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Feb 21

Bataan Tank battle, World War II week by week

Telegram-Tribune tells of WWII Japanese advances Feb. 14, 1942.

To give you an idea of how badly the war was going at this point, the newspaper resorted to making things up. Since the U.S. Navy had no victories at sea the front page centerpiece art was from news feature service artist. It was an imaginary battle where the Americans were winning.

James Bradley and Ron Powers in their book “Flags of Our Fathers” outline several key points. When America entered the war it had less than half the naval strength of Japan and many ships were sunk in the mud of Pearl Harbor.

Japanese troops were advancing on every front where they attacked. A military government had cynically corrupted the tradition of the Samurai and warped it to their own ends. A cult of death was created and the military government taught from the early 1900s that dying for the nation was the highest honor.

Behind their backs the leaders called¬† “Issen gorin”, meaning “one yen, five rin” the cost of mailing a draft notice. Less than a penny.

In many instances wounded Japanese troops were given a grenade rather than medical care. Officers would cut the jugular veins of those that failed to pull the pin. Under the rewritten cult of death there was no honor in surrender.

The Japanese leadership had decided that brutal expansion was the best path for growth of the homeland. The death of a few expendable infantry was the cost of glory.

America was facing a war without quarter, one that the Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese were already experiencing.

Locally nearly 500 people in the region signed up for the third selective service draft. The courthouse lobby was packed as was the draft board office at the Tower Building at Higuera and Chorro Streets. Plans were also being made to enroll jail inmates.

An over one month old story was published at the bottom of the page, American and Japanese tanks had battled on the Bataan Peninsula and the article claimed that the Americans had won the engagement but it was only a covering action as General Douglas MacArthur’s men retreated. The battle had taken place on New Year’s eve.

One of those small tanks is memorialized on the grounds of Camp San Luis Obispo. Men, some of whom had trained at the facility, were now engaged in desperate fighting with no hope for reinforcement or resupply.

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