Philippines worth it? MacArthur’s Gamble?

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Was the invasion of the Philippines in 1944 worth it? Was it just for MacArthur’s ego and ambitions? What were the alternatives? What is valid criticism and what is not? What did Admiral Nimitz and Admiral King think?

Original question by my Oberst Jack: “How useful was the US return to the Philippines in 1944? good and bad points.”

Special thanks to von Kickass for helping with the Thumbnail!

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Military History NOT Visualized is a support channel to Military History Visualized with a focus personal accounts, answering questions that arose on the main channel and showcasing events like visiting museums, using equipment or military hardware.


Heinrichs, Waldo; Gallicchio, Marc: Implacable Foes. War in the Pacific 1944-1945. Oxford University Press: UK, 2017 (affiliate): (affiliate):

Cambridge History of the Second World War. Volume 1: Fighting the War. Cambridge University Press: UK (2015) (affiliate): (affiliate):

Spector, Ronald H.: Eagle Against the Sun – The American War with Japan. Cassell & Co: UK, 2000 (Affiliate Link): Link (Affiliate):

Drea, Edward J.: Japan’s Imperial Army. Its Rise and Fall, 1853-1945. Kansas University Press, USA: 2009. link (affiliate): link (affiliate):

Giangreco, D. M.: Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947. US Naval Institute Press: United States, 2017. Link (Affiliate): Link (Affiliate):

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29 Responses

  1. Military History not Visualized says:

    If you like in-depth military history videos, consider supporting me on Patreon or SubscribeStar:

  2. ODDBALL SOK says:

    here is a food for thought hindsight experiment for ya:
    If you were able to tell the US generals and admirals and politicians in 1942 that there WILL be a couple of atomic bombs available in 1945 and that two major japanese cities in smoke WILL surrender the japanese ALL OVER asia: do you suppose that ALL of them will decide: "let's do nothing UNTIL 1945 arrives …send 2 submarines to Tokyo and Osaka and sacrifice blow up the two vessels..and all in all, LOT LESS casualties will befall us with still MAXIMUM result"…
    Do you ?

  3. Ambrose Burnside says:

    It would have been worth it if we didn't immediately give it up post-war…the Phillipines are rightful American clay!

  4. Depipro says:

    From what I read, the US Navy didn't really favour either the Philippines or Formosa. It's a pity you didn't include the preceding step on the map: the Mariana Islands. From there to Japan's main islands, Iwo Jima is directly en route, Okinawa just a slight detour, whereas the Philippines and Formosa are in quite a different direction. They ended up taking the Army's and the Navy's approaches both, which was nice for McArthur's ego but not so nice for Manila's civilian population, who were raped and massacred by frustrated Japanese soldiers.

  5. An Leng Uy says:

    Hi, hi. Guys can you please help me with something? No matter how many times I'd repeated the part from 10:20 (in which he was talking about Manila) I couldn't quite catch what he was saying. … What's that "warshop" (in CC) part? I'd really like his input about the Rape of Manila, because it is still largely underreported, even in Philippine school textbooks.

  6. ZeKeR BaNaaG says:

    to be fair, before we got rolled over, we sort of made the Japanese paid meter by bloody meter during the fallback to Bataan and the brutal resistance at Corregidor.

    the weirdest shit at the time should be the naval grit such as the Ormoc skirmishes

  7. Karahan Keskin says:

    At 6:00 US forces did the exact same thing in Bougainville though. Took only a small chunk of the island to support the operations further north, at Rabaul and New Guinea. So it was an idea that might have worked.

    Overall though, I think the Philippines was the better choice. Instead of that, the real major blunder was the invasion of Peleliu.

  8. There Be Game says:

    Here's the reason you have to go the Philippines before Formosa/Taiwan before any set steps towards Japan.

    You're leaving the enemy bases behind you. If you did go to Formosa you have so many little places to be attacked from. All it takes is a little group bouncing from inlet to inlet, getting resupplied, feeding off of the supplies from the Dutch East Indies.

    The IJN had some extremely aggressive and competent commanders. The nature of the Philippines itself supports any defensive, littoral operations run by the navy. Maybe that last part is a hard argue, but I believe it has some strength. The idea behind it isn't bad, the results of make it hard. I think a single push as opposed to the smaller groups could have had more potential. The great gamble wanted by the Japanese believed in. Of course, allowing some hindsight, maybe if this was a 43 operation, instead of a 44 operation, it would have been more likely. However, simply said, the nature of the two factions means you have to go to the US forces, Navy here. They were learning, adapting and were exceedingly well equipped. To the degree the action in the Surigao Strait was fought totally at night and had little, if no damage done to major US capital ships in the area.

    Sure, you're shortening their supply lines, on some level. You also placing a base, from where you can operate and you're making their supply lines longer, you're making it harder for them to get supplies through. You're doing the inverse of what was done in the Atlantic.

  9. Audited Patriot says:

    Not everyone is aware of how much gambling both sides did in the Philippines. Especially when Admiral Halsey took his fleet carriers away from guarding the San Bernardino Straight and went chasing the Japanese decoy fleet leaving every troop ship and supply ship in Leyte Gulf at the mercy of Adm. Kurita's battleships. With only a few American destroyers and light carriers, most of which were destroyed in suicidal attacks on battleships and heavy cruisers, the few American ships left managed to bluff Kurita into retreat. Otherwise his force, including the Yamato, would have wiped out the entire US invasion fleet.

  10. Marty Moose says:

    We had to take the Philippines when we did our poor POWS were dieing every day due to the inhuman treatment they were receiving. Did our intelligence know this? I don't know but thank God we liberated it when we did.

  11. Jerry Glaze says:

    Biggest wast of us lives ever. Thousands died so Mac could have a bigger unit than anyine else.

  12. BamBam Bigelow says:

    My excellent Austrian bruder….’Merica has a fleet/Army at Normandy while a week later on other side of the planet with 535 warships, land 128000 troops on Marianas/Palau Islands.

  13. John Brakes says:

    CVL-23 was the USS Princeton (not Princepton). It was damaged by a lone dive-bomber, not a Kamikaze.

  14. USSChicago1943 says:

    A man’s father at my church was a Veteran of Boganville and the Philippine campaigning as part of the 37 Infantry Division aka the Buckeye Division apparently he was one of the few remaining original men in his unit and he was a sniper

  15. cavscout888 says:

    Factoring in 'support troops' as a major factor in strategy. This would have highly confused the Japanese. Everyone likes to say 'MacArthur made a public promise so he couldn't stand to not invade the Philippines, but that statement was made way later, and I suspect after he and other planners had closely looked at the situation. I've gotten really sick of the 'it was all about his legacy' argument. Thank you for doing this video.

  16. MakeMeThinkAgain says:

    Great timing. I'm in the middle of writing an account of the Battle off Samar.

    If I were you I would add to those maps a trail of where the US Army had been so far. It formed a line that pointed to the Philippines. The US assets in the area at the time could either dip down into the Dutch East Indies (politically questionable) or make the jump to the Philippines. While the Navy had always had other ideas, the combination of Army (south) and Navy (Central Pacific) had kept the Japanese off balance.

    The Battle of the Philippine Sea was, in fact, the "Decisive Battle" both navies had anticipated for decades, but nobody noticed this at the time. Just as Eisenhower in Europe was attempting to destroy the German army division by division, the US Navy needed to destroy the surviving IJN "rump" of capital ships — and those wonderful heavy cruisers. The invasion of Leyte provided the opportunity to do just that.

    General Yamashita fought a brilliant defense of Luzon that lasted until the Japanese surrender, but you shouldn't make too much of this. The 40th Infantry division played a major role in the invasion of Luzon and the pursuit of Yamashita, but it had been withdrawn, rested, and was scheduled to participate in Operation Olympic, the invasion of Japan.

    Incidentally, the trial and execution of Yamashita for war crimes is, itself, a war crime in my view.

  17. David Briggs says:

    One thing that I think people are missing is the PEOPLE of the two Islands. Formosa had been Japanese since 1895 and so had a population that the Japanese considered to be Faux Japanese, meaning that they could (and were) be conscripted into the Japanese Army. The Philippines on the other hand had a population that was largely pro-American, and so could (and did) provide combat units to support the American's liberating the Philippines. And too, Philippine Civilians (and volunteers among the Philippine population) could, to a certain extent, either augment or replace Army Support units (again, something that was actually done.

    With regard to the the whole of the Philippines not being completely liberated by the end of the war, you need to consider where the Japanese resistance continued past say April of 1945; it was in the northern most portion of Luzon, and in the mountains of Leyte, in other words mostly very rugged terrain with very little population. The Commanding Officer of the Army Ground Force in 1945, General Stillwell said that the Philippines had the most rugged terrain to be fought over that he had seen, and remember, this is the same General Stillwell who had been operating in the China-Burma-India Theater through most of the war; he became Commanding Officer of the Army Ground Forces after the previous Commander was killed when American bombers dropped their loads short during Operation Cobra.

    Another thing that people tend to conflate is early Philippine operations and later operations within the Philippines. The early operations include fighting in the islands of Leyte, Mindoro, and Luzon, which were very necessary, and the later operations consisting of all the other islands which were done by MacArthur but perhaps should not have been since it tied down American troops. IIRC, even the Official Army History of the operations in the Philippines complained that the Joint Chiefs of Staff should have reined in MacArthur's operations on the other islands.

    Finally, Gulf and golf are pronounced almost identically, and if that confuses you, whenever the script calls for the word Gulf (as in the Battle of Leyte Gulf), just replace it with the word golf, you'll do fine.

  18. Munrais says:

    Plural Iwo Jima???

  19. blockmasterscott says:

    100% worth it. It was part of The United States and the people there depended on us. Can you imagine how they would have felt if we passed them up?

    My wife’s grandmother who was born and raised in the Philippines told me that they were so happy to see the Americans come back. My wife’s grandfather lived here in the States and flew an American flag in front of his house until he died.

    This is not from what I’ve read in some book. These were actual people that were there they told me first hand how happy they were when we took the Philippines back.

  20. thedudepdx says:

    Mac’s arguments were all bullshit. He was really just in it for his prestige. It might have been the right decision at the time but I don’t believe the genuineness of his arguments

  21. Karl P says:

    Great analysis, I think it really steps it up when a professional historian with extensive military knowledge runs the show. I also like that you put captions up to expand on your real-time talking point, we can read and listen at the same time. MacArthur had to return. As you said he made that promise and effectively the Philippines was almost an American colony since the Spanish/American war of 1898-1900. A question: I thought Admiral King was head of the Atlantic fleet, did he transfer to Nimitz's command later in the war?

  22. NorthObsidianG says:

    It wasn't worth taking it other than political, but MacArthur wanted to mend his prestige, because he knows that there were Americans in the island, one of his commanders and a bunch of rebels who were already fighting the japanese, rebels in which he really put to use once they've contacted each other which freed even more soldiers to fight for later offensives.

  23. Joshua Carpio says:

    I think the decision to invade was decided upon multiple factors but the most important one/s would have been are 1.Guerilla resistance 2. Location of the country itself 3. the promise that they had made to the people

  24. Thomas Ridley says:

    Would it not have been more efficient to cut of their supply lines and go straight to Formosa. We did that to many islands. They put our forces in a costly situation to boost mac's ego.
    We all know mac was determined to make that photo op possible no matter the cost. He could be a great general at times, when he didn't trip over his own ego.

  25. Ryan Sharpe says:

    USS Princeton, not Princepton

  26. tswims92 says:

    The most important aspect of the Philippians was it cut off the lines of communication for the occupied Dutch East Indies. Which made it even harder to get oil and other raw materials from there to Japan. And while the Silent Service was making great headway in annihilating the Jap Merchant Marine, they hadn’t done it yet by the Summer of 44. Also liberating an American Territory was important, not just politically, but for morale, and geopolitics in Asia. It would have been like if Russia just let Germany Keep the Crimea and bypassed it on their way to Berlin.

    Also capturing Formosa would have been like Okinawa just bigger. And while planners obviously did not have Okinawa to compare it too, they did have Saipan which was also a grueling fight. So it makes sense why they Chose the Philippians over Formosa.

    Now a really pointless operation would be Peleliu, but that would require hindsight which US planners obviously didn’t have when they were planning the US strategy.

  27. goodman 4 says:

    i have a question what was the US/Allies plans for South West Pacific like the Dutch East Indies ?

  28. Diego Torres says:

    What a topic! It gets me wondering, what if the Japanese never invaded the Philippines to avoid a war with the US as much as possible? Of course, inevitably a US task force would respond to Japanese aggression across SE Asia and the Pacific but from a offensive grand strategic posture rather than a Total war counteroffensive posture as we saw following the Pearl Harbor surprise attack: a grand campaign to sink every Japanese ship that was fuelled by an enraged US culture. Could we see a Midway-like engagement as a trap for a very green US fleet? And if successful could this action enhance US isolationism and deter congress from fighting a Pacific War that doesn't involve their colonies?

  29. runkm1986 says:

    Great job my grandpa was at the landing on Leyte on the USS Chara AKA-58 Any suggestions for book on Leyte Gulf?

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