PAMPANGA, P.I.–THE air is still thick with smoke as elements of the Philippine Scouts pick through the remains of an Imperial Japanese Army unit that had managed to slip behind the Orion-Bagac line covering the US and Filipino retreat to Bataan.
An American officer walks up to the wounded. “No prisoners, no prisoners,” he mutters as he shoots each one in the chest with a pistol. Filipino troops not tending to their own wounded pick up swords, pistols, and other souvenirs.
A group of Scouts cluster around one of the few jeeps the defenders have managed to keep running. They cheer and preen for photographers and for no one in particular. Victories have been few in a war that has seen Manila fall to the Japanese in less than a month of fighting.
A cadence call starts then falters as the surviving Scouts, who hardly number enough to form a platoon, form up and march away. Around 2,000 Japanese soldiers have reportedly broken through defensive lines and the Scouts will have to find them and root them out in the next few days.
In a Pampanga town still held by defending forces, the only evidence of war are the soldiers conspicuously not in it. Scouts in their khakis saunter around and the radio in the town hall alternates between military marches and swing music. Jeeps line the main street and a Dodge troop carrier sits in front of the town hall in defiance of invaders creeping steadily towards the town.
The enemy is, for the moment, too far away to matter as a lone observation plane drones lazily overhead to see how many days the soldiers have left before withdrawing again. Their backs are to the mountains and sea and they cannot withdraw much further.
The United States Armed Forces in the Far East are hoping reinforcements come before they finally run out of room, bullets, and men.
I covered (on my day off) the first historical reenactment in Asia today and was geeking out all day. It was done during the Christmas meet of the Military Vehicle Collectors’ Club of the Philippines which meant I got to see dozens of vintage jeeps, many of them with the complete kit of mounted machine guns, rifles, and a folding bicycle.
More on that in the next post. In the meantime, here is a video of the mock battle complete with an expletive that was not uttered mockingly.
*Probably not PC to call them Japs any more, but political correctness matters little in war.