Remembering Bataan on Memorial Day 2020

On this Monday, May 26, 2020 we remember those in uniform who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the people of the United States of America.  Not to be confused with Armed Forces Day (to honor those serving currently) or Veterans Day (to honor those who served), Memorial Day is a solemn occasion to remember those fallen in service to the nation.  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).


This handful of Philippine Scouts had just defeated a Japanese landing party when the picture was made on the Philippines’ Bataan Peninsula during the January – April 1942 campaign.  (Library of Congress via Naval History and Heritage Command)

A presidential proclamation has been released as we honor our fallen, taking note that 2020 marks 75 years since the end of World War II and victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan that cost us more than 400,000 American service men and women to ensure:

It may be forgotten by some amidst long weekend barbecues and such, but there is ample reason because of our freedom to remember those who made it possible.  All one has to do is make an effort.  Some ways to remember on Memorial Day are:


  1. Remember a family member or friend who was lost in the service. Speak their name.  Share a memory about them.


  1. Look around you at your family, friends and community, and appreciate all of what they mean to you, that you are able to do that because someone else laid their life on the line to defend it.


  1. Visit a veteran’s cemetery and read the names, units and dates on the headstones. Find some for a unit you served in or a conflict you fought in.


  1. In the future, non-COVID-19 time, participate in a Memorial Day ceremony or event in your community, or create one of your own today.
  2. Pray for the fallen, their families and loved ones.


  1. Fly Old Glory in their honor.


  1. Take an active role as a citizen of the country and in your community, and express yourself to your elected representatives – perhaps too many of these are not working for the best interest of people and country but for partisan and self-interest. They are elected and even re-elected all too often.  Citizens shouldn’t be silent or indolent lest they lose what freedom and liberty we enjoy.  For freedom isn’t free, as we all should remember, on Memorial Day.


In the case of the Battling Bastards of Bataan, how does one know the true extent of the roll of honor for our fallen heroes?  The honored dead were created in successive waves, with the first being during the actual battles of the campaign from January to April, 1942, some 10,000 soldiers.


A nurse tends to casualties of the campaign in a open-air ward at one of Bataan’s field hospitals.  It may be one of the Filipina nurses who served on Bataan given her attire. (Wikipedia)

Then there were the casualties during the Death March;  One estimate for deaths ranges from 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths during the march.

The initial period of captivity at Camp O’Donnell saw our men die like flies, an estimated 20,000 Filipinos and 1,500 Americans died at the camp from “…disease, starvation, neglect, and brutality…”


At the time of its release, this photo was identified as dead and wounded being carried by fellow prisoners during the Bataan Death March in April 1942 … Subsequent information from military archivists, the National Archives and Records Administration, and surviving prisoners, strongly suggests that this photo may actually depict a burial detail at Camp O’Donnell (Wikipedia)

Following the shocking O’Donnell experience, another wave of casualties occurred during captivity of Bataan veterans at the Camp Cabantuan Prisoner Camp, where up to 10,000 prisoners from Bataan and Corregidor were held before many surviving were sent elsewhere for forced labor or imprisonment.   There is no ready figure this web log writer has found for how many Bataan survivors died in captivity at Cabanatuan, but one estimate held that two of every three Bataan survivors died while the number was one of every three for Corregidor captives.  The worst month was July 1942 when 799 US prisoners died at Cabanatuan.   It wasn’t until December 15, 1942 that the Cabanatuan POW Camp had its first non-death day.  Over 2,700 POW’s died and were buried at Cabanatuan.


A rare photograph of POWs marching in formation at Cabanatuan POW Camp on January 1, 1943. (Courtesy of the MacArthur Memorial Library, Norfolk, Virginia.)

Another wave occurred among the prisoners of war who were sent out from the Philippines on Imperial Japan’s “Hell Ships” from the Philippines to other places in the Japanese Empire.  Historian Gregory F. Michno shows that by the end of the war, 134 Hell Ships altogether embarked on over 156 voyages that carried about 126,000 Allied POWs (US Commonwealth, and others) to other points in the Empire.  Of these POWs, some 1,540 deaths resulted from conditions on the Hell Ships.  More startling is that over 19,000 Allied POWs were killed in inadvertent Allied air and submarine attacks on the Hell ships, which were not marked or communicated as prison vessels to Allied forces.  How many of these 20,000+ unfortunate POW’s were Bataan survivors?

NH 95603

Aerial photo of the former U.S. Naval station, Olongapo, taken from a USS HANCOCK (CV-19) plane on 15 December 1944. Large ship is probably the S.S. ORYOKU MARU, sunk in Subic Bay by Third fleet planes on 16 December. Of the 1,600 POIWs embarked, over 1,000 were lost.  Of teh 6000 survivors shipped out on another Hell Ship to Korea, only 128 survived at war’s end.  (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Even harder to quantify perhaps is the number post-war accelerated deaths of veterans, in uniform or not, caused by their awful, debilitating wartime experience?

And one more thought to consider, how many Fil-Am soldiers, regulars, guerillas, were lost in the 1945 campaign to liberate the Bataan Peninsula? Surely these more than 300 men should be remembered as well.


“Avengers of Bataan”, 152nd Infantry Regiment, 38th Infantry Division at “Zig Zag Pass” during the Battle of Bataan, Feb 1945, by artist Rick Reeves.  (Reddit)

So, with all these numbers added up there are perhaps some 40,000 men of the forces that began the Bataan Campaign to remember who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and liberty.  (If anyone has a better estimate for Bataan Campaign total deaths, battle and captivity, kindly inform this writer and share details with a wider audience.)  They are buried far and wide across the world, overseas and in the United States, in national cemeteries and private plots.  We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice for our land and people.  Let’s remember them on this Memorial Day.


Battle of Bataan, at:

Angels of Bataan, at:

Bataan Death March, at:

Camp O’Donnell, at:

Camp Cabanatuan, at:

Camp Cabanatuan documents, at:

Cabanatuan POW death numbers:

Hellships, at:

Battle of Bataan (1945), at:

Tony’s “The Big One Of Bataan”

Dear Audience, This post is just a link to history colleague Tony Feredo’s posting about the largest caliber piece of artillery used by US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) forces on Bataan proper during the campaign.  Read about it in his post at:

National Former POW Recognition Day, 2020

Here in the United States, April 9th is National Former POW Recognition Day, an annual event similar to but different from National POW/MIA Recognition Day annual observance each September.  A presidential proclamation has been issued for the day:

On this day, which takes place annually on April 9th, the anniversary of the fall of Bataan in 1942, we honor the men and women who served and sacrificed for our country.  Over 500,000 Americans have suffered as POWs in our history, and we honor and respect what they endured on behalf of our freedom and liberty.

NH 73558

American prisoners of war under guard by Japanese troops, after the surrender of Bataan, April 1942. Copied from the Japanese book: “Philippine Expeditionary Force,” published in 1943.
Courtesy of Dr. Diosdado M. Yap, Editor-Publisher, Bataan Magazine, Washington, D.C., 1971.(Naval History and Heritage Command)

This day is also commemorated in the Philippines, as the soldiers of the Commonwealth of the Philippines experienced the same fate on April 9th, 1942.  It is called “Araw ng Kagitingan” in Filipino, or Day of Valor, an official regular nationwide holiday celebrated annually on April 9th.  Although this year, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, commemorative events have been cancelled or postponed.


The Dambana ng Kagitingan, Shrine of Valor, atop Mt. Samat in Bataan honors and remembers the gallantry of Filipino and American soldiers who fought against Imperial Japanese forces in World War II. (

Whether events are cancelled or not, on this day we remember and honor our former POWs.  May their example of service and sacrifice for the nation be a worthy example to citizens today.


A Bataan connection made

It’s a nice feeling to be able to make a connection to the Bataan Campaign and the valor of the Fil-Am forces who bravely fought there in 1942.  It can be from a visit to the campaign site, from reading about it or visiting various museums and memorials to the campaign and individuals who served and sacrificed there.

It can also come from personal connections, with family and/or friends related with a direct Bataan connection.  In this example, the distinguished veteran and former Philippine Scout Amado Ante is the uncle of a friend and colleague from back in my military service days.  When I saw this story I contacted her about it and she confirmed that it was a family member, her uncle.  What a small world it is sometimes!

Amado Ante PS 12 Qtrmaster Rgt

Amado Ante, 12th Quartermaster Regiment (PS) (Photo via VA)

By the fifth day of the grueling and deadly march, Philippine Scout Amado Ante was afflicted by malaria and feet so badly swollen he couldn’t march.  He and his comrades knew he would be killed if he did not march, so at an opportune moment they pushed him into a ditch along the way in which he then crawled beneath some bushes and kept quiet til dark.  Local civilians found him and helped him get well, which took three months, after which he joined the guerilla forces until liberation in 1945.

Fast forward to 10 November 2017 when Amado Ante at age 99 was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, highest civilian award in the United States.  An honor long overdue, nonetheless rendered, as we render a hand salute to Amado Ante for his service in World War II!


Mr. Amado Ante, after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in November, 2017 (Via VA blog)

For the full story written by Public Affairs specialist Jeremy Profitt of the San Francisco VA Health Care System, see the VA blog site at:

Bataan, Battle of (1942): Some Resources

For those interested in learning more about the Bataan Campaign, please see this listing of resources posted by the U.S. Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence Aviation Technical Library and Aviation Learning Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, posted at:

with Books:


and Websites:

Bataan 75th Anniversary and National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day 2017

Today in the United States is National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day on this, the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan in the Philippines, 1942.

Seventy five years ago the grim news was announced, that the Fil-Am forces resisting Imperial Japanese aggression in Bataan had fallen after an epic military campaign lasting some four months.  It was the largest single surrender of American military personnel in U.S. history.

But the service and sacrifice of those brave men and women will be an eternal inspiration for these who fight for freedom.  Their blood, tears and sweat are a painful reminder that freedom isn’t free.  For even as the military campaign on Bataan ended on 9 April 1942, the infamous Bataan Death March then began.  For those who would survive the subsequent years of brutal captivity, we owe a great debt.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo R. Duterte presided over the commemoration up on Mt. Samat, where he said:  “Bloodied yet unbowed, men and women stood their ground to defend our motherland and the values we hold dear.” For more on the ceremony, see:

In the United States, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation for this day, which is viewable at:

In addition, a remembrance ceremony was held in San Francisco, described at:

So on this National Former POW Recognition Day 2017, on the 75th anniversary of the fateful end of the Bataan Campaign, let us render a hand salute to those men and women who served and sacrificed as a POW for our country.  These former captives deserve our recognition and appreciation.


P.S.  Regrets to all readers for the absence of new material in recent months.  A sudden family health crisis required priority attention and still does, so updates will likely be slow for the foreseeable future.  But if you have found this web log, please do look through all the material posted already and you will surely find something else that is interesting.

Remembering the Fall of Bataan, 2016

It is April 9th, 2016, the 74th anniversary of the fall of Bataan, which was the largest surrender of US troops in history. But they did not surrender in shame, as the Fil-Am armed forces in the Philippine Islands had fought the good fight.

In the Philippines, this day is known as the Day of Valor, the Araw ng Kagitingan, and it is commemorated in various ways:  “Many parades are held involving World War II veterans in different cities. The main event is held at the Mt Samat Shrine in Pilár, Bataan where the President of the Philippines and other dignitaries give speeches honouring the country’s veterans.”

“As the day is a public holiday, most people have the day off work, with some choosing to attend the parades and festivities. Many people spend the day with family and friends at various public venues, such as parks and shopping malls, which remain open.”  (

Araw ng Kagitingan

This year Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III is to serve as guest of honor in the annual commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan at the Mt. Samat Shrine.  This marks the sixth and last time he will addresses war veterans as the head of state.

In the United States, this day is also commemorated, in what is called National Former POW Recognition Day.  It is declared so by presidential proclamation (see reference below).  It is perhaps not as well known in America as the annual POW/MIA remembrance in September each year and maybe confused with it.  Nonetheless it offers an annual opportunity to remember all those taken captive at Bataan, as well as the other conflicts America has engaged in.

To the veterans of Bataan, to those who fell in battle, or expired on the infamous Death March, or died in miserable POW camps, or while aboard the hellships or in destitute slave labor, we render a hand salute!  And the same honor to all those who fought on Bataan and survived all that came after to return home, a hand salute!  Thank you all for your service and sacrifice for freedom!



Araw ng Kagitingan, description, at:

Anniversary of Fall of Bataan poster from Malacañan Palace page in Facebook

National Former POW Recognition Day, 2016, at:

The Little Tug that Could

And Did! Of the pre-war US Asiatic Fleet, few vessels stayed in Philippine waters after Imperial Japanese forces destroyed much of the Far East Air Force’s fighter planes in the first days of the war. The lack of suitable anti-aircraft gun capabilities could neither prevent Japanese air attacks from altitude. So the major units had to find safer waters.

By the beginning of the Bataan Campaign in January, 1942, the much reduced naval forces were confined to the greater Manila Bay environs. Vessels such as USS Canopus and the PT Boats of Motor Torpedo Squadron Three are fairly well known in the campaign, but there were other ships that contributed to the Fil-Am defensive effort.

One of these little known vessels was the USS Napa, a Bagaduce-class fleet tug. The tug was 157 feet long, 30 feet wide and displaced 998 tons at full load. As built her armament consisted of two3-inch guns.

USS Napa

USS Napa (AT-32) at anchor, date and location unknown.  (Courtesy Mr. Wayne Osborne, via NavSource)

She was built in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton in Washington State in 1919.  Napa served at Guam for ten years, until she was decommissioned in 1929, and placed in reserve at Olongapo Naval Station, Philippines.

NH 93253

Picture taken circa 1926 shows the ship’s company of USS Napa (AT-32), possibly at Guam.  The insignia on the smokestack suggests an aviation affiliation.  Note the sailor in the center front holding the life ring and what appears to be a mascot in the ring, perhaps a monkey.  (Courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command)

Some ten years later, as the clouds of war thickened, USS Napa was recommissioned on 15 August 1939, and resumed service as part of the Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines. In the period immediately before the war, from 8 October 1941 until 14 December she was busy emplacing anti-torpedo nets around Mariveles Bay at the south end of the Bataan Peninsula. Though untrained in netlayer duties, the crew of 40 which included eight Filipinos, less than the complement of 60, under the command of Lieutenant (LT) Minter Dial (USNA 1932), completed 95% of the designed placement of these nets, only held back from completing the project by the destruction by Japanese air attack of materials at Cavite.

LT Minter in cabin USS Napa

LT Minter Dial, USN, in the captain’s cabin of USS Napa (AT-32) composing a letter in the fall of 1941 (Courtesy Dial Family via

On 19 December, Napa reported for duty as part of the Inshore Patrol, 16th Naval District. Based at Mariveles, Napa performed a variety of missions that included net tending, various duties around Bataan and Manila Bay which included coastal patrol, towing, salvage and net tending. One source indicates she laid 13,000 mines in her Philippine service, though it is not clear over what time period this was accomplished. Her armament was augmented by at least one .30-caliber Lewis machine gun.

During her Bataan Campaign operations, Napa had ample opportunity to engage enemy aircraft, and according to Chief Petty Office William “Gunner” Wells (who retired as a Commander), she had ten confirmed aircraft destroyed and four probably destroyed to her credit.

On 18 March 1942 Ensign Perroneau B. Wingo assumed command of Napa, as LT Dial was appointed Secretary to Captain Kenneth Hoeffel, the senior naval officer present on Corregidor. Each officer subsequently was awarded the Navy Cross for their actions while in command of AT-32. The citation for LT. Dial’s Navy Cross reads as follows for his actions between 7 December 1941 and 18 March 1942:

“The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Nathaniel Minter Dial (NSN: 0-27906), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Fleet Tug U.S.S. NAPA (AT-32), in combat with the enemy during the period 7 December 1941 to 18 March 1942. While exposed to frequent horizontal and dive bombing attacks by enemy Japanese air forces, Lieutenant Commander Dial directed the anti-aircraft batteries of his ship and conducted operations of strategic importance involving hazardous missions such as to bring great credit to his command and the United States Naval Service.”

Unfortunately, neither man survived subsequent captivity under the Imperial Japanese. There is a fascinating if sad story of the fate of LT Dial and the discovery years later of his Annapolis class ring which the reader can view in “Minter’s Ring:  The Story of One World War II POW,” on the Smithsonian website at:

As Bataan was about to fall on 9 April 1942, Napa’s position was deemed untenable. With all enemy forces about to concentrate on Corregidor, there was literally nowhere to run, nowhere to hide for Napa, and she was ordered to be scuttled. Her crew did so after transferring provisions, small arms and belongings to Corregidor, there to become part of the US 4th Marine Regiment and the defense of that island. The brave vessel and crew received one battle star for their participation in the Philippine defense of 1941-1942.

Of note, the US Navy commissioned a second Napa in World War II, APA-157, a Haskell-class attack transport built in Portland, Oregon and commissioned 1 October 1944. This Napa was 455 feet in length, 62 feet in width and displaced just over 15,000 tones at full load, much larger and greater than the tug Napa. She received one battle star for her service during the Iwo Jima campaign of 1945.

USS Napa in China

USS Napa (APA-157) moored to a buoy in the Whangpoo River, Shanghai, China, 24 January 1946.  (Courtesy Mr. J.M. Casanova and Mr. S.C. Hopkins, via NavSource)

Like her predecessor, Napa also reached the Philippines in her service, arriving in mid-September 1945, from which she transported troops for occupation duty in Japan, as well as other former Japanese-occupied territories in the Far East. It was perhaps a rather fitting end to the USS Napa saga in the Pacific War.

USS Napa (AT-32), Wikipedia entry, at:

USS Napa (AT-32), NavSource entry at:

1926 picture of USS Napa (AT-32) crew, at:

Navy Cross citation for LCDR Minter Dial:

The Last Ring Home, at:

Minter Dial Dialogue web log, at:

USS Napa (AP-157), Wikipedia entry, at:

USS Napa (AP-157), NavSource entry, at:

A Bataan Christmas Tree

As December 25th, 1941, unfolded on Bataan, it was a somewhat chaotic scene, with myriad units making their way into and around the peninsula as the Fil-Am Army hurriedly implemented the WPO-3 war plan.

On Christmas Day the Far East Air Force had but 16 P-40 and four P-35 fighters remaining operational in the Philippines. Air Force units from Fort McKinley, Nichols Field, Nielsen Field in the manila metro area and Clark Field in central Luzon rushed to get to Bataan, as did their Army counterparts. In their haste and the absence of direction and guidance, units took to the road with whatever they thought might help Bataan operations. Destruction of gasoline and bomb stocks at Clark Field began on Christmas Day, even though there were no Japanese forces in proximity to the field – the Japanese did not arrive until January 2. With the unexpected implementation of WPO-3 amidst the mounting pressure of a Japanese invasion driving towards Manila from north and south, things in the US Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) were a bit disorganized, to put it mildly.

Staff Sergeant Alvin W. “Ike” Garrett (1920-1985) of the Headquarters, 200th Coastal Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) Regiment, was one of the many soldiers who rushed to get to Bataan. On Christmas Eve his unit departed from Clark Field and he remembered a “Christmas tree” on that first day on Bataan:

“It was Christmas 1941. I was in a little town called Hermosa on Bataan in the Philippine Islands.

The night before we had retreated from Clark Field, and before we left we made sure we had all the trimmings for a real Christmas dinner. The cooks had worked through the night and morning preparing the meal, and just before the meal was ready, a Jap bomber had dropped part of his bombs in a water buffalo wallow right next to the kitchen. No one had been hurt but it sure ruined our Christmas dinner. My Christmas dinner consisted of a handful of prunes and a piece of cheese.

That night I walked back up the road toward Manila, and off to the right was a mango tree with a swarm of millions of fire flies over, under, around, and through with none over two feet from the tree.


“…a tree covered in fireflies.  A tree made of living Christmas lights blinking away in the darkness.  A tree full of light in the black of night.” (Courtesy

I stood for quite awhile and admired the work of God. It sure made a wonderful Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas”

To the readers of this web log, a wish for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as we strive to remember and honor our heroes of Bataan. May we all stop for a moment in our busy lives and behold God’s creation around us, and remember with thanks His precious gift to us.

Alvin Garrett unit of assignment, on the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico, Inc. website, at:

Garrett, Alvin W., “Fireflies in a Mango Tree: Christmas on Bataan 1941,” on the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico, Inc. website, at:

Whitman, John W., Bataan: Our Last Ditch, Hippocrene Books Inc., New York, NY, 1990

Photo of fireflies in a tree, at:

Ed Dyess and the First Day at War

One of the outstanding leaders and heroes of the Bataan Campaign was William Edwin “Ed” Dyess. He served with distinction and honor in the early days of the Philippine Campaign, on the ground and in the skies over Bataan, survived the Death march and his imprisonment on Mindanao, and escaped to bring out the news of the Death March.


Lt. Col. William Edwin “Ed” Dyess seen Stateside after his escape from captivity in the Philippines in 1943.  (Wikipedia)

As the war began, 1st Lt. William E. Dyess was the Commander of the 21st Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Field, the “Parañaque Sinkhole” just south of Manila.


Emblem of the 21st Pursuit Squadron, approved 20 December 1941. The squadron received the Distinguished Unit Citation, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation and credit for three campaigns for its actions in the war.  Today it is the 21st Special Operations Squadron of the USAF Special Operations Command.  (Wikipedia)

Dyess had arrived in the Philippines with his squadron on 20 November 1941, half-strength with 13 pilots only, the rest to be sent later. In the next two weeks another five pursuit pilots were attached to the 21st from other squadrons. Although 10 of the original pilots were recent (1941) pilot training graduates, they had some hours in P-40s from their time at Hamilton Field, California.

Nichols Field ca 1940

Nichols Field, south of Manila, Philippine Islands, circa 1940.  View is from the south looking north towards Manila, Manila Bay to the left.  (via

He had been told P-40E’s would be awaiting him but the aircraft hadn’t arrived yet. Nearly a week later, the 21st received pursuit planes, some worn out P-35s from the 17th Pursuit. Finally, on 4 December the squadron received 10 new P-40E’s, and on 6 December another 10, with two more to follow on 8 December.

It took a lot of work to get the new aircraft into service, as none had been flown more than two hours, not enough to meet the slow time requirement for breaking in a new engine. In addition, armament had to be installed, after the machine guns were cleaned of the Cosmoline they were shipped in, installed, and then the weapons boresighted in the aircraft. It was a tall order, working all this literally hours before the war began.


Early P-40E such as the type that served in the Philippines, 1941-1942.  (Courtesy

Scant days earlier, on 6 December, the Commander of the Fifth Interceptor Command, Col. Harold H. “Pursuit” George, had given the Nichols pursuit pilots his war talk, warning of impending hostilities within days, maybe even hours. A brash young 21st pilot, Sam Grashio, bet his squadron CO Ed Dyess ten pesos that there would be no war. It didn’t take long for him to lose that bet.

The first day of the war, 8 December 1941 in the Philippines, would be a long one for Lt. Dyess. Japanese reconnaissance aircraft off the west coast of Luzon were detected by the radar at Iba Airfield in Zambales and thought to be headed for Manila. This triggered an 0200 alert and the squadron’s pilots were roused from their sleep by the duty officer. They assembled at the 21st’s Operations tent and held there about ten minutes before being dismissed. After that alert was cancelled, they went back to a fitful rest.

Barely two hours later about 0400 they were awakened again, as news spread that Japan had attacked American bases in Hawaii. Pilots again responded, and the 21s t dutifully manned aircraft at one end of the Nichols runway opposite Buzz Wagner’s 17th Pursuit Squadron also on alert. With no more than three hours flying time on any of the squadron’s P-40E’s, the 21st started aircraft engines, waiting for a signal to take off, a vector to intercept inbound enemy aircraft. But there were no commands and the engines were shut down. Though little-experienced, there was no lack of willingness on the part of the young pursuit pilots to engage the enemy, as would soon be shown.

The squadron had readies 18 of its P-40E’s for action that fateful morning. After a restless morning, at 1100 Dyess called his pilots out of the cockpits of the fighters to the operations tent, where they lunched on sandwiches and Coca Cola iced in a tub. At 1145 the phone rang and Dyess picked it up – Nichols base communications had received a radio signal for the 21st Pursuit “Tally Ho, Clark Field!” Dyess scrambled his pilots into action and led Flights A and B with 12 P-40Es, while C Flight was delayed a few minutes by some aircraft engine issues.

C Flight did get off, but could not locate the other two flights of the squadron, and headed east over to nearby Laguna de Bay to test their .50-caliber machine guns, which had not been fired yet, by flying low over the lake and shooting them into the water. In the process of accomplishing this, two of the aircraft started throwing oil which marred their windscreens, and these two aircraft of the flight subsequently returned to Nichols. The new engines had not been properly broken in yet.

Passing just north of Manila enroute to Clark, Dyess was aiming for 24,000 feet when he received radio orders to position his squadron over Manila Bay in between Corregidor and Cavite, to protect Manila.

Meanwhile the four remaining aircraft of C Flight, now lead by Sam Grashio and mechanically sound, headed up north from Laguna de Bay to Clark on their original orders, not having received the update.

Around 1230, as Dyess patrolled over Manila Bay with 12 aircraft, Grashio reached a quiet Clark Field and circled. After a few minutes they spotted a formation of six aircraft west of Clark, headed for the East China Sea and in the quiet beneath him and the absence of any orders went to investigate – they turned out to be P-40E’s from the 3rd Pursuit Squadron returning to Iba.

The 24th Pursuit Group’s response directing pursuit operations against the Japanese attacks of 8 December 1941 was anything but efficient and effective that dastardly day. At 1235, enemy bombers were sighted approaching Clark Field, unfortunately unopposed by any P-40s. The bombers went to work pummeling Clark.

P40B 41 Ferris Too Little too late

1st Lt. Joe Moore of the 20th Pursuit Squadron over Clark Field on 8 Dec 1941 about to roll his P-40B in on Japanese Zero fighters chasing after 21st Pursuit Squadron P-40E pilot Sam Grashio in Keith Ferris painting “Too little, too late (Courtesy Aviation Art Hangar)

Grashio and his wingman returned to the Clark area about 1239 to find chaos. After the bombers attacked, their escorting Zero fighters descended to strafe targets of opportunity on the field. Unfortunately Grashio only had his wingman, as he was inadvertently separated from the other two aircraft in the flight. Grashio attacked one strafer and made hits, and then his wingman sighted another nine Japanese A6M Zero fighters passing by and the two attacked the tail end of the formation. Before they could complete their attack, Japanese fighters from the front of that formation had already pitched back into climbing turns and were firing at the American attackers. Grashio’s aircraft was hit and damaged, and both pilots put their aircraft into dives to get away from their pursuers, successfully separating from the fight and each other in the process. Both then decided to return to Nichols Field.

Meanwhile the other two members of C Flight went into action against the Japanese strafers, but soon one of them also had an issue with the engine throwing oil and obscuring the windscreen, and broke off from the engagement to return to Nichols.

In the confusion of the day, Dyess and his men dutifully patrolling over Manila Bay were misidentified by naval personnel as enemy aircraft and taken under fire by Navy gunners at Cavite. After a fruitless patrol, and with no other orders coming from the 24th Group, Dyess returned to Nichols. The four C Flight pilots who went up to Clark returned after that. After the devastating attacks at Clark and also at Iba, which fairly well destroyed the 3rd and 20th pursuit squadrons too, Ed Dyess’ 21st and Buzz Wagner’s 17th pursuit squadrons were the remaining P-40 squadrons in the Philippines at full strength.

At 1730 hours Dyess and Wagner were ordered by HQ Far East Air Force to move their squadrons up to Clark Field. Headquarters apparently thought the airfields in Manila would be targeted next – that night the Japanese made a raid against Nichols, as things turned out.
The 21st flew 18 P-40E’s up to Clark, leaving four behind at Nichols – the three that were throwing oil and Grashio’s battle-damaged ship. Smoke was still rising from fires at Clark, but the 21st managed to set down OK on what undamaged areas there were, though they had to space out the time between landings due to the dust clouds raised as each aircraft set down.


Clark Field burns in the aftermath of the Japanese air raid of 8 December 1941. (Courtesy The Bataan Commemorative Research Project Scrapbook)

Dyess found the group HQ in the jungle near the field and received his orders, to be ready to cover the arrival of B-17s from Del Monte, Mindanao, planned for early the next morning. He and his men then found something to eat, a place to sleep for the night, far away from home, removed from their own base and billets, and now literally in the jungle and at war with Imperial Japan. Things would not get much better for Ed Dyess and his men after day one of the war or in the Bataan Campaign. But his exploits would become legendary, and his example inspiring to many.

Even many years later, the memory of Ed Dyess resonates with bravery, service and sacrifice. In the 1950s, Dyess Air Force Base in Texas was named after him.


Near the front gate of Dyess Air Force base, Texas, stands a replica of Ed Dyess’ P-40E named “Kibosh” which participated in the Bataan Campaign.  (Courtesy USAF)

A replica of Lt. Col. William Dyess’ P-40 Warhawk, named Kibosh, was installed at the front gate of Dyess Air Force Base in his memory.

And earlier this year Ed Dyess received an honor from his home state of Texas, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor for 2015, bestowed on him posthumously on 30 April 2015 in Austin, Texas, and awarded by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on 26 August 2015. Of note, Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, the American sniper, was also posthumously awarded the medal on this day.


The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor is a unique state-level award given for personal conduct above and beyond the call of duty.  (Courtesy USAF)

The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor is given to those “…selected for having performed a deed of personal bravery or valor above and beyond the call of duty. It is the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a federal or state military member from Texas.” In the case of Ed Dyess, he was cited as follows:

“William Edwin Dyess, World War II flier, was born August 9, 1916, in Albany, TX. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and began assaults on Bataan and Corregidor, Dyess was thrust into combat in the Asian Theater as commander of all flying squadrons on Bataan. On March 3, 1942, in Subic Bay he sank a Japanese ship and damaged shore installations. As the enemy closed in, Dyess refused evacuation and remained with his men in the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, the American forces surrendered to the Japanese, and Dyess became a prisoner of war. He survived the horror of the Bataan Death March and imprisonment at camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan and the Davao Penal Colony. At Davao, Dyess and several other prisoners escaped on April 4, 1943. They contacted Filipino guerrillas that led them to the submarine Trout on July 23. After returning home and staying in an army general hospital in Virginia to regain his health, Dyess was promoted to lieutenant colonel and resumed flying on December 22, 1943. He was killed that day in Burbank, CA, attempting an emergency landing and was buried in Albany.”

A Hero of Bataan Ed Dyess

(Courtesy Escape from Davao page on Facebook)

May the memory of Ed Dyess always be remembered and honored, for his leadership, service and sacrifice, on the first day of the Pacific War, on Bataan and beyond. His was an example for all of us to be encouraged by.

Bartsch, William H., Doomed at the start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines, 1941-1942, Texas A&M University Press, 1992

Thompson, Peter, “Dyess awarded Texas Medal of Honor,” at:

William Dyess, Wikipedia entry, at:

Gov. Abbott Posthumously Awards Texas Legislative Medal Of Honor To Chris Kyle, Ed Dyess, at:

Ed Dyess biography, at Defenders so the Philippines website, at:

21st Pursuit Squadron emblem, in Wikipedia entry, at:

P-40E mini painting at: