Bataan valor online

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By Ike Suarez This April 9 marks the 70th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan. ?Araw ng Kagitingan? or ?Day of Valor? is its official name and aptly so. This day pays tribute to the courage of the over 60,000 Filipino troops and their 16,000 or so American comrades-in-arms who saw action on the Bataan peninsula. There, they resisted invaders of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) from January 6 to April 9, 1942. They fought against tremendous odds even if they outnumbered the IJA. They hardly had any anti-aircraft artillery or fighter planes. They had pitiful resupplies of food; zero resupplies of ammunition for their light infantry weapons and light artillery pieces. Neither did they have replenishments of fuel for their trucks, armored vehicles, and their tiny ?Bataan Air Force?. Worse, their stocks of food and medicines — woefully inadequate at the start of the hostilities? — dwindled to almost nothing as the fighting continued. Disease and starvation increasingly stalked them as the over three-month siege wore on. The final Japanese offensive took place on April 3, with the original invaders reinforced by fresh troops who had with them powerful siege guns. The IJA bombers and fighter planes also received fresh stocks of bombs, with a good number of them firebombs. The Fil-American troops proved themselves too weak and diseased to resist the Japanese onslaught. As a result, their commanding general, US Army Major General Edward King, had no choice but to surrender on April 9. What followed was an even worse ordeal, the Bataan Death March. Thousands died as the Fil-American troops were force-marched over 100 kilometers from Mariveles to San Fernando, Pampanga. Thousands more died as they were suffocatingly loaded onto cattle cars for transport by railroad train to Camp O?Donnel in Capas, Tarlac where they were confined. There, the onslaught of death from starvation, disease, and Japanese brutality continued. Today, the Battle of Bataan — the patriotism and courage of the Filipino troops who fought there in defense of their country — is but an abstract notion to Filipinos who belong to Generations X and Y, as well as the Millennials. For Baby Boomers, it is but remembrances of stories of World War II their fathers told them while they were still children. It also is but memories of Tagalog and Hollywood war movies they watched while growing up. These Filipinos — Generations X and Y, as well as Baby Boomers — may, as their elementary school teachers taught them, briefly pause with reverence to remember the reason why there is such a day as ?Araw ng Kagitingan.? But for them, this holiday will mostly be a chance to visit the malls or take a day off at the beaches. But Bataan must never be forgotten. It is part of the Filipino people?s history. Thanks to the Internet, one can now do a serious study of the Fil-American debacle there. All one need do is type ?Fall of the Philippines, Bataan? on the search box of an Internet search engine and hit ?Enter? on the computer keyboard. Within moments, the names of several sites shall appear. There definitely is a Wikipedia article, ?Battle of Bataan?, included in this list. It will do for those interested only in a passing knowledge of this military campaign. It would be best, however, if more Filipinos had a deeper understanding of what took place in this peninsula 70 years ago. Indeed, there are many such sites for serious study of this topic. But one can begin with only three sites at first. These are: ?The Story of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor,? a video documentary by the Department of National Defense (DND) uploaded onto YouTube; ?Fall of the Philippines? by Louis Morton, published by the US Army Center of Military History based in Washington DC, uploaded into the portal, ?Hyperwar: The US Army in Word War Two?; and ?Battling Bastards of Bataan.com,? a portal put up by US veterans who saw action there — a gold mine of sources, both primary documents and scholarly analyses by military professionals. The DND video is a documentary containing newsreels, newspaper clippings, news photographs, re-enactments, and interviews of Filipino and US troops who fought there. Its narrator is the Filipino actor, Joel Torre. As such, it serves as an excellent introduction of this failed but heroic defense to young Filipinos who are more video-, rather than print-oriented. More than this, it gives the side of the thousands of young Filipinos — members of the Greatest Generation — who answered the call to the colors when invaders landed on the country?s shores. They may have been sorely lacking in military skills, as many American detractors have pointed out. Political factors in the Philippines and the US before World War II — not their lack of patriotism — are the reasons behind this. On the other hand, ?Fall of the Philippines?, by Dr. Morton, first published in 1953, forms part of a series of official histories of campaigns the US Army fought in World War II. It should be the very first source any serious student of this campaign must study. Detailed in this official history are the various aspects of the Bataan Campaign as well as the siege of Corregidor. So also are the various aspects of preparations immediately before the war, the failed defense on the beaches of Northern and Southern Luzon, and the retreat to Bataan. ?Battling Bastards of Bataan.com,? on the other hand, opens up a wealth of sources for serious students. The academic papers are mostly written by captains and majors of the US military and the militaries of US allies for their masters theses at the US Army Command and General Staff College. This is the graduate school where young and outstanding officers are honed for positions of higher command. Some of theses are: ?US Army Doctrinal Effectiveness on Bataan,1942: the First Battle,? by US Army Major John Whitman. ?The 1st Regular Division in the Battle of the Philippines,? by Philippine Army Major Alfredo Santos, and ?Behind the Myth of the Jungle Superman: a Tactical Examination of the Japanese Army?s Centrifugal Offensive: 7 December 1941 to May 1942? by US Army Major C Patrick Howard. Primary sources in the form of after-campaign reports to the US Army High Command by top US Army officers who saw action in Bataan have also been uploaded onto the portal. These were written immediately after World War 2. Some of these are: the G-4 or Chief Supply Officer?s Report and the Surgeon of Luzon Report by the Chief Medical Officer?s Report. Their names are not mentioned but they form part Major General King submitted in 1947. Sadly portrayed in these accounts is that Filipino troops were poorly trained and equipped. True, the Japanese troops sent ashore to the Philippines were far from the IJA?s best, second-stringers. But these IJA troops were well-trained as all Japanese soldiers were when sent to battle early on in the Pacific Theater during World War II. But as Major Whitman pointed out, US Army doctrine before World War II called for the training of troops for at least one year before fielding them to battle. ?In the Philippines, divisions were mobilized in haste, fielded in confusion, and sent into battle in less than four months,? according to him. As Joel Torre noted, ROTC training was merely a rite of passage for college youths and merely a venue for benign inter-school competition. As Major Santos recalled of his experiences with the 1st Division, ?The men were poorly clothed, armed, and equipped.? He recalled that not one in their division was ever issued a steel helmet. Food supplies in Bataan were inadequate, according to the G-4 report. ?About 20 March, it was seen that supplies could be made out to hold out until April 12,? it stated. The Surgeon of Luzon?s Report was equally grim: ?Malnutrition, malaria, and intestinal infections had reduced the combat efficiency of our forces more than 75 percent.? It claimed that disease and starvation and not military reasons were the factors that seriously impaired the effectiveness of Fil-American forces. As a result, a successful defense was already impossible to conduct by April 2. Given these circumstances, the Filipinos who fought in Bataan gave their best. ?Many volunteers never fired a gun in their life, but their spirit, fortitude and devotion to duty were indeed very commendable,? according to Major Santos. He wrote this thesis in 1947. He lived up to his promise of a bright career as an army officer by moving up the ranks. In 1962, he became Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its very first four-star general. Indeed, their defeat notwithstanding, the Filipino troops who fought in Bataan deserve the nation?s gratitude and reverence. Serious sites on the Internet prove that this is so. We must salute these valiant defenders of Bataan. But never again must Filipino troops be sent to battle ill-trained and equipped only with their courage and love of country. Never again must there be future Bataans.]]>

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