Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

MacArthur Comes Ashore

with 24 comments


General Douglas MacArthur and photographer Carl Mydans both experienced jarring twists of fate in World War II’s Pacific Theater before arriving at this moment. MacArthur was driven from the Philippines by the Japanese in March 1942, declaring emphatically, “I shall return.” Two months earlier, Mydans, covering the war for LIFE, had been taken prisoner in Manila; he was held for nearly two years before being repatriated in a POW exchange.

MacArthur made good on his pledge in October of ’44. Above photo, taken during American landings at Luzon-Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines, is invariably used to commemorate “the return.” Many insisted that the picture was staged–an allegation Mydans disputed through his life. He would point out that MacArthur was usually uncooperative with photographers and insist that the general only did the walk once.

The picture was not posed but it was actually taken three months later, at a different beach than that of the original landing side at Leyte. Mydans was on the landing craft with MacArthur, and he rushed ashore on the pontoons army engineers put out so that MacArthur would not get his feet wet. But then he saw MacArthur’s landing craft turn away parallel to the shore. Mydans ran along the sand until the craft headed inwards, and as he had expected: “I was standing in my dry shoes waiting.” His photograph showed MacArthur sloshing towards the camera in his open-necked uniform and signature dark glasses, accompanied by staff officers and helmeted troops.

See MacArthur’s various landings here.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 26, 2009 at 1:33 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with ,

24 Responses

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  1. Does anyone know who is in the photo with MacArthur in this landing photo?


    April 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    • Not shure who the officers are but the soldier with his shirt off is my wifes father.

      Bill G.

      November 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      • Thank you Bill. Could you please email me his name I’m trying to lable all the people in this photo.
        Thanks again,


        December 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      • I was told the man with the helmet on is My Uncle Joe.
        Joseph Rovnack SR. It sure looks like him!

        Cathy S

        May 19, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      • The man with his shirt off is MY FATHER, Lt. Albert R. May. I definitely recognize my Dad, my mother recognized him as well and when this photo was published several of his friends called to say they saw him and as well and sent a copy of the Time magazine. So not sure who “Bill G” is but he’s not my husband but I am absolutely positive this is my Dad.

        Kathy (May) Phillips

        January 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      • Think my dad was one of soldiers standing on each side of the general during famous beach landing photo. Is there any way to id these soldiers Please if you can

        Ben Holland

        December 6, 2016 at 6:39 am

    • The soldier with the shirt over his shoulder is my father Albert R May. My Mom had this picture along with the medal for liberating the Phillipines framed & hanging in our home. My Dad was in the combat engineer corp. Have his paperwork at home. My Dad had told me he was there when MacArthur returned & we were s excited when we found this uncropped photo.

      Kathy Phillip

      Kathy Phillips

      December 4, 2011 at 2:23 am

      • Thank you Kathy,
        Is your Dad the man behind MacArthur?


        December 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      • My father, Albert R. May, is the man entering the photo on the right & saluting General MacArthur. He has his shirt off and in his hand, not on his shoulder (sorry, it was late when I was responding to last post). My father told me he was there when MacArthur came ashore. When the photo was first printed in Time magazine a couple of his friends called to ask if we had seen the picture of him and one sent us a copy of the magazine. My Dad was in the 104th Combat Engineers.

        Kathy P

        December 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    • Sandy

      My wifes father is Pearl William Dowers of Danville IL. He was a bosens mate in the Coast Guard.

      Bill G.

      Bill G.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      • Thank you so much Bill.


        December 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    • The gentleman to the left of MacArthur is my uncle.

      Roger Barber

      June 5, 2013 at 9:28 pm

  2. I worked for 3M Company in Cleveland, Ohio in 1971. Our branch manager’s name was Jim Nelson, he told the story for years that he was MacArthur’s aid (to the generals left) in the photo of him “returning to the Phillippines”. Regretfully, Jim passed many years ago, however I have never been able to establish this as fact. Can someone else help me with names of these fine Americans??

    Jeff Palm

    March 17, 2012 at 5:35 am

    • The soldier on MacArthur’s left with his helmet on crooked is my great grandfather and his name is August West. He also went by Augie to those who knew him.

      Aaron Thomas

      May 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm

  3. The soldier on MacArthur’s left with his helmet on crooked is my great grandfather and his name is August West. He also went by Augie to those who knew him.

    Aaron Thomas

    April 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    • the man on the generals right is my great uncle Henry Ehardt Adjutant… can u confirm?

      Kurt Strecker

      July 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  4. My dad always told us as we were growing up (my sister and I) that he was with the General when this picture was taken. His name was George McDaniel. He was a battlefield Captain at the time.

    Jerry McDaniel

    February 25, 2013 at 5:45 am

  5. My father was not in the photograph, but he was standing on the beach when it was taken. He told me that it was staged, and I believe him. Gary Morris

    Gary Morris

    January 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm

  6. […] boss at the FSA (legendary Roy Stryker, who oversaw a stellar team of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Carl Mydans and many more at the FSA). Stryker “told me I’d gotten the right idea but was going to […]

  7. Wasn’t there a MacArthur landing were he was carried ashore by soldier to keep his feet dry? Only a few photos of that remain. They redid the landing again with him walking in the water ashore for the American press back home. I think I actually saw this photo in William Manchester’s book American Caesar in 1978. Does any one know? Pat Bryant email: pbryant_sport1@ comcast.net. I am a high school social studies teacher.

    Pat Bryant, Shreveport, Louisiana

    October 26, 2014 at 3:58 pm

  8. My grandfather (Delbert Hallett) was a Higgins boat driver when he went ashore and he said that he almost got knocked on his rear due to the waves and trying to look good for the shot. He also said that snipers were cleared far from the beach head.

    Brandon Hallett

    January 11, 2015 at 8:04 am

  9. My father a Tech 5, (Corporal), and was on the beach when this photo was taken, as he absolutely recognized it later. He always told me that it was staged for the newsreel cameras, and he had not reason to make up this story. Macarthur, as everyone knows was a showman, and there is no question that the wading through the water was for dramatic effect, and no one can tell me differently. My dad was there !

    Gary Morris

    November 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm

  10. Growing up, I was always told that my grandfather was on this Higgins boat in this picture. He is the most left person in the Higgins boat, whose face/body is in a shadow. Name was Curtis B. Leake, in the 533 EB&SR Company B. I would love to hear any other details you have of this photo.

    Andrew Leake

    March 3, 2016 at 6:45 pm

  11. The man At the Bow of the front Ship is Kennith R. “Buck” Willis.

    Thomas Alexander

    December 18, 2016 at 9:42 pm

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