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.

Undefeated

 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).

http://www.macarthurmemorial.org/

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:

http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/5-2/5-2_Contents.htm

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.

Bataan

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.

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