World War Two: Fall of Wake Island, 11-23 December 1941

The day after Guam fell, the defenders of Wake Island scored the first American victory of the war. It was heartening but temporary. At 0500 on December 11, Japanese cruisers, escorting transports loaded with 450 Special Landing Troops, opened fire on Wake. Marine lookouts had spotted the flotilla in the light of the half moon; but Major James P.S. Devereux, commanding the Marine defense battalion detachment, held his fire to prevent the enemy from locating his guns prematurely. At 0615 the new light cruiser Yubari and three destroyers closed to 4,500 yards. Now, the Marines opened up. The 5-inch guns of Battery A at Peacock Point, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Clarence A. Barninger, hit Yubari three times; the cruiser turned tail and fled, trailing smoke. On Wilkes Island, Battery L’s 5-inch guns, commanded by 2nd Lieutenant John A. McAlister, sank the lead destroyer Hayate; she was the first Japanese surface craft sunk by U.S. naval forces in the war. The Marine gun crews were so excited they stopped firing and started cheering. Platoon Sergeant Henry A. Bedell, an old China hand, brought them back to business, bellowing: ” Knock it off, you bastards, you get back on the guns. What d’ya think this is, a ball game?”

The keyed-up Marine gunners promptly hit a second destroyer and the lead transport and sent off another two transports. Their accurate firing then found a light cruiser, and she also turned away. First Lieutenant Woodrow W. Kessler’s Marines at Battery B on Peale Island scored a hit on a destroyer

The Marine gunners had driven off the invasion force. Four Marine Grumman F4F Wildcats, led by Major Paul A. Putnam, of Washington, Iowa, chased the retreating ships, strafed them, dropping 100-pound bombs and scooted home to re-arm. The planes shuttled out; damaged two warships and a transport, and Captain Henry T. Elrod of Thomasville, Georgia, sank the destroyer Kisaragi. There were no survivors.

The battle was an unqualified victory for the Marines. They had sunk two destroyers, damaged a cruiser and several other ships, shot down three Japanese bombers and damaged four more. The enemy lost some 500 men; on Wake, there were no casualties. The historian Morison wrote: “ the eleventh day December 1941 should always be a proud day in the history of the Corps. Never again, in the Pacific War, did coast defense guns beat off an amphibious landing.” But the Marines superb shooting could not save Wake.

The Japanese were determined to take the atoll. A lonely speck 450 miles from the nearest land, it was made up of three islands in the shape of a wishbone open to the northwest. The main island was Wake; Wilkes was at the tip of the southern branch of the wishbone, and Peale at the tip of the northern. The atoll, which had been visited by the Wilkes Exploring Expedition in 1841 and annexed to the United States in 1899, sat astride the Pacific lines of communication of both the United States and Japan–a strategically placed coral aircraft carrier.

When war came there were on wake only 388 Marines of the 1st Defense Battalion commanded by small, wiry Major Devereux, who had been an enlisted Marine in Nicaragua and China; Major Putnam’s Marine Fighter Squadron 211 of 61 men and 12 blue and grey Wildcats (flown off the Enterprise on December 4); 68 Navy personnel; five army communication men; 70 Pan American civilians, and 1,146 civilian contract employees who had been trying to pound Wakes coral boulders in to a Naval sir base. Navy Commander Winfield Scott Cunningham, a lanky aviator , was the atoll commander.

Only the understrength Marines were armed. A total of six 5-inch and a dozen 3-inch guns were emplaced on Peale and Wilkes Islands and on Peacock Point at the base of Wake. There were Marines enough to man but six of the 3-inch antiaircraft guns.

After sunrise on Monday (Sunday, December 7 in Hawaii) Pan America’s Philippine Clipper took off and headed west toward Guam. The Marines finishing breakfast. Major Devereux was shaving. At 0650, Army Captain Henry S. Wilson dashed into the major’s tent with an un-coded message that Hawaii was under attack. Devereux told the bugler to sound Call to Arms. Marines grabbed their Springfield ’03 rifles and ammunition and World War I-style helmets, piled into trucks and rushed to their batteries. By 0735 all positions were manned. Aviators had their planes warmed up and dispersed as much as possible, civilians started digging foxholes. The Clipper was recalled and returned. A four plane patrol went up and swung to the north to scout for enemy planes.

Just before noon, 36 twin-engine bombers, approaching from the south, swooped down out of a rain cloud. The Island had no radar; and with the constantly roaring surf, nobody heard or saw the bombers till 15 seconds before the first bomb fell. In ten furious minutes, the Japanese destroyed seven of the eight Wildcats on the ground; wrecked the Pan Am station, riddled the Clipper; killed 10 civilians; and 23 aviation Marines and wounded 11 more. The enemy fliers flew off intact, wagging their wings to celebrate their success.

An hour later, the Clipper managed to take off for Midway to the northeast. The Marines and some volunteers from Dan Teter’s civilian construction crew cared for the wounded, repaired damage, salvaged planes and mined the runway to prevent an airborne landing. The marines could not get permission to use the contractor’s ditch-digger to bury their communications wires.

For the next two days, Wake was pounded. Only three Wildcats were operational. Lieutenant David D. Kliewer and Tech Sergeant William J. Hamilton flew in on the flanks of one enemy raid and shot down a straggling bomber. Captain Elrod shot down two more. The bombers hit guns, ammunition, barracks, radio station and machine shops. They burned the hospital to the ground, killing four Marines, 55 civilians and several corpsmen. On the third night, December 11, the Japanese made their first attempt to land and were thrown back by the Marine gunners.

At Pearl Harbor, the American naval commander organized a relief expedition around three fast carrier task forces with Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga. But the relief expedition was crippled by indecisiveness and excessive caution. Naval officers feared risking their then-irreplaceable carriers.

Bombers clobbered the island almost daily; there was no hiding form the hell they dropped. By December 14, two planes had been wrecked; and VMF-211 was down to one again. Cannibalizing planes, the Marines on the seventeenth had four Wildcats that could do battle.

On Saturday, December 20, a Navy PBY arrived; Wake’s first physical contact with the outside world since the island was attacked. The plane brought the plans of the relief expedition, cheering all hands, and took off again early the next morning. Two hours later, the first Japanese carrier dive bombers and fighters appeared. They promised that the Japanese were preparing another landing attempt.

The twenty-first was a bitter day; Battery D on Peale was virtually destroyed. On the twenty-second, only two Wildcats could fly. Captain Herbert C. Freuler and 2nd Lieutenant Carl R. Davidson took them up to attack 33 carrier dive bombers and six zero’s Davidson dived at one of the bombers; a zero shot him down. Freuler exploded under another Zero. A Zero tailed him and wounded him twice. He escaped and crash-landed his plane on Wake. That wiped out the Marine airpower for good. What was left of VMF-211, less than 20 able-bodied men, joined the Defense Battalion as infantrymen.

It was now a race between the American relief expedition and the enemy landing force. The Japanese won. Saratoga was still 600 miles from Wake; but Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher spent December 22 refueling. Then it was too late.

The Marines spotted the Japanese amphibious force at 0215 on December 23, an intensely dark, moonless night. This time, the Japanese came to stay. They brought six heavy cruisers, six destroyers, and two carriers. In the landing force was an estimated 1,500 men.

At 0235 the enemy landed simultaneously on Wilkes and the southern side of Wake. About 100 men hit Wilkes. There, big tough Marine Gunner Clarence B. McKinstry, commanding Battery F, began the battle by firing a.50 caliber machine gun at the landing barges. On Wake island, 1,000 Japanese landed against some 85 Marines on the beach. An unmanned 3-inch gun on a slight rise was the only large weapon that could bear on the two destroyer-transports disembarking their men. Second Lieutenant Robert M. Hanna quickly gathered a scratch crew, raced to this gun threw 15 shells into the grounded landing craft. But the enemy scrambled ashore. Devereux sent Major Putnam, Captain Elrod and the VMF-211 Marines between the enemy and Hanna’s gun. They fought off several hundred Japanese for six hours, until all but one of the defenders, Marines and civilians, were killed or wounded. Among the dead was Hank Elrod. The thirty-six year old flier was the first Marine aviator in World War Two to earn the Medal of Honor–awarded for his courage in the sir and on the ground.

The Marine Defense Battalion had no infantry component; small detachments, bolstered by a few civilian workers, met repeated enemy attacks and shouting bayonet charges. They fought the enemy with machine guns and grenades. The Japanese captured the hospital and tied up the wounded Marines with telephone wire. Major George H Potter Jr., Devereux’s executive officer, and 40 men fought from a defense line that crossed the Airstrip. At 0500 a half hour before dawn, Commander Cunningham sent a message to Pearl Harbor: “ENEMY ON ISLAND ISSUE IN DOUBT.” The Japanese were firmly established on the atoll. The Marines thin line was just too thin.

At Pearl, Vice Admiral William S. Pye, temporarily commanding the Pacific Fleet, fearful of losing the Saratoga, ordered the mismanaged relief expedition back to Hawaii. On Saratoga, sailors and marines were furious; Marine aviators cursed and wept. Wake’s last hope was snuffed out.

At 0730, Cunningham and Devereux, knowing now that no relief could be expected, decided to surrender. Devereux, with Sergeant Donald Malleck carrying a white rag on a mop handle, walked south to meet the nearest Japanese commander. But the fighting continued for hours, and Devereux had to go to each Marine position to bring the battle to a halt. As Morison wrote:” Marines surrender Hard”

The final battle was fought on little Wilkes Island, where there were 70 Marines and a number of sailors and civilians. Gunner McKinstry’s Marines were forced back to join men form Battery L commanded by 2nd Lieutenant McAlister. From this position, they were able to block the way to the main island.

Captain Wesley McC. Platt’s command post on Wilkes was on the far side of the Japanese landing force. Down near the beach, on that side, the Marine machine gun nearest the landing was able to repel attacks until dawn. As day broke Captain Platt led Platoon Sergeant Raymond L. Coulson and eight marines riflemen against nearly 100 Japanese. They drove the surprised Japanese back the McAlister-McKinstry line. McAlister gathered 24 Marines and counterattacked from his side. Platt and McAlister joined forces and together wiped out the rest of the Japanese landing force on Wilkes.

But Platt was now out of communication with Devereux’s command post. Under dive bomber attack, he and his Marines marched east toward Wake Island. At 1330 Platt saw three men approaching; two Marines and a Japanese officer with a large sword. The Marines were Devereux and Mallack; the major told Platt that the atoll had been surrendered. The Battle for Wake Island was over.

The Japanese made prisoners of 470 officers and men and 1,146 civilians. The American dead were 49 Marines, three sailors, and about 70 civilians. Enemy casualties in taking Wake were estimated to total 820 killed and 333 wounded. The prisoners kept hoping for an American counterattack until they sailed on January 12 for Shanghai. En route, they were half starved and repeatedly beaten. Two Marine Sergeants from VMF-211 and three sailors were beheaded. In Woosung prison camp Shanghai, the Wake Marines joined Colonel Ashurst and the Marines from North China. They would be there for a very long time.

SOURCE: U.S. Marine Corps Story: BY: J. Robert Moskin

….Flying thirty-six of it’s twin-engine bombers, the 24th Air Flotilla attacked Wake at midday on 8 December, destroying seven planes, severely damaging another, damaging the Pan American facilities, and cratering the airstrip. Not a single Japanese plane was lost. Bombing raids continued through 10 December, exploding ready ammunition and damaging some of the 5-inch guns.

While the Guam Invasion Force had been a massive one, pitted against opposition known to be minor, the wake Invasion Force was dangerously weak against a force known to be potentially strong. The Fourth Fleet at Truk assigned the following ships to the wake Island invasion: the light cruiser Yubari ( flagship of Rear Admiral Sadamichi Kajioka), the destroyers Mutsuki, Kisaragi, Yayoi, Mochizuki, Oite, and Hayate, escorting two transports (converted destroyers) with 450 SNLF troops and two Maru Transports carrying garrison troops. (Maru is a term attached to Japanese merchant ships, and the title was retained when the ship was impressed into naval service) The light cruisers Tenryu and Tatsuta, old cruisers commissioned in 1919, would act as a support group. This definitely was not the Japanese first team, as event were soon to prove.

The Wake invasion Force sailed from Ruotta anchorage, Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, on 8 December, arriving off Wake two days later. The cruiser’s Action Reports and the tactics of the invasion force indicate that little resistance was anticipated; the Japanese apparently assumed that the two days of bombing had rendered Wake relatively defenseless. The Japanese ships began their approach on 11 December shortly after 0500. In atypical destroyer squadron, the Yubari would have been at the head of her six destroyers; this arrangement was modified, how ever by situating the light cruisers Tatsuta and Tenryu between Yubari and the destroyers, in a column formation. On the starboard side of the column were the two converted destroyers, on the port side were the two Marus. Seas were running high. Which would make the launching of assault craft slower and more difficult.

The defenders at wake had seen blinking lights to the south shortly after midnight, so available defenses had been readied. The four remaining Grumman’s took to the air as the approach was spotted, and the Marines stood to their three batteries of 5-inch guns, one battery on each of the three islands.

The Japanese column opened fire at 0522, after having turned to port to make its firing run, paralleling Wakes southern perimeter at 6,000 yards from shore. The marines on Wake held their fire, and the records of the Tenryu indicate that the Japanese bombardment target was the “Wake, residential area” and “housing in the West area.” At any rate, their target was definitely not the defense batteries. Oil tanks at the southern end of Wake Island were hit, however, and set afire. As the column advanced to the west, the transports began to prepare to land their troops. After twenty minutes, having reached the west edge of Wilkes Island, the Yubari closed the range to 4,500 yards and reversed for another firing run. The Marine defenders still held their fire. At 0600 the Yubari reserved again, once more closing range for a third firing run, and at 0610, the islands’ batteries opened fire. Battery A, at the southeast tip of Wake Island, claimed to have hit the Yubari with it’s second salvo, although the Yubari Action Report makes no mention of any damage. One of the converted destroyers, carrying half the SNLF troops, received a fatal hit from Battery A, at about the same time, and eventually drifted ashore at Wake Island.

Rear Admiral Kajioka immediately retired his command ship to the southwest, escorting the remaining converted destroyer. The transports came under the fire of Battery L on Wilkes Island, and one Maru was hit. The destroyers Hayate, Oite and Mochizuki in order to screen the transports and deliver counterbattery fire, charged directly toward Battery L and thus proved anew the truth of an old naval dictum: fixed ground defense guns can usually outshoot attacking ships. The Hayate, in the lead, was hit squarely by three salvos and blew up, with no survivors: 168 men were killed. The Oite was hit, with nineteen men wounded, along with the Mochizuki she turned south-southwest of Wilkes Island. Meanwhile, a reconstructed column made up of the Yayoi, Mutsuki and Kisaragi backed up by the Tatsuta and Tenryu, got into a fire fight with Battery B on Peale Island. The Yayoi was hit ( one man killed, seventeen wounded), but she returned fire and did considerable damage to Battery B.

A new element was added to the battle when the four Grumman Wildcats attacked. At 0724, they made a strafing run on the starboard bow of the Tenryu. The forward section of the cruiser was raked in the vicinity of her NO. 1torpedo tube, wounding five, disabling three of her torpedoes and puncturing the hull. With this, the remaining ships made smoke and also retired to the southwest. But the Wildcats were not through; the Kisaragi came under attack about 30 miles southwest of Wake. Hits on her depth charges set off a hugh explosion, and the Kisaragi went down at once with all hands (her normal complement was 150 men) at 0731.

The Yubari’s Action Report sums up the battle succinctly. “Although the enemy sustained heavy damage from numerous attack by the medium-attack bombers of the 24th Air Flotilla, he still retained intact several fighters, ground batteries, etc.–he fiercely counterattacked and we were temporarily forced to retire.” The total Japanese casualty list was 340 killed, 65 wounded, and 2 missing. The Wake Invasion Force, now missing two destroyers and one converted destroyer transport, returned to Ruotta anchorage to repair its damages and to await reinforcements before anew effort. On Wake, the defense batteries were still mainly in tact, but there were only two planes left. Amazingly, only one U.S. Marine was killed. This battle certainly showed warships should not charge into the point-blank range of fixed 5-inch guns.

In the interval between the first and second invasion operations, the Americans wanted to reinforce the Wake garrison. But confusion in the command echelons, caused the Pearl Harbor debacle, and the lack of hard intelligence on the whereabouts of the Japanese Combined Fleet or the nature of Japanese naval installations in the Marshalls, caused the Americans to fail to reinforce Wake or engage new enemy invasion forces in battle. Although three fleet carriers with cruiser and destroyer screens were then available, it was feared that Wake was the bait the in a Japanese trap, and the risk of losing three fleet carriers on top of the battleship losses at Pearl Harbor seemed to great.

The Japanese continued a daily air bombardment by the 24th Air Flotilla, augmented by planes from the heavy carriers Hiryu and Soryu and from the seaplane tender Chitose. They set no ambush, however, between 11 and 23 December, even though they realized that Wake could have been reinforced in that time. Although they made an efficient and successful invasion in the predawn of 23 December, the Japanese invasion force was inferior in all its elements to what the United States could have mustered. Thus, the Americans had been timid and cautious, while the Japanese showed an almost rash lack of caution or preparation for a battle that might have proved decisive. The Japanese navy provided only a token sort of covering force which an American Fleet, acting with initiative, might have overwhelmed.

The Second Wake Invasion Force mustered at Ruotta anchorage. It included the quickly repaired original ships: light cruisers Yubari, Tatsuta, Tenryu; Destroyers Mutsuki, Yayoi, Oite, Mochizuki; two Maru transports and one converted destroyer transport. Rear Admiral Kajioka in the Yubari was till in overall command. The force gained two destroyers, the Asanagi and the Yunagi (which helped capture Makin Island and had been raiding elsewhere in the Gilbert Island), one converted-destroyer transport, another Maru transport, a minelayer, and a troop-carrying seaplane tender. The original SNLF troops were reinforced by some of throops that had captured Guam. The Combined strength of the SNLF forces, then at Ruotta, was nearly 2,000. The heavy cruisers Kinugasa, Aoba, Kako and Furutaka of the Guam Invasion Force were, on 13 December, designated Marshall Area Operation Support Group for the second wake Invasion. The 24th Air Flotilla was augmented by the seaplane tender Chitose’s twenty-eight planes. The Hiryu and Soryu, with 108 planes, the heavy cruiser Tone and Chikuma, and the destroyers Urakaze and Tanikaze, had split off from the retiring Pearl Harbor Strike Force to support the second Wake invasion attempt, passing under the tactical command of the Fourth Fleet.

The Second Wake Invasion Force left Ruotta at 0545 on 21 December. The Hiryu and Soryu were already positioned about 200 miles north-northwest of Wake, and carrier-plane strikes on 21 December were added to the 24th Air Flotilla’s continuous raids. Rear Admiral Kajioka’s forces did not storm in on Wake as on 11 December, and there was no sustained pre-invasion bombardment. Instead the SNLF were put into assault boats in the dark at 0220 on 23 December, some two miles from their objective. Despite fierce resistance, beachheads were soon secured. At 0600, carrier planes joined in the attack, and by 0630, the overwhelmed garrison surrendered. The SNLF and Army landing forces had lost 140 men; the ships lost 4 men. Ten Japanese planes were shot down. Wakes three islands became part of the Japanese Empire and a link in the Japanese Navy’s perimeter defense, the Philippines life line had been severed, without damage to any naval units, and the Japanese had learned a lesson in amphibious tactics.

SOURCE: Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945); BY: Paul S. Dull

World War Two: Marines Surrender; China -Guam December 1941

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


Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Ishtar’s Descent To Hades (Part 30); Assyrian

(Her Fearful Reception)

To Hades’ darkened land, whence none return,
Queen Ishtar, Sin’s great daughter, now doth turn;
Inclined her ear and listened through the void
That lay beneath of every path devoid,
The home of darkness, of the Under-World,
Where god Ir-kal-la[1] from the heights was hurled.

The land and road from whence is no return,
Where light no entrance hath to that dark bourne;
Where dust to dust returns, devouring clods;
Where light dwells not in Tsil-lat-tus abodes;
Where sable ravens hovering rule the air;
O’er doors and bolts dust reigneth with despair.
Before the gates of gloom the Queen now stands,
And to the keeper Ishtar thus commands:
“O keeper of the waters! open wide
Thy gate, that I through these dark walls may glide;
But if thou open’st not the gate for me,
That I may enter, shattered thou shalt see
The doors and bolts before thee lying prone,
And from the dust shall rise each skeleton,
With fleshless jaws devour all men with thee,
Till death shall triumph o’er mortality.”
The keeper to the Princess Ishtar said:
“Withhold thy speech! or Allat’s fury dread!
To her I go to bid thee welcome here.”
To Allat then the keeper doth appear:
“Thy sister Ishtar the dark waters seeks–
The Queen of Heaven,” thus Allat’s fury breaks.

“So like an herb uprooted comes this Queen,
To sting me as an asp doth Ishtar mean?
What can her presence bring to me but hate?
Doth Heaven’s Queen thus come infuriate?”
And Ishtar thus replies: “The fount I seek,
Where I with Tammuz, my first love, may speak;
And drink its waters, as sweet nectar-wines,
Weep o’er my husband, who in death reclines;
My loss as wife with handmaids I deplore,
O’er my dear Tammuz let my teardrops pour.”
And Allat said, “Go! keeper, open wide
The gates to her! she hath me once defied;
Bewitch her as commanded by our laws.”
To her thus Hades opened wide its jaws.

“Within, O goddess! Cutha thee receives!
Thus Hades’ palace its first greeting gives.”
He seized her, and her crown aside was thrown.
“O why, thou keeper, dost thou seize my crown?”
“Within, O goddess! Allat thee receives!
‘Tis thus to thee our Queen her welcome gives.”
Within the next gate he her earrings takes,
And goddess Ishtar now with fury shakes.
“Then why, thou slave, mine earrings take away?”
“Thus entrance, goddess, Allat bids this day.”

At the third gate her necklace next he takes,
And now in fear before him Ishtar quakes.
“And wilt thou take from me my gems away?”
“Thus entrance, goddess, Allat bids this day.”
And thus he strips the goddess at each gate,
Of ornaments upon her breast and feet
And arms; her bracelets, girdle from her waist,
Her robe next took, and flung the Queen undrest
Within a cell of that dark solitude.

At last, before Queen Ishtar Allat stood,
When she had long remained within the walls,
And Allat mocked her till Queen Ishtar falls
Humiliated on the floor in woe;
Then turning wildly, cursed her ancient foe.
Queen Allat furious to her servant cries:
“Go! Naintar! with disease strike blind her eyes!
And strike her side! her breast and head and feet;
With foul disease her strike, within the gate!”

[Footnote 1: “Ir-kal-la,” the King of Hades, who was hurled from the
heights of heaven with the evil gods who rebelled with Tiamatu, the
goddess of chaos, against the reign of the gods of heaven.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature; Alcove II, Tablet VI (1901): Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Effect Of Ishtar’s Imprisonment In Hades (Part 31); Assyrian

Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: The Curse Of Ishtar (Part 29); Assyrian

World War Two: Fall of Philippines (3-14); Occupation of Manila 1941-42

On 26 December, Manila was declared an open city. All newspapers published the text of the proclamation and radio stations broadcast the news through the day. A huge banner bearing the words Open City and No Shooting was strung across the front of the city hall. That night the blackout ended and Manila was ablaze with lights.

With the evacuation of the government and the army, a feeling of foreboding and terror spread through the city, and the exodus, which had ceased after the first confusion of war, began again. “The roads back into the hills,” noted one observer, “were black with people striving to reach their native villages . . . . The few trains still running into the provinces were literally jammed to the car tops.” The business district was deserted and there were few cars along Dewey Boulevard.

Here and there a few shops made a brave attempt at a holiday spirit with displays of tinsel and brightly wrapped gifts. On the Escolta, two Santa Clauses with the traditional white beards and red costumes looked strangely out of place. One walked up and down as if dazed while the other, more practical, piled sandbags before the entrance to his shop. “No girls in slacks and shorts were bicycling along the water front,” wrote Major Carlos Romulo reminiscently, “and there were no horseback riders on the bridle path . . . the Yacht Club, the night clubs and hotels . . . all looked like funeral parlors.” Let it be known,” reported NBC correspondent Bert Silen, “that our Christmas Eve was the darkest and gloomiest I ever hope to spend.”

Late on the night of 26 December Radio Tokyo acknowledged receipt of the Manila broadcasts declaring the capital ‘an open city.” Official notification to 14th Army came later, either on the 28th or after, when Imperial General Headquarters forwarded the information from Tokyo. Apparently MacArthur made no attempt to notify the Japanese forces in the Philippines of his intentions, but a mimeographed announcement of the open city declaration was in the hands of the Japanese troops by 31 December.

General Maeda commented later that “Imperial General Headquarters did not recognize the declaration of Manila as an open city. Manila had to be taken. Even if it were an open city, Japanese troops had to occupy it.”

Either the Japanese in the Philippines were unaware of the open city declaration or they chose to ignore it, for enemy aircraft were over the Manila area on 27 December. The Army’s 5th Air Group sent 7 light and 4 heavy bombers against Nichols Field, and at least 2 fighters over the port district that day. But the main bombing strikes, directed against the Manila Bay and Pasig River areas, were made by naval aircraft. For three hours at midday, successive waves of unopposed bombers over Manila wrought great destruction on port installations and buildings in the Intramuros, the ancient walled city of the Spaniards. The attacks against shipping continued the next day, with additional damage to the port area.

By New Year’s Eve the rear echelon of USAFFE headquarters under General Marshall had completed its work and was repaired to leave the “open city.” The capital was subdued but ready to greet the New Year. Hotels, nightclubs, and cabarets were opened, a dance was held at the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel, and many women donned evening gowns for the first time since the start of the war. But no sirens were sounded as in the past to herald the new year; there was no exploding of firecrackers, no tooting of horns, and no bright lights from naval ships in the bay lighting the sky. The only fireworks came from burning military installations. Along Manila streets the uncollected garbage of many days lay almost unnoticed.

While a few citizens drank and danced, most of the bars closed at 2100. A large number of bartenders, in what someone termed a “scotched-earth policy,” smashed the remaining bottles to prevent their falling into Japanese hands. The next morning the quartermaster stores in the port area were thrown open to the public and great crowds hurried towards the piers. About to be burned, the sheds yielded a wide assortment of booty to the delighted Filipinos. The ice plant, filled with frozen food, was also thrown open. Not all the residents were at the piers; many attended church services, for the Japanese were expected that afternoon.

For almost forty years Manila had been the outpost of American civilization in the Orient. Now the badly mauled port area was quiet and dead as the old year. From the waters of Manila Bay rose the funnels of sunken ships and along the waterfront stood the blackened, empty walls and the battered piers, mute epitaph to one of the finest harbors in the Far East.

The city was surrounded by an inferno of flame, noise, and smoke. Fuel supplies at Fort McKinley to the southeast, installations that survived the bombing at Nichols Field to the south, and the ruins of Cavite across Manila Bay were demolished in great bursts of flame and explosion. The bewildered and frightened population was further panic-stricken by the soaring flames from the oil tanks at Pandacan, which ate up surrounding warehouses and buildings and sent up black clouds of smoke. The flaming oil floated along the Pasig and set other fires along the banks. And from the air the enemy continued to drop bombs, adding even more fuel to the great conflagration which swept huge areas in and around the city. “To the native population of Manila,” commented one observer, “it seemed like the end of the world.”

The Occupation of Manila

On the first day of the New Year the Japanese 48th Division and the 4th and 7th Tank Regiments were twelve miles above the northern outskirts of Manila. To the south that night advance elements of General Morioka’s 16th Division reached Manila Bay at a point less than ten miles from the capital city. With two divisions “ready to go,” Homma stopped the advance on the outskirts of the capital over the protests of both divisional commanders. “If those divisions went in together from south and north,” he explained later, “anything might happen.”

Both divisions could have entered Manila on New Year’s Day and expected to do so. When the order to advance did not come, Lieutenant General Yuichi Tsuchibashi, 48th Division commander, sent Homma an urgent message at 1040, pointing out that the great fires had dissipated “the Army’s hope of preserving the city of Manila” and that “to rescue Manila from this conflagration” he planned to enter the capital in force. From Homma he requested approval for his plan. This was followed by a plea from the division’s chief of staff, who wrote: “I beseech you at the order of my superior to promptly approve the previously presented plan.”

[USA vs. Homma, p. 3056, testimony of Homma General Maeda, Homma’s chief of staff, declared that the 48th Division, for one, “was told to wait so that it could spruce up and reorganize.” Interrog of Maeda, 10 May 47, Interrogations of Former Japanese Officers, Mil Hist Div, GHQ FEF, I.]

Immediately after the 14th Army command post completed its movement from Binalonan to Cabanatuan, a staff conference was held at 1900 on New Year’s Day to decide on the method of entry into Manila. Two plans were discussed: one to send a force into the city immediately, as proposed by the 48th Division commander; the other to dispatch a “military commission” to the capital to urge its surrender while the troops remained outside the city. The former plan was finally adopted, and at 2000 the 48th Division was ordered to seize Manila and prevent its destruction. Similar orders were given the 16th Division at 1000 on 2 January. General Morioka would also occupy Cavite and Batangas.

The line of the Pasig River, which flowed through the capital and into Manila Bay, was set as operational boundary between the two divisions. That night supplementary orders from General Homma fixed the size of the force entering Manila from the north at three infantry battalions of the 48th Division. The 16th Division was seemingly left free to determine the number of its troops entering Manila. Further orders apparently directed that the city was not to be entered until the 2nd, for no entry was made that night.

Inside the city a newspaper extra at noon on New Year’s Day declared the enemy to be on the verge of entry and advised inhabitants to remain in their homes and await further orders from the Philippine authorities in control. Anticipating confinement in internment camps, American residents immediately packed toilet articles and a change of clothing, no word of the impending entry of the Japanese reached Corregidar quickly. MacArthur reported to the War Department on the morning of the 2nd that Japanese troops would enter Manila that afternoon. His information was accurate enough to enable him to predict that the force would be small and that its duties would be limited to the maintenance of law and order, “which would indicate that there will be no violence.” That morning Japanese nationals were released from custody. The crowds, laden with stores from the quartermaster warehouses, began to break into business establishments and wholesale looting began. The once proud city, covered with the ashes and filth of destruction, was difficult to recognize as the beautiful and orderly metropolis it had been less than a month before.

Japanese enter Manila

Finally, at 1745 on Friday, 2 January 1942, the Japanese entered Manila. Major General Koichi Abe, 48th Division infantry group commander, led one battalion of the 1st Formosa and two of the 47th Infantry into the northern sector of the capital. Simultaneously, from the south, the 16th Reconnaissance Regiment and a battalion of the 20th Infantry also entered. Accompanied by released Japanese civilians, who acted as interpreters, the occupying troops posted guards at strategic points and set about securing the city. “The joyful voices of the Japanese residents,” reported General Morioka, “were overwhelming.”

[ Homma later claimed that “arrangements were made to enter the city … with only two battalions from each division, and the rest of the divisions must stay out of the city.” Neither Generals Tsuchibashi nor Morioka limited the entering units to two battalions. USA vs. Homma, p. 3056, testimony of Homma]

The voices of the other residents were not so joyful. Throughout the city at important intersections Japanese officers and interpreters set up card tables and checked pedestrians. All “enemy aliens,” British and Americans, were ordered to remain at home until they could be registered and investigated. The only Caucasians who walked the streets unmolested were Germans, Italians, and Spaniards.

All that night Japanese trucks poured into the city, their occupants taking over private hotels and some public buildings as billets. Enemy troops moved into the University of the Philippines and other school buildings. The next morning the only cars on the street were those driven by Japanese officers and civilians. From their radiators flew the flag of the Rising Sun. Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, and Thai flags could also be seen. The vault of the national treasury at the Intendencia Building was sealed and a large placard announced the building and its contents to be the property of the Japanese Government.

The banks remained closed and the doors of Manila restaurants were also shut. Newspaper publication was briefly suspended and then began again under Japanese control The few stores that were open did a land-office business with Japanese officers who bought up brooches and watches with colorful occupation pesos.

Governmental departments of the Philippine Commonwealth were placed under “protective custody.” The courts were temporarily suspended, utilities were taken over by the Japanese, and a bewildering list of licenses and permits was issued to control the economic life of the Islands. Japanese sick and wounded were moved into the Chinese General Hospital and three wards of the Philippine General Hospital. All British and Americans were ordered to report for internment, and nearly 3,000 were herded together on the campus of Santo Tomas University. “Thereafter,” reported the Japanese, “peace and order were gradually restored to Manila.”

The restoration of “peace and order” required the Japanese to place many restrictions on the civilian population. On 5 January a “warning” appeared in heavy black type across the top of the Manila Tribune. “Anyone who inflicts, or attempts to inflict, an injury upon Japanese soldiers or individuals,” it read, “shall be shot to death” ; but “if the assailant, or attempted assailant, cannot be found, we will hold ten influential persons as hostages who live in and about the streets or municipalities where the event happened.” The warning concluded with the admonition that “the Filipinos should understand our real intentions and should work together with us to maintain public peace and order in the Philippines.”

With the occupation of Manila; General Homma had successfully accomplished the mission assigned by Imperial General Headquarters. But he could draw small comfort from his success, for MacArthur’s forces were still intact. The newly formed Philippine Army, the Philippine Scouts, and the U.S. Army garrison had successfully escaped to Bataan and Corregidor. So long as they maintained their positions there, the Japanese would be unable to enter Manila Bay or use the Manila harbor. The Japanese had opened the back door to Manila Bay but the front door remained firmly closed.

Strategic Views on the Philippines To the civilians who watched quietly from behind closed shutters as the Japanese entered their city it seemed incredible that the war was less than a month old. In that brief span of time, the enemy had made eight separate landings on widely dispersed beaches. He had driven out of the Philippines the Far East Air Force and the Asiatic Fleet. On Luzon he had marched north and south from each end of the island to join his forces before Manila. Casualties had been comparatively light and the main objective was now in his hands.

In that same time the Japanese had secured a foothold in Mindanao to the south and had gained control of the important harbor at Davao. Brigadier General William F. Sharp’s forces on that island were still intact, however, and held the airfield at Del Monte, the only field in the archipelago still capable of supporting heavy bombers. In the Visayas the Japanese had made no landings. There the scattered American and Philippine garrisons on Panay, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, and other islands fortified their defenses and made plans for the day when the enemy would appear off their shores.

Elsewhere, the Japanese forces had set about exploiting their initial gains. Hong Kong had fallen to the 23d Army on Christmas Day. General Yamashita’s 25th Army, which had landed on the Malay Peninsula on the first day of war, was now pushing ever closer to Singapore. Japanese forces in the Sulu Archipelago and Borneo consolidated their positions and prepared to move into the Netherlands Indies. The South Seas Detachment, which had seized Guam, was now ready to move on to Rabaul, while other units staged for operations in the Celebes-Ambon area. Important Burmese airfields had been attacked on 25 December and at the year’s end the 15th Army was concentrating in Thailand for its invasion of Burma. After the first rapid gains, the enemy was ready for further offensives. The Allies had little left to challenge the Japanese bid for supremacy in the Southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia.

General MacArthur attributed the success of the Japanese to American weakness on the sea and in the air. The enemy, he pointed out, now had “utter freedom of naval and air movements” and could be expected to extend its conquests southward into the Netherlands Indies, using Mindanao as a base of operations. so If the Japanese were able to seize the Netherlands Indies, he warned, the Allies would be forced to advance from Australia through the Dutch and British islands to regain the Philippines. He regarded it as essential, therefore, to halt the Japanese drive southward, and proposed that air forces should be rushed to the Southwest Pacific. Operating from advance bases, these planes could prevent the Japanese from developing airfields.

Concurrently, with strong naval action to keep open the line of communication to Mindanao, Japanese air forces were to be neutralized by Allied air power, and then ground forces would be landed there. He had already done all he could to support such action, MacArthur told the War Department, by sending his air force to Australia and the Netherlands Indies and by supporting Mindanao with reinforcements and ammunition. “I wish to emphasize,” he concluded, “the necessity for naval action and for rapid execution by land, sea, and air.”

Receiving no reply to this message, General MacArthur took the occasion, on 1 January, when asked about the evacuation of President Quezon, to emphasize his isolated position and to remind the Chief of Staff of his strategic concept for a combined effort by land, sea, and air forces through the Netherlands Indies to Mindanao. Quezon’s departure, he warned, would undoubtedly be followed by the collapse of the will to fight on the part of the Filipinos, and he pointedly added that, aside from 7,000 combat troops (exclusive of air corps), his army consisted of Filipinos. “In view of the Filipinos effort,” he declared, “the United States must move strongly to their support or withdraw in shame from the Orient.”

Just a week later, as his forces withdrew behind the first line of defenses on Bataan, MacArthur outlined for the Chief of Staff the preparations he was making for the arrival of an expeditionary force in Mindanao. These included transfer of equipment for one division, the movement of nine P–40’s and 650 men of the 19th Bombardment Group to Del Monte, and plans to develop additional landing fields there. It was essential, he wrote, to inaugurate a system of blockade-running to Mindanao since supplies were low.

Our air force bombardment missions from south should quickly eliminate hostile air from Davao and our pursuit should go into Del Monte without delay. Establishment of air force will permit immediate extension into Visayas and attacks on enemy forces in Luzon. . . . An Army Corps should be landed in Mindanao at the earliest possible date. . . . Enemy appears to have tendency to become overconfident and time is ripe for brilliant thrust with air carriers.

MacArthur’s pleas for a major- Allied effort in the Southwest Pacific were resolved with sympathy in Washington, where the first wartime United States-British conference on strategy was in session. The British recognized the importance of the threat in the Far East and agreed that munitions and supplies should go there, even though such shipments represented a diversion from the agreed strategy that the main effort should be made against Germany first. “The President and Prime Minister, Colonel Stimson and Colonel Knox, the British Chiefs of Staff and our corresponding officials,” General Marshall told MacArthur, “have been surveying every possibility looking toward the quick development of strength in the Far East so as to break the enemy’s hold on the Philippines.” Though all were agreed on the need for action in the Southwest Pacific, little could be done. The loss in capital ships, Marshall explained, prevented naval convoys for heavy reinforcements and the concentration of strong naval forces in the Southwest Pacific such as MacArthur was requesting.

Heavy bombers were on the way, via Africa and Hawaii, and pursuit planes were being sent by every ship, so that the Allies should soon have aerial supremacy in the Southwest Pacific. “Our great hope,” Marshall told MacArthur, “is that the rapid development of an overwhelming air power on the Malay Barrier will cut the Japanese communications south of Borneo and permit an assault in the southern Philippines.” The naval carrier raids MacArthur was asking for were not ruled out entirely but little hope was offered for such an effort. Marshall closed his message on a note of encouragement for the future and the assurance that “every day of time you gain is vital to the concentration of overwhelming power necessary for our purpose.”

Actually, the American and British staffs in Washington had already agreed upon the strategy for the Far East: to hold the Malay Barrier from the Malay Peninsula through Sumatra and Java to Australia. This line was considered the basic Allied defensive position in the Far East, and the retention of its east and west anchors, Australia and Burma, was therefore regarded as essential.

The latter had additional strategic importance because it was essential to the support of China and the defense of India. The Allies were agreed that land, sea, and air forces should operate as far forward of the barrier as possible in order to halt the Japanese advance southward. The support of the Philippine garrison and the re-establishment of the line of communications through the Netherlands Indies to Luzon apparently came after the more important task of holding Australia and Burma.

During the first week in January the War Plans Division of the General Staff, which had been studying the possibility of sending an expedition to the relief of the Philippine garrison, came to the conclusion that the forces required could not be placed in the Far East in time. While this reason was probably the overriding consideration in its recommendation that operations to relieve the Philippines not be undertaken, the War Plans Division went on to point out that the dispatch of so large a force would constitute “an entirely unjustifiable diversion of forces from the principal theater-the Atlantic.” The greatest effort which could be justified on strategic grounds was to hold the Malay Barrier while projecting operations as far north as possible to provide maximum defense in depth. This view was essentially that already agreed upon by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The War Plans Division therefore recommended that, “for the present,” operations in the Far East should be limited to these objectives.

The War Plans Division study is of considerable interest, not only for the effect it may have had on MacArthur’s requests for a joint advance through the Netherlands Indies to Mindanao, but also for its realistic appraisal of the strategic situation in the Far East and the importance of the Philippine Islands. Accepting General MacArthur’s estimate of Japanese strength in the Philippines and of the length of time he could hold out against serious attack-three month-the Army planners agreed that the loss of the Philippines, “the key to the Far East position of the Associated Powers,” would be a decisive blow, followed probably by the fall of the Netherlands Indies and Singapore. Australian and British trade routes would then be seriously threatened, while Japan’s strength would be increased by control of the raw materials in the Indies. The isolation of China was “almost certain to follow.” This analysis coincided with MacArthur’s, as did the plan of operations outlined to recover the Philippines.

It was when the planners considered the means necessary to carry out these operations that they found themselves in disagreement with General MacArthur. They estimated that 1,464 aircraft of various types, only about half of which were available, would be necessary to advance from Australia to Luzon. The difference would, have to come from other areas-Hawaii, Panama, and the United States-and from lend-lease aircraft already committed. Additional airfields would have to be built. MacArthur estimated that the Japanese had six divisions on Luzon, one at Davao, and a small force at Jolo. There were only two Japanese divisions in the Philippines. The planners, for lack of more definite information, accepted MacArthur’s estimate.

Australia and along the line of advance. The line of communications to Australia would have to be made secure and a logistical organization developed to support the drive northward. Such an effort, the planners estimated, would require very large naval resources. With the vessels already in the area, the Allies would have to transfer 7 to 9 capital ships, 5 to 7 carriers, about 50 destroyers, 60 submarines, and the necessary auxiliary vessels from the Atlantic and Mediterranean to the Pacific and Far East.

The diversion of naval forces might well result in the loss of the supply routes to Europe and the Middle East and would severely limit the defense of the Western Hemisphere. It was not surprising, therefore, that the War Plans Division concluded that the relief of the Philippine garrison could not be accomplished in the three months left, and that the allocation of such sizable forces to the project would represent a major and unjustifiable diversion from the main effort.

There is no record of any formal approval of the conclusions of the War Plans Division. Both Secretary Stimson and General Marshall noted the study but made no comment. If there had ever been any serious consideration given to MacArthur’s proposals to send an expedition to the relief of the beleaguered Philippine garrison, the War Plans study put an end to such hopes.

But there was no relaxation of the determination to send General MacArthur whatever aid was within the means of the United States and its Allies. President Roosevelt had time and again stated his desire to do so and as late as 30 December had written Stimson that he wished the War Plans Division to explore every possible means of relieving the Philippines. “I realize great risks are involved,” he said, “but the objective is important.”

While the President’s stated desire remained the official policy of the government and the hope of the American people, the strategy evolved by the Allies placed more realistic limits to the objectives they hoped to attain. The conference then meeting in Washington agreed that the Allies must hold the Malay Barrier and established a theater of operations known as the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) area, with General Sir Archibald P. Wavell in command, to co-ordinate the efforts of the various national forces in that region. This command, the first Allied command of the war, included the Philippines, the Netherlands Indies, Malaya, and Burma. Wavell’s mission was to hold the Malay Barrier against the advancing Japanese, but he was also directed to re-establish communications through the Netherlands Indies with Luzon and to support the Philippine garrison. Thus, General MacArthur was placed under Wavell’s command, but, explained General Marshall, “because of your present isolation this will have only nominal effect upon your command. . .. ”

Actually, the organization of the ABDA area had no effect on operations in the Philippines, and aside from a formal acknowledgement between the two commanders there was no communication between the two headquarters. Although General Marshall pointed out that the new arrangement offered “the only feasible method for the eventual relief of the Philippines,” it was already clear to General MacArthur that the Allies were not going to make a determined effort to advance to his rescue.

It was perhaps just as well that the Americans and Filipinos who crowded into Bataan and took their positions behind the lines already established did not know how serious was the Allied position in the Far East and how remote were their chances for relief. Ahead of them were long, dreary months of starvation and hard fighting before they would be herded into prison camps. At least they could hope that help was on the way. Only General MacArthur and his immediate staff knew the worst.

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

World War Two: Fall of Philippines (4-15):The Siege of Bataan: Setting the Stage

World War Two: Fall of Philippines (3-13); Into Bataan 1941


World War Two: Fall of Philippines (3-13); Into Bataan 1941

By the first week of January 1942 the American and Filipino troops withdrawing from both ends of Luzon had joined at San Fernando and begun the last lap of their journey to Bataan. In ten days they had retired from Lingayen Gulf and Lamon Bay to Guagua and Porac, on the two roads leading into Bataan. There they had halted and established a line only fifteen miles from the base of the peninsula. The longer they could hold, the more time would be available to prepare the final defenses in Bataan.

The Guagua-Porac Line

Along the ten-mile line from Guagua to Porac, paralleling the road between the two barrios, General Wainwright had placed the 11th and 21st Divisions (PA), as well as armor and cavalry. On the left (west), around Porac, was the 21st Division with the 26th Cavalry (PS) to its rear, in force reserve. On the east was the 11th Division, its right flank covered by almost impenetrable swamps crisscrossed by numerous streams. In support of both divisions was General Weaver’s tank group.

The troops along this line, the best in the North Luzon Force, though battle tested and protected by mountains on the west and swamps on the east, felt exposed and insecure. They were convinced that they were opposing the entire Japanese 14th Army, estimated, according to Colonel Mallonee, to number 120,000 men. Actually, Japanese strength on Luzon was about half that size, and only two reinforced regiments with tanks and artillery faced the men on the Guagua-Porac line.

From Cabanatuan, where Homma had moved his headquarters on New Year’s Day, 14th Army issued orders to attack the line before Bataan. A force, known as the Takahashi Detachment after its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Katsumi Takahashi, and consisting of the 9th Infantry (less two companies), two batteries of the 22d Field Artillery, and the 8th Field Heavy Artillery Regiment (less one battalion), was to strike out from Angeles along Route 74, smash the American line at Porac, and go on to seize Dinalupihan, an important road junction at the entrance to Bataan. To support Takahashi’s drive down Route 74, Homma ordered the 9th Independent Field Heavy Artillery Battalion, then approaching Tarlac, to push on to Porae. A second force, drawn largely from the 48th Division, was organized for the drive down Route 7 through Guagua to Hermosa, a short distance southeast of Dinalupihan. This force, organized at San Fernando and led by Colonel Tanaka, was composed of the 2d Formosa and a battalion of the 47th Infantry supported by a company of tanks and three battalions of artillery. Both detachments were to receive support from the 5th Air Group, which was also to strike at targets on Bataan. The attack would begin at 0200 on 2 January.

The Japanese expected to smash the defenses before Bataan easily and to make quick work of the “defeated enemy,” who, in General Morioka’s striking phrase, was like “a cat entering a sack.” General Homrna fully intended to draw the strings tight once the Americans were in the sack, thereby bringing the campaign to an early and successful conclusion. He was due for a painful disappointment.

The Left Flank

In the 21st Division sector, just below Porac, two regiments stood on the line. On the west (left), from the mountains to Route 74, was the 21st Infantry, spread thin along the entire front. On the right, behind the Porac-Guagua road, was the 22d Infantry. The 23d Infantry, organized at the start of hostilities, was in reserve about five miles to the rear. The division’s artillery regiment was deployed with its 3d Battalion on the left, behind the 21st Infantry, and the 1st Battalion on the right. The 2d Battalion was in general support, but placed immediately behind the 3d Battalion which was short one battery. Seven miles south of Porac, at San Jose, was the force reserve, the 26th Cavalry, now partly rested and reorganized after its fight in the Lingayen area. Its mission was to cover the left flank of the 21st Division and extend it westward to the Zambales Mountains.

Colonel Pierce, the cavalry commander, dispatched Troop G, equipped with a pack radio, forward toward Porac, to the left of the 21st Infantry. The rest of the regiment he kept in readiness at San Jose. The 26th Cavalry was not the only unit in San Jose; also there were the 192d Tank Battalion and the headquarters of the 21 st Division. The place was so crowded that Colonel Mallonee, who wanted to establish the command post of the 21st Field Artillery there, was forced to choose another location because “the town was as full as the county seat during fair week.”

The expected attack against the GuaguaPorac line came on the afternoon of 2 January, when an advance detachment from the 9th Infantry corning down Route 74 hit the 21st Infantry near Porac. Although the enemy detachment was small, it was able to force back the weakened and thinly spread defenders about 2,000 yards to the southwest, to the vicinity of Pio. Stiffened by the reserve, the regiment finally halted the Japanese advance just short of the regimental reserve line. Efforts to restore the original line failed, leaving the artillery exposed to the enemy infantry, who were “about as far from the muzzles as outfielders would play for Babe Ruth if there were no fences.”

Division headquarters in San Jose immediately made plans for a counterattack using a battalion of the reserve regiment, the 23d Infantry. But darkness fell before the attack could be mounted and the 2d Battalion, 23d Infantry, the unit selected for the counterattack, was ordered to move up at dawn and restore the line on the left. When the 2d Battalion moved into the line, the 21st Infantry would regroup to the right, thus shortening its front.

That night the stillness was broken only by fire from the Philippine artillery which had pulled back about 600 yards. When morning came the enemy was gone. Reports from 21st Infantry patrols, which had moved forward unmolested at the first sign of light, encouraged division headquarters to believe that the original main line of resistance could be restored without a fight and orders were issued for a general advance when the 2d Battalion, 23d Infantry, tied in with the 21st Infantry.

American plans for a counterattack were premature. The evening before, the main force Qf the Takahashi Detachment had left its assembly area midway between Bamban and Angeles and marched rapidly toward Porac. The 8th Field Heavy Artillery Regiment (less one battalion), with its 105-mm. guns, had accompanied the force and by morning was in position to support the infantry attack. Thus, when the 2d Battalion, 23d Infantry, began to advance it was met first by punishing small-arms fire from the infantry, then by fire from the 105-mm. guns of the 8th Field Artillery.

At the same time three Japanese aircraft swung low to strafe the road in support of the enemy attack. The momentum of the advance carried the Japanese below Pio, where they were finally stopped. When news of the attack reached General Wainwright’s headquarters, the most alarming item in the report was the presence of Japanese medium artillery, thought to be heavy guns, on the left of the American line. This artillery represented a serious threat, and the 21st Division was ordered to “hold the line or die where you are.” General Capinpin did his best, but he had only two battalions of the 23d Infantry, an unseasoned and untrained unit, left in reserve. One of these battalions was in North Luzon Force reserve and it was now ordered to move to the 11th Division sector near Guagua where a heavy fight was in progress.

Meanwhile, Colonel Takahashi had launched an assault against the 21st Infantry. First the battalion on the left gave way and within an hour the reserve line also began to crumble. By noon the left flank of the 21st Infantry was completely disorganized. The right battalion, though still intact, fell back also lest it be outflanked. This withdrawal exposed the left flank of the 22d Infantry on its right.

Colonel Takahashi lost no time in taking advantage of the gap in the American line. Elements of the 9th Infantry drove in between the two regiments, hitting most heavily the 1st Battalion, 22d Infantry, on the regimental left. The action which followed was marked by confusion. The noise of artillery fire and the black smoke rising from the burning cane fields reduced the troops to bewildered and frightened men. At one time the 21st Infantry staff was nearly captured when the onrushing enemy broke through to the command post. A group of tanks from the 11th Division sector, ordered to attack the Japanese line in front of the 21st Division, showed a marked disinclination to move into the adjoining sector without orders from the tank group commander. Before the ferocity of the Japanese attack the defending infantry line melted away.

Had it not been for the artillery the Japanese attack might well have resulted in a complete rout. Fortunately, the 21st Field Artillery acted in time to halt Takahashi’s advance. The 1st Battalion en the right, behind the 22d Infantry, covered the gap between the two regiments and fired directly against the oncoming Japanese at a range of 600-800 yards. The 2d and 3d Battalions delivered direct fire up the draw leading through Pio. Notwithstanding the punishing artillery fire, the 9th Infantry continued to attack. For six hours, until darkness closed in, the left portion of the 21st Division line was held by the guns of the 21st Field Artillery alone, firing at close range across open fields. “As attack after attack came on, broke, and went back,” wrote Colonel Mallonee, “I knew what Cushing’s artillerymen must have felt with the muzzles of their guns in the front line as the Confederate wave came on and broke on the high water mark at Gettysburg.”

Quiet settled down on the 21st Division front that night. The Takahashi Detachment, its attack halted by the effective fire of the artillery, paused to reorganize and take stock of the damage. The next day, 4 January, there was no action at all on the left and only intermittent pressure on the right. The Japanese did manage to emplace one or two of their 105-mm. guns along the high ground to the west and during the day fired on the rear areas. Fortunately, their marksmanship was poor and although they made life behind the front lines uncomfortable they inflicted no real damage.

On the afternoon of the 4th, as a result of pressure on the 11th Division to the east, General Wainwright ordered the 21st Division to withdraw under cover of darkness to the line of the Gumain River, about eight miles south of Porac. That night the division began to move back after successfully breaking contact with the enemy. Despite the absence of enemy pressure there was considerable confusion during the withdrawal.

By daylight of the 5th, however, the troops were across the Gumain where they began to prepare for their next stand. Division headquarters, the 23d Infantry, the division signal company, and other special units were at Dinalupihan, with the 21st Field Artillery located just east of the town.

The Right Flank

Along the east half of the GuaguaPorac line stood the 11th Division (PA).The 11th Infantry was on the left, holding the Guagua-Porac road as far north as Santa Rita. The regiment, in contact with the 21 st Division on the left only through occasional patrols, had three battalions on the line. The 2d Battalion was on the left, the I st in the center, and the 3d on the right. Next to the 11th was the 13th Infantry, which held Guagua and was in position across Route 7. Extending the line southeast from Guagua to Sexmoan were two companies of the 12th Infantry. The 11th Field Artillery, for the first time since the start of the war, was in support of the division. Part of the 194th Tank Battalion and Company A of the 192d provided additional support. The Japanese attack on the right flank of the Guagua-Porac line came on 3 January.

Leaving San Fernando at 0400 the reinforced Tanaka Detachment had advanced cautiously along Route 7. At about 0930 the point of the Japanese column made contact with a platoon of tanks from Company C, 194th, posted about 1,000 yards north of Guagua. Under tank fire and confined to the road because of the marshy terrain on both sides, the Japanese halted to await the arrival of the main force. About noon, when the force in front became too formidable, the American tanks fell back to Guagua. The Japanese continued to advance slowly. Forced by the nature of the terrain into a frontal assault along the main road and slowed down by the numerous villages along the line of advance, the attack, the Japanese admitted, “did not progress as planned.” Artillery was brought into support and, late in the afternoon, the 75-mm. guns opened fire, scoring at least one hit on the 11th Infantry command post. The defending infantry were greatly cheered by the sound of their own artillery answering the Japanese guns.

Organized after the start of the war and inadequately trained, the men of the 11th Field Artillery, firing from positions at Guagua and Santa Rita, made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in skill. The Japanese artillery fire continued during the night and increased in intensity the next morning, 4 January, when a battalion of 150-mm. howitzers joined in the fight.

In the early afternoon an enemy column spearheaded by tanks of the 7th Tank Regiment broke through the 13th Infantry line along Route 7 and seized the northern portion of Guagua. Another column hit the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, to the left of the 13th, inflicting about 150 casualties. The two units held on long enough, however, for the lst and 2d Battalions of the 11th Infantry to pull out. They then broke contact and followed the two battalions in good order. During this action Company A, 192d Tank Battalion, and elements of the 11th Division attempted to counterattack by striking the flank of the Japanese line before Guagua. This move almost ended in disaster. The infantry on the line mistook the tanks for enemy armor and began dropping mortar shells on Company A, and General Weaver, who was in a jeep attempting to co-ordinate the tank-infantry attack, was almost hit. The mistake was discovered in time and no serious damage was done.

When news of the Japanese breakthrough at Guagua reached General Wainwright on the afternoon of the 4th he decided it was time to fall back again. The next line was to be south of the Gumain River, and orders were issued to the 11th, as well as the 21st Division, to withdraw to the new line that night. General Brougher’s plan of withdrawal called for a retirement along Route 7 through Guagua and Lubao to the new line. The rapid advance of the Tanaka Detachment through Guagua and down Route 7 toward Lubao late that afternoon, however, cut off this route of retreat of the 11th Infantry and other elements on the line. A hasty reconnaissance of the area near the highway failed to disclose any secondary roads or trails suitable for an orderly retirement. To withdraw cross-country was to invite wholesale confusion and a possible rout.

The only course remaining to the cutoff units was to traverse a thirty-mile-Iong, circuitous route through San Jose, in the 21st Division sector, then down Route 74 to Dinalupihan. There the men would turn southeast as far as Layac Junction and then north along Route 7 to a point where they could form a line before the advancing Tanaka Detachment. That evening, 4 January, the long march began. Those elements of the 11th Division cut off by the Japanese advance, and Company A, 192d Tank Battalion, reached San Jose without interference from the enemy but not without adding to the confusion already existing in the 21 st Division area.

Meanwhile at San Jose, General Brougher, the 11th Division commander, had collected all the trucks and buses he could find and sent them forward to carry his men. With this motor transportation, the 11th Infantry was able to take up a position along Route 7, between Santa Cruz and Lubao, by about 0600 of 5 January. This line was about one mile southwest of the Gumain River, the position which the division had originally been ordered to occupy. Troops arriving on this line found themselves under small-arms fire from the Tanaka Detachment, which had entered Lubao the previous evening.

A short distance north of this line, an outpost line had already been established the previous afternoon by General Brougher with those troops who had been able to withdraw down Route 7. The infantry troops on this line were from the 12th Infantry, part of which had pulled back along Route 7. Brougher had rounded up about two hundred men from the regiment, together with the ten guns of the 11th Field Artillery and some 75-mm. SPM’s, and formed a line on Route 7 between Lubao and Santa Cruz. For fourteen hours, from the afternoon of 4 January to the morning of 5 January, these troops under the command of Captain John Primrose formed the only line between the enemy and Layac Junction, the entrance into Bataan. Early on 5 January when the new line was formed by the troops who had withdrawn through San Jose, Primrose and his men pulled back to join the main force of the division.

The withdrawal of the 194th Tank Battalion from Guagua had been accomplished only after a fierce fight. Colonel Miller, the tank commander, had ordered the tanks to pull out on the morning of the 4th. Under constant enemy pressure, the tanks began a slow withdrawal, peeling off one at a time. Guarding their flank was a force consisting of a few tanks of Company C, 194th, and some SPM’s from Captain Gordon H. Peck’s provisional battalion posted at a block along the Sexmoan-Lubao road.

At about 1600 Peck and Miller had observed a large enemy force approaching. This force, estimated as between 500 and 800 men, supported by machine guns, mortars, and artillery, was led by three Filipinos carrying white flags, presumably under duress. The tanks and SPM’s opened fire, cutting the Japanese column to pieces. The 194th Tank Battalion then left burning Guagua and Lubao and moved south to positions a mile or two above Santa Cruz. The tanks and SPM’s at the block covered its withdrawal.

Some time after midnight, between 0200 and 0300 on 5 January, the covering force was hit again, this time by infantry and artillery of the Tanaka Detachment. Attacking in bright moonlight across an open field and along the road, the enemy came under direct fire from the American guns. Driven back with heavy casualties, he attacked again and again, and only broke off the action about 0500, at the approach of daylight. Later in the day the Tanaka Detachment, seriously depleted by casualties, was relieved by Colonel Hifumi Imai’s 1st Formosa Infantry (less one battalion) to which were attached Tanaka’s tanks and artillery.

By dawn of 5 January, after two days of heavy and confused fighting, the Guagua-Porae line had been abandoned and the American and Filipino troops had pulled back to a new line south and west of the Gumain River. The 21st Division on the west had retired to a position about eight miles below Porae and was digging in along the bank of the river; to the east the 11th Division had fallen back six miles and stood along a line about a mile south of the river. But the brief stand on the Guagua-Porac line had earned large dividends. The Japanese had paid dearly for the ground gained and had been prevented from reaching their objective, the gateway to Bataan. More important was the time gained by the troops already in Bataan to prepare their positions.

Behind the Gates

The only troops remaining between the enemy and Bataan-the 11thand 21st Divisions, the 26th Cavalry, and the tank group–were now formed on their final line in front of the peninsula. This line, approximately eight miles in front of the access road to Bataan and generally along the Gumain River, blocked the approach to Bataan through Dinalupihan and Layac Junction.

Both Dinalupihan and Layac Junction lie along Route 7. This road, the 11th Division’s route of withdrawal, extends southwest from San Fernando to Layac where it joins Route 110, the only road leading into Bataan. At Layac, Route 7 turns sharply northwest for 2,000 yards to Dinalupihan, the southern terminus of Route 74 along which the 21st Division was withdrawing. Route 7 then continues west across the base of the peninsula to Olangapo on Subic Bay, then north along the Zambales coast to Lingayen Gulf, a route of advance the Japanese had fortunately neglected in favor of the central plain which led most directly to their objective, Manila.

Layac Junction, where all the roads to Bataan joined, was the key point along the route of withdrawal. Through it and over the single steel bridge across the Culo River just south of the town would have to pass the troops converging along Routes 7 and 74. The successful completion of this move would require the most precise timing, and, if the enemy attacked, a high order of road discipline.

Through the Layac Bottleneck

The withdrawal from the Gumain River through Layac Junction, although made without interference from the enemy, was attended by the greatest confusion. On the east, where the 11th Division was in position astride Route 7, there were a few skirmishes between patrols on 5 January but no serious action. General Brougher had received a battalion of the 71st Infantry to strengthen his line but the battalion returned to its parent unit at the end of the day without ever having been engaged with the enemy.

In the 21st Division area to the west there was much milling about and confusion on the 5th. Work on the Gumain River position progressed very slowly during the morning, and the troops showed little inclination to extend the line eastward to make contact with the 11th Division. During the day contradictory or misunderstood orders sent the men forward and then pulled them back, sometimes simultaneously. Shortly before noon General Capinpin, needlessly alarmed about the situation on the 11th Division front and fearful for the safety of his right ( east) flank, ordered a withdrawal to a point about a mile above Dinalupihan. The movement was begun but halted early in the afternoon by an order from General Wainwright to hold the Gumain River line until further orders.

By midafternoon the division had once more formed a line south of the river. Thinly manned in one place, congested in another, the position was poorly organized and incapable of withstanding a determined assault In one section, infantry, artillery, and tanks were mixed together in complete disorder. “Everyone,” said Colonel Mallonee, “was in everyone else’s lap and the whole thing resembled nothing quite as much as the first stages of an old fashioned southern political mass meeting and free barbecue.”

Fortunately for General Capinpin, the Takahashi Detachment on Route 74 did not advance below Pio. This failure to advance was due to an excess of caution on the part of the colonel who, on the 4th, had been placed under the 65th Brigade for operations on Bataan. It is, entirely possible that Japanese caution and lack of vigor in pressing home the attack may have been due to a mistaken notion of the strength of the defending forces and a healthy respect for American-led Filipino troops. Had Takahashi chosen this moment to launch a determined attack against the 21st Division he would almost certainly have succeeded in trapping the forces before Bataan.

The troops had hardly taken up their positions behind the Gumain River when General Wainwright issued orders for the withdrawal into Bataan through Layac Junction, to begin at dark. First to cross the bridge over the Culo River below Layac would be the 11th Division, followed closely by the 21st. To cover the withdrawal of the 11th, one battalion of the 21st Division was to sideslip over in front of the 11th Division, while the 26th Cavalry would protect the left flank of the 21st during its withdrawal.

The execution of such a maneuver seemed impossible under the conditions existing along the front. The 23d Infantry, in division reserve, was already at Dinalupihan and Colonel O’Day, senior American instructor in the 21st Division, proposed instead to place a battalion of this regiment astride Route 7 behind the 11th Division. General Brougher’s troops could then fall back through the covering battalion. This proposal was accepted, and after considerable difficulty “the equivalent of a battalion” was placed in position by dark. When night fell the 11th Division withdrew from its positions and moved southwest along Route 7 toward Layac Junction and the road to Bataan. Soon the town was crowded with men and vehicles and as the withdrawal continued became a scene of “terrible congestion,” of marching men, trucks, buses, artillery, tanks, horses, and large numbers of staff and command cars. “It looked,” remarked one observer, “like the parking lot of the Yale bowl.”

At about 2030 Colonel John Moran, chief of staff of the 11th Division, reported that his division had cleared Layac and was across the Culo bridge. The 21st Division was now ordered across. Observing the passage of men, Colonel O’Day wrote: “It was a painful and tragic sight-our soldiers trudging along, carrying inordinate loads of equipment and personal effects. Many had their loads slung on bamboo poles, a pole between two men. They had been marching almost since dark the night before, and much of the daylight hours had been spent in backing and filling …. “

By about midnight of the 5th, the last guns of the 21st Field Artillery had cleared the bridge, and within the next hour all of the foot troops, closely shepherded by the Scouts of the 26th Cavalry, were across. Last to cross were the tanks, which cleared the bridge shortly before 0200 of the 6th. General Wainwright then ordered Captain A. P. Chanco, commanding the 91st Engineer Battalion, to blow the bridge. The charges were immediately detonated and the span demolished. All of the troops were not on Bataan, and the last gate slammed shut. The Japanese had lost their opportunity again to cut off the retreat. Colonel Imai was still at Santa Cruz and Takahashi still hung back at Porac.

Holding Action Below Layac Junction Already formed below Layac Junction when the Culo bridge was blown was another line designed to delay the enemy and gain more time for the Bataan Defense Force. The idea for a delaying action at Layac Junction was contained in WPO-3, the plan that went into effect on 23 December, and General Parker, commander of the Bataan Defense Force, had sent the 31st Infantry (US) there on the 28th to cover the junction.

The importance of this position was stressed by Colonel Hugh J. Casey, MacArthur’s engineer officer, who, on 2 January, pointed out to General Sutherland that the defense lines then being established on Bataan left to the enemy control of Route 110 which led south from Layac into the peninsula. This road, he felt, should be denied the Japanese as long as possible. He recommended to General Sutherland, therefore, that a strong delaying action, or, failing that, “definite reference to preparing strong delaying positions . . . should be made.” These recommendations were apparently accepted, for the same day General MacArthur ordered Wainwright to organize a delaying position south of Layac Junction along Route 110. On completion of this position, control would pass to General Parker, who was to hold until forced to withdraw by a coordinated enemy attack.

[Except where otherwise indicated this section is based upon: itr, Selleck to CG II Corps, 3 Feb 43, sub: Action at Layac Junction, in Selleck, Notes on the 71st Div (PA), pp. 20-22. Attached to this letter are accounts of the 31st Infantry (US) by Colonel Charles L. Steel and of the 26th Cavalry (PS) at Layac Junction by Lieutenant Colonel Lee C. Vance, and a memo, Weaver for Selleck, 1 Feb 43, sub: Action Prov Tank Gp in Connection with Layac Delaying Position; itr, Selleck to Board of Officers, 1 Feb 46, sub: Statement for Reinstatement of Rank, OCMH; USAFFE-USFIP Rpt of Opns, pp. 41-42; SLF and II Corps Rpt of Opns, pp. 22-27; and Chandler, “26th Cavalry (PS) Battles to Glory,” Part 2, Armored Cavalry Journal (May-June 1947), pp. 13-14; Weaver, Comments on Draft MS, Comments 29 and 30, OCMH; hr, Miller to Ward, 31 Dec 51, OCMH; Skerry, Comments on Draft MS, Comment C, OCMH. Japanese sources for this action are scanty and the author had to rely on 14th Army Opns, I, 86, and the American sources cited.]

Responsibility for the establishment of the Layac Junction line was given to General Selleck who had just reached Bataan with his disorganized 71st Division (PA). The troops assigned were the 71st and 72d Infantry from Selleck’s 71st Division, totaling approximately 2,500 men; the 26th Cavalry, now numbering 657 men; and the 31st Infantry (US) of the Philippine Division, the only infantry regiment in the Philippines composed entirely of Americans. Of this force, the 31st was the only unit which had not yet been in action. Artillery support consisted of the 71st Field Artillery with two 75-mm. gun batteries and four 2.95-inch guns; the 1st Battalion of the 23d Field Artillery (PS) with about ten 75’s; and the 1st Battalion, 88th Field Artillery (PS) with two batteries of 75’s. The tank group and two SPM battalions were also in support.

On 3 and 4 January the 71st Division elements and the 31st Infantry moved into position and began stringing wire and digging in. General Selleck had been denied the use of the 71st Engineers by North Luzon Force, with the result that the construction of defenses progressed slowly. When Colonel Skerry inspected the line on the 4th and 5th he found that the tired and disorganized 71st and 72d Infantry had made little progress in the organization of the ground and that their morale was low. In the 31st Infantry (US) sector, however, he found morale high and the organization of the ground much more effective.

At that time Selleck’s forces were spread thin along a line south of Layac Junction across Route 110, which ran southeast and east between Layac and Hermosa. On the right was the 71st Infantry, holding a front along the south bank of Culis Creek-not to be confused with the Culo River immediately to the north. This line, parallel to and just north of Route 110, extended from Almacen, northeast of Hermosa, to a point northeast of Culis, where Culis Creek turned south to cross Route 110. The eastern extremity of the 71st Infantry sector was protected by swamps and a wide river; on the west was the 72d Infantry, straddling Route 110. Its sector was about 1,000 yards below Layac Junction and faced north and east.

Next to the 72d Infantry was the 31st Infantry, with the 1st and 2d Battalions extending the line to the southwest, about 3,000 yards from the nearest hill mass. This exposed left flank was to be covered by the 26th Cavalry, then pulling back through Layac Junction with the 11thand 21st Divisions. In reserve was the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, about 1,000 yards to the rear. Supporting the 31st was the 1st Battalion, 88th Field Artillery, on the west, and the 1st Battalion, 23d Field Artillery, to its right, west of Route 110. The 71st Division infantry regiments each had a battalion of the 71st Field Artillery in support.

At approximately 0330 of the 6th of January the 26th Cavalry reached the new line south of Layac Junction and fell in on the left of the 31st Infantry, to the foothills of the Zambales Mountains. It was followed across the bridge by the tanks, which took up supporting positions southwest of Hermosa-the 194th Battalion on the left (west) and the 192d on the right. The 75-mm. SPM’s, which withdrew with the tanks, were placed along the line to cover possible routes of advance of hostile tanks. The line when formed seemed a strong one. In Colonel Collier’s opinion, it had “a fair sized force to hold it,” and General Parker declared, referring probably to the 31st Infantry sector, that it “lent itself to a good defense . . . was on high ground and had good fields of fire.” General Selleck did not share this optimism about the strength of his position. To him the front occupied by his troops seemed excessive, with the result that “all units except the 26th Cavalry were over-extended.”

Colonel Skerry’s inspection on the 5th had led him to the conclusion that the length of the line held by the disorganized 71st and 72d Infantry was too extended for these units. Selleck thought that his line had another, eyen more serious weakness, in that part of the right portion faced northeast and the left portion northwest, thus exposing the first to enfilade from the north and the second to enfilade from the east. Admittedly the position chosen had weaknesses, but no more than a delaying action was ever contemplated along this line. As in the withdrawal of the North Luzon Force from Lingayen Gulf, all that was expected was that the enemy, faced by an organized line, would halt, wait for artillery and other supporting weapons, and plan an organized, coordinated attack. By that time the objective-delay-would have been gained, and the line could pull back.

At 0600, 6 January, when all the troops were on the line, Wainwright released General Selleck from his command to Parker’s control. After notifying MacArthur of his action he withdrew to Bataan, stopping briefly at Culis where Selleck had his command post. North Luzon Force had completed its mission. Like the South Luzon Force it was now in position behind the first line on Bataan. Only the covering force at Layac Junction denied the enemy free access to Bataan.

Action along the Layac line began on the morning of 6 January with an artillery barrage. At about 1000 forward observers reported that Japanese infantry and artillery were advancing down Route 7 toward Layac Junction. This column was part of the Imaz Detachment which consisted of the 1 st Formosa Infantry, one company of the 7th Tank Regiment, two battalions of the 48th Mountain Artillery armed with 75-mm. guns, and one battalion of the 1st Field Heavy Artillery Regiment with eight 150-mm. howitzers. By 1030 the Japanese column was within artillery range of the defenders and the 1st Battalions of the 23d and 88th Field Artillery Regiments opened fire. The first salvo by the Philippine Scout gunners was directly on the target.

Switching immediately to rapid volley fire, the two battalions, joined by the 71st Field Artillery, searched the road from front to rear, forcing the enemy to deploy about 4,200 yards northeast of Layac. The Japanese now moved their own artillery into position. The 75’s of the 48th Mountain Artillery and the 150-mm. howitzers of the 1st Field Artillery, directed by unmolested observation planes, began to drop concentrated and effective fire on the Americans and Filipinos. It was during this bombardment that Jose Calugas, the mess sergeant of Battery B, 88th Field Artillery, won the Medal of Honor.

General Selleck, without antiaircraft protection, was unable to prevent aerial reconnaissance, with the result that the Japanese 150’s, out of range of the American guns, were able to place accurate and punishing fire upon the infantry positions and upon the artillery. Around noon, therefore, Selleck ordered his artillery to new positions, but the observation planes, flying as low as 2,000 feet, reported the changed positions, and the Japanese artillery shifted fire. It enfiladed the 31st Infantry and inflicted great damage on the 71st Infantry and the 1st Battalion, 23d Field Artillery, destroying all but one of the latter’s guns. The 88th Field Artillery, in a more protected position, did not suffer as great a loss. That day General MacArthur informed the War Department that the enemy was using his “complete command of the air … to full effect against our artillery.”

The intense Japanese artillery barrage was the prelude to an advance by the infantry. MacArthur had warned that the Japanese were “apparently setting up a prepared attack in great strength,” and, except for his estimate of the strength of the enemy, his analysis was correct. At about 1400 a Japanese force of several battalions of infantry crossed the Culo River below Layac Junction and pushed forward the American line. Another force turned north at Layac and moved toward Dinalupihan, entering that undefended town at 1500. An hour later the Japanese who had continued south on reaching Layac hit Selleck’s line between the 31st Infantry and the 72d Infantry.

Company B, on the right of the 31st line, had been badly shaken by the artillery barrage and fell back in disorder to higher ground about 800 yards to the rear, leaving a gap between Company C on its left and the 72d Infantry on the right. Japanese troops promptly infiltrated. Attempts by the rest of the 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry, to fill the gap failed and Colonel Charles L. Steel, the regimental commander, secured his 3d Battalion from Selleck’s reserve and ordered it into the line.

The Japanese, supported by artillery fire, continued to push into the gap, hitting the right of Company C, 31st Infantry, and Company A of the 72d on the left. Lieutenant Colonel Jasper E. Brady, Jr., the 3d Battalion commander, ordered Companies I and L, 31st Infantry, into the sector previously held by Company B. As Company I moved forward, it was caught in the enemy’s artillery fire, badly disorganized, and forced back to the rear. Company L, however, continued to press forward. Within thirty minutes from the time it had jumped off to the attack, it had succeeded in restoring the line.

Outwardly the situation seemed well in hand. But General Selleck was in serious trouble. His overextended line had been partially penetrated, his reserves had been committed, and his artillery was practically out of action. The Japanese were continuing to press south across the Culo River. Should they attack successfully through the 72d Infantry line, they would gain control of the road and cut off Selleck’s route of escape. Colonel Steel recommended withdrawal and General Selleck informed Parker that he would not be able to hold out without artillery and infantry reinforcements and that a daylight withdrawal might prove disastrous. At 2200 of the 6th, General Parker ordered a withdrawal under cover of darkness.

Although both the American and Japanese commanders had tanks at their disposal neither: had employed them that day. Possibly the Japanese had failed to use armor because there were no bridges over the Culo River. Some of the American tanks had been hit by the Japanese artillery, but not seriously enough to prevent their use. They had not been used to support the attack by the 3d Battalion, 31st Infantry, General Selleck noted caustically, because “the terrain was not considered suitable by the tank commander.”

 At about 1830, when it appeared that the Japanese might cut off the route of escape, Colonel Miller, senior tank commander in the area, had moved the tanks toward the highway. They arrived there about 2100, and were met by General Weaver’s executive with orders for a further withdrawal southward into Bataan.

The tanks were already well on their way when the units on the line received orders to pull back. The 71st Division elements experienced no difficulty in withdrawing down the road. The 31st Infantry, leaving three companies on the line as a covering shell, pulled out about 0130 on the morning of the 7th. An hour later, as the shell began to move out, the Japanese launched an attack against Hermosa, cutting off Company E and almost destroying it. The Japanese reached their objective by 0500, but the survivors of Company E did not rejoin the regiment until a few days later.

The 26th Cavalry, which had not been under attack that day, had lost contact with the 31st Infantry on its right. Radio communication proved inadequate; messages were garbled and, in some cases, indecipherable. The code had been changed during the night and no one had informed the 26th Cavalry. Consequently the Scout regiment was not aware of the order to withdraw during the night. It was not until the approach of daylight that the 26th learned of the withdrawal. It began to pull back at 0700 of the 7th. By this time the Japanese controlled the road as far south as Hermosa and the Scouts were compelled to move overland across the mountainous jungle to reach the American line. With the departure of the 26th Cavalry the Layac line disappeared.

At Layac Junction the American and Philippine troops had paid dearly to secure one day of grace for the forces preparing to defend Bataan. Against the longer range Japanese guns the Americans had been defenseless. The line had been penetrated at the first blow, only to be restored and then abandoned. The Japanese had once more failed in their attempt to follow up their advantage.

Withdrawal into Bataan complete

The withdrawal into Bataan was now complete. Under desperate circumstances and under constant pressure from the enemy, General MacArthur had brought his forces from the north and south to San Fernando and Calumpit. There, in a most difficult maneuver, he had joined the two forces and brought them safely into Bataan, fighting a delaying action all the way. All this had been accomplished in two weeks, during which time positions had been prepared on Bataan and supplies shipped there from Manila and elsewhere. Not a single major unit had been cut off or lost during the withdrawal, and only once, at Cabanatuan, had the American line failed to hold long eough to permit an orderly withdrawal.

The success of this complicated and difficult movement, made with ill-equipped and inadequately trained Filipino troops, is a tribute to the generalship of MacArthur, Wainwright, and Jones and to American leadership on the field of battle.

The withdrawal had been a costly one on both sides. General Wainwright’s North Luzon Force of 28,000 men had been reduced to about 16,000 largely by the desertion of Filipino soldiers who returned to their homes. Only a small portion of the 12,000 men lost were battIe casualties or captured by the enemy. General Jones’s South Luzon Force fared much better. Of the 15,000 men in his force originally, General Jones had 14,000 left when he reached Bataan. The Japanese suffered close to 2,000 casualties during the period since the first landing. This number included 627 killed, 1,282 wounded, and 7 missing.

[Wainwright, General Wainwright’s Story, pp. 45, 48; interv, Falk with Jones, 2 Dec 49. The strengths as given are rough approximations at best. No official figures are available for the campaign or any part of it. “Comments of Former Japanese Officers Regarding The Fall of the Philippines, pp. 50, 124; USA vs. Homma, Defense Exhibit Y. See also the testimony of Colonel Nakajima, who said at the trial of General Homma that there were 4,500 casualties, including 1,300 wounded and 2,700 sick, in the 14th Army thus far. USA vs. Homma, p. 2573, testimony of Nakajima.]

The men who reached Bataan were tired and hungry. Before the fight began again they were accorded a brief rest while the enemy reorganized. To Colonel Collier this interlude seemed but an intermission between the acts of a great tragedy entitled “Defense of the Philippines.” But before the curtain could go up on the second act, certain off-stage arrangements had to be completed. While these did not directly affect the action on-stage, they exerted a powerful influence on the outcome of the drama.

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

World War Two: Fall of Philippines (3-14); Occupation of Manila 1941

World War Two: Fall of Philippines (3-12); Road to Bataan