After a distinguished career stretching back to the Mexican Revolution, General Douglas MacArthur was recalled to active duty in 1941 to be Commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East. A series of disasters followed, starting with the destruction of his air forces on December 8, 1941 and the invasion of the Philippines by the Japanese. MacArthur's forces were soon compelled to withdraw to Bataan, where they held out until May 1942. Two months before their surrender, under direct orders from President Roosevelt, MacArthur, his family and his staff left nearby Corregidor Island in PT boats and escaped to Australia, where he became Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area. Upon his arrival in Australia, MacArthur gave a speech in which he vowed to return and liberate the Philippines.
Sometime in 1943, a member of MacArthur’s staff suggested that it might help to lift the morale of the people of the Philippines, to air-drop items such as cigarettes, candy and matches bearing the General’s picture and his famous vow to return to liberate the islands. The contract to produce the cigarettes went to Larus & Brothers Tobacco Company of Richmond, VA. Under the strictest security, a section of the plant was cordoned off and employees who had been sworn to secrecy, began to work on manufacturing thousands of small packs each of which held three cigarettes. The outer wrapper of each pack was printed with the words “I Shall Return”, MacArthur’s signature and the flags of both the US and The Philippines. Over the next year and a half, the cigarettes along with similarly marked matches and reflective mirrors (used for signaling Allied subs or aircraft) were delivered to resistance forces by submarine to be distributed to the civilian population as well as air-dropped over the islands. On October 20, 1944, after battling their way across the Pacific, MacArthur kept his promise and waded onto the beaches of Leyte Gulf beginning the battle to liberate the islands.
After the war, Larus & Brothers was given a special citation by the War Department and each employee who worked on the project also received recognition.
(This page was based in part upon information regarding MacArthur's career which appeared on Wikipedia)