Sunday, January 27, 2013

Decisive Battles: Bataan 1942

Battle of Bataan Dates: 7 JAN - 9 APR 1942

Forces Engaged: United States - Two corps and reserves of the U.S. Armed Forces, Far East (USAFFE):


The principal maneuver elements engaged consisted of two army corps:

I Philippine Corps (LTG Wainwright) consisting of three infantry divisions of the Philippine Army (identified as "PA")
- 1st Infantry Division (PA),
- 31st ID (PA), and
- 91st ID (PA)
(Note: All of the Philippine Army divisions except for 1ID were designed as "reserve" divisions, meaning that they had been activated within the preceding several months are were largely or wholly incomplete. And the Philippine Army was in itself a curious organization about which we will discuss in some depth in a bit). They were "triangular" (notionally composed of three infantry regiments of three battalions each) but in practice consisted of at least one, and often two, infantry units that were untrained conscripts and virtually useless. The "Philippine Scouts" were an entirely different breed of cat, and we'll talk about them, too, in some detail in a bit. But it's worth noting that one of the things that most of the small, badly trained PA division were missing was their divisional artillery)
I Corps artillery appears to have consisted of the following:
- 71st Field Artillery Regiment (PA) (-) (M1917A1 75mm howitzers)
- two batteries of the 91st FA (PA), (M1917A1 75mm)
- one battery of the 23d FA (PS), (M1903 2.95" mountain gun)
- a battery of the 88th FA (PA) (M1897 self-propelled 75-mm guns SPM), and
- two 155-mm. guns (probably M1917/M1918 155mm field guns), 92nd Coast Artillery one of the heavy tractor-towed coastal artillery units that had been hijacked to stiffen the FA on Bataan.
I cannot determine exactly how these gun systems were organized. Had all the batteries been at full strength, and assuming 6 guns per battery I Corps artillery should have consisted of a total of 48 x 75mm M1917A1, 6 x 75mm SP artillery, 6 x 2.95" guns, and the two 155's for a total of 62 weapons systems.

However, the total for all cannon is reported as only 33. This leads me to suspect that between initial problem of understrength PA units and combat losses the artillery might have been reduced to as little as 3 guns per battery
.
It's also worth noting that many of the Philippine Army artillery units (and including also the 1/23FA (PS) mentioned above, assigned to the Philippine Division, the best-equipped unit on the archipelago) were armed with the wretched Vickers-Maxim 2.95-inch mountain gun. This weapon, which might have been kindly described in 1942 as an "obsolete piece-of-shit", was typical of the sort of materials that the USAFFE had to fight with. Not for nothing did the "Battling Bastards of Bataan chant "...No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces, no planes, no tanks, no artillery pieces."
- One cavalry regiment of the United States Army; the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts, identified as "PS")

II Philippine Corps (LTG Parker) consisted of four PA infantry divisions and a separate U.S./Scout infantry regiment;
- 11th ID (PA),
- 21st ID (PA),
- 41st ID (PA),
- 51st ID (PA) and the
- 57th Infantry Regiment (PS)

Division artillery included 2.95" cannons of the 41st ID (but firing in direct support of the 51st ID), and 1st BN, 24th FA (PS) (12 x M1917/1918 155mm guns) firing direct support for 41st ID. 21st FA (PA) (12 x M1917A1 75mm guns) was detached from its parent unit (assigned to Corps reserve) to provide direct support fires for 11ID (PA).

Corps artillery, however, was fairly formidable, and included:
- 86th FA Battalion (PS), (12 x M1917/1918 155mm guns(GPF),
- 301st FA Regiment (PA), (16 x 155mm guns and 2 x 155mm howitzers), and
- a battery of 88th FA (PS) (8 x M1897 self-propelled 75-mm guns SPM)

- 1st Battalion, 24th Field Artillery (PS) (12 x M1917A1 75mm guns), a Corps asset, was tasked with direct support of the 57th IR (PS).

The Philippine Division (US/PS) was held in corps reserve in II Corps area.


In the so-called "Service Command Area" (BG McBride) at the south end of the peninsula two PA divisions (2nd ID and 71st ID) were dispersed to secure the rear areas.

On 8 DEC 1941 USAFFE had only two armored units: 192nd Tank Battalion and 194th Tank Battalion. Both units had been organized from independent Army National Guard tank companies and each fielded 54 M-3 "Stuart" light tanks.

I have not been able to find out how many of these vehicles were operational by 7 JAN 42; losses in the retreat down Luzon had been considerable in other units and I suspect that the tanks had undergone similar losses. Assume that between 30 to 40 light tanks were still operational at the beginning of January 1942.

I have also not been able to determine where these units (operating as the "1st (Provisional) Tank Group") were positioned on 7 JAN except that the 194th was attached to II Corps. From this it is likely that the 192nd was part of the I Corps, although I am uncertain.

So; a total of about 80,000 to 100,000 troops, roughly 120 artillery pieces, and roughly 50 light tanks under the overall command of GEN Douglas MacArthur.

Before going on, we should note that about 25,000 civilians had fled, or were located, within the defensive lines and were in one form or another the responsibility of the USAFFE.

And this was critical; on the entire peninsula and the nearby island-fortress of Corregidor the USAFFE had only:
"...a 30-day supply of unbalanced field rations for 100,000 men, including a 50-day supply of canned meats and fish, 40 days of canned milk, 30 of flour and canned vegetables (string beans and tomatoes), and 20 of rice, the most important element of the Philippine diet. There were some staples such as sugar, salt, pepper, lard, and syrup, but almost no fresh meat or fruit and only limited quantities of canned fruits, coffee, potatoes, onions, and cereals."
This lack of food would prove to be an enemy almost as deadly, and less implacable, than the Japanese.

By late March and April 1942 the fighting power of the USAFFE force had been badly attrited. while the total strength has been stated as 79,000 estimates of the effective numbers - the soldiers capable of getting to their feet and fighting - are as low as 20,000:
"Not one of the eight Philippine Army divisions had its authorized strength of 7,500. General Bluemel's 31st Division was numerically the strongest, with 6,400 men; the 71st, whose combat elements had been absorbed by General Stevens' 91st Division, had only 2,500. The others-the 1st, 2d, 11th, 21st, 41st, and 51st-had less than 6,000 men each." (USACMH, 2013)
Hunger, sickness, and war had thinned LTG Wainwright's "battling bastards" badly indeed.

But - as we now know - what was to come would be even worse.

The Philippine Army and Philippine Scouts: Before going further we should probably discuss these two military organizations. Both played a large part in the defense of Bataan, but both started out as very different organizations, and each left a very different legacy.

I probably don't need to go into depth about the U.S. colonial period in the Philippine Islands. We talked about how the whole nut-roll began back in April 2011 when the U.S. Army took Manila from both the Spanish colonials and the Filipino rebels who expected the Land of the Free to respect the freedom they were fighting for.


Well, you can castigate the whole Philippine Enterprise as a nasty bit of naked colonialism or put a hint of a gloss on it by calling it a "tutelary democracy" or something less brutal, but the effect was that for almost forty years - from the outbreak of war between Philippine forces and the United States to the official formation of the Commonwealth in 1935 - the only way a Filipino could keep and bear arms was as a paid servant of the U.S. government.

The United States, mind you, got little joy of their lordship over the P.I. Within a couple of decades of the final solution to the "Philippine Insurrection" the U.S. was trying to unload the place. In 1935 the U.S. Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act as PL 73-127, 48 Stat. 456; the Philippine Independence Act.

In the newly-formed proto-state the Philippine National Assembly did perhaps the first thing any new nation does; it formed an organization to kill other people.

In this case, the Philippine Army, the predecessor of the modern Hukbong Katihan ng Pilipinas.


This force was supposed to be 10,000 regular troops, a reserve of 400,000 with a small coastal patrol navy and an air corps. in practice the Commonwealth was too poor to afford either ships or aircraft outside of some desultory light units, and the Philippine Army remained small, untrained, and underequipped.

One reason for this was the Philippine Scouts.

Colonial powers have commonly found that local soldiers are more effective, and less expensive, than imported homeboys from the metropole. The British had their Khyber and King's African Rifles, the French their Chasseurs d'Afrique, the Spanish, German, Belgian, and Portuguese their own native troops, and the U.S. had the Philippine Scouts.

While most of the officers were U.S. regulars the USMA took a handful of Filipino cadets for the PS units every year. These soldiers were paid better, armed better, and trained better than their counterparts in the PA units, especially the "reserves" that had been called up only weeks and sometimes days before the Japanese invasion.


Philippine Scouts wore the khaki and the campaign hat, or the flat helmet, of the U.S. Army. They had modern arms, and equipment. They looked like soldiers, and were trained and led like soldiers. Not surprisingly, the best soldiering material in the Philippines migrated to the PS, and the best troops in the Philippines in 1942 were among the PS.

This left the PA. The PA regulars of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions are said to have been fairly decently trained troops. Their equipment was second-rate; older U.S. weapons, largely, but functional. The seem to have fought as well as they could have, given the circumstances. But, especially initially, the PA regular units were not anywhere as capable as the Scouts.

That left the PA reservists who looked as sad as they were. When they could get them the PA reserve units were uniformed in the blue denim dungarees the U.S. Army used for dirty fatigue duties. What equipment they had was largely WW1 cast-offs, and its soldiers, many of them, barely knew which end of the rifle to point at the Japanese.


No surprise, many of these units fled at the sound of Japanese fire. Many of the U.S. and Scout troops were, and the survivors still are, still bitter about this in much the same way that U.S. veterans of Vietnam feel about the bad reputation of the ARVN. Sadly, when the local troops fight well their foreign allies aren't needed and don't see them; it's only when the locals collapse that their "allies" see them in panic.

The GIs later claimed that the fleeing PA reservists would race past flashing the "V for Victory" sign that the GIs claimed meant "V for Vacate".

On which I call bullshit, by the way; the "V" sign wasn't widespread in the U.S. in early 1942 and it's even less likely that a Filipino fresh off the farm would have known it.

But, still, may of these reserve PA units did collapse, and the memory of that has stayed with those Americans who saw it and suffered because of it.

I consider it unlikely that an Army of an independent Philippines would have done much better against the Japanese in 1941 and 1942 than many of the PA units did.

It is true, however, the Philippine Army that the United States oversaw creating for its Commonwealth could, for the most part, hardly have done worse. The U.S. and Philippine soldiers defending Bataan would pay a high price for the poor work their political masters did in preparing the Philippines for their fight.


Imperial Japanese Army (大日本帝國陸軍, Dai-Nippon Teikoku Rikugun) elements of the 14th Army of the Southern Invasion Group -


The initial attacks in JAN 1942 were made by the 65th Independent Mixed Brigade(+).

This unit, termed a Ryodan in Japanese, was a rather lean and, reportedly, poorly regarded outfit consisting of three infantry regiments (122nd, 141st, and 142nd) each of only two battalions, an attached 4 x 75mm gun section, and the usual medical, logistic, and engineer assets.

The total of six battalions and support units came to roughly 7,000 troops and 12 cannon.

Because of the weakness of this unit LTG Homma reinforced it for the assault, adding a variety of units from several different sources;
- from 16th Infantry division:
9th Infantry Regiment (three battalions)
1 FA battalion (12 x 75mm guns)
1 Engineer regiment, and a medical unit.

- from 48th Infantry Division:
2 FA battalions (24 x 75-mm. mountain guns) - these, however, were withdrawn by 6 JAN 1942.

- from 14th Army:
7th Tank Regiment (20 x Type 95 [Ha-go] light tanks, 34 x Type 89 [I-Go] medium tanks, 2 x Type 97 [Chi-ha] medium tanks (Note: there seems to be some disagreement on the type of vehicles fielded by this unit. Rottman (2005) claims that the predominant tank type in this unit was a "Type 94 medium"; however, the "Type 94" was a very light vehicle that the IJA termed a Kyūyon-shiki keisōkōsha, literally "94 type light armored car" or "tankette". The picture in the Rottman book which identifies this vehicle as a "Type 94", however, shows the older Type 89 tank, so I believe we can conclude the Rottman (2005) designation is in error.)


1st Field Heavy Artillery Regiment (36 x 150-mm. howitzers)
8th Field Heavy Artillery Regiment (36 x 105-mm. guns), and
9th Independent Heavy Artillery Battalion (12 x 150-mm. howitzers)

The U.S. campaign history also mentions that the 65th Ryodan swept up an outfit called the Takahashi Detachment; however, further inquiry seems to suggest that this unit consisted of elements of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 22nd Field Artillery (75mm), and the 8th Field Heavy Artillery (105mm). So my guess is that this unit is accounted for in the breakdown above.

Air support was provided by 10th Army Air Force Unit, consisting of:
13 x Ki-51/Type 99 Assault Plane "Sonia" (light bomber/dive bomber), and
10 x Ki-36 "Ida" Army cooperation aircraft (reconnaissance/light attack)

So the initial attacks consisted of roughly nine battalions of infantry, ten of artillery, a tank regiment, attached engineers and support troops; probably about 12,000 troops all arms, 120 cannon, and 56 tanks under the direct command of BG Nara. Air support consisted of 23 light attack aircraft under COL Hoshi.

On 13 JAN 1942 LTG Homma reinforced this force with the Kimura Detachment:
- Headquarters, 16th Infantry Group,
- 20th Infantry Regiment (-) (less one battalion),
- one antitank battery (4 x 37mm guns)
- a detachment of the regimental gun battery of the 33d Infantry (2 x 70mm or 75mm guns)

Approximately 5,000 troops all arms and 6 cannon.

For the 6 APR 1942 assault LTG Homma assembled the following forces:
- 16th Infantry Division (brought up closer to authorized strength with individual replacements),
- 4th Infantry Division (however, reported to be
"...poorly equipped and numbered only 11,000 men; its infantry battalions had three instead of four rifle companies; it lacked antitank guns and two of its four field hospitals." (Morton, 1953)
- 65th Brigade (also reconstituted with replacement troops), and
- elements of 21st Infantry Division; "Nagano Detachment" about 4,000 troops consisting of the detachment headquarters, the 62d Infantry Regiment, a mountain artillery battalion and engineer company.

Air support from 22 Army Air Brigade, over 50 aircraft including light and dive bombers and reconnaissance types, as well as naval aviation assets.

Well over 35,000 troops all arms, 200 cannon, 50-60 tanks, and probably 100-200 aircraft.

The Sources: As with nearly every smidget of WW2 history, the Battle of Bataan is extensively covered by primary and secondary sources.

Rather than provide an extensive list of Bataan sources, let me concentrate on the on-line materials. This is a blog, after all; why are we here, if we're not looking for materials on-line?

Probably the first (and, possibly, the last) place to look is the U.S. Army Center for Military History's terrific website for the campaign which provides the contents of Louis Morton's 1953 work The Fall of the Philippines. The CMH/Morton site is probably the single best on-line resource available for the engagement and I cannot recommend it too highly. There are several other sites, including this one, that are for the most part mirrors of the CMH Morton text.

For those like me intrigued by military trivia and organizations the World War II Armed Forces website provides a very useful order of battle for both sides in the Philippines battles of 1941-42.


A website maintained by the California State Military Museum provides some valuable details on armor operations on Bataan, reprinting several articles from the professional journal Armor about the actions of the 194th Tank Battalion.

Another worthwhile site curated by the CSMM is this one containing an interview with LTC Edward Ramsey (USA, Ret.) of the 26th CAV (PS). Old light colonel Ramsey is a pistol and well worth reading.

The Wikipedia entry for Bataan is decent, if sparing of detail and is largely dependent on a small number of sources.

New Mexico State has a rather odd little site up about both the battle itself and the history subsequent to it. Ths curious part is that the site is centered around the 200th Coast Artillery, a very little-known and almost-forgotten unit, the 200th Coast Artillery (AA) that emerged from the NMARNG in the mobilization of 1941.

There's an annual event at Ft. MacArthur, CA that apparently draws re-enactors of all varieties. The 2007 event had a good turnout of folks dressing up as both U.S., PS, and PA troopers, and there's a page on the "Pinoy History" board that shows these folks. Not the genuine article, but, still, it does give you a feel for what these guys looked like back in the day...


As far as published work goes, you could do far worse than hunting down a copy of Louis Morton in your local library. But some other worthwhile references I've come across include:

William H. Bartsch, William H. (2003) 8 December 1941: MacArthur's Pearl Harbor Not about Bataan per se, but a good discussion of the lapses at USAFFE that allowed the Japanese to destroy most of the Far East Air Force on the ground and helped pave the way to Bataan.

Another good look at the troubled FEAF is John Burton's 2006 work Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor.

Richard Connaughton (2001) MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines Thorough study of the entire campaign.

Three relatively recent works give you a good survey of the Battle of Bataan itself:

Richard Mallonee's 2003 Battle for Bataan : An Eyewitness Account, John Whitman's 1990 work Bataan: Our Last Ditch : The Bataan Campaign, 1942, and Donald Young's 1992 The Battle of Bataan: A History of the 90 Day Siege and Eventual Surrender of 75,000 Filipino and United States Troops to the Japanese in World War 2

The good people at Osprey have several illustrated works giving useful details on uniforms, equipment, and formations of the U.S. and Imperial forces, including the Gordon Rottman (2005) work I mentioned: Japanese Army in World War II: Conquest of the Pacific 1941–42. Probably the most valuable of these would be Clayton Chun's 2012 The Fall of the Philippines 1941-42.

The Campaign: We could talk about the "whys" of the Great Pacific War - the Japanese attacks on the Western powers in 1941 and the expansion of World War 2 that resulted - for far longer than either you or I have the patience.

Entire books have been written on the subject.

But suffice to say that the path towards Bataan in 1942 probably begins in Japan back in the late 19th Century, when the Meiji Restoration empowered a group of men that the Japanese call the genrō (元老). Here's what I said about them back in 2011:
"The genrō made most of (Japan's) important decisions of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries - war, peace, policy...they were the de facto rulers of Japan. And it was Yamagata's (the genrō who became the first Chief of the Imperial General Staff) intent - and his success - that the armed forces should be the instrument of the Emperor and the most powerful faction in Japanese politics."
So with the military in control, Japan became an aggressive military power in Asia in the 20th Century, moving against China in an attempt to secure the means to fuel her economy through conquest.


But a 20th Century military needs, more than anything, fuel. And China had no fuel worth mentioning.

The Dutch did.

We also had a nice talk about this this past spring. Japan need fuel, the Dutch East Indies was floating with it. But...the Philippines was a massive great unsinkable aircraft carrier, and the U.S. would have been fools not to take advantage of the long vulnerable sea lanes between Indonesia and the Home Islands to take a slap at a Jap.

So the Philippines had to be taken.

The Japanese Attack Plan:

The actual war plans for the invasion of the Philippines were prepared by the commander of the Imperial Army tasked with the invasion - LTG Homma - and the admiral of the naval support force - VADM Takahashi - in November of 1941.

These plans included an initial air attack to destroy as much of the FEAF and USAFFE as possible in the first day of the war, by the 5th Army Air Force Division and the 11th Naval Air Fleet. This would be followed by initial landings on Luzon in several locations (including Aparri, Cagayan, Vigan, and Legazpi City) as well as subsidiary landings on Davao and Mindanao.

Once the FEAF was neutralized and the landing beaches secure the main elements of 14th Army would come ashore at Lingayen Gulf (in the northwest part of Luzon) and Lamon Bay (to the southeast).

These forces were to close on Manila in a double envelopment. LTG Homma concluded that the USAFFE would make its stand before Manila and be destroyed there, resulting in the seizure of the islands for the Empire.

The U.S. Defense Plan:

Morton (1953) describes "War Plan Orange" - the 1941 plan for Philippine defense - as follows:
"Under WPO-3, American troops were not to fight anywhere but in Central Luzon. The mission of the Philippine garrison was to hold the entrance to Manila Bay and deny its use to Japanese naval forces. The Americans were to make every attempt to hold back the Japanese advance while withdrawing to the Bataan Peninsula. Bataan, recognized as the key to the control of Manila Bay, was to be defended to the "last extremity."
The War Department had informed MacArthur that there would be neither naval nor ground reinforcements. If the Philippines could hold until the massive U.S. Navy charge into the Mahanian "decisive battle" with the IJN and the defeat of the Japanese that WPO-3 intended, well and good.

If not...

MacArthur, being MacArthur, objected to this "bunker up" defense plan. He wanted to mobilize the PA and use an aggressive defense to hold the entire archipelago. His plan called for two main forces, one for North Luzon, the other for South Luzon. Three PA reserve division would be assigned to hold Visayan and Mindanao, while the Philippine Division would be held in reserve.

MacArthur assumed that between the mobilized PA and his FEAF that he could hold the Japanese invasion at the beachheads and smash it before it could come ashore.

But in what may have been one of the most controversial and bizarre decisions in a career full of them, MacArthur and his FEAF chief, Brereton, managed to get the bulk of their aircraft caught on the ground in the afternoon of 8 DEC 1941 (about noon on 7 DEC 41 Hawaii time; the alert of the Pearl Harbor attack had reached the Philippines that morning) and lost their bombers and about a third of their fighters. Worse; over the next two days continued attacks destroyed the bulk of the remainder of the fighter aircraft.


The remainder, known as the "Bataan Air Force", continued fighting until the end in April.

Now without air cover, MacArthur's forces moved into their positions cautiously, blind without reconnaissance aircraft, seeing the first Japanese landing forces.

The Invasion: 8 DEC 1941 to 9 JAN 1942

With complete naval and air superiority the initial Japanese landings went off like clockwork between 8 and 10 DEC 1941.

Morton (1953) provides this bizarre and delightful anecdote about the first reports of the landings at Legazpi:
"The initial report of a Japanese landing at Legaspi came from the railroad stationmaster there. The apocryphal story is told that his call was switched from the railroad central to USAFFE headquarters in Manila and the following conversation took place:

STATION MASTER : "There are four Jap boats in the harbor, sir, and the Japs are landing. What shall I do?"

USAFFE OFFICER: "Just hang onto the phone and keep reporting."

STATION MASTER: "There are about twenty Japs ashore already, sir, and more are coming." A pause. "Now there are about three hundred Japs outside the station, sir, What am I to do?"

USAFFE OFFICER: "Just sit tight."

STATION MASTER: "Sir, a few of those Japs, with an officer in front, are coming over here."

USAFFE OFFICER: "See what they want."

STATION MASTER: "Those Japs want me to give them a train to take them to Manila, sir. What do I do now?"

USAFFE OFFICER: "Tell them the next train leaves a week from Sunday."

STATIONMASTER, hanging up: "Okay sir."
The remains of the Asiatic Fleet and the FEAF did their best, attacking Japanese ships at Gonzaga and the Vigan landings, damaging two Japanese transports, a battleship, and a destroyer, and sinking one minesweeper.

But the 14th Army stormed ashore on 22 DEC 1941, and proceeded to slap the North and South Luzon Forces backwards like an angry pimp.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Bataan. Again, let Morton describe it:
"Under desperate circumstances and under constant pressure from the enemy, General MacArthur had brought his forces from the north and south to San Fernando and Calumpit. There, in a most difficult maneuver, he had joined the two forces and brought them safely into Bataan... Not a single major unit had been cut off or lost during the withdrawal, and only once, at Cabanatuan, had the American line failed to hold long enough to permit an orderly withdrawal."
The retreat had never become a rout, despite large-scale collapse of several PA reserve divisions. And the 14th Army, despite overwhelming air support, had never succeeded in cornering and breaking the USAFFE.

And now they looked at a brutally tough challenge for an attacker; Bataan.

"...the Bataan peninsula juts out from the mainland of Luzon between Subic and Manila Bay like a huge thumb pointing at the shore of Cavite Province only twelve miles away. Between Bataan and the Cavite shore lie Corregidor and several smaller islands, guarding the entrance to Manila Bay."

"Bataan is ideally suited for defensive warfare. It is jungled and mountainous, cut by numerous streams and deep ravines, and has only two roads adequate for motor vehicles. Dominating the peninsula are two extinct volcanoes: the 4,222-foot high Mt. Natib in the north and, to the south, the Mariveles Mountains whose highest peak, Mt. Bataan, towers to a height of 4,722 feet. Radiating from the two volcanic masses flow many streams which wind their way through steep ravines and gullies toward the bay and the sea."

""Taking it all in all," noted Colonel Skerry, the North Luzon Force engineer, "the rugged terrain of the Bataan Peninsula, covered as it was by a thick jungle, concealed the works of the defender even when the enemy had constant air superiority and air observation."
(Morton, 1953)

Here's what the defenses of Bataan looked like on 8 JAN 42:


The defenders now had nowhere to run. The next time they fought they would have to win, or be destroyed.

The Engagement: I cannot improve on the detailed description of the Battle of Bataan contained in the CMH website presenting Morton's work on the battle. What I'd like to do, then, is link to the various pages and provide a quick synopsis of my take on that portion of the fight and my assessment of what insight it gives us into the combatants.

The Initial Dispositions: The defense of Bataan was really two defenses; I Corps on the west side of the peninsula in what was termed the Mauban Line, II Corps on the east behind the so-called Abucay Line.

The central spine over Mount Natib was...well, here's what Morton (1953) says: "Here (the left of II Corps position) the establishment of a military line along the jungled slopes of Mt. Natib proved impossible in the time and with the tools available. No regular line was organized in this area where patrols operated with the greatest difficulty. Mt. Natib remained an insuperable barrier to the establishment of physical contact between the two corps."

Emphasis mine.

The army engineers had done their best to fortify the "main line" defenses by destroying bridges and blocking roads. Wire had been strung and what mines were had were laid. II Corps' position was said to be the stronger because of better engineered defenses.


BG Nara's plan of attack was simple and suited his superior's (and 14th Army's) conviction that the defender's morale and organization had been broken and the "assault" would be more of a "pursuit".

65th Ryodan and its attachments were organized into three regimental combat teams up and a brigade reserve.

Two of the RCTs were to attack II Corps on the east side; 141st Infantry (with one battalion each of FA and AT cannon, engineers and signals troops) was to attack down the "East Road", the main artery along the coast. This unit would also have first call on 7th Tank Battalion.

Priority of effort went to the attack against II Corps left led by 9th Infantry (with an FA battalion in direct support and an AT gun battery and various support units attached). The brigade reserve, 142d Infantry, was echeloned behind the 9th RCT to turn the American left and exploit the expected initial breakthrough.

Army artillery was also alotted to the left-flank attack, indicating the importance of this effort.


The Japanese right-side attack was the supporting effort, led by the 122d Infantry RCT backed up with an FA battalion, engineer platoon and a signal detachment.

The Japanese attack was troubled by two problems:

1. The Japanese had badly underestimated the sturdiness of the defense awaiting them, especially including the improvement in the quality of the remaining PA troopers. What had been blown away was the dross; what was left were the hardcore and these guys were getting better by the day and,

2. What today we call their "IPB" - intelligence prep of the battlefield" - was quite poor. BG Nara's plans were based on the assumption that his troops would meet the U.S. main line of resistance, the "MLR", around the vicinity of Mount Santa Rosa, about three miles north its actual location. This led to his lead elements deploying early and slowing considerably well north of the genuine MLR; this also effected the planned right-hook of 9th RCT.

At 1500hrs, 9 JAN 1942 the Army big guns opened up on the Abucay line and it was game on.

The Initial Engagement - 9 JAN - 25 JAN 42:

On the U.S. right the Japanese attack, although hampered by the difficult terrain, strong PA and PS unit resistance, and poor land navigation succeeded in turning the II Corps left. The collapse of the PA 51st division on 16 JAN - a poorly conducted counterattack left the division exposed to envelopment on two sides and resulted in the destruction of the unit - broke the U.S. left, and disaster was only postponed because of "...the failure of the Japanese to exploit their advantage. The 141st Infantry had flung itself against the left flank of the 41st Division instead of attempting to take it in the rear. Misled by poor maps which confused the Abo-Abo and the Salian Rivers the 9th Infantry RCT began a wide sweep around (II Corps)left that would take (it) out of the action for the next few days." (Morton 1953)

But the U.S. left HAD been unhinged, and after the failure of a piecemeal counterattack by the two infantry units of the Philippine Division (31st Infantry (US) and 45th Infantry (PS) to restore the flank a retreat from the Abucay Line was successfully abandoned on 22-25 JAN.


The attack on the U.S. left (the "Mauban Line") began on 14 JAN. On 13 JAN LTG Homma had despatched the "Kimura Detachment" to augment the 122 RCT, correctly believing that Nara's attack force was too weak. This immediately payed off; the Japanese 3rd BN, 20th Infantry boldly shoved into the U.S. rear and set up a roadblock on the main West Road.


Repeated counterattacks by Wainwright's troops were ineffective; even the 194th Tank failed to break the block, losing two tanks in the process. Pressure from the 122nd Infantry from the front and the 3/20 Infantry in the rear eroded the Mauban Line position until retreat was ordered on 25 JAN.

The 3/20th Infantry's control of West Road meant that the vehicles, heavy equipment, and worst of all, all but a fraction of the U.S. artillery - 25 of 31 cannon - had to be abandoned and destroyed.

What happened, and how did it happen: Japanese failures -

The Japanese attacks against the Mauban-Abucay lines were marred by serious problems of preparation and tactics.

The first, and worst, of the failures was the overall misassessment of the defender's situation. Homma chose an understrength unit and one not known for its martial prowess to conduct his attack. The Japanese soldiers in his care paid a price in death and suffering for that choice.

Despite complete dominance of the air, and all the time they needed, the Japanese tactical commander (Nara) did little to determine the defensive dispositions and plan the attack accordingly.

Nara also failed to understand his own troops' progress. The collapse of the 51st Division (PA) should have led to an aggressive penetration of the II Corps defense and the destruction of much of the Corps itself. Again, this failure would mean the deaths and woundings of many more Japanese soldiers in the long run.

While the attackers successfully employed the sort of infiltration tactics found to be universally useful in fighting in overgrown terrain, they also we observed to conduct the sort of human-wave "banzai" tactics that proved so disastrous throughout the Pacific War. In this the Japanese company- and battalion-grade officers never seemed to learn; automatic weaponry and breechloading artillery had ended the "hey-diddle-diddle-straight-up-the-middle" school of infantry tactics in 1914. The many Japanese soldiers that died in these foolish charges - from Bataan in '42 to Okinawa and Burma in '45 - paid the price for their superiors' tactical inanity.

Japanese successes -

Despite the physical strength of both U.S. defensive positions, the Japanese attacks DID either turn (in the case or II Corps) or find a weak point to penetrate (I Corps) the lines. 3/20th Infantry's bold attack and blocking West Road caused critical damage both to the Mauban defensive line and I Corps combat power.

LTG Homma's reinforcement of the right-flank attack was a critically correct assessment of the situation, and the success of 3/20th Infantry and the attack was a direct result.

American successes -

The most difficult obstacle the U.S. and Philippine defenders had was their own weakness. Given that they had little or no air cover, and were critically short of both supplies and materials, the defenders of Bataan did well to hold the MLR as long as they did.

In general the PA units showed the effect of improved training and combat experience. The disintegration of 51st Division (PA) was an anomaly, and that is a tribute to the hard work the Philippine soldiers and officers had done since 8 DEC '41.

American failures -

However, the failure to establish at least an outpost line across the central spine of Mount Natib has to be considered a crucial error. The loss of the Abucay position was directly related to this, and the Mauban position was similarly weakened.

Successful static defence depends on a quick-responding, well-organized reserve that is employed in a compact "fist" to destroy penetrations or seal breakthroughs. Both I and II Corps counterattacks were delivered in disjointed segments and failed to use their supporting artillery well. Parker also failed to use his armor to any effect.

And, of course, the U.S. forces failed to hold the first defensive line.

Battles of the Points - 23 JAN to 15 FEB 1942

As the U.S. forces retreated the Japanese overall commander LTG Homma came up with a plan to exploit the I Corps withdrawal; to land an infantry battalion behind the defensive lines. I'm not sure whether this was in conscious imitation of the tactics that GEN Yamashita had been using in Malaya or simply the product of the sort of similar-solutions-to-similar-problems that tend to arise in officers brought up in the same tactical schools.

Whatever the reason, Homma's (and the element commander, BG Kimura's) plan was to put the 2 BN, 20th Infantry ashore at Caibobo Point.

Had the 2/20th stormed ashore intact and intent the plan might, indeed, have ripped loose the whole west side of Bataan. But it didn't.

The 2/20th had no time to prepare for the operation, and lacked the most elementary elements of a successful amphibious landing. The Japanese Navy provided no escort vessels.
"The only map available was scaled at 1:200,000, virtually useless for picking out a single point along the heavily indented coast line. So deceptively does the western shore of Bataan merge into the looming silhouette of the Mariveles Mountains that it is difficult even in daylight to distinguish one headland from another, or even headland from cove. At night it is impossible." (Morton, 1953)
Once afloat the nasty tides and seas began to scatter the landing craft; a USN patrol-torpedo boat attacked twice, sinking two of the barges and further scattering the flotilla. By the time the vessels approached the Bataan coast they were scattered all over hell and in the wrong places entirely.
"Not a single Japanese soldier reached Caibobo Point. The first group, carrying about one third of the battalion, came ashore at Longoskawayan Point, ten air miles southeast of the objective. The rest of the battalion, by now a melange of "platoons, companies, and sections," landed seven miles up the coast, at Quinauan Point. At both places the Japanese achieved complete tactical surprise, but only at the expense of their own utter, though temporary, bewilderment." (Morton, 1953)

Let's look at the landings at Longoskawayan Point as an example of the type. The landing of about 300 troops from 2/20th Infantry was met by an ad-hoc force of marines and sailors (from sunken ships or shore stations of the Asiatic Fleet), grounded airmen formerly of one of the FEAF pursuit squadrons, and a 2.95- inch mountain pack howitzer from the 71st Division (PA). Later a detachment from 301st Chemical Company (US) was added to this odd squad.

The Japanese were now not just lost but utterly baffled by what they were facing. The squids and wing-wipers especially confounded them.
"A Japanese soldier recorded in his diary that he had observed among the Americans a "new type of suicide squad" dressed in brightly colored uniforms (the result of an attempt to darken the sailors' tropical whites). "Whenever these apparitions reached an open space," he wrote, "they would attempt to draw Japanese fire by sitting down, talking loudly and lighting cigarettes." (Morton, 1953)
This bunch of odds-and-sods, however, managed to pen the would-be invaders back to their landing beaches.


The larger landing at Quinauan Point was similarly contained. Over the following week a combination of U.S. tanks, infantry, and CS/CSS troops, Philippine Scouts, PA troops, Philippine Constabulary (a sort of vaguely-military police outfit), the galvanized sailors and airmen - and at one point aided by the enormous 12-inch mortars from Battery Geary on Corregidor Island - managed to hunt down and destroy the 2/20th Infantry. Losses on both sides were high, but the 2/20th was entirely destroyed.

Two similar landings, first by a company of the 1/20th Infantry, the second by the remainder of the battalion, took place between 27 JAN and 2 FEB at Anyasan and Silaiim Points.

Similar hard fighting ended with a similar result; the destruction of the 1/20th Infantry.

Of two battalions, nearly 900 soldiers, 34 returned to their own lines.

What happened, and how did it happen:

Morton (1953) sums up the Battles of the Points perfectly:
"Committed piecemeal, inadequately prepared, attacked during the approach and disorganized before the landing, the Japanese who finally came ashore had presented a real threat to the American positions on Bataan. Had it not been for the prompt action of all units involved, the Japanese, weak as they were, might well have succeeded in their design. Fortunately, they were contained at each threatened point, and by the time the beachheads had been consolidated USAFFE had concentrated enough troops to hold them in place, and finally to destroy them. By the middle of February the danger along the west coast was over."
The Battle of the Pockets - 23 JAN to 17 FEB 1942

As the defenders were clearing the 20th Infantry off the west-coast points I and II Corps met a frontal attack along the new Orion-Bagac Line.

On the II Corps sector this consisted of a simple frontal assault that, again, featured piss-poor IPB by 65 Ryodan; BG Nara's intel insisted that the intial objective of his attack - the so-called "Trail 2" - was an outpost line and the MLR was further south near Limay.

Although II Corps troop dispositions were frighteningly haphazard - Morton (1953) does a good job of detailing the orders, counter-orders and disorder that characterized Parker's corps situation in late January - the frontal assault suffered the fate of most frontal assaults and bogged down, killing and maiming men without significant result.

On 8 FEB 14th Army called off any further attacks against II Corps.


In the I Corps sector, however, 3/20th Infantry found a soft spot in 1st Division (PA) defenses and pushed through, looking to exploit the breakthrough. But the Bataan peninsula intervened.
"It is hard to imagine heavier, more nearly impenetrable or bewildering jungle than that in which Colonel Yoshioka's men found themselves. It is covered with tall, dense cane and bamboo. On hummocks and knolls are huge hardwood trees, sixty to seventy feet in height, from which trail luxuriant tropical vines and creepers. Visibility throughout the area is limited, often to ten or fifteen yards. There were no reliable maps for this region and none of the sketches then in existence or made later agreed. Major terrain features were so hazily identified that General Jones asserts that to this day no one knows which was the Tuol and which the Cotar River." (Morton, 1953)
The 3/20th moved south, falling into pieces as the terrain and vegetation caused breaks in contact. About a company ended up up a hill just southeast of the junction of the Cotar and Gogo Rivers in the middle of the 1st Division area - the "Little Pocket"

The remainder of 3/20 forted up along Trail 7: the "Big Pocket".


Later, on 3 FEB, a battalion of the Japanese 33rd Infantry punched through between the 1st and 11th Divisions (PA) positions - the so-called "Upper Pocket" - in a failed attempt to relieve the 3/20th.


As with the landings on the west shores of Bataan, the Japanese commanders at both 65 Ryodan and 14th Army appear to have had little understanding of what was happening or even where their enveloped soldiers were located. No effective efforts were made either to relieve the pockets or to exploit their penetration. By mid-February both the "Big" and "Little" pockets had been reduced by assault, including the tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion.


About 400 of the original 900 Japanese infantrymen made it back to their own lines.

What happened, and how did it happen: As at the Points, the Japanese had attempted to exploit a defensive weakness. As at the Points, poor preparation, poor intelligence, poor command and control, and a poor overall tactical nous prevented the exploitation of the one successful penetration of the defenders' positions.

And as at the Points, the Philippine and U.S. defenders, although hampered severely by the terrain and their own material weakness, managed to fight their enemy to a standstill.

The Caesura - 15 FEB to 9 APR

Morton (1953) sums up the first month of so of the Bataan fight:
"Homma had to face the bitter realization that...the offensive begun on 26 January had failed miserably. Reluctant as he was to call off the offensive, Homma realized that to continue with it might well lead to disaster. (H)e agreed to break off the action and withdraw his troops to a more secure position. But he did not agree to wait for famine and hunger to bring him victory. Instead he decided to call on Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo for reinforcements with which to launch a final offensive to capture Bataan. Meanwhile, he would rest his men, reorganize the Army, and tighten the blockade. That night (8 FEB) he issued orders for a general withdrawal."
During the following month famine and disease did weaken the defenders as much as they could strengthen their positions with engineered defenses. Food was a constant preoccupation:
"Monkeys and iguanas are quite scarce," wrote one officer regretfully, "and about all we have is rice. I can recommend mule. It is tasty, succulent and tender-all being phrases of comparison, of course. There is little to choose between calesa pony and carabao. The pony is tougher but better flavor than carabao. Iguana is fair. Monkey I do not recommend. I never had snake." Another officer commented drily that "Monkey meat is all right until the animal's hands turn up on a plate." (Morton, 1953)
No relief for the battling bastards would come from CONUS; GEN MacArthur was evacuated in mid-March, leaving command in the hands of LTG Wainwright. Between mid-February and late March only three small freighters managed to run the Japanese naval cordon and reach the southern Philippines; little of their cargo, probably a scant hundred tons or so, reached Bataan. Submarines brought another 50 tons or so, and aircraft a smidgen more. The situation of the defenders grew worse by the day.

As the defenders got weaker, the Japanese attackers were strengthened. 14th Army had suffered for its early successes; it lost its best division, 48th Infantry, and most of its air support to bolster the invasion of Malaya and Indochina. Now it's failures meant reinforcement. Among the troops arriving were roughly 3,500 individual replacements for 65th Brigade and 16th Infantry Division.

4th Infantry Division was shipped in from Shanghai. This outfit was not exactly an elite unit; LTG Homma described it as the "worst equipped" division in the entire Japanese Army, "...and, he later noted, had he been forced to rely on it alone to begin his offensive he would not have been "competent to attack." (Morton, 1953)

The Nagano Detachment, roughly 4,000 troops including infantry, a battalion of mountain artillery, and an engineer company arrived in late February, also from China.

Additional artillery included cannon units, a balloon company, an artillery intelligence regiment, and the 1st Artillery Headquarters from Hong Kong to control the cannon-cockers.

Aerial reinforcements included two heavy bombardment regiments of 60 twin-engine bombers from Malaya, and naval air assets were added to the reorganized now-named 22d Air Brigade.

14th Army was ready to attack at the beginning of April.



The Final Attack - 3 APR to 9 APR 1942
"On Good Friday the sun rose in a cloudless sky and gave promise of another hot, dry day so like those which had preceded it with endless monotony. From the top of Mt. Samat two American officers serving as artillery observers could plainly see the heavy Japanese guns, two to three miles behind the line, making ready to fire. Before their view was obscured they counted nineteen batteries of artillery and eight to ten mortar batteries. Observers to their east reported many more batteries of light artillery massed in close support of the infantry.

At 0900 this large array of guns, howitzers, and mortars, altogether almost 150 pieces, began to register on their targets. The Japanese began firing for effect at 1000 and continued to fire with only one half-hour pause until 1500, in what was undoubtedly the most devastating barrage of the campaign, equal in intensity, many thought, to those of the first World War. Simultaneously, the bombers of the 22d Air Brigade came out in force...

The effect of the air-artillery bombardment was devastating. Many of the defenses so carefully constructed during the weeks preceding the attack "were churned into a worthless and useless mess." Telephone lines and artillery positions were knocked out. Fire spread rapidly when the cane fields and bamboo thickets were set ablaze and the smoke and dust lay so thick over the battlefield that observers atop Mt. Samat were unable to direct fire. By 1500 the artillery and aircraft had done their work. At that time the infantry and armor moved out to the attack." (Morton, 1953)
This time 14th Army had done it's homework and planned intelligently. Instead of a weak and scattered artillery preparation the fire was concentrated on the left end of II Corps line, the co-called "Sector D" held the already-battered 21st and 41st Divisions (PA). The 21st ID (PA) was badly broken up, but the 41st ID (PA) was broken. The Philippine troops streamed south and the Japanese 65th Brigade and the bulk of the 4th Infantry Division poured into the gap they made.


The loss of the MLR in "Sector D" on 3 APR was never really stabilized. USAFFE counterattacks were, again, piecemeal and ineffectively supported.
"On the east the 31st Infantry had not even been able to reach the line of departure. The 21st Division, routed on the night of 5-6 April, made no effort to carry out its part of the plan to restore the line. In the center the 42d and 43d had again been routed and the 33d Infantry surrounded. Only on the west, along Trail 29, had the Americans met with any success that day. But the victory was a hollow one, for the 41st Infantry was still cut off and the Japanese were threatening a move which would isolate the 45th from the rest of the troops in Sector D." (Morton, 1953)
This time the Japanese attacks were under firm command and control and directed with much better intelligence than during the earlier battles in January and February.

This time when the destruction of 41st ID (PA) presented an opportunity that LTG Homma's staff had not anticipated, they were aware of the conditions at the fighting lines and fragged an order to 4th ID to disregard their previous stop-lines and continue attacking.


After the failure of the counterattacks of 4-6 APR the USAFFE had shot its bolt. The remaining three days are a sorry tale of defeat and disintegration.
"The story of the last two days of the defense of Bataan is one of progressive disintegration and final collapse. Lines were formed and abandoned before they could be fully occupied. Communications broke down and higher headquarters often did not know the situation on the front lines. Orders were issued and revoked because they were impossible of execution. Stragglers poured to the rear in increasingly large numbers until they clogged all roads and disrupted all movement forward. Units disappeared into the jungle never to be heard from again. In two days an army evaporated into thin air." (Morton, 1953)
Hunger and sickness, stress, the effect of five days of hard fighting under constant aerial and artillery attack...the defenders were done. The last food remaining on Bataan was an already-inadequate half-ration. MAcArthur's directive to attack as a painful joke; the remaining troops were exhausted, the units reduced to shells, communications between the commanders and units sporadic when possible at all


The capitulation of Bataan was in direct contravention to President Roosevelt's orders. In Hitlerian fashion FDR had directed the USAFFE to hold out to the last man and the last bullet. This put LTG Wainwright and the Bataan force commander MG King, in a wretched position.
"I had my orders from MacArthur not to surrender on Bataan, and therefore I could not authorize King to do it." (Wainwright later said) But General King, he added, "was on the ground and confronted by a situation in which he had either to surrender or have his people killed piecemeal." (Morton, 1953)
About 2,000 people, including nurses, sailors, about 300 tropps from 31st Infantry (US) and some Scouts from the 26th Cavalry, and Philippine Army troops, escaped from Bataan to reach Corregidor in small boats the night of 9 APR 1942.

Everyone else; about 70,000 people, went into Japanese captivity.


The Outcome: Decisive Japanese Victory, effectively ending the Philippines Campaign.

The Impact: The physical impact was relatively minor; the Japanese had no real need for the troops then engaged on Bataan, and the operations of the Southern Expeditionary Force were not materially impacted by the delay at Bataan. And although "major military operations" in the Philippines were over the USAFFE still held the Corregidor island-fortress the harbor at Manila was not open to the IJN. A further siege of this bastion would take another month.

The psychological impact was considerable. A large Philippine-American force had been conclusively defeated by what at the time many Americans considered a bunch of bandy-legged myopic little monkeys. Sorry, but that's the sort of racist shit you heard at the time.

And worse was to come.


In keeping with the erratic staff work that LTG Homma's 14th Army had shown during the Bataan Campaign this organization had absolutely no idea what to do with the sick, weak, defeated soldiers and civilians they had inherited upon the fall of the peninsula.

The perversion of the warrior code of bushido that was inculcated in the Imperial Army of the day allowed, or, worse, encouraged, the captors of defeated enemies to consider those captives as disposable, as, at best, men without honor or, at worst, as barely human at all.

So 14th Army made no provision for the care of these captives other than to order their removal from Bataan to prison camps some 80-100 miles north. The Death March - regardless of whether you consider the responsibility of LTG Homma and his superiors as that of commission or omission - was a war crime that infuriated the United States of the day and has remained a stain on Japan's national character even now.

The events of the March remained relatively secret until 1944, but after their release they formed the basis, along with other horrors such as the Death Railway in Burma, for the prosecution of Japanese military and political leaders after VJ Day. Although he disclaimed knowledge of the March, the 14th Army commander was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death.

LTG Homma was shot to death by firing squad near the former location of the "economic garden" of the Philippine College of Agriculture at Los Baños, also the location of one of the most notorious prisons under Japanese occupation.

The date of the execution was 3 APR 1946; four years to the day of the end of the defense of Bataan.

The Imperial Japanese Army at Bataan: I think that the Bataan campaign does a good job of demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of the IJA in World War 2.

This organization was certainly aggressive and confident, as befits a well-trained Army. It was successful in the Philippines in 1942, which, after all, is the ultimate measure of military competence.

But I see in this campaign the weaknesses that were, I think, endemic within the IJA and speak of serious institutional problems that were to make this the poorest of the major power armies in that war.

First, there was the overall strategic appreciation of the Bataan situation. In my opinion LTG Homma should have considered the possibility of merely isolating the Bataan garrison and letting hunger and sickness do his work. Waiting several months would not have significantly influenced the overall Southern Campaign, and would have saved Japanese soldiers that would be desperately needed in New Guinea and the Solomons.

And if reduction of the Bataan position was critical, it should have been the main effort and supported as such. In war sometimes frugality is a vice, and so it proved at Bataan for the 65th Brigade and the unlucky 20th Infantry.

Then there were large issues with overall C3I; command, control, communications, and intelligence, that led to the initial defeat in January and February. The attacks of the 65th Brigade and the Battles of the Points and the Pockets were badly handled both in preparation and execution.

Tactically, for every successful maneuver and infiltration attack the Japanese infantry resorted to the screaming charge right out of a samurai movie. The performance of the IJA artillery was uneven; often devastating, it tended to be inflexible and poor at responding to immediate calls for fire. When it was alloted a preplanned fire scheme, as in April, it could be devastating. When needed to respond to enemy movements, or to support Japanese hasty attacks, it was much less effective.

Unsurprisingly, the Japanese tank corps was never really a factor in the Philippines. Although this was more a circumstance of the terrain and the jungle, the lack of effective coordination between infantry, tanks, and artillery on Bataan was a facet of the fact that the IJA never really developed a successful combined arms capability. We'll see this in action when we look at the Khalkan-Gol battles this spring.

And, too, the close air support tactics of the IJA, although effective on Bataan, owed more to the complete dominance of the air enjoyed by the IJA. Air support, as armored support, tended to be an ad-hoc arrangement with the Japanese army and was highly liable to breakdown, as it did in January. While the air attacks on Bataan were useful for strategic reduction of USAFFE fighting power the 65th Brigade was unable to use their CAS to effect the tactical situation they faced. This will not be the first time we'll see this with the IJA.

For all that the USAFFE was outnumbered, undertrained, and undersupplied, the stout defense it conducted on Bataan was a tribute to both the underlying soundness of the U.S. Army's tactical systems and an indictment of the fundamental problems with the IJA's approach to mechanized warfare.

Touchline Tattles: The Battle of Bataan introduced the world to the bizarre horror that would characterize the Pacific War. Morton (1953) offers two tales from the Battles of the Points that point up the terrible nature of that struggle as well as the absurdity and idiocy that has characterized war ever since there has been war.

The first is from the end of the fight to clear Quinauan Point. "Down on the beach Japanese soldiers ran up and down wildly." reports Morton; "I'll never forget the little Filipino who had set up an air-cooled machine gun at the brink and was peppering the crowded beach far below," wrote one eyewitness. "At each burst he shrieked with laughter, beat his helmet against the ground, lay back to whoop with glee, then sat up to get in another burst."

I guess you must have been there.

The other is from the battles for Silaiim and Anyasan Points.

"Thus, from north to south, presenting a confusion of identically named geographic features, were: Silaiim Bay, Silaiim River, Silaiim Point, Anyasan Bay, Anyasan River, and Anyasan Point. This confusion of points, when combined with those to the north and south, was as bewildering to the troops as it is, probably, to the reader. Their plight was most aptly expressed by one member of a wire crew, perched atop a telephone pole who, when asked where he was, replied, "For Christ's sake, sir, I don't know. I am somewhere between asinine and quinine points."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

American Anthem

Hey! It's a chilly rainy Saturday in Portland and who's up for some Montenegro?

Is that a great song, or what?

I needed something to be cheerful about after watching my beloved Norwich City make FA Cup history by getting shot dead square in the ass by Luton Town. Don't get me wrong; I loves me some FA Cup, but, damn, when a season goes to hell sometimes it really goes to hell.

Anyway, from there I wandered over to Gin and Tacos where this discussion of national anthems led me to this discussion of National Anthems.

The Grantland article (the second link in the paragraph above) is funny but there's some genuine truth to it.

When you get past the essential silliness of the whole concept of a "national anthem" you eventually get around to the historical use of singing as a way of bringing people together and firing them up emotionally. As I talked about the other day; some emotions just lend themselves to song. They just do. "Patriotism"? Yep.

But part of that really does involve the actual song.

And I happen to agree with conventional wisdom and agree that The Star Spangled Banner - as a song - isn't all that as a "man the barricades sort of thing. It IS hard to sing, and it does lack a certain...je ne sais pas...something that the boys from Montenegro, and the Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii, and La Marseillaise have in abundance;

Let's face it; if you're going to have a song about your country, singing it should really make you excited about your country. Patriotism is, of course, a ridiculous tribal atavism that has fueled some of the most dangerous and destructive idiocy ever perpetrated by the human race. But.

But...

It's hard to deny that there is something very satisfying to the human soul to be part of that crowd uplifted by that singing, feeling that shiver that comes with the sensation of being armored and armed with participation in something that makes you feel bigger and stronger than your own small self. As Phillips says over at Grantland:
"A good anthem has to do a lot of things. It has to inspire. It has to instill loyalty to the nation-state. It has to be singable. Most important, it has to capture a mysterious and complex feeling of being simultaneously (a) in church, (b) about to charge the enemy trenches, and (c) at a really great New Year's party."
Those aren't very nice feelings, really, when you think about it. They have made and will make us do awful things in the name of "patriotism".

But, then, they have made us do some genuinely noble and heroic things, as well.

So I suppose what it comes down to is that even a bombastic poem set to an old pub drinking song can do that trick, when you sing in a certain way. I remember how I felt when I sang it then:

Ten feet tall and bristling with spines.

So, are we bad? Maybe so. For all our song doesn't make the Top Ten.

But maybe not quite as badass as the folks from Montenegro...

The seething hot magma at the core of the world —
Bring us our tankards, we want to drink some for breakfast!
We wean our babies on lava, and they can't get enough.
By the time they're 6, they could beat an oak tree at wrestling.
Everyone! Do you understand that we are ferocious?
We have ventured down among the bones of the mountains,
Where we killed like 50 or 60 dragons,
We didn't even keep track, that's how easy it was.
My beard is the moss that binds the stone of God's fury.
Drink with us! Drink with all of us! Be welcome!
We will wipe the floor with you and leave you for dead.
I'm in a good mood! I may dismember a bear.

Feel like humming along?

Cool.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Jukebox: Le Train Bleu Edition

Some cool funk from the French jazz group Gare du Nord:

Working my ass off on the Battle for January: Bataan.

C ya again soon.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Generals (Ricks 2012)

I just finished Tom Ricks' The Generals, a work I've been meaning to review for some time.

Summary: Ricks conducts an analysis is U.S. Army generalship - specifically the selection, management, and retention of general officers - between WW2 and today and what he believes to have been a clear deterioration of the quality of these commanders and a failure of the U.S. Army's command management process over that time.

Contents: The volume is a fairly clear display of Ricks' strengths and weaknesses, but in my opinions his conclusions are less well-drawn, less useful for the civilian reader, and less practical as a plan for military reform.

For a work of nonfiction The Generals is quite readable; Ricks is a good writer of general military history. It contains some brief but well-drawn portraits and summaries of the careers of the general officers from WW2, Korea, Vietnam, and the "War on Terror" periods, including Marshall, Mark Clark, Patton, and Terry Allen from WW2; O.P Smith, MacArthur, and Ridgeway from Korea; Taylor, Westmoreland, and DePuy from Vietnam; and Powell, Schwartzkopf, Franks, Sanchez, and Petraeus from the past two decades. In each section Ricks uses the officers he profiles to illustrate what he considers the characteristics of flag officer policy in each period and the results in terms of combat effectiveness or the lack of same.

To summarize his overall thesis, he begins by positing that GEN Marshall crafted a system of flag officer selection and employment during the opening years of WW2 that was characterized by idiosyncratic promotion and placement of officers in command slots based on a rather personal assessment of their potential for command.

Of necessity this meant that Marshall and his subordinate theater commanders made some mistakes, and so the other essential component of this system was the early and ruthless relief of officers who were, or appeared to be, not competent at that level of command.

But because of the very nature of the appointments these reliefs were not particularly prejudicial (unless the general officer involved was clearly criminally incompetent or personally troubled) and involved at least one second chance for the officer relieved. Ricks takes the time to point out several men who were relieved, reassigned, and subsequently worked their way back up to command positions.

So by the end of WW2 the "Marshall System" consisted of a linked system of appointment-relief-reassignment conducted as a public process. Relief was - at least according to Ricks - not associated with punishment, not hidden from sight, and not considered a failure of either the individual or the system but rather the understanding that command was a privilege and the critical function of command was the efficient use of (and, where possible, preservation of) U.S. soldier lives.

Ricks then documents the transition from this to what he describes as the current system of U.S. GO management in which reliefs are almost impossible, intimately associated with failure both of the system and the relieved officer, and, consequently, problematic in that incompetent commanders are not quickly removed from the system.

This, in Ricks' view, is directly responsible for problems that the U.S. Army encountered in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The work is well constructed, and arguments made with care, and in general I have no problem with Ricks' historical examples. The body of the work makes a good case for Ricks' thesis that the Marshall System has broken down and has been effectively replaced with a dysfunctional GO management process that promotes and places in command officers with severe military and geopolitical flaws.

However, I believe that The Generals also features a number of Ricks' weaknesses on prominent display as well.

He provides absolutely no context for his thesis; no other general officer systems outside the U.S. Army are detailed. He briefly discusses what he considers the differences between the U.S., British, and German armies of WW2 as organizations without any comparison between their differing methods of handling command assignments - which I assume there were. Such a comparison might be very useful.

He is inordinately impressed with the U.S. Army as an organization (which, while an opinion I share as a former GI, is not one that would seem helpful in the author of a work questioning Army policy). His intense focus on the Army, I think, also tends to minimize the role other institutions and branches of the U.S. Government and branches played in the evolution of the role of Army general officers and weakens his analysis.

As just a single example that occurred to me as I was reading his account of the increasing difficulty and complexity of the civil-military relationship during the Fifties (which he lays primarily at the feet of the "atomic military" and the problems the Army had with its role in the early nuclear age); he never once brings up the creation of the National Security Advisor position that effectively superseded the role GEN Marshall had played in WW2.

Certainly the interposition of a civilian appointee tasked with determining the scope, and even the details, or "national security" must have had some impact on the role of the Joint Chiefs, of the Army chief, and the commanders of Army theater-level organizations. But what that impact was, or whether there was any at all? Ricks has nothing to say on the subject.

Ricks doesn't deeply examine the role of military professionals in the pre-war debates leading to the the run-up to the post-WW2 interventions. He mentions, for example, that there might have been (and are) some teensy weensie problems with getting the citizens of a democratic republic to enthusiastically support a series of complex cabinet wars with difficult-to-articulate (at least if the speakers were being honest) objectives without discussing the effect this might have on the role, or ability, of general officers to influence the approach to or conduct of such wars.

Conclusions: Rick's draws the following conclusions:

1. That the current general officer corps of the U.S. Army has been crafted to be technically and tactically competent but is hopeless at anything more complex, being both too intimately entwined with civilian politics while at the same time poorly trained and educated about strategic and geopolitical issues and the current methods of training, promoting, and retaining generals should be changed.

2. That the civil-military relationship is deeply flawed, with both too much and too little interplay between the elected officials and the generals, and that a change in general officer management will improve this.

3. That the U.S. Army is, as a result, a superb instrument at the tactical-to-operational levels but deeply flawed for anything above that; i.e. that the U.S. Army can win battles but not wars, and that a change in GO management will improve this as well.

Recommendations: So far, so unexceptional. His final chapter containing the recommandations, however, sort of throws up its hands at ways to address this.

First, he recommends a return to the Marshall-style early relief-but-without-prejudice system. He then admits that in the small, insular world of the post-draft U.S. Army that this might not be possible, although he posits some potential moves to make this happen. My assessment would be even less optimistic. Ricks doesn't provide anything remotely like a way to develop a constituency inside or outside the Army that would drive this process. Marshall's revolution occurred at a unique moment in U.S. Army history. A revolution of similar magnitude - and that is what this would be - would need a similar setting.

Some of his other, relatively innocuous suggestions include personnel management changes such as the "360 review" concept (including juniors' as well as seniors' assessments in an officer evaluation report), extending the retirement age for senior officers (which is interesting, given Ricks' extensive documentation of Marshall's removal of an entire generation of senior officers in 1941 and '42 for being too elderly to command in the rapid pace of mechanized war), and revising officer education to produce general officers with the skills to think and plan strategically and improvise tactically in unexpected geopolitical situations. All worthy discussion-starting points in my opinion.

I consider that perhaps his least practical recommendation is his suggestion that unit rotations be halted or severely limited in counterinsurgency situations.

Given that this implies that U.S. soldiers would likely be locked into fighting against foreign rebellions for years the notion is beyond impossible both militarily (the probability of running out of troops is not inconceivable) and politically.

More troubling to me is Ricks practice throughout the work of avoiding questioning the usefulness of, or the role of the general officers in pointing out the likelihood of problems to, Great Power intervention in Third World rebellion suppression, more of which below.

Assessment: As a historical review and a potential discussion-starter I can cautiously recommend The Generals. It is eminently readable, and Ricks' work is not without value on the history of the U.S. Army's general officer policies and procedures.

As an actual prescription for constructive change in the U.S. Army, however, I consider this work severely limited.

First, it accepts without demur the formulation that an "increasingly chaotic" uni- or multi-polar world implies the need for U.S. military adventures in foreign domestic insurrections, rebellions, and disturbances.

Second, it implies that "better generals" can improve the likelihood that U.S. forces can successfully intervene in such conflicts. For example, although in his section on the Vietnam War Ricks mentions that the post-Tet success in counterinsurgency came largely as the result of the combination of the decimation of the COSVN guerrillas and the improvement of the ARVN - instead of any particular change in U.S. officer competence, and his section on Iraq specifies the employment of bribery of the Sunni muj and the success of Shia ethnic cleansing as the reason that the U.S. occupation "succeeded", he still considers these to have been be amenable to "better" U.S. generalship, a conclusion that I consider tenuous at best and unsupported at worst.

His formulation also elides the problem of the larger, mainly civilian/political formulations of "more rubble/less trouble" and "Muslims = terrorists" that seems to drive these open-ended interventions. Ricks seems as bound as his troubled generals to the tactical aspects of geopolitics, unwilling to accept that many foreign troubles contain too many unknown - and unknowable - strategic aspects for even the most widely read and deep-thinking general officer will be unable to predict.

Who, for example, would have been able to foresee that providing Western military aid to rebels against the Algerian, Tunisian, and Libyan dictatorships would have helped foment a rebellion in Mali that Western military assets are presently fighting? And would a U.S. general- even a well-informed strategic thinker - genuinely be willing to suggest that since the West has a great deal to actually create the conditions for this revolt that that the best response might be to wait and watch, doing as little as possible beyond providing whatever the local proxies might need to limit the success of most anti-Western of the rebels?

So while Ricks' The Generals suggests a link between in improvement in U.S. general officer policies and improved success in the "little wars" the U.S. has been fighting since the early Nineties, my thought would be - I wonder...if such improvement, had it been in place before Vietnam, before Iraq, today...have resulted in fewer such wars, instead?

The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, by Thomas Ricks (Penguin Books, 2012) ISBN-10: 1594204047 20.22 HC at Amazon.com

Mal y pense

My bride was intrigued by the spectacle of Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey, so that is what we watched tonight.


And it was, indeed, intriguing, but not for the reasons it was advertised.

Most of it was a simple repetition of things we know, or should have known already.

The doping, well, I've said this before; I had no doubt that Armstrong, like most of his great competitors, used the methods they did - EPO, CERA, HGH, testosterone, stimulants, corticosteriods - because they had to, to win. The officials that should have been ahead of the cheaters were helpless, and so it was cheat, or lose.

It was obvious to me that Armstrong fully absorbed the ethic of the peleton of his day; that to win meant to cheat, and that anyone who couldn't or wouldn't cheat was not a hero but a fool.

From tonight's interview it's fairly obvious to me that Armstrong still feels that way. And he is still the carefully unsentimental predator he has always been.

He is remorseful, yes, but only because he was caught and in so doing has harmed people he actually cares about; his children, his mother, perhaps his wife and his ex-wife.

The rest of us, well, we're not really people who matter. We're there to be extras in The Lance Armstrong Story.

Most of us think this way, of course, but it takes a pretty enormous ego to be willing to parade that attitude in full view on national television.

And for the record, Oprah really was an awful inquisitor. She wasted an immense amount of time on things that were self-evident and let slide the real hard questions that might have forced the man she was supposed to be interviewing to reveal himself. He slid around any real acceptance of the wrong he did to those who had spoken the truth about him, notably Betsy Andreu and David Walsh.

Armstrong seems clearly using this as a ploy to win sympathy and as an attempt to gain some sort of toehold back into professional sport. He openly stated that he thought his punishment was excessive and that he was driven by a need to compete.

And that was a point that Oprah, as was her habit during the entire interview, failed to seize upon.

Because if Armstrong really needed to compete he needn't return to the Chicago Marathon or any other sanctioned event. He could train and run or ride in secret and alone, where only he would know how strong and fast he had become.

But for this man what he knows about himself is not important. His life is lived by what others know about him. It is not important to be the fastest, or the strongest. It is important to him that others see him as the fastest and strongest.

That has always been the only real question to me worth asking here: "Why now?"

"We've heard you say you're sorry. We've heard you claim that you feel that you have to tell the truth now for your children's sakes. But if that were the case, why didn't you tell the truth when you, of all men, could have told the truth and changed the very sport you claim you loved? Why should we believe any of your apologies now, when you had the chance to be a truly great man and you didn't; worse, instead of merely lying and cheating you savaged those who DID speak the truth about you?"

Sadly, this interview just made clear what we've known; that this man will never do anything for itself. He is simply not made to value such things.

Lois Bujold - I always seem to come back to her when I'm talking about Armstrong, for some reason - writes that the difference between honor and reputation is that reputation is what others know about you, while honor is what you know about yourself. That "(t)here is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That's soul-destroying."

Which it may well be for a man or woman who prizes honor above reputation, the inner truth over the outward show.

But, if otherwise irritating, obscure, and incomplete, this interview did show me one thing clearly; Lance Armstrong was not that man.


And he still is not.