Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial day memory

May 22, 2009

With the upcoming Memorial day celebration, I felt it appropriate that I write a tribute about a well known army officer whose legacy is well etched on the history books of the Philippines. This soldier’s name is General Douglas Macarthur.

Initially, I wanted to write Gen. MacArthur’s life but while I was checking out his autobiography, I found that it would take a great deal of time just to capture all the details of his life and achievements. Since I do not have the luxury of time in writing the details of his life, I decided to just write a few things about this noble war hero.
Douglas MacArthur was born in the 26th of January 1880 at Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur Jr. was a civil war hero. His mother, Mary Pinkney "Pinky" Hardy-MacArthur, was raised during the Victoria era where women were judge basing from the achievements of their husbands and sons than their own. She was raised at Riveredge, which is their family’s plantation located just outside Norfolk, Virginia. (The city where our batch mate, Mike Wyland, resides).

Pinky’s parents supported the confederate cause during the American civil war and four of her brothers fought under the confederate flag. Her family was not pleased when Pinky announced her engagement to Union army officer Arthur MacArthur Jr., who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry at the battle of Chattanooga in 1863. Pinky’s brothers refused to attend her wedding when she married Arthur MacArthur Jr. at Riveredge on May 1875. The color of her husband’s uniform did not matter to Pinky because she cared more on his dedication towards his vocation. She proved to be an excellent army wife.

In spite of Pinky’s southern high society upbringing, she demonstrated her iron will when she endured the rough living conditions when she moved with her husband to isolated outposts like Ft. Selden in New Mexico. The greatest test of her will was when her middle son, Malcolm, died of measles in New Mexico in 1883.
Douglas MacArthur entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1898 after two rejections due to the curvature of his spine. His mother, Pinky, moved to a hotel suite overlooking the academy grounds. (There is a story that said that his mother would often use a telescope to check if Douglas was in his room studying.) As an outstanding cadet, Douglas graduated first in his 93-man class in 1903.

When Brig. General Douglas MacArthur became superintendent of West Point in 1922, one of the first major steps that he did was to formalize the unwritten Honor code. That honor code is "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do" ("Tolerate those who do" was not included until 1970).

When the Philippines became semi-independent in 1935, President Manuel L. Quezon asked Gen. MacArthur to supervise the creation of the Philippine army. One of MacArthur’s assistants as a military adviser to the Philippines was Dwight D. Eisenhower (Eisenhower would later become the supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe during the war with Germany). There was a time when Eisenhower was asked if he knew Gen. MacArthur. He replied, "Know him? I studied dramatics under him for seven years!" It was also retorted by MacArthur that Eisenhower was "The best clerk I ever had".

Gen. MacArthur’s mother died shortly after their arrival in the Philippines in 1935. Douglas was crushed. His aide Dwight Eisenhower wrote that her passing "affected the General's spirit for many months". To honor her deceased mother, MacArthur had the room of her mother at Manila hotel sealed for a year. Pinky is buried with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

When MacArthur resigned from the U.S. Army in 1937, he was made Field Marshal of the Philippine Army by President Quezon. MacArthur is the senior officer on the rolls of the Philippine Army today. He is also the only American military officer ever to hold the rank of field marshal.

In July 1941, President Roosevelt recalled him to active duty in the U.S. Army as a major general and named him commander of United States Armed Forces in the Far East promoting him to a lieutenant general the following day. In December, he became a four star general when the Japanese attacked across a wide front in the Pacific.
Following the outbreak of war with Japan, MacArthur was offered and accepted a payment of $500,000 (an enormous sum at the time) from President Quezon of the Philippines as payment for his pre-war service.

With the strings of Japanese successful offensives in the Philippines, American and Filipino soldiers soon had to retreat to Bataan peninsula and Corregidor island. On December 24, 1941, General MacArthur, his wife Jean, their three year old son Arthur and Ah Cheu (Chinese nanny) went to the Manila bay dock to be evacuated to Corregidor. Among the crowd of people at the Manila dock that day were President Quezon and his family. When the inter-island Ferry, Don Esteban, finally moored along side the docks, a convoy of heavily guarded trucks pulled up at the dock. President Quezon told General MacArthur that the trucks carried all of the Philippine’s gold and silver bullion reserves.

The Japanese laid a heavy sieged on Corregidor and MacArthur sent cable after cable to Washington begging for reinforcement and supplies to his beleagured troops. The only reply he got were urges to continue resistance but there was not mention of reinforcements and supplies.

By mid-February 1942, the situation in Corregidor became desperate. The U.S. submarine, Swordfish, was sent to Corregidor to rescue President Quezon and his family. Gen. MacArthur had hoped that his wife and son would escape along with the Quezon family but Jean refused to leave her husband’s side. The last thing that President Quezon did before leaving was to slip his signet ring onto Douglas’s finger. "When they find your body, I want them to know you fought for my country," the president said. Douglas fought back tears as he embraced his old friend.

The following day, Douglas received orders from President Roosevelt to leave Corregidor and head south for Mindanao then proceed to Australia by plane.

**Notes from the writer**
(During my visit to the island of Corrigedor about ten years ago, our tour guide told our small group that General MacArthur had a bitter rivalry with the navy. There were two piers in Corrigedor: one for the army and another for the navy. These piers were located on opposite sides of the island. On March 1942, Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats who were stationed at Bataan Peninsula, secretly made their way through the minefields of the Manila bay to Corregidor. When General MacArthur found out that the PT boats docked at the navy pier, he ordered the skippers of the PT boats to go around the island and pick him up at the army pier. Despite the great risk of being detected by the Japanese navy, the skippers of the PT boat complied with the command.)
The PT boats brought Gen. MacArthur and his family to Mindanao and they stayed at the Del Monte plantation to await for the three B-17C flying fortresses to come and rescue them. The B-17’s were remnants of those who were able to escape from Clark Airfield when the Japanese attacked that base. One of the B-17 that came unfortunately crashed at the sea due to low clouds and total darkness. When MacArthur found out about this and saw the conditions of the other B-17s that landed to rescue him, he refused to board the planes and demanded that the three best planes in the U.S. or Hawaii manned by completely adequate & experienced men be sent to rescue him.
Major General George Brett, who was then responsible for the rescue plans for MacArthur, was in a quandary. He had more B-17's that he could send for the rescue, but they were US Navy aircraft based in Townsville. Apparently MacArthur had made it very clear that he did not want to be rescued by US Navy aircraft. Brett at the time was the Commanding General of the US Forces in Australia.

Fortunately for Brett, the B-17E Flying Fortresses of the Naval Task Force, Southern Bomber Command based in Townsville were transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group, USAAF. He dispatched three B-17's but one of the B-17s ditched off Mindanao.

On March 17, 1942, A B-17 carrying Gen. MacArthur and his family lifted off Del Monte airfield in Mindanao and pointed its nose towards Australia. At the railroad station at Terowie, Australia, Gen. MacArthur gave his famous statement "I shall return". Gen. MacArthur returned to the Philippines on October 1944 with the invasion of Leyte.

After being dismissed as Commander in Chief of the United Nations forces in Korea, General MacArthur made a speech before the joint session of congress on April 19, 1951. Below is the ending part of his speech.

"I am closing my fifty-two years of military service. When I joined the army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams.

The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barracks ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good-bye."

In 1961, Gen. MacArthur made a sentimental journey to the Philippines where he was decorated by President Carlos P. Garcia with the Philippine Legion of Honor, rank of Chief Commander. During his visit to the Philippines, a young girl asked him if it is his first time to visit the Philippines. MacArthur also accepted a $900,000 advance from Henry Luce for the rights to his memoirs, and began writing the volume that would eventually be published entitled "Reminiscences".

President John F. Kennedy solicited MacArthur's counsel in 1961. The first of two meetings was shortly after the Bay of Pigs Invasion. MacArthur was extremely critical of the Pentagon and its military advice to Kennedy. MacArthur also cautioned the young President to avoid a U.S. military build-up in Vietnam.

In May 12, 1962, a frail MacArthur gave a farewell speech to the corps of cadets at West Point. Below is a small part of his speech.

….."I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light."………

……." In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.

I bid you farewell. "

General Douglas MacArthur died on April 5, 1964.


Post a Comment

<< Home