Chapter 8 – Brothers-in-Arms – December 18th - Washington time.

When the US President and his Army and Navy chief of staffs made their decision to concentrate the US efforts on going all out for securing a supply route to the Philippines they had only a very general knowledge of the potential Dutch resources and the terrain to be considered. As it was, Brigadier-General Gerow and Colonel Eisenhower should find that they were not only considerable but of a kind eminently suitable to fill in the eventual immediate gaps of what can only be described as a hastily inserted US force. A haste necessitated by the need to get a foothold on various positions along the Relief Route before the Japanese did. The President’s slogan time is of the essence was their guiding light on every suggestion and decision made....

Chapter 9 - The cavalry is coming – December 19th - Washington time

Early on the morning of December 19th the carrier USS Enterprise was manhandled out of Pearl Harbor. Out in the open sea the heavy cruisers Northampton and Chester and the modern destroyers Maury and Gridley were waiting. Following in Enterprise’s wake were destroyers McCall and Balch. It was a little less than two weeks after the fatal Japanese air assault on Pearl Harbor, they had been busy days. The President's “time is of the essence” slogan had struck hard at all concerned. Pearl had suffered but the Philippines, cut off thousand of miles from its parent organization in the Pacific and the US West Coast, seemed to have suffered even more. The two heavy cruisers were sister ships, both commissioned in the early thirties....

Chapter 10 - The Admiral goes to Darwin – December 21st - Philippine time

As the Dornier 24 flying boat started the left-hand turn towards a course taking it to Darwin, Australia, Admiral Thomas C. Hart looked out over the port side of the climbing aircraft. Down in the closed-in bay they had just left their take-off waves were slowly smoothing out. As the flying boat righted itself the airfield on the northern side of the bay came into view, too. Two Dutch Buffalo fighters were trailing dust clouds as they sped down the runway, taking off to escort the aircraft with its important passengers on the first part of its long flight into the raising sun, to Darwin.

The US party had arrived early the morning before after flying out of Singapore under cover of darkness. They had participated in a meeting there with the British on how to coordinate their immediate actions. The meeting had not been fruitful. Colonel Brink, the US representative in Singapore, had presented his instructions from General Marshall that was based on MacArthur’s analysis of the situation. General Marshall had summarized them as follows:                                                                                                                                                                      

“American, Australian, and Dutch air and naval forces should cooperate to keep open the line of communications between Australia and The Philippines. Successful defense of Philippines is considered essential to maintenance of Allied defensive structure in the Western Pacific. Plans for immediate Philippine reinforcement are dependent on success of the establishing of air and sea traffic between The Philippines and bases south. Every effort should be made to supplement air supply by reestablishment of sea communications between Australia and Philippines. These views are in concurrence with the President's.”

Generals Wavell and Percival were not happy with this conclusion.....

Chapter 11 - MacArthur goes to the front – December 22nd – Philippine time

In the afternoon of December 21st a series of messages from Washington and Australia had arrived at MacArthur’s Headquarters on the top floor of the plush Manila Hotel. Among them one from Admiral Hart – he had arrived in Darwin - and a couple from Barnes – he had arrived in Brisbane on the 18th. If everything had worked out as planned he should be with Hart in Darwin now. General Brereton had arranged air transport for him to be ready upon his arrival in Brisbane. For the first time since the Japanese assault the messages from home were of a concrete nature rather than just general promises that help would soon arrive. They did perplex him a little, though. The one from Marshall described the establishing of a secured Relief Route through the Eastern part of the Indies, close to New Guinea. The style was clearly Eisenhower’s – MacArthur knew him well from his earlier service in the Philippines. 

Chapter 12 - The Picture is clearing – Dec. 22nd - Washington time

Once again Brigadier General Gerow and Colonel Eisenhower were sitting alone in Gerow’s office. It was late evening. It had been a long and tiresome day - days, really, but they were beginning to see a pattern of what was to come. Now they were on their own, the President had left for the conference with the British. Three days ago the enemy had taken Davao on the south-eastern coast of Mindanao after a short fight only and yesterday reports had come in during the afternoon that the Japanese had landed again on Luzon, in Lingayen Bay, this time with more powerful forces. It seemed the Davao landing forces were held, MacArthur had ordered the local commander to reinforce Mindanao with other forces from the Visayan islands before that but they had not received information if it had actually been executed.  It was also the case of getting a radar set down to Mindanao. If not, the question was whether it would make any difference now that the Japs were ashore at Davao. Time would show. As for the invasion of Lingayen Bay little had been said on the ground action but, according to MacArthur’s reports, the US bombers had achieved good results against the invasion fleet. The two officers looked at each other, if the ground fighting had gone well for the ground forces, too, MacArthur would certainly have informed them....

Chapter 13 - A tough decision – December 25th – Philippine time

No one threatened General MacArthur to be kicked out in the cold. Maybe because deep down they didn’t believe they could save him - that his fate was determined never mind what they did to save him even if so ordered by the President. The General was disappointed that Wainwright did not seem to be able to stop the Japanese advance pushing south from Lingayen Bay, the time to make a decision was approaching fast. Should he throw in his reserves or save them for a prolonged defense of the Bataan peninsula as had been the American plan for many years in the case of an attack on the Philippines? There had been little talk of defending the Philippines as a whole until this fall. As the unprecedented mass of reinforcements and materiel started flowing in and the newly established Philippine army was mobilized one regiment at a time, he had also jumped on the bandwagon that had already been set in motion by the Washington leadership, but he had hoped to get a respite by the Japanese till March next year, which had General Marshall in Washington, too. When the final decision on the enhanced strategic role for the Philippines came through from Washington in November he had already formalized the creation of defense districts covering the whole island nation. Thinking it over MacArthur could not see that it would have made much difference if he had not initiated this. What little material, mainly artillery that had been dispatched to the other island commands would not have had trained personnel on Luzon, anyway. More than the actual pieces he needed trained soldiers as much time needed for training had been wasted on camp construction, not much he could do about that....


More to come....

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