Diary of Leocadio de Asis

May 7, 1944 (Sunday)

Mass and communion at St. Sofia’s.

Visited the Nagasakis this morning with Quiambao, and took pictures.

Anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor; We Meet General Homma in Personal Interview. Today, anniversary of the fall of Corregidor, General Masaharu Hommma, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Expeditionary Forces during the Bataan campaign, invited us Constabulary officers (ex-USAFFE officers( for an intimate interview at the Mainichi Shimbun Building at 2:00 p.m.

Present during the interview were two stenographers and a gentleman who was with the Press Section attached to Imperial Army Headquarters and who was with General Homma throughout the Bataan campaign. Maps of the Philippines, especially of Bataan and Corregidor (including copies of military grid maps of the U.S. Army) were spread wide on the table to facilitate our talks. The General made us feel quite at ease, and when we got tangled up in our Nippongo, we talked in English, the General interpreting for us for the sake of the stenographers.

The question asked by the General were substantially as follows:

“Before the outbreak of the war of Great East Asia, what did you think about it? What was the people’s impression of Japan before the war? What was the estimate of the military authorities regarding the strength of the Japanese Army? What were the effects of the first bombings in the Philippines? What was the attitude of the Filipinos towards the war? Was there racial or other discrimination in Bataan? What did you think was the entire strength of the Japanese Army in the whole Philippine campaign? What was the casualty rate on the Filipino side, including deaths in the concentration camps? What do you think was the casualty rate on the Japanese side? What units did you belong to, and what experiences did you have? What artillery guns did you use? How did you take the departure of General MacArthur for Australia? How about the landing in Aglaloma, the fight in the Moron, Abucay, Mt. Samat and Mt. Natib sectors? While in Bataan, what were the rumors concerning the Japanese soldiers? What do you intend to do now, and how do you view the whole thing?”

To these series of questions our answers were substantially as follows:

“Before the outbreak of the Great East Asia War, there were so many rumors about it, and the situation was very tense; but we never expected it to start as early as December 8, 1941; the Filipinos thought it was a war to safeguard Philippine territorial integrity and so the Filipinos, especially the youth, were anxious to fight, many volunteering to join the ranks, even while the fight in Bataan was already on, going there by bancas; before the war, the Filipinos looked at Japan with extreme suspicion, regarding her as menace to the Pacific and a threat to P.I. independence; the military authorities underestimated Japan’s fighting strength although some quarters seriously thought about Japan’s preparedness for a major Pacific war; the first bombings were quite effective, military objectives being hit accurately, and there was a general belief that perhaps the Japanese planes were manned by German pilots; there was discrimination in food rationing in favor of the Americans, but this was due to the different standards of allowances between the Americas and the Filipinos, and there was no way of complaining to our superior officers for they, too, (as Filipinos) were receiving the same poor rations; the Americans were careful about their treatment of the Filipinos because they were afraid to provoke the anger of the Filipinos who were very conscious that they were bearing practically the whole brunt of the fight in Bataan; an estimate of the Japanese forces was about 500,000 and casualties about 100,000 (the General said the Japanese forces numbered only about 100,000 and the casualties 5,000); we calculated the deaths on the Filipino side at about 50,000; we related our various experiences in our different sectors from the start of the Bataan campaign till the general offensive of April 3, 1942, which finally ended in the fall of Bataan; told him we used 75 mm. and 155 mm. guns, and he was surprised to hear that an average of about 1,000 shells were fired a day (he said the Japanese could not fire back so often due to lack of a good supply of ammunition); when General MacArthur left for Australia, he issued a memo to all officers to the effect that he was leaving on command of the U.S. President to assume a more important post for the successful prosecution of the war, which encouraged the men in Bataan; rumors about the Japanese soldiers were that they were barbarous and merciless and would spare no one if captured; there was also a communique issued in Bataan announcing the death and funeral of General Homma (the General heard this one, too, he said); now that we see the sincerity in the actions of Japan and the high ideals for which she is fighting, we cannot help but feel grateful for the opportunity granted to us to work for our country in particular and for Great East Asia in general.” (Heh!)

After the interview at the Mainichi Building, we proceeded to the Greater East Asia Hall where the General treated us to a banquet. Here, too, we continued our exchange of views. When asked as to what lessons could be learned from the Bataan war, the old veteran General said that jungle positions are the best defense, and an offensive in jungle sectors is the hardest military operation to undertake.

I told the General the following: “When we were in Bataan, we never thought of losing the war and much less of being captured prisoners; when we were in the concentration camp, we never expected to be released; when we were released, we never thought we would become Constabulary officers; as Constabulary officers we never thought of going to Japan as government scholars of the Imperial Government; and, finally, while in Japan we never even dreamed of meeting in an intimate interview the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Forces in the Philippines, our grand enemy in Bataan.”

Personally, I consider my meeting General Homma in this afternoon’s interview a fitting climax of my personal odyssey which started in the crimson fields of Bataan. I only hope I find time to write my “memoirs” which I intend to entitle From Bataan to Tokyo.