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The Fall Of The Philippines

by Louis Morton

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Book Description
This work treats one of the initial campaigns of the war of the Pacific (8 December 1941 through 6 May 1942), which ended with the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. The records of the victorious force, always better preserved than those of the vanquished, were at the disposal of the author, while those of the U.S. Army that survived have been supplemented with personal documents, letters, and extensive interviews. The result is a study of decisions and operations on each side of this campaign in relation to those of the other.

The first Philippine campaign presents an opportunity to study a retrograde movement by large American forces (the withdrawal to Bataan) and the methods by which General MacArthur and his commanders executed it with complete success. The book also recounts in detail the defeat and surrender of an American force of 140,000 men. It also presents the campaign in the larger perspective of global strategy and national policies, underlining the consequences of staking vital strategic and political objectives on military means insufficient to secure the objects of national policy.

The hope of holding the Philippines until the fleet could arrive was fading long before that fleet was crippled at Pearl Harbor. But the belief that long-range bombers in the Philippines could serve as a deterrent to the military expansion of the Japanese in Southeast Asia led the United States in July 1941 to place at General MacArthur’s disposal all the B-17 bombers then available and in production. That illusion was destroyed and the Philippines virtually isolated when General MacArthur’s air power was shattered on the first day of war. The present volume focuses new light on the heritage of controversy and conflicting explanations which that disaster produced.

The author’s account of the subsequent campaign presents in detail a fight by American ground forces against an enemy in complete control of the air and sea. His book traces step by step the short-lived effort to stop the Japanese on the beaches, the withdrawal to Bataan, and the stubborn defense of Bataan and the island of Corregidor. The American forces, largely Filipino, were ably handled but were inadequately trained, ill equipped, and hastily mobilized. They included one infantry regiment of the U.S. Army and the 4th Marine Regiment. Their armament was of ancient vintage: the Enfield rifle, Stokes mortar, 2.95-inch mountain gun, 75-mm. and 155-mm. guns of European manufacture, and the light tank. The condition of Corregidor, Gibraltar of the Far East, illustrates vividly the effects of military obsolescence in armament and concepts of defense. In a real sense, the Philippine campaign was the last battle of World War I.

The logistical aspects of the campaign were of great importance and are fully developed in this volume. The long-standing ORANGE plan called only for defense of Corregidor and Bataan until the fleet could arrive in Manila Bay –a period estimated at six months. But Bataan had not been adequately stocked for a siege of this duration. But Bataan had not been adequately stocked for a siege of this duration. Furthermore, General MacArthur, departing from the ORANGE plan, decided to oppose the enemy on the beaches. When this opposition immediately collapsed, supply officers had only two weeks to retrieve the stores they had brought forward and move them back to Bataan on crowded roads. Much had to be destroyed. The book gives a full account of the effect of shortages of supplies in producing the final agony of the troops and the decision by Maj. Gen. Edward P. King, Jr., to surrender in spite of direct orders of superior authority not to do so.

The reduction of Corregidor, Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright’s surrender, and its effect on the forces in the southern Philippines illustrate vividly the situation of commanders confronted with the unwelcome decision to surrender while still capable of effective local resistance. They also bring out with dramatic vividness the problems that face higher commanders confronted with defeat.

KEY TOPICS: 1. The effect of military unreadiness on a major strategic plan (ORANGE) (Ch. IV). 2. The capabilities and limitations of a force of non-American troops constructed around a trained American nucleus (Chs. VIII, X-XIII). 3. The defense of a beachhead by American forces (Chs. VI, VIII). 4. The effect of communications and command relationships under conditions of surprise (Ch. V). 5. Effects of enemy command of the air and sea on the control, tactics, and morale of an American force (Chs. IX, XXII, XXIV, XXV, XXVII, XXX). 6. The prolonged retrograde movement of a large force under strong pressure (Chs. XIII, XVI). 7. The prolonged defense of an extensive fortified position under conditions of siege, air attack, and supply shortages (Bataan) (Chs. XVI-XIX, XXIII-XXVI). 8. Defense of a heavily armed and fortified island under similar conditions (Corregidor) (Chs. XXVII, XXIX-XXXI). 9. The relation of logistical planning and the disposition of supplies to the capacity for resistance (Chs. IX, X, XV, XXI, XXII). 10. The problems of surrender (Chs. XXVI, XXXII). 11. The use of World War I weapons and tactics in the first American campaign of World War II (Chs. II, VIII, XI, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX).

From the Publisher
The soldier reading these pages would do well to reflect on the wisdom of the statement exhibited in a Japanese shrine: "Woe unto him who has not tasted defeat." Victory too often leads to overconfidence and erases the memory of mistakes. Defeat brings into sharp focus the causes that led to failure and provides a fruitful field of study for those soldiers and laymen who seek in the past lessons for the future. The statesman and the informed citizen reading these pages will realize that our military means as well as our estimates and plans must always be in balance with our long-range national policy. This lesson –signposted by the Battle of Manila Bay; the Treaty of Paris, signed in December 1898 when we decided to keep the Philippines; the Washington Conference of 1921-22; and the Manchurian Crisis of 1931– we ignored before Pearl Harbor. The result was defeat on the field of battle and the loss of the Philippine Islands. The author of The "Fall of the Philippines," Louis Morton, served overseas as a historical officer in the South Pacific area and in the Philippines during World War II. Since 1945, he has been chief of the Pacific Section, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Duke University, is the author of a volume on American colonial history, and has written a number of articles dealing with military affairs. Work on this volume was begun in 1947. The reader may gain some idea of the size of the task of writing this history by an appraisal of The Sources.

Orlando Ward

Major General, United States Army

Chief of Military History



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