Saturday, August 24, 2013

The March to Victory

By Art Villasanta

THE U.S. SURRENDER on 6 May 1942  in Corregidor that ended conventional military operations against the Japanese by the United States Army Forces in the Far East ignited what was one of the world’s most successful resistance movements during the Second World War.

The three-year Filipino guerilla war against the Empire of Japan began when dispersed bands of patriotic Filipinos and Americans resolved to resist and fight on as guerillas. It saw many of these bands congeal into large guerilla units which, by late 1944, had gained control of 36 of the Philippines’ 48 provinces and were supported by practically the entire population.

This guerilla dominance of the countryside immeasurably eased the American invasion that began at Leyte in October 1944. Before the invasion, guerillas were sending as many as 4,000 intelligence reports a month to the Allied command in Australia. These detailed reports pinpointed troop dispositions, military installations, supply points and even the minutiae of the occupiers.

City at peace. Plaza Sta. Cruz, Manila in the 1930s.

Guerilla combat against the Japanese before the Leyte landings consisted mostly of small scale attacks on isolated outposts and patrols and sabotaging lines of communication. The Americans’ return saw company size guerilla units in action against the Japanese. 

Even larger guerilla units of up to regimental strength took to the field, especially in the battles for North Luzon from February to August 1945.

The Philippine Commonwealth Army parades. Feb. 1940.

Death blows
The guerilla war ended with the crushing defeat of the Imperial Japanese Army by Filipino guerillas and the U.S. armed forces. By August 1945, the Japanese Fourteenth Area Army in the Philippines had been almost wiped out by the allies. Some 340,000 men in this Japanese army (originally 380,000 men strong) were killed in the Philippines.

Filipino guerillas delivered the death blows to the Imperial Japanese Army by hunting down and destroying holdouts that continued to resist after the unconditional Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945.

The final 10 months of the Filipinos' three-year guerilla war against the brutal Japanese were crowned by Filipino victory after Filipino victory. It was a long and bloody--but victorious--road back to freedom.

Mindanao guerillas, 1945.

Here are the milestones in the victorious guerilla war waged by our “Invisible Army of Patriots” against the Japanese:

May 1942: Philippine Commonwealth Army officer Lt. Col. Guillermo Nakar and other Filipino and American soldiers who escape from Bataan begin transmitting intelligence information to Allied command, the Southwest Pacific Area Headquarters in Brisbane, Australia

Nakar transforms his Commonwealth Army battalion into a guerilla force of some 1,100 Filipinos. His capture and execution by the Japanese in August temporarily halts the flow of intelligence.

After Nakar's death, his guerilla unit continues to operate independently until November 1943 when it becomes part of the United States Army Force in the Philippines-North Luzon or USAFIP-NL.

June 1942: Cagayan Governor Marcelo Adduru is inducted as a Major in the US Army and takes command of the "Cagayan-Apayao Force, US Army" or CAF that combines all military units in Cagayan and Apayao.

The CAF merges Adduru's guerrilla unit with the 14th Infantry Regiment of the Commonwealth Army and Troop C of the 26th Cavalry. Adduru's guerrillas consist mostly of Philippine Constabulary personnel from Cagayan .

Adduru is captured and imprisoned in April 1943 but paroled in October. Upon his release, Adduru revives the CAF.  He is re-captured on July 5, 1944. 

October 1942: Two American officers arrive in Australia with the first reports of guerrilla actions in South Luzon, Palawan and Tawi Tawi.

October 1942: The Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) in Australia establishes a special “Philippine Sub-Section” to exclusively support guerrilla operations.

December 1942: Allied command becomes aware of the increasing number of guerilla groups operating in Central Luzon, Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Negros and Panay. Radio contact is re-established with guerrillas in Luzon and Panay.

Guerillas in action against the Japanese.

December 1942: Capt. Jesus Villamor, the renowned fighter pilot, and five other agents leave Australia on a U.S. submarine and lands at Negros. Villamor’s team organizes an intelligence network; determines the means of delivering supplies to guerillas and obtains information on Japanese activities. Villamor also establishes radio contact with Australia.

January 1943: More guerilla groups throughout the Philippines spring-up. Allied command begins plans to coordinate with guerillas in providing military intelligence about the Japanese. Plans are also made to supply guerillas with radio communications equipment, arms and supplies to be landed by American submarines.

February 1943: Allied command decides to reactivate the pre-war Philippine Military Districts as the best means of unifying the large number of guerilla groups throughout the Philippines. The first district commanders (located in the Visayas and Mindanao) are appointed this month.

May 1943: Allied command organizes the Philippine Regional Section. This new section, successor to the original Philippine Sub-Section, is organized to oversee liaison and the supply of guerilla groups. By June, there exists an efficient and widespread communications system with key guerilla groups. More cargo carrying U.S. submarines ferry supplies to guerillas.

Guerillas from Masbate.

June 1943: Maj. Egmidio Cruz of the Philippine Army arrives in Australia from Washington on the first leg of a secret mission to Manila on orders of Pres. Manuel Quezon. Cruz's mission is to contact Manuel Roxas, who has valuable knowledge of high-level Japanese activities in the puppet government.

Cruz lands on Negros in July and travels on foot to Manila, which he reaches in late October. He accumulates invaluable intelligence on the inner workings of the puppet government after a series of meetings with Roxas and other sympathetic government officials. He returns to Australia in February 1944 collecting more intelligence on his way back.

July to December 1943: Commanders of more military districts are appointed. Coordination of guerrilla operations continues but on a wider scale and spreads to provinces closer to Manila. By the end of 1943, a communications network is operational over most of the Visayas and Mindanao.

January to June 1944: There is a large increase in U.S. submarine landings in the Visayas and Mindanao. Allied agents are sent to Palawan. Guerillas increase intelligence gathering operations with the approach of the U.S. invasion of the Philippines within the year. Allied command coordinates closely with guerillas.

April 1944: Cebuano guerillas capture the “Koga Papers” that detail Japanese defenses in the Philippines. The papers show Leyte to be lightly defended. As a result of this discovery, Allied command decides to invade Leyte in October instead of Cotabato in December. The capture of the Koga Papers is the greatest intelligence coup of the War in the Pacific.

American translation of the Koga Papers captured by Cebuano guerillas.

Guerillas in battle
October 1944: Some 3,000 guerillas spearhead the inland advance of the U.S. Sixth Army that storms Leyte’s beaches on 20 October. Four Japanese infantry divisions consisting of 50,000 men are destroyed on Leyte when the campaign ends in December.

December 1944: Guerillas in North Luzon are unified into a single command, the USAFIP-NL (United States Army Forces in the Philippines-North Luzon). USAFIP-NL, however, is better known as the Guerilla Division.

This division-size unit consists of five infantry regiments. Its fighting strength is 20,000 men, most of them combat veterans of the guerilla war against the Japanese.

January 1945: The final liberation of the Philippines begins. The U.S. Sixth Army, 200,000 strong, lands 70,000 men at Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan on 9 January and pushes south to capture Manila spearheaded by guerillas. Manila is reached in early February.

As the allies advance, Filipino guerillas impede Japanese troop deployments and supply convoys by blocking roads and mountain trails, destroying bridges and tearing-up railway lines. A battalion of guerillas called the "Anderson Battalion" attached to the U.S. Sixth Army leads American forces against the Japanese in Central Luzon killing over 3,000 of the enemy.

January 1945: Filipino guerillas play the main role in ensuring the success of the greatest rescue mission in U.S. military history: the famous Raid at Cabanatuan. 

The magnificent defense mounted by 300 guerillas under Captain Juan Pajota defeats repeated assaults by some 1,000 Japanese infantry reinforcements aimed at smashing the Filipino-American rescue mission. Guerillas kill over 500 Japanese and destroy four Japanese tanks supporting the attack.

This stubborn Filipino stand allows 130 U.S. Rangers and Alamo Scouts to easily rescue 500 American prisoners-of-war at the Cabanatuan prison camp in Nueva Ecija without interference from Japanese  reinforcements that were being destroyed by the guerillas. 

Guerillas also make available 100 farm carts pulled by carabaos to carry sick and weak American prisoners, speeding-up the pace of the rescue. Filipino civilians give the Americans  food and water while the entire rescue convoy is protected by guerillas.

Without the Filipinos' pre-attack intelligence and planning, and the Filipinos' successful defense that kept the Japanese at bay from the beginning to the end of the attack on the prison camp, this famed raid would have ended in disaster.

Freed by Filipinos, American POWs celebrate.

January 1945: Guerillas and the U.S. Eighth Army begin their campaign to rid Mindanao of the Japanese. Most of Mindanao is under guerilla control but the tortuous terrain contributes to some of the most vicious and difficult fighting in the liberation of the Philippines. 

In the Visayas, guerillas spearhead American attacks and exterminate Japanese troops who unwisely seek refuge in the mountains or jungles.

February 1945: The all-Filipino USAFIP-NL begins its attack on the strategic Bessang Pass in Ilocos Sur. The Battle of Bessang Pass will become the greatest Filipino victory of the Second World War. The Guerilla Division launches the attack without U.S. Army support.

Map of the Battle of Bessang Pass.

February 1945: Filipino guerillas lead men of the U.S. 11th Airborne Division in an operation that rescues 2,000 allied prisoners from the Los Baños prison camp in Laguna. Guerrilla infiltrate the Japanese lines to gather intelligence prior to the surprise attack. Their attack on the camp with the Americans wipes-out the entire Japanese garrison.

March 1945: Filipino guerillas and men of the U.S. Sixth Army take Manila from the Japanese after a month of severe fighting that leaves much of the city in ruins. From 100,000 to 300,000 Filipinos are murdered by Japanese and Korean soldiers in the most horrible atrocity inflicted on Filipinos by the Japanese. Among the guerilla units that capture Manila is the Hunters ROTC.

The ruins of Manila, 1945.

March 1945: The U.S. Eighth Army storms Talisay, Cebu to destroy the Japanese on the island. Cebuano guerillas and the Americans accomplish this task in April. The entire Japanese garrison of 5,500 men is exterminated. Talisay is the guerilla’s center for intelligence operations.

March 1945: The Americans seize Zamboanga from the Japanese after initial guerilla attacks. Surviving Japanese foolishly retreat into the jungle and are wiped out by guerillas in the mountains of Capisan and Mutuc.

Zamboangueño guerillas

March 1945: Guerillas lead the way in liberating Panay and Romblon from the Japanese. Because Panay is guerilla-controlled, the U.S. invasion is a walkover. 

At Panay, men of the U.S. 40th Infantry Division are astounded to be met on the beaches by a Filipino guerilla honor guard standing at attention and not by Japanese fire. The Japanese are destroyed in the mountains by guerillas and the Americans. Guerillas clear Sibuyan and Semirara of the Japanese.

March 1945: The Battle of Mindanao begins. The five-month long battle that ends in August 1945 sees Filipinos spearhead the fighting. As a result, Filipinos suffer more casualties in this battle than the Americans. Over 10,000 Japanese soldiers are killed in the battle.

Fighting in Mindanao.

Following the American invasion of Leyte, Filipino guerillas systematically attack Japanese garrisons throughout Mindanao. The victorious Filipino guerilla assaults force the Japanese to abandon practically all their garrisons in Agusan, Surigao, Lanao, Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga.

The Japanese then consolidate most of their remaining men in Davao, eastern Mindanao, Bukidnon and around Cagayan de Oro for a last stand against the Filipinos and Americans.

The attacks against the Japanese in Mindanao are delivered by the 10th Military District that combines all guerilla units in Mindanao into one unified command. The 10th MD reaches a total strength of some 33,000 men.

It re-establishes the Commonwealth Government in Mindanao in September 1942. It also re-organizes six Philippine Commonwealth Army infantry divisions (the 106th to the 110th Divisions).

April 1945: The Battle of Davao (April to August 1945) involves Filipino guerillas and regular soldiers from the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary and only 60,000 U.S. troops from three infantry divisions. Close to 3,000 Filipinos lose their lives liberating Davao.

A great guerilla victory in this campaign is the Battle of Ising where 1,500 exhausted but grimly determined guerillas attack and destroy a well-entrenched Japanese force over twice their number.

May 1945: The Marking Guerillas of Maj. Marcos “Marking” Agustin and troops of the U.S. 43rd Infantry Division seize the Ipo Dam on the Angat River in Bulacan after an 11-day fight, securing Manila’s most important supply of potable water.

Guerillas receive rifles from the Americans.

May 1945: A combined force of Filipino guerillas and men of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division clear the strategic Balete Pass in Nueva Vizcaya. The Battle of Balete Pass secures this gateway to the Cagayan Valley for the allies. Some 17,000 men on both sides perish in this gory battle.

May 1945: Guerillas come to the aid of troops from the U.S. 31st Infantry Division ambushed by the Japanese in Pinamaloy, Bukidnon. The Battle of Pinamaloy is the final organized Japanese stand against the allies in Mindanao. It ends in the total annihilation of the Japanese, who lose 1,200 dead. The Americans suffer 500 dead while some 30 guerillas lose their lives. This battle is noted for the savagery and horror of its close quarter combats. It is also called the Battle of Colgan Woods.

June 1945: Filipinos conquer Bessang Pass on June 14 after a murderous four-month long battle, completing the encirclement of the Japanese Fourteenth Area Army in North Luzon. The Americans describe the Battle of Bessang Pass as one of the most terrible and incredibly difficult battles of the entire Pacific War. 

August 1945: Hiroshima is destroyed by the atomic bomb on August 6. Nagasaki is obliterated by another atomic bomb three days later.

August 1945: Emperor Hirohito announces the surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allies in a radio broadcast to the Japanese people on August 15. 

August 1945: Allied combat operations cease in the Philippines on August 15. 

September 1945: Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, commander of the trapped and decimated Fourteenth Area Army, surrenders his entire army to the all-Filipino Guerilla Division at the home economics building of the Kiangan Central School in Kiangan, Ifugao on September 2.

September 1945: The Empire of Japan on September 2 signs the Instrument of Surrender on board the battleship, USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay formally ending the Second World War in the Pacific.

The defeated Imperial Japanese Army surrenders.

September 1945: On September 3, Gen. Yamashita is taken to Baguio City by the Americans where he signs the document formally surrendering the entire Imperial Japanese armed forces in the Philippines. 

July 1946: The Philippines gains independence from the United States of America on July 4.

April 1952: End of the state of war between Japan and the Allies as the Treaty of San Francisco comes into force on April 28. 

The atomic bomb annihilates Hiroshima.

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