MacArthur's Defense of the Philippines in the Perspective of the United States Press
Prange, Gordon W.
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When war exploded over the Pacific on 7 December 1941, the average American knew little of the Pacific world and its peoples. Although tension in the Pacific between the United States and Japan had heightened during the summer and fall of 1941, few Americans, including the press, envisioned a shooting war between the two disputants. While diplomatic messages continued through official channels, including a personal message from President Roosevelt to Emperor Hirohito, the American public was shocked into reality by the stunning news that Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Although momentarily shaken out of its complacency, the American public and some of the press, for the most part, believed that Japan could be defeated in a short time. But within a month this view had to be rejected, for suddenly, in quick succession, America suffered the humiliating loss of Manila, of Cavite, our largest naval base in the Philippines, and the island of Luzon. The one exception was Bataan where MacArthur’s forces had dug in for a heroic stand against the enemy. The magnificent defense of Bataan by MacArthur and his beleaguered and outnumbered forces provided a ray of hope in an otherwise sad story of defeats during the early months of the Pacific war. The whole country took the general and his men unto their hearts. While the editorials of almost all the newspapers viewed MacArthur’s defense of the Philippines as gallant throughout, they had serious misgivings about administration leadership and were highly critical of its conduct of the war in the Pacific. When the Allied cause in the Pacific reached a new low in February, the American press began to demand that MacArthur be ordered out of the Philippines to lead a unified Allied effort in the Pacific. When the administration failed to act and sent troops to Great Britain instead, the editorials of the American press became very critical. And when Bataan and Corregidor fell the editorial denunciations against the administration reached new heights. This thesis is a study of how the United States press viewed, analyzed, and reported the epochal events in the Philippines during the period 8 December 1941 to 8 May 1942. It examines the military plans and the political and national factors that had great significance for MacArthur's defense of the Philippines as well as the Allied efforts in the Pacific to halt the Japanese juggernaut. This work is based on the interpretation of information gathered primarily from about sixty-five newspapers, from examination of other source material pertinent to the subject, and from several personal interviews.