Memories of War
By Rudy A. Arizala
In the Philippines, April is not only when Lent &endash; the passion, death and resurrection of Christ is observed, but also when the "Fall of Bataan" is solemnly commemorated as act of heroism or martyrdom. The last "Voice of Freedom" in April 1942, was heard announcing in a radio broadcast: "Bataan as fallen, but the spirit that made it stand -- a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world cannot fail."
With that terse announcement, Bataan surrendered on 9 April 1942 to the Japanese forces, followed by the island fortress of Corregidor a month later on 6 May. Bataan and Corregidor having surrendered, the unconditional surrender of the Fil-American forces in the Visayas and Mindanao was not long in coming. They also surrendered to the Japanese forces four days later, on 10 May 1942.
II. The War Years
I was in the grade school when war (WW II) broke out in the Pacific in December 1941. When our teacher in Grade V announced that there would be no classes that December 8th morning until further notice, we were all very happy because we could enjoy an early Christmas vacation and hoping to see each other again after the New Year -- in January 1942. At the same time we were worried because the war which we read or heard happening in Europe has finally come to our shores also. But we believed then that the war would be over very soon.
But we were wrong. Several days later when two Japanese planes dropped bombs on our hometown of Infanta and several black ships were sighted off Lamon Bay along the Pacific coasts, the people had to evacuate for safety to the barrios. The Japanese forces, however, did not land in our town but in Mauban, a town south of Infanta. In January 1942, Manila was declared an "Open City" and soon was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Forces. The Fil-American forces retreated to make their last stand in Bataan and Corregidor.
I remember Infanta had its share of suffering and martyrdom during that episode in our history. When the Pacific War broke out in the Pacific, the only son of our "water-carrier" was drafted into the Philippine Army and fought side-by-side with the American soldiers in Bataan. He failed to return home because he was killed during a Japanese attack before the surrender of the Fil-American forces. An uncle of mine who was a musician was also drafted into the Philippine Army; was captured by the Japanese; participated in the "Death March"; and brought to a Concentration Camp in Capas, Tarlac. When he became sick of malaria and dysentery, he was allowed to go home. It took his parents more than one year to nurse him back to health. Another uncle who was a young medical doctor and newly married when the war broke out volunteered to serve in the Philippine Army and was subsequently incorporated into the USAFFE. He was taken prisoner while serving in Mindanao As he was getting off from an army truck which brought him and his companions to a Concentration Camp, a Japanese officer noticed a stethoscope in his back pocket. He was told to treat a Japanese General who was seriously sick of malaria. He had to use a drug or medicine which was then still at experimental stage and might prove fatal and cause death if not administered properly. Luckily, the Japanese General got well. Because of that feat, my uncle was released by the Japanese and allowed to go home. He was even given a "safety pass" written and signed by the Japanese General himself out of gratitude to my uncle for being able to cure him.
This was an example of the human side of war despite its brutality, violence and inhuman aspect. An example of inhuman aspect of war was the humiliating treatment received by Generals King and Wainwright when they surrendered to the Japanese forces in Bataan and Corregidor and by the Fil-American soldiers while they were being brought to their Concentration Camp. Weak, sickly and hungry, they were made to march under the heat of the noonday sun. Those who were too weak to continue walking were bayoneted to death on the spot. This was called the "Death March.".
III. Little Known Episodes of Surrender
Perhaps, little is known that although the Fil-American Forces in Bataan and Corregidor surrendered as early as April 9 and May 6, 1942, respectively, the American and Filipino soldiers were not considered "prisoners of war", but as "captives" or hostages by the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Philippines. It was only on 9 June 1942, when all forces in the Philippines, with the exception of certain small detachments in isolated areas, had surrendered that General Jonathan Wainwright was notified by Japanese authorities: "You are now a prisoner of war."
Why were Gen. Wainwright and his men not considered immediately "prisoners of war"? And as a corollary to said question, Why and how the U.S. military leaders in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese Forces in 1942?
According to U.S. Army historians such as Louis Morton, in the evening of 8 April 1942, when Gen Wainwright ordered General Edward P. King, Jr., to make counterattack in the direction of Olongapo, the latter already made up his mind. He had no alternative but to surrender King believed that "by this time all chances of halting the Japanese advance, much less launching a successful counterattack, was gone." So, he made arrangements that he meet with the representative of Gen Masaharu Homma to negotiate a ceasefire and protect the welfare and interests of his men.
When Gen. King finally met Col. Motoo Nakayama, the representative of Gen. Homma, Nakayama asked him: "You are General Wainwright?" When King replied in the negative, Nakayama asked why Gen. Wainwright had not come. King explained to Nakayama that he did not speak for the Commander of all forces in the Philippines but for his own command alone. Nakayama insisted that Gen. Wainwright should be present and that the only basis on which he would consider negotiations for the cessation of hostilities was one which included the surrender of all forces in the Philippines.
Col. Nakayama asked for Gen King´s saber but when told that he had none, he agreed to accept a pistol from Gen. King instead of a saber as symbol of surrender. Gen. King thought that Nakayama was accepting his "unconditional surrender" as a unit under his command. However, in so far as Nakayama was concerned, cessation of hostilities should include the surrender of all forces in the Philippines.
If Gen. King´s surrender of his forces in Bataan on 9 April 1942 was confusing or not clear, so also was the surrender of Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright on the island of Corregidor on 6 May 1942. Like Gen King who surrendered Bataan four weeks earlier, Gen. Wainwright had made estimate of the situation and concluded there was nothing to be gained by further resistance. Thus, he ordered his aide, Gen. Beebe, to broadcast a surrender message to Gen. Homma and at the same time Wainwright communicated his decision to Pres. Roosevelt and Gen. MacArthur.
U.S. Army historian Louis Morton further narrated that Gen. Wainwright prior to his meeting with the Japanese officials decided to release command of all troops except those in harbor defense. By such act, he hoped to persuade Gen. Homma to accept the view that since the troops in Southern Philippines (Visayas and Mindanao) were not under his command, he could not properly be held responsible for their surrender. However, such position of Wainwright was not acceptable to Gen. Homma. He told Gen. Wainwright that the surrender would not be accepted unless it included all American and Philippine troops in the Philippines. Wainwright demurred saying that the forces in the Visayas and Mindanao were no longer under his command.
Homma upon hearing this, rose, looked at Wainwright and said: "At the time of General King´s surrender in Bataan I did not see him. Neither have I any reason to see you if you are only the commander of a unit. . . I wish only to negotiate with my equal. . "
Wainwright had no alternative and agreed to surrender the entire Philippine garrison. But Gen. Homma now refused to accept Wainwright´s offer to surrender. "You have denied your authority . . " he told Wainwright. "I advise you to return to Corregidor and think the matter over. If you see fit to surrender, then surrender to the Commanding Officer of the division in Corregidor. He in turn will bring you to me in Manila." With these words, Homma left the meeting. Gen. Wainwright upon his return to Corregidor island surrendered to Col. Sato, the Japanese Commander of the 61st Infantry in Corregidor. He agreed to surrender all forces in the Philippines including those in the Visayas and in Mindanao under Gen. Sharp. Thus, with such developments, Gen. Sharp upon receiving Gen. Wainwright´s emissary and letter, surrendered also to the Japanese commanders in the South on 10 May 1942.
Despite the surrender of the main U.S. and Filipino forces and humiliating treatment received by Generals Wainwright and King in the hands of the Japanese, there were those who would rather "face a thousand death than surrender." Among them was my townmate Col. Guillermo Nakar who was then Commander of the 14th Infantry (PA) in Northern Luzon. He and his men. refused to surrender but conducted guerilla warfare against the Japanese forces after the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Unfortunately, Col. Nakar was captured by the Japanese on 29 September 1942 and executed the following day. Other guerilla forces continued their resistance against the Japanese forces in the Philippines until the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his men to the Philippines in 1944. After the dropping of two atomic bombs &endash; one in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the other in Nagasaki on August 9, Japan announced to surrender unconditionally to the Allied Powers on August 14,1945, thus, ending the war in the Pacific. The formal act of surrender was made on September 2, 1945.
As we observe the martyrdom of the gallant defenders of the Philippines on 9 April this year at "Dambana ng Kagitingan" in Mt. Samat, Bataan, let us pose and pray for all the victims of war &endash; the vanquished and the victors; and not forget to give full meaning and effect to the noble objectives enshrined in the United Nations Charter: "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war"; promote "respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms"; enhance "social progress and better standards of life," and "self-determination of people."
As a young boy, I suffered with my brother, sisters and parents the "scourge of war". Despite the hardships, privations, hunger, and death it taught me that memories of war should not be an occasion for despair, revenge and bitterness but of hope, love, peace and resurrection like Easter.