Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashakin' on the Rock
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on

Disgusted and disillusioned by MacArthur's absence from the front lines, the failure of promised relief, and MacArthur's retention of adequate food for himself and others on Corregidor, his starving troops on Bataan coined this derisive verse. The title "Dugout Doug" attached itself to MacArthur behind his back for the rest of the war.


MacArthur realises too late that he has spread his troops too thinly

On 24 December 1941, MacArthur implemented Plan Orange by withdrawing the Philippines government and his own headquarters to the heavily fortified island of Corregidor on the western side of Manila Bay. Realising too late that he had committed a fatal error by spreading his troops thinly across the islands of the Philippines, MacArthur ordered a general retreat of his troops on Luzon to the Bataan Peninsula on the western side of Manila Bay. The American and Philippine Army troops scattered across eight of the other large Philippine islands were abandoned to the Japanese.

Tanks of Japanese General Masaharu Homma's 14th Army deploy in the Philippines after the Japanese invasion of Luzon.

The air of unreality pervading MacArthur's command in the Philippines is further evidenced by his share buying as the Japanese neared Manila. With Japanese troops closing in on the capital, MacArthur telephoned the mayor of Manila, Jorge Vargas, from Corregidor on 28 December and asked him to buy $35,000 worth of shares in the Lepanto mining company for him. Vargas executed the transaction for MacArthur on the following day. Many years later, Vargas recalled that this single share transaction during the critical stages of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines made MacArthur a millionaire by the end of the war.

When MacArthur's 90,000 troops on Luzon reached the Bataan Peninsula after a two week fighting withdrawal, they discovered that adequate equipment and supplies for a lengthy defence of the peninsula were not available because their commander had scattered huge quantities of military equipment, food, and medical supplies across nine of the major islands of the Philippines. The Japanese would become the grateful beneficiaries of MacArthur's foolishness.

Plan Orange had required the Bataan Peninsula to be stocked with sufficient food and medical supplies to enable 43,000 troops to withstand a Japanese siege for six months. MacArthur had only stockpiled enough food and medical supplies on Bataan for a thirty day siege. The troops were immediately put on half-rations.

No significant support for the beleaguered defenders of Bataan could be expected from the United States because the British and American governments had resolved to adopt a "Germany First" war strategy. This strategy assigned to the western Pacific the status of a secondary theatre, and acknowledged that the Philippines could not be saved. This grim fact was not admitted publicly, and the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt went out of its way to pretend that adequate reinforcements were on their way to the Philippines. The lie fooled the American public and, for a short time, fooled the troops fighting the Japanese in the Philippines. However, it has to be conceded that even if the American government had wanted to save the Philippines from Japanese invasion, it would have been an almost impossible task. Japan ruled the skies over the Philippines and the Japanese Navy ruled the seas of the western Pacific.

American submarines and fast torpedo boats were able to penetrate the Japanese blockade of the Philippines from time to time, but they could not deliver sufficient supplies to maintain MacArthur's army. Unaware at this stage that Roosevelt and Churchill had adopted a "Germany First" war strategy, MacArthur bombarded Washington with his own plans for an Allied offensive launched from Australia to take pressure off his troops and permit the arrival of reinforcements and supplies.

MacArthur demands and receives a reward for "distinguished service" from President Quezon

Suspecting that his military reputation and career had been compromised by his failing defence of the Philippines, MacArthur spent his first two weeks on Corregidor pestering President Quezon for rewards for his "distinguished service" to the Philippines. Quezon was terminally ill and racked with anxiety for the fate of his countrymen. He was in no fit state to resist MacArthur's demands. He also believed that his best hope for continued American support lay with MacArthur, and he responded to MacArthur's pressure for rewards by granting him the sum of $500,000 from the impoverished Philippine Treasury on Corregidor. In today's values, the gift to MacArthur would have been worth in excess of $5,000,000. MacArthur's closest staff officers received smaller sums.

These gifts of large sums of money from the Philippine's Treasury to serving officers of the United States Army were grossly improper, but Roosevelt and Secretary for War Stimson elected to turn a blind eye even though they were aware of the payments. When Quezon had escaped from the Philippines, he visited Washington and offered General Dwight D. Eisenhower $60,000 for "distinguished service" during Eisenhower's time in the Philippines as MacArthur's chief of staff. Eisenhower politely declined the improper gift.

MacArthur establishes defensive lines across the Bataan Peninsula

Despite the hopelessness of the American position, MacArthur declared that he was determined to hold Bataan and Corregidor to the end, and he set up the Abucay-Mauban defensive line with two army corps across the Bataan Peninsula. The defensive line was divided into two sections, with Major General Jonathan M. Wainright's corps defending the western section, and Major General George M. Parker's corps defending the eastern section. Wainwright's and Parker's troops were separated by Mount Natib, a towering volcano. When the Japanese attacked the American defensive line on 9 January 1942, they met stiff resistance despite the fact that the American and Philippine troops were living on half-rations, drinking contaminated water, and increasingly weakened by disease. The Americans were so short of basic medical supplies on Bataan that even wound dressings had to be reused. Even the hospitals were not safe for the sick and medical staff, including female nurses. In violation of the 1929 Geneva Convention, the Japanese repeatedly bombed the hospitals on Bataan, despite the fact that they were clearly marked with red crosses. This barbarous behaviour was not an isolated war crime. The Japanese bombed the clearly marked hospital ship Manunda in Darwin Harbour in February 1942, and torpedoed the brightly lit and clearly marked hospital ship Centaur off the coast of Queensland in 1943.

The Japanese finally outflanked the defenders of the Abucay-Mauban line by finding an accessible path over Mount Natib. MacArthur thought that the volcano would prove impassable for Japanese troops, and had neglected to take any steps to defend this formidable natural barrier. MacArthur was not a general who learned from his mistakes. When he assumed command of Australia's defence later in 1942, he would make the same error of military judgment by underrating the ability of Japanese troops to cross the rugged Owen Stanley Range to attack Port Moresby.

MacArthur orders his troops on Bataan to fight to the end

On 24 January 1942, MacArthur responded to the outflanking of his first defensive line by ordering his troops to withdraw to a second line closer to the island of Corregidor called the Bagac-Orion line. He now realised that Bataan would inevitably fall to the Japanese and took the precaution of withdrawing food and medical supplies from his sick and starving front-line troops to ensure adequate supplies for his own headquarters on Corregidor.

From the comparative safety of the underground fortifications of Corregidor, Macarthur directed that there would be no more retreats by his troops on Bataan and no surrender. The order to fight to the end was stupid, callous, selfish, and typical of MacArthur's leadership style. It was a stupid order because MacArthur knew that the American defence of the Philippines was a lost cause and that his troops could expect no significant help from any source. It was callous because all of MacArthur's troops on Bataan were starving, and many were sick. If he was capable of honest appraisal of his own conduct, he must have known that he was only condemning them to further suffering in a lost cause produced by his own serious errors of military judgment. It was a selfish order because it only served MacArthur's vanity for his troops to die heroically in a lost cause. From events that followed, it is a fair inference that MacArthur did not intend to share the fate to which he had condemned his troops if he could avoid doing so.

Perhaps it is not surprising that MacArthur was regarded with contempt by many of his troops on Bataan who assigned to their commander the derisive title "Dugout Doug". This was a reference to the fact that MacArthur only left his underground headquarters on Corregidor once during the siege to visit his troops on Bataan.

Despite the hopelessness of their position, MacArthur's troops on Bataan obeyed his order and resisted every attempt by the Japanese to penetrate their second line of defence. By the middle of February 1942, Homma's forces were so depleted and exhausted that the Japanese general had to halt the attack on Bataan and ask Tokyo for troop reinforcements. Homma had thrown 20,500 troops into the attack on the defenders of Bataan, and when he pulled back his troops on 24 February he had less than 2,000 left on their feet and many of these were sick. Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo was furious with Homma. He had unwisely boasted that he would crush all American resistance on the Philippines within forty-five days, and he had lost a full Japanese army division in the assault on Bataan without defeating the American defenders. He was severely reprimanded by Tokyo and demoted by being placed under the overall command of General Yamashita.

Unfortunately, Homma would revenge himself for this humiliation on his prisoners when the Americans finally surrendered to him. During March, Japanese reinforcements poured into the Philippines. On Bataan, the food situation had become so serious that the daily ration had to be dropped below half-rations. The Japanese renewed their offensive on 3 April 1942, with fresh troops, heavy artillery, tanks, and air support. MacArthur was not there to witness the renewal of the Japanese offensive. He had arranged his own escape to Australia with his family and senior staff officers.