World War Two: Philippines (Prewar, Part 1-2; 3-4-5); Building the USAFFE

The immediate tasks facing General MacArthur were, first, to establish his headquarters and organize his command on an efficient basis; second, to induct and train the Philippine Army; and third, to secure the necessary supplies and reinforcements to put his forces on a war footing.

The first task was quickly accomplished. From the small group of Army officers who had been detailed to the Office of the Military Advisor and from U.S. Army organizations in the Philippines, MacArthur secured enough officers to form a nucleus for his headquarters. By mid-August he had a small and highly efficient staff in Headquarters, USAFFE, located at No.1, Calle Victoria, in the walled city in Manila. His principal staff officers were men who had been with him for some time. For the most part they were men in the prime of their lives. The chief of staff and deputy chief of staff were 47 and 46 years old respectively at the time USAFFE was organized and had already served under MacArthur for several years. All the officers on the general staff were under 50 years of age, and of the three special staff officers who had been requested specifically by name, the youngest was 43 and the oldest 52.

For his chief of staff, General MacArthur selected the senior officer of the military mission, Lieutenant Colonel Richard K. Sutherland. Entering the army as a private after his graduation from Yale in 1916, Sutherland rose to the rank of captain before the end of World War I. During the peace years, he attended the Infantry School, Command and Staff School, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, and the Army War College. Conceded by most to be a brilliant, hard-working officer, he was selected for MacArthur’s staff in 1938 after a tour of duty in Shanghai.

General George C. Kenney, who served with him for four years, remarked, “He knew so many of the answers that I could understand why General MacArthur had picked him for chief of staff.” But he also noted that among Sutherland’s traits were egotism and “an unfortunate bit of arrogance.” Promoted directly to brigadier general in August 1941, Sutherland remained MacArthur’s chief of staff until 1946, rising finally to the rank of lieutenant general. For the next important post in USAFFE, the deputy chief of staff, MacArthur chose Lt. ColonelRichard J. Marshall who had occupied a similar position in the Military Advisor’s office. Promoted rapidly, first to colonel and in December 1941 to Brigadier General, Marshall had, in MacArthur’s opinion, “no superior as a supply officer in the Army.”

U.S. Army in the Philippines

When General MacArthur assumed command of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, the Philippine Department consisted of 22,532 men, 11,972 of whom were Philippine ScoutS. Of the 1,340 officers, 715 were reservists on active duty. The largest group of men-7,293-was assigned to the infantry, and the Coast Artillery Corps was next with 4,967. Almost the entire strength of the command was stationed on Luzon. The largest single U.S. Army unit in the Philippines was the Philippine Division, commanded by Maj; General Jonathan M. Wainwright. Theoretically, it was a square division, but was not equipped as such, and lacked a brigade organization and some of its organic elements. All of the enlisted men in the division, except those in the 31st Infantry and a few military police and headquarters troops, were Philippine Scouts; the 31st was the only American infantry unit in the Islands composed entirely of Americans.

In addition to this regiment, the Philippine Division contained the 45th and 57th Infantry (PS). Authorized strength for these Scout regiments was 2,435 officers and men, and for the 31st, 1,729. (Up to January 1941 the Scouts had had a strength of 6,500; at that time the President of the United States had authorized an increase in their strength to 12,000. Telg, TAG to CG Phil Dept,No. 635, 28 Jan 41, AG 320.2 Phil Dept (1-19-41 ). In July 1941 the former were slightly below strength and the latter was 402 overstrength in officers and enlisted men. Field artillery components of the Philippine Division consisted of the two-battalion 24th Regiment (truck-drawn British 75-mm. guns) with 843 officers and enlisted men, and one battalion of the 23d, with 401 men and armed with 2.95-inch mountain guns (pack). Plans existed for the organization at a later date of the 26th Field Artillery and a separate battalion of IS5-mm. guns for use with the division. The division also included the standard engineer, ordnance, signal, military police, medical, and quartermaster units. The total strength of the Philippine Division on 31 July was 10,473 men. The Philippine Division rarely functioned as a division, for its elements were scattered.

Headquarters and the bulk of the division were at Fort William McKinley, just south of the city. The 31st Infantry was stationed at the Post of Manila, in the city itself, and a battalion of the 12th Quartermaster Regiment was located in the Manila port area.

The 1st Battalion, less one company, of the 45th Infantry was stationed at the Post of Limay on the southeast coast of the Bataan peninsula. The rest of the division, including the artillery components, the 12th Ordnance Company, and a platoon of the quartermaster regiment, was at Fort Stotsenburg, about fifty miles north of Manila, close to Clark Field.

The major non-divisional U.S. Army ground elements in the Philippines in July 1941 included the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bays, a cavalry regiment, two field artillery regiments, and quartermaster, signal, and military police units. The Harbor Defenses were commanded by Major General George F. Moore, who had his headquarters at Fort Mills on Corregidor.

They included not only the defenses of Corregidor, but also those on Caballo Island (Fort Hughes), El Fraile (Fort Drum), and Carabao (Fort Frank)-all at the entrance to Manila Bay-and Fort Wint on Grande Island at the entrance to Subic Bay.

The 26th Cavalry was a Philippine Scout organization with two squadrons of three troops each. I t was considerably smaller than a similar regiment in the United States and had a strength of 784 enlisted men and 54 officers. The home station of the regiment, except for one troop, was at Fort Stotsenburg; Troop F was stationed at Nichols Field, south of Manila. Also at Fort Stotsenburg were two Philippine Scout field artillery regiments, the 86th and 88th, the first with a strength of 388 and the second with 518 men.

Service and supply elements in the Philippine Department at the end of July 1941 totaled approximately 2,500 officers and men, exclusive of those serving with the Air Forces. The largest part of these troops were assigned to quartermaster and medical units, stationed at the various posts on Luzon, and at Pettit Barracks in Zamboanga (Mindanao). A military police company, the 808th, was stationed in Manila, as were the headquarters of the Philippine Department and of USAFFE.

On 4 August, the air forces in the Philippines were brought under the control of MacArthur’s headquarters, “except for routine administration and supply,” and redesignated the USAFFE Air Force. It was only a token force. Of the 210 aircraft in the Islands, only the thirty-one P-40B’s could be considered modem aircraft; the others, consisting of P-26’s, P-35’s, B-10’s, B-18’s, A-29’s, C-39’s and observation planes, were largely obsolescent. One field alone, Clark Field near Fort Stotsenburg, could accommodate heavy bombers.

Air Forces headquarters was located at Nielson Field on the outskirts of Manila; the majority of the planes were based at either Nichols, also near Manila, or Clark Field. The 4th Composite Group at Clark Field had under it a headquarters squadron, three pursuit squadrons, one bombardment squadron, and an observ.ation squadron. The 20th Air Base Group at Nichols Field contained miscellaneous supporting units, including the 27th and 28th Materiel Squadrons, and the 19th Air Base Squadron. Total strength of the air forces was 254 officers and 2,049 men.

With the establishment of USAFFE, the Philippine Department became a subordinate command. The headquarters staff was left largely intact, although General MacArthur designated some of its members to serve on his staff in addition to their regular duties, but the mission of the Department was narrowed until its principal task became the training and supply of the Philippine Anny. In effect, it became a service command, “an administrative echelon,” MacArthur explained, “analogous to a Corps Area.” Planning and the tactical control of field troops, organized into task forces, were now centered in USAFFE.

Under the circumstances, there seemed little need for the services of so senior an officer as General Grunert, and MacArthur recommended that he be relieved and another officer “who had not enjoyed such high command” be appointed to the position. Pointing out that Grunert would complete his tour of duty in less than four months, MacArthur declared, “It would be advantageous to relieve him, as I am loath, as long as he is here, to contract the functions of the Department Commander.”

Philippine Army: Mobilization and Training

The major task of the hurriedly assembled staff of Headquarters, USAFFE, was to work out a plan for the mobilization, training, and supply of the Philippine Army. Within a few days of his appointment, General MacArthur had selected 1 September as the day when mobilization of the Philippine Army would start. This left thirty days in which to select camp sites, enlarge and improve existing camps for the first reservists, and build new camps. The integration of the armed forces of the Philippine Commonwealth into the service of the United States was to be gradual.

Elements of the ten reserve divisions were to be called into service at regular intervals until 15 December 1941, when the mobilization would be complete. The Philippine Army Air Corps would be inducted separately.

Reserve units engaged in their normal yearly training were not to be inducted unless war came. It was hoped in this way to continue the development of the Commonwealth’s defense program and at the same time mobilize and train the Philippine Army. Commonwealth forces coming under United States control would retain their national integrity; they would have their own uniforms, rations, military law, scale of pay, and promotion list; would requisition through their own supply channel until 1 December; but would be paid by the U. S. Army. The Regular Army of the Philippine Commonwealth and the Constabulary were not to be inducted immediately.

A construction program was to be started immediately since there was only enough housing for about one third of the 75,000 men scheduled for induction. Camp sites would have to be selected and facilities for training built. The first units called would use existing or temporary quarters and, as camps were completed, additional units would be inducted. By 15 December, when the last units would be mobilized, the entire construction program would be completed.

On 15 August, less than three weeks after he had assumed command of USAFFE, General MacArthur incorporated into the American forces the Philippine Army Air Corps of six squadrons and approximately 500 men. A few days later he issued orders calling into the service by 1 September ten infantry regiments-one from each of the reserve divisions-and the cadres of most of the other divisional units.

As housing facilities became available, USAFFE brought other elements of the Philippine Army into service. Early in November the second infantry regiment of each of the divisions was called up, to be joined before the end of the month by the division headquarters and the service elements.

But time was running out. When war came not a single division had been completely mobilized and not one of the units was at full strength. None of the antitank battalions was ever organized because of the lack of equipment, and the shortage of organic artillery forced many of the divisions to go into battle without full artillery components.

To each division were assigned about forty U.S. Army officers and twenty American or Philippine Scout noncommissioned officers who served as instructors. The officers were usually attached to division and regimental staffs; the enlisted men served in battalions and companies. The position of the instructor was an anomalous one. When one instructor asked for a clarification of his status he was told: “You have no command status. You have no authority. But you are directly responsible for the success or failure of the regiment.”

While it is not possible to state definitely the strength of the Philippine Army by mid-December 1941, an estimate of the number of Filipinos available for combat can be made. On the basis of the authorized strength of a Philippine division (7,500 men), the total divisional strength of the Philippine Army reserve would be 75,000 men. To this figure must be added the strength of the 1st Regular Division, a part of the regular establishment, and the Constabulary, plus non-divisional and provisional units formed after the start of war. A rough estimate of the number of men in the Philippine Army, therefore, would be approximately 120,000, a figure which is confirmed by later reports on the number of men surrendered and by postwar claims for back pay and pensions.

Upon mobilization of the first elements of the ten reserve divisions, schools were established to provide special training for officers and selected enlisted men of the Philippine Army who in turn would train other Filipinos as the mobilization progressed. At Baguio a command and staff school was established to train a few American colonels and senior Philippine officers who were to command Philippine Army divisions, as well as certain key officers slated for the staffs of these divisions. Schools for the training of infantry cadres were established in each division mobilization district.

Americans and Philippine Scouts served as instructors, and the students consisted of the cadres of the infantry elements of the divisions, regimental and battalion staffs, company commanders, platoon leaders, first sergeants, cooks, and company clerks. In addition to specialized training, each student took the basic infantry course.

Coast artillery schools were established at Fort Mills (Corregidor) and Fort Wint (Grande Island), and field artillery cadres were trained at the Philippine Army training center at Camp Dau, near Fort Stotsenburg. Two engineer schools were established, with instructors from the 14th Engineer Regiment ( PS ), the engineer component of the Philippine Division. A signal and a medical school were organized at Fort William McKinley; a second medical school was established for the training of non divisional cadres; and in the port area of Manila was a quartermaster motor transport school.

The training of the Philippine Army was beset with numerous difficulties. In many units there was a serious language barrier, not only between the American instructors and the Filipinos but also among the Filipinos. The enlisted men of one division spoke the Bicolanian dialect, their Philippine officers usually spoke Tagalog, and the Americans spoke neither. In the Visayas the problem was even more complicated since most of the officers were Tagalogs from central Luzon and the men spoke one or more of the many Visayan tongues. Transfers were made to alleviate the situation, but no real solution to the problem was ever found.

Discipline in Philippine Army units left much to be desired, according to U.S. Army officers. Until war was declared there were no courts-martial. Since the Philippine Army retained its national integrity after induction, Philippine Army headquarters was responsible for discipline and punishment. Many of the officers and noncommissioned officers were untrained and unqualified for their assignments. There were some first sergeants and company clerks who could neither read nor write.

Training facilities and equipment were almost nonexistent. Target ranges had been hurriedly improvised but many units went into battle without ever having fired their weapons. There was a serious shortage in almost all types of equipment. The clothing was old and much of it not fit for use; shoes were rubber soled and quickly wore out. The uniform usually consisted of the blue fatigue suit, and when that wore out, anything that could be found. There were serious shortages in personal equipment, blankets, mosquito bars, and shelter halves. The supply of Enfield and Springfield ’03 [M1903] rifles was adequate but that of many other weapons, entrenching tools, gas masks, and steel helmets was not. After the outbreak of war, units secured supplies wherever and whenever they could, and the amount was usually dependent upon the initiative and energy of the individual supply officers.

The difficulties of mobilizing and training the Philippine Army can best be shown by following the experiences of a single division. The 31st Division (PA; Philippine Army) was organized on 18 November at a camp near San Marcelino in Zambales Province, Luzon. An American Army officer, Colonel Clifford Bluemel, who had commanded the 45th Infantry (PS; Philippine Scouts) and later the staff and command school at Baguio, was assigned as division commander with a staff consisting of Philippine Army and Scout officers.

When the division was organized, its camp was still under construction. The buildings were about 80 percent complete, and in the absence of a water system a few shallow wells were used. Work on sanitary installations had just begun. One of the division’s regiments, the 31st Infantry (PA), had been mobilized on 1 September and was already in camp when Colonel Bluemel arrived. The 32d Infantry had been inducted on 1 November but did not join the division until 6 December.

Starting on 25 November the third infantry element of the division, the 33d Infantry, began arriving in camp. Between 18 and 30 November, the medical battalion, motor transport, service, and division headquarters companies were mobilized. The signal company was organized on 1 December when a cadre which had been in training at Fort McKinley for three months arrived at camp. The 31 st Field Artillery Regiment began mobilizing on 12 December, after the outbreak of war, and was finally organized with two battalions on 26 December, after the division had already moved to Bataan.

The 31st Division, like the other Philippine Army divisions, suffered from shortages in personal and organizational equipment. Every man was equipped with a rifle, the .30-caliber Enfield rifle used by American troops in World War 1. The stock was too long for the small Philippine soldier and the weak extractor often broke and could not be replaced. Of the other infantry weapons, there was one Browning automatic rifle for each infantry company and eight .30-caliber Browning watercooled machine guns for each machine gun company. Each infantry regiment had two .50-caliber machine guns and six 3-inch trench mortars, 70 percent of the ammunition for which proved to be duds. Artillery equipment for the division consisted of eight W orId War I model 75-mm. guns which were delivered to the division on the evening of 7 December, without sights or fire control equipment. The 31st Field Artillery, therefore, could only organize two of the six firing batteries it was authorized.

Organic transportation was virtually nonexistent. Division headquarters and the motor transport company could muster only one sedan, one command car, one bantam car; one 1/2-ton truck and one 2-ton truck. The 31st Infantry had only one command car and eight 1/2-ton trucks, which was more than the other regiments had. The division was deficient also in communications and engineer supplies, office equipment, spare parts, and tools.

The personal equipment of the Philippine soldier in the 31st Division left much to be desired. His uniform consisted of shorts, short-sleeved shirt, and cheap canvas shoes with a rubber sole that wore out in about two weeks. Some of the men were fortunate enough to draw leather shoes. For warmth and protection against mosquitoes, the Filipino wore his blue fatigue uniform. There were no surplus stocks for issue or replacement. The division received no steel helmets, but did have gas masks.

Rations were purchased by the individual organizations with funds furnished the unit commanders by the Philippine Army. Zambales Province, where the 31st Division was located, did not produce enough food for its own needs, and as additional units joined the division the procurement of food became a difficult problem. The division railhead scheduled to open on 1 December did not begin operations until a week later, after the war had started, because of the inexperience of Filipino supply officers.

The training program of the division began theoretically on 1 September, when the 31st Infantry was mobilized, but it was not until 24 November that the men first fired their rifles on the target range at the Olongapo Naval Station. One battalion fired fifty rounds per man, and another twenty-five rounds. The third battalion never fired at all, for permission to use the range was withdrawn by the Navy when the

4th Marine Regiment arriving from China, was stationed at Olongapo. No other range was available for the division, and the one under construction was not completed when war came.

The men in the 31st Infantry were more fortunate than those in the other regiments, many of whom never even fired a rifle before entering combat. Nor had their previous five and a half months’ training under Philippine Anny supervision been of much value, according to Colonel Bluemel. Practically none of the men, he observed, had fired as many as five rounds with the rifle or the .30-caliber machine gun. None had fired the .50-caliber-machine gun or the mortar. Bluemel’s judgment of the value of the early training program was borne out by the experience of other Philippine Army division commanders.

The field artillery units received even less training than the infantry. As soon as the two batteries were organized, they fired two rounds per gun. Most of the men had never fired a 75-mm. gun and many had never even seen one fired. The engineer battalion had been constructing a road since its arrival in camp and received no other training. The cadre of the signal company was commanded by a Filipino who had received inadequate training at Fort McKinley. This man, who was to be division signal officer, was unable to establish radio communication with units a mile away in the same camp.

All officers in the division, with few exceptions, were Filipinos with little or no knowledge of tactics or of the method of training troops for combat. In some cases, their understanding of English was inadequate. As the war progressed, it became necessary to replace many of the Filipino battalion commanders with American officers. The enlisted men seemed to the division commander to be proficient in only two things: “one, when an officer appeared, to yell attention in a loud voice, jump up and salute; the other, to demand 3 meals per day.”

SOURCE: The Fall Of The Philippines by Louis Morton (United States Army Center of Military History)



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.