In May 1942, The Largest Surrender in U.S. Military History Took Place

    Michael Peck

    Security, Asia

    A shocker of a story. 

    But MacArthur was busy with other things. He was awarded $ 500,000 by Philippine president Manuel Quezon for his prewar service, and his staff also got money (Eisenhower was offered money, but turned it down). To be fair, he was ordered by President Roosevelt to fly himself and his family aboard a B-17 to Australia. Following orders, to be sure, but his troops weren’t so lucky. Between the cruelty of the Bataan Death March, and for the survivors the brutality of Japanese prison camps, 40 percent of the Americans never made it home.

    “Tell Joe, wherever he is, to give ’em hell for us,” said the radio signal. “My love to you all. God bless you and keep you. Sign my name, and tell mother how you heard from me. Stand by.”

    And then there was silence.

    On the morning of May 6, 1942, U.S. Army Sgt. Irving Strobing sent the last message—to America, his family and his brother Joe—from the fortress of Corregidor, an island at the mouth of Manila Bay. A few hours later, under the cameras of Japanese photographers and the contemptuous glare of Japanese officers, Gen. Jonathan Wainwright surrendered the last of the U.S. garrison in the Philippines.

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    From Corregidor’s tunnels emerged eleven thousand starving, wounded and exhausted American and Filipino prisoners, including several American nurses. They swelled the ranks of the defenders of the Bataan peninsula, who had surrendered on April 9. By early May 1942, the Japanese had captured seventy-six thousand American and Filipino soldiers in the largest surrender in U.S. history.

    On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the fall of Corregidor, the question still remains: what went wrong?

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