Saving MacArthur

I recently came across a posting on one of the most popular WW2 discussion forums. The poster asked: “Could the Philippines have been saved?” – meaning right after the invasion in December 1941. My interest awakened, I started looking into the response from the other members on the site and similar ones on other forums. To my surprise I found that much of the discussion pivoted around the person of General Douglas MacArthur, the officer in command of the US army forces – USAFFE - in The Philippines at the time, rather than what was not done to save him and his command.

“Could the Philippines have been saved?” Of course it could, could it not? Well, this simple (!) question, if not subject, create much the same response that is often seen in similar discussions. Because an event did not happen, or turned out the way it did, there is a general reluctance to accept that it actually could have ended differently.

The Philippines could not have been saved by a singular event or action, a book would have to be written to show how this could be possible.….Well, here it is - or, rather, a teaser on The Project - Saving MacArthur.

Here is a short introductory note to each chapter as they are each preliminary finished but I warn you that I do not expect The Project to be fully ready for quite some time. In the end I estimate it to cover 400-500 pages:

Added January 21st, 2016:

After this, the original introduction to the first book chapters, I am posting links here as the consecutive books are out on Kindle. There has been some changes as the project has developed.

Saving MacArthur: Book 1 - "Time is of the Essence" - is now out as eBook on Kindle:

Saving MacArthur - Book 1

Saving MacArthur: Book 2 - "The Cavalry is coming" - is now out as eBook on Kindle:

Saving MacArthur: Book 2

Saving MacArthur: Book 3 - "A Japanese headache" - is now out as eBook on Kindle:

Saving MacArthur: Book 3 

Saving MacArthur: Book 4 - "Bangka Sound - The Battle of Menado" - is now out as eBook on Kindle:

Saving MacArthur - Book 4 

Saving MacArthur: Book 5 - "On the Offensive" - is now out at as eBook on Kindle:

Saving MacArthur - Book 5 

Saving MacArthur - Book 6: "Enemy at the Gates" - is now out as eBook on Kindle:

Saving MacArthur - Book 6

Saving MacArthur - Book 7: "It's getting better" - is now out as eBook on Kindle

Saving MacArthur - Book 7

Book 8 - "I shall return" - shall be the last book in the series

Book 1

Chapter 1 - The Background - Philippines 1899-1941

The story of the planned Japanese occupation of the Philippines and the South-West Pacific could have ended very differently from what it did. Its happy ending, if such words can be used on an event with so much death and destruction, was mainly due to the rare mix of daring US leadership and that nation’s inherent tradition of pioneering, will to overcome the impossible and to see solutions where others saw problems. To pull together in an emergency that threatened its utter survival - the fighting spirit of its armed forces – for a large part a citizen army.

It is easy to imagine how it all could have turned out if these properties had not been present. The US air and naval forces driven out of the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies, the Luzon army forced to surrender at Bataan and Corregidor bombed into submission. It would have taken years to come back into the fight, if ever. Australia, New Zealand, India and Pearl Harbor could have been the next victims. Roosevelt might even not have survived such an ordeal but have had to submit to the isolationists with the consequence that the British and the Soviet Union lost the American material support and their fighting units. A less gloomy scenario is that Australia could have been held, a base for future revival with a costly slug-fest up through the Pacific island chains towards Japan....

Chapter 2 – The Boss - MacArthur 1885-1941

General Douglas MacArthur loved the Philippines and its people and his Philippine troops loved him. He was a controversial person. Heavily decorated in the First World War he went on to become Army Chief-of-Staff before he took up position as military advisor to the Philippine president Manuel Quezon in 1935, at the same time liaising between the US Philippine Department and Philippine forces. MacArthur knew President Queson from his earlier service with the US Army in the Philippines. In 1922 he married American multi-millionaire Louise Cromwell Brooks, a recently divorced, beautiful and popular woman in the snobbish Washington upper social circles. It was rumoured that General Pershing courted the same woman. In that same year MacArthur was transferred to the Philippines, taking his wife and her two children with him. He returned with his family to the US in the spring of 1925. While in The Philippines he was promoted Major General, the youngest in the US Army....

Chapter 3 - The Plan – defending the Philippines

Before the establishment of the Commonwealth Government in 1935 little effort was made to prepare the Philippines for its defence. The United States had assumed all obligations for national defence and maintained a garrison in the Islands. This garrison numbered about 10,000 men, half of whom were Philippine Scouts, a U.S.Army unit in which the enlisted men, with some exceptions, were native Filipinos and most of the officers American. After 1913 the Philippine garrison was called the Philippine Department, a regular U.S. Army establishment commanded by an American general officer. The Philippine Constabulary, first organized in 1901, was the national police force, but by training and organization it had a military character. Thus, except for their experience with the Constabulary, the Filipinos had had no military tradition on which to build a national army. One of the first problems of the newly established Commonwealth Government was to make provision for the defence of the archipelago. That task required a man with proven military and executive ability and, since there was no likely candidate in the Philippines, the President-elect Manuel L. Quezon turned to the United States for help. In the summer of 1935 he induced his friend Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff of the U.S.Army, to become the military adviser to the new government in its effort to organize a national army. President Roosevelt's consent was readily obtained and arrangements quickly concluded....

Chapter 4 - The Presidential dilemma – December 10th – Washington time

The President was confused, tired and a little angry. Three days had passed since he delivered his epic “day of infamy”-speech over the radio waves after the treacherous Japanese surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. While he blamed the Japanese for his presently somewhat worn-down physical status, it had been a very strenuous period, the other cases that bothered him were more incurred by his subordinate political and military leaders than the Japanese. He didn’t understand it! Ever since the hideous message: “Air attack on Pearl Harbor, this is no drill”, had ticked in on the afternoon of Sept 7th his normally quite composed associates had run around like headless chickens. He was, to put it mildly, quite stunned by their one-sided and constant focus on defensive and passive arrangements. The President was not a military man in the real sense but as far as he could understand, the Japanese had to be in a process of overstretching themselves. And just a little while ago information had arrived from MacArthur in Manila that the enemy had started to land north of Lingayen Bay on Luzon. Analysis made before the war by the best military brains in the US had been quite clear – considering their large involvement in China the Japanese could hardly execute more than one other large operation at a time. Only one of the destroyer captains in the Asiatic Fleet had, under doubt, opted for a possible second. Now that the Japanese had landed on Luzon, their foothold in Malaya had been confirmed, Hong Kong was under assault and a naval force was hovering near Wake Island – how could they return to The Hawaiian Islands for a repeat performance? To him it was so obvious that the Japanese carrier fleet was well on its way back to their home base. Their mission had been daring, but also dangerous, they had been very lucky to escape detection and they would certainly not repeat such a game against a base which now was prepared and strutting like a porcupine....

Chapter 5 – The Meeting – Dec. 12th – Washington time

On the morning of December 12th 1941 a group of prominent persons connected to the military and civilian leadership of the United States gathered in the meeting room in the basement of the White House, Washington D.C.  They were President F. D. Roosevelt, Secretary of War Stimson, Under-secretary of Navy Forrestal (Secretary Knox was visiting Pearl Harbor), General Marshall, Admiral Stark, “Hap” Arnold of the USAAC and War Plans staff members Colonel Eisenhower and Brigadier General  L. Gerow, and a few others. This was an expanded joint Navy/Army Staff meeting. And as the President was participating it was set in the White House. Considering the serious national situation after the Japanese assault on the US bases in Hawaii and the Philippines some days earlier they all looked rather relaxed. There were good reasons for this. Well, some would probably say that the German declaration of war on the US, handed over in Washington the day before, was not a good reason for the meeting members to relax but it had cleared the political sky considerably and instilled an even stronger determination in the nation and its leaders. In practice, there was now no holds barred on the military tools needed to get through the conflict at hand....

Chapter 6 - The first Week – December 15h – Philippine time

On the evening of December 15th there was a big party at Fort Stotzenburg officer club arranged by the pilots of the 17th and 20th pursuit squadrons. The woods around the camp was filled with officers and enlisted men that had pulled away to find shelter some distance away from the constantly harassed airfield and it was only incidentally that the pilots had discovered that the club was operating as if everything was normal in spite of the routine Japanese bombing of the next door Clark Field. There were 1.500 cases of beer available and some of the nurses from the camp hospital had been persuaded to attend the party. Even then there were about 15 pilots per nurse, all competing for their attention.  The engineering officer of the 20th squadron dropped in to attract volunteers to help him maintain the few remaining P-40’s spread around the base. He had little luck with that.

The number of pilots “out of work” had increased steadily as the days passed on, most of their steeds resting as wrecks around the Luzon countryside and airfields, so few remained that General Brereton, Commanding Officer USAAC in the Philippines, had decided to restrict all combat operations to save his resources for future reconnaissance missions. He had also decided that he would go with Admiral Hart to Australia to participate in the meeting being planned there around the 20th. Macarthur had suggested this, there was little left for Brereton to do at Luzon now with his fighter force reduced to a skeleton of what it once was and his bombers withdrawn to Australia or Mindanao. More important was to raise new fighters to reestablish his dwindling force.  Colonel George, whom he considered a down-to-earth work horse, well liked by his men, would take over the bankrupted force in the meantime. It was, after all, counting all the remaining P-35’s and P-40’s, only flying assets left in the islands to man what was a reasonably-equipped squadron....

Chapter 7 - Admiral Stark sees the light - December 15th – Washington time

Admiral Stark felt better now. The shock after the meeting with the President three days ago had slowly rescinded. What had he been thinking, raising a brow on the President’s decision? Never had he seen the President show a face like he did on that occasion. The glowing determination and a sort of only slightly veiled contempt on a subordinate that didn’t get his message – or yielded to it without hesitation. Stark had been equally surprised by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he had showed no sympathy whatever at his misgivings on the President’s choice during the meeting – that all means available should be set in to relieve the Philippines – poste haste. For Stark this had created inner views of the Pacific Fleet, reduced as it was, steaming out of Pearl after inferior preparations to crash their way through the Mandates and various island chains studded with Japanese air and submarine bases. It was almost inevitable that such images should come to his mind first. After all, that was the US strategy he had grown up with, which had existed since the turn of the century, a strategy that postulated months, perhaps years, of preparations and force concentrations to beat down the ever-expanding Japanese navy. He had to admit that upon leaving the meeting, in spite of his confirmative reply to the President on his full cooperation, he did have certain ideas on taking his crazy idea up with fellow navy officers in staffs and prominent positions. Forrestal saw through him.  As they left the building together, before they parted to step into their separate staff cars, he casually lined the admiral up in front of him and said in a soft voice...

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