To Bataan and Back: The World War II Diary of Major Thomas Dooley

To Bataan and Back: The World War II Diary of Major Thomas Dooley

To Bataan and Back: The World War II Diary of Major Thomas Dooley

To Bataan and Back: The World War II Diary of Major Thomas Dooley

Synopsis

The Aggie tradition of Muster stretches back to the earliest days of the college. But an extraordinary Muster took place during World War II that would change and further hallow the service thereafter. In the spring of 1942, with Japanese forces poised to overrun the Allies on the Philippine island of Corregidor, Maj. Thomas Dooley, class of 1935, and Maj. Gen. George F. Moore, class of 1908, compiled a list of twenty-five other Aggies under their command, which constituted a “roll call” in the midst of the bombardment. Dooley later told a journalist about the list, and the resulting article spread rapidly throughout the United States, forever connecting Dooley to this enduring Aggie tradition. The breadth of Dooley’s wartime experiences, however, goes far beyond this single Muster. On the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dooley began the first of six handwritten journals—more than 500 pages—that he continued to update throughout the war. As aide-de-camp to Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, the new commander of the Allied forces after Gen. Douglas MacArthur was ordered to Australia, Dooley had regular contact with various commanders and headquarters throughout Bataan and Corregidor. His journals reveal the inside story of the battles of Bataan and Corregidor and with it the capture, imprisonment, and struggle for survival of tens of thousands of American prisoners of war. Dooley’s journals—dutifully maintained even as he was a prisoner—are at once witty, articulate, stark, and often reflective. Dooley died in 2006, and his journals now reside in the Texas A&M University archives. Jerry C. Cooper has painstakingly transcribed, edited, and annotated these remarkable documents, shedding new light on daily life in the storied history of the war in the Pacific.

Excerpt

The World War II journals of fellow Texas Aggie Tom Dooley, 35 reveal many facets of the relationships he had with family, schoolmates, friends, and fellow servicemen in his life and military career. Although I never met him, I almost feel a kinship. The young cavalry lieutenant, from his perspective as aide to a key general leading an impossible campaign, chronicles the effort to defend the Philippine Islands in the months following Japan’s almost simultaneous attacks there and at Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941. His accounts bring us increased awareness and a heightened appreciation of an assembly of heroes and their heroic actions that helped inspire a nation to return from defeat to success and victory … not unlike an earlier campaign that inspired victory for Texans at San Jacinto, following a valiant, but failed defense at the Alamo.

Common to both campaigns, the defeats were not a failure of will; nor of commitment; nor of skill; nor of effort. At the Alamo and Bataan/ Corregidor, our compatriots were too far from home and were blocked from supplies and reinforcements sufficient to meet the capabilities of their adversaries. Nevertheless, in both cases, they did the best they could with what they had. Their heroic spirit and effort, along with a growing outrage at the subsequent barbaric treatment of the vanquished by their victors, inspired and fueled the determination to avenge them by our commitment to pursue each conflict to ultimate victory.

It’s easy for me to relate, vicariously, to Tom Dooley. We’re both native-born Texans; both young officers commissioned from our Texas A&M Cadet Corps training; both fought alongside allies in Southeast Asia, some of whose culture, military training, and experience left them, at times, less than competent and reliable (though many of them, too, fought doggedly and with heroism). Both Tom Dooley’s and my Western Pacific service started and ended near Clark Air Base. Lieutenant Dooley ran a gauntlet through the first Japanese air raid on Clark AB

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