75 Years Ago – The Fall of Corregidor and the Battle of the Coral Sea

At least 14 Weber County families were forever changed on May 6, 1942.  It would take months and even years for them to find the status of their sons.

Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of American troops had been stationed at military bases in the Philippines, protecting the islands and training the Filipino troops.  They were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. In December of 1941, at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese also invaded other countries in the South Pacific, including the Philippines.

Our troops fought ferocious battles waiting for reinforcements that would never come.  The complete devastation at Pearl Harbor left no one to send.  President Roosevelt, fearing that MacArthur would fall into Japanese hands, ordered him to leave in February.  On March 11, 1942, MacArthur and his staff escaped to Australia where he gave his famous speech, “I shall return”, leaving General Jonathan Wainwright as the commanding officer of the Philippines.

American and Filipino troops held out as long as they could, but without supplies of food or ammunition it was a hopeless battle. They moved the remaining troops from Manila toward the Bataan peninsula.  There they  fought valiantly but many men were lost to the Japanese.  The remainder of the military were forced to  the small island of Corregidor, finally surrendering to the Japanese unconditionally on May 6th.  This led to the infamous “Bataan Death March”, as they were marched north without food or water.  Those who fell along the way, half-starved and sick, were bayoneted or shot by the Japanese.

The fall of Corregidor was an ominous day for many families in Weber County.  There were at least twelve local servicemen in the Philippines at the time of the attack on December 8,  1941.  Their families had no way of knowing if they were alive or dead.  Some would make it through their Japanese internment and come home.  Other sons and husbands of Weber County families would not be as lucky.

May 6th also marked the battle in the  Pacific called the Battle of the Coral Sea.  It lasted for four days and was the first air-sea battle in history.  Neither of the opposing forces saw the other’s ships.  The battle took place in the air.  The Japanese  goal was to take Port Moresby, located on the tip of New Guinea.  With the airstrip located there they would be in striking distance of Australia.

Seaman George Stoddard was on the USS Houston when it sank.  You can find his story dated March 27, 2017.  Seaman Huntsman was on the tanker, Neosho.  His story is dated on September 27, 2016

George DeWitt Stoddard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for those in the Philippines, their stories will come a little later.