The invasion of the Japanese 14th Army, which began in December 1941 and was led by General Masaharu Homma, had already forced General Douglas MacArthur’s troops from Manila, the Philippine capital, into Bataan, in part because of poor strategising on MacArthur’s part.
MacArthur was eventually flown to Australia, on President Roosevelt’s orders, where he broadcast to the Filipino people his famous “I Shall Return” promise. MacArthur’s departure marked the end of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), and by March 22nd the defending army was renamed United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) and Lt. Gen. Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV was placed in command.
Subsequently, the American Luzon Force and its Filipino allies were half-starved and suffering from malnutrition, malaria, beriberi, dysentery, and hookworm.
After the failure of their first attack against Bataan, the Japanese General Headquarters sent strong artillery forces to the Philippines in order to smash the American fortifications.
Homma, helped by reinforcements and an increase in artillery and aircraft activity, took advantage of the U.S. and Filipinos’ weakened condition. The Japanese attack signalled the beginning of the end and would result, six days later, in the surrender of the largest number of U.S. troops in U.S. military history.
On April 3rd, the entire Orion-Bagac line was subjected to incessant bombings by 100 aircraft and artillery bombardment by 300 artillery pieces from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., which turned the Mount Samat stronghold into an inferno. Thereafter, over the course of the next three days (Good Friday to Easter Sunday, 1942), the Japanese 65th Brigade and 4th Division spearheaded the main attack at the left flank of II Corps. Everywhere along the line, the American and Filipino defenders were driven back by Japanese tanks and infantry.
Ultimately, more than 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American prisoners of war were forced into the infamous Bataan Death March. On September 7th 1944 the Japanese ship Shinyo Maru was sunk by USS Paddle; on board the Maru were US POWs of whom 668 died and 82 survived. American and Filipino forces later retook the Bataan peninsula on February 17th 1945.