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What could MacArthur have done differently in the Philippines?


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#1 John Dudek

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 12:47 AM

What could MacArthur have done differently in the Philippines?


Okay, you're General MacArthur and you've just gotten word that Pearl Harbor has been bombed. Militarily, what do you do differently that would insure that your army would last longer than May, 1942 in the face of a massive multi-pronged, Japanese invasion?

First of all, I'd forget about acting like Julius Caesar leading his legions and instead order that "War Plan Orange III" to go immediately into effect. This would set into motion the long held and practiced plans to withdraw all Fillipino-American forces into Bataan along with all of their food reserves, arms, ammunition and medicine stores. To insure this was done, I would requisition every civilian truck, car, bus, "jeepney" vehicle or carabao cart to load up all the Army's Quartermaster stores in their supply depots north of Clark Field and send them deep into Bataan. I would also requisition every grain of rice, millet, wheat and corn from graineries and railroad cars throughout Luzon and send them ditto along with every cow, pig or chicken that wasn't hidden.

There were substantial diesel fuel, gas and oil stores in and around Manila. I would have as much as possible loaded aboard ship or barge and sent to Corregidor, likewise the US Naval stores and torpedoes at Cavite Naval Station.

Reacting to Philippine President Quezon's indecision as to whether to go to war or declare Philippine neutrality, I would order Air Corps General Lewis Brereton to send all of the B-17 and B-18bombers and modern P-40 fighter planes south to Del Monte on Mindanao and out of harm's way for the minute. The Severesky P-35's and the handful of old P-26's I would keep them on standby on their airfields to react to any Japanese Air raids.

I would order Admiral Thomas Hart to do all in his power to bring in ASAP the "Pensacola Convoy" that was still two weeks steaming time away from the Philippines and loaded with many needed supplies and munitions, plus two regiments of Army Artillery and an entire Army Air Corps Dive bomber group plus its planes.

Well, that'll do for now. I'll add more later. What do you guys/gals say?

#2 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 01:26 AM

First on the list is that the 2 SCR 286 radar stations on northern Luzon are put on 24 hour alert and have a good established communications line with Clark Field. This means that any Japanese raid coming from Formosa will be detected about an hour out giving plenty of time for a good fighter response. With something half approaching the British CH efficency the Japanese are at least going to meet a stiff resistance to any raid.
The P-40 pilots are instructed to go for the escort while the P-35s go for the bombers. All fighter pilots are made aware that stopping the bombers is the priority. With altitude advantage the US should be able to break up a fairly large raid without too much in the way of casualties.

Second, is that the two M 3 light tank battalions and one of the two 75mm SP half track battalions are seconded to the Philippines Scout Cavalry regiment forming a composite mobile reserve. A GHQ quartermaster truck company is assigned to move fuel and ammunition to these units.

The US Navy is asked to use its Patrol Squadron of PBYs to fly searches to the north and west of Luzon to detect the approach of a Japanese invasion fleet.

Two B-17 are immediately directed to fly armed reconnissance over Formosa and bomb Japanese airfields there. This will have little effect but, might stir the hornet's nest a bit delaying a Japanese air strike.

Aircraft on the ground are to be dispersed and camoflauged immediately to minimize losses in the event of an air attack.

The other B-17's etc. are initially instructed to fly patrol flights over the South China Sea to find any Japanese invasion forces coming from that direction. These aircraft are to be armed for attacks if they find the Japanese and it looks like they can manage such.

It is suggested that the US Navy sail from Cavite as soon as possible, particularly their tenders. These are to make for Australia or Java under destroyer escort (DesRon 59). All naval stores are to be moved using other transport as possible. The submarine forces are to take up positions off Luzon as pickets to intercept an invasion force (there are 26 in Philippine waters).

The initial goal is to not be surprised by a Japanese attack by air or sea.

All civilian vehicles are to be commandeered for military use. Initially just round them up and get an inventory. The freighter that brings in 60 Bren carriers (diverted to the PI when they heard war stated and was originally embarked for Singapore) is unloaded and these vehicles are used to form a composite mechanized infantry force to supplement the tanks and cavalry.

With 40 more P-40 days away at sea, along with 2 bombardment groups of A-24 (Dauntless dive bombers) following a day or two later and more ground troops coming the primary thing the Philippines forces need to do is delay or stop an invasion of Luzon. If necessary, these aircraft can unload in Mindinao and then fly north to reinforce Luzon.

In the end, a siege on Bataan will eventually result in a US defeat. Whether it takes weeks or months, the US cannot reinforce once they lose control of the air. Any invasion force needs to be attacked vigorously preferably before it begins landings. The US has sufficent means in the Philippines to make a go of stopping the Japanese. What they lacked originally was the competence to do so.

#3 TA152

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 02:30 AM

I don't know too much about the Philippine conflict but it did bring up a question in my mind on war strategy. Somewhere during the war they decided to by pass many islands and isolate them. Could they have just by passed the Phillipines and not let it be resupplied from Japan ? The Navy and Air Force was pretty strong by 1944 and could patrol any resupply effort from Japan. I looked on the map and from northern Phillipines to Okinawa is approx. 400 miles. I would think that would be easy enough to patrol with seaborne and airborne radar. After Japan surrenders, the US could then send help to stop the hard core Japanese who will not surrender.

Just a thought I had, so don't yell at me TA. :D
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#4 Seadog

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 03:13 AM

Most of the islands would have been best served by by-passing them. A lot of things would be changed if we knew then, what we know now. I think the best thing that could have happened would have been to disband the Phillipine scouts and do what they could to set them up as guerillas. Then they needed to get every American off the island. We did not have the resources available to support a sustained defence.

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#5 chocapic

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:46 AM

During the Malaya / Singapore invasion, the Japaneses were inferior in numbers to the allies.

What was the ratio during the Philippines invasion ?

#6 Roddoss72

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 12:51 AM

I would not have let 20,000 wounded back in the Philipines and tell them to hold it, and then denigrate them for cowardice when it fell to the Japanese , that is what Mc Arthur did, Mc Arthur is widely know by venterans here in Australia as a coward, always leading from the rear, and always blaming others when he stuffs up.
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#7 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 01:58 AM

The Japanese forces that invaded the Philippines were the equivalent of 2 and 1/3 divisions with supporting troops. The US had one reinforced division, 1 Marine regiment and 1 cavalry regiment present. The Philippines army had about 10 divisions in existance with these in varying states of readiness ranging from marginal to useless.
I have to agree with Roddoss that MacAuthur is greatly overrated as a commander. I have no doubt of his personal bravery but this counts for little in generalship. I would say that I find his Chief of Staff, Sutherland to be an incompetent martinet of the highest order and largely responsible for many of the disasters that befell MacAuthur early in the war. It was only MacAuthur's bulldog loyality to those around him that kept Sutherland on. A more competent general would have sacked the man after the foul up with the USAAF in the Philippines.
General Kenney, later the commander of the USAAF under MacAuthur in the SWPA recounted in his biography General Kenney Reports that on one occasion he got into it with Sutherland. Kenney took a blank sheet of paper and put a dot in the middle of it with a pencil. He shoved the paper at Sutherland and said "You see this sheet of paper? It represents what I know about air power! You see that dot? That's what you know about air power!"

#8 John Dudek

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Posted 24 February 2007 - 11:29 PM

First on the list is that the 2 SCR 286 radar stations on northern Luzon are put on 24 hour alert and have a good established communications line with Clark Field. This means that any Japanese raid coming from Formosa will be detected about an hour out giving plenty of time for a good fighter response. With something half approaching the British CH efficency the Japanese are at least going to meet a stiff resistance to any raid.
The P-40 pilots are instructed to go for the escort while the P-35s go for the bombers. All fighter pilots are made aware that stopping the bombers is the priority. With altitude advantage the US should be able to break up a fairly large raid without too much in the way of casualties.

Second, is that the two M 3 light tank battalions and one of the two 75mm SP half track battalions are seconded to the Philippines Scout Cavalry regiment forming a composite mobile reserve. A GHQ quartermaster truck company is assigned to move fuel and ammunition to these units.

The US Navy is asked to use its Patrol Squadron of PBYs to fly searches to the north and west of Luzon to detect the approach of a Japanese invasion fleet.

Two B-17 are immediately directed to fly armed reconnissance over Formosa and bomb Japanese airfields there. This will have little effect but, might stir the hornet's nest a bit delaying a Japanese air strike.

Aircraft on the ground are to be dispersed and camoflauged immediately to minimize losses in the event of an air attack.

The other B-17's etc. are initially instructed to fly patrol flights over the South China Sea to find any Japanese invasion forces coming from that direction. These aircraft are to be armed for attacks if they find the Japanese and it looks like they can manage such.

It is suggested that the US Navy sail from Cavite as soon as possible, particularly their tenders. These are to make for Australia or Java under destroyer escort (DesRon 59). All naval stores are to be moved using other transport as possible. The submarine forces are to take up positions off Luzon as pickets to intercept an invasion force (there are 26 in Philippine waters).

The initial goal is to not be surprised by a Japanese attack by air or sea.

All civilian vehicles are to be commandeered for military use. Initially just round them up and get an inventory. The freighter that brings in 60 Bren carriers (diverted to the PI when they heard war stated and was originally embarked for Singapore) is unloaded and these vehicles are used to form a composite mechanized infantry force to supplement the tanks and cavalry.

With 40 more P-40 days away at sea, along with 2 bombardment groups of A-24 (Dauntless dive bombers) following a day or two later and more ground troops coming the primary thing the Philippines forces need to do is delay or stop an invasion of Luzon. If necessary, these aircraft can unload in Mindinao and then fly north to reinforce Luzon.

In the end, a siege on Bataan will eventually result in a US defeat. Whether it takes weeks or months, the US cannot reinforce once they lose control of the air. Any invasion force needs to be attacked vigorously preferably before it begins landings. The US has sufficent means in the Philippines to make a go of stopping the Japanese. What they lacked originally was the competence to do so.



You stole my thunder, T.A.! Well done! :)

#9 Balderdasher

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Posted 09 June 2007 - 02:58 AM

I think first of all you realize that most American history books don't record the fact that upon the news he panicked and locked himself in his room for several hours mumbling reading his Bible, even his wife unable to snap him out of it. Obviously the Bible tactic wasn't working.

He was in a tough spot. If I recall correctly, his staff admitted he had been warned by intel and still didn't give the proper orders.

According to American weapons experts and intel, the Japanese fighters from Formosa couldn't possibly reach the Philippines and he was let down by typical anglo-saxon arrogance and self delusion of our own equipment, technology and all superiority.

I like some of the ideas mentioned above.
The Philipines are really a bugger to defend.
Unconnected isolated islands that require shipping to move your ground reinforcement from one area to the hot spot.
The Japanese landed in too many areas at once and contrary to our war movies showing regular infantry paddling to land on every odd kind of boat, they actually had some of the first specially made Landing Ships and LSTs etc.

Some neat comments above that I think would have done alot better, yes.

#10 Roddoss72

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 07:11 AM

Listen i agree the Philipines totalling over several thousand individual island would be tough to defend, but Mac Arthur basically paniced and fled, he was and is guilty of deserting his troops when they needed him the most, and as i have said previously the veterans i have spoken too have NO RESPECT for the man. One thing MacArthur should have done is that to grow a set of balls and find a spine stay and used the 100,000 or so troops he had at his disposal and fight like hell to make conquering the Philipines as expensive in Japanese blood as possible. If you consider if for every defender to take out one Japanese soldier then that would have meant at least 100,000+ Japanese dead, very expensive indeed.
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Gulf War Two and 800,000 Iraqi civilians killed now thats progress

#11 Slipdigit

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:33 PM

I have never understood why McArthur wasn't drummed out of town on a rail. Adm Kimmel and Gen Sharp both lost their commands and their reputations because of their actions at Pearl Harbor, whether deservered or not. McArthur escaped unscaved as did Gen Brereton and they had 8 hours notice of the attack at Pearl before daylight came to their part of the world and allowed for Japanese attacks there to begin. Both Far East Commanders were caught flatfooted, losing almost the the entire Philipines-based air force and valueable time. McArthur also had access to Magic, that neither of the commanders at Pearl did, so preparations for war should have already been underway, in some small ways as not to tip our hands that we had broken the codes.

An absolute disgrace.

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#12 PzJgr

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:56 PM

[quote name='Balderdasher']I think first of all you realize that most American history books don't record the fact that upon the news he panicked and locked himself in his room for several hours mumbling reading his Bible, even his wife unable to snap him out of it. Obviously the Bible tactic wasn't working.[QUOTE]

Out of curiosity, what is the source for this info. Thanks
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#13 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 02:13 PM

While it is true that MacAuthur went into a funk and did little for several hours following the news the US was at war it really made little difference. It was primarily his chief of staff, General Sutherland, that caused the initial disasters to occur.
It was Sutherland that overrode MacAuthur's air commander Brereton on putting up standing air patrols. Sutherland also overrode Brereton's wish to immediately launch a B-17 strike on Formosa. Instead, Sutherland demanded Brereton perform reconnissance of Japanese bases and then wait until those results were available to launch a strike.
Sutherland also overrode Brereton's alternate suggestion to move the B-17 force to Mindinao until the reconnissance was complete to keep them out of range of Japanese attacks.
Sutherland can be held to be the incompetent that foremost cost the US their air force in the Philippines. His continued meddling with US air operations likewise was largely the cause of failure in New Guiena until General Kenney showed up and stood up to him.

#14 Slipdigit

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 03:19 PM

T.A.,

You are correct in Sutherland's assessment. Ultimately is the commander's responsibility for the actions of his subordinates and that is why I hold MacArthur in such low esteem.

Could anyone else have done any better? That we will never know, but IMMHO, they certainly could not have done worse.

I realize that Roosevelt ordered him out, but what could really be done to Mac if he disobeyed the order? Send him to worse command? So he heads for the door and leaves Gens Wainwright and Sharp holding the bag.

I love this quote attributed to Harry Truman:
"Prima Donna, if you don't think Hobie is really beastly, you are not a beast. Brass Hat, Five Star MacArthur. He's worse than the Cabots and the Lodges—they at least talked with one another before they told God what to do. Mac tells God right off. It's a very great pity we have stuffed shirts like that in key positions. I don't see why in hell Roosevelt didn't order Wainwright home and let MacArthur be a martyr. We'd have had a real General and a fighting man if we had Wainwright and not a play actor and a bunco man such as we have now."

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JW :slipdigit:

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#15 Roddoss72

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 02:50 AM

I have never understood why McArthur wasn't drummed out of town on a rail. Adm Kimmel and Gen Sharp both lost their commands and their reputations because of their actions at Pearl Harbor, whether deservered or not. McArthur escaped unscaved as did Gen Brereton and they had 8 hours notice of the attack at Pearl before daylight came to their part of the world and allowed for Japanese attacks there to begin. Both Far East Commanders were caught flatfooted, losing almost the the entire Philipines-based air force and valueable time. McArthur also had access to Magic, that neither of the commanders at Pearl did, so preparations for war should have already been underway, in some small ways as not to tip our hands that we had broken the codes.

An absolute disgrace.


The reason that MacArthur was not dishonorably discharged or even faced a court martial was that he (and his family) had high political contacts in Washington and was protected, it came down to "it is not what you know but who you know" but ultimately MacArthur was fully responsable for the loss of the Philippines as he was supreme commander of US and Philippino forces.

And yes it was a disgrace, unfortunately the Americans have not learned from previous mistakes.
1917 to 1990, The Soviet Union and 25 miilion murdered civillians now thats progress.
Gulf War Two and 800,000 Iraqi civilians killed now thats progress




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