On April 9, 1942, officials in command of Bataan—where Filipino and American forces maintained the main resistance in the war against the Japanese—formally surrendered. Through the Voice of Freedom radio broadcast, Third Lieutenant Normando Ildefonso Reyes—reading a message prepared by Captain Salvador P. Lopez—informed the Philippines and the world from Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor: “ Bataan has fallen.”
Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.
The siege and defense of Bataan lasted 93 days—or just four months after the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE: later renamed USFIP) retreated to Bataan. [Link to previous section, WW2 in the Philippines.] Teodoro Agoncillo writes in The Fateful Years: Japan’s Adventure in the Philippines of the events leading up to General Edward P. King Jr.’s official surrender of the Bataan command to Japanese troops:
Whether by design or by accident, [General Masaharu Homma]’s choice of April 3 as the opening of his general offensive against the USFIP (United States Forces in the Philippines) was significant not only to the Japanese, but to the Filipino-American troops. To the Japanese, it was the anniversary of the death of their first emperor, Jimmu, a day of fasting and devout ceremonies. To the Filipinos and the Americans, it meant the religious observance of the Crucifixion, a day of fasting, of compassion, and of suffering. To both combatants, therefore, April 3 was a day of sacrifice and gloom.
At about 9:00 a.m. [April 3, 1942], an array of guns, mortars and howitzers began pounding the USFIP lines with devastating effect. At the same time, enemy bombers battered the USFIP targets with such frequency and strength as to shake the whole of central Bataan and to make the Filipino-American troops in the foxholes shiver with fright. The defense constructions so painfully put up by the Filipinos and Americans were pulverized, communications lines knocked out, and trees and grass turned to cinders. The bombing went on and on until the morale of the defenders sagged and almost collapsed. The young and inexperienced Philippine Army recruits and trainees who were caught by the way in their training camps and who were thus compelled to retreat to Bataan with the rest of the USAFFE units, cowered, wept and huddled together like frightened sheep—unable to move and carry their guns for fear of being blasted out of their foxholes. For these young boys, most of whom were in college or high school when they ordered to report for military training, there could only be interminable prayers and a faint hope of salvation from the enemy’s furious bombing and cannonading.
In the morning of April 4, the Japanese began another series of air-artillery bombardment that softened further the already soft USFIP lines… At dusk, a Japanese unit succeeded in reaching the foothills of Mt. Samat. They then regrouped preparatory to an all-out attack on the mountain. On Easter Sunday [April 5, 1942], the Japanese renewed their drumfire, and soon after two columns moved to the attack… At past noon the Japanese securing the summit of Mt. Samat…. The Japanese were now in possession of a strategic area… At 4:30pm the advance elements of this column surprised the command post of the 21 st Division and captured [their leader] General Capinpin… That night, the Tanugichi and the Sato columns joined up at Capinpin’s former command post. Thus, at the end of the day, [Masaharu] Homma’s [leader of the Japanese 14th army] hopes of driving [the Fil-am forces] to Manila Bay were almost realized. For him, victory was in sight. As the morning light filtered through the leafy branches of the Bataan jungles, April 6, the USFIP jumped off to a counterattack.
[. . .]
The frenzied enemy bombing and artillery fire, coupled with hunger and the high incidence of malaria and other diseases, further demoralized the Filipino-American troops. Large groups of soldiers, Filipinos as well as Americans, moved back to the rear even without any superior orders to do so. Attempts to put them back into the fighting line proved futile. April 7 saw the disintegration of the USFIP. The Japanese artillery continued pounding the defender’s lines; bombers flew no less than 160 sorties and dropped some 100 tons of explosives on the Second Corps installations. Intentional or not, the Japanese bombers hit the hospital at Little Baguio, and its sick and wounded patients shrieked in agony and fear as bombs explored in their midst. Mangled bodies were strewn in all directions, human flesh was later found dangling on the trees, and limbs were almost everywhere.
Along the Second Corps lines chaos and pandemonium took the place of order and discipline. In the hope of retrieving the almost impossible situation, Wainwright, in the afternoon of April 7, ordered a counter-attack to the east of the First Corps in an attempt to maintain the line unbroken from the east to the west side of the [Bataan] peninsula. Gen. Jones, commander of the First Corps, protested on the ground that his men could not make it, particularly because they were too sick and could not pull the heavy equipment or artillery. Wainwright then gave General King, commander of the Luzon force, the right to make the final decision… Homma, who had estimated his final drive to last a month, was jubilant over his enemy’s unexpected deterioration. He took advantage of the chaos reigning in his enemy’s camp by ordering his troops to push on to Cabcaben, at the tip of Bataan…
The USFIP was no longer in a position to meet this enemy thrust. The troops were suffering from extreme hunger and from lack of sleep. “We were so tired,” said one officer, “that the only way to stay awake was to remain standing.” Added to this discomfiture was the enemy’s constant bombing and strafing. Incendiary bombs were dropped on USFIP positions along the cogon grass, and when “hell broke loose” the troops were transformed into firemen desperately trying to put out the raging fire with whatever equipment they had at the moment.
On April 8, [Wainwright] wrote MacArthur that his men’s power of resistance was practically nil and that he was “forced to report that the troops on Bataan are fast folding up.”
As early as April 7, King had already been toying with the idea of surrendering to the enemy. The Second Corps was in shambles; the First Corps, though intact, was in full retreat. Equipment was being put to the torch. The trails and roads were clogged with men and assorted vehicles that made movement almost an impossibility. Nobody knew the direction of his march. And all wanted a piece of earth, a little space on which they could rest their weary heads. Communications between the frontline and headquarters no longer existed and “orders had to be revoked because they could not be complied with.”
On April 8, General King ordered his field commanders to make adequate preparations for the destruction of equipment and weapons, except vehicles and gasoline. At 11:00 pm, when all seemed lost, King held a “weighty conference” with his chief of staff and the operations officer. There was much introspection and self-analysis. King laid before his senior officers the actual situation and asked whether the enemy, under the circumstances, would succeed in reaching Mariveles, and thus dominate Corregidor island, with or without opposition from them. Reviewing the tactical situation, all were agreed that there was no way of stopping the Japanese from capturing Mariveles not later than the evening of April 9. With no relief in sight, King then decided to negotiate with the Japanese to surrender.”
Thus General Edward P. King surrendered the Bataan command to the Japanese. His meeting with General Nagano Kamaechiro and Colonel Nakayama Matoo began at 11 a.m. of April 9, 1942; he officially surrendered the Bataan command on 12:30 p.m. John H. Whitman notes in Bataan: Our Last Ditch, that General King enacted a scene that had not been seen since 1865 and that has not been seen since, the surrender of an American army.” Agoncillo writes of the meeting:
King, as befits a military man, rose to greet Nakayama, but the latter, obviously displaying the air of a conqueror, brushed him off and proceeded to the head of the table. King, at the opposite end of the table, never looked “more like a soldier than in this hour of defeat.”
It was quite obvious at the start that Nakayama had no definite instructions, for Homma believed that King was Wainwright’s representative and, consequently, sent a man of lesser rank to meet with King. [King explains that] he could not get Wainwright and that he represented the forces on Bataan alone. He explained in detail that he was seeking armistice to prevent further bloodshed. Consequently, he asked the Japanese to stop their bombing missions. Nakayama pointed out that it was impossible, for their planes had missions until noon.
Thinking of the sick and the wounded, King requested that his troops be permitted to leave Bataan under their own officers and that the sick and the wounded be allowed to ride in their vehicles to be delivered at any place General Homma might designate. Nakayama refused to consider this request and insisted that cessation of hostilities would be considered only on the basis of the surrender of all the forces in the Philippines. “It is absolutely impossible,” said Nakayama, “for me to consider negotiations… in any limited area.” However, he added that if the units on Bataan wanted to surrender as units they could do so “voluntarily and unconditionally.”
“Will our troops be well treated?” King wanted assurances.
“We are not barbarians. Will you surrender unconditionally?” the Japanese asked with some asperity.
King, realizing the impossibility of his position and that of his men, decided to give up. At 12:30 p.m, he agreed to surrender unconditionally.
He handed his pistol to Nakayama, in lieu of his saber, which, he explained, he had left behind in Manila when the war broke out. His officers followed suit and they became captives of the enemy. Col. Collier and Major Hurt were sent back to King’s headquarters to break the news to Gen. Funk, King’s chief of staff. On the way, they notified all troops of the armistice and told them to march to the East Road and there await further instructions. The Japanese, on the other hand, agreed to advance only as far as Cabcaben airfield and no further. The Battle of Bataan was over.
In Australia, President Quezon made his first public statement since arriving Australia, summarized by the press as pledging the Philippines to the Allied cause, and which paid a “glowing tribute” to the valor of Filipino troops who fought side by side with the Americans. Every Filipino who fought on Bataan will be a national hero, he said; and pointed out that resistance continued in other parts of the country. For his part, Field Marshal MacArthur read a statement to reporters, following the fall of Bataan: “The Bataan Force went out as it would have wished, fighting to the end its flickering, forlorn hope. No army has done so much with so little, and nothing became it more than its last hour of trial and agony. To the weeping mothers of its dead, I can only say that the sacrifice and halo of Jesus of Nazareth has descended upon their sons, and that God will take them unto Himself.”
Halfway through the “Voice of Freedom” radio broadcast, Third Lieutenant Reyes read, “Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world—cannot fall!”
After the official surrender of Bataan to the Imperial Japanese Forces, thousands of Filipino and American soldiers were forced to march from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac. The prisoners initially began on foot but then transferred to freight cars.
Whitman writes, “Because of the complete breakdown in the army’s organization, the losses suffered by the defenders in the final week of fighting will never be known. The Luzon Force personnel officer’s returns for April 3 carried 78,100 Filipinos and Americans on the rolls. About 3,000 men escaped to Corregidor. There were about 45,000 Filipinos and 9,300 Americans in Camp O’Donnell prison camp between April 10 and June 4. The difference in the two figures, 75,000 and 54,300, is due to fighting, the Death March, and most significant, disease and starvation in the prison camp itself. Within two months of the surrender, more than 21,000 men disappeared.” The death toll may vary, but it is widely considered one of the worst atrocities of the war.
- Listen to the radio broadcast message, as written by Captain Salvador P. Lopez, delivered by Third Lieutenant Normando Ildefonso “Norman” Reyes on the “Voice of Freedom” radio broadcast of April 9, 1942 from Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor.
- MAP: Route of captured Filipino and American soldiers, from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac. Of about 78,000 troops that left Bataan, only about 54,000 reached Camp O’Donnell.