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.

 

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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.

Rosalinda

 

 

 

Kindle Countdown Deals for “BAHALA NA (Come What May)” is set to begin on May 25, 2015 (Memorial Day)

Kindle Countdown Deals for BAHALA NA (Come What May)” is set to begin on May 25, 2015 (Memorial Day) at 8:00:00 AM PST.

In remembrance of all veterans, I’m offering my book, “BAHALA NA (Come What May)”, (a WWII novel dedicated to my parents and soldiers who fought in the Philippines during WWII) at a discount price of $.99 on Monday, May 25, 2015 (Memorial Day) at www.amazon.com/author/rosalindarmorgan. The best deal!

“BAHALA NA (Come What May)” is a gripping tale of WWII based on my father’s life and struggles before and during WWII. Gain insight about the Philippines and the Filipino people and how their faith helps them in their struggle through life. “Bahala Na”, “Leave it to God” is one dictum they cling to when they are in trouble.

The price goes up to $1.99 on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

On Wednesday, May 27, 2015, the price will be $2.99.

On Thursday, May 28, 2015, the price goes up to $3.99, still a dollar off the regular price.

On Friday, May 29, 2015 which happens to be my 45th wedding anniversary, the price goes back to the regular price of $4.99.

So take advantage of the discounted price at www.amazon.com/author/rosalindarmorgan. Price is also discounted at www.amazon.co.uk from £.99 on May 25, 2015, 8:00 AM GMT to £3.96 on May 29, 2015, 8:00 AM GMT.

THE IRON BUTTERFLY – A Memoir by Rosalinda Morgan

THE IRON BUTTERFLY – Coming Soon at Amazon.com

Release Date – June 12, 2015

You can pre-order your copy at http://www.amazon.com.

butterfly_front

The Iron Butterfly is a gripping tale about the intense devotion and ordeal of Regina Buendia, a young mother who suddenly finds herself all alone and penniless with nine young children to support after her husband died in the pre-WWII era. Facing a bleak future, she has to find a way to tackle a male chauvinistic society where men still rule the business world. Will she be able to break through the barrier?

As the Great Depression affected the colonies, she is now faced with new concern – how to survive with business suffering and money being so tight. She then finds herself in a new adventure but not all is rosy. As her children grow up, she is faced with new dilemma about her children’s changing attitudes towards married life.

Just as she thinks she is getting ahead, a major natural disaster happens with terrible consequence to follow. Then her problems become insignificant compared to what was about to happen – the attack on Pearl Harbor and how the war in the Pacific affects their very existence.

An inspiring story of faith, hope and daring ambition.

THE FALL OF BATAAN

Just as Dec. 7 will be remembered as Day of Infamy, April 9 will be remembered as the The Fall of Bataan.

The American and Filipino forces fought the Japanese valiantly on Bataan for three months after the war started. Then Pres. Roosevelt ordered MacArthur off the Philippines. MacArthur reluctantly obliged, prompting him to make his famous promise of “I shall return”.

By the end of March, 1942, the plight of the defenders had become desperate. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright notified Washington that the meager food supplies would be exhausted completely by April 15. By early April, the weak, hungry, demoralized American and Filipino troops had no fight left. By one source, 75 percent had malaria, while all suffered from malnutrition, all horses and water buffalo having been consumed. Seeing the terrible state of his troops, on April 8, Maj. Gen. Edward P. King, commander of Bataan forces, made the anguished decision to surrender. As he rode forward to meet Gen. Homma on April 9, he remembered that Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on the same day. In contrast to the outcome of each battles, Gen. Lee’s army was defeated during the Civil War while Japan was defeated during WWII.

On April 9, 76,000 men squeezed onto the tip of Bataan peninsula officially surrendered to the Japanese. They were without food or ammunition, and malaria and dysentery were widespread. They were forced to begin marching up the peninsula which survivors later aptly named the notorious “Bataan Death March”. Many more than a thousand deaths awaited the surrendering forces as the Japanese marched them off to a prison camp. The four-day, sixty-three-mile march in ninety-five degree weather would not have been difficult for well-nourished soldiers; but for malaria-ridden, ill-fed troops, the march was brutal. The Japanese killed many prisoners who were unable to move forward. It has been estimated that upwards of 10,000 died along the way from exhaustion or atrocious brutality imposed by their Japanese captors. The suffering survivors were herded into boxcars in San Fernando in the province of Pampanga and taken to an internment camp at Capas in the province of Tarlac. Upon reaching the prison camp, untold more thousands perished for lack of food, water and medical supplies.

By Rosalinda Morgan, author “BAHALA NA (Come What May)”.

BOOK GIVEAWAYS HAVE ENDED

The giveaways for signed copies of my book, “BAHALA NA, (Come What May): A World War II Story of Love, Faith, Courage, Determination and Survival” have ended. 431 entered to win. Goodreads has selected three winners, one from each of these towns:

Boise, ID

Weymouth, MA

Baker City, OR

The winners will receive their books in a few days. If you did not win, “BAHALA NA, (Come What May): A World War II Story of Love, Faith, Courage, Determination and Survival” is available at www.amazon.com.

Learn about a young man’s obsession to meet the girl of his dream. Read about his struggle to find his way home from a faraway place after WWII starts and transportation ceases to exist. Gain insight about the Philippines, the Filipino people and how their faith helps them through life and in their fight for survival during the war. “Bahala Na”, “Leave it to God” is one dictum they cling to when they are in trouble. It is a true story that reads like historical fiction.

Rosalinda Morgan, author, “BAHALA NA (Come What May)”.

INTRAMUROS – A CITY WITHIN WALLS IN MANILA

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It seems like cities built walls around them for fortification against invaders and attacks during local uprisings by its own people. China has the famous Great Walls of China. Rome has the Aurelian Walls built between 271 AD and 275 AD in Rome, Italy, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus. England had the walled city of Londinium during the Roman times. Quebec had walls surrounding Old Quebec. New York had earthen walls on the northern boundary in the early days of its history which is the reason downtown New York has Wall Street today. Intramuros (a city within walls) was built in Manila in the 16th century by an Spanish explorer, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. 

Intramurous was a medieval European-style walled city laid out as a pentagon but with its uneven sides, it more resembles a triangle. Originally, the seat of the Spanish empire was in Cebu but was later transferred to Manila. Before the walls were fortified, the city was attacked by Lim Ah Hong, a Chinese  trader. They were almost successful. Formerly surrounded by wooden palisades, Intramuros was fortified with massive stone walls after the attack to thwart future attacks from foreign legions and also from Filipinos who were unhappy due to the unjust treatment towards them by the Spaniards. Later on, a moat was added in 1609.

Following Legaspi’s blueprint for the capital, succeeding Spanish governors built imposing churches, chapels, and convents. The most imposing building was the Manila Cathedral, a Romanesque structure constructed of adobe. Inside were statues by Italian artists of various saints that Manileños paid special devotion. Among them were: St. Andrew the Apostle, on whose feast day in 1574, the Spanish repulsed the attack from the Chinese invaders, and St. James the Greater, patron saint of Spain and the Philippines. Another prominent church was San Agustin Church, the only structure in Intramurous not bombed in World War II. The church façade is noted for its combination of styles with Doric lower column and Corinthian upper column with twin towers, one of which became the victim of earthquakes in 1863 and 1889. The main door is carved molave, a Philippine hardwood with panels depicting St. Augustine and his mother.

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The Spanish governors also built schools, a hospital, grand government offices, printing press, university, palaces for the governor-general and the archbishop, soldiers’ barracks, and opulent houses for the assorted elite: the Spanish and their mestizo offsprings. Natives were moved to other areas, and immigrant Chinese were required to live outside the walls. The city’s seven gates were closed by drawbridges at night.

Copyright © 2014. By Rosalinda Morgan, author of “BAHALA NA (Come What May) – A WWII Story of Faith, Love, Courage, Determination and Survival”.

All rights reserved. INTRAMUROS – A CITY WITHIN WALLS IN MANILA.

If you missed the Kindle Countdown promotion of my book on Jan. 27-31, 2014, you can borrow “BAHALA NA (Come What May)” at Kindle Lending Library anytime.