General Douglas MacArthur retired as U.S. Army Chief of Staff in 1937. Shortly thereafter, he went to the Philippines to serve in an advisory capacity to help develop the Philippine National Army. At the time, the United States had a small force of 22,532 soldiers commanded by Major General George Grunert in the Philippine Islands, about half of whom were native Filipinos. In July 1941, as tensions rose between the United States and the Empire of Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt recalled MacArthur to active service, naming him Commander of U.S. Forces, Far East.

Another Date that Lives in Infamy

General MacArthur set about building the defenses of the Philippines, organizing the largest concentration of American air power outside the continental United States and calling in the 200th Coast Artillery, the 192nd Tank Battalion and the 194th Tank Battalion – all National Guard units. MacArthur's forces also included 10 divisions of the newly formed and poorly equipped Philippine Army. MacArthur was commander over all American Forces in the Far East when Japan's December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii plunged the United States into World War II. The next day, December 8, Japan attacked the Philippine Islands. MacArthur commanded the defense of the Philippines until he was ordered by FDR to relocate to Australia in March, 1942. When he was evacuated, General MacArthur promised, "I shall return" – a promise he made good on October 20, 1944.