The war in the Philippines began with Japanese attacking Clark Field destroying most of the American bomber forces. General Douglas MacArthur then activated War Plan Orange, which was the gradual withdrawal of Philippine and American forces to their defensive positions on the Bataan Peninsula. The 80,000 American and Philippine troops who reached the jungle mountain fastness of Bataan on January 6, 1942, did not view their situation in terms of grand strategy or the larger objective of the war. They were trapped and there was no way out.1
The surrender of forces in the Philippines was the largest ever surrender of U.S. forces to a foreign power. The 76,000 American and Philippine troops who surrendered in Bataan were sick from malaria and other jungle diseases and wasted from malnutrition. They were marched from their point of surrender 65 miles to the Japanese prisoner camp. Only 54,000 survived.2
History In 1941 the Empire of Japan looked to dominate eastern Asia and the western Pacific. The Japanese expected the U.S. to declare war but not to be willing to fight long or hard enough to win. Their greatest concern was that the U.S. Pacific Fleet, based in Pearl Harbor could foul their plans.3 On 7 December 1941 the Japanese achieved a complete surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941 following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Just 9 hours later the war in the Philippines had begun on 8 December 1941 with a disastrous air attack against Clark Field, an attack that destroyed half of the heavy bombers of General MacArthur’s Far East Air Force. In the tragic two weeks that followed, the Japanese continued to achieve astounding success. By the 22d, they had attained aerial and naval supremacy in the Philippines.4
Stretching from north to south, the Bataan Peninsula is mountainous with Mount Natib in the North and the Marveles Mountains in the south. Covered in jungle, the peninsula’s lowlands stretch to cliffs overlooking the South China Sea and Manila Bay. Defense of Bataan was divided between two new formations; General Wainwright’s I Corps in the west and General Parker’s II Corps in the east.5
Planning and Preparation
Initial planning for the Pacific Theater was for a unilateral U.S. campaign against Japan known as War Plan Orange. Defense plans called for a limited action designed to deny the Japanese the use of Manila Bay for Approximately 6 months, with an unstated hope that relief could be provided by the end of that period.6 As early as 1934, Headquarters in Manila developed an internal defense plan under the Plan Orange scenario. The third plan in this series, revised in 1941 was designated War Plan Orange -3 and only dealt with the defense of the Philippines.7The plan called for a three-phase defense of the main island of Luzon. The first phase would be a defense of potential landing beaches, particular at Ligayen. If the first phase failed to work a...