General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright IV

 

Born: Walla Walla, Washington - August 23, 1883
Died: San Antonio, Texas - September 3, 1953

 

Jonathan Wainwright was born the son of a cavalry officer and a descendant in a line of distinguished U. S. Naval officers on August 23, 1883 at Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory. 

His father, Robert, commanded a squadron in the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish American War and died in 1901 while serving in the suppression of the Philippine Insurrection. A year later, Jonathan was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. 

 

Wainwright received his commission in 1906 and began his career with the 1st Cavalry Regiment in Texas. The 1st was sent to the Philippines in 1908 as part of an expedition sent to quell the Moro uprising on the island of Jolo. Wainwright participated in the St.Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives towards the end of World War I. Following the Armistice, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff with the Army of Occupation in Koblenz, Germany and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his work in that capacity. The years between the wars were spent in postgraduate studies and training commands. 

 

He graduated from the Mounted Service School, Fort Riley, Kansas, 1916. Promoted to Captain, and in 1917 was on staff of the first officers training camp at Plattsburg, New York. In February 1918 he was ordered to France. In June he became Assistant Chief-of-Staff of the 82nd Infantry Division, with which he took part in Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. Promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel in October he was assigned to occupation duty in Germany with the 3rd Army until 1920, in which year, having reverted to Captain, he was promoted to Major. 

 

After a year as an instructor at the renamed Cavalry School at Fort Riley, he was attached to the General Staff during 1921-23 and assigned to the 3rd Cavalry, Fort Myer, Virginia, 1923-25. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1929 and graduated from the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1931, and the Army War College in 1934. He was promoted to Colonel in 1935, and commanded the 3rd Cavalry until 1938, when he was advanced to Brigadier General in command of the 1st Cavalry Brigade at Fort Clark, Texas. In September 1940, he was promoted to temporary Major General and returned to the Philippines to take command of the Philippine Division. that began in late December 1941. 


Wainwright had little inkling of what future held. The war in Europe was already raging and he feared "that something might break over here and there he would be stuck in the Philippines missing everything." He was commanding American and Filipino troops in northern Luzon when the Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941. Wainwright commanded from the front and his skillful series of holding actions helped to make the American stand on Bataan possible. 

On February 7, 1942 General MacArthur decorated him with the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism. 

 

 

MacArthur was ordered to leave for Australia on March 11, 1942. Wainwright succeeded him as commander of all American and Filipino forces on Bataan and was promoted to lieutenant general. As the senior field commander of US and Filipino forces, he had tactical responsibility for resisting the Japanese invasion. Pushed back from beachheads in Lingayen Gulf, his Philippine forces withdrew onto the Bataan Peninsula, where they occupied well prepared defensive positions and commanded the entrance to Manila Bay. In throwing back a major Japanese assault in January, the defenders earned name of "battling bastards of Bataan." When MacArthur was ordered off Bataan in March 1942, Wainwright, promoted to temporary Lieutenant General, succeeded to command of US Army Forces in the Far East, a command immediately afterward reassigned US Forces in the Philippines. The Japanese attacks resumed in earnest in April.

The Japanese high command issued an ultimatum on March 22nd urging the defenders of Bataan to surrender in the name of humanity. Continuous air bombardment was followed by two human wave assaults which were repulsed but the defenders were running low on supplies and morale. 

Bataan fell on April 9, 1942. President Roosevelt authorized Wainwright to continue the fight or make terms as he saw fit. Wainwright chose to continue the battle from Corregidor despite the urgings of some that he leave. "I have been one of the battling bastards of Bataan and I�ll play the same role on the rock as long as it is humanly possible. I have been with my men from the start, and if captured I will share their lot. We have been through so much together that my conscience would not let me leave before the final curtain." 

 

Wainwright and 11,000 survivors held on in the tunnels beneath the rock for another month deprived of food, sleep or hope of relief.

On May 5th Wainwright wrote MacArthur, "As I write this we are being subjected to terrific air and artillery bombardment and it is unreasonable to expect that we can hold out for long. We have done our best, both here and on Bataan, and although we are beaten we are still unashamed." The Japanese began landing on the island that night and at noon the next day Wainwright called for terms. General Homma insisted that Wainwright surrender all remaining American and Filipino forces or risk the annihilation of his troops on Corregidor. Wainwright complied. MacArthur countermanded the order but was ignored.


MacArthur was livid and later refused to sign General Marshall's recommendation of Wainwright for a Medal of Honor. 

Wainwright spent the next three years in Japanese prison camps in the Philippines, China and Formosa (Taiwan). The man who was known to his friends as Skinny emerged from captivity little more than a skeleton. He was liberated on August 25, 1945 in time to attend the surrender ceremonies aboard USS Missouri (left) in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, after which he returned to the Philippines to receive the surrender of the local Japanese commander. A hero's welcome in the US was accompanied by promotion to General and the awarding of the Medal of Honor. "Memoir, General Wainwright's Story," was published in 1945. In January 1946 he took command of the 4th Army, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He retired from the army in 1947 and died on September 3, 1953. 

 

General Wainwright was the son of Robert Powell Page Wainwright, a career Cavalry officer who died in service in the Philippines. He is buried next to his father in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery. He is one of only a few people in history whose funeral was held in lower level of the Memorial Amphitheater. Others were Sir Moses Ezekiel, creator of Confederate Memorial, March 30, 1921; Colonel Charles Young, an early black graduate of West Point, June 1, 1923; Ignace Jan Paderewski, exiled President of Poland, July 5, 1941; General of the Armies John J. Pershing, July 19, 1948; Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal, May 25, 1949; and General Henry "Hap" Arnold, January 18, 1950. 

 

His wife, Adele Holley Wainwright (1887-1979) is buried with him.