Military history of the Philippines during World War II

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The Commonwealth of the Philippines was attacked by the Empire of Japan on December 8, 1941, nine hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor (the Philippines is on the Asian side of the international date line). The United States of America controlled the Philippines at the time and possessed important military bases there. The combined American-Filipino army was defeated in the Battle of Bataan and the Battle of Corregidor in April 1942, but guerrilla resistance against the Japanese continued throughout the war. Uncaptured Filipino army units, a communist insurgency, and supporting American agents all played a role in the resistance. Due to the huge number of islands, the Japanese never occupied many of the smaller and more minor islands. Japanese control over the countryside and smaller towns was often tenuous at best.

Commonwealth of the Philippines 1935-1946 republic in Southeast Asia

The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the administrative body that governed the Philippines from 1935 to 1946, aside from a period of exile in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945 when Japan occupied the country. It replaced the Insular Government, a United States territorial government, and was established by the Tydings–McDuffie Act. The Commonwealth was designed as a transitional administration in preparation for the country's full achievement of independence.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

The Attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the United States against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States' formal entry into World War II the next day. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.


In 1944, Allied forces liberated the islands from Japanese control in a naval invasion.


In September 1940, Nazi Germany, Kingdom of Italy, and Empire of Japan had allied under the Tripartite Coalition as the Axis powers. The United States banned the shipment of aviation gasoline to Japan in July 1940, and by 1941 shipments of scrap iron, steel, gasoline and other materials had practically ceased. Meanwhile, American economic support to China began to increase.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Axis powers Alliance of countries defeated in World War II

The Axis powers, also known as "Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis", were the nations that fought in World War II against the Allies. The Axis powers agreed on their opposition to the Allies, but did not completely coordinate their activity.

The Export Control Act of 1940 was one in a series of legislative efforts by the United States government and initially the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to accomplish two tasks: to avoid scarcity of critical commodities in a likely pre-war environment, and to limit the exportation of materiel to pre-World War II Imperial Japan. The act originated as a presidential proclamation by Roosevelt forbidding the exporting of aircraft parts, chemicals, and minerals without a license, and was intended to induce Japan to curtail its occupation of the Indo-Chinese coast.

Japan and the USSR signed a neutrality pact in April 1941 and Japan increased pressure on the French and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia to cooperate in economic matters. Japanese forces occupied the naval and air bases of southern French Indochina on 22 July 1941. The Philippines was almost completely surrounded.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact peace treaty

The Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, also known as the Japanese–Soviet Non-aggression Pact, was a neutrality pact between the Soviet Union and Japan signed on April 13, 1941, two years after the brief Soviet–Japanese Border War. The pact was signed to ensure the neutrality between the Soviet Union and Japan during World War II, in which both countries participated.

French colonial empire Set of territories that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s

The French colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies, protectorates and mandate territories that came under French rule from the 16th century onward. A distinction is generally made between the "first colonial empire," that existed until 1814, by which time most of it had been lost, and the "second colonial empire", which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830. The second colonial empire came to an end after the loss in later wars of Indochina (1954) and Algeria (1962), and relatively peaceful decolonizations elsewhere after 1960.

General George C. Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff, stated, "Adequate reinforcements for the Philippines, at this time, would have left the United States in a position of great peril, should there be a break in the defense of Great Britain." [1]

Chief of Staff of the United States Army statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Army

The Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) is a statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Army. As the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Army, the CSA is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the Army. In a separate capacity, the CSA is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, thereby, a military advisor to the National Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and the President of the United States. The CSA is typically the highest-ranking officer on active-duty in the U.S. Army unless the Chairman or the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are Army officers.

A campaign for independence from the US which had been ongoing since 1919 resulted on 17 January 1933 in the passage by the US Congress of the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act over the veto of President Herbert Hoover. [2] The law promised Philippine independence after 10 years, but reserved several military and naval bases for the United States, as well as imposing tariffs and quotas on Philippine exports. Philippine Senate President Manuel L. Quezon convinced the legislature to reject the bill. Subsequently, the Tydings–McDuffie Act, which eliminated provisions for US military reservations and substituted a provision for "ultimate settlement", became US law on 24 March 1934 and was accepted by the Philippine legislature on 1 May. [3] The impact of this on the future defense of the Philippines with the establishment was to prove disastrous. During the 10-year transition period, the Philippine Constabulary was vested with an ever-increasing responsibility for defending the borders of the Philippines.[ citation needed ] The forces of the US Army settled at around 10,000 men.[ citation needed ]

The Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act passed to authors Congress Butler B. Hare, Senator Harry B. Hawes and Senator Bronson M. Cutting. The Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act was the first US law passed setting a process and a date for the Philippines to gain independence from the United States. It was the result of the OsRox Mission led by Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas. The law promised Philippine independence after 10 years, but reserved several military and naval bases for the United States, as well as imposed tariffs and quotas on Philippine imports.

Herbert Hoover 31st president of the United States

Herbert Clark Hoover was an American engineer, businessman, and politician who served as the 31st president of the United States from 1929 to 1933. A member of the Republican Party, he held office during the onset of the Great Depression. Prior to serving as president, Hoover led the Commission for Relief in Belgium, served as the director of the U.S. Food Administration, and served as the 3rd U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

President of the Senate of the Philippines highest ranking-official of the Senate of the Philippines

The President of the Senate of the Philippines, or more popularly known as the Senate President, is the presiding officer and the highest-ranking official of the Senate of the Philippines, and third highest and most powerful official in the Government of the Philippines. He/she is elected by the entire body to be their leader. The Senate President is second in line in succession for the presidency, behind the Vice President of the Philippines and in front of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines.

The US Army had, however, already spent millions constructing forts and air strips throughout Luzon. This included the harbor defenses in Manila Bay, at Fort Mills on Corregidor Island and at Grande Island in Subic Bay. There were also bases at Nichols Air Station (now Villamor Airbase), Nielson Air Base (now Makati CityAyala and Buendia Avenues lay over the original landing strips), at Fort William McKinley (now Fort Andres Bonifacio and the American Cemetery), Camp Murphy (now Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame) in Quezon City, Camp O'Donnell in Tarlac and a series of airbases and army installations in Pampanga including Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Air Base, as well as Camp Wallace in La Union, the Naval Station in Sangley Point, Cavite City, Camp Keithley in Lanao, Camp Eldridge in Los Baños, Laguna and Camp Henry T. Allen in Baguio City. Other fields in Tugegarao, Aparri, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Legaspi, Bataan, and Del Monte in Davao were also built using US funds prior to and during the first years of the 1935 provisional Commonwealth.

The Philippine Army

Philippine Commonwealth Army personnel in Davao Philippine Commonwealth Army personnel.JPG
Philippine Commonwealth Army personnel in Davao

The date for Philippine Independence and US military withdrawal was approaching, resulting in a reduction in funds from the US military to directly support the expansion of the Philippine Commonwealth Army. Twelve Million US dollars were provided to the Commonwealth for the establishment of the Philippine Army in 1936. In the early years of the Commonwealth, the Philippine Army was composed of an Active Duty and a Reserve Component. The Active Duty component was the Philippine Constabulary, which was a para-military organization. After the outbreak of the war, this was referred to as the First Philippine Division. Many of the officers of the Philippine Army and Philippine Army Air Corps came from the members of the Philippine Constabulary and Air Constabulary.

Far Eastern Command

On 25 July 1941, US Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson requested that US President Franklin D. Roosevelt issue orders calling the military forces of the Commonwealth into active service for the United States. Stimson explained, "All practical steps should be taken to increase the defensive strength of the Philippine Islands."

The following day President Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets within the United States and issued orders to absorb the forces of the Philippine Army. That same day the War Department created the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) command, with jurisdiction over the Philippine Department and the military forces of the Commonwealth. At the same time General Douglas MacArthur was recalled to active duty and designated the commander of the USAFFE.

At the outbreak of war the United States Navy's Asiatic Fleet was stationed at Cavite Naval Base in Manila Bay. Also stationed there was the Offshore Patrol.

Mobilization and Reinforcement

MacArthur ordered the mobilization of the Philippine Army beginning on 1 September. Elements of 10 Filipino reserve divisions were to be called into the service of the United States Army by 15 December. Battalions were not organized by the time of the Japanese invasion in December. However, a force of a hundred thousand or more Filipinos was raised.

200th Coastal Artillery, New Mexico Army National Guard on Luzon 200th Coast Artillery NM Guard Philippines 1942.jpg
200th Coastal Artillery, New Mexico Army National Guard on Luzon

On 14 August Brigadier General Leonard T. Gerow argued that the Philippine Department could not resist a Japanese attack. He thus recommended that the Philippines be reinforced with anti-aircraft artillery, modern aircraft and tanks. On 16 August, MacArthur was informed that by 5 September he could expect the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA), the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions and a company of the 17th Ordnance Battalion.

On 5 September Marshall asked MacArthur if he wanted a National Guard Division, probably the 41st. MacArthur replied that he did not need any additional divisions. He also stated, "Equipment and supplies are essential. If these steps are taken, I am confident that no such backing, the development of a completely adequate defense force will be rapid."

During September and October, in addition to the above-mentioned reinforcements, MacArthur received the 192nd Tank Battalion and 75 self-propelled 75 mm guns.

MacArthur strove to reorganize the Philippine Division from a square into a triangular formation. This plan involved shipping in an American infantry regiment and or complementing Stotsenburg and allow USAFFE control of 2 American combat teams. These plans also involved the formation of four tactical commands, each of corps strength, along with various additional support units.

By November the War Department had approved additional reinforcements of 1,312 officers, 25 nurses and 18,047 men. The 34th Infantry Regiment was scheduled to ship out from San Francisco on 8 December 1941. By 5 December fifty-five ships were en route from San Francisco carrying 100,000 ship-tons of cargo to the Philippines. On board were the personnel and equipment of the 26th Field Artillery Brigade, including the 147th Field Artillery, 75 mm, Truck Drawn, Regiment of the South Dakota National Guard; the 148th Field Artillery, 75 mm, Truck Drawn, Regiment of the Idaho National Guard and the 2nd Battalion of the 131st Field Artillery, 75 mm, Truck Drawn, Regiment of the Texas National Guard. These units were diverted to Hawaii and assigned to its defenses.

GEN MacArthur at the induction of the Philippine Army Air Corps CampMurphy.jpg
GEN MacArthur at the induction of the Philippine Army Air Corps

When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place, there were several air elements en route. This included 52 A-24 Banshee dive bombers of the 27th Bombardment Group, eighteen P-40s of the 35th Pursuit Group, 340 tons of bombs and 9,000 drums of aviation fuel. There were also two light field ground echelons of the 7th Bombardment Group, which arrived in the Philippines and were relocated to Mariveles after the evacuation of Manila. The air echelon squadrons of the 7th were en route to the Philippines and arrived in Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941. They consisted of 9th, 463rd, 492nd, and 493d Heavy Bombardment Squadrons. The air echelon was diverted back to the US and then routed to Java through Australia.

Materiel and Training Deficiencies

The Philippine Army received clothing that was of poor quality. Their rubber shoes would wear out within 2 weeks. There were shortages of nearly every kind of equipment such as blankets, mosquito bars, shelter halves, entrenching tools, gas masks, and helmets.

During August, MacArthur had requested 84,500 M1 Garand rifles, 330 .30-caliber machine guns, 326 .50-caliber machine-guns, 450 37mm guns, 217 81 mm mortars, 288 75 mm guns, and over 8,000 vehicles. On 18 September, he was informed that, because of lend-lease commitments, he would not receive most of these items. As a result, the Philippine Army was forced to continue using the old Enfield and Springfield rifles.

The shipment of supplies depended upon the US Navy's limited cargo capacity. In September, the Navy announced its intentions to convert three transports into escort carriers, but this was not done after MacArthur observed that the loss of three transports would delay his reinforcements by more than two months.

The army then approved requests for 105 mm howitzers, 75 mm pack howitzers, 75 mm guns, .30-caliber machine guns, 37 mm guns, ten 250 ft station hospitals, one hundred and eighty sets of regimental infirmary equipment, jeeps, ambulances, trucks and sedans. By November, there were 1,100,000 tons of equipment, intended for the Philippines, piled up in US ports. Most of this never reached its destination. Meanwhile, the Navy did manage to transport 1,000,000 gallons of gasoline to the island. Much of this fuel would be stored on the Bataan Peninsula.

In 1941, many Filipino units went into battle without ever having fired their weapons. Many of the troops had also never even seen an artillery piece fired. The 31st Infantry Division (PA) signal officer was unable to establish radio communication with other units in the same camp. The commander of the Philippine 31st Infantry Division, Colonel Bluemel stated, "The enlisted men are proficient in only two things, one, when an officer appears, to yell 'attention' in a loud voice, jump up, and salute; two, to demand 3 meals per day."

Training and coordination were further complicated by language barriers. Enlisted Filipinos often spoke one language (such as Bikol or a Visayan language), their officers would speak another (such as Tagalog) and the Americans would speak English. There were some first sergeants and company clerks who could neither read nor write.

The Japanese decide to attack

Advancing Japanese troops moving toward Manila. Japanese light tanks moving toward Manila.jpg
Advancing Japanese troops moving toward Manila.

The Japanese viewed all the lands of Asia to be the rightful property of the Imperial Japanese Government and the Emperor. [4] The seizures of Korea, China and parts of Russia, which had begun at the turn of the 20th century, had been taking an upswing. [5] The Japanese had been kept from realizing their goal of unifying or dominating the Asian lands by the presence of foreign military forces in the Philippines (United States), Hong Kong, Malaysia (United Kingdom) and the Dutch East Indies. [6] Japan had hoped that they could strike fast and hold off reinforcements long enough to broker a peace accord from a position of strength. [7]

Central to the Japanese goals was the taking of all Asian lands. [8] To be successful US, UK, and Dutch forces were to be attacked simultaneously to prevent their ability to reinforce and aid their Asian possessions. Pivotal to the Japanese decision to attack was a tremendous need for crude oil as a result of economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands which was weakening the Japanese economy. The Japanese leaders were faced with a choice: end the war in China and their plans for Asian conquest, so as to end the sanctions, or declare war on three large military forces. The current war against Britain, and the Netherlands, and the strain of providing aid by the United States to these countries was seen as an opportunity by the Japanese to extend their "rightful" place as a ruler in Asia. [9]

The Japanese government decided to seize resources under the control of Britain, the United States and the Netherlands. Japan had already placed over ten divisions in Formosa (Taiwan). Japanese military planners argued that the British (and the USSR should they decide to declare war), would be unable to effectively respond to a Japanese attack, given the threat posed by the Third Reich.

List of conflicts

Propaganda poster depicting the Philippine resistance movement Propaganda poster depicts the Philippine resistance movement.jpg
Propaganda poster depicting the Philippine resistance movement
Congressional Gold Medal awarded in 2016 to Filipino WWII Veterans Filipino Veterans WWII Congressional Gold Medal.jpg
Congressional Gold Medal awarded in 2016 to Filipino WWII Veterans

See also


  1. Catlett 1947 , p.  70
  2. Agoncillo 1990 , p. 328
  3. Agoncillo 1990 , p. 347
  4. Saburo Ienaga (16 June 2010). "The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: Liberation or Exploitation?". Pacific War, 1931–1945. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. pp. 153–180. ISBN   978-0-307-75609-1.
    Ellis S. Krauss; Benjamin Nyblade (2004). Japan and North America: First contacts to the Pacific War. Taylor & Francis. pp. 168–169. ISBN   978-0-415-27515-6.
  5. Alice Miller; Richard Wich (20 January 2011). Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations Since World War II. Stanford University Press. p. 7. ISBN   978-0-8047-7151-1.
  6. Alice Miller; Richard Wich (20 January 2011). Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations Since World War II. Stanford University Press. pp. 7–8. ISBN   978-0-8047-7151-1.
  7. "Chapter 23: World War II: The War Against Japan". Center of Military History. United states Army. 27 April 2001.
  8. "Imperial Japan". History. AETN UK. Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  9. "Japan's Quest for Power and World War II in Asia". Asia for Educators. Columbia University. 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2014.

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