When General MacArthur assumed command of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, there was no program in the War Department for any immediate large-scale reinforcement of the Islands. As a matter of fact, the War Department specifically told MacArthur that he could have “no additional forces, except approximately 400 reserve officers to assist in training the Philippine Army.·… ”
Within a few days, there was a complete reversal of policy in the War Department. The first sign of this change came on 31 July when General Marshall approved a proposal by the War Plans Division to reinforce the Islands’ defense “in view of the possibility of an attack.” The next day MacArthur was informed that he would receive substantial reinforcements and Marshall told his immediate staff, “It was the policy of the United States to defend the Philippines.” This statement so impressed the Chief of the War Plans Division that he entered it in his office diary.
The reasons for this change of policy are nowhere explicitly stated. Undoubtedly many factors both political and military contributed to the American Government’s firm stand in July and August 1941. One of these was recognition of the potentialities of air power and especially of the Army’s new heavy bomber, the B-17, called the Flying Fortress. In Stimson’s opinion, the success of B-17 operations in Europe was responsible for creating an optimistic view in the War Department that the Philippines could be successfully held. A striking force of such heavy bombers, it was argued, would act as a deterrent to Japanese advances southward and would strengthen the United States position in the Far East.
Another cause for optimism was the recall of General MacArthur to active duty. No one knew as much as he about the. Philippines and no one believed more completely that it could be held if the Japanese allowed sufficient time for reinforcement. The possibility of establishing an effective defense against Japan in the Philippines and thereby preventing Japanese domination of the Western Pacific without altering the major lines of strategy already agreed upon “had the effect,” Stimson said, (Henry L. Stimsol and McGeorge Bundy, On Active Service in Peace and War (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948, p. 388.). “of making the War Department a strong proponent of maximum delay in bringing the Japanese crisis to a climax. . . . In their [Stimson’s and Marshall’s] eyes the Philippines suddenly acquired a wholly new importance and were given the highest priority on all kinds of military equipment.”
The first official War Department program for a large-scale reinforcement of the Philippines during this period was proposed by War Plans on 14 August. In a memorandum for the Chief of Staff, General Gerow argued that those reasons which had limited the size of the Philippine garrisonlack of funds, personnel, and equipment, plus the inability of the Navy to support a large force-were no longer entirely valid. “With its present strength,” he pointed out, “there was a real doubt if the Philippine garrison could resist a Japanese attack, a contingency which he considered probable in view of Japan’s attitude.” To strengthen the garrison and increase its chances of holding Luzon and especially Manila Bay, General Gerow recommended that the Philippines be reinforced by antiaircraft artillery, modern combat planes, and tanks. The amount that could be sent, Gerow admitted, would be limited by the number of ships available for transport duty to the Far East. “The best that can be done at the moment,” therefore, would be “to adopt a definite plan of reinforcement and carry it forward as availability of shipping permits.”
Gerow’s recommendations were approved and two days later, on 16 August, General MacArthur was notified that the following units would sail from San Francisco between 27 August and 5 September: the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) consisting of 76 officers and 1,681 enlisted men; the 194th Tank Battalion (less Company B), with 54 tanks, 34 officers, and 390 enlisted men; and one company (155 men) of the 17th Ordnance Battalion.
There hid been some mention earlier of the possibility of sending a division to the Philippines, and on 5 September the Chief of Staff asked MacArthur if he wanted a National Guard division (probably the 41st). MacArthur replied that he did not need this division since he already had one U.S. Army division (the Philippine Division) and was mobilizing ten Philippine Army divisions. He asked instead for authority to reorganize the theoretically square Philippine Division into a triangular division, adding, “Equipment and supply of existing forces are the prime essential.” “I am confident if these steps are taken with sufficient speed,” he said, “that no further major reinforcement will be necessary for accomplishment of defense mission.”
The reinforcement of the Philippines now enjoyed the highest priority in the “Var Department. MacArthur’s request for permission to reorganize the Philippine Division was approved immediately. He was promised additional aircraft as well as the funds needed for airfield construction and the antiaircraft guns and equipment to protect the fields once they were built. “I have directed,” wrote General Marshall, “that United States Army Forces in the Philippines be placed in highest priority for equipment including authorized defense reserves for fifty thousand men.” As a result, General MacArthur’s requests for men and supplies during the next few months received almost instant approval by the War Department. “I wish to express my personal appreciation for the splendid support that you and the entire War Department have given me along every line since the formation of this command,” he told the Chief of Staff in a personal letter. “With such backing the development of a completely adequate defense force will be rapid.”
Through no fault of the War Department or a lack of desire on the part of the Chief of Staff, General MacArthur’s confidence in the rapid development of an adequate defense for the Philippines was not entirely justified. The task was a heavy one and limited by many factors beyond the control of the military. The industrial capacity of the United States was only just beginning to turn to the production of war material; the needs of a rapidly expanding citizen army had to be met; Great Britain and Russia were in critical need of supplies; and shipping space was extremely limited.
The reinforcements promised MacArthur on 16 August were dispatched with the greatest speed and by 12 September General Marshall was able to report considerable progress. The antiaircraft artillery regiment, the tank battalion of 54 tanks, and reserve supplies had already been shipped from San Francisco. During the month, 50 more tanks, and 50 self-propelled mounts for 75-mm. guns were to be sent.
These reinforcements reached MacArthur before the end of September. The arrival of the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) gave him 12 additional 3-inch guns, 24 37-mm. guns, and a similar number of machine guns. Armored reinforcement consisted of the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions each with 54 tanks. And he could count on 25 more 75-mm. guns on self-propelled mounts (SPM) already en route and due to arrive in Manila on 15 October. The arrival of the two tank battalions with their 108 light tanks, M-3, were a welcome addition to the Philippine garrison. On 21 November a Provisional Tank Group consisting of the 192d and 194th Tank Battalions and the 17th Ordnance Company (Armored) was established, with Colonel James R. N. Weaver in command.
As Military Advisor, MacArthur had proposed a plan to protect the inland seas by emplacing heavy coastal guns at the entrance to the key straits leading into these waters. The War Department had approved this plan and sent 24 155-mm. guns (without fire control equipment) to the Philippine Commonwealth to carry out this program, scheduled for completion in April 1942. MacArthur now proposed to extend this plan to include northern Luzon and asked the War Department for 4 12-inch
and 4 8-inch railway guns, 22 more 155-mm. guns, and 30 searchlights. When emplaced, he argued, these guns would present an enemy advancing on Manila with “fixed position gunfire, the lightest of which will be of sufficient proportions to interfere with troop landings and the operations of lightly armored vessels.” The letter was received in Washington at the beginning of December, too late to result in action.
General MacArthur’s request for authority to reorganize the Philippine Division as a triangular division had been readily granted. To accomplish this reorganization, MacArthur said he needed an infantry regiment, a field artillery headquarters and headquarters battery, two field artillery battalions, a reconnaissance troop, and a military police platoon for the division. The War Department agreed to provide these units and the staff began the detailed work necessary to select and ship them.
MacArthur’s plans for the Philippine Division were explained in a letter he wrote to the Chief of Staff on 28 October. He wished, he said, to have the division at war strength and trained intensively for combat. “It would be impolitic,” he thought, “to increase the number of Philippine Scouts above the authorized 12,000, for all recruits would be taken from Philippine Army reservists to serve at higher rates of pay than the Philippine Army can pay.” The only way, then, to increase the strength of the division was to secure an additional infantry regiment and two battalions of artillery from the United States. With these units and the American 31st Infantry, he could form two American combat teams in the Philippine Division. The Scouts thus released could be used to bring the 91st and 92nd Coast Artillery Regiments of the Harbor Defenses up to strength, retain several small units already in existence, and provide station complements for Forts McKinley and Stotsenburg. The Philippine Division would then be free to train for combat and would be available “for instant use.” “The entire plan,” he told General Marshall, “will be placed in effect upon the arrival of the new regiment.” MacArthur’s plans included also the establishment of four major tactical commands, directly subordinate to USAFFE.
On 2 October he requested authority, which was readily granted, to activate a headquarters and headquarters company for each “with average strength approximately those of Army Corps.” He also asked for army and corps troops to establish a balanced force, and for a field artillery brigade, a chemical company, three signal battalions, a medical supply depot, and a military police company, all at full strength and with complete organization and individual equipment. By the end of October he had requested almost 12,000 men: for the Philippine Division, 209 officers and 4,881 enlisted men; for army and corps troops, 340 officers and 6,392 enlisted men.
During the next month MacArthur continued to ask for additional units and individual specialists, and by the middle of November the War Department had approved for transfer to Manila 1,312 officers, 25 nurses, and 18,047 enlisted men belonging to units. Individual specialists totaled 200 officers and 2,968 enlisted men. The units selected for this overseas movement, including the 34th Infantry for the Philippine Division, were scheduled for shipment, first for January 1942, but later, ironically, on 8 December 1941.
These reinforcements and supplies were all intended for the regular U.S. Army establishment; requisitions for the Philippine Army were made and considered separately. His plan of induction had hardly been completed when MacArthur began to request from the War Department large amounts of supplies for his Philippine troops. During August alone he called for 84,500 Garand rifles (M 1), 330 .30-caliber machine guns, 326 .50-caliber antiaircraft machine guns, 450 37-mm. guns, 217 81-mm. mortars, 288 75-mm. guns with high-speed adapters, and over 8,000 vehicles of all types for the ten Philippine Army divisions he planned to mobilize. On 18 September he was told that because of lend-lease commitments and production schedules it would not be possible to send most of these items.
Especially unwelcome was the news that Garand rifles were not available and that the Philippine Army divisions would have to continue to use the Enfield and ’03’s with which they were equipped. MacArthur nevertheless continued to request equipment for the Philippine Army, asking, on 10 September, for 125,000 steel helmets, as well as chemical, engineer, and signal equipment. A month later, the request for the helmets was approved. They would be shipped immediately and the other equipment would be shipped at a later date.
Since the Philippine Army was not limited in size by law as was the U.S. Army, MacArthur was in the unique position of being able to raise as many troops as the War Department could equip. On 20 September he asked for “complete organizational equipment” for a number of army and corps units to be formed principally of Philippine Army personnel. Included were 2 155-mm. and 3 105-mm. howitzer regiments, a motorized battalion of 155-mm. guns, 3 antitank gun battalions, and service, signal, and medical units. These requests were approved and a shipping schedule established.
Most disturbing was the shortage of light artillery and machine guns in the Philippine Army divisions. By the end of September the Philippine Army had only 48 75-mm. guns. At least 240 were required to equip the artillery regiments of the ten reserve divisions and another 36 for field artillery training centers. Also needed were 37-mm. guns for the antitank battalions and .50-caliber machine guns. Realizing that the supply of these guns was limited, MacArthur expressed a willingness to accept as substitutes obsolete models or smaller weapons. “Strongly recommend,” he appealed to the Chief of Staff, “improvisation to the extent of providing substitute arrangement in spite of lowered efficiency for any types available in the United States.”
By mid-November, the War Department had taken action to ship 40 105-mm. howitzers to the Philippines. These weapons were to be given to U.S. Army units and would release to Philippine Army units a like number of 75’s. In addition, 10 75-mm. pack howitzers were to be taken from the vital Canal Zone and 48 British 75-mm. guns and 123 .30-caliber machine guns from the equally important Hawaiian garrison for the Philippine Islands, an indication of the importance which the defense of the archipelago had acquired in the eyes of the War Department. From the United States itself would come 130 75-mm. guns, 35 37-mm. guns (M1916) and 14 .30-caliber machine guns.
No action was taken until October to supply the thousands of vehicles MacArthur had requested. During that month a large number of jeeps, ambulances, trucks, and sedans became available and on the 15th the War Department released these vehicles for the Philippine Army, “subject to the availability of shipping.” A request for clothing for the Philippine Army was also approved, as was the equipment for ten 250-bed station hospitals and 180 sets of regimental infirmary equipment.
An early requisition for 500,000 C rations and enough 55-gallon drums to hold 1,000,000 gallons of gasoline was filled during the summer. Strangely enough, the drums arrived filled although the gasoline had not been requested. This unexpected windfall proved extremely fortunate. A large portion of the gasoline was stored on Bataan and was most welcome during the campaign.
The approval of requisitions and orders for shipment did not result in any immediate increase in the supplies of the Philippine Army. Time was required to order the stocks from depots and factories, pack and ship them to the port of embarkation, find the vessels to transport them, and finally get them to the Islands. In September, the Navy began sending cruiser escorts with Army transports and merchant ships on their voyages between Hawaii and Manila. This procedure frequently meant that the transports had to stop at Honolulu, sometimes reload, and then sail west at a speed equal to that of the slowest vessel in the convoy.
The shipment of supplies was dependent upon the number of cargo vessels available to the Army. This number was never large and the Navy, for a time, threatened even this limited supply. In September the Navy announced its intention to convert three transports to escort carriers. General Marshall protested this decision vigorously, pointing out to the Chief of Naval Operations that it would delay the delivery of much-needed reinforcements to MacArthur by over two months. Despite the favorable outcome of this protest, a large backlog of troops and approximately 1,100,000 tons of equipment destined for the Philippines had piled up in U.S. ports or depots by November.
A group of shipping experts, including representatives from the War Department General Staff, Office of the Quartermaster General, the Navy, and Maritime Commission, met on 10 November to discuss ways of breaking the shipping block. As a result of this meeting a shipping schedule was established which recognized the priority of the Philippines over Hawaiian defenses and advanced the troop movements scheduled for mid-January to 17 and 20 December.
Altogether, nine vessels were assigned to the Manila route, to sail in November and December. They would bring to MacArthur one light and one heavy bombardment group, a pursuit group, one reconnaissance squadron, a regiment of infantry, a brigade of field artillery, two battalions of light artillery, together with ground and air service units. Had these vessels, the last of which was to leave the United States on 20 December, reached the Philippines the Japanese would have faced a far stronger force when they landed on Luzon.
Air Forces In July 1941 the air force in the Philippines was still a token force, unable to withstand “even a mildly determined and ill-equipped foe.” Air Corps headquarters in Washington had been urging for some time that additional planes be sent to the Philippines and the Joint Board, early in 1940, had proposed an increase in air strength for the island garrison. The following July 1941 Major General Henry H. Arnold, chief of the newly created Army Air Forces, came forward ‘With the strongest proposal yet made for the reinforcement of the Philippines. This proposal called for the transfer to the Philippines of four heavy bombardment groups, consisting of 272 aircraft with 68 in reserve, and two pursuit groups of 130 planes each. These planes, wrote Brigadier General Carl Spaatz, chief of the Air Staff, would not be used for an offensive mission, but to maintain “a strategical defensive in Asia.
General Arnold’s recommendations, approved in August, were not easily carried out. To have raised that number of planes in the summer of 1941 would have meant stripping the fields in the United States as well as all other overseas bases. Moreover, many of the heavy bombers were still on the production lines. What could be scraped together was shipped immediately and by mid-August General Gerow reported to the Chief of Staff that thirty-one modern fighters of the P-40 type were on their way. Meanwhile General Arnold made arrangements to send fifty more directly from the factory. These, too, were soon on their way and by 2 October had arrived in the Philippines.
Some weeks earlier a historic flight of nine Flying Fortresses had reached Manila by air. These planes were part of the 19th Bombardment Group (H), which had been selected for transfer to the Far East. After a flight from Hamilton Field near San Francisco, the Group’s 14th Squadron, under Major Emmett O’Donnell, Jr., left Hickam Field in Hawaii on 5 September for Clark Field via Midway, Wake, Port Moresby, and Darwin. This pioneering 10,000-mile flight, almost all of it over water, was successfully concluded a week later, establishing the fact that the Philippines could be reinforced by air. But the Midway-Wake route could not be considered safe in the event of war with Japan since it passed over the mandated islands and work was begun after October to develop a South Pacific ferry route.
Once the pioneering flight had been successfully concluded, all heavy bombers sent to the Philippines went by air via the Central Pacific route. On 9 September, General Marshall told MacArthur that two additional squadrons of the 19th Group the 30th and 93d-would leave the next month. At that time the ground echelon of the two squadrons and the headquarters sailed from San Francisco. The air echelon of twenty-six B-17’s followed soon after.
By 22 October these planes had arrived at Hickam Field in Hawaii. After a short stopover they flew on to Clark Field where all but two reported on 4 November; the other two followed soon after. The flight of the 30th and 93d Squadrons was one in a scheduled series which called for the shipment of 33 heavy bombers in December, 51 in January 1942, and 46 more in February. By March 1942 the War Department planned to have 165 heavy bombers in the Philippines. 88 Scheduled for shipment after the 19th Bombardment Group was the 7th. The ground echelon reached Hawaii late in November and was held there until naval escort could be secured. The air echelon, scheduled to fly to the Philippines via the Midway route during late November and early December, had completed only the first leg of the journey before war came. In addition to heavy bombers, MacArthur was also promised a light bombardment group of three combat squadrons. [Estimated production of B-I7’s and B-24’s for the period was 220 aircraft, thus demonstrating the importance which the War Department attached to the defense of the Philippines at this time.]
Selected for shipment was the 27th Bombardment Group (L). The Air Corps experienced some difficulty in securing the 52 A-24’s for this group but by early November the planes had been collected. The pilots and ground personnel reached the Philippines during November but the A-24’s, loaded on a separate transport, were held at Hawaii with the ground echelon of the 7th Bombardment Group and failed to reach their destination.
At the end of November General Marshall summarized for the Secretary of War the air reinforcements already shipped or scheduled for shipment to the Philippines. At that time, he noted, there· were 35 B-17’s already in the Islands and 52 A-24’s were due there-they never arrived-on the 30th. Fifty P-40’s had reached MacArthur in September, Marshall explained to Stimson, thus giving him a total of 81 modern fighters. In addition, 24 P-40’s had left San Francisco on 19 October, and 40 more on 9 November. By 31 December, General Marshall estimated, the Philippines should have a total of 240 fighters of the latest type.
SOURCE: The Fall Of The Philippines by Louis Morton (United States Army Center of Military History)