Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Forgotten Battlefield

A reader wrote to ask whether the highland city of Baguio in the Philippines had to be destroyed by the McArthur's 5th Air Force in 1945 as part of its operations against the General Yamshita's army in mountainous Northern Luzon. "Where should one go for material outside of the official US Army history written by Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines? The controversial part has to do with the carpet bombing by the 5th AF of the city center, which seems to have been unjustified by the tactical situation. The air force was much less restrained in Baguio than it had been in Manila, where MacArthur and Krueger had limited bombardment purely to artillery. Any thoughts?" My answer got longer and longer and it is reproduced below. As I worked through the problem I realized that I was looking at one of the major forgotten campaigns of the Second World War.

General Tomoyuki Yamashita is probably best remembered as the man who captured British Malaya in ten weeks. In 1944 he braced himself to repel the inevitable assault of Douglas McArthur. Realizing that he could not fight the US Army on the plains of Luzon, he withdrew the bulk of his army to the subtropical Cordillera mountain range whose peaks soared to 10,000 foot altitudes. Here, he hoped to bleed McArthur's forces dry. Luzon was to become the scene of a gigantic clash of arms. Yet today it is largely forgotten.

"Did Baguio have to be destroyed? You should consult the 33d Division's historical website. This unit was principally engaged in taking Baguio, advancing as the hammer from the southwest while 37th division came up from the northwest. It's incomplete, but there's a reference to a book published in 1948 detailing the campaign. There's also a map which indicates the 33d's general plan to take Baguio. In general, the 33d and the Japanese were fighting for the ridges, along which the Americans had to advance to move on Baguio,  itself the confluence of a series of ridges, as can easily be seen from a map. Once you are at Baguio City, any place away is down until you get to the larger massifs to the north.

The outer defenses of Baguio consisted of a bunch of hill and ridgetop positions designed to keep the 33d from reaching the Pugo river, from which they would begin their final climb to the inner ring of Baguio's defenses (Mirador and Observatory Hills). Pugo's defense depended on the retention of Hill 3000. If you read 33d's history, the main tactical problem facing the division was displacing artillery. The mountainous terrain and poor road network meant the axis of advance was extremely restricted. So the entire division essentially advanced along a battalion front. The 33d's commanders moved forward by creating an artillery fan and pushing a battalion along it's axis. Whenever Japanese resistance materialized, they would stop and clear the resistance with a combined artillery/infantry attack. Behind the US advance, the engineers struggled to widen the road and the US hired thousands of Igorot porters (mostly women) to carry up supplies, probably Class 1 (food etc) for the troops.

The Japanese, for their part, had long since hauled the artillery up into the Cordilleras and had existing dumps, so they did not have to drag their supply train along. It was already to hand. Their defensive tactics involved channeling US advances along the ridges, halt them with machinegun nests and from the vantage of high ground, direct Japanese artillery and mortar fire on them. Hence, the 33d would aim to take the highest terrain features using the infantry/artillery combo already mentioned. Practically every ridge and hilltop along the way was hammered with every artillery asset 33rd could obtain, the constraint being ammunition. This map  illustrates how this battle for high ground developed.

Baguio's curse was that it was topographically no different from any other ridge top. The essential advantage of using 5th AF was that it could haul its own ammo. I doubt the 5th AF bombardment did much tactical good. The CEP of that era was probably about 200 meters and the only targets the pilots could realistically aim for were buildings along Session Road, but the infantry of that era used whatever it could get. Baguio itself was simply one strong point of what was simply one the largest defensive positions ever seen in the Pacific and possibly in the world. 

This map shows the strategic disposition of Yamashita's force. He concentrated his force in central ridge of the Cordilleras, the meta ridge of ridges. Baguio was the lock which kept the Americans from climbing the southern end of the ridge towards his lofty positions. Yamashita probably hoped Krueger would be stupid enough to work his way north along the ridge on a one batt front. They would still have been fighting in 1948. However, 32d (Red Arrow) was assigned to to swing behind Yamashita on the east. Its divisional history  is remarkably uninformative. But in general, 32d division's brief was to push into the gap between the Carballos and the Cordilleras, entering the Cagayan valley and by moving north along the valley deny Yamashita food from that source and use it as a highway to flank Yamashita's force. You can move faster on the valley floor than along those damned ridges; which is what 32d did. It moved laterally on the valley floor then went up it into the hills to cut Yamashita's metaridgeline position in several places. Yamashita could not move quickly enough along his own ridge position (remember he had displace men, munitions and ordnance to shadow the lowland movements of Red Arrow) and his strength was used against him. Pretty piece of work that.

Did Baguio actually have to be reduced to serve the purpose? As a pure map exercise involving maneuver forces, the answer is probably 'yes'. Krueger's idea would be to draw Yamashita south via the Baguio campaign, string him out along his own ridge then hit him with a flank attack from the Cagayan Valley. The alternative strategy would have been to simply besiege Yamashita in the Cordilleras and do nothing. Unfortunately, McArthur was already thinking of Coronet and Olympic (the invasion of Japan) and he needed the Northern Luzon US Army units for that operation (33d was actually deployed after the Baguio campaign for the assault on Japan). So siege was not an option for Krueger. All in all, Krueger did very well against a first class Japanese commander. Yamashita lost nearly a quarter of a million men on Luzon, 152,000 of them in the North, a number equal to half of von Paulus's entire loss at Stalingrad (300K). The Japanese lost 15 divisions in the Cordilleras. US KIA on Luzon were over 10,000 men, which is huge by today's standards but his kill ratio was absolutely phenomenal compared to Okinawa or even Vietnam two decades later."

One final question remains left over from this whole campaign: the fabled Treasure of Yamashita. US News and World report describes what has become a legend in its own right.

There are many versions of the tale, but the main elements are pretty standard. Beginning in the late 1930s in Manchuria and China, Japanese teams pillaged the countries they colonized, stripping them of the most precious metals and jewels. Ultimately, this hoard was loaded onto a Japanese ship, which sailed for the Philippines. The ship made land in the Philippines, the story goes, and Yamashita hid the riches on the island of Luzon ... The legend ignores several facts. Yamashita was never a favorite of the military clique running the war. He was cashiered by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. In 1944, after Tojo was removed, Yamashita was dispatched to the Philippines. From December 1944 until he handed over his sword in September 1945, Yamashita had to relocate his headquarters at least six times, driven ever deeper into the mountains and the jungles by devastating U.S. air, land, and sea power. It's hard to see when he would have had time to hide all that gold.

Whatever historical spotlight remains on that old highland campaign has been usurped by this lurid tale, which is probably fiction. The astounding feats of American advance and Japanese resistance have themselves been forgotten.


Blogger Baron Bodissey said...

Wretchard, you have written extensively about the current Filipino mentality and endemic corruption in their politics. Is this a result of the brutal conditions of the Japanese occupation, or did it already exist prior to the war?

Sometimes cataclysms like the Japanese occupation can affect the character of a people. For example, the current character of the French (cynical & world-weary) might be ascribed to the horrendous loss of young men in WWI.

6/29/2005 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Fascinating story! I have never heard of that offensive, or much of anything about the land battles of the Philippines. One would get the impression that after the naval battles of Leyte Gulf it was a cakewalk (Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is a stunningly good, highly detailed account of that battle, by the way). The lessons of the Ardennes in the Battle of the Bulge may have influenced the use of airpower in the offensive. USAAF heavies bombed the bejesus out of a number of small mountain villages in the Ardennes. The reason was that, given the mountainous terrain the only usable roads ran through those villages. And given the heavy cloud cover at the time, the villages stood out on the bombers' H2S radar when nothing else did. So German troops moving through the little towns would suddenly find bombs falling out of the low cloud cover. But I doubt that such radar bombing was employed in the Philippines.
And that is agood question from the Baron. I have often thought that Vietnam ened up the way it did because the people there experienced coloniaism from the French but never a real battle for liberation from the Japanese.
All that military hardware left lying around must have encouraged certain individual adventures as well.

6/29/2005 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"All that military hardware left lying around must have encouraged certain individual adventures as well"
The life and death of an insurgent in Iraq would have been more of a chore if Saddam had not filled the place with explosives.
Would have made Kennedy's job toughter, also.

6/29/2005 05:59:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Corruption existed prior to the war, especially among the upper classes. Patriotism was a middle-class thing. Bataan was a middle-class and lower-class thing. Upper class patriots were an embarassment to their own class. McArthur and Quezon left the Philippines in the hands of Jose Abad Santos, who was the Chief Justice and so honest a man that the Japanese deemed it essential to turn him to their side. Given a choice between execution and renouncing allegiance to the United States, Jose Abad Santos chose execution. His story goes:

'He and his son were taken to a concentration camp. When asked to cooperate with the Japanese forces in the Philippines, he refused to do so and said: "I cannot possibly do that because if I do so I would be violating my oath of allegiance to the United States."' ... Chief Justice Abad Santos was called to Japanese headquarters. When he returned he told his son: "I have been sentenced to death. They will shoot me in a few minutes." The son was horrified and wept, but the father admonished him and said: "Do not cry. What is the matter with you? Show these people that you are brave." And added, "This is a rare opportunity for me to die for our country; not everybody is given that chance." '

Abad Santos is memorialized by a street going from the slum of Tondo to the industrial suburb of Grace Park. On the other hand the collaborator Claro M. Recto, who was raised to high office under the Japanese regime, has had the street leading to the Presidential Palace named after him. John Kennedy once said "A nation reveals itself not only by the men it
produces but also by the men it honors,
the men it remembers." The tragedy of the Philippines is that it could produce both an Abad Santos and Recto.

6/29/2005 06:00:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Latest talking point is how inappropriate it is for GWB to mention 911.
...since we are supposed to behave as if it never occurred.

6/29/2005 06:23:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Remember the Alamo!

6/29/2005 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Truthful James said...

For a fictionalizzed discussion of Yamashita's Treasure, I refer you to the otherwise wondrous novel "Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson.

The overarching theme of the novel is the development of the encryption and code breaking devices before, during and after WW II. It is highly recommended by the undersigned.

pete speer

6/29/2005 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

My dad was in the Baguio campaign with the 33rd.

6/29/2005 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Great story. On a related note, aren't there anti-American legends going around today that say MacArthur was pointlessly cruel toward the people of the Philippines when re-taking the country from Japan? Is that the background behind this question? Sorry to show my lack of knowledge about this topic.

6/29/2005 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

It has appered to me for some time that MacArther could have ended the war earlier by ignoring his "I shall return" pledge and going straight for Iwo Jima and Okinawa. According to Saburo Saki's book, Iwo was not heavily reinforced until after the Phillipines fell. And while it was true that the IJN was bled white by the battles around Luzon, that probably would have happened anyway. Well before the invasion, he sent a force of P-38's on a highly hazardous very long range flight that did nothing more than a buzz job on the islands in order to help their morale. It seems to me that MacArther felt too much for the people of the Phillipines rather than too little.

6/29/2005 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Fascinating story. I'll need to compile a list of war history books to add to my beachside reading material...

6/29/2005 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Nathan, I've been reading books from this list, and so far they've all been great -- someone seems to have put a lot of thought into it.

6/29/2005 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

What was the downside to bombing the city? Were there high civilian casualties? It seems to me that the first duty of a military commander is to accomplish the mission, secondly to minimize casualties to his/her own troops, and third to worry about collateral damage. Sometimes the three get intermingled to some degree, but unless there is something obvious I am missing, I think it would have been foolish not to bomb the city.

6/29/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Al Maviva said...

Speaking of forgotten major campaigns, Wretchard, you ever look at the Huertgen Wald campaign and the reduction of Aachen?

6/29/2005 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

The mount St. Helens webcamera
shows a start of a small ash cloud.

6/29/2005 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Beyond The Rim... said...

The Kennedy quote causes me to wish you had extended yours along the lines of "The [historical] tragedy of the Philippines is that it could produce both an Abad Santos and Recto. [The current tragedy is reflected in how it remembers each man.]"

6/29/2005 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Forklift said...

That's a great reading list.

Isn't the Luzon cordillera where Japanese soldiers are still discovered from time to time?
Also, the 32nd division's valley movements to cut off Yamashita's ridge positions reminds me of General Jackson's Shenandoan campaign.

6/29/2005 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

An interesting story about todays battlefield in the Chicago Tribune

Robert A. Pape has complete a study of suicide attacks since 1980, he writes
"...the presumed connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading and may be encouraging domestic and foreign policies that are likely to worsen America's situation. ..."

He goes on to note

"from 1980 to the beginning of 2004--315 completed suicide attacks by 462 suicide terrorists who killed themselves in order to kill others. The facts show that suicide terrorist attacks are not primarily an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism and are, almost always, part of an organized campaign to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider home. ..."

"...Overall, at least half of suicide attacks around the world are not associated with Islamic fundamentalism.

The vast majority of suicide terrorist attacks are not isolated or random acts by individual fanatics. They occur in clusters as part of a larger campaign by an organized group to achieve a specific political goal: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists view as their homeland"

As to how this effects the WoT he writes
"...Al Qaeda fits the pattern. My study assesses the complete set of Al Qaeda suicide attackers, the 71 terrorists from 1995 to 2004 willing to kill themselves for Osama bin Laden. More than two-thirds come from Sunni Muslim countries where the United States has stationed tens of thousands of combat troops--in Saudi Arabia, countries on the Arabian Peninsula, Turkey and Afghanistan.

None comes from the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries. Iran, with 70 million people, three times the population of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, has never produced an Al Qaeda suicide terrorist. Neither has Sudan, a society so congenial to bin Laden's religious beliefs that he lived there for three years in the 1990s. ..."

He goes on to argue against long term stationing of US troops in Iraq, prefering instead an offshore presence.

6/29/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

The counterexample to his argument, I suppose, would be the number of British, German, or Italian suicide bombers organized against American occupation of lands that they call home.

6/29/2005 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger gatorbait said...

Lurid fictional tales proffered as Gospel by the Left are always uncritically accepted by cowardacracy. The historical fact, the tactics of the day, well, best to be ignored or twisted to the Durbinesque parallel reality of the Left.

6/29/2005 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Discounting our British cousins, both the Italians and the Germans had been whipped on pretty hard by the time we occupied them.

Pape breaks down the world wide suicide attacks this way

"The world leader is the LTTE in Sri Lanka, a Marxist group that is completely secular and that draws its recruits from Hindu families. The secular Hindu Tamil Tigers have carried out 76 suicide attacks, more than Hamas (54) and Islamic Jihad (27). Suicide attacks have also been carried out by Sikh terrorists as well as numerous secular Muslim groups. Overall, at least half of suicide attacks around the world are not associated with Islamic fundamentalism. ..."

He reports, you decide

6/29/2005 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"He goes on to argue against long term stationing of US troops in Iraq, prefering instead an offshore presence."
...More work for Nathan!

6/29/2005 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"...the LTTE in Sri Lanka, a Marxist group... "

6/29/2005 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger subpatre said...

The slight problem with Pape's theory is it's built of bovine excetetment. He simply tailored (or bludgeoned) the "facts" to fit his preconcieved theory. In this case, Pape uses the West's unfamiliarity with Muslim culture to fabricate what "fundamentalist" is.

Iran is far less oppressive than Saudi Arabia is.

6/29/2005 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...


That has been my idea also. I have Saki's book. If after the turkey shoot of June 1944, and taking the Marianas by August, the Peleliu invasion force of September 15th, had been retargeted to Iwo, it might have saved many American lives. (1900 dead, 8500 wounded to take Peleliu. 13,000 Japanese dead.)

Samuel Eliot Morison in Vol. 12 of the History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, p3-18, tells of how the decision to invade the Philippines was made.

Nimitz wanted to bypass Luzon, but MacArthur was fixated on liberating the Philippines. Roosevelt met with MacArthur and Nimitz in Hawaii July 26, 1944. According to Morison, "F.D.R. turned to a chart of the Pacific on a bulkhead, pointed to Mindanao, and said--
"Douglas, where do we go from here?"
"Leyte, Mr. President, and then Luzon."
They might as well have made a top level decision then and there..."
(page 8-9)

Nimitz wanted to aim at Formosa (Taiwan) and Okinawa. MacArthur won the day. (Supposedly we needed to knock out more Japanese air power).

At that point, Task Force 38/58 had 9 fleet carriers and 8 light carriers (around 1100 planes). The Japanese fleet air had been wiped out by this time. When we invaded Leyte, the Japanese just used their remaining carriers as bait to draw Halsey away. While there were still many powerful surface ships, without air cover, they were just big targets.

One wonders how different the war might have been if instead of invading Leyte October 20, we had invaded Okinawa, more than 6 months before the actual April invasion.

One horrifying thought is we might have invaded Japan. If you move everything up 6 months, Operation Olympic moves from November 1, 1945 to April 1945. Has anyone ever written an alternative history for this branch? Maybe the A bomb never gets dropped. So did we save lives, or cost them by prolonging the war?

Wretchard, what effect would it have had on the Philippines if MacArthur doesn't return? Do they hate us more for not coming, or less because there is less damage from our return?

6/29/2005 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Thank you, Desert Rat. He does present a compelling argument.

As for offshore presence, I will freely admit that a carrier battle group does not currently offer nearly the same capability that a land base can have. Furthermore, a carrier battle group faces a somewhat different spectrum of threats than a land base; this spectrum changes more radically as various countries develop their respective naval technologies and position their naval assets variously to serve their own national interests. A land base, in general, faces a somewhat more limited and fixed spectrum of threats given any particular host country. The bottom line is that a land base can be both a lower-risk and better-capable asset given today's warship technologies.

However, if the geopolitics necessitate a paradigm shift away from the establishment and maintenance of land bases in foreign host countries, be assured that an immense investment will be made (I certainly hope it will be made) into expanding the capabilities of our naval assets, with a corresponding draw-down in organizations related to conventional land-based forces, such as the current Army, along with a correlated rise in traditionally amphibious forces such as the current Marines.

I don't think I can overstate how massive this change would be, to both the armed forces, schools of warfare, logistics, tactics and training, but also to the industry. Entirely new classes of vessels and amphibious assault vehicles would need to be developed while a host of current vessels and vehicles could be obsolesced.

Not that I think any of this is a bad thing-- it means more jobs for my industry. Accordingly the cost will be enormous, and I hesitate to state that it would be absolute necessary.

6/29/2005 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Good point about Iran, Subpatre.

6/29/2005 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wait so what modern democracy are the Tamil Tigers trying to evict?

6/29/2005 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

And by the way isn't that Anonymous's theory in Imperial Hubris--that Osama & Co. merely want us and our allies to leave?

6/29/2005 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Rem870 said...

Re: Should MacArthur have bypassed the Phillipines.

Maybe I am misattributing the comment to MacArthur, but I believe it was he that said the primary mission of armies was to defeat other armies. He knew that the Nips were on the Phillipines and directed their defeat.

6/29/2005 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


LGF has a pointer to an interesting fact about Iran's new president:
Iran’s Newly Elected President Was Hostage Taker at US Embassy in 1979

Saudi Arabia may be socially more repressive, but Iran is our self-declared enemy.

6/29/2005 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I do think that was the point of Imperial Hubris. Without forces in the Region the Bin Laden's could topple the King of KSA and take over themselves. If we think that the current Crown Prince is an A..hole, just think of how King Osama would behave.

I'm not sure that a continued suicide campaign by the Opfor will ever have much effect on US policy.

We withdraw to the desert airbases, leaving the cities to the indigs. I have no doubt that they will end the Insurgency themselves, the quicker they are responsible for their country, the quicker they will handle it. It may be a bit bloddy, but then again, it already is.
I believe the Sadr Corp stands ready for action. We have not allowed it, yet.

6/29/2005 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Michael B said...

Yamashita was hung after the end of the war for war crimes, perhaps unjustly so. He's also featured on one of the The World at War episodes, entitled Bonzai, the one noting the Malaya and Singapore episodes.

6/29/2005 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

presbypoet: I think that the deal was that MacArthur would take the road through New Guiena and the Phillipines and Nimitz the route thorugh the Marianas and they would converge at Okinawa,. This delayed the problem of which set of stars was in charge.
I don't think Japan would have been invaded if we got to Okinawa earlier, because Lemay's B-29's were not finshed yet. In fact, without knowing about the A-Bomb, Lemay said that the war would end in Sept 1945 and that no invasion would be required, since in addition to his B-29's he was in the process of bringing over the B-17's and B-24's of the 8th and 15th Air Forces and with over 5000 heavy bombers at work - and with no Japanese Air Force left to speak of - there would be nothing left worth invading pretty quickly. The What If books go into the possibility of a Japanese invasion quite well, and there have been a couple of novels about it. The better of the two I know of is "The Burning Mountain" by Alfred Coppel.
Rem870: I fear that you are right. And I do mean fear. Patton for example, thought that winning the war was the point, while most Army Generals thought that engaging the enemy was the idea. I think most military types, Army or Navy, more or less subscribed to the Mahan theory - a large decisive naval or land battle fought far from civilization, after which the enemy sees the inevitable and gives up quietly. Patton and airpower advocates thought that the armies and navies still deployed were pointless if you had Shermans sitting in the enemy capital - or had bombed it to rubble.
I must admit that I have no idea how much mischief the Japanese forces in the Phillipines could have made if they had been bypassed. They still had quite a few airplanes, but we had utterly overhelming numerical and technical superiority in the air, and they had no hope of leaving the islands by sea.

6/29/2005 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger LTC John said...


Thanks for that. For what it is worth, the 33rd Division was transformed into a Seperate Infantry Brigade, then an Area Support Group. We deployed to Afghansitan as such, from March 2004-March 2005. We will be transforming back into a combat arms-brigade sized unit this next year. Seems like some sort of turn of the wheel is occurring...

6/29/2005 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Looks like we won't have all that much time to worry about Insurgents in Iraq. The bio of Irans new President reads like the plot of a bad action movie.

"...Ahmadinejad became involved in the clerical regime’s terrorist operations abroad and led many “extra-territorial operations of the IRGC”. With the formation of the elite Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the IRGC, Ahmadinejad became one of its senior commanders. He was the mastermind of a series of assassinations in the Middle East and Europe, including the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou, who was shot dead by senior officers of the Revolutionary Guards in a Vienna flat in July 1989. Ahmadinejad was a key planner of the attack, according to sources in the Revolutionary Guards. ..."

We were waiting for the outcome of the Iranian elections so the EU3 could negotiate with the hoped for "moderate" victor, instead we get

"...few doubt that the Islamic Republic under its new President will move with greater speed and determination along the path of radical policies that include more human rights abuses, continuing sponsorship of terrorism, and the drive to obtain nuclear weapons."

Now there may not be time for Damascus.

6/29/2005 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Haven't read Imperial Hubris, but hatred for Crusader forces in the land of the two holy places is explicit in Osama's 96 and 98 fatwas.

(And, how quickly we stray from Wretchard's topic!)

6/29/2005 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Of course, cuz he's an I S L A M I S T.

6/29/2005 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

Actually during the Pacific war, one of the things MacArthur took pride in was bypassing enemy concentrations. We left most island with concentrations alone, ie Rabal, Truk, and multiple positions on New Guinea, and all the Dutch East Indies.

I think MacArthur is one of the most over rated generals in American history. He was good at P.R., but the only use from his fighting the Japanese on New Guinea was a slight attrition of their forces.

The Pacific war was primarily a naval battle. Once you have control of Ocean and air, isolated enemy land forces are only a liability to your enemy. For example, one reason Japanese subs did so little damage was they were used to supply isolated outposts, thus diverting them from useful tasks.

To bring this forward to today's strategy against Wahhabi Islam, we need to consider which concentrations we can bypass, and which we need to focus on. While attacking Syria may feel good, the main danger now is Iran. Once Iran falls to freedom, then we can focus on the last great danger, which is the Saudi's.

The great question of 2009; Will Hilary will continue the war, or will our foes get a 4 year break? The only problem will be that we need a draft, because all competent military will leave if she is elected.

6/29/2005 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

michael b -

For what he and his troops did in Manila alone, Yamashita should not only have been hung, but hung slow.

And part of US Forces huge kill ratio advantage was Filipinos helping advance the forces by voluntering as porters, scouts, whatever, and giving great intelligence on Jap positions. Nor, unlike the "Noble Freedom Loving Iraqi People" were out soldiers getting backshot by a portion of the Philippines population.

presbypoet -

The great question of 2009; Will Hilary will continue the war, or will our foes get a 4 year break? The only problem will be that we need a draft, because all competent military will leave if she is elected.

2009, actually 2008, is a long way aways. There is no certainty of H Clinton getting in office..or even the Dem nomination. Who would have predicted B Clinton back in 1999?

But I will say that military leaders are highly impressed with her work and finding out she is an intelligent Centrist that wants a strong military - not the demon lesbian radical Lefty conservatives make her out as. If you look at NY State, she has 60-65% approval ratings in solid Republican areas upstate and on LI. Perhaps she will even have the balls to say what the war actually is - a war of ideas - not a "Global War on Terrorism", and fight it on those terms. And, it's not like the IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah, or Tamil Tigers have exactly been sweating Bush's "War on Terrorist Evildoers"

I do think the country is ready for a big change, just like we were 1968, 1974, and 1992/1994. We have had over 11 years of a Republica Congress that has shown them to be just as corrupt, swill-rooting, reckless spenders as the Democrats. We have had enough of Bush's out of control borders, failure of supply side economics, free trade failure, jobs outsourced, health care failing, and his crony capitalism that focuses on bettering the fortunes of well off Americans 1st.

I don't even see Republicans wanting "4 more years" of Bushism.

6/29/2005 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Michael B said...

"For what he and his troops did in Manila alone, Yamashita should not only have been hung, but hung slow." cedarford

Well, I didn't make it clear, but I was not voicing an opinion, for one I'm not that familiar with this aspect of the history. Was more simply indicating what some historians have noted.

6/29/2005 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Now there may not be time for Damascus. "
Who replaced Wolfowitz?
Ledeen to replace whoever that was!

6/29/2005 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

So that's a bad thing?
How intolerant!

6/29/2005 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


We were waiting for the outcome of the Iranian elections so the EU3 could negotiate with the hoped for "moderate" victor,

I think I hear an ironic tone there. But seriously, I think we're hoping something like People Power will rise up against this dictatorship. Sounds far-fetched, but I remember Tehran just a year before the Shah fled, before Ayatollah Khomeini returned from his 14 year sojourn in France. The country was bustling, outstandingly "modern" by the region's standards, and the Shah seemed firmly in control. One day in downtown Tehran, I heard and then saw a flight of four F-4 Phantoms in tight formation making a low pass over the city, couldn't have been more than 2,000 feet altitude, the thunder shaking your shirt, the exhaust blackening the sky, the power of the ruling government was palpable at that moment.

And then, within a year, it switched. Right now that seems impossible, that Iranians could escape Islamofascism. But that day, with those mean F-4's overhead, none of us puny humans on the ground thought it possible they could be escaped either.

That's the neo-con dream, I suppose. Let's just admit: stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, if things do go south, we won't be asking Turkey's permission, or asking anyone's permission, for access to Iran's borders. That was the single most foolish thing in Kerry's NYT editorial yesterday - let's pledge we will have no long-term bases in the region, lest we make them mad at us.

To bring up one more historic analogy: at one time we were at war in Vietnam, and we found we could no longer ignore that bordering countries, Laos and Cambodia, were active elements in the fight against us. You know the rest of the story.

6/29/2005 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

One obscure book about the Phillipine guerilla movement is Fertig's 'They Fought Alone.' A more recent book that covers guerilla operations in the Phillipines against the Japanese is 'The Rescue' by Steven Trent Smith.

Manila had been declared an open city and MacArthur had reliquished it unopposed in order to prevent its destruction. The Japanese had another idea and Manila was bombed.

What is amazing is the prodigious American production capacity. The Pacific was a secondary front since Churchill and Roosevelt had decided at Acadia Germany would be first. Yet the US Navy fielded by 1944 a dozen fleet carriers and an invasion fleet that supported MacArthur and Halsey/Spruance.

As for Huertgen Wald, I think there was a book called 'The Green Hell.' An American division squandered in a forest that could have been bypassed.

Excellent post Wrethard on a forgotten battle. Just as the gold&silver US forces dumped in Manila Bay before the surrender has been forgotten.

6/29/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Bush is rationalizing everything by (mis)using 911 and the WOT."

Andy McCarthy, Hugh Hewitt:

"Did FDR ever mention Pearl Harbor and WWII?"

6/29/2005 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

My 1St Sgt in Panama was up on the Plain of Jars in Laos, then 20 plus years later I met his Commander, here in AZ.
Colonel "Eric" Happersett,
in '58 he was selected for the first group of Special Forces candidates. He was the oldest of the men trying out, and at 36 the scrappy 5'7" soldier could run 17 miles. The only guy in the group with serious combat experience from two wars.
In '65 the "Colonel" provided special Warfare training to a battalion of Korean's headed off to 'Nam. After training in Korea he often went on patrol with the battalion in 'Nam.
Serving 3 tours in 'Nam he also spent 17 months in Laos. After returning to 'Nam the Colonel led a selected team of Green Berets in the Phoenix Project, eliminating double agents, North Viet officals and other selected targets by assassination. Operating directly out of Central Command, Happerstt, in his province, led many high risk missions.
The Colonel is some kind of a guy, even at 83 he is a force to be reckon with.

6/29/2005 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Tony said,
"That was the single most foolish thing in Kerry's NYT editorial yesterday - let's pledge we will have no long-term bases in the region, lest we make them mad at us."
Yeah, but whatever we do must pass the
(wouldn't you put the F-4 up there in the Skunkworks category? ...and it's precursor seemed to be a pig. I met a pilot that flew whatever they were called. ...300 carrier missions as though it was nothing.)

6/29/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"The Colonel is some kind of a guy, even at 83 he is a force to be reckon with. "
You don't think he'd go wobbly like Bob Parsons did on his blog if he got spammed by liberals?
(Bad for Business, you know.) is quite a success, however.)

6/29/2005 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Bob now thinks McCain has the right idea:
Trials for Terrorists!
(and gitmo was too mean to them afterall.)

6/29/2005 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

To continue the Iran OT discussion...

According to Scott Ridder, the war with Iran has already begun.

"Many hold out the false hope that an extension of the
current insanity in Iraq can be postponed or prevented in the case
of Iran. But this is a fool's dream. The reality is that the US war
with Iran has already begun."

Now I hate to quote Mr. Ridder because it is clear that the man has entirely lost his mind.

“On Friday evening in Olympia, former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter appeared with journalist Dahr Jamail. -- Ritter made two shocking claims: George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and the U.S. manipulated the results of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq....”

Only one shopping day left ladies and gentlemen.

6/29/2005 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Colonel "Eric" Happersett sounds like the good against the Colonel Kurtz evil twin. May history be kinder than Francis Ford Coppola.

6/29/2005 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Yeah, and MJ didn't molest kids!

6/29/2005 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

per your Scott Ritter post

6/29/2005 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

wobbly, the Colonel?
Only because his knees arn't worth a crap any more.

While defending a mountaintop, Nui Ba Den, in 'Nam, the Colonel and his team were surrounded, out of water and running out of ammo. As the VC crept ever closer to the wire, it was obvious the Americans and their indig force would soon be overrun. Calling in helicopter gunships the Colonel ordered the incoming fire "danger close". The VC broke and the Americans led the South Viets in a break out.

He says he'd handle Iraq a bit differently than the current crop of commanders. More indigs, more quickly. More violence directed towards selected targets.

No doug, he wouldn't go 'wobbly'

6/29/2005 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The mention of Francis Ford Coppola reminds me that the Colonel was assigned by General Westmoreland to assist John Steinbeck in his research for the book that became the basis of Apocalypse Now.
He told me once he thought he was the basis of the Kurtz profile.

6/29/2005 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


In fairness to Yamashita, he had nothing to do with the defense and atrocities in Manila. That was entirely a Japanese Navy show, which was not in Yamashita's chain of command.

One final thing: the Philippine campaign involved three hostage rescue missions, all of which were successful. The Cabanatuan, Los Banos and Santo Tomas concentration campas were all liberated in dramatic circumstances by the Alamo Scouts (I think), a proto-special forces unit, and in the case of Sto. Tomas, a task force of the First Cavalry.

I met an elderly lady who lived near the Santo Tomas internment camp as a young girl. One of the regular visitors to her family home was a young Japanese Catholic chaplain. One electric day in February 1945, the entire town was abuzz with the rumor that First Cavalry had sprinted to the outskirts of the capital. That afternoon, the Japanese chaplain came to visit early, carrying with him a striped grey bolt of silk cloth. He left it with the family, explaining that he intended to give it to his mother, but that it was now unlikely to happen. It was an afternoon of alarum. At nightfall the little girl could hear the distinctive tramp of retreating Japanese troops (they had steel cleats on their bootheels). Then silence. The residents were huddled in their homes when they heard the sound of tracks. They were M4 Shermans, followed by the sound of the concentration camp gate being rammed down. The lady then heard a sound, which even after 60 years, is imprinted in her memory. It was the sound of several thousand human skeletons singing "God Bless America". Memory plays strange tricks. But I think this one is true.

6/29/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"He says he'd handle Iraq a bit differently than the current crop of commanders. More indigs, more quickly. More violence directed towards selected targets."
Feel the love!
Do you know of your local (Phoenix) business hero, Bob Parsons?
(wounded in 'nam)

6/29/2005 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

not off hand, the name does not ring a bell, what business is he in?

6/29/2005 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"In Dubious Battle"

Americans' growing interest in, and aversion for, communism as an alternative to capitalism is central to Steinbeck's story of two Communist organizers in the California farming country. Steinbeck looks at what he has called the "human" side of communism: how the people who turn to communism as an answer to society's woes are accepted by others, why they are motivated to act as they do, and what impact they may have on others.

As he does in The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Steinbeck deals ironically with the myth of the Promised Land: California appears as a paradise from afar, but within its gardens men must struggle to maintain bare existence. That circumstance gives Steinbeck opportunity to examine the social injustices magnified during the years of the Great Depression when thousands of migrant workers looking for a new start invaded California from Midwestern states.

In this book more than in any other, Steinbeck explores what he called the "group man" theory: the notion that groups are independent, "living" organisms in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The story of the mob which the Communist organizers incite to strike and then to violence is the real focus of Steinbeck's novel; he is interested in why men band together, what they do when they give up their individuality to the group, and what it takes to form such organisms and keep them going.

6/29/2005 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I guess his book would be outlawed in Hawaii.

6/29/2005 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

He used to have a software firm, Parsons technology.
Now he owns the apparently tremendously successful
My son says in a couple of years they have become the No. 1 Internet Registrant.
($8.99/year versus LOSERS network "solutions")
Cool thing is he's all-american as much as possible.
Sad thing is his political naivete/cowardice: go to and hit the link to his personal blog:
He came out for gitmo,
liberals said they would abandon his business,
came out for McCain!

6/29/2005 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

No 2, maybe, but gaining fast.

6/29/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hard to find:
His latest piece is pretty neat:
The American Entrepreneurial Spirit!

6/29/2005 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger husker_met said...


I thought the basis for "Apocalypse Now" was Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (?).

On Iran...

Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking Ritter may be more right than he knows.

I haven't heard a great deal of news regarding the Special Forces in Afghanistan lately. Maybe I've missed it, but I'm wondering if they are not perhaps already in Eastern Iran setting up shop.

6/29/2005 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

hope, hope,
Faster, please!

6/29/2005 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

...I read something where they are still pretty busy on the other side with that Nuclear Armed Mess Pakistan.

6/29/2005 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

and uncle bin?
...or is he in Iran also?

6/29/2005 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Ghost Soldiers : The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission (Rangers and Filipinos free POW’s far behind enemy lines in the Cabanatuan prison camp on the Philippine island of Luzon.)

6/29/2005 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I gotta find the article on a humble man I knew that escaped and went on to live in Calif. serving in the air force. The fact that he went through all that, and a series of adventures following his escape, never came up.
Basil Cuizon, rip.
Here's a link wretch gave me.
He had an uncle that was there.

6/29/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger Towering Barbarian said...

"For example, the current character of the French (cynical & world-weary) might be ascribed to the horrendous loss of young men in WWI."

While I have no doubt that WWI did not help in that regard I often feel I pick up the same cynicism in some of the 19th Century French novels I've read. My own suspicion is that the Revolution and before that the Climate set by Cardinals Richileau and Mazarin may both have had something to do with it. For that matter, based on what I've seen on some of the Yahoo message boards, I would not describe them as worldweary so much as patriotic to the point of chauvinism athough it's possible that the ones I encounter are atypical.

6/29/2005 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Prejudiced belief in the superiority of one's own gender, group, or kind: “the chauvinism... of making extraterrestrial life in our own image” (Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr.).
They wouldn't be THAT way, would they?

6/29/2005 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Wretchard - Thanks for the response and clarification on Yamashita. I had dimly remembered that some of the Manila butchery had been by Imperial Naval Troops under Yamashita's command. Re-reading, I do see the other side of the argument. Yamashita was rushed to the Philippines just weeks before the invasion and had not met with various commands. So much of the slaughter in the Philippines was by units that fought outside Yamashita's direct authority. On the other hand, the US established command responsibility as an appropriate means to determine war crimes responsibility. (Generals get the credit for subordinates conduct, generals get blame for subordinates conduct...a not unfamiliar state of affairs in a military organization).

So he paid for the actions of the Naval troops in Manila and the Army troops much closer in Batanga Province - though most of the indiscriminant civilian slaughter was by a colonel who said it was his call, not Yamashita's.

If you look at his other WWII actions, the guy was not clean. He was involved in ordering some Chinese massacres & reprisals, and is listed as one of the key Army leaders responsible for the "comfort women". In Malysia/Singapore his troops committed the Alexander Hospital massacre where some 300 mostly British doctors, nurses, and wounded soldiers were systematically bayoneted. Yamashita executed the officers responsible for a breach in discipline. However, the War Crimes trials on the Sook Ching Massacre where some 25,000 -30,000 civilians were selected for murder turned up Yamashita as the commander who signed off on the program to interview all ethnic Chinese and execute all who were "problems".

For Sook Ching, Yamashita deserved a short rope, and if the Americans hadn't hanged him, the British were sure to have.

6/29/2005 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

husker met,
that may well be the case.
I do know that the Colonel took Steinbeck on a tour of the back country. The rest of the story and just where and when the Colonel got that idea is more than I can report. I thought Conrad's Heart of Darkness was the basis also, but I wouldn't argue with him.

6/29/2005 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Radomes .
Interesting site I found looking for Basil:

Elliott, George E. Jr.
Units: His unheeded warning about aircraft approaching Pearl Harbor was depicted in history books and movies like `Tora, Tora, Tora,`. He was 85. The former Army radar operator detected the incoming Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941; he issued a warning, which was brushed aside. Nearly an hour later, the enemy planes reached the Navy fleet in the harbor.
State: FL
Passed: December, 2003

6/29/2005 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Two Nudes
She was cruelest to me in April, when the monsoon stifled
The little devotion left between us. I blame
The monsoon, not her. Coasting southwest
From Sarawak the air reeks of cardamom,
Crab roe, corpses. Soldiers are bombing Pikit,
Three thousand Moslem refugees pour into
The Christian churches. She doesn’t see the irony of it,
How we always wind up nursing the ones
We wound the most. We make love infrequently now,
Once a month if ever. She lies in bed
Like my weather-beaten republic, too sad to respond
To how badly I touch her, to how too fast or too slow
I come. You might think I’m making this up,
But this morning she told me, Money
Is the most beautiful object in the world.
She’s looking for something to believe in,
Beyond the obvious that’s too bright, too close
To see. Dear Eric, he writes, I run to you
Only when I’m on the verge of disintegrating.
Summer in the tropics is all Lent, all repentance
And resurrection, and I’m sick of it. She loves to stick her thumbs
Into the scabbed stigmata of my hands. I feel no pain.
She tells me war is inescapable. You must bomb
A few towns if you want peace. If we have children,
They will be among the nine out of ten
Who will never speak in the future tense.
For some reason she finds this comforting.
When she lies like this, fetal, one arm stretched out
To touch my face, she reminds me of the crook
Of the northern tip of Sulawesi. She showed it once to me
On a map: a jungle island almost human in form,
Teeming with terror, incredibly poor.

. Meritage Press

6/29/2005 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

the baguio campaign has a lot in commen with the italian campaign in that both were bloody, mountainous, fought against able enemy generals with fine soldiers. There were flanking attacks to the rear in both campaigns. Valuable real estate was destroyed in both cases.

Finally, both campaigns were bypassed, the one by Okinawa and the other by Normandy.

6/29/2005 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Anna said,
"What is amazing is the prodigious American production capacity."
In case you haven't seen it, check out ledger's posts on LeMay for another astounding example of production.
I had no idea 829 B-29's were produced:

"The last mission sent 828 B-29s and 186 fighters over Japan without a single loss. On Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, the A-Bombs were dropped, and Japan surrendered unconditionally."
The Fourth Conjecture.

6/29/2005 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger husker_met said...


Nor would I. But as is often the case, what I think I know is right, is occasionally not. So I was just checking.

Perhaps I should have read the Steinbeck I was assigned after all...


"Ghost Soldiers" is an excellent book. It reads like what a Hollywood movie should be.

Slightly OT, If you'd like to read about the POW experience in Europe, there is a book called "We Were Each Other's Prisoners" which gives experiential anecdotes. I recommend it to you all, and to Dick Durbin (Don Colson is my uncle, who was moved from a LuftStalag to Dachau as a political prisoner, for being "incorrigible"; his accounts is contained therein).


Patton, Rommel,Schwartzkopf, and the modern Marine Corps, regular Army, and Special Forces (via Boyd) are all perfectly aware of the concept of circumventing strong resistance points to achieve the strategic goal (dislocution of enemy command and control and communication apparatus).

Iran doesn't give me pause. Those a-holes will be done in a matter of weeks. What gives me pause is the unfinished insurgernt element left behind by a up-tempo offense. This is the critical lesson of Iraq, that was unaccounted for due to inexperience in 4G warfare.

I think, however, that we have learned a valuable lesson about having follow on forces at the ready to immediately establish civil order following the break things/kill people stage.

Because it is in fact a stage game. The shooters shouldn't be building schoolhouses and soccer fields. They need to be driving the vanguard forward.

My real feeling is that had we known then what we know now, we'd have drained the whole swamp by now (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Eastern Pakistan, with Saudi shaking in their sandals) in one quick multi-national push. But, alas, I think Jackson said, "War is learning the ways of the enemy."

China will be a tougher nut to crack. Ultimately it will boil down to whether we have learned Sun-Tzu, in 15 years, better than the Chinese, in 1000.

6/29/2005 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Funky Indeed! .
Todays is a good one on Tom Cruise

6/30/2005 01:24:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

'Rat's Roundup

6/30/2005 01:27:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Speaking of China, we just signed a major military cooperation pact with India. That is a tremendous step for us in the long-term strategic arena. (I am curious when the left will give the admin credit for that.) I forget if it was on this site or Instapundit that someone theorized the development of an Anglo-sphere (nations that at one point were part of the British system) "alliance" system; with the primary components being the UK, USA, India, and Australia. That seems to be coming true. There are also serious (from what I have read) talks going on with Vietnam. So I feel more positive today about our long-term strategic situation than I did yesterday.

6/30/2005 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I had hoped that we were going to get them all quickly, and be done. An up tempo campaign where we maintained the offensive momentum. It is unfortunate that we did not. Now we have a hostage taker as President of Iran, that cannot be a "Good Thing". The US public mood is now shaky, at best, for the perception of an enlarged conflict. Because we never identified the other Opfor Nation State Combatants in the War it may be to late to do so now.

6/30/2005 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

"Because we never identified the other Opfor Nation State Combatants"
I would say that he did do that, with the "axis of evil" speech. But unfortunately, the reality is that this is not viewed by many as a full-scale war, and this does limit the President politically with what he can do.

6/30/2005 12:19:00 PM  

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