An 11th Airborne Division Association – “Angels” New Year’s Miracle

I saw this article on my Facebook feed from the 11th Airborne Division Association – “Angels” and I’m happy to share it with the fans of WWII history. Great story and a New Year’s Miracle indeed!

I was recently contacted by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the 11th Airborne Division who told me of an 11th Airborne ring that had been found by a metal detectorist at Delray Beach in Florida.

Looking through our records, I found that Alan Jack Saltzman served in Company A, 127th Airborne Engineers during World War II. I also found one article indicating that Jack may have provided vocals for the 11th Airborne Division Band, but I am still looking into that.

Trooper Saltzman died in 2010 of cancer and left his 11th AB ring to his son who was wearing it on the beach on December 31, 2022. While cleaning up their chairs, Jack’s son noticed that the ring was missing and was crushed to lose such a treasured heirloom.

The next day, Leonard Epstein was out with his metal detector and came upon the ring. He quickly contacted the 11th Airborne Division in Alaska who reached out to me and I was able to find Jack Saltzman’s last known contact information. Len cold called the number and Trooper Saltzman’s son nearly broke down in tears to hear that his father’s ring had been found and that Len was mailing it back to him. Miracles do happen and what a great way to kick off 2023.

Happy New Year’s, Angels!


#11thairbornedivision #11thairborne #wwii #downfromheaven

An 11th Airborne Division Association – “Angels” New Year’s Miracle:


Memorial Day 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Manila American Cemetery – Photo Courtesy – American Battle Monuments Commission

Please take a moment to pause, and lest we forget, Memorial Day is all about the members of the armed forces who gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us to be free. It is not about enjoying the long weekend going to the beach or having a BBQ in your backyard.

It is about those Americans in military uniforms who served and never came back.

  • 655,000 Americans killed in the Civil War. (est. Union & Confederate)
  • 116,516 Americans killed in WWI.
WWII Memorial in Washington, DC
  • 405,399 Americans killed in WWII.

Source: Wikipedia – U.S. Military Casualties of War

Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC
  • 92,134 Americans killed in the Korean War.
Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC
  • 153,303 Americans killed in the Vietnam War.
  • 9,971 Americans killed in the Afghanistan War.
  • 31,965 Americans killed in the Iraq war.

Source: Lonestar – I’m Already There (Soldiers Tribute) YouTube

  • And all the Americans killed in other wars.

Here is one way you can participate in this year’s celebration of Memorial Day. CBS News “On the Road” correspondent Steve Hartman and retired Air Force bugler, Jari Villanueva, are again inviting musicians of all abilities and ages to sound Taps on their front lawns, porches, and driveways at 3 p.m. local time on Monday, May 31, for Taps Across America.

Taps is the somber 24-note bugle call played at American military funerals and ceremonies. Hartman and Villanueva hope that the nationwide event, now in its second year, will offer an opportunity to pause for a moment to pay tribute to fallen service members. Traditionally, when people hear Taps, they respond by standing, facing the music and placing their hands over their hearts.

Last year’s Taps Across America project drew tens of thousands of participants across the world. Anyone who can sound Taps can participate.

Here is the sheet music:

Dust off your trumpet or bugle to sound the call this Memorial Day. Join the thousands who will play Taps tomorrow.

Here’s what CBS want you to know.

CBS plans to show some of the videos on the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell. Take a video of your performance. You can use any phone with a video camera and hold the phone horizontally. If neighbors or friends come to listen, get a shot of them too! Then send the video from your computer or phone via this link. Make sure to click “show metadata” after uploading your video to share information about your performance with us. If the player is under 18, CBS ask that you instead upload your video to social media with the hashtag #CBSTaps. CBS will be browsing public posts with that hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

Let’s all thank the armed forces’ men and women for their service, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their families and our country.

If you know someone who served and died for our country, you may share their name and the war they served in the comment below to educate the public of what FREEDOM and MEMORIAL DAY are all about.

Thank you and bless you all!

At my visit to the WWII Memorial years ago.

Lucky 666 – The Story of the Longest Continuous Dogfight in the Annals of USAAF History

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.”

October 20, 1944 – Invasion of Leyte

I posted this blog at but unfortunately the reblog button refused to work. So here it is:

Invasion of Leyte

Alligators Charge toward the Foe on Leyte. Official U.S. Coast Guard photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Seventy-five years ago today, MacArthur fulfilled his pledge and returned to the Philippines. Even with reports of weak resistance and the expedited time schedule, the Leyte invasion promised to be the largest and most complicated … More October 20, 1944 – Invasion of Leyte

Oldest Pearl Harbor veteran dies at 106

As reported by The Conservative Brief on Nov. 24, 2018.

Ray Chavez at the White House.
Ray Chavez at the White House in May 2018

Ray Chavez, a man who was celebrated as the oldest living veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack, died Wednesday at the age of 106 in the San Diego suburb of Poway after a battle with pneumonia.

The mild-mannered Chavez became a national figure three years ago when he was recognized as the oldest survivor of the 1941 attack by other Pearl Harbor survivors, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

When praised for his service, his reaction was often to shrug, according to his daughter Kathleen Chavez. “I was just doing my job,” he would say.

His death was mourned in a tweet by the White House: “We are saddened to hear the oldest living Pearl Harbor veteran, Ray Chavez, has passed away at the age of 106. We were honored to host him at the White House earlier this year. Thank you for your service to our great Nation, Ray!

In May, President Donald Trump praised Chavez as he attended a Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery.

Chavez “doesn’t look a day over 60,” Trump said. He called Chavez “truly an inspiration to all who are here today.”

Trump pledged, “We will never forget our heroes.”

Seventy-five years after the attack, Chavez said its memory still haunted him: “I still feel a loss … We were all together. We were friends and brothers. I feel close to all of them.”

Japan’s surprise attack crippled the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet and killed 2,335 U.S. military personnel and 68 civilians.

Chavez suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following the attack. He returned to his hometown of San Diego, where working in nature helped him recover from his symptoms of anxiety and shaking.

Chavez was not wounded in the attack, but he witnessed the aftermath in around-the-clock shifts.

Before the attack, Chavez helped identify and sink a Japanese submarine. After working through the early morning, he returned home to sleep. That’s when the bombers arrived.

In 2016, he recalled his wife waking him as the attack raged: “The Japanese are here, and they’re attacking everything,” she told him.

The harbor was in flames when he arrived.

After sifting through destruction for days, he was later assigned to a transport ship to ferry troops, tanks and other equipment to war-torn islands across the Pacific.

Chavez did not talk of the attack until its 50th anniversary. At that time, he began regularly attending anniversary events.

Chavez was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret. His daughter is his only survivor.


When the American soldiers landed in Batangas – 1945

Batangas Map
Map of Batangas province. Way below it (the white space) is Mindoro. Alitagtag borders Taal Lake on the south side.


This is the continuation of the article that appeared on Pacific Paratrooper’s blog about my parent’s escape from the Japanese when the American soldiers landed in Batangas in 1945. If you have not read it yet, I advise you to go to Pacific Paratrooper’s blog first before you continue reading this article. Thanks.


My father was uncomfortable staying in Alitagtag because where they were hiding was not that far from the main road. It was only a mile away even though it was wooded and close to a ditch. Dad decided to take a chance and leave Alitagtag. After dark, they joined another group and moved to another location south of the main road somewhere near Bauan where my mom’s family lived. Some of the townspeople were moving to farms farther south away from the main road.

They decided to leave after dark. Dad made a papoose bag and carried me in it. Mom grabbed some clothes for us and a scarf to cover her head. They thought it would be safer where they were going because the Japanese camp was so close to Alitagtag and the Japanese might advance to Alitagtag and meet the Americans head on.  Dad’s two younger brothers joined them. They left under the cover of darkness.

As they passed the main road, they looked all around them to see if there was anyone in sight.  Nobody was around. They safely crossed the main road, went quietly through people’s yards and began their trek. It was total darkness and not a sound could be heard except their footsteps. As they reached the farm beyond the houses, there was a faint glow from the moon above. They walked at a very fast pace. Dad was leading the group as they followed a trail he knew. They headed south passing through farmland. They reached a small rise then turned east towards the place where two big mango trees, a local landmark, were and turned south again. Every so often, they would stop and listened for strange sounds. When they thought it was not a Japanese patrol, they kept their steady pace. The quiet of the field was only broken by sounds from the night owl and bats roaming the night. They kept on looking back but could not see a thing.  

They veered left through another path which would take them to Bauan. This time, the moon disappeared behind the cloud. Everything around them went pitch black.  They slowed down their trek, trying to listen to any noise or movement. They had to be alert to any possible danger. They found a clearing and rested for a while. They might have dozed for an hour. Then they saw the moon begin peeking through the clouds again. They decided to move on. They kept on walking that seemed like forever. They reached Bauan as the dawn was coming up.

They went straight to their Ninong sa Kasal’s (wedding sponsor) house near Bauan town market. The town was still quiet. Not a soul was up yet. They knocked at the door. The mayordomo opened the door. Dad asked if his godfather was home but was told he left with his family for Mindoro where it’s safe.

“I’m not sure it’s safe anywhere anymore. The Japanese are killing civilians now, not just soldiers and guerillas. Are you staying here?” Dad asked. The old man told Dad they were leaving town soon and would go into hiding.  

“I think you should leave now and go to some remote barrio where the Japanese do not venture at all,” Dad told the mayordomo.

Dad decided to move on and find my mother’s family. They went to Asis, a small barrio between Alitagtag and Bauan far from the main road where my maternal grandmother and uncles were hiding. My maternal grandfather died when Mom was five years old.

They were only at Asis a few days when they noticed a black cloud coming from the west. From where they stood, they could not see the flame but it was definitely a big fire. They saw black smoke shooting up to the sky coupled with bright light on the horizon. They had the suspicion that the Japanese started burning some areas. Dad was worried about his parents who were hiding in Alitagtag. He hoped the fire was not there. Mom thought of her aunt and her aunt’s family who were hiding near Taal at a sugar cane field.

Dad told Mom he had to go back to Alitagtag to make sure his parents were OK.

“What about your brothers?” She asked.

“They are staying with you and the baby. You’ll all be safe here. Take care of the baby in case I don’t come back.”

Dad walked back to Alitagtag. He followed the same path he did a few nights before. It took him all day. He could smell the smoke as he was getting closer to the main road in Alitagtag but it looked like it was coming from the northwest of where his parents were. The air was gray with smoke. He crossed the main road and it was empty. Nobody was around. Looking right and left, he ran across the street beyond the houses and into the fields. So far he had not encountered any Japanese soldier.

He reached the area where his parents were hiding. His parents were glad to see him. He found out everything was fine there except the Japanese started burning the villages from Muzon about two kilometers from where they were all the way to Taal in retaliation for their losses in Muzon.

Filipino Guerillas – Photo Credit – Pinterest

Apparently, the Philippine guerillas in Batangas, a ferocious looking group of Batanguenos, ran into a group of Japanese soldiers a few days ago. A fierce skirmish with the Japanese soldiers ensued at the junction of Alitagtag and Muzon. The fight ended with some Japanese casualties. The Japanese thought the revolutionaries came from Taal so they set fire to all the houses from Muzon all the way to Taal.  

As the fire started to spread out, people near Taal did not think it would reach them since it started too far from where they were. But as the fire spread through several villages, people who were still in their home started scrambling and ran for their lives. They went running to the sugar cane fields away from the main road. They joined some villagers who were already hiding there. But the Japanese made sure they burned the whole perimeter of all sugar cane fields including those which dotted the roadways to Taal so people had no way of escaping. They were trapped.

My grandfather told Dad to go back to Bauan and bring back his family to Alitagtag. So the next day, Dad was back on the dirt path going back to Asis to take his family back to Alitagtag. However, Mom insisted on staying for a few more weeks till everything calm down. They stayed for a couple of months until they got word that Alitagtag was now safe.

After large-scale enemy resistance in southern Luzon had collapsed, the Japanese in Batangas unleashed their brutal campaign of torture, rape and butchery against the Filipino civilians. Groups of men were rounded up and sent to a building and then the building was doused with kerosene and burned. Thousands of residents were massacred both in Lipa City and in Bauan. One of Mom’s relatives went to one of the so called “meetings” in Bauan where people were locked up in a schoolroom and then the building was doused with kerosene and set on fire. He died in that massacre.

Alitagtag was lucky to be spared the wrath of the Japanese because rumor was the Mayor was a Japanese sympathizer. Behind their back, he was also working for the Americans giving them intelligence report on where the Japanese were. There was a saying around that time, “Pilipino Tagu, Pilipino Turu” meaning Pilipino hides then Pilipino points in the other direction”. The mayor was playing both fields thereby gaining good graces from both parties.

Thanks for reading this article. My parents survived the war. Mom is still alive at 95. Dad passed away in 2007. The story was related to me by my father on their last visit to the United States before Dad died.





How my father spent Christmas Eve 1941

Christmas Eve

Dec. 24, 1941

As they were nearing Tarlac, they were hearing explosions close by. There were more explosions it seemed. Looking further out, they could see clouds of black smoke billowing up in the sky, then more explosions. Every so often, they would stop on their trek and waited till the explosion stopped. It just went on forever, it seemed. It could not possibly be too far because it sounded too loud. They were getting very nervous. They knew heavy fighting must be going on somewhere nearby. They could smell the gunpowder. They were hoping they would not encounter the enemy on the road. The road was very busy at certain sections but they had not seen any Japanese troops. They were mostly American soldiers and Filipino soldiers going the other way. At around 4 PM, they hastened their pace before it really got dark. They were determined to reach the provincial capital of Tarlac.

They were looking for the municipal building where they usually stayed for the night when they heard the roar of army trucks and a band of Japanese soldiers approaching in their direction. There was no time to run away or hide from them. They knew the Japanese soldiers saw them. If they ran, chances were the Japanese would fire their guns. Better to stay calm. Still, there was that fear that they could get shot. Some of the Japanese soldiers got off the trucks and with their bayonet-tipped rifles brandishing away waved at Benjamin and his group and told them to stop.

Benjamin took a quick look at Ramon and his brother nodded. They all stopped and stood frozen. The group thought that was the end of them. Still they tried to remain calm. They bowed to the Japanese soldiers who bowed back. One of the soldiers started talking in Japanese to his comrades and then turned to them. He looked at them up and down, one after another. The soldiers nodded their head. They talked to each other again in Japanese while Benjamin and his group waited. They could not make anything out of what they were saying but they were scared. They did not know what these soldiers were going to do.

“Dear Lord, please help us.” Benjamin was praying in silence.

Then one of the soldiers took a step and looked at them holding their packs.

“What’s in those packs?” one of the Japanese soldiers asked. He spoke little English.

“Clothes.” Ramon said automatically and bowed. Everyone bowed too. In his nervousness, he forgot about the corned beef that they exchanged with the American soldiers a few days ago. Within minutes after he said “Clothes”, he remembered the corned beef suddenly. He felt sweats running down his shirt. He tried to remain calm.

The soldiers looked at them up and down again and decided they looked harmless. The content of the packs was forgotten.

One of the Japanese soldiers said in a very stern voice, “Drop down those packs and go over there.” They looked where he was pointing. He was pointing to the farther side of the building with a clearing.

Slowly Ramon obediently dropped his pack and everyone followed his lead. They put down their belongings on the ground. “That was a close call,” he thought. At least for now, the storm has past.

Pointing to one side of the building, another soldier said, “No. Bring your things to that side of the building instead and hurry up.” They turned to where he was pointing then looked at each other and nervously picked up all their packs.

As they were taking their belongings to the other side of the building, Delfin whispered to Benjamin, “What are they going to do to us? They can’t seem to make up their mind.”

Benjamin answered, “I have no idea but I don’t like it, whatever it is.”

Ramon said to the six of them, “What can they do to us? We are civilians. We are not soldiers. Just do what they want us to do. Hopefully, they will not harm us.”

“Get moving. Get moving. We do not have all day.” Another one of the Japanese soldiers barked.

“Follow me,” the ringleader said. They did not know what to do. They looked at each other and without saying a word, started following the ringleader. They had no choice.

Benjamin started wondering what the soldiers were up to. Are these soldiers about to kill them? What would happen if they did? “God, please help us.” He prayed again.

They got to the other side of the building and came upon a battlefield which was littered with corpses, wrecked trucks, guns, cartridges, maps and backpacks all strewn everywhere. Some of the bodies were on top of each other. The sight was unbelievable. The stench of the dead bodies in the tropical heat was awful. They wiggled their nose and covered their mouth. Some of the dead bodies were covered with flies and then the flies tried to land on their faces. They shooed them away quickly.

There were hundreds of men, in various conditions of carnage, young men in their late teens and early twenties all bloodied and lifeless. There were huge abdominal gashes, some with buried or protruded shrapnel. Some have severed arms. Others lost their legs. Some had disfigured faces and mutilated bodies. Some had their skull opened probably with bayonets or samurai swords. There were bullet holes and dried blood all over their bodies. Some of the dead had their eyes open and thousands of flies buzzed and maggots started swarming around the bodies. It was a gruesome sight.

“Kura, Kura”, the Japanese leader said pointing to the scattered dead bodies. “Pick them up and bring them over there to the front of the building.”

They looked at each other and felt disgusted. They were incredulous. They could not believe what the Japanese soldier was saying. Their two cousins, Elias and Felipe, who had weak stomach threw up. One of the Japanese soldiers saw Elias and Felipe.

The Japanese soldier came over to them and with his bayonet stumping on the ground said, “Are you a man or a woman? Get up or you’ll be one of them.” pointing to the dead bodies. Elias and Felipe still nauseous tried to straighten up and moved slowly to the task at hand. Benjamin felt nauseated himself but he tried to control himself. Ramon held his stomach hard to keep from vomiting. Manuel, Francisco and Delfin looked at them trying hard not to vomit. They spat on the ground and tasted bile in their mouth.

One by one, with heavy heart and disgusted looks on their faces, they picked up the dead bodies of men, American, Filipinos and Japanese killed in the heavy fighting. They were so afraid to protest for fear of the consequences. They wanted to stay alive.

They started picking up the bodies and just dropped them in front of the building. Then one of the soldiers rushed back to the front of the building.

“Not that way. Like this.” He pulled some dead bodies and then dropped them in a neat pile. Then he changed his mind. “Bring them instead to the back of the building and pile them up in a low”.

Benjamin gave him a quizzical look.

“Like this.” The soldier said. He walked from one side to the other side.

“You mean in a row.” Benjamin bowed. The soldier bowed back.

The group tried hard not to laugh. Benjamin saw their mouth curved slowly in amusement. They were smiling. Benjamin caught them and gave them a dirty look. They quickly stopped smiling and pretended not to hear the conversation.

Then they dragged the dead bodies from the front of the building to the back of the building without saying a word. They lined the bodies from one end of the building to the other end. The stench of the dead bodies was so awful but they tried to ignore it. Their nose kept on twitching but they moved on. They finished the first row.

All the while, the Japanese soldiers were there watching them, leaning against a tree chatting, smoking and drinking. Someone had his cigarette hanging from his lower lip and looking over his shoulder while talking and watching them. Someone must have told a funny joke because you could hear their laughter. Then the leader of the soldiers slung his weapon on his shoulder and stood up straight and walked toward them.

Delfin saw him and flinched, whispered to Ramon, “What is he going to do now?”

“Just stay calm. Let me handle this.” Ramon said.

The group had just finished the first row. As the commander approached them, Ramon bowed to him and asked, “What do we do with the rest?”

“Put them on top of one another.”

“Like sandbags? Ramon asked.

“Yes. Go.”

Without uttering another word, they all went back to work. They just kept on piling the bodies without thinking. On and on, they flopped the dead bodies on top of the first row.

As Benjamin was helping pile all the dead bodies one on top of the other, he could not help thinking about the fate of these young men. How will their parents know that their sons are gone? Some of these soldiers are still young kids, a few years younger than him. The war is only just beginning. How many more men and women and possibly children will be lost in the following months? How many of these young men had their dreams shattered and lost in this battle? How about their sweethearts that they left behind going to accept the fact that they will never get married and have that family and house that they dreamt of? How about those young wives who they left behind? Some probably even have children that were born after their husband went to war. The kids will never know their father. Suddenly he thought of Adelaide, then said a silent prayer to spare him and his brothers. He wanted to see Adelaide. He had to make it home and see her. He had to behave himself so the Japanese won’t harm them. He wanted so much to stay alive.

They worked furiously for almost five hours without a break. At first it was hard to concentrate and the task was so gruesome, it was nauseating. After a while, they became an automaton and they just piled the bodies on top without even thinking. As the night started to fall, they were beginning to get dizzy from hunger. They were so weary and exhausted when the Japanese soldiers told them to stop for the night.

Then out of the blue, which they could not figure out why, the Japanese fed them. They ate a meal of rice and some meat. It was not bad at all considering that they were at war with these people. Benjamin was thinking maybe this was their last supper. God only knew what would happen next. Then like another miracle in the night, the Japanese soldiers left. They were left alone in the municipal building. They looked at each other and could not figure out why they just left them there alone. But they were too tired to worry about it. The soldiers never thought of them running away since it was too dark at night already and they were exhausted from all the work. The soldiers were right but not completely right. It was late so they took out their sleeping mats and due to exhaustion, they all fell asleep in no time except Benjamin.

Benjamin lay awake, decided to go outside and sat on the front stoop of the municipal building. He listened to the faint rumbling of gunfire in the distance and the buzzing of the insects nearby that seemed to converge around him. Now and then, he slapped the mosquitoes haphazardly making a sharp crack at the buzzing sound. Benjamin was so tired that night but sleep was elusive. The sight of those young men kept on coming back. There were more in the field. They did not finish piling them up. Maybe that’s why the Japanese left them alone. He was sure they were thinking of them finishing them up the next day and God knows what would happen next.

The whole thing was really bothering him so much and he kept on thinking about the dead bodies. They were not just white American. People of every color, black, white, brown with blue, brown, green and black eyes. These young kids were here with a mission, fighting for a noble cause to defend the Philippines from the invaders. Benjamin could not get their faces out of his mind.

He sat there for a long time thinking he could get some fresh air. However, the air outside did not smell fresh. On ordinary evenings, you could smell the scent of exotic tropical plants and the evening would be loaded with fireflies dancing in the air but not tonight. It was acrid and smelt of death.

He looked up at the sky. The night sky was clear with the moon shining brightly and there was a sprinkling of thousands of stars. The stars were twinkling so bright and hanging so low. It looked like you could almost touch them. He just realized that tonight was Christmas Eve. It was hard to believe and yet here he was in the midst of a rotten place on Christmas Eve. It did not make sense whatsoever. He then realized maybe the Japanese had Christmas spirit after all and that was the reason why they did not harm them. They also went out to town for merrymaking perhaps. The Baby Jesus must be watching over them.

Then he thought of something else. If it was a different circumstance, they could have been home by this time. They should be about getting ready for the coming of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. It should be nearing the time when they all went to church for the midnight mass and then home and enjoying Noche Buena. “Oh, how I wish we were home now,” he sighed.


Excerpts from the book “BAHALA NA (Come What May)” – my father’s memoir. Benjamin in the story was my father.


Until Next time. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Rosalinda R Morgan

Author & Garden Writer

I Have Returned

Seventy-three ago today, Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, “I have returned.”


Below is an excerpt from “BAHALA NA (Come What May”:

“On October 20, 1944, MacArthur landed in Leyte, fulfilling his promise to the Filipino people by wading ashore at Leyte, but the evening before the Leyte landing, MacArthur spoke through a radio transmitter announcing . . .

“People of the Philippines, I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil. . . Rally to me! Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead. . . The guidance of divine God points the way. Follow in His name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!”

MacArthur, wearing his field marshal’s cap, sunglasses and freshly pressed khakis wanted to land on the beach but ran aground in the shallows while still 100 yards from the beach. The commander of the craft could not bring the landing craft in any closer and so an irritated MacArthur accompanied by President Osmeña and their staffs had to wade ashore. It became one of the most famous images of World War II. Upon seeing the newsreels of his landing, MacArthur was so stirred by the picture that he ordered his staff to arrange for all subsequent island landings to begin offshore so he could walk through knee-deep water onto the beach.”


Until Next time. Stop and Smell the Roses.

Rosalinda R Morgan

Author & Garden Writer


BAHALA NA (Come What May) reduced price in time for Memorial Day

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With Memorial Day approaching, I am offering “BAHALA NA (Come What May)” on Kindle at a discounted price of $2.99 for a limited time starting today. “BAHALA NA (Come What May)” is dedicated to the men of the armed forces who fought bravely to protect my old country, The Philippines, against the Japanese forces. “BAHALA NA (Come What May) is about my father’s experience before and during WWII. There is a snippet of my parent’s love story in it.

With just over 75 years after Pearl Harbor and only a few WWII veterans left, we should not forget those brave men and women who fought to keep our country safe. Let us keep their memories alive.

“BAHALA NA (Come What May)” is available at both in Kindle and paperback.

Order you copy today!


Until Next time. Keep on reading.

Rosalinda R Morgan

Author & Garden Writer

Evolution of Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day evolved in the years following World War I, or “The Great War,” as it was known at the time.  The Great War, a war to end all wars, ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918 when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect.  For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of the war to end all wars. In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.  In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday by an act of Congress.

World War I or “The Great War” officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, at the Palace of Versailles, France, when all warring powers executed a formal declaration of peace.  Fighting, however, had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. 

The major players on the stage of history at this time were known as The Big Three:  President Woodrow Wilson, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain and President Georges Clemenceau of France.  Pfc. Henry Gunther will be remembered as the last soldier to die on Nov. 11, 1918 with one minute remaining before the armistice would end all conflict.  This otherwise unknown man would charge a German machine gun encampment disregarding their attempts to wave him back, knowing that in a matter of seconds they could all leave their trenches and once again breathe the soft air of peace.  Gunther fell after a short blast of fire joining the 116,000 of his fellow American comrades that died in that war.

The last surviving U.S. World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, age 109, died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2011. In December 2010, he appeared before Congress to plead for the approval of a memorial to honor those American soldiers who died in the Great War.  He had enlisted at the age of 16, but his service to his country did not end there.  He also served in World War II and was captured by the Japanese, enduring the infamous Bataan Death March.  He survived three years in a Japanese prison camp, weighing only 85 pounds when he was finally liberated.

November 11 continued to be observed as Armistice Day until 1954 when, at the urging of the veterans’ organizations, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an act of Congress on June 1, 1954 formally changing the word “Armistice” to “Veterans” in order to expand the significance of that (Armistice Day) celebration and in order that a grateful nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this nation.

In 1968, Congress moved Veteran’s Day to the fourth Monday in November, but returned it to its traditional date in 1978 after heavy lobbying by veterans groups and concerned citizens, who believed that moving the observance to create a three-day holiday only served to take the focus off the historical significance of the day. The original concept for the commemoration was for a day observed with parades and public gatherings and a brief suspension of business at 11 a.m.  At New York Stock Exchange, trading stopped at 11 am for a 2-minute silence. Unfortunately, we have gotten away from that original concept, and many people look upon November 11 as simply a day off from work to relax or take advantage of store sales and forget that the reason the day was set aside was to honor our nation’s veterans.

Throughout the history of our great nation, courageous men and women have served in the armed forces to secure, defend and maintain the freedoms upon which our nation was founded.  They represent the finest in the American character who answered our country’s call during WWII, suffered through biting cold winters and scorching summers in Korea, endured booby-trapped jungles and steamy heat in Vietnam and are currently fighting in the unforgiving mountains in Afghanistan and the deserts in Iraq. They came from all walks of life, religions and ethnic backgrounds.  Right now, members of our armed forces are putting their lives on the line in the war against terrorism, and hardly a day goes by when there is not a report of one or more of these brave soldiers paying the ultimate price.  Their sacrifices have given us the freedom we enjoy today which is why we remember and salute their service.

On Nov. 11, our country honors all veterans and active duty soldiers on Veteran’s Day. We remember Henry Gunther and Frank Buckles and all those who laid down their lives in the defense of freedom and pray that our brave men and women, now serving in our armed services, return to us and lead long, safe and productive lives.



Photo: Veterans’ Honor Rose from my garden

Until next time. Stop and smell the roses.

Rosalinda Morgan, The Rose Lady

Author and Garden Writer