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MacArthur Ordered to Evacuate Philippines

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Postcard featuring MacArthur. Gift of Gordon McWilliams, The National WWII Museum Inc., 2011.376


On this day 70 years ago, President Roosevelt as Commander-in-Chief ordered Gen. Douglas MacArthur to leave the Philippines as the islands’ defenses fell and Allied forces continued to retreat toward Bataan. Retreat, in fact, was the original plan of “defense” in the Philippines. When the Japanese attacked the Philippine Islands shortly after Pearl Harbor, the then-current War Plan (Rainbow Five) plan was not to fight, but to retreat immediately to Bataan to await better equipment and additional troops. MacArthur, however, believed Allied forces in the Philippines were stronger than the attacking Japanese, and rolled the dice by taking them head on. As the tide in the Philippines turned repeatedly for the worse, and as more and more territory in the south Pacific was lost to the Japanese, Roosevelt felt the urgent need to remove MacArthur from the Philippines.

MacArthur would evacuate the Philippines with his family and staff on PT boats of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3 (Ron 3) on 11-12 March 1942. It was during this trip that MacArthur made his famous “I shall return” vow, which he lived up to with the Philippines Campaign of  1944-45. Once settled in Australia, MacArthur was named Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area.


“V for Victory” pin with profile of General MacArthur. Gift of Roger and Rhoda Berkowitz, The National WWII Museum Inc., 2011.009


This post by Curator Meg Roussel

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