The Big Picture: Slowly Coming Together

Self has spent the last eight years working intermittently on a World War II novel. She would occasionally make forays into the Hoover Archives and spend the day there, reading memoirs.

Once, she requested an item, some memorabilia an American soldier stationed in the Philippines had taken back to the States with him. She was amazed when a librarian actually came out to talk to her. “We can’t bring the box out here to the reading room. But we can let you take a look at the contents if you follow me.”

So of course she followed the librarian. And he took her a level below. And there were people in an office staring at her. And someone asked, “Is this she?” And the librarian said yes. Then they took out a box and stood back while self looked in it. And, damn. Samurai swords. What?

She was the first person ever to request that particular item, and she’d done it simply on a hunch. Because the man was an American soldier, a survivor of Bataan and Corregidor.

Self never knows where her curiosity will lead her. It sure does lead her to some interesting places.

She knows what happened on Bataan and Corregidor. Of course. She is from the Philippines. She’s been to Corregidor, looked at the American gun emplacements, seen the flag of Japan flying alongside the flag of the Philippines on the quay. She’s walked the maw of Malinta Tunnel, which is said to be haunted.

She read the transcripts of the trial of General Yamashita, responsible for the overall defense of the Philippines, who the Americans convicted of war crimes and hanged in Los Baños (Yamashita’s lawyer was a very young and inexperienced American who knew the only reason he’d been assigned the defense of the general was because he was not expected to win. At the death sentence, the lawyer cried)

But, damn. Hampton Sides. Thank you for laying it all out so vividly. In command of the Japanese Imperial Army was Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma.

Ghost Soldiers, pp. 56 – 57:

There was little point in occupying the Philippines if the Japanese Navy or merchant marine could not freely use the docks and wharves of Manila Bay, the finest natural harbor in Asia. Yet one could not control Manila Bay without controlling Corregidor. Fixed with cannons that could fire twenty miles, honeycombed with deep tunnels and lateral shafts, Corregidor was stuck like a steel bit in the mouth of Manila Bay. The island was shaped like a tadpole, its squirmy tail pointing off toward Manila, its bulbous head aimed at Bataan.

There was only one way for Homma to take Corregidor, and that was for him to move his forces into southern Bataan, array his artillery pieces high along the southern flanks of Mount Mariveles, and rain unmerciful fire down upon the island, softening it up until an amphibious assault could be reasonably undertaken.

It is an axiom of Euclidean geometry that two points cannot occupy the same space, and therein lay Homma’s problem. Before he could move his forces into southern Bataan, the surrendered Americans and Filipinos (80,000 men, approximately) would have to be moved out . . . the Bataan prisoners would have to be hastily cleared away — swept off the stage, in effect, so the next act could begin.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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