General Wainwright was born
August 23, 1883, at Fort Walla Walla, Washington, the son
of a U.S. Army officer and a descendant in a line of distinguished
U. S. Naval officers. He graduated from the United States
Military Academy At West Point in 1906, and was commissioned
in the cavalry. Over the next several years he served with
the 1st Cavalry in Texas, 1906-08; in the Philippines, where
he saw action against Moro rebels, 1908-10; and at various
posts in the West.
Wainwright graduated from the Mounted Service School, Fort Riley, Kansas, 1916,
was 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. That
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, and later was promoted to Major.
After a year as an instructor at the renamed Cavalry School at Fort Riley, he
served as General Staff (1921-23) and then was assigned to the 3rd Cavalry in
Fort Myer, Virginia (1923-25). He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1929.
Wainwright graduated from the Command and General Staff School, in Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas (1931) and the Army War College (1934). He was again promoted in 1935,
to Colonel, 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. As the senior field
commander of US and Filipino forces under Douglas MacArthur, he had tactical
responsibility for resisting the Japanese invasion that began in late December
Pushed back from beachheads in Lingayen Gulf, his Philippine forces withdrew
onto the Bataan Peninsula early in January 1942, 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 the 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 redesignated
US Forces in the Philippines. The Japanese attacks resumed in earnest in April.
A small core of the now starving, ill and unsupplied garrison pulled farther
back onto island fortress of Corregidor, leaving 70,000 defenders on Bataan to
surrender on April 9. The Japanese gained a foothold on Corregidor on May 5 against
a furious defense, and the next day he was forced to surrender the 3500 men on
the island. Under orders that he was forced to broadcast, local commanders elsewhere
in the Philippines surrendered one by one, and on June 9, 1942, the U.S. command
in the Philippines ceased to exist.
He was then held in prison camps in northern Luzon, Formosa, and Manchuria until
he was liberated by Russian troops in August, 1945. After witnessing the Japanese
surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 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
active duty in August, 1947, and died at San Antonio, Texas, September 2, 1953.
He 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.