Trip to Corregidor: The Macarthur/Wainwright Rivalry

During my trip to Corregidor, I heard a story about the friendship of these two generals. One was an ardent follower ‘til the end but was unfortunately never reciprocated by the other.

The best story I heard was the Douglas Macarthur – Jonathan Wainwright rivalry. Macarthur is the face of the Pacific liberation while Wainwright was the one that surrendered the Americans to the Japs. These generals had the pedigree to lead. Wainwright’s dad Robert (not to be mistaken to the returning PBA player of the same name) fought during the Philippine-American War and died in active duty in Manila. Macarthur’s dad Arthur, was the third American military governor of the Philippines. Back in the day, Macarthur was hailed as a hero and a poster boy in terms of American generals. Wainwright was his wingman but he wasn’t that charismatic. Macarthur loved Corregidor. He built a movie house, a swimming pool, a golf course and even made the island a Monte Carlo of sorts for the stationed soldiers.

This is why he hated it when Roosevelt ordered him to move to Australia. The importance of Macarthur was stressed here because if he was captured by the Japs, this will prove as a major blow for the United States’ ego as a world power. Macarthur asked Wainwright to head the forces and to never surrender to the Japanese. However, Wainwright saw how day by day his army dwindled. America’s troops are in Europe and in order to save “some” of the Fil-American resistance (I said some because most became victims of the infamous Death March), he surrendered.

This pissed off Macarthur.

Macarthur wanted Wainwright to fight until the end. Macarthur called Wainwright a coward as the latter was sent to Manchuria as a prized captive. For three years, the Japanese controlled “Republic of the Philippines” was trying its best to persuade the locals in embracing their cause. At this point, Germany and Italy were defeated and now the Allied troops are going to save the Pacific. General Macarthur would return to the Philippines with a new and fresh batch of American soldiers reinforced by Filipino guerillas. On May 6, 1945, Corregidor was saved. Thousands of Japanese soldiers samurai-ed themselves (hara-kiri or seppuku) or jumped to their deaths than admitting defeat. With the Americans closing in, the Japanese were also pressured to save China from invading Russian forces. The atomic bombs proved to be the exclamation of a war that spanned almost four years. Wainwright looked like a beaten old man when he was rescued by the Allies.

Wainwright received medals for his participation in the war and was side-by-side with Macarthur during the formal declaration of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. However, Macarthur ardently contested the medals given to Wainwright. Up to Wainwright’s dying breath in 1945, Macarthur thought little of him. The world also thought little of him and merely regarded him as the guy that let the Americans lost.

In Corregidor there is a chunk of land revering his accomplishments. It isn’t fancy like Macarthur but just like the “I Shall Return” guy, he deserves to have the respect he definitely earned.

Game over.


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