Can the Philippines be saved 1941-42?

Interesting responses, but overall shaping towards it can't be done without a near clairvoyant sense of what's coming at least a couple of years in advance. That brings me to the other question. There was definitely opposition to retaking the Philippines in the USN, wanting to focus the if they had gotten their way would that have shortened the war?
I would favour a bypass, really. Retaking the place was just a Mac prestige project when you think about it. And the argument can be made that no invasion means no Manila Massacre and other huge scale atrocities, to say nothing of 20k American and 350k Japanese deaths.
 
A Filipino newspaper is commemorating the upcoming Battle of Leyte Gulf anniversary. The Philippines Inquirer is publishing a series of op-eds and essays by Filipinos regarding the bypass/liberate question, so the following may or may not represent the majority view amongst Filipinos on this subject.

"In reviewing historical events in the past, particularly those that have been associated with much destruction and suffering among our people, we tend to sometimes dwell on what might have been if decisions made were different. Had President Roosevelt chosen Formosa over the Philippines, it is likely that many parts of our country would not have suffered so much ruin and ravaging. Manila would probably have remained relatively unscathed as the city was not of military strategic importance. And as one senior US official put it, MacArthur could still have returned to the Philippines after the surrender of Japan and be received like a conquering hero whose pledge had been redeemed."

That reads like one vote for bypass.
 
A Filipino newspaper is commemorating the upcoming Battle of Leyte Gulf anniversary. The Philippines Inquirer is publishing a series of op-eds and essays by Filipinos regarding the bypass/liberate question, so the following may or may not represent the majority view amongst Filipinos on this subject.

"In reviewing historical events in the past, particularly those that have been associated with much destruction and suffering among our people, we tend to sometimes dwell on what might have been if decisions made were different. Had President Roosevelt chosen Formosa over the Philippines, it is likely that many parts of our country would not have suffered so much ruin and ravaging. Manila would probably have remained relatively unscathed as the city was not of military strategic importance. And as one senior US official put it, MacArthur could still have returned to the Philippines after the surrender of Japan and be received like a conquering hero whose pledge had been redeemed."

That reads like one vote for bypass.
Sorry. I thought that this was from a currently running series. It's actually 5 years old now.
 
So I'm curious if there are any solid possibilities for having the Japanese assault in 1941 fail? To narrow the parameters lets say the earliest you can make a change is June 1941, and that 'replace MacArthur' isn't not an answer in itself. My own reading is that much like Malaya the Philippines was at the bottom of the priority list for equipment and manpower. MacArthur's attitudes and pomposity might not help but I think you would have to have the islands get a higher priority for men and equipment. So any thoughts or suggestions?
It would take a 1920s POD with the Philippines like Hawaii being exempt from the No new Fortification Clause in the Washington Naval Treaty. That would have allowed more fortifications in the Manila area, and the fortification and airfields around USN anchorages at Davo, Cebu, IIlio, Zamboanga, and Puerto Princissa.
This isn't my list, but some military historians made the following list of suggestions that would have made the PI very painful for the Japanese without the US needing to go "all in" in the PI's defense:

1. 1-2 years in advance. Start stock piling supplies on Bataan. Start building more lateral military roads across Bataan.
2. 6 mos. in advance. Start fortifying some of the strategic hilltops, natural choke-points, and the few beach landing zones on Bataan. Concentrated ground forces on Luzon so that the US can launch quick counter-strike against the main Jap landing when it occurs. MacArthur knew or suspected this would likely be at Lingayen Gulf.
3. Within an hour of learning about the attack at PH. Have the US aircraft dispersed or into whatever hardened facilities they had.
4. Within hours of the PH attack. Permit Far East Air Force to attack Jap airfields o Formosa.
5. Counter-attack at the Lingayen Gulf when Gen. Homma's landing is underway.
This is almost an impossible level list, I totally agree with As long as Mac Arthur is in the Philippines none of this will happen.
1. There has to be a major shift in U.S. government policies to fund the facilities for warehousing those supplies, then prepare and purchase the supplies. It took from 1936 to 1941 to get the work done to develop a new Naval Base at Miravales at Bataan, and it would not be done until Spring of 1942.
2. How does the Army afford to do these things? Where do they get the Engineers . How do you concentrate troops at Lingayen Gulf, Aparri, and Legazpi, Mac Arthur truly believed that the Japanese would not attack before March of 1942 at the earliest. The USN believed different.
3. The airfields had no dispersal facilities, Iba was a wide open area on the coast, Clark 's field was in the middle of hangars and shops,
4.It was MacArthur who refused to allow the Navy to Patrol toward Formosa and refused to allow Breeton (CinC USAAC Far East) to do recon or attack Japanese Bases in Formosa.
5. The Philippine forces of the U.S. Army did attack Homa's landings. However the untrained and inexperienced troops had their butts handed to them.
 

DougM

Donor
You cant get the US to massivly build up the defenses pre WW2 as by 37 the Philippines were semi self governing and the US was simply running the clock out on then so any money spent woukd be VERY short term as far as the US. was concerned so unless the US KNOWS FOR A RACT that war is about to come then any money spent is just heing yossed out and at a time when the economy and budget was in bad shape.

So without changing the plans to grant the Phillipines independence you cant get better defenses built up.
 
You cant get the US to massivly build up the defenses pre WW2 as by 37 the Philippines were semi self governing and the US was simply running the clock out on then so any money spent woukd be VERY short term as far as the US. was concerned so unless the US KNOWS FOR A RACT that war is about to come then any money spent is just heing yossed out and at a time when the economy and budget was in bad shape.

So without changing the plans to grant the Phillipines independence you cant get better defenses built up.
The only alternative would have been a mutual defense pact between the U.S. and the Philippines a military training agreement, and a say, a 100 year or permenant lease on Corrigidor, Clark and Del Monte Fields, Miraviales, Subic Bay and say Davo and Puerto Princesa.
 
Start building up the Filipino army earlier with a concentration on defensive measures. Fix the torpedoes by 1941. Have better plans for Guam and Wake. As soon as word of Pearl Harbor comes in get the subs out and the planes in the air. Take out some troop ships and they might be forced to back off and reevaluate.
 

DougM

Donor
Note I was not trying to imply there was a good way to change the plans to go forward with independence I was just pointing out that you are not getting major build ups in defenses on a US dime for a location that the US will not be defending soon. Especially at a time that the economy was in trouble.
 

Garrison

Donor
Yeah as I say I've concluded it would have to be plan B, do a better job on the 8th/9th December so it soaks up more Japanese attention and bypass it later for a fast run to get bases in bombing range of Japan.
 
Yeah as I say I've concluded it would have to be plan B, do a better job on the 8th/9th December so it soaks up more Japanese attention and bypass it later for a fast run to get bases in bombing range of Japan.
While Macarthur's arguments for invading the Philippines were obviously self interested, that doesn't mean there wasn't a good case to be made in favor of the Philippines over Formosa (Taiwan). When the time came to make the decision, it was clear that the Philippines could be invaded sooner; choosing Formosa would impose a delay of several months and require more service troops to be shipped to the Pacific theater. The Philippines offered many more potential landing sites; Taiwan offered far fewer and much easier to defend sites for landings, with basically nowhere to land on the east coast, and the few potential west coast sites under surveillance. Finally, the US could count on a friendly population in the Philippines, the attitude of locals in Taiwan being much less clear.

This is not to say that the Philippines campaign as executed wasn't full of problems, starting from invading Leyte to build airfields on ground that couldn't support airfields, proceeding through the battle of Manila, and finishing with getting Americans killed to finish off Japanese garrisons that should just have been left to starve. I just want to point out that there were actual good reasons to invade the Philippines as the US did OTL, it was actually the fastest way to cut off Japan's connection to Southeast Asia.
 
This is not to say that the Philippines campaign as executed wasn't full of problems, starting from invading Leyte to build airfields on ground that couldn't support airfields, proceeding through the battle of Manila, and finishing with getting Americans killed to finish off Japanese garrisons that should just have been left to starve. I just want to point out that there were actual good reasons to invade the Philippines as the US did OTL, it was actually the fastest way to cut off Japan's connection to Southeast Asia.
The Japanese Command certainly thought so. Hence the actions they undertook that led to the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

"Should we lose in the Philippines operations, even though the fleet should be left, the shipping lane to the south would be completely cut off so that the fleet, if it should come back to Japanese waters, could not obtain its fuel supply. If it should remain in southern waters, it could not receive supplies of ammunition and arms. There would be no sense in saving the fleet at the expense of the loss of the Philippines." - Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Chief of the Combined Japanese Fleets.
 
It was actually the fastest way to cut off Japan's connection to Southeast Asia.
What about just directly invading and retaking the NEI while ignoring the Philippines? Surely that would be an even more surefire way. The Japanese, funnily enough given how much the NEI meant to them, did not fortify it to the extent that they did Iwo or Peleliu. When the Allies landed at Balikpapan for instance, that objective was secured quite easily.
 
The POD must be in or around 1937 when Japan walks out of the armament talks combined with the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Panay Incident.
 
Yeah as I say I've concluded it would have to be plan B, do a better job on the 8th/9th December so it soaks up more Japanese attention and bypass it later for a fast run to get bases in bombing range of Japan.
Reflecting a bit on this topic, with hindsight and a willingness to build some more fortifications perhaps it might have made sense to be able to prolong resistance on Bataan and Corregidor ?

With hindsight building more under ground facilities for hospitals and supply depots might have been wise ? Perhaps the U.S. could have argued they weren’t actually fortifications if they were not armed ?

Perhaps the U.S. could have pre planned the construction of additional fortifications so as soon as the U.S. felt it was politically possible construction could have started.

Maybe some more investments in flying boats and transport submarines could have been made pre ww2 to help evacuate wounded and send in critical supplies once hostilities began. Maybe some hardened facilities could have been built to facilitate this (perhaps multiple jetties made out of solid concrete to resist bomb damage, dispersed underground storage sites etc.)

All of this probably would have required a major shift in U.S. mindset and it is not clear to me if the benefits of keeping Japanese forces tied down in the Philippines would have been worth the costs (financial, political, and human.)

There might also have been a reluctance to build extensive hardened infrastructure that presumably would have been difficult to easily demolish prior to it eventually being captured.

Lots of trade offs to be looked at. With the benefit of hindsight I think the U.S. did quite well in terms of delaying the Japanese in the early stages of WW2. The marginal costs of “improvements” might or might not have been worthwhile.

As usual just my opinions, $.02 worth etc.
 
Note I was not trying to imply there was a good way to change the plans to go forward with independence I was just pointing out that you are not getting major build ups in defenses on a US dime for a location that the US will not be defending soon. Especially at a time that the economy was in trouble.
I wonder if perhaps the U.S. would have been more inclined to spend money on essentially building a “speed bump”’that would help delay Japan and tie down Japanese Resources in a future Japan / US conflict vs defending the Philippines as a political entity ?

I suspect that the answer to this question is likely “no” but I haven’t put a lot of thought into this.
 
A list of mainly material what-ifs to improve the performance of the defenders of the Philippines -

1. Provide greater access to WWI-era reserve stocks to the Philippine Army, in the 1930s. The US provided 250,000 M1917 rifles and a mixture of heavy machineguns sufficient to the Philippine Army TO&E. But there were huge gaps. Notably light automatics, grenades, mortars, mortar ammo and rifle grenades. And, of course, artillery.

- A few thousand BARS, that the US had large reserve stocks of.
- Grenades, unfilled. A grenade filling plant could have been set up.
- A much larger number of WWI Stokes mortars, which the US had in abundance. The Philippines is excellent country for mortars.
- Mortar ammo was a very sore point. A fix to the bad WWI ammo would have required the dispatch of a US Army Ordnance unit to do quality control and remediation of this materiel (and the grenade filling plant, and rifle inspection and maintenance, and etc.) The Philippine Army had a severe lack in the Ordnance category.
- The US could have provided its stock of Vivien-Bessieres (VB) grenade launchers and grenades. The VB's were standard US Army issue in WWI, based on French practice, and indeed it was this widespread use that led the Japanese to develop and widely issue their "knee mortars". Most were adapted to the M1917 rifles. The US did not use the VBs at all, I think, after the 1920s, as the M1917s were not standard issue, and those things just mouldered away. This woukd have gone a lobg way to filling the firepower gap between Philippine and Japanese infantry.
- Artillery. In 1919 the US Army had a vast artillery park. Another hundred or two of unmodernised 75mm field guns would not have gone amiss. And a few dozen ex-French 105mm/155mm howitzers.

To add, helmets, infantry webbing, uniforms, boots, field telephone equipment, military-grade trucks, all of which were short or non-existent in the PA.

All the above were in WWI era US stocks, or were readily available from civilian sources.

To go fantasy a bit, there was sufficient industry in the Philippines to manufacture simple submachineguns of the "STEN" gun class or similar. Similar things were, after all, subsequently made by craft workshops in the country. Add land mines, antitank grenades, etc. A little money spent on a 1930s US Ordnance mission, as above, could have paid off tremendously.

Grenades and mortar bombs could also have easily been locally manufactured.

2. Mobilize and Federalize the Philippine Army six months earlier. The US was already spending vast sums by Feb/March 1941, a bit more in budget assistance to the Phippine government would not have been missed. Many of the problems of USAFFE happened because of the mad scramble of the last minute mobilization, where many men were joining the colors as their units were already retreating to Bataan. They could have had complete infantry and artillery units, at least minimally trained, with officers used to their men, plus many fixes to materiel deficiencies. They would at least have been better than the armed crowd of Dec 1941. An army in this state could at least have contemplated a guerilla-style campaign.

3. The Philippine Army, unfortunately, took the bulk of its officer corps from ex Constabulary officers. As per General Vicente Lim, who was in a position to know, this was a bad mistake. The Constabulary were policemen, and they knew nothing of modern war. They were also way too tied in to local politics, corruption, and a rather ceremonial sense of organisation. What the PA could have badly used in 1935-41 would have been a few hundred US military advisors, many, probably, promoted NCOs, preferably combat veterans of WWI. The PA had no, zero, officers who had served on the Western Front, other than MacArthur.

4. USAFFE was actually engaged in creating a large number of dispersal fields by Nov-Dec 1941. The disaster at Clark Field did not have to happen. My great uncle, a USACE reservist, was called up to do this, build these dispersal fields, with camouflaged revetted shelters, etc. He later died at Cabanatuan. Again, too late. If this had started six months earlier the USAFFE air force would have lasted longer. They would still have been "Doomed at the Start" (Bartsch), but it would have been an improvement.

5. An air raid warning system was being stood up, mostly depending on visual observers. There is a lot of Philippine territory between landfall and anything worth bombing, so this would work better than one would think. The big problem was communications. Again, started too late.
 
There are many other details we can get into of course, without bringing the US Pacific fleet into it. I can continue if there is an interest. The net effect would have been that parts of the Philippines could have held out much longer, absorbed more Japanese resources, and caused greater Japanese casualties.
 

Garrison

Donor
There are many other details we can get into of course, without bringing the US Pacific fleet into it. I can continue if there is an interest. The net effect would have been that parts of the Philippines could have held out much longer, absorbed more Japanese resources, and caused greater Japanese casualties.
I am certainly interested in any ideas about drawing out the campaign, which would fit in with the scenario I am developing ATM.
 
I am certainly interested in any ideas about drawing out the campaign, which would fit in with the scenario I am developing ATM.
Ok then.

1. This is often mentioned. The biggest supply deficiency on Bataan was the dire shortage of rice. The general debility of all personnel was in the main caused by a lack
of calories, which manifested in all sorts of other problems. USAFFE, in Jan to April, went to great lengths to obtain rice. There was a system of blockade runners, using smaller interisland vessels, set up to run rice to Bataan, and this alone probably kept them going for a month. That is an untold story, of Filipino sailors and Spanish skippers (as most were at the time), taking sacrificial risks. Anyway, in the confusion of the December retreat, USAFFE passed right by the warehouses of the National Rice and Corn Administration in San Fernando, Pampanga. This was the nationalized purchaser of the Central Valley rice crop. There was a vast quantity of rice held there. USAFFE could, possibly, have diverted transport assets (assuming clear roads, and other logistical issues) to have taken enough rice from there to Bataan to provide normal rations for six months.

Its interesting that USAFFE managed to organize the evacuation of all ordnance stores from Fort McKinley, near Manila, most of which ended up by being blown up upon the surrender of Bataan. But no rice.
 
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