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The capture of the Philippine Islands was crucial to Japan's effort to control the Southwest
Pacific, seize the resource-rich Dutch East Indies, and protect its Southeast Asian flank. After
Japanese carrier planes attacked the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the morning
of 7 December 1941 (8 December, Manila time), Taiwan-based aircraft, within seven hours,
pounded the main bases of the American Far East Air Force at Clark Field in Pampanga, Iba
Field in Zambales, Nichols Field near Manila, and the headquarters of the United States Asiatic
Fleet in the Philippines, at Cavite. Many American planes were caught on the ground and
summarily destroyed. In one day, the Japanese had gained air superiority over the Philippine
Islands. This forced the U.S. Asiatic Fleet to withdraw its surface ships from its naval base in
Cavite and retreat southwards, leaving only the submarine force to resist the Japanese.

From 8 to 10 December, scattered resistance by ground troops and remaining American air and
naval forces failed to stop preliminary landings to seize airfields at Batan Island, Aparri, and
Vigan City. Army air force B-17s, often with a minimal or no fighter escort, attacked Japanese
ships offloading at Gonzaga and the Vigan landings on Luzon. Submarines of the Asiatic Fleet
were also assigned to the effort.

In one last coordinated action by the Far East Air Force, U.S. planes damaged two Japanese
transports, the flagship Nagato, a destroyer, and sank one minesweeper. These air attacks and
naval actions, however, did not significantly delay the Japanese assault.

These small-scale landings preceded the main assault on 22 December 1941, at Lingayen Gulf
in Pangasinan and Lamon Bay, Tayabas, by the 14th Japanese Imperial Army, led by
Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma.

By effectively neutralizing U.S. air and naval power in the Philippines, the Japanese gained
supremacy that isolated the Philippines from reinforcement and resupply, and provided itself
with both airfields for support of its invasion forces and staging bases for further operations in
the Dutch East Indies.
rations in the Dutch East Indies.

War Plan Orange-3

When MacArthur returned to active duty, the latest revision plans for the defense of the
Philippine Islands had been completed in April 1941 and was called WPO-3, based on the joint
Army-Navy War Plan Orange of 1938, which involved hostilities between the United States and
Japan.[6] Under WPO-3, the Philippine garrison was to hold the entrance to Manila Bay and
deny its use to Japanese naval forces and ground forces were to prevent enemy landings. If the
enemy prevailed, they were to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula, which was recognized as the
key to the control of Manila Bay. It was to be defended to the "last extremity."[6] In addition to
the regular U.S. Army troops, the defenders could rely on the Philippine Army, which had been
organized and trained by General MacArthur.[6]
However, in April 1941, the Navy estimated that it would require at least two years for the Pacific
Fleet to fight its way across the Pacific. Army planners in early 1941 believed supplies would be
exhausted within six months and the garrison would fall.[6] MacArthur assumed command of the
Allied army in July 1941 and rejected WPO-3 as defeatist, preferring a more aggressive course
of action.[7] He recommended—among other things—a coastal defense strategy that would
include the entire archipelago. His recommendations were followed in the plan that was
eventually approved.[6] Due to MacArthur's decision, with tacit approval from Washington, to
change the plan under War Plan Rainbow 5, it was ordered that the entire archipelago would be
defended, with the necessary supplies dispersed behind the beachheads for defending forces to
use while defending against the landings. With the return to War Plan Orange 3, the necessary
supplies to support the defenders for the anticipated six-month-long defensive position were not
available in the necessary quantities for the defenders who would withdraw to Bataan.[8]
The fall of Bataan Edit

Japanese tanks and infantry advance through the Bataan jungle

Fall of Bataan historical marker, Bataan, Capitolio

On the night of 12 March, General MacArthur, his family, and several USAFFE staff officers left
Corregidor for Mindanao aboard four PT boats commanded by Lieutenant Commander John D.
Bulkeley. For this, and a number of other feats over the course of four months and eight days,
Bulkeley was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross
and other citations.

MacArthur was eventually flown to Australia where he broadcast to the Filipino people his
famous "I Shall Return" promise. MacArthur's departure marked the end of the USAFFE, and by
22 March, the defending army was renamed the United States Forces in the Philippines
(USFIP), and Lieutenant General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV was placed in command.

After the failure of their first attack against Bataan, the Japanese general headquarters sent
strong artillery forces to the Philippines in order to smash the American fortifications. They had
190 artillery pieces, which included bigger guns like 150 mm cannons and the rare Type 45 240
mm howitzer. The 1st Artillery headquarters, under Major General Kineo Kitajima, who was a
known authority on IJA artillery, also moved to the Philippines along with the main forces to
command and control these artillery units. Also, the Japanese high command reinforced
General Homma's 14th Imperial Army, and toward the end of March, the Japanese forces
prepared for the final assault.

On 3 April, the entire Orion-Bagac Line was subjected to incessant bombings by 100 aircraft
and artillery bombardment by 300 artillery pieces from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., which turned the
Mount Samat stronghold into an inferno. Over the course of the next three days (Good Friday to
Easter Sunday, 1942), the Japanese 65th Brigade and 4th Division spearheaded the main
attack at the left flank of II Corps. Everywhere along the line, the American and Filipino
defenders were driven back by Japanese tanks and infantry.

Based on his two prior attempts, General Homma had estimated that the final offensive would
require a week to breach the Orion-Bagac Line and a month to liquidate two final defense lines
he believed had been prepared on Bataan. When the opening attack required just three days,
he pushed his forces on 6 April to meet expected counterattacks head-on. The Japanese
launched a drive into the center, penetrated into flanks held by the 22nd and 23rd Regiments of
the 21st Division, captured Mount Samat and outflanked all of II Corps. Counterattacks by the
U.S. Army and Philippine Scout regulars held in reserve were futile; only the 57th Infantry
gained any ground, soon lost.

MG Edward King discusses terms of surrender with Japanese officers

All along the battle front, units of I Corps, together with the devastated remnants of II Corps,
crumbled and straggled to the rear. The commanders on Bataan lost all contact with their units,
except by runner in a few instances. In the last two days of the defense of Bataan, the entire
Allied defense progressively disintegrated and collapsed, clogging all roads with refugees and
fleeing troops. By 8 April, the senior U.S. commander on Bataan, Major General Edward P.
King, saw the futility of further resistance, and put forth proposals for capitulation.

The next morning, 9 April 1942, General King met with Major General Kameichiro Nagano and,
after several hours of negotiations, the remaining weary, starving and emaciated American and
Filipino defenders on the battle-swept Bataan Peninsula surrendered.

Radio Broadcast – Voice of Freedom – Malinta Tunnel – Corregidor – 9 April 1942:

“ Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained
peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the
superior force and numbers of the enemy.
The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the
jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under
the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months. Besieged on land and
blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid
fighters have done all that human endurance could bear.

For what sustained them through all these months of incessant battle was a force that was more
than merely physical. It was the force of an unconquerable faith—something in the heart and
soul that physical hardship and adversity could not destroy. It was the thought of native land and
all that it holds most dear, the thought of freedom and dignity and pride in these most priceless
of all our human prerogatives.

The adversary, in the pride of his power and triumph, will credit our troops with nothing less than
the courage and fortitude that his own troops have shown in battle. Our men have fought a
brave and bitterly contested struggle. All the world will testify to the most superhuman
endurance with which they stood up until the last in the face of overwhelming odds.

But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of
something more than flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at
last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come.

Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of
the world—cannot fall![15]