broadcasts to the men on Bataan.
Disillusionment came hard. The weeks went by, January
gave way to February, and still no large reinforcements had come. Many
men began to doubt that aid would arrive at all. Only a few men had
definite knowledge of what was on the way and they confided in no one.
When Colonel Mallonée jokingly asked Colonel Brezina about the relief
expedition, Brezina's "eyes went poker-blank" and "his teeth bit his
lips into a grim thin line." Most regular officers had made their own
estimate of the situation and had reached the conclusion that time was
against them. They could see their men growing weaker every day, the
hospitals fuller, and the supplies smaller. But they continued to hope
for the relief expedition, the TNT (Terrible 'N' Terrific) force, which
would arrive in storybook fashion before the end.
These hopes received a rude blow on Washington's
Birthday, 22 February, in President Roosevelt's fireside chat on the
progress of the war. Inviting his listeners to look at their maps, the
President emphasized the global nature of the struggle, the vast
distances to be spanned, the large areas to be held, and the desperate
situation of the United Nations. As he spoke of the tremendous tasks
facing the American people and the sacrifices that must be made, it
became clear to his listeners on Bataan that he was placing the
Philippines in their proper perspective "in the big picture of the war."
No prospect of the arrival of relief could be found in the President's
message. One officer wrote in his diary that though "the President means
to cheer us up," his talk "tends to weaken morale." "We are not
interested in what the production will be in 1943-44 and 1945," he said.
"All we want are two things, but we need them right
now." Others took a more pessimistic view. "Plain for all to see," wrote
Colonel Mallonée, "was the handwriting on the wall, at the end of which
the President had placed a large and emphatic period. The President
had-with regret- wiped us off the page and closed the book."
Despite the explanations of the "Voice of Freedom,"
MacArthur's departure for Australia on 12 March struck another blow at
morale. A large part of the faith in the timely arrival of
reinforcements had been based on the presence of General MacArthur. His
prestige among the Filipinos can hardly be exaggerated. Among American
officers, to many of whom he was already a legend, his reputation placed
him on a lofty eminence with the great captains of history. Mallonée
undoubtedly expressed the feelings of many when he affirmed his belief
that MacArthur "would reach down and pull the rabbit out of the hat."
With MacArthur gone, those who refused to give up hope argued that if
anybody could bring supplies to the Philippines it was MacArthur. His
presence in Australia, they declared, was the best guarantee that help
was coming. As proof they could repeat the assertions broadcast so often
over the "Voice of Freedom," or cite MacArthur's first public statement
on reaching Australia. At that time he had said that the relief of the
Philippines was his primary purpose. "I came through and I shall
return," he had pledged.
There were others, however, including the old-timers
of World War I, who reasoned that the best place from which to direct
the organization of the relief expedition was Corregidor. MacArthur's
departure, they asserted, was proof that the promised reinforcements
would never arrive.
When, by the end of March, no rabbits had been pulled
out of the hat, most Americans realized that the end was near. There was
nothing left but to wait for the inevitable defeat and prison camp, or
death. The Filipino could expect ultimately to be returned to his home.
For the American there was no such bright prospect. Death or capture was
his certain fate. Strangely enough, he did not become despondent or
bitter. He knew the worst now and there was little he could do other
than to make the enemy pay dearly for victory. Meanwhile he made the
best of his bad fortune, joked grimly about his fate, and hid his
feelings under a cloak of irony.105
It was in this vein that Lt. Henry G. Lee of the Philippine Division
wrote the poem, "Fighting On."
I see no gleam of victory alluring
No chance of splendid booty or of gain
If I endure-I must go on enduring
And my reward for bearing pain-is pain
Yet, though the thrill, the zest, the hope are gone
Something within me keeps me fighting on.