Guest Column: remember Pearl Harbor, but don't forget others who fought

Fifty-nine years ago when Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec. 7 at 8 a.m., it was 2:30 a.m. Dec. 8 Manila time when the word of the attack was flashed to the Philippine Army divisions with only a few months' training.

The Army Air Force had 277 aircraft, of which only 35 B-17s and 107 P40s were modern combat aircraft.

Naval forces were under the command of Admiral Hart, who for months had been warning his commanders that war was on the way. That was why his small fleet, one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser, 13 WWI four-stack destroyers, one destroyer tender, one submarine tender, four seaplane tenders, and 29 submarines were ready for action.

Ammunition was in the racks, warheads on the torpedoes, Manila and Subic Bay were mined, and the fleet, including aircraft, was dispersed from Maila Bay to Borneo.

Patwing Ten, the Navy's aircraft, consisted of 28 PBYs of VP101 and VP102, four J2Fs (Grumman ducks) and give OS2U single float observation planes.

The first Japanese attack on the Philippines was at Davao, where the aircraft tender Preston and two PBYs were bombed. The planes were destroyed, but the ship evaded the bombs.

Army Air Force aircraft had not yet been given permission to take off and bomb Formosa, where Japanese aircraft were based. At noon, Dec. 8 (nine hours after the Pearl Harbor attack) Japanese bombers and fighters hit Clark and the other Air Force bases. Half of McArthur's aircraft were destroyed in these attacks.

By Dec. 10, continued air attacks reduced Clark and Nichols field to rubble; the Japanese had attained complete control of the air. With Army Air destroyed, the remaining force of Navy seaplanes was no match for the Japanese Zeroes.

PBYs were used initially for bombing, but losses were so high the rest of PatWing 10's planes were used for reconnaissance and evacuation purposes. Even with 12 additional planes from VP-22, Patwing 10 was reduced to about five aircraft by Feb. 11, 1942.

The Asiatic Fleet in the battles of Makassser Strait, the Java Sea and various other engagements lost the Houston, Langley, Pope, Edsall and the Pecos. The Marblehead was nearly sunk but managed to make it to a safe port.

The remnants of American air and Naval forces withdrew from the Dutch East Indies to the Australian ports of Darwin and Perth.

By the fifth of March 1942, the only organized resistance remaining in the Philippines was at Bataan and Corregidor, whose defenders consisted of 77,000 Filipino army and 20,200 American forces composed of U.S. Marines, Army and Navy airmen, Navy sailors and Army, all of them fighting together as ground troops.

Finally, on April 8,1942, after suffering heavy casualties from disease, malnutrition and constant Japanese attacks, Bataan's 64,500 Filipinos and 11,500 Americans surrendered. Some defenders escaped to Corregidor, a few in hospitals, but the remainder started on the infamous Death March to Camp O'Donnel.

Seventy-five hundred Filipinos and 650 Americans died on the Death March. At Camp O'Donnell, 16,000 Filipinos and 1,600 Americans died.

The savage attacks on Corregidor's 13,000 outnumbered defenders ended May 7, 1942, with Gen. Wainwright's surrender.

The thousands of battered, sick and wounded were moved to various prison camps, where harsh living conditions and brutal treatment by the Japanese resulted in many thousands of deaths.

As a fortunate survivor of PatWing 10, I wrote this column to ensure that we never forget those brave men who fought and died in a battle that could not be won, but whose stubborn resistance upset the Japanese timetable of conquest, buying time for future American retaliation.

Especially, let us remember the POWs who rotted and died in the brutal Japanese prison camps.

Hugh Prentiss, a Carson City resident, served in the U.S. Navy including 1939-42 in the Philippines. His remembrance of Pearl Harbor first appeared in the Nevada Appeal in 1991, the 50th anniversary of the attack.


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