The Fall of Bataan

In March 1942, LtGen Homma’s Japanese 14th Army was reinforced by troops from the successful operations in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, after being stopped at the Orion-Bagac Line in Feberuary. On 31 March, Gen Wainwright, Gen MacArthur’s successor after he was ordered to Australia, put the 80,000 remaining Filipino and American defenders on the Bataan peninsula on quarter rations. With dwindling food and water, nonexistent medical supplies, no hope of relief, 27,000 sick and the rest exhausted and starving, the end was near.

On 2 April Homma launched his final offensive. He cracked the line within three days, and swept aside the feeble, if courageous counterattacks. From Australia, MacArthur ordered a counterattack by every available soldier, but this was more for media consumption, and completely disregarded the actual situation on Bataan.

On 6 April, Japanese troops occupied Mount Samat, the critical piece of key terrain that dominated the peninsula, and unhinged any remaining defensive lines. American and Filipino troops fled to the rear. On 8 April, MG Edward King, out of contact with Gen Wainwright on Corregidor and the senior surviving officer on Bataan, recognized the futility of any further resistance and requested a surrender. The next day, 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American exhausted and emaciated soldiers and sailors, and 25,000 civilians surrendered to the Japanese.

Homma was expecting no more than 25,000 prisoners and was surprised to find that he had four times that number. He didn’t give it a thought after the initial reaction and left the details to his staff. His mind was already on the next objective, the island of Corregidor, and that night ordered his artillery to pound the island fortress, as he began planning for its assault.

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