Debacle at Clark Field, 8 December 1941

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Debacle at Clark Field, 8 December 1941

Post by David Thompson » 06 Jan 2005 03:09

Here are a series of official US versions of this bombing attack, which inflicted a disastrous defeat on the US Army Air Force Far East (USAFFE) command. The first is taken from The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II: Philippine Islands, available online at: ... index.html
Philippine Islands

7 December 1941--10 May 1942

Capture of the Philippine Islands was crucial to Japan's effort to control the Southwest Pacific, seize the resource-rich Dutch East Indies, and protect its Southeast Asia flank. Its strategy called for roughly simultaneous attacks on Malaya, Thailand, American-held Guam and Wake, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, and Hawaii. Although the aim of the air strike on Hawaii's Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 was to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet in its home port, the others were meant to serve as preludes to full-scale invasion and occupation.

The well-coordinated Japanese campaign, spread across great reaches of the Pacific, progressed with astonishing rapidity. The small U.S. Army and Marine garrisons on Guam and Wake surrendered on 10 and 22 December, respectively, and the British forces in Hong Kong on 26 December. Singapore, the supposedly impregnable British bastion on the Malay Peninsula, capitulated on 15 February 1942. Following lightning amphibious landings in Thailand and Burma, Japanese forces pushed to the northwest, threatening India. Only in the Philippines did the combined U.S.-Filipino units mount a prolonged resistance, holding out with grim determination for five months.

The Strategic Setting

The Philippine Islands, some 7,000 in number, form a natural barrier between Japan and the rich resources of east and southeast Asia. Most Filipinos live on eleven principal islands that account for 90 percent of the archipelago's landmass. Manila, the capital, is located on Luzon, the largest and most populous of the islands. In 1941 the Philippines formed the westernmost U.S. outpost, 5,000 miles from Pearl Harbor and over 7,000 miles from San Francisco. By contrast, Manila is only 1,800 miles from Tokyo.
Defending such a distant outpost against the rising power of Japan would be a formidable task. By January 1941 Japan controlled much of the surrounding territory. Formosa, just to the north, had been under Japanese control since 1895. The islands directly to the east formed part of the territories mandated to Japan by the



League of Nations. To the west Japan occupied eastern China and would soon move into French Indochina. Only the Dutch East Indies directly to the south remained in Western hands.

Although the United States had maintained military forces, including a substantial number of indigenous units, in the Philippines since their annexation in 1898, the islands were largely unprepared for hostilities with Japan. This unpreparedness was the result of several factors. As a signatory of the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922, the United States had agreed, in exchange for limitations on Japanese shipbuilding, to halt construction of any new fortifications in its Pacific possessions. For the Philippines this meant that only the islands near the entrance to Manila Bay, principally Corregidor, were well protected. Similarly, the act to grant the Philippines commonwealth status in 1935--with independence scheduled for 1946--meant that the



defense of the islands had to devolve gradually on the Philippine government despite its limited resources. Reflecting these realities, the U.S. Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan ORANGE, last updated in April 1941, limited defense of the islands to Manila Bay and critical adjacent areas. If attacked, the U.S. Army garrison was expected to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula, a tongue of land on Luzon forming the northwestern boundary of Manila Bay, and to the island of Corregidor. The plan did not envision reinforcement or relief of the Philippine garrison. With a small army committed to continental defense and a general agreement that in the event America went to war it would adopt a defeat-Germany-first strategy, the U.S. military had reluctantly concluded that the Philippines must be sacrificed if the Japanese attacked.

On 21 December 1935, the new Philippine National Assembly passed the Philippines National Defense Act that outlined the commonwealth's plan for its self-defense. It envisioned a small force of 10,000 men supplemented by a 400,000-man reserve, large enough to make any invasion prohibitively expensive. General Douglas MacArthur, who had been advising the commonwealth government on defense matters, came to Manila to organize the new Philippine Army after his retirement as Chief of Staff in 1937. A man of considerable presence and vast military experience, MacArthur was destined to play the principal role in the defense of the Philippines as well as their triumphant recovery in 1945.

MacArthur faced a daunting task in creating an army and training the necessary reserves. Operating within a minuscule budget, he suffered a chronic shortage of weapons, transportation, communications equipment, and even housing and uniforms for his men. Moreover, the linguistic diversity of the commonwealth created serious communication problems between the new recruits and their officers and among the soldiers within individual units. The effort to build a cadre was stymied because the schools needed for the training of commissioned and noncommissioned officers did not exist. In dire straits, MacArthur turned to the War Department in Washington, D.C., which was also chronically short of funds, for equipment and supplies.

In addition to the force that MacArthur was trying to build, the U.S. Army maintained Regular units in the islands. Organized in a Philippine Department under the command of Maj. Gen. George Grunert, the regulars included the Philippine Scouts, units of Filipino soldiers led for the most part by American officers. Just over half the 22,532 soldiers in the Philippine Department were scouts. The U.S. forces and the new Philippine Army at first operated independently, but as war grew more likely Grunert and MacArthur increasingly cooperated.



The movement toward war accelerated on 25 July 1941 when Japan, now a member of the Axis coalition, announced that it had assumed a protectorate over French Indochina. President Franklin D. Roosevelt immediately issued an executive order freezing all Japanese assets in the United States, denying to Japan its sources of credit, and cutting off imports of rubber, fuel, and iron. The British and Dutch immediately followed suit. Roosevelt also responded by incorporating the commonwealth forces into the U.S. Army and recalling General MacArthur to active duty as commander of U.S. Forces, Far East (USAFFE). The loss of credit and essential military resources and the threat of a substantial U.S. garrison in the western Pacific brought the Japanese warlords to the brink of war. They set a secret timetable: unless the Allies agreed to lift the embargo on oil and other supplies and to halt reinforcement of the Philippines, they would attack within four months.

While the diplomats continued discussing the matter, General MacArthur again proposed that the U.S. Army cancel War Plan ORANGE and commit itself to an ambitious program of building a bastion of American power in the Philippines. Chief of Staff George C. Marshall finally approved plans to give top priority to reinforcing and equipping MacArthur's command, a program that MacArthur estimated could be in place by April 1942.

Although the Philippine garrison had been significantly reinforced by 1 December, it remained perilously inadequate for the task at hand. Its strength stood at 31,095 men, a 40 percent increase in four months. Initial National Guard reinforcements from the United States--the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment and the 192d and 194th Tank Battalions--had arrived at the end of September. Although these National Guard units had been hastily mobilized and were insufficiently trained, they brought with them some modern equipment, including 108 M3 tanks, the first to reach the Philippines. But War Department planners gave little consideration to the enormous logistical problems involved in building up and supporting large forces in the far Pacific. The burden placed upon military shipping to carry out the task proved overwhelming, and the critical shortage of cargo space delayed all shipments.

It was the significant development in air power that made an extended defense of the Philippines thinkable. On 3 November Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton had arrived to take command of the newly activated Far East Air Force. By 1 December the Philippine Islands boasted the largest concentration of U.S. Army aircraft outside the continental United States. Many of these aircraft were the best the Army had to



offer, including 107 P-40 fighter aircraft and 35 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. Yet the Philippines still lacked critical maintenance and repair facilities and enough airfield to permit the proper dispersal of aircraft. Further, an inadequate air-raid-warning service and antiquated antiaircraft artillery left the growing air forces vulnerable to enemy raids.

By 1 December a majority of the ten Philippine Army (PA) reserve divisions mobilized by MacArthur in September had been incorporated into the U.S. defense forces. These units, which retained their distinctive uniforms, rations, military law, scale of pay, and promotion list, were lacking in everything from boots to artillery. Many were armed with World War I Enfield or Springfield 1903 rifles. Those with serviceable weapons had little ammunition for training.

MacArthur reorganized is growing command into four separate forces. The North Luzon Force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright, defended the most strategically important defensive region, which included the most likely sites for amphibious attacks and the central plains, the only suitable area for large-scale military operations. It also included Bataan Peninsula, the designated fall-back position in the event of an American retreat. Wainwright's forces were organized around one regiment of Philippine Scouts (PS), the 26th Cavalry, one battalion of the 45th Infantry (PS), and two batteries of 144-mm. guns and one of 2.95-inch mountain guns. From the Philippine Army, Wainwright had the 11th, 21st, and 31st Infantry Divisions. The 71st Infantry Division (PA) served as its reserve and could be committed only on the authority of MacArthur.

The South Luzon Force, commanded by Brig. Gen. George M. Parker, Jr., was assigned a zone stretching east and south of Manila. Parker had the 41st and 51st Infantry Divisions (PA) and two batteries from the 86th Field Artillery (PS). The Visayan-Mindanao Force under Brig. Gen. William F. Sharp was composed of the 61st, 81st, and 101st Infantry Divisions of the Philippine Army.

The Reserve Force, composed of the Far East Air Force, the U.S. Army's Philippine Division, and the headquarters units of the Philippine Department and the Philippine Army, was stationed just north of Manila under MacArthur's direct command. The Philippine Division's 10,233 officers and enlisted men made it the largest single concentration of regulars. Maj. Gen. George F. Moore's Harbor Defense forces, which included four artillery regiments, guarded the entrance to Manila Bay.

Japan's ambitious strategic plan and the continuing war in China sharply limited the size of the force available for the invasion of the Philippines. Imperial General Headquarters assigned Lt. Gen. Masaharu



Homma, commander of the 14th Army, the task of conquering the Philippines. In addition to the 16th and 48th Divisions, Homma's army contained 2 tank battalions, 2 regiments and 1 battalion of medium artillery, 3 engineer regiments, 5 antiaircraft battalions, and a large number of service units. The 500 aircraft of the 5th Air Group, commanded by Lt. Gen. Hideyoshi Obata, would support the invasion from Formosa. The Japanese naval forces included the 3d Fleet, commanded by Vice Adm. Ibo Takahashi, and the 11th Air Fleet, commanded by Vice Adm. Nishizo Tsukarahara.

Japanese commanders finalized their plan of attack in mid-November. On the first day, army and navy aircraft would establish air superiority by destroying American aircraft and air installations. As these attacks proceeded, the army and navy would establish advance air bases on Batan Island north of Luzon, at Apari, Vigan, and Legaspi on Luzon Island, and at Davao on Mindanao, the large island south of Luzon. Major elements of the 14th Army would then land along the Lingayen Gulf north of Manila while a smaller force would launch an assault in Lamon Bay to the south. These forces would converge on Manila, where the Japanese expected the decisive battle to take place. Imperial Headquarters assumed that the fall of the capital would mean the destruction of the vast majority of U.S. and Philippine forces. Gaining control of the smaller islands could wait



until they were needed. It gave General Homma an exact timetable: conquer Luzon in fifty days. After that, half of his forces would be removed for operations scheduled elsewhere in Southeast Asia.


The duty officer at U.S. Asiatic Fleet headquarters in Manila first received word of the Pearl Harbor attack at 0230 on 8 December 1941, but a full hour passed before Brig. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, MacArthur's chief of staff, heard the news from commercial broadcasts. He immediately notified MacArthur and all commanders that a state of war now existed with Japan. MacArthur ordered his troops to battle stations.

Despite this warning, when the Japanese pilots of the 11th Air Fleet attacked Clark Field nine hours later, they caught two squadrons of B-17s lined up on the field and a number of American fighters just preparing to take off. The first wave of twenty-seven Japanese twin-engine bombers achieved complete tactical surprise and destroyed most of the American heavy bombers. A second bomber strike followed while Zero fighters strafed the field. Only three P-40s managed to take of. A simultaneous attack on Iba Field in northwest Luzon was also successful; all but two of the 3d Squadron's P-40s were destroyed. The Far East Air Force lost fully half its planes the first day of the war.

The Japanese success in the Philippines hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor has sparked controversy with much finger-pointing that has endured to this day. General Brereton later wrote that he repeatedly sought permission before the attack to launch his B-17s against the Japanese aircraft in Formosa, but General Sutherland denied his requests and also denied him access to MacArthur. MacArthur later insisted that he was unaware of Brereton's request, adding that such a move would have been ill conceived anyway because USAFFE lacked intelligence concerning likely targets. For his part Sutherland claimed that he had ordered Brereton to transfer his bombers away from Clark Field to the relative safety of Mindanao to the south; Brereton countered that he could not have fully complied with the order because of the impending arrival of a new bombardment group from Hawaii. Officers stationed at Clark Field later disagreed about whether their installation had even received warning of the approaching aircraft as the attack was about to start.

With air superiority ensured, the first Japanese amphibious landing took place at dawn on the small northern island of Bata on 8 December.

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 06 Jan 2005 03:15

From The Army Air Forces in WWII: Plans & Early Operations January 1939-August 1942, pp. 201-214, available online at:
Defeat on Luzon

According to the Japanese plan for the capture of the Philippine Islands, naval air units would assume the initial responsibility for destruction of defending air and naval forces and for cover of the landings. When beachheads had been established and Philippine airfields had been captured, army air units would move in for the purpose of supporting the ground forces. The first air assault was scheduled for early morning on the same day of the attacks in Hawaii.[18]

Preparations had been well under way by the opening of November. During the first two weeks of the month, land-based naval air units of the 11th Air Fleet were transferred to Formosa, where with approximately 300 planes they entered into intensive training in day and night bombing, long-range reconnaissance, air coverage, and strafing attack. As December came in, the Third Fleet was engaged in assembling its main forces at Formosa for the amphibious invasion of the Philippine; and to the naval air strength deployed at Formosan bases were added 150 to 175 planes of the Fifth Army air force. The main weight of army aviation was deployed in the south for support, initially from Indo-Chinese bases, of the conquest of Malaya.[19]

For defense of the Philippines, the Far East Air Force had in commission thirty-three B-17's, of which sixteen were at Del Monte and the rest at Clark Field, and approximately ninety pursuit aircraft.[20]



Map 2: Luzon



The 3e Pursuit Squadron at Iba and the 17th at Nichols each had eighteen P-40E's; the 20th at Clark was equipped with the same number of P-40B's. The 21st and 34th Squadrons, respectively based on the Nichols and Del Carmen fields, had arrived in the Philippines only in late November and did not receive their planes until 7 December, when the former was assigned approximately eighteen hastily assembled P-40E's and the latter took up its duties with P-35's, each of which had an average flying time close to 500 hours.l Also available were a miscellaneous assortment of noncombat aircraft and twelve P-26's flown from Batangas by pilots of the Philippine Air Force.[21]

Had the Japanese been able to keep to their schedule, the attack on the Philippines would have coincided much more closely than it did with that at Pearl Harbor. But inclement weather above Luzon delayed execution of the plan for an early morning attack, and gave the Americans advance notice of several hours.[22] In fact, the major attack on Clark Field, where virtually half of our total bombing force was destroyed on the ground, did not develop until after noon, some nine hours following the initial bombing of Oahu.

In the Philippines, which lie on the other side of the international date line, it was Monday, 8 December, when shortly after 0300 (0830 in Hawaii) a commercial radio station picked up a report of the Pearl Harbor attack.[23] Though no official confirmation was immediately available, base commanders received prompt notification and all units were placed on combat alert. Within thirty minutes of this first warning, the radar set at Iba plotted a formation of aircraft about seventy-five miles offshore headed toward Corregidor. The 3d Pursuit Squadron immediately sent out planes for interception. As the radar followed the course of the outgoing P-40's, it showed them making contact with the approaching aircraft, after which the latter swung off to the west and their plots disappeared. It was later learned that our pursuits actually had made no interception. Apparently, the P-40's in the darkness had passed underneath the enemy planes.[24] There were not other alarms prior to receipt of official confirmation of the outbreak of hostilities with Japan by 0500.

A plan of action which had been considered for this eventuality by the Far East Air Force was an American air attack against Formosa, the natural point of concentration for a Japanese invasion of the Philippines.[25] Objective folders, although without calibrated bomb target maps or aerial photographs, had been prepared,[26] and Col. Francis



M. Brady, chief of staff to General Brereton, promptly took the initial step toward mounting the operation by ordering the B-17's at Clark Field prepared for the mission.[27] Brereton himself reported at about 0500 to General MacArthur's headquarters at Fort Santiago, where he requested permission of Brig. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, chief of staff, to carry out offensive action as soon as possible after daylight.[28]

That request, unhappily, has become a subject of controversy. Conflicting statements have been made and the historian is left to find his way without the aid of a complete record. Indeed, only a few fragments of the official records of the Far East Air force survived the initial engagements and movements of the war, with the result that chief reliance must be placed on the recollections of its personnel. It would appear that the files of General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area, are also incomplete.[29]

Since the question turns so largely on evidence drawn from the memory that men carry of the first hectic hours of war, it seems pertinent to observe here that there can be little doubt that to the airmen of General MacArthur's command the logical defensive use of the long-range heavy bomber in the circumstances existing was to strike at the enemy's concentration of air and naval power on Formosa, and to strike before the enemy could attack.[30] Not only would this have been in accord with standard AAF doctrine and with the mission in defense of our own shores for which the B-17 originally had been designed, but Formosa lay well within the range of the plane, which incidentally had been built for missions extending beyond the distance for which fighter escort could be provided by current models of pursuit aircraft. It is true that the number of planes available was nowhere near that required for a decisive striking force, but the defensive value of the B-17 lay almost entirely in its offensive power and the alternative to its use in that manner was to save it for possible destruction on the ground. Moreover, the mission presumably would serve useful purposes of reconnaissance, and it would have been accordance with the recent revision of RAINBOW No. 5. [See above, pp. 184-85.] If General Brereton did not propose an early undertaking of offensive action against the enemy on Formosa, as both officially and publicly he has stated he did, it would be surprising indeed.

Following the publication in 1946 of The Brereton Diaries, in which



for the first time General Brereton publicly stated the facts as he recalled them, General MacArthur announced that he had received no such recommendation and that prior to that publication he knew "nothing of such a recommendation having been made."* This statement lent special weight to the testimony of General Sutherland, who during the preceding year had stated in an interview that the responsibility for holding the bombers on the ground that morning was entirely Brereton's. It was Sutherland's recollection that the air commander agreed that there would be no point in attempting a bomber mission without advance reconnaissance. The interview did not indicate whether the question of an immediate reconnaissance mission was considered, but General Brereton, in reply to a request for information on that point, has indicated that no authorization for reconnaissance was received until later. "At the first conference," he wrote, "General Sutherland approved my plans for an attack immediately after daylight, instructed me to go ahead with preparations and that in the meantime, he would obtain General MacArthur's authority for the daylight attack."[31]

* The Brereton Diaries (New York, 1946); MacArthur's statement of 27 Sept. 1946, in New York Times, 28 Sept. 1946. In response to a request for information, General Brereton several months earlier had given the Historical Office a statement of developments on the first day of war that was substantially the same as that subsequently published. [1st ind., Brereton to Paul (ltr., Chief, AAF Historical Office to CG Third Air Force, sub.: Air Defense of the Philippine Islands in December 1941, 30 Jan.. 1946.].)

The record of an interview by Walter D. Edmons with Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland in Manila on 4 June 1945 (copy supplied the author through the courtesy of Mr. Edmonds) reads on the question of "Why was Formosa not bombed?" as follows:

Gen. Sutherland began by saying that all the B-17s had been ordered to Del Monte some days before. On a check it was found that only half had been sent. GHQ wanted the planes in Del Monte because they would there have been safe from initial Jap attacks--they could not have been reached at all--and they could themselves have staged out of Clark Field to bomb Formosa. This direct order had not been obeyed. And it must be remembered that GHQ gave out general orders and that the AFHq were supposed to execute them. As Sutherland recalls, there was some plan to bomb Formosa, but Brereton said that he had to have Photos first. That there was no sense in going up there to bomb without knowing what they were going after. There were some 25 fields on Formosa. On December 9th and 10th, photo missions were dispatched -- Carpenter going on the first and returning with generator trouble; Connally going on the second but being turned back by fighters. Holding the bombers at Clark Field that first day was entirely due to Brereton. (Italics mine, WDE.)

General Sutherland's statement that all B-17's had been ordered to Del Monte (subsequently confirmed in MacArthur's statement of September 1946) and General Brereton's account of the move have been discussed above in Chap. 5, pp. 188-89. On the immediate question of the employment of the planes at Clark Field on 8 December, the question of a prior order for their transfer is a side issue.




It is difficult even to establish the chronology of events for that morning or to give anything more than the approximate time of those events on which agreement exists. The most detailed general account is that of Brereton, and for much of the detail given by him there exists independent corroboration.32 On the main points at issue, moreover, support for much of his account is provided without complete agreement by a file of the daily Summary of Activities of the Headquarters, Far East Air Force, extending from 8 December 1941 to 24 February 1942, when General Brereton relinquished command in Java on the even of his departure for India to assume command of American air operations in that area. These daily summaries leave little if any question that they represent a detailed record complied closer to the events described than any comprehensive account known to exist. in the following narrative they have been weighted according.*
After his early morning report to General Headquarters, General Brereton states that he returned to his own headquarters at Nielson


* These summaries acquire in the absence of other comparable records such an importance as to justify at this point an attempt to describe them and the way in which they reached the files of the Air Historical office. They were transmitted to that office after the termination of hostilities by AAF historical officers assigned to the China-Burma-India theater. Presumably,they represent a record carried to India by General Brereton or by other FEAF personnel who accompanied him to India, and presumably they were left there at the time of his hurried departure in June 1942 for the Middle East. (See below, pp. 512-13.) Similarly, records of early activity in India reached the Air Historical Office through the efforts of the historical officer of the Ninth Air Force, which General Brereton later commanded in ETO. The FEAF summaries, which are typed out on loose sheets of two different sizes and of varying weight and texture, all of them carbon copies except for the inserted notes of a staff conference held on 19 December, are bound together by an acco fastener within an ordinary manila cover. on the cover has been written in ink, possibly by historical personnel in the theater, "Early History 10th AAF"; but that has been struck out and in its place appears "General Brereton's Headquarters diary 8 Dec 41-24 Feb 42," and below that in pencil is written "Activity Report of FEAF." Other markings were apparently made by the filing personnel of the historical office. The historian is given some pause by the fact that the daily summaries from 8 December through 13 December give the year as 1942 with corrections in ink for 8, 9, and 10 December. The year appears without change as 1941 for 14 December at which point the weight of the paper changes, but reverts thereafter to 1942 until the entries for 16 December. From that date forward the year is rendered correctly in the original typing. Since one often writes by mistake the preceding year but rarely if ever puts down the new year ahead of time, the likelihood that entries for the earlier dates were compiled at some later time must be considered. Perhaps they represent a compilation taken from available records for assistance in the preparation of such a report as is understood to have been made by General Brereton in late January or early February (see note 32); perhaps they are copies made from the original by a careless typist; perhaps there is some other explanation. Whatever the case, the fullness and exactness of detail given, together with the fact that at so many points independent corroboration can be had, lead to the conclusion that the document represents a valuable record compiled closer to the events described than any other known source of comparable scope.



Field under instruction to take no offensive action until so ordered.[33] The Summary of Activities for that date has as its first entry the following notation: "07:15 General Brereton visited No. 1 Victoria and requested permission of General MacArthur to take offensive action. He was informed that for the time being our role was defensive, but to stand by for orders." And at 0900 appears this entry: "In response to query from General Brereton a message received from General Sutherland advising planes not authorized to carry bombs at this time."

The second of these entries is probably to be interpreted in the context of development occasioned by an impending enemy attack. While air force officers awaited orders, the aircraft warning service had reported enemy aircraft proceeding south over Lingayen Gulf toward Manila.[34] All B-17's at Clark Field were ordered into the air without bomb load to avoid being caught on the ground and were instructed to patrol the waters off northern Luzon.[35] The 20th Pursuit Squadron, also based at Clark, was dispatched to intercept the approaching formation, and at Nichols Field the 17th, under command of Lt. Boyd Wagner, received orders to cover Clark. At 0910, Col. Harold H. George, chief of staff, V Interceptor Command, reported to headquarters, "that there are 54 airplanes in the air and 36 airplanes in reserve and that no contact with hostile aircraft has been made." At 0923, he reported "approximately 24 bi-motored enemy bombers near Tugeugarao and 17 near Baguio." Simultaneously,another report indicated that "Tarlac and Tuguegarao were being bombed." Planes of the 20th Pursuit had expected to make contact with the enemy north of Manila over Rosales, but the Japanese escaped interception by swinging east to direct their main effort against Baguio, summer capital of the Philippines.[36]

Following this attack, Brereton by telephone renewed his request for authority to take offensive action. According to the Summary of Activities the time was 1000, and the "Chief of Staff informed General Brereton that all aircraft would be held in reserve and that the present attitude is strictly defensive. General Brereton stated to General Sutherland that if Clark Field was taken out we could not operate offensively." To the same entry is appended: "Bomber command recommends bombs not be loaded at this time due to danger of extensive damage by enemy air action." At the same hour but under separate entry appears this brief notation: "24 enemy bombers reported in Cagayan Valley proceeding south in direction Manila."



It is General Brereton's recollection that shortly before 1010 he received authority to undertake a reconnaissance mission to Formosa; that Lt. Col. Eugene L. Eubank, bomber commander, promptly took off from Neilson for Clark Field to assume personal direction of the preparations; that Colonel Eubank on his arrival at Clark recalled the bombers from patrol to prepare for the execution of orders which called for three planes to fly the reconnaissance mission "and the rest to be briefed for an attack"; that, at about 1100, GHQ authorized bombing missions; that he then instructed Eubank to load all available B-17's with 100- and 3000-lb. bombs and to brief the crews for attack of airdromes in southwest Formosa; and that he ordered the two squadrons of bombers at Del Monte to move their B-17's at dusk to San Marcelino, a pasture-like emergency field lying near the coast of Luzon west of Clark, whence they were to proceed during the night to Clark Field as a staging point for a mission at daybreak.[37] It is with more than ordinary interest, therefore, that one reads the following entries in the daily summary:
10:10 Colonel Eubank left for Clark Field to take charge of operations from Clark Field with instructions to dispatch a photo reconnaissance mission in force at once to southern Taiwan area.

10:14 General Brereton received a telephone call from General MacArthur. General Brereton stated that since the attack was not made on Clark Field that bombers will be held in readiness until receipt of reports from reconnaissance missions. Lacking report of reconnaissance, Taiwan would be attacked in late afternoon. The decision for offensive action was left to General Brereton. All bombers were ordered to arm and be on alert for immediate orders.

10:20 Report of planes coming south proved erroneous. Planes reported coming south from Cagayan Valley turned around and are now proceeding north. The staff was called in and informed of General Brereton's telephone conversation with General MacArthur. General Brereton directed that a plan of employment of our Air Force against known airdromes in Southern Formosa be prepared.

10:45 Employment of Air Force directed by General Brereton as follows: Two (2) heavy bombardment squadrons to attack known airdromes in Southern Formosa at the latest daylight hour today that visibility will permit. Forces to be 2 squadrons of B-17's. Two (2) squadrons of pursuit to be on the alert to cover operations of bombardment. Pursuit to be used to fullest extent to insure safety of bombardment. Two (2) squadrons of bombardment to San Mencilino [sic] at dusk. To Clark Field after dark prepared for operations at daybreak.

11:10 Report received from Clark Field that airdrome had not been bombed.

11:20 Field Order No. One, confirming Colonel Embank's instructions to 19th Bombardment Group sent by teletype.



It required some time to bring in all of the bombers from patrol, but shortly after 1130 all American aircraft in the Philippines, with the exception of one or two planes, were on the ground. Recently recalled B-17's at Clark were being made ready for the Formosa mission; [38] planes of the 20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark and the 17th at Nichols had returned to their bases for refueling; those of the 3d at Iba, the 21st at Nichols, and the 34th at Del Carmen stood ready to take off upon receipt of orders.[39] And just about this time the plotting board at Nielson Field began to receive reports of a formation of enemy aircraft coming in over northern Luzon. Unlike other flights reported that morning, this one did not break up as it proceeded south. Warning was sent to Clark Field by normal teletype channels, and acco to Col. A.H. Campbell, then chief of Aircraft Warning Service, its receipt there was confirmed.[40] Back at Nielson, an entry in the Summary of Activities reads: "11:37 Operations Board report flight of enemy planes, number unknown now located about 70 miles west of Lingayen Gulf, headed south 11:27 A.M."

As soon as the enemy force was believed to be within operating range of American pursuit planes, Colonel George of V Interceptor Command took necessary steps to provide protection for vital points.[41] For the approaches to Manila, the 17th Squadron was ordered to cover Bataan peninsula, the 21st to patrol the Manila area itself, and the 34th to provide a cover for Clark Field, where the 20th, just in from patrol, was being refueled. The 3d Squadron, at Iba, was dispatched on what proved to be a fruitless flight over the South China Sea, where an enemy formation had been reported.[42]

From this point on, a confused record reflects chiefly the confusion and bad luck which attended the American air effort on that first day of hostilities in the Philippines. The Summary of Activities for Headquarters, Far East Air Force, notes: "11:56 General Brereton communicated with General Sutherland and complete report was given General Sutherland of the air situation at this time including fact that it was planned to move the B-17's now at Del Monte to San Marcelino and to bomb Taiwan fields at late afternoon today." Then the summary jumps to 1240 to record a report that "10 planes, 6,000 feet, nationality unknown, headed for Manila. This information from the Navy." Under 1255 appears another report that "large force of planes, about 25, heading south reported in vicinity of Tarlac at 12:25." Under 1257 one reads of a Japanese propaganda mission



earlier in the day: "Said planes dropped leaflets which read as follows: Way to permanent peace causing this conflict between Japan and the U.S. Roosevelt attempt curve our independence stop we all know than unless the US has not oppressed Japan, this war has not been started stop Our mission is to end this war as fast as possible and in order to achieve this end we should cooperate with Japan fully unquote." Then: "13:00 Reported by G-2 that Fort Stotsenburg is being bombed"; and again--"13:00 Report received from Stotsenburg many bombers very high bombed Clark Field at 12:35 P.M."

It is not even certain that the record thus provided clears up the much debated question of just when the Japanese attack on Clark Field began, for there is rather specific evidence which argues for a time some fifteen minutes earlier. No clarification, moreover, is provided for the controversial question of why our bombers were caught, apparently without warning, on the ground.* There is reason to believe that a warning message had reached Clark Field, but the warning evidently was not received by bomber personnel there. In response to a specific question from the Air Historical Office which indicated the existence of information that a warning had been sent and acknowledged by Clark Field, General Eubank under date of 5 August 1947 made the following statement:

Information of the Japanese formation which attacked Clark Field about noon, 8 December 1941, was not received by the Bomber Command prior to the attack. The formation was almost directly overhead at the time the air raid warning siren was sounded and the bombs began exploding a few seconds thereafter. One or two false air raid warning messages had been received earlier in the day.[43]

And there the question [which] must be left. Colonel Campbell is emphatic in his recollection that a prior warning was both sent and acknowledged; General Eubank is equally emphatic in stating that no information reached V Bomber Command. It is entirely possible that both officers are correct in their recollection, but in the absence of further evidence there would appear to be little advantage in attempts to speculate on the probabilities of misinterpretation or other human failure that might reconcile the two accounts.

In any case, the Japanese enjoyed a good fortune of catching the two squadrons of B-17's on the ground at Clark Field. This had been the enemy's hope when he originally scheduled an attack for the early morning, but after a postponement of several hours, he had no reason



to expect anything other than that the Americans would have been completely alerted by the news from Pearl Harbor.[44] Actually, not only did he find all save one of the Clark Field bombers on the ground, but for the moment the field was almost unguarded by pursuits. A thick haze of dust at Del Carmen had delayed execution of orders to the 34th Squadron for cover of Clark Field, and at 1215 the 20th Pursuit, whose planes had not yet completed their refueling, was hastily ordered to cover its own base. Within five minutes the four planes had taken off, but just then, a V-shaped formation of twenty-seven Japanese bombers attacked the field with bombs varying in size from small fragmentation to 100-pounders. Following this formation came another of comparable size, which continued the attack for fifteen minutes. And, almost before the last bomb had been dropped, Japanese fighters swept in to pick out the grounded American planes in a low-altitude strafing attack that lasted more than an hour.[45] Though every advantage lay with the attacking enemy, desperate attempts were made by the 20th Pursuit Squadron to get its P-40's into the air. Five were smashed by bombs while taking off; five more were destroyed in strafing attacks, but Lt. Joseph H. Moore, squadron commander, succeeded in leading three others into the air. There Lt. Randall B. Keator attacked a flight of three enemy pursuits and acquired the distinction of shooting down the first Japanese aircraft over the Philippines; Lieutenant Moore in a series of dogfights destroyed two others. At Del Carmen Field, some fifteen miles away, pilots of the 34th Squadron, on seeing great clouds of smoke and dust billowing up from Clark, immediately "took to the air" in their P-35's to engage other enemy fighters. The P-35's were consistently outmaneuvered and several of them were seriously damaged, but the pilots claimed on return three of the enemy aircraft.[46]

Two B-17's were off the ground during these attacks. One, piloted by Lt. John Carpenter, was on reconnaissance and landed at Clark after the raiders had disappeared.47 Another, commanded by Lt. Earl Tash, had arrived over Clark Field from Del Monte during the height of the low-level strafing to be pounced upon by three enemy pursuits, but Tash managed to pilot the severely damaged B-17 back to Del Monte.48

Meanwhile, the planes of the 3d Squadron returning from their search over the South China Sea, where they had found nothing, had run into the worst possible luck. With their fuel dangerously low, the



P-40's, which numbered perhaps twelve reached their base at Iba just ahead of a heavy enemy attack. The American planes, in fact, were slowly circling the field preparatory to landing when a number of Japanese bombers estimated at from twenty-seven to thirty-four and their fighter escort attacked. The American planes tried to ward off the Japanese attack and succeeded in preventing the low-level strafing which proved so destructive at Clark Field. Lt. Jack Donalson probably destroyed two of the enemy planes, but five P-40's were shot down and three others crash-landed on near-by beaches when their fuel gave out.[49]

On the ground, personnel of the Far East Air Force fought back as best they could in a hopelessly unequal struggle. Though some units almost completely disintegrated during nearly two hours of attack, there were countless examples of outstanding leadership and heroism. With few exceptions, antiaircraft gunners stood by their guns in the face of effective enemy strafing. Ground and combat crews turned the machine guns of grounded planes on low-flying Japanese aircraft, or undertook to rescue from flaming buildings such valuable equipment as they could. Among the many officers and men subsequently cited for their efforts were Lt. Fred Crimmins, who received severe wounds in a vain attempt to save a B-17; Chaplain Joseph F. LaFleur, who repeatedly ignored low-flying strafers to minister to the wounded and dying; and Pfc Greeley B. Williams, who from a gunner's post in one of the B-17's kept up a steady fire on Japanese planes until he was killed. Medical personnel of the four emergency first-aid dressing stations t Clark Field maintained their greatly needed services throughout the time.[50]

As the enemy planes returned to their Formosan bases, it was clear that they had won a tremendous victory. At Clark Field, high-level bombing had destroyed hangars, shops, mess halls, barracks, and supply buildings. The communications center had received a direct hit which cut off the field from other points and prevented any attempt to control pursuit operations. As a result, planes of the 17th and 21st Squadrons continued their assigned patrols of the Bataan and Ia Bay areas, unaware of the Japanese attack being carried out no more than sixty miles away.[51] The B-17's, in spite of being incompletely dispersed, suffered relatively little damage from bombs, but



enemy pursuit pilots had so systematically chosen their targets that seventeen or eighteen of the bombers were destroyed.[52] Damage at Iba was, if anything, even more severe. Of the 3d Squadron's P-40's, apparently only two escaped destruction. Bombs crashed into barracks and service buildings. Much of the airplane maintenance equipment was lost, and with it the entire radar installation. Ground crews, who had thought the approaching planes friendly, suffered heavily.

A bombing attack on Nichols Field in the early morning of 9 December created still more havoc. Bombs fell on a hangar, damaging several planes and destroying at least one B-18. Several pursuit planes had been ordered off the ground for night patrol, but the inadequacy of night-flying facilities and almost impenetrable dust at the field resulted in the loss of two or three of these planes and one pilot.[53]

In less than one day of hostilities the strength of the Far East Air Force had been reduced by half. Of its thirty-five B-17's, not more than seventeen remained in commission. About fifty-five of the original P-40's had been lost either in combat or on the ground. Of the P-35's, no more than fifteen were operational, and perhaps twenty-five to thirty miscellaneous aircraft--B-10's, B-18's, and observation planes--also had been destroyed. Casualties were comparably heavy. At Clark Field alone, 55 officers and men had been killed and more than 100 wounded, to which numbers were added approximately 25 killed and 50 wounded at other points.[54]

The War Department had forwarded instructions to General MacArthur to carry out the tasks assigned under RAINBOW No. 5 and to cooperate with the British and Dutch insofar as it was possible without jeopardizing the accomplishment of his primary mission of defending the Philippines.[55] Bomber losses, however, left little hope of effective offensive action, and comparably heavy losses of pursuit aircraft lent a new desperateness to prospects for defense against an expected enemy invasion. In a move of adjustment to the losses sustained, the remaining aircraft of the hard-hit 3d Pursuit Squadron were divided between Lieutenant Wagner's 17th Squadron, which now was transferred to Clark Field, and the 21st Squadron at Nichols Field. At the same time, personnel of the ground echelon were distributed among these and other units in order to bring them nearer up to strength.[56] Every effort was made to strengthen antiaircraft defenses, which had proved ineffective against both high-level bombing and low-altitude attacks. The Manila area seemed particularly



vulnerable, and in the early evening of 8 December a machine-gun battery of the 60th Coast Artillery (AA) moved to Nichols Field and the port area of Manila. Additional if limited equipment was available in the Philippine Ordnance Depot, and 500 officers and men were transferred from the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment to man it. Working almost continuously for thirty-six hours, these men, who had been hastily organized into the Provisional 200th CA (AA), put together and installed twelve 3-inch guns, "3 directors and height-finders, AA searchlight units," and twelve 37-mm. AA guns. By 10 December new 3-inch batteries were located at Paranaque, at Paco, and east of Nielson Airport, and 37-mm. batteries had been installed at Nichols Field, at Nielson Airport, and in the section of Manila known at the Walled City.[57]


18. USSBS Intrs. 503, Vice Adm. Sigeru Fukudome, 9 Dec. 1945; 424, Capt. Bunzo Shibata, 18 Nov. 1945; and 74, Capt. Chihaya Takahashi, 20 Oct. 1945.

19. USSBS Intr. 74, Capt. Chihaya Takahashi, 20 Oct. 1945; USSBS, Summary Report (Pacific War), 1 July 1946.

20. 1st ind. (ltr., Chief, AAF Historical Office to CG Third Air Force, 30 Jan. 1946), Brereton to Paul; History, Fifth Air Force and Its Predecessors, Pt. 1, Dec. 1941-Aug. 1942, 8-9.

21. History, Fifth Air Force, Pt. 1, Dec. 1941-Aug. 1942, pp. 8-9; History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; Statement of Personal Experience, made by Maj. Stewart W. Robb at the request of historical personnel, 30 Nov. 1944; statement by Maj. David L. Obert, 14 May 1945.

22. USSBS Intr. 601, 28 Nov. 1945, Comdr. Ryosuke Nomura, who during the invasion of the Celebes was air operations officer of the 23d Air Flotilla; Operations of the Japanese Navy in the Invasion of the Philippines, 15 May 1946, ATIS Doc. 19692.

23. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.

24. Histories, 27th Bob. Gp. and 24th Pursuit Gp.

25. Interview with Col. Eugene Eubank, 2 July 1942; unrecorded interview with Brig. Gen. Francis M. Brady by author, 7 Dec. 1944; talk by Col. W.P. Fisher, 20 Mar. 1942, in AAG 385, Warfare; 1st ind., Brereton to Paul, as cited in n. 20; Allison Ind, Bataan, the Judgment Seat (New York, 1944), pp. 89-94. See also n. 31 below.

26. Ind, Bataan pp. 92-93. Colonel Ind, in December 1941 a captain and an intelligence officer with the Far East Air Force, states that the objective folders were complete enough to make the mission "a very far cry from the blink stab it would have had to be otherwise." The American policy had been to avoid any "overt act," and thus, while regular reconnaissance missions had on occasion taken our flyers to within three miles of the Formosan coast, no photographic mission over Formosa itself had been flown. (Interview with Col. W.P. Fisher by author, 17 June 1947; History, 19th Bomb. Gp., App. A.)

27. Brady interview.

28. Ibid.; 1st ind., Brereton to Paul; but see entry from Summary of Activities, Hq. Far East Air Force, quoted on p. 207.

29. A request of 27 May 1944 from the Fifth Air Force initiated by the historian of that organization, to General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area for information from personnel holding key positions under General MacArthur at the outbreak of war undertook to supplement the record available in AAF files. Among other things, information was sought regarding prewar plans for the employment of the Far East Air Force, the possible effect of the political status of the Philippines on decisions not to assume the initiative against the Japanese after official confirmation of the Pearl Harbor attack had been received, and an indication of such orders as may have been issued to the air force on the morning of 8 December relating to the use of bombers based on Clark Field. The request was returned, however, with indorsement of 7 June 1944 as follows: "There is no official information in this headquarters bearing upon the questions propounded in basic communication." (See Doc. 20 in History, Fifth Air Force, Pt. 1, App. II.)

30. 1st ind., Brereton to Paul; Eubank and Brady interviews; talk by Colonel Fisher, as cited in n. 25; Ind, Bataan, pp. 89-94; ltr., Lt. Don Mitchell to Bayard Still, 30 Nov. 1941. It is interesting to note that the Japanese apparently expected an early attack on Formosa by the B-17's. In an interrogation of 28 November 1945 (USSBS 601) Comdr. Ryosuke Nomura recalled that because of the delay in launching the Japanese attack it was greatly feared that American aircraft would initiate the first attack. That fear, he declared, had been greatly increased at 0800 when in intercepted American broadcast indicated that such an attack was being considered and that the B-17's would arrive over Formosa at 1010.

31. Memo for Col. W.J. Paul from Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, 6 Aug. 1947, in reply to memo for Brereton from Paul, 22 July 1947. While General Brereton was consulting with General Sutherland, a meeting of the air force staff was held at Headquarters, Far East Air Force. On 6 April 1944, Maj. John C. Ankeny, Fifth Air Force historian, put the following question to Col. Harold Eads, who had attended that meeting on the morning of 8 December 1941:

"1. Who held the following points of view (8 December 1941): (a) Strike at the Japs in Formosa with everything we had without delay? (b) Wait for an overt act before hitting? (c) Send out a reconnaissance to Formosa and hit targets of opportunity? (d) Send out one or two planes (B-17's) for reconnaissance only?

2. What took place in the meeting with Colonel Brady before General Brereton arrived on the morning of 8 December 1941?

3. What took place after General Brereton arrived?"

Colonel Eads answered these questions as follows: "Everyone attending the meeting on the morning of 8 December held the view propounded in paragraph 'a.' We were getting ready to proceed on that basis. No one held views 'b,' 'c,' and 'd.' . . . As I recall it, when General Brereton arrived at the meeting, he said we could not carry out the plan we had decided upon; the orders were we couldn't attack until we were attacked; that we could go out on photo reccos in force (loaded with bombs) but were not to use them unless attacked." (doc. 10, in History, Fifth Air Force, Pt. 1, App. II.)

32. Other than General Brereton's accounts as given in answer to letter from Colonel Paul, Chief, AF Historical Office, 30 Jan. 1946, and The Brereton Diaries, pp. 36 ff., the most detailed narrative is the history of the 24th Pursuit Group. In an unrecorded interview of some two hours' duration with the author on 7 December 1944, General Brady in answer to specific questions growing out of the author's own research gave further corroboration to the essential details. Among other information supplied, he called attention to a report which he and Brereton had prepared and forwarded to Washington, as he recalled it, late in January or early in February 1942. Unfortunately, an extended and intensive search through AAF and War Department files failed to locate a copy. In rep a question regarding this report, General Brereton (see memo for Paul, 6 Aug. 1947) stated: "I do not have a copy of the paper referred to. I was informed that this paper was in General Arnold's own secret files, presumably it had been shown to the Chief of Staff. Whether it is still in existence, I do not know." (See also Eubank interview; Fisher Report on Philippine and Java Operations received in spring of 1942; History, Fifth Air Force, Pt. 1, ff.)

33. 1st ind., Brereton to Paul, where the general recalls, as in his published Diaries, that at this time he instructed Eugene L. Eubank, bomber commander who had flown down from Clark Field, to prepare for an operation against Takao harbor with target priority for enemy transports and warships and at the same time to make ready three planes for reconnaissance of airfields on Formosa.

34. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.

35. 1st ind., Brereton to Paul; History, 30th Bomb. Sq.

36. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; Summary of Activities, 8 Dec. 1941.

37. 1st ind., Brereton to Paul; The Brereton Diaries, pp. 40-41. General Brereton's memo of 6 Aug. 1947 (cited in note 31 above) indicates that authorization for the reconnaissance mission to Formosa may have been received as early as 0800. With reference to a "second conference" by telephone with Sutherland at "approximately 8 a.m.," Brereton states that "reconnaissance missions were authorized in this conversation," but his recollection in the same place that the order to Eubank for a specific mission of reconnaissance over Formosa was not given until after 1000 tallies with his previously given account in The Brereton Diaries, p. 40, and in 1st inds., Brereton to Paul.

38. 1st ind., Brereton to Paul; Brady interview; Fisher report, as cited in n. 32.

39. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.

40. Interview with Col. A.H. Campbell by author, 11 July 1947.

41. Ibid.

42. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.

43. 1st ind. (ltr., Chief, Air Historical Office to CG Thirteenth AF, 17 July 1945), Maj. Gen. E.L. Eubank to CG AAF, 5 Aug. 1947. See also, in support of General Eubank's statement, Fisher report and talk, confirmed in an interview with author, 17 June 1947; 1st ind., Brereton to Paul; History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; ltr., Col. A.W. Marriner, Dir. of Communications to CG USAFIA, 2 Apr. 1942; Ind, Bataan, p. 00. Most of the sources attribute the failure to a breakdown of communications. Thus the history of the 24th Pursuit Group states that "approximately 11:45 an unidentified report was received of a bombardment formation over Lingayen Gulf, headed south," but it adds "that communications breakdown prevented proper identification." This view is not borne out by the testimony of Colonel Campbell. (See n. 40.)

44. USSBS Intrs. 424 and 601; Operations of the Japanese Navy in the Invasion of the Philippines.

45. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; Fisher report. According to Japanese sources, fifty-four "land attack planes" and thirty-four fighters participated in the attack on Clark, while an equal number of bombers and fifty fighters struck at Iba. (See Operations of the Japanese Navy in the Invasion of the Philippines.)

46. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; History, Fifth Air Force, Pt. 1, p. 12; GO 48k Hq. USAFFE, 21 Dec. 1941; statement, as in n. 21, of Maj. Stewart W. Robb, formerly of the 34th Sq. The flight leader of the 34th Squadron states that its eighteen P-35's took to the air and proceeded to Clark Field without orders. (Maj. Ben S. Brown statement, 25 Oct. 1944, in V Fighter Command docs.)

47. History, 19th Bomb. Gp., App. B (19th Gp. Operations Record). It will be recalled that the B-17's for several days had been flying regular reconnaissance missions which had on occasion taken them to within three miles of the coast of Formosa. On this morning Carpenter was patrolling the waters east of Luzon. (Fisher interview, 17 June 1947; History, 19th Bomb. Gp., App. A.)

48. 19th Gp. Operations Record; 16, Hq.FEAF, Bandeong, 12 Feb. 1942. On 18 April 1944, Col. R.L. Fry, who was executive officer of the 5th Air Base Group at Del Monte in December 1941, made the following statement: "In response to orders from Clark Field at 0400 hours 8th December, one B-17 under Lieutenant Tash took off from Del Monte at 0945 for Clark Field to have a camera installed so that a photographic mission could be flown over Formosa." (Doc. 8, in History, Fifth Air Force, Pt. 1, App. II.) This indicates that the order from Clark Field was sent to Del Monte immediately after word was received that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. But it should be pointed out that Maj. E.H. Heald, who in December 1941 had helped to set up communications for the 5th Air Base Group, stated in May 1944 that "at the time of the attack upon the Philippines" he received the "first message radioed to Del Monte from General Headquarters" at approximately 0630, and that five minutes later another arrived from Colonel Eubank. The first message read: "Hostilities have begun. All Airdromes alert." (Doc. 17, same history.) It should be noted that both Colonel Fry's and Major Heald's statements were made more than two years after the events being described. A possible explanation for the differences in time stated is that Tash's B-17 was sent to Clark Field merely to have certain repairs made on his plane as is stated in the 19th Group Operations Record, and that the order received from Clark Field was not related in any way to the outbreak of hostilities.

49. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; GO 11, Hq. Fifth Air Force, 30 Sept. 1942; Statement of Personal Experience, made by Lt. Col. W.A. Sheppard and Maj. E.B. Gilmore at the request of historical personnel, 1 Feb. 194t; Ind, Bataan, pp. 103-4. See also n. 45 above.

50. GO 17, Hq. FEAF, 23 Feb. 1942; GO 2, Hq. Southwest Pacific Command, Lembang, 15 Feb. 1942; GO 48, Hq. USAFFE, 21 Dec. 1941; GO 52, Hq. Fifth Air Force, 18 Dec. 1942; Fisher report; Brady interview, sa in n. 25; interview with Col. Cecil E. Combs by author, 19 Jan. 1945; History, 19th Bomb. Gp., App. A; Lt. Col. William J. Kennard, Report on Philippine and Australian Activities, 14 Nov. 1942; interview with Lt. Gen. Richard K. Sutherland by W.D. Edmonds, 4 June 1945.

51. Fisher report; History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; msg. #1133, Manila to WD, 8 Dec. 1941; msg. #1135, Manila to WD, recd. 9 Dec. 1941; memo S/W by Spaatz, C/AS, 8 Dec. 1941; Robb, Sheppard and Gilmore, and Obert statements (see n. 21 and n. 49); Ind, Bataan, pp. 102-6.

52. Available records of the two squadrons, the 28th and 30th, which were at Clark on 8 December, state that the B-17's were "dispersed" at the time of the attack. Col. W.P. Fisher, commander of the 28th Squadron in December 1941, has stated that it was standard operational procedure for his aircraft to go to their assigned positions as soon as they landed, and that they were dispersed on this occasion. On the other hand, dispersal facilities had not been completed, and it was impossible to provide complete security from air attack. (History, 30th Bomb. Sq.; Fisher talk and Fisher report, confirmed in statement to the author in interview of 17 June 1947; Combs interview.) There is some evidence that several planes had been left in an unusually exposed position. (Ind, Bataan, p. 101.) It should be emphasized, however, that the bombing did little damage, and that the low-flying enemy pursuits picked out the B-17's wherever they were and riddled them. Although this fact does not excuse a lack of precaution, it is nevertheless true that unless the B-17's could have been completely hidden, the widest possible dispersal would have made little difference.

53. See sources in n. 51 and Summary of Activities, 9 Dec. 1941, 0954, where "Nichols Field reports 12 casualties--4 serious, 3 killed." The enemy had planned a full-scale attack on the fields near Manila, but weather restricted their effort to an attack by seven planes on Nichols. (Operations of the Japanese Navy in the Invasion of the Philippines.)

54. See again sources in n. 51 and also Fisher talk.

55. Msg. #736, TAG to CG USAFFE, 7 Dec. 1941.

56. History, 24th Pursuit Gp.; Obert statement; Ind, Bataan, pp. 111-12.

57. Report by Lt. Col. S.M. Mellnik, AA in the Philippines, Doc. 24, in History, Fifth Air Force, Pt. 1, App. II.

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 06 Jan 2005 03:20

From The US Army in WWII: The War in the Pacific: Fall of the Philippines, pp. 77-90, available online at: ... -PI-5.html



Chapter V: The First Days of War

For those on the west side of the international date line, the "date which will live in infamy" came on 8 December 1941. Few responsible military or naval men had believed that the Japanese would be able to strike in more than one place. The number and diversity of their attacks took the Allies completely by surprise. During the early morning hours of the 8th, Japanese naval and air forces struck almost simultaneously at Kota Bharu in British Malaya (0140), Singora, just across the border in Thailand (0305), Singapore (0610), Guam (0805), Hong Kong (0900), Wake, and the Philippines.[1]
Landing operation began almost immediately. By dawn, Japanese forces were in possession of Shanghai. Even as the first bombs were dropping on Hong Kong, Japanese troops were on their way into the leased territory. By the end of that day they were only a few miles from Kowloon which they took on the 13th. Hong Kong fell on Christmas Day.

Within an hour after the first bombardment of Kota Bharu, Japanese troops from Indochina began to land on the beaches against bitter opposition. The same day, when the main force of the 25th Army arrived, the beachhead was secured. The landings at Singora were unopposed. There, the troops marched down the east coast of the Kra Isthmus, while one division crossed the Thailand-British Malay border and moved down the west coast. Thus began a two-month campaign which ended with the fall of Singapore on 15 February.

On Guam the air attacks continued for two days. Finally, at dawn on the 10th, the South Seas Detachment and supporting naval units landed on the island. A few hours later, the garrison there surrendered. This was the first American possession to fall into Japanese hands. At Wake Island, the Marine detachment under Maj. James P.S. Devereux was better prepared for the enemy and offered heroic resistance. The first attempt to land was beaten off and the Japanese returned to Kwajalein to lick their wounds and collect more troops for the next attempt. They were back at Wake on the 22d and the next morning landed in force. That same day the garrison surrendered.[2]

The fall of Wake and Guam cut the line of communications between Hawaii and the Philippines and left the United States with no Central Pacific base west of Midway,



4,500 miles from Manila. But even before this, on the first day of war, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had destroyed the Battle Force of the Pacific Fleet and nullified all plans to come to the aid of the Philippines.

East of the date line, Vice Adm. C. Nagumo's Pearl Harbor Striking Force of six carriers reached its launching position 200 miles north of Oahu exactly on schedule, at 0600 on the morning of 7 December (0100 on the 8th, Tokyo time). Two Jakes (Zero-type reconnaissance planes), which had taken off at 0530 to reconnoiter, returned with the report that, except for the richest prize, the three carriers, the entire Pacific Fleet was in port. Pilots of the First Air Fleet, amidst shouts of "banzai" from their comrades, took off from the flight decks and climbed above the overcast into a magnificent sunrise. At 0750, while "Pearl Harbor was still asleep in the morning mist,"[3] the Japanese planes came in over the island. Five minutes later, just an hour before Nomura presented his government's reply to Mr. Hull, they dropped their first bombs.[4]

The next two hours of that Sabbath morning in Hawaii were a nightmare. Bombs and torpedoes dropped everywhere, on the ships in the harbor, on Army installations, on depots, and other targets. Dive bombers machine-gunned planes on the ground and men on the ships. Within a half hour every battleship at Pearl Harbor had been badly damaged.

Hickam and Wheeler Fields were struck in the first attacks. The Army planes, parked in close order, wing top to wing top, made perfect targets. By ten o'clock the raid was over and the last Japanese planes had returned to their carriers, leaving behind them death and destruction. Tactical surprise had been as complete as strategical surprise.[5]

The Japanese pilots knew exactly what to go after. Though there were ninety-four naval vessels in the harbor they concentrated on the Battle Force, sinking 3 battleships, capsizing 1, and damaging 4 more. In addition to the battleships, 3 light cruisers, 3 destroyers, and miscellaneous vessels were badly damaged. Ninety-two naval planes were lost and 31 damaged. The Army lost a total of 96 planes, including those destroyed in depots and those later stripped for parts. Army and Navy installations were badly hit. Fortunately, the Japanese failed to destroy the repair shops at Pearl Harbor or the oil tanks, filled to capacity. The carriers, then at sea, escaped the attack altogether. American casualties for the day were 2,280 men killed and 1,109 wounded. The Japanese lost only 29 aircraft and 5 midget submarines. "The astoundingly disproportionate extent of losses," concluded the Joint Committee which investigated the attack, "marks the



greatest military and naval disaster in our Nation's history."[6]

With this smashing blow, the Japanese made obsolete the carefully prepared plans of defense in the event of war in the Pacific.[7] The RAINBOW plan called for the progressive movement of the Pacific Fleet across the Central Pacific by the capture of the Caroline and Marshall Islands and the establishment of an advanced base at Truk. The fleet would thus open the line of communications, establish superiority in the western Pacific, and come to the relief of the Philippine Islands. Along this protected line of communications would flow the supplies and men that would enable the Philippine garrison to beat back any Japanese effort to seize the Islands. By 1000 on the morning of 7 December, the force required to put RAINBOW into effect, the Battle Force of the Pacific Fleet, lay in ruins in Pearl Harbor. The Philippines were isolated, cut off from the nearest base 5,000 miles away, even before they had felt the first blow of the war. Their only hope now lay with the Far East Air Force and the Asiatic Fleet.

The Attack on Clark Field

They duty officer at Asiatic Fleet headquarters in the Marsman Building in Manila on the night of 7-8 December (Philippine time) was Lt. Col. William T. Clement, USMC. At 0230 of the 8th (0800, 7 December, Pearl Harbor time), the operator at the Navy station intercepted the startling message, "Air Raid on Pearl Harbor. This is no drill." Recognizing the technique of the sender, an old friend stationed at Pearl Harbor, the operator brought the message to Colonel Clement. Within a half hour, it was in Admiral Hart's hands. He broadcast the news to the fleet immediately, and then, with his chief of staff, hurried to his office.[8]

Shortly after 0330 General Sutherland received the news of the Pearl Harbor attack, not from the Navy but from commercial broadcasts. He passed the news on to MacArthur over the private wire to the general's penthouse apartment in the Manila Hotel, then notified all commanders that a state of war existed with Japan. Troops were ordered to battle position immediately.[9]

At Clark Field the news flash about Pearl Harbor was also picked up from commercial broadcasts. The operator immediately notified headquarters at the field and all units were alerted. "I knew," Brereton later wrote, "we could expect an attack from the Japs any time after daylight." Before leaving for MacArthur's headquarters he ordered Colonel Eubank, the



bomber commander at Clark Field, to come down to Manila at once. At about 0500 in the morning Brereton was waiting outside MacArthur's office for orders.[10]
By breakfast, the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor had reached all ranks. The men had for so long accepted the fact that war with Japan might come that the event itself was an anticlimax. There was no cheering and no demonstration, but "a grim, thoughtful silence."[11] War with Japan was not, for the American and Philippine troops, a remote war across a wide ocean. It was close and immediate.

Prologue to Attack

On Formosa airfields, 500 mils away, Japanese Army and Navy pilots were standing by, their planes gassed and ready to take off for Luzon, when the first news of Pearl Harbor reached Manila. Around midnight of the 7th dense clouds of heavy fog had closed in on the island, blanketing airfields and preventing the scheduled take-offs at dawn.

This unforeseen development filled the Japanese commanders with nervous apprehension. The timetable for the attack was extremely close and left little leeway. As the early morning hours rolled by, anxiety increased. By this time, the Japanese believed, the American high command in the Philippines would have received news of Pearl Harbor and either sent the Far East Air Force southward or set up an effective defense against the impending raid. All hope of surprise would be lost.

Even more frightening was the possibility that this delay would enable to heavy bombers of the Far East Air Force to attack the planes lined up on Formosa fields. Indeed, at 0800, the Japanese intercepted an American radio message which they interpreted as meaning that such an attack would come off in two hours. At 1010 a Japanese plane mistakenly reports B-17s approaching Formosa and the frightened Japanese began passing out gas masks.[12]

Japanese fears of American attack against Formosa were not without foundation. Such plans had already been made and target data had been prepared. The objective folders were far from complete, however, and lacked calibrated bomb-target maps and bomb release lines for given speeds and altitudes. "But we had something complete enough," thought Capt. Allison Ind, a Far East Air Force intelligence officer, "to make this bombing mission a very far cry from the blind stab it would have had to be otherwise."[13]



On his first visit to USAFFE headquarters about 0500, General Brereton had been unable to see MacArthur and had talked with Sutherland. At that time he had requested permission to carry out a daylight attack against Formosa. MacArthur's chief of staff had told him to go ahead with the necessary preparations, but to wait for MacArthur's authorization before starting the attack. Brereton returned to his headquarters at Nielson Field, where he talked with Colonel Eubank, who had just flown down from Clark Field. Orders were issued to get the B-17s ready. At about 0715 Brereton apparently went to MacArthur's headquarters again to request permission to attack Formosa. Again he was told by Sutherland to stand by for orders.[14]

About this time the Far East Air Force commander received a transoceanic telephone call from his air force chief, General Arnold. Brereton explained what he was trying to do, and Arnold told him what had happened at Pearl Harbor, so that, as he later explained, Brereton would not be caught in the same way and have his "entire air force destroyed."[15]

By this time, reports of enemy flights were being received at air force headquarters and planes of the Interceptor Command were sent up. Around 0800 the heavy bombers at Clark Field, were ordered aloft on patrol, without bombs, to avoid being caught on the ground.

At 1000 Brereton renewed his request to take offensive action. "I personally called General Sutherland," he say, "and informed him ... that if Clark Field was attacked successfully we would be unable to operate offensively with the bombers."[16] Again the request was denied. Ten minutes later, Colonel Eubank started back to Clark Field with instructions to dispatch a photographic reconnaissance mission immediately to southern Formosa.



No sooner had those orders been issued than Brereton received a telephone call from General MacArthur. He told MacArthur that since Clark Field had not yet been attacked, he would hold the bombers in readiness until he received reports from the reconnaissance mission already authorized. They agreed that if no reports were received, the bombers would attack Formosa late that afternoon. MacArthur left to Brereton "the decision for offensive action."[17]

Brereton called in his staff and told them of his conversation with MacArthur. Orders were then dispatched to Clark Field to call in the heavy bombers. Three were to be readied for the photo reconnaissance mission; the others were to be briefed for offensive missions. At 1120 Field Order No. 1 of the Far East Air Force was sent by teletype to Clark Field. It confirmed Brereton's instructions to Eubank, given at 1045, to attack southern Formosa with two heavy bombardment squadrons "at the latest daylight hour today that visibility will permit." By 1130 the bombers were back on the field, being loaded with 100- and 300-pound bombs; the fighters had also returned to base for refueling. At 1156 Brereton gave Sutherland a full report of the situation over the telephone, and informed him that he planned to attack Formosa fields late that afternoon.[18]

General Sutherland's account of the proposed raid on Formosa differs from the air force story. On one occasion, Sutherland recollected that there had been some plan to bomb Formosa on 8 December but that "Brereton said he had to have the photos first." On another occasion Sutherland took the opposite and more consistent position that when Brereton asked for permission to attack Formosa, he, Sutherland, had ordered a reconnaissance first.[19]

General MacArthur's statements do not throw any light on this question. He had received word from Washington early that morning (at 0530) that hostilities with Japan had begun, and that he was to carry out the tasks assigned in RAINBOW.[20] Brereton's surmise, therefore, that he was not permitted at first to attack Formosa because MacArthur was under orders not to attack unless attacked first and that the Pearl Harbor attack "might not have been construed as an overt act against the Philippines" must be dismissed.[21] MacArthur had authority to act, and RAINBOW specifically assigned as one of his missions "air raids against Japanese forces and installations within tactical operating radius of available bases."[22]



General Brereton's surmise, however, was not entirely without foundation. It was evidently based on the 27 November warning from the War Department. That warning had stated that "if hostilities cannot be avoided the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act."[23] The War Department had been careful, however, not to restrict MacArthur's freedom of action, and had authorized him in the same message to "undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary" prior to hostile Japanese action. In the event of war he was to execute the tasks assigned in RAINBOW.

In the period between the receipt of this message and the outbreak of hostilities, the B-17s had flown reconnaissance missions north of Luzon in the direction of Formosa. Their search sectors, according to General Sutherland, reached to "the southern edge of Formosa with one segment of the pie running up the east coast of the island a little way."[24] But General Brereton declares that he was instructed by MacArthur to limit reconnaissance to "two-thirds of the distance between North Luzon and Southern Formosa."[25] Later, he says, he secured permission to extend the northern limit of the search sector to the international treaty boundary between the Philippines and Formosa.[26] On the basis of Sutherland's statement, then, it was possible to conduct a partial reconnaissance of Formosa before the war; according to Brereton there was no prewar reconnaissance on MacArthur's orders.

On Brereton's proposal to bomb Formosa, General MacArthur expressed himself most clearly. When Brereton's diaries were published in 1946, MacArthur released a statement to the press recounting in full his recollection of the events of 8 December 1941. The press release, issued on 27 September 1946, read:

General Brereton never recommended an attack on Formosa to me and I know nothing of such a recommendation having been made... That it must have been of a most nebulous and superficial character, as no official record exists of it at headquarters. That such a proposal, if intended seriously, should have been made to me in person by him; that he never has spoken of the matter to me either before or after the Clark Field attack. That an attack on Formosa with its heavy concentrations by his small bomber force without fighter support, which because of the great distance involved, was impossible, would have had no chance of success.[27]

On 8 December, in summarizing the results of the Japanese attack, MacArthur had told the War Department: "I am launching a heavy bombardment counterattack tomorrow morning on enemy airdromes in southern Formosa."[28] It is evident, then, that MacArthur himself planned, by the afternoon or evening of the 8th, to execute an attack against Formosa with the remaining B-17s.

Faced with these conflicting accounts, the historian can be sure only of five facts: (1) That an attack against Formosa was proposed; (2) that such an attack was deferred in favor of a photo reconnaissance mission requested either by Brereton or Sutherland; (3) that about 1100 on 8 December a strike



against Formosa, to take place that day, was finally authorized; (4) that the heavy bombers were back on Clark Field after 1130 on the morning of 8 December; and (5) that MacArthur planned an attack against Formosa for the morning of 9 December.

The Attack

The Japanese, fearing an air attack against Formosa, had meanwhile made haste to get their planes off the ground. The fog, which had grounded the 11th Air Fleet, had lifted to the east at dawn, permitting twenty-five twin-engine Army bombers to take off for Luzon.[29]

Shortly before 0900 the Japanese Army bombers were reported by the aircraft warning service on Luzon to be heading south over Lingayen Gulf in the direction of Manila. It was probably this report that sent the B-17s at Clark Field aloft without bombs. The 20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark took off to intercept the strike and the 17th Pursuit Squadron rose from Nichols Field to cover Clark. But the Japanese Army planes, limited to targets north of the 16th latitude, turned east as they approached Lingayen Gulf. One group struck Tuguegarao at about 0930 while another concentrated on barracks and other installations at Baguio, the summer capital of the Commonwealth, where Quezon was staying at this time. The Japanese bombers returned to base without having sighted any American aircraft. Far East Air Force reports between 1000 and 1030 of a flight of enemy bombers, first in the Cagayan valley, and then "turned around and proceeding north," apparently referred to these Japanese Army planes.[30]

By the time the false report of approaching B-17s had been received on Formosa, the fog had lifted sufficiently to permit the naval planes of the 11th Air Fleet to take off. At 1015, a force of 108 twin-engine bombers escorted by eighty-four Zeros set out for Clark and Iba. Only the very best and most experienced pilots had been assigned to this important mission.[31]

As the Japanese planes approached northern Luzon, the airborne American aircraft received the all-clear signal and were instructed to land. By 1130 nearly all the planes were back at their bases. The two squadrons of B-17s were on Clark Field, loading with gas and bombs for the raid against Formosa. The 20th Pursuit Squadron was also at Clark after its vain attempt to intercept the last Japanese flight. At Nichols, the 17th Pursuit Squadron, which had been covering Clark, was landing to refuel. The 3d and 34th pursuit Squadrons were standing by at Iba and Del Carmen.[32]

Shortly before 1130, reports of an approaching enemy formation began coming in to the plotting board at Nielson.



In addition to radar reports, almost every postmaster along the northwest coast of Luzon reported the high-flying enemy bombers to the air warning center by telephone or telegraph.[33] Colonel George, chief of staff of the Interceptor Command, was in the plotting room when the reports were coming in, and predicted "that the objective of this formidable formation was Clark Field."[34]

At about 1145, according to Col. Alexander H. Campbell, the aircraft warning officer, a warning message went out to Clark Field by teletype. If the message did not get through, as is frequently asserted, this fact was not know to the officers in the plotting room at Nielson. It is asserted also that an attempt to warn the field by radio over the Far East Air Force net was made, but with no success. The reason for this failure can only be guessed. Col. James V. Colier, a G-3 officer in USAFFE headquarters, later stated, "The radio operator had left his station to go to lunch," and another source states, "Radio reception was drowned by static which the Japanese probably caused by systematic jamming of the frequencies."[35] Apparently other available means of communication, such as the long distance telephone lines, telegraph, and the command radio net to Fort Stotsenburg, were not used or thought of. Colonel Campbell did get a telephone message through to Clark Field and talked with an unknown junior officer there. This officer intended, said Campbell, to give the base commander or the operations officer the message at the earliest opportunity.[36]

Meanwhile, Colonel George at Nielson had dispersed his fighters to meet the attack. The 34th Squadron was ordered to cover Clark Field; the 17th, the Bataan peninsula; and the 21st, the Manila area. The 3d Squadron at Iba was dispatched to intercept a reported enemy formation over the Sought China Sea.[37] At Clark Field, two squadrons of B-17s and the 20th Pursuit Squadron were still on the ground. Sometime shortly before 1145 the fighters were ordered aloft as soon as refueling was completed to cover their own base.[38]

The 3d Pursuit Squadron took off from Iba to intercept the enemy flight over the South China Sea. A thick haze of dust prevented the 34th at Del Carmen from taking off, and at 1215 the 20th Pursuit Squadron at Clark, whose planes had just completed refueling, made ready to take off.[39]

At that moment the first formation of Japanese bombers appeared over Clark



Field.[40] All but one of the B-17s was lined up on the field and the fighters were just getting ready to take off. After the warning of the Pearl Harbor attack, and after the loss of several valuable hours because of bad weather, the Japanese pilots did not expect to find so rich a harvest waiting for them. But they did not question their good fortune. The first flight of Japanese planes consisted of twenty-seven twin-engine bombers. They come over the unprotected field in a V-formation at a height estimated at 22,000 to 25,000 feet, dropping their bombs on the aircraft and buildings below, just as the air raid warning sounded. As at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese archived complete tactical surprise.

The first flight was followed immediately by a similar formation which remained over the field for fifteen minutes. The planes in this formation, as in the first, accomplished their mission almost entirely without molestation. American antiaircraft shells exploded from 2,000 to 4,000 feet short of the targets. After the second formation of bombers, came thirty-four Zeros--which the Americans believed were carrier based--to deliver the final blow with their low-level strafing attacks on the grounded B-17s, and on the P-40s with their full gasoline tanks. This attack lasted for more than an hour.

With the first high wail of the siren, the men on the field below streamed from the mess halls. As the bombers passed over, the Americans could see the falling bombs glistening in the sunlight. Then came the explosions, hundreds of them, so violent that they seemed to pierce the eardrums and shake the ground. Throwing aside momentary disbelief and stupefaction, the men rushed to their battle stations. The scene was one of destruction and horror, unbelievable to the men who only a few minutes before had been eating lunch or servicing the planes. Flash fires sprang up and spread rapidly to the trees and long cogon grass around the field "roaring and crackling like an evil beast."[41] Dense smoke and a heavy cloud of dust rose over the field.

Against such odds, the Americans could offer little opposition. The 200th Coast Artillery (AA) experienced considerable difficulty with its 3-inch gun ammunition, the most recent of which was manufactured in 1932. The percentage of duds was abnormally high and "most of the fuses were badly corroded." Only one of every six shells fired, says one observer, actually exploded.[42] Acts of personal heroism were commonplace. Ground and combat crews manned the guns of the grounded planes, and men dashed into flaming buildings to rescue their comrades as well as supplies and equipment. Others braved the strafing gunfire to aid the wounded. one private appropriated an abandoned truck and made seven trips with wounded men to the station hospital.

During the attack, 3 P-40s of the 20th Pursuit Squadron managed to get into the air, but 5 more were blasted by bombs as



they taxied for the take-off.[43] A similar number was caught in the strafing attack. The 3 airborne fighters shot down 3 or 4 Japanese fighters.

The 34th Pursuit Squadron, still at Del Carmen, could see the great clouds of smoke rising from Clark. The old P-35s of the squadron finally managed to take off and were soon in action against the superior Zeros over Clark. Though outclassed and outnumbered, the squadron knocked down three enemy fighters without loss to itself. But few of its planes were without serious damage. The 17th and 21st Pursuit Squadrons, on patrol over Bataan and Manila, made no effort to attack the Japanese aircraft, presumably because the communications center at Clark had been bombed out and news of the raid did not reach the Interceptor Command in time to dispatch aid.[44]

The 11th Air Fleet's attack against Clark was even more successful than the worried Japanese had expected. The operation had been well planned and executed. The first flights of bombers had concentrated on the hangars, barracks, and warehouses, and left them a burning ruin. Some of the grounded planes had been damaged in these bombings but the greatest casualties were inflicted by the low-level attacks of the Zeros which followed. Casualties in men were fifty-five killed and more than one hundred wounded.

Simultaneously with the raid against Clark, other 11th Air Fleet planes were attacking the fighter base at Iba. The 12 planes of the 3d Pursuit Squadron, which had been patrolling over the China Sea, low on gas, returned to base. As they were circling to land, Iba was struck by 54 Japanese twin-motored naval bombers escorted by 50 Zeros. Effective action by the P-40s resulted in the loss of 2 Japanese fighters (probables) and kept the Zeros from carrying out the low-level attacks which were so successful at Clark. But the losses at Iba were almost as great as at Clark. Barracks, warehouses, equipment, and the radar station were destroyed. Ground crews suffered heavy casualties and all but 2 of the 3d Squadron's P-40s were lost.

The reaction from Washington headquarters of the Air Forces was delayed but explosive, despite a radio from MacArthur stating that the losses had been "due to overwhelming superiority of enemy forces."[45] General Arnold, when he received the news of the losses in the Philippines, "could not help thinking that there must have been some mistake made somewhere in my Air Force command," and he decided "to tell Brereton so."[46] Brereton had just returned from an inspection of Clark Field when he received a transoceanic telephone call from an irate General Arnold asking "how in the hell" an experienced airman like himself could have been caught with his planes down.

Apparently he felt his explanation had not satisfied General Arnold, for he immediately reported the conversation to MacArthur and asked his help in presenting the situation to the Army Air Forces chief. According to Brereton, MacArthur was furious. "He told me to go back and fight the war and not to worry,"



Brereton recorded in his diary. "As I walked out of his office he asked Sutherland to get General Marshall on the phone."[47] Unfortunately, there is no record of the telephone conversation that followed.

Thus, after one day of war, with its strength cut in half, the Far East Air Force had been eliminated as an effective fighting force. Of the modern combat aircraft, only 17 of the original 35 B-17s remained. Fifty-three P-40s and 3 P-35s had been destroyed, and an additional 25 or 30 miscellaneous aircraft (B-10s, B-18s, and observation planes) were gone. In addition, many of the planes listed as operational were heavily damaged. Installations at Clark and Iba were either burned out or badly hit. Total casualties for the day were 80 killed and 150 wounded. The total cost to the Japanese was 7 fighters.[48]
The conclusion of the Joint Congressional Committee which investigated the Pearl Harbor attack, that it was the greatest military disaster in American history, is equally applicable to the Philippines.


The catastrophe of Pearl Harbor overshadowed at the time and still obscures the extent of the ignominious defeat inflicted on American air forces in the Philippines on the same day. The Far East Air Force had been designed as a striking force to hit the enemy before he could reach Philippine shores. The heavy bombers were an offensive weapon, thought capable of striking the enemy's bases and cutting his lines of communication. Hopes for the active defense of the Islands rested on these aircraft. At the end of the first day of war, such hopes were dead.

The tragedy of Clark Field, where the heavy bombers were caught like so many sitting ducks, becomes even more tragic when one considers the strange sequence of events that preceded it. Even before the war, the danger of basing the B-17s on Clark Field had been recognized. General MacArthur had written to General Marshall on 29 November, "The location of potential enemy fields and types of aircraft indicate that heavy bombers should be located south of Luzon where they would be reasonably safe from attack." He intended at the time to base the bombers in the Visayas.[49] Time did not permit the construction of fields there, but before the outbreak of hostilities he did order General Brereton to move the heavy bombers from Clark Field to Mindanao.[50]

During the first week in December, Brereton had sent two squadrons of B-17s to the recently constructed field at Del Monte in Mindanao. The decision to move only two squadrons, Brereton states, was based on the expected arrival from the United States of the 7th Bombardment Group which was to be stationed at Del Monte. Had all the heavy bombers on Clark been transferred to Mindanao, there would have been no room for the 7th when it arrived.[51]



General Sutherland's version of the same incident differs considerably from that of the air force commander. It was at his insistence, he recollected, that even the two squadrons were sent south. "General Brereton," he says, "did not want them to go." Sutherland says he had ordered all the B-17s moved to Del Monte. On checking, he had found that only half of the planes had been sent and that General MacArthur's orders had not been obeyed.[52]

Wherever the responsibility lies for failing to move all the B-17s south, there still remains the question of why the remaining bombers were caught on the ground. Brereton argues that had he been permitted to attack Formosa when he wished, the planes would not have been on the field. Implicit is the assumption that if the raid had been successful, the Japanese could not have made their own attack. MacArthur denied knowledge of such a proposal in 1946, but in a radio sent on 8 December 1941 he stated that he intended to attack Formosa the next morning. General Sutherland, in one interview, claimed that Brereton was responsible for deferring the attack, and in another interview, that he himself deferred the attack because the Far East Air Force did not have sufficient target data for such an attack. It is clear that this project was discussed by Brereton and Sutherland, that MacArthur mentioned it in a radio that day, and that authorization to execute the attack was delayed until 1100 that morning.

Whether such an attack would have had a serious chance of success is not argued by either Sutherland or Brereton. Knowing now what the Japanese had at Formosa, the possibility of a successful raid by the B-17s seems extremely remote. The Far East Air Force admittedly had sketchy information on the strength and disposition of the Japanese forces on Formosa. Had it been known that there were over five hundred Japanese planes waiting on Formosa, ready to take off, it is doubtful that anyone would have considered the project seriously. Moreover, the B-17s would have had to fly to Formosa, out of fighter range, unescorted. Once there, they would have been greeted by swarms of Zeros. "An attack on Formosa, with its heavy air concentrations," MacArthur later wrote, "... was impossible, would have had no chance of success."[53] Sutherland's request for a photo reconnaissance mission prior to an attack would appear, therefore, to have been entirely justified. The heavy bombers were indeed far too valuable to risk in so hazardous a mission.

Another unresolved question is why the warning of approaching Japanese aircraft did not reach the bomber commander at Clark Field in time to meet the attack. All forces in the Philippines had knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor hours before the first Japanese bombers appeared over Luzon. A dawn raid at Davao had given notice that the Japanese had no intention of bypassing the archipelago. The early morning bombings on Luzon gave even more pointed warning that an attack against the major airbase in the Islands could be expected. Colonel Campbell testifies that Clark Field had received word of the approaching Japanese aircraft before the attack. Colonel Eubank states that no such warning was ever received. Other officers speak of the breakdown of communications



at this critical juncture. There is no way of resolving this conflicting testimony.

Assuming that Colonel Eubank did not receive the warning from Nielson Field, there still remains one final question. Were the aircraft on the field adequately dispersed for wartime conditions? It is not possible to state definitely how the aircraft were dispersed when they came in at 1130. There surely must have been some recognition of the danger of an enemy air attack at any moment. The Japanese state that they were "surprised to find the American aircraft line up on the field."[54] And at least one flight of four B-17s was lined neatly on the field when the Japanese came over. Captain Ind tells of finding photographs, one of which was taken by an American pilot flying over the field, showing the planes inadequately dispersed for any but high-level bombing attacks. "This entire set of photographs," he says, "was removed from my desk a few nights later. no one seemed to know what had happened to them."[55] This question, like the others, remains unanswered.

The full story of the events which preceded the Japanese air attacks against the Far East Air Force on the first day of the war will probably never be known. There was no time for reports, and if any records ever existed they have since been lost. The historian must rely on the memories of participants whose stories conflict at numerous points. General Arnold, eight years after the event, wrote that he was never able "to get the real story of what happened in the Philippines." Brereton's diary, in his opinion, did not provide, "a complete and accurate account," and General Sutherland's story "does not completely clear it up, by any means."[56]

Whatever the answers to the questions one may ask about the events of 8-9 December 1941 on Luzon, the significance of these events is clear. As at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had removed in one stroke the greatest single obstacle to their advance southward. The Philippine garrison could expect little help in the near future. It was now almost entirely surrounded. The only path open lay to the south, and that, too, soon would be closed.


[1] All times are Tokyo time.

[2] Lt. Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., The Defense of Wake (USMC Hist Sec, 1947); Opns of South Seas Detachment, 1941-42, Japanese Studies in World War II, No. 36, p. 3. For operations at Hong Kong and in Malaya, see Japanese Landing Operations, December 8, 1941-June 8, 1942, Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Campaign Study 3.

[3] The quotation is from an account by a Japanese naval officer and is quoted in Morison, Rising Sun in the Pacific, p. 94.

[4] At 0800, Admiral Kimmel broadcast the nessage: "Air Raid on Pearl Harbor. This is no drill." Secretary Knox, when he read the message in Washington, exclaimed, "My God! This can't be true, this must mean the Philippines." Pearl Harbor Attack Report, p. 439.

[5] The best account of the attack on Pearl Harbor has been written by Morison, Rising Sun in the Pacific, Ch. V. For the Air Forces story, see Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, I, 194-201. Much personal testimony and first-hand accounts of the attack can be found scattered through the Congressional hearings on the Pearl Harbor attack. A summary of the action can be found in Pearl Harbor Attack report, pp. 53-72.

[6] Pearl Harbor Attack Report, p. 65. The breakdown of casualties is as follows:

Killed Wounded
Navy and Marines 2,086 749
Army 194 360
------ ------
2,280 1,109

In an earlier volume of the series, Watson, Chief of Staff, page 517, the number of dead is placed at 2,403, including civilians. Mr. Watson's figures are from Morison, Rising Sun in the Pacific, page 126, and are based on 1947 estimates.

[7] Min, JB Mtg, 8 Dec 41, OPD Reg Doc.

[8] Hart, Narrative of Events, Asiatic Fleet, pp. 36-37; Morison, Rising Sun in the Pacific, pp. 168-69. Captain Morison secured additional information from Admiral Hart by interview after the war.

[9] Hunt, MacArthur and the War Against Japan, p. 27; Wainwright, General Wainwright's Story, p. 18; intervs, author with Col Diller, 24 Aug 49, Gens Sutherland and Marshall, 12 Nov 46 and 7 Apr 48, OCMH. Admiral Hart states that Colonel Clement, unable to "get response from USAFFE Headquarters," passed the news "to one of the staff duty officers at his home." Ltr, Hart to Maj Gen Orlando Ward, 19 Dec 51, OCMH.

[10] Brereton, Diaries, pp. 38-39. It is evident from internal evidence that the diary for this period was put in its present form at a later date and cannot therefore be considered always a contemporaneous record.

[11] Mallonée, Bataan Diary, I, 34.

[12] Interrog of Capt Takahashi Chihaya, Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), 20 Oct 45, and of Comdr Ryosuke Nomura, Opns Officer, 23d Air Flotilla, 11th Air Fleet, 28 Nov 45, in USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, 2 vols. (Washington 1946) I, 74-76; II, 531; 14th Army Opns, I, 41.

It is difficult to understand the origin of the 0800 message. While there was discussion of such a raid at USAFFE, there was no need to send radios on the subject. It is possible that orders sending B-17s at Clark aloft to avoid being caught on the ground were in some way intercepted and misunderstood by the apprehensive Japanese. 14th Army Opns, I, 41, refers to the report as "intelligence reports," but does not indicate its origin any further. 5th Air Grp, Opns, Japanese Studies in World War II, No. 3, p. 6.

[13] Lt. Col. Allison Ind, Bataan, The Judgment Seat (New York, 1944), p. 92. Material used with the permission of The Macmillan Company, publishers.

The official air force account of the attack on Clark Field is contained in Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, I, 201-14. General Brereton has a full account in his Diaries, pages 38-44, which must be considered as the evidence of an interested party in the dispute which later arose over responsibility for the disaster. Army Air Action in Phil and NEI, Chapter III, covers the Clark Field attack and is substantially the same as that given in the air force history.

Official records of the events surrounding the attack are practically nonexistent. An effort had been made by the authors to supplement the existing accounts with interviews with those participants not interviewed by the air force historians. Persons interviewed were General Sutherland and R.J. Marshall, Colonels Diller, Collier, and Campbell, the last of whom was aircraft warning officer of USAFFE.

Mr. Walter D. Edmonds, who was commissioned by the air force to write the account of air operations in the Philippines, interviewed General Sutherland in Manila in June 1945, as well as a large number of air force officers. A copy of his notes taken on the Sutherland interview is included in Army Air Action in Phil and NEI, Appendix 9, and a portion is printed in Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces and World War II, I, 205. The information Edmonds secured is directly at variance with information the present author secured in two interviews with General Sutherland. Edmond's findings are embodied in an article entitled "What Happened at Clark Field," The Atlantic (July 1951), pp. 20-33.

[14] Summary of Activities, Far East Air Force, entry of 8 Dec 41, in Air University Hist Off. This document is evidently a transcription from notes hastily made during December 1941. Errors in dating the year of entry are explained as the result of "harried field conditions." Despite the imperfections of this document it remains one of the few written contemporary sources for the events of 8 December 1941. Ltr, Col Wilfred J. Paul, Air University Hist Off, to Gen Ward, 7 Dec 51, OCMH. The official air force account in Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, I, 206 note, takes cognizance of the mistakes in dating in this document. Edmonds, "What Happened at Clark Field," pages 24-26, contains an excellent account of the discussion at air force headquarters that morning.

[15] Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Global Mission (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), p. 272.

[16] Brereton, Diaries, p. 40. The author has also used a letter written by Brereton to the AAF Hist Off expanding the diary entries. 1st Ind, Brereton to Paul, 30 Jan 43, Air University Hist Off. See also Edmonds, "What Happened at Clark Field," p. 25.

[17] Summary of Activities, Far East Air Force, entry of 8 Dec 41. General Brereton omits entirely any mention of his conversation with General MacArthur, and states that he received the authorization to attack Formosa at 1100 from General Sutherland. In an interview with the present author in June 1951, Sutherland declared that he does not recall that Brereton spoke with MacArthur that morning. Brereton, Diaries, p. 41.

[18] Summary of Activities, Far East Air Force, entry of 8 Dec 41.

[19] The first version was given in his interview with Walter D. Edmonds in Manila in June, 1945. The second version was given in an interview with the present author in November 1946. This author interviewed Sutherland a second time in June 1951 and on being presented with both versions, Sutherland was most emphatic in asserting that it was he who had ordered the reconnaissance because Brereton did not have sufficient information to warrant an attack against Formosa. USAFFE and air force records do not contain any material relating to this incident.

[20] Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, Nol. 736, 7 Dec 41, WPD 4544-20.

[21] Brereton, Diaries, p. 39n; ltr, Brereton to Paul, Air University Hist Off.

[22] Ltr, CofS to CG USAFFE, 21 Nov 41, sub: U.S.-British Co-operation, incl, War Plan RAINBOW 5, WPD 4402-112.

[23] Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, 27 Nov 41, No. 624, WPD 4544-13; see above, Ch. IV, p. 71.

[24] Interv, Edmonds with Sutherland, Jun 45, and confimed in interv, Morton with Sutherland, 12 Nov 46.

[25] Brereton, Diaries, pp. 34-35.

[26] Ibid.

[27] New York Times, September 28, 1946, p. 6.

[28] Rad, MacArthur to AGWAR, No. 1133, 8 Dec 41. The raid was canceled the next day. Rad, MacArthur to AFWAR, No. 1135, 9 Dec 41. Both in AG 381 (11-27-41 Gen) Far East.

[29] 5th Air Gp Opns, p. 16.

[30] Summary of Activities, Far East Air Force, 8 Dec 41; Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, I, 207-08; Edmonds, "What Happened at Clark Field," p. 24; 5th Air Gp Opns, p. 16; USSBS, Japanese Air Power (Washgton, 1946), p. 7.

[31] Japanese Naval Opns in Phil Invasion, pp. 6-7; interrog of Capt Takahashi and Comdr Nomura, USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, I, 75; II, 531.

[32] The account of the attack is based, except where otherwise noted, on Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II,, I, 207-13; Brereton, Diaries,. pp. 38-44; History of the Fifth Air Force (and its Predecessors); Edmonds, "What Happened at Clark Field," pp. 28-31; Japanese Naval Opns in the Phil Invasion, p. 6; 5th Air Gp Opns, p. 12.

[33] Collier, Notebooks, I, 49.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., 50; Army Air Action in Phil and NEI, p. 55.

[36] Interv, author with Col Campbell, Sep 46; Collier, Notebooks, I, 50. Colonel Campbell's notebook contains the following entry: Sgt. Alfred H. Eckles, Hopkinsville, Ky., was on duty with Maj. Sam Lamb's communications detail Hqrs. F.E.A.F. Dec. 8th and carried message to Teletype operator re flight of planes heading toward Clark Field, saw it sent and acknowledged as received by them. This at about 11:45 (?) A.M., about 30-45 min. before arrival of bombers and bombing of Clark Field. I, together with Coyle, George and Sprague watched this particular flight for considerable length of time. I kept urging them to do something about it, but they insisted on waiting until they reached a certain distance from field. Sprague typed wrote out message showed it to George and myself. I asked what "Kickapoo" meant in message. Was told it meant, "Go get 'em." Sprague then took message into Teletype Room for transmission, about 15 minutes before bombing.

[37] Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, I, 209.

[38] Hist of Fifth Air Force, p. 16. This statement would imply that Colonel George was in communication with the pursuit squadron at Clark Field after 1145, although the Bomber Command could not be reached at this time.

[39] Hist of Fifth Air Force, p. 16.

[40] It is not possible to state the exact time of this attack. Like so many other matters, this question, too, is controversial. The author has selected this time, about 1220, since it is supported by the weight of evidence. Walter D. Edmonds gives the time as 1240 in his account of the attack. They Fought With What They Had, pp. 100, 102n.

[41] Miller, Bataan Uncensored, p. 67.

[42] Ibid.; Prov CA Brig (AA) Rpt of Opns, p. 3, Annex IX, USAFFE-USFIP Rpt of Opns; interv, author with Gen Sage, 28 Feb 51.

[43] This account of the operations of the 20th Pursuit Squadron is based on an interview with the squadron commander, Col. Joseph H. Moore, 12 August 1949. It varies slightly from the official air force account which places four planes in the air before the attack.

[44] It is strange that the pilots over Bataan and Manila did not see the heavy columns of smoke and dust rising from Clark, only fifty miles away.

[45] Rad, MacArthur to Arnold, 10 Dec 41, AG 381 (11-27-41 Gen) Far East.

[46] Arnold, Global Mission, p. 272.

[47]Ibid.; Brereton, Diaries, p. 50. General Sutherland has no recollection of such a telephone call. Interv, author with Sutherland, 12 Jun 51.

[48] Japanese Naval Opns in Phil Invasion, p. 7. An additional fighter of the 4th Carrier Squadron was lost at Davao. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, I, 213. There is some disagreement on the number of P-40s lost, some sources placing the figure as low as 42. USSBS, Japanese Air Power, p. 7.

[49] Ltr, MacArthur to Marshall, 20 Nov 41, WPD 3489-21.

[50] New York Times, September 28, 1946, p. 6; interv, author with Sutherland, 12 Nov 46.

[51] Brereton, Diaries, pp. 35-36.

[52] Intervs, author and Edmonds with Sutherland. General Kenney was also told this story by Sutherland. General Kenney Reports, p. 27.

[53] New York Times, September 28, 1946, p. 6.

[54] Interrog of Comdr Nomura, 28 Nov 45, USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 531; Japanese Naval Opns in Phil Invasion, p. 6.

[55] Ind, Bataan, The Judgment Seat, p. 101.

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Post by David Thompson » 06 Jan 2005 03:25

From US Strategic Bombing Survey: Campaigns of the Pacific War, pp. 26-28, available online at: ... PTO-3.html
Chapter 3

The Japanese Invasion of the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, and Southeast Asia


For several months prior to the outbreak of hostilities on 7 December 1941 the relations between the United States and Japan had been severely strained and a further deterioration was indicated at any moment. The economic sanctions which the Allies had applied against Japan, with her resultant inability to replenish oil supplies made her condition critical. That Japan planned an attempt to make herself self-sufficient by annexing certain of the rich Southern Areas was indicated by such known activities as extensive overseas expeditionary training; the presence of 1000,000 troops in Formosa and Hainan; an agreement with the Vichy government whereby 40,000 Japanese troops were stationed in Indo-China and Japan was permitted to occupy strategic air and naval bases there, including Camranh Bay; reinforcement of the Mandated Islands with submarines, aircraft, and land defenses; improvement of airfields and bases on Formosa, the Paracels, Spratly, Saipan, and the Mandates; and storage of oil reserves at such strategic points as Itu Abo, Lord North, and Tobi Islands.

Because of the relatively small forces available to the Allies in the Far East their strategy in the event of war had necessarily to be defensive, pending receipt of reinforcements, and all plans were based on the probable Japanese courses of action.

Conferences between United States, British, and Dutch staff officers resulted in the solving of some operational difficulties, but no firm agreement was reached as to a Supreme Commander or as to air and surface command during joint operations. The basic war plans provided for deployment of the United States Asiatic Fleet to the south where it was to join with the British and Dutch, while the Australian and New Zealand Navies concentrated in their home waters. In the planned deployment of forces, particularly of air forces, there was a general tendency underestimate the Japanese strength and to discount the possibility of the simultaneous attack over a large area which actually occurred.

At the beginning of the war the primary objectives of the Japanese to make Japan self-sufficient by occupation of the rich area to the south, and to establish and hold a defense line surrounding the occupied are and the Japanese Mainland. This program, while simple in outline, was highly complex in execution. Designed to seize the initiative, the initial phase involved a surprise blow by the bulk of the Japanese carrier forces to destroy or paralyze the American Fleet in Hawaiian waters and to sever communications with the United States Asiatic Fleet, and simultaneous invasions of the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, and Southeast Asia.

Japanese Plans

In order to carry out such invasions, the Japanese Army and Navy jointly devised the operation plans in minute detail. Each operation was carefully coordinated with, and dependent upon the success of the other. By use of surprise attacks, spearheaded by air power, the Japanese expected to complete the invasions in a very short time and thus free al forces for defense against counterattack for offensive action in



other theaters. The following translation of the Japanese War Plans sets forth the general instructions relative to the commencement of hostilities:
The day of opening of operations will be designated X-day and will be determined by Imperial Command.

On X-day initiate a surprise air attack on the Philippines, assault and land on Malaya using air attack as the situation demands. If weather is bad postpone the Philippine landings but execute the Malaya landings so far as possible. After the Malaya landings and air attacks and after the Pearl Harbor strike is completed, activate attacks on Hongkong. If there is a serious attack on Japanese forces prior to X-day, open operations upon receipt of Imperial Command to do so.

In order to insure surprise and reduce the time enroute during which the invasion forces would be subject to attack, such nearby rendezvous points as Indo-China, the Pescadores Islands, Formosa, Okinawa and Palau were selected as standby areas pending commencement of hostilities. (Appendixes 10 and 11).
The first objective in the attacks on the Philippines was the destruction of the United States Far East Air Force. To provide bases from which the short-ranged Japanese Army aircraft could operate, the initial invasion of Luzon was aimed at Aparri and Batan Island. Four days following the outbreak of hostilities an invasion of Davao and Legaspi was scheduled to be staged from Palau, and ten days later (X+14) landings in Lamon Bay and Lingayen Gulf were scheduled. During the consolidation of the Philippines it was planned to launch successive invasions of Menado, Tarakan, Balikpapan, Banjermasin, Kendari, Makassar, Ambon, Timor and Bali. Simultaneously with the occupation of the Philippines, Malaya and Thailand were to be invaded and Miri and Kuching in British Borneo, valuable because of oil, were also to be occupied.

After capture of Malaya, including Singapore, and the occupation of the Philippines, Borneo, Celebes and Sumatra, it was planned to combine all forces and launch an invasion against Java, the heart of the Dutch Empire. By this time it was expected that the Carrier Striking Force would have completed operations in the Pearl Harbor, Wake and Rabaul areas and it was planned also to employ its overwhelming power to insure quick and complete victory.

Upon completion of these plans the Japanese Army and Navy launched intensive training programs designed to fit each unit for the specific mission assigned therein.

Commencement of Hostilities

War was not long in coming. On 5 November 1941 the Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet was warned by despatch from Imperial Headquarters that war was feared to be unavoidable, and directed to complete all preparations by the first part of December. On 21 November all forces were ordered to proceed to designated rendezvous points, and on 1 December all forces were notified that the decision to into a state of war had been made. On 2 December the date to commence hostilities was designated as 8 December. The complete despatches are set forth in Appendix 14.

Because of a heavy fog which grounded Japanese planes in Formosa on the morning of 8 December, it appeared that the key operation of the Philippine campaign, the destruction of American air power in the Philippines, would fail and furthermore that, warned by the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United Sates heavy bombers would initiate an attack on the invasion forces massed in Formosa and then withdraw and disperse. Radio intelligence available to the Japanese on the morning of 8 December indicated that such an attack was planned and all air raid precautions, including protection against gas, were put into effect at Formosan bases. However the attack did not develop and at 1015 of the same morning the 21st and 23d Air Flotillas (Navy) were able to launch all available aircraft for the planned attack on United States air bases in Luzon. Since the attack was not initiated until shorter noon the Japanese were greatly surprised to find the United States heavy bombers as well as most of the fighters still on the ground.



Well briefed, as a result of excellent intelligence obtained by photographic reconnaissance prior to the war, the highly trained Japanese pilots delivered an effective 90-minute assault on aircraft and facilities in the Manila area. BY the close of 8 December, half of the heavy bomber force and one third of the fighter strength of the United States Far East Air Force had been destroyed, and of the remaining 17 B-17's, 15 P-35's and 50 P-40's many were heavily damaged. By 10 December all remaining United States Army heavy bombers had been withdrawn to the south. The United States Navy search planes followed on 14 December after also losing half of their strength. The few remaining fighter aircraft were used primarily for aerial reconnaissance leaving the Japanese in complete control of the air over the Philippines. Thus the initial phase of the Japanese offensive was a success and their amphibious forces were free to advance virtually unopposed in the air.

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Post by red devil » 06 Jan 2005 04:23

jeez Dave, wouldn't it have been easier to have that posted on a site then cross reference, my eyes have gone funny trying to read it all!! 8O

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Post by David Thompson » 06 Jan 2005 04:29

Sorry, red devil -- It's just a personal quirk. I like to have all my research on a subject collected in one place, so I did it here. If I just used general links, the reader would have to scan each of the texts to find, and then read, the Clark Field passages. This way they're together in a somewhat convenient group.

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Post by Virgil Hiltz » 03 Mar 2007 17:11


Do you have any information on the failure of the early warning system that allowed the surprise attacks on Iba , Clark etc?

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Post by red devil » 03 Mar 2007 18:44

Virgil, probably for the same reason the attack on Pearl went unnoticed until the first bomb fell - they had all gone for breakfast!!!

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Post by Lornito Uriarte Mahinay Jr. » 18 Mar 2007 18:34

News of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor reached the Philippine Islands one hour (I think) after the attack.It was dawn. Residents and Military personnels in Manila were awaken by the lights in the clouds (searchlights) and the sounds of the siren. Both the Philippine Army HQ and the USAFFE HQ in Manila received the shattering news and instantaneously ordered the military bases and facilities across the archipelago into red alert. But the American and Filipino pilots failed to make the first retaliatory attack on the Japanese (the proposed attack on the Japanese bases in Formosa) because MacArthur forbidden them to do so, for he believed that the bombers can't reached the island and the Japanese planes will not reach the Philippines.It is ironic that at that time the Japanese pilots, who are preparing to take off for the attack on the bases in the Philippines, but were delayed by the thick fog covering their fields, were greatly alarmed for possible retaliatory attack by the American bombers.Unfortunately, Brereton's bombers missed the oppurtunity to make the first battle against the Japanese because of MacArthur's ignorance. So the Zeros appeared suddenly on their bases and bombed it, leaving scratch and debris.
Planes from Clark, Iba, and Nichols flew reconnaisance and intercepting flights to block the approaching Japanese planes but they failed to sight the red-bulletted Japanese planes. Just in time that they return to their bases and landed, the Zeros appeared and made dashing carpet bombings.

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Post by glenn239 » 09 Apr 2007 02:37

Do you have any information on the failure of the early warning system that allowed the surprise attacks on Iba , Clark etc?
The Japanese conducted a number of feints prior to the main attack that drew off and confused the defending fighter squadrons. IIRC, one squadron was still on the ground at Clark because someone forgot to order it to take off! When the main blow fell, the inadequate communications between the interception command center and Clark Field fell apart into a 'he said, she said' debate as to who telephoned and warned who, and when. The general problem was that USAAF interception doctrine and training was lacking, and the command was not prepared to fight 'Battle of Britain' style. There was zero margin for error.

The network and equipment were adequate, IMO, and the failure did not reside with MacArthur.

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Post by Tim Smith » 12 Apr 2007 15:53

It's worth remembering that the Americans had a shockingly violent start to the war in the air. Caught by a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, and again at Clark Field.

The British and French, on the other hand, had the quietest start to the air war. In September 1939 the Luftwaffe did almost nothing to them apart from a few recon flights and the odd fighter patrol. The Luftwaffe was too busy in Poland, and Hitler didn't want to aggravate the Allies too much anyway, at the time he still hoped they would make peace and let him keep Poland.

By the time of the Battle of Britain, the RAF had been at war for 10 months already, and were thoroughly trained and prepared, and experienced at operating under wartime conditions. Very different from the USAAF at Clark Field.

However, the Polish air force wasn't caught on the ground by the if the Poles can avoid it, maybe it's not expecting too much for the USAAF to be able to.

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Re: Debacle at Clark Field, 8 December 1941

Post by Peter H » 08 Oct 2011 12:36

Japanese photos of Clark Field
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Re: Debacle at Clark Field, 8 December 1941

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Re: Debacle at Clark Field, 8 December 1941

Post by Peter H » 08 Oct 2011 12:39

More wreckage...
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Re: Debacle at Clark Field, 8 December 1941

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