by Chris Schaefer
Chris Schaefer's extremely readable Bataan Diary: An American Family in World War II, 1941-1945 is a well-documented story of resistance and survival during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
Built around the World War II diaries kept by Major Frank R. Loyd and his wife, Evelyn, the book chronicles the difficult struggle of Frank Loyd, half-starved and seriously ill, sheltering in a series of jungle hideouts. Then, as MacArthur's return approaches, he joins the guerrilla war.
Another dimension is added by an occasional chapter detailing the stateside fears and frustrations of Evelyn, not knowing if her husband was still alive, while she immerses herself in supporting the war effort.
However, the book is more than the combined diaries of the Loyds. It also examines the larger war effort in the Pacific and the involvement of other Americans and Filipinos, many of them Philippine Scouts, in the anti-Japanese guerrilla movement on Luzon. It contains interesting information on commando infiltration teams, both Filipino and American, sent in by submarine to help shore up the resistance movement. It also examines in some detail prison camp conditions and the brutal counter intelligence activities of the dread Japanese Kempei-tai.
The book begins with the idyllic tropical existence of the Loyds during nearly a year and a half of pampered and languid duty in peacetime Manila. He was Provost Marshall at Fort McKinley and she taught fourth grade at the base school. American officers in this peacetime army worked half days and spent their evenings socializing with other military families. Training of the Philippine Army also proceeded at a leisurely pace, which would have important ramifications when war broke out.
As U.S.-Japanese relations deteriorated in the summer of 1941, this colonial idle ended as military families, including Evelyn and the two children, were sent back to the United States. In late July, the Japanese invaded French Indo China and the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands embargoed all trade with Japan, cutting off the flow of oil, rubber and other strategic material needed by the Japanese to sustain their conquest of China. War now appeared inevitable.
Shortly following the devastating Japanese surprise air assaults on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines in early December, a Japanese invasion force landed on Luzon and forced the Filipino and American troops back to defensive positions on Bataan and Corregidor. When Bataan surrendered in early April, Major Loyd was among the small group of American and Filipino military men who escaped to nearby mountains and jungles. Most of these men, including Frank Loyd, spent many months surviving at a subsistence level thanks to the courageous generosity of the local Filipino population.
Eventually Frank and many others would join guerrilla groups, the nucleus of which was organized by American officers put in place by General MacArthur before the surrender. Most of these guerrilla leaders and about half of the 400 Americans who joined them would not survive the war.
In recounting the failures and successes of these guerrilla units, Schaefer also examines the indigenous civilian intelligence network in Manila, which consisted predominantly of upper class Filipinos. Many of these civilian patriots also did not survive the war, as the Japanese successfully infiltrated the movement.
Another interesting feature of the book is a description of the infighting among the various guerrilla leaders, as they vied to assert command over each other and to expand their geographic sway. Although largely ego-driven, this also was the result of a need to claim scant resources in manpower and civilian support. Further complicating the resistance mix, were the Communist-led Hukbalahap, who, when not fighting the Japanese, often clashed violently with American-led guerrilla groups.
Despite the burdens of hunger, disease, scarce resources, infighting and the depredations of the Japanese, sufficient guerrilla forces were mobilized and trained to form a very useful auxiliary force when MacArthur returned to liberate the Philippines. An important component of these guerrilla groups was the Philippine Scouts, superbly-trained Filipino soldiers who comprised the majority of the regular U.S. Army's infantry and cavalry troops in the Philippines. (The Scouts should not be confused with the Philippine Army troops, who were mostly conscripts and not nearly as well trained.) Rallying to the cause in large numbers, the Scouts were crucial in the training of other Filipinos in guerrilla warfare. The Scouts themselves proved as adept at guerrilla warfare as they had been in their heroic defense of Bataan and Corregidor during the early months of the war.
An attractive feature of the book is its map collection which helps the reader visualize where the action took place. Indeed, with its maps, bibliography, extensive endnotes, and lengthy index, this book is a useful reference tool for more serious students of World War II guerrilla warfare on Luzon. As such it is an excellent companion volume to Malcolm Decker's On a Mountainside, also reviewed on this site.
Last modified: 11-May-2007