MEMORIAL DAY POST 2014

The following is from Destiny: From Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, by Paul Aurandt (Paul Harvey, Jr.):

How the Defenders Held Out on Bataan

THE BATAAN PENINSULA lies west of Manila Bay in the Philippines.  It is familiar worldwide because of something that happened there during World War II.

For it was only hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor that the Japanese went after the Philippine Islands.  They moved so swiftly and decisively that American and Filipino troops were forced to retreat into a defense zone:  the Bataan Peninsula.

Depot areas were quickly constructed in the interior.  Docks were developed along the peninsular coast.  In the north, defense lines were designated.  And then a fundamental strategy was conceived.

The Americans and Filipinos would stage a heavy resistance, forcing the Japanese aggressors to concentrate their troops.  Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, the defenders would withdraw.  But as the Japanese advanced, they would run into every booby trap American demolition engineers could devise.

These tactics would be repeated over and over.  And they accomplished their primary purpose:  to consume time.

It is for this that Bataan is famous.

History records that after a gallant ninety-eight-day stand against impossible odds, the American and Filipino defenders surrendered to the Japanese.  The cruelty of the enemy during and after the notorious “death march” to the prison camps will perhaps never be forgotten.  But the real triumph of the defenders of Bataan was that they wasted so much of the enemy’s valuable time.  They stalled so long, forcing the Japanese to fight ten times harder than they might otherwise have had to, that the soldiers of the Rising Sun never caught up, never got back on their wartime timetable.  Because of that magnificent holdout on Bataan, the Japanese military effort in the South Pacific never got back on schedule.

One Japanese historical record relates:  “There was an influence, a spiritual influence, exerted by the resistance on Bataan.  Not only did the Japanese at home worry about the length of the period of the resistance on Bataan, but it served to indicate to the Filipinos that the Americans had not deserted them and would continue to try to assist them.”

During that brave stand of almost a hundred days, the Allies were able to organize the defense of Australia and other vital areas in the Southwest Pacific.

Even at that, because the Allies were committed to “get Hitler first,” they would not provide the Bataan defenders with all the supplies and reinforcements and troop replacements and air support they so badly needed.

Said General MacArthur of his heroic soldiers on Bataan:  “My heart ached as I saw my men slowly wasting away.  Their clothes hung on them like tattered rags.  Their bare feet stuck out in silent protest.  Their long bedraggled hair framed gaunt bloodless faces . . . They cursed the enemy and in the same breath cursed and reviled the United States . . .”

But they hung on.  They continued to fight.  For ninety-eight days.  And until now, few knew THE REST OF THE STORY.

For, shortly before the beginning of the war, General MacArthur’s quartermaster put in an order for some fuel containers, eighteen thousand empty fifty-five-gallon oil drums.

I say empty drums.  There was already plenty of fuel stored throughout the Philippines.

But someone fouled up the order for those fuel containers, sent eighteen thousand fifty-five-gallon drums full of gasoline.

Thus was a million gallons of then unwanted, unneeded fuel sent across the bay to an out-of-the-way storage dump–on the peninsula of Bataan.

It was that fuel which fueled the tanks and the transports and the tractors and the generators, the war machinery of the Bataan defenders.  And conserving as best they could for almost a hundred precious, bloody days, they at last ran out of the gas–that nobody ordered.

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