Willoughby now estimated - and events would prove him to be correct - that they would be met by over four thousand Japanese troops. MacArthur handed back the papers, turned to several anxious officers awaiting his decision, and said, in his calm way, "We shall continue as planned, gentlemen." After a pause he added that he intended to land with the troops. Krueger was alarmed. In his memoirs he writes: "He had expressly forbidden me to accompany our assault loadings and yet now he promised to do so himself. I argued that it was unnecessary and unwise to expose himself in this fashion and that it would be a calamity if anything happened to him. He listened to me attentively and thanked me, but added, 'I have to go.' He had made up his mind on the subject - and that was that."
The General spent most of that night alone at the Phoenix rail, gazing out at the black, phosphorescent sea. At dawn, when they dropped anchor in Hyane Harbor off Los Negros, they were greeted by a bombardment from Japanese shore batteries. A Life correspondent who was present wrote: "One salvo went over the ship. The second fell short. Men on the deck, expecting that the third might well be on the target, were preparing to get behind anything handy when it hit. MacArthur began to take an increased interest in the matter at that point, standing up straight on the bridge to survey the scene while chatting with his staff. Fortunately, his survey included the obliteration of the Jap gun positions by the cruiser, which had got the range in the nick of time."
Six hours later he went ashore in a pouring rain. The fighting was heavy. GIs of the 1st Cavalry Division wearing steel helmets and camouflaged battle dress were lying prone, but the General, conspicuous in his trench coat and cap, awarded a Distinguished Service Cross to the man who had led the first wave and then, to the amazement of his party, strolled casually inland. Anguished aides tried to persuade him not to expose himself. One senior officer warned him that he was in "very intimate danger." MacArthur lit up his corncob pipe, waved out the match, and explained that he wanted to get "a sense of the situation." A lieutenant touched him on the sleeve, pointed at a path, and said, "Excuse me, sir, but we killed a Jap sniper in there just a few minutes ago." The General nodded approvingly. "Fine," he said. "That's the best thing to do with them." Then he walked in that direction. Stumbling over the cadavers of two enemy soldiers who had been slain a few minutes earlier - their bodies were still warm - he continued on, merely remarking, "That`s the way I like to see them." A GI called, "You are beyond the perimeter, sir!" MacArthur courteously thanked him for the information, but he didn't break his stride until he came to a wounded American infantryman. Crouching down beside him, he took the man's hand and asked, "Son, what happened?"
John Gunther wrote: "He stalks a battlefront like a man hardly human, not only arrogantly but lazily."
The most dangerous spot on the island was the airstrip. Kenney had told the General that it could become "the most important piece of real estate in the theater." Now he wished he hadn't, because MacArthur was heading straight for it. From the number of corpses later counted there, officers estimated that eight hundred pairs of Japanese eyes were watching as, Kenney remembers, "General MacArthur wandered up and down the strip . . . digging into the coral surfacing to see how good it was." A correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post who had joined his entourage wrote: "With his yellow trench coat swinging out behind and smoke trailing from his pipe, MacArthur paced off the puddled coral runway himself. At first the width, and then down the length, far outside our lines." A dumbfounded cavalryman said afterward, "Why they didn't kill him, I don`t know."
/misc | Sep 01, 2007
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