September  17, 2021

Next year will be the 80th Anniversary of three seminal events in the Philippines’ history during World War II.

On March 13, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, his family and general staff, disembarked from three PT Boats at Macabalan pier, Cagayan de Misamis, on the first leg of their successful Breakout from Imperial Japanese Navy blockade of Corregidor.

Gen Douglas MacArthur takes a stroll at Del Monte, Bukidnon with Brig Gen Richard J Marshall and Maj Gen Richard K. Sutherland after their Breakout from Corregidor (MacArthur Memorial)

On March 17, 1942, the same party boarded two B-17E bombers and successfully escaped the Japanese dragnet to Australia. At a railway stop at Terowie, South Australia on March 20, 2 1942, MacArthur was interviewed by two journalists from the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper regarding the Battle of the Philippines.

MacArthur monument at Terowie railway station, South_Australia where he first uttered his vow I SHALL RETURN.

He said: “The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing an American offensive against Japan, the primary purpose of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return”.

Mrs. Aurora A. Quezon, Mrs. Jean Faircloth MacArthur, President Manuel L. Quezon, Arthur MacArthur, Maria Aurora Quezon, Corregidor, 1942. (Phil Diary Project)

Not the least, on March 26, 1942, Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, his family, and some members of his cabinet, boarded three B-17s sent by MacArthur from Australia about midnight and nine hours were breakfasting in Northern Australia.

On March 13, 2008, two monuments commemorating these events were erected at the Macabalan pier in Cagayan de Oro City where MacArthur and party landed, and at the Del Monte Airfield 1 at Dicklum, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon where the two flights to Australia originated.

The events commemorated by these two monuments are undoubtedly significant not only in Philippine  History but in the history of World War II in the Pacific as well, since it prevented the invading Japanese a moral victory by thwarting their efforts to capture the two foremost leaders in the Philippines, and was the first step back to eventual victory.

Despite this, however, some people still remain dubious about why Filipinos should dedicate two monuments to an American General, his role in the defense and eventual Liberation of the Philippines notwithstanding.

Philippine Field Marshal

Not many now remember that General Douglas MacArthur was the first and only Field Marshal in the history of the Philippine Army, while also serving as Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines, which he served concurrently with the rank of Major General.

L-R VP Sergio Osmena, US Hi Comm Paul V. McNutt, Pres Manuel Quezon, Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur, Gen Paulino Santos, PA Chief of Staff .

President Manuel L. Quezon officially conferred on him the rank of Field Marshal on 24 August 1936 in a ceremony at Malacañang Palace . He was presented at that time with a gold baton and a unique uniform.

MacArthur had retired from the United States Army as a major-general, having previously served as a full general while Chief of Staff of the United States Army

Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur inspects Philippine Scouts, 1936. JCPML00786.4.
Original held by MacArthur Memorial Library and Archives 3713.

President Quezon then hired him as a military advisor and commissioned him a Field Marshal in the Philippine Army, tasked with organizing the Philippine Commonwealth Army as a deterrent to increasing Japanese aggression in the Pacific, with practically nil resources and untrained personnel.

Although unofficially considered as the five-star rank in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, MacArthur wore no special insignia as Field Marshal of the Philippines , except for a modification to his army officer’s cap.

To the standard gold-trimmed visor of a United States general’s cap, MacArthur added gilt trim to the front body of the cap, above the visor. MacArthur referred to this modified headdress as his “Philippine Field Marshal’s Cap”  and wore it for the duration of World War II and into the Korean War. Together with his aviator sunglasses and distinctive corn cob pipe, the cap has since become icons identified with the General.

On December 31, 1937, MacArthur first retired from the U.S. Army and the Philippine Army. He ceased to represent the United States as military adviser to the government, but remained in the Philippines as Quezon’s adviser in a civilian capacity.

USAFFE

In July 26, 1941, MacArthur was recalled to active duty as Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific Area and the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE). Poorly trained, ill-equipped with antiquated weapons, inadequate ammunition and supplies, and suffering from malaria and food shortages, the USAFFE nevertheless became the only army which managed to stymie the Imperial Japanese Army in its rampage through East Asia.

Lt. Gen. Douglas MacArthur conducts a ceremony formally inducting the Philippine Army Air Corps into United States Army Forces Far East at Camp Murphy, Rizal on 15 August 1941. Behind MacArthur, from left to right, are: Lt. Col. Richard K. Sutherland, Col. Harold H. George, Lt. Col William F. Marquat, and Maj. LeGrande A. Diller. (Center of Military History, United States Army)

The six months the IJA needed to defeat the USAFFE was four months longer than the Japanese had planned. Those extra months required the Japanese to invest additional manpower and resources in the Philippines as opposed to other areas of the Pacific theater, thus buying MacArthur more valuable time in preparing his forces to repel and eventually counterattack the enemy.

A colorized version of General Douglas MacArthur’s iconic photo as he wades ashore in Leyte on October 20, 1944
(by U.S. Army Signal Corps officer Gaetano Faillace)

And lest we forget, by 1944 the Allies were all for bypassing the Philippines and attacking Formosa instead but MacArthur stood firm, even going as far as going back to Washington, D.C. to personally appeal to US Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his insistence finally resulted in the October 20, 1944 Leyte Landing where he fulfilled his promise made two and a half years earlier, “I shall return.”

MacArthur may have been an American by birth, but he was a Filipino at heart and in deed, and we dedicate these Memorials in humble appreciation for his great love and sacrifice for the Philippines and the Filipinos.

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