THE FALL OF BATAAN
During the final days of the battle for Bataan, American and Filipino forces attempted to form a line of resistance across the peninsula from Orion on Manila Bay to Bagac on the South China Sea. At the mountainous center of this line was Mt. Samat, a 2, 000 foot, conical peak. On April 5, 1942, the Japanese 4th Division under General Taniguchi and the 61st Infantry regiment under Colonel Sato moved against the mountain from the north and fought their way to the summit. The high ground secure, the Japanese moved rapidly down Samat’s southern slope, penetrating Bataan’s last line of defense… HS
My account of the fighting that lasted for four days on the slopes of Mount Samat is relived in the following entries in my diary. It appears exactly as I wrote it.
“April 6, 1942: Up at daybreak. We were greeted with rifle and machine gun fire and strafing by enemy planes. Three of us dug a foxhole immediately. While digging the hole, we had to fall flat on our faces many times because of mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire. We ate our canned rations for breakfast. They had just come from Corregidor. After we ate, dive bombers dove over us and bombed close by. Observation planes are continually flying overhead.
“At 10:00, the enemy artillery commenced to shell our positions. The fire was heavy and shells were passing overhead. Japanese opened up with machine gun and rifle fire again. One of our sergeants dashed from the command post and yelled to us that we have five minutes to load the truck and to retreat for our lives. It was reported that Philippine army units were supposed to withdraw slowly and we were to counterattack. Our patrols this morning found that the Philippine army was forced to withdrew during the night and we were now stranded.
“I drove the truck as fast as I could and we put up an aid station in the bed of a creek. Dive bombers were over us all of the time and we couldn’t move in our tracks. We were resting in the afternoon for a few moments when we received news that the enemy was again coming down the road in great numbers. We were again given orders to get out quickly. As we left we could hear rifle and machine gun fire coming toward us. I again drove the truck down the road, which was littered with all sorts of troops. We pulled up at our old camp and dive bombers commenced to strafe and bomb us. We remained in our holes for about one hour while we were being strafed by enemy planes. We received news that the First and Second Battalions were fighting for their lives in their withdrawal.
“I am exhausted. I haven’t had any sleep for twenty-four hours. This is getting rugged. We ate our canned rations and I was detailed to act as stand-by runner for the night for Captain Rader, our new commanding officer. “April 7, 1942: Up at daybreak. We were given orders to load the truck and to be ready once more. Four men, including myself, went back up to the First Battalion and I was left as a guard for one hour. While watching the truck, low-flying planes kept circling and banking over me. I had to keep retreating Filipinos away. After being relieved from duty, I had a can of rations and cold coffee. Planes were overhead all the time. Just as I lay down to rest, one of the men shouted for us to get out immediately. We all hopped on the truck, and when we pulled away snipers opened up on us. We recognized Captain Brennan, a medical officer in command of the Third Battalion medics, in a dazed condition, being helped down the road. We stopped and piled him into the truck. The dust was terrific. An old bus stalled in front of me and I had to push it out of the way. One of our men finally stopped us and I drove the truck under a bamboo thicket. Bombs were dropping around us. Enemy shells were whizzing overhead.
“I am sitting in a foxhole resting. It is 10:25 in the morning. At 10:30, we again started back in a rush. Planes over us all the time. We went over to our last camp and are now awaiting further orders. I lay in a foxhole and tried to get some rest while dive bombers and artillery fire were going full blast. An American patrol came in and told us the Japanese were right on our tail. There was a mad dash for trucks and cars. Again, I hopped into my truck and all the boys jumped in with me. We drove through a shell-torn area with trucks and cars littering the road. In many places, we had to detour around bomb craters.
“By the grace of God, the sky seemed to be clear of planes for about one-half an hour. Troops were all over the road. We finally arrived at the main road and I really tore along. Bombers were overhead, but we did not stop for them. We drove back to one of our old bivouac areas and got out and took a bath and washed all the dust from our bodies. I found an automobile with the clutch gone and managed to get it started. We left for the Second Corps area to get information. On the way, we ran into our company and commanding officer, Captain Rader. We were certainly glad to see him. I received instructions to take the truck and men back to a service company for chow. Returning to the truck, we found one of our boys who was shell shocked and rambling aimlessly down the road. I picked him up and left him with an ambulance. We then started off and arrived at the service company at 6:00. We had our chow and then the bombers started again and kept us flat on our faces for about one hour. They were diving and bombing all around us. They finally left and we drove back to our camp. Sergeant Sayer and I spent the night in the hut I had built and I slept very well as I was exhausted.
“April 8, 1942: Up at 4:00. We moved our vehicles out, ready to evacuate. Foot troops walked past us. Our commanding officer left and we ate some canned rations. We put the vehicles back under cover and sat near our holes. We set up an aid station and worked on men all day. The men that are coming in are exhausted, blistered, shaken up, discouraged, and covered with dirt and grime. The tales they tell us are unbelievable. They have been wandering aimlessly through the jungle, searching for their companies and officers. Many of them have been bombed and are stunned, some of them in tears. They all are still hoping for help even though it looks like a suicide regiment.
“Planes have been bombing over us all day, big bombers and dive bombers. At 6:00, we were suddenly told that the enemy was just about at our road intersection.
I drove the truck out of the brush and everybody hopped on. Planes were overhead. We dashed for the intersection, which was about three kilometers ahead, and we took an alternate road and crossed a creek. Two tanks and half- tracks were covering the retreat. Troops were cluttering the road. Machine gun and rifle fire was very close. I drove the truck down the road and there were all kinds of vehicles on the edge of the road. We slowed down as it became dark and finally turned into a motor-pool area at Kilometer Post 167. We took blankets, walked to a camp, lay on the ground and went to sleep.
“April 9, 1942: During the night, we had a strong earthquake. It woke us all up. An hour later, we were all awakened again by ammunition dumps exploding. We had to move down into a gully. We arose at 6:00 and then gathered with about a hundred other soldiers. Word is going around that we have surrendered. It is now 7:00. I am looking around at these men. It is pitiful. They are stunned and disheartened. Fighting is still going on all around us. We took cover in some dugouts. Sergeant Sayer went out to try and find someone who knows something. As I lay in this foxhole I still have hope and faith in Uncle Sam. He will not desert us in this hour of need. We have been without nourishing food for two months. We have been suffering from malaria and dysentery. The men should never have been sent up to the front this last time. They were much too weak. They were being bombed, strafed and torn to shreds. I believe that the Thirty-first Infantry is no more. All that was needed was a few planes.
I have failed to write about the men’s condition, because I did not want to divulge any military information. But now I am writing this, because I know it won’t make any difference. I went to a mess kitchen and had to wait an hour for some rice. Bombers are over us continually. After eating I laid down to sleep. I was awakened by someone shouting ….”
That incomplete sentence terminates my diary.
There was no more time to write. I shoved the book into my pocket and forgot about it for the time being.