The history of the world for the next thousand years will be written in the Pacific.” Gen. Douglas MacArthur proclaimed this statement at a press conference in 1945 during the massive World War Two Battle of Leyte Gulf. MacArthur was in fine spirits because he was at the head of the enormous United States and Australian force that enabled him to honor his promise to return to the Philippines finally. His famous words, “I will return,” with a heavy focus on the “I” portion of the statement, were now being fulfilled by a massive amphibious force that represented years of combat and Allied force build-up in the Pacific Theater.
Now, 21st century America once again faces a strategic challenge in the Pacific, this time from the Chinese. Still, the U.S. no longer has the military numbers or capabilities she once possessed. She can no longer marshal fleets of hundreds of vessels in the Pacific, nor is she willing to pay the butcher’s bill that accompanied her previous island-hopping campaigns. However, as Mark Twain may have said, “History does not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.” While the military continues to formulate strategies for countering the Chinese in the Pacific, there is value in looking to the U.S.’ WWII strategy in hopes of gleaning lessons for the future.