THE SIGNAL CORPS: THE EMERGENCY (TO DECEMBER 1941)

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Roosevelt knew Americans would not support another European conflict, having suffered numerous casualties during World War I, so he resisted a rush to war. The alliance sent a direct warning to the United States that any military intervention would lead to battles both in Europe and the Pacific. Empowered by the pact, Axis countries continued their assaults in the Pacific and Europe.


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Japan invaded Manchuria in and China in , and the Nazi defeat of France in and possible collapse of Britain to Axis forces prompted Congress to repeal provisions of the Neutrality Act. Although Roosevelt initially avoided military conflict, the United States began to wage economic warfare on Japan, imposing stringent economic sanctions. This included closing the Panama Canal to Japanese ships in , and embargoing scrap iron and steel exports to all destinations other than Great Britain and Western nations.

The British and the Dutch also embargoed exports to Japan from their Southeast Asian colonies, putting the Japanese in an economic stranglehold. Fleet to reach the vicinity "would be a serious deterrent to any overt act. A lesser addition would be impractical. Immediately after his arrival in Manila in June General Grunert, in a series of personal letters to General Marshall and formal memoranda to The Adjutant General, 14 began his efforts to provide much of that augmentation.

In July he urged the sending of ammunition a much smaller amount than he recommended was approved on 5 September after repeated inquiries ; also of antiaircraft defense materiel and personnel a greatly reduced amount was approved on 29 July ; also of Air Corps materiel and personnel no action for months ; he pressed for immediate increase of the Philippine Scouts to 12, he was supported in this by WPD but opposed by G-1 for the persuasive reason that such an increase would be charged against the number of new personnel allotted to the Regular Army in that critical period ; he sought more funds, largely for harbor defense installations this proposal was rejected, the explanation citing a policy established three years earlier when, as General Grunert sharply remarked, there was no world war in action and no situation comparable to that of Another of his unheeded communications, as he reminded General Marshall, was the 16th indorsement upon a question raised twenty months earlier-which meant that the War Department had taken no effective action upon it in that considerable period.

This discouraging sequence of events General Grunert recited to General Marshall in his personal letter of 1 September. His primary purpose, however, was to point out the defeatist attitude which had developed in the Philippine Commonwealth, to the point where it was believed that the United States no longer intended to defend the archipelago.

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General Grunert urged action that would overcome the pessimism. Specifically he recommended "a really strong air force and a strong submarine force both based on the Philippines," the building up of the U. Army units in the islands, and the assignment of American officers to train the Philippine Army units. The letter was well timed, for in the War Department there was already a mounting realization that Far East developments were calling for a firmer American policy.

It now was manifest in an extended study that WPD prepared in discussion both of General Grunert's long letter and of a plea from President Manuel Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth for support of a Commonwealth military training program. Quezon's proposal was under study. The WPD memorandum then noted briefly the crippling character of current policy, quoting the versions of the Philippine Defense Project previously recited: "to provide adequate protection for the Harbor Defenses in Manila Bay, but to go to no further expense for permanent improvements unless thereby ultimate savings will result.

WPD referred to its own recommendations of 2 March for a composite air wing, a Regular Army division, an antiaircraft regiment, and 2, harbor defense troops. It referred also to the 21 August recommendations, still unacted upon, and then recited the large changes which the world situation had undergone since that time in the forms of the Tripartite Alliance, the increase in the Army as a result of the draft act, the new flow of funds, and the naval expansion program which "in a few years" would "permit us to take a firmer stand.

This startling proposal, now formally advanced in the more nervous atmosphere of October , had an impressive result. But a few weeks later there came about a decision of an almost opposite nature-to increase the Scouts to 12, as WPD had urged long before , to increase the infantry and coast artillery components of the garrison, and to augment local defenses. The causes of this radical change in American policy with respect to defense of the Philippines were numerous and cumulative, with the written record presently available providing no certain indication of which was dominant.

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How fully the WPD memorandum of 10 October had reflected the genuine views of higher authority or, in contrast, strengthened a determination to compel a new and contrary policy decision, can only be conjectured. How fully the flow of world events in late altered previous judgments again is a matter of speculation. But the fact is that in this period occurred events that called for a change of policy, and developments that permitted such a change.

In the latter category can be mentioned the mounting appropriations which provided the War Department with a previously unhoped-for inflow of draft troops which would provide needed manpower. In the former category -events that made obligatory a change in Far East policy- can be mentioned the new reports from Manila, and also the continuing uneasiness over Japanese intentions. Quezon initiated in August his request for financial assistance in providing the Filipinos with military training comparable to that now in prospect for Americans under the new draft act.

His views were opposed at the time by U.

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High Commissioner F. Sayre who felt that Quezon was merely looking for American funds to meet expenses that otherwise the Philippine Government would have to meet, but who also felt that it was a matter for. A WPD summary, referring to this correspondence, held that the United States, being itself unprepared for a threatened two-ocean war, should first attend to its own security and should not weaken itself by diverting funds or materiel to the Philippines. Far more important, that increase was destined to prove too late as well, since it could not buy more production from already overloaded industrial plants.

Pressure for improvement of the Philippine defenses, however, was continuous, from General MacArthur in his labors to build up the Philippine Islands' military forces, from General Grunert as head of the US Army's Philippine Department, and again from Mr. Quezon, who renewed his pleas in October. The Staff's original resistance to their suggestions did not stem from doubts of the military soundness of these proposals, but from that same consciousness which had been expressed in August , that unless large additions could be provided, notably in air and antiair equipment, the islands' vulnerability to full-scale attack would doom the defending forces.

The key to a successful defense was to be provided by a large addition to defensive power, not a small one, and a large addition manifestly could be provided only by larger funds than were in sight in mid In November General Grunert added his support to the Quezon plea, in a presentation quite different from that in his September letter. In September he had noted an air of defeatism in the islands.

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In November he expressed concern over the possibility, in the United States, of a quite different state of mind that he regarded as much more ill-informed and even more dangerous. He illustrated his point by sending to General Marshall a local newspaper clipping that implied that the new Philippine Commonwealth Army already possessed 12 first-line divisions of , trained men ready for combat.

To make sure that nobody in the War Department was beset by this delusion General Grunert presented the. He explained that while General MacArthur's long-term project for a Commonwealth Army to mature in the date set for Philippine independence contemplated 1 regular and 30 reserve divisions, feeble progress was thus far made toward that ambitious goal. Currently the Regular Filipino Army had officers and 3, enlisted men, so scattered that the largest single unit was the incipient 1st Infantry Regiment, with enlisted men.

The Reserve force had, nominally, 6, officers anti , enlisted men, it was true, but, of the officers, 50 percent had received no training whatever and an additional 15 percent no field training: none had commanded a unit larger than a company. Shortages in clothing and equipment were large. There was no ammunition and only small amounts could be provided from local US Army stores, themselves restricted. Should there be immediate need, General Grunert proposed to utilize such Luzon elements of ill-trained infantry and artillery as were available, in company or battalion units, with one experienced American commander for each company, if available.

Even so, the Philippine units would be "capable of only defensive operations involving little or no maneuver, and then only in units not larger than a battalion when closely supervised by experienced officers of the U. The fact that the mobilization General Grunert recommended in this persuasive argument did not take place for many months, and that he was provided not with American training officers, but with 75, is best explained by examination of the memorandum recording the judgment at which WPD arrived, working under the policy then prescribed.

Mobilization of the Commonwealth Army had already been considered and the draft of an emergency proclamation by the President for that purpose was already approved by the War and Navy Departments and ready for Presidential signature at a time not. G-1 reported that such a number could not be provided and G-3 pointed out that the service schools already were under pressure to provide officers for the training of the new draft army.

General Gerow, speaking for WPD, held that under existing conditions ammunition in quantity could not be provided for additional Philippine forces in less than eighteen months. Beyond these physical difficulties WPD pointed to certain large strategic obstacles. Notably, the mobilization might convince the Japanese that the United States was building up its own Far East forces, and thus encourage Japan to steps designed to prevent or forestall such an organization, which itself could not be consummated for a year.

Even the Philippine force thus envisaged would not itself suffice in an unlimited war; it would necessarily require American aid, and WPD speaking for the Chief of Staff and the Joint Board as well was opposed to committing the United States to a two-ocean war. General Grunert's proposal, if carried out, would undoubtedly help Philippine morale but "it would contribute little to the defensive strength.

This was substantially as recommended by WPD, namely, the postponement of the summoning of the Philippine Army. Reserve officers to assist in training that army as such. It is surprising to see that, despite this chilly November attitude toward Philippine defense requirements, a pronounced change was imminent in War Department policy-which coincided, of course, with the nation's policy. It was heralded on the day after Christmas in another and quite different memorandum from WPD to the Chief of Staff.

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This too was signed by General Gerow. It asserted that certain steps, previously recommended by General Grunert and rejected because of their cost in dollars, men, and materiel, now could be taken without jeopardy to other defense interests. These were the long-sought increase in the Philippine Scouts from 6, to 12,, the U. They were not then available in any such quantity, save by taking them away from their holders. Four antiaircraft guns which had been set aside. Conditions may warrant the full requirements of antiaircraft materiel being furnished the Philippine Department in preference to units in the United States.

Except for a limited number of regiments designated for special tasks, the problem in the United States is one of training, whereas the overseas departments may be confronted with the execution of combat missions on short notice. For international effect during the next few days it is desired that you give evidence of genuine activity in developing Scout Force to 12, strength. Later radio will probably carry instructions, for same reason, regarding retention of officers now due to return to States, and commencement of reduction of Army women and children.


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  • It must be recognized that the marked change in Departmental viewpoint with regard to Philippine defense that came at the turn of the year was not implemented by immediate betterment of defenses in any large sense. The additions to personnel and materiel were modest and their delivery slow, due in part to the distance to be covered but largely to the actual unavailability of men or materiel in quantity. I have just looked over two staff papers dealing with the improvement of Philippine defenses.

    On both of these papers the action was considerably short of your recommendations, which have been denied in part only because we are at present unable to stretch our available resources far enough to meet the tremendous pressure we are subjected to from all directions. This is particularly true in the matter of planes, although the staff is exploring every possible way to get modern equipment for your bombardment squadron as well as to meet deficiencies in defensive reserve.

    A later note, following General Grunert's new request for ammunition, antiaircraft equipment, and aircraft, was in much the same tone:.

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    I have looked into the matters you mentioned but am afraid that except for the material concerning which you have already been advised, there is nothing new in the offing. We are doing everything we can for you, and I am sure you understand our limitations. The dismal condition of antiaircraft material supply, not only then but for long afterward, is vividly portrayed by a reply of General Somervell late that year to an inquiry about much-needed aircraft warning service equipment.

    The amount required would not be completed until the end of , at the current production rate, he said, and certain equipment of newly standardized type not until and early During all these months the correspondence on major phases of Philippine defense had been with General Grunert as commanding general of the Philippine Department. Until early there was relatively little with General. MacArthur, who on completion of his extended tour of duty as Chief of Staff, U.

    Army, in had gone to Manila as U. Military Adviser to the Philippine Government. This activity, open to him as a retired U.

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    Army officer, was in harmony with the long-term program for Philippine independence in as laid down by Congress in General MacArthur's mission in his own words was not only that "of preparing the Commonwealth for independent defense by , but also the mission given me by President Roosevelt, so to coordinate its development as to be utilizable to the maximum possible during the transitory period while the United States has the obligations of sovereignty.

    Army, as distinguished from that with his immediate employer of the previous three years, the Philippine Government. General Grunert's skeptical observations, previously mentioned, on the current state of the new force and his additional remarks in ensuing weeks were such as an observant departmental commander would make with regard to forces that were scheduled in emergency to come under his command.