The Secret History of General MacArthur’s Wet Ankles
(Published October 2008)
The photo is one of the most famous from WWII: General Douglas MacArthur striding resolutely through the knee-deep waters of Leyte Gulf making his promised return to the Philippines. He is leaning slightly forward, the momentum of the event propelling him to his destiny. His lips are pulled tight. Although his eyes are obscured by dark glasses, his gaze is doubtless fixed upon the land he promised to liberate 17 months earlier.
MacArthur’s October 20, 1944 return to the Philippines was indeed a proud day for the General, but the original plan didn’t involve getting his ankles wet. And beach master Edward Halloran was responsible for MacArthur’s wet shoes.
“He would not let MacArthur land on that dry sandy beach,” said Halloran’s daughter Julie Halloran Rush. “The photo later became his signature but at the time he was not at all pleased about having to wade through the water at Layte Gulf. It was necessary because of the very large number of ships parked all around the area.”
The original plan was for the General to land at a dock, but none could be found that had survived the landing assault. The alternative plan was for MacArthur’s landing craft to land at Red Beach. But beach master Edward Halloran made the gutsy decision to advise against going aground.
MacArthur was eager to make landfall. He grew impatient and ordered the ramp lowered, stepped knee deep into the water, and strode toward the beach. His facial expression probably had more to do with irritation over the situation than the historic import of the occasion.
The leadership and good judgment Lieutenant Commander Halloran displayed on that historic day served him well for the rest of his career in the Navy. In all, he participated in 22 Naval landings in the South Pacific as beach master. This was arguably one of the most hazardous jobs of the war and involved yelling out orders through a megaphone to a force’s landing craft. Subsequent to the war, Halloran was promoted to the rank of Captain and he retired as a Rear Admiral.
To commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of the Philippines, the Wright Museum will be hosting a mini-display of items that belonged to Edward Halloran, which are on loan from his family through the end of October.
The Wright Museum of WWII History is a non-profit educational institution whose vast collection of fully-operational military vehicles and extensive exhibits relating to the
American home front bring the past to life. The museum is a member-supported national treasure located right here in New Hampshire. In the words of filmmaker Ken Burns, “The Wright Museum’s work to preserve and share the stories of the WWII generation is vitally important. I am proud to support its efforts to educate present and future generations about the triumphs and sacrifices of America’s Greatest Generation.”
The Wright Museum is a non-profit institution devoted to educating learners of all ages. With its nationally-significant collection of fully-operational military vehicles and vast collections relating to the American Home Front, the Wright Museum is a member-supported national treasure located right here in New Hampshire.
To learn more, call the museum at 603-569-1212 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.