April 5, 1942

Bataan

 

 

Dead men everywhere. Uniforms red with blood. Guns red with blood. Bataan is a sea of blood.

Some troops still fighting but contact with the main line has been lost. Most of the boys are retreating, firing, retreating, firing –dying.

Saw hundreds and hundreds of unkempt, disheveled, bewildered troops dragging their swollen feet in an attempt to escape from Jap onrush.

An American doughboy, thin, gaunt, skeletal, approached me, asked for “bread, buddy, bread.” I gave him water. I had no bread.

Evacuees are panic-stricken. Saw men, women, children crying. I could not find her.

Divisions have ceased to exist. Regiments are split. Troops are mixed & many platoons have no more officers. Trenches have been abandoned. Everywhere are rifles, broken bayonets, revolvers, staff cars. This is defeat…

Last staff meeting, perhaps, held just a few minutes ago. The General with tears in his eyes said: we are defeated.

He revealed that a last-minute attempt to stop the onrushing stream of Jap troops was attempted but the battalions of P.C. and Scout troops sent were all killed. “Jap tanks not trucks transporting them.”

“That was our last chance, the final hope,” he said.

The mess officer was ordered to prepare as much food as he could. “Let us eat as much as we can,” said the Major. “Make it a 3-day supply.”

Meeting abruptly stopped by strafing planes.

I have a fever.


April 4, 1942

HQ, Bataan

 

 

The Americans in HPD are burning their papers. Others are packing their maps and clothes. They are transferring to Corregidor. This is a clear indication that our days here are numbered.

Courier boats leaving for Corregidor are packed with high-ranking officers transferring to the Rock. Personally I prefer to stick out here with the men.

The area around HPD, Limay, Lamao is burning. Huge trees are aflame. Craters pock-mark the shell-burnt earth. Hell has broken loose.

Balanga is obliterated. Not a single standing structure. Houses lie in crumbled ruins, mere piles of wood and stone.

The municipal building, the Cathedral, houses around the plaza have been seared by the fire of incendiaries. All along the trails leading to the front are huge bomb craters, gaping shell holes, corpses of brave men.

I saw three Jap planes hedge-hopping in airfield at Cabcaben then flying off again. Boys machinegunned the planes. Planes came back with bombs and killed the boys.

I saw an American driver turning his truck amid burning bushes. He was singing “Melancholy Baby.” I saw an American motorcycle-messenger weeping. “This is the end,” he told me.

 

(later)

 

The lines have broken. Japs with tanks, trucks penetrated the area between the 21st and 41st divisions at the Patingan River.

I saw Lt. Juan Fernandez, aide of Gen. Capinpin, of the 21st. He said: “I don’t know where Gen. Capinpin is. I can’t find him.” It is believed that the General either committed suicide or was captured by the Japs. The last time he was seen was in the very front, directing boys who could no long fire their enfields.

Saw troops, frontline men, retreating in disorder. Others had thrown their guns. No more bullets, they said. They were clinging to their bayonets.

Fred asked: “Where is the convoy?”

 

(later)

 

Sgt. Sinculan could not find her. Where is she? I hope nothing has happened to her.


April 3, 1942

HQ, Bataan

 

Japs pounding the front heavily, continuously, mercilessly. The boys are standing firm, fighting with the littler strength left in their sick, hungry, weary, bloody bodies.

What is happening in Bataan today is phenomenal. Here are inexperienced youngsters –schoolboys, trainees, academy undergraduates– fighting veterans of many campaigns who are numerically and materially superior. “And,” adds the General, “stopping them!”

Saw truck after truck of the wounded, dying and dead being rushed to the hospitals. One truck stalled and the wounded had to be jammed in one of our jeeps. I saw the stalled truck parked near the curve of the HPD. Only the driver was there trying to fix the dust-covered engine. What I noticed on the seats of the truck sent a cold shudder in my spine: it was bathed with blood. Brave blood.

Met a QM officer, of one of the frontline divisions. We did not have a chance to talk for a long time. I shouted to him across the creek if he could still send supplies to the front. He just made a gesture with his hands and shook his head. That was more eloquent than words.

Met an artillery officer. He said most of the cannons have been blasted by bombs. “The end is near,” he said.

Leonie left for Corregidor. He could hardly walk. In his condition, with the bombing, it is better for him to go to the Rock.

 

(later)

 

Fred just arrived. Reported that the Hospital near the HPD was bombed. He said: “Many were killed.” I asked him “How many?” and he answered: “I don’t know. I just know there were many, very many.”

He said that he was visiting a friend when the Japs bombed the hospital. He said he ran to the left side in the direction of the road. Those who went towards the hillside ran to their deaths because there is were most of the bombs fell. “Up to now the hospital is burning,” he recounted.

Fred’s uniform was covered with mud and dust. He was visibly nervous not because of his narrow escape but because of the bloody sight he saw: wounded men rolling in the dust, others shouting with pain, many dying…


April 2, 1942

HQ, MIS, BATAAN

This place has turned into hell. The Japs are battering the lines from morning to evening, pounding the front from the air with high explosives. rushing the front with tanks and flame-throwers under cover of ceaseless artillery fire.

The rear areas are being subjected to inch-by-inch bombardment. Several AA guns have been silenced. Gasoline and oil supplies are aflame. Parts of the jungle are burning, presenting a weird light at night. Corpses strewn by the roadside staring up at the sky.

Corregidor too is rocking with bombs. We can see columns of smoke rising out of the Rock. We can feel the detonation here when bombs are dropped in Corregidor. The Rock looks like a blazing boulder.

We had no rice today as the mess officer did not dare build a fire. We only had canned goods. ate one sardine for brunch and one salmon for supper. It was like medicine. Had to follow it up with water.

Leonie is very ill. I am afraid he will die if he does not get medical assistance. Romulo said by phone that it would be better to send Leonie to the hospital in the Rock.

Leonie and I have written a plan for the establishment of an underground broadcasting station to operate in enemy-territory to continue the Voice of Freedom in case Bataan and Corregidor fall.

We addressed the plan to Romulo who is in charge of the Voice of Freedom. Romulo said he would take the matter up to the staff in the Rock.

Our plan consisted in putting up a moving radio station to broadcast in Luzon in case the Japs overrun Bataan and Corregidor.

We offered to operate the radio and to broadcast if the plan is approved. Proposed site of station was the island of Talim, in the heart of Laguna de Bay. Operatives have reported that Talim is not yet occupied by Japs.

Received letter from Romulo stating “Roxas will return to Corregidor to join us in the crucial hr.”


April 1, 1942

HQ, MIS, BATAAN

 

Awakened by “Photo Joe”. Name given to Jap observation plane by Bataan boys is “Photo Joe”. Leonie said: “That means bombing around ‘brunch’ time.” Fred, usually more grim, said: “That also means deaths.”

Major Javallera who was O.D. said that there was continous artillery firing the whole night. “It must be hell at the front,” he remarked.

After brunch, I prepared to go to the eastern sector. While crossing the stream to the Motor Pool, Jap planes commenced bombardment.

Japs were throwing small bombs, a lot of them. At first, I thought they were leaflets. But when I heard the swishing sounds and the detonations, I ran to a ditch near the traffic officer at the foot of the bridge in Base Camp.

Several bombs dropped near the trucks parked under the trees at the curve of the stream. One exploded a few meters away from the Igorot chauffeur. I saw him shaking and pouring water over his head. Men have funny reactions to a bombardment.

I rode on one of the jeeps. Had to stop three times because of strafing planes. Around Limay, I did not notice a low-flying Jap plane until I saw a truck full of Americans put on the brakes and stop dead in its tracks and all the soldiers jumped out and took cover under the brushes along the road. My chauffeur jammed the brakes and I dove into a bush. The U.S. truck was hit by five .mg bullets but it was able to run because the meter was not hit at all.

Saw the Limay schoolhouse burning, it was hit by incendiaries. An officer stopped our jeep and he asked for a ride till the next intersection. He said the Japs have a system of rotating cannons so that they do not stop pounding our lines. They are sending wave after wave of fresh troops and it was a question of time for the lines to break. I remember the General’s statement about the limit of human endurance. The officer said: “We kill and kill but more and more came…”

Scouts have been placed on the eastern sector. The Philippine Scouts have a fine record. One officer of high rank said that if all troops in Bataan were as well-trained as the Scouts, the Japs would have a very much harder time.

Bulk of troops in main-line however are mostly ROTC boys, cadre-trainees and volunteers. They are not professional soldiers like the scouts. But after all these months of fighting, they have gained valuable experience and according to an American officer from West Point “they are behaving like seasoned troops, like veterans.”

Saw several stragglers. They can’t find their units. Some said they belonged to the 41st, others to the 51st, others to the 31st. My driver said “those are running away from the fighting.”

The sight of those five or six stragglers reminded me of the retreat from the northern front in Pangasinan. When the fighting there was getting very hot, the divisions who were still new, started to get disorganized and many of the troops were lost. “Bad sign,” I said to myself.

On the way to one of the trails leading to the front, our jeep ran out of gas. I stayed on the roadside till dark waiting for someone who would be kind enough to share a bit of fuel. Slept an hour and when I woke up I was covered with dust.

There is no doubt by now that the Japanese are putting their “main effort” on the center of the front line, between the divisions of Gens. Capinpin and Lim. They are trying to drive a wedge where the two divisions meet. Here the maximum amount of fire power is being concentrated and although I have not noticed any sign of the lines folding in this region, when it does break it will be sudden and rapid, like a dam that suddenly cracks, and there will be a stream of blood.


March 31, 1942

HQ, MIS, Bataan

 

 

Terrific day. Heavy fighting in front. Fred sent to west sector. I went to east. Spent day observing progress of battle.

Japs raining bombs on front line, powdering every inch of ground. Our artillery can only fire occasionally because of continuous presence of Jap planes.

Japs trying to break line with artillery fire supporting tank formations. Boys holding out with machine-guns and mines laid in front area. Japs have broken part of barbed wire but cannot penetrate.

Many casualties on both sides. Japs are also using flame-throwers. Incendiaries are being dropped on the rear.

Trucks carrying food cannot go to the line. Dumps are being bombed with out let-up. Any truck or car on any trail or road is machine-gunned. Even trucks carrying wounded cannot move.

U.S. tanks rushed to eastern sector. Japs will undoubtedly try to break through the east, perhaps in the very center of the front line, in the Patingan river.

If line breaks, it is the end for all of us. No more reserve line. Boys must hold and fight at all cost or all is lost.

Had to stop car two times because of strafing Jap planes. One bullet hit the running board neat the chauffeur.

Fred reports that Japs are also putting pressure on the west. But it is agreed that attacks on the west are just diversionary attacks. Main thrust will be in the east or perhaps in the very center, followed by a double envelopment maneuver.

Area in front of line has been partially mined. Several lines of barbed wire have been emplaced. Our artillery is ready for advancing Jap tanks. Huge clouds of dust in the front.

The zero hour has begun.


March 27, 1942

HQ, MIS, Bataan

 

Japs have dropped Tribunes carrying story Quezon had died in Iloilo. Everybody had a good laugh. Everybody knows that Quezon is safe in Australia.

Operatives in Manila report that Japs are befriending Indians. The case of India will always be a sore mark in the fight of Britain and America for the four freedoms. Churchill can’t talk of liberty and freedom while 400 million Indians, 1/5th of humanity groan under the British lash. I was sure the Japs will exploit this fact to the limit.

Reports from Manila indicate that people cooperating with Japs are severely criticized. American fears that Japs might win over Filipinos are unfounded. The last cochero hates the Japs. Japs have started off with wrong foot in Manila by committing abuses. Filipinos cannot stand slapping.

Morale of Manilans very high. They have faith that Americans will surely send the convoy very soon. A small minority believe there is no more hope for return of Americans.

Some boys are complaining about Americans who have race-prejudice.

 

(later)

 

Contact established with guerrilla group that has sprung up in Nueva Vizcaya, under Major Thorpe and Lt. Nakar. Nakar belongs to the 71st. He was cut off from retreat to Bataan. So he went to hills of Nueva Vizcaya.

An operative has arrived from Ilocos. He said he talked with Buenaventura Bello. Bello was reported killed by Japs when they landed in Vigan because he did not like to lower the U.S. flag. Manila newspapermen must have invented this story.

Three raids today. Only two casualties.


March 20, 1942

HQ, Bataan, MIS

Impressive meeting of all Bataan generals held in heart of one of the Bataan mountains. Wainwright, Commander-in-Chief of USFIP, presided. (Name of USAFFE has been changed to USFIP –United States Forces in Philippines).

The Commander-in-Chief announced that henceforth Bataan and Corregidor shall be separate commands.

Wainwright will transfer his headquarters to Corregidor. Major General Edward King will be given command of Bataan.

Old General King was silent. Then he stood up and with tears in his eyes said:

“Somebody is angry with me in Washington. I am going to be given the honor of being the first American general to surrender the American flag.”

No one spoke. All the other generals remained silent.

Then the chief Quarter Master Officer spoke. He revealed that we had only so many more sacks of rice left after which there was heaven to pray for rice. So many more tins of sardines and salmon for only a few more weeks. So many more shells for the 1:55’s and 75’s for just so many hours of firing per day. So many more cases of ammunition for infantry troops to last for just so many days.

“Gentlemen,” he said dramatically and coldly, “We are at the end of our rope!”

Nobody could speak. It was defeat staring the generals in the face and their reaction after more than 98 days and nights of ceaseless and courageous fighting against innumerable odds was –silence.

Planes –Japanese planes– filled the sky with their metallic roar but none of the general’s could speak in the face of these dramatic revelations.

Then an old general said: “I am the oldest. Let us take to the dug-outs. It would be a calamity if all the Generals were to die with one bomb.”

The Japs flew on to Corregidor.


March 14, 1942

Bataan, HQ, MIS

 

The general looks very depressed. He talked to nobody today. He stayed in his tent smoking his pipe silently. He must be brooding about something sad.

I told Fred when I said “Good morning” to the General, the old Fogie did not even answer, damn the impolite bum. (Sometimes I like him; sometimes I detest him.)

Fred said the General talked with him. Said the general: “Fred you talk pessimistically.”

Fred said he was taken aback but he replied: “I always try to take a rational and realistic point of view, sir.”

The General did not reply.

Leonie is down with malaria and dysentery. He is getting very thin. He does not trust the doctor.

No change in general situation. Occasional artillery duels, partial skirmishes.

 

(later)

 

Three U.P. boys are here. They are Angel Baking, Teddy Lansang, and Renato Constantino. They want to join our service. They are sergeants.

Leonie was indifferent about taking them in. “What can these U.P. guys do, anyway?” he asked Fred jokingly because Fred comes from U.P.

The General asked me if the three fellows are O.K. because he does not know them. I told them the three were good writers and editors at one time or another of a paper called Collegian.

The General said: “Ah, they are your rivals.” I replied: “I don’t know them personally. What are we rivals about?”

The General said he liked the Ateneo.

I told the General to take them in and I would answer for them because I believe they are intelligent fellows. “Put them under Leonie or myself.” I wanted to have them under me, confidentially.

I pointed out that maybe we could use them for some mission in Manila.

The General said: “Let’s try them out on little things first.”

It was decided that I should bring them the day after tomorrow to Corregidor and give them instructions on the way.

 

(later)

 

Very dark night. Maybe it is going to rain. If I get wet, my malaria will get worse. Hell!

Spent afternoon reading Tribune. Saw pictures of Manilans biking in boulevard. Noticed that marriage wave continues unabated. I wonder how Morita is.

Leonie looked at advertisements. This and that restaurant selling this and that pastry and cake. This and that show running this and that film. We felt very homesick. Leonie read some parts of “Personals” aloud.

The three U.P. boys are all right. They are regular fellows. I don’t know why there is so much tiff between the Guidon and the Collegian. Its just a case of not knowing each other.

Constantino showed me a diary with a drawing of his girl’s face. He is in love with her. I think she is a niece of Speaker Roxas. Lansang sketched her face. Lansang also likes to write poems.

Will bring them to the Rock tomorrow afternoon at about five o’clock. Told them to eat well. They laughed.

Several raids today. Some AA shrapnel dropped near our toilet.

Three operatives arrived from Manila. One had a letter from Mrs. Osmeña to the Vice President.

Another operative whom we gave up for lost arrived. He claims he was captured by the Japs and allowed to return providing he comes back with information for them, heh, heh. Sometimes Japs are naive.

The general bawled out one of our officers. He was sent to the front to observe conditions and he pretended he went but he really stayed in rear.