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.
I stood for quite awhile and admired the work of God. It sure made a wonderful Christmas tree.
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: http://www.angelfire.com/nm/bcmfofnm/names/g.html
Garrett, Alvin W., “Fireflies in a Mango Tree: Christmas on Bataan 1941,” on the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico, Inc. website, at: http://www.angelfire.com/nm/bcmfofnm/themen/alvingarrett.html
Whitman, John W., Bataan: Our Last Ditch, Hippocrene Books Inc., New York, NY, 1990
Photo of fireflies in a tree, at: http://adudesguide.com/2010/07/17/fireflies/