Defense of the Bataan Peninsula
Just ten short hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor on
1941, Japanese planes again surprised US forces with an attack on Clark
Field, the main US air base on the Philippine island of Luzon.
Subsequent Japanese landings on Luzon took place on December 10th and
12th, and on December 22, after two weeks of diversionary tactics, a
large Japanese invasion force landed at Lingayen Gulf. Japanese General
Masaharu Homma, with a contingent of 80 ships and 43,000 troops, waded
ashore through both a typhoon and the resistance of US trained
Philippine reservists. Homma landed tanks and artillery later that day
and began advancing south toward Manila despite the valiant resistance
of Major General Jonathan Wainwright's Philippine Scouts.
On Christmas Eve, 1941, more of Homma's forces landed to
the east at
Lamon Bay and began their advance toward Manila, preparing to crush the
American-Philippine forces in a 'pincer' maneuver. General Douglas
MacArthur put into effect plan 'Orange 3'; the original plan for
defense of the island. The Philippine Scouts heroically opposed the
Japanese advance while the main forces complied with MacArthur's order
to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula. The retreating units were forced
into leaving behind the stockpiles of food and medical supplies which
were to sustain them. On December 26th Manila is declared an open city
by General MacArthur and he orders all troops and anti-aircraft guns to
be withdrawn in accordance with The Hague Convention of 1907.
On 30 December 1941, President Manuel Quezon is inaugurated
Corregidor for his second term of office. Quezon pledges to "stand by
America and fight with her until victory is won." The War Department
receives a radiogram from MacArthur declaring that the Japanese raids
on Manila are "completely violative of international law" and that "at
the proper time I bespeak due retaliatory measures." The Japanese
occupation force move into Manila on 02 January 1942, and Japanese
planes begin daily attacks on Corregidor. The Japanese assumed that
overall victory was assured, and a small Japanese reserve force was
tasked with clearing the Bataan Peninsula of remaining opposition
forces. On January 10, these Japanese troops met up against an Allied
stronghold just north of Abucay. Allied forces held off the Japanese
advance at the Abucay line until their foes took advantage of a
weakness at Mt. Natib on January 22nd. The American-Filipino fighters
were forced to retreat further into the Bataan peninsula. The rugged
terrain forced a slowdown in the Japanese pursuit , and the Allies were
able to establish another stronghold further south on Mt. Samat.
On February 8, Homma received reinforcements from Tokyo,
and began to
regroup for another assault. The continued successful opposition of the
American-Filipino fighters to the Japanese takeover of Bataan provided
the much needed hope to the US homeland that the battle in the Pacific
was not yet lost. In March 1942, General MacArthur received orders to
escape to Australia and take over as Supreme Allied Commander in the
Pacific Theater. He reluctantly left Bataan on March 11th with the
proclamation "I shall return." General Jonathan M. Wainwright, U.S.
Army, immediately assumed command of the forces on the island of
Corregidor off the southern tip of the Bataan peninsula.
Major General Edward King commanded the remaining Allied forces on
Bataan. While relatively well armed, these forces were living on one
quarter the prescribed combat rations and had virtually no available
medical supplies. Malnutrition and disease were becoming rampant.
Hunger and sickness eventually accomplished what the Allies' Japanese
enemies could not.
The odds against the American-Filipino troops remaining on Bataan
became overwhelming, and on April 9, 1942, with face in palm, Major
General King surrendered all forces on the peninsula. Thousands of
prisoners were taken almost immediately by the Japanese. With Allied
fighters spread throughout Bataan, it would be days before the word of
surrender could reach them all. Many refused to believe that the news
of US surrender was real, and some retreated further into the mountains
and continued to fight.
When Japanese forces entered Mariveles, they had captured 76,000
prisoners, most of whom were sick, wounded or suffering from
malnutrition. The Japanese supply line, barely sufficient to support
their own troops, would be unable to transport these POWs. The
prisoners were forced to march the 65 miles of treacherous terrain to
the Japanese POW Camp, Camp O'Donnell, to the north. The infamous
"Death March" had begun. Many members of the prisoner garrison were
systematically executed, while the sick and weak were pushed to
exhaustion before being bayoneted or beaten to death with the butt end
of a Japanese rifle. Many of the 54,000 who survived the march across
Bataan would later succumb to disease or torture while imprisoned. The
Bataan "Death March", recognized as one of the greatest inhumanities of
WWII, is also one of the greatest displays of heroism and human spirit
on the part of those who did survive.
By May 6, on the island of Corregidor, Japanese troops forced the
surrender of Wainwright and all U.S. and Allied forces in the
Philippines. It would be nearly two-and-a-half years before General
MacArthur could fulfill his promise to return to, and retake from the
Japanese, the Philippine Islands.
USS BATAAN (LHD 5) commemorates those who served and sacrificed in the
Philippines in the name of freedom in the Pacific.
The swords represent the Navy - Marine Corps Team.
The Shield: Dark blue and gold are
traditional Navy colors and reflect the sea and excellence. Red denotes
courage and sacrifice. White is for integrity. The seahorse represents
USS BATAAN's natural association with the sea. The red path
commemorates the Bataan Death March. The spears form a wedge
underscoring amphibious assault and deployment of men and cargo ashore,
as well as combat readiness, while highlighting the USS BATAAN's 12
battlestars. Bamboo alludes to the tropics and Pacific Theater where
the first USS BATAAN served.
Crest: The wings represent the
heritage of the ship. The gold stars are for the seven battle stars
earned in Korea, while the five points of the central star are for
World War II Battle stars. The black mount suggests the mountainous
terrain of Korea; the sun is adapted from the Seal of the Republic of
"Courage, Commitment, Honor"
are the Navy's core values.