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When he originally thought that the Time Lords were truly dead, he was prevented from returning to the time war due to the time lock which surrounded it. As much as he would have liked to have returned to save his people, he simply couldn't due to the nature of time. ("The Fires of Pompeii" etc.)

However, the Moment was powerful enough to circumvent these laws of time to allow the War Doctor to interact with his later incarnations, allowing him to figure out a way to prevent his people's destruction by locking them in a pocket universe inside a painting. So in the end, the Doctor does same his people. It just so happens that the memory whipping effects of a multi-incarnation meeting prevented the Doctor from remembering the fact that he'd saved them, so he believed they had still been destroyed until late in his Eleventh life (actually 12th/13th life, due to wibbely wobbely counting). ("The Day of the Doctor")