Osprey's Fall of the Philippines 1941-42


Clayton Chun, illustrated by Howard Gerrard


Osprey Publishing


$19.95 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 96 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover

Aside from possibly Pearl Harbor, the greatest defeat for the United States at the start of the Pacific War was the loss of the Philippines. Japan needed the island group to protect its shipping lanes that would bring raw materials and food from southeast Asia to Japan. To have it in enemy hands would be unforgivable so it was given rather high priority.

For the US, the commanding officer for US forces in the Philippines was Douglas MacArthur. He had planned for air power as well as Philippine troops to be the major defensive force to combat what he saw as coming Japanese aggression. Unfortunately for him, time was not on his side. Thanks to a slow build up of air power and lack of training for Philippine forces, MacArthur was not ready for the war.

One also has to include a case of bad timing, at least for his air forces. Though he had a goodly number of fighters and B-17s, and they were in the air once word was received about the Pearl Harbor attack, they had just landed for refueling when the first wave of Japanese bombers and fighters attacked from their bases in Taiwan. The Japanese attacks were quite successful and within a couple of days, any hope for US air power to play a decisive role was over.

Now it was up to commanders on the ground to stop the Japanese invasion forces, and once again, that was poorly executed. Commanders split up forces rather than concentrate them, allowing the Japanese to destroy them piece-meal or go around them. There was no logistics plan and so when the US moved the defense onto Bataan peninsula, they left behind ammunition, equipment, spare parts, and a five year supply of food, all of which was captured by the Japanese.

There were minor Allied successes, but since the US was unable to do any sort of resupply of forces in the Philippines, the end was pretty much a foregone conclusion as troops slowly lost energy from a lack of food, supplies and ammunition.

Author Clayton Chun does a superlative job of telling the story of this operation, including the personalities involved and the planning in addition to the events themselves. It was one of Japan's greatest successes, though it did take them longer than planned, despite the US making a number of mistakes and errors in judgment. It allowed the Japanese to become well entrenched and despite being re-invaded by the US in 1944, fighting was still going on against isolated Japanese outposts at war's end.

The book is further enhanced by a superb selection of photographs and the outstanding artwork and maps of illustrator Howard Gerrard.  Like all Osprey titles, it is highly recommended and one that you will find as fascinating a read as did I. 

May 2012

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