Discussion in 'What If - Pacific and CBI' started by John Dudek, Dec 11, 2008.
I think that's highly unlikely. He was holed up in Corregidor.
Here's something I found that jibes with the premise of this what if.
Battle of Bataan: Brigadier General Clyde A. Selleck Commands the Layac Line » HistoryNet
After reading that battle account, it quickly becomes clear that the US and Filippino Forces were caught in that maelstorm existance between a peacetime and wartime army. It was painfully apparent that there was no established and functioning chain of command that could have decisively brought those badly needed, 80+ US tanks and 155mm artillery guns to bear upon the advancing Japanese forces that would have undoubtedly made a great difference in the conduct and results of that battle. Added to this, was the number of US Officers who were relieved of command because of poor conduct and leadership while under fire. It would take time to sort out MacArthur's Forces and that was a luxury that he was short on.
Excellent article that greatly broadend my perspective! Thanks!
Imagine what might have happened had the opposite been true? Selleck's Troops could conceivably have held the Layac Line for a much greater period of time, allowing much more men and material to funnel into Bataan.
Yes. And from how he related it, it was a missed opportunity that could have allowed the garrison to hold much longer, and if they manage it, even up to the rainy season.
the original American plan, the longstanding one, was for American and filipino troops to be withdrawn from the cities and fight a guerrilla-style delaying action in the countryside. The plan was carefully worked out by American strategists who took into account the limited resources in place and the extreme difficulty of reinforcing and resupplying Allied forces there in wartime. For whatever reason , MacArthur ignored the plan and chose to fight a mobile battle without enough resources to do so, ultimately resulting in the disastrous surrender.
Whatever limited armored vehicles Macarthur had would have quickly been out of fuel and ammo, anyway. There was almost no way to supply Macarthur's army given total Japanese naval and air superiority.
Nice insight there, Marc780. However, I think we read different background materials. From what I understand, the plan was to fall back to Bataan and Corregidor to prevent the enemy from using Manila Bay. I don't think I have come across a historical plan calling for a guerrilla campaign at the onset of hostilities. Still, my friends and I did come up with such an idea when we wargamed the problem in a class several years ago.
Now, here's something to think about based on the Layac Line article.
What if the Layac Line had successfully held and the Japanese offensive had stalled? And Mac and his commanders were able to exploit this situation enough that local food supplies were able to reach Bataan in quantity, instead of languishing in train depots in various cities as historically happened. With better fed troops, the only remaining problem would then be fuel and ammunition for the time being.
Could this be used as a basis for Allied commanders and strategic planners to reconsider the possibility of sending some form of substantial reinforcement or resupply to the US-led force in Bataan and Corregidor?
Agreed. Disease and starvation beat the Filippino-American Forces on Bataan far moreso than the Japanese did. Had the Allied Troops on Bataan been better fed, they could have held out far longer than they historically did. As a result, President Roosevelt would find himself in the unenviable political position, that if Bataan held out into the summer of 1942 without the US mounting some sort of major resupply attempt, what could he do? Public opinion would demand action.
Historically speaking, fuel and ammunition never failed on Bataan throughout the siege. However, the food ration was down to 3/8ths of a normal ration by the time of the final Japanese assault.
Post Midway a token effort might be hastily made. There was a very brief moment in early June when the Japanese fleet was returning to ports to refuel. If just a few days later a small fast convoy was sent it might have a small chance of reaching Battan. Then the cargo ships would be sunk at the docks by the Japanese army aircraft based in PI. Several valuable ships sunk, several hundred more lives lost.
The public was already aware of what happened to the supply effort made to support the Dutch, to the British efforts to send ships in & out of Singapore, and to the cargo ships in PI waters before they fled at the end of December. There were also the examples from the European war like Norway, Dunkirk, Crete, and the battle of the Atlantic. They were under few illusions as to why a massive relief effort had not been made. While Roosevelts enemys would have made something of it in the Chicago Tribune, or at the club, the general public would still have the twin vicotorys of the Coral Sea, Midway, and the Tokyo Raid.
This accords more with the reality of the situation than speculation about what the US public might, or might not, have demanded had Bataan held out until the summer of 1942.
The media in those days is not like the media today when every so-called "journalist" feels free to air their totally uninformed opinions and attempt to paint the JCS and Commander-in -Chief as incompetent morons. The press in WW II felt a responsibility to support the decisions of the more fully informed military commanders.
I suppose it is useless to point out that, had MacArthur not been so wrapped up in proving what a great general he was, and obeyed his orders, it wouldn't have been necessary for him to launch any kind of offensive in the Philippines to buy time to get food and other supplies to Bataan. The material means of holding out would already be in place, along with prepared fortifications. The Great Mac could then have taken credit for an heroic defense of Bataan lasting well into the fall of 1942. It still might not have been sufficient to last until reinforcements and resupply was possible, but it would have given the US an authentic hero.
That's a good point to consider, DA. If memory serves correct, the food situation was made worse when the PI Commonwealth government ordered that foodstocks must remain in the provinces they were located.
Macarthur overestimated his forces capability to stop the Japanese landings and the result was a disaster. Fortunately, some of his units were solid enough to handle the situation despite the odds and prevent things from turning into a catastrophe when the US-led forces were ordered to retreat to Bataan.
He and his forces were already in a dismal situation and the Japanese had the initiative.
Okay, another question.
Could it have been possible while Bataan was still holding out to move some of the remaining US troops scattered throughout the PI to Mindanao? Using small craft, most probably these troops would have only their rifles or what they could carry. I know and we have discussed that US planners think that it would be suicidal to send ships to the Philippines to break the Japanese blockade. However, the Japanese were generally looking outwards, not inwards.
Once a sizable concentration is in Mindanao, well...the choice would be whether to resupply this troops there for a defensive stand or future offensive or attempt to get some of them out to Australia.
I know that hindsight is always 20-20, but sometimes, I want to reach back almost 70 years and shake some of the US Commanding Officers for their damnable complacency and inability to adapt, change and innovate with the constantly changing and fluid battle situation presented before them.
Colonel James RN. Weaver had 108 M-3 Stuart tanks, a large number of attached 75mm gun mounted half tracks, plus a number of confiscated Bren Gun carriers that were originally meant for the Canadian Rifle Regiment at Hong Kong. This was one considerably strongly armed armored force by even European standards. He was missing only the motorized infantry, engineer and artillery elements from his TOE needed to make his force into an armored division.
I wonder what would have happened had a hard charger like Patton been in charge of the Provisional Tank Group, rather than Weaver? Maybe, if Patton had slapped a hospitalized US soldier during the pre-war Louisianna Military Manuvers, he might have been busted down to Colonel and sent off to the PI instead.
What did happen to all those M3 tanks? I know one group was destroyed by Japanese cannon, probably 37mm At guns, near one of the landing sites. that leaves at least 100 others to account for.
Many were lost in combat, abandoned during the long retreat into Bataan, or were caught on the wrong side of a blown bridge rivercrossing, but the vast majority fought on until the very end and were destroyed by their own crews. Their fighting abilities were largely wasted by using them solely as mobile pill boxes or through carrying out rear guard actions. They were also used as "fire brigades," adding the strength of their considerable firepower to a threatened sector of the endangered line. In reality, these tanks should have been used as an offensive spear head to punch holes in the Japanese lines, or even mounting much needed, delaying counter attacks upon the advancing Japanese infantry.
After Bataan fell, the Japanese were under the impression that the Americans had several hundred tanks in their inventory, rather than just over a hundred.
Somehow, a part of me can't help but note the similarity of how tank forces were used up and wasted in the first days of Germany's invasion of France. Correct me if I have the wrong impression but it seems this tale shows the poor state of how the Allies used their armor in the beginning of the war on both theaters.
Agreed. Sombody should have given Colonel Weaver a copy of Heinz Guderian's Book "Achtung, Panzer" before the war. It might have opened up his eyes as to the revolutionary possibilites of armored warfare.
The decision was still MacArthur's. His was the only armed force in the Philippines, besides the Japanese, and he was taking orders from the US government by then, not the PI Commonwealth. He could have simply ignored those orders and commandeered whatever foodstuffs were available, just as he ignored his orders from Washington to prepare a defense on Bataan. He chose not to do so.
All this is true. But the thing to remember is that Mac should have been planning and preparing for a retreat into Bataan since July, 1941, as his orders prescribed. There should have been no last minute scrambling for food, ammo, or other supplies, no confusion over who was to defend what, or for how long, and no last-minute defenses necessary.
Sure, but to what purpose?
Mindanao was not a strategic position, didn't even have a defensible port like Manila. So you manage to concentrate a few thousand troops on Mindanao with little more than their rifles, so what? The Japanese still control the air and the surrounding sea, you can't resupply them and probably can't even evacuate them except by incurring prohibitive losses.
That's a good one!
I can't imagine anything more useless to Weaver than a book on tank doctrine by some German theoretician. He wasn't conducting a blitzkrieg on the plains of Europe where there were plenty of roads; he was confined to a small defensive position in the Philippines where roads were practically nonexistent. He didn't have air cover, artillery, well-trained infantry, resupply, engineers, unlimited fuel, or much of any other kind of support. More importantly, he didn't have the initiative, nor any real chance of seizing it. He was tied to the defensive position that MacArthur had been forced to defend, not because it was a good one, but because it was the only one available, and, on top of all that, he had to conserve his forces to cover MacArthur's tardy retreat into the Bataan peninsula.
Why is it that some think that what worked for the Germans for a short period in Europe would always work for everyone everywhere?
Weaver also didn't innovate, change or adapt to a fluid battle situation either. He turned down requests for badly needed tank support on one occasion that I'm currently aware of and marked time during a second, key battle. Tank support in both battles could have played a pivotal role and made a serious difference in the battle's outcome and how long the Fil-American Forces could have delayed the Japanese advance towards Bataan. On the Layac Line, Weaver's tanks remained far removed from the action, marking time. Serious tank support that could have busted the Japanese line wide open had a few dozen tanks and some supporting 75mm armed half tracks been committed to battle. The same holds true at Abucay Hacienda when Weaver turned down General Parker's request for armored support, remarking that "It would have been like using elephants to kill ants." With five 30 caliber machineguns on each Stuart tank, Weaver could have killed alot of "ants." On both occasions, Weaver's greatest failing was that he failed to "ride towards the sound of the guns."
It is worthy of note that USMC Stuart tanks and infantry teams later performed very well against well-entrenched, Japanese troops on Munda and Bougainville and in much more hostile and thickly canopied jungle conditions than were to be found in this part of Luzon.
I never said Weaver didn't make mistakes in deploying his tanks, just that using German tank doctrine wasn't going to help solve his problems.
Many of the American commanders on Luzon made similar mistakes because they didn't have good intel, didn't know how many Japanese troops they faced, didn't know the terrain, didn't have a good overall picture, or sound instructions from MacArthur's headquarters, nor any idea what they were supposed to accomplish. The confusion among MacArthur's forces was widespread and crippled any kind of effective defense. This was largely the result of poor staff work.
The fact that light tanks later did well against Japanese troops in defensive positions in a jungle environment means what?