Homma, General Masaharu, 1888-1946

Homma was the Japanese General who led the invasion of the Philippines. Homma was an intelligence officer who was selected to lead the operation to take Luzon despite his lack of battle experience. He landed in northern Luzon a few days after Pearl Harbor and found that the Filipino troops melted away when faced by his seasoned veterans from the war in China. He had orders to take Manila first and hesitated over whether to block off the US and Filipino withdrawal to the Bataan Peninsula or march into Manila knowing that General MACARTHUR had already left the city. Homma decided to take the capital and wasted valuable time. He then underestimated the numbers in Bataan and left only nine battalions to complete the capture of Luzon: his best division, the 48th, was withdrawn to take part in the invasion of the Dutch East Indies. His forces launched their first offensive against Mount Rosa in Bataan on 9 January 1942 and after a month of fierce fighting the offensive was halted. Homma was relieved of his command for incompetence and replaced by General YAMASHITA although Homma remained as a figurehead. In April 1942 70,000 US and Filipino troops surrendered but the Japanese Army had not prepared for a surrender on this scale and took the most expedient course: they marched the troops sixty miles to a railway line and then shipped them to Camp O’Donnell. En route the Japanese treated their prisoners badly: giving them no food or drink for five days, shooting stragglers and inflicting other hardships. This was the infamous Bataan Death March in which about 16,000 US and Filipino troops died and for which Homma was held responsible. In September 1945 Homma was arrested in Tokyo. He was tried in Manila and executed by firing squad in April 1946.

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