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This is Terowie, a small town some 200 km north of Adelaide, nestled in the mid-north region of South Australia. Though only a small country town, Terowie is the site of one of the most significant historical events linked to World War II.
Here on this very station platform in Terowie stands a simple stone monument, nondescript and rough-hewn. It stands as a memorial, a silent witness of a bold [and] monumental speech given at this station on the 20 March, 1942.
It was here that General Douglas MacArthur, for the first time, resolutely declared, “I came out of Bataan, and I shall return”.
It was both a promise and a declaration of intent. Though MacArthur and his most trusted friends had been forced to withdraw and regroup from the advance of the Japanese army, he vowed that he would not be defeated. He promised that he would return to the Philippines to liberate the country, and complete the work that he’d begun.
MacArthur’s words provided reassurance to millions. Across the globe, the world waited with bated breath watching the great war theatres of Europe and the Pacific. At a time when it seemed as though the menace of defeat hung over the Allied Forces, MacArthur’s words provided a ray of hope.
Two and a half years later, on the 20 October 1944, MacArthur arrived off the beach of Leyte in the Philippines. Wading ashore from where his whaleboat had been grounded in knee-deep water, MacArthur stood on the beach and declared “I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil.”
After a long and hard-fought campaign, General MacArthur accepted the formal surrender of the Japanese on board the battleship USS Missouri, thus ending the hostility of the war and liberating the Philippines.
Join me on The Incredible Journey as we retrace the steps of General Douglas MacArthur, and relive the relief and excitement that accompanied the General’s return. And as we do so, we will relive another drama of deliverance that has a more profound impact on your future and mine.
THE EARLY YEARS
Douglas MacArthur was enmeshed in military life from the moment he was born. His father, Arthur MacArthur Jr was a United States Army Captain who was serving at Little Rock, Arkansas when his son Douglas was born in January of 1880.
Arthur MacArthur was a celebrated veteran of the American Civil War and received the Medal of Honour for his actions as part of the Union Army, during the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863.
Years later, his son Douglas MacArthur would be awarded the same honour for his actions during his time serving in the United States Army during World War II.
Douglas MacArthur spent much of his early life following his father on a succession of Army postings throughout the old American West where conditions were primitive and difficult. Writing about his experiences later MacArthur commented that he learned to ride and shoot almost before he learned to do anything else.
A few years later the family moved again, this time to San Antonio, Texas where MacArthur enrolled in the West Texas Military Academy. After graduating, MacArthur secured a coveted position at West Point Military Academy.
MacArthur quietly worked his way up the ranks of the military. First at Fort Leavenworth, where he was made battalion adjutant and then engineer officer shortly after. Later he became the head of the Military Engineering Department and the Field Engineering School.
The sudden death of his father in September 1912 brought MacArthur home to care for his mother, whose health had deteriorated. He requested a transfer to Washington D.C. so that his mother could be near [the] Johns Hopkins Hospital, and he was posted to the office of the Chief of Staff of the Army.
A few years later MacArthur, who by then had been promoted to the rank of Major, was appointed as the first press officer of the United States Army. Shortly after this, MacArthur was deployed to fight in World War I. He was sent with the 42nd Rainbow Division to the Western Front, where they were embroiled in some of the most intense fighting American forces were involved in [during] World War I.
For his service during World War I, MacArthur was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Distinguished Service Medal, two Purple Hearts and seven Silver Stars.
When the war ended MacArthur had risen to the rank of Brigadier General. After returning to the United States he was named Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at Westpoint. His contributions were such that today he is considered the father of the modern West Point Military Academy.
In 1922 MacArthur left West Point and was stationed in the Philippines, assuming command of the Military District of Manilla.
During this time in the Philippines MacArthur was called on to handle several sensitive situations, often having to calm heated confrontations and revolts. A few years after his arrival in the Philippines, in January 1925, he was promoted to the rank of Major General.
He returned to America that same year, serving in various commanding roles. In 1930 he was appointed Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army by President Herbert Hoover.
During this time as Chief of Staff, he assisted President Franklin Roosevelt in organising the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. This program facilitated employment opportunities for tens of thousands of young men who were without work.
By 1935 MacArthur had stepped down from his position of Chief of Staff and returned to the Philippines once more. He was named Field Marshal of the Philippines.
When he was named Field Marshal of the Philippines in 1935, one of the tasks that MacArthur was given was to prepare the Philippines for possible invasion by the Japanese. This meant that as early as 1935 there were rumblings of Japanese hostility.
AMERICA ENTERS WW2
And then on the 7 December 1941, a date that would live in infamy, the world tilted on its axis, and America, which had up to that point been largely focused on assisting the allied forces in Europe against Nazi advances, found that the war had moved into their own backyard.
Without warning, on the 7 December the Japanese attacked and bombed Pearl Harbour, and the United States officially entered the war. MacArthur was ordered by the War Office to organise the defence of the Philippines and to hold it against Japanese invasion.
Within hours, General MacArthur was advised to launch air raids against Japanese targets within range of the Philippines. And then just 45 minutes later, MacArthur’s staff were informed of a Japanese air attack on Davao Field in Mindanao.
By noon the Japanese began to bomb Clark Field, a primary U.S. airbase used specifically for B-17 bombers to launch offensive strikes. Unfortunately, the Japanese bombers were out of range of the Clark Field anti-aircraft guns.
Seven minutes after launching their air raid against Clark Field, Japanese bombers took off for a bombing raid on Iba Field, another U.S. airbase in the Philippines. Most of the U.S. aircraft stationed at Clark Field and Iba Field were either damaged or completely destroyed while they were still on the ground. Not a single one was airworthy.
MacArthur scrambled to slow the Japanese advance by launching a defence against Japanese landings, but his attempts failed, mainly because the American and Filipino forces were spread out too thinly across the country.
He ordered a retreat to Bataan and began to make plans to hold on to Bataan while awaiting reinforcements. The Japanese advanced on Manila and on the 24 December, 1941, Manila was declared an open city, abandoning all defensive efforts in preparation for Japanese occupation.
The same day MacArthur moved his headquarters to the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay. Soon after a series of Japanese air raids destroyed every exposed structure on the island, MacArthur and the United States military operations moved into the Malinta Tunnel.
The tunnel was built by the U.S. Army engineering corps to serve as a bomb shelter during wartime and was later used as a 1,000-bed hospital. MacArthur remained holed up in Corregidor for the next two months until, in February 1942, Japanese forces began to tighten their hold on the Philippines.
President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur and his core team to relocate to Australia. And so, on the 12 March 1942, the small group left Corregidor and travelled on motor torpedo boats through a storm in the now Japanese-controlled waters.
ARRIVING IN AUSTRALIA
They eventually reached Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao Island where they were picked up by U.S. Navy B-17s and flown onto Australia. He landed in Darwin and then made his way down to South Australia by train.
This is the very carriage on the Ghan train that General Douglas MacAthur travelled in through the Australian outback to Adelaide. He stopped at Terowie Station, where he made his now-famous speech, “I will return!”, promising to return and liberate the Philippines.
After his arrival in Australia, in April 1942, MacArthur was appointed as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area, with his headquarters located in Melbourne. MacArthur’s command was predominantly made up of Australian and American troops.
In July, MacArthur’s General Headquarters was moved to Brisbane, mainly because Brisbane was the northernmost Australian city equipped with the necessary communications facilities, and was closer to the front lines.
General Headquarters, or GHQ, as it came to be known, took up space here in the Australian Mutual Provident Society Building, and for two and a half years between 1942 and 1944 this was the Allies World War II headquarters for the South West Pacific.
Today it houses the MacArthur Museum which has preserved General Douglas MacArthur’s office just as it was when he worked here. Daily during that two and a half year period General MacArthur travelled to this office from his suite at the nearby Lennons Hotel.
During World War 2 there were only 4 cities in the world from which the Allies made their plans: Honolulu, Washington, London, and Brisbane.
DIRECTING THE FIGHTBACK
It was from this very office that MacArthur directed the Allies in holding back the Japanese invasion of the entire southwest Pacific region and planned his return to the Philippines. While sitting in a leather chair and working from here, MacArthur directed the war effort and one of the largest wartime military campaigns in history. It was from this room that the war was won.
Nearby is the original conference table that MacArthur and his colleagues used to examine the intelligence reports, thrash out their strategies and make their plans. The Japanese threat was serious, as this amazing military map of Queensland shows, that was uncovered at the end of the war. Every city, every town, every village, every river, every railway in Queensland – all labelled in Japanese!
Intelligence indicated that Japan would strike at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, and so MacArthur ordered that two new bases be established on the island, at Merauke and Milne Bay. The Japanese struck first at Buna in July 1942, and then at Milne Bay in August.
These two offensives marked the beginning of the Papuan campaign. Out of almost 20,000 Australian troops, over two thousand were killed and out of 15,000 American troops close to 1000 were killed during the Papuan Campaign.
The Australians of the 7th and 9th division spearheaded MacArthur’s advance along the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. They captured Lae and Finschafen. And then with the assistance of the U.S. 7th Fleet, MacArthur deployed the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division on the Admiralty Islands.
By the end of February, 1943 the Americans largely controlled the air and sea across the South Pacific. More than a year and a half later, in October 1944 U.S. troops landed in Leyte in the Philippines. After an absence of over two years, MacArthur had made good on his promise to return. He was back!
On the 20 October, 1944 MacArthur watched from onboard the USS Nashville as American troops landed on Leyte. That afternoon he boarded a whaleboat and approached the shore.
His boat was grounded on a sandbank in knee-deep water and he waded ashore. In a prepared speech on the beach at Leyte MacArthur declared. “People of the Philippines, I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil.”
ANOTHER PROMISED RETURN
MacArthur’s words are reminiscent of the words of another general. The general of the armies of heaven, a force far more powerful than any army this world has ever mustered. Standing at the head of this unstoppable troop is Jesus, as both General and Commander.
Two thousand years ago, shortly before His crucifixion Jesus gathered His disciples around Him and made a simple promise, “I go to prepare a place for you” he told them “and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again.”
It is one of the most poignant promises in all of scripture, the promise not only of a place in Heaven, but also of a general who would not leave his people to suffer and be oppressed but would come to set them free and offer them a better future.
The Bible is filled with promises and predictions about Jesus’ second coming. In fact, the New Testament alone has 260 predictions of Jesus’ return. The Bible doesn’t just tell us that Jesus is coming, but it also tells us how He will come and what signs will precede His coming as well.
But the second coming of Jesus is not something that’s confined to the pages of the New Testament alone. It has been the hope of every faithful child of God from the earliest days of the earth. Jude verse 14 tells us “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them,
“See the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones.”
Not long after, Job took up the same message with the words,
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth.” (Job 19:25)
Jesus’ second coming is a much-anticipated event not just for those who follow Him but for the entire planet. We live in a world that is saturated in violence, crime, poverty, despair, and hopelessness.
A planet that seems to be spiralling out of control. But Jesus’ promise to return offers us a glimmer of hope on an otherwise bleak horizon. In a world where economic depression, civil unrest and global confusion looms, Jesus offers us something better: a better world, a better home.
When Jesus comes again the Bible promises us that it will not be in secret. Revelation 1:7 says,
“Behold He is coming with clouds and every eye will see Him”.
Every eye. Eyes filled with hate, eyes filled with contempt, eyes filled with anticipation, eyes filled with hope. Every eye will take in that glorious sight.
Speaking of this Jesus himself said,
“…for as lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:27)
Like a blazing streak of light, stretching across the sky, Jesus will return.
When Jesus comes a second time He will not come as a helpless baby, born to poor parents living in the shadow of a tyrannical Roman Empire. Nor will he lie swaddled in a manger, with a stable chorus of bleating animals around him.
KING AND CONQUEROR
When Jesus comes again, He will come as a King and Conqueror. He will come as Creator of the universe, bounding across the sky to take His people home and recreate a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no more death, sorrow or pain.
What a glorious prospect. A world that is perfect and pristine, a world that is made new without a shadow of fear or pain. Speaking about the second coming the apostle Paul paints a picture of a joyful reunion. Here’s what he says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17,
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
These words are a promise of restoration and renewal. A promise that those we have lost, those we have been forced to be parted from will live again and enjoy the glory of heaven with us.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King. Soon and very soon, Jesus is going to come bursting through the vast depths of space, and He will be coming for you and me. Coming to take us home, coming to give us a place in heaven with Him for all eternity.
When General MacArthur landed in Leyte in 1944, the going was tough. MacArthur’s troops couldn’t advance very far. Japanese snipers roamed the area and there was sporadic mortar fire. It seemed like recovering the Philippines from the hands of the Japanese would be a long and hard battle.
But MacArthur and his troops persevered. The Japanese mounted heavy counterattacks both by air and by sea. As MacArthur watched the fighting from the bridge of the USS Nashville, Japanese bombs landed nearby, hitting nearby cruisers.
But in the end, all the perseverance and determination paid off. On the 5 July 1945, MacArthur announced that the Philippines had been liberated from the Japanese and all military operations had ended.
On the 6 August, 1945 at 8:15 am local time the United States detonated an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. Sixteen hours later U.S. President Harry Truman called for the Japanese to surrender.
Finally, after a second atomic bomb over Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito ordered that Japan accept the terms of the Allies. And on the 15 August, via a radio address, the Emperor announced the surrender of Japan to the allies.
The ceremony of surrender was held onboard the United States Navy battleship USS Missouri, and it was General Douglas MacArthur who formally accepted the Japanese surrender on board the battleship, thus ending the hostilities of World War II.
MacArthur made good on his promise to return and liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. He had to wade through war and blood to do it, but he was successful. In contrast, when Jesus returns it will be a far more glorious sight. But ultimately the results will be the same.
Jesus will liberate His people from a hostile world and give them the freedom they have longed for. But unlike a human general, the Commander of the armies of heaven can give us the assurance of eternity and peace. Peace that is unbroken.
If you would like to be among those who are liberated by Jesus at His coming; if you would like to be among those who are caught up to meet Him in the air; if you would like to cling to the promise of eternity – then I’d like to recommend the free gift we have for you today.
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Be sure to join us again next week, when we will share another of life’s journeys together. Until then, let’s ask God for a place in His eternal Kingdom. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the promise of Jesus’ return and the invitation to share eternity with you. It’s a promise of hope and freedom from the trials and troubles in this world. We want to reach out and accept your gift. We want to share eternity with you in Heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.