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"MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines" Topic

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1,341 hits since 7 Nov 2021
©1994-2023 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2021 9:33 p.m. PST

"The 7 December 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by Japanese Admiral Chichi Nagumo's naval strike force suddenly and fully thrust the United States into World War II, a war which would last for nearly four years and cost 407,316 American military lives and wound another 671,846.[1] Nearly every year since this attack, on its anniversary, Pearl Harbor has been commemorated by veterans and non-veterans alike, and rightly so.

What is not as well known is that the attack on Pearl Harbor was just a part of the Japanese offensive planned for 7 December. The overall plan called for simultaneous attacks not only on Pearl Harbor, but also on several other American and Allied locations throughout the Pacific. Most of these simultaneous attacks went as planned.[2] However, due to bad weather over the Island of Formosa—the location of the airbases from which the Japanese were to launch their bombers and fighter planes against the Philippines—the initial air strike on the American protectorate of the Philippine Islands was delayed for several hours…"
Main page


Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2021 11:37 p.m. PST

Author does not know what he is talking about. In his own article he discusses how weak Allied forces were on the ground and in the air. The American mortar shells were so old most did not explode. Not a singe American convoy sailed from the USA to the PH once the war started to bring any reinforcements or supplies. Only a few submarines. You can't supply 50,000+ troops with submarines. War Plan Orange was to hold out for 6 months and the US would then sent massive forces to save the PI. MacArthur did that. As for the air power on day one, the author fails to account that the planes were scrambled to avoid being caught on the ground, but they can't stay up forever. They came down to refuel while scout planes checked on the weather over Formosa. They were planning an offensive air raid, but were caught on the ground. Bad luck, not bad planning.

Mike Bunkermeister Creek
Bunker Talk blog

Oddball08 Nov 2021 7:15 a.m. PST

Saying that Dugout Doug MacArthur had good plans for the 1941 Philippines campaign is really putting a shine on a sneaker.

MacArthur moved the supply points further away from Bataan, if the plan had been followed, the troops on Bataan would not have been so short of supplies, ammo and medicine.

Would they have held out for relief, No. Not without support from the US and that wasn't coming. But they might have not been in such bad shape, continued to resist for several more months and been better prepared for the hellish Japanese POW camps.

The attack on Clark Field is also a failure of command. Rather than just have the bombers circle, they should have been sent to Formosa and attacked targets ID by the advanced scouts that were checking for weather.

Getting caught on the ground with 8 hours notice is inexcusable.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2021 3:10 p.m. PST



Dan Cyr08 Nov 2021 4:19 p.m. PST

+1 Oddball

MacArthur had a better PR team than the Marines.

Legionarius08 Nov 2021 6:54 p.m. PST

Mac was all about Mac.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Nov 2021 5:26 p.m. PST

For a really excellent account of MacArthur's failures I recommend the US Army Official History (Green Books Series)"Fall of the Philippines". The author had to be vary careful about any open criticisms (the book was written in 1953 and Doug was still around) but reading between the lines reveals that Mac Arthur basically went into a total funk after he lost his air force and just did not issue any real orders beyond "War Plan Orange is in effect!" and everyone retreat to Bataan. He left everything in the hands of his subordinates and provided no real direction until he was pulled out. The book also tells a lot about the forces MacArthur had on hand and which he mostly squandered. Two battalions of M3 light tanks. A hundred Canadian-built Universal Carriers that were stranded there by the start of the war. A LOT of artillery. A year's supply of rice in Manila warehouses that could have been moved to Bataan but was not. He could probably have wiped out the Japanese landing at Lingayan Gulf if he'd given the order to attack. But he didn't and his subordinated refused to take the initiative on their own. Many missed opportunities.

Murvihill10 Nov 2021 6:59 a.m. PST

I read the same book and came to the same conclusion. Especially damning was the Japanese aced the army out of one defensive position after another on Bataan, using the same tactic. A good general would have stopped that after the first time.

Legionarius10 Nov 2021 7:15 p.m. PST

+1 to the two postings above. It was very difficult to openly criticize Mac, even after Truman summarily relieved him. He created a legend around him and his grandiose pronouncements read like a lot of hot air when confronted with facts. However, the legend is still believed after all these years. Another good assessment is Spector's Eagle Against theSun. This one volume history of the Pacific War pulls no punches.

Dan Cyr10 Nov 2021 10:13 p.m. PST

His troops knew better…

A song, sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," turned up at Bataan:

Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock

Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock

Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan

And his troops go starving on.

Dugout Doug's not timid, he's just cautious, not afraid

He's protecting carefully the stars that Franklin made

Four-star generals are rare as good food on Bataan

And his troops go starving on.

Dugout Doug is ready in his Kris Craft for the flee

Over bounding billows and the wildly raging sea

For the Japs are pounding on the gates of Old Bataan

And his troops go starving on…

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2021 3:45 p.m. PST



Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2021 9:53 p.m. PST

MacArthur aide: U.S. must learn from errors



rvandusen Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2021 11:08 a.m. PST

MacArthur's main error is that he overestimated how long it would take the Japanese to launch their offensive in the Philippines. He conjectured that they would not attack until April 42, instead of December 41 as , in fact, the IJ forces did. The April date would have allowed time to further build up forces on the islands. A medium tank battalion had been ear-marked for service in the Phils., but as the situation unfolded they could not be sent. The 2 National Guard tank battalions that had been sent were actually shipped without ammo for their 37mm guns! This error had to be made up for by the ordnance troops already stationed on Luzon manufacturing AP rounds for the Stuarts. The tanks fought throughout the campaign with no HE shells, and had to rely on their MGs to take on Japanese infantry.

Nine pound round14 Nov 2021 6:09 a.m. PST

It's hard to overstate the degree of unreadiness among the future Allies in their Far Eastern territories in 1940-41. The British had stripped their possessions bare of troops and equipment needed to fight the Germans; the American mobilization really only began, in great haste, in the summer of 1940. By the beginning of 1941, even though the government had begun to behave as if things had improved (forward basing the fleet at Hawaii, for instance), they really hadn't. They improved a lot in the last quarter of the year, but it was still too little, too late, and nobody was ready for what came next- except the Japanese. Any reasonable accounting for what followed in Malaya and the Philippines has to take into account the fact that the Japanese were as well prepared as the Allies were unprepared- and the results were the same everywhere.

What's most interesting to me is that the Japanese advances were stopped less by Allied resistance- although that certainly mattered- than by the sheer limitations of Japanese power and logistical capability. Across much of the Pacific, Japanese forces advanced into a vacuum, and while fighting coalesced around a couple of key peripheral points (New Guinea, Guadalcanal, the Aleutians), the action on the "Central Pacific axis" that the Navy had been planning to follow for twenty years was remarkably static between June, 1942 and November, 1943. The Navy's main offensive effort, and the action that went with it, is essentially packed into just over a year and a half of fighting between Tarawa and Okinawa. That gives you some sense of just what a giant theater of war the Pacific really was.

MacArthur deserves some criticism for the overall readiness of the Philippine forces in 1941- although the War Department probably deserves more- but he deserves a lot of credit for figuring out how to conduct an offensive in a theater that was so essentially naval- and doing it without a lot of the most vital naval assets- while at the same time reducing vital Japanese naval bases at minimal cost, and forcing them to spend (and lose)irreplaceable logistical and naval assets in a secondary theater.

alexpainter14 Nov 2021 6:43 a.m. PST

Don't forget also the criminal IJN/IJA capacities' underestimation by too many western (either political and military) leaders, intelligence about japaneses'objectives was almost non-existent, f.e. in Malaysia there were few locations were you can land armoured forces, but the local HQ didn't fortified roads or reinforced "choke points", or created minefields that could've stopped eventual enemy forces.

Nine pound round14 Nov 2021 2:37 p.m. PST

I don't think it's so much the case that they underestimated Japan's overall capacity for war making (although they were mistaken about a lot of elements of it), as it is that they estimated it correctly, but drew mistaken conclusions. The Allies knew that the Japanese were overstretched in China, and even without the burden of that war, would be weaker than the combination of the US and the UK. The Japanese knew that, too- but where the Allies concluded that the Japanese would never do something as crazy as attacking two significantly stronger powers at once, the Japanese decided (to paraphrase Tojo) "sometimes the thing you have to do is crazy."

The initial Japanese conquests and the fighting in SWAPO are testimony to how complete the Allied power vacuum was, and what comparatively light forces they had available: had the Allies been in the Pacific in greater force, the war there would have been much shorter. Once the Central Pacific drive got going, it only took a year and a half to force their way to Japan's doorstep. The latent power imbalance was so great that no assessment based on an assumption of rational calculation would lead you to predict the actual course of action Japan's leaders took. It was a complete gamble, and a gamble against obviously long odds.

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