MacArthur’s ‘Liberation’ of the Philippines
by Bill In Oz
Most of us are ‘gifted’ with 20/20 hindsight !! We can look back on the past and see what others did wrong or poorly, because we now ‘know’ far more information than was available in the past. It is easy to do the same with MacArthur’s return to the Philippines in October 1944. For example some might say that the liberation was a mistake because the the US was developing atomic bombs which would force the Japanese to surrender in August 1945. But in October 1944 this weapons research was a closely guarded secret and nobody, not even the atomic scientist involved, actually knew if the atomic bombs would work. So it is not relevant at all in this discussion. I want to avoid that kind of fallacious 20/20 hindsight argument here.
I think that MacArthur’s ‘liberation’ of the Philippines was a massive strategic mistake by MacArthur. However he did not wear the costs of his mistake. In late August 1945 he left the Philippines to take up a new job as the effective ‘dictator’ of conquered Japan. He left behind a people & land devastated by the battles he had unleashed. The people, the society, the cities and land of the Philippines bore that burden of his massive mistake.
In the previous section I talked about Admiral’s King & Nimitz & their strategy against Japan. And I mentioned a fundamental principle of waging a war is that it is far better to attack & knock out the enemy, than it is to impose suffering & destruction & death on your own people. These insights are important.They are worth repeating now.
Nimitz & King’s’s use of submarines and carrier based aircraft to gain control of the seas & the air in Japan’s maritime empire was an outcome of this insight into waging war. The US navy attacked and defeated the Japanese army only at ‘key’ selected island locations in the western Pacific. The US navy with the US air force, then used those ‘key points’ as bases for waging war closer & closer to Japan to attack on it’s Japan on it’s home ground. This strategy was successful. From mid 1944 the USA air force started to mount mass bomber air raids directly on the Japanese home island cities. It’s merchant marine ships were unable to travel the East or South China seas without coming under attack and being destroyed. The areas conquered & occupied in 1941-42 to supply Japan with raw materials like crude oil, iron ore, coal, rice, cotton etc, were largely isolated from Japan. And the Japanese imperial troops could not be easily reinforced or resupplied. Effectively these numerically large occupying armies ( over one million ) scattered all over South East Asia were irrelevant to the future battles & outcome of the war.
I have said this once already but it is worth saying again : Australian, British & American troops mopping up the isolated remnant Japanese in late 1945 found that the Japanese soldiers had become farmers & gardeners to feed themselves. They army high command in Tokyo had no means to feed them or supply them with basic military equipment.
This strategy while it was successful in winning the war, also had it’s problems. The peoples of South East Asia & China suffered under Japanese army occupation. For example, Malaya, Singapore, Indochina, Thailand and almost all of the Dutch East Indies ( now Indonesia ) were still under Japanese army control after the Japanese surrender on September 3rd 1945. And local people suffered a lot as a result. Food stocks were seized and so was property. The local people suffered from lack of food & security. Some locals were arrested and executed right up until immediately before the surrender.
But in the days after the formal surrender on September 3rd 1945, the Japanese troops all over the conquered areas of Asia, handed over their arms to small parties of Allied (mainly Australian & British) troops. The Japanese occupation ended without any more major battles or massacres in these places. And far, far fewer of the local people were killed, injured than would have happened in the course of numerous land battles between the Allied forces and the Japanese throughout South East Asia & China, had a different strategy been adopted.
MacArthur was aware of this overall US Navy strategy to defeat Japan. He knew that it was successful. To some extent he adopted the strategy in military operations that he commanded in New Guinea and the eastern islands of Dutch East Indies. But he had other dreams and aspirations. He wanted to attack the Japanese, conquer them, and thus ‘liberate’ the Philippines. However “MacArthur’s liberation” was extraordinarily destructive to the Philippines. It is important to hold in mind that it was MacArthur who personally persuaded Roosevelt in July 1944, of the need to ‘Liberate’ the Philippines rather than attack the Japanese in Formosa as proposed by Nimitz & King. It was MacArthur’s vision and strategy. This is the story of what turned out to be a very destructive liberation.
The ‘liberation’ started with a huge invasion fleet sailing to the Philippines in October 1944. This army was composed almost entirely of US army troops who had been sent across the Pacific Ocean to northern Australia & New Guinea. There they had been trained some more and assembled for transport by a convoy of over 200 ships to Leyte.
I think MacArthur consciously modeled the whole thing on “Operation Overlord” and the D Day landing in France in June 1944, only 4 months earlier. I think he wanted to show that he could organise just as big an invasion as the one commanded by Dwight Eisenhower who was his former military assistant in Manila from 1935 to 1939. MacArthur waded ashore with the US invasion forces at Leyte Gulf on the 23 of October 1944. He had ‘returned’ as he promised in Terowie in March 1942.
The army landed on the western shores of Leyte island in the Visayas region of the Philippines. Leyte was chosen not for any particular reason. It was simply open to attack from the East by a US fleet in the Pacific ocean. MacArthur also thought it was poorly defended by the Japanese and so more vulnerable to attack. At the start this was partially correct but the Japanese sent additional troops there very quickly.
There are no records of how the local Filipino people fared during the Leyte campaign. Leyte in 1944 was mostly mountainous jungle with a relatively low population. There were also about 2000 Filipino guerilla fighters on Leyte fighting the Japanese in 1943-44. But major land battles took place in the one major significant northern valley which was closely settled with rice farming communities. I imagine that in the battles that took place, homes and rice crops and gardens were destroyed or damaged.
There were some Australians in the invasion force, only 3000. The Australian government wanted its troops to participate and offered the three divisions of men who had fought in the Middle East and then under MacArthur’s command in Papua & New Guinea. But MacArthur decided in mid 1944 that the Philippines should be liberated by Americans without help from ‘allied’ countries like Australia.
It’s important to be aware that the Japanese military knew that the US & its allies was winning the war in 1944. Japan was facing defeat in the war. This lead to the Japanese ‘prime minister’ Tojo & his cabinet resigning in July 1944 and a new cabinet being installed. The Allies had already decided together that they would only accept an end to the war if Nazi Germany & Imperial Japan agreed to ‘total & complete’ surrender. That was the Allied goal. Given this situation the Japanese military adopted a battle strategy of making a US victory so ‘expensive’ and so high in US dead & wounded, that the US would instead offer to Japan to end the war with terms that allowed it an ‘honorable’ negotiated peace.
In line with this war goal, as soon as Leyte was invaded, the newly appointed Japanese commanding general in Manila, General Yamashita ( the famous ‘Tiger of Malaya’ who defeated Britain at Singapore in 1942), sent substantial numbers of troops from Luzon to Leyte to make the American task of liberating the Philippines far, far harder. It took almost 4 months of grinding combat for the US forces to defeat the Japanese on Leyte. The Japanese army ‘dug in’ very well in the mountainous jungle areas. They wanted to draw US forces into combat as part of their ‘high cost of victory’ strategy.
On the other hand the USA army was mainly in Leyte to use the flat open lands to build air fields & other bases to use for advancing the attacks on other more important parts of the Philippines like Luzon. Maybe that is why MacArthur did not wait long for the Japanese to be defeated in Leyte. In December 1944 he ordered US troops to occupy Mindoro island. The reason was to again to build air fields for US Air Force aircraft to use in attacking & bombing Luzon. Mindoro was a lot closer to Luzon and to Manila. It was also occupied by far fewer Japanese troops who were quickly overcome.
In October 1944 as part of the ‘high cost of victory’ the Japanese navy & air force were also instructed to attack the landing convoys as well. A series of naval battles and air battles took place in the seas around the island and Surigao Gulf. It was the largest naval battles of WW2. At the end of it all, the Japanese Navy & Air Force were both very badly mauled. The Japanese navy did not engage in any more major battles in WW2. The seas of the Philippines were controlled by the US. And the Japanese air force and carrier air craft so reduced in numbers that they no longer controlled the air space above the Philippines.
And that made for an interesting situation where US forces under MacArthur could no pick & choose at will what he would next do. The US Navy commanded the seas around the Philippines. The US Air force and navy carrier aircraft dominated the air above the Philippines. And MacArthur commanded a dominant 230,000 strong army of US armored and infantry divisions plus Filipino guerillas which he could deploy. It was a larger force than the United States sent to North Africa or to Italy. It was the largest American campaign of the Pacific War.
MacArthur had in his own hands what happened next in the Philippines. Yamashita on the other hand held to his strategy of an extended war of attrition, causing as many American casualties as possible and so delaying the American attack on Japan’s home islands. He withdrew his most of army from Manila and from the open rice growing plains areas, to the hills and mountains of Luzon. He did this to minimise the advantages the US forces had with big navy guns, it’s tanks & armour and it’s planes.
MacArthur next move was a sea borne invasion of Luzon on January 6th at the Lingayen Gulf in the north west coast. It was the same area where Japanese forces landed in December 1941 with sheltered beaches. The Lingayen gulf leads directly into the central plain of Luzon which had the best roads and a railway line to help with moving the troops. It also allowed easy access to Manila. The landings were largely unopposed.
The only major Japanese response was a series of kamikaze attacks on the ships landing the troops. Once the landing was established MacArthur ordered US armored troops to move South towards Manila as quickly as possible. He was in such a hurry that he quarreled with his immediate subordinate General Kruger who wanted to attack Yamashita’s troops who had withdrawn to the hills just East of the gulf.
On the 26th of January the 1st Cavalry Division landed at Lingayen gulf. MacArthur met with the division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Mudge, and told him “Go to Manila, go around the Nips, bounce off the Nips, but go to Manila.” Mudge formed a mechanized flying column, This armored column rushed toward Manila. The cavalry armored flying column reached the northern outskirts of Manila on the 3rd of February while the rest of the division followed more slowly, mopping up the rear areas. US troops also landed just North of Subic bay and captured that important port very quickly. More US airborne troops landed 70 kilometers South of Manila and were unopposed.These troops then also moved quickly North towards Manila. Both columns were supported by Filipino irregulars.They were welcomed by a population that was overjoyed to be liberated after 3 years of Japanese occupation.
There is a lot of dispute about what happened next. There is some evidence that Yamashita the Japanese commander intended Manila to become an ‘Open city”. Most Japanese army troops evacuated from the city to the hills East of Manila and North to the Cordillera mountains. This was ordered by Yamashita in mid-December 1944. There were no Japanese troops in large parts of the city and this allowed US troops to liberate the ring of outer barios in February 1945. However a force of almost 20,000 Japanese marines and some remnant Japanese army soldiers, commanded by Rear Admiral Iwabuchi , either by re-arrangement with Yamashita, or in defiance of his orders, remained in Manila. Their intent was to defend the Japanese naval positions around the port. They built defensive positions in the inner & central districts : Ermita, Malate, Intramuros, Quiappo, Binondo, the port area. These areas were the heart of the old Spanish era Manila and the heart of the US colonial period Manila.
There is a huge amount of evidence that in late January and February 1945, the Japanese marines and army troops commanded by Iwabuchi, started slaughtering Filipino civilians as revenge for welcoming the Americans or simply out of sheer barbaric brutality. Many thousands of people died: men, women, children, priests & nuns, locals and foreigners. The slaughter was indiscriminate. Perhaps they decided that if they were going to die that they would take as many Filipinos with them as possible.
So when the US troops and Filipino guerilla units arrived on the outskirts of Manila on the 3rd of February there was a difficult situation developing. Such a situation would have been a huge problem for any military commander. And I think it should have been the main issue for MacArthur to consider when he arrived in Manila in early February. But the evidence suggests that he did not think so. Here are 10 paragraphs about the battle in Manila published by MacArthur’s staff :
“When the US ( armored ) cavalrymen entered the northern suburbs of Manila, the hangars and airfield equipment at Grace Park were already ablaze and little could be saved. The “flying column” proceeded down Rizal Avenue to Santo Tomas University, meanwhile diverting one troop of cavalry and a platoon of tanks to Malacanang Palace. Resistance on the University grounds was stiff but, with tank support, the Americans forced the main gates and wiped out the enemy troops in the area. All internees were liberated with the exception of 221 who were held as temporary hostages and released the following morning.63 Malacanang Palace was also reached against sporadic rifle fire from across the Pasig River but only Filipino police guards and attendants were found to occupy the building.
After its brief contact with patrols of the 1st Cavalry Division at the Angat River, the 37th Division pushed along Highway No. 3 South against constant automatic and mortar fire. The Japanese had blown the bridges at every stream crossing and progress was relatively slow. Malanday and Caloocan were occupied on 4 February, and Manila was entered on the same day. The division effected its own rescue mission when some of its units entered Bilibid prison and discovered 800 American prisoners of war who had been abandoned by their jailers. The brilliant record of the Sixth Army in the release of prisoners of war and internees on Luzon was described in a communique of 6 February:
The 37th Infantry Division in capturing Bilibid prison released more than 800 prisoners of war and about 500 civilian internees including women and children. With the 3,700 internees from Santo Tomas released by the 1st Cavalry Division, this brings the total rescued to approximately 5,000. About 4,000 were Americans and the rest British, Australian and other nationalities. Every facility of the armed forces is being devoted to the care and attention of those who have been rescued …
As the 37th Division approached the Pasig River, it was met by a devastating enemy machine gun and rifle barrage. Incessant detonations and collapsing structures filled the air with deafening concussions. The entire sky was lighted with the roaring fires of conflagrant buildings and at times the mixture of smoke, heat, and dust became so overpowering that substantial progress through the city became an almost impossible task. Amid this holocaust and bedlam, elements of the division effected a crossing of the Pasig River near the Presidential Palace. The entire XIV Corps then began an envelopment from the east as troops of the 1st Cavalry and 37th Divisions pushed laboriously through the streets and avenues of the capital toward Manila Bay.
General MacArthur’s victorious entry into Manila was made on 7 February. A group of officers and men which included General Griswold, General Mudge, General Chase, and part of the “flying column” which had so recently distinguished itself, met him at the city limits. General MacArthur congratulated everyone on a job well done and then drove through the war-torn Philippine capital amidst the acclaim of a grateful populace. Sniping and artillery fire continued in almost every section of the city as he visited the Malacanang Palace and the front-line troops engaging the enemy along the Pasig River.
On 10 February, control of the 11th Airborne Division, drawn up south of Manila, passed from the Eighth Army to the Sixth Army.66 On the same day, XIV Corps artillery poured a steady concentration from the north into the enemy concrete installations on Nichols Field, placing the shells with deadly accuracy in front of the forward paratroop positions. Under cover of this barrage the airborne division moved its tanks against the thick pillboxes. General Swing’s plan was to circle northward and move on the west flank of the Japanese defense line. By the end of the day, the paratroops had seized positions to within 1000 yards of the Polo Club – the main core of enemy resistance northwest of the airfield.
Thus, in the first week of February, General MacArthur had three divisions inside Manila the 37th Division, attacking south across the Pasig River and on toward the Intramuros area; the 1st Cavalry Division, moving southwestward across San Juan Heights toward Neilson Field; and the 11th Airborne Division, pressing north and east across Nichols Field toward Fort McKinley. Despite this sizeable force, the occupation and clearing of Manila was an arduous task. The Japanese troops in the city fought bitterly, knowing that their chances of escape were small. Improvised positions were set up behind piles of fallen debris, barricaded windows, and sand-bagged doorways. Every vantage point was manned and fiercely defended with a solid curtain of machine gun and rifle fire.
The heaviest fighting took place in the sector assigned to the 37th Division. The Japanese in this area struck out viciously from every position, fighting from building to building and from room to room without surrender. It was not until 17 February that the division was able to launch its assault on the Intramuros, the venerable XVI century citadel in western Manila near the mouth of the Pasig River. Even by modern standards this ancient “Walled City” was a formidable fortress, ringed with a stone wall 15 feet high and widening from 8 to 20 feet at the top to 20 to 40 feet at the base. Four of the main gates were covered by mutually protecting redoubts backed by a heavily fortified concrete building.
Complicating the problem of breaching this massive bastion was the fact that many non-belligerents, mostly women and children, were within the city. Because of these helplessly imprisoned civilians, all thought of pulverization of the Intramuros area by air bombardment had to be abandoned. A plea was broadcast to the Japanese entrenched within, either to surrender or at least to evacuate the civilian population and prevent unnecessary bloodshed. No answer was received. There was no choice but to order a time-consuming infantry assault to move in, after the way had been prepared by artillery and mortars.
The attack started with 105 mm and 155 mm howitzer shells blasting huge chunks out of the ancient walls. On the 19th, under cover of a heavy smokescreen, 37th Division troops began to pour through the breaches and over the rubble to meet the waiting Japanese. The enemy positions in the immediate vicinity of the walls had been effectively destroyed by the terrific power of the preliminary bombardment, and the initial incursions of the American forces met with comparatively light losses. Resistance mounted swiftly, however, as the troops advanced. To add to the difficulty, movement became greatly impeded by the streams of refugees that swarmed out of the buildings and milled around the streets. Fire had to be withheld until these scattered masses of civilians could be removed from the battle zone. By 24 February, after a week of savage fighting characterized by numerous hand-to-hand engagements and room-to-room combat, the entire Intramuros was in Allied hands. “
Reports of General MacArthur :The Campaigns in the Pacific, Volume 1, pages 273-75. These reports were prepared by MacArthur’s general staff & printed with his approval by his Tokyo headquarters in 1950. It is available online.
I have included this report of the battle to get an accurate idea what MacArthur thought important at the start of this major battle. Here is a situation where thousands of ordinary Filipino people were being killed, wounded, forced to flee, and their homes destroyed every day. They were being killed by the Japanese.Women were being rounded up & being raped and then killed by the Japanese.Children & babies were killed. It was a catastrophe.
But MacArthur’s own report says nothing about what the Japanese were doing to Filipinos in Manila. Nothing at all. Judging by the report here were the issues MacArthur and his officers were focussed on, as they liberated the city of Manila :
- The US and other foreign internees held imprisoned by the Japanese. MacArthur’s reports has almost 150 words about the rescue of 5000 American and other foreign nationalities interned & imprisoned by the Japanese since 1942. In fact these foreign internees get an entire separate paragraph.These expats were specially cared for by the US army.
- The presence of a 20,000 men strong armed resistant Japanese mainly marines in the heart & port of Manila commanded by Iwabuchi, which would not surrender and had not evacuated Manila as directed by Yamashita.
- Third & last, the fate of the many tens of thousands of Filipinos still in the Japanese zone of control in the old centre of the city. “many non-belligerents, mostly women and children, were within the city. A plea was broadcast to the Japanese…. to evacuate the civilian population and prevent unnecessary bloodshed. No answer was received” So the attack was launched.
I think it safe to say that MacArthur & his staff officers did not think the fate of the Filipino people of major importance. And that was a major moral flaw in MacArthur’s thinking as a military commander. A military commander taking control of a city in war, is morally responsible for the fate of it’s civilians.
The American troops attacked the Japanese held area North of the river Pasig : the China town areas, Quiapo, Binondo & Tondo. After severe fighting the Japanese were forced to retreat South across the river. As they retreated they set fire to the areas and then blew up the bridges over the river. And then US troops attacked across the Pasig, from the East and from the South. The battle lasted till the 4th. of March. In the course of that battle thousands of Filipinos were being killed by the American by ‘friendly fire in the artillery & mortar bombardments and in the intense house to house fighting.Towards the end they were also killed by US Air Force bombing & strafing.
At the end of the battle virtually all the Japanese were killed. The Americans took very few prisoners. Or else the Japanese fought until killed. The Japanese commander, Iwabuchi is reported to have killed himself towards the end of the battle in late February. Just 1010 US troops died and another 5565 were wounded out of a total US Military army force in the city of 35,000 ( Source : Gen Ricardo Morales Rappler )
And thousands of Filipino civilians were dead. Counting the Filipino dead was almost impossible. After the battle was over, the US army ordered Filipino ‘funeralistas’ to clear away the bodies in the battle zone. And the funeralistas gave a count of over 100,000 dead. But the heart of the city was pulverized, destroyed. It is said to the most heavily devastated Allied city next to Warsaw which was devastated by the Nazi Germans in 1944. How many more dead lay buried under the pulverized rubble of entire districts of the city ? No one knows.
After the battle was over MacArthur authorised the bulldozing of the devastated part of the city. I have read that the Americans wanted to clear away all the battle scarred ruins so the land could be used again. But that strikes me as totally bizarre. I suspect that this was psychologically an attempt to ‘clean up’ and assuage his own guilt. The ruins bulldozed included many churches hundreds of years old. The ruined bombed out Cathedral of Manila was almost bulldozed as well but saved at the last moment.
In 1974 I stayed in Manila for a few days. I wandered around the area & ruins of Intramuros. I remember wondering then why there was so much empty space in the heart of the city. A lot of that space had been turned into a golf course.
MacArthur report states “There was no choice but to order a time-consuming infantry assault to move in, after the way had been prepared by artillery and mortars.”
But did MacArthur have any other tactical choices for dealing with the situation he faced ? I think the answer is yes, he did have another choice. And one only has to look at what had happened to MacArthur himself three years previously to see that choice at work. When the Japanese attacked & occupied the Philippines, MacArthur had his forces retreat to Bataan and Corregidor. And General Homma after failing in his initial attack on Bataan imposed a siege on both these US outposts. The US & Filipino troops held out at Bataan from January till April. They then surrendered after a renewed Japanese attack because they did not have any food.They were starving. They did not get any more military supplies or medicines. They were forced to surrender.
In February/March 1945 the Japanese were cut off from support. MacArthur’s forces occupied the rest of the city and surrounding country side. The Japanese naval marines in Manila were isolated. The seas was controlled by the US Navy. The air was dominated by the US Air force. And that meant that the Japanese forces also had limited supplies of ammunition and other military supplies. And they had no possibility of being relieved by other Japanese troops. I think that MacArthur could have made a decision to impose a siege on the Japanese. The Pasig river & Manila Bay could provided good effective boundaries for most of a siege. I think that if he had imposed a siege on the area still controlled by the Japanese he would have forced them to surrender in a period of 6- 8 weeks. And I think this tactical decision would have saved many thousands of lives by giving them time to escape from the Japanese area. And it would have not destroyed the buildings and infrastructure and history that lay there in the heart of the 400 year old city. I asked my Filipina ‘agom’, “which would be better, to fight a major battle with bombs & artillery and destroy the city of Manila & kill the Manilena people; or to surround the Japanese held area and stop them moving in or out, stop food supplies and impose a siege and wait ? She immediately replied “ Surround the Japanese controlled area and wait”.
But that is not what happened. An important fact: Manila is the only example of the US military completely destroying an allied city and the civilian population in an allied country. MacArthur was the man in charge then.I think he must bear the moral responsibility for his ‘tactical’ decision in that campaign. Just as he must bear the responsibility for persuading the US president to adopt the strategy of ‘liberating’ the Philippines.
And I think MacArthur was aware of that moral responsibility. Peter Parsons in his “Battle for Manila – Myth & Fact’ says something very interesting about the ceremony held at Malacanang palace in June 1945, where he formally handed over the reins of government to President Osmena. Parsons says that MacArthur at one point ‘choked up and could not proceed’. He then quotes MacArthur as saying :
“..To others it might seem ( this is ) my moment of victory and my moment of monumental personal acclaim, but to me it seems only the culmination of a panorama of physical & spiritual disaster”.
MacArthur claimed that he loved the Philippines and the Filipino people. Yet in late August 1945 MacArthur left the Philippines and went to Japan. He did not return until 1960- 15 years later. Perhaps this is an indication of not wanting to be present and having to face the people who he had harmed in such an awful way.
* * * * * *
There is a bit more to examine about MacArthur in the Philippines. In March 1945 MacArthur was the supreme commander of the victorious US army in the Philippines. Effectively he ran the country until he left to take over Japan after the Japanese surrender. Yes there were still some Japanese troops at large. And they were armed & dangerous. But they knew they were isolated & defeated. MacArthur declared the Philippines ‘secure’ on June 30, 1945. And he staged a ceremony to hand over power to President Osmeña of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. But still MacArthur was the boss : Revere makes a telling remark on page 82 about MacArthur
“ He had ruled the Philippines with a strong hand through the first crucial months after liberation. True he formally turned over the liberated areas to the Philippine government.. headed by Sergio Osmeña. But it was symbolic that when the ( handover ) ceremony was over and the general and his aides tumbled into waiting cars, Osmeña was left without even a jeep & driver to help him find living quarters. MacArthur & his headquarters were to make all the vital decisions in the weeks ahead.”
MacArthur made many important decisions in those few months. A key one was what to do with Japanese collaborators. From March 1945 those Filippinos who had collaborated with the Japanese started to surrender to the US troops. Roosevelt had declared that those Filippinos who had collaborated should be ‘removed from authority and influence over the political & economic life of the country’. And MacArthur himself said “it shall be my firm purpose” he said in November 1944, “to run to earth every disloyal Filipino who has debased his country’s cause”. However MacArthur ignored Roosevelt’s orders.
The key example is Manual Roxas grandfather of Mar Roxas liberal party candidate for president this coming election.. Manuel Roxas was a very prominent political leader in pre war Commonwealth of Philippines. He was a speaker of the legislature and an aide to President Quezon. After the Philippines was occupied by the Japanese, he did not flee into exile, but went to Mindanao. There he was captured by the Japanese later in 1942 and imprisoned. Later on he became a collaborator & member of the Japanese puppet cabinet responsible for food distribution. In April 1945 Roxas was captured by US troops near Baguio.
After the capture MacArthur announced that Roxas had been rescued from the Japanese along with the capture of 4 other members of the puppet cabinet.’ President Osmena asked MacArthur how he had arrived at this interesting distinction between rescused and captured, the general replied, ‘I have known Manuel Roxas for 20 years and I know personally that he is no threat to our military security.Therefore we are not detaining him” He later sought to justify his action by claiming that Roxas was ‘ one of the prime factors in the guerilla movement” . More likely Manuel Roxas like any sensible man followed a policy of placing a number of bets of each side (Revere page 82)
Karnow (page 336) has a black & white photo of MacArthur greeting Manual Roxas. Clearly MacArthur saw him as a friend despite Roxas having worked for the Japanese for two years.
MacArthur supported Manuel Roxas because he knew him & liked him but MacArthur thus settled the political future of the Philippines. In ‘rescuing’ Manuel Roxas MacArthur set in motion a process which would end by rescuing many leading collaborators. Instead of them being stripped of political & economic power they were restored to positions of power. Manuel Roxas argued that the puppets government had acted under duress and that Osmena should immediately restore all pre war officials to their jobs whether or not they had served under the Japanese. MacArthur himself insisted on reconvening the pre-war elected Philippine congress in spite of the fact it was filled with collaborationists.
MacArthur’s endorsement of Manuel Roxas in 1945 made possible his election as the Liberal party candidate for president of the new republic in 1946 instead of the nationalist party candidate Osmena who had gone into exile in 1942. The election of Roxas meant the recapture of power by all the rich, conservative groups who had ruled the Philippines as collaborators under the Japanese. ( Revere page 84). So the Philippines is still living with the consequences of that endorsement.
General Yamashita continued to hold out against the Japanese in the Northern Cordillera mountains. But on August 15th the Japanese Emperor ended the War with his acceptance of total surrender. Yamashita finally surrendered on September 2nd. The treaty ending the war was signed on September 2nd 1945 on a US Naval battleship in Tokyo bay. MacArthur was there at that formal ceremony. But he was not the person authorised to accept the Japanese surrender. That honor went to Admiral Nimitz. Nimitz had truly earned it. If you look carefully at the photos of the event you will see Nimitz signing the US acceptance of the surrender while MacArthur stands by looking on.
Yamashita was put on trial before a panel of US generals in February 1946. Yamashita no doubt was guilty of many war crimes from his time commanding Japanese troops from 1941-45. But he was charged with the destruction that happened to Malinenas and to the city in February 1945. Yamashita was in Baguio during all the time when Manila was destroyed. But he was found guilty by the US military War Crimes tribunal. He was hung shortly afterwards. But I wonder if he was rather more a ‘sacrificial offering’ to assuage American guilt at what had happened and appease Filippino anger.
MacArthur went on to become the effective ‘dictator ‘ in Japan after the signing of the peace treaty of September 1945. And here he did something quite different. He was determined that the Japanese land owning elite that had lead Japan into war would lose power & influence.Therefore their lands were compulsorily acquired at low price.And these lands were then redistributed to the peasants who had farmed them for generations. In this way MacArthur created an influential conservative but pro-american small farmer class in the heart of Japan.
- Hecho Ayer “ Liberation that Destroyed : The end of Manila, Queen of the Pacific” 29/7/2010,
- Miguel A Bernad “ Genocide in Manila” review of Jose Bonifacio M Escoda book Warsaw of Asia : The Rape of Manila, Giraffe books, Quezon City 2001
- Stanley Karnow : In Our Image : America’s Empire in the Philippines Ballantine Books 1989
- Benito Lagarda Jr. : The Legarda Essays : Battle of Manila” 12/2/15 , http://malacanang.gov.ph/category/commemorative-pages/battle-of-manila/
- R H Revere & Schlesinger : General MacArthur & President Truman- the struggle for control of American Foreign Policy Ferara Straus & Giroux, 1952
- “Battling Bastards of Bataan” website http://www.battlingbastardsbataan.com/som.htm
- Ricardo Morales “The Americans Destroyed Manila in 1945”, http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/82850-americans-destroyed-manila-1945
- Seth Mydans “Japanese Veteran Writes Of Brutal : Philippine War” The New York Times, September 2, 2001
- PC Parsons “ The Battle of Manila-Myth & Fact” presented at Manila Battle conference 7/2/2008 at Ortigas in Philippines. bacepow.net/mythvsfact.pdf
- The end of Manila Colour film footage of the battle of manila in 1945 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzmE8H5wiC8
- The Massacre of Manila : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ntr-eRvMX0I
- Reports of General MacArthur : Campaigns in the Pacific Volume 1 Washington DC 1994 http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/RptsMacA/I/index.html#contents
- Peter Charlton : “General’s Scheme to erase Australians” http://www.couriermail.com.au/extras/ww2/stories.htm
- Dennis Warner, “The Tiger & the Rape of Manila’ New York Times 3/2/1995 http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/03/opinion/03iht-edwarn.html
- Australians involved in the Liberation of the Philippines : http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/lastbattles/return.html
MacArthur’s own statement after the Manila Massacre
On 28 February General MacArthur made the following address upon reestablishing the Commonwealth Government in the city of Manila:
More than three years have elapsed-years of bitterness, struggle and sacrifice-since I withdrew our forces and installations from this beautiful city that, open and undefended, its churches, monuments and cultural centers might, in accordance with the rules of warfare, be spared the violence of military ravage. The enemy would not have it so and much that I sought to preserve has been unnecessarily destroyed by his desperate action at bay but by these ashes he has wantonly fixed the future pattern of his own doom.
Then, we were but a small force struggling to stem the advance of overwhelming hordes treacherously hurled against us, behind the mask of professed friendship and international goodwill. That struggle was not in vain! God has indeed blessed our arms! The girded and unleashed power of America supported by our Allies turned the tide of battle in the Pacific and resulted in an unbroken series of crushing defeats upon the enemy, culminating in the redemption of your soil and the liberation of your people. My country has kept the faith!
Its soldiers come here as an army of free men dedicated, with your people, to the cause of human liberty and committed to the task of destroying those evil forces that have sought to suppress it by brutality of the sword. An army of freemen that has brought your people once again under democracy’s banner, to rededicate their churches, long desecrated, to the Glory of God and public worship; to reopen their schools to liberal education; to till the soil and reap its harvest without fear of confiscation; to reestablish their industries that they may again enjoy the profit from the sweat of their own toil; and to restore the sanctity and happiness of their homes unafraid of violent intrusion.
Thus to millions of your now liberated people comes the opportunity to pledge themselves-their hearts, their minds and their hands-to the task of building a new and stronger nation – a nation consecrated in the blood nobly shed that this day might be-a nation dedicated to making imperishable those sacred liberties for which we have fought and many have died.
On behalf of my Government I now solemnly declare, Mr. President, the full powers and responsibilities under the Constitution restored to the Commonwealth whose seat is here reestablished as provided by law. Your country thus is again at liberty to pursue its destiny to an honored position in the family of free nations. Your capital city, cruelly punished though it be, has regained its rightful place – Citadel of Democracy in the East.
Thank you to Bill in Oz for the entire McArthur series!
Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 29. February 2016