Bataan (1943)




Director:     Tay Garnett.

Starring:     Robert Taylor (Sgt. Bill Dane),  George Murphy (Lt. Steve Bentley - pilot),  Thomas Mitchell (Cpl. Jake Feingold),  Lloyd Nolan (Cpl. Barney Todd),  Lee Bowman (Capt. Henry Lassiter),  Robert Walker (Leonard Purckett),  Desi Arnaz (Felix Ramirez),  Barry Nelson (F.X. Matowski),  Phillip Terry (Matthew Hardy),  Roque Espiritu (Cpl. Juan Katigbak),  Kenneth Spencer (Wesley Epps),  Alex Havier (Yankee Salazar),  Tom Dugan (Sam Malloy),  Donald Curtis (Lieutenant).

a group of determined American soldiers volunteer to blow up a needed bridge and delay the Japanese reconstruction of the bridge as long as possible


Spoiler warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

"When Japan struck, our desperate need was time  -- time to marshal our new armies.  Ninety-six priceless day were bought for us --- with their lives -- by the defenders of Bataan, the Philippine army which formed the bulk of MacArthur's infantry fighting shoulder to shoulder with Americans.  To those immortal dead, who heroically stayed the wave of barbaric conquest, this picture is reverently dedicated."

The army is retreating again along with the civilian population.  They have retreated half way down the Bataan Peninsula.  The lieutenant tells Sergeant Bill Dane of the 31st Infantry and Corporal Jake Feingold  of the 45h Chemical Company to report to Captain Lassiter of the 26th Calvary for the special duty the fellows volunteered for.   As the men move out, Japanese bombers drop bombs on the village killing both civilians and soldiers. 

After the bombing the fellows find Captain Lassiter.  A third fellow is another volunteer.  He is Private Francis Xavier Matowski, 3rd Engineer Battalion.  The men are told to join a larger group of volunteers.  The lieutenant tells the sergeant that after the people get across the bridge here, their assignment will be to blow the bridge and then stay to prevent any Japanese from getting across the river. 

The Captain introduces Dane to Lt. Bentley and Corporal Katigbak, Philippine Army Air force.  Dane introduces himself to the unit.  He tells them to fall in. Nine soldiers fall in.  The men are:

Wesley Epps, Private, 3rd Engineer Battalion, a big black fellow who is good at demolitions;

Jake Feingold, Corporal; 

Matthew Hardy, Private, 12th Medical Battalion;

Sam Malloy, Cook, Motor Transport Service;

Francis Xavier Matowski, Private, originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;

Leonard Purckett, Musician, 2nd Class, US Navy;

Felix Ramirez, Private, Provisional Tank Corps;

Yankee Salazar, Private, 4th Engineer Battalion, Philippine Scouts; and

Barney Todd, Corporal, Provisional Signal Battalion, who served with Captain Lassiter.

The sergeant now gives the men their assignments.   He works with Corporal Todd and tells him he looks like a soldier he knew as Burns, who killed a boy who beat him in a game of cards.

The men blow the bridge.  Then, all of a sudden, Captain Lassiter is shot and killed.  Now Sgt. Dane is in charge of the unit.  The sarge has Matowski climb up a tree to get a good look at what's going on on the other side of the river.  Matowski is shot in the head and killed.  He falls out of the tree. 

The Japanese are re-building the bridge.  Sarge gets the guys into their fox holes.  He tells Todd to come take a walk with him.  They go check on the men.  Cpl. Feingold will be in charge while Sarge and Todd are away.  Sarge and Todd get into position so they can throw hand grenades at the bridge.  They find a good position and throw the hand grenades.  They collapse the bridge and the truck on the bridge falls into the gorge below.  A heavy fire fight begins.  Todd gets a wound on the heel of his foot. 

Yankee sneaks out from his post to get to Gen. MacArthur.  Todd told Yankee that no help is coming for those on Bataan, but Yankee went anyway.  Corporal Katigbak is missing, so Sarge and Lt. Bentley go to look for him.  They find him dead with a samurai sword stuck in him.  Ramirez gets sick with malaria.  Japanese planes bomb the Americans' position.  Malloy brings down a Japanese plane, but he is killed by another plane.  The Japanese captured Yankee and now have hung his body up for the Americans to see it.  Ramirez dies of malaria and Hardy is sick with malaria.  Lt. Bentley is ready to take off in his now fixed plane.  He says he thinks he can make it.  Sarge is going to have Hardy fly with the lieutenant, since he needs a doctor.  Todd wants to leave with Hardy and Bentley via the airplane, but Sarge tells Todd he is staying with him. 

Bentley and Hardy go to the airplane.  The remaining soldiers get into their positions.  They will start firing at the Japanese to help disguise the sound of the American airplane.  The Japanese set up a machine gun near the airplane and open fire.  Sarge throws a hand grenade and eliminates the Japanese machine gun nest.  Lt. Bentley has been wounded, but he says to Sarge that he is still taking off.  Bentley gets the plane into the air.  He then plunges the plane into the bridge construction.  Hardy goes crazy saying he should have been on that plane.  He grabs two hand grenades and goes after the Japanese.  He is shot and wounded, but is able to throw his grenades.  He is surprised and amused that he hits his targets.  Hardy turns to return to camp and gets hit again and dies.  Sarge tries to make a deal with Todd, but Todd will not parley with Sarge. 

The Japanese start sneaking up on the Americans.  There are only five guys left: Sarge, Feingold, Purckett,  Todd and Epps.  The Japanese are covered in camouflage.  The Americans wait until the Japanese are almost on top of them before opening fire on them.  They kill all the camouflaged fighters, but other Japanese soldiers are attacking the American position.  The Americans keep killing the Japanese soldiers.  They get so excited by their success that they come out into the open to fight the Japanese with their rifles and bayonets.  Epps is killed.

Three of the men get back to the camp after killing all the Japanese soldiers.  Jake comes walking slowly into the camp, but dies soon after reaching the area.  Only Sarge, Todd and Purckett are left now.  Purckett wants to write a letter to his mother, but has been wounded in his right hand.  Todd writes down what Purckett dictates, but Purckett breaks down crying over the thought of all of the men dying here.  Sarge takes over the dictation of the letter and he says that they are going to get out of here alive. 

Purckett listens to the radio and finds a Japanese station broadcasting a call to the Americans and Filipinos to surrender.  Purckett gets so angry that he stands up to tell the Japanese off and is shot and killed.  Sarge figures one of the wounded Japanese soldiers shot Purckett.  He and Todd go looking for anyone still alive.  Todd is distracted by his desire to take some cigarettes off a dead Japanese soldier giving the living soldier the opportunity to stick his bayonet in Todd's back.  Sarge kills the enemy soldier.  He then tries to make Todd comfortable.  He even gives him a cigarette.  Todd admits that he is Danny Burns.  He dies of his wound.  Sarge buries the last of the American dead.  He then goes and gets himself a drink from the stream at the camp.  He almost falls asleep, but is able to keep awake. 

Japanese soldiers are crawling through the fog in order to kill the last American alive.  Sarge doses off for awhile as the Japanese get very close to him.  He hears some noise and wakes up.  He starts mowing the Japanese down with his Tommy gun and then with the machine gun. 

"So fought the heroes of Bataan.   Their sacrifice made possible our victories in the Coral and Bismarck Seas, at Midway, on  New Guinea and Guadalcanal.  Their spirit will lead us back to Bataan!"



The movie begins with the Allied forces already having been pushed half way down the Bataan Peninsula.

Knowing the outcome of the battle, I knew this was not going to have a happy ending.  The movie is like the Alamo in that respect. You figure that all the guys are going to be killed and all you can hope for is that they take a lot of Japanese soldiers with them.  And that they do accomplish. 

Robert Taylor is good as the tough sergeant, while Lloyd Nolan also does well at being the one bad apple in the bushel.  There is no comic relief in this movie; it is serious all the way.  Instead of comic relief, we get incidents of coarse, insensitive behavior from the bad apple.

The movie is no more than o.k.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

Historical Background:


Bataan occupies the whole of Bataan Peninsula on Luzon, in the north of the Philippines. The capital is Balanga City. The peninsula faces the South China Sea to the west and Subic Bay to the north-west. The peninsula encloses Manila Bay to the east.

1941-1942  --  the Battle of the Philippines begins with the invasion of the Philippines by the Japanese.

The Japanese took the Philippines, but the American and Filipino defenders delayed the Japanese attacks on other areas.


See MacArthur (1979) for more history. 


Gen. MacArthur ordered a fighting retreat by all USAFFE units to the Bataan peninsula.

1942 (January 1-5)  --  delaying actions fought to allow the withdrawal to Bataan.

The bloodiest delaying action occurred at the Porac-Guagua line.  The 11th and 21st Divisions (led respectively by Brig. Generals William E. Brougher and Mateo Capinpin) with the 26th Cavalry Regiment (led by Col. Clinton A. Pierce) in reserve, held the line.  They fought against massive aerial and artillery bombardment, tank assaults, and infantry banzai attacks (by the Takahashi and Tanaka Detachments).

1942 (January 6)  --  action at the first defensive line (set up from Dinalupihan to Layac Junction) that blocked the only approach to Bataan.  The Allied forcers were pushed back to the Abucay-Mauban line, the Allies main battle position.  The position was manned by Maj. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright's I Philippine Corps (in the east) and the II Philippine Corps of Maj. Gen. George M. Parker (in the west).

1942 (January 9)  --    troops under Lt. Gen. Susumu Morioka assaulted the eastern flank.  They were repulsed by the 91st Division of Brig. Gen. Luther Stevens and Col. George S. Clark's 57th Infantry.

1942 (January 14)  --  the Japanese attacked the western flank; the line was held by the 41st and 51st Divisions, along with some help by units of the 21st Division (which repulsed the enemy at the Salian River. 

The Japanese routed the 53rd Infantry of Col. John R. Boatwright, penetrating deep behind the Abucay-Mauban line. They were delayed at the Bani-Guirol forest area.

1942 (January 15)  --  the Japanese pushed through a huge gap in the Silangan-Natib area. 

1942 (January 24)  --  the Abucay-Mauban line had to be abandoned.

1942 (January 26)  --  the Allies formed the Orion-Bagac line; the Japanese broke through; the Japanese pushed back, with some of their troops remaining behind the Allied lines. 

1942 (January 23-February 17)  --  Battles of the Pockets eliminated the pockets of resistance behind the Orion-Bagac line. 

Battles of the Points:

1942 (January 23)  --  the Japanese landed on the west coast of southern Bataan.

1942 (January 22-February 8)  --  battles fought at the Quinawan-Aglaloma points.

1942 (January 23-29)  --  battles fought at the Lapay-Longoskawayan points.

1942 (January 27-February 13)  --  battles fought at the Silalim-Anyasan points.

1942 (February 8)  --  Gen. Homma ordered a general withdrawal from the frontline to regroup and wait for reinforcements.

1942 (March 12)  --  General MacArthur left Corregidor for Australia.

1942 (March 22)  --  the defending army renamed United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP); Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright IV was the commander. 

1942 (April 3)  --  the entire Orion-Bagac line was bombarded. The following attack of Japanese tanks and infantry pushed the defenders back. 

1942 (April 6)  --  Mt. Samat captured. In the following days, the Allied forces crumbled, then disintegrated and collapsed.

1942 (April 8)  --  the senior US commander on Bataan, Maj. Gen. Edward P. King, suggested surrender.

1942 (April 9)  --  King met with Maj. Gen. Kameichiro Nagano and surrendered.

More than 15,000 American and 60,000 Filipino prisoners of war were forced into the infamous Bataan Death March, a week-long journey of about 160 kilometers to the north to prison camp Camp O'Donnell in the Nueva Ecija province. (10,000 of the prisoners of war died on the march.)


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