Diary of Dwight D. Eisenhower

December 13, 1937

We had considerable excitement recently due to forced landings by three of our airplanes while they were returning from a southern island trip. On eastern shore of Luzon they ran into the edge of a typhoon area, and, practically out of gas, each had to seek a spot to get down. One plane reported in by wire within an hour of landing; the occupants of another reached a telegraph station two days later; while the third, perched on a tiny islet that was completely isolated by weather, was unreported from Monday noon until Friday morning. Unfortunately this plane, piloted by Lt. Lee,  had Gen. Santos as one of the passengers (Segundo was the other). As a result headlines and all types of newspaper publicity centered around Santos and, this apparently irritated the President no end, who doesn’t like to see someone else’s name in the public prints.

He has written a letter to Santos demanding a full report on the trip with “whys”, “whats”, “whos”, and etc., etc. The letter was drafted by [ . . . ] who in his usual bootlicking, made its language as bitter, sarcastic and nearly intolerable [ . . . ] The Pres. even stooped to calling in a newspaper owner, Romulo, and inspiring an editorial of criticism against Santos. The whole incident is apparently to be used to relieve Santos, if possible, so they are working up an artificial sentiment of resentment toward him.

Actually the facts and reasons are simple.

The President wrote Santos a letter two months ago directing the destruction of all Moro cottas. Santos got the original order considerably modified in favor of reason and moderation, but it was still sufficiently severe to arouse Moro antagonism and sporadic revolt. A few of them gathered in a cotta at Lanao and trouble started which constantly grew more serious. Calls for help came from the local constabulary and finally Santos conferred at length with MacA. It was agreed to send down additional land forces, to get three planes ready for tactical operation in case of necessity, and to have Santos go down by plane to make an extensive survey of the situation.

Gen. MacA. fully agreed that Santos should go. The reasons were several:

  1. Santos is intimately acquainted with the country and the people.
  2. It was necessary to get first-hand information concerning the seriousness of the situation.
  3. It was obviously necessary to coordinate the plans and efforts of the army with those of the Governor-Commissioner of Mindanao, etc.

Gen. MacA. was the one who insisted that the planes, if they went, should be equipped for action. Jim and I have advised Santos to sit quietly, saying nothing except to answer the letter plainly, truthfully and without apology. He used his judgment and did the best he could. I cannot believe anyone will try to carry the thing too far. But I notice the Gen. says the only error made in the whole incident was the “decision to return to Manila”. This decision was, of course, Santos’ own so if that was the only error, he alone bears the responsibility!!!