Thursday, March 22, 2012

l. 8496 – “We were out-shipped, out-planed, out-manned and out-gunned by the Japanese from the beginning.”

Long before banks were too big to fail, Douglas MacArthur was too big to fail. For nine hours hearing about Pearl Harbor, MacArthur did virtually nothing (l. 7657). As a result, US forces in the Philippines were taken completely by surprise by Japanese air attacks. Men and planes were slaughtered before they had a chance to get off the ground with an ease that surprised even the attackers (l. 7700). Then and for years afterward, MacArthur shifted blame up and down the chain of command while glorifying himself, and was allowed to do so because the the perceived need for heroes.

At a loss for options, MacArthur dusted off old Washington-generated military plans he once had derided as “defeatist” (l. 7767). He declared Manila an open city and prepared to concentrate the joint US-Filipino force on defending Bataan, an earlobe-shaped peninsula on the west side of Manila harbor, and Corregidor, a mountain island at the mouth of the harbor. MacArthur managed an extremely complicated contraction of all troops to this small area while fighting rear-guard action against the Japanese, a feat that is regarded as genius, even by Karnow (l. 7785).

Corregidor is the size of Manhattan. It was heavily fortified and had a warren of impregnable caves (l 7811). Starting about Christmas 1941, MacArthur's headquarters were there, along with his wife and family, and that of the US civilian governor and his family. Quezon and Osmena also went with him. José Laurel, the secretary of justice, had spent time in Japan and was known to be sympathetic to the Japanese, so he was left behind to manage as best as he could. “Keep your faith in America, whatever happens,” MacArthur warned Laurel, or else, “when we come back, we'll shoot you” (l. 7819). Later, Laurel was chosen by the Japanese to head of the collaborationist government. Benigno Aquino, future father-in-law of Cory Aquino, was named Vice-President.

In February 1942, Quezon, Osmena, and the civilian governor left the island to establish a government in exile. Quezon gave MacArthur a half-million-dollar cash gift, which he accept in defiance of regulations (l. 7882). At the same time, he was showered in gifts and honors in absentia in the US.

Meanwhile, Australia lay under threat of Japanese attack, so threatened to remove its troops fighting in North Africa. Roosevelt agreed to take up Australia's defense, and named MacArthur to head the effort. He departed Corregidor on 11 March 1942 (l. 7925).

In late March, the Japanese received an influx of fresh troops and closed its grip on Bataan. On 9 April, the Americans crossed the Japanese lines to discuss terms for the surrender of troops of Bataan. The Japanese would accept unconditional surrender only. The American commander agreed. It was the largest capitulation of American forces in history (l. 7981). The transport of an enormous amount of prisoners to inadequate camps devolved into the Bataan Death March, during which as many as ten thousand men died from disease, malnutrition, and wanton brutality (l. 8020).

The Japanese drove the Philippines into the a state of chaos during the war by a mixture of brutality and stupidity. The Japanese attempted to grow cotton for the home market instead of sugar, with ruinous results (l. 8166). They shipped the remaining gold and silver reserves to Japan and printed worthless money, causing inflation and associated problems, including a widespread black market and general breakdown of law and order (l. 8185). All of the above was further aggravated by numberless episodes of cruelty by the occupying Japanese.

The strongest indigenous guerrilla movement was a coalition of communists and socialists named the People's Anti-Japanese Army but called the “Huks”, a shortened version of their Tagalog acronym (l. 8211). Relations between the Huks and the US armed forces during the war was lukewarm but each side helped the other. After the war, the US favored non-communist/socialist groups and arrested Huk leaders, which led to further Huk rebellions later. Ferdinand Marcos claimed that he commanded a guerrilla movement called the “Noblemen” in northern Luzon, but in 1986 his claim was revealed as fraudulent by an American scholar (l. 8236).

On 19 October 1944, the first ships of an invading American fleet reached the eastern island of Leyte, not far from where Magellan landed in 1521. Quezon had died in upstate New York the previous August, so Sergio Osmena, now commonwealth president, accompanied MacArthur in a lead ship (l. 8275). There is a famous photo of Osmena and MacArthur wading ashore. The US Navy stomped the Japanese in the battle of Leyte Gulf, destroying much of Japan's naval power, an accomplishment that in retrospect can be attributed in equal parts to good luck and superior firepower (l. 8312). There followed slow land drives and island-hopping under very difficult monsoon-season conditions. Japanese soldiers were exhorted to fight to the death. At the end of the campaign, two hundred thousand Japanese had died, compared to eight thousand Americans (l. 8359).

On 9 January 1945, the US, led by MacArthur, launched an invasion of the main island of Luzon (l. 8385) at the same place the Japanese had chosen. The landing was uncontested but there were major battles on the way to Manila. The first columns reached the outskirts of Manila on 3 February (l. 8416). Soldiers freed skeletal US military and civilian prisoners.

The Japanese overall commander in the Philippines declared Manila an open city, but in the end the city became a battle zone. Although the overall commander was later convicted for war crimes in this matter, Karnow places the blame on his underling, the commander of the naval force (l. 8432), who ignored orders, bombarded the city from the harbor, and sent sailors ashore, who committed atrocities (l. 8445). By mid-March, the city was reduced to rubble by the artillery shelling of both sides and was abandoned by the Japanese (l. 8470). Further fighting was necessary to capture Corregidor, where two thousand Japanese and scores of Americans were killed in a suicidal detonation of an underground arsenal (l. 8479). Remnants of the Japanese army were still staging ragtag guerrilla actions elsewhere in August when the word came that Japan had surrendered.

MacArthur presided over the formal surrender on 2 September 1945 on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. No Filipinos were present.

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