Defenders of the Philippines

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War on Sea

Some of the boats of the US Navy Fleet under command of Admiral Thomas C. Hart

U.S.S. John Ford U.S.S John Ford.
U.S.S Peary    U.S.S. Peary 
Under the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922 the US had agreed not to build additional fortifications in the Philippines in order to halt construction of Japanese shipbuilding. 
The Filipinos were to take over defense of the islands as they were slated for independence from the United States in 1946.  Because of a policy for the United States to defeat Germany first, the Philippines were in a sacrificed position when they were attacked.

U.S.S. Rochester, Under Command of MacArthur

The U.S.S. Rochester was christened the New York in 1891, then rechristened with its present title in 1917. Throughout its illustrious military career, it saw 27 flag officers, and it is honored with the distinction of having fired more shots, including blanks, than any other U.S. Navy vessel—almost 2000. After the Rochester was decommissioned and removed from the Navy Register on October 28, 1938, she became a flagship for the special service squadron stationed at Panama Canal Zone. In this capacity, she served as a mercy ship, being one of the vessels discharged during disasters in which American lives were endangered. She was scuttled in December of 1941 to prevent her seizure by Japanese forces, and on December 12 marines, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, engaged Japanese enemy attack aircraft, using only what armor was at their disposal. Although the Japanese prevailed and succeeded in their assault, the Rochester nevertheless served her last post admirably. As marine and ex-POW C.W. Nielsen writes in “U.S.S. Rochester: End of an Odyssey,” “The December 1941 departure of the Fourth Marine Regiment from Shanghai, China, aboard President Lines MADISON and HARRISON, and the unexpected debarkation at Olongapo Naval Station, signaled a new military role for the old China regiment; this time, under the command of General Douglas McArthur [sic], U.S. Army, Philippine Islands.” View the entire article here.


Picture of USS Rochester

The USS Rochester 


USS Canopus

The USS Canopus 

U.S.S. Canopus

The USS Canopus was originally named the USS Santa Leonora and was constructed by the New York Shipbuilding Company of Camden, New Jersey as both a passenger and freight steamer for the Grace Lines (W.R. Grace and Company). In July and August 1919, she served as a trans-Atlantic troop transport before being transferred to the U.S. Army in September 1919. She was reclaimed by the U.S. Navy in November 1921 and commissioned at the Boston Navy yard on January 24, 1922 as a submarine tender under the name USS Canopus (AS-9), which referred to the pilot of Menelaus, King of Sparta, in Greek mythology. In mid-1923 the Canopus traveled to Pearl Harbor and then accompanied Submarine Division 17 to the Far East in November 1924, supporting the peacetime operations of the Asiatic Fleet submarines. She spent summers in Tsingtao and Chefoo, China and winters in Manila Harbor. Late in 1939, seven P boat submarines were assigned to the Canopus. A year later, five more submarines of the Sea Raven Sea Lion class were added. Executive officer H.W. "Hap" Goodall remarked that "The Canopus was like 'the Old Lady and the Shoe, who had more children than she knew what to do.'" 

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Canopus, captained by E.L. Sackett, had recently concluded an extensive overhaul at Cavite Navy Yard, and she was selected to service the submarines which formed the first line of defense for the Philippines. Those aboard the Canopus witnessed the air attack on Nichols Field, and the next morning the vessel was ordered alongside the docks in the Port Area of Manila. As Cavite was attacked, the Canopus labored to repair damaged ships, and during the night the vessel headed for Corregidor and Mariveles Bay to aid the only remaining submarines. On December 29, the Japanese bombed Corregidor and then targeted the Canopus; Charles Lewis related that "Two bombing runs were made without success, and then a lone high flyer made a direct hit midship." The bomb that struck the Canopus detonated on top of the propeller shaft, causing fires that threatened to explode the ammunition. However, the crew managed to salvage the ship, although seven men died and 34 more were wounded. The Japanese attacked again on January 19. Afterward, the crewmen placed oily rags in smudge pots and blackened areas of the deck while also allowing the cargo booms to go askew, thus giving the illusion that the vessel was lost when in reality the men were working on new weapons for the Bataan forces. Meanwhile, Commander Francis Bridget, who had been in charge of what remained of Naval aviation in the Philippines, organized a Naval Battalion of 150 of his own men as well as 130 men from the Canopus, 80 from the Ammunition Depot detail, around 100 Marines, and a few men from Cavite Navy Yard, with Hap Goodall as second in command. This group engaged in fighting against the Japanese in the jungles, and were relieved on the fifth day by the 57th Regiment of Philippine Scouts. The Canopus crew then set to work converting three of the 44-foot motor launches into "Mickey-Mouse Battleships," which routed several Japanese out of caves. They enacted a similar mission at Quinuan Point during the Battle of the Points, and then the Canopus contingent was officially incorporated into the Fourth Marines Regiment. However, Bataan fell to the Japanese, and the Canopus  was scuttled, with many of her crewmen going to Corregidor to continue fighting. Afterward, the motor launches from the Canopus were taken over by Mine Force sailers and made into miniature mine sweepers.     

Source: "The Canopus" by Captain E.L. Sackett, U.S. Navy, as found in Courage Personified by Charles Joseph Lewis

View a roster of the USS Canopus

View U.S. Asiatic Fleet Report on Action of Longoskawayan Point against Japanese Forces