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Part One: Destiny
NARR: In 1884 Douglas MacArthur, age four, trekked 300 miles to Fort
Selden, New Mexico. His father, in command of 46 enlisted men, had been sent
to protect railroad crews and settlers from Geronimo's marauding Apaches. His
earliest memory was the sound of bugles. Every morning he joined the soldiers
at stiff attention. He remembered the ceremonies as a "never ending
thrill." And his father was in charge.
Douglas saw his father at the center of the struggle to bring law and order to
the American West.
PERRET: This is to be part of a great adventure. This was the last great
adventure. Once the frontier was closed, America, in a way, had been tamed.
MacArthur was thrilled for his whole life to feel that he, as a child, had
witnessed this adventure and been a part of it. And his father plays an
important role in it because it's the military that pushes the frontier back
and the civilians come afterwards. And he sees the military as embodying
everything that is best about the United States.
NARR: Douglas' father Arthur had left Milwaukee to fight in the Civil War and
had come back a hero. His mother, a Confederate from Norfolk, Virginia known
as Pinky, valued Arthur's bravery and overlooked the color of his uniform.
"We were to do what was right no matter what the personal sacrifice might be,"
his father impressed upon him. "Our country was always to come first."
In 1883 all the MacArthur children got measles. Malcolm, Douglas' playmate,
died at age four. Pinky believed Douglas and his oldest brother
Arthur III had been spared for a reason. At bedtime, Douglas recalled, her
last words would be, "You must grow up to be a great man - like your father
and Robert E. Lee."
Malcolm's death intensified Pinky's desire to escape the lonely frontier. She
pleaded with her husband to leave the army. The captain refused.
But when he was posted to Washington, Pinky was pleased. Douglas was not. He
missed the "color and excitement" of the soldier's frontier life.
He did enjoy his grandfather, Arthur MacArthur Senior, a highly respected
scholar and judge.
As his grandfather entertained Washington's elite, Douglas got what he called
"my first glimpse of politics and diplomacy, statesmanship and intrigue."
KENNETH R. YOUNG: Judge MacArthur reinforces the idea that a MacArthur is not
going to be simply a military man, that a MacArthur must be a scholar, that a
MacArthur must be a gentleman, and in those values were the things that a
gentleman did and did not do. Gentlemen did not lie. Gentlemen did not
cheat. Gentlemen were honorable, and if gentlemen were in war, gentlemen
NARR: He also learned they were not above self-promotion. The Judge used his
connections to help Douglas' father get the Medal of Honor. Twenty years after
his feats in the Civil War at age 18.
Douglas relished the story of how his father had distinguished himself at the
battle of Missionary Ridge in Tennessee. How he had grabbed the flag from a
bayoneted corporal, charged up the ridge, and then, above the roar of battle,
cried, "On Wisconsin!," waving the colors where the whole regiment could see
YOUNG: There was no doubt that Col. MacArthur truly believed that honor was
more important than death itself, and I think Douglas always felt the need to
equal, not surpass, no one could surpass the bravery of Douglas's father,
certainly not in Douglas's mind, but not to disappoint his father, to try to
equal that bravery.
NARR: With the outbreak of the Spanish American war in April of 1898, Arthur
MacArthur Jr., now a brigadier general, was ordered to the Philippines.
Douglas' brother, Arthur III, a Naval Academy graduate, steamed toward Havana.
At his father's bidding Douglas went to West Point. With nowhere else to go,
Pinky joined him and lived in a hotel. She would never be far away.
For the next four years he would endure a Spartan life at the U.S. Military
STEPHEN E. AMBROSE, Historian: They didn't get any Christmas vacation, no
thanksgiving vacation, no Easter vacation, no vacations of any kind. They were
isolated from the world in a way that was almost medieval. Now it did have
positive effects of bringing these kids together, an old army principle. You
bring them together by getting them to hate the same person, and at West Point
it started off with you hated the guys who were hazing you.
NARR: As the son of a general, Douglas was a marked man. One night he was
ordered to perform spread eagles, squatting and rising over broken glass -
flapping his arms like wings. MacArthur remembered doing 200 before
he fainted. After the death of a plebe President McKinley ordered
West Point to conduct an inquiry into hazing. Douglas was summoned to
testify. To name the upper classmen who had hazed him. He would have to
choose between informing and expulsion. The career that he, and his father, so
valued was at stake. To complicate matters Pinky weighed in. With a poem.
"Remember the world will be quick in its blame if shadow or shame ever darken
your name. Like mother like son, is saying so true, the world will judge
largely of mother by you.
PERRET: So its not just his reputation and his future that's at stake now. He
has to do something that his mother can be proud of so that she can hold her
head up . He has to find a way to satisfy the board and still walk out of
there being able to say I'm not a snitch. And he finds a way of doing this. He
names people who have already confessed or have already been expelled, but he
won't name anybody else.
NARR: MacArthur endured his hazing ordeal, a cadet recalled, "with fortitude
and dignity. He showed himself a true soldier." He passed his
academic tests as well graduating first in his class, with one of the best
records in the academy's history. He revered the corps of cadets, the Long
Gray Line that threaded through the generations to defend America. Many times
in the years ahead he would say "the soldier who is called upon to offer his
life for his country is the noblest development of mankind." A half a world
away in the Philippines, Douglas believed his father was approaching such
elevated status. Taking the Philippines from Spain was easy. Subduing
Filipinos who wanted independence was not. Arthur MacArthur was one of the
heroes of the war. After a year and a half of fighting guerrillas, he was
elevated to military governor. William Howard Taft, a federal judge,
arrived a month later. His mandate from President McKinley was to plan for
STANLEY KARNOW, Author: And this was a terrible blow to Arthur MacArthur's ego,
to have this fat 325 pound civilian from Ohio coming in there and running what
he thought, Arthur MacArthur thought, was really a military situation.and so
MacArthur resents him tremendously, shoves him off in a tiny room where Taft,
given his girth, would have great trouble moving around.
NARR: Taft was convinced the rebellion was under control and the military
should hand over power to his commission. Casualty reports convinced MacArthur
it was not over - and the civilians should butt out. In letters to Washington,
Taft said the general was "haughty" and "arrogant" and convinced President
McKinley to order MacArthur home.
KENNETH R. YOUNG, Arthur MacArthur Biographer: He had been a highly successful
military governor. And what he expected when he returned home was accolades.
He expected the bands to be playing. Instead what he got was ignored, and I
think that hurt him deeply. And from that point on, General Arthur MacArthur
did not trust politicians, and I think that that experience is embedded in
NARR: Taft went on to become Secretary of War and denied Arthur MacArthur,
then the highest ranking officer in the Army, the job he thought he deserved -
chief of staff. Douglas' father retired to Milwaukee a bitter man.
In 1912, addressing a reunion of his Wisconsin Civil War regiment, Arthur
MacArthur collapsed and died. He left orders not to be buried in his army
uniform. Douglas would feel the burden of upholding the high
standards of being a MacArthur. He would never forget how his father had been
treated by civilian authority.
KARNOW: He's left with this extraordinarily ambitious mother and who was
driving and pushing him all the time, and in him there's this great desire to
fulfill the ambition of his mother, to fulfill her dreams for him and prove
to her in many ways that he is going to surpass his father.
NARR: His chance would come in World War I. Douglas MacArthur became chief
of staff of the Army's 42nd Division - which he had created from national guard
units. He said it would stretch like a rainbow across the country. The 42nd
became known as the Rainbow Division. MacArthur served under
General John Pershing who commanded from headquarters well behind the lines.
He expected MacArthur, now a brigadier general, to do the same. But the only
real soldier, MacArthur felt, was at the front. In September 1918 Pershing
ordered a bayonet charge with minimal artillery, hoping to catch the Germans by
surprise. MacArthur's troops rejected this as too risky. He agreed. "It's
sometimes the order you don't obey," he told a fellow officer, "that makes you
famous." He changed the plans. He also led the charge. And he did
it with style.
HARRY J. MAIHAFER, Military Historian: Everyone in the Rainbow Division knew
their chief of staff went over the top not wearing a gas mask, not wearing a
steel helmet, wearing that long scarf that his mother had made draped around,
wearing his West Point sweater, and the troops loved it. And he did this quite
deliberately, maybe to win glory, to stand out, but it was a doubled purpose
that he had: one was to help the troops to overcome their own fear, and then
there's also to make a mark for himself. And I think this was resented at
NARR: In the fall of 1918 Pershing prepared to storm the German defenses. The
key was a low hill known as the Cote de Chatillon. It was littered
with the corpses of American and French troops. On October 13th, MacArthur's
commander paid a visit. "Give me Chatillon, MacArthur," he said abruptly, "or
a list of 5000 casualties." "All right, General," MacArthur replied, "we'll
take it, or my name will head the list." His men could take some
comfort knowing he would share their risks. The challenge was
daunting. Embedded in the Cote de Chatillon were 230 machine gun nests -
protected from artillery by pillboxes. Protected from advancing
troops by coils of barbed wire often 25 feet deep. MacArthur
organized a small patrol to probe for weak spots. "We had not gone far in the
darkness," he recalled, "when the enemy opened up with everything he had."
In the eerie light of bursting shells, he discovered a thin spot in the
wire where men could cut through. "Then I called in <a>
muffled voice, 'Get up when I give the signal...I will lead you back to our
lines.' I gave the command. No one stirred. I crawled along from shell hole
to shell hole. I took hold of each man and shook him. They were all stone
dead. I made my way back with God's help."
PERRET: How could it be that of all the people on that patrol, he isn't even
scratched. The others are all dead. The only logical explanation is that God
has spared him. Things happen in this world for reasons, and as far as
MacArthur is concerned, this is the only reason that makes any sense at all.
It could not be blind chance.
NARR: MacArthur planned to exploit the vulnerable flanks in the German lines.
He wrote, "There was where I planned to strike with my Alabama cotton-growers
on the left, my Iowa farmers on the right. We moved out in the
misty dawn. Death, cold and remorseless, whistled and sung its way through our
ranks." MacArthur placed himself at the head of his brigade. Like
his father at Missionary Ridge he would win glory, leading men in a desperate
PERRET: And he's in the thick of the fighting, but he's not carrying a weapon.
He carries a riding crop because it isn't his business to kill the Germans with
his own hands. It's his business to inspire in other men in the business of
killing. So when MacArthur went up a hill, he didn't have to look behind to
see if men were following him. Where he led they would follow. He could
inspire men to fight and possibly die rather than disappoint him.
NARR: MacArthur's Rainbow Division had breached the German line. Within weeks
the war was over. The toll was frightful. Four thousand men, one-third of the
division, had fallen.
PERRET: And although MacArthur never talked specifically about the casualties
on the Cote de Chatillon the emotional impact remained with him for the rest of
his life because he could never speak about what happened there without tears
coming to his eyes and he would choke up and he just couldn't really talk
about it. Seeing so much human sacrifice, I think, left a scar on him till
the day he died.
NARR: A board of officers recommended MacArthur for the Medal of Honor.
Pershing awarded him less saying he had not met that standard of
heroism. He had not even killed anyone. Douglas MacArthur was the
most decorated officer of the war, but he came to believe that Pershing's
clique was out to thwart him, armchair generals who resented a fighting
officer. When he arrived in New York with his troops on April 25th,
1919, MacArthur expected an adoring throng "to proclaim us monarchs of all we
surveyed." At the foot of the gangplank "one little urchin asked us who we
were," MacArthur wrote, "and when we said 'We are the famous 42nd', he asked if
we had been to France. "Amid a silence that hurt we marched off to be
scattered to the four winds, a sad, gloomy end of the Rainbow."
MacArthur landed one of the Army's top jobs, superintendent of West Point.
Pinky became his official hostess, graciously entertaining, as a MacArthur
should, presidents and kings. Once again, she was never far away. "West Point
is 40 years behind the times," the army chief of staff told MacArthur.
"Revitalize and revamp the academy."
AMBROSE: Nobody would ever think of Douglas MacArthur as a reformer and an
innovator, but he came back from his experiences in the First World War
determined to pull West Point into the 20th century. He said, we're going to
have to face the fact that there's going to be another war. It's going to be
another enormous expansion of the army when it happens, and we're going to have
to have officers who can deal with these civilians and who can help turn these
civilians into soldiers and then can lead these civilians into battle and they
gotta know something about the civilian world if they're gonna do that.
NARR: MacArthur would try to change what he called a "provincial
reformatory...based on fear" into "a cosmopolitan university" based on
"self-respect and pride." He curtailed hazing and encouraged the
humanities requiring cadets to write poetry. When he sat in
classes and urged discussion - not rote recitation - the faculty considered
this a "dangerous innovation."
AMBROSE: When they found out MacArthur was gonna give the cadets five dollars a
month and let them go down to Highland Falls once in a while and spend some of
that money, they were horrified. When they heard that first classmen were going
to be allowed to go and come from the post as they wished, you'd a thought the
world had come to an end almost.
NARR: MacArthur was not afraid to challenge the West Point
establishment. To do what he thought was right, as his father had said, no
matter what the cost. His aloof manner set him further apart. An aide
described him as "one of the loneliest men I have ever known." That
was about to change. In September of 1921, MacArthur, age 41, met Louise
Cromwell Brooks, a 31-year-old divorced socialite with two children
- and a fortune.
TANYA BROOKS, Daughter-in-Law: It was absolutely love at first sight, and as I
gather it was love at first sight on the part of both. She thought he was the
handsomest man she'd ever seen, and because the general was a very romantic
man, he wrote beautiful poetic letters that any young girl would be happy today
to get but not likely to get. He was a man of another world in that respect.
NARR: "My Darling," MacArthur wrote Louise, "Where hides the inspiration that
has armed my purpose, steeled my thought?" Where the contentment, the calm I
have known in this grim old fortress? My ears thirst for the echo of your
step." He wrote she was "like an empress, but no empress breathes
your melting, imperious tenderness. Like a goddess, but no goddess knows the
blinding flashes of your eyes. How could I fail to find my word at once. Like
Louise." MacArthur invited Louise to a football game. After the
final whistle, he proposed marriage. On Valentine's Day, he and Louise were
married at her mother's mansion in Palm Beach. Pinky was too sick
to attend - well enough to manage a hasty retreat from the superintendent's
house. Another who did not attend was Gen. Pershing. Louise had
had an affair with Pershing in Paris during the war. After the war, she had a
fling with Pershing's aide. Then she met MacArthur.
PERRET: Pershing was extremely angry and so he cut short MacArthur's tenure as
superintendent and sent him to the Philippines with Louise. And of course,
there is no doubt about it, MacArthur liked being superintendent. He liked the
status it conferred. He liked the size of the responsibility he'd been given
and now that's being taken away from him. He's sent to the Philippines where
there is really no job for him to do. He'd been humiliated and everybody in
the army has got to know it.
NARR: Before they left for Manila, Louise managed to antagonize the other army
wives. She filled the hold with so many steamer trunks and hatboxes that no
one else could take more than one trunk. This was MacArthur's
second trip to the Philippines. He had been sent to the islands after
graduating from West Point and then joined his father on a tour of the Far
East. It convinced him the future lay in Asia. He now turned his meager job
into a new mission divising a way to defend America's only colony against a
hostile invasion. MacArthur began training Filipino and American troops. He
mapped the islands extensive terrain. His idle moments he devoted
to his step-children, Walter and Louise. To his wife's dismay, they rarely
BROOKS: Louise couldn't quite reconcile herself to the limitations of the
Philippines. I think she felt she was just counting the days till she could
get back to civilization because she'd lived in Washington. She'd lived in
Paris. She'd been the center of attention wherever she was, and I think she
missed the glamour of the rest of the world.
NARR: After the death of her son Arthur from appendicitis, Pinky also lobbied
for MacArthur's return to the states. "Dear Old Jack, she wrote Gen. Pershing.
Be "real good and sweet [and] give my Boy his well earned promotion before you
leave the army." When MacArthur returned to Washington in 1925, he
had his second star - the army's youngest major general. Louise begged
MacArthur to leave the army and to join her mother's second husband, a partner
in J. P. Morgan.
PERRET: But just making money and living a life of luxury and ease seemed
decadent to MacArthur. It was the last thing he wanted. He had destiny to
fulfill. You don't become a great man by being a stockbroker. You don't make
history by selling bonds and as they argued about whether he should leave the
army or not an irreparable split appeared in their marriage, and it just got
wider and wider.
NARR: After seven years of marriage, Louise divorced MacArthur. In his
memoirs, he never mentioned her name. MacArthur's commitment to
the army paid off. In 1930 President Herbert Hoover appointed him chief of
staff, the position his father had been denied.
MacARTHUR: I, Douglas MacArthur. Having been appointed a general, chief of
staff, in the regular army...
NARR: A proud Pinky touched his four stars and whispered, "If only your father
could see you now! Douglas, you're everything he wanted to be." It
is not clear what his father would have thought of "Dimples." Isabel Rosario
Cooper was an actress of mixed Scottish and Filipino blood who became
MacArthur's mistress during a stint in Manila after his divorce. She was 30
years his junior. He signed love letters "Daddy." At a time of strict racial
segregation, MacArthur took the risk of bringing Dimples to Washington.
KARNOW: So there she is at the Chastleton apartments in what the tabloids of
the day would call a love nest. And there he is. He's living at the official
residence of the Army chief of staff with his mother and sort of in this
acrobatics, he would slip over to be with Dimples and then go back without his
mother knowing what he was doing. And here he is in his early fifties
dreadfully afraid that his mother will discover that he's got a girlfriend.
NARR: MacArthur tried to create a sense of family in the War Department with
what he called "my gang." It included a young major, Dwight Eisenhower, whom
he admired even though he had never led a charge.
AMBROSE: Douglas MacArthur is the man who wrote in Eisenhower's personnel
report "this is the best officer in the United States Army. When the next
war comes move him right to the top." Eisenhower was a Major at that time.
MacArthur saw something in Eisenhower that others weren't seeing or at least he
NARR: Ike was impressed with MacArthur's "comprehensive" knowledge and found
his memory "without parallel." But he was surprised how freely MacArthur
crossed the line "between the military and the political." In his
first two years as chief of staff MacArthur was alarmed at the rise of Hitler's
National Socialists in Germany. And in Japan at the aggressiveness
of Emperor Hirohito's troops. They invaded Manchuria. Then Shanghai.
He would be in no position to go to war. The Army over
which he presided ranked 16th in the world, behind Greece and Portugal. It had
12 modern tanks. He protested when his military budget was cut
further. It was President Hoover's response to the Great Depression.
Communists tried to exploit the economic unrest. The crisis MacArthur
would face was at home, not abroad. In 1932 unemployed veterans marched on
Washington to demand immediate payment of a bonus Congress had promised them in
the future. MacArthur thought they were dominated by Communists.
JOSEPH C. HARSCH, Journalist: This was not a revolutionary situation. This was
a bunch of people in great distress wanting help. There may have been one or
two Communists. It wasn't communism, it had nothing to do with Communism.
These were simply veterans from World War I who were out of luck, out of money,
and wanted to get their bonus, and they needed the money at that moment.
NARR: The veterans set up camps and awaited their payments. MacArthur was
appalled. We fought for our country, he believed, not for money.
Like President Hoover, he felt the answer to the depression was hard work, not
When a policeman shot two bonus marchers during riots, Hoover ordered the army
to clear the city without delay.
MacArthur informed his staff he would accompany the troops. Eisenhower advised
him not to.
AMBROSE: Eisenhower told MacArthur, first of all, you shouldn't get involved.
MacArthur said, "Go home and put on your uniform." Eisenhower said, "My God,
that's the worst thing we could do is to go down there in our uniforms, if
we're gonna do this we ought to, at least, go down in civilian clothes.
NARR: MacArthur saw "incipient revolution in the air," Eisenhower recalled,
and paid "no attention to my dissent."
Leading the troops had served him well in World War I. He expected it would in
HARSCH: I was behind a line of cavalrymen, and they all drew their sabers at
once. And then they set their horses going ahead, a very slow walk against the
line of bonus marchers and I saw a saber come down and I saw blood spurting
from the ear of one of the bonus marchers. And I saw MacArthur in full uniform
summon a sergeant. The sergeant then called up two or three other men, and they
then wadded up newspapers inside each bonus hut and then went down the line and
set fire to them.
NARR: The protesters retreated from the Capitol to their encampment across the
Anacostia river. Concerned about women and children, President Hoover twice
sent orders that troops should not cross the river. Some witnesses say
MacArthur never got the orders. Eisenhower recalled MacArthur did
not want to be "bothered by people...pretending to bring orders."
Whatever the truth, he sent his troops across the bridge to clear the camp, and
the impression remained that he had challenged civilian authority. As the camp
went up in flames, MacArthur became linked with scenes that shocked the nation.
What he said then made things worse. He ignored Eisenhower's plea that he let
civilians explain the events. He told reporters, "That mob down
there was a bad looking mob...animated by the essence of revolution." He
concluded "beyond a shadow of a doubt" they meant to take control of the
MICHAEL SCHALLER, Historian: I think one of MacArthur's great shortcomings was
his lack of subtlety or appreciation of irony and contradictions or any sense
of humor about himself. I think he was someone who could not see that things
were not black and white. There weren't just good and evil, and his inability
to look at shades of gray, was one of his great failures. It was one of the
things that I think estranged him from many people in his generation.
AMBROSE: For MacArthur it certainly hurt him with a broad base of the American
people, but there were elements among that broad base that were applauding what
MacArthur was doing, and MacArthur played to the right wing of the Republican
party all of his life. And by participating in the Bonus March in the way he
did, by driving those guys out of there and all the publicity that resulted
from it, MacArthur solidified his base.
NARR: MacArthur's actions helped Franklin Roosevelt, campaigning against
Hoover, solidify his base. In private FDR called Douglas MacArthur one of the
most dangerous men in America.
ROBERT DALLEK, Historian: He saw him as a potential man on horseback. Someone
who in a time of terrible economic disarray come to the fore and would try to
seize power by extra constitutional means. What I want to do, Roosevelt was
saying, is use Douglas MacArthur for my purposes.
NARR: FDR tried to keep MacArthur under his thumb by retaining him as Army
Chief of Staff. He wanted the Army to help administer his pet program to
relieve unemployment, the Civilian Conservation Corps. When MacArthur learned
Roosevelt was cutting the army's budget to fund his New Deal programs, he
demanded to see the President.
DALLEK: MacArthur said to Roosevelt, "When we lose the next war and an
American boy is writhing in pain in the mud with a Japanese bayonet in his
belly, I want the last words that he spits out in the form of a curse to be not
against Douglas MacArthur but against Franklin Roosevelt." FDR was enraged,
and he said, "Never speak to the President of the United States that way." And
MacArthur offered to resign, but Roosevelt brightened and said, "No, no,
Douglas, we must get together on this."
NARR: As he left the White House, the general was overcome with nausea. It
wasn't easy being a MacArthur. Every year he pleaded with Congress
to preserve the Army's budget. He told cadets at West Point "Nations once
great that neglected their national defense are dust and ashes. Where are Rome
and Carthage?" In a tribute to those who had fallen in France, he
said: "Only those are fit to live who are not afraid to die." After the Bonus
March, all this was too much for liberal columnist Drew Pearson.
KARNOW: Pearson writes this scathing series of articles denouncing MacArthur
as a potential dictator, demanding that he be cashiered and so forth.
MacArthur then makes a terrible mistake. He sues Drew Pearson. Now, as part
of his defense, Pearson, who had all kinds of contacts around Washington, had
acquired a package of letters from Dimples.
SCHALLER: By today's standards, I'm sure, people would find
them barely worthy of note, rather tepid Victorian style love letters, more
affectionate than kinky. Still they were a potential source of grave
KARNOW: Now Pearson's lawyer says Want to sue? Fine, we publish these
letters. MacArthur could have stonewalled it, but what he's really worried
about is his mother will find out. So, in the end, instead of suing Drew
Pearson, he pays him 15,000 dollars to get back the letters, and on top of that
he pays Dimples as well to be freed of this relationship.
NARR: MacArthur saw his tenure as Chief of Staff as unrewarding. He never got
the funding he felt his Army deserved. On his watch the Army reached a low in
men and material. There were other opportunities. The Philippines
had just been granted independence to take effect in 1946. With the Japanese
attacks on China, President Manuel Quezon felt he needed an army.
ZENEIDA QUEZON AVANCENA, Daughter of President Quezon: There was a close
friendship between the two men, and so on a trip to Washington, he asked Gen.
MacArthur if he thought that the Philippines could be defended, and Gen.
MacArthur said, "Well, we could make it so costly for somebody to try to take
it over that they might not think it was worthwhile.
DALLEK: Roosevelt does not want him around as a potential candidate in 1936,
and so, what better way to get rid of him then to give him a job that he would
love to take as the principal military advisor in the Philippines. Secondly,
Roosevelt is intent upon sending a message to the Japanese, don't be too
aggressive out there, you see, I have a first rate military man in the
Philippines whose going to tend to the defense of those islands.
NARR: Quezon welcomed MacArthur, and his aide Eisenhower, to Malacañang
Palace. With the Army's approval, Quezon supplemented their salaries, and
MacArthur became the highest paid soldier in the world. The General
and Ike lived in the luxurious Manila Hotel. MacArthur demanded the penthouse
suite. It was air-conditioned. Ike's was not. Pinky, 84 and very
ill, enjoyed the comforts of the hotel. That wasn't all. At an elaborate
ceremony in the palace Quezon's wife gave MacArthur a gold baton and pronounced
him Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. To Eisenhower it was "ridiculous"
for someone who had held the highest rank in the U.S. Army to want to be field
marshal of a "virtually non-existent army."
MacArthur, who felt he understood what he called "the Oriental mind," thought
Filipinos would respect someone with an exalted title.
BETH DAY ROMULO, Manila Journalist: He had a great image of himself, and he
always kind of stuck to it. And it was a very dramatic image, and it played
well. You know, he looks like a leader, heaven knows.
ALFRED X. BURGOS, Manila Resident: He was really pro-Filipino. He loved the
Philippines, he loved Filipinos, and I think that's what made all the
difference in the world. Filipinos were willing to die and fight for him.
NARR: MacArthur began to create a Filipino Army. In a decade, he hoped, it
would be ready to defend the islands against a Japanese attack which he feared.
He hounded Quezon and Washington for the necessary funds. That is how he spent
his days. He spent his evenings with Jean.
He had met Jean Faircloth coming over on the boat. 37. Single. Adventurous.
From Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Headed for Shanghai. Rerouted to Manila. To be
with Douglas. And his mother.
Shortly after their arrival in 1935, Pinky died. MacArthur was desolate. He
confessed to a friend, "I find myself groping desperately, but futilely."
CAROL PETILLO, Biographer: Douglas kept Pinky's body in the U.S. military
morgue in the Philippines for two years after she died because he didn't want
to bury her in the Philippines. He wanted to take her back and bury her in the
United States. And he chose not to get married until mother was safely out of
the picture, symbolically as well as really.
NARR: In 1937 MacArthur buried his mother next to his father at Arlington
National Cemetery. Then he and Jean Faircloth were married in a civil
ceremony in New York City. She called him "Sir boss" and "My Gineral."
"This," MacArthur told reporters, "is going to last a long time."
In Washington he pleaded for more money for his Filipino army. Before it was
too late. He got nothing.
DALLEK: Roosevelt's perspective has now changed. MacArthur is a pain in his
neck. He wants to focus energy and attention on the Philippines. Roosevelt is
deeply concerned about Japan. The Japanese have renewed the war in China, and
they are acting quite aggressively. Roosevelt doesn't want to provoke them.
He wants to keep the Pacific quiet. He doesn't want a war, and he's worried
that MacArthur is provocative.
NARR: In August 1937 the Japanese renewed their attack on
Shanghai. MacArthur had just returned to the Philippines empty-handed. He
then got notice that Roosevelt had canceled his job as U.S. Military Advisor.
Outraged, he decided to retire from the army. In December the Japanese
completed what became known as the Rape of Nanking. As the world
headed for war, MacArthur who had devoted his career to preparing for war, left
the U.S. Army. He did remain as military advisor on the Philippine payroll.
Eisenhower stayed with him but soon became discouraged. There was no money.
His recruits lacked modern weapons--even a common language.
MacArthur's Philippine Army hardly existed.
PERRET: Eisenhower saw himself as the supreme realist. And here is this
romantic who will not accept ordinary realities about training schedules and
the price of military equipment. And that brought Eisenhower in direct
conflict with MacArthur because Eisenhower is arguing nuts and bolts and
MacArthur is arguing grand ideas and designs.
NARR: MacArthur lost his most valuable aide. He would later deride him, the
story goes, as "the best clerk I ever had," with Eisenhower responding, "I
studied dramatics under MacArthur for seven years." Quezon then
gave up on MacArthur, and in 1938 headed for Tokyo to discuss neutrality.
MacArthur asked for an appointment and was told Quezon was busy. "Some
day your boss is going to want to see me," MacArthur replied, "more than I want
to see him." By 1940 MacArthur was isolated from power. And alone.
Except for Jean.
ROMULO: Jean was his best fan and best protector because she was totally
devoted to him. And she was a tiny little thing, but she was protective of
this big man, and she would never hear anything against him. I mean, she would
really get very emotional about it, doesn't want to hear that, you know, she
really believed he was a great man .
NARR: MacArthur also had the comfort of Arthur MacArthur IV
born in 1938. The proud 58-year-old father called his son "sergeant."
Each morning while he shaved, he would sing to Arthur all the army
barrack songs he knew. "The fact of the matter is," joked MacArthur, "the only
person who appreciates my singing in the bathroom is Arthur."
PETILLO: He was devoted to his son. He was more like a grandfather than a
father, both in age and devotion. He could not stand for Arthur to be punished
for anything, or if Arthur fell and scraped his knee as little boys often do,
Douglas was distraught .
NARR: Life in the penthouse atop the Manila Hotel was leisurely.
ROMULO: He had a lovely life here. The hotel was always so proud of coming up
with some dish he'd like, like lapu lapu with mango and that sort of thing.
They were always trying to please him. And he did say the years in Manila
with Jean and the baby were the happiest years of his life, and I'm quite sure
that they were.
NARR: When the Japanese grabbed bases in Indochina in July 1941, FDR could no
longer ignore their aggression. He reactivated MacArthur, put him in charge of
all U.S. forces in the Far East and cut off oil exports to Japan. Within
months, the Japanese Navy would be out of oil. Manila was two thousand miles
from Tokyo, but just 500 miles from Japanese planes on Formosa. In
the war plan, American and Filipino troops stationed on the main island of
Luzon would retreat to the Bataan Peninsula and the island of Corregidor.
Corregidor guards the entrance to Manila Bay, MacArthur said, "like a cork in a
bottle." From the island the Army would try to deny the Japanese access to one
of the best harbors in the Far East. Beneath "the Rock," the Army had carved a
command post. The Malinta tunnel was 1400 ft long. Side tunnels housed
everything the Army would need for a long siege. Corregidor's coastal guns
would attack the Japanese Navy entering Manila Bay. Two miles north of
Corregidor lies the Bataan peninsula. Once withdrawn to Bataan, the Army would
hold on until reinforcements came. Holed up in malaria infested mountain
jungles. Teeming with poisonous snakes. And fifty-six varieties of bats.
MacArthur knew the drill cold. He had surveyed the jungles of Bataan.
Helped map the defensive positions. But for MacArthur the plan was too
defensive. Too defeatist. He convinced his new boss, Army Chief of staff
George Marshall, to accept a bolder plan. He wanted to use American and
Filipino troops to defend the beaches. To protect not just Manila Bay but all
Marshall in turn encouraged MacArthur to have faith in B-17 Flying Fortresses
which he began rushing to the Philippines. B-17s could set Japan's paper
cities aflame, he said. Bomb invasion fleets at the beaches.
MARK STOLER, Marshall Biographer: In retrospect this is one of the most
bizarre and harebrained ideas in American military history, the thought that a
few bombers was going to make that much of a difference. It probably came from
desperation, the thought we cannot simply leave American troops out there, we
have got to do something. And out of desperation comes the idea, by God, we
can actually save them.
KARNOW: You have to look at it this way. MacArthur is not going to say, no,
it can't be done. He's not a defeatist. He's got a great stake in the
Philippines, he's got to be optimistic, he's got to be rosy about it. Generals
who say you can't do it don't get promoted, don't go anywhere, right? So he's
got to say it can be done, and, of course, I will do it.
NARR: In the evenings MacArthur paced his balcony sensing his moment of
greatness was near. Washington had promised enough planes and troops. He
expected to be ready by April 1942.
As they watched the sun set over Manila Bay, he had told reporter Theodore
White "It was destiny that brought us here, White, destiny! By God it is
destiny that brings me here now."
QUEZON AVANCENA: This was Monday, December 8. My father said, Nini, pray very
hard for your country. We are at war. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. And
I'm ashamed to say, I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was.
RAMSEY: I went to the Officer's Club and had a drink with the Chief of
Intelligence for General Wainwright. And he said Lieutenant, are you
religious. And, I said, no sir, not particularly, why. And, he said, well, I
think you better give your soul to God, because your ass belongs to the
QUEZON AVANCENA: We all went out and looked at these planes flying in
formation. And then we went back to breakfast and then suddenly we heard bombs
NARR: On December 8th, 1941 MacArthur's air force near Manila was destroyed on
the ground. His B-17s had scrambled to avoid the expected attack but landed to
The commanders caught unprepared at Pearl Harbor were cashiered. MacArthur was
AMBROSE: Why in the hell didn't Franklin Roosevelt fire him? Well the answer
to me is clear because the Republican Party would have been up in arms.
MacArthur was their President - was their General.
NARR: The Philippine Army in which MacArthur had placed such faith could not
hold at the beaches. It folded in two days. The Japanese headed for Manila.
MacArthur ordered a retreat to Bataan. Too late to re-deploy the food he had
dispersed to defend the beaches.
To spare Manila, he declared it an open city. The Japanese continued to bomb.
On Christmas Eve, the harbor aflame, the MacArthurs retreated with the Quezons
to Corregidor. Jean had managed to grab MacArthur's medals, not much else.
The Japanese commander would soon be in their penthouse.
Malinta tunnel would become a refuge for five thousand troops. The Quezons
lived there. MacArthur refused.
ROMULO: MacArthur said he would have none of that, that they could always get
back to the tunnel if the sirens went off and they were being bombed. And
during the day, when there would be an air raid signal, Jean says she'd grab
the baby, and the Amah would come, and they'd get in the car and scoot down to
the tunnel. Sometimes they just made it and the bombs started falling.
NARR: From the tunnel, MacArthur directed the most difficult of military
maneuvers--a fighting retreat.
HARSCH: It was brilliant. He has been described to me as
standing there with his, the telephone in one hand and a pencil in the other,
on a map of the Philippines, directing the movement of individual units of
troops. But, once he got them into the Bataan Peninsula, there wasn't enough
NARR: The plan had been to evacuate civilians from Bataan. Instead 20,000
civilians followed 80,000 soldiers into Bataan. MacArthur faced a food crisis
from the start.
LEON BECK, U.S. Army: We immediately were placed on half rations, two meals a
day - one before daylight and one after dark. That told you a quick story
there that we weren't going to get any help.
NARR: MacArthur got what he thought were encouraging cables from Army Chief of
Staff George Marshall.
STOLER: Marshall is not going to come out and say in a telegram to a
besieged commander, we can give you nothing. What he is going to say is,
we are giving you everything we possibly can. In that sense he is misleading
MacArthur, or MacArthur is allowing himself to be mislead by interpreting those
documents to mean I'm going to get tons and tons of supplies and everything is
going to be fine.
NARR: On Jan. 10, MacArthur visited Gen. Jonathan Wainwright on Bataan. He
passed along good news.
RICHARD M. GORDON, U.S. Army: And basically the message was from MacArthur that
help was on its way. And we were to hold fast. Planes would be coming, men
would be coming, and what we needed would be there. Just hold tight.
NARR: On Bataan his men held tight. Probing the jungle for advancing
Japanese. Searching the tree tops for snipers.
For 11 days in January the Japanese tried to destroy MacArthur's army. His
troops were forced to retreat. Then once again hold tight.
By late February many were so weak from malnutrition they could hardly crawl
from their foxholes.
There would be no reinforcements. America's priority was the war against
SCHALLER: MacArthur refused to acknowledge that reality, and
instead attributed the lack of reinforcement to betrayal by jealous rivals in
the war department starting with Army Chief of Staff George Marshall and
radiating downward to Dwight Eisenhower, his former aide in the Philippines and
to others who he believed were literally starving him and his forces to death
to get their professional revenge against him. Nothing could have been further
from the truth.
NARR: For two weeks the Japanese bombed Corregidor. The headquarters on top
of the island was destroyed the first day. They haven't yet made the bomb with
my name on it, MacArthur said. He refused to take cover and watched the
attack. The wounded flowed into the hospital wards in the tunnel. The humid
air became thick with the putrid smell of gangrene. The Secretary of War wrote
in his diary, "There are times when men must die."
In a simple ceremony by the tunnel, Manuel Quezon was sworn in for a second
term as president. MacArthur spoke: "From the grim shadow of the Valley of
Death, oh merciful God, preserve this noble race!"
QUEZON AVANCENA: His eyes were misty. And General MacArthur was a man who was
very controlled and not emotional, not obviously emotional, anyway, from what I
saw of him, but that time it was obvious that he was very moved.
NARR: George Marshall wanted the Quezons to leave and to take Jean and Arthur
with them. "This might be the last opportunity for sure deliverance of the two
human beings dearest to me," MacArthur wrote. "It was one of the desperate
moments of my life."
Let me take Jean to safety, Quezon urged him. "My wife married a soldier,"
MacArthur replied. "At least let me take your son." "My son is the son of a
soldier," MacArthur answered.
The General wired Marshall, "I and my family will share the fate of the
Before he left, Manuel Quezon gave MacArthur 500,000 dollars in gold, what he
would have made had he completed his term as military adviser. This remained a
secret for 37 years.
He also gave MacArthur his ring. "When they find your body," he said, "I want
them to know you fought for my country."
MERRILL PASCO, Aide to Marshall: Marshall was just terrified that the Japanese
would get a hold of MacArthur. It would be a great thing if they parade him
through the streets of Tokyo. And, they knew they were going to have a hard
time getting MacArthur to leave. And he refused on several occasions and said
he was not going to leave. And, finally General Marshall went to Mr. Roosevelt
and got him to sign a personal message to him, ordering him as Commander in
Chief to go to Australia.
DALLEK: MacArthur of course kept protesting that he did not want to leave the
Philippines, that for him to have gone to Australia would be seen as a retreat,
as even cowardly, as abandoning his men, but Roosevelt was insistent on it.
NARR: MacArthur told Jean "This is an order I must disobey." But his staff
convinced him to leave and return with vast reinforcements they heard were
bound for Australia.
His men had followed him in battle in World War I. Now he was leaving them
behind. They began to call him "Dugout Doug," and it stung him. He was
leaving with the knowledge he had failed them.
He had put them on half rations in January. In early March, he cut them
GORDON: We ate the horses of the 26th cavalry. We ate the mules of the 24th
field artillery. We ate any kind of animal that came along the road. If
chickens crossed the highway, they were food in the pot. We ate iguanas. We
RAMSEY: Monkey is a very, very strong tasting animal. Snake, that's not bad.
There just wasn't enough of them, especially the larger ones.
NARR: MacArthur never went back to Bataan to see his men.
PERRET: It was too painful. Going to Bataan, looking into the faces of men
who were doomed to, to surrender, captivity and death was just too hard.
NARR: Japanese artillery joined the bombers in blasting Corregidor. "The end
is near," the Japanese commander living in MacArthur's penthouse taunted him.
"You are advised to surrender." An army sergeant gave him one chance in five
of escaping. "Jean," MacArthur said, "it is time to go." As darkness fell on
March 11, 1942 the MacArthurs boarded a PT boat and headed south for the
Philippine Island of Mindanao. MacArthur lifted his cap in salute to his men.
They called themselves the "battling bastards of Bataan. No Mama. No Papa.
No Uncle Sam."
"I could feel my face go white," MacArthur recalled. "Feel a sudden,
convulsive twitch in the muscles of my face." At night he rambled bitterly on
his futile struggle to save the islands. His voice choked up as he talked
about being ordered to leave his men. After 500 miles of rough mine-infested
seas, the MacArthurs arrived safely on Mindanao. Arthur, age four, had been
told all he could take with him was one stuffed animal which he called "old
friend." Jean went ashore with her lipstick, comb and compact wrapped in a
handkerchief. MacArthur would get her a watch engraved "My bravest."
"You have taken me out of the jaws of death," the general told his PT boat
But he had left his men facing the jaws of death. He had discussed what he
could say to them with a Filipino aide, Major Carlos Romulo.
ROMULO: And General MacArthur suggested one of those stiff, formal things
like, "MacArthur will not let you down. " And Romy said that's not going to
float, that isn't going to make it, you've got to have some thing that has gut
value, that's very personal and direct. And he composed, "I shall return."
And MacArthur, who many people have criticized for being arrogant and saying,
"I shall return," said isn't that a bit much, you know, "I, I shall
return,"--you know, this is an army that is going to return. And Romy said but
they know you and they believe you, and if you say "I shall return," then
they'll look for you to come back. They really will believe it.
NARR: By mid-March the MacArthurs were in Australia.
HARSCH: Oh yes, I was there when he got off the train in Melbourne and said,
"I shall return". It was a very dramatic moment.
NARR: The War Department wired, "Can't you say we?" MacArthur refused. To
some still fighting on Bataan it became a joke: "I have gone to the latrine.
I shall return." To MacArthur it would be an all-consuming passion.
PERRET: MacArthur saw his return to the Philippines as a way of redeeming
American national pride and honor. And his own pride and honor.
PETILLO: His determination to return to the Philippines is
driven by this sense of guilt perhaps, or shame, very great sadness, at what
NARR: The Japanese derided him as a coward who had deserted his men under
fire. A commander he left behind would condemn him as "an arch deceiver,
traitor and criminal" who was now enjoying "steak and eggs."
At 62, his hands trembled. He had lost 25 pounds. The general, Jean recalled,
was a "lonely, angry man" who needed her "as never before."
TAAFFE: He expects to have all these forces waiting for him that he believed
were being built up in Australia, and he gets to Australia and there's nothing
PERRET: There was virtually nothing except for some
anti-aircraft artillery troops and some Army Air Force units. And he was not
only disappointed, I would say he was depressed.
NARR: At the lowest moment of his life, MacArthur became a
hero. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. What he had wanted for
his inspiring charge in World War I, he got for prolonging a lost cause, holed
up in a tunnel.
SCHALLER: By the Spring of 1942, the American military situation seemed so
dismal, that as George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff said, we're looking
for heroes. His forces had fallen back, but they had kept up resistance, they
hadn't surrendered, they hadn't rolled over like British forces had in Hong
Kong and Singapore and other places. And MacArthur was about as close to a
hero as you came.
NEWSREEL NARR: MacArthur, civilization's champion, symbol of the stout heart,
the dauntless spirit, the unflagging courage of America on the march.
NARR: A MacArthur mania swept over a hero hungry America. A parade that
spring was dedicated to MacArthur.
NEWSREEL NARR: Every man, women and child will ever remember
his immortal words "only those are fit to live who are not afraid to die."
NARR: He became "America's First Soldier," the focus of the war effort.
STOLER: I don't think Marshall was troubled about building up MacArthur. I'm
not so sure about Franklin Roosevelt, but I think both men at that point
realized that this was the appropriate thing to do. I don't think Marshall was
aware of the trouble he would be creating for himself later on.
NARR: In April 1942 after four months, the Army on Bataan fell - the largest
army in American history to surrender. Corregidor fell in May. MacArthur's
redemption would be the rescue of the men he left behind. The route of his
redemption would lie through 3,000 miles of oceans that the Japanese navy
roamed unchallenged, if he had the ships. Across endless jungles, if he had
the planes. Through the jungles, if he had to walk. If the Joint Chiefs
authorized his return. And they had not. MacArthur's goal was to liberate the
Philippines en route to Japan. This was not what Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief
of Naval Operations, had in mind. A war against Japan had always been the
Navy's job. King was "the most even tempered man in the Navy," his daughter
said. "He was always in a rage."
He took over the Navy at its lowest moment--the destruction of much of the
Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Redemption of the Navy's pride rested with
Admiral Ernest J. King. While MacArthur struggled on Corregidor, King outlined
his plans to an old Navy hand in Washington--and gained Roosevelt's complete
confidence. King had foreseen the importance of naval aviation. The aircraft
carrier, he felt, was the key to victory in the Pacific. Admiral King was not
going to play second fiddle to Douglas MacArthur. As his colleague on the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, George Marshall, soon learned.
ROBERT W. LOVE, King Biographer: Throughout the war General Marshall and
Admiral King engaged in a playlet. General Marshall would propose that
General MacArthur be given overall supreme command in the Pacific. Admiral
King would object. The Pacific is a Navy theater, he would argue. There's
more water than land. Admiral King would then propose because the Pacific was
an ocean area, that Admiral Nimitz be in command of everything, including
NARR: Chester Nimitz, the commander of King's Pacific fleet, based at Pearl
Harbor, was too junior to oversee MacArthur. Unable to decide, the Joint
Chiefs divided the command. Nimitz got the North, Central and South Pacific.
MacArthur got the Southwest Pacific but few ships. His first task was to
defend Australia. The Japanese soon threatened by attacking Australia's colony
in New Guinea. They headed over the mountain jungles toward its capital Port
Moresby. MacArthur sent Australian troops into the breech. They were pushed
"Modify the Germany First strategy and send planes, ships and guns to avert
disaster," MacArthur cabled Marshall. "I beg of you ...have this momentous
question reviewed by the President and the chiefs of staff, lest it become too
HARSCH: When I was about to leave Australia to come back to the States, I was
summoned to the presence, seated in a sofa, and then for an hour he paced, in a
stately slow pace, up and down, in front of me. And, he said, I must persuade
the people in authority, that they should be, put the Pacific War first and the
European War second.
PERRET: And he became overly emotional, and was sending all kinds of
hysterical messages to the War Department. Totally ignoring the fact that
there was a global war to be fought. He's only interested in one war and
that's, that's the war where he is.
NARR: In private FDR complained about MacArthur's demands. He "seems to have
forgotten," Roosevelt told an aide, that his record in Manila resembled that of
[those] who faced "court-martial on charges of laxity at Pearl Harbor."
MacArthur had survived the loss of the Philippines. He could not survive a
defeat in New Guinea.
He flew his troops over the mountains to assault the Japanese base camps. Some
supplies came by sea--with whatever shipping he could muster.
One target was a missionary outpost called Buna.
The Japanese were entrenched in camouflaged bunkers described in the official
Army history as "a masterpiece". He lacked the fire power to blast them out.
Desperate for a victory, MacArthur put Gen. Robert Eichelberger in charge.
"Bob," he told him, "If you don't take Buna, I want to hear that you are buried
there." Eichelberger went on the offensive. He discovered how skilled the
Japanese were at jungle warfare. One assault took 25 percent casualties. By
December 1942, nine months after he arrived in Australia, MacArthur finally had
what he needed to root out the Japanese. "Time is working desperately against
us," he told Eichelberger. "This battle must be engaged."
On January 2, 1943 Gen. Eichelberger captured Buna. MacArthur had his first
victory in World War II.
"The dead of Bataan will rest easier tonight," he told the press.
He seemed confident again. At 63, one reporter wrote, "the youngest looking
man for his age I had ever seen."
But his victory had been costly. MacArthur's forces suffered nearly two
casualties for every one they inflicted on the Japanese.
No one would know this from what he told the press.
"Our losses in the Buna campaign are low," MacArthur's communiqué
read..."There was no necessity to hurry the attack."
Reinforcements, he reasoned, would flow faster if his losses were low.
When Eichelberger was lionized in the national press, MacArthur was furious.
"Do you realize I could reduce you to the grade of colonel tomorrow?" he
bellowed. Eichelberger wrote a friend in the War Department "I would rather
have you slip a rattlesnake in my pocket than to have you give me any
PERRET: There was only one person who was supposed to talk to press in
MacArthur's theater and that was MacArthur. If his photograph is on the front
of LIFE magazine, this means that he's on track, he is on track to be a great
man. He is a man of destiny. His parents were right. This is his role in
life. He has an historic mission to be a truly great and historic figure.
NARR: After Buna, MacArthur made sure that his publicity would give the
impression that he alone was winning the Pacific war. The matrons of Brisbane
besieged the MacArthurs with invitations. The general refused them all. Jean
did her best to be gracious. Arthur turned five that first winter in
Australia. He seldom saw his father during the day. He did see his father in
PERRET: And they would march around the living room, swinging their arms,
stamping their feet, going boom, boom. And MacArthur would hide presents under
the cushions and the child would--you know, the boy would then start looking
under the cushions for presents and so on. And he had breakfast with his
parents, then MacArthur would leave. And that would--that would be it until
the next morning. MacArthur only really saw his son at breakfast.
NARR: MacArthur wrote a prayer for Arthur: "Build me a son, O Lord, who will
be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when
he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble
and gentle in victory."
Twenty years later he would use almost the same language at West Point to
describe the attributes of a soldier.
MacArthur's Air Commander, George Kenney, had masterminded the troop movements
to Buna. In February 1943 he began to move up the New Guinea coast. The Navy
would not risk aircraft carriers in the shoals off New Guinea. MacArthur had
to rely on his Army Air Force.
STEPHEN TAAFFE, Historian: Initially, MacArthur does not think much of air
power, because of the bad experience he'd had in the Philippines, where his Air
Force was wiped out within twenty-four hours of the war beginning. But Kenney
really converts MacArthur into an air power enthusiast. Kenny's so successful,
he's so confident, he knows how to use his air forces so well, that MacArthur
becomes enamored with air power.
NARR: At age 63 he was learning a new way to fight a war. His air force
destroyed Japanese convoys carrying reinforcements to New Guinea. Without
them, the Japanese offensive in New Guinea was doomed. By March 1943 the
Japanese were on the defensive. They dug in waiting for MacArthur to attack.
Instead, as he was fond of saying, he would "Hit 'em where they ain't." Fly
over them. Bypass their strongholds.
MacArthur went along on one early mission. "They're my kids, too," he told
Kenney. He was less worried about getting shot than getting sick: "I'd hate
to get sick and disgrace myself in front of the kids."
In MacArthur's first airborne assault, his "kids" captured a Japanese airfield.
That set the pattern for his New Guinea offensive. Securing one airfield after
TAAFFE: MacArthur's offensive across New Guinea is a march of the airfields.
Remember, Nimitz and King will not let MacArthur have any aircraft carriers, so
he has to find his own close air support. The only way to do that is to move
inland from the beach, seize an airfield or build an airfield, and then use
that position to destroy enemy air power down the coast some more, and repeat
the same operation. And that's what the New Guinea offensive is.
NARR: He was driving slowly toward the Philippines. What he learned that
summer of 1943 would drive him harder.
From soldiers smuggled out by submarine, he learned what happened to the army
he left behind. How they were marched more than 60 miles to prisoner of war
camps. He learned of the Bataan Death March.
GORDON: As I was marched down that road, where they captured me, I passed my
battalion commander, Major James Ivy, and he had been tied to a tree and he
was stripped to the waist and he was just covered with bayonet holes.
BURGOS: Oh, they bayoneted people, they shoot people, and if they think that
you were delaying the march, you're dead.
BECK: You'd hear a shot fired. And you'd look back and there lays a body
behind you, but you, they wouldn't let you go back and take care of him.
BURGOS: If you tried to get food which was thrown by the civilians, that not
only endangered you, but the one who was giving the food or throwing the food
GORDON: They provided food one time in those nine days. It was in a horrible
place that was just jammed with humanity. The disease and the smell of the
place was sickening. You couldn't get out, you couldn't lie down, there was no
room. And men went mad in the place overnight.
NARR: Some made their way out of Bataan to join the resistance as guerrillas.
And to wait for MacArthur's return.
RAMSEY: I leave, but I shall return. Well, those of us who admired him,
always believed he would return.
BECK: I never lost hope. If I had, I'd probably surrendered, like all the
rest of them did. I always thought enough of America that some day our army
would be, be back there to get us.
NARR: MacArthur said he would return. The Joint Chiefs never did. In the
fall of 1943 they began to favor Admiral King's Navy which had launched new
PERRET: The Navy was surprised, but delighted. MacArthur was surprised and
appalled. Because it looked for a while in 19-- By the end of 1943 that the
Navy was going to get to Japan before MacArthur could get to the Philippines.
NARR: MacArthur worried that he might be forced to end the war as the
conqueror of New Guinea. Not the Liberator of Luzon.
When he got a new B-17 that fall, he told the pilot who picked it up "I want
the plane named Bataan, and the artist is to paint a map of the Philippines on
the side...That's an order." He made certain that everyone knew where he was
The Navy's drive to Japan began in November 1943 with a Marine assault on a
tiny island named Tarawa. Landing craft stuck at low tide were sitting ducks
for Japanese gunners. One thousand marines were killed, two thousand injured
to take an atoll less than three square miles. At this time, the war plan was
being set for 1944. To MacArthur's horror, it continued to favor the people
who had planned Tarawa.
In December 1943 the big powers agreed on a second front in Europe; Eisenhower
would lead it. The British opposed America's Pacific offensive as diverting
shipping away from Eisenhower. George Marshall fought the British to preserve
the Pacific war but had to tell MacArthur that the Navy was still going to lead
LOVE: MacArthur received this with a lack of grace that's really stunning. On
the other hand, he was heart-broken. He had, after all, been shorted his
shipping, to a degree that's virtually unmanageable. He had conducted an
offensive on a shoestring. He had done marvelous work with limited air and
with only a handful of divisions. And now he was being told, in effect, that
despite a series of stunning victories, he was going to have a competitor in
the north for shipping. And shipping was a big problem in the Pacific.
NARR: MacArthur claimed the Chiefs had shortchanged him because of Admiral
King's animosity toward him.
STOLER: My guess is, that Marshall didn't phrase it in those terms, but that
MacArthur interpreted it in those terms. MacArthur personalized issues. And,
my belief is that Marshall said you've got to understand that the Navy is also
out here. And he said, ah huh, they're trying to, to stop me.
NARR: Admiral Nimitz assaulted the Japanese in the Marshall Islands two months
ahead of schedule. MacArthur was shocked. To keep up with the Navy, he had to
do something dramatic. He decided to seize the largest island in a chain
called the Admiralties. It would protect his right flank for the march across
New Guinea toward the Philippines.
TAAFFE: If he doesn't take the Admiralties as quickly as possible, if he
adheres to the original strategic timetable, it might be too late to influence
the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So even if he would take the Admiralties behind
schedule, it wouldn't matter, he would be frozen out of the Pacific war. So
MacArthur thinks it's well worth the risk.
NARR: He would attack quickly with a mere 1,000 men discarding the plan for an
assault a month later with many thousands more. "The place is lousy with
Japs," a scouting party reported. MacArthur did not back down. "He was
restless. Too excited to sleep," his doctor recalled. "It was almost as if
battle 'fed' his system."
As the assault began he learned the
Navy wanted the island's harbor to support its Central Pacific drive. He wired
Marshall requesting an audience with the president.
PERRET: There is an implied threat that if he doesn't get his way, he'll have
a showdown with the President. He will remain in the United States. He will
be out of the war. He does not want to be squeezed out and watch the Navy in
the last year of the war fighting all of the battles and getting all of the
NARR: If he went ashore, MacArthur reasoned, how could the Joint Chiefs order
him to give the Navy what he had risked his life to seize? Refusing a helmet,
he sported his Philippine Field Marshal's cap. "Sir, we killed a Jap sniper in
there just a few minutes ago," an officer warned him. "Fine," MacArthur
replied. "That's the best thing to do with them." To keep up with the Navy
MacArthur had gambled and won. "He saw opportunities," an Army historian
noted, "where other men saw problems." Even crusty Admiral King, who
compromised on the harbor, admitted the invasion was "a brilliant maneuver."
Two weeks later, in March 1944, the Joint Chiefs authorized MacArthur to
advance to Mindanao in the Southern Philippines. He seized this as his chance
for redemption. His chance to rescue the men he had left behind.
BURGOS: The situation at that time was the Japanese were already too cruel,
and we needed help right here in our country. And that's why it made a lot of
difference for MacArthur to think of coming back to the Philippines and
liberate the Philippines before going to Japan.
NARR: But the chiefs had only guaranteed MacArthur a return to the Southern
Philippines. Only a token return. The possibility of a triumphal return as
the Liberator of Luzon -where his men were - was remote. His chance to be a
man of destiny was fading.
MacARTHUR: "Two years ago, I said to the people of the Philippines whence I
came --'I shall return.' Tonight I repeat those words. I shall return."
NARR: MacArthur's vow at a state dinner in Australia came five days after he
had received word he would probably not return.
It was his message to the Joint Chiefs that the debate was far from over.