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Posted on Sep 12, 2011 in Armchair Reading

November 2011 Web Mailbag

By Armchair General

Wrong About Brereton

Gen. Lewis H. Brereton (National Archives)Your article in the May 2011 issue on the losses suffered by The Far East Air Force (FEAF) on December 8th, 1941 places the blame on MG Lewis Brereton, the FAEF commander, indicating that he twice failed to comply with direct orders from General MacArthur. While Brereton was the one who ordered the B-17s to land at Clark that day, I cannot find any confirmation that he ignored any direct order from MacArthur during the very short time that he commanded FEAF.

You wrote that, on November 21st, 1941, MacArthur “wisely ordered Brereton to withdraw all the B-17s from vulnerable Clark Field and move them 600 miles south to Del Monte airfield on Mindanao … Brereton, however, ignored his orders.” Brereton, who only opened his FEAF headquarters on November 16th, was not even in the Philippines on November 21st, 1941. MacArthur sent him to Australia on 18 November to negotiate plans to use that nation’s airbases in case of war. He returned to the Philippines around the 30th of the month. The official account of the 1941-42 fall of the Philippines prepared by OCMH makes no reference to such an order. Nor does Brereton in his book written after the war. And it seems unlikely that, if such an important order were transmitted and not executed, neither MacArthur nor his staff noticed it for over two weeks.


You note that MacArthur reiterated his order to withdraw all the B-17s from Clark on December 6th and “Again, Brereton ignored MacArthur’s directives.” Brereton has explained his reasoning for only sending half of his Flying Fortresses to Mindanao. He notes that the 7th Bombardment Group (B-17s) was already on the move to the Philippines from the States and his plan was to send them to Del Monte. When they arrived, the very primitive Del Monte base would be at its capacity for support and operations.

Finally, you quote MacArthur as viewing Brereton’s request to bomb Formosa as a “suicide mission” that he never approved. The OCMH official history concluded otherwise. It states that in a call to the War Department to summarize the results of the Japanese attack on December 8th, MacArthur told them “I am launching a heavy bombardment counterattack tomorrow (Dec 9th) morning on enemy airdromes in southern Formosa.” The OCMA report then goes on to say that “it is evident, then, that MacArthur himself planned … to execute an attack against Formosa with the remaining B-17s.”

Eight years after the FEAF bomber forces were devastated at Clark Field when the Japanese attacked, General “Hap” Arnold, our WW II Army Air Force Commander, wrote that he never was able “to get the real story of what happened in the Philippines.” I doubt very much that your article would bring closure to Arnold’s quest.

Maj. Gen. (U.S. Army Ret.)
Neal Creighton
Lancaster, Va.


  1. Hi ACG it Gustavo again I have a favor I would like to ask you, well two actually, frist could you please do a article over francisco franco and second could you do one over the reason why Hittler woukld do the precuation of the Jews because both me and my dad belive that one of then, for i because I believe that ther are multiple reason, is that hittler ask the Jews for some money, you must rember that in that time the Jews had most of the money and that Germany was in a depression, if you cold give the the german govment some money and the Jews said no,which was the same thing that happend in spain. Also before I forget what really destoyed the maine for I herad that one it was sabotged by us sailor, for my dad said that one his reason was that america knew it would need to fight Spain and they knew that Spain could whipe then he means no offense by that so please take no offense and they chose a time when Spain was weak and they started the war, and the second which was the one published was that it was a spanish maine and the thrid and last one was it was a coal buncker fire. Plase amswer and thanks and please continue to do such a great job in making such a great manginze. If you don’t feel comfortable doing those aritcle I understand thank you.

  2. hello Armchair general I was wondering if you could do a article over Francisco Franco and oine over the spanish american war

  3. I usually enjoy reading Ralph Peters’ Crisis Watch column in each issue of Armchair General. I was shocked and dismayed however, to read in the November, 2011 issue Mr. Peters’ comment in his article, “Are We There Yet?” that compared late 18th and early 19th century Native Americans to terrorists. I was in whole-hearted agreement with the point that Mr. Peters was making in the article, but was stunned by the statement, “The infighting in Baghdad echoes our Federalist and Jacksonian era (When frontier Indians stood in for al-Qaeda).” For a person who has spent his career as a military and historical analyst, this statement is completely out of character for both its historical inaccuracy as well as its cultural insensitivity. Does the author seriously believe that Native Americans who were fighting for their homes and families in the face of Western European and Anglo-American invasion and genocide are in any way similar to extremist terrorists? Even more puzzling is the fact that the comment did not in any way enhance the author’s otherwise valid argument posited in the article. I invite the author and the ACG editors to consider a retraction of this slur and an apology to the Native Americans of today – many of whom have served with distinction in the U.S. armed forces over the past several generations and many more have contributed to our current U.S.American society in countless other ways.