THE LAST STAND
Lt. John Bulkerley, commander of PT-41, received orders to proceed to Corregidor: The high command had to be evacuated, by orders of the President of the United States. On March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, his wife and their son were taken aboard PT-41, and they made rendezvous with three other boats from the Squadron Six at the entrance to Manila Bay and together proceeded south. It was not an easy voyage.
A strong easterly wind made the going rough, with sheets of water crashing over the bows. Before the night was over the boats became separated. Passengers and crew alike aboard PT-41 were drenched and exhausted when they reached their destination, but they had made the trip of 912 kms. through Japanese-patrolled waters and had arrived precisely on time. Later that day the other boats reached port.Lt. Bulkerley returned with PT-41 to the fighting in the north. They fought until there were no more torpedoes available. In the end, PT-41 was set afire by its own crew to keep it from falling in the hands of the Japanese… HS
News reached us that General Douglas MacArthur, our commander-in-chief, had left Corregidor. We heard through the grapevine that he had boarded a torpedo boat and was ordered to Australia. We were told we now had a new commander, General Jonathan Wainwright.
The news that MacArthur had left caused great concern among the troops. Rumors and speculation ran wild. Some believed “Dugout Doug,” as they called him, had deserted us. I didn’t feel this way at all. I reasoned he was following orders and had no other choice. The President of the United States ordered him to leave and to reorganize so that our troops could return. My concern now was not so much as how long could we hold out but how long would the war last. We were also concerned with our more immediate problems, like the coming rains.
Rumors began circulating around camp that we would probably spend the rainy season, usually a long six months, in the jungle. Having little to do other than wait for the Japanese to come, I decided to build myself a small hut and prepare for the rains. A few G.I.s thought I was crazy. Why put myself thorough all that work, they said, and I might not be around long enough to use the hut? What did it matter? I knew well it was much better to keep busy than be idle.
With my trusty machete as my only tool, I cut down large bamboo poles about six feet long and eight inches in diameter. These I notched for the foundation. I dug holes and placed the notched poles into the ground, and the~ laced crosspieces into the notches. To make a floor, I split several bamboo poles into narrow slats and strung these to the crosspieces. Next came the bamboo uprights.
These I tied up to the foundation with strips of bamboo I had soaked in water to make pliable. The roof I made from grass that I had stripped and salvaged from the roof of an abandoned shack.
My trim little hut made me very proud, and it appeared that I would be quite comfortable when the rains came. I moved in when the roof was completed.
In the evening of April 2nd, Lieutenant Brown, Sergeant Sayer and I climbed to the crest of a hill to watch the moon rise. We could see the bay and Manila in the distance. The moonlight filtering through a few scattered clouds was beautiful. As I sat and gazed out at the lovely scene, I became very homesick. I wanted to cry right there. It was sad to know how helpless we were to do anything. Why did we have to die?
I envisioned my home, my sister and brothers, and my friends. I dreamed of the day I would step into my home once more. As we sat there on the crest of the hill, thinking and dreaming about home, we had no way of knowing we would be spending our last night in the jungle camp, or that one week later we would be prisoners of the Japanese. This was our last taste of freedom for the years to come.
At dusk the next day we were called together and told to prepare ourselves to move into action. A big battle was coming. Our most senior officer addressed us in a solemn voice. He assured us we would have support in our endeavor to hold the line. Tanks would be in front of us, he said, and P-40’s overhead to protect us. At nine o’clock with moonlight streaming through the trees we broke camp and again started toward the front lines. For a brief while the truck I was in got lost from the rest of the convoy. We finally found our outfit at midnight. We pulled off the road, stretched our blankets on the ground and went to sleep.
The next morning, as we were digging in, wave after wave of Japanese bombers came in from the north and dropped their bombs all around us. There were no tanks to be seen, nor P-40s overhead as promised. After chow we were again ordered to leave our foxholes and move toward the front.
Just as we were about a hundred yards from camp, I remembered my canteen. I had forgotten it and ran back to get it. Suddenly, halfway there, I stopped dead in my tracks. The path was blocked! Standing directly in front of me, with tongue licking out and tail lashing back and forth, was what I thought at first to be a prehistoric dragon, a living dinosaur. I then realized I was face to face with a Komodo lizard. He was at least six feet long, and had he wished, he could have had me for lunch. How would my family react to this news: Son killed in battle, eaten by a dragon? I didn’t give the animal the slightest chance to act. In no time at all I was back to the truck, without my canteen. I was detailed to drive the truck. We left at dusk and I had a difficult time finding the road in the dark. A soldier named Jackson sat on the front fender and helped to guide me over the narrow, difficult dirt road. We were moving toward Mt. Samat, the scene of our final battle. As we drove, artillery shells burst around us on every flank.