This is the last installment of an eight-part series discussing the role of the 45th Infantry Regiment (PS) in the actions on the Abucay Line in January 1942.
As the weary Scouts of the 45th Infantry made their way south toward the new defensive line on 25 January 1942, scores of other units accompanied them on the way back, jamming the roads with men and vehicles. As daylight came, so did the threat of air attack.
The Japanese did not immediately realize the Fil-Am forces had abandoned the Abucay Line, and belatedly made efforts to pursue on the 25th. But no serious interference with the withdrawal from Japanese ground forces developed. The same could not be said, however, for Japanese air forces, and the movement of men and material on the east coast of Bataan was too easy to detect and to attack, which the IJAAF soon did.
The dust was part of the visual signature of the movement. Pounded by men and machine, the east road was ankle-deep with a dully gray layer of dust. Marching infantry churned it up, while moving vehicles, sometimes driven crazily to avoid attacking aircraft, stirred in up in volume, often covering the poor infantry slogging along in the heat of the day. They were soon caked in it, turning their uniforms from khaki color into light gray.
The air attacks came throughout the day in the form of flights of three aircraft, a shotai in Japanese parlance. The attackers were fighters and bombers, likely the usual suspects at this time in the campaign, the IJAAF Nakajima Ki-27 NATE fighters and the single engine, two-seat Mitsubishi Ki-30 ANN light bombers of the 10th Independent Air Group (Dokuritsu Hikotai). They came and went throughout the day strafing and bombing the retreating troops.
For the regular units of the Philippine Division, such as the 45th Infantry (PS), 31s t Infantry (US) and 57th Infantry (PS) air attack was unpleasant but the troops were trained in how to react to it, scattering and taking cover as best they could.
Perhaps the worst experience was that of the new Philippine Army troops whose training was limited due to the outbreak of the war. They were not trained to disperse for cover under air attack and received a number of casualties.
Corporal Eliseo Prado, a Scout with the 24th Artillery, recalled the aerial attention they received: “It was about noon that clear day that out of the blue sky appeared several Zeros. They dropped their eggs and strafed at the same time. Vehicles here and there are on fire. Some with ammunition exploded. Everybody is on his own either running to the left or right to get away from the planes.” Soon smoke added to the dust as a beacon to attacking aircraft.
Despite the air attacks, the 45th Infantry Scouts continued their march to the south and then east, back to the western side of the peninsula in the I Corps sector, from which they departed for the Abucay Line back on 15 January. Some of the units were able to stay together, such as those in the 3rd Battalion. Others had lost cohesion in the confusing night of movement. The experience of Company F was mentioned in the last post. The commander of their parent battalion, the 2nd Battalion, Lt Col Ross B. Smith, was also lost in the chaos of the battlefield during the withdrawal and was unable to rejoin his unit for another week.
After leaving the Abucay Line, the officers and men of the 45th Infantry were initially tasked with taking up positions on the new Orion-Bagac Line, the new Main Line of Resistance (MLR) rather than being employed from a reserve position to be used in the manner they had at the Abucay Line, counter-attacking a threatening enemy penetration of the defensive line. Indeed, by 26 January they were digging in on assigned positions in the I Corps section.
Then an order came down from HQ USAFFE to pull the infantry regiments of the Philippine Division, the 45th (PS), 31st (US) and 57th (PS) out of the NLR and into reserve positions in their respective Corps areas. Trouble was brewing on the southwest coast at Longoskawayan and Quinauan where Japanese troops had made an amphibious landing, and USAFFE wanted a capable reserve force in case local defense forces needed help.
And so the 45th Infantry again displaced, from the MLR into bivouac in the USAFFE reserve south of Bagac, just south of the Saysain River and to the east of the West Road running north-south along the west coast of Bataan. The Scouts had earned a well-deserved rest, in addition to time needed to refit and reequip after the Abucay battles. But like their half-rations, there wasn’t much time for them to rest at this point in the Bataan Campaign.
Whitman, John W. “Bataan – Our Last Ditch.” Hippocrene Books, Inc., NY, 1990
Marching Philippine Scouts, at: http://www.panzergrenadier.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=20482
Ki-30 ANN, at: http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/K/i/Ki-30_Ann.htm
Map of Japanese landings, at: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/I/USMC-I-IV-1.html
Resting Philippine Scouts, at: https://m1pencil.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/philippine-scouts-airsoft/