Robert Lapham

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Robert Lapham
Born (1917-01-01)January 1, 1917
Davenport, Iowa
Died December 18, 2003(2003-12-18) (aged 86)
Sun City, Arizona
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank Major
Unit 45th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Philippine Legion of Honor

Robert Lapham (1917 in Davenport, Iowa – 18 December 2003 in Sun City, Arizona) was a reserve Lieutenant in the US Army in World War II.

He served in the Philippines attached to the 45th Infantry (Philippine Scouts),[1]:4 evaded capture in the spring of 1942, and organized a guerrilla regiment in the Central Plains of the northern island of Luzon. He was promoted to Major by war's end, age 28, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General Douglas MacArthur. Lapham was the third person, after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and MacArthur, to receive the Philippine Legion of Honor.[1]:241

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

A graduate of the University of Iowa in 1939 with an ROTC 2nd lt. commission in the Army Reserves, Lapham worked for the Chicago branch of the Burroughs Corporation before signing up for active duty in May 1941.[1]:xi-xii He was assigned to the Philippines and arrived Manila on 25 June 1941, and stationed at Fort William McKinley.[1]:6-7

Bataan[edit]

After MacArthur was evacuated to Australia, Gen. Jonathan Wainwright was given command of the Philippine defense force. As talk of surrender began, Lapham sneaked through the lines. In his 1996 book, Lapham’s Raiders: Guerrillas in the Philippines, 1942–45, he explained why he headed to the jungles to fight: "Somehow, I didn’t like the idea of surrendering. I felt I had better chances on the outside than in a Japanese prison camp."

Lapham joined Maj. Claude A. Thorp in organizing "a raiding party that would slip through Japanese lines", sabotage Clark Field and gather intelligence for General MacArthur.[1]:13-14 On 27 Jan. 1942, they passed through Japanese lines into the Zambales Mountains, finally reaching Mount Pinatubo, where they established Camp Four or Camp Sanchez, and the newly promoted to Lt. Col. Thorp established radio communication with Bataan.[1]:18-19 After the fall of Bataan, Thorp released his approximately one hundred men from following his orders, allowing them to surrender, stay or follow their own path.[1]:22

Lapham, Sgt.s Albert Short and Esteban Lumyeb, started north, eventually making it to Lupao, Nueva Ecija, where they were joined by Sgt. Estipona and other soldiers.[1]:24 Lapham went on to establish another camp in Umingan, Pangasinan.[1]:25 By May 1942, he had a company of men in both locations, and his Luzon Guerrilla Army Force (LGAF) would dominate the northern Luzon central plain.[1]:28

According to Lapham, "Most of the guerrilla leaders who died in the war were killed or captured in its first year...", while the rest, "...had managed to eliminate or chase off spies and collaborators...learned how to win the support and trust of civilians...had succeeded in establishing effective spy systems of our own...had learned when to hide out and when to show ourselves..."[1]:54-55

Luzon Guerrilla[edit]

In 1943 and 1944, the estimated 13,000 Filipinos under Lapham's command in the Luzon Guerrilla Armed Forces (LGAF), engaged in "harrassing the Japanese more than they had in 1942.[1]:55 This included thirty-eight squadrons in Nueva Ecija under Capt. Harry McKenzie, fifteen in Pangasinan under Capt. Ray C. Hunt, and six in Tarlac under Capt. Al Hendrickson.[1]:70 He also had coast watcher units at Baler Bay, Caranglan and Pantabangan, and a combat unit of southwest Pampanga under the command of Emilio and Tony Hernandez.[1]:74 Lapham also managed to evacuate Capt. Wilbur Lage and other Amreicans evacuate via submarine to Australia.[1]:74 In mid-1944, he received radio transmitters and started sending intelligence information to Australia.[1]:89 This was followed by 30 tons of supplies from the USS Narwhal (SS-167) in Aug. 1944, and another 20 tons from the USS Nautilus (SS-168) in Oct.[1]:151-157

On 4 Jan. 1945 his forces initiated four days of sabotage in support of the Battle of Luzon.[1]:226 On 8 Jan., Lapham linked up with Gen. Walter Krueger's US 6th Army.[1]:226 Lapham then formed the 1st Infantry Regiment, which was attached to the 25th Division on 20 Jan.[1]:184

The Japanese army put a $1 million bounty on his head. Lapham is credited for bringing the perilous situation of the 500 allied POWs and internees remaining in the Cabanatuan POW camp to the attention of the American forces then fighting their way across Luzon towards Manila in January 1945. The POWs, captured after the fall of Corregidor and Bataan in 1942, were those the Japanese had not to be shipped to Japan as they were considered too ill or unfit. Lapham's was concerned the POWs would be executed before the allied forces liberated the camp. His concerns were well justified given the August 1944 Japanese War Ministry directive to commandants of POW camps outlining the final disposition of prisoners (known as the "August 1 Kill-All Order") and the killing of 144 American POWs by the Japanese at Palawan, Philippines on 14 Dec 1944. Lapham's efforts lead to the mission by 121 members of the US Army's 6th Ranger Battalion to march 30 miles behind enemy lines, eliminate the Japanese forces securing the camp, liberate its 513 prisoners and return them to American lines. This Raid at Cabanatuan is described in Hampton Sides book, "Ghost Soldiers."

By 31 May 1945, Lapham had seventy-nine squadrons, 809 officers and 13,382 men, and suffered 813 casualties.[1]:226

After the War[edit]

Lapham returned to Burroughs (now Unisys) after the war. In 1975, he retired as vice president for industrial relations,[1]:243 in Detroit.

See also[edit]

Reference[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Lapham, R., and Norling, B., 1996, Lapham's Raiders, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 0813119499