MACARTHUR DESERTS "THE BATTLING BASTARDS OF BATAAN" AND ESCAPES TO AUSTRALIA
the battling bastards of Bataan:
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam,
No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces,
No rifles, no planes, or artillery pieces,
And nobody gives a damn."
This doggerel verse reflects the strong sense of betrayal felt by MacArthur's troops on Bataan.
MacArthur is shocked to learn that the Philippines had been abandoned by the United States to its fate
On 4 February 1942, the submarine Trout arrived at Corregidor to transfer Philippine Treasury gold to a safe place and evacuate Lieutenant Colonel Warren J. Clear, an intelligence officer. Before departing, Clear revealed to MacArthur that the Arcadia Conferences, held in Washington between 22 December 1941 and 14 January 1942, and involving the chiefs of staff of the United States and Britain, had produced agreement between the United States and Britain "that only the minimum of force necessary for the safeguarding of vital interests in other theaters should be diverted from the operations against Germany". In a study that the US Army planners had produced on 3 January 1942, they demonstrated that MacArthur's plan for reinforcement of the Philippines from Australia was impractical while the Japanese ruled the seas in the western Pacific. The Army planners described MacArthur's plan as "an entirely unjustifiable diversion of forces from the principal theater - the Atlantic".
After his escape to Australia, Macarthur is pictured with his chief of staff Major General Richard Sutherland.
MacArthur was deeply shocked to learn that he and his command had effectively been abandoned to the Japanese by President Roosevelt. President Quezon was enraged by the news, and sent a cable to Roosevelt requesting immediate independence for the Philippines so that his government could negotiate a state of neutrality with the Japanese. Despite his bombastic press releases that had proclaimed his intention to defend the Philippines to the last man, MacArthur gave substantial support to Quezon's request. Roosevelt was appalled by the proposal and rejected immediate independence. With the intention of shaming the Philippine president, Roosevelt indicated willingness to allow Quezon to surrender the Filipino troops if they had no stomach to continue fighting and leave the Americans to fight the Japanese alone. As expected, Quezon was shamed by the offer and declared his willingness to fight beside the American troops to the end. See: Richard Connaughton, "MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines", (2001) at pages 260-265.
MacArthur was rebuked for supporting Quezon in a separate cable. He was ordered by General Marshall "to proceed rapidly to the organisation of your forces and defences so as to make your resistance as effective as circumstances will permit and as prolonged as humanly possible." In his angry response to Washington on 11 February 1942, MacArthur insisted that he intended "fighting my present battle position in Bataan to destruction.." (Emphasis added by author). See Connaughton, at p. 265.
MacArthur manipulates public opinion to facilitate his escape from the Philippines
Despite his poor military judgment and other failings as a commander, MacArthur had a talent for self-promotion and cultivation of the media. He established a public relations office on his island stronghold of Corregidor in Manila Bay. During the siege of the Bataan Peninsula, while his desperate troops were starving, fighting, and dying in order to obey his order to hold their defensive lines to the end, MacArthur passed his time on Corregidor promoting an image of himself in American minds as the "Hero of the Pacific". He bombarded the American media with extravagant and self-adulatory press releases that hailed his military genius and determination to fight to the last man in his command. These press releases mostly ignored the heroic resistance of the American and Philippine troops and attributed full credit for delaying the Japanese capture of Bataan to MacArthur's brilliance as a commander. His former Chief of Staff in the Philippines and Australia, Major General Richard K. Sutherland conceded that MacArthur personally wrote or approved all of his self-adulatory press releases.
In his history of MacArthur in the Philippines, Richard Connaughton wrote:
"In the first three months of the war, MacArthur or his staff wrote 142 communiques; 109 of which mentioned one man, MacArthur. They carried brave, exciting, heartwarming, gripping though often imaginary accounts as to how MacArthur's guile, leadership, and military genius had continually frustrated the evil intentions of Japan's armed forces. His picture appeared on the cover of Time at the end of 1941 and, early in the new year, the effect of these press releases upon the American public served to whip them up into a frenzy of fawning adulation of MacArthur, American hero."
at page 225.
MacArthur's accounts of his brilliant defence of the Philippines were splashed across newspapers in the United States where the war news had been uniformly grim since Pearl Harbor. MacArthur had quickly transferred to a bank in the United States the "reward" of $500,000 given to him by President Quezon in early January 1942, and as he had no close relatives in the United States, it is not unreasonable to suspect that MacArthur did not intend to end his military career sharing the hardships of a Japanese prison camp with his troops. MacArthur's self-glorification was aided by his powerful friends in the American media and politics who hailed him as the "Hero of the Pacific", and helped to promote a myth that he was a military genius who could not be allowed to fall into Japanese hands when Bataan and Corregidor inevitably fell.
President Roosevelt and senior army officers in Washington had become aware of the emptiness of MacArthur's boast that his troops would stop the Japanese on the beaches of the Philippines. They knew that MacArthur had compromised the defence of the Philippines by allowing his effective air power to be eliminated on the ground despite nine hours advance warning of such a risk. They also knew that MacArthur had inflicted unnecessary suffering on his troops by failing to prepare Bataan for a lengthy defence.
The phrase "to destruction" in MacArthur's cable to Washington of 11 February 1942 sent a clear message that he intended to sacrifice himself and his family in defence of the Philippines, and the words caused alarm in Washington. Roosevelt was very conscious that MacArthur's extravagant and self-serving press releases from Corregidor had made him a hero in the eyes of many Americans. The Democrats were facing tough mid-term Congressional elections in November, and Roosevelt was aware that MacArthur had powerful political support from the Republican side of politics. General Marshall urged Roosevelt to permit his old West Point classmate to be evacuated from the Philippines to take up a new command before the Japanese overran the defenders. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (later to become 34th President of the United States) had served as chief of staff under MacArthur in the Philippines in 1939. Eisenhower was aware of MacArthur's talent for self-agrandisement, and he had serious reservations about MacArthur's military competence. He urged Roosevelt not to bow to public pressure by saving MacArthur from sharing capture with his troops.
President Roosevelt also had strong doubts about MacArthur's military competence, but he was faced with enormous pressure in the United States to save the "Hero of the Pacific" from the Japanese and give him a new command. Although reluctant to do so, Roosevelt bowed to public opinion and political pressure. He decided to offer MacArthur a new command in the Pacific region. When the senior admirals of the United States Navy informed Roosevelt that they would not serve under MacArthur, Roosevelt decided to offer MacArthur an appointment as Supreme Commander, South-West Pacific Area (SWPA) with his headquarters in Australia. MacArthur would not be told that Roosevelt and Churchill had agreed at the Arcadia Conference in late December 1942 that the South-West Pacific, including Australia, would be relegated to the status of a secondary theatre of war while the Allies concentrated on defeating Germany.
US Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, contacted MacArthur in early February 1942 to mention the President's offer of a new command in Australia and to suggest that MacArthur consider leaving the Philippines with his family and his most senior staff officer before the Japanese overran the defenders of Bataan.
MacArthur discussed General Marshall's proposal with his senior staff officers, and they agreed with him that the American position in the Philippines was hopeless and that they and MacArthur could best serve their country by leaving their troops to fight on to the end while they escaped to Australia. MacArthur advised General Marshall that he was prepared to leave the Philippines. On 22 February 1942, President Roosevelt reluctantly ordered MacArthur to leave the Philippines and take up the new command in Australia.
MacArthur prepares to abandon his troops to the Japanese
MacArthur realised that his departure for Australia could be misunderstood by his abandoned troops, and he requested time to prepare the groundwork for his departure from the battlefield with his senior staff officers. Before leaving them, MacArthur gave his desperate troops false hope of reinforcements. MacArthur assured them that many thousands of fresh troops were on their way, with strong air support, to relieve the beleaguered American and Philippine forces on Bataan. He ordered them to fight on until these reinforcements arrived. The promise of a relieving force from the United States was a cruel lie, and MacArthur knew it to be so. The order to sick and starving troops to fight on in a hopeless cause doomed them to greater suffering than they might otherwise have experienced.
On 11 March 1942, MacArthur departed for Australia under cover of night with his wife, his son, his son's nanny, and a large contingent of his closest and most trusted staff officers. Although ordered by General Marshall to take only one senior staff officer with him to Australia, MacArthur disobeyed the order and left the Philippines with fourteen staff officers, including his Chief of Staff, Major General Richard Sutherland. These staff officers were notorious for their sycophancy and lack of combat experience, and became known in Australia as the "Bataan Gang".
MacArthur left behind his starving troops, female army nurses, and many civilians to face the fury of a Japanese Army frustrated and angered by the stubborn resistance of the American and Filipino troops. With MacArthur's departure, Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright assumed command of American Army Forces in the Philippines with the temporary rank of Lieutenant General and the certain knowledge that he and his command were doomed to death or capture.
From the safety of Australia, MacArthur orders his troops to fight to the end
From the safety of Australia, MacArthur sent the following callous message to General Wainwright:
"I am utterly opposed under any circumstances or conditions to the ultimate capitulation of this command (i.e. the Philippines). If food fails, you will prepare and execute an attack upon the enemy".
Speaking of MacArthur's order to his sick and starving troops to fight to the end, and his infamous lie that reinforcements were on the way from the United States, one of the abandoned Americans on Bataan, Brigadier General William E. Brougher, probably expressed the views of most of them when he described the order and lie as:
"A foul trick of deception played on a large group of Americans by a commander-in-chief and his small staff who are now eating steak and eggs in Australia".