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MacArthur in AsiaThe General and His Staff in the Philippines, Japan, and Korea$

Hirosh Masuda

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449390

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449390.001.0001

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From Australia to the Philippines, March 1942 to October 1944

From Australia to the Philippines, March 1942 to October 1944

(p.149) 8 From Australia to the Philippines, March 1942 to October 1944
MacArthur in Asia

Hiroshi Masuda

, Reiko Yamamoto
Cornell University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter details events that occurred from March 1942 to October 1944. These include MacArthur's appointment as commander of the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA), which included the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Australia, and New Guinea; the battle in New Guinea; teamwork in MacArthur's inner circle; disagreement between MacArthur and Admiral Ernest J. King, chief of Naval Operations and commander in chief of the U.S. Navy Fleet over the leadership and strategy of the war against Japan; MacArthur's order on September 21, 1944, that Leyte Island, southeast of Luzon be recaptured; and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the most bitterly fought naval battles in world history.

Keywords:   Douglas MacArthur, Southwest Pacific Area, New Guinea, Japan, Leyte Island, Battle of Leyte Gulf, Ernest J. King

The Beginning of the Counterattack

After arriving in Australia in the middle of March 1942, MacArthur was for a while deeply despondent. The large-scale military force that he believed would be awaiting his arrival in Australia did not exist. He found only one poorly trained U.S. division stationed there, one Australian division, and an air force of some 250 obsolete aircraft; total manpower was no more than twenty-five thousand. The main Australian army had been dispatched to North Africa and the Middle East, leaving no homeland defense force to resist the Japanese. As its sense of crisis intensified with the growing prospect of a Japanese attack, the Australian government repeatedly requested its military to send the main forces home immediately, but the request had not yet been realized. The plan to return to the Philippines with military reinforcements, which had been the rationalization for evacuating from Corregidor, had crumbled. Furthermore, following the surrender of the U.S. and Filipino force at Bataan in early April, reports arrived of Wainwright’s surrender at Corregidor in early May. Although MacArthur had ordered all-out resistance from the frontline troops, Wainwright had disregarded his order and, with Washington’s approval, had decided to surrender. MacArthur was enraged by this decision, but there was nothing he could do from far-away Australia.1

Following its attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military had in a mere half year succeeded in taking most of Southeast Asia and the western Pacific. It had overwhelmed Guam, the Gilbert Islands, and Wake Island in the Pacific, (p.150) consecutively occupied the cities of Hong Kong, Manila, Saigon, and Singapore, and advanced to New Britain, Bougainville, Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, Thailand, Burma, and the Philippines. Forced to make significant withdrawals, the five Allied Powers, namely the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, were desperate to recoup their losses. Following a large-scale Washington review of strategy against Japan, the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) of the United States and Britain divided the vast Pacific war theater into two areas: the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA), which included the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Australia, and New Guinea, and the Pacific Ocean Area (POA), which included the rest of the islands in the Pacific. On March 30, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, was named commander of the POA, and MacArthur was appointed commander of the SWPA. It was as though two heroes, of the army and the navy, were being placed in competition so as to develop a proper resistance strategy against Japan.

Since MacArthur believed that command of the Pacific theater was his sole responsibility, he was angered by the dual appointment. He even suspected that Washington had tricked him into the assignment, and his mistrust of Washington increased. In fact, far from being unfair to MacArthur, Roosevelt and the army and navy leadership had already made preparations to transfer large amounts of arms and ammunition as well as troops to Australia. Moreover, after consulting with British prime minister Winston Churchill, Roosevelt decided to transfer two of the three Australian divisions fighting in North Africa back to Australia and place them under MacArthur’s command. In fact, two divisions of the U.S. Army arrived in Australia in April, the 5th U.S. Army Air Force was formed in September, and the 7th U.S. Fleet was placed under MacArthur’s command. All three Australian divisions returned from the Middle East. With these reinforcements, the military situation was turning favorable.

It was under these circumstances that MacArthur became commander of SWPA, which could be called the united military front of the Allies, on April 18, 1942. His first action was to dismiss Major General George H. Brett, commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces in Australia, whose unsatisfactory management of aircraft during the withdrawal from Mindanao to Australia had roused MacArthur’s anger. Brett wanted to retain his position, but MacArthur did not consider him. As staff officers of the newly established SWPA, he appointed Richard K. Sutherland and the other fifteen Bataan Boys who had escaped with him from Corregidor. In addition, MacArthur appointed Brigadier General Stephen J. Chamberlin as chief of G-3 in charge of operations, Colonel Lester J. Whitlock as chief of G-4 in charge of supply and logistics, and Colonel Burdette M. Fitch as adjutant general (AG) in charge of the administrative section. As chief of the


From Australia to the Philippines, March 1942 to October 1944

Map 4. East Asia and the Western Pacific

(p.152) Civil Intelligence Section (CIS) he named Colonel Elliott R. Thorpe, who was later to compete with Charles A. Willoughby of G-2. Together with the appointment of Brigadier General Harold H. George, who was responsible for the air force units but died later that month in an accident, and Major General George C. Kenney, who moved from commander of the Allied Air Force to succeed Brett as commander of the 5th Air Force, these assignments were to produce new relationships in the headquarters.2

Under MacArthur’s command, SWPA consisted of allied ground troops, air force, and naval units. The allied ground troops, under the command of Australian General Thomas Blamey, included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th divisions of the Australian army and the 41st and 32nd divisions of the U.S. Army. The allied air force under Kenney’s command consisted of two American heavy bomber groups, two middle bomber groups, three battle aircraft groups, and a few Australian, Dutch, and Indian troops. The allied fleet, under the command of Vice Admiral Herbert F. Leary of the U.S. Navy, had two Australian heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, one American heavy cruiser, and many air-defense destroyers.

The immediate and imperative problem MacArthur confronted was the reconstruction of the defense system of Australia. He aimed to change the defeatism that dominated Australia’s 7.4 million people to a mood of optimism. Specifically, MacArthur abandoned the Australian defense plan, which aimed to protect a line that stretched from Brisbane in the middle of the eastern coast to Adelaide in the south. He moved the defense line well forward into eastern New Guinea where he planned to stop the Japanese army in the rough mountains of the Owen Stanley Range. His strategy moved the defense line to a position north of Australia’s borders. On July 20, 1942, he moved his headquarters from Melbourne to Brisbane, eleven hundred kilometers (687.5 miles) to the north. The offensive operation was under way.3

The Battle in New Guinea

Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, the commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet who had achieved brilliant military results at Pearl Harbor, was planning Operation FS, the second stage of Japanese military strategy. This involved the capture of Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia and, after using control of this section of the western Pacific to help block sea and air transportation routes between Australia and the United States, an attack on Australia itself. Since the military base that the Japanese had established at Rabaul on the island of New Britain, east of New Guinea, had already sustained air attacks by Allied aircraft flying from (p.153) Port Moresby in New Guinea, Operation FS was launched in March 1942. The 18th Army, consisting of the 20th, 41st, and 51st divisions under the command of Lieutenant General Adachi Hanazo, landed near the New Guinea towns of Lae and Salamaua and soon occupied them. Moreover, with the cooperation of the navy, which had completed its takeover of the Netherlands East Indies, it took control of the western part of New Guinea in April before proceeding to the Port Moresby operation.

The intelligence group in Hawaii’s 14th Naval District and the Station CAST of the Office of Naval Intelligence that had moved from Corregidor to Australia had, however, broken the Japanese naval code. Responding in April to the Japanese moves, the U.S. Army confirmed that the Imperial General Headquarters was about to begin a new operation. This was the Port Moresby Operation (Operation MO), which aimed to transport some five thousand troops to launch an invasion. If the Japanese were successful, not only would the northern and eastern parts of Australia (which are directly south of the Port Moresby area) be threatened by Japanese forces but the anticipated counterattack by MacArthur would become a lot more difficult.

On May 8, MacArthur assured Roosevelt that at the present time a Japanese attack on India was unlikely. Rather, he emphasized that, having taken Corregidor, the Japanese army would now use two divisions and all its air power stationed in the Philippines to attack New Guinea and the supply route between Australia and the United States. MacArthur’s view was quite different from that of Churchill, who believed that the Japanese would attack India. MacArthur proved to be correct. The Japanese placed priority on the advance south to New Guinea, not west to India, but the Japanese army and naval leadership underestimated MacArthur’s ability to build a defense line at Port Moresby.4

Having established a forward base at Rabaul, on May 3, 1942, the Japanese military began a large-scale landing operation on New Guinea, using three aircraft carriers. Since the U.S. command in Australia had learned of Japanese movements from the breaking of their codes, it immediately dispatched two carriers to the Coral Sea, located between Port Moresby and northeastern Australia, to strike the Japanese fleet and the convoy. May 8 marked the height of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first ever battle between aircraft carriers. The Japanese light carrier, Shoho, which was escorting the convoy, sank, but the Americans also suffered losses: the USS Lexington, a large fleet carrier, as well as a refueling tanker and a cruiser. Comparing the losses, the sinking of the Lexington gave the Japanese a tactical victory but the Allies won strategically by forcing the Japanese to suspend the Port Moresby invasion and withdraw. After a series of losses to the Japanese, this outcome helped restore the U.S. Navy’s confidence. Moreover, the suspension of the Japanese operation to cut the supply line between the United (p.154) States and Australia bought MacArthur’s forces, who were defending eastern New Guinea, valuable time to prepare a counterattack.

The Japanese high command, however, did not give up its ambition to seize Port Moresby. Seaborne invasion was abandoned in favor of a more difficult overland drive across the Owen Stanley Mountains. In August, three months after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the so-called Nankai Task Force of the 18th Army landed at Basabua on the east coast of New Guinea, and marched some 360 kilometers (225 miles) over the 3,000 meter (9,842 feet) mountains of the Owen Stanley Range in order to seize Port Moresby by attacking from the rear. The Nankai Task Force, with difficulty, reached a location that allowed a view of Port Moresby, but it had to abandon the attack and turn back because of a shortage of supplies and ammunition. From this point began the downfall of the Japanese army.

Meanwhile, the Battle of Midway, which was to have a major influence on the outcome of the Pacific War, took place from June 5 through June 7. The battle took place in part in response to the daring air raid conducted on April 18 against major cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe by sixteen B-25 bombers dispatched from the carrier USS Hornet under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle. The so-called Doolittle Raid shocked Japanese military leaders, who had been confident of the security of mainland Japan. Yamamoto planned to intercept American attacks and wipe out all of the U.S. carrier fleet that had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese Combined Fleet, consisting of 350 vessels, launched an attack on Midway Island. However, the main aircraft carriers, Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu, were sunk in massive air attacks by the U.S. mobile task force that was waiting for the Japanese fleet. With the loss of so many highly trained pilots, the Japanese were defeated. The Japanese were subsequently defeated in the Battle of the Solomon Sea, fought in three phases from August to November, and thereafter lost both air and sea supremacy to the Americans. The power relationship between the United States and Japan that had prevailed since the opening of hostilities was about to be reversed.5

On the U.S. and Australian side, four airfields were constructed at Port Moresby to secure an advance base for the counteroffensive against Japan, through the efforts of Brigadier General Hugh J. Casey, a Bataan Boy and chief of the engineering unit, and the cooperation of many Australians. At the beginning of October, MacArthur and his staff moved to Port Moresby; in November, he established an advance base. From there he launched a counteroffensive operation aimed at annihilating the Japanese army in the Buna, Gona, and Salamaua areas of northern New Guinea. This was MacArthur’s first counteroffensive aimed at his return to the Philippines.

Informed that the Japanese Nankai Task Force was withdrawing in the direction of Buna, MacArthur adopted a bold enveloping strategy: one unit pursued (p.155) the enemy from behind; a second infiltrated from Milne Bay in the east; and a third was dispatched to Wanigela Airfield, southeast of Buna. A fierce back-and-forth battle ensued, but MacArthur’s three-dimensional strategy using the army, navy, and air force proved effective. From the end of 1942 through the beginning of 1943, the Japanese army lost its fighting power, suffering forty-five hundred losses in the Owen Stanley Range and eight thousand in the Buna area. The victory of the U.S. and Australian side in January 1943 marked the end of the first half of the New Guinea (Papua) campaign. At the time of victory, MacArthur commended twelve officers for their courage, efficiency, and precision: General Thomas Blamey, Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, Lieutenant General Edmund F. Herring, Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger, Major General Richard K. Sutherland, Major General George A. Vasey, Brigadier General Charles A. Willoughby, Brigadier General Ennis C. Whitehead, Brigadier General Kenneth N. Walker, Brigadier General George F. Wootten, Brigadier General Kenneth W. Eather, and Royal Australian Air Force Group Captain William H. Garing.

The victory in eastern New Guinea was a major turning point for MacArthur and the U.S. and Australian forces. The Japanese army retreated westward along the north cost of New Guinea. U.S. and Australian forces overtook the retreating Japanese army, landed at key points and attacked them from the front. In the subsequent key battles of Salamaua (Jan.–Aug. 1943), Finschhafen (Sept.–Dec. 1943), Aitape (June–Aug. 1944), and Vial Island (June–Aug. 1944), Japanese forces were crushed by the overwhelming power and air and sea supremacy of the U.S. and Australian forces.6

Teamwork in MacArthur’s Inner Circle

The General Headquarters of the Southwest Pacific Area (GHQ/SWPA), established in Australia, consisted mainly of the Bataan Boys who had offered firm support to MacArthur since Corregidor. However, as the GHQ moved to Melbourne, Brisbane, and then Port Moresby, new members from the United States and Netherlands East Indies were recruited to serve as staff officials and commanders of combat troops; and so personal relationships within the headquarters changed. Naturally, these changes had an impact on the organization of MacArthur’s team and on the conduct of the war. Who were the new members, and what kind of influence did they exert?

MacArthur himself favorably commented on three people, Chamberlin, Kenney, and Eichelberger. Regarding Chamberlin, who became operations officer, MacArthur wrote: “[He was] a sound, careful staff officer, a master of tactical (p.156) detail and possessed of bold strategic concepts. He was a pillar of new strength.” He praised Kenney as commander of the Allied Air Forces: “Of all the brilliant air commanders of the war, none surpassed him in those three great essentials of combat leadership: aggressive vision, mastery of air tactics and strategy, and the ability to exact the maximum in fighting qualities from both men and equipment.”7 Regarding Eichelberger, who would become commander of the 8th Army, MacArthur commented: “He was a superintendant of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and was already noted for his administrative ability. He proved himself a commander of the first order, fearless in battle, and especially popular with the Australians.”8

How did their colleagues evaluate the three? Regarding Chamberlin, Casey, for example, noted: “General Chamberlin was both later a perfect chief of staff and initially a perfect head of the Operations Division of our headquarters. I think, considering the problems we had in our theater, with the difficulties of undeveloped terrain and distances, the problems of supply, and the problems of logistics, I think by reason of his background and his prior experience in the field of logistics, that qualified him even more for the important post as chief of the Operations Division. I think he had fine insight into all of the problems, and he coordinated personnel and staff and his agencies excellently.”9 Roger O. Egeberg, who served MacArthur as adjutant, testified: “Chamberlin was G-3, the wheel horse. Chamberlin had all the facts and all of the picture of any given operation right in his mind. While a lot of it was on paper, without Chamberlin it was hard to bring it to life. Chamberlin could be counted on. He worked harder than almost anybody else. He’s a man of modesty, honesty, extreme loyalty—devoted to his job and the people he worked for. I would think that MacArthur both respected and admired him.”10 Chamberlin was the third highest-ranking officer in the GHQ hierarchy, next to Sutherland and Richard J. Marshall. Even Willoughby, who was noted for his acerbic comments, underscored MacArthur’s high evaluation of Chamberlin: “He was a first-class performer and was appreciated by his colleagues. He had a pleasant personality and was rather restrained in his language and reactions. I rate him highly.”11

About Kenney, Egeberg wrote: “General George Kenney was able, confident, aggressive, buoyant in temperament. … [MacArthur] soon approved of him wholeheartedly, for General Kenney acted with swift effectiveness.”12 Sutherland’s secretary and stenographer Rogers noted that Kenney was careful not to disturb the favorable relationship between MacArthur and Sutherland: “Kenney, of course, was MacArthur’s frequent visitor and companion but he was equally close to Sutherland. Kenney spent a great deal of time with MacArthur, but he was careful to preserve a comparable relationship with Sutherland.”13 Kenney and Chamberlin, though both new appointees, successfully made their way into (p.157) MacArthur’s inner circle, and through their high capabilities gained MacArthur’s esteem.

Eichelberger, by comparison, had a less favorable reputation. Casey saw him as a man of ambition:

Eichelberger was, as I say, referred to as the “Lightning Joe” type. … General Eichelberger had ambitions to be the senior commander in the Pacific. He was, I felt, jealous of General Krueger, especially in the early phase when Sixth Army was conducting most of the operations. … I know he was disappointed, too, when hostilities ended, that General MacArthur didn’t return home, because I think he had a strong ambition to be the senior commander over all the forces there, rather than the commanding general of Eighth Army under General MacArthur as Supreme Commander.14

Willoughby, too, compared Eichelberger unfavorably with General Walter Krueger: “Krueger was a hard-nosed professional who came up from the ranks. … He came from the bottom up. … He was a first-class commander and senior one.”15 By contrast: “Eichelberger was for many years the secretary of the General Staff in Washington. That was a powerful position and a position which helped him to make friends in the political field. … He was good-looking, smooth, polished, and socially just the thing for Washington.” In addition to the personality contrast between the self-made adventurer and the man who was a shrewd man-about-town, there was an underlying contrast between the 6th Army, which was a practical combat troop, and the 8th Army, which acted in a secondary, relief role, and was probably created by MacArthur as an occupation army. In general, the Bataan Boys were severe with regard to Eichelberger and generous with regard to Krueger. MacArthur, in fact, declared Krueger to be the most distinguished military commander in U.S. history and requested Chief of Staff Marshall to assign a post to him. As a result, the 6th Army Headquarters was established in SWPA in February 1943. By contrast, Eichelberger was engaged in the occupation of Japan, but when he returned home after three years, he began to criticize MacArthur’s administration of the occupation from Washington.

What did the newcomers think of MacArthur and the Bataan Boys, and how did they evaluate GHQ as a military organization? Kenney later expressed a number of severe criticisms.16 First, “MacArthur is prone to make all his decisions himself, depending only upon his immediate staff.” Second, “One of the perquisites of command, the coordination of the three Services (army, navy and air force) in a combined effort, is absolutely neglected.” Third, “Commanders are not conferred with prior to either major or minor decisions. Lack of command and staff meetings results in directives impossible to interpret and orders (p.158) issued without the help of those who must carry them out and should presumably have the most specialized knowledge of the subject.” On this point, Kenney said he heard similar opinions from Admiral Herbert F. Leary and from Blamey, general of the Australian army. Fourth, “MacArthur has not a full appreciation of air operations, nor is there any officer on his Staff sufficiently conversant with air operations to have the ability for proper planning.” Kenney concluded: “General MacArthur has a wonderful personality when he desires to turn it on. He is, however, absolutely bound up in himself. I do not believe he has a single thought for anybody who is not useful to him.” Regarding the relationship between GHQ and the fighting units at the front, Kenney noted several points of discontent: promotions of officers were unfairly restricted by GHQ; there were no relief units; and living conditions were very poor. These points of dissatisfaction made coordination between GHQ and the front difficult, because, in Kenney’s opinion, everything was decided by GHQ officials who had no appreciation of conditions at the front.

Kenney’s criticisms were directed particularly at Sutherland: “General Sutherland is primarily an egotist with a smattering of knowledge pertaining to air operations. … He is arbitrary in his attitude and often renders decisions in the name of the C-in-C [commander in chief] which it is felt the C-in-C has never had an opportunity to discuss. He is officious and rubs the majority of people (with the exception of his own staff) the wrong way, thereby creating a great deal of unnecessary friction.”17 Kenney concluded that Sutherland was a bully. He noted, moreover, that among staff other than Sutherland, abilities were uneven. Marshall, Willoughby, Marquat, and Casey tended to see themselves as important but they were “yes-men” controlled by Sutherland. Exceptions were Spencer B. Akin, a signals officer, as well as Chamberlin and Lester J. Whitlock (G-4). Kenney noted that Charles P. Stivers might have performed well had there been proper supervision.

Whereas Kenney criticized the staff from the viewpoint of an air officer, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, who was in command of the destroyer squadron in the Solomon Sea (and was later deputy chief of staff of the Far East Navy and chief of Naval Operations), pointed to the defects of MacArthur and GHQ from a naval perspective: “MacArthur was a great tactician, and he was a great strategist, but not as great as he thought he was. He didn’t know everything. Particularly he didn’t know about naval forces. He didn’t know the maneuverability and flexibility of fast naval warfare.”18 Regarding the conflict between MacArthur and Nimitz, Burke noted both the difference in personalities and the difference in basic attitude between the army and the navy: “When a navy commander would turn over to another naval commander a group of ships and say, ‘You can have these for two weeks,’ he meant two weeks. He didn’t mean two weeks and one (p.159) day. … When Nimitz turned over some of his forces to MacArthur for certain period of operation, MacArthur never wanted to give them back. … He just said the circumstances changed. … So there were arguments over that.”19 Burke continued: “The biggest weakness of MacArthur was that he didn’t know the facts because the staff wouldn’t tell him the facts. They would make decisions and announce, ‘this is what the ‘Old Man’ says’.”

Interwoven with various complex human relationships, MacArthur’s GHQ was taking shape as a distinctive inner circle.

Conflict with the U.S. Navy Leadership

While the SWPA under MacArthur’s command was turning to the offensive in New Guinea, the POA under Nimitz had in August 1942 won a victory in the Solomon Sea and, launching a successful landing on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, was broadening its deadly combat against the Japanese. In October, the U.S. fleet commanded by Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid engaged in a fierce battle around Henderson Air Base on Guadalcanal against a vanguard of the Japanese navy led by Vice Admiral Kondo Nobutake and fought against Vice Admiral Nagumo Chuichi’s mobile force in the ocean north of Guadalcanal and Santa Cruz. The Japanese won a tactical victory, sinking the U.S. aircraft carrier Hornet and shooting down seventy-four aircraft, but they suffered a strategic defeat thereafter in the Battle of Midway, losing one hundred aircraft and many well-trained pilots. In November, furthermore, the Japanese suffered a crushing defeat in the third phase of the Battle of the Solomon Sea. In February 1943, they withdrew from Guadalcanal and a battle that had lasted half a year came to an end. As a result, sea and air supremacy shifted from Japan to the United States, and Australia was liberated from any real threat of invasion.

Meanwhile, MacArthur and Admiral Ernest J. King, chief of Naval Operations and commander in chief of the U.S. Navy Fleet, disagreed sharply over the leadership and strategy of the war against Japan. MacArthur believed that operations should be unified under his command and emphasized that the offensive against Japan should consist of the capture of New Guinea and the Philippines followed by an assault on the Japanese main islands. King, on the other hand, argued that the more effective route to the Japanese mainland was to advance north from the Caroline Islands in the central Pacific to the Marianas.

After the end of the Guadalcanal campaign in March 1943, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) called the chiefs of staff of both MacArthur and Nimitz to a strategy meeting in Washington. However, the two sides simply repeated their assertions and the meeting achieved no more than a confirmation of near-term operation (p.160) plans. Following this strategy meeting, a U.S.-British summit and a U.S.-British chiefs of staff conference were conducted in Washington in May, but there, too, the conflict between MacArthur and King was a matter of concern. It was feared that the two commanders in charge of prosecuting the war who were split on basic strategy would make future operations impossible. At this point, Roosevelt and Churchill came up with a compromise plan. The advance to Tokyo would be by two routes: the southwestern Pacific route suggested by MacArthur, from New Guinea to the Philippines, Formosa, and Japan, and the central Pacific route favored by King, from the Gilbert Islands to the Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands, Mariana Islands, and then to Japan. MacArthur vigorously opposed the adoption of dual routes, but the decision was not reversed.

Reluctantly, MacArthur ordered an area group consisting mainly of Admiral William F. Halsey’s South Pacific Forces (later the 3rd Fleet) to head for Bougainville Island off New Guinea. Unlike Admirals Kinkaid, King, and Thomas C. Hart, Halsey had maintained a good relationship with MacArthur. MacArthur gave him the highest praise: “I liked him from the moment we met, and my respect and admiration increased with time. His loyalty was undeviating, and I placed the greatest confidence in his judgment. No name rates higher in the annals of our country’s naval history.”20 Meanwhile, MacArthur led the SWPA forces directly under his command to the north coast of New Guinea and went on to land at New Britain as part of his step-by-step advance on the Philippines. MacArthur described his strategy, popularly called “leapfrogging,” as follows: “It was the practical application of this system of warfare—to avoid the frontal attack with its terrible loss of life; to by-pass Japanese strong points and neutralize them by cutting their lines of supply; to thus isolate their armies and starve them on the battlefield.”21 He added, with customary self-praise: “This decision enabled me to accomplish the concept of the direct-target approach from Papua to Manila.” Indeed, the adoption of this adroit strategy allowed the U.S. and Australian military, which had already gained sea and air supremacy, to gradually break down the Japanese hold on New Guinea and the Solomon Islands as they approached their objective, the Philippines.

By contrast, the Japanese army in the Pacific was gradually forced to withdraw. On April 18, 1943, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku flew to the Solomon Islands to inspect and encourage Japanese troops. His plane was shot down by U.S. fighter planes because Americans had broken the Japanese codes. Washington kept the incident secret to preserve the decoding advantage, but the Japanese were shocked by Yamamoto’s death. In September they reached the decision to reduce the defensive lines in accordance with the Senso Shido Taiko (War Instruction Outline). In response, MacArthur’s army did not allow the offensive to slacken, and at the end of October made a fierce attack on Rabaul, Japan’s last base in the (p.161) region. Japanese air power at the base was destroyed and New Britain was almost overwhelmed. In February 1944 MacArthur’s forces took the Admiralty Islands. In April he landed at Hollandia and Aitape in central New Guinea and in May opened a fierce battle with the Japanese on Wake Island, off the northwestern coast of New Guinea.

Egeberg later described MacArthur at that time. At the end of February, following the taking of the Admiralty Islands and on the night before MacArthur was to land on the northern coast of New Guinea with large-scale navy support, he was called to MacArthur’s cabin at around 1:30 a.m. Egeberg found MacArthur in a state of agitation. He moved about in his nightclothes, emotionally recalling his years at West Point, his first assignment to the Philippines, and the dangers he had faced in the Philippines and during World War I. After about thirty minutes he gradually calmed down and suddenly said he wanted to go back to sleep.22 Even MacArthur could not remain calm ahead of the landing operation. Huff confirmed Egeberg’s observation that MacArthur’s pattern was to vent his heightened emotions by talking uninterruptedly about his past experiences until he returned to normal.

Early next morning MacArthur and Egeberg went ashore in a landing craft. MacArthur, wearing khaki pants and open-necked shirt and his gold-braided military cap, stood straight, without attempting to protect himself from enemy attack. Those accompanying him had to hold themselves erect. Leading the way, MacArthur approached the bodies of two Japanese soldiers who had just been killed to check their rank and equipment. At that moment he showed his instinctive respect for fighting men. When MacArthur and Egeberg returned to the Phoenix cruiser, MacArthur scolded Egeberg for not wearing his officer’s cap. MacArthur said that the braided cap was his trademark; since soldiers recognized it, he had to wear it and would keep on wearing it. He suggested, however, that Egeberg should wear a helmet from that time on because of the risk in landing.23 Egeberg recalled that he was overwhelmed by MacArthur’s fearless and daring attitude.

Egeberg recalled that sailors on the ship lined up for MacArthur’s autograph, and he kept signing until evening. Although MacArthur had resolved not to drink during the war, he was so pleased with the successful landing that he talked about it and about Jean over a rare glass of bourbon. He claimed that the reason he had given up alcohol was the burden of his responsibility for the lives of all the officers in the southwest Pacific. With regard to MacArthur’s everyday habits, Egeberg recalled that he ate in his cabin, accompanied usually by his adjutant and sometimes by Kenney and Egeberg. On one occasion he said that he would eat in the officers’ mess, but then hesitated and the meal did not take place. Egeberg explained that MacArthur hesitated because he was uncomfortable and shy. (p.162) “He enjoyed eating with people he knew well, … but to sit down with a group of people that he didn’t know bothered him very much. He felt responsible for the conversation” in the officers’ mess. Egeberg, as a medical officer, commented that MacArthur was excessively self-conscious.24

Egeberg recalled the setting when he attended briefings for the April Hollandia landing:

Twelve or fifteen of his officers were there, primarily from G3 [operations]. Among three or four rows of chairs, General MacArthur sat in the middle of the front row with General Sutherland on one side of him and General Stephen Chamberlin, his G3, on the other. Younger officers made the presentations of the options; the older ones enlarged on them, asked questions, and joined the more junior officers in attacking or defending the various plans. … He never took a vote on the briefing issues, but asked questions, probed, threw in new possibilities, always ended by thanking the group, and then continued his weighing of possibilities, alone or sometimes with General Sutherland. On several occasions with me as silent audience he talked in the following vein. … We can attack at A or we can attack at B. If we do B, which I think we are more likely to carry off, the enemy has at least three alternatives. They can do X, Y, or Z. Now if the enemy does X, we could do A-prime or B-prime. If the enemy does the Y maneuver, we can do C-prime and should the enemy do Z we could perform D-prime and possibly E-prime. … He would carry this scenario of our moves, and the Japanese responses to each of the possibilities and ours in return, all in his head in a period of an hour or more while we were driving, or perhaps just sitting. He pursued the alternatives much as in chess.25

Egeberg’s description illustrates one of the distinctive characteristics of the MacArthur headquarters.

In the end, the Hollandia landing was successful, and MacArthur set up a base there. On the other hand, the attack on Biak was particularly difficult, so much so that heavy fighting continued for as long as two months. Adopting a different strategy, the Japanese no longer tried to repel the assault on the beach, where they would become cannon fodder for the Americans. Instead, they had foxholes dug in mountains and valleys in the rear, and there they tried to defend themselves from the assault of the Allies and to ambush enemy attackers. This strategy was later successfully applied in the battle at Iwo Jima. With the exception of Biak, MacArthur’s army was able to take Wake Island and Noemfoor at the very western tip of New Guinea and other smaller islands up to Sansapor. In just three months MacArthur had succeeding in taking control of the entire twenty-four (p.163) hundred kilometer (fifteen hundred miles) northern coast of New Guinea. On August 30 the headquarters was moved to Hollandia.26

In competition with MacArthur’s forces, those under Nimitz also advanced successfully. Their capture of Makin and Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands in November 1943 was followed in February 1944 by landings on Kwajalein and Jalutt in the Marshall Islands where seven thousand members of the Japanese defense garrison were killed. They subsequently bombed the large Japanese naval base on Truk, destroying forty-three ships and 270 planes. In June, U.S. forces landed on Saipan in the Mariana Islands. Since the Japanese naval fleet had been defeated in June 1944 in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Japanese forces on Saipan were isolated; in July, thirty thousand troops of the Japanese garrison were killed and many Japanese residents committed suicide. The same fate awaited the defense garrisons at Tinian and Guam. Shocked by the fall of Saipan, the center of defense for the Japanese military, the Tojo cabinet collapsed. The Japanese mainland was now within range of U.S. B-29 planes and air strikes over Japanese large cities began.27

At this point, in June 1944, the JCS began to consider the invasion of the Japanese main islands. King proposed suspending MacArthur’s campaign to recapture the Philippines and to attack Japan immediately after taking Formosa. Army Chief of Staff Marshall and Major General William H. Arnold, chief of the U.S. Army Air Forces, indicated their support for the proposal. MacArthur, however, opposed the plan vehemently, arguing that bypassing the Philippines to attack Formosa directly was not permissible from a strategic point of view. The conflict between MacArthur and King concerned military strategy, but it was also influenced subtly by a different and political factor: the presidential election campaign scheduled for the fall of 1944 and the possibility of MacArthur’s candidacy.

MacArthur’s heroic activities in the Pacific had had the effect of pushing forward his name as a powerful potential presidential candidate. Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, a conservative Republican, took the initiative for the campaign. While affecting detachment, MacArthur, too, was inwardly waiting for an invitation to become a candidate. After he wrote a long letter to Vandenberg implying his willingness to run, supporters set to work. Their scenario for success was to bypass the primaries and have MacArthur nominated as presidential candidate at the Republican convention. However, a House representative from Nebraska publicized his correspondence with MacArthur in which MacArthur criticized the New Deal. With the public airing of opinions that he had wanted kept secret, MacArthur issued a statement on April 30, 1944, expressing his view that a supreme commander on the front lines should not run in the presidential election. Even if asked, therefore, he would not accept the nomination. Roosevelt, who saw MacArthur as his most dangerous potential opponent, was relieved.28

(p.164) When Major Charles H. Morehouse, Egeberg’s predecessor, returned to the United States to see his sick mother, he was asked by a local newspaper correspondent whether MacArthur wanted to run for president. Morehouse was said to have replied: “No, he is a soldier and desires to march on to Tokyo.”29 Because of this statement, Morehouse was, in effect, dismissed. The incident offers an indication of MacArthur’s real thinking.

Since Roosevelt was planning to run for a fourth presidential term, he was careful not to alienate MacArthur and his supporters. He therefore arranged to meet MacArthur in Hawaii to discuss the strategy for invading Japan. Roosevelt traveled by heavy cruiser to Pearl Harbor, while MacArthur flew in the B-17 bomber Bataan, accompanied by no staff officers and just five adjutants. The conference, in which Nimitz and Admiral William D. Leahy also participated, was held at Pearl Harbor from July 26 to 28, 1944. Against Nimitz’s idea of bypassing the Philippines to attack Formosa, MacArthur argued passionately that recapture of the Philippines would motivate the American and Philippine peoples and serve the national interest. Roosevelt gradually leaned toward MacArthur’s position.30 The JCS, as well, gave up on attacking Formosa. The Philippine Recapture Operation was formally approved, and it was decided that Nimitz would advance to Iwo Jima and Okinawa. MacArthur was delighted that, with this decision, his return to the Philippines became a possibility.31

“I Shall Return”

The Hawaii conference opened the way for the recapture of the Philippines, and that recapture was MacArthur’s primary concern. It remained to be decided when and where to land. With its condition worsening, the Japanese army was focused only on defense, giving the United States a clear advantage in the choice of landing place. Based on useful information on the deployment of Japanese forces offered by local Filipino guerrillas, on September 21, 1944, MacArthur ordered a recapture of Leyte Island, southeast of Luzon. Leyte was the unforgettable place where he had worked when first assigned to the Philippines as a young officer.

Admiral Kinkade’s 7th Fleet, which comprised forty-five ships (including six battleships and eighteen aircraft carriers), escorted 420 transport vessels carrying a total of sixty-five thousand 6th Army troops from Hollandia and Manus Island (one of New Guinea’s Admiralty Islands) to the Philippines. At 6:00 a.m. on October 20 the troops began their landing at Tacloban on the northeast coast of Leyte and at Dulag Beach further to the south. The Japanese defense garrison was surely surprised at the sight of no fewer than five hundred ships lined up along the thirty or forty kilometer (about eighteen to twenty-four miles) of (p.165) coastline. MacArthur was on board the flagship Nashville, and he had invited Sergio Osmena, who had become president of the Philippines following Quezon’s death in Washington on August 1, 1944, to join the landing operation along with two members of his cabinet. MacArthur felt that their presence in the Philippines on the first day of the landing would signify to the Philippine people that their government had returned. According to Egeberg, MacArthur also placed great importance on the declaration he would make at the time of landing. He wrote the speech himself, and on the evening before the landing he rehearsed before Larry and Egeberg. Egeberg wrote: “He [MacArthur] felt that this was going to be a very important time, a time to rally the Philippine people, to reassure the guerrillas, to warn the Japanese, and to tell the world. There was no doubt that he was going to say, ‘I have returned’.”32

At the time of the Hawaii conference in July, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters made a firm decision to combine its army, navy, and air forces for an all-out attack on the Allies. Called the Shogo Sakusen (Winning Operation), this was thought to be the most crucial stage of the Pacific War. The Philippine theater in particular was termed Sho No. 1. Preparations for Sho No. 1 and Sho No. 2 (Formosa and Okinawa) were to be completed by the end of August. Preparations for Sho No.3 (the four main islands) and Sho No.4 (Hokkaido and the Kuril Islands) were to be completed by the end of October. For the Philippine theater, the 14th Army was upgraded to become the 14th Area Army. The 35th Army was newly organized with about 110,000 soldiers to defend the southern part of the Philippines including Leyte. At Luzon, the expected site of the decisive battle with the United States, about 130,000 troops of the 14th Area Army headquarters were to intercept the enemy. The headquarters of the Southern Area Army was moved to Manila.

In order to deal with U.S. air assaults on Okinawa, Formosa, and the Philippines, in October the Japanese navy attacked the mobile units of the 3rd Fleet under Halsey in a battle known in Japanese as the Taiwan Oki Kokusen (Air Battle Off Formosa). The headquarters announced big military gains but, in fact, damage on the U.S. side was light and no more than seventy-five aircraft were lost. By contrast, Japan suffered the loss of as many as 650 aircraft. This loss was to have an enormous impact on the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was about to begin.33

On October 18 the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters issued the order to launch Sho No. 1 in the Philippine theater. Admiral Toyota Soemu, commander of the Combined Fleet, ordered the counterattack. The bold strategy of the Japanese was to use Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo’s First Mobile Fleet, comprising four aircraft carriers and two battleships, as a decoy to entice Halsey’s 3rd Fleet. Meanwhile, the fleets of Kurita Takeo, Shima Kiyohide, and Nishimura Shoji (p.166) would each burst into Leyte Gulf. On October 17, a large fleet of MacArthur’s naval forces was approaching Leyte Gulf. On October 18, Leyte Bay was stormy, with winds blowing at thirty meters per second, but the fleet burst through the high waves into the bay. For several days a special U.S. team had been clearing the water of obstacles, including mines set by the Japanese. On the morning of October 20, the U.S. 7th Fleet opened naval gunfire in unison, and then four divisions of the 6th Army under Krueger’s command landed at Tacloban and in the Dulag area. Since the Japanese had expected the decisive battle to take place on Luzon, only the 16th Division had been left to defend Leyte. Surprised by the sudden attack, the Japanese army was forced to retreat, making it easy for the Americans to land. Intelligence on Japanese movements obtained by guerrilla units was of great use to the U.S. side. MacArthur’s army had completely outmaneuvered the Imperial General Headquarters and succeeded in seizing the advantage at the outset of the battle.

MacArthur watched the landing operation from the bridge of the Nashville. Just before 2:00 p.m. on October 23, he changed into a new military uniform, put on his Philippine field marshal’s cap and Ray-Ban sunglasses, and boarded the landing craft. Picking up Osmena on the way, the boat headed for the landing point, called Red Beach, located some eight kilometers (five miles) south of the Tacloban Airfield. Because of dense fog and rain, the group had to wait in the landing craft for one or two hours. At last it ran ashore onto the beach, and the ramp was dropped. MacArthur was the first to disembark, walking through knee-high seawater. Osmena, Kenney, Sutherland, and Brigadier General Whitney followed him. Brigadier General Carlos P. Romulo of the Philippine army hurried to keep up with the taller Americans. Keen not to miss the good shots, cameramen clicked away as they walked.

MacArthur walked about quietly, exchanging comments with his officers. A signal officer handed him a portable microphone and the Voice of Freedom radio broadcast began. MacArthur took out his prepared notes and spoke: “People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil—soil consecrated by the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and restoring upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people. … The seat of your government is now, therefore, firmly re-established on Philippine soil.”34 The speech was partly modified to become shorter. MacArthur’s voice and hand shook, overcome with emotion at having kept his “I shall return” promise two years and seven months after evacuating from Corregidor.

The Japanese Combined Fleet was successful in trapping Halsey’s 3rd Fleet by using the Ozawa fleet as a decoy and, on October 24, the Japanese fleet of Admirals (p.167) Kurita, Shima, and Nishimura entered Leyte Gulf. MacArthur and Kinkaid guessed that the Japanese fleet would head for Leyte and attack the American transports. However, tricked by Ozawa’s fleet, Admiral Halsey’s fleet was far north of Leyte. MacArthur knew that the landing would have failed if even one Japanese battleship had entered the Gulf. Hundreds of ships were lined up like the proverbial ducks in a row. An enemy attack on the fleet would have caused grave losses in men and ships. It would have meant the end of the landing operation and the end of the counterattack on the Philippines.

Egeberg could easily sense MacArthur’s deep concern, though he appeared to be calm. He wrote:

There was more and quicker pacing than usual, more frequent pipelighting, and definite withdrawal from us. … He stayed in his cabin much of this time. Finally he learned that the Japanese were using magnesium flares—those very bright and far-reaching lights sent up to come down by parachute. This obviously excited him, and he spoke with intensity: “If they’re using flares they can’t have radar, and without radar we’ll get them in the dark. We’ll get them!” he clenched his fist and his face emphasized his words. After that he seemed to relax a bit. This relaxation was a positive indication that he felt the outcome would be favorable and an indication that permeated the cabin with a feeling of relief.35

However, the movement of the Kurita fleet was the main reason for the Japanese defeat. Unable to receive the radio message from the Ozawa fleet that the decoy had succeeded, it turned back without carrying out the attack on the U.S. transport and cargo vessels, missing the prey before their eyes. As a result of this major miscalculation, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was, as MacArthur expected, a big victory for the U.S. Navy, which could use radar to attack the enemy, even at night. Halsey’s 3rd Fleet was indeed far to the north, but once Nimitz realized that Kinkaid’s 7th Fleet was in trouble, he ordered Halsey to turn south and pursue the Japanese fleet. Halsey sent shipboard planes to join the battle, even though he knew that the distance was too great for them to return to the carrier. Once the fighting was over, these planes made a forced landing on the former Japanese airfields at Tacloban and Dulag on Leyte. The shell-torn landing strips did not permit a normal landing and many of the planes were damaged.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf, which involved the full force of both the Japanese and the U.S. militaries, was one of the most bitterly fought naval battles in world history. Mistakenly believing that they held air supremacy, the Japanese suffered big losses, including three battleships, ten heavy cruisers, and four aircraft carriers, for a total of twenty-four ships including the Musashi, one of their newest (p.168) and largest battleships. (By contrast, the Americans lost only three aircraft carriers and three destroyers.) With this defeat, the Japanese Combined Fleet was, in effect, destroyed. In addition, the Japanese lost 370 planes while the Americans lost ninety-nine. It was from this time that the navy introduced the kamikaze units whose suicide attacks would menace American forces. In the ground battle, Japanese mistakes accumulated. On October 22, the Southern Army Headquarters, which had advanced to Manila in order to carry out Sho No. 1, shifted the battle site from Luzon to Leyte and ordered the 14th Area Army to attack the U.S. Army on Leyte. However, General Yamashita Tomoyuki, the so-called Malayan Tiger, who had been commander of the 1st Area Army, was appointed commander of the 14th Area Army just two weeks before the American landing. Lieutenant General Muto Akira was named chief of staff of the 14th Area Army on the very day of the landing. By the time the 35th Army reinforcement forces, which consisted of the main part of the 30th Division and five infantry battalions of the 102nd Division, arrived at Ormoc on the west coast of Leyte on November 1, the 16th Division had already lost its organizational fighting power and soldiers were fleeing into the jungle.36

After the landing on Leyte, the U.S. military sent seven divisions as reinforcements in November and established a firm military base. MacArthur set up his headquarters at Tacloban and aimed to advance to Manila on Luzon and then to his final destination—Tokyo.


(3.) Takemae Eiji, GHQ (Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho, 1983), 3–4.

(5.) Nomura Minoru, Nihon Kaigun no Rekishi [History of the Japanese Navy] (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 2002), 195–96; Mizokawa Tokuji, ed., Senso Jihen [War and incidents] (Kyoikusha, 1991), 273–78; Shibata Takehiko and Hara Katsuhiro, Dorittoru, Kushu Hiroku [Secret records of the Doolittle air raid] (Tokyo: Ariadone Kikaku, 2003), see chaps. 2–4.

(9.) Engineer Memoirs, General Hugh J. Casey, U.S. Army, 255.

(10.) Oral Reminiscences Roger O. Egeberg, June 30, 1971.

(11.) Oral Reminiscences Charles A. Willoughby, July 30, 1971.

(12.) Roger O. Egeberg, The General: MacArthur and the Man He Called “Doc” (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1983), 21.

(13.) Paul P. Rogers, MacArthur and Sutherland, RG30.

(14.) Engineer Memoirs, General Hugh J. Casey, U.S. Army, 53.

(15.) Oral Reminiscences Charles A.Willoughby, July 30, 1971.

(16.) George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1949); General George C. Kenney, The War in the Pacific—December 8, 1941–September 2, 1945.

(23.) Ibid., 30, 33.

(24.) Ibid., 34–35.

(25.) Ibid., 45–46, 48.

(28.) John Gunther, Makkasah no Nazo [The riddle of MacArthur], trans. Kinoshita Hideo and Yasuho Nagaharu (Tokyo: Jijitsushinsha, 1951), 96–100; James Burns, Ruzuberuto to Dainiji Sekaitaisen [Roosevelt and World War II], vol. 2, trans. Inoue Isamu and Ito Takuichi (Tokyo: Jijitsushinsha, 1972), 304–6.

(36.) Ichiokunin no Showashi: Nihon no Senshi,vol. 10, Taiheiyo Senso, part 4 [Showa history for one hundred million people: Japanese war history vol.10, the Pacific War 4], ed. Mainichi Shimbunsha (Tokyo: Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1980), 154–69; Mizokawa, Senso Jihen, 289–90.