with Colonel Nakayama. Facing forward, left to right, Col.
Everett C.Williams, Maj. Gen. Edward P. King, Jr., Maj. Wade Cothran,
and Maj. Achille C. Tisdelle.
Having made his decision, General King
called his staff to his tent at midnight to tell them what he had
determined to do and why. At the outset he made it clear that he had not
called the meeting to ask for the advice or opinion of his assistants.
The "ignominious decision," he explained, was entirely his and he did
not wish anyone else to be "saddled with any part of the
responsibility." "I have not communicated with General Wainwright," he
declared, "because I do not want him to be compelled to assume any part
of the responsibility." Further resistance, he felt, would only be an
unnecessary and useless waste of life. "Already our hospital, which is
filled to capacity and directly in the line of hostile approach, is
within range of enemy light artillery. We have no further means of
Though the decision to surrender could not
have surprised the staff, it "hit with an awful bang and a terrible
wallop." Everyone had hoped for a happier ending to the grim tragedy of
Bataan, and when General King walked out of the meeting "there was not a
dry eye present."
There was much to do in the next few hours
to accomplish the orderly surrender of so large and disorganized a
force: all units had to be notified of the decision and given precise
instructions; selected individuals and units had to be sent to
Corregidor; and everything of military value had to be destroyed. The
first task was to establish contact with the Japanese and reach
agreement on the terms of the surrender. Col. E. C. Williams and Maj.
Marshall H. Hurt, Jr., both bachelors, volunteered to go forward under a
white flag to request an interview for General King with the Japanese
commander. Arrangements for their departure were quickly made. They
would time their journey so as to arrive at the front lines at daylight,
just as the destruction of equipment was being completed.
As though nature had conspired to add to
the confusion, an earthquake of serious proportions shook the peninsula
"like a leaf" at about 2130.24
About an hour later the Navy started to destroy its installations at
Mariveles. "Pursuant to orders from General Wainwright," Captain Hoeffel
informed the Navy Department, "am destroying and sinking Dewey Drydock,
Canopus, Napa, Bittern tonight."25
Soon the rumble of explosions could be heard from Mariveles while flames
shot high above the town, lighting up the sky for miles around. The
climax came when the Canopus blew up with a tremendous roar:
"She seemed," wrote an observer, "to leap out of the water in a sheet of
flame and then drop back down heavily like something with all the life
gone out of it."26
The Navy's fireworks were but the prelude
to the larger demolitions that were to follow when the Army's ammunition
was destroyed. Though stored in the congested area adjacent to General
Hospital No. 1, the engineer and quartermaster depots, and Luzon Force
and II Corps headquarters, the TNT and ammunition had to be destroyed
where they were. There was no time to move them to a safer place and
hardly time to transfer the hospital patients away from the danger area.
In the dumps were hundreds of thousands of rounds of small-arms
ammunition and artillery shells of all calibers. Powder trains were laid
to the separate piles of ammunition, and shells of larger caliber were
set off by rifle fire.
Destruction began shortly after 2100 and
at 0200 the first TNT warehouses went up with an explosion that fairly
rocked the area. Then followed a most magnificent display of fireworks.
Several million dollars worth of explosives and ammunition filled the
sky "with bursting shells, colored lights, and sprays of rainbow colors.
. . . Never did a 4th of July display equal it in noise, lights, colors
After the explosion shell fragments of all sizes fell like hail and men
in the vicinity took refuge in their foxholes. The headquarters building
at King's command post, a flimsy structure about 200 by 20 feet, was
knocked over by the blast and the furniture was scattered in all
directions. When morning came the men were surprised to note that all
overhead cover was gone. "It is miraculous," wrote one officer, "that we
came through this."
The nurses were more fortunate. Most of
them did escape but only after harrowing experiences. Given thirty
minutes to make ready for the journey, the nurses were cautioned to take
with them only what they could carry. They boarded trucks in the
darkness and made their way south at a snail's pace along the congested
East Road. The group from General Hospital No. 2 was held up by the
explosions from the ammunition dump which went up just as the convoy
reached the road adjacent to the storage area. These nurses almost
failed to get through. The barge left without them shortly before
daylight and it was only through the "vim, vigor, and swearing" of
General Funk that a motor boat was sent from Corregidor to carry them
across the North Channel. They left the Mariveles dock after daylight
and despite the bombs and bullets from a lone Japanese plane reached
Corregidor in safety.
It was about 0900 when King, in his last
clean uniform, went forward to meet General Nagano. He felt, he said
later, like General Lee who on the same day seventy-seven years earlier,
just before his meeting with Grant at Appomatox, had remarked: "Then
there is nothing left to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would
rather die a thousand deaths."41
With King when he left his command post were his two aides, Majors Wade
Cothran and Tisdelle; his operations officer, Colonel Collier; and Major
Hurt, who was to guide them to the meeting place.
General Nagano, who spoke no English,
opened the meeting by explaining through an interpreter that he was not
authorized to make any arrangements himself but that he had notified
General Homma an American officer was seeking a meeting to discuss terms
for the cessation of hostilities. A representative from 14th Army
headquarters, he told King, would arrive very soon. A few minutes later
a shiny Cadillac drew up at the building before which the envoys were
and Colonel Nakayama, the 14th Army
senior operations officer, emerged, accompanied by an interpreter.
General King rose to greet him, but Nakayama ignored him and took a seat
at the head of the table. King resumed his seat at the opposite end,
erect with his hands forward in front of him. "I never saw him look more
like a soldier," wrote his aide, "than in this hour of defeat."
Nakayama had come to the meeting without
any specific instructions about accepting a surrender or the terms under
which a surrender would be acceptable. Apparently there was no thought
in Homma's mind of a negotiated settlement. He believed that the
American envoy was a representative from General Wainwright and had sent
Nakayama to represent him since he was unwilling to meet with any person
of lesser rank.
The discussion got off to a bad start when
Colonel Nakayama, fixing his glance on General King, asked: "You are
General Wainwright?" When King said he was not and identified himself,
Nakayama asked where Wainwright was and why he had not come. The general
replied that he did not speak for the commander of all forces in the
Philippines but for his own command alone. He was then told that he
would have to get Wainwright and that the Japanese could not accept any
surrender without him. Again King declared that he represented only the
forces on Bataan and that he could not get Wainwright. The Japanese were
apparently insisting on a clarification of King's relation to Wainwright
in order to avoid having to accept the piecemeal surrender of
General King finally persuaded Nakayama to
consider his terms. He explained that his forces were no longer fighting
units and that he was seeking an arrangement to prevent further
bloodshed. He asked for an armistice and requested that air bombardment
be stopped at once. Nakayama rejected both the request for an immediate
armistice and the cessation of air bombardment, explaining that the
pilots had missions until noon and that the bombardment could not be
halted until then. King then asked that his troops be permitted to march
out of Bataan under their own officers and that the sick, wounded, and
exhausted men be allowed to ride in the vehicles he had saved for this
purpose. He promised to deliver his men at any time to any place
designated by General Homma. Repeatedly he asked for assurance that the
American and Filipino troops would be treated as prisoners of war under
the provisions of the Geneva Convention.
To all these proposals Nakayama turned a
deaf ear. The only basis on which he would consider negotiations for the
cessation of hostilities, he asserted, was one which included the
surrender of all forces in the Philippines. "It is absolutely impossible
for me," he told King flatly, "to consider negotiations ... in any
limited area." If the forces on Bataan wished to surrender they would
have to do so by unit, "voluntarily and unconditionally." Apparently
General King understood this to mean that Nakayama would accept his
unconditional surrender. Realizing that his position was hopeless and
that every minute delayed meant the death of more of his men, General
King finally agreed at about 1230 to surrender unconditionally. Nakayama
then asked for the general's saber, but King explained he had left it
behind in Manila at the outbreak of war. After a brief flurry of
excitement, Nakayama agreed to accept a pistol instead and the general
laid it on the table. His fellow officers did the same, and the group
passed into captivity.
No effort was made by either side to make
the surrender a matter of record with a signed statement. General King
believed then and later that though he had not secured agreement to any
of the terms he had requested he had formally surrendered his entire
force to Homma's representative. The Japanese view did not grant even
that much. As Nakayama later explained: "The surrender . . . was
accomplished by the voluntary and unconditional surrender of each
individual or each unit. The negotiations for the cessation of
King's surrender, therefore, was interpreted as the surrender of a
single individual to the Japanese commander in the area, General Nagano,
and not the surrender of an organized military force to the supreme
enemy commander. He, Colonel Williams, and the two aides were kept in
custody by the Japanese as a guarantee that there would be no further
resistance. Though they were not so informed, they were, in fact,
hostages and not prisoners of war.
Colonel Collier and Major Hurt,
accompanied by a Japanese officer, were sent back to headquarters to
pass on the news of the surrender to General Funk. On the way, they were
to inform all troops along the road and along the adjoining trails to
march to the East Road, stack arms, and await further instructions.
Orders for the final disposition of the troops would come from Homma.
Meanwhile, by agreement with Nagano, the Japanese forces along the east
coast would advance only as far as the Cabcaben airfield.
The battle for Bataan was ended; the
fighting was over. The men who had survived the long ordeal could feel
justly proud of their accomplishment. For three months they had held off
the Japanese, only to be overwhelmed finally by disease and starvation.
In a very real sense theirs had been "a true medical defeat," the
inevitable outcome of a campaign of attrition, of "consumption without
replenishment." Each man had done his best and none need feel shame.