World War Two: Fall of Philippines;Bataan (4-19 & 20); Command-MacArthur Exits

At the end of January, the time by which, according to the prewar plans of Imperial General Headquarters, the conquest of Luzon was to have been completed, Homma had to face the bitter realization that he was still far from his objective. The Battle of the Points and the pocket fights were still in progress, but it was already clear that the offensive begun on 26 January had failed miserably. General Nara’s efforts to advance against II Corps on the east had been unsuccessful and expensive for the 65th Brigade and the attached 9th Infantry of the 16th Division. One battalion of the 20th infantry had already been lost in the abortive landings along the west coast; another was trapped at Anyasan and Silaiim Points.

The remainder of the regiment was cut off behind Wainwright’s line and encircled in the pockets. Finally, the attacks against I Corps by elements of the 122nd, 33rd, and 9th Infantry–the last of which had rejoined the 16th Division during the first week of February-were producing no results. Reluctant as he was to call off the offensive, Homma realized that to continue with it might well lead to disaster. The time for a decision had come.

The crucial question was debated heatedly by the 14th Army staff at San Fernando on 8 February. During the discussions two points of view emerged. The first, presented by Colonel Motoo Nakayama, senior operations officer of Homma’s staff, held that the offensive should be pushed aggressively. The main effort, he argued, should be made along the east coast rather than the west and should be closely controlled by 14th Army. Lieutenant General Masami Maeda, Homma’s chief of staff, spoke for those who believed that offensive operations on Bataan should be discontinued, and that the blockade should be tightened while the remainder of the Philippines were occupied. By the time this was accomplished, the Americans and Filipinos would have been starved into submission. Thus the victory would be gained at little cost.

Homma listened carefuly to both views and then made his decision. Forced by necessity to accept Maeda’s argument for the cessation of operations on Bataan, he agreed to break off the action and withdraw his troops to a more secure position. But he did not agree to wait for famine and hunger to bring him victory. Instead he decided to call on Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo for reinforcements with which to launch a final offensive to capture Bataan. Meanwhile, he would rest his men, reorganize the Army, and tighten the blockade. That night he issued orders for a general withdrawal.

Homma’s order of the 8th was the one which halted Nara’s operations against Sector C in II Corps and prompted Morioka to order the troops at Anyasan and Silaiim Points and those in the pockets to escape as best they could. General Nara was directed to withdraw his brigade to the area above the Tiawir and Talisay Rivers; Morioka, to the high ground north of the Bagac and Gogo Rivers. There they would establish defensive positions, reorganize, and prepare for the next offensive.

Nara experienced little difficulty in carrying out his orders, but Morioka’s troops were too closely engaged to withdraw easily. Moreover, the entire 20th Infantry was behind the American line, either at the points or in the pockets. On about 13 February, therefore, Homma ordered the 65th Brigade and the Army reserve unit to launch a diversionary attack against II Corps to relieve pressure on the 16th Division. At the same time Army artillery and supporting aircraft would open an attack of their own to cover Morioh.’s withdrawal. As soon as Morioka had extricated his troops, General Nara would break off the diversionary attack and fall back again, this time to a line near Balanga, a short distance south of the old Abucay line.

The attack opened on 15 February after a careful preparation by the artillery and bombardment from the air. To create the impression of heavy troop movements, vehicles of all types were sent along the road between Abucay and Dinalupihan to the north. While the artillery and aircraft continued their activity, the ground troops moved out. Skeleton units less than a battalion in size advanced toward the American lines, reconnoitered, deployed as though for attack, opened fire, but made no effort to advance farther. The Americans, who reported this activity as heavy patrol action, were not deceived and made no disposition to meet a general offensive against II Corps. Homma, however, believed that troops had been moved from I to II Corps and that the diversion was successful. On 2 February, after Morioka had completed his withdrawal, Nara was ordered to pull back also and occupy the line near Balanga.

Thus, less than one month after the start of the offensive, 14th Army had been halted and forced back to a defensive line to await reinforcements. “The enemy has definitely recoiled,” wrote General MacArthur. “He has refused his flank in front of my right six to ten kilometers and in other sectors by varying distances. His attitude is so passive as to discount any immediate threat of attack.”

While these operations were in progress on Bataan Homma put into effect his plan to tighten the blockade. Colonel Tatsunosuke Suzuki, whose 33rd Infantry (less 1st and 2nd Battalions) occupied all of Luzon south of Manila, was given the 16th Reconnaissance Regiment (less one company) and ordered to guard the southern coast of Manila Bay to prevent friendly Filipinos from sending food to Corregidor and Bataan. At the same time the four 105-mm. guns and two 150-mm. cannons stationed earlier in the same area were ordered to intensify their bombardment of the fortified islands at the entrance to the bay.

To seal off the approaches to Manila Bay from the inland seas Homma decided also to occupy the island of Mindoro, off the southwest coast of Luzon, just below Batangas Province. On the 15th he directed Colonel Suzuki to prepare for an amphibious operation and on the 22nd issued final orders for the landing. Four days later, Suzuki, with a force called the Suzuki Detachment and consisting of the 3rd Battalion, 33rd Infantry, plus a battery of the 22nd Field Artillery, left Olongapo under naval escort. On the morning of the 27th, the detachment landed on the northeast tip of the island and occupied a town and near-by airfield without any opposition. No effort was made to occupy the south end of the island where there was an airstrip and a small garrison of fifty men.

[Ind, Bataan, The Judgment Seat, pp. 148, 273, 329, 343-44; rad, Beebe (Fort Mills) to MacArthur (Melbourne), 18 Mar 42, USFIP G-3 Journal. On 8 March a Japanese destroyer appeared offshore and the Mindoro garrison of fifty men set fire to 50,000 gallons of aviation gasoline before taking to the hills. A week later the Japanese landed there.]


This local success against an undefended island and the seizure of much booty could not disguise the fact that Homma’s fortune had by the end of February reached its nadir. From 6 January to 1 March 14th Army casualties had totaled almost 7,000 men. Twenty-seven hundred men had been killed and over 4,000 wounded. Between 10,000 and 12,000 more were down with malaria, beriberi, dysentery, and tropical diseases. Literally, 14th Army had ceased to exist as an effective force, and its two combat elements, the 16th Division and 65th Brigade, had been reduced to impotence.


Of the three infantry regiments in Morioka’s division, one, the 20th, had been virtually destroyed. The single battalion of the 33rd Infantry that participated in the offensive had lost 125 men in the Upper Pocket. The 9th Infantry had seen action on both sides of the peninsula and had suffered about 700 casualties. By 24 February the effective infantry strength of the 16th Division on Bataan did not exceed 712 men.


The 65th Brigade had not fared much better than the 16th Division. Entering Bataan early in January with about 5,000 infantrymen, its three two-battalion regiments, the 122nd, 141st, and 142nd, had been in continuous combat until the last week of February. The brigade had borne the brunt of the fighting in the first battle of Bataan and had lost a large number of men before 26 January. Between 25 January and 15 February, the 122nd Infantry had been attached to Morioka’s force and had sustained over 300 casualties. During the same period the 141st Infantry lost 80 killed and 253 wounded. Casualties in the 142nd were somewhat lighter. By the middle of February the brigade and its attachments had lost altogether over 4,000 men: 1,142 killed and 3,110 wounded. Many of those who survived were exhausted and sick and could hardly be considered effective troops.


The 14th Army was indeed, as Homma remarked at his trial in Manila four years later, “in very bad shape.” Altogether Homma had in his army at that time, he estimated, only three infantry battalions capable of effective action. Had MacArthur chosen that moment to launch a large-scale counterattack, Homma told the Military Tribunal which sentenced him to death, the American and Filipino troops could have walked to Manila “without encountering much resistance on our part.”


The Japanese failure in the offensive against the Orion-Bagac line raised American morale and led to an upsurge of optimism. So jubilant were the troops that they accepted unquestioningly, as did MacArthur’s headquarters, the report that General Homma had committed suicide because of his failure to take Bataan. To heighten the dramatic effect, or for some obscure reason attributable to Oriental psychology, Homma was thought to have selected General MacArthur’s apartment in the Manila Hotel for the act. The fictious funeral rites were reported to have been held there also.


Officers were unanimous in their judgment that morale was never higher and the troops never imbued with a more aggressive spirit. “The morale of our front line troops,” wrote Lieutenant Colonel Nicoll F. Galbraith to his chief, Colonel Lewis C. Beebe, G–4 on MacArthur’s staff, “appears very high and they want to take the offensive. At the moment there appears to be nothing on our right except dead Japs and tons of abandoned equipment, which is being collected …. Prisoners give the impression that Jap morale is away down.” 

[USA vs. Homma, pp. 3062-63, testimony of Homma; pp. 2450, 2457, testimony of Lieutenant General Takaji Wachi, fomerly Chief of Staff, 14th Army. Colonel Yoshio Nakajima estimated that as of 1 March there were 3,000 effectives in 14th Army, USA vs. Homma, p. 2576.] 

[Ibid., p. 3063, testimony of Homma; rad, MacArthur to TAG, No. 438, 7 Mar 42, AG 381 (11-27-41 Sec 3) Far East; Bunker, Diary, entry of 10 Mar 42. General Yamashita, conqueror of Singapore, was reported as the new Japanese commander in the Philippines, a command he did not assume until October 1944.]

Wainwright, too, thought that the morale of his men reached its highest point after the Battle of the Points and the pocket fights. A naval intelligence officer, whose opinion of the Philippine army was not high, wrote to his superior in Washington on 11 February: Army morale on Bataan is higher in the past ten days than at any time since the beginning of the war. . . . The opinion here is that the army has improved by many discharges and thousands of desertions, by the realization that it has to fight its own battle with little if any substantial aid. . . . Lastly, fighting qualities have improved by experience.

The victories of February had made hardened veterans of the front-line troops on Bataan and they were eager to pursue the enemy. Men on patrol moved forward aggressively and Colonel Galbraith wrote that he expected at any moment to hear that “they were in San Fernando next.” One patrol from General Bluemel’s sector in II Corps actually pushed as far forward as the former Abucay line whereupon the general proposed to Parker that a reconnaissance in force be made to that line preparatory to a restoration of the first main line of resistance. He was not alone in urging a general counteroffensive; many officers favored a return to the Abucay position and some wished to go even further, to Layac Junction at the base of the peninsula.

Bluemel’s proposal met with a flat rejection at corps headquarters, and undoubtedly would have received even less consideration from MacArthur’s staff. What the proponents of a general counteroffensive failed to consider was the fact that a local victory could not change the strategic situation in the Philippines. So long as the Japanese controlled the sea and air MacArthur’s forces would be unable to gain a decisive victory. Even if they fought their way back to Abucay, Layac, or Manila, they would ultimately have to retire to Bataan again, for the Japanese could reinforce at will.

The effort required for a general offensive might well have jeopardized the primary mission of the Philippine garrison-to hold Manila Bay as long as possible. To accomplish this task it was necessary to conserve carefully all human and material resources.

Troops on the defensive in a static situation required less food, less gasoline, less ammunition, and less of all other supplies than those who chose to attack. Moreover, the advance, if it proved successful, would bring additional problems: it would lengthen the front line, increase the area to be defended and the line of communication, leave exposed beaches to the rear, and greatly complicate an already difficult supply situation. It was for these reasons that all proposals for an offensive, while feasible tactically and desirable for reasons of morale, were strategically unsound. The proper task for the front-line troops was to strengthen their defenses in the hope that when the next Japanese attack came it could be turned back as had the last.

Thus, by the end of February, the Americans and Japanese were dug in behind their defensive positions on Bataan. Separating the two lines was a no man’s land, the exclusive hunting preserve for the opposing patrols. Over the entire peninsula settled a lull as both sides prepared for the final assault.

While the situation on Bataan was never more favorable to the Allied cause than it was in mid-February, there was little hope in Washington that the Philippine garrison could withstand the Japanese assault for more than a few months. What would happen to General MacArthur then? Was he to be allowed to fall into Japanese hands or should he be saved for the Allied war effort still to come? The decision reached in Washington, presumably early in February, was that the general’s services were too valuable to be sacrificed in a hopeless cause, that he must be rescued to lead other forces in the war against Japan.

But there were difficulties to this solution. MacArthur would undoubtedly raise objections to any orders which might affect his reputation. And he might show an understandable reluctance to desert his troops in the midst of battle. Brigadier General Patrick Hurley, former Secretary of War and an old friend of MacArthur’s, summarized these difficulties when he told General Wavell during a trip to the Indies that MacArthur would not leave the Philippines until “both the public and the troops were assured that command had passed to competent leadership.” He explained also “that it would be necessary for the President to definitely order MacArthur to relinquish command and proceed elsewhere, and that even if such orders were issued MacArthur might feel that he had destroyed himself by leaving his beleaguered command MacArthur’s departure from the Philippines,” Hurley concluded, would have to be arranged in such a way that “his honor and his record as a soldier” would not be compromised.

The Evacuation of MacArthur

The subject of MacArthur’s evacuation from the Philippines and his future role in the war against Japan was first raised by the Chief of Staff in an oblique fashion on 2 February. The occasion was an inquiry about MacArthur’s plans for his wife and young son who were on Corregidor with him. General Marshall followed up this inquiry two days later with the statement that “continuous consideration” was being given to the evacuation of officials from the Philippines. For the first time mention was made of the possibility of MacArthur’s transfer to another command should Bataan fall, leaving only “the fortress defense of Corregidor” in American hands. “Under these conditions,” Marshall explained, “the need for your services there might well be less pressing than at other points in the Far East.”

Marshall outlined two possibilities for MacArthur’s future employment. The first was his transfer to Mindanao. The length of his stay there would depend on the success of guerilla operations and the effectiveness of the program to bring in supplies from Australia. The second alternative was for MacArthur to go directly to Australia and there resume command of all Army forces in the Far East. After describing the situation in Australia and outlining what was being done to establish a strong base in that area, Marshall went on to say that his purpose in raising the question of MacArthur’s evacuation from the Philippines was to secure from him a “highly confidential statement” of his views before a decision was made. “It is to be understood,” he concluded, “that in case your withdrawal from immediate leadership of your beleaguered forces is to be carried out it will be by direct order of the President to you.” This request for MacArthur’s views was not answered immediately, and when it did come was made in connection with an entirely different matter.

On 8 February, four days after Marshall’s inquiry, the War Department received a message for President Roosevelt from Manuel Quezon. In this message Quezon proposed that the United States immediately grant the Philippines their independence; that the Islands be neutralized; that American and Japanese forces be withdrawn by mutual consent; and that the Philippine Army be disbanded. Quezon’s disquieting proposal was accompanied by a supporting message from General MacArthur, couched in the form of a military estimate of the situation. From this estimate the War Department learned for the first time that the Philippine garrison had sustained a casualty rate of 50 percent, and that divisions were reduced to the size of regiments and regiments to battalions.

Although morale was good the men were “badly battle worn” and “desperately in need of rest.” There is no denying the fact,” MacArthur told Marshall, “that we are near done,” and warned him to be prepared for “the complete destruction of this command” at any time. It was up to the United States to decide whether the time the Allies so badly needed could be attained better through Quezon’s plan or by continuing the hopeless battle. After summarizing the attitude of the Filipinos as one of “almost violent resentment against the United States,” MacArthur stated that, from the military point of view, “the problem presents itself as to whether the plan of President Quezon might offer the best possible solution of what is about to be a disastrous debacle.” If the plan was accepted, he pointed out, “we lose no military advantage because we would still secure at least equal delay.”

The reaction from Washington was prompt and emphatic. On 9 February, one day later, President Roosevelt in a personal message to Quezon repudiated the scheme and declared that the United States Government would never agree to such a solution to the war in the Philippines. At the same time he expressed his sympathy for Quezon and the Philippine people and pledged American support “whatever happens to the present American garrison.” “So long as the flag of the United States flies on Filipino soil,” Roosevelt assured Quezon, ” … it will be defended by our own men to the death . . . we shall not relax our efforts until the forces which are now marshalling outside the Philippine Islands return to the Philippines and drive the last remnant of the invaders from your soil.” To General MacArthur, Roosevelt sent a personal message authorizing the surrender of the Filipino troops if necessary, but forbidding the surrender of American troops, “so long as there remains any possibility of resistance.” The President then went on to express his belief in the importance of the fight in the Philippines and the role of that garrison in the war against the Axis.

I have made these decisions [he wrote] in complete understanding of your military estimate that accompanied President Quezon’s message to me. The duty and the necessity of resisting Japanese aggression to the last transcends in importance any other obligation now facing us in the Philippines. There has been gradually welded into a common front a globe-encircling opposition to the predatory powers that are seeking the destruction of individual liberty and freedom of government. We cannot afford to have this line broken in any particular theater.

As the most powerful member of this coalition we cannot display weakness in fact or in spirit anywhere. It is mandatory that there be established once and for all in the minds of all peoples complete evidence that the American determination and indomitable will to win carries on down to the last unit. I therefore give you this most difficult mission in full understanding of the desperate situation to which you may shortly be reduced. The service that you and the American members of your command can render to your country in the titanic struggle now developing is beyond all possibility of appraisement.

I particularly request that you proceed rapidly to the organization of your forces and your defenses so as to make your resistance as effective as circumstances will permit and as prolonged as humanly possible. Both Quezon and MacArthur accepted the President’s decision without question. Quezon wrote that he fully appreciated the reasons upon which the decision was based and that he was “abiding by it.” It was in his reply to the President’s “no surrender” order that MacArthur answered Marshall’s inquiry of a week earlier for his confidential views about evacuation. He and his family MacArthur declared, had decided to remain in the Philippines and “share the fate of the garrison.” He planned, he said, to fight “to destruction” on Bataan and then do the same of Corregidor. “I have not the slightest intention in the world,” he told the President, “of surrendering or capitulating the Filipino element of my command …. There has never been the slightest wavering among the troops.”

General Marshall immediately expressed personal concern over MacArthur’s decision to “share the fate of the garrison.” He urged the former Chief of Staff to consider the possibility of an assignment that would force him to become separated from his family “under circumstances of greatly increased peril” and “poignant embarrassment.” In the same message Marshall answered the inquiry about the ammunition but pointedly omitted any reference to the personal aspects of Marshall’s message. MacArthur’s message was penned on 15 February, the same day that the supposedly impregnable fortress at Singapore, key to the British position in the Far East, surrendered.

Already the Japanese had taken Malaya, Borneo, and the Celebes. The early loss of Sumatra and Java and the split of the ABDA area was virtually certain. Again MacArthur called for an attack against the Japanese line of communications, declaring with characteristic optimism that “the opportunities still exist for a complete reversal of the situation.”

To the United States and British planners in Washington the possibility of successful flank attack against the Japanese positions appeared even more remote than before. ABDA Command was clearly doomed, and there were numerous meetings held in Washington during the two weeks following the fall of Singapore to consider the effects on Allied strategy of the new Japanese victories and the imminent collapse of Wavell’s command. Gradually there emerged a scheme by which the United States would accept responsibility for the eastern portion of the ABDA area, including Australia and the Netherlands Indies; the British, the western portion. It was evident by the last week in February that the broad outlines of such an agreement were mutually satisfactory and that only the details-important as they were-remained to be worked out. The American planners considered it a wise precaution, then, to select in advance a senior officer qualified to command a large Allied headquarters in the Southwest Pacific. Inevitably the choice fell upon MacArthur.

On 27 February the Combined Chiefs of Staff finally ordered Wavell to dissolve his headquarters and turn command of operations in the area over to the Netherlands authorities before leaving for India. This move placed MacArthur technically under the Dutch, but he had already been told that “because of your special situation all procedures in your case remain as heretofore. You will continue to communicate directly with the War Department.”

Such reassurances were by now entirely unnecessary for on 22 February the President had directed MacArthur to leave the Philippines. His intention to do so had been made clear on the 21st when the Chief of Staff had told the Far East commander that the President was considering the advisability of ordering him to Mindanao to conduct the defense of the Philippines from there.

There were numerous advantages to such a move. MacArthur himself had repeatedly pointed out the possibility of continuing resistance from Mindanao by means of guerrilla warfare and had already taken measures to strengthen Brigadier General William F. Sharp’s command. If the Allies mounted an air and naval counterattack through the Netherlands Indies, as MacArthur had urged, Mindanao would be the first objective in the Philippines and the base for an invasion of Luzon. Communication with other areas in the Far East would also be more practical from Mindanao than Corregidor. “The foregoing considerations underlie the tentative decision of the President,” Marshall told MacArthur, “but we are not sufficiently informed as to the situation and circumstances to be certain that the proposal meets the actual situation.”

The next day, without waiting for a reply from Corregidor, the President made up his mind about MacArthur’s evacuation. The USAFFE commander was to leave Fort Mills as quickly as possible and proceed to Mindanao where he would remain long enough “to insure a prolonged defense.”

From there he was to go on to Australia. In this message MacArthur was told definitely for the first time of the President’s plans for his future role in the war and of arrangements then in progress to secure Australian and British acceptance of his command in the southwest Pacific. He was urged to make all haste in his preparations, “because of the vital importance of your assuming command in Australia at an early date,” and directed not to “delay in Mindanao” longer than one week and to leave sooner if transportation became available. Obviously, by this time, his movement to Mindanao was secondary to his assumption of command in Australia. Air and submarine transportation from Corregidor would be provided by Washington and he was authorized to take with him his chief of staff.

The message reached Corregidor at noon on the 23rd. According to Frazier Hunt, one of General MacArthur’s biographers, MacArthur first decided to refuse to leave and actually drafted a blunt refusal note. When he called in the senior members of his staff to tell them of the President’s orders and his decision, they all argued that he would have to obey the orders ultimately and that he ought not to send the message already drafted. If he persisted in his refusal, they pointed out, he would face court-martial charges. He had been selected to lead a rescue force back to the Philippines and he owed it fo his men to accept the assignment. There was enough food and ammunition, they declared, to last into June and the Bataan force might well hold out until his return.

[‘”Hunt, MacArthur and the War Against Japan, p. 64. The writer has been unable to find confirmation of this conference in the official records or in interviews.]

Thus advised, says Frazier Hunt, MacArthur tore up his first message and accepted his orders, with reservations. In his reply, dated 24 February, he expressed his appreciation of the confidence “implied” in the President’s orders and agreement with the objectives desired. Pointing out that the failure to send support to the Philippines had “created a very difficult situation which I have been able to meet only through the peculiar confidence placed in me by the Filipino people and Army,” and that his abrupt departure might result “in collapse in the Philippine area,” he asked for permission to delay his departure until the “psychological time.”Please be guided by me in this matter,” he urged the Chief of Staff. “I know the situation here in the Philippines and unless the right moment is chosen for this delicate operation, a sudden collapse might occur…These people are depending upon me now . . . and any idea that might develop in their minds that I was being with-‘ drawn for any other purpose than to bring them immediate relief could not be explained.…”

Authority to leave at a time he considered appropriate was received immediately. “Your No. 358, ” Marshall told him the next day, “has been carefully considered by the President. He has directed that full decision as to timing of your departure and details of method be left in your hands.” Since his date of departure was indefinite, he was given authority to call on the Army and Navy commands in Australia for a submarine to take him to Mindanao and B-17’s for the trip to Australia.

These arrangements, MacArthur told Marshall, were entirely satisfactory, and he added that he expected to leave about 15 March. Lieutenant General George H. Brett and Rear Admiral William A. Glassford, the Army and Navy commanders in Australia, though not given the reason, were directed to place three heavy bombers and a submarine at MacArthur’s disposal. The submarine was to move to Corregidor, the planes to Mindanao. Brett and Glassford were also told to expect such a call about 15 March and enjoined to keep the entire matter “highly secret.” The only urging MacArthur received from Washington to hasten his departure came on 6 March when Marshall told him, at the end of a message dealing with other matters, that the situation in Australia “indicates desirability of your early arrival there.”

The “psychological time” for MacArthur’s departure came six days later. On 24 February, when he had asked permission to delay his departure, he had pointed out that he wished to remain in the Philippines until such time as the situation on Bataan became stabilized. The enemy’s intentions were not then clear, he had said, and it was entirely possible that he might soon make a major effort. MacArthur was confident that he could defeat the Japanese and “re-stabilize the situation.” If such an attack did not materialize, his estimate was that “we may be approaching the stalemate of positional warfare.”

 By 10 March MacArthur evidently felt such a condition had been reached and that his departure would not result in a collapse. Arrangements for transportation were quickly made by Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell and General Sutherland, and the officers to accompany him carefully selected. Instead of waiting for the submarine which the Navy had placed at his disposal and which could not reach Corregidor until 15 March-by which time the Japanese might have established an effective blockade-MacArthur decided to go to Mindanao by PT boat. Rockwell assigned four of these small craft to the operation and rushed preparations for the journey. Lieutenant Bulkeley, aboard the boat carrying the general, was in tactical command of the group, but Rockwell assumed personal command of the operation.

[Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, 6 Mar 42, WDCSA 370.05 (3-17-42) Phil. Frazier Hunt states that on 10 March MacArthur received “another peremptory order” to leave. Hunt, MacArthur and the War Against Japan, p. 64. No such order has been found in the records.]

 [Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, No. 358, 24 Feb 42, WDCSA 370.05 (3-17-42) Phil. Wainwright, General Wainwright’s Story, pp. 1-5. The account given by Wainwright of the reasons for MacArthur’s departure, as given him by General Sutherland, is not supported by official records. Sutherland told Wainwright, who came to Corregidor on the 10th, that “the President has been trying to get him [MacArthur] to leave Corregidor for days, but until yesterday the general kept refusing.” (p. 2) MacArthur told Wainwright that same morning that he was leaving on orders from the President and that “things have gotten to such a point that I must comply with these orders or get out of the Army. I want you to make it known … that I’m leaving over my repeated protests.” (p. 5) MacArthur also told General Moore that he had been ordered to leave over his protest. Harbor Defenses Rpt of Opns, p. 42.]

During the negotiations leading to MacArthur’s reassignment no mention had been made of the size or character of the staff he would take with him. It was assumed that his family would go, and Marshall had inquired specifically about them. Only two officers had been mentioned by name as being included in the official transfer: General Sutherland and General George, the latter asked for specifically by the Air Forces who were “anxious to profit by [his] experience.” The group finally selected to make the trip from Corregidor to Australia via Mindanao numbered twenty-one persons. In addition to his wife, young son, and the nurse for the child, MacArthur selected from his staff seventeen officers to accompany him. They included his chief and deputy chief of staff, the G-1 and G-2, the signal, engineer, antiaircraft artillery, and air officers, a public relations officer, Sutherland’s assistant, an aide, a medical officer, and a secretary. In addition to Admiral Rockwell one other naval officer accompanied the general.

On 12 March, as darkness settled down over Manila Bay, the party embarked from Corregidor. Two hours later, at 2115, the four PT boats cleared the mine fields and sped south. Sailing all that night, they put in next morning at a small uninhabited island in the Cuyo group in the central Philippines. The small craft had broken formation during the night and become separated, one of them dumping its spare fuel when it mistook Bulkeley’s boat for an enemy vessel. The passengers on this boat were taken aboard the others and the group continued south through the Mindanao Sea the next night, reaching the north central shore of Mindanao at daybreak of the 14th.

” Ibid.; rad, Brett to Marshall, No. 760, 19 Mar 42, AG 371 (3-19-42). The group was organized as follows: PT 41 (Lieutenant J. D. Bulkeley); General MacArthur, Mrs. MacArthur, Arthur MacArthur, son; Chinese nurse, General Sutherland, CofS, Captain Harold G. Ray, USN, Lieuteant Colonel Sidney L. Huff, Aide; Major C. H. Morehouse, Med 0fficer: PT 34 (Lieutenant R. G. Kelly); Admiral Rockwell; General Marshall, Deputy CofS; Colonel Charles P. Stivers, G-1; Captain Joseph McMicking (PA), Asst G-2 PT 35 (Ensign A. B. Akers); Colonel Charles A. Willoughby, G-2; Lieutenant Colonel LeGrande A. Diller, Aide (PRO); Lieutenant Colonel Francis H. Wilson, Aide to Sutherland; Master Sergeant Paul P. Rogers, Secy: PT 32 (Lieutenant (jg) V. S. Schumacker); Brigadier General Spencer B. Akin, Sig Officer; Brigadier General Hugh J. Casey, Engr Officer; Brigadier General William F. Marquat, AA Officer; Brigadier General Harold H. George, Air Officer; Lieutenant Colonel Joe R. Sherr, Asst Sig Officer]

They were met by General Sharp and taken to Del Monte airfield where MacArthur found. only one of the B-17’s Brett had sent up from Australia. Two had failed to arrive and the third had crashed. The remaining bomber MacArthur considered unfit to carry passengers. Incensed, he requested Brett to send other planes and asked Marshall to make suitable planes available if Brett did not have them. “The best three planes in the United States or Hawaii should be made available,” he radioed the Chief of Staff, “with completely adequate and experienced crews. To attempt such a desperate and important trip with inadequate equipment would amount to consigning the whole party to death and I could not accept such a responsibility.

Three B-17’s were dispatched from Australia immediately, two of them reaching Del Monte safely by midnight of the 16th. The entire group took off shortly after and arrived at Darwin at 0900 the next morning. “This hazardous trip by a commanding general and key members of his staff through enemy controlled territory undoubtedly is unique in military annals,” MacArthur reported to the Chief of Staff on his arrival. “I wish to commend the courage and coolness of the officers and men … who were engaged in this hazardous enterprise. It was due entirely to their invincible resolution and determination that the mission was successfully accomplished.”

Wainwright Assumes Command

As early as 4 March, a week before his departure, General MacArthur had begun to formulate a plan for the organization and command of the forces remaining behind. On that day the composite Visayan-Mindanao Force under General Sharp was split and the islands in the Visayas transferred to the command of Brigadier General Bradford G. Chynoweth. Sharp continued on as commander of the forces on Mindanao, the only island south of Luzon on which a major Japanese force had landed. This move was probably designed to permit General Sharp to devote all his energies to the defense of Mindanao, the base from which MacArthur still hoped to mount a counteroffensive against the Japanese.

The reorganization of the Visayan-Mindanao Force was only a part of General MacArthur’s plan. He intended also, as he told General Moore at that time, to make some changes in command on Bataan and Corregidor. These intentions were a closely guarded secret and the news only began to leak out to the general staff on the 10th. General Wainwright was the first to learn of it officially. On the evening of the 9th he received a telephone call from Sutherland to come to Corregidor the next morning to see General MacArthur on a matter of importance. When he arrived the USAFFE chief of staff told him that MacArthur was leaving for Mindanao and Australia the next day. “The general,” Sutherland explained, “plans a number of changes.” These changes, it appeared, did not include the appointment of another commander for the forces in the Philippines. MacArthur would continue to exercise this control from Australia through his G-4, Colonel Beebe, who would be given a star and designated deputy chief of staff of USAFFE.

The entire force, Sutherland told Wainwright, would be organized into four commands. In addition to the two already created in the south and General Moore’s Harbor Defenses, a new command would be established for the troops on Bataan and those still holding out in the mountains of Luzon. This command, to be known as Luzon Force, would be led by General Wainwright. General Jones, who had demonstrated his ability in guiding the South Luzon Force during its withdrawal to Bataan and in the pocket fight, was to be promoted and given Wainwright’s old command, I Corps. These arrangements, Sutherland concluded, would become effective the day after MacArthur’s departure. The briefing completed, Sutherland took Wainwright in to see General MacArthur.

After outlining the organization to be established on his departure and asserting his determination to “come back as soon as I can with as much as I can,” MacArthur cautioned Wainwright to defend Bataan “in as great depth as you can.” “You’re an old cavalryman, Jonathan,” he said, “and your training has been along thin, light, quick hitting lines. The defense of Bataan must be deep.”And be sure,” he continued, “to give them everything you’ve got with your artillery. That’s the best arm you have.” Before the cavalryman returned to Bataan, MacArthur promised him his third star “if you’re still on Bataan.” “I’ll be on Bataan,” …. Wainwright pledged, “if I’m alive.” It was a promise that he would be unable to keep. In his instructions to General Moore, MacArthur explained more fully the purpose behind the reorganization. The principal function of the staff he was leaving with Colonel Beebe, he declared, would be “to try to get supplies into Corregidor and Bataan,”. The advance command post of USAFFE at Corregidor, therefore, would be a supply not a tactical headquarters.

MacArthur apparently intended to retain control of operations in the Philippines in his own headquarters in Australia. Moore, as commander of the Corregidor garrison, was specifically en joined to defend that island to the last. Some time earlier MacArthur had ordered Moore to set aside enough food to last 20,000 men on half rations until 30 June 1942, in the expectation that if Bataan fell the Philippine Division would be brought to Corregidor for its final stand. Moore had made preparations for such a move and MacArthur’s final warning to him was to maintain this level of supply against encroachment by the commanders of his other forces. His “last instructions to me before departing,” Moore wrote, “were to hold Corregidor until he returned.” If that prosed impossible, “I was to make sure that the armament was destroyed to such an extent that it could not be used against an American effort to recapture the Philippines.”

Promptly on the morning after the four PT boats sped out of Manila Bay, General Wainwright “lined up” the general officers in his I Corps and told them what MacArthur had said to him. “They realized as well as I,” he noted, “what the score was.” He then turned over command of the corps to General Jones and left for his new headquarters which would control both the corps on Bataan. Two days later a general order announced the creation of Luzon Force, General Wainwright commanding.

Although the War Department was fully informed about MacArthur’s movemets from 12 March on, it was completely ignorant of the command arrangements which went into effect on his departure. Whatever the reason, MacArthur neglected to inform the War Department of his plans to control operations in the Philippines from Australia. It was therefore assumed in Washington that Wainwright, the senior officer in the islands, was now in command. All correspondence was addressed to him as commander and dispatches spoke of him as the successor to MacArthur.

The War Department’s ignorance of the organization of forces in the Philippines placed Colonel Beebe, promoted to brigadier general on 17 March, in a difficult situation. His own orders from General MacArthur made Wainwright a subordinate commander to USAFFE. As deputy chief of staff of USAFF,E and MacArthur’s representative on Corregidor he was superior to Wainwright. But higher headquarters was now directing its correspondence and orders to Wainwright as commander. His position was an embarrassing one. Belatedly, on the 16th, a general order was published announcing his appointment as deputy chief of staff, USAFFE. This did not solve the difficulty for the War Department was still unaware of the situation. Beebe thereupon told MacArthur that it was imperative the War Department be informed of the change in order to preserve morale.

Events soon overwhelmed General Beebe. On the 18th (Washington time) he received a message from the Chief of Staff addressed to the commanding general of USAFFE at Fort Mills but obviously meant for Wainwright. In it General Marshall defined MacArthur’s new area of responsibility as including the Philippines and explained that “he [MacArthur] retains supervisory control of you and your forces.” The “CG USAFFE” was instructed to communicate directly with the War Department and to submit daily reports. “Nothing in these instructions,” the message concluded, “will be construed as altering in any way your subordination to MacArthur.”

General Beebe was in a quandary. The m e s sag e was addressed to “CG USAFFE,” who he knew was MacArthur, but it was evidently meant for Wainwright. Was he authorized to deliver it to him? On his own initiative he decided to withhold the message from Wainwright and to acknowledge its receipt himself in a message to the War Department sent in MacArthur’s name. To his chief he explained what he had done, declaring, “It is not clear to me who the Chief of Staff had in mind when” the message was written. Again he urged that General Marshall be informed of the command in the Philippines and asked for instructions on what to do about the Chief of Staff’s order for a daily report.

The next day the situation became even more confused. First came a message from President Roosevelt for General Wainwright. The President was obviously addressing Wainwright as commander of the forces in the Philippines. He told him that he had been nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general “because of the confidence I have in your leadership and in the superb gallantry of the devoted band of American and Filipino soldiers under your command.” There was no mistaking the President’s belief that he was addressing MacArthur’s successor when he told Wainwright that the whole nation realized the “extreme difficulty” and “vast importance” of his task and pledged “every possible means and method” to send him help.

Later in the day Beebe received two messages from the Chief of Staff for “CG USAFFE” but clearly intended for Wainwright. In the first, Marshall told Wainwright that the Senate had confirmed his nomination to lieutenant general. The second message made it clear that the War Department considered Wainwright the successor to MacArthur. No confusion was possible in the wording of this message. “Upon the departure of General MacArthur,” Marshall wrote, “you became commander of U.S. forces in the Philippines. You are to communicate directly with the War Department in rendering daily operational reports.” These reports, he told Wainwright, “are to be dispatched over your name.”

Beebe had no choice now but to turn over command to Wainwright. Late on the night of the 20th he telephoned the Luzon Force commander at his headquarters on Bataan and informed him of his promotion and designation as commander of U.S. forces in the Philippines. The next morning Wainwright pinned the third star on his shoulders and moved to Corregidor where Beebe turned over to him the messages from General Marshall and the President.

Wainwright’s first official act was to assume command of U.S. Forces in the Philippines (USFIP), the name of his new headquarters, and to make Beebe his chief of staff. His command, like MacArthur’s, included Navy as well as Army elements.

Under Admiral Hart and for a time under his successor, Admiral Rockwell, naval forces in the Philippines had been organized as an independent command, not subject to orders from USAFFE. Joint operations had been conducted on the basis of co-ordination between the two headquarters. At the end of January General MacArthur had asked that naval forces, including the marines, be placed under his command “due to restricted area of combat and the intimacy of liaison that is required.”

Army and Navy authorities in Washington quickly agreed to this request and on 30 January all naval forces in the Philippines had been put under MacArthur’s control. Unity of command had thus been established for the first time in the campaign.50 Wainwright inherited this arrangement, with Captain Kenneth M. Hoeffel as naval commander.

Wainwright’s assumption of command brought from General MacArthur an inquiry for the basis of the action. Wainwright explained that he had received a message from the President and instructions from the Chief of Staff, and had had no choice but to assume command. “I trust you will understand and appreciate my position in this matter,” he wrote. “The appointment came as a surprise to me without any previous intimation that I was to be selected for this command.”

Now, on 21 March, General MacArthur for the first time informed General Marshall about his own arrangements for four separate commands and his intention to control operations in the Philippines from his headquarters in Australia through a deputy chief of staff on Corregidor. This arrangement, he explained, was based upon “special problems” and “deemed most advantageous” because of “the intangibles of the situation in Philippines.” As Sutherland later explained, it was never MacArthur’s intention that Wainwright should command all the forces in the Philippines.

General Marshall’s comments on MacArthur’s plan were made to the President on 22 March. The four separate commands, Marshall pointed out, would have to report to MacArthur in Melbourne, 4,000 miles away. In the Manila Bay area alone there would be two separate commanders, and it was Marshall’s opinion that MacArthur would have to arbitrate matters between these two from Australia. Although the Chief of Staff did not know it, the disadvantages of the arrangements had already been noted by Wainwright, who, on the 15th, had gone to Corregidor to try to get more supplies for his Luzon Force. In this effort he had been unsuccessful. “I had no control over it [supplies],” he noted, “which irked me a bit. MacArthur had left the matter of Bataan supplies in the hands of … Beebe, over on Corregidor.”

[Interv, author with Sutherland, 12 Nov 46. Wainwright’s appointment, Sutherland said, had been made by the War Department “after MacArthur left and without his knowledge.” Actually, MacArthur seems to have been informed of the War Department’s intentions before Wainwright through the messages he received from Beebe.]

General Marshall found MacArthur’s arrangements for command in the Philippines unsatisfactory and told the President so. He was “fearful,” he said, that they would have “a very depressing effect” on General Wainwright, “on whom we must now depend for the successful continuance of the fight on Bataan.” These arrangements, Marshall observed, were also contrary to the principle of combined command. As a supreme commander of Allied forces in Australia, MacArthur was no longer eligible to command directly U.S. forces any more than he could command those of other nations. Such command would properly be exercised through a U.S. Army headquarters. Marshall therefore recommended to the President that MacArthur be informed that his plan was unsatisfactory and that Wainwright should continue in command of the Philippines. The President agreed and that day, 22 March, a conciliatory message went out to Melbourne. Refraining from specific criticism of the earlier arrangements, the message nevertheless made it dear that unless there were strenuous objections Wainwright would remain in command.

MacArthur expressed no objections. He replied that he understood thoroughly the difficulties of the Chief of Staff and would accommodate himself to the arrangements already made. “Heartily in accord with Wainwright’s promotion to lieutenant general,” he said. “His assignment to Philippine command is appropriate.” Thus ended the uncertainty and confusion. General Wainwright was now confirmed as the commander of all forces in the Philippine Islands, with the large authority and heavy responsibilities formerly possessed by General MacArthur. He remained in a subordinate position to MacArthur, however, whose new command, officially sanctioned on 18 April, included the Philippine Islands as well as Australia, New Guinea, and most of the Solomon Islands and the Netherlands Indies.

[This principle was well established and was incorporated in the doctrine for joint operations, Joint Action of the Army and Navy, 1927. Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, No. 810, 22 Mar 42, Msgs from Gen MacArthur, OPD Exec O. The President’s agreement is assumed from the fact that the text of the message formed part of Marshall’s memorandum to the President.]

Wainwright’s elevation to the highest command in the Philippines left vacant the post of commander of the Luzon Force, created only ten days earlier. To fill this vacancy Wainwright selected Major General Edward P. King, Jr. He could instead have left the post vacant and dissolved Luzon Force altogether. Such a step could easily have been justified after the creation of USFIP. No such organization had existed on Bataan during MacArthur’s regime and no headquarters had ever been interposed between the high command on Corregidor and the combat forces on Bataan. Instead, MacArthur had established an echelon of USAFFE on Bataan and through the officers assigned had exercised close supervision over combat elements.

Wainwright’s decision to retain Luzon Force created what was in effect an Army headquarters controlling the two corps on the peninsula. This decision, MacArthur’s chief of staff thought, was a serious mistake because it removed Wainwright from direct contact with the forces in front of the enemy. “Actually, there was no necessity for King’s headquarters,” Sutherland declared. “That headquarters had been established by MacArthur to compensate for the absence of a commander on Corregidor and to leave Wainwright free to conduct operations on Bataan. When the War Department created a command on Corregidor, that headquarters [Luzon Force] should have been dissolved.”

[King assumed command 21 March 1942 on the basis of oral instructions from Wainwright. A general order followed later. Luzon Force Rpt of Opns, p. 1.]

The man chosen to lead Luzon Force, General King, was an artilleryman of wide experience with a distinguished career in the Army. After receiving a law degree from the University of Georgia he had entered the service through the National Guard in 1908. In addition to tours of duty with troops, he had been assigned to the Artillery School as student and instructor, served in the Office of the Chief of Field Artillery at three separate times, attended the Command and General Staff School, where he later taught, and the Army War College. After attendance at the Naval War College he was appointed director of the War Plans Section of the Army War College, a post he held for three years. On 14 September 1940 he was ordered to the Philippine Islands, where he had served from 1915 to 1917, to command Fort Stotsenburg. Appointed brigadier general on his arrival, he later supervised the artillery training of the Philippine Army, commanded the North Luzon Force for a short time before the war, and served as MacArthur’s artillery officer with the rank of major general. When Luzon Force was first created he had been assigned artillery officer of that command.

Soft-spoken, modest, innately courteous to all ranks, King had achieved a reputation as an extremely able soldier of high intellectual caliber. His assignment to command the Luzon Force, while a recognition of his ability and reputation, was destined to end tragically. On him fell the terrible responsibility for making the hard decision less than three weeks later to surrender his starved and defeated troops to the enemy.

[The material on General King’s career is drawn from the Official Army Register, the standard public relations releases, and interviews with a large number of officers on his staff, including Major Achille C. Tisdelle, his aide.]

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

World War Two: Fall of Philippines; Bataan (4-18B); Fight for the Pockets


World News Headlines: 01-03-2018

Germany (DW)

China lands Chang’e 4 probe on ‘dark’ side of moon; The Chinese probe Chang’e 4 has become the first spacecraft ever to make a successful landing on the far side of the moon. The probe includes a rover to study geology and how the moon formed. China’s Chang’e 4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday morning. The successful “soft landing” marks a groundbreaking development in space exploration, being the first time that a spacecraft to land on the side of the moon that faces away from Earth. Chang’e 4, which is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, entered its planned orbit to allow the landing on Sunday. It landed in the Von Karman crater, which is in the lunar South Pole’s Aitken Basin, at about 0226 UTC.

Malta opens waters to German NGO rescue boats beset by seasickness closer to shore; Berlin-based Sea-Watch said conditions on the boats had become dangerous, with migrants suffering from severe sea-sickness and post-traumatic stress disorder. The vessels were denied access to ports in Malta and Italy.German migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 sent a desperate plea on Wednesday for a harbor to dock. Conditions aboard the ship have worsened, after 12 days at sea and bad weather conditions on the Mediterranean, Sea-Watch said in a statement posted on Twitter. The Berlin-based NGO vessel rescued 32 migrants on December 22, including four women, three children and four unaccompanied minors, and has not been allowed to reach ports in Malta or Italy. Their extended stay on Mediterranean waters is slowly depleting the ship’s resources and endangering everyone on board, Sea-Watch said.

Taiwan rejects China’s ‘reunification’ proposal; Chinese President Xi says he will “leave no room” for separatist activities, and that Beijing “reserves the option of taking all necessary means,” including the use of force, for the Taiwan “reunification.”Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that the island’s “unification” with China was not possible under the “one country, two systems” model. She, however, agreed to start a dialogue with Beijing as an exchange between two sovereign states. In a televised speech, Tsai reiterated her government’s stance that Taiwan would not accept Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal as Taiwan’s public opinion was opposed. “We have never accepted the 92 consensus because, even as per China’s definition, Taiwan is part of the ‘one country, two systems’ model,” Tsai said. “President Xi’s speech shows that our concerns about his intention to unify Taiwan with China are true.” Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, Xi pledged efforts for the peaceful reunification of Taiwan with China, but did not rule out using military force. Xi described reunification under a “one country, two systems” approach that would ensure “the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots.” All people in Taiwan must “clearly recognize that Taiwan independence would only bring profound disaster to Taiwan,” Xi said in his address. “We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities,” he said. “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means.”

FRANCE (France24)

DR Congo blocks RFI transmissions, withdraws journalist’s accreditation; After curbing access to social media and text messaging services, Congolese authorities on Tuesday withdrew the accreditation of RFI’s correspondent in Kinshasa, Florence Morice, and blocked the radio’s transmissions. Government spokesman Lambert Mende accused Morice of violating electoral law and “the code of good conduct for foreign journalists” covering the December 30 elections. Mende said RFI’s broadcasts had been cut off “in all of Congo’s cities”, accusing the radio of spreading rumours about the election results, which are due on Sunday. “We are not going to let a radio station throw petrol on the flames at a time when we are waiting for the compilation of the provisional results,” Mende added. The elections will determine who succeeds President Joseph Kabila, who has been at the helm of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country for nearly 18 years. Legislative and municipal elections took place alongside the presidential ballot.

Madagascar police fire tear gas to break up post-election protest; In the run-off vote on December 19, Ravalomanana won 44 percent against the winner Andry Rajoelina on 55 percent, according to provisional results. Thousands of Ravalomanana’s supporters gathered in the centre of the capital Antananarivo but were quickly dispersed by police using tear gas, said an AFP reporter at the scene. “We came to erect a giant screen projecting anomalies in the second-round election but we were fired at with tear gas,” Hanitra Razafimanantsoa, a lawmaker from Ravalomanana’s party, told the media. “Respect our choice, we don’t reserve a fraudulent election,” read protest banners held by Ravalomanana’s supporters, who have vowed to hold daily protests. The country’s Constitutional Court is reviewing a petition filed by Ravalomanana challenging Rajoelina’s victory. It is due to hand down its ruling next week. Ravalomanana has denounced what he called “massive fraud” and urged supporters to “defend” their votes.

Eyeing China, US to hold missile drill in Japan’s Okinawa: report; The US military will this year conduct its first ever missile drill around the Japanese island of Okinawa, according to a report Thursday, as Washington seeks to counter an increasingly assertive China. The US military has told its Japanese counterpart it plans to deploy surface-to-ship missiles in the strategically important Okinawa this year for the first such drill by Japan’s key ally, the Sankei Shimbun reported, without citing sources. The drill would involve a mobile rocket launcher seen as a counter-measure to potential attacks from Chinese surface-to-sea ballistic missiles, the paper said. In recent years, Chinese warships have frequently sailed through waters near Okinawa, where the majority of US troops in Japan are based. Experts say China’s increasingly active maritime activities are part of a plan to establish control of waters within the so-called “first island chain” that links Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines. Some analysts believe Beijing seeks to end US military dominance in the western Pacific by exerting control of the second island chain that links Japan’s southern Ogasawara island chain, the US territory of Guam, and Indonesia. China’s rapid military build-up has unnerved Asian neighbours, with Japan’s defence chief last year saying China had been “unilaterally escalating” its military activities in the previous year. Beijing insists the activities are for self defence.


Trump receives letter from Kim Jong Un; US President Donald trump says he has received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and will be setting up a meeting with him “in the not-too-distant future.” Trump revealed this at the year’s first cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Trump said that but for the actions of his administration, there would be a “nice, big fat war” now in Asia. He stressed the results of his efforts that realized the first-ever US-North summit last year and created a “good relationship” with the North leader. He said he is looking forward to meeting again with Kim. In a New Year’s address on state-run TV on Tuesday, Kim said he is ready to meet with Trump again at any time. But he also said that Pyongyang would have no other choice but to seek a “new path” if the US maintains sanctions on North Korea.

Shanahan: US military to focus on China; New acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan says China will remain the US military’s top priority. Shanahan officially took office on Tuesday, replacing James Mattis. US media say he held a meeting with Pentagon officials the following day, in which he said he would stick with current defense strategies focusing on China and Russia. They say Shanahan also told the officials to focus on “China, China, China,” even as the US fights militants in Syria and Afghanistan. Trump has suggested Shanahan could be acting defense secretary for an extended period of time. Shanahan had worked in the private sector and had no military or diplomatic experience when Trump appointed him deputy defense secretary in 2017.
His new role will see him dealing with China and the planned withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

China admits survey activities near Okinotori; China says one of its survey ships recently conducted research activities in waters Japan claims are within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Tokyo lodged a protest, saying the vessel researched waters near the Okinotori Islands without its permission. Japan claims them as its southernmost islands. At a news conference on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang sought to justify the research around the Okinotori Islands in response to a question from a Japanese reporter. Lu said that according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, “Okinotori reef does not meet the basic requirements to be recognized as island.” He added “the Japanese side unilaterally calls it an island and claims the so-called EEZ and continental shelf, but the Chinese side has never acknowledged that.” The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea requires its signatory nations to obtain a permit before carrying out marine research activities in the EEZs of other countries. The Japanese Embassy in Beijing says it lodged a protest with China after it learned in mid-December that the Chinese ship’s research activities near the islands lacked Japan’s permission.

Xi stresses reunification with Taiwan is the goal; Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated that he intends to bring about the “reunification” of China and Taiwan. He indicated Beijing will not rule out the use of force to counter external interference and the island’s moves toward independence. Xi gave a speech in Beijing on Wednesday to commemorate the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” which was issued by China 40 years ago, on New Year’s Day in 1979. The Message was a document that urged Taiwan to attain peaceful reunification with mainland China. Xi said it’s a historical and legal fact that Taiwan is part of China and that both sides of the strait belong to one China. He said this cannot be changed “by anyone or any force.” Xi proposed dialogue with political parties and other groups in Taiwan based on the “one China” principle. Xi noted the “one country, two systems” framework, as seen in Hong Kong and elsewhere, is the best approach for reunification with Taiwan. He expressed his willingness to explore how the two sides should be reunified. Xi said China reserves the option to use all necessary measures against Taiwan’s moves toward independence, and against outside forces that interfere with the reunification. The remark is an apparent attempt to counter the current administrations in Taiwan and the United States. Beijing regards Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration as one that leans toward independence.

S.Koreans apply to seize Japanese firm’s assets; Lawyers for South Korean plaintiffs who won damages in a suit against a Japanese steelmaker have applied to seize some of the company’s assets in South Korea. The lawyers said in a statement issued Wednesday that they had filed an application with a court on Monday to seize the assets of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal. South Korea’s top court in October ordered the company to pay damages to four South Korean men who say the firm forced them to work during World War Two. Their lawyers have since urged the steelmaker to accept negotiations to compensate the plaintiffs. But such talks have not taken place. In the statement, the lawyers express strong regret over what they call the company’s insincerity and inhumane attitude. The lawyers say they seek to seize Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal’s shares in a joint venture with South Korea’s largest steelmaker Posco. That’s some 2.34 million shares, or 30 percent stake, in the joint venture. South Korean media report that the shares are worth about 11 billion won, or 9.8 million dollars. A court judgment on the case is expected soon. Japan-South Korea relations are likely to be further strained.