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It's the fate of the Titans to attract the most fulsome praise and the most vitriolic damnation, usually  for the very same act, depending upon who wields the pen.

MacArthur on the Rock

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MacArthur's time on Corregidor was characterised by his not unreasonable belief that the US government would send massive reinforcements to him.  He spread the news, given to him from the highest sources in Washington,  that help was on the way. At that time, he knew nothing of the Anglo-American strategic talks under way in Washington, and he had been sent a series of false encouragements bolstering his belief that the troops in Bataan and later the Corregidor garrison itself, would not be abandoned. Like the false encouragements given by some physicians to dying patients, the hopeful words of Roosevelt and Marshall perhaps intended to brace MacArthur and his men to fight longer than they would have if told the truth. Ironically, it would be he who would be turned against by the Americans in the POW camps of the Philippines, rather than the more deserving leaders in Washington. His lifelong distrust of all things Washington can be easily understood in this light.

D. Clayton James 1

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Display at the MacArthur Memorial, Norfolk Va

The facts are that, throughout the bombing and shelling alike, MacArthur lived "topside" in a house. Frequently he would go up to exposed areas during bombardments and observe the shelling, always mingling with the men. " It was simply my duty. The gunners at the batteries, the men in the foxholes, they too were in the open.  They liked to see me with them at such moments." During duty, with every communication nerve fibre in the whole setup terminating right there in the Administration-Operations lateral of Malinta Tunnel, he remained at his post. His orders were given to subordinate generals - yes, generals, not junior officers - who would paddle off to find out exactly what the score was. They would signal back all vital information and their own personal observations to the Rock.  Orders would be issued accordingly.  Not only was there no operational need for MacArthur on Bataan, there was every need for his presence almost continuously in that tunnel - the focus point of that nasty little war.  But it was unusual that a commander as sensitive about his image as MacArthur would have overlooked the positive value to troop morale, and his own reputation, that more visits to Bataan would have yielded him.

Captain Ind,  quoted by D. Clayton James

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The General was fine except that he was building up a towering anger against the enemy, to relieve his own feelings of frustration at our inability to fight back. When the first enemy flight appeared, he walked out in the yard to count the number of planes. He stayed throughout the bombing, 'protected' only by a thin hedge around the yard. Once a direct hit went through the house, landing in his bedroom and shattering the whole building. Then a near miss sent fragments flying across the yard and MacArthur ducked behind the hedge while his orderly, Sergeant Domingo Adversario, took off his own helmet and held it over the General's head. A piece of steel hit the helmet and wounded Domingo in the hand as they crouched there. When the raid was over, there was nothing but rubble left on the Topside of Corregidor.

Lieutenant Colonel Sidney I. Huff.

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MacArthur hadn't told George Marshall, but he planned to coordinate the defence of the Philippines from Australia. Under that command structure, a capitulation on Bataan would permit troops on the other islands in the archipelago to fight on. Marshall, however, had decided to give Wainwright a third star and command of all the Philippine forces. That meant that Wainwright had the power to surrender all the fighting men in the islands and that the Japanese, aware of it, could threaten to execute everyone on Bataan and Corregidor unless he exercised it - which is exactly what happened.



On one topic all observers agree: MacArthur's personal bravery was extraordinary. When his son called "air raid" or antiaircraft gunners yelled "Meatball!" or "Scrambled eggs!" - describing the Rising Sun on the wings of enemy aircraft - men racing for the shelter of the tunnel would encounter MacArthur coming out.  Huff recalls: "Everybody on the staff tried to persuade the General to keep away from the entrance or at least to wear a helmet during the raids. He paid no attention to us. We put up big telephone poles, strung with cables, along the approach to the tunnel to prevent suicide bombers from crashing the entrance, and we erected flash walls at an angle to prevent them from skipping a bomb inside where it would set off our ammunition and blow up the whole place. MacArthur, however, kept on walking outside to look - sometimes angrily and sometimes scornfully at the enemy craft wheeling overhead."

William Manchester, American Caesar

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Corregidor, known formally as Fort Mills and informally as 'The Rock' is an island of about 1,700 acres in area. Its surface is irregular, with peaks ranging from 600 to 400 feet. It bristled with forty-two huge long-range guns and mortars covering the sea approaches to Manila Bay (but not Bataan at the rear). Inside it was laced with tunnels branching off the main, 1,400-foot Malinta Tunnel. There were then about 10,000 people on Corregidor: 4,000 soldiers, 4,000 military non-combatants, 2,000 civilians. The men lived inside the tunnels or in barracks on the high ground of the west end of the island known as 'Topside' or near the low dock are called 'Bottomside'. They had been far better supplied with food and ammunition, per capita, than the men on Bataan.

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The sign reads: " Gen. Douglas MacArthur HQ.   The first to be bombed by the Japanese with a direct hit showing their intelligence data gathering accuracy during the war."


The Macarthurs moved into a house located in the topside compound, formerly the residence of the artillery commander. Huff and Sutherland and others of MacArthur's staff took over one end of a three story barracks at Topside. Four days later, 29 December, Japanese aircraft bombed Topside to smithereens.

Of 142 communiques issued out of Corregidor between 8 December 1941 and 11 March, 1942, 109 mentioned only one individual,  MacArthur.


Source: MacARTHUR - Clay Blair Jr.
Futura Publications Ltd.1977 ISBN 0 8600 7549 4
Blair , in fact, quotes D. Clayton James' point about the communiques.

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The Tribune was a shameless Japanese propaganda rag. Click and see the full-size scan of the May 12, 1942 edition.

(Author's collection)


Dougout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
Dougout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on.


(Sung to the tune Glory Glory Hallelulia)


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Called "MacArthur's escape Tunnel" by the Filipinos, it's highly unlikely that it was ever intended for that use.



On January 6, he was at Battery Chicago when enemy bombers appeared overhead. The battery commander urged him to get down as the gun crews dived for shelter, but MacArthur "stayed up, watching through his binoculars, and remarking calmly that the bombs would fall close." (Philippine High Commissioner) Sayre said that MacArthur told him "he believed that death would take him only at the ordained time" - a conviction that he had voiced ever since his days with the 42nd Division in World War 1. Even if he was a confirmed fatalist, the USAFFE commander demonstrated such bravery, boldness and sometimes foolhardiness under fire that his exploits became widely known on the island. Few Corregidor survivors cannot relate an instance in which they personally witnessed MacArthur courageously exposing himself to enemy fire. It is unfortunate that the Bataan soldiers did not have an opportunity to see this side of Dugout Doug.

D. Clayton James


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"MacArthur himself was a natural-born autocrat, of course, but he knew American history and understood its significance."

General Kenney


Typically, after a dramatic entry and a display of supreme confidence to the staff at large, he would go over and talk somberly and in a hushed voice to Sutherland. Then MacArthur would sometimes walk alone to the darker end of the lateral where the beds were set up for off-duty officers. There he would pace back and forth in the shadows for long periods, deep in thought and often frowning.


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"My one and only sort-of encounter with the great one occurred just inside the East entrance of Malinta Tunnel.

Captain Starr had sent me down to Malinta for 'the' cigarette ration probably in February '42. My friend Spence Bever (A 60th) had come up to visit me during the lull in bombing, and when Capt. Starr sent for me, Spence said he had to go, and would walk down with me. We chatted as we hiked down the road to Bottomside, and followed the road to the West tunnel entrance. A Lt. asked us where we were going and I showed him the order from Capt. Starr. He directed us farther into the main tunnel which was packed with people. We found the indicated lateral but I was told I would have to wait for a half hour. I told the man I would be back, then Spence and I made our way through the mob to just inside the East entrance where we talked for a while about home and our parents.

As we stood there facing the entrance, taking stock of neatly stacked sand bags guarding the entrance, a small boy ran past us very close to Spence and disappeared around the barrier. Spence reacted much faster than I did and took off after the boy. Shortly, he came around the barrier with the boy under his right arm. He looked past me, then glanced at me with a strange look on his face, then walked by me with the little boy. I turned around and standing there was Gen. MacArthur and a man I learned later was Pres. Quezon. Slightly behind them was a woman clad in robes wringing her hands. She held out her arms and Spence took the boy to her. It was, of course, Arthur MacArthur that Spence had caught.

The great MacArthur stood woodenly, glanced at Spence as though he were a worm, then turned away. I have never forgotten that incident and it brought to my realization that Gen. MacArthur was a horses ass! It was beyond his capability to say "thanks soldier." I lost any respect that I had for this "famous General". My buddy bade me goodbye and I returned to the lateral for the cigarettes. They were given to me in a burlap sack and I threw it over my shoulder and plodded back up to Middleside, hung a left at the parade ground and strode into Battery Ramsey like I was important.

 I related my little adventure to the Captain, received one of his patented grins, and plodded up the steps to my pit. That, sir, was my only kind of encounter with that great, stuffed shirt. Wish I had something big for you, but remember, I was just a private!"

Al 'Skinny' McGrew



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Richard K. Sutherland was tall, thin, dour and the son of a Virginia senator who had become a Supreme Court justice. He was "efficient and ruthless" (Manchester), "a smoothie" (Eichelberger), "brusk, short-tempered, autocratic, and of a generally antagonizing nature" (Carl Lee), "a natural-born Autocrat" (MacArthur) "a martinet" (Carlos Romulo) "egotistical and arrogant" and an officer who "always rubbed people the wrong way." And he was a successful ladies man, until MacArthur fired him for bringing his paramour to the Philippines. But on Corregidor, there was no one closer to MacArthur than he, and it was Sutherland who had MacArthur's ear and who controlled access to the General, which goes some way towards understanding why MacArthur's legend may have suffered as it did.

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If judged by the postwar literature of the various Bataan-Corregidor veterans' societies, his stature among the American combatants on Bataan never matched Wainwright's. Of course it must be remenbered that Wainright endured the surrender and prison experiences with those veterans. The existing evidence indicates that as of early March, 1942, most of the men on Bataan still believed, or wanted to believe, that somehow, as Mallonée phrased it, MacArthur "would reach down and pull the rabbit out of the hat."

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My father, who had for the war delayed commencement of   his legal practice, was a very minor staff corporal, and  later a sergeant attached to  MacArthur's GHQ in Hollandia, Tacloban and Manila. As an Australian, he enjoyed being a member of the US 8th Army.  Years later he would tell of MacArthur's daily regimen of walking the verandahs of the HQ huts in Hollandia, Tacloban and later at the Manila City Hall.  "He would light his pipe, and walk backwards and forwards, whilst successive officers would fall in behind him, and pace the floor, listening to what he had to say - all the time keeping in step. This pacing would go on for most of the morning, until the morning's "conferences"' were completed.   After lunch, if the circumstances dictated (as they almost always did), the show would go on once more. Just being able to see him there inspired us with confidence."


Paul F. Whitman


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MacArthur jested infrequently, but he did so when a report came in that Santa Barbara had been shelled by an enemy submarine. MacArthur chuckled and told his staff, "I think I'll send a wire to the California commander and tell him if he can hold out for 30 more days I'll be able to send him help."

D. Clayton James


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After reading the MacArthur section and seeing in the first line his "not unreasonable belief that the US government would send massive reinforcements to him." I had to write in the effort to point out a few facts that are rarely, if ever, discussed.

1) The Navy foresaw a war with Japan as early as 1897, and started planning for the possibility that year. Planning at this point was limited to academic discussions.   Immediately after the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-05 the navy based war plans on the premise that the Japanese would attack without warning or declaration of war, as they had with the Russian fleet. War Plan Orange, as it was informally known, was escalated into full time staff work.

2) War Plan Orange staffers had severe limitations on what any American fleet could attempt at the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific. Peacetime budgetary constraints dictated that no substantial naval forces would be available to deploy outside the Aleutian-Hawaii-Panama Triangle in the first year of war without leaving these areas completely undefended. They then had to choose which areas could be defended and which could not. Unfortunately, the Philippines were far outside the defendable area.

Navy planners were under considerable pressure to find a way to defend the Philippines at an outbreak of war. The best they could do was design a relief expedition to these islands a few months after the initial attack; this was known as the "Through Ticket". This plan, however, had to be abandoned when enough officers pointed out it would amount to a suicide mission.

The Navy did not conceal any of this from the Army.  Quite the contrary, MacArthur was keenly aware of all this long before December 1941. His defensive plans relied on strong land and air forces to defeat any invasion force, using large amounts of supplies stockpiled in the Manila area. (Most of these supplies were captured by the Japanese.)

This plan ignored two critical facts of island warfare:

First, that no defensive forces can successfully hold an island without without naval support;

Second, that high level bombers were essentially useless against warships. One bombardier described it as "like trying to drop a marble on a scared mouse" Not until General Kenney took over the 5th Air Force and perfected mast-level cannon and bombing attacks with medium bombers were the Army Air Forces effective ship killers.

Many people have insisted the navy (what was left of it) should have headed straight to Manila to relieve the forces on Bataan and Corregidor. (Japanese carriers outnumbered ours 10 to 3 at this time). It is ironic that if this had been done, the same people would have been asking what moron Admiral would send the only surviving forces in the Pacific to certain destruction, leaving Australia and Hawaii completely defenseless against invasion. Military leaders had, and have, the duty and responsibility to look at all the facts and consider the big picture, which could not possibly have been bleaker in the early months of 1942. As it turned out, we lost most of our surviving naval forces (3 carriers and Lord knows how many cruisers, destroyers and other ships) stopping the Japanese advance through the Southwest Pacific to Australia. By November of 1942, only one operational carrier was available in the entire Pacific.

It is my hope that this discussion will not be construed as MacArthur bashing. I believe he was an extraordinary leader who, like every other human, made some mistakes. But to portray him as being callously abandoned by the Navy is just wrong.

Frank Asturias
Previously Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class
Special Warfare Group One, USNR
25 March 2000






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Anyone who hasn't read D. Clayton James three volume biography on MacArthur can't claim to be a serious student of MacArthur. If only would carry it!

More readable than D. Clayton James, though lacking his enjoyable and pernickety scholarship, is William Manchester's 'American Caesar'.

Clay Blair's book "MacArthur" was a tie-in to the Gregory Peck movie 'MacArthur' and reflected a very simplistic and negative view of the times. It sold well. The movie was a nitpicker's delight, and any retrospective of Gregory Peck's career would do well to omit consideration of it.