Why We Are Called Bataan
Just ten short hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor,
Japanese planes surprised US forces again at the main US air base in the
Philippines on the island of Luzon. After two weeks of diversionary tectics, the
main Japanese invasion force landed at Lingayen Gulf on December 22, 1941.
Japanese General Masaharu Homma's 57,000 troops waded ashore against a typhoon
and the resistance of US trained Philippine reservists. Homma landed tanks and
artillery later that day, and began advancing south toward Manila, despite the
valiant efforts of Major General Jonathan Wainwright's Philippine Scouts,
including the 26th Cavalry which suffered losses of 80 percent of its forces.
On Christmas Eve, 1941, more of Homma's forces landed to the east of Lamon Bay
and advanced toward Manila, preparing to crush the American-Philippine forces in
a "pincer" maneuver. General Douglas MacArthur put into effect plan "Orange 3";
the original plan for defense of the island. The Philippine Scouts heroically
opposed the Japanese advance while the main forces complied with MacAruthur's
order to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula, leaving behind the food and medical
supplies crucial to the support of their units.
Having captured the Philippine capital of Manila on January 2, the Japanese command assumed that victory was assured. A small Japanese reserve force was tasked with clearing the Bataan Peninsula of remaining opposition forces. On January 10, these Japanese troops met up against an Allied stronghold just north of the Abucay line at Mt. Natib. On January 22, the American-Filipino fighters were forced to retreat further into the Bataan Peninsula. The rugged terrain forced a slowdown in the Japanese pursuit, and the Allies were able to establish another stronghold further south on Mt. Samat. On February 8, Homma received reinforcements from Tokyo, and began to regroup for another assault on the Bataan Peninsula. The continued successful opposition of the American-Filipino fighters to the Japanese takeover of Bataan provided the hope needed to the United States homeland that the battle in the Pacific was not lost. In March 1942, General MacArthur received orders to escape to Australia and take over as Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific Theater. He reluctantly left Bataan with the now famous proclamation "I shall return." General Wainwright assumed command of the remaining allied forces on Bataan. While relatively well armed, they were living on one-quarter the prescribed combat rations and had virtually no available medical supplies. Malnutrition and disease were becoming rampant. Hunger and sickness eventually accomplished what the Allies' Japanese enemies could not. Homma's forces continued to grow to approximately 67,000 troops. By April 3, the Japanese shelling of Samat turned the mountain into a hill of charred coals. The odds against the American-Filipino troops remaining on Bataan became overwhelming, and on April 9, 1942, with face in palm, Major General Edward King surrendered all forces on the peninsula. Thousands of prisoners were taken almost immediately by the Japanese. With so many Allied fighters spread throughout Bataan, it was days before the word of surrender reached them all. Many could not believe what they were hearing, escaped into the mountains, and continued to fight. General Wainwright was able to escape to the island of Corregidor off the southern tip of the Bataan peninsula. When Japanese forces entered Mariveles, they has accumulated 76,000 prisoners, most of which were sick, wounded or suffering from malnutrition. The Japanese supply line was barely sufficient to support their own troops, so the prisoners were forced to walk the 65 miles of treacherous terrain to the prisoner of war camp, Camp O'Donnell, to the north. The infamous "Death March" has begun. Many members of the prisoner garrison were systematically executed, but the sick and weak were pushed to exhaustion before being bayoneted or beat to death with the butt end of the their captors' rifles. Many of the 54,000 who reached Camp O'Donnell would succumb to disease of torture while imprisoned. Within two months of surrender, more than 21,000 men perished. The Bataan "Death March" is known as one of the greatest inhumanities of WWII, and also as one of the greatest displays of heroism and human will power on the part of its survivors. By May 6, on the island of Corregidor, Japanese troops forced the surrender of General Wainwright and all U.S. and Allied forces in the Philippines. In would be two-and-a-half years before General MacArthur could fulfill his promise to return and retake the Philippines from the Japanese. This ship commemorates those who served and sacrificed in the Philippines in the name of freedom in the Pacific. Courtesy: LHD-5 Commissioning Book
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