Back to Bataan (1945)



Director:  Edward Dmytyk.

Cast:  John Wayne (Col. Joseph Madden),  Anthony Quinn (Capt. Andrés Bonifácio),  Beulah Bondi (Bertha Barnes), Fely Franquelli (Dolici Dalgado),  Richard Loo (Maj. Hasko),  Philip Ahn (Col. Coroki),  Lawrence Tierney (Lt. Cmdr. Waite),  Leonard Strong (war criminal Gen. Homma),  'Ducky' Louie (Maximo Cuenca),  Paul Fix (Bindle Jackson),  Abner Biberman (Japanese captain at schoolhouse),  Vladimir Sokoloff (SeZor Buenaventura J. Bello),  Alex Havier (Sgt. Bernessa),  John Miljan (Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, 'Skinny',  Harold Fong (Prince Ito).

Philippine resistance to the Japanese  invasion and occupation



"After the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese in World War II, Col. Joseph Madden of the U.S. Army stays on to organize guerrilla fighters against the conquerors."   (

This is the story of Philippine resistance to the Japanese following the fall of Bataan and the surrender of the US forces by General Wainwright. Colonel Joe Madden (John Wayne) has been given the task of staying with the Philippine resistance and organizing them into an effective force.  Col. Madden leaves his Philippine scouts to now organize the resistance. 

Colonel Madden heads over to Balintawak to do his organizing.  Soon after starting his job he and his men discover that the Americans and Filipinos have surrendered and now are on a forced march (the infamous Bataan Death March in which 10,000 of the 80,000 prisoners of war died).  His men need their own leader that will inspire trust in the Filipinos.  The man he wants is Capt. Andrés Bonifácio (Anthony Quinn), the grandson of a Filipino hero.  So, the insurgents figure out a way to rescue Capt. Bonifácio from the Death March. 

With Capt. Bonifácio with them, the rebels now start to strike at targets throughout Luzon.  The Japanese promise to kill 10 Filipinos for every Japanese killed by the insurgents, but this just makes the insurgents more committed to fighting the Japanese.  And the Japanese find it extremely difficult to catch and kill members of the resistance. 

But it will be quite a while, two and a half years in fact, before the United States returns in force to the Philippines.  How many casualties will Madden and Bonifácio's rebels sustain during this long wait?    

The movie is a good one.  John Wayne and Anthony Quinn both give good performances.  The movie kept my interests as I wanedt to know how the Philippine resistance would do against the ruthless Japanese. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:



The movie mentions several important historical events in Philippine history:

1521-1898  --  rule by the Spanish. 

José Rizal was a celebrated intellectual whose novels greatly inspired the movement for Philippine independence.

The Katipunan was a secret society with the goal of overthrowing Spanish rule in the Philippines. 

Andrés Bonifacio founded the Katipunan secret society and who became its leader.

1896  --  the Philippine Revolution began.

1896  --  Rizal was executed for treason by the Spanish. 

The Katipunan split into two groups, Magdiwang led by Bonafacio and Magdalo led by Emilio Aquinaldo.

Bonifacio was executed (or assassinated) when a conflict broke out between the two revolutionary leaders.

Aguinaldo and his fellow revolutionaries were then exiled to Hong Kong.

1898  -- outbreak of the Spanish-American War.

1898-1946  -- American colonial period.

1899-1913  --  the first Philippine Republic rebelled against the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. 

1941 (December 8)  -- Japan attacks the Philippines. 

1942 (April)  -- surrender of American and Filipino forces to the Japanese.  .

Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by large-scale underground and guerrilla activity. The Philippine Army continued to fight the Japanese in a guerrilla war.  It was so effective that they were considered an auxiliary unit of the United States Army. They were so good, in fact, that  by the end of the war, Japan controlled only twelve of the forty-eight Philippine provinces.

The major element of resistance in the Central Luzon area was provided by the Hukbalahap ("People's Army Against the Japanese").  This organization consisted of around 30,000 people.

The navy advocated that instead of going to the Philippines the next strike should be against Formosa and then the China coast.

1944 (mid July) -- Admiral Chester Nimitz argued for the Formosa case. But then MacArthur got up and made his case so convincingly that FDR went for the Philippine attack.

In October a strong invasion armada moved to Leyte in the vulnerable central part of the Philippines. The carriers continued their attacks throughout the Philippines.

in mid October -- The mighty armada included six battleships. Aboard the cruiser Nashville, MacArthur surveyed the fleet. They had aboard some 170,000 American soldiers.

1944 (morning of Oct 20) -- assault troops moved toward shore at Techlovan. The first wave to hit the beach at 10 a.m. Soldiers of the 10th corps of the sixth army. General MacArthur and Philippine President Osmainya set foot on Philippine soil.

About 20 miles to the south at Dulag soldiers of the 24th corps made a second landing. By the end of D-day the area was secured. The 96th division advanced along the flank.

Patrolling the area in a narrow channel in the western Philippines, two American submarines spotted a strong enemy naval force and attacked them. Two cruisers were sunk. This was the prelude to one of the most memorable battles in US naval history. The US third fleet lay in wait for events to develop in the Philippine Sea. The seventh fleet protected the entrance to Leyte Gulf and the beachhead.

1944 (October 23 and 24) -- two Japanese naval forces proceed to the naval force at Leyte Gulf. But Admiral Halsey's planes head out to the attack. Some 250 planes hit the enemy fleet. The attack lasts for five hours. The Japanese fleet flees. Super battleship Musashee sunk.

A decoy force in the north fakes Halsey to come north. The enemy force reversed itself and headed to Leyte. Slipped through the San Bernandino Strait at midnight and approached Leyte. Meanwhile the main strength of the US 7th fleet was at Surragow Strait. Another Japanese fleet start for Leyte from the southern side.

PT boats under Lt. Weston Pulham spots the southern fleet. Did some damage to the Japanese fleet. When the enemy came within range of their guns the US fleet opened up on them. The US had radar. In the Battle of Surragow Strait the enemy force was thoroughly defeated. But the Japanese central force attacked and sunk four ships from the north.

Halsey continued pursuing the fake force. By Oct 26 they were hundreds of miles away from the real battle. At 8:10 the planes find and sink four vessels of the decoy force.

The Japanese naval force left the area. This marked the end of the Japanese fleet as an active surface force. The Battle for Leyte Gulf was a resounding victory.

Battleships: US 0; Japan 3
Cruisers: US 0; Japan 10
Destroyers: US 3; Japan 11
Carriers: US 3; Japan 4
Planes: US 99; Japan 370

1944 (last days of Oct and Nov) -- battle for Leyte Island continued. The Japanese sent reinforcements from Luzon. 40 to 45 thousand from Luzon and other islands were sent, but they were sent in oddly assorted lots. They could not fight a coordinated attack. And it drained the strength of the Japanese elite forces that had planned to defend Luzon.

The battle consisted of a series of small unit actions. A new kind of aerial attack -- kamikaze attacks where they crashed their planes into American ships.

1944 (Dec 1) -- there were seven divisions fighting on Leyte.

1944 (December 11)  --The key port city of Ormach fell to the 77th division

by end of the year -- the island was in American hands.

US troops went ashore at Mindoro and quickly established a beachhead.

1945 (January 9) -- 4 army divisions invaded Luzon. They landed at Lingayen Gulf. Early that afternoon MacArthur went ashore to inspect. The lack of opposition meant the Japanese could be taken by surprise.

They were greeted warmly by the Filipinos. Filipino guerillas joined forces with the Americans and volunteered to act as scouts. They drove southward to Manila. Heavy bombardments took place on Manila air strips.

1945 (Nov 4) -- The 37th infantry and the first cavalry division were in the Manila suburbs. They were ready for the crucial battle. They fought urban warfare street by street. They headed to the American interment camp. American fighting men freed after three years of imprisonment. Many had died.

1945 (Feb 15) -- struggle shifted to Harrison ball park. General Mudge himself helped remove a wounded private. A sign said "Picking Wildflowers Strictly Prohibited".

1945 (Feb 23) -- fight for Manila was centered in the intramurals, the old walled city. The 129th and 145th regiments swiftly annihilated enemy resistance.

For four weeks Manila existed in complete chaos. February was a month of horror.

1945 (Feb 16) -- assault by air on Corregidor. 2,000 men of the 503rd parachute regiment made the jump. An 18 mile an hour wind complicated the landings. But most of the men made it successfully to the designated areas. A few of the men went into the water. 267 men injured during the drop. But they started to root out the enemy.

The 3rd battalion of the 34th infantry division landed on the south shore of Corrigidor and pushed ahead to capture Malinka Hill. Opposition was negligible. The enemy expected the landing to be on the north. The fight lasted for almost two weeks.

Gen MacArthur was at the ceremony announcing the retaking of the Philippines.

Three days after Corrigidor was invaded, Iwo Jima some 1,600 miles to the north was invaded.


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