The Philippines: Sentimental Journey

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Many a U.S. citizen has mixed feelings about General of the Army Douglas Mac-Arthur. But to Filipinos, MacArthur is a hero without flaw. "I shall return," he promised in retreat before the Japanese in the first dark days of 1942; and he kept his promise when U.S. troops stormed back into the Philippines in 1944. He returned again in 1946 to watch as the U.S., after nearly 50 years of beneficent colonial tutelage, bestowed independence on the Philippines. Last week, to help Filipinos celebrate their 15th anniversary of freedom, the old soldier, a frail but erect 81, returned for what he himself admitted was a last "sentimental journey."

A great shout went up as MacArthur stepped out of the White House 707 at Manila's airport, dressed in the spare khaki uniform of another era, wearing the faded, frayed cap he made famous. His salute trembled ever so slightly, but he had lost none of his flair for the Ciceronian phrase. "My life has been interwoven with yours for nearly sixty years," he said. "Here I have lived my greatest moments. Here I have my greatest memories."

Overwhelming Role. With that, he climbed into a Cadillac to receive the greatest reception in Manila's history. An estimated 2,000.000 wildly cheering Filipinos lined the ten-mile route from the airport to Manila's Malacanan Palace, where MacArthur and his wife Jean were to stay. Even MacArthur, never one to view his own role in history lightly, seemed impressed. "Overwhelming," he gasped. Bands greeted him with Old Soldiers Never Die, the venerable barracks tune he applied to himself when Truman recalled him from Korea in 1951 for defiantly insisting that the war should be carried to the Red Chinese mainland.

Addressing Filipino lawmakers later in the week, MacArthur indicated that he was still of the same mind. The failure of the United Nations forces to win the Korean war was "a major disaster for the free world," he said. "With victory within our grasp and without the use of the atom bomb, which we needed no more then than against Japan, we failed to see it through. Had we done so, we would have destroyed Red China's capability of waging modern war for generations to come."

Field Marshal Napoleon. MacArthur first came to the Philippines in 1903 as a second lieutenant fresh out of West Point. (His father, General Arthur MacArthur, served as last military governor of the islands.) The lieutenant spent a year engineering sea walls, wharves and roads, came back briefly in 1923 and then in 1928 as a brigadier general commanding all U.S. troops in the Philippines. In 1935 MacArthur finished up a five-year stint as the youngest U.S. Army chief of staff. His next job: Philippines military adviser, with the rank of field marshal in the Philippine army. Foreseeing the coming world conflict, MacArthur raced to build up the Philippine army with a singlemindedness that earned him the mocking title "Napoleon of Luzon" from U.S. detractors —until the war came and with it MacArthur's finest hours.

When MacArthur last saw the Philippines in 1946, the islands lay prostrate.

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