With MacArthur From Australia to Angeles

Tonight (Sunday), HBO debuts the first segment of a 10-part mini-series about World War II in the Pacific.  Unfortunately, I don’t subscribe to HBO because I’d like to see the show for at least two reasons.

First, the Pacific is where America truly fought the Second World War.  Our entry into the war began in the Pacific and the war ended in the Pacific.  The European theater was principally a war between Germany and Russia, which fought non-stop from June 1941 until the Red Army took Berlin in May 1945.  (After Germany conquered western Europe, except for the United Kingdom, there was no land fighting on the Western Front until 1944, except for the slow campaign in Italy.)

But the most important reason for my interest in the Pacific theater is a personal one: I was born because of it.  My father served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the Air Force.  He began with MacArthur in Australia and island hopped with him all the way to Angeles, home to Clark Air Base in the northern Philippines.

My father’s unit was the first one to enter my mother’s hometown after the Japanese evacuated it.  A “liberation fiesta” was held to celebrate the fulfillment of MacArthur’s pledge to the Philippines after he escaped from Bataan to Australia: “I shall return.”

At the fiesta, my father, then 22, noticed my mother, who was a few years younger, and asked her to dance. They did and that was the beginning.  Fortunately for my parents, my father’s unit logically remained at nearby Clark Air Base for the remainder of the war, allowing them to continue their relationship.

My mother’s family was not unfamiliar with the American military.  Her stepfather was in the U.S. Cavalry, surrendered at Bataan, survived the notorious Bataan Death March and then three years in a POW camp.

At the end of the war, my father was a Captain.  Rather than stay in the military or return to the U.S., he married my mother and stayed in the Philippines. Six years later, I was born at Manila’s University of Santo Tomas (UST) hospital.  (During the war, UST was an internment camp for American and other Allied civilians.)  Today, my father rests in Arlington National Cemetery follwing a full military ceremony complete with horse-drawn carriage, military band, 21-gun salute, flag folding and presentation. I’ve never seen anything like it before and probably never will again.

Although many Americans are somewhat familiar with the European theater, thanks to movies such as The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Patton, Saving Private Ryan, etc. I suspect there is little familiarity with the Pacific theater beyond Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Iwo Jima. Why not begin your education tonight….!


13 responses to “With MacArthur From Australia to Angeles

  1. What a wonderful and romantic story. My father served in the Pacific also, in the Navy. While arguing once about the use of the A-Bomb, my father commented that if not for it, I would not be here. He was on a ship bound for Japan at the time, where he and everyone else headed there fully expected to die.
    He made it all through the war and shortly after his return was in a car wreck. He met my mother because of it, as she was a nurse at the VA Hospital.
    Although he was cremated, his ashes were buried at sea in an official naval ceremony, so I know what you mean. There are almost no words to describe how moving such a ceremony is.
    Unfortunately, I don’t get HBO either. I’m not sure, but you might be able to see it on Comcast’s Fancast. If not, I’m sure you can later buy the series.

  2. I am eligible for a military funeral. While my service record probably will prevent me from making it into Arlington, there might be a few plots open at GITMO. 🙂

    HBO is notorious for not making their content free. As Fakename said, they’ll have it out on DVD a day after the last episode airs. If you have an On Demand cable box, you may be able to pay for it.

  3. I began reading the Book Pacific by Hugh Ambrose last week and recorded the First Episode on my DVR, but alas it will remain only on the DVR as I don’t have a DVD recording option. The shows will also be rebroadcast on HBO on Demand but you will have to pay for it or wait a while to watch it on commercial TV.

    The Book is good (not great) the series is loyal to the book so far. First episode set the stage for some very brutal fighting in the future. I am reading about Guadalcanal now and makes me want to go enlist.

  4. I love this! A real life love story. So even in war… something beautiful can result.

    I don’t have HBO either, but would be interested in watching the series now.

  5. OK episode 2 was a barn burner…….wow you almost think you are there with the Marines on Guadalcanal. It is bloody as real war…….intense. The marines there did an unbelievable job after being abandoned by the Navy (to avoid loss of the fleet) the Imperial Japanese Army had them out numbered 10 to 1 but they held out until finally relieved. Not for the squeamish.

    There is a great episode ending scene involving 4 Marines and a navy cook in the mess as they are heading home that is worth the price of admission. You should break down and buy HBO man, just find a few extra coupons for your next trip, you can always cancel it after the series……..

    • Between 6th and about 9th grade, my principal after school activity was to play historical simulation board games of various campaigns by Avalon Hill. One of those was Guadalcanal. So I’m very familiar with happened there.

      But, that game focused on the land battle. I wasn’t aware the USN abandoned the Marines. I thought it was the opposite. The IJN was so “exposed” during daylight they had to run supplies in at night via the “Tokyo Express.”

      By the time the Marines landed on Guadalcanal, the IJN had lost most of their carriers at Midway and were basically no longer a threat.

      And as the Brits found out with Force Z in the defense of Malaya, sending out a naval task force with no air cover meant a lot of steel was going to the bottom of the ocean!

  6. The historical perspective utilized in the Book and in the HBO production is largely from the point of view of some of the survivors that are still kicking. SO it is designed to be the story of a band of brothers like the one done earlier. Records and dates are substantiated but this design helps get across the pov of the marines while they were on Guadalcanal.

    Its kinda like looking through a peephole at the action instead of through the larger window of time that was WWII in the Pacific.

    History shows that on June 4, 1942 we fought the Naval Battle of Midway and that on August 7 the 1st Marines landed on Guadalcanal.

    This part of the book focused on those subsequent actions between August 7 and November by the 1st Marines.

  7. Part III of the HBO production was the love story of one of the Marines on leave in Melbourne and on how the Marines were adored by the Aussies. You might find that interesting for the nostalgia element it departed a bit from the book story line but was still entertaining.

    The book also focuses on the POW camp at Cabanatuan and of a daring escape and subsequent collaboration with the Filipinos guerrilla forces.

  8. > POW camp at Cabanatuan and of a daring escape

    That was the basis for a movie (name of which escapes me) a few years back.

    Not sure why that became a movie, instead of the Los Banos raid, which freed some 2000, mostly American, civilian internees who were going to be executed. This raid featured a paratroop drop right into the camp, aided by Filipino guerilla ground force. That drop is still considered a “textbook” case for airdrops and supposedly used as a model at paratroop training exercises.

    That book is called “Angels at Dawn”, subtitled The Los Banos Raid. Out of print but available probably at those online “clearance” bookstore. Or, it may be at the library.

    History Channel did a show on it.

    More info:


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