Category Archives: Philippines

1st Filipino Regiment & Battalion, 1945

From Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, by Robert L. Eichelberger (Gorget Books, 2017; first published 1950), Kindle Loc. 3745-58:

In the main, these island assaults [“52 D-Days” between Dec. 1944 and Aug. 1945] were made with small units of such divisions as the 24th, the 40th, the Americal. One of the colorful outfits which took part in the enterprise was the 1st Philippine Infantry. This was an American regiment made up of American Filipinos (most of them from California) who had volunteered to fight for the homeland. The regiment was organized as the result of a suggestion by the then President Quezon to President Roosevelt. I used the 1st Philippine Infantry also in the subjugation of Samar, and its record was excellent.

As a matter of fact, by this time I had requested that General Irving be assigned to me as the boss of what we called Eighth Army Area Command. This meant that Fred Irving would command combat activities in Samar as well as supervise military areas behind us. Fred fell heir not only to the 1st Philippine Infantry but to an entirely separate outfit of American Filipinos known as the 1st Philippine Battalion. These troops had sound training. When GHQ requested Spanish-speaking American troops to serve as military police in Manila, Irving recruited them from the 1st Philippine Battalion.

Ten amphibious landings were necessary to wipe out the Japanese positions astride the over-water route south of Luzon. Usually we sent Americans ashore for the quick capture of an island and then moved in native irregulars and guerrillas to serve as garrison troops. In this way we were able to use our combat veterans over and over again. Much of the credit for the speed and efficiency of the enterprise belongs to the motor torpedo squadrons of Seventh Fleet. By day and night raids, by constant surveillance, they disrupted interisland traffic and blocked evacuation of enemy units to Luzon.

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U.S. Eighth Army in Mindanao, July 1945

From Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, by Robert L. Eichelberger (Gorget Books, 2017; first published 1950), Kindle Loc. 4450-62:

I was proud of the job the 41st Division had accomplished at Zambo when the fighting was done. They laid down their guns and went to work. They cut weeds and they cleaned out debris. They became good neighbors. The Japanese had refused to allow Catholic Filipinos — there were a good many in that Moslem area — to worship at the ancient shrine of Bien Bernido al Virgen del Pilar. The shrine was about the size of an American sandwich shop, and it was tucked into a space along a section of the Fort Pilar wall which had fallen into ruin. GIs of the 41st Signal Company (and I hope my good friend Cardinal Spellman will note this) went at the work of repair and finally put up a sign welcoming all nationalities to worship there again. Before long there were hundreds of burning candles, and the glory of Pilar’s ancient shrine was restored. Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and lads of no faith at all took part in that enterprise.

I left General MacArthur at Zamboanga. I knew now what the future held. I would take over-all command of the Philippines on July 1. Sixth Army staff would be retired to plan an invasion of the southern islands of Japan. According to GHQ plan, Sixth Army would invade Kyushu — and hold. General MacArthur told me that Eighth Army later would make the main blow along with reinforcements which were still to come from the States or the European theater. Eighth Army, with most of the armored and paratroop divisions, was to land and to proceed across the Kanto Plain to capture Yokohama and Tokyo. General MacArthur’s choice of Eighth Army to make the strike was a great compliment to my men, but I knew the Kanto Plain — and what a gamble lay ahead.

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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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Gen. Yamashita’s Surrender, 1945

From Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, by Robert L. Eichelberger (Gorget Books, 2017; first published 1950), Kindle Loc. 4619-68, 4674-83:

The headquarters of the 38th Division, which had been assigned the job of cleaning up central Luzon, was on a ridge only about an hour’s ride east of Manila. Major General William G. Chase, division commander, met me at Nielson Field, and we made the inspection trip to the front together. From a high hill. Chase and General Bill Spence pointed out to me the Ipo Dam area and other battlefields of the 38th; although the tempo of the fighting was now slowed, two hundred and fifty-nine Japanese were killed between dawn and dusk the day I visited there, and twenty-nine were captured. The 38th and elements of the 43rd Division inflicted appalling losses on the enemy during a six-week period. Some sixty-three hundred Japanese were killed or found dead and more than nine hundred were made prisoners. Much of this slaughter was accomplished by combined artillery fire and aerial attack. Losses of the 38th Division and 43rd Division were small.

That evening at Chase’s headquarters I wrote General MacArthur that I had inspected the combat-active divisions on Luzon and found morale very high. My own morale was high. I was convinced that the back of Japanese opposition was broken and that the enemy was incapable of effective resistance. I might not have been so optimistic if I had known that, considerably after the official Japanese capitulation. General Yamashita was to come out of the mountain wildernesses to the northeast of Baguio and surrender forty thousand well-disciplined troops. Although negotiations with Yamashita for surrender were completed after Eighth Army had relinquished control of Luzon, the story should be told here. It must be remembered that Japanese forces at this period had little or no communication with the homeland. On August 7 — the day of the fall of the first atomic bomb — an American pilot was forced to abandon his disabled plane and parachute behind the Japanese lines in northern Luzon. He was picked up by an enemy patrol the next morning and taken after five days of forced marches to General Yamashita’s headquarters, then southwest of Kiangan.

There he was subjected to vigorous and prolonged interrogation. He was threatened with physical violence when he steadfastly refused to answer questions. On August 16 — the Emperor first offered to capitulate on August 10 — the attitude of the Japanese interrogators abruptly changed. The pilot received medical treatment for his parachute-jump injuries and was extended many small courtesies. The next day the American was guided toward the American lines; when the Japanese soldiers had gone as far as they dared, they gave the flier a letter, written by Yamashita himself, which explained the circumstances of the pilot’s capture and commended him for his military spirit and devotion to duty.

On August 24 the same pilot flew an L-5 liaison plane over the area in which he had been held and dropped a message of thanks to General Yamashita and two signal panels of great visibility. The message, written by General Gill of the 32nd Division, suggested that if Yamashita were in the mood for surrender negotiations he should display the two signal panels as evidence of his willingness to parley. The following morning another pilot found the panels staked out according to instructions; also on the ground were many cheering, hand-waving Japanese soldiers, who beckoned the plane to land. Instead, a second message was dropped. It suggested that Yamashita send an envoy to the American lines to receive detailed instructions for his surrender. Late in the afternoon of August 26 a Japanese captain, carrying Yamashita’s answer, entered the American lines under a flag of truce. The letter, which was written in English, follows:

GENERAL HEADQUARTERS
IMPERIAL JAPANESE ARMY IN THE PHILIPPINES
August 25, 1945
TO: General W. H. Gill, Commanding General
Kiangan-Boyombong Area
United States Army in the Philippines

1. I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication addressed to me, dropped by your airplane on August 24th as well as your papers dropped on August 25th in response to our ground signals.

2. I am taking this opportunity to convey to you that order from Imperial Headquarters pertaining to cessation of hostilities was duly received by me on August 20th and that I have immediately issued orders to cease hostilities to all units under my command insofar as communications were possible. I also wish to add to this point the expression of my heartfelt gratitude to you, full cognizant of the sincere efforts and deep concern you have continuously shown with reference to cessation of hostilities as evidenced by various steps and measures you have taken in this connection. To date of writing, however, I have failed to receive order from Imperial Headquarters authorizing me to enter into direct negotiations here in the Philippines with the United States Army concerning the carrying out of the order for cessation of hostilities, but I am of the fond belief that upon receipt of this order, negotiations can be immediately entered into. Presenting my compliments and thanking you for your courteous letter, I remain, yours respectfully,

/s/ T. Yamashita
Tomoyuki Yamashita, General, Imperial Japanese Army, Highest Commander of the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines.

This message was the first of a series exchanged between Yamashita and General Gill. The exquisite courtesy of the exchanges probably has for the average reader something of the quality of Through the Looking-Glass; these same troops and same commanders had been fighting each other in the same area with no quarter whatever and in a completely barbaric manner.

Eventually an American radio group, escorted by a Japanese safe-conduct party, moved into Yamashita’s headquarters to take over communications. Details of the surrender were worked out. On the morning of September 2 General Yamashita and a party of twenty-one, which included Vice Admiral Okochi (“Highest Commander of the Japanese Naval Forces in the Philippines”), entered American lines at Kiangan. The party was escorted to Baguio where the formal instrument of the surrender of all Japanese Army and Navy personnel in the Philippines was signed in my former headquarters.

I was sorry that General Griswold who had directed XIV Corps operations could not be there to accept Yamashita’s sword. But it was entirely fitting that the 32nd Division should receive the vanquished enemy. Three years before at Buna they had won the battle that started the infantry on the jungle road to Tokyo.

General Yamashita was tried for “crimes against humanity” by an American Military Court in Manila. He was sentenced December 7, 1945, and hanged on February 23, 1946.

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Afghanistan as “University of Jihad”

From Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century, by Christian Caryl (Basic Books, 2014), Kindle Loc. 6410-6454:

The mujahideen struggle against the Soviets—a struggle that ultimately ended with a humiliating retreat for the forces of Moscow—filled Muslims around the world with pride. This glorious victory seemed to many a confirmation of what the Islamists had been arguing all along: with God’s help, anything is possible. (The Quran is replete with verses promising victory to those who are faithful to God.) The triumph of the Afghan jihad inspired Muslims in a general way, but it gave particular impetus to the more militant strains of Islamist thought. The full psychological impact is hard to quantify, of course. One of the most concrete effects can be seen in the later journeys of the non-Afghans who personally participated in the war against the Soviets. Garlanded by their participation in the glamorous Afghan jihad, the Afghan Arabs and their fellow Islamist internationalists personally embodied the message of armed resistance to the infidels and the apostates. Not for nothing would Afghanistan in the 1980s come to be known as the “University of Jihad.”

Inevitably, however, Azzam’s very success as a leader and religious thinker inspired competition. Another Arab who made the pilgrimage to Peshawar was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who arrived in Pakistan in 1985. Trained as a doctor and a religious scholar, he was an alumnus of the Muslim Brotherhood who had been imprisoned after the killing of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Though professing eagerness to help the Afghans in their jihad against the Soviets, he spent much of his time in Pakistan on Egyptian affairs. He soon became the leader of a new group of Egyptian radicals that dubbed itself the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Azzam was soon complaining to his associates that the Egyptians were gaining influence over his protégé Bin Laden, who was already becoming a lodestar of the jihadi movement. There is much speculation, indeed, that Zawahiri and his confederates orchestrated the killing of Azzam as part of a plot to take over control of his organization.

But the nascent al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad were not the only ones bent on extending the Afghan war to the rest of the world. Another group of Egyptian radicals, mercilessly persecuted by the government at home, set up operations in Peshawar and in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad in the mid-1980s. This was al-Gamaa al-Islamia, the Islamic Group, which had engineered the assassination of Sadat. One of the group’s most prominent figures in its exile was Mohammed Shawki Islambouli, the brother of Sadat’s killer. Its religious leader was Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, known as the “blind sheikh,” who had also studied under Azzam and ultimately played a key role in the MAK after Azzam’s death. He established close relations with Bin Laden and Hekmatyar. In 1990 Abdel-Rahmen traveled to the United States, where his preaching inspired a group of young Muslim radicals to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993. Later in the 1990s, al-Gamaa al-Islamia launched a series of assassinations and terrorist attacks across Egypt that culminated in the Luxor attack of 1997, in which the group’s operatives massacred 62 people (mostly foreign tourists).

After Azzam’s death, Bin Laden and Zawahiri—the latter often characterized, with some justification, as the “brains” of al-Qaeda—presided over a remarkable expansion of global jihadist aspirations. Afghanistan-trained holy warriors dispersed to the four winds. They fought in Bosnia and Chechnya and lent support to the Islamist regime in the Sudan (where members of the Islamist camp had first joined the cabinet back in 1979). Muslim Filipinos returned home from the training camps in Afghanistan to found a revolutionary jihadi organization of their own, which they called Abu Sayyaf.

In Indonesia a veteran of the Afghan jihad named Jaffar Umar Thalib founded Laskar Jihad, a terror group that aimed to form an Islamic state in a far-flung corner of that sprawling country. Another Indonesian by the name of Riduan Isamuddin arrived in Afghanistan in 1988, where he also sought close ties to Bin Laden. Under the nom de guerre of Hambali, he later gained notoriety for his work as the operations chief of the Jemaah Islamiah, Indonesia’s most prominent militant Islamist organization. Aspiring to create a caliphate unifying the Muslim populations of Southeast Asia, he orchestrated a series of terrorist attacks that included the notorious Bali nightclub bombing of 2002, which took the lives of 202 people. Veterans of the conflict in Afghanistan also played an incendiary role in the brutal Algerian civil war that scourged that country in the 1990s, after the secular government annulled the results of an election won by Islamists. As many as 200,000 Algerians died in the fighting, which dragged on for years.

In Central Asia, still other alumni of the “University of Jihad” joined forces with the Islamists in the former Central Asian republic of Tajikistan, fighting on their side against ex-Communist secularists in another bloody civil war that tore that country apart in the 1990s. One of the men who participated on the Islamist side in that conflict went by the nom du guerre of Juma Namangani. Born in the Soviet Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, he had fought in an elite paratrooper unit on Moscow’s side during the war in Afghanistan. The experience had radicalized him, transforming him into a zealous holy warrior. He was among the founders of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, arguably the first transnational Islamist guerrilla group to emerge from the former USSR. His soldiers fought on al-Qaeda’s side in post-9/11 Afghanistan. In this way, too, Moscow’s 1979 intervention in Afghanistan unleashed surprising demons.

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Telling Omissions in Pacific Theater War Reporting

From Lost in Shangri-La, by Mitchell Zuckoff (HarperCollins, 2011), pp. 234–236:

Even when far back from enemy lines, standard practice among reporters in war zones was to painstakingly record, and then publish, the names and hometowns of servicemen and -women. That way, their families and friends back home could enjoy the acknowledgment of their loved ones’ courage, as well as the reflected glory of knowing someone involved in the war effort. “Names are news,” as the saying went. Publishers encouraged the practice for commercial reasons as much as journalistic ones: printing a local person’s name in the newspaper generated loyalty among readers and encouraged the purchase of extra copies, for posterity.

With one glaring, categorical exception, the reporters covering the Gremlin Special crash faithfully followed this practice. They published the names and hometowns of the survivors and the crash victims, and also the chaplains who flew over the valley for funeral rites, the planners in Hollandia, and the crew of the 311 supply plane. They included the names of not only the pilot, copilot, and radio operator but also the flight engineer, Sergeant Anson Macy of Jacksonville, Florida, and the cargo crew.

But as obvious as the reporters’ obsession with Margaret [Hastings, the only female survivor] was their tendency to overlook the 1st Recon paratroopers of Filipino descent. That oversight came despite the fact that all but Rammy Ramirez were natives or residents of the United States, and all were full-fledged members of the U.S. Army. When speaking with reporters by walkie-talkie, [Capt] Walter and [Lt] McCollom repeatedly tried to draw attention to the enlisted paratroopers, particularly the heroic jump by [Sgt] Bulatao and [Cpl] Ramirez into death-defying terrain, and their life-and-limb-saving ministrations to [Cpl] Hastings and [Sgt] Decker.

Yet in one story after another, the medics and paratroopers received little or no credit. Sometimes they appeared anonymously, as in one typical mention: “Two Filipino medics laden with supplies also were dropped by parachute.”

To his credit, Ralph Morton of The Associated Press eventually devoted some ink to the enlisted men of the 1st Recon, as did the [Chicago] Tribune‘s Walter Simmons, who focused most on Sergeant Alfred Baylon. Simmons’s interest in “the stocky, cigar-smoking” Baylon was piqued by the fact that the sergeant hailed from Chicago and had previously worked as an orderly in the city’s Garfield Park Community Hospital.

When the supply plane dropped news clippings about the events in Shangri-La, Walter reacted angrily in his journal to how little acclaim his men received. “So few reporters have given my men the credit due them and are always bringing in outsiders for credit. I certainly hope that when I get out of here I can give the credit to those who deserve it and [to] my enlisted men, who made possible the rescue of these people. It has definitely been no cake party jumping into unexplored country and climbing mountains over the damnest trails ever seen. No complaining, but just slugging along, doing their job.”

As the paratroopers’ leader, Walter received glowing mentions in the press reports. Reporters gave him the title of “rescue chief,” as Ralph Morton put it, presumably to distinguish him from the native chiefs. But throughout the mission reporters used his unloved given name, “Cecil.” And they routinely added an “s” to his last name, calling him “Walters.”

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Filipino 1st Recon Battalion (Special) in New Guinea

From Lost in Shangri-La, by Mitchell Zuckoff (HarperCollins, 2011), pp. 141–142:

In November 1944, Earl Walter and sixty-six jump-qualified members of the 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion were sweating out the war in “strategic reserve,” stuck in steamy but peaceful Hollandia [now Jayapura], Dutch New Guinea. The closest thing to excitement came when their battalion was renamed the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Special), known as the 1st Recon. The new name did nothing to change their idle fate. Neither did Walter’s promotion from lieutenant to captain.

As months passed, Allied forces under General MacArthur kept busy retaking the islands of the Philippines—one after another, from Leyte to Luzon, Palawan to Mindanao. As the fight progressed, paratroopers from the 503rd and 511th regiments carried out their dangerous and heroic missions on Corregidor and Luzon.

All the while, Walter and his men yearned to get out of the heat of Hollandia and into the fire of war. Their battalion’s devil-may-care motto of Bahala na! a phrase from the Tagalog dialect of the Philippines that can be translated as “Come what may!” [also compared to Inshallah] The more time passed without a mission, the more it seemed like a taunt. The problem, as Walter and his men saw it, was that nothing came their way.

While awaiting orders in Hollandia—some eighteen hundred miles southeast of Manila—Walter’s men pressed him for news. With families and roots in the Philippines, they wanted the honor and the satisfaction of driving the enemy from their homeland. They craved payback for more than two years of Japanese occupation. They wanted revenge for the Bataan Death March of 1942, during which Japanese troops killed or brutalized thousands of captured Filipino and American soldiers along a forced hundred-mile march to a prison camp. Newspapers had detailed the atrocities, fueling a combustible mix of fear and hatred of the Japanese, perhaps nowhere more so than among the men in Walter’s unit. One of them, Corporal Camilo “Rammy” Ramirez, had experienced the horrors of Bataan firsthand before making a daring escape.

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