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Last Stand on Bataan: The Defense of the…

Last Stand on Bataan: The Defense of the Philippines, December 1941-May…

by Christopher L. Kolakowski

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1913537,190 (4.04)1
  1. 00
    Corregidor: The End of the Line by Eric Morris (Hedgepeth)
  2. 00
    The Allied Defense of the Malay Barrier 1941-1942 by Tom Womack (Hedgepeth)
  3. 00
    Inside the Bataan Death March: Defeat, Travail and Memory by Kevin C. Murphy (elenchus)
    elenchus: Both Murphy's Inside the Bataan Death March and Kolakowski's Last Stand on Bataan provide concise overviews of the WWII campaign in the Philippines, updated with recent research and understanding. Both dispel some myths, though Murphy's is perhaps more controversial. I found these two books to be central to my understanding of both the battles, the aftermath, and the strategic role of each in the War in the Pacific.… (more)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This tackles a World War II theater that has been sorely overlooked in my experience, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. The American and Filipino defenders were courageous in their defense of the islands and were finally defeated not by superior Japanese forces, but by lack of supplies. They delayed the Japanese timetable for conquest of the Pacific and showed that the Japanese were not invincible. ( )
  mponte | Nov 6, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
At the beginning "Last Stand On Bataan" threatened to be statistics, maps, and names that would soon run together. I should note I have been diagnosed as having ADD and have some problems with such things. But, it soon became a story about the people, on both sides, who fought in this battle. A very satisfying lesson about a major event in the history of WWII and the people who fought in it. A very insightful understanding of how people react to being battle and the many ways different people react to these situations. ( )
  thosgpetri | Oct 29, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a very concise treatment of one of the big early battle areas of World War II without shortchanging the importance. The more behind the scenes approach was a little different (but well done) than most accounts of battles. This would be a good starter for those who are not familiar with the Philippines war before tackling something like American Caesar. I look forward to more WWII titles from this author. ( )
  Hedgepeth | Oct 24, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
We're the Battling Bastards of Bataan
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam
No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces,
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces.
... And nobody gives a damn.

-- Frank Hewlett [142]

Kolakowski's is a detailed account of the defense of the Philippines, from the circumstances prior to attack on Pearl Harbor through the defense of first the Bataan Peninsula and then Corregidor. The Bataan Death March is addressed but briefly, as that was not an action included in the defense so much as a consequence for those involved in it. Details are provided at the level of battles and skirmishes, but emphasis also is given to personalities of those involved, both for those defending and those attacking. Kolakowski references US Army maps throughout, immensely helpful despite the occasional poor reprints. (Many b&w photographs also accompany the text and maps.) Overall, it appears a conventional account, distinctive for its thoroughness and its sensitivity to both Filipino and Japanese combatants, each of whom is sometimes dismissed or vilified in jingoistic U.S. accounts of the war.

If I have reservations, it's for an insufficient understanding of the strategic importance of the Philippines to the Allied efforts, and to Japanese military planners, something only addressed (incompletely) near the end of the book. Similarly, there is a nagging sense the summing up adheres too closely to the propaganda of the time: we fought, were outnumbered and faced a dishonorable enemy, but our efforts were a noble sacrifice which helped win the war. This is stated, but not argued, and falls uncomfortably at the end of the story as though reaching for a suitably proud note on which to conclude the piece. But these are quibbles, the account as a whole is a fine achievement and provides a solid understanding from which to read other, more critical accounts.

The fall of the Philippines ranks as one of the worst defeats in U.S. military history, and King's capitulation on April 9 [1942] is far and away the largest of its kind in American history. But the valiant defense of the Philippines was not in vain: the USAFFE/USFIP troops had held out for five months, disrupted the Japanese timetable of conquest, and denied the enemy use of the key base at Manila Bay. Their stand inspired the Allied world, and would do so until the final victory over the Axis in 1945. Most importantly, through their victories in early February the Bataan defenders had shown that the Japanese could be beaten. Lessons and intelligence about weapons and tactics, both American and Japanese, learned during the campaign would influence U.S. training, equipment, and preparations for battle in future Pacific operations. [180]


It is curiously bloodless, for treating a topic of such carnage. I don't mean it wasn't written well or engagingly; merely that I know the siege of Bataan was extremely violent and primal, and that thousands died, but that doesn't translate emotionally here. This is typical of a certain type of battle narrative, I think. I didn't actually notice until near the end, when it occurred to me I might have been much more viscerally affected by a book on Bataan.

Impressively, Kolakowski accounts for the movements and action of the 26th Cavalry, the last U.S. mounted regiment to serve in combat. These actions are woven throughout the narrative, and not relegated to a sidebar or aside, demonstrating both the contribution of the unit (even after losing their horses), and illustrating the level of detail Kolakowski trades in. [181]

More than once thought of the Siege of Malta, the Knights' objective not so much winning outright as outlasting the foe. There's an argument to be made that a similar thing happened on Luzon and Bataan, with "outlast" being here the ability to withstand the Imperial Army's invasion longer than was planned for, taking up time and distracting infantry divisions that were needed elsewhere, and "victory" being the eventual defeat of the Imperial Army in the Pacific, not a successful resistance of the invasion. So, Corregidor plays Fort Elmo ... but only if one takes an extremely long view of the battle, and acknowledges most of the outlasting would take place in POW camps. (Kolakowski himself alludes not to Malta but Thermopylae and the Alamo [2].)

Worth reading about the resistance following surrender: "In the end, the Philippine underground would number some 250,000 people and comprise the largest anti-Axis resistance in the Pacific, and second-largest in the world, behind only the Polish Home Army." [180] ( )
  elenchus | Oct 10, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I did enjoy this book, being a fan of World War II non-fiction. The author clearly did a lot of research on the battle for control of the Bataan peninsula, a subject where it appears there is a fairly limited amount of subject matter books out there. The book has a lot of details on troop movements and battle engagements and results.

That being said, there were some areas that were somewhat nagging irritants, and which lessened the understanding to be gained from the book.

The inclusion of several more maps (non-military) of the Philippines that were much more detailed as to location names would have helped immensely. Often the author referred to specific locations of battle lines (for example, the US troops fell back to "such-and-such river" - but the maps in the book did not detail where the river was - no label).

Now that might be because the military-generated maps did not include those labels - but nowhere else in the book was there a map that could be referred to to give the reader a sense of what was happening in the battles and locations to indicate the distances or movements involved. The military-generated maps were sometimes very difficult to read, with print very faint or so fonts so small as to render the maps virtually unreadable. Again, this caused difficulty in understanding the nature of the battles. Clarity of the original maps might not be the fault of the author - but adjustments should have then been made to include a better map, perhaps a recreation of the military map to a readable format.

Finally, it would have helped immensely if the author had included illustration numbers. Comments are included about a battle, and there might be an illustration nearby (or several) but no reference as to which illustration was being referred to - only a brief caption, and the source. In some cases, it was difficult to determine if the illustration actually referred to nearby comments or not.

The problems with layout in no way diminishes the amount of information included, but had the layout problems not existed, a much, much clearer understanding of the battles on the Bataan Peninsula would have been possible. I am saddened by the fact that these nagging problems somewhat overshadow the obvious amount of work the author put into his work. ( )
1 vote highlander6022 | Sep 14, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786474890, Paperback)

In the opening days of World War II, a joint U.S.-Filipino army fought desperately to defend Manila Bay and the Philippines against a Japanese invasion. Much of the five-month campaign was waged on the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island. Despite dwindling supplies and dim prospects for support, the garrison held out as long as possible and significantly delayed the Japanese timetable for conquest in the Pacific. In the end, the Japanese forced the largest capitulation in U.S. military history. The defenders were hailed as heroes and the legacy of their determined resistance marks the Philippines today. Drawing on accounts from American and Filipino participants and archival sources, this book chronicles these critical months of the Pacific War, from the first air strikes to the fall of Bataan and Corregidor.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 06 Jun 2016 18:35:21 -0400)

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