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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.
    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

  • #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

      Comment


      • #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

            Comment


            • #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

                Comment


                • #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)

                  Comment


                  • #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

                    Comment


                    • #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

                      Comment

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