensive list of sources he used here.
  • Richard Connaughton History of MacArthur in the Philippines (2001) The Overlook Press.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica :
  • Stanley Karnow : In Our Own Image : America’s Empire in the Philippines, Ballantine Books 1989
  • Richard Halworth Rovere & Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: General MacArthur & President Truman : The Struggle for Control of American Foreign Policy. Transaction Publishers, New Jersey 1992
  • Wikipedia :

Thank you to Bill in Oz for this very interesting article.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 10. February 2016

Philippine History Part III – Nation. Section 3 – Post-Marcos Period

1986-1992: Cory Aquino

After having been brought into power by the People Power Revolution in February 1986, President Corazon Aquino quickly had the Cory Aquino during a ceremony honoring US Air Force1987 Constitution drafted, which provided for a renewed Presidential system and a bicameral legislature, reviving the Congress and the Senate. It also provided for autonomy for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. She also appointed OIC governors and mayors to replace Marcos appointees. Among them were Jejomar Binay in Makati and Rodrigo Duterte in Davao.

Inspite of her inexperience in government matters, “Cory” rose to the occasion. During her term, a new Family Code, an reformed Administrative Code and especially a new Local Government Code which partly decentralized government where instituted. The Office of the Ombudsman was created to address grievances efficiently. She also decided to honor the debts that the Marcos regime had incurred, a measure very unpopular with the people, but one which helped restore international confidence. Important laws such as the Build-Operate-Transfer Law, Foreign Investments Act and the Consumer Protection and Welfare Act were also passed in President Aquino’s term, during which the crony monopolies created during the time of President Marcos were dismantled and the economy was liberalized. Unfortunately, economic growth did not come that quickly. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, economist and daughter of former President Macapagal, was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Department of Trade and Industry in 1987, and Undersecretary in 1989.

In 1988, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law was passed. This was after the Mendiola Massacre of farmers by state security forces in 1987. The term of President Corazon Aquino was also beset by coup attempts from 1986-1990, the worst one of which was the December 1989 coup attempt. In the same year, former President Marcos died in Hawaiian exile. Imelda Marcos was allowed to return in 1991, but without her husband’s corpse. Imelda was arrested immediately.

In the same year, Mount Pinatubo erupted, heavily damaging especially Clark Air Base. The United States military bases, which had been the subject of much recent debate, left the Philippines. One of the “Magnificent 12” Senators who voted to terminate the RP-US military bases agreement was former actor Joseph Estrada, also known as “Erap” to the common people. Also in that year, the Philippine Constabulary and the Integrated National Police (which Ramos had formed under Marcos) were merged to form the Philippine National Police or PNP.

The 1987 Constitution did not allow a second term for any President. Therefore “Cory” endorsed her Secretary of Defense General Fidel V. Ramos as her candidate for the 1992 elections. Her endorsement of Ramos, a Protestant, was questioned by the Roman Catholic Church. Ramos won the 1992 election narrowly against Secretary of Agrarian Reform Miriam Defensor Santiago. Meanwhile, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who had only shortly served as President Aquino’s Secretary of Defense, ran for Congressman in Cagayan and won.

1992-1998: Fidel RamosRamos Pentagon cropped

In the same year, Joseph Estrada became Vice-President and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became Senator. President Ramos allowed Imelda Marcos to bring home her husband’s body in 1993, but did not allow its interment in the Heroes Cemetery. Imelda put her husband’s body into a glass mausoleum near her mansion, where it remains to this day.

President Ramos managed to negotiate a ceasefire with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1994. In 1996, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was established. Groups for whom autonomy was not enough, such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), continued to cause problems. The Abu Sayyaf conducted its first major attacks in 1995. Ramos managed to negotiate a cessation of hostilities with the MILF in 1997, but this was not to be the end of the Muslim issue.

A short-lived economic boom was cut short by the Asian Financial crisis of 1997. In the same year, Ramos initiated the first attempt at Charter Change (cha-cha) toward a parliamentary system. Vice-President Estrada, former President Corazon Aquino, Cardinal Jaime Sin, Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and others led an anti-charter change rally with about half a million people in Rizal park, fearing that Ramos would make another Presidential term possible for himself. Estrada resigned as chairman of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) which he had led.

Estrada won the presidential elections in 1998 with one of the biggest victories ever. Ramos had been the last Philippine President formed by the American period. Estrada had been born in that period but was not formed by it anymore, having been too young for that. His hallmark was using Filipino very frequently, making it acceptable as the language of leadership. His successors were to continue that legacy. Filipinization had continued with the 1987 Constitution and the 1991 creation of the Commission on the Filipino Language. De facto Filipinization had already gained momentum in the Marcos period, including the “Ama Namin” sung translation of the Lord’s Prayer into Filipino. The truly Filipino period of the Republic was to begin with President Estrada, carried by the 1998 celebrations of the Centennial of Aguinaldo’s first attempt at an independent Philippine republic in 1898. Yet more trouble lay ahead for the now more conscious nation.

The population had increased slightly from around 56 million in 1986 to almost 75 million by 1998.What increased strikingly was the number of deployed overseas foreign workers (OFWs) – as per official Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA) statistics which had shown just around 36 thousand when they first were measured in 1975, then more than one hundred thousand OFWs for the first time in 1979, around 380 thousand in 1986 – to around 830 thousand in 1998. Not counting permanent migrants, illegals and others. From my observation and own experience, the migrant and OFW experience may have been instrumental in strengthening Philippine national consciousness by bringing together Filipinos of different ethnic background, even different educational attainment and social class together abroad. People got to know each other who’s ways never would have crossed in the Philippines. Filipinos got to see how other countries work, making some of them question why things were always going the same old way in the old country. The Philippine blogosphere was yet to be born, but first ideas may already have been conceived.

The naive euphoria that had permeated the nation after the February revolution had long passed. The ebullient economic optimism of the decidedly well-run early Ramos administration was over. Yet the nation was to lose its innocence in more ways than it could yet imagine in June 1998, on the way to a more mature national consciousness, there were to be a lot more growing pains.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 27. June 2015

Part of the Philippine History Series.

Philippine History Part III – Nation. Section 2 – Marcos Period

Pre-Martial Law

Marcos visit Johnson 1966President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his wife Imelda were in their early days seen as the JFK and Jackie Kennedy of the Philippines. Voted President in 1965, Marcos started with infrastructure programs which heavily involved the army – a prelude of what was to come. The first Filipino dictator Emilio Aguinaldo had died in 1964, for all we know the spirit of dictatorship may have then passed on to the next leader.

Hukbalahap founder Luis Taruc had been pardoned and released by Marcos in 1968 and became his staunch supporter, later holding minor positions in the Martial Law government. The Maoist New People’s Army was formed in 1968, under the likewise Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines under Jose Maria Sison. The alleged Jabidah Massacre of Filipino Muslim soldiers who refused to be involved in the covert infiltration of Sabah was instrumental in the founding of the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari, who had co-founded the communist youth movement Kabataang Makabayan together with Sison in 1964. Massive migration to Mindanao in the 1920s and the 1950s, the latter having had to do with resettlement of amnestied Hukbalahap rebels, had led to discontent among Filipino Muslims.

Marcos won his second term as President by a landslide in 1969, which caused allegations of heavy cheating. Oil prices caused economic problems. The First Quarter Storm erupted in early 1970, with students and laborers marching upon Malacañan Palace. In early 1971, the short-lived Diliman commune was declared at the University of the Philippines, but was quickly crushed by UP police and the Philippine Constabulary.

In the same year, a Liberal Party rally was bombed at Plaza Miranda, killing and wounding numerous prominent politicians. Until today, it is not clarified whether the Communist Party or Marcos himself was behind the bombing.

The Constitutional Convention had also been initiated in that year, with former President Garcia first leading it, then former President Macapagal. Among the proposed amendments was to allow a third term to re-elect the President, which would have allowed Marcos to run again in 1973. But it never came to that. Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, citing the Plaza Miranda bombing, an ambush on Secretary of Defense Enrile which the latter later admitted was faked, as well as the NPA and MNLF insurgencies as reasons.

Martial Law

Marcos Clark Air Base croppedThe first things that happened were mass detentions, especially of university professors and opposition politicians such as Benigno Aquino Jr. Most newspapers and TV stations were closed. Secretary of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary head Fidel Ramos played a major role in implementing Martial Law as part of the so-called Rolex 12. The documentation of what happened during Martial Law, who were the victims and the reparations for them is not completed to this day. The assets of many Marcos rivals such as Eugenio Lopez Sr., elder brother of Marcos’ former Vice President Fernando Lopez, were confiscated or the owners compelled to sell them to Marcos or his cronies. The ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses is well-documented, but only a part of it has been retrieved. Filipino agents went after anti-Marcos groups in the USA, with the CIA blocking some FBI investigations against them.

The New Society program was launched. Barrios were renamed into barangays which became an integral part of what Marcos called baranganic democracy, including the role of barangay captain in conflict mediation and the role of the barangay tanod in local peacekeeping, while municipal councils were abolished. The Kabataang Barangay were established as the mandatory youth organisation under Imee Marcos, surviving to this day as the Sangguniang Kabataan. Police were centralized into the Integrated National Police, also under the command of General Fidel Ramos, removing them from municipal control which had caused many problems in the past. Private gun ownership was banned while the Army was enlarged. A major Chinese drug lord was publicly executed. Chinese schools in the Philippines were forced to minimize teaching in Chinese and to teach Filipino as a subject to enforce integration of overseas Chinese. Spanish was abolished as a mandatory subject in schools. The claim to the Spratly/Kalayaan islands was made official, oil exploration started. Birth control and attendant sex education were also part of the regime’s programs, inspite of resistance from the Catholic Church. The population of the Philippines in 1973 was around 40 million people.

The focus on organization and infrastructure remained. Metro Manila was formed out of parts of Rizal and Bulacan, with the Metro Manila Commission as the predecessor to today’s MMDA. Urban planning studies commissioned during that time identified EDSA as C-4 and planned for Katipunan to become part of C-5, the first LRT was planned. What later became SLEX and NLEX were extended for the first time, with for example the Candaba Viaduct making travel from Manila to Clark possible much more rapidly. The San Juanico Bridge between Samar and Leyte was part of the ambitious Pan-Philippine highway project. The moribund Philippine National Railway lines in Manila were refurbished to use them for public transport, with new rolling stock bought from Japan. The Philippine Heart Center was built in Quezon City. However, Marcos apparently profited a lot from most infrastructure projects. Land was reclaimed in front of Roxas boulevard, with the Cultural Center of the Philippines as the first building there, the ill-fated Manila Film Center was later built for the one-time Manila International Film Festival in 1982. Cultural projects, just like “beautification projects” in cities and municipalities, were usually under the auspices of First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

The plebiscite for the new constitution was cancelled and it was ratified by barangays in 1973, instituting the shift from a Presidential to a Parliamentary form of government. In 1978, the Interim Batasang Pambansa was called into session to manage the transition, with Marcos additionally holding the office of Prime Minister. In the same year, the Sandiganbayan anti-corruption court was called into existence. The Pag-Ibig program to assist common people in getting loans for housing was instituted. The KKK program helped common people start their own businesses.

In addition to the NPA and MNLF insurgencies, an insurgency erupted in the Cordilleras. The killing of tribal leader Macliing Dulag in 1980 played a role in this, as well as the planned Chico River dam project which would have flooded ancestral burial sites. Father Conrado Balweg was the most famous figure of this insurgency and instrumental in bringing about later Cordillera autonomy.

Post-Martial Law

Marcos visit Reagan 1982Batasang Pambansa elections were held in 1981, with the opposition parties UNIDO and LABAN boycotting them and the pitiful rest of the Nacionalista Party running as a symbolic opposition against Marcos’s Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, which won by a landslide, giving Marcos a third term as President, while technocrat economist Cesar Virata became Prime Minister. During Marcos’s inauguration in June 1981, then Vice-President George H. W. Bush said: We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process, and we will not leave you in isolation. The “New Republic” had begun, yet the health of its leader was fading.

Benigno Aquino Jr., who had been allowed to leave for the United States for heart treatment, was killed at Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983, with vital moments of his return by airplane recorded on videotape and spread around the world. Support for Marcos decreased, with Enrile starting to distance himself carefully and Ronald Reagan no longer giving that much support, the previous administration of Jimmy Carter having already been very critical of Marcos with regards to human rights. There was an impeachment attempt against Marcos in 1985 which did not succeed, but widespread dissatisfaction and the movement that had formed around the martyrdom of Aquino caused Marcos to call snap elections which were held on February 7, 1986.

The COMELEC count showed Marcos as having won, while the count of the newly established NAMFREL showed Aquino’s widow Corazon as having won. The People Power Revolution erupted on February 22, 1986, with Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile withdrawing support from the government. Citizens flocked to EDSA and blocked the way to Camps Aquinaldo and Crame on opposite sides of this major avenue. More troops defected, TV stations were captured and the entire world watched. Upon suggestion of US Senator Laxalt, Marcos left the Philippines for Hawaii with US help on February 25, 1986. President Corazon Aquino had already been sworn in by Senior Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee. Twenty years of Marcos rule had ended.

As a typical authoritarian ruler, Marcos had focused on infrastructure and institutions, but had enriched himself and his cronies while plunging the country into deep debt by heavy international borrowing supported by the United States. President “Cory” Aquino was in power, with Enrile and Ramos at her side, heavily Catholic and indebted to Jaime Cardinal Sin who had supported her. Democracy was back, but later events were to prove that it was very fragile, and that getting the country back on track would be extremely difficult.

The nation still has not overcome the deep scars and divisions left by the Marcos period. By 1986, the population of the Philippines had reached around 55 million, against around 40 million in 1973 and around 30 million in 1965 – in that important aspect, the regime had also failed. That the population would almost double again in the next 30 years did not make things any better. Large numbers of Filipinos had left to work abroad during the Marcos period. In the beginning, they were forced to remit money, until recently they had to pay taxes to the Philippines even if living abroad. The 1976 Tripoli agreement had only temporarily halted the Muslim insurgency – and resettled some Filipino Muslims to Taguig. The NPA insurgency continued, while Cordillera autonomy was to bring peace to that area, where tribesmen poured pig blood on a Mount Rushmore type bust of Marcos as a further chapter in the old tribal conflict between “highlanders” and Ilocano “lowlanders”. American support for Marcos rule and assistance in helping him escape poisoned the relationship between the United States and the Philippines, making it very complex until today.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 22. June 2015

P.S. This article is dedicated to all who were wounded by the regime and especially those who remain wounded to this day, whether in body or in spirit. But also to all those who sincerely believed that the regime would bring about better order, unity and progress than the postwar republic before it, which was beset by corruption, disorder and warlordism, and were heavily disappointed.

Part of the Philippine History Series.

Philippine History Part III – Nation. Section 1 – The Republic

Roxas and Quirino

Manuel Roxas

President Manuel Roxas

Manuel Roxas, the last president of the Philippine Commonwealth, became the first President of the Republic of the Philippines on the 4th of July 1946. In agreeing with the Bell Trade Act, Roxas had given United States preferential terms in trade and the same access to natural resources as Filipinos in exchange for help in reconstruction, which was the main priority for a heavily damaged Philippines. However, his economic policies strongly preferred the sugar industry, where he had vested interests. A large number of ilustrado families like his had bought their large estates during the sale of former Catholic Church properties during the American period, many of them building up further their wealth from the Spanish period. What also caused a lot of anger was his amnesty for Japanese collaborators. Manuel Roxas died of a heart attack in early 1948, just before the end of his term. He was succeeded by his Vice-President Elpidio Quirino, also Liberal Party.

Quirino was re-elected in 1949. His time as President was beset by the Hukbalahaps, former Communist guerillas against the Japanese who continued their fight after the war against landowners in Central Luzon, and by massive economic problems. Quirino also sent a military contingent to South Korea to help General Douglas McArthur against the North Koreans, with then Lieutenant Fidel Ramos in it. Ramon Magsaysay, then Liberal Party, scored a number of successes in fighting the Hukbalahap as Secretary of Defense. What earned him the admiration of the Filipino public was how he rushed to the rescue of his political ally Moises Padilla, who was being tortured by goons of Negros Occidental governor Lacson. He came too late and carried Padilla’s corpse, left swimming in blood on a bench, to the morgue. His testimony was instrumental in the conviction of Governor Lacson.

Magsaysay and Garcia

Ramon F Magsaysay

President Ramon Magsaysay

Ramon Magsaysay switched sides to join the Nacionalista Party as its presidential candidate, winning against Quirino in 1953. He continued his fight against the Hukbalahap, partly on the military side, but also through programs that made life better for tenant farmers. The “Huk” were all but neutralized in 1954, with then 22-year-old Benigno Aquino Jr. playing a role as personal emissary to Luis Taruc, who was captured in the same year. Magsaysay’s popularity also helped him win people’s trust.

Under President Magsaysay, the Philippines became a member of the newly founded SEATO, formed to counter communism in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, the Neri-Takazaki agreement on reparations from Japan was negotiated as well as the Laurel-Langley agreement with the USA, which replaced the disadvantageous Bell Trade Act. President Magsaysay died in a plane crash near Cebu on March 16, 1957. His funeral on March 31, 1957 was visited by two million people – in a Philippines that then only had a population of about over twenty million, in contrast to the almost one hundred million it has now.

Vice President Carlos P. Garcia, also Nacionalista Party, took over and was reelected as President in the same year’s elections. President Garcia outlawed subversive organizations such as the Communist party and also continued Magsaysay’s staunchly anti-communist foreign policy. He instituted the Filipino First policy to promote local business and changed laws regarding the retail trade to the disadvantage of overseas Chinese businessmen in the Philippines, instituted the Austerity Program to be less dependent on foreign imports and with the Bohlen–Serrano agreement, changed the lease period of American bases from 99 years down to 25 years, renewable every 5 years.


Diosdado Macapagal USS Oklahoma City 1962

President Diosdado Macapagal

Liberal Party candidate and Vice-President Diosdado Macapagal ran against President Garcia in 1961 on a platform of economic liberalization and won, junking Garcia’s Filipino First policies. Macapagal famously changed the celebration of Philippine Independence to June 12 from July 4. While the newly founded Maphilindo tried to establish cooperation with Indonesia and Malaysia, the Sabah claim ceded by the Sultan of Sulu to the Philippines in 1962 and tensions between Malaysia and Indonesia caused this cooperation to end very quickly.

President Macapagal wanted to send soldiers to South Vietnam, which was blocked by then Senate President Ferdinand Marcos. After not being made LP Presidential candidate, Marcos had switched sides and joined the Nacionalista Party as its presidential bid and won in November 1965. Soon after becoming President, Marcos switched his stance on helping the United States in Vietnam, sending the non-combatant Philippines Civic Action Group (PHILCAG) under the command of Fidel V. Ramos. In 1965, the population of the Philippines was just over 30 million. One dollar was worth 3.9 Philippines pesos, meaning that the Philippine peso had around the same value as the Deutsche Mark. Yet every government had attempted to solve the perennial problem of the Philippines – its agricultural sector and the hardship of poor tenants – and had failed. Nearly every administration – except Magsaysay’s – had been beset by massive corruption. The postwar republic did not yet know it was about to end. The new nation did not know what pain still lay ahead for it – especially from Marcos, a man who for many carried the promise of better days to come.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20. June 2015

Philippine History Part II – State. Section 3 – Philippine Commonwealth

Quezon and McArthur

Based on the Tydings-McDuffie Act and the resulting Constitutional Convention in 1934, the Philippine Commonwealth and the 1935 Constitution were created. Presidential elections were held and won by Manuel L. Quezon (Nacionalista Party), with Emilio Aguinaldo (National Socialist Party) and Gregorio Aglipay (Republican Party) behind them. The National Defense Act was passed, with the Office of the Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur, who was appointed to be Field Marshal of the Philippine Army.

Aguinaldo and Quezon in 1935

Aguinaldo and Quezon in 1935


McArthur inducts the Philippine Army Air Corps in 1941 at Camp Murphy, now Camp Aguinaldo

 MacArthur had the intention of making the Philippines self-reliant in its defense:

“A small fleet will have distinct effect in compelling any hostile force to approach cautiously. The only naval task is that of inshore defense. This will be provided by flotillas of fast torpedo boats, supported by an air force”

“These islands have enormous defensive advantages. Luzon has only 2 areas where a hostile army could land. Each of these positions is broken by strong defensive positions.”

“When developed the Philippine Army will be strong enough to oppose any conceivable expeditionary force. By 1946, the Islands will be in a favorable posture of defensive security.”

President Manuel L. Quezon built up the state with a number of impressive measures in the areas of social justice, agrarian reform, education and giving women the right to vote.

Tagalog was adopted as the basis for the national language, Filipino. The COMELEC was established in 1940.

The Japanese invaded in late 1941 and interrupted all of this.

The Japanese occupation

Jose P. Laurel

Jose P. Laurel

Luis Taruc

Luis Taruc

MacArthur, Quezon and Osmeña left the Philippines. The remaining combined Filipino and American troops surrendered in May 1942.

 Quezon and Osmeña set up a government-in-exile, while the Japanese set up a puppet government under Jose P. Laurel. Sergio Osmeña became President of the government-in-exile after Quezon died of tuberculosis in the United States.

The Japanese met with enormous resistance from guerrila groups: Philippine Army soldiers, USAFFE soldiers and Filipino Muslims. American submarines supplied some groups. The communist Hukbalahap were also formed under Luis Taruc in Central Luzon.

Former Katipunan General Artemio Ricarte, also known as “El Vibora” (The Viper), returned from Japanese exile. He was instrumental in setting up the Makapili, who cooperated with the Japanese Kempetai – as informers against the guerrilas.

All of this plus food shortages and severe inflation made times very difficult. Some people were place into internment camps. Numerous atrocities were commited against civilians by the Japanese Imperial Army.

McArthur returns

MacArthur, Kenney and Sutherland

Lt. General Kenney, Lt. General Sutherland, President Osmeña, General MacArthur

In October 1944, McArthur landed in Leyte with President Osmeña. Manila was reconquered in February to March 1945 but was heavily devastated, especially the old Spanish quarter of Intramuros. Japanese troops massacred, raped and mutilated countless people.

The Philippines Campaign retook all major Philippine islands by April, yet fighting continued until final Japanese surrender in August 1945. The last Japanese holdout was found in Mindoro jungles in 1974.

President Osmeña restored the Commonwealth. The Philippines became a founding member of the United Nations and the IMF. In the last Commonwealth Presidential election held in 1946, Sergio Osmeña (Nacionalista Party) lost against Manuel Roxas (Liberal Party). Roxas was instrumental in facilitating approval of the Bell Trade Act, which granted the United States preferential terms in trade in exchange for rebuilding funds.

On the 4th of July 1946, the Philippines became formally independent, yet strongly bound to the United States by military bases and trade agreements. The state was damaged but fully formed. The nation was still to go through many trials.

One of the technical assistants to President Manuel Roxas was a then 29 year old lawyer named Ferdinand Marcos, who was at that time still with the Liberal Party. Before the war, Marcos had passed his bar exam and successfully defended himself from prison against charges of murdering his father’s political rival…

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, June 12, 2015.

P.S. In-depth related articles: (will be updated as they appear)

Series on McArthur by guest author Bill in Oz:

I am working on a Quezon biography. Manong sonny is working on a history of the Commonwealth Army.

Philippine History Part II – State. Section 2 – Enter America

A luna

General Antonio Luna

The Philippine-American War started in 1898 due to provocations in Manila. It started as a conventional war, with Antonio Luna as its most successful military leader, one whom American generals called “the ablest and most aggressive leader of the Filipino Republic” and “the only general the Filipino army had”. Had, because he did not get along well with President Aguinaldo and was assassinated in 1899. He was the younger brother of famous painter Juan Luna. A close friend of Rizal, Juan Luna had killed his mestiza wife, Paz Pardo de Tavera in Paris but had been acquitted in a 19th-century version of the O.J. Simpson trial. Antonio Luna was as hot-tempered as his brother, nearly getting into a duel with Rizal and challenging a Spanish journalist to a duel about an article.

The war soon turned into a retreat, which in the end was heroically guarded by Gregorio del Pilar, who fought so well that an American officer returned to bury him with full honors and engrave “An Officer and a Gentleman” on his tombstone. Del Pilar was the nephew of famous Filipino Chief Propagandist Marcelo H. del Pilar who wrote under the pen name “Plaridel”. Thus the revolution ate its own children, like so many revolutions in history. Aguinaldo was captured and the Philippine-American war officially ended in 1902, even if the last military leader to surrender was Bikolano Simeon Ola in 1903. General Macario Sakay, a barber who had sworn to not cut his hair until freedom was achieved, declared his own Republic in 1902 and was defeated in 1906.

The Philippine Organic Act that was passed in 1902 was mainly implemented in 1907, when the Philippine Assembly Elections took place. The notion of Filipino citizenship seems to already have existed, because it was questioned for one candidate. The Nacionalista Party, which was for quick independence, won the majority under Sergio Osmeña. The minority Progresista Party which was for gradual independence was led by Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, brother of the murdered Paz Pardo de Tavera, wounded by Juan Luna when he came to help.


Governor Taft on a carabao

American teachers built upon and improved the old Spanish public school system. The University of the Philippines was established in 1908. Older universities like the University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo were of course already there, having been established by religious orders, even if American Jesuits from the Maryland-New York province came to Ateneo in the 1920s. The Philippine Insular Government under the Bureau of Insular Affairs took care of administration. The civil service and the judiciary were reorganized, even if many Spanish laws remain till today.

Manuel Quezon

The Moro rebellion raged from 1901-1913. During this time, the United States managed to achieve full control over the Muslim areas of the Philippines, which the Spanish barely had controlled. In 1916, the the Philippine Autonomy Act was passed and the Philippine Senate took over as the upper house, a function originally held by the US-controlled Philippine Commission.

Manuel Quezon, who had been a resident commissioner of the Philippines from 1909-1916, was President of the Philippine Senate from 1916-1935. He was instrumental in negotiating the Tydings-McDuffie Act which was passed in 1934, giving the Philippines independence within a ten-year period, but also limiting Philippine immigration which in the 1930s became a political issue in the US. There were anti-Filipino riots in California, and laws prohibiting marriage to white women.

There was of course massive Philippine migration to Hawaii. Filipino-Americans became a major group with the United States. Yet the Philippine state was reaching another level of organization. In 1920, the Muslim areas were turned over to the Department of the Interior. The entire Philippines was finally under state control.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20 May 2015
Part of the Philippine History Series.

Philippine History Part II – State. Section 1 – Founding Fathers


Main Article: Quo Vadis Philippines?

Next Article: Philippine History Part II – State. Section 2 – Enter America

Previous Article: Philippine History Part I – Territory

Filipino Ilustrados Jose Rizal Marcelo del Pilar Mariano PonceThe early 19th century brought the end of the Galleon Trade and direct rule from Spain. But even before that, the Galleon Trade started to become obsolete like the old order. Ships started to follow the shorter route to Spain via the Cape of Good Hope without resistance from the now irrelevant Portuguese in the late 18th century. Changes in Spain also affected the Philippines. The Jesuits were banned in the late 18th century and also expelled from the Philippines. The resulting shortage of priests led to more native priests being trained, schools for them were established.

Trade also was liberalized, slowly but surely. In 1834, Manila was opened to international trade. By the end of 1859, there were 15 foreign firms in Manila: seven of which were British, three American, two French, two Swiss and one German. The Suez Canal which opened in 1869 accelerated international trade even more. The administration was also modernized. The Claveria decree of 1849 regulated Filipino surnames. Queen Isabella decreed mandatory public schooling in 1863. The (Napoleonic) Spanish Civil Code was introduced in the Philippines in 1889 – the present Philippine civil code is mainly based on it.

The first Filipino Nationalist was early 19th-century Luis Rodríguez Varela, a Filipino creole knighted by the Spanish king, educated in France and exposed to the ideals of the French Revolution. Andres Novales, who revolted in 1823, was a Creole as well. Originally the word Filipino was reserved to Spaniards born in the Philippines – also known as Insulares to distinguish them from the Spanish-born Peninsulares. Eventually the term was extended to all who lived in the Philippines. The newly affluent and educated native ilustrados were instrumental in this. Many of them originally came from the native principalia.

Gat Andres BonifacioIn the 1860s, the First Propaganda Movement campaigned for the rights of Filipino priests, meaning creoles, mestizos and natives. In 1869, Governor Carlos Maria de la Torre came to the Philippines and was very friendly to Filipino priests and ilustrados. De la Torre was recalled in 1871, and his harsher successor Izquierdo was an important factor in the Cavite mutiny and the subsequent execution of the three Filipino priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora in 1872, which stoked the fires of nationalism even more.

Numerous ilustrados went to study in Europe and formed the Second Propaganda Movement, which campaigned for equal rights and representation of Filipinos within the Spanish system. Jose Rizal, one of the foremost “Propagandists”, formed the short-lived Liga Filipina when he returned in 1892, but was arrested and exiled to Dapitan in Mindanao soon after. Former Liga members then formed the revolutionary Katipunan. The Philippine Revolution started in 1896, Rizal was seen as a culprit and executed.

Emilio Aguinaldo (ca. 1898)The Revolution continued, but was blocked by a leadership conflict between Aguinaldo and Bonifacio – one a local politician from the countryside, the other coming from the original Katipunan founded in Manila – and their supporters. At the Tejeros convention, the conflict even turned physical. Bonifacio was executed upon orders of Aguinaldo in 1897. Aguinaldo accepted voluntary exile to Hong Kong in the pact of Biak-Na-Bato with the Spanish in 1897 – which included payments to his group.

Enter the USA, who had been moving into the Pacific for decades. Commodore Perry had forced Japan to re-open in 1854, Alaska was purchased from the Russians in 1867, control of Hawaii began in 1887. The Spanish-American War started in 1896. Aguinaldo returned to Manila in 1898, brought back by the USA to help fight the Spanish, and assumed control over the Revolution again. He declared Philippine Independence just a month after Commodore Dewey won the Battle of Manila Bay.

The first Philippine state under Filipino rule was there. With its Spanish foundations, it was to be further formed and consolidated by the United States, which had it’s own plans. Filipino nationalism was there, with a distinctly Tagalog Focus under the nascent Filipino ruling class. The Katipunan was mainly in Luzon, the Visayans had their own Republican plans, Mindanao was only partly under Spanish control at that time. President Aguinaldo was the first Filipino “trapo” – and dictator.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Munich, 16 May 2015

Part of the Philippine History Series.


Philippine History Part I – Territory


Main Article: Quo Vadis Philippines?

Next Article: Philippine History Part II – State. Section 1 – Founding Fathers

Balangay Replica Modern scientific tools such as geology, plate tectonics, archaeology, linguistics and genetics are increasing our understanding of Philippine early history. Many old theories – some of which are still taught in Philippine schools – are discredited, while many new theories are not yet fully proven.The territory that became the Philippines rose from the sea sometime in the past due to plate tectonics. The earliest prehistoric finds in the Philippines are Callao Man and Tabon Man. How the Melanesian Agta came to the Philippines is not fully clarified, old theories of land bridges are now seen as obsolete.The majority of Filipinos are of mainly Austronesian descent – the term Malayo-Polynesian being outdated.The Austronesians settled the entire Pacific and the area where the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are now. Madagascar and South America were also reached by Austronesian sailors. There are two theories of how Austronesians settled the Pacific, the out of Taiwan and Sundaland theories. One way or another, Austronesians already lived in the Philippines in the first millenium B.C.

Trade with India led to Indianized Kingdoms in Southeast Asia starting in the first millenium A.D. There are indications that it had to do with looking for gold or with the blockade of the Silk Route by the Huns. From the 7th to 11th centuries, Sri-Vijaya was a major power ruling from Sumatra, influencing the entire Malay area including the Philippines. The Kingdoms of Butuan and Tondo are evidence of Hindu cultural influence in the Philippines. The Kingdom of Tondo traded with Ming China. There may have been Japanese trading posts in Northern Luzon.

The second large Indianized empire in the Malay world was Majapahit on Java which existed from the 13th to 16th centuries. Yet following the old trade routes from the Orient via the Indian subcontinent, Islamic missionaries arrived in Southeast Asia starting from the 11th century onwards. Brunei became Islamic in the 15th century, during which the Sultanate of Sulu was also founded while that of Maguindanao was founded in the 16th century.

Brunei expanded its power in the late 15th century and established Kota Selurong or Maynila as a colony on the other side of the Pasig River around 1500, making the Kings of Tondo vassals. Other powers were getting interested in the Asian region by that time. The Spice Route was blocked by the newly founded Ottoman empire, forcing Europeans to find new ways, while Portugal and Spain still had a lot of energy from the recently succesful Reconquista. The Portuguese reached Sri Lanka in 1505, Malacca in 1511, Timor, Neu Guinea and Ternate in Indonesia 1512 and cornered the Spice Trade.

The Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 divided the world between Spain and Portugal along a line which more or less defines were Brazil ends today and Spanish South America begins. The areas east of that line were reserved for Portugal, which is why Magellan sailed the other way around in 1521. He died in the Philippines but his men reached the Portuguese areas after him. Soon after a war erupted between Spain and Portugal, after which the Treaty of Zaragoza in 1529 made clear the the Moluccas belonged to Portugal and the Philippines belonged to Spain. In 1545, the Potosi silver mine in Bolivia was opened. It was the main source of silver for the galleon trade which started in 1565, even before Legazpi subjugated Manila in 1571. Limahong attacked Manila in 1574 and there was the 1578 war of Spain against Brunei which ended with a decisive Spanish victory, securing their control of the business.

16th century Portuguese Spanish trade routes

The galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco changed many things. Southern Chinese traders came to Manila to trade Oriental goods for Spanish gold and silver. In China, Spanish silver became a major economic factor, especially from the 1750s onward. Charles Mann’s book “1493” shows how most plants in the Filipino song Bahay Kubo are not of native origin. According to that book, Filipino communities existed in Mexico City, with their own Catholic processions. That there was strong Mexican influence on the Philippines has been detailed by many authors. The Dutch entered Southeast Asia and attacked Manila unsuccesfully in 1646, but they did supplant the Portuguese in their areas. The British arrived in Asia starting in the late 18th century, occupying Manila from 1762-1764 and helping Ilokano rebel Diego Silang – and his widow Gabriela – against the Spanish. Yet they were not able to dislodge the Spanish or the galleon trade.

The late 18th century brought upheaval to Europe and America – the United States became independent, the French revolution started, the Napoleonic wars destabilized Spain and led to revolution in many of its colonies including Mexico. The galleon trade thus ended in the early 19th century. The only colonies Spain had left in Latin America were Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Spanish East Indies to which the Philippines belonged, which were ruled from Manila but also included the Marianas and the Caroline Islands among others, now was to be ruled directly from Spain.

Tagalog dress, early 1800s By the early 19th century, the territory of the Philippines and the people living on it were clearly defined. The state apparatus that the colonial government had put in place until then was rudimentary, more about keeping order and getting taxes especially in form of polo y servicio (forced labor) paid. In the pacified areas of the country, Spanish priests and the local principalia took care of most matters by themselves.The beginnings of a state were there, those of a nation were yet to come.Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 10. May 2015 with special thanks to sonny for contributing many inputs and Karl Garcia for constructive feedback.

Part of the Philippine History Series.