MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor, December 8th 1941 – Plus 75 Years

One of the important things to know about General Douglas MacArthur was that almost nothing said or written about him can be trusted without extensive research to validate its truthfulness. There were a lot of reasons for this. Bureaucratic infighting inside the US Army, inside the War Department, and between the War and Naval Departments all played a role from MacArthur’s attaining flag rank in World War 1 (WW1) through his firing by President Truman during the Korean War. His overwhelming need to create what amounts to a cult of personality around himself was another.

However, the biggest reason for this research problem was that, if the Clinton era political concept of “The Politics of Personal Destruction” had been around in the 1930s through 1950s, General Douglas MacArthur’s face would have been its poster boy. Everything the man did was personal, and that made everything everyone else did in opposition to him, “personal” to them. Thus followed rounds of name calling, selective reporting and political partisanship that have utterly polluted the historical record and require research over decades to untangle.

A case in point is the December 8th 1941 attack on Clark Field and the massacre of the American B-17 force.  This 2007 article by Michael Gough titled “Failure and Destruction, Clark Field, the Philippines, December 8, 1941″ is a good example of the accepted narrative of the Clark Field attack.

The real reason we lost those planes on Dec 8th 1941 was American bad luck, delusion and political ghost dancing meeting a very well prepared Japanese enemy.  Luzon was too close to the center of Japanese air power for the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) to survive.  Nothing MacArthur did or didn’t do would have made a real difference in that outcome.


Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack
Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack. (Source: USAF Photo via Hyperwar web site)


The following was posted to the Academic H-War listserve back in late May 2012 and addresses the timing of the raid on Clark and Iba fields Dec 8th 1941 —

“Hi Gang

I’ve refrained from commenting on this thread because of the subject’s
complexity, the dearth of primary documents, and a desire to avoid
replying to endless questions, but I will make a bit of an effort here:

From 0330 until 1014, HQ USAFFE specifically denied Brereton permission to
launch his bomber force at
Clark (19 B-17s) against the Japanese
facilities on
Formosa and did not allow him to speak directly with
MacArthur either in person or on the telephone.

FEAF dispersed the bombers to holding positions in the air at about 0800
to avoid an attack expected that morning. Most of the bombers were in the air
most of that morning.

MacArthur gave Brereton permission to attack Formosa during a telephone
call at 1014, and Brereton recalled the dispersed force which began landing
about 1100.

It took two to two and a half hours to refuel, load bombs, and prepare an attack,
thus FEAF’s aircraft were on the ground at about 1220 when the Japanese air
forces, delayed by fog on
Formosa for roughly five hours, reached Clark.

USAFFE persistently denied Brereton’s efforts to conduct reconnaissance of
Formosa prior to 8 December, but the 19th Bomb Group’s target files
apparently contained enough information that, although dated, made an
attack on
Formosa more than just a thrust into the unknown.

Who ignored MacArthur’s chain of command and in what way?

I am still working on my biography of Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton.

Hopefully, it will get done.


Roger G. Miller, Ph.D., GS-14
Deputy Director
Air Force Historical Studies Office
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling
Washington, D.C. 20373-5899”

So the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) took precautions to protect their B-17s from a dawn Japanese strike on Dec 8, 1941, but as Dr. Miller mentioned, they landed out of fuel just in time for the delayed-by-fog Japanese naval air force strike from Tainan Airfield, Formosa.

And even if by some miracle the B-17s had survived that day, they were being protected by American P-40 fighters that could not fly over Japanese airfields on Formosa, facing better Japanese pilots in better fighters, including the A6M Zero, that could fly over American airfields on Luzon.  American P-40 fighters that also lacked the radar- and telephone-based Battle of Britain style integrated air defense system to warn and direct them to Japanese air attacks.

More modern evaluations — AKA less colored by immediate post-war reputation protection and organizational agendas — of the FEAF performance are more telling.

The best look at that I have seen on that debacle is in Chapter 10 of Why Air Forces Fail: The Anatomy of Defeat, edited by Robin Higham and Stephen J. Harris, which evaluated the real readiness of the Far Eastern Air Force on Dec 8, 1941. That essay, titled “The United States in the Pacific” by Mark Parillo, addresses the FEAF Philippines performance starting at page 296.

The bottom line was that the B-17 force at Clark field did not have:

1) The intelligence to effectively strike Formosa airfields with the limited number of bombs available at Clark Field. There were no pre-war overflights of Formosa, no human intelligence and thus no intelligence photos for inexperience photo interpreters to work from,

2) The B-17 did not have the accuracy to strike ships at sea. See B-17
performance per pre-war doctrine at Midway, but unknown at the time,

3) Nor did the B-17 force have the logistical chops in its supporting fighter units — which lacked coolant for high altitude operations, had no way to put oxygen into their low pressure O2 tanks and were so short of .50 cal ammunition for its P-40s that there was no test firing of guns until combat commenced — to conduct escorted strikes at the B-17s normal operating altitudes anywhere within P-40 range,

5) The B-17 force at Clark Air field were pre B-17E models lacking tail guns and powered turret guns. Thus they were dead meat for Japanese A6M Zero/Zeke fighters with 20mm cannon on Formosa (See and the photo below),

6) There was no effective early warning system at Clark Field, as then Captain Chennault’s exercise-tested-as-effective telephone, radio & binocular equipped ground observer system was drummed out of the Army Air Service (along with his person) as a threat to the heavy bombardment clique’s B-17 budget.

This is a B-17D on Iba Field, Luzon province, the Philippines, in Oct 1941. Clearly shown are the lack of .50 Caliber tail guns or powered gun turrets of later model B-17s. This lack of armament made these bombers easy prey for A6M Zero fighters.
This is a B-17D on Iba Field, Luzon province, the Philippines, in Oct 1941. Clearly shown are the lack of .50 Caliber tail guns or powered gun turrets of later model B-17s. This lack of armament made these bombers easy prey for A6M Zero fighters. (Source Wikipedia)


The pattern of Axis versus Allied air power in WW2 was that the two major Axis powers had made the transition to 1st-generation piston-engined monoplane fighters & bombers, and it took a year of these more advanced aircraft being in service before they could be used to best advantage in terms of proper logistics.

Then it took further months of combat to get proper tactical doctrine for this new equipment.

Germany had the Czech crisis, Spain and Poland to iron these things out before the main event in the Battle of France.

Japan had the Sino-Japanese War starting in 1937, plus major border incidents with Russia, before dropping down on the FEAF at Clark Field.

Clark field was too close to a modern, combat tested Japanese Air Force to survive and nothing Gen MacArthur did or didn’t do would have changed that outcome.

Both the blame-MacArthur line on the loss of the FEAF at Clark field, and the USAAF’s “If only the B-17’s struck first” propaganda defending General Hap Arnold’s and General Marshall’s reputations post-war, just are not supported by the facts.

Here are some figures of merit on B-17 WW2 combat performance, and points of USAAF doctrine/technology for consideration in the MacArthur’s FEAF debacle.

First figure of merit:

To hit one 60 ft. x 100 ft. target in WWII required 1500 B-17 sorties
carrying nine thousand 250 lb bombs because they had a circular error
probability of 3300 feet. [1]

Circular error probability is defined as 50% within the CEP circle
around the target and 50% landing somewhere else outside it.

That level of performance assumed,
1) Good daylight visibility and
2) Good target contrast from the background to achieve a good aim point.

A second figure of merit:

There were nineteen B-17s available to the FEAF at Clark Air field
with a maximum payload of 12 x 500 lb bombs for a total of 228 bombs
in one 19 sortie mission.

Point in fact; the FEAF B-17s only had 100 lb and 300 lb bombs to
work with. [2] And this was 12-15 months before USAAF armorers got
around to placing multiple lighter bombs on the B-17 500 lb. bomb

The Norden bomb site could only be set for one kind of bomb at a time,
so either different planes in the same formation carried different bomb
loads and dropped at different times, or mixed loads were used with
guaranteed misses for part of the load.

A third figure of merit:

The Japanese naval airfields on Formosa were fogged in, which was why their strike
arrived so late in the day at Clark field Dec 8, 1941.

It was years before the US Military deployed radio beam navigation for
night/bad weather bombing (LORAN) and it was February 1944 before the
H2X (AKA “Mickey set” or more properly the AN/APS-15) 3cm airborne
radar arrived in USAAF service in UK based B-17’s to aim bombs through
clouds and murk. [3] This also leaves out considerations of upper
level wind patterns over Formosa.

There was no effective way in 1941 for FEAF B-17’s to deliver their loads
of bombs through fog on Formosan airfields, to get in the first punch,
even if Macarthur had said yes sooner.

A fourth figure of merit:

The following is a partial list of Japanese military airfields on Formosa. [4]

Okayama Airfield
Shenei, Shoka

Tainan Airfield
Japanese airfield
(Home of 84 A6M2 Zero/Zeke fighters & 100 bombers used 8 Dec 1941 at Clark Field)

Kaohsiung (Takao)
Harbor and airfield

Toko Airfield
Japanese airfield

Toshein Airfield
Japanese airfield

Toyohara Airfield
Japanese airfield, located in the central portion of the island

Koshun Airfield
Japanese emergency airfield

Matsuyama Airfield
Japanese airfield

Karenko Airfield
Japanese airfield

Shinchiku Airfield [5]
Japanese wartime airfield

Koryu Airfield
Japanese wartime airfield

Anyone who thinks nineteen pre-B-17E model Flying Fortresses in December 1941 could make a meaningful dent in the above Japanese airfield infrastructure on Formosa, given that B-17 force’s technical limitations, and the efforts in terms of sorties that the 5th Air Force put into suppressing Formosan airpower in the anti-Kamikaze campaign of March thru June 1945, is trafficking in delusion. [6]

December 1941 B-17 Realities

In matters of doctrine and technology,

1) The B-17 pre-war doctrine called for unescorted daylight, high
altitude formation attacks with tight pattern bombing.

2) B-17s with the FEAF could not hit targets using pre-war doctrine
because there were not enough of them to implement that doctrine.[7]

3) The 19th Bombardment Group B-17s could not operate at lower altitudes where they could hit targets, due to defensive firepower weakness (no tail gun!) and poor logistical issues with the available P-40 fighters. The P-40, as the first in-line, liquid-coolant-engine monoplane fighter in US service, suffered from a general shortage of ethylene glycol coolant in the FEAF, .50 Cal ammunition shortages and self-sealing fuel tank maintenance issues.[8] [9]

4) The 19th BG B-17s lacked the pre-attack intelligence to properly plan the attack on Formosa, including where to set up initial points in their runs to targets, and had no dedicated battle damage assessment capability to support them for any attacks made. Point in fact, General Brereton requested several times of MacArthur permission to send high altitude B-17s over Formosa to get that photo intelligence prior to Dec 7th 1941. Not wanting to start a war, against stated American National Security policy, prior to the arrival of his scheduled reinforcements, MacArthur turned Brereton down flat.

5) And finally Clark Air Field lacked an effective early warning and integrated air defense system to enable B-17s to avoid counter-air attacks by Japanese planes. (Which ECHOES OVER THE PACIFIC made clear).

Given all of the above, there was little if anything that General MacArthur could have done or failed to do to avert the debacle that befell the FEAF.

Policy Background

The B-17 force was sold as a high value “force in being” to the American high command and General Marshall in particular ,such that it made the force’s commitment without a clear high-value target — like the expected Japanese invasion convoy — a non-starter, given a lack of clear targets on Formosa.

The B-17s were billed a strategic force in being not to be committed lightly. MacArthur didn’t commit them lightly and got his head handed to him.

In 20-20 hindsight, the best option after skipping on the dawn launch of Dec 8th would have been to disperse the B-17s and many P-40s to Mindanao for a try on Dec 9th.

But had MacArthur dropped his B-17s on Formosa Dec 8th, swarms of vengeful A6M Zeros would have clawed them out of the sky on their return trip to Clark field — which they could have done, as they were both faster than B-17s and had the range to trail them all the way to Clark Field — MacArthur would have been dinged for committing them before he knew what he was up against.

Sometimes everything you do is wrong, including nothing.

Such was the case for MacArthur on Dec 8th 1941.

There was no way that the FEAF could survive in range of Japanese air power on Formosa in 1941, and it didn’t.

Nothing MacArthur did, or didn’t do, would have changed that outcome.

The only thing that would be different, had MacArthur said Yes to a
B-17 raid on Formosa hours sooner, was the place where those B-17s
would have died.


[1] “Effects-Based Operations” Col Gary Crowder, Chief, Strategy,
Concepts and Doctrine Air Combat Command. See Document Link:

[2] See the “MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor” section at

[3] See and

[4] See:

[5] The following link shows B-25 Mitchells using 5th Air Force low-
level airdrome attack techniques on the Shinchiku Airfield complex in
April 1945 —

[6] See the 5th Air Force’s 1945 Formosa campaign history at

[7] See pages 28-29 of “A War of Their Own: Bombers over the Southwest Pacific” by
Matthew K. Rodman (2005, 184 pages ISBN: 1-58566-135-X, AU Press Code:B-96)
Air University press offers the PDF version at no cost at this link:

[8] See: Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines,
(Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History
Series) William H. Bartsch

[9] Exploding Fuel Tanks –The saga of technology that changed the course
of the Pacific air war
Self-published by Richard L. Dunn (2011,
ISBN: 1450773052) See:

26 thoughts on “MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor, December 8th 1941 – Plus 75 Years”

  1. The text above the photo misidentifies the B 17s as “E” models. The Photo caption correctly identifies them as “D models.

    “Queens Die Proudly” by Frank Kurtz was published about 1943, as I recall, and I read it as a kid. It does not describe the morning flight of the B 17s. He says they were in conferences all morning. Maybe war time censors changed his text but I don’t know why they would do so.

    The P 40s were somewhat successful against Zeros in China with the AVG.

  2. I’ve been reading Massie’s Dreadnought, a lengthy (and excellent) account of the run-up to WWI. I was impressed by the hard-headedness shown by Jacky Fisher as First Sea Lord (professional head of Royal Navy) and later Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty (political head). Both grasped nettles, and removed ships from service that were no longer good enough for use; their argument was that obsolete ships cost a lot of money in fuel, supplies, and repairs, and if they went into action would achieve little bar drowning their crews.

    Such hard-headedness was lacking early in WWII when British aircrew were lost flying obsolete planes that could achieve nothing useful. It sounds from your account as if those B-17s fell into the category of being capable of achieving nothing useful at that time, in that place. Was this a déformation professionnelle among the advocates of air war?

  3. On second thoughts: a counter-example was the successful use by the RN of its biplane torpedo bombers in WWII . The lesson is, I suppose, that such planes succeeded on occasions when they didn’t face dense or advanced defences of the sort that land-based aircraft attacking targets on land were usually exposed to.

  4. The D model B 17 was an unknown quantity in 1941. The absence of a tail gunner was a lapse hard to explain as even the Douglas SBD had a gunner facing rear wards.

    The RAF left Singapore out to dry with Brewster Buffaloes as the most advanced fighter and airfields they abandoned rather than try to defend in Malaya.

    I can recommend the new book on the sinking of the Repulse and Price of Wales.

  5. The point is NOT that the B-17s could have forestalled a Japanese attack. That was not a possibility.

    No, the point IS that, even though MacArthur knew Pearl Harbor had been bombed hours earlier, his bombers sat on the ground or circled pointlessly, and had no effect at all save as targets.

    The point IS that, upon hearing of the Pearl Harbor attack, MacArthur hid in his office for hours, refusing to communicate with anyone.

    The point IS that Plan Orange called for a large supply dump to be established at Bataan in expectation of a fighting retreat to there, where the US/Filipino joint force would hold out until the USN sailed out for a decisive battle to rescue the Philipines. Instead, MacArthur declared that he would defend the Philipines at all points, forgoing the projected supply dump and condemning his army when it was forced to retreat (to Bataan!).

    The point IS that MacArthur lost his air force, his navy, and his army at the Philipines and left another general to bear the onus of surrender (which MacArthur criticized).

    For his performance in the Philipines, MacArthur was given the Medal of Honor!

    ‘American Caesar’ my ass….

  6. “For his performance in the Philipines, MacArthur was given the Medal of Honor!”

    That was pure PR by Roosevelt. I’ve never understood that. Skinny Wainwright had to wait until the war was over to get his. MacA opposed the award when suggested earlier in the war,

  7. Mike K Says:
    December 8th, 2016 at 8:36 am

    The P 40s were somewhat successful against Zeros in China with the AVG.

    They were, but they used an entirely different doctrine than the USAAF. I had a friend, from the summer between 6th and 7th grade until a few years ago. His father was a P-40 pilot in the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941. He made one (1) combat flight in WW-II. He was trained by the USAAF to try to out-turn A6M5 Zeroes in combat. That was not physically possible, and his plane was shot down. He bailed out and survived. However, there were no more p-40’s, so he became an infantry officer for the duration of the campaign, survived the Bataan Death March, imprisonment in the Philippines, shipment to Japan, and slave labor until liberation.

    Chennault taught his people to gain the altitude advantage, dive on the enemy [preferably by surprise] blast them at close range, and use the speed of the dive to get away and climb back to altitude for another attack. No trying to turn with a lighter enemy, when being lighter made them turn tighter at the same time that being lighter made them more vulnerable to damage from that close range blast.

    The dogfight doctrine stayed longer than it should have. If I remember correctly, the first P-51’s [a far superior dogfighter than the P-40] in the China Air Task Force of the 10th AF after the AVG was dissolved and absorbed into the USAAF ignored Chennault’s tactical lessons and tried to dogfight, taking losses till they learned to fight effectively. The best weapon will do no good if you insist on misusing it.

    By the way, since you are a doctor, you might be interested in this sequalae. My friend’s father was an alcoholic after his return to the US. Given what he had been through, that was not considered unusual. In Junior High School, it was not unusual for my friend and I to forcefully bundle his drunk dad into a cab and take him to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital to check him in to dry him out after a prolonged bender. Not unusual, but more than a little traumatic for a couple of kids in their early teens. It helps toughen you up right smartly. “Special Snowflake” was not an option.

    After years of this, we finally encountered a doctor who took more than a routine interest. He had an idea and ran a bunch of tests. It turned out that his dad was not the standard version of an alcoholic. He was suffering from a major vitamin deficiency from his wartime experiences. Alcohol somehow mimicked the vitamins for his body, so he craved it. He was placed on mega-vitamin therapy, and he snapped out of it. As in sobered up completely, got a job with the state, worked till he retired, and died in his 70’s without relapsing.

  8. That is interesting, SB – about your friend’s father. I have read in a couple of different histories of POWs and internees of the Japanese in WWII – that their natural life expectancy was reduced by about fifteen years over their cohort. Four years of brutal treatment, and deprivation of about every vitamin and mineral took a horrible toll. I have read that the author of Three Came Back attributed the survival of her toddler-aged son through Japanese internment in Burma was due to the fact that she knew that internment was in the offing, and stocked up on vitamins — and managed to hold on to her stock long enough to do good for her child.

  9. “My father-in-law was in the Philippines and was commander of a Japanese POW camp after he commanded a mortuary detail on the Owen Stanley Mountain Range trail followed by the Bataan Death March. Their job was identifying remains found. The POW camp was his last assignment in 1945. He came back an alcoholic and spent 6 months in Letterman General getting sober.

    While there, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous. He had a great story.

    At one of his first meetings, he was annoyed at the AA practice of using only first names.

    He said he wanted to be called “Lieutenant Lynch.” The guy next to him was an admiral. He shut up.

    Anyway, he was a great guy, even if he was a Democrat. I still remember a New Years Eve party where Edie Gorme was entertaining. She asked for a volunteer from the audience. Joe was up there dancing with her cold sober.

    We walked out that night behind her and her husband Ernie Kovacs. He was popping balloons with his cigar. Two weeks later he was dead in a car accident.

  10. “their natural life expectancy was reduced by about fifteen years over their cohort.”

    Actually, I have heard the opposite, Starvation prolongs the life of lab animals. It’s hard to prove but guys like Louie Zamperini offer a contrasting example.

    His death had mistakenly been announced previously, when the US government classified him as KIA during World War II, after his B-24 Liberator aircraft went down in 1943, and no survivors were located by the military.[30] President Franklin D. Roosevelt even sent Zamperini’s parents a formal condolence note in 1944.[25]

    Zamperini’s death came 70 years later, from pneumonia, on July 2, 2014, in Los Angeles, at home, aged 97.

  11. Thomas,

    “No, the point IS that, even though MacArthur knew Pearl Harbor had been bombed hours earlier, his bombers sat on the ground or circled pointlessly, and had no effect at all save as targets.”

    Apparently the comprehensive discussion of this issue escaped you. It didn’t matter what he had done, it would have ended in futility.

    As for “hiding in his office”. I doubt that is a fair characterization. MacArthur was courageous under all circumstances. He had proved that in prior combat and subsequently in political issues. He was supremely confident in his skills and this likely made him vulnerable to a narrow point of view. Since he often kept his own council perhaps that was what was going on during this period of indecision you choose to characterize as hiding. A person accustomed to winning under all circumstances might have spent some time trying to reconsider all options trying to find one that would be a winner.

    Apparently MacArthur is a very emotional issue for you. I don’t care why, but it certainly calls into question the objectivity of your comments. By the way, being characterized as the American Caesar is actually quite a slam, not a compliment.


  12. “MacArthur was courageous under all circumstances. He had proved that in prior combat”: that doesn’t follow. James II had a consistent record of courage, then broke down when facing battle with William of Orange. von Moltke, Chief of the German General Staff, admitting to never being the same again after the stress of dealing with the situation, and particularly with the Kaiser, immediately before WWI.

    WKPD: the Kaiser told Moltke to proceed as originally planned, the general’s health broke down as a consequence of this clash and on 25 October 1914, he was succeeded by Erich von Falkenhayn.

    There’s a notion that people have a finite reserve of courage, and when it is exhausted they can break down. I shouldn’t be surprised if there’s some truth in that.

  13. “MacArthur declared that he would defend the Philipines at all points”: if true that’s almost criminal. What about concentration of forces?

  14. Thomas Hazlewood,

    It’s pretty obvious you have not checked out the links in my notes.

    American air power in the Philippines was a bunch of expensive paper airplanes.

    American air power lacked the trained personnel, material, ordinance, and especially the combat operational experience to marry the people, material and ordnance together to provide a combat ready air force.

    It would take months of defeat and accelerated wartime production for those lessons to be learned and years for them to be applied.

    That MacArthur was simply in charge in the Philippines when combat made these flaws undeniably real, how ever much post-war histories tried to play them down and scapegoat MacArthur for them.

    That isn’t saying that MacArthur didn’t screw up by the numbers in Luzon by ignoring War Plan Orange. In particular, his sending the ill-equipped Filipino Army to confront the war honed Imperial Japanese Army in the open field.

    There were several factors at play, from what I consider least to most important.

    1. Mac Arthur was a romantic about his Filipino Army’s capabilities,
    2. Like his pre-war generation of flag officers, he was racist as hell about the capabilities of the Japanese military.
    3. Mac Arthur was corrupt.

    The first is well documented.

    The second is self-evident as only Claire Chennault, among the American flag officers in WW2 understood and respected the Japanese military prior to Pearl Harbor.

    The third was only revealed in 1979 when Mac’s wartime chief of staff — Sutherland (sp?) — had his wartime papers declassified and they contained a order showing Mac Arthur had taken a $500,000 payment from the Filipino government (with FDR’s full knowledge) during the Bataan – Corrigador siege.

    If Mac Arthur was corrupt at that time, the question follows “How corrupt was he?”

    We have one very well documented case of Mac Arthur diverting US Army supplies to Claire Chennault in Chennault’s autobiography “Way of a Fighter.” Mac Arthur was the only US Army officer to provide logistical support to the American Volunteer Group pre-Pearl Harbor.

    Specifically, as Mac Arthur’s FEAF fighter pilots in the Philippines were crashing their P-40B and P-40E fighters between May and November 1941. Mac Arthur was salvaging the tires and sending them to Chennault by Chinese airliners as spares, because Generals Hap Arnold and Marshall would not release any P-40 spares from pre-war production.

    This was as illegal in the 1940’s as Iran-Contra was in the 1980’s.

    And like Reagan with Iran-contra, the FDR Administration turned a blind eye to this support, just as it did with the $500K Filipino payment.

    The thing to remember here about corruption is that it cannot be centralized. Eventually, everyone who can takes a piece. And the FDR Administration was “a little bit pregnant” regards holding Mac Arthur accountable for corruption.

    That wasn’t true of the institutional US Army and Congress in 1941, anymore than it was for Oliver North in Iran-Contra.

    AKA, MacArthur had a “Hide the financial corruption” incentive to deploy to the field versus the Japanese because anything missing from the Filipino Army depots from more venial money corruption — besides tires for Chennault — would be “combat lossed” before the retreat to Bataan.

    Given Mac Arthur’s romantic and racist beliefs, and his legal exposure to corruption charges, factor number three made deploying to the field in Luzon inevitable.

  15. My memory for nearly-forgotten and deceased entertainers may be poor, but I believe Eydie Gorme was married to Steve Lawrence, neither of whom died in 1940s, 1950s, or 1960s.

  16. ErisGuy,

    I suspect that Mike meant Edie Adams, not Gorme. I’m old enough to remember Ms. Adams and I would have danced with her cold sober as well.

  17. FYI, from the notes in the post above, check out this link —

    Richard L. Dunn’s “Exploding Fuel Tanks – The saga of technology that changed the course of the Pacific air war” is well worth buying.

    It tells the overlooked story of self-sealing fuel tanks and the effect on the balance of power in WW2 Pacific aerial warfare.

    Below are the table of contents which gives you a taste of what they technology meant.

    Table of Contents

    Front Matter
    Image Credits

    Chapter Titles
    I. State of the Art – 1940
    II. The Experience of War: 1940-1941
    III. Opening Rounds of the Pacific War
    IV. Case Study: Midway
    V. Shifting Balance: mid-1942 to early-1943
    VI. Progress and Problems for the Japanese
    VII. Tactical Consequences – 1943
    VIII. Air Combat Late 1943 – Early 1944
    IX. Reckoning
    X. Lessons from the Final Months
    XI. Course and Consequence – It Made a Difference

    Note on Sources
    Author Biograph

  18. “I suspect that Mike meant Edie Adams”

    Yup. Ernie Kovaks died in January 1962. That’s who I was thinking of. Both singers.

  19. Self-sealing fuel tanks feature in an odd story about the RAF. Long before WWII the RAF used self-sealing tanks. Then a new procedure was brought in for testing fuel tanks: the tanks had to be able to survive a fall of however-many feet on to a hard surface. The self-sealing tanks had no advantage in this test so they were replaced in new aircraft designs by non-self-sealing tanks. It was only experience in action that led to a return to self-sealers.

    Armed Forces in peacetime tend to be commanded by duds.

  20. “It was only experience in action that led to a return to self-sealers.”

    A Hawker Hurricane was completely restored a few years ago after being found in India where it had been shipped after the war. During restoration, it was found that not only had it flown and fought in The Battle of Britain, but the restorers found a bullet hole in one wing tank sealed by the self sealing lining after 50 years.

    There’s a book with the story of the discovery and restoration.

  21. 1. Mac Arthur was a romantic about his Filipino Army’s capabilities,
    2. Like his pre-war generation of flag officers, he was racist as hell about the capabilities of the Japanese military.
    3. Mac Arthur was corrupt.

    Great post and I usually I agree with most of what you write, but the above statements are simply absurd.

    1. Of course, MacArthur was “optimistic” about the Filipino army. It was really “his” Army and it’d never been in combat. Further, his optimism was grounded on the assumption that War wouldn’t come till April 1942, and he would be able to provide the Filipino army with additional training, not to mention get additional US arms and equipment. What would’ve been his basis in August 1941 for being pessimistic?

    2. I’m puzzled as to what “racism” had to do with MacArthur’s “underestimating” the Japanese Army. Did he underestimate the IJA or overestimate the Filipino’s? Is favoring the Filipino over the Japanese “racist”? The IJA performed admirably in 1942, but it was still a technologically backward Army that hadn’t done anything – prior to Pearl Harbor – except beat an even more backward Chinese Army. Oh, and it got hammered by the Soviets at Khalkhyn Gol. Who in 1941 didn’t underestimate the Japanese Army?

    3. MacArthur’s taking a payment of $500,000 wasn’t “corrupt” it was perfectly legal. FDR approved it. Payments to Government officials was standard practice in the Philippines and MacArthur “contract” when he took the 1935 Filipino Army job expressly allowed him to take such payments. The payment were for “past services” and when he got the USA, the Filipino President offered Ike $50,000 for the same reason.

  22. Just one more comment. I’m constantly amazed at the attention this small incident gets. We’re talking about 18 B-17s getting caught on the ground at the beginning of WW2. Not only that, but large numbers of people seem unable to grasp that MacArthur was NOT in charge of the Far Eastern Air Force. He was the theater commander. We don’t know exactly what he was doing on the morning of December 8th, because no one historian ever seems to have asked him.

    I assume, rather than “cowering” in his office, he was in his office doing what any theater commander would do, i.e. communicating with Washington, talking to the Filipino Government, talking to the Navy, talking to his Army subordinates and his Chief of Staff, or just trying to get up-to-date information and figure out what to do next. Y’know working.

    I’m sure he had plenty to do, and was more than willing to leave the Air Force in the hands of the AAF Commander and his C-O-S Sutherland (who was interesting in Air Power).

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