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I Shall Return

John Mina

Manila, December 8, 1941 3:40 a.m.

Brigadier General Dwight D. Eisenhower was shaken from a deep sleep by a relentless cacophony. He sat up instantly when he realized it was the telephone on the nightstand. "What is it?" he barked, trying to sound more annoyed than alarmed.

"It's the Japs, General!" screamed the reply. "They just hit Pearl Harbor!"

There was a brief pause as the general tried to absorb the full impact. "Spence, is that you? Settle down! Is it confirmed or just another one of those bullshit rumors going around?"

General Spencer B. Akin of the Signal Corps tried to respond with some composure. "It's on the wire service and one of my boys heard it announced on a Los Angeles radio broadcast. Also, Admiral Hart confirms it. Seems the Navy lads knew about this twenty-five minutes ago."

"Christmas! Why is it that when we don't want news to travel it moves faster than a fly towards buttermilk but when there's important information . . . anyway, thanks, Spence. Stay on the horn and keep me posted." He hung up the phone and picked it back up again. "This is General Eisenhower. Put me through to General MacArthur immediately."

About three maddening minutes later he heard a voice on the other end. "Who the hell is this?"

"It's Ike, General. The Japs just hit Pearl."

"Pearl Harbor?" MacArthur exclaimed in astonishment. "But that's our strongest point! They must have gotten their tails whipped!"

"We don't have any damage reports yet. In any case we need to put the men on alert."

"I agree, Ike, but don't initiate anything without my orders."

"No, sir. But I do need to have Doolittle and Patton prepare for possible invasion."

"Just have them put their men on standby. I doubt we'll be attacked. If we go off half-cocked and this turns out that a few Jap reconnaissance planes were shot down over Hawaii we'll be a laughingstock."

Eisenhower's head was swimming as he struggled pulling his pants on. How the heck did I get into this mess? he thought. Then he recalled his friend back in DC. "Marshall! When I get home I'll have to kick his butt."

Ike had known the situation here, in the Philippines, for many years as did any of the military personnel who had spent as much time here as he had. They were the obvious strategic target for an ever more aggressive Japanese empire, as most military experts agreed. However, local politics, the distracting behavior of the Germans, and MacArthur's innate ability to alienate everyone in Washington had placed them in a position of almost hopeless vulnerability. Back in '38, he went, on behalf of MacArthur, to Washington to try and drum up support for the Philippines but the emotional climate there had been less than favorable. This was due to the fact that the Filipinos were clamoring for independence. As far as the War Department was concerned, as long as they were pushing for independence, they could "jolly well look after themselves." After a campaign of unsuccessful begging, he finally bought a few planes on his own and returned to Manilla.

Then in '39, when the Germans invaded Poland, he had asked, and had been granted a transfer back to Washington. As he worked feverishly to prepare for the inevitable war in Europe, his conscience had been nagged by feelings of guilt over having deserted his friends in the Pacific. In an effort to clear his mind he once again pleaded MacArthur's case to Marshall. "That was my mistake," he muttered to himself as he finished tying his shoes.

To his shock, Marshall had agreed with him. "You're right Ike. We do need to bolster the Philippines. And you're gonna take charge, personally. I need a workhorse out there, not just grandstanding. Plus, you're the only one that can get around MacArthur's ego. As long as you humor him, he'll give you free reign. You know what to do."

Eisenhower was too stunned to respond. Before he could formulate a tactful refusal, Marshall was standing and giving instructions to his secretary to write out the orders. Of course Marshall was right, but Ike wasn't expecting this sudden change of plans. "I'm going to need some good people, George. I can't go it alone," he shouted as Marshall reached the door.

"Whatever you need, Ike. Just get the job done."

So here he was, getting the job done. Unfortunately he hadn't been given whatever he needed. But he did manage to get a lot more than otherwise would have been sent to MacArthur, as well as George Patton and Jim Doolittle.

He had completed making himself presentable although he knew his appearance would fall well below what MacArthur considered appropriate for a commanding officer. However, he couldn't spare the time for even a shave. He grabbed the sentry and ordered the confused soldier to drive to headquarters.

When the jeep pulled up there were already some officers present, hurriedly trying to straighten their uniforms. How could everyone know so fast? he thought. A cup of hot coffee was placed in his hands as he entered the building. "Call a general meeting for all available senior officers in one hour," he commanded to the nearest of his staff.

"Should we order an alert, General?"

"No! No alerts. Not yet," he replied too angrily and went into his office. Before he reached his desk, the phone was ringing. He grabbed the receiver and sat down. "Yes?" he said.

"Is that you, Ike?"

Eisenhower recognized Patton's voice. "Yes, George. Where are you?"

"Where the hell do you think I am? I'm in bed. What the hell's going on? I got a call from my chief of staff who says the whole place is buzzing. Is there some kind of fire or something?"

"The Japs just hit Pearl. That's the word. Could be a hoax but I'm not taking any chances. Get down here as soon as you can."

"Jesus Christ! I'll be right over. Don't start the war without me!"

Five minutes later Eisenhower was on the line with Colonel James Doolittle. "Jimmy, have you heard?"

"Sure have, Ike. Is it real?"

"Don't know yet but I don't want us to get caught with our pants down. I want you to send up some reconnaissance."

"Already ahead of you. I've got my boys on rotating patrol covering the ocean in a hundred-mile radius doubling up from here to Formosa. Of course we're spread pretty thin. We're using every available plane, even those damn Buffaloes. I'd have another fifteen fighters ready if we had the goddamn spare parts!"

"I know, I know. They've been promising us the moon . . ."

" . . . And don't even send us moonshine. We have to make our own."

"Well, whatever we have now is all there is. We have to make due. What about the bombers?"

"Most of them can be ready to fly in a few hours," Doolittle replied.

"I mean what about their safety? What if the Jap fighters slip through?"

"Not likely. Just in case, do you want to move them to Del Monte field?"

"What do you think?"

"I'll move them. I'll be at Clark if you need me."

By the time Patton arrived, Eisenhower had finished briefing his senior officers. "Good to see you, George."

"What's the scuttlebutt? Did they hit or not?"

"I just had a screaming match with Admiral Hart. The louse got word from his buddy Kimmel in Honolulu. Then he just sat on the information."

"Those swabbos can be real assholes. So it's for real?" Patton was leaning forward in his seat.

"I think this is it. There was definitely an attack of some sort but we don't know too many details. Hart thinks we got creamed but MacArthur called me and said he heard that the Japanese had suffered a setback. He said he heard it from the War Plans Division."

"Well, whatever the outcome, the bastards attacked us. I'll mobilize right away. Any news from the flyboys?"

"Hold off on mobilizing, George. The Old Soldier doesn't want us to do anything the Japs might consider 'overtly hostile.' It seems that he's getting a lot of pressure from the local governor to keep the Philippines neutral and MacArthur doesn't think the Japs will attack us, but if we become too aggressive he thinks we might force them to."

"Christ Almighty! They just bombed the shit out of an American city. Sounds pretty damn 'overt' to me. What the hell's he waiting for; some Nip to blow up his garden? Let that little shit of a governor squawk. Who do you think he'll come whining to if there is an invasion?" Patton was now pacing furiously.

"Settle down, old friend, I agree. But there's a lot we can still do without directly violating orders. We can call it a drill or maneuvers. Get everyone ready to move and start sending detachments north. If they hit us, that's the direction they'll come from. Just try to keep it low-key."

Patton stopped and thought, then smiled to his commander. "Low-key it is," he said and without another word was out the door.

About an hour later Doolittle was back on the line. "I just got a call from Hap Arnold. We did get hit at Pearl pretty bad."

"Any more details? What about orders?" Eisenhower was hoping for a green light from Washington.

"No details. He just said, 'Step up patrols and move the bombers south,' and I said, 'Yes, sir. Good idea. Thank you, sir.'"

"You know, Jimmy, you can be a realó"

"I know. All my friends tell me that. So what now?"

"Anything in from your men in the air?"

"Still too dark. But the sun will be up in about an hour. By then I'll have a squad over Takao Harbor."

It was only forty minutes later when Doolittle reported back. "Reports are coming in, Ike! Seems Formosa's fogged in but there's a shitload of Jap troop transports heading our way. There's also been a few skirmishes with enemy fighters that are probably from carriers. We lost some planes, General."

"Damn! Get all the B-17s that are already fitted out in the air as soon as possible. I don't care what MacArthur says now. We're moving. Got it?"

"Yes, sir. It should take about an hour and a half."

Eisenhower called MacArthur but was told that the general was in a meeting with the Filipino governor.

Patton was next on his list and, fortunately, was easier to reach.

"To heck with low-key, George. There's an invasion force on the way, most likely headed for Lingayen Gulf."

"I'm glad you said to drop the 'low-key,' Ike, because the whole island is buzzing like a hornet's nest. The locals are all heading south in droves and there have even been some reports of looting. So far the Filipino soldiers are sticking around but we'll see what happens when the shit starts to fly."

"What's the armor status?"

"Crappy. As you know, the five Grants they sent keep bogging down in the soft ground so they're pretty useless anywhere but the roads. Of the twenty-six Stuarts, we've had to cannibalize three for parts and another five are off-line until the goddamn parts come in. I wouldn't hold my breath. One platoon is too far south to do us any good. That leaves us with fourteen to try to repel a fullscale invasion."

"How about infantry?"

"We should be able to bring up about thirty-five hundred of our boys and two thousand locals."

"Why so few Filipinos?"

"Listen, Ike. I had to go through about twenty for every one that I kept. For one thing, they speak about a hundred different languages. And most of them just don't get it. I'd rather have a thousand soldiers than a hundred thousand pack bearers."

"What are your thoughts?"

"I think the Old Soldier is right. Looks like the bastards will hit the beaches at Lingayen. He's also right about stopping the Japs there. Once they get a beachhead they'll go through the rest of the island like crap through a goose. I'm moving out right away along with my men. Wanna come?"

"Actually I do plan on moving my headquarters north. What are our chances of stopping them?"

"I can't make any promises, Ike. But I will tell you that our boys won't run until they get the order. They're damn good men, every one of them, and the Japs are gonna have to pay a lot of blood for beachfront property."

It was ten o'clock before General Eisenhower got a call back from MacArthur. "This is Eisenhower, General. Do you have any more updates?"

"What the hell's going on, Eisenhower? My aides tell me the whole island is in an uproar. I told you not to sound an alert! You may have just single-handedly brought this whole country into the war."

Ike knew he was getting bawled out in that unnerving way his superior had of screaming without raising his voice. "But, General, the enemy is attacking. We've already lost some planes!"

"You think I don't know what's going on? You think I'm just sitting here sipping tea? Of course we lost some planes. That hot dog Doolittle sent our boys buzzing over their base like a swarm of bees. You think the Japanese aren't going to react? That act of his may have been enough to incite the enemy to attack. I'll have his hide when things settle down!"

"But, General. There have been reports that an invasion force is crossing the strait."

"Listen, Eisenhower. We don't know what's going on. It could be maneuvers or routine patrols. It would not be in the interest of the Japanese to invade here. I want you to prepare all air and ground defenses only. Do not bomb their bases on Formosa. That's an order, General. Do you read me?"

"Yes, General. But . . ." He heard the click of the receiver being slammed down. Ike cursed silently. Immediately, the phone rang again. Eisenhower quickly picked it up. "We must have been cut off, General MacArthur. I was going to ask . . ."

"Hold on, Ike. It's Jimmy. You sound like you've been getting your ass chewed!"

"That's an understatement. We've been ordered not to bomb Formosa. Can you believe that?"

"That's not gonna be a problem, Ike." Doolittle's voice was on the edge of hysteria. "From the reports my boys have been sending in we're in no position to attack their bases. The fog cleared and ever since, their airfields have been busier than a two-peckered goat. Our pilots claim the skies are black with Jap planes. I'm sure some formations are being reported more than once but from what we can figure, there's probably a couple hundred planes on the way. Sounds like an equal mix of bombers and fighters. Our patrols have been ordered to get the hell out of there and prepare to defend our coasts."

"What about our bombers?"

"All but three B-17s are in the air. It took longer than I promised but most are loaded with bombs and waiting for orders. The three on the ground are gonna stay there because we don't have the parts to make 'em fly, dammit."

"I'm afraid all we can do is order the flying ones to safer fields in the south while the Japs tear up whatever is in their range. Let's get every fighter armed and airborne, Jimmy. We can't stop them but at least we'll make sure they don't have a cakewalk."

"Listen, Ike. If we just sit here and wait the whole country will be overrun in no time. We've gotta try and stop the invasion force."

"I agree, but how the heck are we going to do it? Patton doesn't have enough men and tanks to do more than slow them down for a little while. I'm afraid we have to start getting ready to pull out."

"You know this position is the key to the Pacific. We have to hold out at all costs."

"You have a suggestion?"

"Well. We do have the bombers."

"I told you. We can't touch Formosa."

"We don't have to. What about hitting their ships?

Eisenhower paused for a few seconds. "You're talking about using B-17s to attack troop transports. Can that be done?"

"Why not? We'll have to come in real low, maybe fifty feet, and most will miss, but if any hit . . ."

"Their fighters will be all over us."

"I didn't say it would be a free ride, Ike. I don't know how many of ours will make it back. But what else can we do?"

"I don't know. It's a pretty big sacrifice."

"I'll take that as a yes. And listen, Ike. I'm going up to direct the whole thing personally. I'll take my own squadron as part of the escort. If it looks too hopeless I'll call the whole thing off."

"Carry on, Jim. And may God watch over you."

* * *

Colonel James Doolittle eased up on the throttle of his personally modified racing P-38 and signaled for the other eleven planes in his squadron to do the same. He was anxious to try the new planes in combat. Because of his aviation record he managed to get the first dozen P-38s made for himself and his hand-picked squadron. The rest of his fighter pilots had to fly the P-40s except for the poor bastards stuck with the P-36s. Below the sparse cloud ceiling he could see the entire Jap transport fleet. He picked up the radio transmitter to contact the lead bomber pilot. "Eggbeater. This is Thunderbird One. Over."

A clear voice responded. "I got you, Thunderbird. Any luck?"

"I'll say. The whole school of fish! Their position is about twenty-three miles from you at heading one-four-niner. No sign of mosquitoes yet but I know they're out there. Signal the others to begin their approach. And be prepared to abort if things get too hot."

"Yeah, sure thing. We'll just fly home, sit in the cabana and guzzle beer, while the doughboys get plastered all over the beach."

"Just keep an ear open for my orders, smartass."

Doolittle held his squadron back, not wanting to alert the enemy before the bombers came into view. It wasn't long before he could see them down below, diving even lower. "All right, boys. It's off to the races! Thunderbird Seven through Twelve, break right. The rest, follow me." With that, he pressed the throttle and sped toward the fleet.

It wasn't long before the action started. The excited voice on the radio squealed out, "Thunderbird One. This is Thunderbird Seven. Looks like about six mosquitoes heading right for our bombers."

Doolittle responded with a calm voice. "We'll get 'em Thunderbird Seven. You just keep your eyes peeled for the main flock. Now that we've been spotted they'll be showing up any minute." He wobbled his plane to signal the rest of the squadron, then put it into a power dive heading straight for the lead enemy fighter.

Four minutes later he was circling to gain altitude. He tried not to feel too invincible as he watched the last Jap plane crash into the sea. "Thunderbird Seven. This is Thunderbird One. Enemy planes have been neutralized."

"This is Thunderbird Seven. You guys could have left some for the rest of us. Hoooweee, they sure do burn bright when they catch fire!"

"Don't worry Thunderbird Seven. That was just a scouting patrol. There'll soon be plenty for everybody. Just keep your eyes . . . holy shit!"

Doolittle could see two large groups of Japanese fighters coming in low from the north. "All pilots. This is Thunderbird One. We got about forty Zeros coming in. Try to stay in formation but from here on we're pretty much on our own. Protect the bombers! Let's go!"

The first group of enemy fighters dove for the bombers while the rest broke into smaller groups to attack the American fighter escort. He ignored the second group and dove straight for the first. He intercepted them just before they hit the lead B-17. A short burst from his guns started a Zero smoking; he pulled up fast to avoid a pair of enemies on his tail. He would have been a goner but at the speed he was traveling he quickly outpaced them.

Doolittle turned his plane and saw the first two B-17s being swarmed by Japanese planes. One of the American bombers already belched thick black smoke from one of the engines. He did a quick barrel roll to the right to elude the new fighters on his tail and swooped right into the thick of the fray, taking care to stay out of range of the bomber's tail gunner. He sent another Zero plummeting toward the ocean before he was able to catch his breath and assess the battle.

His fighters seemed to be doing okay so far. Although they were badly outnumbered most of the Jap fighters were concentrating on the B-17s. Of course the Zeros going up against his squadron were shocked at the speed and maneuverability of his expert flyers. The American bombers were also knocking down a few enemy planes but, for the most part, were getting hammered. At least two were down and two more were in trouble. But they were making their final runs now and it looked like most would get to drop their loads.

He gunned his engine and raced to protect the lead B-17. He shot down another Zero but three more closed in and the bomber exploded. Doolittle watched the next well-escorted B-17 drop its bombs. Great geysers erupted in front of the Jap troop ship but it remained undamaged. "Dammit!" he cursed. Then, as he watched the bomber begin to regain altitude, he realized what had to be done.

He screamed into the radio, "All Thunderbird and Blue fighters. This is Thunderbird One. Cease escort after the birds lay their eggs. Repeat. Protect only loaded bombers!"

"Jesus Christ, Colonel! Do you know what you're saying?" came an unidentified voice.

"Just do it!" He turned his plane around and headed for the B-17s that were still making their bomb run. He could see some of the Jap fighters going for the now unescorted American bombers. He knew they wouldn't be able to resist.

A series of loud explosions drew his attention downward and he saw a troop ship break in half. The dogfights were still furious but, with a number of the enemy drawn off, the odds were a lot more even. Again and again bombers were able to score hits which were always kills on the light transports. Doolittle watched in horror as a dying B-17, hounded by Zeros, made a lumbering turn and crashed right into an enemy ship.

The colonel downed another plane before the last B-17 dropped its load, scoring a direct hit, instantly demolishing a troop ship. "All planes back to base!" he screamed into the transmitter. "All Blues and Thunderbirds. Cover bombers. Come on boys, let's discourage them from chasing us." He then led a savage attack on the Zeros continuing to harass the bombers. Oh, Christ! he thought as he scanned the sky and counted the few survivors.

General Eisenhower paid no attention to the bouncing jeep as his driver negotiated the potholes. He welcomed any distraction to keep his mind off Doolittle's suicide run. When they approached the next checkpoint he could see a sergeant waving him down and his heart started pounding.

"Message for General Eisenhower."

Five minutes later he was on the phone. "Jimmy. This is Ike. Thank God you made it!"

"Yeah," came the somber reply. "But I don't have a lot of company."

"And the mission?"

"I think we knocked out about half their troops. There were a lot of smoking wrecks in the ocean when we left, Ike, but they weren't all ships."

"Well done, Colonel," Eisenhower offered.

"You might not think so when you hear the bill."

There was a brief pause. "How bad?"

"We lost fourteen fighters. Most of the P-40s from Blue squadron. But we downed between thirty and thirty-five fighters."

"And the bombers?"

Now Doolittle paused. "The B-17s took eighty percent casualties, General."

"Dear God," came Eisenhower's reply.

The pilot continued. "I take full responsibility. I ordered the fighters to protect the planes that hadn't unloaded."

"You did what you had to do to get the job done, Jim."

"But was it enough?"

"We'll know by tomorrow. Things have been pretty hectic here while you were gone."

"I heard. Reports are still coming in."

"Bring me up to date. I've been on the road," the general said as he took out his pen.

"Most of our fighters accounted well for themselves, Ike. Except the poor bastards in those worthless Buffaloes. They went down faster than the Hindenburg. Over all we lost about twenty-five planes that were defending the island. Plus the three grounded B-17s. But we dropped over forty of their bombers and at least a dozen more Zeros. The Jap pilots must have had a few mixups. Probably because they had so many targets. Whatever the reason, some of their bomber squadrons had no escorts and we just slaughtered them. Also, those antiaircraft batteries you let me install at the airfields were pretty effective."

"And the airfields?"

"Pretty chopped up. There's only two runways still operational for fifty miles. We'll have at least two more cleared in about forty-eight hours. But Clark is just a big trashpile. Also, there are dozens of buildings and installations burning. I'll tell you, Ike. First chance I get, I'm gonna take every plane I can get my hands on and bomb the hell out of Tokyo!"

"You do that and you'll have me cheering loudest, Jimmy. Salvage what you can and keep the remaining fighters ready for additional attacks. If the Japs are following through with their invasion the assault should start in about thirty-six hours. And . . . thanks."

"Yeah. Sure. Anytime, General," came the dejected response.

* * *

It was 2:00 p.m. the next day before Eisenhower finally met up again with Patton. He returned the salute, then shook his hand. "How's it going, George? You look like hell."

"Well that's a damn shame, Ike, because I was planning on entering a beauty contest tonight."

"What have you got for me?"

"Assuming they land where their planes hit the hardest, we should be in good shape. As long as they don't attack us with more than half a dozen old ladies."

"That bad?"

"Not quite. But most of the roads to the supply depots are torn to hell. A lot of our shit has to be brought up on foot and oxcart. Is it too late to get those hundred thousand pack bearers I turned down earlier?"

"What about the defenses, George? What are we looking at?"

"Of course everything depends on where they hit and how many there are. But I think we'll be able to give them a run for their money. The tanks will help a lot. We lost some Grants to the Jap bombers, but the Stuarts all made it, being able to go off-road. By the time the Japs hit, I'll have men and tanks spread out far enough to cover the main area but close enough to support each other. Plus I'm holding back some reserves to cover any breach in the front line. Any chance of the Navy pitching in?"

"No chance at all. They're getting harassed by a small carrier group and MacArthur wants them to stay in the south in case we have to abandon the Philippines."

"Figures. How about some cards?"

December 11, 1941

Eisenhower stood up in the makeshift sandbag bunker and watched the approaching enemy ships through his binoculars. An aide had come to wake him up at dawn that morning but he was already awake, fully dressed, and finishing his second cup of coffee. "Enemy ships approaching, General," was the awaited announcement that set the day in motion.

Now it was two hours later and he was about to witness the invasion. His staff pleaded with him to make his headquarters in a safer spot but he refused. "I'm not going to sit blind in the bushes and try to guess the outcome." So here he was, gazing out over the beautiful Gulf of Lingayen. A spot he had enjoyed picnicking at years before. The American light artillery pieces had already started taking ranging shots. Enemy plane activity was surprisingly light. No time to wonder about it now, he thought as he focused in on the ships. So many. Thank God half were destroyed or we wouldn't stand a chance. But do we? He looked around and the heavy vegetation gave the impression that only a handful of defenders prepared to meet the assault.

He watched the ships spread out and slowly form two lines facing the shore, coordinating to hit all points at once in two waves. "They seem pretty organized," he commented to his aide, who nodded in agreement.

Once they formed up they began heading toward the beaches at full throttle. That's when Eisenhower noticed the planes. Enemy fighters started strafing runs while two squadrons of bombers held back, waiting for the defenses to reveal themselves. He heard the sharp reports of the tanks opening up on the approaching vessels, saw the splash of the near misses and the bursts of the hits as they ripped through the hulls.

He watched the lead ships ground themselves and the troops pouring over the side. One ship must have hit a reef in deep water because the soldiers jumping in were over their heads. Some were swimming, many never came up. The defending machine guns were now in full swing, mowing down men as they approached the beach. My God, what a slaughter, he was about to exclaim when the world around him erupted.

The next thing he knew he was lying on his back trying to rub sand out of his eyes. He was aware of a heavy weight being lifted off his chest, then saw the bloody, lifeless face of his aide.

"General! Are you hurt?" cried a voice.

"I don't think so. Somebody get me a canteen so I can wash my eyes out. What the heck hit us?"

"Jap bombers. They're pounding the shit out of our defenses."

Eisenhower managed to clear his eyes enough to look around and assess the situation. Heavy attacks from the air had subdued the defenders enough for the enemy soldiers to establish multiple beachheads. While still taking heavy casualties, the enemy was slowly, successfully advancing and his own men were forced to pull back. He saw the smoking wreck of a tank a few hundred yards down the beach. "Get me Patton on the phone!" he screamed to no one in particular.

"George," he yelled into the field receiver. "They're breaking through. We need to counterattack!"

"Jesus Christ, Ike. I'm not just picking my ass. I know what's going on. I've already got the reserves on the move. You just watch the show and let me do the generaling. That's what you brought me here for, remember?" He abruptly hung up.

Sure enough, the jungle behind him came alive. A Stuart tank raced up, spraying the enemy with machine-gun fire to deadly effect. Dozens of Japanese fell less than a hundred yards in front of him. Behind the tank came American GIs; their youthful faces displaying grim determination. He saw a screaming group of Filipino soldiers charge right into the enemy line. The ferocity of the counterattack first staggered, then stopped the advancing line of the invaders. Eisenhower was beginning to cheer as the enemy broke and raced back toward the water, then noticed the other squadron of Japanese bombers closing in. At the same time, the second wave of infantry was massing on the beach, preparing to finish off whatever was left after the bombs hit.

Again he managed to get Patton on the line. "More bombers, George!"

"I see."

"What are our chances? Any more reserves?"

"I think we're screwed, Ike. Anything that can do more than spit is on our front line and the bombers are about to plaster us."

"Do we retreat?"

The roar of the first bombs exploding confirmed Patton's reply. "Too late, Ike."

General Eisenhower stood paralyzed as he watched the earth-shaking explosions getting closer. Then a blast of a different type of explosion drew him out of his trance and he glanced curiously upward in the direction of the new sound. There he saw a Jappanese bomber burning as it plummeted toward the sea, trailing great gouts of black smoke. Then he noticed two more enemy planes going down.

"Ike! You still there?"

Eisenhower had forgotten to hang up the field phone. "Yeah, George. What the heck . . . ?"

"It's Doolittle! That crazy bastard and the rest of his squadron are taking on the whole Jap airforce. And you know what? They're winning!"

Ike could see the small P-38s buzzing around the enemy bombers with Zeros hot on their tails. There were still some bombs falling but most had been neutralized. Just as the last attacking bomber exploded in the jungle to his left, a single P-38, flying about thirty feet off the ground, strafed the invading infantry along the entire beachfront. It then disappeared over the jungle before the three pursuing Zeros could close.

The inspired allies responded as if it were a signal and advanced, pinning down the Japanese soldiers; turning attackers into defenders. From where he stood, Eisenhower watched pockets of desperate invaders try to charge up the beach but all were killed or driven back. At last the remaining attackers began to lay down their arms. First in small groups, then whole platoons. He heaved a great sigh as he realized that the invasion had been repulsed.

December 25, 1941

General Eisenhower glanced out the window of his personal car then gave a cynical smile to General Patton, who had just gotten in and sat down next to him. "Merry Christmas, George. Wouldn't you just know it: perfect weather! I think MacArthur must have a direct line to God."

"That's one school of thought, Ike," Patton replied. "Personally, I think his master comes from the other direction. Though, if you spend enough time around him you get the feeling God takes orders from him. Merry Christmas to you, too."

"Congratulations on your promotion. We're gonna miss you around here."

"Thanks. I'll miss you and the guys but not these jungles. No place for tanks."

"You did all right, George, jungle and all. It's not so bad here."

"No. I suppose you're right, Ike. Could be worse. At least it's not the Sahara Desert. 'Course, it doesn't really matter how I feel, I'm bound for Europe either way. Wish you were coming, too. Helluva thing. I'm not surprised about MacArthur taking and getting all the credit . . ."

Eisenhower laughed, "Not surprised? C'mon George. We'd have all been shocked if he didn't!"

"Sure would. But why in the hell is he playing me up so much? You and Jimmy did most of it."

"Don't kid yourself. You did plenty. The Old Soldier knows he'll need you right there with him when he goes up against the Germans in Europe. That's where the real war is going to be. That's where they're gonna need a tank commander." Eisenhower paused and sized up his friend. "You know, George, you're a hero now. Everything you do will make the news back home. Try not to slap any more soldiers."

Patton laughed defiantly. "I don't give a shit about any goddamn reporters. I'll train the men the way I want to." Then he met Eisenhower's gaze and gave him a comradely smile. "You know, Ike, you'd be going with me to fight the Germans instead of MacArthur if you hadn't left Washington to come back here."

Ike looked at the surrounding countryside that he had come to love so much and drew a deep breath. "Yeah, but then what would have happened here to these good people?"

"I don't even want to think about it," Patton answered, then sat straight up and looked out the front of the car. "Holy shit! Is the circus in town?"

Eisenhower again smiled and shook his head as he stared at the scene they were about to join. There were hundreds of soldiers, American and Filipino, wearing their dress uniforms and standing at attention. There had to be thousands of locals waving American flags and holding up MacArthur banners. Some were cheering and many, weeping. On a raised platform stood MacArthur himself, surrounded by reporters and cameras. There was a band playing but it was being drowned out by the crowd.

After the speech and ceremonial "passing of the reins" to Eisenhower, MacArthur waved to the screaming crowd, descended the steps, and climbed into a waiting car. Just before the door closed, Ike looked him in the eye and asked, "Think you'll be back, General?"

After a brief pause to look around, the response came quietly, "Not even if Hitler makes this his summer home."

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto glared disapprovingly at the younger officer who had directed the invasion of the Philippines. "You bring me news of this failure after such a great success in Pearl Harbor? You should be filled with shame. The enemy forces were so much greater in Hawaii than those that you faced, yet our victory there was beyond our greatest hopes. And you, facing resistance less than your own numbers, dare to tell me of your defeat?"

"We accomplished much to weaken them, my admiral. It was not a complete failure."

"And we lost even more!" screamed Yamamoto.

"We also learned a great deal from our attack."

"Oh? So what do you now suggest?"

"To take what we learned and use it effectively. I made a vow on the blood of my ancestors."

"A vow?" The admiral looked thoughtfully at his officer. "Tell me this vow."

As we left the island, I looked back and swore: "I shall return."

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