66 Years Ago: The Tragedy of Bataan, a Forgotten Battle
By Lester Tenney
A Carlsbad veteran remembers America's greatest military defeat.
On April 9, 1942, Gen. Douglas MacArthur's Armed Forces in the Far East was forced to surrender Bataan to the Japanese, this in spite of his orders of April 3 demanding that no surrender be considered and, if ultimately necessary, to “charge the enemy. Make one last stand.” He likened the situation to Gen. George Custer's last stand at Little Bighorn in 1876, except MacArthur was not there for the onslaught that followed.
On that memorable day 66 years ago on Bataan, 12,000 American service men and women, along with 57,500 Filipino troops, were ordered by Major Gen. Edward King, the commander of all fighting forces on Bataan, to surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army. This was the largest military defeat in the history of the United States, yet it has gone largely unnoticed and forgotten all these years.
Yes, the date has been all but lost. Few remember it or the circumstances that led to the defeat of a once-proud army – except the survivors of this catastrophic event.
Let's retrace a few of the events of that period.