Japanese Invasion of the Philippines - Cherie-01

On December 8, 1941 (2:30 a.m., Philippine standard time), the Second World War broke out in the Pacific when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor by surprise. Pearl Harbor was a strategic military base of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) in Hawaii. That same morning, the Japanese attacked the Philippines, specifically Clark and other strategic locations via air raids. On land, the Japanese began a three-pincer advance as detachments from Formosa landed in Aparri and Vigan, while a detachment from Palau landed in Legazpi, Albay; all three headed towards Manila.

On December 22, the Japanese 14th Army landed at Lingayen, Pangasinan. Elements of the Philippine Army, even with the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts), were outmatched by Imperial forces and failed to prevent the Japanese advance. Air attacks launched by the Far East Air Force on Japanese warships and transports proved to be insufficient to derail the invasion. On December 24, the Japanese made another landing at Lamon Bay, further aiding the northward advance of the Japanese detachment in the Bicol area.

The series of Japanese surprise attacks and landings overwhelmed the defenders. The USAFFE was forced to implement War Plan Orange 3, which called for the withdrawal of its forces into the Bataan Peninsula and to hold out until the arrival of reinforcements.[1]

Evacuation Routes February - March 1942- Cherie-01

As the tide of the battle went against the USAFFE, preparations were made to evacuate the top leadership of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.

President Manuel L. Quezon, together with his family, Vice President Sergio Osmeña, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, Colonel Manuel Nieto, Major General Basilio J. Valdes, and a few others boarded the submarine USS Swordfish bound for Antique on February 20, 1942. From Antique, Quezon’s party travelled by land to Iloilo, where they boarded the MV Princess of Negros. They arrived the following morning in Bacolod, where the party stayed for a couple of days before travelling again to Dumaguete. In Dumaguete, Quezon, his family, and the members of the War Cabinet of the Commonwealth, boarded the torpedo boat PT 35 and sailed to Mindanao where they were evacuated via US B-17 Army bomber to Australia.[2] [3]

On March 12, 1942, the torpedo boat PT 41 evacuated General Douglas MacArthur from Corregidor. MacArthur sailed south and arrived at the northern shore of Mindanao two days later. From Mindanao, MacArthur was flown to Australia by a B-17 on the midnight of March 16 and arrived in Australia the following day. Much earlier than the previous evacuations was the evacuation of the currency reserves of the Commonwealth.[4] On February 3, 1942, the reserves composed of 269 gold bars with an indicated weight of 1,343,493.95 grams and silver in the form of 1-peso coins in an aggregate face value of P16,422,000[5] was delivered by the submarine USS Trout from Manila. The reserves reached Pearl Harbor on March 3,1942.[6]

Although the earlier evacuations were successful, the evacuation of Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos was not. On Zamboanguita Point, Abad Santos sought the permission of Quezon to remain in the Philippines. Quezon in return appointed him as his delegate and acting president in the Philippines. Jose Abad Santos was captured by the Japanese in Cebu on April 11, 1942 and was subsequently executed on May 2, 1942 in Lanao.

Battle of Bataan - Cherie Final (1)-01

On January 6, 1942, a defensive line composed of the elements of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Scouts was established by Filipino forces at Layac Junction, the road that enters into Bataan. With the bulk of the USAFFE arriving safely in Bataan, the Filipinos and Americans withdrew to the defenses of the Abucay Line, which ran from Mabatang to Mauban. The Japanese High Command, sensing immediate victory, underestimated the USAFFE and stripped the 14th Army of the 48th Division. This proved a terrible mistake as resistance was effectively prolonged.[7]

Despite initial success in holding off Japanese attacks, General Jonathan Wainwright made a crucial mistake in leaving the area of Mount Natib undefended, allowing enemy infiltration, which resulted to the collapse of the defense line.[8]

On January 22, in an attempt to seize key points in the western side of the Bataan Peninsula, the Japanese launched an amphibious operation that would enable the capture of the port of Mariveles. Four days after, the USAFFE troops withdrew towards the next defensive position which was the Orion-Bagac Line. It was in this defense line that the Japanese advance was temporarily stopped despite efforts to punch through the USAFFE defenses during the Battles of the Points and Pockets. By February 9, the Japanese pulled back, having lost many men and equipment in the process.[9]

By March 1942, the Japanese managed to build up their forces while the USAFFE troops suffered from disease and starvation. On April 3, the Japanese commenced a massive artillery barrage that resulted to the complete collapse of the USAFFE defense lines. On April 9, 1942, Major General Edward King sought out the Japanese to discuss the terms of capitulation. And on the same day, the defenders of Bataan surrendered.[10]

Bataan Death March - Final-01

With the surrender of Bataan, the Bataan Force Headquarters under General Edward King sought out their Japanese counterparts in order to facilitate the cessation of hostilities. The Japanese representative was turning a deaf ear to all assurances of proper conduct and treatment of USAFFE prisoners of war and was only singularly demanding the whereabouts and location of General Jonathan Wainwright, who was in command of Corregidor.[11]

Approximately 80,000 USAFFE defenders (70,000 Filipino and 12,000 American soldiers) surrendered. All these prisoners of war were ordered by the Japanese to march on foot from both Mariveles and Bagac towards Balanga, and from there proceed again towards San Fernando.[12] The USAFFE defenders, suffering from disease and malnutrition, walked approximately 100 kilometers (from Mariveles to San Fernando) under the scorching heat of the sun. Japanese soldiers slaughtered anyone who were either too slow, or tried to drink or obtain food along the way.

As the survivors reached San Fernando, they were then ordered to board trains that would take them to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. More than a hundred sick and weary prisoners were packed in railway cars that could only accommodate 40 to 50 men, and many prisoners perished as a result. Of the estimated 80,000 that started the death march, only 54,000 made it to Camp O’Donnell. The death march from Bataan to San Fernando resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 Filipinos and 2,330 Americans.

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[1] Louis Morton, Fall of the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1953), 256-257.

[2] Manuel L. Quezon Jr.,“Escape from Corregidor,” Philippines Free Press, December 8, 2001, accessed on December 18, 2015, https://philippinesfreepress.wordpress.com/tag/manuel-l-quezon-jr/.

[3] Ricardo Jose, “Governments in Exile,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 8, nos. 1-2 (1999): 182, http://www.smc.org.ph/administrator/uploads/apmj_pdf/APMJ1999N1-2ART8.pdf.

[4] Louis Morton, Fall of the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1953), 354-366.

[5] The Sixth Annual Report of the United States High Commission to the Philippine Island to the President and Congress of the United States, Covering the Fiscal Year July 1, 1941 to June 30, 1942 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Press, 1943), 57-58.

[6] Report of 2nd War Patrol – U.S.S. Trout, p. 4

[7] Louis Morton, Fall of the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1953), 262.

[8] Clayton Chun, The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2012), 64.

[9] Louis Morton, Fall of the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1953), 346.

[10] Clayton Chun, The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2012), 77.

[11] Louis Morton, Fall of the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1953), 462-466.

[12] Clayton Chun, The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2012), 77.