They Were Expendable Too: The Torpedo Boats of the Off-Shore Patrol

When many people think of torpedo boats, (also known as PT Boats) they may think of the U.S. Navy’s Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, whose story was told in the book and later a movie, “They Were Expendable.”

"They Were Expendable," written by William L. White, told the story of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3 in the Philippines, 1941-42.

“They Were Expendable,” written by William L. White, told the story of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3 in the Philippines, 1941-42.

That is fine, but hardly complete, for there was another unit of torpedo boats in the Philippines which belonged to the Philippine Army’s Off-Shore Patrol (OSP), the forerunner of the Philippine Navy.

On December 21, 1935, President Quezon signed a bill from the Commonwealth Legislature called the Philippine National Defense Act.  It was the work of General MacArthur, Military Advisor to the Philippine Commonwealth, assisted by two key members of his staff, Majors Dwight D. Eisenhower and James B. Ord.  This act called for the creation of a force of 36 torpedo boats, to be designed and built by British shipbuilders, by 1946.

By 1939, when the war in Europe began, two of the boats had been delivered. By October 1941, a third boat was assembled in the Philippines by October, 1941.  Sources indicate that three boats were in service before the war began, and suggest that eventually five boats were built.  They were attached to the US Forces Far East, but were not always listed in the order of battle.

The OSP’s boats were high-speed Thorneycroft Coast Motor Boat (CMB) 55-foot and 65-foot torpedo boats.  With their light weight and powerful gasoline engines, they were expected to have a high speed, up to 41 knots and at least 30 knots when fully loaded.  Critics called them “Suicide Boats,” and officers were supposedly taught to even ram their small craft against an enemy vessel to ensure their torpedoes hit their target.  Each boat was assigned two crews, which alternated duty after each day of patrol. At the start of the war more than 60 men were in the squadron.

Men load a torpedo aboard the Off-Shore Patrol's torpedo boat Q-113 shortly before the war began in the Pacific (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

Men load a torpedo aboard the Off-Shore Patrol’s torpedo boat Q-113 shortly before the war began in the Pacific (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

These PT Boats were also called “Q-boats.” Officially the “Q” stood for “Quest of Mystery,” though unofficially it was for “Quezon.” Given their diminutive size, serving on Q-boats was challenging.  “…Crammed quarters, no privacy, no laundry, thunderous engines, churning propellers, gulping food on the run — clutching the boat for safety — and getting hit in the face with shards of whipped water. “ (“Wartime Coastal Patrol – – December 1941,” article posted online at:

The OSP torpedo boats were based at Cavite, though berthed with maintenance facilities at “Muele del Codo” Engineer Island in Manila’s Port Area.

Q-boats of the Off-Shore patrol are seen here out of the water at the OSP's berthing facility at Engineer Island in Manila's Port Area in this November, 1941 view (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

Q-boats of the Off-Shore patrol are seen here out of the water at the OSP’s berthing facility at Engineer Island in Manila’s Port Area in this November, 1941 view (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

They participated in joint maneuvers with MTB Squadron 3 in late 1941.  Once the war began, they operated out of Sisiman Cove in southern Bataan, from where they participated in the Bataan Campaign.  On December 4, 1941, Major Enrique L. “Henry” Jurado (1911-1944), U.S. Naval Academy graduate (Class of ’34) became the officer-in-command of the OSP. The OSP torpedo boat squadron of the following boats:

PT Q-111 Luzon, commanded by Captain Navarette

PT Q-112 Abra, commanded by Lieutenant R. Alcaraz

PT Q-113 Agusan, commanded by Lieutenant S. Nuval

PT Q-114 Danday, commanded by Lieutenant A. Campo (salvaged and repaired after damage from a Japanese air attack – Major Jurado named it after his wife)

PT Q-115 Name?, commanded by Lieutenant C. Albert

During the campaign, the OSP patrolled the waters of Manila Bay and the coast of Bataan, ferried key personnel, conducted logistics runs and other tasks. Said U.S. Navy Commander John Morrill, captain of the American minesweeper/gunboat QUAIL, lauded the efforts of the OSP: “The Philippine Q-boats patrolled further than we did out in the bay and nothing ever got by them. They were fighting terrors and loved nothing better than chasing Jap armored barges.”

This view shows two of the Q-boats, with Q-113 in the foreground, on maneuvers shortly before the war began (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

This view shows two of the Q-boats, with Q-113 in the foreground, on maneuvers shortly before the war began (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

Of all the tasks accomplished by the Off-Shore Patrol, perhaps the most heroic came Jan. 17, 1942. This date will always be remembered in the history of the little patrol-boat squadron with pride The Off-Shore Patrol’s Q-111 LUZON and Q-112 ABRA were patrolling off the east coast of Bataan when enemy aircraft spotted them and quickly took the offensive.

Nine Japanese dive bombers attacked the two torpedo boats. Capt. Navarrete, Major Jurado’s Squadron Commander and skipper of the Q-111 LUZON, the OSP’s flagship, was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Star for his successful response to the attack, cited as follows: “Without thought of seeking cover, Navarette maneuvered the boats of his squadron at high speed to positions from which he could attack the hostile planes. When subjected to a dive-bombing attack by the enemy planes, he continued the fire of his machine guns with such accuracy that three hostile aircraft were hit and badly damaged and the enemy was forced to discontinue the attack.”

Other OSP officers involved in this sea-air battle also received medals of valor.  Capt. Navarrete’s Executive Officer on the Q-111 LUZON, Lt. Alano, and to the two top officers of the Q-112 ABRA — Lt. Alcaraz, Commanding Officer, and Lt. Gomez, Executive Officer, all received the Silver Star.

PMA Class of 1940 Graduate Lt. Ramon A Alcaraz distinguished himself in the January 17, 1942 action against Japanese dive bombers off the east coast of Bataan. (Wikipedia)

PMA Class of 1940 Graduate Lt. Ramon A Alcaraz distinguished himself in the January 17, 1942 action against Japanese dive bombers off the east coast of Bataan. (Wikipedia)

Though combat action was the most intense action, some of the OSP’s most vital tasks transporting food, ammunition, medicines, and other essential supplies from nearby provinces to the battered, isolated troops on Bataan and Corregidor.

But in between the battles of the campaign there were long periods of boredom, as evidenced by a post-patrol summary submitted by Nuval of the Q-113 AGUSAN to Headquarters:  “Area covered: 7 to 8 miles off Lukanin Point and 7 to 8 miles off Balanga shore, a distance of about 15 miles. Time: 10 hours.  “Observations: No bancas, barges, boats or ships were sighted … No lights were seen around the vicinity. … No tracers or artillery shells were observed from floating objects. … Regular radio communication was made with the shore units.”

None of the OSP’s three Q-boats was lost to enemy action during the three months of Allied resistance on Bataan.  Some 66 percent of the officers and men received the Silver Star from General Douglas MacArthur in January, 1942, making this small unit one of the most recognized for heroism and gallantry in action.


“Offshore Patrol,” article in Wikipedia at:

“Wartime Coastal Patrol – – December 1941,” article posted online at:

“Ramon A. Alcaraz,” article in Wikipedia at:

“John Wayne Bibliography,” at:


Bataan Units with the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun

In the Bataan campaign, several U.S. Army units on the peninsula utilized the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun as part of the air defenses on the peninsula.

The Bataan Gun Defense Group of the Anti-Aircraft Defense Command was commanded by the Commanding Officer of the 2d Battalion, 60th CA (AA), with Battery G of the 2nd Battalion, code named “Globe,” equipped with four 3-inch guns.   The parent unit, the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft), which was stationed in the Philippines, provided the anti-aircraft defense of the Manila Bay and Subic Bay areas, and the southern tip of Bataan.

They were soon joined by Battery C of the 91st Coast Artillery Regiment (Philippine Scouts), code named “Cebu.” The battery was assigned to Fort Wint, Grande Island, Subic Bay, in October, 1941, with four 3-inch guns, before redeploying to Bataan, where it was attached to 2nd Battalion, 60th CA (AA).

Another AA unit equipped with the 3-inch gun was the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA), a federalized National Guard unit which arrived in the Philippines in September, 1941.  It provided anti-aircraft defense for Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg, was not attached to the Philippine Coast Artillery Command, before deploying to Bataan with 12 3-inch guns.

200th CA (AA) 3-inch gun on Bataan, 1942.

200th CA (AA) 3-inch gun on Bataan, 1942.

One other unit had 3-inch AA guns on Bataan, and that was the 1st Separate Marine Battalion, based at the Cavite Navy Yard. These 700 Marines were organized both as a defense and an infantry battalion, and fielded six AA batteries.  The batteries were armed with 3-inch dual purpose guns, 3-inch anti-air craft guns, or .50-caliber machine guns.  After leaving the Cavite area, Battery’s A (machine guns) and C were stationed on Bataan near Mariveles, where they were part of a naval defense battalion for the southern coast of Bataan.  Battery C was composed of four 3-inch anti-aircraft guns with an ensign and 40 sailors.  On February 17, 1942, Battery A moved over to Corregidor, leaving the 3-inch guns of Battery C as the only remaining Marine AA unit on the peninsula.  The difficulties of operations after a prolonged period on reduced rations and inadequate medical supplies is reflected in this account “Disease became a problem for Battery C, as Lieutenant Simpson recalled, “the heat was terrific, malaria cropped out among the men every day or so, yet we had to stay manned every day all day because of constant enemy air activity” The battery often left one gun unmanned to have full crews on the remaining guns.” (Source:  “FROM SHANGHAI TO CORREGIDOR: Marines in the Defense of the Philippines,”
by J. Michael Miller, at:

3-inch gun and crew in action (Ammo Storage in Malinta Tunnel discussion on Corregidor Then and Now Proboard)

A 3-inch gun and crew in action (from Ammo Storage in Malinta Tunnel discussion on Corregidor Then and Now Proboard)

Details for the achievements of these 3-inch AA gun units on Bataan are not easy for this blog editor to find, but there is the account of the wartime operations of Battery C, 91st CA (PS), aka “Cebu,” which is telling:

“Battery C was commanded by Captain John Gulick.  His father was Chief of the Coast Artillery for several years during the 1930’s. Guardalope Datoc was the First Sergeant.  The Battery was given the code name Cebu and remained on Ft. Wint until the Fort was abandoned on December 26, 1941.  It moved to San Jose Barrio, Bataan, near Dinalupihan.  Several days later, it moved near Bataan Field and was attached to the 2d Battalion, 60th Coast Artillery.  On January 7, it moved to Cemetery Ridge and on February 7, it moved about 100 yards further west.  During this time, the Battery engaged Japanese planes attacking Corregidor, Mariveles and the airfields under construction. It shot down two planes while on Ft. Wint, two planes at Dinalupihan, one plane at Bataan Field and 10 while near Cemetery Ridge for a total of 15 confirmed kills.  When Bataan Surrendered, the Battery escaped to Corregidor.  It was assigned to man Batteries Morrison and Grubbs. After several artillery duals, both of these Batteries were put out of commission.  Then Battery C was assigned two 155mm GPF guns located by the Quartermaster warehouses on Topside.  One gun was defective, but the second fired a significant number of rounds at Japanese artillery on Bataan.”  (Source:  The Best of The Best (91st Coast Artillery, Philippine Scouts), A Short History,” by George Munson, posted at:

When Bataan fell in early April, 1942, Globe with two guns managed to evacuate to Corregidor, accompanied by the personnel from Cebu.  The 200th CA (AA), however, was surrendered on Bataan on April 9, 1942, as were members of USMC Battery C.


Anti-Aircraft Artillery on Bataan – the 3-inch Gun M3

One of the main anti-aircraft weapons used by the Fil-Am forces on Bataan was the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun.  It was the standard medium caliber AA weapon at the start of the war.  Shown here is a 3-inch Gun M3 (adopted for service in 1928) of the Anti-Aircraft Command.  It is emplaced on a Mounting M2A1 (differed from the Mounting M2 by carrying the spare wheels on elevated mounts; developed in the mid-1930s).

Training on 3-inch Anti-Aircraft gun M3.  The photo was taken in November, 1941, just weeks before the war, at Manila, Luzon, Philippines.  (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

Training on 3-inch Anti-Aircraft gun M3. The photo was taken in November, 1941, just weeks before the war, at Manila, Luzon, Philippines. (LIFE, Carl Mydans)

This gun was a mobile system, meaning it was transportable, as evidenced by the detachable wheels and the prime movers in the background.  The long outrigger arms folded up in the middle and then folded back to lie on the platform; this double-fold gave it the “Spider Mount” nickname.  The perforated metal platform formed a working surface for the gun crew, and rotated with the gun. It could be folded up along with the outrigger arms into a traveling position for towing.

The M3 3-inch AA gun could hit an aerial target at a maximum horizontal range of 14,780 yards and could reach just below a 10,000-yard ceiling, firing its 12.87-pound HE rounds at up to 25 rounds per minute.  The same gun was initially used in shipboard and ground installations and used the same ammunition as the M5 3-in. anti-tank gun.  As with other AA artillery, the gun could be used against ground targets when the tactical situation called for it.

Image from:

Gun configuration information from Ian V. Hogg’s “Anti-Aircraft Artillery,” The Crowood Press, 2002, pp 86-87.

Weapon performance information from: “M3 3-inch Anti-Aircraft Artillery,” at:

Valentine’s Day, 1942: Blood, Sweat and Tears…

For the men and women on Bataan, Valentine’s Day, 1942, offered little respite from the war.  In fact, the western side of the peninsula was still reeling from the combat actions involved in the battles of the “Points” and the “Pockets.”

These Points and Pockets battles began in January, 1942 when the Japanese attempted both seaborne amphibious assaults and landborne infiltration in an effort to outflank and infiltrate through gaps between Bataan’s defenders on the western side of the peninsula.  The enemy was trying to carry on the momentum resulting from the January battles on the Abucay-Mauban Line. in which Bataan’s defenders were outflanked and forced into a retrograde south to the new main line of resistance between Orion and Bagac.

Between 23 January - 1 February, 1942. Elements of the Japanese Army's 20th Infantry Regiment attempted landings along the western coast of Bataan.

Between 23 January – 1 February, 1942. Elements of the Japanese Army’s 20th Infantry Regiment attempted landings along the western coast of Bataan.

Hard fighting was required to defeat the enemy attackers, and ultimately all the Japanese efforts were frustrated, and with heavy losses – the 20th Infantry Regiment was rendered combat ineffective.  It had entered the Bataan Campaign with 2,690 men.  By mid-February it was mauled, with only about 650 men left, mostly sick and wounded.

But on Valentine’s Day, 1942, the Battle of the Pockets was still underway.  The Little and Big Pockets had been cleared; remaining was the finger-like salient of the Upper Pocket, a stalled effort to relieve the troops that were in the other pockets.

The Battle of the Pockets, 28 January - 15 February, 1942 (Courtesy of the US Army Center of Military History)

The Battle of the Pockets, 28 January – 17 February, 1942 (Courtesy of the US Army Center of Military History)

Six different Philippine Army and Constabulary forces units had contained the Japanese forces of the 2nd Battalion, 33rd Infantry in the Upper Pocket since it was formed on February 7.  They were joined on February 13 by additional forces used to clear out the Big Pocket.  These included the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) which took up position and attacked on the south side; troops of the Provisional Battalion, 51st Division and 92nd Infantry pushed in from the west; 11th Infantry and 2nd Battalion, 2nd Constabulary pushed in from the east.

The terrain this battle was fought over is perhaps hard to visualize and appreciate.  But a description of the area from page 338 of Morton’s official history conveys some appreciation for the challenge:  “It is covered with tall, dense cane and bamboo. On hummocks and knolls are huge hardwood trees, sixty to seventy feet in height, from which trail luxuriant tropical vines and creepers. Visibility throughout the area is limited, often to ten or fifteen yards. There were no reliable maps for this region and none of the sketches then in existence or made later agreed. Major terrain features were so hazily identified that General Jones asserts that to this day no one knows which was the Tuol and which the Cotar River.”

Joining the attacking infantry units were M3 Stuart light tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The tankers were aided in the dense and confusing jungle environment by the Igorot troops of the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry.

An M3 Stuart light tank of the type used in the Battle of the Pockets.  (Courtesy US Government)

An M3 Stuart light tank of the type used in the Battle of the Pockets. (Courtesy US Government)

From Morton’s official US Army history, page 346,  “Hoisted to the top of the tanks where they were exposed to the fire of the enemy, these courageous tribesmen from north Luzon chopped away the entangling foliage with their bolos and served as eyes for the American tankers. From their position atop the tanks they fired at the enemy with pistols while guiding the drivers with sticks.”

By the end of Valentine’s Day, blood, sweat and tears of the Battan defenders had reduced the Upper Pocket salient by half – it was only 350 yards long and 200 yards wide.  (Sorry for you metric system users, but one yard is equals to 0.9144 meter.)

The next day the Fil-Am forces attacked from the south reduced this area by half.  By February 16, the salient was only 75 by 100 yards. The Upper Pocket was completely pushed back out in an unopposed attack the next morning.  This restored the MLR and ended the Battle of the Pockets.



Learning about the Bataan Campaign

For those of us who were not there to be able to appreciate the Bataan Campaign, we either have to talk with veterans who were there, and/or read their stories and accounts of the campaign.  We can also read various official histories, as well as many books written about Bataan.

A relatively recent publication which this blog staff just completed is “Undefeated:  America’s Heroic Fight for Bataan and Corregidor,” by Bill Sloan, published by Simon & Schuster, New York, in 2012.


 It’s 401 numbered pages, with 38 pictures, several maps, a bibliography, end notes section, and index.  The author has done a commendable job at weaving together the accounts of various veterans of Bataan and Corregidor, which conveys the human experience of the campaign.  It is not, however, a coherent study of the campaign from a strategic or, operational or tactical level.  In fact, about half of the book covers the terrible prisoner of war experience of the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.   So this book is more of the modern popular history, and not so much an analysis of the campaign.

For serious study of the campaign, the US Army’s official history (one of the well-known “green books”) for the period is Louis Morton’s “The Fall of the Philippines, written in 1953, is recommended as a starting point.

Fall of the Philippines

It’s nearly 650 pages, but beware – writing it when he did, Morton unfortunately did not have access to all the pertinent records and documents needed for a robust history.  Apparently General MacArthur still retained a lot of information that was unavailable to Morton at the time of research and writing (though perhaps it is now available at the MacArthur Memorial Library and Archives in Norfolk, Virginia).

As a result, Morton’s book contains some inaccuracies as well as shortfalls of information that can leave one perplexed without knowing more about the campaign.  Still, it is a worthy read, and can be accessed online at:

Probably the best available history on Bataan, in this blog’s opinion, is John Whitman’s “Bataan:  Our Last Ditch – The Bataan Campaign, 1942,” published by Hippocrene Books in 1990.


At 768 pages, it is not for the faint of heart.  But for those who truly want to understand the campaign, it is a must-read.  One of the great aspects about this work is the coverage it provides on the Philippine Scouts and Philippine Army units that fought at Bataan, which often seem to be lightly covered in other general works on Bataan.  But Whitman, a veteran of this campaign, gives due credit to the Filipinos who fought in the campaign.

Images of the Airmen of Bataan

Aircraft mechanics from the Headquarters Squadron, 24th Pursuit Group and 17th Pursuit Squadron pose with a Curtiss P-40E in a camouflaged revetment at Bataan Field, January, 1942.  From left to right, front row:  Charles Parman, Alan Waite, Brown Davidson, Henry McCracken, William Miller, Melvin Dixon, Lyall Dillon; middle row:  Marcus Keithley, Jesse White, Ellis Holcomb, Chester Brown, Louis Tome, Michael Tardivo, Sid Wilkinson, John Dujenski; back row:  Earl Akers, Richard Hunn, John O’Neal, Louis Myers, Clarence Hatzer, Henry Blair, William Alvis.  Dujenski, Keithley, White and Wilkinson had just returned to aviation duty from the west coast fighting at Quinauan Point. (Photo courtesy of Ms. Linda Dahl, Lewiston, Idaho; mechanic’s full names via Mr. William Bartsch)


General Douglas MacArthur (left) pins a Distinguished Service Cross on Captain Jesús A. Villamor of the Philippine Army Air Corps, one of two DSCs he received for heroism in the air in early actions in December, 1941.  Villamor volunteered to pilot a Stearman 76D3 biplane trainer on February 9, 1942 for a hazardous reconnaissance mission over the Ternate area on the south coast of Manila Bay.  (Photo from Jesús A. Villamor article on Wikipedia, photo appears to be originally credited to US Army)

Captain William E. Dyess, Commander of the 21st Pursuit Squadron, at Bataan Field, March 2, 1942, the day he wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping at Subic Bay. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for this action.  (U.S. Air Force Photo)


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


“Citation of Distinguished Service Cross for Captain William E. Dyess,” WW2 Awards website accessed 5 April 2012 at:


“Citation of Distinguished Service Cross for Captain Jesus Villamor,” Military Times Hall of Valor website accessed 5 April 2012 at:


Craven, Wesley F. and Cate, James L., editors, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Volume I, Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942, New Imprint by the Office of Air Force History, Washington D.C., 1983


Dahl, Linda, “Japanese WWII POW Camp Fukuoka #17 – Omuta,” website at:, accessed 2 April 2012

Edmonds, Walter D., They Fought With What They Had, Center for Air Force History, Washington D.C., 1992


Mansell, Roger, “Center for Research Allied POW’s Under the Japanese,” website at:, accessed 2 April 2012


Mendelson, Sheldon H., “Operations of the Provisional Air Corps Regiment in the Defense of Bataan Peninsula P.I. , 8 January – 10 April 1942 (Philippine Islands Campaign),” The Infantry School, Advanced Officers Course, 1946-1947, Fort Benning, Georgia, accessed online 4 April 2012 at:


“S-3 Reports, Fifth Interceptor Command, Luzon, P.I.,” January – March, 1942, MacArthur Memorial Archives, Norfolk, VA, accessed Spring, 2000


Young, Donald J., The Battle of Bataan:  A Complete History, 2nd Edition, McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2009

The Airmen of Bataan

Although most of the military personnel who participated in the Bataan Campaign were Army personnel, it should be mentioned that both air and naval personnel also served in the campaign, often in unexpected roles for which they were poorly equipped and minimally trained for.  An article from 2012 highlights the service of the Airmen of Bataan.  Many could perhaps be considered the forerunners, albeit in extremis, of today’s “Battlefield Airmen.”


Remembering the Airmen of Bataan

Posted 4/6/2012   Updated 4/6/2012

Commentary by Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired)
USAF (Retired)

4/6/2012 – VANCOUVER, Washington — Sometimes war comes suddenly, unexpectedly. So it was in the Pacific in December, 1941. In the Philippine Islands, the greatest concentration of burgeoning American airpower outside the United States was caught in the middle of a force buildup in hopeful plans of deterring Imperial Japan in the Far East. The war began roughly for the Far East Air Forces (FEAF) – on the first day alone, the FEAF lost half of its B-17 bombers and P-40 fighters to enemy air attacks. As the remaining American air forces were steadily ground down, they lost control of the skies and soon afterward Japanese troops landed ashore and began a drive on Manila.

With a remnant of an air force, an ill-equipped and partially-trained army, and a handful of vessels remaining from the departed Asiatic Fleet, General MacArthur was unable to defeat or contain the Japanese landings. Shortly before Christmas, 1941, he ordered the Filipino-American forces to withdrawal to the Bataan peninsula on the island of Luzon, there to hold out according to war plans until a relief force could be sent from the US.

The battered FEAF sent its remaining men and airplanes to join the others on Bataan, where they participated in a difficult campaign that lasted from early January into April, 1942. But the hoped-for relief force from the US never arrived and on April 9, 1942, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines known as the “Battling Bastards of Bataan” were forced by starvation, disease and dearth of combat power to surrender to the reinforced forces of Imperial Japan.

Although this bitter defeat was a tough chapter in our military history, we can be proud of the accomplishments of the valiant Filipino-American forces on Bataan during the hard-fought campaign. It was the only significant delay to the enemy’s timetable for conquest in the early days of the war in the Pacific. We gleaned invaluable lessons from that difficult experience which helped our armed forces successfully return to the Philippines some two and a half years later. The ‘Bataan Air Force,’ comprised of a variety of Airmen and units of the depleted FEAF, operated a small number of aircraft and provided army commanders with infantry and engineer units of Airmen which established a record of sacrifice and achievement we should all remember and honor.

The flying portion of the Bataan Air Force, the Fifth Interceptor Command, began the campaign with 18 Curtiss P-40 fighters and a small assortment of other non-combat aircraft, although that number was quickly halved when nine fighters were ordered from Bataan south to the island of Mindanao. Some aircraft later returned to Bataan as attrition replacements.

At the start of the campaign, the fliers operated from rough fields carved from dry rice paddies at Orani and Pilar. As the enemy ground forces approached, the aircraft were repositioned to new fields prepared and/or improved at Bataan, Cabcaben and Mariveles. At these gritty airstrips the unsung ground crews worked hard to service aircraft with few parts and supplies, in the tropic heat, humidity and dust. Their miracles abounded, keeping most of the available aircraft in service, repeatedly repairing their battle and accident damage, and thus ensured their planes and pilots were never long on the ground.

With the small number of fighters on Bataan, sustained combat operations were not possible. Instead, many visual reconnaissance missions were flown by P-40 pilots who scouted over the seas around Luzon and far beyond friendly lines on land to locate enemy ships, troop movements and concentrations, as well as activity at enemy-occupied airfields.

Some defensive patrols were flown as well, as when the P-40s sortied to try and catch pesky enemy observation aircraft or small formations of enemy planes unawares, which they sometimes succeeded in. They periodically covered the ground forces on and/or reinforcing the first main line of resistance, the Abucay Line, in the fighting of late January. On the nights of February 1 and 7, P-40s flew bombing and strafing sorties against enemy barges attempting to land troops behind friendly lines on the west coast of Bataan. On February 9, 1942, Philippine Army Air Corps Captain Jesus Villamor volunteered to pilot a Stearman 76D3 biplane trainer with co-volunteer and photographer MSgt Juan Albanes on a hazardous but vital photo reconnaissance mission. Of the one P-40B and five P-40E in commission that day, five were committed to this ultimately successful mission to locate newly-emplaced enemy artillery on the south side of Manila Bay, despite enemy aerial opposition.

The Bataan Air Force conducted some aggressive offensive flights, however. On the night of January 26, six P-40s bombed and strafed Japanese aircraft on the ground at Nielson and Nichols fields in Manila, catching the enemy by surprise. On March 2, starting the day with one P-40B and four P-40E in commission, the fighters made a maximum effort to smash a concentration of enemy shipping in Subic Bay. Pilots flew a dozen afternoon sorties, strafing and bombing hapless enemy warships, transports and barges. Captain William “Ed” Dyess, Commander of the 21st Pursuit Squadron, personally flew three missions that day, flying into nautical twilight, in his modified P-40E nicknamed “Kibosh.” The fighter had just been rigged with a homemade device to carry a 500-lb bomb under its belly by the creative Warrant Officer Jack Day and his team of five ordnance men from the 17th Pursuit Squadron. The double spring device, improvised from valve rods and springs with salvaged auto and aircraft parts, was successfully tested on the Subic missions. It gave “Kibosh” an extra punch as compared to the other P-40s on Bataan, which were only equipped to drop six 30-lb bombs from beneath their wings.

An improvised air transport service called the “Bamboo Fleet” was established with a Bellanca, Waco, Beech and a ‘resurrected’ J2F Duck amphibian to help overcome the effects of the blockaded supply lines. Pilots flying these aircraft dodged enemy air patrols in nighttime flights to reach southern islands and gather what food and medicines they could carry back to Bataan to help stave off defeat.

And on the ground the plane-less squadrons did their part as well. Pursuit squadrons that lost their planes provided beach defense on the west coast of Bataan, and along with the Provisional Philippine Army Air Corps Battalion and Company A of the 803rd Engineer Aviation Battalion played parts as infantry in the ferocious Battle of the Points against sea-borne invaders. The Provisional Air Corps Regiment was composed of a variety of air units, including elements of the 20th Air Base Group and the 27th Bombardment Group, whose flying squadrons’ A-24 dive-bombers never arrived in the Philippines. It helped cover the withdrawal of friendly troops from the Abucay Line in late January and was then assigned to positions directly on the new main line of resistance. There the regiment established a mile-long subsector on the eastern portion of this new Orani Line. The Airmen meticulously built their emplacements, which were inspected by Brigadier General Casey, MacArthur’s chief engineer, who reported the positions to be “uniformally excellent.” The regiment stood fast on the Orani Line until April 7, when enemy tanks, for which they had no anti-tank weapons, broke through an adjacent subsector and outflanked their posts. These Bataan engagements were perhaps the hardest ground battles that Airmen in World War II directly participated in.

Alas, after an arduous campaign, the weary Filipino-American defenders of Bataan, malnourished, diseased, exhausted, dejected and neglected, surrendered to the enemy, who had sent additional forces from across Asia to the Philippines to defeat them. On this solemn 70th anniversary of the fall of Bataan, we remember those who fought under such trying circumstances, and those who perished in the battles or the brutal Death March afterward. We remember the Bataan veterans lost in the prison camps, the mines and other forced labors and those lost aboard the “Hell Ships.” To you brave defenders of Bataan, to those yet with us and to those departed, we salute you for your valor in the brave stand that you made. We thank you for your forlorn sacrifice which bought us precious time, and ultimately helped ensure the liberty and freedom we enjoy today.