Radio Address by General Douglas MacArthur at the Leyte Beachhead Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Japan attacked the Philippine Islands on December 8, 1941. Philippine soldiers and civilians, along with US troops under General Douglas MacArthur, fought for months to prevent a full occupation. However, by May 1942, nearly 100,000 people had surrendered as the Japanese military took over the island.

Summary Overview

Japan attacked the Philippine Islands on December 8, 1941. Philippine soldiers and civilians, along with US troops under General Douglas MacArthur, fought for months to prevent a full occupation. However, by May 1942, nearly 100,000 people had surrendered as the Japanese military took over the island.

Japan occupied the Philippines for more than three years while President Manuel Quezon and later Sergio Osmeña, who assumed the presidency upon Quezon's death in August 1944, governed in exile from the United States. During this period, Japan kept the islands heavily guarded with a substantial fleet of warships. It took years for the United States to construct and execute a mission large enough to recapture the island nation. When General MacArthur landed at the island of Leyte on October 20, 1944, he delivered a radio address to the people of the Philippines, urging them to band together for one final push to drive the occupying Japanese forces from the islands.

Defining Moment

During the 1930s, Japan expanded its island empire into Manchuria and other parts of mainland China. By the early 1940s, it set its sights on the island nations of the Asia-Pacific region: the list of targets included Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hawaii, and the Philippine Islands. Because of their position between Japan and the remainder of Southeast Asia, the Philippines played a significant role in Japan's plans for expansion. Upon realizing Japan's intent, the United States stationed 16,000 soldiers in the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur. These troops joined the 12,000 trained Philippine Scouts while the two countries worked together to recruit, train, and arm more local troops.

Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941, only a few hours after bombing the US military base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Japanese troops fought their way toward Manila and began official occupation of the country's capital city on January 2, 1942. At the advice of General MacArthur, the nation's government, which was led by President Manuel Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña, had already fled to another island.

Because of the casualties and equipment losses suffered in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States could not provide timely assistance to the struggling troops and civilians. After five months of fighting, Japanese soldiers finally overtook the island, and by May of 1942, more than 90,000 American and Philippine soldiers and citizens surrendered; many were murdered, while others were marched to internment camps. During this period, President Quezon and Vice President Osmeña left the country via submarine to form a government-in-exile in the United States.

It took more than three years for the United States to prepare the large-scale invasion necessary to liberate the Philippines. By 1944, Japan had 16,000 soldiers stationed on Leyte who guarded the island along with an enormous fleet of ships, including numerous battleships, heavy cruisers, and destroyers.

On October 20, 1944, more than 100,000 American soldiers and sailors arrived in a massive fleet of 700 ships and vessels at Leyte, along with General MacArthur and Osmeña, who was by then president. While US submarines and aircraft carriers engaged the Japanese warships at sea, more than 100,000 soldiers worked to recapture the island, literally, in some cases, block by block.

Upon landing with his troops at Leyte, General MacArthur delivered a rousing address via radio to the people of the Philippines. In order for the mission to succeed, the US military would need the full support and best efforts of everyone in the country. He knew the people were tired, hungry, and had suffered greatly in the three years of the Japanese occupation, and his call to arms encouraged them to rally their strength to make one final push to expel the Japanese.

Author Biography

Douglas MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on January 26, 1880, and grew up in New Mexico and Florida as part of a military family. He graduated with honors from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1903 and served in the United States, the Philippines, Panama, and Mexico. During World War I, he commanded a combat unit in France, and after the war, he became superintendent of West Point and served two more tours in the Philippines.

In 1930, MacArthur was appointed chief of staff of the Army, and in 1935, he returned to the Philippines to help the island nation develop its military. When Japan attacked in 1941, MacArthur was appointed commander of the US Army Forces in the Far East for the duration of World War II.

After the war, MacArthur spent five years on military, political, and economic reform in Japan before being called to lead several campaigns in the Korean War. However, disagreements with the Truman administration led to MacArthur being recalled to the United States and relieved of his commanding duties. He died on April 5, 1964, in Washington, DC.

Historical Document

TO THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES:

I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil -- soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed, to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible, strength, the liberties of your people.

At my side is your President, Sergio Osmena, worthy successor of that great patriot, Manuel Quezon, with members of his cabinet. The seat of your government is now therefore firmly re- established on Philippine soil.

The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history. I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without.

Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike. Strike at every favorable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of divine God points the way. Follow in His Name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!

Douglas MacArthur

Glossary

consecrated: to make or declare sacred; to make (something) an object of honor of veneration; hallow

unswerving: staying the course; not turning aside abruptly

vestige: a mark, trace, or visible evidence of something that is no longer present or in existence

Document Analysis

General Douglas MacArthur opens his radio address by announcing his return to the Philippines. He recalls the promise he made to return more than three years before when invading Japanese forces overtook the island and drove defending forces off. He acknowledges the significant casualties suffered by American and Philippine troops, as well as the sacrifices made by all Philippine citizens during the occupation. He resolves to help restore their liberties by “destroying every vestige of enemy control” over their daily lives.

General MacArthur also announces that President Sergio Osmeña has returned to the island. Osmeña and his predecessor, Manuel Quezon, and other Philippine leaders had fled shortly after the Japanese occupation. Quezon and Osmeña governed in exile, first from another Philippine island and then from the United States, for more than three years. MacArthur's speech, while largely symbolic, marks the landing at Leyte as the return of the officially recognized national government on Philippine soil.

In order to drive Japanese forces entirely out of the Philippines, MacArthur says, his troops need the full participation of every person on the island, military and civilian. He tells listeners, “The hour of your redemption is here.” He praises the efforts of the large-scale and well-organized resistance movements that persisted for years in the face of adversity. He implores everyone to prove to the Japanese that the “temper of an aroused and outraged people” is a “force there to contend with.”

MacArthur concludes with a flourish. He encourages citizens, “for your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike!” He says that “the guidance of divine God points the way” to “righteous victory,” and he invokes God and the “sacred dead” to inspire everyone to make one final push to secure their freedom from the Japanese occupation.

Essential Themes

General MacArthur's radio address preceded one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific during World War II. More than 70,000 Japanese soldiers and 15,500 American soldiers died in the sixty-seven-day effort to liberate the island of Leyte. However, the battle was a significant turning point in the Pacific theater of the war. Japan lost many of its best warships, which greatly diminished the force of the Imperial Fleet.

Throughout the occupation, resistance organizations rose up throughout the islands. Officially, Japanese forces ruled over the entire nation, but the coordinated efforts of many Philippine civilians and paramilitary organizations reduced the influence of the occupation government in many locations. Some historians believe the Japanese military exercised full control over no more than one-quarter of the island's municipalities. These well-organized resistance efforts helped provide the communication channels and supply chains necessary to ensure success for the US military campaign.

By December 1944, the islands of Leyte and Mindoro had been freed from Japanese rule. Manila was liberated by US soldiers on February 23, 1945. Weeks of ground fighting had destroyed the capital's architecture and infrastructure, but the Philippine government could finally return to its proper home. Despite these victories, the Japanese soldiers continued fighting. Japan did not officially surrender until September 2, 1945, the date that General Yoshijiro Umezu signed the instrument of surrender to the Allied forces aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • “General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, US Army, (1880–1964).” Naval History and Heritage Command. US Navy, n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.
  • MacArthur, Douglas. Reminiscences. 1964. New York: Ishi, 2010. Print.
  • “October 20, 1944: US Forces Land at Leyte Island in the Philippines.” History Channel. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.
  • Toland, John. The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936–1945. Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2011. Print.
  • Vego, Milan N. Battle for Leyte, 1944: Allied and Japanese Plans, Preparations, and Execution. Annapolis: Naval Inst. P., 2006. Print.
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