University Archives

Lot 175

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Douglas MacArthur to Parent of Dead P.O.W.: "It was largely their magnificent courage and sacrifices which stopped the enemy in the Philippines and gave us the time… [to ensure] the final defeat of Japan"

1p typed letter signed by General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), then serving as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific, as "Douglas Mac Arthur" at center. Issued from General Headquarters at APO 500 on October 25, 1945. On watermarked stationery with "General Headquarters / United States Army Forces, Pacific / Office of the Commander-in-Chief" letterhead. Expected light paper folds, else near fine. 8" x 10.5". Accompanied by its original B.E.W. License "G-PW-2" prisoner of war "personal" parcel label, and postmarked transmittal envelope with "War Department" sender label.

Circular letters like this one were sent to the parents of officers who died as prisoners of war, or whose deaths in action could be verified after the cessation of hostilities permitted further investigation. Though form letters, the commanding officer's signature added a personal touch. MacArthur wrote in part: "You may have some consolation in the memory that he, along with his comrades-in-arms who died on Bataan and Corregidor and in prison camps, gave his life for his country. It was largely their magnificent courage and sacrifices which stopped the enemy in the Philippines and gave us the time to arm ourselves for our return to the Philippines and the final defeat of Japan. Their names will be enshrined in our country's glory forever. In your son's death I have lost a gallant comrade and mourn with you…"

General Douglas MacArthur had been forced to evacuate the Philippines in advance of encroaching Japanese forces in March 1942. The commander had made an impassioned speech at the Terowie railway station on March 20th, declaring, "I came through and I shall return." MacArthur did return to the Philippines as promised, wresting Leyte from Japanese forces in October 1944. MacArthur then turned his attention to recapturing Luzon in the northern Philippines. The Battle of Manila, waged between February-March 1945, involved heavy artillery bombardment and brutal street-by-street combat. It's estimated that as many as 100,000 Filipinos died in the conflict, and that 70 to 100% of Manila's residential, business, and governmental infrastructure was destroyed. MacArthur was engaged in consolidating the southern Philippines when the Japanese surrendered in August 1945.

The letter was sent to Mr. Harry K. Davis of Ames, Iowa, whose son, Second Lieutenant James R. Davis, was lately confirmed as deceased. Davis's capture by the Japanese was announced in the May 4, 1943 issue of the "Des Moines Register" under the headline "Japanese Hold Two Iowa Men". Davis was interned at a prisoner of war camp in the Philippine Islands. The circumstances of his death are unknown.

A similar letter fetched over $2,400 at Christie's in 1991. In checking prices, such condolence letters rarely go for under $1,000 at auction and are quite scarce.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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June 24, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Wilton, CT, US

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000