I shall return.”

These three simple words by the son of American Civil War hero General Douglas MacArthur had a profound impact not only on Philippine history books but also on Filipino hearts. It was a promise that prisoners in Corridor and the Bataan Peninsula held onto for more than two years after the Japanese invasion—the hope these men clung to get through the hell they were going through.

The Japanese Invasion of 1942

General MacArthur was placed in command at the last minute following Japan’s invasion of the Philippines in late 1941. Despite his valiant efforts, the former US military chief adviser was forced to flee the Philippine island of Corregidor in March 1942 on orders from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Still suffering from the major loss of the Pearl Harbor bombing, Roosevelt realized the hopelessness of the situation and opted to withdraw temporarily to recompose his remaining troops in the Pacific, including the repatriation of General MacArthur and his family, among many others.