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Lapham's Raiders

Lapham's Raiders: Guerrillas in the Philippines, 1942-1945

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Lapham's Raiders
    Book Description:

    " On December 8, 1941, the day after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippine Islands, catching American forces unprepared and forcing their eventual surrender. Among the American soldiers who managed to avoid capture was twenty-five-year-old Lieutenant Robert Lapham, who was to play a major role in the resistance to the brutal Japanese occupation. Lapham's Raiders is the memoir of one man's guerrilla experiences. A collaboration between Lapham and historian Bernard Norling, the book also offers a detailed assessment of the most extensive land campaign in the Pacific war and a vivid portrayal of Allied guerrilla activity. Through letters, records and the recollections of Lapham and others, the drama of the "mean, dirty, brutal struggle to the death" of guerrilla warfare in the Pacific theater is reconstructed and waged again within these pages. After emerging from the jungles of Bataan and in the face of daunting odds, Lapham built from scratch and commanded a devastating guerrilla force behind enemy lines. His Luzon Guerrilla Armed Forces (LGAF) evolved into an army of thirteen thousand men that eventually controlled the entire northern half of Luzon's great Central Plain, an area of several thousand square miles. Lapham and Norling shed light on the clandestine activities of the LGAF and other guerrilla operations, assess the damages of war to the Filipino people, and discuss the United States' postwar treatment of the newly independent Philippine nation. They also offer a fuller understanding of Japan's wartime failures in the Philippines, the Pacific, and elsewhere in Asia, and of America's postwar failure to fully realize opportunities there.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4569-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Bernard Norling

    Skeptics sometimes allege that it is close to impossible to write accurate history based on the memories of those who participated in events that took place decades ago. The claim has some substance, for we have only to try to recall precisely long past happenings in our own lives to realize the pitfalls that abound. Nonetheless, the difficulty is easily exaggerated.

    Douglas Clanin, who worked for years collecting information from Americans and Filipinos who had been guerrillas on Luzon during World War II, and who got to know many of them quite well in the process, did not despair of...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Robert Lapham
  5. 1 The Philippines, 1941
    (pp. 1-10)

    The military unpreparedness of the United States in the Pacific in 1941 can only be called appalling. It is difficult to say whether American folly exceeded Philippine, but U.S. folly was more serious in its consequence because of our vastly greater potential might. At the top, American policy was hopelessly inconsistent. Officially, we were committed to the defense of the Philippines, but we kept there mere token forces that could not mount a serious defense against a determined enemy. The Roosevelt administration harassed Japan by word and deed, but Congress, ever mindful of the next election, pandered to voters who...

  6. 2 Flight From Bataan
    (pp. 11-22)

    There has long been controversy about who first conceived the idea of fomenting guerrilla resistance to the Japanese in the Philippines and who actually organized the first bands of irregulars. Many writers, both American and Filipino, have asserted that General MacArthur devised elaborate plans for guerrilla operations well before the war began.¹ They point to what the general wrote in his memoirs;² to the rapidity with which small units of Filipino guerrillas, all much alike, sprang up while the struggles for Bataan and Corregidor were still going on;³ and, after the fall of Corregidor, to MacArthurʹs order to Gen. William...

  7. 3 An Independent Guerrilla
    (pp. 23-34)

    Perhaps my comparison with Columbus is inapt, even unfair to the great Genoese navigator. Columbus at leastthoughthe knew where he was going, and he knewhow:he would sail to his destination. He also took the precaution of insisting that he be named viceroy of whatever he might discover along the way. I lacked comparably clear ideas of any kind.¹

    Seargents Short, Lumyeb, and I had heard that the Philippine Fourteenth Infantry was still in existence some two or three hundred miles to the north across broad, rough mountains. We thought idly of trying to go there. We...

  8. 4 Getting Organized
    (pp. 35-50)

    The last half of 1942 was a period of general disaster for Col. Claude Thorp and all his plans. Conversely, despite some close brushes with death for me, it was six months of rapid growth and consolidation for my guerrilla organization.

    Thorpʹs endeavor to establish a centrally directed system of irregular operations all over Luzon was both stimulated and complicated by men who came out of the Fassoth camp. The camp was a collection of bamboo buildings erected in the foothills of the Zambales Mountains by locally prominent rice and sugar planters William and Martin Fassoth. Initially, it was built...

  9. 5 Growing Pains
    (pp. 51-71)

    In the last half of 1942 I had my share of problems both within my own organization and with my immediate neighbors, but whether from good management or mere good luck none of them got out of hand. The kinds of situations I often had to deal with are reflected in correspondence from that period. A letter dated October 24, 1942, concerns a jurisdictional dispute between two of my subordinates; I told them to settle it by treating the Agno River as the boundary between their respective domains. Each should stay on his own side and not interfere with the...

  10. 6 Guerrilla Life
    (pp. 72-102)

    Some American guerrillas have emphasized how worried they were about their lack of official status and what their fate might be if they were ever hailed before American, or even Filipino, military or civil authorities after the war. Even Gen. Charles Willoughby describes us as ʺdesperate menʺ gravely in need of having our legal positions regularized by MacArthurʹs headquarters in Australia.¹ I do not say this in a spirit of bravado, but he must have worried about it a lot more than I ever did. I knew the Japanese would almost certainly execute me if they ever caught me, but...

  11. 7 Chronic Discord
    (pp. 103-125)

    In a famous passage inLeviathan, the seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the State of Nature as a realm where life was ʺsolitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.ʺ In 1942, life in central Luzon fit that description closely save only for ʺsolitary.ʺ It was not solitary at all. Luzon was inhabited by numerous Filipino farmers and their families, Japanese occupation troops, American and Filipino escapees from Bataan, Corregidor, and elsewhere, Allied soldiers who had never surrendered, aspiring guerrillas, Communist guerrillas, and mere roving gangs of outlaws. The same was true nearly everywhere else in the archipelago. Within six months...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 8 Troubles with the Huks
    (pp. 126-139)

    Of all the differences I had with outlaws, other guerrilla bands, and power-seeking fellow American irregulars, none were as persistently vexatious as those with a native Philippine guerrilla organization, the Hukbalahaps, or Huks. The Huk movement had ancient antecedents. The Spaniards who arrived in the sixteenth century and various native Philippine families gradually turned much of the fertile central plain of Luzon into great estates—primarily sugar and rice plantations worked by peasant sharecroppers. Many of the latter fell hopelessly into debt to their landlords, and peasant unrest was endemic for generations. Some of it seemed occupational, some primarily cultural;...

  14. 9 Communications with Australia
    (pp. 140-157)

    Early in the war one of the most vexatious problems for all guerrilla groups was that we had no regular, dependable means of communicating with one another, much less with SWPA Headquarters in Australia. Only occasionally did some message get through. In 1942 Guillermo Nakar, a captain in the Philippine army who had refused to surrender when Corregidor fell and who had held on to a battalion of infantry in northern Luzon, managed to acquire a radio transmitter from Capt. Everett Warner before Warner surrendered to the Japanese. With it he sent a few weak radio messages to MacArthur while...

  15. 10 Preparing for the Invasion
    (pp. 158-171)

    In the last few months of 1944, as it grew increasingly evident that an American invasion was not far off, the Japanese began to think more of defending themselves and less of fighting guerrillas. U.S. planes flew over much of Luzon to bomb, strafe, and merely observe, all to the vast delight of ourselves and Filipino civilians. Enemy air defenses seemed unaccountably weak, and few Japanese planes responded aggressively to American attacks, news that we and other guerrillas hastily conveyed to SWPA.¹ In mountainous areas, by contrast, whether down around Manila, off to the west, or in the highlands to...

  16. 11 The Landings
    (pp. 172-183)

    During the summer of 1944, when high political and military authorities were debating whether to land in the Philippines or bypass them and land on Formosa, Douglas MacArthur argued vehemently that it would be politically disastrous to ignore an opportunity to liberate the homeland of our Filipino allies. He also contended that hundreds of thousands of Filipinos would immediately extend every aid to an American invasion force and that guerrillas in the islands would augment U.S. combat strength, advantages that would not exist on Formosa. His judgment was soon vindicated.

    Less certain was the judgment of Sergio Osmena, Quezonʹs successor...

  17. 12 The Last Months
    (pp. 184-197)

    The reconquest of the Philippines was different from any other Pacific campaign in that it was the only one in which large, organized guerrilla forces backed by a generally loyal civilian population made an important contribution to the defeat of the Japanese. Not coincidentally, it was also by far the most costly campaign for the Japanese in the whole war. Half the Nipponese troops who died in World War II did so in the Philippines.

    Before the Philippine campaigns of 1944–1945 the U.S. Army had never had the opportunity to use guerrillas. When army leaders observed the combined zeal...

  18. 13 The Japanese War Effort
    (pp. 198-221)

    Whether wars are waged by regular troops, by guerrillas, or both, their outcome always depends heavily on the strength, shrewdness, and efforts of the enemy. Every war is preceded by unsuccessful diplomacy on the part of one or more of its participants; otherwise, it would not take place. In all wars, errors—often grievous—are made by both sides on both strategic and tactical levels. In combat, shortcomings in prewar preparations are exposed relentlessly. Different parties correct their mistakes at different rates and to different degrees: some never correct them. Many an American soldier in World War II wondered, ʺWhat...

  19. 14 Ruminations
    (pp. 222-240)

    Just how valuable were the Luzon guerrillas in World War II? Did we contribute as much to Allied victory as any of our veteran counterparts in General MacArthurʹs army?¹ Without us, would it have taken twice as many regular troops to defeat Yamashitaʹs forces?² I believe the U.S. Army would still have beaten the Japanese on Luzon had we irregulars never existed; nevertheless, we did help the Allied cause significantly. We performed auxiliary services, fought alongside regular U.S. troops to inflict ruinous casualties on the enemy, suffered heavy losses in return, and by our activity saved many American lives and...

  20. 15 Epilogue
    (pp. 241-243)

    Shortly before Japanʹs surrender, control of all guerrilla outfits on Luzon was placed under a Luzon Area Command headed by Col. James W. Davis. After the surrender all my old squadrons were released one by one from their attachment to the U.S. Army and sent to Philippine army camps to be disbanded. Many lgaf officers and men were eventually absorbed into usafip-nl, Volckmannʹs old organization.

    In a personal sense the high point of the summer came for me on June 13, 1945, when Harry McKenzie, Ray Hunt, and I, among others, were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General MacArthur...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 244-275)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 276-282)
  23. Index
    (pp. 283-293)
  24. [Map]
    (pp. 294-296)