Fighting for MacArthur: The Navy and Marine Corps' Desperate Defense of the Philippines

By O'Connell, John F. | Air Power History, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Fighting for MacArthur: The Navy and Marine Corps' Desperate Defense of the Philippines


O'Connell, John F., Air Power History


Fighting for MacArthur: The Navy and Marine Corps' Desperate Defense of the Philippines. By John Gordon. Annapolis Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2011. Index. Maps. Photographs. Appendices. Notes. Pp. xiii, 370. $32.95 ISBN: 978-1-61251-057-6

This is an outstanding book about a very small segment of fighting at the beginning of American involvement in the Second World War. General MacArthur, former Chief of Staff of the US Army and then senior military advisor to the Philippine Government, was brought back into active service in 1941 and made Commander U.S. Army Forces Far East. He shared that exalted command level with Admiral Hart, Commander in Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet. That was about all they shared.

MacArthur, always a grandiose strategist, came up with the idea that he could successfully defend the Philippine Islands against a Japanese attack with 100 long range B-17 bombers plus motor torpedo boats, submarines, and a large number of hastily-trained Philippine Army infantry divisions to preclude Japanese invasion forces from securing landing sites. He sold Army Chief of Staff General Marshall and Secretary of War Stimson on his theory. Previously US Army planners had determined that a successful defense of the islands was not possible given the size and strength of Japanese naval forces. MacArthur's enthusiasm prevailed, and many B-17s were rushed to the Philippines.

MacArthur was convinced that the Japanese would not attack until April 1942. Admiral Hart thought otherwise and took steps accordingly to position the Asiatic Fleet to defend the Philippine Islands and the Dutch East Indies as well as it could. Despite early warning of the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, MacArthur's Army Air Forces bomber contingent was caught on the ground and half were destroyed on December 8th. His pursuit planes lasted a little longer but suffered grave losses in combat with highly capable Imperial Japanese Navy Zero fighters. …

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