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Ricardo Trota Jose: The Philippine Army 1935-1942

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  • Ricardo Trota Jose: The Philippine Army 1935-1942

    Ricardo Trota Jose: The Philippine Army 1935-1942 - first published in 1992.

    This book was exactly what I hoped for - not about the war in the Philippines but a detailed story on the build-up of the Philippine Army after The Philippines, in 1934, was promised independence in 1946. The few pages in the end of the book describing what happened after the war broke out is mainly to set the story in context. I recommend it highly for those interested in the story of the Philippine military before the war.

    Mr. Trota, a Filipino, was not himself a part of that event, but he has, according to himself, given priority to using primary sources and interviewed many that were there. He has had access to much personal, written material and travelled to the United States on several occasions to search through various libraries and institutions. This is described in the introduction chapter of the book. The work took several years of his life. There are reference and index chapters in the back as well as some pages with various statistics on finances, leaders and OOBs – 264 pages in all. Some pictures, too.

    Just to have said it, while there is a lot of criticism aired on the planning and execution of the build-up of the Philippine military in this period in the book, the author’s conclusion is, with the pre-requisites at hand, that there weren’t really any alternatives to what was done. The two most important pre-requisites were:

    1. The US military leadership, Congress and Presidency stated that The Philippines needed a viable military defense before it could be granted Independence. This should be developed during the ten year’s transition period.

    2. Manuel Quezon, the most prominent Philippine politician and the immediate candidate for the Presidency in the new Commonwealth at the time opinionated strongly along the same lines.

    To this end Quezon went to Washington to secure MacArthur, at the time Chief of Staff of the US Army, as his advisor on the eventual creation of his army. They had become friendly during the several stints MacArthur served in The Philippines. The transfer was confirmed by the President and the Congress. MacArthur kept his commission in the US Army, but he should have no official leading position in the Philippine Army – he was to be an advisor. In the first election after the establishing of the Commonwealth, Queson pronounced himself Chief of the Army. Anyway, he is listed as such in the book.

    According to the author the three most important reasons to the detriment of an optimal conclusion to the army build-up were:

    1. The general lack of support (money/materiel) from the same US instances that wanted/demanded a proper military defense as a pre-requisite for Philippine independence. This was mainly based on a fear of provoking Japan but also that a viable Philippine military could eventually be turned against the United States. To this was added the general isolationist attitude, even a grudge based on the Philippine wish to become independent.

    2. A general lack of funds as all costs were to be covered by the Commonwealth of The Philippines through her own budget. While the plan was based on a 10-year period the developing political situation was seen to necessitate an accelerated build-up. This was not properly compensated for by increased funding by any parties, nor materiel or personnel from the US.

    3. The turn-about by Quezon in 1940. As the war in Europe transgressed into a world conflict he seemed to lose his nerve as the Philippine BNP shrunk, Quezon began reducing the original defense budget by edging out different parts of the build-up, to use more on “civilian” defense, at the same time criticising MacArthur’s plan to justify his own turn-about. They became unfriendly.

    That Manuel Quezon and General MacArthur became unfriendly to the extent described by the author is new to me but when the President started to infringe on the various parts, and organizing of, the training of the troops to save money, MacArthur could do nothing but withdraw into his shell (according to the author). Quezon really wanted him to go “home”. According to a biography on Eisenhower’s life, Quezon in this period leaned more and more on Eisenhower and even arranged for an exclusive office for Eisenhower in the government building. Could it be that Eisenhower supplied Quezon with the basis for his increasing criticism against MacArthur?

    However, when MacArthur was pronounced CO of the USAFFE in July 1941, Quezon was the first to congratulate him. The establishing of something like the USAFFE, and the whole responsibility for the defense of The Philippines shifted back to the US, was one of the things he had worked for through the previous year. This exact part of the book is quite interesting, but I won’t spill the beans here.

    The practical build-up of the Philippine Army is the main thing of the book. The planning of this was all done by majors Dwight Eisenhower and James B. Ord, they were friends. Eisenhower had served under MacArthur during the general’'s period as Army Chief-of-Staff and he was permitted to choose another officer to go along with him to Manila. Eisenhower has described his and Ord’s ordeal in his “diaries”.

    I have studied the plans they laid down for the Philippine defense and I see little reason why they should not succeed, given the main original pre-requisite, the 10-year build-up period. Or a more generous attitude by Washington. As it were, it was Quezon himself who unbalanced the first stage of the plan when he insisted on increasing the number of draftees called up. This was protested on by Eisenhower and Ord, to no avail, and it augmented a problem that would continue throughout the expansion, that of too few officers/instructors and too many soldiers. While officer training was expanded and call up of soldiers were somewhat reduced in time, funding never met the need nor expectations. When Quezon went against his previous opinion it was MacArthur who tried to keep up the numbers of the original drafting plans.

    It is important to understand that until July 1941 the Philippine Army was a Philippine “thing”, funded and trained by the newly-established Philippine Commonwealth and led by Philippine officers with the assistance of a few American instructors. In addition to this came the already existing PC - the Philippine Constabulary - –a para-military police organization (the existence of this unit allegedly complicated the build-up of the new “Army” organisation). Separately, under the US-run Philippine Department, were the “American” division and the PS - The Philippine Scouts - an elite unit manned by Filipinos led by US officers. As the USAFFE was established in July 1941 all this came under US command, with General MacArthur as its CO. The “Asiatic Fleet” was independent from the USAFFE and much of it was withdrawn to support British interests already before the war started.

    In the final chapter the author writes: "“Defense of the Philippine coastline was impossible with the resources then on hand…..had the plans focused more on early warning and mobility, enemy forces could have been spotted before reaching their landing zones, and land forces could have been mobilized and concentrated in the landing beaches"”.

    This is a strange conclusion because the Philippine forces WERE mobilized before the war and the first Japanese aggressions started, they WERE concentrated in the landing areas and the enemy WAS spotted before landing. While MacArthur’s forces defending Lingayen Bay, and the road to Manila, where they were pushed back, his forces on Mindanao, mainly units from the local Philippine Constabulary stopped, and held, the Japanese westward advance from Davao. On the same page the author lists a lot if items that could have been done instead of what was done. As an example, to train more on mobility. How to train more on mobility when there were no vehicles - the budget had no place for them, the US Army would not supply them? Drop the cavalry! When the only (horse) cavalry regiment was one of the units that performed best, and had some sort of mobility? His military understanding does not always seem convincing but that is just my opinion. His description of the build-up and the political background I find excellent.

    As far as I can see a full-scale attempt to throw out the first small enemy units landed on northern Luzon, near Vigan and Aparri on December 10th, could well have succeeded but MacArthur’s best units - among them two tank battalions, the Philippine Scouts and the “American” division were instead held in reserve. Commanding the North Luzon Force was General Wainwright and he was unwilling to use his troops pre-maturely and offensively even if MacArthur indicated that he should do so. However, when the main landings started it was too late, the enemy quickly became too strong. Even if the first small landings had been crushed that is no guarantee that the follow-up landings hadn’t succeeded.

    As it were, the “best” units instead became the crucial factor in the defense of the Bataan Peninsula. But, that is another story.

    Fred s-l1600[1].jpg
    Attached Files
    Last edited by leandros; 08 Apr 19, 11:13.
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    River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

  • #2
    Did the book mention how Queson insisted on US funds sent to him, be used to build two airstrips in North Luzon (which the IJA seized with intact gasoline stocks? How about how the Philippine Army and Philippine Scout were allowed to discharge soldiers and send them home? Lt Ramsey wrote that most of his enlisted men had less than six months service.

    Pruitt
    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

    Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

    by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
      Did the book mention how Queson insisted on US funds sent to him, be used to build two airstrips in North Luzon (which the IJA seized with intact gasoline stocks?

      Not specifically. It is also outside the scope of the book. After July 1941 Quezon was out of the military loop as the US had taken over the responsibility for the archipelago's defense.




      Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
      How about how the Philippine Army and Philippine Scout were allowed to discharge soldiers and send them home? Lt Ramsey wrote that most of his enlisted men had less than six months service.

      Pruitt

      Lt. Ramsey was lucky to have so many ("most of") Filipinos with that long service in his unit. Mr. Trota describes the (lack of) planning and progress of the build-up of the PA quite thoroughly. It mostly came down to money which wasn't there. Eisenhower writes about it, too. The problem wasn't really the length of the previous service but rather how that period had been used.

      Fred
      Last edited by leandros; 08 Apr 19, 08:06.
      Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
      River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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      • #4
        The official US Army history of that subject also faults both Quezon and Bugout Doug's penchant for concerning themselves with forming divisions rather than producing soldiers.

        In the scramble to create size, the problems of a manpower pool employing multiple languages was never truly addressed.

        The story of this army is one of style over substance. Had they actually built the force with a ten year plan, working from the ground up, the IJA would have had a nasty shock when they hit.

        The excuse that the USA did not provide enough money is a very flawed argument. In 1936 the Depression was still biting deep, and after 1939 the USA was scrambling to restore the US Army, which had been severely neglected since 1929.
        Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post

          The excuse that the USA did not provide enough money is a very flawed argument. In 1936 the Depression was still biting deep, and after 1939 the USA was scrambling to restore the US Army, which had been severely neglected since 1929.
          That may well be the reason why insufficient funds were provided but it does not change the fact that not enough money was available. If there wasn't the money for the plan then a less ambitious plan should have been devised.
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
            The official US Army history of that subject also faults both Quezon and Bugout Doug's penchant for concerning themselves with forming divisions rather than producing soldiers.

            In the scramble to create size, the problems of a manpower pool employing multiple languages was never truly addressed.

            The story of this army is one of style over substance. Had they actually built the force with a ten year plan, working from the ground up, the IJA would have had a nasty shock when they hit.

            The excuse that the USA did not provide enough money is a very flawed argument. In 1936 the Depression was still biting deep, and after 1939 the USA was scrambling to restore the US Army, which had been severely neglected since 1929.
            All the above items are discussed in depth by mr. Trota.

            Fred

            Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
            River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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            • #7
              Originally posted by leandros View Post
              All the above items are discussed in depth by mr. Trota.

              Fred
              OK. But the US Army history is free.
              Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post

                OK. But the US Army history is free.
                That does make a difference..…..

                Fred
                Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
                River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by leandros View Post

                  That does make a difference..…..

                  Fred
                  Almost certainly worth every cent
                  Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                  Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                    The excuse that the USA did not provide enough money is a very flawed argument. In 1936 the Depression was still biting deep, and after 1939 the USA was scrambling to restore the US Army, which had been severely neglected since 1929.
                    Or WYDNGWYDNPFI (test). Actually, USA provided very little (if any) money for the development of the Philippine Army (PA) until it was inducted into the USAFFE in July 1941. There were also no deals to be made on US surplus equipment and they paid for their planes and MTBs and Philippine pilots and officers trained in the US.

                    In the years 1936-1942 the Commonwealth of the Philippines allocated, respectively, 13,4, 28,06, 23,8, 21,8, 20,7, 17,7 and 16,2 % of her budget to the build-up of the PA (and PC). Rather impressive considering that it in the 10-year transfer period was also meant to cover day-to-day expenses - and to develop an independent Philippine society and economy. If the US had "scrambled" a little more in the Philippines they would have got more defense for the money (key to the test....). they spent, and where it was needed.

                    First and foremost, The Philippines were an asset to the US position in the Far East. While The Philippines could easily have selected to walk the neutral path as their independence approached, instead they decided to support the US. General MacArthur was an important reason for that. The Philippines saw him as a guarantor before he was ordered back into service as the CO of the USAFFE. Too bad he (and The Philippines) was let down by his superiors in Washington - and the Navy.

                    Fred
                    Last edited by leandros; 11 Apr 19, 10:39.
                    Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
                    River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post

                      The story of this army is one of style over substance. Had they actually built the force with a ten year plan, working from the ground up, the IJA would have had a nasty shock when they hit.
                      They did work according to a ten-year plan. Unfortunately, the Japanese struck after only five+ years..……..and rarely have I seen an army so built "from the ground up" - and so fast!

                      This was possible because of MacArthur's foresight and the fact that he immediately after he was approved by the President and the Congress that he was allowed to take the job as an advisor to the new Philippine Army (he didn't have a command function until July 1941, and then with the USAFFE - even if he was a honorary Philippine Field Marshall) put majors (at the time) Eisenhower and Ord at the job to work out the details on the creation of the PA.

                      The two main firm points they had to work from were the budget and the organisational system - it was to be a conscription army with a small full-time staff. Eisenhower presently worked for MacArthur as the US Army Chief-of-Staff's assistant and MacArthur convinced both Eisenhower and Ord to go with him to the Philippines. They arrived in Manila on October 26th 1935 with the plans in the bag.

                      Fred


                      Last edited by leandros; 13 Apr 19, 13:52.
                      Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
                      River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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                      • #12
                        I would like to elaborate a little on the previous postings here:

                        The official US Army history of that subject also faults both Quezon and Bugout Doug's penchant for concerning themselves with forming divisions rather than producing soldiers.


                        When building a proper army from the ground up you can hardly have one without the other. As the Philippine Army (PA) was inducted into the USAFFE in July 1941 it had a registered pool of about 120.000 officers and soldiers that had all been through basic training, organized in ten infantry divisions that covered the entire archipelago and their training and mobilization bases had, for a large part, been established within a three-part command structure – Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao with the Jolos. A fledgling Philippine Air Force had been established as well as the core of a navy. This paralleled the US forces on the islands and had been paid for solely through the defense budget of the Commonwealth of The Philippines, an entity created in 1935 with a view to preparing the nation for its independence in 1946. That same budget also covered the Philippine Constabulary, its para-military police organization.

                        In the scramble to create size, the problems of a manpower pool employing multiple languages was never truly addressed.


                        This was a problem, but a minor one compared to that of the degree of illiteracy in the recruit mass - up to 50 percent in some areas.

                        How do you address the creation of a force out of a partly illiterate people speaking 100 different dialects? The way this was done was two-way. Firstly, units were recruited from, and established in, local areas. This helped the language problem but did not solve the problems of officers and NCOs coming from a different dialect area. The other was simply to use some of the time of the 5 ½ month recruit period for basic civilian education. Not only language but even simple mathematics. This system was developed as the army build-up progressed, in that professional schoolteachers were called up as instructors after having gone through a supplementary military training program.

                        As important was the indoctrination of medical and sanitary procedures and team spirit. Time for this could be used because facilities for proper military training, weapons and training areas, weren’t fully available for the first recruit contingents.

                        Many improvisations were made during the three first 5 ½ month call-ups, the first in the second part of 1936 and two successive ones in 1937. In 1938, however, things started to get in order. All ten divisions (districts) had established camps with training fields and barracks for the divisions’ regiment-sized half-yearly call-ups and storage facilities for their equipment. Generally, it is fair to say that the recruits’ time in the previous periods had been put to good use, if not completely so militarily, at least for the general good of the evolving army.

                        [quote]The excuse that the USA did not provide enough money is a very flawed argument. In 1936 the Depression was still biting deep, and after 1939 the USA was scrambling to restore the US Army, which had been severely neglected since 1929. [/quote]

                        I’d rather say your argument is flawed as the Congress, when approached, always denied the applications on (I could have written “more”, but none had been given) support for the build-up of the Philippine Army, on political grounds. It never came to a discussion on actual financing except when it was requested that funds set aside for eventual emergencies after the independence had occurred should be released for the purpose of Philippine military build-up. This was denied on several occasions, too. Both Quezon, MacArthur, Ord and Eisenhower went to Washington to try to gain some support from the US authorities, to little avail. Only when the PA was inducted into the US Army in July 1941 were the financial flood gates opened.

                        So, what should MacArthur do with “his” Philippine Army. Should he send them home or do the best he could with them?

                        After the war broke out in Europe in the Fall of 1939 complications evolved in the Philippines as President Quezon got “cold feet”. In a way he panicked as he realized that the build-up of the army went too slow for the evolving situation and that the budgets, in addition to the actual general expansion, did not cater for regular exercises for its already established units. This should have come as no surprise to Quezon as MacArthur’s plan was to take care of this when the structure was in place. His mission was, after all, to build the force according to a ten-year plan. The national revenues had started to shrink, too, with the increased international tensions and higher prices on imported goods.

                        Quezon, however, now wanted to use more money for “civilian” purposes – schools, roads and hospitals, he started to “sabotage” some military projects, particularly funding for schools, administration and additional courses. MacArthur could do but little about this, Quezon was sitting on the diminishing Philippine money bag.

                        Thinking about it one can hardly blame Quezon. The US was, after all, still responsible for the defense of the Philippines until the promised independence in 1946. The spirit in President Roosevelt’s instructions to the US Army and the US leadership (MacArthur was not included in that) in the Philippines had not been followed - that of assisting MacArthur in his new position as advisor for the build-up of the new Philippine Army - “with all possible means”. This fact is unassailable.

                        The story of this army is one of style over substance. Had they actually built the force with a ten year plan, working from the ground up, the IJA would have had a nasty shock when they hit.

                        Yes, they might – in 1946. 1936 + 10 = 1946…..

                        I “grew up” in the “Cold War” Norwegian Army. Being one of only two (the other was Turkey) NATO countries with common border to the soviets that “war” was taken very seriously in Norway. MacArthur’s Philippine army was an almost copy of the Norwegian, an organization the Norwegian Army had for 300 years. It was an excellent system - if it wasn’t for the politicians.

                        Like the Norwegian Army the PA was to have a core of approx. 30.000 soldiers, administrative, instructors, and the “standing” units – regulars and those in short-time basic and advanced training. In 1941 there were approx. 120.000 personnel in the PA rolls, in 1946 it was supposed to be 300.000. In 1940 the Norwegian Army had 108.000 soldiers, exclusive of Army Air Force and Navy units. In “my” time the Norwegian Army could mobilize 250.000 soldiers in six “divisions” – “divisions” more in the meaning of “districts” – like the Philippines.

                        Unlike during the First World War, in 1940 the Norwegian politicians refused to take the consequences of the international situation and arrange for a proper “neutrality” defense with the result that the main part of the Norwegian Army had to mobilize while under attack by the Germans. The result is known.

                        MacArthur – or rather the PA leadership – MacArthur was only advising - was also dependent of the politicians, that is Quezon (as well as the American) . As the war approached (1940 and 1941), the Philippine generals, in conjunction with MacArthur, wanted to prolong the service period of some of the yearly 5 ½ months recruit contingents to 11 months so that better training would be ensured for parts of the army. This, however, would result in 20-30.000 less new soldiers to the rolls. Quezon declined. In the same period applications for calling up units for repetitionary training were also declined. Quezon, for the same reasons as quoted above, was not willing to spend more money on the military. Actually, he didn’t have the money.

                        As important, the US leadership in Washington, who had the ultimate responsibility for the defense of the Philippines, was also unwilling to act– for fear of provoking the Japanese.

                        In October 1940 General Grunert, CO Philippine Department, started revising the war plans for the Philippines. The establishing and development of the Philippine Army had not been considered in this context earlier so studies of a joint US-Philippine defense within the mission of the Orange Plan were conducted. His conclusion was that the PA needed to be called up as early as possible within the provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, to have time to train in larger formations. The War Plans Division in Washington, however, decided against calling the Philippine Army to US service for a variety of reasons – firstly diplomatic. It never came as far as a cost analysis.

                        Early 1941 General MacArthur asked General Marshall to activate the Tydings-McDuffie Act with MacArthur as commander of the combined Philippine forces. He was told to bide his time.

                        The revision of War Plan Orange was issued on April 1st, 1941. For the first time the plan included the use of Philippine Army units in the US Army defense plan. G-2, Philippine Department, Colonel J.T.H. O’Rear wrote: “M-day is past. The advisability of immediate action cannot be overstressed. In fact, there is every possibility that such action even now, could very well prove to be too late. To delay mobilization until the perpetration of a hostile act might jeopardize any semblance of success”.

                        When action was finally taken on July 26th, 1941, the Congress lingered on into November before it saw fit to formalize all financial arrangements. Such were the conditions MacArthur had to work under.

                        As it were, the first regiments in each of the ten Philippine divisions mobilized on their training grounds all around the Philippines on September 1st, 1941, the second in the beginning of November and the third in the middle of December. As such, each of the divisions on Luzon had one fairly trained and organized regiment, one with little training, the last one had just been issued its equipment. The units on the southern islands got a few months respite but being closed off from their main base, Manila, the ability to develop their fighting strength was much reduced. Even then they rejected the Japanese from advancing from Davao in December ’41 and put up a spirited resistance as the major enemy invasion started in April ’42.

                        Fred
                        Last edited by leandros; 01 Jun 19, 13:04.
                        Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
                        River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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