That is a very brief description of what
happened to the men who served on Bataan
with the 2nd Provisional Infantry Regiment.
On Jan 7th, they
formed the Mauban/Mabatang line.
The 2nd Prov. INF
Regt. was ordered to move north. They were placed as a reserve unit south of the Mauban/Mabatang
line, in a place called Silian. They were right behind the US 31st INF.
On Jan 9, two days
later, the Japanese attacked the Mauban/Mabatang line on the II Corp side, on the sector held by
the Philippine Army 51st INF. For 7 straight days a furious battle occurred. On Jan 16, the 51st
INF PA disintegrated. The Japanese managed to punch a big through the line at Abucay Hacienda.
The US 31st INF quickly pushed forward to plug the break and regain the lost ground. The 2nd Prov.
INF Regt. followed right behind them. During this time, the 2nd Prov. would occasionally move
forward to relieve the men of the 31st INF, for a spell.
While all this very
bloody fighting was going on, on MacArthur's orders, a 2nd line of resistance was being prepared by
the engineers, south of the Mauban/Mabatang line, in the center of the Peninsula: the Orion/Bagac
Line. The Orion/Bagac Line was were MacArthur really wanted to defend Bataan from. The Mauban/Mabatang
line was there to provide the adequate time to build the defenses there.
On Jan 16, they
decide it was time to withdraw from the Mauban/Mabatang line and retreat back to the Orion/Bagac
line. Unfortunately and by complete bad luck, just as they were withdrawing, the Japanese decide
it is time to launch another major attack at the 31st INF at Abucay Hacienda. It was a very bloody
and chaotic withdrawal, as they had to continue to fight, as they were moving backwards. Tanks
were brought in to support and cover them.
When they settled
into the Orion/Bagac Line, the 2nd Prov. INF were now front line soldiers and no longer in
reserve. The occupied the B sector of the line. To their right was the Phil Army 31st INF and to
their left was the Phil Army 32nd INF.
While they were on
that line, the Japs launch three major attacks which came to be known as the Battle of the
Pockets: Big Pocket, Little Pocket, and the Tuol Pocket. The Japanese lost a large quantity of
men. They lost so many men,that they decided to stop fighting. This period was called, "The
Lull." During this time, Japan had sent double the amount of soldiers to Bataan, with the
complimentary amount of planes and artillery. The Japanese commander, Lt. Masaharu Homma,
insisted he needed more men, planes, and artillery pieces. They were finally given to him.
In the last week of
March, there was an increase of skirmish activity. The Japs were running a high amount of patrols
along the line, as if they were probing to see where to launch their big attack.
On the morning of
April 3, the Japs opened up an artillery barrage, using over 150 artillery pieces and they flew
over 200 sorties against them, dropping 500 and 1,000 lbs bombs. All hell broke loose....After 5
hours of this non-stop barrage, they launched an attack on the D sector of the line, which was held
by the 41st INF Phil Army. The 41st immediately disintegrated. At the same time, they feint an
attack on the B sector held by the 2nd Prov. Inf Regt. Even though the Jap attack was a great
success, they were very cautious and instead of moving forward, they stopped, happy with the ground
they had gained.
The US 31st INF was
ordered to plug the break on D Sector, which was abandoned by the 41st INF. The plan for the 31st
to launch their attack from the C sector held by the 21st INF Phil Army.
The next day the same
thing happened: a five hours artillery barrage with non-stop dropping of 500 and 1,000 pound bombs
for 5 straight hours. This time they attacked the C sector held by the 21st INF Phil Army, which
was were the US 31st was suppose to launch their attack from. The 21st INF Phil Army promptly
disintegrated as well.
The next day, on the
5th, the Japanese again repeated the same thing. This time the 45th INF Phil Scouts (not army) were
sent forward to team up with the US 31st and to simultaneously launch a counter-attack. The
problem was they were coming down Mt. Samat, at the same time in opposite directions, at night. As
soon as they met, they began shooting each other. Mt. Samat is heavily forested and at night your
visibility is non-existent.
It was obvious to
everyone by the 6th, after another attack that the Orion/Bagac Line could not be restored. The
Japanese had already penetrated very deep and were already on top of Mt. Samat. with little
resistance. So the order was given to drop back and form a new line of resistance: the Limay Line.
The incessant bombing
and artillery barrage had destroyed the communication lines of the Filipinos and the Americans.
Most of the communication on Bataan was done by telephone, not radios, and most of the telephone
lines which ran through the jungles were destroyed, so units were not receiving their individual
orders or they were going to the wrong places.
The 2nd problem was
the Filipino and Americans were thoroughly exhausted, starving to death, diseased, and suffering
from stress, at levels I can only imagine. Quite frankly, most of them did not want to fight
anymore. The defenders of Bataan became a chaotic mob of men moving about with no direction or
running to rear as fast as they could. Most of the front line units, no longer existed or were at
a size very much reduced from their original size. Men were going into the field hospitals at a
rate of 1,000 per day.
By the evening of the
8th, it was obvious that the Limay Line would never be formed. So the next morning, on April 9,
General King put on his last clean uniform and went to Lamao to surrender his men.
They really did not hold off almost the entire
Japanese Army. They definitely held off the 14th Imperial Army, a magnificent feat,
especially when considering the whole, full circle of their circumstances!. Later in March, they were
reinforced by elements of the 25th Imperial and elements of the Formosan Army and the Kwantung
Army. They did get more artillery and more planes.
Most people are shocked when you tell them that 6 hours after
Pearl Harbor, the Philippines was bombed and with far more tragic results. The Philippine
bombings lasted for 9 days straight.
I think one of the most important lessons which should learn
about Bataan and in many ways in should be applied with what is happening in Iraq, is simply if you
treat people in a decent manner they will stand by your side. By this I mean, when the war began
in the Asia, the Malays were very happy to rid themselves of the British, who they felt favored
their Chinese minority, much more so than the ethic Malays. The Indonesians celebrated the coming
of the Japanese and thought of them as liberators, because the Dutch were such cruel colonials.
The same happened in Vietnam, they were happy to rid themselves of the French. The Filipinos were
the only ones who stood shoulder to shoulder with their colonial masters and they did so in great
numbers. There were a lot more Brits and Aussies in Malaysia than Americans in the Philippines,
but Malaysia fell almost immediately after the Japanese invasion. It is obvious that without the
75, 000 Filipinos, Bataan would have fell immediately, as did the other countries, who did not have
the support of the local population. The 12,000 Americans on Bataan would not have stood a chance
against the 60,000 well armed and well trained Japanese, who invaded the Philippines. Now an
important question would be, why did the Filipinos stand by us, at the same time that the other
Asians were happy to rid themselves of their colonial masters? The Japanese promised them that
they would make South East Asia the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
The fact that we were decent colonials had a lot to do with
it. Prior to the US taking the Philippines, the Spanish only gave them religion and with it,
treated them like slaves. After the Philippine Insurrection, we built roads, airports, schools,
hospitals, sewage systems, movie houses, parks, we greatly improved the life of the average
Filipino. Manila, before the war, was the most beautiful and modern city in Asia. We were not
brutal masters, like the British, Dutch and the French. Filipinos became educated and got decent
jobs. Many became doctors and lawyers, bought nice houses and nice cars.
Even after the Philippines fell, the guerrilla movement in the
Philippines were quite extensive.
If one were to write the history of Americans in the
Philippines one would have to say that Balangiga Massacre was it's worse example,
(MacArthur's father was subject to a congressional investigation on the mistreatment of Filipinos
by the US Army) and Bataan was it's finest hour.
Credit: Fred Baldassarre of the Battling
Bastards of Bataan