The famous “I Will Return” broadcast by General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines

It is just 58 years this week since General Douglas MacArthur made his famous “I have returned” speech from the shortwave facilities on board three different radio ships at the beginning of the return invasion of the Philippines. The date was October 22, in the year 1944. This is how it all happened.

In their concerted drive into the Pacific, the Japanese army landed on the north coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines on December 10, 1941. The American and Filipino troops were slowly pushed southwards until they were concentrated on Bataan Peninsula and on Corregidor Island, near the mouth of Manila Bay. General Douglas MacArthur was on Corregidor Island at the time and he listened to the daily news bulletin every evening on shortwave from KGEI in San Francisco.

General MacArthur was ordered by the president of the United States to evacuate to Australia, and before leaving he told his support staff that he intended to return as soon as possible. MacArthur, together with his wife and son, were quietly taken out of the Manila Bay area by small boat to a port in the southern Philippines where they boarded a plane for Australia. Soon afterwards, both Bataan and Corregidor surrendered.

However, in the meantime, the American forces in the Philippines established a shortwave radio station that identified on air as “Freedom Radio”. This new station was first noted in Australia in February 1942 using a channel in the 31 metre band.

Now, in the era immediately prior to these events, the original Far East Broadcasting Company, station KZRB, operated at least two mobile radio stations on shortwave. It is thought that one of these mobile stations was taken over by the American army and used on the Bataan peninsula for the broadcasts of “Freedom Radio”.

This station was afterwards transferred to Corregidor Island, where it was noted until the time of surrender. It is probable that army equipment was also used for the broadcasts of “Freedom Radio,” both on Batman Peninsula and on Corrugators Island.

MacArthur’s flight to Australia took him across Indonesia and Timor, with the intent to land at Darwin. However, because of an air raid at the time, his flight was diverted to Batchelor, some 30 miles further south. Here it was that he made the first of three speeches, re- iterating his promise to make a triumphal return to the Philippines.

According to several of his biographies, he made the same speech again at Alice Springs a day later, and a couple of days later again at the railway station in Adelaide, using on each occasion his handwritten notes on the back of an envelope. Radio station KGEI also rebroadcast this information on shortwave to the Pacific.

In Australia, MacArthur made his headquarters at first in Melbourne and then later in Brisbane. Radio magazines of that era state that a railway train was fitted up for use as his headquarters, complete with several communication transmitters, though this is not mentioned in any of his available biographies. As the fortunes of war changed, MacArthur again moved his headquarters, to Port Moresby and then to Hollandia, both on the island of New Guinea.

At this stage, the radio ship “Apache“, followed by the smaller radio ship “FP47“, arrived in Hollandia from Sydney Harbour in Australia. The return invasion was imminent and the American forces sailed for the Philippines, together with the “Apache” and the little “FP47” trailing at the end of the invasion fleet.

This massive fleet arrived in Elite Gulf on the evening of October 20, the “Apache” made a series of inaugural broadcasts on October 21, and Macarthur announced to the world on October 22, 1944, “I have returned,” in fulfillment of the promise he had made more than two years earlier.

The inaugural invasion was made at Red Beach, north of Palo on Samar Island. Here it was that MacArthur waded ashore in preparation for his “I have returned” speech. An American army vehicle, a weapons carrier, was fitted up as a mobile communication station and MacArthur made his speech from this location.

This mobile broadcast was picked up on the navy vessel “Nashville” and re-broadcast on several shortwave frequencies for reception throughout the Philippines. The “Apache” also relayed this broadcast, and the “FP47” carried news dispatches in Morse Code containing the same information.

Two days later, MacArthur returned to the navy vessel “Nashville” and made a repeat broadcast, this time for all the world to hear. The “Apache” relayed this programming to the

United States where it was picked up in California and broadcast to the Pacific via KGEI as well as via other shortwave stations in California.

Almost every biography on General Douglas MacArthur makes reference to his legendary radio broadcasts, “I will return,” and subsequently “I have returned”. The date of his first “I have returned” broadcast was October 22, 1944.

Interestingly, October 22, 1844 is a very significant date in Bible prophecy and in American religious history. General Douglas MacArthur made his famous “I have returned” speech exactly 100 years later to the very day, a fact that is sometimes presented by Gospel preachers on radio and television.

This week forms the anniversary 58 years later of these famous radio broadcasts that were carried on shortwave from the transmitters located on three vastly different ships. These ships were the freighter “Apache”, the U.S. Navy vessel “Nashville”, and the converted fishing trawler “FP47”.

From: Wavescan 408, October 20, 2002

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“Wavescan” is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave).