This is unexpected, but today marks the first missed update of the year. My job has kept me busy lately and between traveling for work, my recent Japan vacation and a very short notice assignment I’ve not had time to keep making comics. My apologies for this, especially in the middle of a storyline. I plan to start updating again in a month, so come back June 24 for new comics, though in the meantime I may post random sketches to keep you amused.
And here’s the end of the storyline. My summer schedule has made getting this done a bit more difficult than usual but it’s finally happened and we can move onto the next storyline… Search for the Rock Girl!
At work I’m known for talking about Philippine history, especially in World War II, so I’m occasionally joked about over it. Awhile back some of my juniors and I were looking over news stories from around the Navy and one of them was from the USS Bataan.
I said the ship’s name out loud with proper pronunciation, “USS Bah-tah-ahn.”
One of my juniors corrected me, “It’s ‘baton.’”
“Bah-tah-ahn is its proper Filipino pronunciation,” I explained.
He asked sarcastically, “What, was it some battle in the Philippines?”
I told him with dead seriousness, “Yes. It was the largest surrender of American troops in history.”
I can’t fault him for not knowing though, as the battle is largely forgotten in the United States and isn’t taught in school history books. I was only vaguely aware of it myself until about four years ago. When it comes to the Pacific War we’re taught about Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, Coral Sea in May and the turning point at Midway in June and that’s all there is to be said about the early part of the war. But while all that was going on Americans and Filipino fought on the other side of the Pacific in what was an American territory, the Commonwealth of the Philippines. From January until April 9, 1942 they held the Bataan peninsula, tying up Japanese troops and denying them use of Manila Bay.
Today is the 72nd anniversary of the end of that battle. 80,000 troops of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), composed primarily of untrained Filipino conscripts rushed into service right before the outbreak of war, combined with Sailors without ships, airmen without airplanes, some Shanghai Marines and an elite unit of combat troops, Philippine Scouts, who had yet to fully do away with horse cavalry, fought together for four months.
The original plan for the defense of the Philippines was War Plan Orange-3. In the event of Japanese invasion it called for allowing the Japanese to take the islands without contest, immediately withdrawing all Fil-Am forces to the Bataan peninsula and holding out for six months until the US Navy and 100,000 US Army troops could swoop in and take back the islands. This plan hinged on the US Navy having ships enough to move 100,000 troops which it didn’t.
General Douglas MacArthur, USAFFE commander, instead preferred a plan of beach defense. He could raise a 100,000 man Filipino army capable of repelling the Japanese on the beaches. All he needed was time to train them. He felt by April 1942 they would be ready for the invasion whenever it came.
When the invasion came in December 1941 most Filipino troops had never fired a weapon before as mobilization didn’t begin until September. Their weapons were World War I vintage from the rifles to the artillery. Many of the old rifles had broken extractors, essentially rendering them single shot weapons like muskets. Their grenades and mortars were extremely unreliable as roughly 80% failed to explode.
MacArthur fell back on WPO-3 and his forces collapsed back into Bataan. His one real combat unit, the Philippine Scouts, took heavy losses as they played vanguard to the army’s retreat.
Writers and historians can’t seem to agree on the precise day the Battle of Bataan began, but the first rounds fired in that province were at Layac Junction on January 6, 1942. A temporary line had been formed to slow the Japanese as the main line of defense, the Abucay line was prepared. It was here in an artillery duel that Sgt. Jose Calugas, a Philippine Scout mess sergeant, earned the Army’s first Medal of Honor in World War II.
Calugas saw a battery go silent after losing its crew, so without orders he gathered some volunteers to put it back into action. He charged across 1,000 yards under intense enemy artillery fire to the cannon. The original gun crew had been hit and took casualties, it could have easily happened to Calugas but he got the gun firing again and kept firing it for the rest of the afternoon. Calugas became the first of three Scouts to earn the Medal of Honor for their bravery at Bataan.
Though they had bought time at Layac the situation in Bataan wasn’t good. The rush into Bataan was a giant disorganized mess in which it was every unit for itself. The peninsula supplies were initially set up to support a force of 40,000 troops. They had more than 100,000 military and civilians who either lived on Bataan or followed the military in, to take care of. At full rations they would have 20 days of food. The only upside to the supply situation was that there was 16 million rounds of ammunition to fight with.
Low supplies, poor training and backed into a corner with rescue three years away as opposed to the already unrealistic six months, this was only the beginning for the defenders. During the battle Bataan would receive no fresh troops and no resupply. (Submarines did bring in negligible amounts from time to time until it was deemed unsafe.) With “Europe first” and the Philippines far behind enemy lines that stretched across the Pacific, the islands and its defenders had been written off by the United States. In February President Roosevelt even ordered out their commanding officer, General MacArthur.
The Imperial Japanese Army, though numerically inferior, had superior training to their Filipino and American counterparts, ammunition that tended to detonate when fired and uncontested controlled of the air. Despite this, the defenders proved difficult to dislodge. They attempted an amphibious landing behind the USAFFE lines and were annihilated at the ‘Battle of the Points.’ When they pushed the defenders back at the main line they fell back to a secondary one, the Bagac-Orion Line. They attempted to infiltrate the line at the ‘Battle of the Pockets’ but were rooted out in close quarters combat.
An interesting footnote to the battle is that it was the last time American cavalry would charge into combat on horseback. The 26th Philippine Scouts performed the final horse cavalry charge on January 16, 1942 at the village of Morong. Their attack was successful and pushed the Japanese out of the village.
The terrain may have favored defense but disease is an equal opportunity killer and dealing with tropical ailments such as malaria and beriberi took a toll on both sides. Gen. Homma, the Japanese commander on Bataan, said that if the Fil-Am troops had counter attacked in February they could have rolled through his forces with little opposition. Unfortunately the defenders were physically incapable of mounting a counter-attack. They suffered from the same ills as the Japanese but had also been living on half then quarter rations. They stripped the province bare of edibles and any creature that wasn’t human was meat for sustenance.
There was a lull in fighting in which the Japanese received fresh troops and supplies while the defenders were slowly starved out. Some Japanese military officers argued to continue the stalemate and allow the defenders to die of starvation but Homma was already far behind his timetable. He was given 50 days to take the Philippines. It had now been four months. His failure to take the islands in a timely manner would ultimately see him forced into retirement.
The final push came April 3 with air raids, heavy artillery barrages and armor supported infantry attacks. The sick and malnourished defenders held out until April 8 with some of the last fighting at Mt. Samat. General Edward P. King, commander of the Fil-Am forces on Bataan decided there was nothing further to be gained from continued fighting and to spare his troops unnecessary death and suffering surrendered April 9, 1942. A date already significant as it was the 77th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
The exact number of troops surrendered is not known but it was in the area of 74,000-78,000. Sadly these men who’d already been through Hell would continue to suffer on the Bataan Death March. At least 70,000 men started the march, but only 54,000 made it to the POW camp, Camp O’Donnell. Nearly half the Filipinos prisoners died at O’Donnell and less than 4,000 of the 12,000 Americans there would come home alive at war’s end. They were pressed into service as slave labor, worked to death, indiscriminately killed, massacred at POW camps such as Palawan, died aboard the Hell ships and on the Japanese home islands.
Though mostly forgotten stateside there is still some memory of what happened in the Philippines, though history, no matter where you are, is mostly ignored by kids today. There is a shrine at the site of Camp O’Donnell, a memorial at Layac junction, the Shrine of Valor atop Mt. Samat where the battle ended and the Death March is uniquely remembered. It’s hard to forget what happened here when every kilometer of the Death March (mostly on Old National Road) in marked with an obelisk depicting two weary soldiers and a number denoting what kilometer of the March you’re on. In my travels I’ve had the good fortune to visit all these places and the island fortress of Corregidor too.
Until I can figure out how to work the Mattie Grumman & history stuff into this new website I’m going to post the stuff that usually goes into Mattie’s blog here.
Today is the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Sunda Strait and the loss of USS Houston (CA 30) and HMAS Perth.
After Japan began its military sweep across the Far East and Pacific in December 1941 the weak Allied navies joined together under the banner of ABDACOM to stave off the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies (Japan’s true goal in starting the Pacific War). ABDACOM was a mess of an organization composed of what was left of the British, American and Dutch Asiatic ships and the Royal Australian Navy. They had never trained together before fighting started and speaking different languages only complicated matters. From it’s creation in January until the last major battle it fought, Sunda Strait, ABDACOM lost all but one battle it fought in and slowed the Japanese down by giving them ships to sink. The former U.S. Asiatic Fleet, which Houston had been flagship of, lost over half its ships before ABDACOM dissolved and its survivors ordered to Australia. These ships would eventually become the foundation of the new U.S. Seventh Fleet in 1943.
Commissioned in 1930, Houston was once President Roosevelt’s favorite ship and occasionally acted as his presidential yacht. Y’know, because a light cruiser is a lot cooler than a sailboat. In 1940 she was sent to the Philippines and became the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. (The Fleet was successor to Commodore Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron that defeated the Spanish in the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay.) This made Houston the only modern surface ship in what was otherwise a fleet composed of older ships and cast offs of other fleets fit only for the scrapyard or Asiatic service.
HMAS Perth was a light cruiser commissioned in 1936 by Britain’s Royal Navy and was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1939. Before her sinking she had spent the past two years fighting Germany in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
They were lost the night of Feb. 28 while attempting to transit Sunda Strait towards Tjilatjap. The strait was believed to be safe but the two ships came into a Japanese landing force. Both sides were caught by surprise and in the ensuing fight the two cruisers were taken out by Japanese destroyers and cruisers. Houston and Perth didn’t sink any Japanese ships, but Japanese friendly fire took out a few.
After it’s sinking the survivors of Houston and Perth were part of the slave labor force used to build the Siam-Burma Railway. Houston’s Commanding Officer CAPT Rooks was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The people of Houston, Texas raised money to build a new cruiser Houston and enough volunteers to man her. (Though none of the volunteers were sent to the new Houston.) Houston’s fund raiser gave the Navy money to build two new ships- USS Houston (CL 81) and USS San Jacinto (CVL 30). Future President George H.W. Bush served aboard the latter.
I’m not sure about you, but I tend to have defined character voices in my head when I’m writing or reading comics. If this thing ever got animated below are some of the people I think could best do the voices as they sound to me.
I’ve always thought of Allison as having a somewhat high voice with clear inflection. Despite her size (Alli is 6′ even) she doesn’t have a deep voice like Laura Prepon and though sarcastic she doesn’t have a monotone like Daria Morgendorffer. The caveat to that is that she’s not monotone to herself. I was monotone growing up and until I saw Daria with my sister and she pointed out I’m as flat as Daria is I had no clue I was monotone. (I’ve since done voice training for broadcast and have opened up my vocal range considerably) To me I heard a normal range of tones. So writing Alli, which usually comes from her perspective, she has a full range of nuanced tones to express herself with. To hear how she’s always sounded to me listen to Luci’s Kaname Chidori from Full Metal Panic, its almost dead on.
Pratt………..A young Michael Madsen
Pratt sounds a lot like my grandfather who has a very deep voice, speaks slowly and always sounds as if he’s thought about what he’s saying. Mr. Blonde is the closest match to that I’ve ever heard.
Jonny is the hardest character to nail down as I can’t really think of anyone who sounds just like her. Her voice is somewhat low and light. She is 21 like Allison but sounds more mature as she has a lot of responsibilities. As Pratt once points out, Jonny reminds him of his mother. (Which is why they don’t get along) I threw up Grey as a potential voice actress as she and Jennifer Hale are pretty much the generic female voices in everything these days and could probably pull it off.
Phil was inspired by a good friend of mine from the aviation technical training school I attended. He had a very Beavis-like voice, all he was missing was the laugh.
Holly has a higher voice and no Wisconsin accent. She sounds a very honest and ‘golly gee willickers!’ way of speaking. She’s incapable of lying as her voice would betray any attempt at it. Her voice gives away every emotion. Tara has a good high end vocal range and I think could do that.
Becky was born and raised in Virginia and has no Filipino accent at all. Becky tends to speak in a clipped ‘matter of fact’ tone of voice. Comedienne Christine Gambito of ‘Happy Slip’ fame is very close to what Becky sounds like.
Adam has always sounded kind of skeevy to me, just something about his tone and the way he talks. As I defined Allen’s character and it became obvious how under-handed he is willing to be in the name of preserving his radio station I began reading his lines in that voice.
No relation, really. Tracy was the voice of MTV’s Daria and Tracy Lynn Mulcher’s original concept was essentially an over the hill train wreck caricature of 90′s sarcastic slacker girls twenty years later. So imagine Daria but with more vocal range, (like in early Beavis & Butt-Head) an extra helping of weariness and a pack a day habit.
Roach is like Holly in the sense his voice betrays his every emotion. When he’s excited his voice noticeably raises and he speaks faster, when he’s mad it drops. He speaks Spanish fluently but on air and in most conversations he lacks any accent. I can’t think of anyone that quite sounds like him, or could pull it off.
Those are my thoughts, I’m curious as to what you guys think the characters would sound like.
I’m making some progress moving the archive over from the old site. Took some doing but I’ve gotten the full last storyline moved over. Most of 0ne year down…. five more to go.
On the plus side the new storyline will come out in three days, so be ready for that. It’ll be the first storyline in color for the first time since Red Skirts, which I’m excited about, even if the color adds many more hours to the production process. But hey, you’re worth it!