The Philippine Islands stood in the way of Japanese expansion in the Pacific, and were therefore an immediate target when war broke out in December 1941. Defended by a mixed Filipino-American force under the flamboyant Douglas MacArthur, the islands were hit by surprise Japanese aerial attacks that all but wiped out the American air forces in the Philippines. An amphibious assault followed. Despite desperate attempts by the US and Philippine armies, they were unable to halt the Japanese advance and Manila was lost with the beleaguered defenders retreating to Bataan and Corregidor. Here they made their last stand on May 9, 1942. Although the campaign ended in an American defeat, and for the US prisoners of war the horrors of the Bataan Death March and years in Japanese captivity, the heroic defense had inspired the Americans to return in 1944.