I posted this blog at Subliblog.com but unfortunately the reblog button refused to work. So here it is:
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
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.
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.
I will be at Patriots Point on Saturday, April 27 form 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM to do a book signing of my new book, “BAHALA NA (Come What May): A World War II Story of Love, Faith, Courage, Determination and Survival”. The book is set in Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. Bahala Na (Come What May) is a World War II story, a love story, a travelogue and a social history all in one.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is one of the best attractions in the Charleston, SC area. You can see the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum and other exhibits aboard USS Yorktown, a WWII aircraft carrier used in World War II. You can also explore Submarine Clamagore, Destroyer Laffey, Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, Cold War Submarine Memorial and the Vietnam Base Camp. It is located just over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Mt. Pleasant on Charleston Harbor.
In Manila, ten minutes after the first bomb hit Pearl Harbor, a startled radio operator at Asiatic Fleet headquarters intercepted an unencrypted Morse Code from Adm. Husband Kimmel, the Honolulu-based Pacific Fleet Commander: “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NO DRILL”. He alerted his duty officer, Marine Lt. Col. William T. Clement, who in turn contacted Admiral Hart who failed to relay the message to anybody. An enlisted army signalman happened to tune in to a California radio station and heard it and immediately told his duty officer who in turn phoned Brigadier Spencer B. Akin, MacArthur Signal Corps chief who went directly to Major Richard Sutherland, MacArthur’s chief of staff who then called MacArthur penthouse atop the Manila Hotel.
MacArthur could not believe it and supposedly exclaimed, “Pearl Harbor! It should be our strongest point.” At 3:40 am, he got a call from Washington, DC confirming the news. Even after the attack was confirmed by Washington, DC., MacArthur for some reason failed to act for five long hours. Maybe it was too much information coming all at the same time but nobody could figure out why the inaction on his part. Maj. Gen. Lewis Brereton, MacArthur’s commander of the air force, wanted to launch an immediate attack on the Japanese airfields on Formosa but did not get an answer until 10:10 A.M. but only to launch a photo reconnaissance of Formosa, in preparation for an air strike which was the first step before an attack by the B-17s the next day. As a result, his aircrew decided to go to chow instead while his planes, eighteen B-17s, assosrted fighters, mostly P-39 Air Cobras and P-40 Tomahawks were parked outside exposed to enemy fire.
Just a few hours later, on the same day Pearl Harbor was attacked, December 8 west of the international dateline, powerful Japanese bombers, stationed in Formosa did a “Second Pearl Harbor” in the Philippines, five thousand miles west of Hawaii. The first Japanese bombs to fall on Philippine soil hit Camp John Hay in Baguio. The Japanese bombers stationed in Taiwan just north of the Philippines bombed Iba airfields destroying all sixteen P-40’s on the ground or about to touch down. They also did great damage to Clark Air Base. Coming in several V-shaped formations, the Japanese pilots was surprised to find the sky clear and rows and rows of planes on the ground. They dropped bomb after bomb on the parked planes.
When the last Japanese planes left Clark and turned toward Formosa, they had destroyed eighteen of the 35 B-17s, along with fifty-three P-40s and thirty other crafts. The Boeng B17 Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s for the U.S. Army Air Corps. The P-40 was a fighter/bomber produced by Curtiss Aircraft in the 1930s and 1940s. Half of MacArthur’s air force was gone within the first hour of the war and several men dead. The base was totally destroyed. Tank after tank blew up and flames could be seen as far away as Manila. The Japanese had bombed and strafed the key U.S. air bases on Luzon: Iba, Clark, Nichols, Nielson, Vigan, Rosales, La Union and San Fernando fields.
Not only did the Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, they also mounted simultaneous attacks on several American and British targets in the Pacific. The British sent HMS Repulse, a 32,000-ton battle cruiser and HMS Prince of Wales, a 35,000-ton battleship, their two most powerful ships in Asia to defend their territory. The Japanese forces sank them both on Dec. 11 together with the new Commander-in-Chief of the British Far Eastern Fleet, Adm. Sir Thomas Phillips. Landings also started in British Malaya accompanied by air strikes. Another group of Japanese bombers destroyed the British air power in Hongkong. They also attacked two U.S. outposts in the Pacific which most American had never heard of before: Guam and Wake Island. The next day, they landed in Bangkok.
“Tora, tora, tora,” was the code for the successful surprise attack. There was a saying in Japan that, “A tora (tiger) goes out 1,000 ri (2000 miles) and returns without fail.” Even before the first bomb fell, the Japanese knew that the surprise attack was successful: “Tora… Tora… Tora…”
The first wave of Japanese bombers struck at 7:55 A.M. Hawaii time when the Army, Navy and Marine airfields were in a typical Sunday peacetime morning relaxation. They were not ready. The Americans thought that the attack would be someplace else but not Pearl Harbor inspite of warnings from Ambassador Joseph Grew in Tokyo reported as early as January 1941.
A second wave came over at 8:40 A.M. In less than two hours, more than 350 Japanese bombers, torpedo bombers and fighters attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor and the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy incurred heavy losses mostly aircrafts on the ground. The U.S. entire fleet stationed in Hawaii was badly crippled. Six American battleships – West Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma and California – were either sunk or badly damaged. Three light cruisers were damaged, three destroyers were torn by bombs and four other ships were sunk or damaged, all unserviceable. Fortuitously, all four American aircraft carriers and five cruisers as well as most destroyers assigned to the Pacific were away on exercises or on missions away from Pearl Harbor. Thousands of servicemen were either killed or wounded and there were hundreds of civilian killed in the attack. The Navy lost more than 2700 men either killed or wounded, over twice as many as in the Spanish-American War and World War I combined. The Army and Marine Corps lost more than 700 men either killed or wounded. Not only the huge naval base in Pearl Harbor suffered losses, Japanese high-flying bombers also wreaked havoc on the Army Air Force bases at Hickham Field and Wheeler Field.
Pearl Harbor was America’s greatest military disaster. Still, the Japanese forces did not bomb the enormous fuel dump at Pearl Harbor, the submarine base or the naval repair shops. At Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Pacific fleet had been caught napping. It was the first attack on American soil by a foreign power since the British burned the White House during the War of 1812. The country moved from peace to war, joined together in unity and a desire for revenge never seen before in time of crisis. The United States had suffered the worst military disaster in her history in the Pacific. The war that started at Pearl Harbor was now extending its reach into the Philippines Islands and the rest of the Far East.
Rosalinda Rosales Morgan, a former Oyster Bay, NY resident and community volunteer announces the launching of her first historical novel entitled “Bahala Na (Come What May), A World War II Story of Faith, Love, Courage, Determination and Survival”. Set in Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, from the Mountain Provinces to Batangas, Bahala Na (Come What May) is a love story of a Batangas couple before and during World War II. Take a glimpse of what Filipinos endured during the war. Some events have not been written up in any history books. Read it and share it with your friends and family.
Bahala Na (Come What May) is available at www.amazon.com, both in Kindle –
Tired of the cold weather and high taxes in New York, Rosalinda and her husband traded her gardenview home in Long Island, NY for a lakeview townhouse in Charleston, South Carolina. For more info about Rosalinda, visit her website at www.rosalindasgarden.com.