Parker began organizing and training his Filipino infantry corps with just five U.S. officers and two enlisted men. His Filipino soldiers were newly drafted and unfamiliar with all things military. On 5 November 1941, Parker assumed command of the South Luzon Force of two divisions, about 25 percent of the Luzon strength of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, the Philippines commander. Parker was responsible for the defense of Luzon south of Manila. MacArthur believed he had sufficient strength to defeat a Japanese invasion on the beaches, and he had scrapped the original sound plan of a concentrated defense in the Bataan Peninsula in favor of a defense of the entire island.
After hostilities began and aware that the Japanese would soon invade, on 8 December Parker deployed his men for beach defense. He was promoted to major general on 18 December. He commanded South Luzon Force during the Japanese landing at Lamon Bay on 24 December and then delayed the Japanese advance as he withdrew his men north through Manila to Bataan. Renamed II Philippine Corps on 7 January 1942, Parker's 25,000-man force of four divisions and a regiment defended the right of the Bataan Line east of Major General Jonathan Wainwright's I Corps. Parker commanded at Layac, Abucay, and his half of the Orion-Bagac Line.
Parker was then in poor health, lacking the vigor needed to animate soldiers in a desperate situation, and he was relatively timid and averse to the risks in war. Considering the poor quality of his men, weapons, and supplies; rampant sickness; and starvation rations for his men, Parker could do little more than react to Japanese initiatives. From 3 April to 9 April 1942, the Japanese effectively destroyed the weakened Bataan force. Parker ordered several counterattacks to restore the broken corps line, none of which succeeded. He then fought a delaying action toward the southern tip of the peninsula, employing his few available regulars. Parker surrendered II Corps as ordered on 9 April.
The Japanese sent Parker by vehicle to a prisoner-of-war camp, and he thus missed the Bataan Death March. Surviving nearly four years of Japanese prison camps, Parker was repatriated on 18 August 1945. He retired from the army in September 1946 and died in Portland, Oregon, on 24 October 1968.
John W. Whitman
Morton, Louis. United States Army in World War II. The War in the Pacific. Fall of the Philippines. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1953.; Wainwright, Jonathan M. General Wainwright's Story: The Account of Four Years of Humiliating Defeat, Surrender, and Captivity. Robert Considine, ed. New York: Modern Literary Editions, 1945.; Whitman, John W. Bataan: Our Last Ditch: The Bataan Campaign, 1942. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1990.