Diary of Juan Labrador, O.P.

October 29, 1944

The press proclaimed in bold lines: “American Bombing in Leyte Ceases”.

“In the face of a terrific Japanese attack, the American fleet had abandoned the landing troops which are facing complete annihilation. American forces in the Pacific have been completely destroyed and Manila is going to be spared attacks for a long time.”

I was reading these lines this morning when, without previous warning, American planes came within visible altitude, dropping their bombs on their targets on Manila Bay. The people who are getting to be more hopeful are comparing what the Japanese are claiming and what is actually happening. Obviously, what was annihilated was the Japanese fleet, and the Imperial Air Force has been left without wings.

Today is Sunday, and the UST Chapel was full of devotees. The sermon started just when the bomb explosions were loudest, the pounding of anti-aircraft shots was most resounding and the gloomy staccato of machine guns was most frightening. Many of the faithful were feeling uneasy, glancing towards the door with one foot forward. The preacher, calmly and cooly, exhorted the people to stay in their seats as they were safe within that sacred place. The Mass—a High Mass—went on and the choir continued singing to the accompaniment of the Celestial concert outside.

 

            Later, everybody ridiculed the Tribune editorial which promised peace and a sky free from attacks. It was a known fact that when the newspapers predicted a pleasant time, based on Japanese victories, the American planes—which were supposed to have fled or been destroyed—came attacking with greater intensity.

Expecting us to bite hook, line and sinker, the Tokyo propaganda announced naval victories of unprecedented magnitude. According to the Daihon-ei, from October 12, that is, the battle of Taiwan, to this date, the Americans had lost 49 aircraft carriers, 15 battleships, 26 cruisers, 7 destroyers, 29 unidentified ships, 78 transports, 19 landing crafts—a total of 235. Reportedly, more ships are being sunk, more planes being shot down and Americans being killed. For all the arms, munitions and machinery that the Americans could manufacture, the Japanese propaganda is manufacturing more in bluffs—the kind which nothing could excel in self-contradiction and incredible absurdity. It would be interesting to confront these allegations of the Daihon-ei to the facts of history, this advocate of eternity which usually, if not always, avenges itself against the official propagandists of today who do not look beyond the present fleeting moment.

In view of the fact that the air strategy employed by the Japanese in the first days of the war seems to have fallen into disuse, the propaganda office of Tokyo has launched a laudatory campaign for the Kamikaze contingent, the suicide group of airmen who dive with their planes on the target.

A few days ago, the officer who is occupying Letran paid me an unexpected and unexplained visit. In his broken English he told me, “Now we have very hard fight. But we cannot lose. Now no more harakiri. We smash the enemy.” He was the same officer who, sometime earlier, had told me in fatalistic tones, “I know that I shall die with Manila.”

It’s hard to tell whether the Japanese have changed strategy or they are prepared to kill and be killed, for which reason the soldiers are being assigned the task of spreading this information, in the hope of infusing fear and terror among the enemies.

The press and the radio are driving us crazy with the big talk about the suicide squad. Either they are trying to duplicate the German V-1 or V-2, or to explain the destruction they wrought on the American fleet in the Pacific, since their own fleet has failed to show up after the battle of Leyte and Eastern Luzon, in spite of their claims of resounding victory. So many things need to be explained.

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