MacArthur’s Phillipines or Nimitz’s Formosa? 
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MacArthur’s Phillipines or Nimitz’s Formosa? 


MacArthur’s Phillipines or Nimitz’s Formosa? 

In 1944, MacArthur favored a full-scale invasion of the Philippines, citing our moral obligation to its people.

In 1944, MacArthur favored a full invasion of the Philippines, citing a moral obligation to its people. Admiral Nimitz wanted to invade Formosa....

by Donald J. Roberts II and Lawrence C. Schneider

In 1944, following the American victories in the Pacific of operational commanders General Douglas MacArthur in western New Guinea and Admiral Chester Nimitz in the Marianas, American planners considered the next offensive against the inner defenses of Japan’s empire. General MacArthur wanted a full-scale invasion of the Philippines. He did not support any plan that included bypassing his “beloved islands.” Nimitz, on the other hand, thought that certain Philippine islands should be only stepping stones to an invasion of Formosa.

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MacArthur’s Moral Obligation

At a meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt in Hawaii in 1944, Nimitz argued that Formosa, located 200 miles north of the Philippines, would serve as a base to attack the Japanese in China. Nimitz reasoned that with U.S. bases on the mainland, strategic bombers would then be able to bomb the Japanese homeland. At the same time, the capture of Formosa would sever Japan from her sources of oil located to the south.

In 1944, MacArthur favored a full invasion of the Philippines, citing a moral obligation to its people. Admiral Nimitz wanted to invade Formosa....

Nimitz’s arguments were purely military, but MacArthur’s rebuttals were more emotional and political. MacArthur explained that America had a “moral obligation” to the citizenry of the Philippines to liberate them. He went on to add that thousands of Americans were imprisoned and suffering in the Philippines as well. Finally, MacArthur warned that the “Filipinos could forgive us for failing to protect them from the Japanese in the first place; they would even forgive our failing in an attempt to rescue them, but what they would not forgive was our not even trying to free them.”

Astonishing Victory

The final decision to either attack the Philippines or bypass them was made in September when Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey’s Third Fleet raided the Philippines as part of a series of attacks in preparation for invading the Palau Islands, 550 miles east of Mindanao, which is one of the Philippine Islands. During the raids, Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’s fast carriers launched their planes against enemy airfields and naval facilities located from the central Philippines south to Mindanao. Pilots from Mitscher’s Task Force 38 reported they had destroyed 478 planes and had sunk 59 ships.

This astonishing victory prompted Halsey to radio Nimitz with the news and suggestions that the plans to invade Mindanao in the south be canceled, because the Japanese were now weakened. He proposed that new plans be made to attack the Philippine island of Leyte. At the same time, Halsey reported that the enemy’s defenses on the Philippines were weak and could be overcome in a timely manner. The Formosa idea was set aside.

Originally Published April 22, 2014

Add Your Comments


  1. Posted June 23, 2015 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    My husband was a Gunners Mate in 5 theaters of war in WW11, 2 years Atlantic and 2 years Pacific. My father was in the “Lliberation of the Philippines”as a radioman with Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur. I grew up in this war and it’s still very vivid to me what American families went through, yet how patriotic they all were, East to West Coasts and Border to Border. I still fly my flag 24/7 lit at night for our troops and their families. That’s what we did in WW11 to support all Americans and our Country! What has happened to our beloved county? ‘911’ patriotism lasted about 3 weeks! They are still our fellow Americans and still members of our families! Start teaching History of our great country again…we are in a bubble, inflicted with self denial! Think of what country you would rather live in than America…can you?

  2. Dan
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    Well said! It was an incredible time, not to be forgotten. America pulled together like no nation ever has in history. It was, by no means an easy fight or an easy time for anyone and had Americans not given the supreme effort they did there is no doubt the axis would have won.

  3. YO
    Posted February 28, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Let’s not forget the Mexican Air Force that helped liberate the Philippines. The Fuerza Aerea Mexicana (FAM). Squadron 2011st known as The Aztec Eagles consisted of 300 enlisted men and officers from all branches of the military, including 38 of the best pilots. Its pilots provided air support in the liberation of the Philippines and flew long-range sorties over Formosa. The Fifth Air Force’s 58th Fighter Group, to which General George Kenney had assigned the 201st squadron, the so-called Aztec Eagles, was a seasoned veteran of the New Guinea campaign, consisting of three squadrons. The 201st was attached as a fourth, though it would operate under Mexican command and administration and occupy its own area. The pilots flew an intensive schedule incorporating ground attack, air combat, advanced acrobatics, instrument flying and navigation, and formation and high-altitude flight. The Aztec Eagles started flying missions as a unit. Their initial targets were buildings, vehicles, artillery and enemy concentrations in the Marikina watershed east of Manila, where the U.S. 25th Infantry Division was encountering fierce resistance. Their missions changed from hitting visible targets to striking hard to see troops and fortified positions in close proximity to friendly forces. Its pilots provided air support in the liberation of the Philippines and flew long-range sorties over Formosa, where they encountered no challengers. The Aztec Eagles owned the air, the sweep was completed successfully, and all pilots managed to return safely except for Lieutenant Reynaldo Perez Gallardo. The squadron flew its final mission, escorting a U.S. Navy convoy bound for Okinawa.
    Squadron 201st. Aztec Eagles losses, 3 Pilots lost in combat.3 Pilots lost in accidents,1Crash-landing & 2 Fuel exhaustion

    • YO
      Posted February 28, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      Typing mistake (Squadron 2001st)The Fuerza Aerea Mexicana (FAM). Squadron *201st* known as The Aztec Eagles

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