by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42
Author: Clayton Chun
Illustrator: Howard Gerrard
This is book number 238 in Osprey's "Campaign" series, which details Japan’s attack on the Philippine Islands, detailing the command strategies, tactics and battle experiences of the opposing forces throughout the crucial stages of the campaign.
This book is very eye-opening to me. I knew that the Philippine defeat was the worst in American history, knew of the inexplicitly blunders of the first day, and of the Bataan Death March. What I did not know was just how well American and Filipino forces actually fought against the Japanese.
The Philippine Islands were one of two major US bases in the Pacific, the other being Pearl Harbor. The Japanese considered the capture of the Philippines crucial for its efforts to control resource-laden Southeast Asia. As opposed to its attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese intention was to invade and occupy the Philippines The campaign was to last 50 days, but lasted over five months.
Despite disunity in the Pentagon concerning the defense of the Philippines, defense was centered on the third revision of War Plan Orange (WPO-3), which saw American and Filipino forces falling back to Bataan until reinforcements arrived from Pearl Harbor and the United States west coast within 6 months. There was no clear overall command structure; Admiral Hart conducted US Naval operations per WPO-3, while General MacArthur saw WPO-3 as defeatist. He wanted to fight on the beaches; MacArthur successfully lobbied Washington for more forces, eventually boasting a huge American military presence, including over 100 tanks, and the majority of America’s B-17 Flying Fortresses.
To this day there is no satisfactory answer as to why, despite ample warning after Pearl Harbor, MacArthur let his air forces be caught and destroyed on the ground. That disaster crippled both WPO-3 and MacArthur’s plans to fight the Japanese. In fact, MacArthur accepted the reality and adhered to his version of WPO-3. The survivors put up the best fight possible, and even sailors, pilots and aircrew ended up fighting as infantry. Indeed, Air Force Captain William “Ed” Dyess lead 20 aircrewmen onto the beach at Agloloma Bay on southern Bataan in America’s first amphibious landing of the war!
The US Navy was overwhelmed. Admiral Hart left submarines and PT boats to defend the islands. US submarines fired more than 60 of their criminally terrible Mark XIV torpedoes with only a handful of successes.
The Army fought well although the PA (Philippine Army) fought with mixed results. December 21 saw the first tank-vs-tank combat, when five M-3 Stuarts opposing the Lingayen Gulf landings encountered IJA Type 95 tanks near Agoo. Equipment failures and Japanese marksmanship defeated the Americans. In later actions the M-3 proved superior to the Japanese tanks, such as during the tank battle in the streets of Baliuag on New Year’s eve. January 16 witnessed the last know horse-mounted cavalry charge of the war.
Poor command and control, senior leadership, training, equipment, and logistics hobbled the Allies. Chaos reigned. Lack of coordination saw the loss of 15% of MacArthur’s original tank force when bridges were destroyed prematurely and the crews abandoned them on the wrong side of an impassible river; 250,000 of 300,000 gallons of fuel was not moved to Bataan and fell to the Japanese, along with a 5-year supply of rice. American officers were threatened with court-martial if they took canned goods from Japanese merchant warehouses! Bataan found itself hosting three times the number of troops and refugees envisioned under WPO-3.
Still, the Americans and the PA blunted the Japanese juggernaut many times. In fact, despite air and naval superiority, General Homma was forced into a retreat and pleaded for reinforcements in February, 1942. In many areas, Filipino and US forces outfought the Japanese. General Homma was given 50 days to conquer the Philippines, and he thought he could do it in 45. It took six months before General Wainwright surrendered all Allied forces, and to do so he had to relieve General Sharp, who wanted to continue fighting! Thousands of Allied troops, considering themselves unbeaten, melted into the jungle and waged an active guerilla campaign for the next two-and-a-half years.
Japanese atrocities in the Philippines are well known. They began immediately and continued until the end of the war. Homma was humiliated and retired, only to be tried as a war criminal and executed after the war, despite ordering his troops not to be brutal against their enemies. MacArthur’s legacy is well known. General Wainwright was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his defense of Bataan and Corregidor but MacArthur successfully opposed it during the war. After the war President Truman did award Wainwright the Medal of Honor.
Content Author Clayton Chun brings The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42 to us through 96 pages and 10 sections:
• Japan and the United States: opposing powers in the Pacific
• Japanese interests and motivations for war
• The Philippines: America's Far Eastern outpost
• US commanders
• Japanese commanders
• US and Philippine Forces
• Imperial Japanese Forces
• Orders of battle
• Japan's move to war
• American defense of the Philippines
THE BATTLE FOR THE PHILIPPINES
• Japanese air superiority and the bumbling nincompoops .
• The Japanese invasion of Luzon
• The Japanese strike south
• Defending northern Luzon
• The Lingayen Gulf landings
• "WPO-3 is in Effect" .
• The Japanese strike at Lamon Bay
• The retreat to Bataan
• Bataan: the final refuge
• The Japanese break the Abucay and Mauban lines
• The Battle for the Points
• Homma retreats north
• MacArthur's last stand on Corregidor
• The final assault and fall of Bataan
• The Bataan Death March
• Corregidor falls
• Southern Philippines operations
• Final surrender
THE BATTLEFIELDS TODAY
Additional information includes a brief table of military symbols and a glossary.
The writing is matter-of-fact and with some details. It lacks first-person stories and insights. While it is a good detailed history, to me it lacks the connection that pulls me into the story. I found some minor typos and technical errors, such as the dogfight over Clark Field scene, stating the P-40B had six .30-caliber machine guns (two were .50-caliber).
Art and Graphics:
This book is very well supported by photographs, maps, artwork, and information. Many are new to me. All photos are black-and-white. Most are high-quality, even some of the wartime exposures. The book is fortified by many color paintings by Japanese artists (Some are so good I thought them to be vintage color photographs!).
Illustrator Howard Gerrard brings us three dynamic action scenes:
1. Attack on Clark Field, December 8, 1941: 20th Pursuit Squadron P-40Bs mixing it up with Tainan Air Group Zeros over a burning Clark Field.
2. The Fight At Baliuag: M-3s of Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion, tearing through Japanese tanks and infantry in the streets of Baliuag.
3. Dyess Takes Agloloma Bay : Army Air Force ship-sinking fighter pilot storms the beach with a Lewis Gun to defeat the Japanese in America’s first amphibious assault.
Several maps orient the reader including several Osprey 3-D ‘bird’s-eye-views’:
a. Japanese plans for Pacific Area operations
b. American military forces in the Philippines
c. Japanese landings along the Lingayen Gulf
d. Japanese landings at Lamon Bay
e. Manila area defenses
f. The Japanese Drive on the Central Luzon Plain, Homma’s men push past the US defensive lines on their way to Manila.
g. The Fall of Bataan, January 9-April 9, 1942 , The major US and Filipino effort to defend the Bataan Peninsula against the Japanese.
h. Homma Takes Corregidor, May 5-6, 1942 , The last major bastion of American and Filipino resistance on Luzon is overrun by Japanese amphibious forces.
i. The fall of Mindanao
The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42 is a good history of the Imperial Japanese campaign to neutralize the first major barrier in the way of their Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere scheme. To varying degrees it details the background, commanders, forces, plans, and actions required to defeat American and Filipino forces. It is well illustrated with maps, photographs and artwork. Written in a matter-of-fact style the text is not gripping, and there are a few typos and inaccuracies.
Overall it brought me greater understanding of the conquest of the Philippines and that is the intent of the book. I recommend it.