National Geographic : 1992 Mar
Relic of the battle for New Guinea, anAmerican B-17 lies in a waist-deep swamp north of the Owen Stanley Range. In 1942 Mac Arthur deployed these bombers from Australia to airlift troops new to jungle warfare into this fiercely contested "green hell." The Japanese directed their campaign from the island of New Britain, where miles of tunnels were dug as havens from Allied bombs. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. At Clark and Iba airfields, B-17 bombers and P-40 fighters stood, wingtip to wingtip, on the run ways. When MacArthur's Air Corps chief asked permission to order them into the air to strike back at Formosa, the nearest Japanese base, MacArthur's chief of staff ordered him to wait for orders from the commander himself. They came too late. The planes sat on the ground for nine hours. Then, a flight of Japa nese warplanes roared in to destroy them. Two weeks later, 43,000 Japanese began landing at Lingayen Gulf, northwest of Manila. Units of MacArthur's ill-prepared Philippine Army collapsed; his overambitious plans collapsed with them, and he fell back on the old War Plan Orange. In a massive strategic retreat that General Pershing, then retired at 82, pronounced "one of the greatest moves in all military histo ry," MacArthur successfully directed his U. S. and Philippine troops onto the mountainous, jungle-choked Bataan Peninsula to fight a holding action. But he had neglected to provide the food and medicines and supplies they desperately needed. In the weeks of fighting to come, thousands would be weakened need lessly by dysentery, malaria, and constant, gnawing hunger. Abandoning Manila, MacArthur, his wife, his three-year-old son, and the boy's Chinese nursemaid-along with President Quezon and U. S. High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre slipped across the bay to the besieged garrison on the island of Corregidor, to await reinforcements that never came. MacArthur again proved unflinching under fire, often leaving the safety of the Malinta Tunnel as bombs fell and shrapnel ripped through the air around him. By exposing himself to dan ger, he explained, he intended to inspire the "man at the bot tom" to say, "I guess if that old man can take it, I can, too." But during his 77 days on the island he only once ventured over to Bataan-just a five-minute ride away by PT boat-for which many of those struggling to survive there never forgave him.