Preserving the history, heritage, and legacy of the Philippine Scouts for present and future generations

BOOK REVIEW:

On A Mountainside: The 155th Provisional Guerrilla Battalion Against the Japanese on Luzon

by Malcolm Decker

Reviewed by J. Michael Houlahan

On A Mountainside by PSHS member Malcolm Decker is now available online through Barbed Wire Publishing. A review of this worthwhile book follows:

Following the surrender of Filipino and American forces on Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines early in the fifth month of the Japanese onslaught that plunged the United States into World War II, a small group of dedicated American fighting men refused to accept defeat. Some took refuge immediately in the jungles and mountains of Luzon, others did so after escaping from the infamous Death March, and a very few joined up after fleeing from various POW camps. Initially totaling around 400 men, only half would survive three years of Japanese occupation.

Some of these escapees attempted to ride out the conflict in hiding. However, a courageous few rallied together to organize guerrilla resistance to the cruel Japanese occupation. One of these heroic men was Doyle Decker. Doyle's son, Malcolm Decker, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, is finally telling his father's story, and doing so in fine fashion.

On A Mountainside is a chronicle of courage and perseverance. It traces the escape of U.S. Army Private Doyle Decker and several others from the Bataan Death March, their finding refuge among the rural Filipino population, and, finally, their joining a fledgling American-led guerrilla initiative which organized armed resistance by forming the 155th Provisional Guerrilla Battalion, manned primarily by the tiny Negrito tribesmen. The Negritos were a primitive group of pygmies similar to Australian aborigines. Their presence in the Philippines predates the arrival of the ethnically Malay groups from which most Filipinos are descended. They also proved to be excellent at guerrilla warfare.

Doyle Decker, orphaned at nine, dropped out of school at twelve to earn his keep wandering from farm job to ranch job, often working for no more than room and board. Joining the U.S. Army during the Great Depression, he followed a route out of poverty taken by many before and since. This undereducated farm boy could not have foreseen that this enlistment would lead to three years of living like a hunted animal as he fought off disease, avoided Japanese patrols, and helped organize a Negrito guerrilla resistance army. It is a wonder he survived, but survive he did and was promoted to a leadership position in the guerrilla battalion. When General Douglas MacArthur finally led U.S. forces back to Luzon, Doyle and his fellow officers positioned the 155th Provisional Guerrilla Battalion in a successful blocking action that prevented many Japanese from escaping into the Zambales Mountains and inflicted heavy casualties on those who did.

In writing his book, Malcolm Decker leaned heavily on conversations with his father and Bob Mailheau, his father's close friend and comrade in the guerrilla resistance. He also conducted considerable historical research. Written in narrative form and using dialogue developed through these personal conversations, the author gives an intimacy to the story that might otherwise have been lacking. The book is certain to induce a patriotic glow in its readers. It is a moving tribute to sustained courage in the face of almost unimaginable adversity. The timing of its publication is particularly appropriate as our country, being tested yet again, has placed large numbers of its sons and daughters in harms way in foreign lands.

JMHoulahan:3/23/04

Decker, Malcolm. On A Mountainside: The 155th Provisional Guerrilla Battalion Against the Japanese on Luzon. Las Cruces, New Mexico, Barbed Wire Publishing, 2004. Pp. 256, incl. bibliography, 4 pp. notes, 6 maps plus photos, drawings. ISBN: 1-881325-74-1. SRP: $25.00


 
 

Last modified: 11-May-2007