United States Army Forces in the Far East

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The USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East) was a military command formed by the United States in the Philippines during World War II to counter the threat posed by the Imperial Japanese Army. Major General MacArthur served as its commander. Its headquarters was established on July 26, 1941, the same time Presidential Order (6 Fed. Reg. 3825), which called the Philippine Commonwealth Army into the service of the Armed Forces of the United States, was issued by the President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Creation of USAFFE

In January of 1941, the intelligence officer (G-2) of the Philippine Department had recommended to his superior in Washington D.C. that a Far Eastern Command be created, with the commander of the Philippine Department as the designated commander. It does not appear this idea was seriously considered until Douglas MacArthur suggested, to the Army Chief of Staff, that such a command be created with MacArthur as the Far Eastern Commander.

On June 6, acting chief of the War Plans Division Brigadier General Gerow noted that he saw no need for such a command, as U.S. Forces in the Far East were concentrated in the Philippines. Gerow argued that should a "crisis" occur MacArthur should become the commander, not of some new command, but rather of the Philippine Department itself.

On June 20, army chief of staff George C. Marshall informed MacArthur, "Both the Secretary of War (Stimson) and I are much concerned about the situation in the Far East. Your qualifications and experience make you the logical selection for the army commander in the Far East should the situation approach a crisis. The secretary has delayed recommending your appointment as he does not feel the time has arrived for such action. At the proper time, he will recommend to the president that you be so appointed."

On July 17, Gerow made the following recommendations:

  • The President should call into the service of the US all organized military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines
  • General MacArthur should be called to active duty as a Major General and assigned as commander of Army Forces in the Far East
  • That $10,000,000, from the President's Emergency Fund should be allotted to cover the costs of mobilization and training of the Philippine Army
  • That training of the Philippine Army be financed from the sugar excise fund, or from other funds
  • That 425 reserve officers be sent to the Philippines to assist in mobilization and training

On July 25, Secretary of War Stimson requested that President Roosevelt issue orders calling the military forces of the Commonwealth into active service for the United States. Stimson explains, "All practical steps should be taken to increase the defensive strength of the Philippine Islands."

The following day, President Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets within the United States and issued the orders to absorb the forces of the Philippine Army. That same day, the War Department created the USAFFE command, with jurisdiction over the Philippine Department and the military forces of the Commonwealth. At the same time, MacArthur was recalled to active duty as the USAFFE commander, from his position as military advisor to, and field marshall of, the Philippine Army.

Core of Command

Creation of USAFFE led to the subordination of the Philippine Department's headquarters as a service command, since planning and tactical control were placed under USAFFE control.

The chief of staff was Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and the deputy chief of staff was Major General Richard J. Marshall. The core of this command (including MacArthur, Marshall, and Sutherland) was drawn from the Office of the Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government.

According to Gen. MacArthur, the USAFFE became an administrative echelon and was analogous to a corps area. MacArthur recommended that Philippine Department commander Major General Grunert be reassigned, as his services were no longer needed. On October 23, Grunert returned to the U.S. and MacArthur was temporarily appointed as the Philippine Department's commander.

USAFFE -- November 31, 1941

Total strength -- 31,095 (2,504 officers -- 28,591 enlisted, including 11,957 Philippine Scouts)

  • USAFFE Headquarters (61)
  • Philippine Department Headquarters (553)
  • Headquarters - North Luzon Force (38)
  • Headquarters - South Luzon Force (10)
  • Headquarters - Visayan-Mindanao Force (9)

U.S. Army Troops - Philippines -- July 31, 1941

Total Strength -- 22,532 (1,434 officers -- 21,098 enlisted, including 11,937 Philippine Scouts)

  • USAFFE Headquarters (5)
  • Philippine Department Headquarters (289)
  • Philippine Division (10,473)
  • U.S. 26th Cavalry Regiment (PS) (838)
  • U.S. 43rd Infantry Regiment (PS) (329)
  • U.S. 86th Field Artillery Regiment (PS) (388)
  • U.S. 88th Field Artillery Regiment (PS) (518)
  • U.S. 808th Military Police Company (69)




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