U.S. forces resist constant assault on Bataan

A Japanese image of their troops advancing in the Philippines

Willibald C. Bianchi, an officer in the Philippine Scouts received the Medal of Honor for actions in Bataan, Philippines on 3rd February 1942. His citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on 3 February 1942, near Bagac, Province of Bataan, Philippine Islands. When the rifle platoon of another company was ordered to wipe out 2 strong enemy machinegun nests, 1st Lt. Bianchi voluntarily and of his own initiative, advanced with the platoon leading part of the men.

When wounded early in the action by 2 bullets through the left hand, he did not stop for first aid but discarded his rifle and began firing a pistol. He located a machinegun nest and personally silenced it with grenades.

When wounded the second time by 2 machinegun bullets through the chest muscles, 1st Lt. Bianchi climbed to the top of an American tank, manned its antiaircraft machinegun, and fired into strongly held enemy position until knocked completely off the tank by a third severe wound.

Willibald Bianchi won the Medal of Honor on Bataan. He died in 1945 when the prison ship he was on was bombed.

The defenders of Bataan were constantly falling back, under pressure from the ever probing Japanese forces. Sidney Stewart, also fighting on Bataan provides a vivid account of the state of mind this induced:

We could hear the shelling up on the hillside and the crashing and whining as the shells went through the air. But at least we were having a break. There was only an occasional zinging of snipers’ bullets whizzing and biting at the leaves of the trees.

Suddenly a shell shattered alarmingly close over our heads. We ducked down into the trench again and then stood up when no more came. Just a momentary fright. I couldn’t help comparing that fright to the greater, overall fear.

Fright is a thing of the moment, attacking as a cornered animal does, on a second’s notice. But fear is an ulcerous growth, pulsating and alive, attached to you like a jungle leech. No fire under the exploding heavens can burn it free. Sometimes it is not so bad, but then again it grips you and binds you as though it will not allow you the smallest movement. Again, at other times, through absolute pweariness, you feel you can be free from it. But no, you can only hope to control it.

It is always there. It lives with you, whispering sounds easily heard above the crashing world around you, and you are two people, yourself, and the fear that lives within you. When a man is blown to pieces beside you, it hammers in your brain and makes you smell the warm, sickening blood, a smell which even the acrid powder smoke cannot drive away.

Oh dear God, give us rest. Not rest from weariness, for gladly we would never close our eyes if only that gnawing fear would die.

See Sidney Stewart: Give us this day

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