History

The Truth About Dug-Out Douglas MacArthur

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That the British succeeded in turning the Dunkirk defeat and retreat – the most humiliating in history, into a victory was bettered by the propagandists spin that transformed a top American commander into a folk hero after he and his armies had been routed and driven out of the Philippines by a Japanese army of inferior numbers. The Japanese attack and invasion of the Philippines began December 8, 1941 just 10 hours after Imperial Japan had levelled Pearl Harbor.

Following the General Douglas MacArthur’s (1880-1964) embarrassing but dramatic escape from the American-occupied Philippines on December 12, the 5-star General was appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the allied armies assembling in Australia. This despite the fact that he had abandoned 76,000 American and Filipino defenders to their fate. The Chicago Sun was at its thundering best when it announced that ‘The United States is in the war with all its power and under the leadership of the best general the United Nations possesses.’ ~ 18 March 1942.

Australia the Unready: General George Brett, Commander of the Allied Air Force let the cat out of the bag in regards to Australia’s armed forces. ‘There was no great army and the air force consisted of a few battered planes, and combat weary men.  

Of the eleven divisions of the Australian forces less than two were effective and only one approaching combat condition. The Royal Australian Air Force was equipped with obsolete aircraft and was short of spare parts and ammunition. The Royal Australian Navy didn’t have a single carrier.  As for the ‘best general the United Nations possesses’ the truth was somewhat different. Just ten hours after Pearl Harbour the Japanese air force carried out a devastating attack on Clark Field in the Philippines.

Despite the fact that General MacArthur had received more than an adequate warning, the overjoyed Japanese invaders found his air armada all neatly lined up, wing to wing and offering a turkey shoot most airmen can only dream about.  There had in fact been three cunning defence plans in readiness. The wretched General followed none of them.

General MacArthur talked such a good fight that he retained the confidence of Washington. Such boastful posturing was not reflected by the troops under his command. 

His troops were increasingly irritated by their general’s swashbuckling bravado and his ‘the cavalry is on its way’ fantasies.  The carefully created aura of military genius and invincibility built on his persona was a sham.  

The General spent so much time underground in his bunker at ‘fortress Corregidor’ that he became known as ‘Dug-Out Doug.’  Accompanied by a small army of spin doctors he brilliantly announced on his arrival in Melbourne, ‘I have come through and I will return.’

Shortened by publicists to ‘I shall return,’ the expression rapidly became one of the most marketed sayings of the war. The hapless General made his first public appearance when dressed like the Admiral of the Queen’s Navy in HMS Pinafore. 

U.S. General Douglas MacArthur is best remembered for his wading ashore on his return to the Philippines.  In fact, he waded up and down it several times until the right image was captured for public consumption back home. These comic and theatrical re-takes are still shown on the History Channels.

He was wearing thirty-six medal ribbons and nine rows of decorations.   His personal photographer always accompanied him. It seems in a war that image is more important than hardware, as Winston Churchill had also realised.

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1 reply »

  1. I think this was attributed to Churchill ‘If we haven’t got any heroes we will have to make some up.’ Well, the Allies did a lot making things up.

    Liked by 2 people

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