The events that led to the fall of Bataan and to the death march made by the defending Filipino and American troops
Vandiver, Frank E.
Master of Arts
United States Armed Forces stationed in the Pacific were the first bastion the Japanese Imperial Army met in their aggressive onslaught against the United States in December, 1941. This country hoped the initial Japanese onslaught would be stopped by these troops; especially, it based its hopes on those stationed in the Philippines and on the impregnable island of Corrigdor. Unfortunately, its hopes were doomed to disappointment as the on-rolling Japanese combat soldiers destroyed all the opposition in its path. However, the United States Armed Forces in these islands played an important part in the early stages of the war, as it maintained a buffer between the Imperial Army and the mainland United States (through its persistent fighting) long enough for this country to pull itself together and prepare to fight the unexpected aggressive attack. Therefore, the actions of these troops stationed in the Philippines were a vital part of the United States war effort against Japan and as such deserve to be studied. To begin the study, I found and obtained all the possible personal narratives written about the war in the Philippines. Added to this, I based the majority of my study on a ten page questionnaire I sent out to one hundred and fifty ex-POWs of the Japanese. I got an overwhelming response and received a reply from two-thirds of the men. After analyzing the data I began to write the thesis using the information obtained from the analysis to form the background of my paper and the personal narratives combined with, the private papers sent to we by several of the men to furnish specific examples, According to my findings, the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines provided the United States with the time delay it needed to provide an effective defensive against the Japanese war effort. This achievement, however, was due to the persistence, loyalty, and courage of the individual combat soldiers rather than to any effective government plan or the brilliant leadership of the Army’s leaders. In fact, the men of the Army stationed in the Philippines found themselves at the beginning of the war trying to deal with a lack of capable leadership, weapons, uniforms, food, medical supplies, ammunition, etc. MacArthur, the commander of this force, complicated matters by immediately and inefficiently putting into effect a defeatist defense plan created long ago. As a result, the ordinary combat soldier in the United States force found himself trying to stop the prepared Japanese soldiers with literally nothing but his ingenuity. When available, weapons dating back to the first World War misfired or broke down completely. Ammunition also left over from the previous war proved to be a delightful surprise, as it either never exploded or blew up in the men's faces. Forced to retreat by their commander’s orders to the barren Bataan Peninsula, the tired retreating men found that no one had bothered to see that sufficient supplies had been moved there to accommodate them. So, for over four months, these men fought a losing battle against the Japanese using inefficient weapons and unpredictable ammunition, having little or no food and medical supplies, and literally no ordinance. It was the men then, the ordinary soldier, who held the Japanese off through sheer courage, persistence, and loyalty that won the United States the delay in time it needed to initiate an effective war effort against Japan.