It was Christmas eve and the townsfolk were busy preparing for the traditional noche buena. Then all of a sudden, their lives were changed forever.
Contingents of the combined Filipino and American forces arrived in this sleepy town. And with them were orders to call for them to evacuate right there and then. Surprised, the townsfolk scampered to the hills, mountains and ponds.
Mabatang was referred to as the First Firing Line. The beach from Balanga to Mariveles was burned down on January 2, 1942. Only three structures were spared: the centuries-old Saint Dominic Guzman Church, and two old houses which were used as command posts. These two houses still stand to this day.
Contemplated under War Plan Orange 3, the Main Battle Position of the USAFFE, known officially as the Abucay-Morong Line was established astride this road, committed to this line under the II Philippine Corps (East Sector) of Major General George M. Parker was the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts whose sector stretched along the beach from Balanga to Mabatang, thence 2000 yards westward crossing at this point.
To its left were the 41st Division under Brigadier General Vicente Lim (PCA) and the 51st Division under Brigadier General Clifford Bluemel (AUS) of the Philippine Commonwealth Army. Each of which held a front of 6,500 yards up to the wooded east slopes of Mount Natib. In the I Philippine Corps (West Sector), from the coastal barrio of Mauban eastward to the Western undulation of Mount Silanganan was positioned the 1st Regular Division under Brigadier General Fidel Segundo (PCA) to which was attached the rifle equipped 31st FA Regiment, 31st Division (PCA), leaving a huge gap in the Mounts Silanganan-Natib area.
The East and West sectors of this line were assaulted beginning the 9th and 15th January 1942, respectively. Line abandoned on 25 January when in the West Sector, the enemy infiltrating through the gap at Mount Silanganan established a road block at Mauban Ridge at the rear of the 1st Regular Division, while in the II Philippine Corps sector, the enemy broke through the line of the 51st Division.
Failing to crush through, the enemy shifted farther west and attacked the center of the 41st Division on January 17, then the limiting point of the 51st Division on January 20. The left flank of the 1st Regular Division along the axis of the Morong-Bagac Road was also assaulted January 20. Enemy infiltration through unmanned portion of the line between Mounts Natib and Silanganan resulted in the envelopment of the 1st Regular Division and finally the abandonment of the Pilar-Bagac Line on January 24.
Lt. Alexander R. Niniger, Jr. of 57th Infantry Regiment (PS) of Gainsville, Georgia was posthumously decorated the Congressional Medal of Honor for an action for this line on January 12, 1942 and became the first American serviceman to win the US highest military decoration.