5

The American surrender of Wainwright's and Sharp's forces in the Philippines, during World War II, was the largest surrender of troops under the US flag in the history of the country. Reports at the time stated that US and Filipino troops were fighting hunger and illness in addition to the Japanese, and that there was no chance that the US could get supplies to them, given Japan's command of the seas at that point. However, American troops who refused to surrender, such as Col. Wendell Fertig, working with other American soldiers, organized Filipino resistence fighters into an effective insurgency of approximately 36,000 troops. By doing so, he caused the Japanese to divert 60,000 troops to Mindano in an unsuccessful attempt to crush the insurgency. Moreover, Fertig's insurgency force became one of the most effective intelligence sources available to MacArthur in that area. The supply problems that led Wainwright to surrender were largely solved by Fertig, an engineer, who creatively used native crops and materials, and salvaged allied and enemy stores and weapons, to supply, equip, and feed his forces. See John Keats, They Fought Alone: Wendell Fertig and the World War II Guerrilla Campaign in the Philippines, (J. B. Lippincott Company) (1963).

Given that the US Army had relatively recent experience fighting against insurgencies in Central America (i.e. the Banana Wars), did it occur to MacArthur or his staff that Wainwright's and Sharp's forces would have been better off heading for the hills and fighting a guerrilla war, rather than surrendering? If not, what factors made MacArthur and his staff choose surrender instead?

1

The Americans were on Luzon, and the Japanese had air and naval superiority, so reaching Mindanao was out of the question. The initial landings of the Japanese cut off the US troops, deployed near the capital of Manila, from what hills there are on that island.

The main requirement of a guerrilla campaign is to either be able to escape the occupying army or hide among the locals. The large garrison of the Philippines could not escape nor blend in. The only thing scattering could accomplish would be to have the locals punished for sheltering them.

Some special forces might have been able to work on the island after the fall, but the large peacetime garrison could not.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.