March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur left Corregidor under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. Upon arriving in Australia, he was made Supreme Allied leader (see letter from President Roosevelt to Winston Churchill below).
He left behind thousands of American and Filipino troops, which went on to face the 60-plus miles of the Bataan Death March.
March 17, 1942
President Roosevelt’s Statement on MacArthur’s Departure:
“I know that every man and woman in the United States admires with me General MacArthur’s determination to fight to the finish with his men in the Philippines. But I also know that every man and woman is in agreement that all important decisions must be made with a view toward the successful termination of the war. Knowing this, I am sure that every American, if faced individually with the question as to where General MacArthur could best serve his country, could come to only one answer.” (via The American Presidency Project)
Excerpt from President Roosevelt’s Press conference:
“Well, to come down to more serious things than that, you have read the good news about General MacArthur.
“Of course, immediately—we all know that, because we are accustomed to that sort of thing—there is going to be Axis propaganda that will appear this afternoon on their shortwave, and tomorrow morning, about how this is the abandonment of the Philippines, and that General MacArthur’s leaving the Philippines is nothing more than another Van Mook having to get out of Java, et cetera. And of course we know what they will say.
“On the other side of the picture, put it this way: he will be more useful in Supreme Command of the whole Southwest Pacific than if he had stayed in Bataan Peninsula, where of course the fighting is going on. . . .” (via The American Presidency Project)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s letter to Winston Churchill, about General MacArthur arriving in Australia and being made Supreme Commander in that region. (Credit: National Archives.)
May 5, 1942:
President Roosevelt’s Message to Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright Praising the Defenders of Corregidor
“During recent weeks we have been following with growing admiration the day-by-day accounts of your heroic stand against the mounting intensity of bombardment by enemy planes and heavy siege guns. In spite of all the handicaps of complete isolation, lack of food and ammunition, you have given the world a shining example of patriotic fortitude and self-sacrifice. The American people ask no finer example of tenacity, resourcefulness, and steadfast courage. The calm determination of your personal leadership in a desperate situation sets a standard of duty for our soldiers throughout the world.
“In every camp and on every naval vessel soldiers, sailors, and marines are inspired by the gallant struggle of their comrades in the Philippines. The workmen in our shipyards and munitions plants redouble their efforts because of your example. You and your devoted followers have become the living symbols of our war aims and the guarantee of victory.” (via The American Presidency Project)
October 20, 1944
Roosevelt’s Congratulations to General MacArthur:
“The whole American Nation today exults at the news that the gallant men under your command have landed on Philippine soil. I know well what this means to you. I know what it cost you to obey my order that you leave Corregidor in February, 1942, and proceed to Australia. Since then you have planned and worked and fought with whole-souled devotion for the day when you would return with powerful forces to the Philippine Islands. That day has come. You have the Nation’s gratitude and the Nation’s prayers for success as you and your men fight your way back to Bataan. (via The American Presidency Project)
Tears in the Darkness: the Story of the Bataan Death March and its Aftermath, by Michael Norman, Elizabeth M. Norman