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Military history of the Philippines

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The Battle of Mactan

On April 21, 1521, Lapu-Lapu[?], a chieftain of Mactan[?], defeated Ferdinand Magellan at the Battle of Mactan.

Philippine Revolutionary Army

The Philippine Revolutionary Army was founded on March 22, 1897, in Cavite. General Artemio Ricarte[?] was the first Captain General. The core of this army consisted of the Katipunan.

Independence and the US Occupation

On June 12, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines to be independent of Spain and thus formed the First Philippine Republic[?], in which he was the President. However, the United States proceded to lay claim to the Philippines and on February 4, 1899, the Filipino-American War began. The Americans established an occupation government in 1901.

The Philippine Department

Prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, in 1935, the US Army had maintained a force in the Philippines. This force was composed mostly of native Pilipinos and led by American officers, including an American general. This force was the Philippine Department. With the exception of the Philippine Constabulary, the region had no other forces.

The National Defense Act of 1935

In 1935, President-elect Manuel L. Quezon convinced Chief of Staff of the United States Army[?] General Douglas MacArthur to act as the military adviser to the Commonwealth of the Philippines. MacArthur was given the title "Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government" and tasked with establishing a system of national defense, for the Philippines, by 1946. For a time, MacArthur would also act as the Field Marshall of the Philippine Army.

The National Defense Act of 1935 acted upon the advice of the Office of the Military Advisor and the military devoted 1936 to construction, training, and organization. The Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Department's Philippine Scouts were used to create the core of the new Philippine Army.

World War II Begins

In September of 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan had allied under the Tripartite Pact. In July of 1940, the US banned the shipment of aviation gasoline, to Japan, and by 1941, shipments of scrap iron[?], steel, gasoline, and other materials had practically ceased. Meanwhile, American economic support to China began to increase.

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

US Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall states, "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."

The Far Eastern Command

On July 25, Secretary of War Stimson requested that President Roosevelt issue orders calling the military forces of the Commonwealth into active service for the United States. Stimson explains, "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 the 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, MacArthur was recalled to active duty and designated as the commander of USAFFE.

Naval Forces

At the outbreak of war, the US Navy's Asiatic Fleet was stationed at Cavite Naval Base, in Manila Bay. Also stationed here was the Offshore Patrol.

Mobilization and Reinforcement

In July of 1941, MacArthur was informed that it was now the policy of the United States to defend the Philippines, whereas, the goal had formerly been to merely train the Philippine Army. According to Secretary of War Stimson, the success of the B-17 heavy bomber[?], in the European Theatre of Operations[?], had convinced the War Department that a striking force of such bombers could be used, against the Japanese, from bases within the Philippines.

MacArthur ordered mobilizaton of the Philippine Army, beginning on September 1. Elements of 10 Pilipino reserve divisions were to be called into the service of the United States Army by December 15. It was also necessary to quickly construct housing for 50,000. To each of these divisions were assigned 40 US Army officers and 20 American or Philippine Scout noncommissioned officers, who served as instructors.

The reinforcment of US troops was expected to be completed by April of 1942 and the reinforcement of Pilipino troops was expected to be completed by July. Mobilization and assimilation of Pilipino forces into the US Army was incomplete (and none of the antitank battalions were ever organized), by the time of the Japanese invasion, in December. However, a force of 100,000+ Pilipinos was raised.

On August 14, Brigadier General Gerow[?] argued that the Philippine Department could not resist a Japanese attack. He thus recommended that the Philippines be reinforced with antiaircraft artillery, modern aircraft, and tanks. On August 16, MacArthur was informed that, by September 5, he could expect the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA)[?], the 194th Tank Battalion[?] (less Company B), and a company of the 17th Ordnance Battalion[?].

On September 5, Army Chief of Staff, General Marshall asked MacArthur if he wanted a National Guard Division, probably the 41st[?], MacArthur replied that he did not need any additional divisions. MacArthur states, "Equipment and supplies are essential. If these steps are taken, I am confident that no further major reinforcements will be necessary." MacArthur was promished more aircraft, guns, and equipment. Marshall explains, "I have directed that the forces in the Philippines be placed in highest priority for equipment." MacArthur responds, "With 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 75mm gun mounts.

MacArthur strove to reorganize the Philippine Division, from a square formation[?], into a triangular formation[?]. This plan involved shipping an American infantry regiment, and 2 artillery battalions, to the Philippines. This would free Philippine Scouts for other positions (such as Harbor Defenses or complementing forces at Forts McKinley and Stotsenburg) and allow USAFFE control of 2 American combat teams. These plans also involved the formation of 4 tactical commands, each of corps level, along with various additional support units.

By November, the War Department had approved additional reinforcements of 1,312 officers, 25 nurses, and 18,047 enlisted soldiers. Ironically, the 34th Infantry Regiment[?] was scheduled to shipout on December 8, 1941.

By December 5, there were 55 ships carrying 100,000 ship-tons[?] of cargo to the Philippines. General Marshall informed Lt. General MacArthur, "You will soon receive all your supporting light artillery (130 75mm guns[?]). You will also receive 72 155mm howitzers[?]."

When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place, there were 52 dive bombers of the 27th Bombardment Group (L)[?], 18 P-40s, 340 vehicles, 48 75mm guns[?], 3,500,000 rounds of .30 and .50 caliber ammunition, 600 tons of bombs, 9,000 drums of aviation fuel[?], 2 light field artillery[?] battalions, the ground echelon of the 7th Bombardment Group (H)[?], and various other supplies; all enroute.

(See also: National Defense Act of 1935)

Material 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. There were shortages of blankets, mosquito bars[?], shelter halves, entrenching tools[?], gas masks, and helmets.

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

The shipment of supplies depended upon the Navy's limited cargo capacity. In September, the Navy announced it's 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.

Then, the army approved requests for 105mm howitzers[?], 75mm pack howitzers[?], 75mm guns, .30-caliber machine guns, 37mm guns, 10 250-ft station hospitals, 180 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 it's 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 Pilipino units went into battle without ever having fired their weapons. Many of the troops had never even seen an artillery piece be fired. The 31st Infantry Division (PA)[?] signal officer was unable to establish radio communication with units units in the same camp. Commander of the Philippine 31st Infantry Division, Colonel Bluemel states, "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 Pilipinos often spoke one language (such as Bicolanian[?] 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

The economic sanctions imposed by the United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands were weakening the Japanese economy. The leaders of Japan were faced with a choice: End the war in China and southeast Asia, so as to end the sanctions, or obtain additional resources by some other means.

The Japanese government decided to seize resources under the control of Great Britain and the Netherlands. As the United States was their ally, it was decided to attack the American territory of the Philippines as well. Japanese military planners argued that the British (and Russians should they decide to declare war) would be unable to effectively respond to a Japanese attack, given the threat posed by the Third Reich.

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