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The Japanese had secured the beachheads of Lingayen Gulf and the West Coast of Tayabas Province. The 14th Japanese Imperial Army, under the command of General Masaharu Homma, now started a gigantic pincer attack.




This is scanned from a 1944 US Army Map. The difference between the 1942 and 1944 campaigns was that the Americans retreated to Bataan, whereas the Japanese forces retreated to the mountains around Baguio where large units could not be used to their best advantage.




Fighting valiantly, the United States Armed Forces in the Far Fast (USAFFE), led by General Douglas MacArthur, was thrown back by the implacable advance or the enemy. Retreat to Bataan became inevitable. On the Bataan peninsula the defending forces, following War Plan Orange-3, regrouped for a last stand.

Delaying actions were fought to permit withdrawal to Bataan, the bloodiest of which was fought by the 11th and 21st Divisions on the Porac-Guagua line. The 26th Cavalry Regiment protected the west flank of the 21st Division. As the entire USAFFE struggled from south and north toward the Layac junction, the only approach to Bataan, the delaying forces held their line on open and unprepared ground. From 1 January to 5 January they stood fast against massive enemy aerial and artillery bombardment, concentrated tank attacks and banzai charges. Casualties on both sides were heavy. The first defensive in Bataan was the Hermosa-Dinalupihan line, where on 6 January 1942 the 71st Division, the American 31st Infantry Regiment and the 26th Cavalry Regiment fought off the pursuing enemy.

The aim of War Plan Orange-3 was to delay the invading enemy forces until the US Navy could gather together it's Pacific Fleet and sail to the Philippines, on the way dealing with the Japanese Fleet. But there was no US Navy fleet to gather together, for it now rested on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

The main battle position of the USAFFE, the Abucay-Morong line, was attacked along its eastern flank on 9 January, but the 5th Regimental Combat Team, reinforced by the 57th Infantry of the 21st Division repulsed the attack. On 14 January the Japanese attacked the boundary of the 41st and 51st Divisions. The 43rd Infantry, holding the left lank of the 41st Division, which was reinforced by the 23rd Infantry, 21st Division sharply refused its flank. The 51st Infantry, holding the right flank of the 51st Division, withdrew creating a gap through which the enemy advanced to the Salian River. But a patrol of the 21st division discovered the enemy, and elements of the Division rushed to the Salian River valley where after a savage fight, they repulsed the enemy. Farther to the west the enemy surprised and routed the 53rd Infantry. Penetrating deep behind the main battle position along the Abo-Abo River valley, the enemy advance was held up by combined elements of the 21st Division of the II reserve, the 31st and the 51st Division of the Bani-Guirol forest area.

The American 31st Infantry and the 45thInfantry, Philippine Scouts, succeeded in partially restoring the abandoned line of the 51st Division.

On 15 January the Morong sector, defended by the 1st Regular Division, reinforced, came under heavy bombardment. But the line held.

A few days later, the enemy penetrated through a huge gap in the Silangan-Natib area and established a roadblock on the Mauban ridge, thus cutting off the 1st Regular Division from the rear area. Gravely threatened, elements of the 71st and 91st Divisions and the 2nd Regiment repeatedly attacked the roadblock but failed to dislodge the enemy.

Although the II Corps Sector had prevented a similar envelopment in the Salian River battle, the I Corps position was now untenable. The Abucay-Morong tine was abandoned on 24 January. The Orion-Bagac line was established two clays later. Again in a desperate attempt to outflank the I Corps, the enemy landed crack units on the west coast of southern Bataan. The aim was to outflank and to isolate the frontline units from headquarters and supplies.

There were three ferocious battles in the I.apiay-Longoskawayan Points area, fought from 23 to 29 January; in Quinawan-Aglaloma Points area, fought from 23 January to 8 February; and Silaiim-Anyasan Points, fought from 27 January to 13 February. Of the 2,000 enemy troops committed to these battles, only 34 wounded soldiers returned to their lines.

On 27 January enemy troops were discovered in the rear of the Orion-Bagac line, the Tuol River valley behind the 11th Regular Division and in the Gogo-Cotar River valley behind the 1st Regular Division. The series of engagements to eliminate these enemy salients became known as the Battle of the Pockets, fought from 27 January through 17 February. Of the 2,000 Japanese troops committed to this battle, only 377 were reported to have escaped.

After the battles of the points, pockets and Trail 2, which were brilliant triumphs of the USAFFE, the enemy withdrew to regroup their forces and to wait for reinforcements.

Meanwhile, on 12 March, General MacArthur, his family and some staff officers of the USAFFE left on four PT boats for Mindanao, from where they were flown to Australia. MacArthur's departure marked the end of the USAFFE on 22 March. The defending army was renamed United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP), under the command of Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright.

The Japanese High Command reinforced Homma's 14th Imperial Japanese Army, and toward the end of March the enemy struck. The entire Orion-Bagac line was subjected to vicious artillery and aerial bombardment, turning the Mount Samat area into an inferno. The forest was set on fire, men were buried alive in their foxholes and every inch of the ground was covered by enemy fire. The dust flames and smoke darkened the mountain. The USAFFE artillery, which had backed the defenders, was immobilized

At 1500 hours, the enemy infantry, spearheaded by tanks which rolled over the bodies of the dead and living Filipino defenders, broke through the main line of resistance of the 41st Infantry at Trail 29. Along Trail 6, the enemy infantry, also spearheaded by tanks, crashed through the main line of resistance of the 21st Infantry. By nightfall the enemy had penetrated about 1,500 yards behind the main line of resistance of the 41st infantry, 1,000 yards behind the 23rd infantry.

On 4 April the enemy infantry attacked the 23rd Infantry crashing through the line along Trail 4. The enemy swerved toward the east and struck the flank of the 22nd Infantry. By night time the enemy had penetrated 1,000 yards beyond the main battle position of the 23rd Infantry. By the 6th of April Mount Samat was surrounded. But the 21st Division, reforming its line to resemble a horseshoe, still held the slopes of the mountain. The battle of Mount Samat was called the most vicious encounter of the second battle of Bataan.

The night before the surrender, a series of earthquakes rocked Bataan, two of which were of nature's making. In the morning heavy rain fell. Then the sun shone. On 9 April 1942, at high noon, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., senior American officer on the battle-torn peninsula surrendered the Bataan forces. The infamous Death March began. 

So isolated would the Philippines become, no-one outside of the Philippines would know of this barbarity until January 1944.   In April 1943  ten American prisoners, aided by two Filipino convicts, escaped from Davao, and were able to make contact with a Filipino guerrilla unit.  Through this contact, they were ultimately able to be evacuated by submarine to Australia. Through interviews conducted with these men, the US received the first information about the Death March and the conditions of the POW's under Japanese captivity. In January 1944 the reports of Japanese atrocities written by Lieutenant Colonel William Dyess, one of the escapees, were published in the Chicago Tribune and by its news service. Based on this account, Secretary of State Cordell Hull warned Japan in a blunt communiqué that America would hold Japan accountable for crimes committed against American prisoners.  

"All together, 12,935 out of the 34,648 total American POWs died in the hands of the Japanese.  Japan captured several thousand Americans throughout the Pacific; however, the vast majority of prisoners were captured in the Philippine Islands. The overwhelming majority of these prisoners came from the fall of Bataan and later, Corregidor.  The fall of Bataan, alone, gave the Japanese in excess of 75,000 troops to deal with; 60,000 of these being Philippine nationals. The POWs in the Philippines experienced a mortality rate of 40% with approximately 11,107 deaths out of the 27,465 internees in the Philippines. "*


This page is intended as an introductory resource for high-school students. For more reading on this topic, see  









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How to Cite This Article:
"How The Battle Went in Bataan", Corregidor Historic Society, accessed as at (date)


On the POW Experience, see:
The American ex-Prisoner of  War by William P. Skelton III


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