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.”  (publicholidays.ph)

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!

 

References

Araw ng Kagitingan, description, at:  http://publicholidays.ph/araw-ng-kagitingan/

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

National Former POW Recognition Day, 2016, at:  http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/716995/president-proclaims-national-former-prisoner-of-war-recognition-day

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.

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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 Smithsonian.com)

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: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/minters-ring-the-story-of-one-world-war-ii-pow-40301808/?no-ist

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.
References

USS Napa (AT-32), Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Napa_%28AT-32%29

USS Napa (AT-32), NavSource entry at: http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/47/47032.htm

1926 picture of USS Napa (AT-32) crew, at: http://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/numerical-list-of-images/nhhc-series/nh-series/NH-93000/NH-93253.html

Navy Cross citation for LCDR Minter Dial: http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=19073

The Last Ring Home, at: http://www.us-japandialogueonpows.org/Dial.htm

Minter Dial Dialogue web log, at: http://minterdial.com/tag/lt-cdr-minter-dial/

USS Napa (AP-157), Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Napa_%28APA-157%29

USS Napa (AP-157), NavSource entry, at: http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/03/03157.htm

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.

fireflies

“…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 Adudesguide.com)

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.
References

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/

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.

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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.

21st_Pursuit_Squadron_-_Emblem

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 Fold3.com)

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.

images

Early P-40E such as the type that served in the Philippines, 1941-1942.  (Courtesy Adf-serials.com.au)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
References

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: http://www.acc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123449813

William Dyess, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Dyess

Gov. Abbott Posthumously Awards Texas Legislative Medal Of Honor To Chris Kyle, Ed Dyess, at: http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Gov-Abbott-Posthumously-Awards-Texas-Legislative-Medal-Of-Honor-To-Chris-Kyle-Ed-Dyess-322990871.html

Ed Dyess biography, at Defenders so the Philippines website, at: http://philippine-defenders.lib.wv.us/html/dyess_ed_bio.html

21st Pursuit Squadron emblem, in Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21st_Special_Operations_Squadron

P-40E mini painting at:  http://www.adf-serials.com.au/research/Part3-P40.pdf

The Thanksgiving before Bataan

As we in the United States gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we remember with thanks the service and sacrifice of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and civilians too, who served during the Bataan Campaign.

thanksgiving-1941

Thanksgiving Day, 1941 – eyes on the turkey!

The closest thing the Fil-Am soldiers on Bataan had to Thanksgiving was Thanksgiving Day 1941, on Thursday, 20 November 1941. Thanksgiving was a familiar feast in the Philippines at that time, brought to the islands by American military personnel and first celebrated there on 24 November 1898.

First Thanksgiving in PI Nov 1898

First Thanksgiving in the Philippines, 24 November 1898

 

In 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established, and President Manuel Quezon continued the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in November. The observance continued until the war broke out.

Pres Quezon Thanksgiving 1936

Editorial cartoon on National Thanksgiving Day, 26 November 1936

But the Thanksgiving of 1941 in the Philippines was not what might be considered a typical friendly celebration. Some referred to it as “Franksgiving,” in derisive protest of President Roosevelt changing the observance from the fourth Thursday to the Third Thursday in November, ostensibly to put more days between it and Christmas in pursuit of the almighty shopping dollar.

But for most it was the clouds of war which put shadows on the celebration, as people sensed the approaching hostilities. Ben Steele, a young soldier in the 19th Bomb Group at Clark Field, had the following experience recorded: “At their Thanksgiving dinner that year, their Commanding Officer, Major Davis, told them to enjoy their dinner, since it might be a long time before they had another one like it. It turned out that he was right.”

ClarkFieldprewar

Clark Field, pre-war view

Added to that, the tremendous flow of new units, men and material into the Philippines, as America desperately tried to build up forces there before the outbreak of hostilities, swamped resources. Tents cities were being set up at various bases to try and handle the influx.

 

On the morning of Thanksgiving Day itself, two US troop ships arrived in Manila, the USS President Coolidge and USS Hugh L. Scott. They brought aboard them over 2.700 officers and men of a number of units, such as the 192nd Tank Battalion (with 55 M3 tanks), 27th Bomb Group (without aircraft), 21s t and 34th Pursuit Squadrons, etc.

Hugh L Scott AP-43

The transport USS Hugh L. Scott.  She was later sunk by a German submarine during the invasion of North Africa, November, 1942.

Troops of the 192nd Tanks Battalion traveled by train up to Fort Stotsenburg, where many were able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. But some of the newly arriving soldiers did not. As hundreds of troops arrived, the Thanksgiving fixings became scarce.

FortStotsenberg

Fort Stotsenburg

One of the soldiers arriving, Albert L. Allen, Jr. of Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion, remembered how he wound up eating beans for supper that night. Private Tenenberg got hot dogs, and Private Abel F. Ortega scrounged for a piece of bread with gravy on it.

The situation wasn’t much different down at Fort McKinley near Manila, where Carl Nordin of the 5th Air Base Group arrived the same day from the Scott: “The middle of the afternoon we received our Thanksgiving meal at a temporary kitchen – wieners and sauerkraut with canned peaches for dessert. Of course we felt abused because we knew that all the other troops were having turkey and all the trimmings. Little did we know how we would have welcomed such a meal a few weeks later.”

FortMcKinleylookingsouth-west

Fort William McKinley

Raymond C. Heimbuch of the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, 5th Air Base Group, had a similar experience, arriving on the Scott that morning he observed “As we proceeded to go topside, we passed by the galley. We could see the cooks preparing the noon meal. It was an extravaganza of turkeys, yams, pumpkin pies, and various types of fresh fruit.”

Heimbuch wondered what he would receive for dinner at Fort McKinley and soon found out. “It had been several hours since3 breakfast, and we were getting hungry when the chow bell finally rang. We rushed up to where the mess tent was, expecting some kind of Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, what I got was a slice of bread and some sauerkraut and wieners. Some of the men got beans and wieners. Nobody got turkey or any of the goodies usually associated with Thanksgiving Day. Fortunately, I did not know that this would be the best Thanksgiving dinner I would have until 1945!”

Some of the newly arriving troops were lucky enough to partake in the shipboard meal as it took a while for all the units, personnel and equipment, to disembark and offload. Over on the USS President Coolidge, John H. Poncio of the planeless 27th Bomb Group remembered “We arrived in Manila on Thanksgiving Day and had turkey and all the trimmings on board the ship.” It seemed the Thanksgiving meal blessings fell hither and yonder.

Thanksgiving resumed celebration in the Philippines beginning in November, 1944, proclaimed by President Osmena. It continued to 1965 but then ran afoul of politics during the Marcos regime. In fact, in 1972, he established martial law and moved Thanksgiving to 21 September 1972, on the same day! This conflation left a bad feeling with many people, and when Marcos was deposed in 1986, Thanksgiving went away with martial law and hasn’t returned since.

For a contemporary Filipino view of Thanksgiving, see a short article by Butch Francisco, “Turkey, Thursday and Thanksgiving” at: http://www.philstar.com:8080/entertainment/632850/turkey-thursday-thanksgiving

So when you sit down with family and/or friends for your Thanksgiving meal, remember a prayer in thanks to the Fil-Am patriots of Bataan, and all the Filipino and American patriots who serve to defend the freedom of our nations.
References

“Thanksgiving in the Philippines,” Republic of the Philippines, Presidential Museum and Library website, at: http://malacanang.gov.ph/74644-thanksgiving-in-the-philippines/

Franksgiving, Wklipeia article, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franksgiving

“Ben Steele’s Personal Chronicle, from Bataan to Hiroshima,” at: http://www.artmontana.com/article/steele/

Williford, Glen, Racing the Sunrise: Reinforcing America’s Pacific Outposts, 1941-1942, US Naval Institute Press, 2010, Chapter 6

Engineers of the Southwest Pacific, 1941-45, Volume 1, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1947, page 3

Nordin, Carl S., We Were Next to Nothing: An American POW’s Account of Japanese Prison Camps and Deliverance in World War II, McFarland & Co., 2004, pages 17-18

Heimbuch, Raymond C., 5 Brothers in Arms, Xlibris, 2008, page 33

Poncio, John Henry, and Young, Marlin, Girocho: A GI’s Story of Bataan and Beyond, LSU Press, 2003, page 11

“Buttered Fresh Frozen Lima Beans: Commemorative Holiday Menus in the Veterans History Project,” at: http://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2013/12/buttered-fresh-frozen-lima-beans-commemorative-holiday-menus-in-the-veterans-history-project/

Albert L. Allen, Jr., Veterans History Project interview, at: http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp-stories/loc.natlib.afc2001001.05549/

Salecker, Gene E., Rolling Thunder Against The Rising Sun: The Combat History of US Army Tank Battalions in the Pacific in World War II, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2008
Pictures not from sources above

Thanksgiving 1941 magazine cover, at: https://iamachild.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/

Clark Field, at: http://www.edwinpriceramsey.com/26th_cavalry.php

USS Hugh L. Scott, at: http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/22/22043.htm

Fort McKinley, at: http://corregidor.proboards.com/thread/1260/fort-bonifacio-tunnel

Fort Stotsenburg, at: http://www.edwinpriceramsey.com/26th_cavalry.php

And another thing on that Congressional Gold Medal initiative…

It happens to be that besides the U.S. Senate’s S.1555 (described below in posting “For Their Service” of 16 November 2015), the U.S. House of Representatives also has an identical version of this bill in committee, which is designated as House Resolution (H.R.) 2737 – Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015. You can view it at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2737/related-bills

The H.R. was sponsored by Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). Action this far is described as follows: “06/11/2015 Referred to the Committee on Financial Services, and in addition to the Committee on House Administration, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.”

The resolution has so far gathered 39 co-sponsors from members of the House. More are welcome, so please review the list and see if your representative is, or isn’t, a co-sponsor, at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2737/cosponsors

If you wish to contact your representative and ask them to support this legislation, you can get in touch with him or her by phone, letter or email. And if you don’t know who that person is, check here to find your Rep: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

And the same goes for your senators, contact info for whom you can find at: http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Please support this effort if you are interested at all! Given that there is a new Speaker of the House, it is time for a push on this in the House while the 2015-2016 114th Congress is still in session. Our Congressional representatives often only respond to such matters when they get an earful and other encouragements from citizens!

For Their Service

The storm clouds of conflict presaging war in the Pacific gathered in the summer of 1941. On 26 July President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8832, which directed the seizure of all Japanese assets in the United States in response to Imperial Japan’s occupation of French Indo-China.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a document.  (Courtesy the frontblog.wordpress.com)

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a document. (Courtesy the frontblog.wordpress.com)

Coincident with that action, President Roosevelt exercised his executive authority and ordered Philippine Commonwealth soldiers into the service of the United States Government as well as ordering Douglas MacArthur back to active duty:

“Under and by virtue of the authority vested in me … as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, I hereby call and order into the service of the armed forces of the United States for the period of the existing emergency… all of the organized military forces of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.”

PHILIPPINES - 1941:  American and Filipino preparations and training just prior to war with Japan.  (Photo by Carl Mydans / LIFE)

PHILIPPINES – 1941: American and Filipino preparations and training just prior to war with Japan. (Photo by Carl Mydans / LIFE, bvia Pinoyhistory.proboards.com )

In the 1942 Bataan Campaign the majority of the troops resisting Imperial Japanese Army forces were Filipino. The brave stand of the Fil-Am forces on Bataan became symbolic of the United Nations determination to resist Militarism, Fascism and Nazism around the world. “Remember Bataan!” became a rallying cry for both Filipinos and Americans who sought to stem and then reverse the Japanese war machine.

  This Buy War Bonds Poster, says "Remember me? I was at Bataan" It is at the National Archives, as part of the Series: World War II Posters, compiled 1942 - 1945.  (Courtesy WWII letters.blogspot.com)

This Buy War Bonds Poster, says “Remember me? I was at Bataan”
It is at the National Archives, as part of the Series: World War II Posters, compiled 1942 – 1945. (Courtesy WWII letters.blogspot.com)

On 11 June 2015, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) of the 114th Congress (2015-2016) introduced a bill into the US Senate that would award the Congressional Gold medal to Filipino veterans of World War II, including those who fought on Bataan. The bill, titled S.1555 – Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015, was read twice and then referred to the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The award, should it be approved, would be “of a single gold medal of appropriate design to the Filipino Veterans of World War II in recognition of the dedicated service of the veterans during World War II.”

Major Bataan-related highlights of the text of the bill are recapped here as follows in these excerpts:

“(5) On July 26, 1941, as tensions with Japan rose in the Pacific, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used his authority vested in the Constitution of the United States and the Philippine Independence Act to “call into service of the United States … all of the organized military forces of the Government of the Philippines.” On July 27th, 1941, in accordance with a War Department directive received a day earlier, the United States Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) was established, and Manila was designated as the command headquarters. Commander of the USAFFE, General Douglas MacArthur, planned to absorb the entire Philippine army into the USAFFE in phases. The first phase, which began on September 1, 1941, included 25,000 men and 4,000 officers.

(6) Filipinos who served in the USAFFE included—

(A) the Philippine Scouts, who comprised half of the 22,532 soldiers in the Philippine Department, or United States Army garrison stationed in the Islands at the start of the war;

(B) the Philippine Commonwealth Army;

(8) On December 8th, 1941, not even 24 hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Imperial forces attacked bases of the United States Army in the Philippines.

(9) In the spring of 1942, the Japanese 14th Army overran the Bataan Peninsula, and, after a heroic but futile defense, more than 78,000 members of the United States Armed Forces were captured, specifically 66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 service members from the United States. The Japanese transferred the captured soldiers from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, in what is now known as the infamous Bataan Death March. Forced to march the 70-mile distance in 1 week, without adequate food, water, or medicine, nearly 700 members of the United States Armed Forces and an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Filipinos perished during the journey.

(18) Filipinos participated in the war out of national pride, as well as out of a commitment to the Allied forces struggle against fascism. 57,000 Filipinos in uniform died in the war effort. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 700,000 to upwards of 1,000,000, or between 4.38 to 6.25 percent of the prewar population of 16,000,000.

(19) Because Filipinos who served in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines were originally considered a part of the Allied struggle, the military order issued by President Roosevelt on July 26, 1941, stated that Filipinos who served in the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines were entitled to full veterans benefits. The guarantee to pay back the service of Filipinos through veterans benefits was reversed by the Rescission Acts of 1946 (Public Laws 79–301 and 79–391; 60 Stat. 6 and 60 Stat. 221), which deemed that the wartime service of the Commonwealth Army of the Philippines and the new Philippine Scouts was not considered active and, therefore, did not qualify for benefits.

(20) The loyal and valiant Filipino Veterans of World War II fought, suffered, and, in many instances, died in the same manner and under the same commander as other members of the United States Armed Forces during World War II.

(21) The Filipino Veterans of World War II fought alongside, and as an integral part of, the United States Armed Forces. The Philippines remained a territory of the United States for the duration of the war and, accordingly, the United States maintained sovereignty over Philippine foreign relations, including Philippine laws enacted by the Philippine Government. Filipinos who fought in the Philippines were not only defending or fighting for the Philippines, but also defending, and ultimately liberating, sovereign territory held by the United States Government.

(22) The United States remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor, and dedication that the Filipino Veterans of World War II displayed. Their commitment and sacrifice demonstrates a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor.”

//END OF S.1555 EXCERPTS//

The full text of the bill is quite illuminating on the role of Filipino veterans in World War II, worth a read on its own, and available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1555/text

And saved in .pdf format at:  BILLS-114s1555is

This Senate Bill is a modest but worthy measure of recognition for the Filipino veterans who contributed so much to the US armed forces during World War II. It is now in the Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for further consideration. Per committee rules, legislation bestowing a Congressional Gold Medal upon a recipient must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the membership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before their respective committees (the House Committee on Financial Services and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs) will consider it.

If you are an American citizen, it is worth your time to compose a note to your Congressional representatives in the Senate and the House to ask for their support for S. 1555 to acknowledge these Filipino veterans. Congress often responds to public input if enough of it is received on a given issue.

If your state has a member of the Senate on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, your input might carry even more weight, and help demonstrate some genuine interest and concern for this – it’s important. An example of why is explained a bit further below. View this Senate committee’s current membership at:

https://www.opencongress.org/committee/show/146_senate_committee_on_banking_housing_and_urban_affairs

An example of a public letter to Congress on this Filipino veterans Congressional Gold Medal bill is that of Ms. Cecilia Gaerlan of California, which you can read at: https://www.opencongress.org/contact_congress_letters/87366-S-1555-Filipino-Veterans-of-World-War-II-Congressional-Gold-Medal-Act-of-2015

This is not the first time, nor likely the last, that members of Congress have sought to recognize Filipino veterans. Back on 31 July 2008, on the anniversary of President Roosevelt’s 26 July 1941 call to arms of Philippine Commonwealth soldiers, the 110th Congress introduced House Resolution 1400, the purpose of which was:

“Expressing the Nation’s sincerest appreciation for the service of the World War II Filipino veterans who fought in the Armed Forces on the 67th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s military order.”

The full text of this resolution, worth reading, is posted here and under references:

BILLS-110hres1400ih

Although this 2008 resolution was introduced in Congress, it was not enacted. Perhaps it did not have the support it should have because of the lack of knowledge and awareness among American citizens and politicians of the vital role Filipino troops played in the war in the Pacific. This is one of the reasons for this web log.

(Courtesy USmilitariaforum.com)

(Courtesy USmilitariaforum.com)

References

Executive order 8832, text, at: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16148

26 July 1941 Roosevelt quote, from: http://www.bakitwhy.com/articles/71st-anniversary-military-order-pres-roosevelt-placing-philippine-commonwealth-army-under

House Resolution 1400, text, at: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/110/hres1400/text

Congressional God medal, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Gold_Medal
Images

Picture of FDR signing document, at: https://thefrontblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/datebook-july-26-fdr-freezes-japanese-assets-70-years-ago/

Picture of Philippine Army troops going into US service, at: http://pinoyhistory.proboards.com/thread/231/philippine-commonwealth-army-call-arms

Bataan poster, at: http://wwiiletters.blogspot.com/2009/01/bataan-death-march-1942-photos.html

Remember Bataan picture, at: http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/16061-bataan-battlefield-visit/