Resolve: From the Jungles of WWII Bataan, the Epic Story of a Soldier, a Flag, and a Promise Kept by Bob Welch (Book)


On April 3, all hell broke loose on Bataan. Some one hundred Japanese aircraft and far more pieces of ground artillery hammered American and Filipino soldiers, turning Mount Samat into a virtual inferno in the process. After a rugged battle, the "rising sun" flag now fluttered atop the mountain, an ominous sign suggesting that the Japanese now controlled the Mariveles Mountains and that the U.S. garrison on Bataan could not hold out much longer. And it didn't. By April 8, the American lines had been broken more than once.

The wounded and weary trickled south into the Little Baguio area where Conner was, first dozens, then hundreds, escaping the pursuit of the Japanese Army. Men who'd seen too much. Bloodied, Hobbled. Some without weapons, their ammo having been depleted long before.

Meanwhile, a buddy of Conner's was among a group of men ordered to fly the air corps' final four planes off Bataan and to the safety of the nearby island of Cebu. Conner hurriedly gave the man a three-word message to have sent home by telegram: "Everything under control."

Conner was ordered to report to Mariveles. Once at the town on the southern tip of Bataan, he heard the familiar thrum of plane props above. In seconds the bombs exploded right and left of him. Five navy men dove into a huge foxhole that had been dug next to one of their buildings. When a bomb landed nearby, the concussion caved in the trench, burying all five alive. Conner helped dig out their bodies.

He gathered with other officers for the hurried briefing. General Jonathan Wainwright had, that morning, ordered three battalions of infantry - about three thousand men - to Corregidor. In addition, he wanted the medical corps sent, too, including all nurses. As a result, the port town of Mariveles churned in chaos, the air thick with diesel exhaust and dust. Trucks, buses, and cars rumbled in from points north, unloading soldiers and nurses. Civilians begged for spots on boats. Children cried. Soldiers dragged bags, equipment, and whatever resolve they could muster, the black, the volcanic-ash beach littered with equipment.

All this played out to the unsettling thump of bombs, which echoed and re-echoed off Mariveles's finger-like cliffs in defeaning blasts. Amid the commotion, as if frozen within the frenetic madness beyond, a young nurse in army fatigues sobbed. It was Helen Summers, who had spent time with Conner and Rocky in the Empire Room on New Year's Eve. Only moments before, aboard a bus to Mariveles, another nurse, Hattie Brantley, had come to where Summers was sitting. A chaplain wanted to see her.