October 20, 1944: Sometimes a Promise is Kept, MacArthur Returns!

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A Brief History

On October 20, 1944, Army and Naval forces of the United States landed on the Philippine island of Leyte in an amphibious assault to reclaim the islands from the Japanese who had taken the Philippines from the US and Philippine forces led by General Douglas MacArthur in 1942. MacArthur watched the landings from the deck of the cruiser USS Nashville and later that afternoon before conveniently located movie cameras the great man (just ask him!) waded ashore, keeping his famous “I shall return” promise when he fled the Philippines prior to his forces surrendering to the Japanese.

Digging Deeper

Ever the egomaniac, not only did MacArthur claim “I shall return” instead of “We shall return” meaning US forces, he promptly made a radio transmitted speech to Philippine islanders that included the line “I have returned!”

Well, love or hate the guy, he did indeed return and the Philippines were taken from the fiercely resisting Japanese. Admiral Nimitz had argued against the Philippine operation, claiming that it made more military sense to invade Taiwan (also known as Formosa) instead, but the charismatic MacArthur talked President Roosevelt into allowing Mac to keep his promise and invade the Philippines instead, thus avoiding severe disappointment on the part of Philippine patriots who had suffered under Japanese rule.

MacArthur had been awarded a Medal of Honor for his service in losing the Philippines to the Japanese in 1942, making him a great American hero to all except the men he left behind to be captured by the barbaric Japanese (Bataan Death March and all that). Not only that, but in December of 1944 he was awarded a promotion to 5 Star General (General of the Army), ranking only below General George Marshall among US military officers.

MacArthur went on to represent the US in the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay in 1945 and to rule occupied Japan after the war. In this he did a commendable job, and when the Korean War broke out in 1950 Mac was there to take command of US and UN forces. Unfortunately, he ended up getting fired by President Truman in April of 1951. MacArthur had become insubordinate of Truman and was disliked by US European allies that feared another massive war would be started by MacArthur with the Chinese and possibly the Soviets (which indeed MacArthur wanted, at least with the Chinese).

MacArthur’s long military career was over, but he remained largely an American hero to most people, and his death in 1964 was celebrated as the passing of a hero. A polarizing person, MacArthur has rabid fans that worship him and detractors that claim he was an egomaniac, vain, stubborn, and kind of nasty guy. What do you think? Feel free to weigh in on your opinion of this iconic American warrior.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.