U.S. General Meets Sultan of Sulu, 1945

From Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, by Robert L. Eichelberger (Gorget Books, 2017; first published 1950), Kindle Loc. 4267-90:

[General] Doe’s lads of the 41st Division had dug out most of the Japanese on the island of Jolo, and I had promised to pay a formal call on Muhammed Janail Abiri[n] II, Sultan of Jolo and spiritual leader of the three hundred thousand Mohammedans in the Sulu Archipelago. This meant a round trip of approximately a thousand miles in one day, so we departed from Tacloban early. Weather was perfect. The airstrip at Jolo was no La Guardia Field, but, after circling it several times. Downer brought us in without incident. When we returned four and a half hours later, however, the wheels had sunk so far in the soft ground that it was necessary for a pair of tractors to pull the Miss Em out on the runway.

Colonel Moroney, thin and hard-bitten commander of the 163rd Infantry, veteran of Sanananda and Biak and other battles, met us, while his soldiers kept back the great crowd of Moro spectators who wanted to surge across the airstrip. First we drove through Jolo City, an ancient and once beautiful town which had been known as the “Jewel of the Sulus,” and as the “Shrine City of the Moros.” It was in ruins. The Japanese had put it to the torch when American PT boats attacked shipping in the harbor as a preliminary to invasion.

Then we started our drive inland. This was a country of great beauty, of teak and mahogany forests and dark low mountains. I knew the patriarchal Sultan (who had surrendered to Captain Pershing in 1913 at the end of the Moro War) had remained loyal to the United States during the Japanese occupation and had surreptitiously flown the Stars and Stripes at his hideout camp. When Moroney’s men came ashore he brought out the tattered old flag.

The Sultan of Jolo — sometimes called the Sultan of Sulu — had once been a wealthy man. The Japanese had stripped him (he told me) of most of his possessions; he keenly felt the loss of a saber presented to him by General Pershing and a rifle presented to him by General Leonard Wood. I was somewhat surprised by the simplicity of his living. Around his compound there was a fine bamboo fence thickly woven to keep out Jap infiltrators. Inside the compound there was a sunken fort where the women could stay in safety while the men manned the barricades. The Sultan’s unpretentious house stood on a raised bamboo platform well off the ground.

The Sultan was a gaunt, dignified old man with sunken cheeks. The room where we were received by the Sultan and his datus (leaders) seemed to be tapestried on ceilings and walls; I believe now that the tapestries actually were Persian rugs. After some diplomatic talk through interpreters, I presented him with the most modern type of American carbine and a scroll thanking him for his services to the American cause. In his presence I affixed a gold seal with ribbon to the document. I also presented him with a handsome roll of cloth as a tribute to the ladies of his household. The ladies did not appear, but during the visit we glimpsed them peeping out at us from doorways. I was told that the Sultan had eight wives and was, at seventy-two years of age, the recent father of a twenty-sixth son.

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Filed under Japan, military, nationalism, Philippines, religion, U.S., war

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