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The Life and Death of the 200th Coast Artillery (AA)

 


Wainwright Captivates Deming

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur wrote about the battles for the Philippines, “...had it not held out, Australia would have fallen with incalculable results.”

“Records of the United States government show that the Japanese military had approximately 27,465 American prisoners of war at various locations during World War II. Only 16,350 American prisoners of war were alive at the end of World War II. Approximately 40% of the Americans who were prisoners of war of the Japanese military during World War II died in the dreadful internment camps provided by the Japanese military, where as, the deaths of American prisoners of war in German internment facilities amounted to approximately 1.1% during World War II.”

 

From: A Dissertation on America's Forgotten Heroes, The American Defenders of the Philippine Islands, December 8, 1941 - May 10, 1942

 

By Edward Jackfert, Past National Commander, American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor, Inc.

A Brief History of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery

 

Campaign Participation Credit

The 200th Coast Artillery, better known as “The Regiment,” was inducted into federal service on 6 January 1941, supposedly for one year of active duty training.

 

For eight months the Regiment underwent hard and rigorous training at Fort Bliss, Texas. Not only did these former “horse soldiers” have to learn new skills and techniques, but they had to absorb into their units hundreds of untrained Selective Service inductees. At one time the Regiment numbered over 2300, more than 400 above war strength figures.

 

On 17 August 1941, the Regiment was notified that it had been selected for an overseas assignment of great importance and that the choice had been made because of the high satisfactory state of training which had been attained. The reward for all the hard work performed in Federal Service was to have the 200th named officially as the best Anti-aircraft Regiment, (Regular or otherwise), then available to the United States Armed Forces for use in an area of critical military importance.

 

By 26 September 1941, the entire Regiment reached the Philippines and then immediately moved to Fort Stotsenberg, some 75 miles north of Manila. On 23 November, all batteries were placed in combat positions for the protection of Fort Stotsenberg. The training program was to provide the greatest possible amount of experience under simulated war conditions.

 

During the next ten weeks of settling down, the 200th was able to unpack its equipment, get set in position, and had even planned for some target practice; however, no target ammunition could be obtained. As a consequence, the first shots fired by the 200th were aimed at enemy aircraft. They fought the war without ever having had any firing practice.

 

At 1235 hours, 8 December, Manila time, Japanese bombers, flying at 23,000 feet and accompanied by strafing planes, made their appearance and the war was on. The 200th could not, with powder train fuses effective only to about 20,000 feet, do much damage to the high altitude bombers. The men dished out what ever they could and stood up well under these unfavorable and unequal conditions. When the smoke from the muzzles cleared away, five enemy planes had been shot down and two men of the outfit had lost their lives.

 

Two weeks after the war began the Japanese started to make landings on Luzon and their air effort over Clark Field and the Manila area was intensified. Soon the main Japanese landing was made and a decision was reached to withdraw the forces into Bataan. The parent 200th assumed the mission of covering the retreat of the Northern Luzon Force into Bataan while the newly formed 515th assumed a similar mission for the South Luzon Force.

 

Fire from the Regiment defense held back Japanese air attempts to destroy the bridges. As a result, the North and South Luzon Forces found a clear passage into Bataan. Thus the 200th and the 515th completed their tasks of bringing the divisions safely to the peninsula.

 

The next three months saw the war situation deteriorate from bad to worse. While the enemy air actions were sporadic in nature, the menace of malaria and dysentery was everywhere. Food became scarce and the combination of hunger and fever reduced the units on Bataan to a state of apathy.

 

On 3 April 1942, the Japanese received sufficient reinforcements with which to begin their drive down the peninsula. An intense concentration of Japanese air and artillery fire was placed on the front and rear areas. After two days and nights of continuous shelling, the Japanese infantry and tank attacks commenced. On 7 April, the combined enemy effort broke through allied lines.

 

The battle for Bataan was ended on 9 April, the fighting was over. The men who survived the ordeal could feel justly proud of their accomplishments. Total enemy aircraft shot down by the 200th and 515th was 86 confirmed. For four months they had held off the Japanese, only to be overwhelmed finally by disease and starvation. The story of the Regiment and the other defenders reached its tragic climax with the horrors and atrocities of the 65 mile “Death March” from Mariveles to San Fernando. This infamous march was followed by forty months in Prisoner of War Camps.

 

Of the eighteen hundred men in the Regiment, less than nine hundred made it back home and within one year a third of them died from various complications. See: Casualties Report [Re This Statement

 

In December of 1945, General Wainwright, in paying tribute to the Regiment, said:

“On December 8, 1941, when the Japanese unexpectedly attacked the Philippine Islands, the first point bombed was Ft. Stotsenberg. The 200th Coast Artillery, assigned to defend the Fort, was the first unit, under The General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, to go into action defending our flag in the Pacific. First to fire, and last to lay down their arms! A fitting epitaph for a valiant Brigade which fought standing firmly in its appointed place and facing forward to the enemy.”

The 200th and 515th — The New Mexico Brigade — brought home four Presidential Unit Citations and the Philippine Presidential Citation. They earned their place in American History.

 

Courtesy of the Bataan Memorial Military Museum and Library