Large centers of population already thrived in Batangas before the Spaniards arrived. Native settlements lined the Pansipit River, a major waterway near Taal Lake.
Batangas first came to be known as Bombon. It was named after Taal Lake, which was also originally called Bombon. Some of the earliest settlements in Batangas were established in the vicinity of Taal Lake.
In 1570, an expedition led by Spanish conquistadores Juan de Salcedo and Martin de Goiti explored the coast of Batangas on the way from Panay to Manila. Salcedo was wounded in the foot by a poisoned arrow during a skirmish with the natives on the Pansipit River. However, the Bombon inhabitants were easily subdued. As Jose Rizal pointed out, “The people, accustomed to the yoke, did not defend their chiefs from the invader. . . The nobles, accustomed to…
Most WWII books are written about the European Theatre, but few are written about the war that took place in the South Pacific. With most attention given to the European Theater, it is great to see books written about the forgotten men not only fighting the Japanese aggression in the Pacific but also constant typhoons, inhospitable terrain, heat, diseases from the jungle, malaria-causing mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, unfriendly tribes and not enough men, food, supplies, and equipment. Overshadowed by the heroics of the 8th Air Force fighting in Europe, the men of the 5th Air Force had to make do with what little aircraft and spares were eked out to them to stop the Japanese quest to control southeast Asia and the Pacific.
I’m always on the lookout for WWII books about the Pacific Theater. Lucky 666 by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin is the true story of one of the most important air reconnaissance missions of World War II. The book started slow by talking about the crew’s childhood and their lives. This backstory helps to figure out why they made the choices they did. From childhood, Capt. Jay Zeamer and his bombardier, Joe Sarnoski, looked up at the sky and dreamed of flying and commanding some of the most advanced planes of their time.
Zeamer was always a rebel and a maverick and wanted to do things his way. When confronted with any challenge in his life, from elementary school through his time in the USAAF, Jay Zeamer found a way around it with ingenuity, knowledge, and unstinting effort. He was always willing to take on any job or mission that others avoided if he could do it his way.
The book also chronicles in large part the initial U.S./Allied air campaign and military strategy, the generals, aircrews, and other battles against Japan in the South Pacific. It helps set up the background of the long march of island hopping to start the defeat of Japan’s aggression.
Lucky 666 is about pilot Capt. Jay Zeamer judged to be a misfit by his superiors and bombardier Sergeant Joseph Raymond Sarnoski and their crew of misfits of the 43rd Bomber Group of the Army Air Force. They were denied their own plane but wanted to fly, so they rebuilt a dilapidated B-17 bomber from spare parts in the base junkyard. Its tail identification numbers end in 666, so they named it Old 666 and transformed it into a true Flying Fortress equipped with the best guns to survive a dangerous reconnaissance mission.
In 1942, the Japanese war machine had rolled up nearly all of the Pacific Theater, and the American forces were clinging to what little unconquered territory remained. Following the capture of Guadalcanal, Americans prepared to invade Bouganville, but very little was known about this island’s defenses, so U.S. forces planned a reconnaissance mission.
Toward the end of May 1943, Jay Zeamer found out that the 43rd headquarters needed volunteers to do the most dangerous reconnaissance mission, photo mapping over Bougainville Island. Nobody wanted the mission but Zeamer sensed an opportunity. Zeamer explained the situation to his “Eager Beavers” who all agreed to do it. On June 16, 1943, Zeamer and Sarnoski and their crew, against overwhelming odds, went on an incredible 1200-mile solo suicide mission and brought back films of hidden reefs off Buka and enemy defenses in Bougainville Island. Their successful mission laid the groundwork for the next offensive and changed the momentum of the War in the Pacific. Their sacrifice and bravery saved the lives of many Marines who would safely pass those reefs and eventually capture those islands critical to victory.
The narration of the flight comes near the end of the book. It is a gripping account of the longest continuous dogfight in the annals of the U. S. Army Air Force history lasting about 40 minutes, with one B-17 against as many as 30 Japanese fighter planes. Luckily, Old 666 was the most heavily armed B-17 bomber of the war. They made a crash landing back with crippling damage to the aircraft and wounded crew members, and one dead – Sarnoski, who was supposed to go back to Washington in the last week of June but decided to go on one more mission with the crew before heading back home. The plane received 187 bullet holes and five cannon holes, but it still landed. The film was developed, and the photos were invaluable to Adm. Halsey and his invasion planners.
The mission won pilot Jay Zeamer and bombardier Joe Sarnoski who died on the mission, our country’s highest honor – Medal of Honor. It is the most highly decorated bomber crew in the history of U.S. military service. The mission resulted in every crew member earning the Silver Stars, Distinguished Service Crosses, Purple Hearts, and two Medal of Honor. The single bomber shot down several enemy fighters. According to the Far East Air Chief at the time, General George Kenney, “Jay Zeamer and his crew performed a mission that still stands out in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”
Lucky 666 is an inspiring WWII story of bravery, duty, and heroism. It is also a tale of leadership, friendship, and sacrifice set against the horrific backdrop of dangerous aerial warfare, wounded crewmates, and a pulse-pounding emergency landing in the jungles of New Guinea. It’s a shame that the suffering, devotion, and sacrifice made by the men in the Pacific is not widely known.
I close with this quote from Jay Seamer: “You can always find a way to do anything you want if you are dead set on doing it, come hell or high ack-ack.”
I was just reading Pacific Paratrooper’s blog by GP Cox when I saw the farewell salutes. One of them is Terry Santos. I remember the name from the Los Baños rescue mission. I searched my archives and I saw this article by Terry Santos himself about that raid. I’m reprinting it in his memory.
Two major battlefield events took place in the Pacific during the month of February 1945. The first, and most publicized, was the invasion of Iwo Jima by the U.S. Marine Corps and the subsequent raising of the American Flag on top of Mount Suribachi on February 23rd. The second less known and less publicized action, took place at an internment camp near Los Banos, Luzon, in the Philippine Islands. In as much as this memorable event may have been underpublicized, or even overlooked by historians, it was…
On September 11, 2001, an evil force struck the heart of New Yorkers and all mankind for that matter. There isn’t an American who is not affected by it. Everyone who died in that tragedy left someone behind who loved them.
Show respect for police officers and firefighters.
Aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrenders to the Allies, bringing an end to World War II.
By the summer of 1945, the defeat of Japan was a foregone conclusion. The Japanese navy and air force were destroyed. The Allied naval blockade of Japan and intensive bombing of Japanese cities had left the country and its economy devastated. At the end of June, the Americans captured Okinawa, a Japanese island from which the Allies could launch an invasion of the main Japanese home islands. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur was put in charge of the invasion, which was code-named “Operation Olympic” and set for November 1945.
The invasion of Japan promised to be the bloodiest seaborne attack of all time, conceivably 10 times as costly as the Normandy invasion in terms of Allied casualties. On July 16, a new option became available when the United States secretly detonated the world’s first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. Ten days later, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, demanding the “unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces.” Failure to comply would mean “the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitable the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland.” On July 28, Japanese Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki responded by telling the press that his government was “paying no attention” to the Allied ultimatum. U.S. President Harry S. Truman ordered the devastation to proceed, and on August 6, the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 80,000 people and fatally wounding thousands more.
After the Hiroshima attack, a faction of Japan’s supreme war council favored acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, but the majority resisted unconditional surrender. On August 8, Japan’s desperate situation took another turn for the worse when the USSR declared war against Japan. The next day, Soviet forces attacked in Manchuria, rapidly overwhelming Japanese positions there, and a second U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese coastal city of Nagasaki.
Just before midnight on August 9, Japanese Emperor Hirohito convened the supreme war council. After a long, emotional debate, he backed a proposal by Prime Minister Suzuki in which Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration “with the understanding that said Declaration does not compromise any demand that prejudices the prerogatives of His Majesty as the sovereign ruler.” The council obeyed Hirohito’s acceptance of peace, and on August 10 the message was relayed to the United States.
Early on August 12, the United States answered that “the authority of the emperor and the Japanese government to rule the state shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.” After two days of debate about what this statement implied, Emperor Hirohito brushed the nuances in the text aside and declared that peace was preferable to destruction. He ordered the Japanese government to prepare a text accepting surrender.
In the early hours of August 15, a military coup was attempted by a faction led by Major Kenji Hatanaka. The rebels seized control of the imperial palace and burned Prime Minister Suzuki’s residence, but shortly after dawn the coup was crushed. At noon that day, Emperor Hirohito went on national radio for the first time to announce the Japanese surrender. In his unfamiliar court language, he told his subjects, “we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.” The United States immediately accepted Japan’s surrender.
President Truman appointed MacArthur to head the Allied occupation of Japan as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. For the site of Japan’s formal surrender, Truman chose the USS Missouri, a battleship that had seen considerable action in the Pacific and was named after Truman’s native state. MacArthur, instructed to preside over the surrender, held off the ceremony until September 2 in order to allow time for representatives of all the major Allied powers to arrive.
On Sunday, September 2, more than 250 Allied warships lay at anchor in Tokyo Bay. The flags of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China fluttered above the deck of the Missouri. Just after 9 a.m. Tokyo time, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed on behalf of the Japanese government. General Yoshijiro Umezu then signed for the Japanese armed forces, and his aides wept as he made his signature.
Supreme Commander MacArthur next signed, declaring, “It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past.” Ten more signatures were made, by the United States, China, Britain, the USSR, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand, respectively. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signed for the United States. As the 20-minute ceremony ended, the sun burst through low-hanging clouds. The most devastating war in human history was over.
A friend of mine, Benjamin R. Punongbayan, the founder of Punongbayan and Araullo, one of the largest accounting firms in the Philippines and founder of Buklod National Political Party, spoke at a virtual book launching event recently. He gave some insights on why the Philippines have an ineffective government leadership.
The Philippine government, being run by mostly the oligarchs of the country, is part of the problem. Ben Punongbayan, in his speech, offers some suggestions on how to fix the country’s problems. For those who still maintain ties with the Philippines, you’ll find his solutions commendable. Time will tell whether he is right in his vision for the country.
Since I have been out of the country for so long, I have to admit that I have no idea about…
This poem is part of “We Swoop at Dawn” and written by a pilot from Jay Zeamer’s old 22nd Bomb Group. The poem had been copied and passed around to airmen in theater, many of whom flew with it stuffed into a pocket of their boilersuits. The poem went on for 18 more stanzas and included the line “We’ll all go to town and get drunk as a skunk.”
No matter how many missions a man may fly,
He never gets over being afraid to die.
It’s a funny feeling, hard to explain,
You tighten all up from your toes to your brain
Your stomach’s all empty, and your face feels drawn.
When you hear the old cry, “WE SWOOP AT DAWN.”
But the men who went out into the morning cold
Thought not of medals and heroes bold.
Most likely they thought of their girls and their homes
And the hell they’d give those yellow gnomes
For causing the war, the pain, and the strife,
And for taking away the best years of their life.
I salute all the airmen past and present! You did a wonderful service to our country.
You can read the complete poem at International Historical Research Associates. Here is the link.
While cleaning up my husband’s papers, I came across this piece of ethos amongst his notes while a student at a Dale Carnegie class. That must be at least 40 years ago. It applied then and it still very much applies today. What it means to be an American.
Because of their geographical position between southern China and Melanesia, the Philippines have marked importance for many aspects of Oceanic prehistory. By Southeast Asian standards, they are fairly well-studied archaeologically, and this situation is partly due to a half-century of research carried out by Henry Otley Beyer (1883-1966), an American archaeologist.
Beyer showed in his studies that the early Batangueños had a special affinity with the precious stone known as the jade. He named the Late Paleolithic Period (old stone age, about 2.5 million years ago to about 9600 BC) of the Philippines as the Batangas Period in recognition of the multitude of jade found in the excavated caves in the province. In the Philippines, “hand-axes” are reported from Batangas Province in south-central Luzon as far back as the Upper Pleistocene Period (c. 150,000 to 10,000 years ago).
The Late Neolithic (new stone age, about 9000 BC to 3000 BC)…
It’s sad to see a great ship sunk with plenty of men on board but they were the enemy. The Battle at Leyte Gulf was one great battle in WWII and Taffy 3 outfought and outlasted the mightly Imperial Japanese Navy. Great Post, GP.
Chokai was the last of the four-strong Takao class of heavy cruisers built for the Imperial Japanese Navy in the late 1920s. Imperial Japanese designers worked for several years under the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty to make warships that were superior in quality to their American and British opponents, but the tonnage limitations imposed by the treaty made designs that would satisfy the General Staff almost impossible.
In WWII, Chokai participated in several of the early operations in Southeast Asia, including convoy escort, assisting in the Hunt for Force Z, and the destruction of ABDA forces.
In March 1942, the IJN made a raid into the Indian Ocean with impressive results. The British aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, the heavy cruisers Cornwall and Dorsetshire, and the destroyers Tenedos and Vampire were all sunk. Additionally, several ports were raided on the…