The Charlotte News

Thursday, April 9, 1942


Site Ed. Note: Bad news came from Bataan this date. The front page announces that nearly 37,000 U.S. soldiers were forced to surrender, the largest single surrender of troop personnel in U.S. history. Another 39,000 troops, unreported this date, mostly Filipinos, also surrendered.

"On Bataan", on the editorial page, continues the story, indicating that the final reason for the surrender was sheer exhaustion and lack of food, the Allied forces having been surrounded by a force outnumbering them by up to ten to one, having begun the campaign in December outnumbered fully three to one, three-quarters of which force consisted of 12,000 Filipino scouts and 60,000 semi-trained Filipino soldiers, leaving only 19,000 regular U.S. troops to face 250,000 Japanese. It had been in mid-December that MacArthur ordered General Wainwright to implement "War Plan Orange", the twenty-year old plan to withdraw to Bataan and Corregidor in case of the fall of Manila.

The piece offers the best gloss possible on a bad situation, indicating that the tenacity of the defenders had, even in defeat, marked down the Japanese invaders as cruel beasts before the world.

But the cruelty had scarcely begun. Immediately on the heels of the surrender would come the notoriously savage Bataan death march 80 miles north to a Japanese prison camp at Tarlac. Only about 54,000 of the prisoners made it. Some escaped into the jungles, but an estimated 10,000 or more died of starvation or were beaten to death for various minor incursions to the Draconian rules laid down by the Japanese during the march.

Responsibility for the march was ultimately laid to General Homma, the recent "suicide" from March who suddenly was resurrected from the grave to return to command in the Philippines. At his 1946 war crimes trial, he protested that he did not know of the death toll until after the war, that he had turned the matter over to his subordinates while he focused on capturing Corregidor. General Homma was executed as a war criminal on April 3, 1946. Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, former American Governor General of the Philippines in the mid-thirties, who had also written a stinging dissent in the Japanese internment case, Korematsu v. U.S., 323 US 214 (1944), publicly criticized the U.S. military court-martial, overseen personally by General MacArthur, as being without due process and thus violative of the Constitution--"a revengeful blood purge".

With peace came, in time, humility and magnanimity on the part of the Japanese, and amity with the Filipino people: in 1953, the Filipinos returned to Japan the previously interred remains of 17 executed war criminals along with 106 still living war criminals, 56 of whom had been sentenced to death, all of whom having had their sentences commuted and then provided pardons by then Philippine President Quirino, whose wife and three children had been butchered in the rape of Manila on the eve of its fall to the returning Allies in February, 1945. In the latter bloodfest, 40,000 civilians were murdered by machine-gun fire in twenty days. Despite the act of refreshed comity eight years later, the remains of Generals Homma and Yamashita could not be located in the sugarcane field where they were thought to be buried, and thus were not among the sarcophagal returns.

At his trial, General Homma's wife testified that he was a poet and lover of literature, his favorite American novel having been reported by the Army to be Gone With the Wind, a chapter of which he read each night during the siege of Bataan; he asked that when the Japanese seized California, he be sent a copy of the film. Eventually, in 1946, in a manner of speaking, he got his wish.

In any event, since his second death upon execution, he has not been observed. He apparently did not learn sufficiently the lesson upon recovery from his first death.

Just why the erroneous report surfaced, its source to the American press having been General MacArthur, based on a report of harry-kiri by a prominent Japanese general at the Manila Hotel in March, has never been fully elucidated; it was probably simply the result of a mistake pertinaciously maintained through understandably impetuous desires to capitalize on something favorable to the Allied cause to boost faltering morale, both in the theater itself and at home. The Japanese Imperial Command, however, had helped fuel the rumor by announcing the replacement of Homma by Yamashita at the very time of the reported hara-kiri in Manila. Regardless of whether the hari-kiri story originated from MacArthur's mistake, the Mikado's deliberate ruse, or a reticulation of the thusly loose-formed combine, the topsy-turvy story, in the end, could not have done much but to depress morale that much more in the face of the nearly contemporaneous surrender first of Bataan and then, on May 6, the face-to-face surrender of General Wainwright and his remaining contingent of defenders on "The Rock" of Corregidor to General Homma, a photograph of which was published at the time in the American press.

Were the Japanese playing the cat to MacArthur's mouse, in turn seeking a little cheese for the press and the fighting men on Corregidor and Bataan? Even subsequent to the publication of the photograph of Homma accepting Wainwright's surrender, a sort of "Paul is Dead", (or, more contemporary to the times, "Gable-Lombard Lost"), mentality continued to grip the American press, Time, for instance, still insisting that Homma apparently was dead. Was he?

Did the whole affair suggest something about Cash's death? about Lombard's? Well, as has been said, "...the truth just twists, its curfew gull just glides."

Dorothy Thompson adds to Raymond Clapper’s stressing the day before of the importance of the preservation of China to the Allied war effort, and adds Russia to the equation, arguing for a combined European and Pacific strategy to win the war. She predicts that if there is no success in the ubiquitous offensive to be launched jointly by Japan and Germany in the spring--Japan toward India, perhaps Vladivostok, Germany renewing its frontal attack on Russia, aiming for Moscow and the Caucasus, and in Libya with the goal of capturing Egypt and the Suez, the ultimate aim being to lock arms with Japan in the Indian Ocean—then the war would be over in 1943 with victory to the Allies.

It would not, of course, be that simple, even if significant inroads on the new, tenuously held Japanese empire would begin in the Pacific theater, Vladivostok would not be attacked, siege would be the result in Russia, and, within a year, by early May, 1943, Germany, Vichy, and Italy would be driven from North Africa. With so many fields of battle in flux, along with the uncertainty of deployment of men and materiel during the ensuing year of steadily increasing production in the U.S., it is no wonder that no one was exactly right in forecasting either the course of the war or the time of its end. Some were predicting that it might drag on ten years, others that the Allies might be forced to capitulate in another year, or that the Axis might be.

Paul Mallon today tells of the lone Flying Fortress which shot down 12 of 27 of its presumptive predators, Japanese Zeroes, faster and more maneuverable than the cumbersome heavy bomber. Yet, given the Fortress’s ability to fly at higher altitude than the Zero and thus stay above the fray when possible, the agile Japanese plane, flying with thin armor, succumbed to the thicker skinned but slower behemoth.

The piece suggests generally an advantage of coming into the war late, the ability to study the enemy’s war machine and then to design and place into mass production machinery with tactical advantage over the enemy. Because of the necessary interruption to production flow to adjust designs and change factory assembly methods to accommodate superior technology, the enemy remained stuck with essentially the same equipment for a long period of time, with only minor changes practicably capable of being realized in quantity on the existing production line.

Hmmm, Kimosabe, wethinks we Noc A Homma, in the Home of the Brave.

More fully, the quote of the day from Pliny, the Elder, is:

"In this interval of time, during the first fifteen days, [April 24 to May 10], the agriculturist must make haste and do all the work for which he has not been able to find time before the vernal equinox; and he should bear in mind that those who are late in pruning their vines are exposed to jibes and taunts, in imitation of the note of the bird of passage known to us as the cuckoo. For it is looked upon as a disgrace, and one that subjects him to well-merited censure, for that bird, upon its arrival, to find him only then pruning his vines. Hence it is, too, that we find those cutting jokes, of which our peasantry are the object, at the beginning of spring. Still, however, all such jokes are to be looked upon as most abominable, from the ill omens they convey."

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