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On De las Casas and MacArthur

12:01 AM February 07, 2015

In his commentary titled “Meditations on the Pope, history and faith” (Opinion, 1/9/15), Rex D. Lores wrote about Bartolome de las Casas, champion of the Indians of the Americas, and commented: “To their eternal misfortune, the Indios of Filipinas did not have a friar in the mold of Las Casas…”

But in fact they did, in the person of the first bishop of Manila, Domingo Salazar, OP, who defended the Filipinos from slavery. Ample documentation can be found in Blair & Robertson’s 55-volume compilation, “The Philippine Islands.”

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In an earlier commentary on Douglas MacArthur titled “MacArthur’s folly” (Opinion, 12/8/14), Mr. Lores observed: “[T]he available historical evidence about that tragic day (Dec. 8, 1941) contains gaps, contradictions and complexities that make it difficult for historians to assign guilt.”

He himself appeared to have overlooked some of the available evidence when he faulted MacArthur for not redeploying the US Air Force, particularly the B-17s, and allowing them to be caught on the ground. But the British military writer Richard Connaughton in his “MacArthur and Philippine Defeat” reports that MacArthur gave the order to redeploy the B-17s to Del Monte in Mindanao on Dec. 1. When this was not followed by Dec. 4, another order was given, but only half the bombers were sent down, because Maj. Gen. Lewis Brereton was celebrating his birthday at the Manila Hotel on the evening of Dec. 7 and retained the other 18 bombers in Luzon.

MacArthur also cannot be faulted for the incompetent tactical decisions that had the fighter pilots all having lunch at the same time when the Japanese arrived. Why did the operations officers not stagger protective patrols around the clock?

It is also far-fetched for Mr. Lores to involve Japan’s signing of the tripartite pact with Germany and Italy on Sept. 27, 1940, because MacArthur was given command of the Usaffe in July 1941.

If MacArthur can be faulted, it is for logistical inadequacy in getting sufficient supplies to Bataan. US war correspondents (like Joseph C. Harsch) mentioned rice stocks in Cabanatuan which should have been moved.

This may have been in deference to civilian needs, but the masterful “sideslip of a whole army of 90,000 into Bataan with Japanese forces attacking on two fronts enabled the upsetting of the Japanese timetable, which had called for taking the Philippines in 50 days but actually took five months, the only instance in the Japanese initial onslaught where such a delay occurred.” Give MacArthur credit for that.

—BENITO LEGARDA JR.

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TAGS: Bartolome de las casas, Douglas MacArthur, letters
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