Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 92

The well-trained Japanese 14th Army, 65,000 strong, faced 150,000 U.S.-Filipino forces when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. The Japanese landed their main force in the northwest, spearheaded by the mechanized 48th Division (16,000 men), and sent the 16th Division (7,000 men) to invade southeast of Manila. Numerically, the U.S. and Filipino forces had an overwhelming advantage. And the Americans had more fighter aircraft based at Clark Field than the Japanese used—why then, did they not hold? Surprise was the major factor. Even though the Americans had been warned of hostilities, the Japanese attacked Clark Field around noontime, destroying 70 percent of the American fighters on the ground. A second factor was MacArthur’s reticence to send the bombers he did have against the Japanese airfields in Formosa. After the Japanese surprise attack, that option was no longer viable. On the ground, 30,000 men comprised the U.S.-Filipino main force—75,000 Filipinos were organized in 10 Army divisions, but with significant equipment challenges. An additional 45,000 were in the constabulary and support units. War plans called for a defense of Manila Bay. However, in the weeks prior to the invasion, MacArthur successfully pushed for a more aggressive defense of all the islands, intending to repel an attack on the coastline. This was a strategy that Lt. Col. Eisenhower, MacArthur’s chief of staff in 1939, had previously studied, and rejected—the forces available would not be capable of executing it. The destruction of U.S. air power at Clark Field, and the withdrawal of the Asiatic Fleet made it easy for Japanese advance parties to land. Recognizing this, MacArthur quickly changed his strategy to the prewar plans, which he had earlier criticized, and directed a withdrawal from Manila to the Bataan Peninsula. Maj. Gen. Wainwright, with 28,000 men, opposed the Lingayan Gulf landings and delayed the Japanese 10 days in their advance on Manila, thus permitting the movement of 80,000 FilipinoAmerican troops and 26,000 civilians into Bataan. Emphasis on this delaying action was later judged “a tragic error.” More emphasis should have been placed on the removal of munitions and provision supplies to Bataan. This failure later haunted the defenders and their ability to survive, without the 90 means to do so. Filipino-American forces in Bataan suffered more from disease, starvation, and lack of munitions than actions in combat. The Japanese, too, made a number of mistakes, including operational-level miscalculations that cost them heavily. The plan was to first destroy FilipinoAmerican forces, and then take Manila. The Japanese continued to attack toward Manila, where they expected major opposition, even when intelligence indicated the shift of forces to Bataan. They missed the opportunity to keep close contact with the enemy while it was on the run. They occupied a major population center (Manila), but did not achieve the more important goal of destroying the enemy force. The Japanese also miscalculated that the Americans would not stop in Bataan, but continue their retreat overseas. As 14th Army prepared to attack in Bataan, its key units were withdrawn to other areas (Thailand and the Dutch East Indies). The remaining forces, thinking they faced an almost defeated enemy, were repulsed with 25 percent casualties, including heavy leadership losses. The Japanese were forced to suspend the campaign until the arrival of substantial reinforcements. The Philippines was a costly investment for the Japanese army. Masuda notes that by 1945, the scale and intensity of the Japanese investment in the Philippines was massive: 631,000 Japanese soldiers fought there, suffering 498,000 (79 percent) killed in action or death due to starvation or disease. By the war’s end, this represented 20 percent of their total losses in the Pacific war. The surrender of the Japanese government in September 1945 ended the fighting, but left the Allies with an unprecedented challenge: the demobilization and disarmament of seven million men organized in 154 Japanese army divisions. This was a far-greater challenge than that faced in Germany, where most organized military forces were already destroyed. There were 2.5 million Japanese soldiers (57 divisions) in Japan, where only two and a half U.S. divisions were tasked to demobilize them. Masuda captures the essence of what MacArthur and his key staff members did during the occupation of Japan through MacArthur’s relief in April 195 ĸ)5