I recently returned from the Philippines, where I had the opportunity to visit sites related to the World War II Campaigns in 1941-42 (Clark Field, Bataan, Corregidor), the Bataan Death March, and the liberation operations in 1945 (Manila). While there I found some echoes of the Civil War, which reminded me that for World War II’s leaders, the Civil War was an immediate historic event. This is first of a periodic series that I will do to explore some of the famous and not-so-famous connections between America’s two bloodiest conflicts.
A strong connection exists on the Bataan Peninsula, which is at the mouth of Manila Bay and hosted a four-month battle and siege at the beginning of the Pacific War. The 76,000 starving Filipino-American troops on Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942, precisely 77 years after Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia capitulated at Appomattox to Lieutenant General U.S. Grant. But these two events are linked by more than congruent dates.
Bataan’s commander, Major General Edward P. King Jr., was the son-in-law of Major General Lafayette McLaws, one of Lee’s division commanders in 1862 and 1863. King grew up in Georgia hearing stories of Lee’s Army, and Lee’s example would guide him in 1942. As Bataan’s fall drew near, King saved one pristine uniform (as did Lee in the days before Appomattox) and (like Lee in 1865) wore it to the surrender negotiations. King later described his feelings on the morning of April 9 as akin to Lee’s, even invoking part of Lee’s famous quote from 1865: “I go to meet the enemy commander, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.” His Southern roots and Army of Northern Virginia familial connection added an additional veneer of emotion to that anguishing day.
The top photograph shows King (center, with legs crossed) and his staff in Balanga at midday on April 9 in conference with the Japanese. Below is the memorial placed on that site today.