Japan’s stronghold in the Philippines was vital to the defense of their Southeast Asian flank. Because of this it was where they concentrated their forces which resulted in the most severe period of the Imperial’s invasion in World War II of the Philippines-the Battle of Bataan. It is also written down in history as the largest surrender of the United States since the US Civil War.
On the 7th of December 1941 the same day that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan, U.S Philippine headquarters, naval and base camps in Zambales, Manila, Pampanga and Cavite were pounded by aircrafts based in Taiwan. The scattered remnants of the American forces tried to fight back in a struggle to seize airfields in Luzon to stop the Japanese air forces from landing but to no avail. They have also attacked Japanese ships bordered in Luzon. Nevertheless it did not delay the Japanese invasion. The Japanese Army increased their dominance when they neutralized the US bases in Philippines. They have gained for themselves air and naval fields taken from the US army for them to use and empower their invasion.
When the Japanese gained their supremacy in the air and naval bases, they started their massive assault on the US army’s line of defense on the shores called the beachheads. The beachheads were pushed back by the invaders. As General MacArthur realized that their strategy has failed he resorted to what they called the War Plan Orange-3 wherein the main goal is to focus on the defense of Bataan and Corregidor, the central plain in the island of Luzon. They were to retreat in a delaying manner towards Bataan and regroup there with all their forces and fight Japanese invaders for 6 months assuming that after that time relief and back up would get there from the United States. They were hopeful that by delaying the Japanese invasion by regrouping in Bataan it will distort the plans of the Japanese Imperial army and also give the United States ample time to prepare their Fleet with power and arrive at Bataan to the rescue. Little did they know that the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor was already crippled.
On December 22, 1941, the Philippine Army troops who were defending the beaches of Luzon were defeated. And in order to deceive their advancing enemies on the exact location of their major defense positions in the Bataan peninsula, the Americans placed one line of defense in Layac to fight and delay their enemies. It was where the Japanese and American soldiers met for the first time in WWII. The battles focused on delaying the Japanese army in order for MacArthur’s men to withdraw towards the Batan defense base went on from January 1-5, 1942.
The Japanese Imperial Army persisted in their advancement towards Bataan and Corregidor for three months resulting in four major battles written in history. The first of these battles was called The Stand. The stand was mainly the battle of the defense of the Americans and Filipinos of the Abucay-Mauban line. It is composed of two defensive lines located across the Bataan peninsula. The Mauban line was located on the western side and the Abucay on the eastern. The Stand was a battle of night raids, hand to hand combats and infiltrations between Japan and the Philippine-American Army. The fight started on January 9 and ended on January 22, 1942 resulting in the defeat and abandonment of the Abucay-Mauban Line.
The second battle was a brief one. It is called the Battle of Trail 2. It has happened 4days after The Stand. Trail 2 was the line of defense hastily organized by General Bluemel which was successful in preventing the withdrawing US and Filipino from a major wipeout by the Japanese troops. The Japanese in their pursuit has found a gap to attack the withdrawing army with but was repelled in time by the trail2 line of defense.
The third Battle was called the Battle of Pockets after the intentions of the Japanese army to pocket their areas of defense. After the battle of Trail2 Japanese troops managed still to get through using other routes and gaps in the withdrawing army. The battle was marked by Capt. Santos, 1st Division’s actions which outsmarted and countered the strategies of the Japanese troops. He was nicknamed the “hero of pockets” for this and was promoted as major. The battle lasted from January 23 to February 22. On February 8, General Homma tried to order his men to stop their offensive operations seeing that they were getting closer to defeat but it was too late because most of the other divisions were already in contact with their enemies. The battle resulted in the USAFFE’s re-occupation of most positions that were taken from them by the Japanese Imperial Army. The Japanese had not yet been defeated but it was their turn to withdraw their forces.
Meanwhile, on the west side of the Southern coast of Bataan, Japanese troops and USAFFE met on a battle known as the Battle of Points. The fighting lasted from January 23 to February 13, 1942. It was a remarkable battle because of the 2000 Japanese troops deployed there, only 43 made it alive and wounded. In that battle sailors were ordered to make noises and wear colorful uniforms in order to tempt the Japanese troops to shoot at them. This strategy revealed the hiding positions of the Japanese in the trees where the USAFFE army attacked them.
General MacArthur with family and staff officers left Corregidor on March 12 , 1942. He went to Mindanao and from there flew to Australia where he made his famous promise “ I Shall Return” to the Filipinos. Because of this, the USAFFE changed its name to USFIP( US Forces in the Philippines) commanded by Lt.Gen. Wainwright IV.
The second attack of the Japanese Imperial Army on Bataan then began. With the intention of completely destroying the American strongholds, Japanese General Headquarters sent more troops, aircrafts and artilleries. With only the capture of Bataan as their campaign, the Japanese forces arrived and backed the forces of General Homma. They aimed straight for Bataan and charged the defense lines of Americans and Filipinos ranks after ranks. This final assault bombarded the USFIP bases, neutralized I Corps and II Corps and destroyed communications between the commanders of the Bataan base and their lines of Defense. On April 6, the main defense of Bataan has collapsed and refugees started filling all roads. Some soldiers were even seen fleeing along with them. April 8 then marked the end of resistance for the commander on Bataan, Gen. King. He proposed for capitulation and on April 9, 1942 he met and negotiated with Maj. Gen. Kameichiro Nagano which lasted for hours and ended in the announcement of the surrender of the weary and embattled alliance of the Americans and the Filipinos thus, marking the Falling of Bataan in history.
The Allied forces then, with no more strength to fight back were forcibly ordered by the Japanese Imperial Army on the famous Death March to transfer them from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell and be locked as prisoners of war. Approximately 75,000 soldiers marched on foot the 128km distance resulting in the death of about 10,000 soldiers. Besides that, what makes the Battle of Bataan famous is the amazing teamwork and camaraderie which the Americans and Filipinos applied in their battle against the Japanese army.