Having assessed the opinion of representative and impartial persons in the country these last few days on the causes and effects of the fast occupation of Luzon by the Japanese forces, I shall attempt to reflect on them in brief.
The causes of the army’s defeat can be attributed to many factors. Firstly, the insufficiency of armament, particularly of tanks and war planes. Only the High American authorities know the quantity and quality of the war equipment which they are banking on for the defense of these islands. That this equipment is insufficient has been attested to time and again by military men who undertook the task of encountering the invaders. We, who witness the war, can testify that the planes or pilots, or both, are not capable of offering resistance to the Japanese who are complete masters of the air.
Another cause of defeat is the scarcity of combat troops. It is difficult to determine whether this is the cause or the effect of the insufficiency of war materials. I do not think that the American forces here exceed thirty thousand in manpower strength. That of the Philippines is between sixty to eighty thousand. Another hundred thousand, already trained, should have been drafted, and another million could be trained in a short time. But why was this not done? Was it for lack of armaments or lack of officers? Or was it due to the recognition of the uselessness of such a move?
The fact is that there was no general mobilization, and the American High Command should have known that they would have to defend the country with their own resources, considering that the Japanese have cut off means of communication with the United States through the assiduous and final capture of the bases in the Pacific.
The American Army committed a tactical error in defending the Batangas Bay, the Lingayen Gulf and the Manila Bay. The Japanese landed a few kilometers from both and met with no opposition. Within two days of the start of the war, the Japanese had landed in Aparri, Vigan, Legazpi, and other points where there were not more than a hundred Constabulary men in each. Tayabas and La Union were likewise undefended. A well-equipped and well-supplied Air Force could have avoided these landings. But this was the heel of Achilles in the defense and aggression tactics of the United States.
Moreover there was an utter lack of preparation of troops. I am not referring to the remote preparation, but to the lack of vigilance and immediate preparations. That the thunderous attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, caught the Americans by surprise is understandable, though not necessarily excusable. It was launched before the war was declared. But that twenty-four hours after the attack, the pilots and anti-aircraft defense of the Philippines were not on the alert, leaving more than two-thirds of the planes to be charred like insects, is unjustifiable and unlikely. This carelessness or over-confidence has led to other considerable losses in the air, at sea and on land. Hardly had there been a battle. There was nothing but brilliant retreats of the defending army until they were entrenched in the mountains of Bataan where, having recovered from shock and being tired of running, they defend themselves firmly and brilliantly.
The politico-military errors of Roosevelt and his advisers also precipitated the situation into war. If Mr. Roosevelt had not known the power and war preparations of Japan and how helpless the American possessions in the Pacific were, his information machinery was defective. If, however, he had known them, then it was rash and highly indiscreet to have pressed Japan with hard taxing conditions, and which left it with no other choice but war or a shameful retreat.
The observers who voiced out their opinions are not enemies of America nor friends of Japan. They long for the return of the Americans but are furious at the lack of foresight and skill, and the stupidity displayed by the American leaders. What remains for the people to do, if not to collaborate with the new regime, is to work for and with them in order to survive.
On the other hand, the causes of Japanese victory can be attributed firstly to their gigantic preparations. In order to carry out their effective attacks and successful landings almost simultaneously in such distant points as Hawaii, Guam, Wake Island, various points in the Philippines, Siam, and Hongkong, the Japanese war machine must have been not only well-lubricated but its bearing must have been perfect and the synchronization of its movements well-coordinated. It was evident that the attacking forces did not come directly from the Japanese mainland but were already positioned in nearby islands, probably Formosa.
Also, the Japanese had learned much from the German campaigns in Europe. They have new offensive strategies which I don’t believe they copied. They limited some techniques but improved on theirs. The Japanese carried out drastic and suprise air attacks to destroy enemy planes and paralyze the communications with the rearguard. They made rapid and sustained attacks along the length of roads, advancing and entering as far as possible to avoid frontal battles and so as not to give the enemy time to organize frontal defenses and establish themselves in positions of advantage. They used these German tactics with flexible variances and obtained the same results in the Philippines as they did in Europe.
Japanese victory can be attributed also to the fighting spirit of the troops. Aside from the personal valor of the Japanese which evolved from patriotism to a loyalty bordering on religious fanaticism, aside from their indifference to death for a national cause, the Japanese believe personally that either Japan wins once and for all or sinks into oblivion: either Japan gets rich from the spoils of the three empires and the wealth of the white race or it is submerged in abject national and personal misery.
Another asset which led to the Japanese victory is their numerical superiority. It is difficult to determine for sure and evaluate this point. The Japanese have never revealed numbers or figures. But judging from the testimony of witnesses of actual battles and from what we have seen in Manila, their numerical superiority in men and armaments is, from all respects, evident. The quality of some of their equipments as tanks and cannons, cannot be more excellent nor as big and imposing as those of the Americans, but as soldiers, they are veterans of their campaigns: the man knows the equipment.