Tactical failure

05:01 AM December 23, 2017

Ramon Farolan’s column, “Dying for our country” (12/18/17), is a good reminder for us who lived through World War II.

Toward the end he narrates the debacle at Clark Field on Dec. 8, 1941, when the US Air Force was caught on the ground and destroyed. He cited historian D. Clayton James for the view that Gen. Douglas MacArthur should have taken a large part of the blame because he was in charge of overall command.


This is simplistic. MacArthur had ordered all 35 B-17s to Del Monte Airfield in Mindanao but Air Commander Gen. Lewis Brereton had retained half of them because he was having his birthday party at the Manila Hotel on Dec. 7. On the fateful day of Dec. 8, Clark was warned of the approaching Japanese by radar from Iba by the Nielson Field Air Warning Center and by a civilian phone call. Yet everyone was having lunch at the same time with no protective patrol flying overhead. Pilots who had finished lunch were ready to fly and were only awaiting orders. But no order came.

It was not a strategic blunder but a tactical failure, attesting to a staggering incompetence on the part of the commanders on the ground.


For details, may I refer Farolan to Richard B. Meixsel’s “Clark Field and the US Army Air Corps in the Philippines” and William H. Bartsch’s “Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines 1941-1942.”

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TAGS: Clark Field, Dying for our country, World War II
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