The Final Japanese Offensive
Friday, 3 April, was not only the day Homma had selected to open the offensive; it was also a religious and national holiday for the soldiers on both sides of the battle line. For the Christian defenders it was the Friday of Holy Week, and the more devout observed the anniversary of the Crucifixion with prayers and fasting. For the Japanese, the 3d of April marked the anniversary of the death of the legendary Emperor Jimmu, the first ruler to sit on the imperial throne. In Japan there would be religious ceremonies and feasting; on Bataan the soldiers of Hirohito, a direct descendant of the Emperor Jimmu, would celebrate the day in more warlike manner. If all went well, they might gain victory in time to make the emperor's birthday, 29 April, a day of special rejoicing.1
On Good Friday the sun rose in a cloudless sky and gave promise of another hot, dry day so like those which had preceded it with endless monotony. From the top of Mt. Samat two American officers serving as artillery observers could plainly see the heavy Japanese guns, two to three miles behind the line, making ready to fire. Before their view was obscured they counted nineteen batteries of artillery and eight to ten mortar batteries. Observers to their east reported many more batteries of light artillery massed in close support of the infantry.2 At 0900 this large array of guns, howitzers, and mortars, altogether almost 150 pieces, began to register on their targets.
The Japanese began firing for effect at 1000 and continued to fire with only one half-hour pause until 1500, in what was undoubtedly the most devastating barrage of the campaign, equal in intensity, many thought, to those of the first World War.3 Simultaneously, the bombers of the 22d Air Brigade came out in force to add the
weight of their bombs to the constant stream of shells falling upon the defenders huddled in their foxholes. In the 150 sorties flown that day, General Mikami's air force dropped more than sixty tons of bombs. Smaller aircraft swooped low over the front lines, strafing troops and vehicles at will, while far above them observation planes guided the bombers toward those batteries brave enough to reply to the Japanese barrage. "It was agonizing," wrote the commander of an antiaircraft battery, "to watch the heavies sail serenely over us, 1,000 yards beyond our maximum range."4
The effect of the air-artillery bombardment was devastating. So violent and continuous were the explosions, so thunderous the din that it seemed as though "all hell" had broken loose.5 Many of the defenses so carefully constructed during the weeks preceding the attack "were churned into a worthless and useless mess."6 Telephone lines and artillery positions were knocked out. Fire spread rapidly when the cane fields and bamboo thickets were set ablaze and the smoke and dust lay so thick over the battlefield that observers atop Mt. Samat were unable to direct fire. By 1500 the artillery and aircraft had done their work. At that time the infantry and armor moved out to the attack.
The air and artillery preparation which had begun at 1000 that morning had been concentrated against the comparatively narrow front on the extreme left of II Corps, held by the troops of Sector D. It was in this sector, commanded by General Lough, that the American line was stretched thinnest, and it was in this sector that the Japanese first came.
Sector D extended from KP 136 on the Pilar-Bagac road westward for about 5,000 yards to the corps boundary along the Pantingan River. Bisecting the sector front was the Catmon River, which, with the Pantingan, offered a natural route of advance southward. (Map 21) In addition to these two river valleys, Sector D contained three excellent north-south trails, two of which connected with the main east-west trail system. The westernmost of these was Trail 29, between the Pantingan and the Catmon. About five miles in length, this trail ran from the Pilar-Bagac road along the western foothills of Mt. Samat to Trail 8, the main east-west line of communication in II Corps. Along the east bank of the Catmon was Trail 6, which also began at the Pilar-Bagac road and ran to Trail 8. East of Mt. Samat was the third of the north-south trails in Sector D, Trail 4. In addition to Trail 8, lateral communication in Sector D was provided by Trail 429. This trail ran due east from Trail 29 to Trail 6 which it joined until it cleared the western foothills of Mt. Samat. At that point it branched east again, skirting the southern edge of the mountain to meet Trail 4 near the boundary of Sectors D and C.
Sector D was held by two Philippine Army divisions. On the right (east), in front of Mt. Samat, was the 21st Division, led by Brig. Gen. Mateo Capinpin, and next to it, on the extreme left of the II Corps line, was General Lim's 41st. Both divisions had their three infantry regiments posted along the main line of resistance which generally paralleled the Pilar-Bagac road just south
of the Tiawir-Talisay River. About 1,500 yards to the rear was the regimental reserve line. With their three regiments on the line and with the few remaining elements deployed elsewhere, both divisions would be hard pressed if the need for reserves should arise.
In the 21st Division area General Capinpin had placed two of his regiments, the 22d and 23d, east of the Catmon River, with the former holding the division right flank and tying in with Sector C to the right. The 21st Infantry on the division left flank held both banks of the Catmon as well as Trail 6, which cut diagonally across the regimental area from the right front to the left rear. General Lim's regiments were posted in order, with the 43d on the right, tying in with the 21st Infantry, the 42d in the center, and the 41st holding down the
division and sector flank along the Pantingan. Across the river, on the extreme right of the I Corps line, was the 2d Philippine Constabulary.
Against this front the Japanese had massed the entire force committed to the assault, the 65th Brigade and the 4th Division both heavily reinforced. With the exception of one battalion west of the Pantingan, all of General Nara's reinforced brigade was concentrated before the 42d Infantry where Trail 29 joined the Pilar-Bagac road. The Right Wing of the 4th Division, led by General Taniguchi and consisting of tanks, the 61st Infantry, a battalion of the 8th Infantry, plus supporting and service elements, had taken up a position north of the Tiawir, opposite the center of Sector D, and was poised to strike down Route 6 and the Catmon River valley. The division's Left Wing (8th Infantry), which was not scheduled to attack until the 5th, was farther to the east and north, facing the two right regiments of the 21st Division.
At 1500, when the air and artillery bombardment shifted south, the 65th Brigade and Taniguchi's Right Wing moved out to the assault. Nara's troops on the left (west) bank of the north-flowing Pantingan, supported by heavy mortar fire, pushed hard against the 2d Philippine Constabulary to reach the I Corps main line of resistance. Though it was unable to penetrate the I Corps line, this force, a reinforced battalion, presented a real threat to Jones's right flank and prevented him from coming to the aid of the adjacent units in Parker's corps. Nara's main effort, however, was made against II Corps. Here, the bulk of his brigade, led by tanks, pushed down against the center of the 41st Division and by late afternoon reached the 42d Infantry main line of resistance, where, according to plans, it should have halted. The Japanese had expected to meet opposition there, but the line was not occupied, whereupon Nara ordered his men to continue southward along Trail 29. By nightfall the brigade had scored an advance of about 1,000 yards.
Taniguchi's force to the left (east), led by tanks of the 7th Tank Regiment, crossed the Tiawir just north of the boundary between, the 43d and 21st Infantry, in the center of Sector D. Two 37-mm. antitank guns had been emplaced here to oppose a crossing, but they had been put out of action by the heavy bombardment earlier in the day. Once across the river Taniguchi led his men against the main line of resistance. After desultory fire the Filipinos scattered and Taniguchi advanced without difficulty. Before halting for the night he had taken his men about 1,000 yards down Trail 6. The Japanese advance for the first day of the attack exceeded even their most optimistic estimates.7
The lack of opposition to the Japanese advance on the afternoon of 3 April was due entirely to the effects of the air and artillery bombardment earlier that day on the hungry and weakened troops of the 41st Division. It was upon this division that the weight of the shells and bombs had fallen and in its area that the damage had been greatest. Dazed and demoralized by the in-
tensity of the five-hour-long artillery concentration and the ferocity of the strafing and bombing attacks, choked and blinded by the smoke and dust, literally burned out of their positions by the brush fires which sprang up everywhere along the front lines, the Filipinos had fled south in disorganized and unruly mobs. Nothing and no one could stop them. When one officer ordered some of his men back into the line, they "stared dumbly" at him and continued on their way to the rear.8 Even before the Japanese tank-infantry attack had begun to roll, the 41st Division had ceased to exist as an effective military organization.
The units most affected by the bombardment and the assault were the 42d and 43d Infantry. The first, in the center of the division front where bamboo fires burned fiercely, had retreated in a disorderly fashion, some of the men following Trail 29 into the 41st Infantry area, and others drifting eastward to join the retreating 43d on the western slopes of Mt. Samat. Only the 41st Infantry on the extreme left of the line, which had escaped the full weight of the preliminary bombardment, had withdrawn in an orderly fashion. Augmented by a continuous stream of stragglers from the 42d, the regiment had fallen back to its regimental reserve line near the junction of Routes 29 and 429 and held firmly there all afternoon. Early in the evening, on the basis of misunderstood or garbled orders, the regiment began to move south toward Trail 8.
The 21st Division had also suffered heavily from the day's bombardment, but only its westernmost element, the left battalion of the two-battalion 21st Infantry, had broken. Posted in front of the Pilar-Bagac road, on the west bank of the Catmon River, this battalion stood in the path of Taniguchi's powerful Right Wing, and when the enemy tanks appeared the Filipinos, "shattered by incessant shelling and bombing, weak from dysentery, malaria, and malnutrition," fled to the rear.9 The right battalion of the regiment, however, held firm. Hurriedly organizing the scattered elements of the left battalion, the regimental commander, Lt. Col. William A. Wappenstein, was able by nightfall to re-establish his line with a refused left flank along the east bank of the Catmon. News of the rout of the 41st Division and the disintegration of the corps left flank reached General Parker, the corps commander, late in the afternoon of Good Friday. The danger was immediate and compelling and he quickly released the only unit he had in reserve, the 33d Infantry (PA), less the 1st Battalion, to General Lough, commander of Sector D. The regiment, led by Maj. Stanley Holmes, moved out at dusk, under orders to establish a defensive position across Trail 6 between Mt. Samat and the Catmon River by morning of the 4th.
Sector D headquarters, too, took prompt measures to stem the rout of the 41st Division and set up a line in front of the advancing Japanese. The 42d Infantry, hopelessly disorganized and scattered, it apparently wrote off as a total loss, but General Lough thought there was still a chance to salvage the shattered 43d and use it against the Japanese. On the evening of the 3d he sent Col. Malcolm V. Fortier, senior instructor of the 41st Division, northward to help reorganize the regiment and lead it back up the Catmon valley to a position west of the 33d Infantry. Later that night, the sector G-3, Col. Robert J. Hoffman, learning that the 41st Infantry had retreated to the junction
of Trails 29 and 8, sent the regiment back along Trail 29 with orders to occupy the regimental reserve line. Thus, by the morning of the 4th, if all went well, there would be three regiments, the 41st, 43d, and 33d, in position to oppose a Japanese advance south along the Pantingan and Catmon valleys.
Homma's original plan had been a cautious one, calling for a limited advance on 4 April to gain positions from which to launch the drive on Mt. Samat. But the unexpected success of the first day's action justified a bolder course and on the evening of the 3d he ordered the 4th Division and the 65th Brigade to disregard earlier orders and to continue their advance toward Mt. Samat next day. Their attack would be preceded by a co-ordinated air and artillery bombardment almost equal in intensity to that which had preceded the Good Friday attack.
When Homma's orders reached them, both commanders quickly revised their plans and prepared to attack the next morning. The 65th Brigade on the west would continue its drive south up the Pantingan valley, on both sides of the river. The 4th Division's Right Wing would advance along the line of the Catmon River, and the 7th Tank Regiment east along the Pilar-Bagac road. Colonel Morita's Left Wing, which had not been in action on the first day of the offensive, would cross the Tiawir-Talisay River in front of the right half of Sector D, the area held by the 22d and 23d Infantry, during the morning. Once across the river it would pause to reorganize, then attack in force at about noon, at the same time that Taniguchi's infantry moved out to the assault.
American plans to place three infantry regiments in the path of the Japanese advance were only partially successful. When Colonel Fortier reached the 43d and the remnants of the 42d Infantry on the western slopes of Mt. Samat on the night of the 3d, he found the men still bewildered and demoralized. American officers had sought vainly to calm them and restore some semblance of order, and Fortier was able to round up only several hundred men from the two regiments. After the men had been served hot coffee, they started advancing along the trail in the darkness toward their new position west of the Catmon River. There was no difficulty with the 41st Infantry. This regiment, which Colonel Hoffman had ordered forward on the night of 3-4 April, reached its former regimental reserve line between Trail 29 and the Pantingan River without incident by 0930 of the 4th.
Major Holmes's 33d Infantry, numbering about 600 men, had begun its march west along the section of Trail 429 which extended south of Mt. Samat early on the evening of the 3d.10 The men, many of whom had just risen from sick beds, moved slowly in the darkness, passing large numbers of stragglers pouring back to the rear. "Few had arms of any kind. . . . Few even had packs . . .," wrote Capt. Robert M. Chapin, 3d Battalion commander. "I asked several what unit they were from but they just looked at me blankly and wandered on."11 When the regiment turned north on Trail 6, the stream of stragglers ended and the advance was more rapid. At a zigzag about a mile north of the intersection Major
Holmes found a platoon of the 41st Engineer Battalion busily constructing tank obstacles and decided to set up his line there, in position to block the Japanese advance in the Catmon valley. By dawn the regiment was deployed in depth across the trail with flank guards out to warn of an unexpected attack.
The Disintegration of Sector D
The Japanese resumed the offensive on the morning of 4 April with another heavy artillery preparation, co-ordinated with bombing and strafing attacks by the 22d Air Brigade. The first salvos passed over the 33d Infantry astride Trail 6 to fall on the luckless men of the 42d and 43d Infantry about a mile to the south. Again they stampeded, heading back along Trail 6 "for all they were worth." Until they reached the junction of Trails 6 and 8, about 4,500 yards to the south, that evening, wrote Colonel Fortier, "we could do nothing to stop them."12 Thus, even before the Japanese infantry had moved out, one third of the force expected to hold the Pantingan and Catmon valleys had given way.
The advance of the 65th Brigade in the Pantingan valley met with little serious opposition. Only the 41st Infantry, now back on its original reserve line between Trail 29 and the Pantingan River, stood in its way. Shortly after 0930, after Japanese planes had strafed the trail to clear the way for the infantry advance, Nara's men hit the front and right of the 41st Infantry line. Unable to stand against the weight of the assault and in danger of being outflanked, the Filipinos withdrew to a new line about 600 yards to the rear. Here they held until 1700 when the 65th Brigade moved around their unprotected right flank, threatening to take them from the rear. For the second time that day the 41st withdrew, this time to a point about 1,000 yards farther south, where it established a semicircular position on the Pantingan River with the arc facing east, just short of Trail 29. Though its own position was more secure, the regiment could no longer block General Nara's route south along Trail 29.
The advance of the 4th Division against the center and right elements of Sector D met with the same success that attended Nara's efforts that day. Arrayed against the center of the line was General Taniguchi's Right Wing, strongly supported by the armor of the 7th Tank Regiment. This force opened its attack at about 0830 of the 4th with an armored thrust across the Tiawir River to the Pilar-Bagac road. Having gained the road, the tanks moved eastward to strike the refused left flank of the 21st Infantry. The main line of resistance in this area ran in front of the Pilar-Bagac road, with the result that the advancing armor turned the defender's line and penetrated to the rear of his positions.
The 21st Division, hurt badly by the morning's bombardment, was ill prepared to meet the attack. On the left the 21st Infantry fell back in disorder before the crushing attack of the Japanese tanks. The 23d on the right bent back its exposed flank, offering protection to the retreating men of the 21st. The entire attack lasted for only a short time and at its conclusion, even before his infantry had moved into action, Taniguchi was in control of both banks of the Catmon River and the area formerly occupied by the 43d and 21st Infantry.
General Lough's troops now held only about one-third of the original main line of resistance in Sector D.13
That same morning the third column of the Japanese assaulting force, the Left Wing of the 4th Division, composed of Colonel Morita's reinforced 8th Infantry (less one battalion), entered the action for the first time. Jumping off from the north bank of the Tiawir-Talisay, opposite the 23d and 22d Infantry (the only two units in Sector D still on the main line of resistance), Morita's men crossed the river under cover of artillery and air support at about 0900, occupied the line of departure, and prepared to attack south later in the day. The 23d Infantry, already under pressure from the tank column to the west, and now threatened by a strong force on its front, began to fall back at about 1000. The 22d, on the division and sector right flank, followed suit soon after, thus completing the withdrawal of the last unit from the sector main line of resistance.
Though the Japanese had already scored important gains, neither of the 4th Division's two columns had yet begun the day's offensive. The advance of the Right Wing's tanks along the Pilar-Bagac road and the Left Wing's main force across the Tiawir had been designed to secure positions from which the infantry would jump off at noon. At 1100 General Taniguchi asked for an hour's grace, explaining that he needed more time to prepare after the rapid advance of the day before. This request was readily granted. Colonel Morita, too, was directed to hold up his attack for an hour so that both wings would move out simultaneously. These new instructions never reached Morita, however, for the American artillery had cut his telephone lines, and promptly at noon he began the attack. Japanese artillery, unaware of Morita's assault, laid down a barrage in the area into which the Left Wing was moving, firing "at both friendly and enemy units simultaneously."14 Fortunately for the Japanese cause, Morita's men suffered few casualties and a disaster was narrowly averted. Aside from this misadventure, the advance of the Left Wing was uneventful. The 22d and 23d Infantry had already abandoned the main line of resistance and Morita's 8th Infantry continued south for about one mile before halting for the night.
At 1300 the Right Wing moved out, crossing the Catmon and pushing southeast through the area abandoned by the 21st Infantry earlier in the day. By nightfall it had reached the northern foothills of Mt. Samat. Untouched by the Japanese attack of the 4th was the 33d Infantry at the zigzag on Trail 6, west of Mt. Samat. What artillery fire it received during the day was not directed at it specifically but was intended to neutralize the area on Taniguchi's right flank. The Japanese seemed to be unaware of the regiment's existence, and Holmes, though he sent out patrols to the north, east, and west, had little knowledge of the situation along the front. Aside from the few stragglers who came down the road and a battalion of the 41st Field Artillery some distance to his right rear, on the south slopes
of Mt. Samat near Trail 6, the regiment was alone.
At the end of the day's action, the Japanese were in possession of the entire main line of resistance in Sector D. The 41st Division had been routed and the 21st forced back to the reserve line in front of Mt. Samat, its left flank hanging in the air. The 65th Brigade had pushed south up the Pantingan valley, twice outflanked the 41st Infantry, and now stood ready to march unimpeded down Trail 29. The 4th Division had taken the 21st Division on its left flank, forced it off the main line of resistance, and then launched a co-ordinated flank and frontal assault to gain control of the Catmon valley. The Japanese were now one day ahead of schedule and in position to storm the heights of Mt. Samat, the first objective of the offensive begun on the morning of Good Friday.
Homma's original plan for the seizure of Mt. Samat had called for a regrouping of the 4th Division's two columns once the northern foothills of the mountain had been reached, shifting the strength of the division from the right to the left wing, then attacking in force along the east slopes down Trail 4. At the same time the 65th Brigade was to continue its drive west of Mt. Samat toward Mariveles, while the 16th Division and the Nagano Detachment prepared to join in the attack against the Limay line. The only change made in this plan as a result of the unexpected gains won on 3 and 4 April was to move the schedule ahead. Anticipating an earlier attack against the Limay line than originally planned, Homma, on the night of the 4th, ordered the 16th Division to move east "as soon as possible" and the Nagano Detachment to prepare for an attack against Orion.15
The regrouping of the 4th Division for the attack against Mt. Samat was accomplished with little difficulty on the night of 4-5 April. General Taniguchi, taking his tanks and one battalion of the 61st Infantry, moved over to the Left Wing. Reorganized and strengthened, this wing became the main striking force of the 4th Division. Command of the Right Wing, reduced to less than one regiment, the 61st, plus attached troops, passed to Col. Gempachi Sato. Division artillery moved south of the Talisay to provide the necessary support for the infantry advance, and the 37th Infantry, in division reserve, took up a position behind the Left Wing. It was the Left Wing under Taniguchi which was to make the main effort down Trail 4 next morning. Sato's wing was to seize the heights of Mt. Samat then continue down the south side of the mountain to the line of the Tala River, the jumping-off point for the next attack.
At dawn, 5 April, the Japanese resumed their devastating air and artillery bombardment. It was Easter Sunday and many of the Americans and Filipinos were attending dawn services "in the fastness of the jungle" when the shells and bombs began to fall.16 For them the day of the Resurrection was not the joyous occasion it had been in peacetime. The services, wrote one officer, had "a serious atmosphere for us," and chaplains, invoking divine guidance, did not fail to ask as well for "deliverance from the power of the enemy."17
The attack began at 1000 when both columns of the 4th Division moved out. The strengthened Left Wing, making the main attack against the right flank of the 21st Division, soon ran into unexpectedly stubborn resistance. The Filipinos, supported by two battalions of the 41st Field Artillery on the south slope of Mt. Samat and by artillery from the adjoining sectors, put up so stiff a fight that one Japanese officer described it as "the fiercest combat in the second Bataan campaign."18 Against this determined opposition, Taniguchi's men made little headway and by early afternoon were still pinned down on Trail 4, far short of their objective.
The Right Wing under Colonel Sato had meanwhile been pushing ahead unopposed on the exposed left flank of the 21st Division, up the northwest slopes of Mt. Samat. Near the summit it met a single platoon of the 21st Infantry which it easily routed and at 1250 secured possession of the mountain top. The position of the 41st Field Artillery, whose fire was so effectively pinning down General Taniguchi's Left Wing on Trail 4, was now untenable, and the artillerymen were forced to evacuate. Before they did, they destroyed their equipment and rolled their guns over the cliffs.
No longer pinned down by the artillery General Taniguchi promptly resumed the offensive. At 1400 he sent one of his battalions across the northeast slopes of the mountain in a flanking movement while increasing pressure on the defenders to his front. The disorganized but hard-fighting 21st Division troops, deprived of their artillery support, were in no condition to stand against the powerful Left Wing alone and shortly before 1530 began to fall back. Only scattered elements along Trail 4 barred Taniguchi's way south and he and his men easily pushed toward the line of the Tala River, below Mt. Samat.
That same afternoon Sato's Right Wing made its way unopposed down the southern slopes of Mt. Samat. At 1630 advance elements of this force reached the command post of the 21st Division near the junction of Trails 4 and 429. Taken by surprise, officers and men of the headquarters took flight, the majority moving west along Trail 429 to set up a new command post a mile away, at the junction of that trail and Trail 6. General Capinpin, the division commander, was not among those who reached safety; he had become separated from his staff during the disorganized flight and been captured by the Japanese.
Hardly had the new command post been established when it had to be abandoned because of the appearance at 1700 of Japanese troops near the trail junction. These troops were a part of Sato's force which had come down the west side of Mt. Samat during the afternoon. After routing the 21st Division headquarters, the Japanese hit the remaining battalion of the 41st Field Artillery still in position west of Mt. Samat. The artillerymen fled to the rear, leaving their guns behind. "No Americans killed, wounded or decorated," wrote an officer of the battalion at the conclusion of the action.19 That night Taniguchi and Sato joined forces at the old 21st Division command post near Trail Junction 4-429.
Between dawn of Good Friday and nightfall of Easter Sunday, in three days of infantry and tank assaults accompanied by the largest artillery and air bombardments
of the campaign, the Japanese had gained the first objective in their final drive to end the siege of Bataan. They had broken through the American line, swept aside the troops of Sector D, virtually destroyed two Philippine Army divisions, and seized Mt. Samat. Homma's hopes, twice frustrated, of turning General Parker's flank and driving II Corps into Manila Bay, thus ending the campaign, were near realization. Only a successful counterattack, or an unexpectedly strong stand by a foe already reduced to near impotence by starvation and disease, could deprive him of the long-delayed victory.
The events of 6 April determined the fate of the Bataan garrison. On that day the weary American and Philippine troops made a desperate effort to drive back the enemy and regain the main line of resistance. At the same time the Japanese launched a fresh offensive to the south and east. The two forces met head on and by evening the issue had been decided.
Plans and Preparations
Since the Japanese penetration on the afternoon of Good Friday, the Americans had been laying plans for a counterattack while seeking vainly to halt the enemy advance. The means with which to launch such an attack were extremely limited. Corps reserve, consisting of less than one regiment, had been committed on the first day of the offensive without any visible effect on the enemy's operations. Most of the troops in Sector D had been routed and could not be relied upon for a counterattack. By the second day of the offensive it had become evident that, if the Japanese were to be stopped and the main line of resistance regained, fresh troops would have to be thrown into the battle.
At the start of the attack Luzon Force had in reserve the American 31st Infantry, the Scouts of the 57th Infantry—both a part of the Philippine Division—the Provisional Tank Group, and two battalions of combat engineers. The third regiment of the Philippine Division, the 45th Infantry (PS), was in I Corps reserve. Only a few days before, General King, the Luzon Force commander, had ordered the 31st to Lamao, behind II Corps, and the 45th Infantry to the junction of Trails 7 and 9, behind I Corps. The 57th remained farther south, in position to move to the support of either corps.
When news of the Japanese attack first reached General King on 3 April he ordered the 31st Infantry to move under cover of darkness to "a position of readiness" near the junction of Trails 10 and 2.20 From there it could move north on Trail 2 or west on Trail 10 to almost any point along the front. At the same time King ordered the Provisional Tank Group (less two companies) to move to the direct support of Parker's imperiled corps. There was nothing more that General King could do that day. Parker had already released his reserve to the Sector D commander and every effort was being made to re-form the shattered 41st Division and to establish a line in front of the advancing Japanese.
When, on the morning of 4 April, the 21st Division fell back from the main line of resistance, General King took prompt measures to avert the threatened disaster in II Corps. He gave to Parker, who already had the support of the Provisional Tank Group, the American 31st Infantry, possibly the
most carefully hoarded unit of the Philippine campaign, and ordered the battle-tested 45th Infantry (PS), less the 1st Battalion, east across the Pantingan to the junction of Trails 29 and 8 in the II Corps area. The 57th Infantry King retained in force reserve, but ordered it to move forward that night to the bivouac area vacated by the 31st Infantry. The 14th Engineer Battalion (PS), part of the Philippine Division, and the Americans of the 803d Engineer Battalion (US) were ordered to discontinue all engineering activities and to assemble immediately in preparation for combat. Thus, at the end of the second day's attack, Luzon Force had given General Parker two regiments of the Philippine Division, placed the third in "a position of readiness" behind his line, and ordered the tanks to give him direct support.
With these forces the corps and sector commanders made their plans for a counterattack.21 On the 4th, before the reinforcing units had reached their designated assembly areas, Parker released to General Lough the 31st Infantry, the 45th Infantry (less the 1st Battalion), and one company of tanks. With these troops, and those already in his sector, Lough was to launch a counterattack on the morning of the 6th to regain first the reserve line and finally the main line of resistance.
At 1600 of the 4th the 45th Infantry began its march east toward II Corps. By dawn the next morning it had crossed the Pantingan and reached Trail Junction 8-29. The 31st Infantry and Company C, 194th Tank Battalion, began their march north along Trail 2 toward the battle area at 2000 of the 4th. They found the road almost completely blocked by retreating Filipinos and took three hours to reach the San Vicente River, where, at an abandoned bivouac area, the 31st Infantry halted for the night. The tankers presumably camped near by and next day marched west to join the 45th Infantry.
Easter Sunday was a hectic day at Sector D headquarters. Between frantic phone calls to and from units in front of the advancing Japanese the staff prepared its plan for the counterattack. This plan, completed late on the afternoon of the 5th, provided for a co-ordinated drive, starting at 0600 on the 6th, north on the three trails in Sector D toward the reserve line. On the right, east of Mt. Samat, the 31st Infantry would attack north on Trail 4. The remnants of the 21st Division, the extent of whose disastrous rout that afternoon was still not fully known at Sector D headquarters, would advance up the slopes of Mt. Samat. The 33d Infantry, in position at the zigzag on Trail 6, was to advance along that trail, between the Catmon River and the western slopes of Mt. Samat. The remnants of the 42d and 43d Infantry, about four hundred men, were to push north from Trail Junction 6-8 along Trail 6 behind the 33d In-
fantry. If they could not advance they were to hold Trail Junction 6-8, near which Sector D headquarters was located. Farther west, the Scouts of the 45th Infantry, supported by a company of tanks, would advance north on Trail 29 to the reserve line formerly held by the 41st Infantry. That regiment, which had crossed the Pantingan to the safety of I Corps area during the day, was directed in separate orders to re-cross the river that night and establish a line across Trail 29.22
For the counterattack General Lough would have the support of the troops in Sector C to his right. The 51st Combat Team, on that sector's left flank, would launch its own attack when the 31st Infantry reached its line. General Bluemel, the Sector C commander, also promised artillery support in addition to the scheduled 30-minute artillery barrage preceding the counterattack.23 In sector reserve General Lough had the 57th Infantry (PS), recently released by Luzon Force. Elements of that regiment were already moving toward the San Vicente River, behind the 31st Infantry.
General Homma had no intention of waiting passively for an American counterattack. He had the initiative and had scored a victory which he intended to exploit fully. His plans for 6 April called for an attack against Sector C, which now formed the left flank of II Corps line, and a continuation of the drive southward toward the Limay River. The main effort that day would be made by the 4th Division, one portion of which would strike east to seize the Capot area in Sector C while the bulk of the division pushed southeast toward the Limay River. The right (west) flank of the Japanese advance would be guarded by the 65th Brigade on Trail 29. Elements of the brigade had already moved overland toward Trail Junction 6-8, and Nara was directed to continue his efforts to seize that important road junction while protecting the 4th Division's right flank. The division's east flank would be protected by the Nagano Detachment. Reinforced with a company of tanks, Nagano was to send one column forward to the Talisay River in position to join later in the attack against the Limay line, while the remainder of his detachment maintained pressure against the enemy line across the East Road. As before, 14th Army artillery would fire a preliminary bombardment while the 22d Air Brigade would strike at enemy artillery positions, vehicles, and troop concentrations.24
Under cover of darkness, Easter Sunday, both sides prepared for the next day's attack. The Japanese were confident and the odds were in their favor. For the Americans it was a gamble, but one that had to be taken. To it they had committed most of their reserves. If the counterattack failed they would be hard pressed to prevent the enemy from rolling up the rest of the line and driving the corps into Manila Bay.
All hopes for success rested on the comparatively fresh troops of the Philippine Division, two of whose regiments were in the line and one in reserve. Understrength, weakened by disease and starvation, these regiments were hardly a match for the Japa-
nese. The 31st Infantry, when it moved out from its bivouac area at Lamao on 3 April, had to leave behind about one third of the men for evacuation to the hospital. Many who should have remained behind rose from their sick beds to join their comrades. Along the line of march, men fell out of rank, too exhausted to continue. The efficiency of those who reached the front line could not have been more than 50 percent.25 It is not surprising, therefore, that General Wainwright, when he visited Bataan on the 5th, approved the plans for the morrow's counterattack "with misgivings as to the outcome."26
The American Counterattack
The mission of the 31st Infantry in the counterattack of the 6th was to advance north on Trail 4, east of Mt. Samat, to the reserve line of the 21st Division. The regiment, in position at the intersection of the San Vicente River and Trail 2 when it received its orders, was to move to Trail Junction 4-429, the designated jump-off point, sometime during the evening of the 5th and move out from there at 0600 the next morning.
Almost immediately this plan miscarried. Late on the afternoon of the 5th General Taniguchi's powerful Left Wing, advancing south on Trail 4, had routed the 21st Division elements along the trail and Colonel Sato's Right Wing had hit the division command post on Trail Junction 4-429. When informed of these events, sector headquarters changed the 31st Infantry's jump-off point to Trail Junction 44-429, about 1,300 yards east of the original starting position.27 The regiment now would have to recapture Trail Junction 4-429 before it could even begin its counterattack along Trail 4.
On the evening of the 5th the regiment moved out from its bivouac near the San Vicente River toward its new assembly area, with the 1st Battalion in the lead. The battalion's mission was to secure Trail 44 from its starting point on Trail 2 to its junction with Trail 429, a distance of about 1,300 yards. The remaining battalions were to pass through the 1st, the 2d taking position west of the trail junction and the 3d to the south. As it passed through the 1st Battalion shortly after midnight, the 2d Battalion came under fire from the Japanese who had secured Trail Junction 4-429 and were advancing along Trail 429 toward the 31st Infantry's new assembly area. If unchecked they might seize Trail Junction 44-429 too, depriving the Americans of even this jump-off point. Lt. Col. Jasper E. Brady, Jr., now commander of the 31st Infantry, ordered his 2d Battalion to press forward quickly to occupy this last trail junction before the Japanese. The battalion accomplished its mission, but only with difficulty and after a fight lasting several hours.28
While this action was in progress, the main body of Taniguchi's Left Wing was attacking the remnants of the 21st Division on Trail 4. Encircled and isolated, the Filipinos sought desperately to break through the Japanese ring and make their way back to safety. Most were killed or captured, but some escaped. Of these a small number reached the American lines. The news they brought of the disintegration of the 21st Division and the strength of the Japanese on Trail 4 was disquieting. On the basis of these reports Colonel Brady concluded that his regiment of about 800 men, most of them in poor condition, was faced by a much stronger force than had been thought. Even if he could launch a successful counterattack he doubted that he could hold any gains made with the few men he had. He therefore halted his men until he had presented his conclusions to General Lough. Unable to reach Sector D headquarters by telephone, he sent Lt. Col. Peter D. Calyer, his operations officer, together with some of the 21st Division men, in a jeep to General Lough's command post to present these new facts and to get further instructions.29
Not long after Calyer had left, the main force of Taniguchi's Left Wing approached the 31st Infantry outposts on Trail 429. The situation was urgent and Brady again sought to reach sector headquarters by telephone. This time he was successful and soon had General Lough's G-3 on the line. Informed of the situation, the G-3 changed Brady's orders and assigned the 31st Infantry a defensive mission. Instead of attacking, the regiment was to hold Trail Junction 44- 429 at all costs. A short time later Colonel Calyer returned from sector headquarters with written confirmation of the new orders.
On receipt of these orders Brady pulled back the tired men, who had been trying all night to advance west along Trail 429 toward the original jump-off point, and issued new orders for the establishment of a defensive line facing west across the trail junction. The 1st Battalion would take up a position on the right (north) and the 2d on the left. Contact by patrol would be maintained with the 51st Combat Team to the north, on the refused left flank of Sector C. Regimental headquarters and the reserve 3d Battalion would take up a position about a mile to the east near the former bivouac area at the intersection of Trail 2 and the San Vicente River. By morning these moves had been completed and the men of the 31st Infantry settled down to hold the trail junction.
On the west, along the line of the Pantingan, the counterattack of 6 April got off to a good start. Shortly after midnight, 5 April, the 300 men of the 41st Infantry moved out from their position on the west bank of the Pantingan, climbed the 300-foot bluffs of the river and struck east toward Trail 29. Their aim was to establish a line across the trail, about 200 yards below Trail Junction 29-429, to which the Scouts of the 45th Infantry could advance the next morning. At about 0200 the 41st Infantry reached its former bivouac area, occupied by a small number of men from the 65th Brigade, and succeeded in routing the surprised Japanese, bayoneting those who lay asleep. The regiment then pushed ahead and reached the trail by daybreak. There it was met and halted by a 65th Brigade counterattack. The Japanese, whose strength finally reached that of a re-
inforced battalion, hit the Filipinos on three sides and by noon had forced them back to a defensive line along the river. Here the 41st Infantry held, hoping that the 45th Infantry, attacking north along Trail 29, would soon arrive.30
The counterattack of the 45th Infantry (less 1st Battalion) had begun at 0200 of the 6th. At that time the regiment, with the 3d Battalion in the lead, had moved out to the line of departure. From there, the Scouts had advanced cautiously along Trail 29 in the dark. Company C, 194th Tank Battalion, supporting the attack, did not catch up with the Scouts until daylight, after an all-night march over the mountains from the east. It was not until midmorning that the regiment made contact with the enemy when it pushed aside the 65th Brigade outposts. Resistance thereafter was stronger and early in the afternoon the Scouts had to beat off a flanking attack. The tanks, held to the trail by the dense undergrowth on each side, could be of little assistance. At about 1500, after an advance of approximately 2,500 yards, the regiment came to a halt before a strong Japanese position astride the trail.
The 45th Infantry had been under heavy enemy mortar fire all day but, with a limited supply of shells, had refrained from returning fire. At this point the Scout commander, Colonel Doyle, decided to use half of the 3d Battalion's ten 81-mm. shells to open a hole in the Japanese line through which the tanks could thrust. The tank commander agreed to this plan and later in the afternoon the mortars opened fire. The few shots proved surprisingly effective. The Japanese on the trail fell back so quickly that the Scouts pushed into the breach before the tanks could move up. It was fortunate that they did for the trail had been heavily mined and a tank advance might have proved disastrous.
Despite his success, Colonel Doyle was uneasy. Patrols sent out to establish contact with I Corps to the west and the 33d Infantry to the east had either failed to return or reported they had met only enemy units. It was now late afternoon and Colonel Doyle decided that it was too risky to continue the advance as long as his flanks were unprotected. He therefore halted his men and ordered them to dig in for the night. With his executive officer and the tank commander, he went back to his command post in the rear to report to General Lough and ask for instructions. When reached on the telephone, Lough confirmed Doyle's decision and ordered him to consolidate his gains that evening in preparation for a fresh attack the next morning. Several thousand yards to the north, in position along the high bluffs of the Pantingan, the men of the 41st Infantry were still waiting for the Scouts to reach them.
It was in the center, along the line of the Catmon River and Trail 6, that the counterattack of 6 April ended disastrously. There the plan called for an advance by the 33d Infantry, backed up by the remnants of the 42d and 43d Infantry. But the Japanese had begun moving into this area the day before, and on the 5th General Nara had sent the bulk of his brigade overland in two columns to seize Trail Junction 6-8. A portion of this force had struck the "hungry, spiritless" stragglers of the 42d and 43d as they were moving north on Trail 6 to join in the counterattack. At the first sign of the enemy, the men had broken and fled. All efforts to put
them back in place were fruitless; they simply disappeared into the jungle, leaving the vital Trail Junction 6-8 open to the advancing Japanese. The 33d Infantry, like the 41st, waited in vain for the counterattacking troops to reach it. During the afternoon the 33d, too, came under attack and its last communications to the rear were destroyed. Presumed lost, the regiment spent the night in fearful apprehension of an enemy attack the next morning.
Before the day was over it was already evident that the carefully planned counterattack was a failure. On the east the 31st Infantry had not even been able to reach the line of departure. The 21st Division, routed on the night of 5-6 April, made no effort to carry out its part of the plan to restore the line. In the center the 42d and 43d had again been routed and the 33d Infantry surrounded. Only on the west, along Trail 29, had the Americans met with any success that day. But the victory was a hollow one, for the 41st Infantry was still cut off and the Japanese were threatening a move which would isolate the 45th from the rest of the troops in Sector D.
The Japanese Attack
The Japanese attack on 6 April, which began simultaneously with the American counterattack, accomplished decisive results. This attack, made by the 4th Division and 65th Brigade, had a double objective: to seize the high ground in Sector C, near Capot, and to push forward to the line of the Limay River. The task of the 65th Brigade was a subordinate one. It was to protect the right flank of the 4th Division drive while seizing the high ground near Trail Junction 6-8.
Nara's advance on the 6th, though not a part of the main drive planned for that day, proved far more decisive than the Japanese had thought. His two columns advancing overland in a southeasterly direction from Trail 29 hit and routed the 42d and 43d Infantry with no difficulty. The Japanese kept going down Trail 6 and shortly after noon advance elements of the brigade reached and seized Trail Junction 6-8 where General Lough had his headquarters. By this move the Japanese bisected Sector D and cut General Lough off from his forces to the east.
Just east of the trail junction was a portion of the 57th Infantry (PS). This regiment, sector reserve for the counterattack, was in the process of moving up to the front line when its 1st Battalion met General Nara's forward elements around noon. The arrival of the 2d Battalion later in the day coincided with the arrival of additional troops from the 65th Brigade. Any chance of regaining the trail junction was now gone; the Scouts were finding it difficult even to maintain their position east of the trail junction. The situation was extremely serious and at 1600 General Lough, who had moved his command post west to the vicinity of Trail Junction 8-29, ordered Colonel Doyle to withdraw his 45th Infantry along Trail 29 and establish contact with the 57th Infantry.
Colonel Doyle, whose men had made the only gains of the day, had only a short time before halted his men and ordered them to dig in for the night. He now had to move the tired Scouts out of their position, turn them around, and march them back to the point from which they had started at 0200 the night before. That prospect alone was discouraging enough but at the conclusion
of the march they were expected to continue east along Trail 8, then fight their way through the roadblock at Trail Junction 6-8 to re-establish contact with the 57th Infantry. Until they did, General Lough and his forces west of the block would be separated from the rest of Sector D and from II Corps.
The attack of the 4th Division against Sector C, the main Japanese effort of the 6th, was equally disastrous to the American cause. This sector, whose main line of resistance at the start of the Japanese offensive had extended for 4,500 yards eastward from Sector D, had by 6 April given way on the left. On the 4th, on orders from corps, General Bluemel had pulled back his outpost line to the Pilar-Bagac road and prepared for an attack against his left flank. This attack had not materialized, but when the 21st Division had fallen back before Taniguchi's Left Wing on the 5th, leaving the left flank of Sector C exposed, General Bluemel had requested permission to fall behind the San Vicente River. Plans for the counterattack had already been made and corps turned down Bluemel's request, ordering him instead to bring his left flank unit, the 51st Combat Team, back to the Pilar River, thus refusing his line sharply.
Bluemel's desire to fall back to the San Vicente River was an understandable one. That river formed a natural obstacle to the advance of an enemy moving, as the Japanese were, in a southeasterly direction. It cut diagonally across the rear of Sector C to the right of the sector main line of resistance, then turned east to Orion and the bay. Behind its banks a line could be formed which would protect the most vital portion of the corps main line of resistance covering the East Road, as well as Trails 8 and 2. If it should prove necessary to fall back, there were other rivers, the Mamala, the Alangan, and the Lamao, which would provide natural defensive positions for a planned withdrawal.
The abortive counterattack by the 31st Infantry had begun in Sector C, at the intersection of the San Vicente River and Trail 2. By morning of the 6th that regiment had established a line facing north and west across Trail Junction 44-429, maintaining contact by patrol with the refused left flank of the 51st Combat Team to the north. It was in this area that the Japanese attack came.
When he received his orders on the night of the 5th to seize the area around Capot, General Kitano, the 4th Division commander, was already convinced that his troops had scored a major success. He decided therefore to commit his reserve, the 37th Infantry (less one battalion), to this new enterprise rather than weaken his main force on Trail 4. Convinced also, by the experience of the 65th Brigade in its attacks against Sector C in late January and early February, that a frontal assault would be hazardous, he decided upon a flanking attack. Orders to Col. Jiro Koura, therefore, specified that the 37th Infantry, reinforced with tanks, artillery, and engineers, would step off from the northeast foothills of Mt. Samat and strike the sharply refused left flank of Sector C in an effort to take the objective from the rear.
At 1030 of the 6th Colonel Koura's force, led by six or seven tanks of the 7th Tank Regiment, jumped off. The tanks hit the main line of resistance from the north, just above Trail 2 where a portion of the Antitank Company of the 31st Infantry (US) was posted. Heavy fire from two 37-mm. guns halted the tank attack, but the guns, lacking armor-piercing shells, were unable
to knock out the enemy tanks. But this was not the main Japanese effort. The bulk of Koura's infantry had struck from the west against the 51st Combat Team in place behind the Pilar River. Before the morning was over, they had overrun the 51st Engineers and forced the entire line back. Trail 2 now lay open to the advancing Japanese and the entire left of Sector C was imperiled.
The main force of the 4th Division, meanwhile, had been increasing its pressure against the 31st Infantry (US) guarding Trail Junction 44-429 to the south. Here Taniguchi's men, advancing east along Trail 429, had been pushing strongly against the 2d Battalion on the left (south) in an effort to turn the American flank and get behind Sector C. By 1400 the pressure had become so great that Colonel Brady had to commit Companies L and K from his reserve battalion to the threatened flank. Enemy planes, which had been overhead all day, now intensified their attacks while the Japanese infantry pushed ever harder. Finally, at 1500, when he had lost all contact with the withdrawing 51st Combat Team to the north, Colonel Brady gave the order to withdraw.
The possibility of a withdrawal had been foreseen by sector headquarters. Brady's first orders had been to hold the trail junction at all costs. Around noon General Lough had modified these orders to allow Brady to withdraw if necessary to the San Vicente. At 1500, therefore, the regiment began to move to its new position behind the river, with the two reserve companies covering the withdrawal. The maneuver was a difficult one for the tired men, many of whom were too weak to carry their machine guns through the jungle and up the steep ravines. Companies L and K, using to good advantage their small supply of 81-mm. mortar shells, succeeded in disengaging the enemy and rejoined the regiment which by nightfall was in its new position. There was nothing now to prevent a juncture between Taniguchi's men and the 37th Infantry advancing south on Trail 2.
By 1600 of the 6th it was evident that a line in front of the San Vicente could not be held and at that time General Parker directed a general withdrawal to the river. Bluemel, who had three times before requested permission to pull back to the San Vicente, was given command of the 31st Infantry and the 3d Battalion, 57th, and directed to establish his line along the river's east bank. From the main line of resistance in Sector B, the new line would extend in a southwesterly direction through Sector C to link up with the 57th Infantry troops facing the Japanese on Trail Junction 6-8. On the north, to the left of Sector B, was the 32d Infantry (PA). Next to it, across Trail 2, were the remaining elements of the 51st Combat Team and some 31st Division (PA) troops. Below the trail was the American 31st Infantry with the 31st Engineer Battalion (PA) to its left. The 3d Battalion, 57th Infantry, under Major Johnson, which moved up to the San Vicente on the night of the 6th, took up a position on the left of the engineers, on the south flank.
Southwest of this line, east of Trail Junction 6-8, was the rest of the 57th Infantry. In the same order which established the San Vicente line, Parker placed all the Sector D troops east of Trail 6 under Col. Edmund J. Lilly, Jr., the 57th commander, and gave him the 201st and 202d Engineer Battalions (PA) from corps reserve. Lilly's mission was to recapture the trail junction and establish contact with the 45th Infantry to the west.
The two engineer battalions were to move up that night and take a position on the right of the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 57th, to tie in Lilly's force with the 3d Battalion of the regiment on the south flank of the San Vicente line. When this move was completed, the II Corps line would extend west from Orion along the Orion cutoff, then southwest behind the San Vicente River across Trail 2 to Trail 8 east of the trail junction.
When the action of the 6th was over the Americans and Filipinos found themselves in a desperate situation. The carefully prepared counterattack launched that morning had failed dismally and the enemy had quickly seized the initiative to score decisive gains. He had secured the vital Trail Junction 6-8 to cut off General Lough, with the 45th and 41st Infantry, from II Corps. All of the important north-south trails in Sector D—29, 6, and 4—as well as Trail 44 and a portion of Trail 2, were now in his hands. He had driven in the left half of the II Corps line, split the two corps, occupied Mt. Samat, and threatened to turn the unhinged II Corps flank and push on to the bay.
To forestall this move the Americans had established a sharply bent and shortened line behind the San Vicente River. The men on this line were already weakened and partially disorganized. Two entire divisions and a regiment had been lost. Another two regiments and a sector headquarters had been cut off. The remaining troops, in poor condition at the start, were hardly fit for combat. Most of the reserves had been committed, and additional forces would have to come largely from Jones's intact I Corps. The outlook was bleak.
For the men on Bataan there was only one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy picture. At the start of the offensive General Wainwright had ordered an increase in the rice ration, to be taken from the Corregidor reserves, and had sent to General King all but 5,000 cases of C rations of the supplies in the Bataan reserve held on the island. By the 5th the ration issue had been increased to 27 ounces, still far below the minimum required but double the daily issue since 22 March. The allotment of flour to American troops was increased from 1.44 to 2.88 ounces; the rice ration went up from 8.5 to 17 ounces and canned meat from 1.22 to 2.44 ounces. The Filipinos, instead of wheat, received an additional allowance of rice and canned fish.31 An antiaircraft battery commander was surprised one morning when he received more rations than he expected. "There were," he noted, "a few cans of Abalone, which defied preparation; a little more salmon and tomatoes and some type C [rations], and wonder of wonders, some cigarettes."32
In an Army Day broadcast General Wainwright spoke bravely of those who were "privileged to be charged with the defense of this distant bastion."33 But his official dispatches show a clear appreciation of the catastrophic events of the past twenty-four hours. To Washington he reported that the enemy had driven a wedge into the right center of his front, that the air and artillery
bombardment begun on the 3d had continued without letup, and that fresh enemy troops had been thrown into the battle and were gaming ground slowly.34
In his message to General MacArthur, Wainwright added the significant details which would enable the commander of USAFFE to form his own estimate. The enemy, Wainwright explained, had penetrated to Trail 8, 7,000 yards south of the main line of resistance, seized Mt. Samat, and routed three Philippine Army divisions. To MacArthur these events signified imminent disaster. "It is apparent to me," he told the Chief of Staff, "that the enemy has driven a wedge between I and II Corps and is still advancing."35 By the time this estimate reached Washington, disaster had already overtaken the luckless men on Bataan.
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