Remember Bataan! Remember Corregidor!"
NEVER NEGLECT OUR DEFENSES AGAIN
By GENERAL JONATHAN M. WAINWRIGHT
Delivered at homecoming celebration, Washington Monument, Washington, D. C., September 10, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 712-714.
THANK you, all of you, for this great reception. My comrades and I will remember always the warmth of this hour and the honor you have bestowed in welcoming us today. I am proud to accept these special honors from you, Mr. Commissioner: the key to the city and this scroll. They are symbols of the spirit which has brought this huge assembly together.
I am happy to accept the membership, so graciously offered me, in the Disabled American Veterans. I accept it in the name of all my comrades who suffered in battle and in the cruel months of captivity that followed.
I still find it hard to believe that I am really here, back among my own people. We lived in a blacked-out world during our prison days. One of the least, and the greatest, of the cruelties practiced by the Japs was to keep us from frequent contact with home. We seldom knew what had happened to our loved ones.
From the poverty of our existence out there, we have returned to find America strong and great. Even before we first set foot on the American Continent at San Francisco last Saturday, we knew how this country had rallied from our defeat at Corregidor.
We saw the strong, seasoned American troops who had defeated the Japanese in campaign after campaign. We saw the wealth of air power in great planes which were hardly blueprints in the days when we anxiously scanned the skies for the relief that did not exist. We saw the mighty naval armada, risen from the grave of Pearl Harbor, stretched out across the waters of the Pacific to menace the now cringing Japs. The power of America was assembled out there, and we thanked God for it.
The men who fought on Bataan and Corregidor were never beaten in spirit. Exhausted by thinning supply and the ordeal of terrific pounding by siege guns and bombers, it was useless to continue the struggle. We surrendered as honorable soldiers.
You know what happened after that. The rights and privileges which civilized nations have agreed to grant prisoners of war were denied by the Jap. Many brave and gallant soldiers died under the torment and starvation they were forced senselessly to suffer
The tables are now completely turned. No humane person could desire that the Japs be forced to endure what many of our men went through. Yet I know that Americans will insist that the full meaning of Japan's surrender be brought home to every subject of the Emperor. These truculent men must be forced to realize the folly of their ambitions. Until the Japanese people display sincerely a desire for peaceful ways, we must not abandon our watch.
Grateful for Avenging Defeat
It will be many days before I shall feel that I know my country fully again. You cannot realize what it is like to return home after years spent without the day-to-day happenings which you learn from the press and radio.
Yet there is one thing apparent on every hand—the deep sincerity with which this country has devoted itself to avenging what we suffered in the early days of Bataan and Corregidor. I am grateful for it. Nothing can restore the men who died to their loved ones. Yet their sacrifice, living on the thoughts and deeds of America, can protect this nation from the lack of practical foresight which brought about those tragic events.
As I stood on the deck of the Missouri, at the right hand of General MacArthur, watching the signing of the surrender document, I fervently wished every American could feel the full significance of that moment. Nearly four years had elapsed since the Japs launched their attacks on Pearl Harbor and on the Philippines.
That moment of surrender in Tokyo Bay had been bought with the blood of more than a million Americans who died or were wounded in the struggle. Billions of dollars and countless hours of work by Americans at home had been required to bring that little party of beaten Japs to the Missouri's deck. All because for a while we were careless of the nation's safety. We let down our guard.
A Lesson to Remember
It is over now, and we are at peace. But in the name of all my comrades who suffered with me, I pray that this nation will never again neglect the strength of its defenses; in all the joy I feel on returning to my own land, there is the memory of the last days of Corregidor and of the awful months that followed.
Those memories can never be erased from my mind. I hope that the story of what Americans suffered will always be remembered in its practical significance—as a lesson which almost lost for us this land we love.
My comrades and I have been profoundly touched by all these evidences of your great regard. I thank you in their name and in my own. This is truly such a welcome as a man dreams of, locked away behind barbed wire and the bayonets of cruel jailers. It is the surest evidence I could have that you still keep before you the words which I know fired you to great effort after our sorrowful defeat:
"Remember Bataan! Remember Corregidor!"
Delivered Before the U. S. House of Representatives
Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives:
Now I feel that at last I have come home to my country—all the way. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the generous impulse which moved you to call me here.
In receiving the honor of a reception by the Congress, I can express my gratitude to all the American people for the welcome which they have given me and my comrades since our liberation.
In greeting us, I know that our countrymen intend to show some measure of their feeling for all those who fought through the last weeks on Bataan and Corregidor. Many survived the pounding of Jap guns only to suffer more cruelly later on under the inhuman treatment given them in prison camps. As their commander, I can tell you it was the memory and hope of America that sustained them through darkest days.
During the last year we were kept from all sources of news by our captors, yet we contrived to learn, by rumors and scraps of information that reached us, of the growing military might which must someday restore us to the rights of free men in our beloved land.
We knew that our country had developed great power. Yet when my comrades and I were rescued from our captivity, we were not quite prepared for all we saw. A great new Army with new weapons and endless supply had made America what her citizens hope she may always be—vincible in battle.
To men who have faced overwhelming power without the means to meet it, as we did in the Philippines, there was deep satisfaction in seeing how completely the odds had been reversed. How we longed for some of that offensive power on Corregidor. Had this nation been able to send it through the Jap blockade, tired as we were, there would have been no fall of Corregidor.
From desperate days, we have returned to a world at peace. I thank God for our liberation and for the sympathy and high respect in which you have held us throughout the long ordeal which is now at its end.
Delivered Before the U. S. Senate
Mr. President and members of the Senate:
My comrades and I have just come from a reception by the House of Representatives. I want to express to you, as I have to the members of the House, the deep gratitude
which all of us feel for the honor you have conferred in bringing us here today.
Since the hour when we were restored to our countrymen in Chungking, we have been overwhelmed with kindness and consideration on every hand. It has been a moving experience. It has been such a spontaneous welcome as only the warmth of America could bring forth.
Through it all has run the sadness of remembering the brave men who fell not in battle but died in foul prison camps of their captors' cruelty and neglect. It is a pitiful story, gentlemen. Some of it has already been told. I hope it may be revealed in all its ghastly detail.
The American people must realize fully the nature of the enemy we knew so well. Only on a just consideration of his nature as it was revealed to us will we be able to decide such measures as must be taken to insure our future security from his lust for power.
I am still living in a world of wonder. Out there in the Pacific since my liberation I have seen the strength of an aroused America arrayed against the Jap. It has been a pleasant sight.
You will understand, I feel sure, if I say that I gloried in it and in the humiliation of the Japanese leaders who surrendered abjectly on the deck of the Missouri. Nothing could have moved me more than the invitation to be present at those ceremonies, and I hold as one of my treasured possessions the pen which General MacArthur first touched to the document of surrender.
Later, I had an almost more personal triumph when I stood at Baguio on Luzon while General Yamashita surrendered all the remaining Jap forces, in the Philippines. My only regret was that General Homma could not have been present. It was to him that I was forced to surrender the remnants of the gallant American Army which had fought him on Bataan and Corregidor.
It is good to stand on American soil again and, in this chamber, to thank you and the American people for all you have done to welcome us back. Through these receptions and ceremonies we realize how well you remembered us during the bleak years when we were allowed to have no word of your warmth and anxiety. In the name of all my comrades, I thank you.