Monday, April 9, 2012

Araw ng Kagitingan: A Lesson in Leadership

Today, April 9, we Filipinos commemorate "The Day of Valor" (Araw ng Kagitingan) to honor the Filipino and American soldiers' last stand in the battle of Bataan.  

Aside from the valiant disposition of the soldiers that fought in this battle there were three major players whose actions personified the different degrees of VALOR and LEADERSHIP.  

General Douglas MacArthur was the Philippine Field Marshal during the Japanese invasion.  General MacArthur fled to Australia with his family and staff in March 1942 and continued issuing directives from there.  This was a month prior to the eventual fall of Bataan.  In a notorious direction, he ordered for a general counterattact  against the Japanese---this was despite the fact that he was well aware of the dilemma of the battle weary troops.   

Major General Edward King was the Commanding Officer of Luzon that time.  He knew that the men under his command will do what is commanded of them but he saw the futility of further struggling with troops weakened by disease, starvation and lack of military logistics.  He ignored the direct order of General McArthur and surrendered Bataan in the hope that the Japanese followed the European military tradition of honoring troops who surrender after a gallant stand.  He was wrong.  The lengthy Filipino/American resistance in Bataan inflicted heavy losses to the Japanese and they vented there rage on the sick and exhausted soldiers culminating to the infamous Death March and the brutal conditions of the Japanese hell camps which he himself endured.

Major General Edward King
Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright inherited the unenviable position of being the Allied commander in the Philippines following General MacArthur's relocation to Australia.  He followed General MacArthur's directive to continue the struggle and together with 11,000 defenders did so in the island bastion of Corregidor.  But after enduring a daily barrage of 12,000 artillery shelling,  he too saw the inefficacious position of his continued resistance and eventually surrendered in May 6, 1942.  He was advised by his senior staff to follow General MacArthur to Australia but as a man known as a fighting general known to get down in the foxholes with his men he calmly replied, "I have been with my men from the start, and if captured, I will share their lot."

General MacArthur and General Wainwright after the former's
release from the Japanese prison camp.
General Wainwrights decision to surrender infuriated General MacArthur so much that when the latter was finally liberated from the concentration camp the former opposed his citation for the Medal of Honor.

Both Wainwright and King expected cour-martial for disobeying the no-surrender order.  However, they were treated as heroes when they were freed from the Japanese prison camp.

This historical event only goes to show how leaders vary in their pursuit of their goals.  Some succumb to their  narcissistic tendencies and is willing to sacrifice others to attain their objective.  While there are also those who think for the benefit of the greater good and the acceptance of the accountability of their actions.   

What kind of a leader would you want to be?

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