This US Air Force photo depicts “P-35s destroyed during an air attack on Nichols Field, Luzon, on Dec. 10, 1941.” It is part of an article, at the National Museum of the US Air Force, entitled: “The Cost of Being Unprepared: The Last Days on Bataan.”

The article describes the situation in The Philippines on the day after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor: “On Dec. 8, 1941, Japanese aircraft crippled several USAAF airfields in the Philippines -- within three days, the USAAF lost two-thirds of its aircraft there. After Japanese aircraft invaded Luzon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered a withdrawal to the stronghold of the Bataan Peninsula. With only a handful of aircraft left, many USAAF mechanics, armorers, services personnel -- and sometimes even fighter pilots -- became infantrymen.”

Then there is this quote from the diary of 2nd Lt. John Posten, a 24th Pursuit Group pilot (on January 9, 1942):  “"It really must be getting serious when they have to take the mechanics and armament men and make infantrymen out of them."


The Philippines, in December of 1941, was a country unprepared for war. Before Japan’s attack, few air bases could handle bombers. When the war began, the entire island chain had seven radar sets, but only two were working.

Filipino air watchers served as the early-warning system. Stationed at strategic points around the islands, they called-in (or telegraphed) plane movements which ultimately were reported to commanders at Clark Field, the main American base (on Luzon).

Not only was the air-warning system primitive, there were too few anti-aircraft units in the Philippines to effectively defend the country. Because it was imperative to protect Clark Field and the Manila Bay area, the two anti-aircraft squadrons were positioned there, leaving the rest of the territory completely vulnerable.

The Navy had ships in Manila Bay, but they would never be able to match forces with the Japanese combined fleet. Marines, stationed in China, could help - but they were otherwise occupied.

The islands did have about 275 planes—more than Hawaii and Panama had at the time—but many of the parts were still in other ports. Among aircraft assigned to the Philippines were:

 Two days before Pearl Harbor, General Marshall wrote a letter (dated December 5, 1941) to General MacArthur, advising that reinforcements would soon be on their way.  Closing his letter, Marshall wrote:

I assure you of my purpose to meet to the fullest extent possible your recommendations for personnel and equipment necessary to defend the Philippines.

The letter was never sent.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
2 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Jul 06, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"UNPREPARED FOR WAR" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2005. Jan 29, 2020.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips