Bataan and Corregidor, Battles of

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Bataan and Corregidor, Battles of (1942).From December1941 to May1942, after the entry of the United States into World War II, U.S. and Philippine forces fought desperate and ultimately doomed battles to resist the Japanese invasion of the main island of Luzon. Implementing one of the U.S. war plans—War Plan Orange— Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of all U.S. and Philippine forces, chose to make the stand against the invaders on the Bataan Peninsula and on the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay. Well before the Japanese Fourteenth Army under Lt. Gen. Homma Masaharu made its main landing on 22 December at Lingayen Gulf, north of Bataan, MacArthur had suffered two major setbacks. On 8 December, Japanese air raids had destroyed over half of the U.S. B‐17 bombers and P‐40 fighters on the ground at Clark Field on Luzon. The subject of much subsequent controversy (MacArthur had not thought Japanese planes had such range), this disaster gave Japan local air superiority. Second, MacArthur initially dispersed his forces and supplies to try to repulse the Japanese on the beaches, but when he eventually reverted to the original plan to pull back to defend Bataan, tons of valuable materiel were abandoned.

Dangerously short of food, medicine, and ammunition, the U.S. forces still put up a furious defense of the peninsula. “The Battling Bastards of Bataan” and the defenders of “the Rock”—Corregidor—provided a tremendous morale boost after U.S. losses suffered in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Wake Island. Heeding direct orders from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, MacArthur and his family escaped from Corregidor by PT boat on 11 March 1942, and upon arrival in Australia, MacArthur made his famous “I shall return” promise. By 9 April, the Japanese controlled Bataan and beseiged Corregidor. On 6 May 1942, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, commanding an ill and starving garrison, surrendered. In the infamous Bataan Death March that followed, more than 600 American and 5,000 to 10,000 Filipino and many Australian and British prisoners of war died from disease, malnourishment, and abuse as they were taken to Japanese prisoner‐of‐war camps. As with Pearl Harbor, this atrocity became a powerful motivational symbol for Americans in the war against the Japanese empire.
[See also Prisoners of War: U.S. Soldiers as POWs; World War II, U.S. Naval Operations in: The Pacific.]


D. Clayton James , The Years of MacArthur. Vol. 2, 1941–1945, 1975.
Ronald H. Spector , Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan, 1985.

David L. Anderson