FIGHTING FOR MACARTHUR

March 19, 2012

 

Beyond the book review hereís whatís in store for the next month. Due to my job I wonít be able to post much late in the month so I canít start the new story just yet. Iíd get half-way through posting and have to stop, which I refuse to do. So in the meantime Iíll keep posting these blogs while I can and even post some Mattie art. Weíll see where things take us.ďHey BossĒ is the new official name of my blog here. When I was stationed on Diego Garcia I heard it all the time from Filipinos, ďHey, bossĒ, ďSure thing, bossĒ, ďGot it, bossĒ, and it rubbed off on me and some of my friends. Soon we found ourselves calling everyone boss too. That can get weird looks when a junior Sailor asks you for help and you, a senior petty officer with a decade of Naval Service under his belt, replies, ďSure thing, boss!Ē

Speaking of Naval Service, mine will be keeping me from updating for a little while in the near future. Iím sorry but thereís nothing I can (legally) do about it.

Iím working on a new story that will set up the second part of the Philippine Cache and delves a little into Mattieís past as a WASP. They were a remarkable group of pilots and so Iím happy to bring them up any chance I get. Itís called Ghosts of Seattle and sees Mattie hunting down a wanted man. The pretense seems a bit flimsy for her to fly all the way from the tropical Far East to the dreary grey Pacific Northwest so you know thereís more to this than meets the eye. Itís going to be a short story though, nothing too deep or grand.  And I did used to live in the Pacific Northwest so Iíve every right to call it magnificently and breathtakingly depressing to live there. Nothing should feel that overcast all the time.

Besides work, writing Mattieís adventures and not to mention Allisonís escapades, Iím also reading. Ever since I finished ESWS Iíve been hitting the books hard. After finishing Yangtze Patrol: The U.S. Navy in China Iíve come to discover its author, Kemp Tolley, was a notable figure at the tail end of the Patrolís life. Iím reading Fighting for MacArthur, a book about the Navy and Marines important but oft neglected role in the Defense of the Philippines and when John Gordon, the author, isnít ripping into MacArthur for beingÖ well, MacArthur heís doing a great job methodically chronicling the fate of these Sailors. These Sailors include the Yangtze Patrol.

I knew the Yangtze Patrol which spent decades on the waterways of China would meet its end fighting in the Philippines but here he really gets into the details Tolley didnít always include. He tells a story that not only gets down into particulars, what scant resources were available and how these men used them, but also the firefights. It was stirring to read how gunboat USS Mindanao with her 26 machine guns and her 3-inch deck gun that once fought raggedy Chinese bandits now took on the Imperial Japanese Army defending Bataan even as the peninsula fell and the Death March began. Not many books can do both those things and effortlessly go from clinical study to desperate action but this one does. Itís like someone finally understands my need for both minutae porn and action porn at the same time. (Not literal porn of course)

Itís hard to write about without it coming out wrong, these historic events arenít words in a book, theyíre the retelling of menís lives, but itís fascinating to read many books on similiar subjects and see where everything fits together. Iíve read Kemp Tolleyís book, now Iím reading about his strange Top Secret mission from FDR that saw him command a yacht named Lanikai. I know the World War I patrol yacht Isabel, a fairly worthless ship, was once the flagship of the Yangtze Patrol, but here she is again, living out her last days in the Philippines as the islands fall- except they arenít her last days and sheís allowed to make the run for Australia. USS Pigeon, a submarine rescue ship- which is a nice way of saying too obsolete to keep being a minesweeper, got the first Presidential Unit Citation of the War for saving submarine USS Seadragon from Cavite as the docks burned down around them. Iíve heard the citation. Here Iím reading about how she did so and then spent the next few months as a makeshift gunboat.

Iíve read about Ben Steele, a US Army Air Corps groundcrewman who got stuck fighting on Bataan, but his book focused more on his survival as a POW but in Fighting for MacArthur I see more of what his unit did in the context of the big picture. I also have finally read some proof of the story Iíve heard of Sailors fighting on Bataan wearing dress white uniforms badly dyed mustard yellow- the Japanese thought they where some kind of new suicide squad!

These men fought using the left overs from the Great War and ships so obsolete and useless they were sent to the Far East instead of just getting scrapped like they should have been. (A tradition carried on to this day.) Their efforts are something to be proud of, especially as a member of the U.S. Navy. Books like this are far more satisfying to read than any fiction. Especially when you can say, ďIíve been there. Iíve seen that place and walked where those men walked.Ē Canít say that about Middle Earth, can we? (Unless you live in New Zealand, then I guess you can.)

 

Manila to Shanghai'd

Mariveles, Bataan Province, Philippines

This metal 'Soldier's Grave' is part of the Death March Memorial at Kilometer 0, where the march began in Mariveles. An identical sculpture is on Corregidor as well. We found this by accident, we were driving to the bancay boats to get to Corregidor when we missed our turn. I noticed the Death March marker we passed said "2 km" on it, so I asked our driver if he could go another two kilometers before turning around. Sure enough two kilometers down the road, across the the beach and nestled in a quiet little park next to a Jollibee fast food restuarant was the Death March Kilometer 0 Memorial Park.

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