March 10, 1942
General MacArthur had now gone to Corregidor and sent this message to the troops on Bataan:
"Help is on the way from the U.S. Thousands of troops and hundreds of planes are being dispatched. No further retreat is possible. We have more troops in Bataan than the Japanese have thrown against us. Our supplies are ample; a determined defense will defeat the enemy's attack.
I call upon every soldier in Bataan to fight in his assigned position, resisting enemy attack. This is the only road to salva-tion. If we fight we will win, if we retreat we will be destroyed."
Some of the men openly jeered. Ample supplies? They were al-ready on half rations. Their grenades were no good, only one in four or five exploding. Six out of seven mortar rounds failed to detonate on landing and too often ill-fitting shells burst the barrels of the cannons.
But to the great majority, the words were a hope. Bataan had been saved!
Saved for hunger and wounds and heat
For slow exhaustion and grim retreat
For a wasted hope and sure defeat.
Bataan encompassed some 500 square miles of land. It was what career men called "a'hardship past!" Although beautiful beaches with giant coconut palms jutted into Manila Bay from the southwest corner of Luzon, the island jungle was known as a death hole filled with every tropical disease known to man.
Now the Japanese were poised for the final attack that would seal the doom of the defenders of Bataan. The Jaws of the Japanese military pincer began to close as their armies began a massive frontal assault. Under constant artillery fire and dive bombers raining destruction from the air, the Japanese infantry moved into position. Then wave after wave of infantry brigades shouting "Bonzai! Bonzai!" began their attacks. The American troops entrenched in bunkers, sprayed the attackers with machine gun fire and to sent them back. But more Japanese poured forth impaling themselves on the barbed wire so other troops could use their bodies to catapult over the defense structures.
To Russ, it was a nightmare. The guns fired so much and be-came so hot, they would seize up. They didn't believe that they could survive another assault, but the enemy kept coming and the defenders kept fighting. More battles to be fought, men to evacuate, deaths to dim.
Men were buried in common graves. No one back home would ever know how they died. Casualties were high on both sides. The stench of decaying bodies exposed to the tropical sun was overpowering
The Japanese dropped leaflets on the men urging them to surrender, but the men used the leaflets to light cigarettes, scribble notes to wives and girlfriends and even for toilet paper, a scarce commodity on Bataan.
With each passing day the situation became more critical. The battle grew worse day by day. A full retreat was ordered. All across the island the Americans fell back. Men jammed the roads carrying buddies on litters. Stragglers wandered aimlessly, some wearing nothing but underwear.
The battle for Bataan was fast coming to an end.