ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Duel Between General Homma and MacArthur and the Philippine Battles

Updated on December 31, 2017

The beginning

World War II is a watershed in world history and was in many ways the “Mother of all wars”. The Japanese for perhaps what are now known as valid reasons decided to breakout of the stranglehold of the US and Britain and launched a war in SE Asia. Their initial success was simply magnificent as the Imperial army swept all before it. In 1942 One of the steps of the Imperial army was to invade the Philippines. The commander of the Imperial army was Lieutenant General Mashharu Homma.

Philippines were a protectorate of the USA and it had a large contingent of the US armed forces stationed there. The Japanese attack was characterized by lightning speed as well as a well formulated battle plan. The commander of the US forces was general Douglas MacArthur who faced General Homma. In this battle general Homma proved himself an astute general and MacArthur had to flee the Philippines.

general Homma at his war crimes trial
general Homma at his war crimes trial

The battle

. The battle lasted for 3monthsfrom 7 Jan-9 April 1942 and at the end almost 75000 US and Philippine troops surrendered. The battle is important as it is the first occasion that such a large number of US troops surrendered

This by itself is not anything new, as in war surrenders do take place. But this surrender needs evaluation as its aftermath an act of great cruelty by the Imperial army took place. Before this the Americans were outthought and outgunned by the astute Homma, a fact that rankled with MacArthur later when Homma was brought to trial as a war criminal. The fighting was severe, but the Imperial army carried the day.

Do you feel general Homma Merited the Death penalty ?

See results

Escape of General MacArthur

General MacArthur slunk away secretly by a special boat to Australia leaving another American general to surrender the US Troops. MacArthur if he had some strategic sense should have immediately planned to evacuate the troops to Australia when the Japanese offensive began, but he had no such plans and finally like Rommel leaving the Afrika Corps to fend for himself while he escaped to Germany, MacArthur also left his troops and escaped to Australia

. This was to say a step dictated by self-survival and has not been adequately covered by western writers who have tried to cover the escape in romantic tales. Leaving the soldiers to become POWs of the Japanese was the first step in great hardship for the captured soldiers. The US general staff were aware of the Japanese philosophy of treating surrendered men and a harsh treatment was only expected of them.

US troops captured/ The Death March

General Homma accepted the surrender of US and Philippine troops and now their ordeal began. The captured POWs without food and water were made to walk 80 miles from Mariveles Corregidor to San Fernando. A box train was used by the Japanese army to take the POWs from San Fernando to Capas. This train had no ventilation or sanitary facilities. This is known as the Bataan death march.
The death march consisted of making the POWs walk on foot for the entire day without stopping. No food or water was given by the Japanese. Those POWs who were sick or infirm were just bayoneted to death by the Japanese soldiers. Nearly 12000 Philippine and US soldiers died in this death march.

End of the War

One wonders how this atrocity took place as Japanese ignored all canons of law and the Geneva Convention, while executing this march. At the end of the war this was classified as a war crime and general Homma was arrested. General Homma denied that he had knowledge of this crime but this by itself is a weak defense as a commander in the battlefield must know what his subordinates are doing.

The trial of General Homma

The trial commenced on 3 January 1946 at Manila. The Philippine population which had suffered badly at the hands of the Japanese was hungry for the blood of the general who was classified as the ‘Butcher of Manila’. General Homma pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He claimed that he was not aware of the march and the subsequent hardship it caused. In court he came out as a suave, polished officer of the Imperial army. But witness after witness testified on oath that General Homma was responsible, though the court could find no document that directly linked Homma with the acts of the Imperial army.

Weak evidence

Most of the evidence presented would not in modern jurisprudence pass the test of natural justice. But as Homma had mentioned the trial was a foregone conclusion and Homma was sentenced to death by a firing squad. The supreme Court of the United States refused to intervene though two judges Frank Murphy and Wiley Rutledge dissented and in their judgments asked that the trial be not treated as a trial by a victor as it would set “dangerous precedents
The question which needs to be answered is whether Homma received a just sentence or not? There is no doubt that the death march took place and thousands died. The event took place when the Imperial army commander was general Homma. It is possible he was not fully aware as he claimed about the death march. But in legal jurisprudence there is something called vicarious liability. Homma was thus culpable; a commander cannot absolve himself of the act of his troops. But perhaps he did not merit the death sentence.

The finale

The defending team led by Major Skeene and Lieutenant Robert Petz recall that they were convinced that Homma was not culpable to be shot by a firing squad. But the handpicked members of the Court martial did what MacArthur expected them to do, sentencing Homma to Death. The general’s wife also met General MacArthur in Tokyo and requested him to review the sentence. MacArthur has recorded this in his book, but he confirmed the Generals death sentence. One factor that may have played on the mind of MacArthur was his humiliating defeat earlier at the hands of Homma.

The defense lawyers were convinced Homma was not guilty and at the most merited only a prison sentence. One has a lurking feeling that the bigger crime of general Homma was of having defeated MacArthur in the battle of Bataan. Hence he was executed in a nondescript place in the jungle with no trace.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      thank you Lions for your opinion. Nice to read it.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      I respect your argument Emge, but I have to disagree. I just finished General Wainwright's memior of his time in captivity. Homma was directly responsible because he accepted Wainwright's surrender personally (on film) and could have improved the treatment of American and Fillipino soliders immediately prior to his removal from command in June 1942 (he remained as CO in name only; Yamashita took over). Orders could have been written up and approved. But nothing was done. Same goes for Yamashita.

      As for MacArthur, ego did a play a role in his decisions. There's no doubt about it. That doesn't make them bad decisions. His greatest achievement was the occupation of Japan, far greater than any of his battlefield victories. And his performance in the Philippines was not up to par, including his return in 1944.

    • emge profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you Nate B11 for commenting and reading

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 

      3 years ago from California, United States of America

      Very interesting events in world history.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)