Surrender Now or Forever Hold Onto Your HumanityNote: The italicized sections represent my internal monologue as I retell the entries in Major Tisdelle’s journal.
Surrender Now or Forever Hold Onto Your Humanity
The 75,000 Filipino-American soldiers defend the military camp, Fort Mills, at Corregidor, Bataan for four months from January to April 1942 against Japanese invaders tens of thousands strong, and more that continuously pour in to help the invasion.
The promised back-up American forces from U.S. never come to help General King’s allied forces. General King surrenders on April 9, 1942, in hopes of sparing the lives of his soldiers from death of sickness, exhaustion, and futile battles.
The Battling Bastards of Bataan
Ominous violin music fill the living room beneath my floor. My sister Jade and her boyfriend watch a Filipino movie. The violin reaches its crescendo, a shout thunders, and my sister yelps.
I curl up in my bed; the glow of my laptop screen bathes my face in white amidst the darkness of my bedroom. The white digits on the bottom right corner of my screen read 10:10 p.m. Nothing like a horror story to soothe me to sleep.
I cringe at the words on the screen, the words Major Achille Tisdelle penned: General King tries “to avert a massacre”.
When General Macarthur leaves Philippines for Australia on Feb. 22, 1942, General Wainwright assumes command of Filipino troops in Macarthur’s behalf. General Wainwright assigns General King to head the Luzon Force, the 75,000 soldiers in Bataan, Philippines. General King assigns his subordinate, Major Achille Tisdelle, to keep a journal.
On the night of April 8, 1942, General King meets with his officials regarding their next course of action to take against the Japanese, and concludes that regardless of their tactics, the Japanese will reach the highest land of Fort Mills, the headquarters at Corregidor, Bataan, the Filipino-American alliance’s only hope of defence and survival. King decides that surrender will better the consequences for his troops. He orders the troops to retreat; he has the ammunitions, arms, and tanks destroyed and only gasoline and the jeeps preserved. General King tries to “avert a massacre.”
I cringe because I know what follows— a massacre.
Front and rear bombings. Front and rear bombings. Almost every entry of every day of Major Tisdelle’s journal from the start of February begins with Japanese bombings of the Corregidor camp. Tisdelle paints the sky black with bombing planes and roads red with gun machines’ ceaseless fires.
General King calls for the discussion on Apr. 8 after only eight hospital workers survive in the bombing of the second General Hospital in Cabcaben, Bataan.
Major Achille Tisdelle rips his bed sheets, winds them around a stick, and makes flags.
General King, Major Tisdelle, and other officers ride two Jeeps and travel toward Lamao, Bataan in hopes of meeting with the Japanese Lieutenant General Homma.
While they ride to the Japanese camp, overhead planes bomb their tracks.
Major Tisdelle raises and waves his white flag. The Japanese don’t see the flag, or they ignore it. The bombs drop; the American officials jump out of the Jeeps and into ditches.
The officials cross the bridge of Lamao and enter the Japanese headquarters at the Rodriguez Park at 8:00 a.m.
Two hours later, no General Homma shows. No meeting was properly arranged. Instead, Colonel Nakayama sits around a table and negotiates with General King and his officers. General King asks for twelve hours when the Japanese hold their position and when his troops can quietly go to whatever imprisonment camp the Japanese directs them to.
Colonel Nakayama answers through his interpreter, “You must surrender unconditionally.”
General King asks if the Japanese will treat his troops well.
Colonel Nakayama claims, “After all, we are not barbarians.”
I pinch my eyebrows together as I read over Colonel Nakayama’s statement. Old yellow newspaper clippings flash in my mind. I remember articles on beheadings, bayonet killings, men buried alive.
While the clips play in my mind, my interview with my Lola Mely chatters in my ear. She had said: “The Japanese asked the people to run and when they did, that’s when the Japanese shot them. …When I passed by the pilapil–”
I had interjected with, “–Oh, that really shallow beach where we dug up clams and shells?”
“I saw bodies float, face down. …They threw babies in the air and caught them with bayonets.”
I gape at Colonel Nakayama’s words.
Not. Barbarians. My. Ass.
Deceitful as Colonel Nakayama’s words are, General King accepts them. The Japanese take General King and his officials to General Homma’s headquarters in Balanga, Bataan.
General Homma interrogates the officials. General King refuses to divulge information on the Fort Mills.
Locked in a sugar box car, 150 men including the officials are driven to San Fernando, Pampanga, and from there marched to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac.
A shaky instrumental piece consisting of violins and cellos and violas echoes from downstairs. My sister and her boyfriend’s soft murmurs sound beneath the crescendo of the string instruments. The last notes play, the movie ends.
I stretch my legs under my blanket. I drum on my laptop keyboard. I throw my head back and close my eyes.
The captured Battling Bastards of Bataan follow the imprisoned officials. The Battling Bastards of Bataan travel 88 kilometres on foot and are beaten, bruised, bloody, and beheaded along the way. This murderous travel is forever etched in history as the Death March.
On Apr. 9, 1942 The Times reports that the Filipino-American troops were just too exhausted to keep fighting the Japanese.
The Filipino-American soldiers earn the nickname “Battling Bastards of Bataan” from the abandonment of these forces by the U.S. army. No mother country came to their aid like they were promised.
Louis Morton, Bataan. Diary of Major Achille C. Tisdelle, Military Affairs, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.130-148. February 4, 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1982774>.
Bataan Hard Pressed. The Times. April 9, 1942. Issue 49205, p. 4. February 28, 2011. <http://callisto10.ggimg.com/doc/LT/WrapPDF=contentSet=LT=recordID=0FFO-1942-APR09-004-F.pdf>.
Troops’ Exhaustion in the Philippines: General Wainwright on Corregidor. The Times. April 10, 1942. Issue 49206, p. 4. February 28, 2011. <http://callisto10.ggimg.com/doc/LT/WrapPDF=contentSet=LT=recordID=0FFO-1942-APR10-004-F.pdf>.
Yacas, Mely. Personal interview. 16 January 2011.