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William Fletcher Sharp (September 22, 1885 – March 30, 1947) was a United States Army major general.

William Fletcher Sharp
Born(1885-09-22)September 22, 1885
Yankton, South Dakota
DiedMarch 30, 1947(1947-03-30) (aged 61)
Fort McPherson, Georgia[1][2]
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service1907-1946
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Commands held1918-07-10 – 1918-10-24 Commanding Officer 11th Field Artillery Regiment, Western Front

1918 Commanding Officer 78th Field Artillery Regiment, Western Front 1941-11-04 – 1942-03-04 Commanding General Visayan-Mindanao Force Philippines 1942-03-04 – 1942-04-16 Commanding General Mindanao Force Philippines

1942-04-16 – 1942-05-10 Commanding General Visayan-Mindanao Force Philippines
Battles/warsWorld War I
  • On the western front

World War II

  • Defense of Mindanao and the Visayas (1941-2)
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal
Other workRetirement[3][4]

Sharp, a graduate of the United States Military Academy and career Army officer, commanded the Visyayan-Mindanao Force during the Philippines Campaign (1941–42), and surrendered his command to the Japanese after the Fall of Corregidor. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war, and died shortly after his postwar retirement from the army.

Early lifeEdit

Sharp was born at Yankton, South Dakota, and graduated as a second lieutenant of field artillery from the United States Military Academy in 1907, before becoming a career Army officer.[5][6]

World War IEdit

Sharp commanded the 11th Field Artillery Regiment on the western front in France from July 10 to October 24, 1918. He later was the commanding officer of the 78th Field Artillery Regiment on the western front.[7]

Between the warsEdit

In 1929 Sharp was promoted to lieutenant colonel of field artillery.[8]

World War IIEdit

Sharp was assigned to the Philippines and was a colonel prior to the outbreak of war. He was promoted to brigadier general and was given a command in fall 1941. As a brigadier general, Sharp, headquartered at Cebu, was placed in command of the Visayan-Mindanao Force on Nov. 4, 1941, shortly before Japan brought the United States into World War II. Sharp's force lacked many of the supplies it desperately needed and much of the equipment was outdated and not in proper working order. The troops under Sharp also lacked the training they needed to be an effective fighting force. These problems were similar to those faced by commanders on Luzon.[9][10]

In January 1942 Sharp transferred his headquarters to Mindanao. Gen. Douglas MacArthur sent a letter to Sharp telling him if communications between the two generals were broken, that Sharp was to have the powers of a theatre command so as to continue the resistance to the Japanese.[11] His forces on Cebu and various Visayan islands became autonomous because of Japanese activity that disrupted communications and travel. One important goal was to protect the airfield at Del Monte, in the north-central section of Mindanao. On Feb. 4 a part of Sharp's command was made independent and on March 4, all the islands except Mindanao were made independent of Sharp, making him the commander of the Mindanao Force only. On April 16, Sharp was again made the commander of the Visayan-Mindanao Force, which meant little with much of the Visayan area now under Japanese control. Shortly before he was forced to surrender, Sharp was promoted to major general.[12][13]

Initially a small Japanese force landed and took Davao City on Dec. 20, 1941. The Japanese made some attempts to expand their control, but had little success until reinforcements were sent. In late April major attacks were launched which saw the Japanese take control of much of the south and central parts of the island by May 10. By that time Sharp's force was badly battered, but he still had troops in the field.[14]

On May 6 Lieut. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright, who had held out on Corregidor Island for a month after U.S. forces on the Bataan peninsula had surrendered, notified Japanese General Masaharu Homma he was surrendering. Wainwright at the same time sent a coded message to Sharp naming him as commander of all forces in the Philippines, excepting those on Corregidor and three other islands in Manila Bay. Sharp was now to report to Gen. MacArthur, now stationed in Australia. This would cause as few troops as possible to be surrendered. General Homma would not allow the surrender of any less than all the troops in the Philippines and considered the troops on and around Corregidor to be hostages to ensure other forces in the Philippines would lay down their arms. Wainwright then agreed to surrender Sharp's men.[15]

Gen. Sharp was placed in a difficult position. He knew if he ignored Wainwright's wish for him to surrender that the hostage troops and civilians at Corregidor could be massacred. Though his troops were badly mauled, they could still put up a fight. It had been expected they would fight on as a guerrilla force. In the end, on May 10 Sharp decided to surrender. Sharp's surrender proved problematic for the Japanese, although Sharp and many of his men surrendered and suffered as prisoners of war until liberated in 1945. Many of Sharp's men, the vast majority of them Filipino, refused to surrender. Many considered Wainwright's surrender of them to be made under duress and many ultimately joined the guerrilla movement led by Col. Wendell Fertig.[16]

However, Sharp did not surrender all his men. The names of Filipino new recruits, for instance, were omitted from the surrender rosters and were ordered to return to their homes and bury their weapons.[17] Sharp was at some point sent to a prison camp in Mukden (today known as Shenyang), Manchuria, where he was released in 1945.[18]

Post World War IIEdit

For his service in the Philippines from September 1941 to March 1942, Sharp was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal. Gen. Sharp, physically and mentally worn down, retired from the Army in July 1946. He died the following spring, when he visited Fort McPherson, Georgia, for a medical checkup. He was in the process of looking for a place to live in the Sarasota, Florida, area just prior to his death.[19][20][21]

Personal lifeEdit

Sharp's wife was Kathryn Lund Sharp, who died July 30, 1955.[22]

LegacyEdit

The story of William F. Sharp, and the struggles in Mindanao for that matter, has gathered little interest in the military history of World War II. Sharp told Col. Wendell Fertig and Father Edward Haggerty he had wished to remain a colonel and had no desire be advanced to general rank. Brig. Gen. Bradley G. Chynoweth, a contemporary of Sharp, claimed Sharp did not have the physical or mental agility to adapt to the unforeseen situation in which he found himself in Mindanao. Chynoweth said of Sharp, "It was pathetic to give him the responsibility of commanding combat or guerrilla operations on Mindanao."[23][24]

Sharp inherited a bad situation on Mindanao and his decision to surrender was made to prevent the Americans and Filipinos on Corregidor from being massacred. Sharp did set in motion some of the planning to transform his regular forces into guerrilla ones. He also ordered or allowed fudging of the surrender rosters to allow a number of his troops to escape the surrender and to fight on another day. Most of Fertig's American troops had come from Sharp's command and many Filipino guerrillas had also served under Sharp.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Find A Grave website, at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12029 .
  2. ^ "General Dies; Visited Here," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, April 6, 1947, p. 1.
  3. ^ Waymarking website, at http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMFJW9_William_Fletcher_Sharp_Fort_Leavenworth_Ks .
  4. ^ Generals.dk website , at http://www.generals.dk/general/Sharp/William_Frederick/USA.html .
  5. ^ Find A Grave website.
  6. ^ Military Hall of Honor website, at http://www.militaryhallofhonor.com/honoree-record.php?id=3067 .
  7. ^ The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, at http://www.pwencycl.kgbudge.com/S/h/Sharp_William.htm .
  8. ^ Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States, Volume 69, Part 1, p. 859.
  9. ^ The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia.
  10. ^ Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines (Washington: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1953), 2016 update, p. 499 , at http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/5-2/5-2_28.htm .
  11. ^ Maj Larry S. Schmidt, "American Involvement in the Filipino Resistance Movement on Mindanao During the Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945)" (MMAS thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, 1982), p. 65. This thesis can be found online at http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADB068659 .
  12. ^ Morton, p. 500-6.
  13. ^ Schmidt, p. 138.
  14. ^ Morton, pp. 508-19.
  15. ^ Morton, pp. 564-70, this section of his book online at http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/5-2/5-2_32.htm .
  16. ^ Morton, pp. 576-7.
  17. ^ Schmidt, pp. 71-2.
  18. ^ "General Dies; Visited Here," p. 1.
  19. ^ Waymarking website.
  20. ^ Generals.dk website.
  21. ^ "General Dies; Visited Here," p. 1.
  22. ^ Waymarking website.
  23. ^ Schmidt, p. 138.
  24. ^ The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, at http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/C/h/Chynoweth_Bradford_G.htm . Chynoweth was very critical of Sharp. Chynoweth only surrendered himself to the Japanese because he thought MacArthur had approved Wainwright's actions.