There is no Foreign Legion in the American Army. But there is one particular group composed of daring characters who court death and who are sent on missions behind enemy lines. These are the “Rangers”. When sent on missions they do not wear the military uniform in order not to be detected by the enemy, but a special one by which they will not be mistaken for spies.
Two of these rangers, one of whom is a Mexican friend of ours, came last night from a humanitarian assignment. They narrated that there are a hundred of them, guided by 200 guerrillas who have penetrated the enemy lines sixty kilometers towards Cabanatuan where some 500 American war prisoners are being detained. After a brief battle all the Japanese soldiers were killed. They had a hard time convincing the prisoners that they had come to liberate, not to kill them. The prisoners could not believe them. Many of the prisoners had to be carried because of their weakness. Two of the rangers and twenty guerrillas were killed in the operations. The liberated prisoners were brought to hospitals in various towns of Pangasinan until they could be transported to their country.
No one can explain why there are hardly 500 prisoners in Cabanatuan when there were an estimated 10,000 of them in 1942. How many had died of hunger, sickness or torture, or brought out of the Philippines or died in Japanese boats sunk by American submarines or planes? We doubt if any satisfactory explanation could be made on this. All we have now was a cold fact, as sad as it was eloquent.
In September of last year, after the first American air attack on Manila, some 1,500 American prisoners were loaded in a boat for Formosa. The boat was sunk by American planes and only 600 were rescued. Such is the cruel and ironic tragedy of war.
Studying “darak” supply for horse-owners. After a survey among carromata owners, it was found out that two gantas of “darak” are being consumed by a horse daily or 1.9 kilos, say, 2 kilos a day. This food, however, is supplemented with a little copra-meal, grass and molasses.
Another Japanese will be assigned to take charge of Cabanatuan branch.
A day of conflagration. Yesterday, some of the big gasoline depots started burning. At first the gasoline was being emptied into the Pasig River. But accidentally—or intentionally—the gasoline caught fire, setting the river and the esteros aflame. The houses situated along the river and the esteros particularly in the Pandacan district were the first victims of this ill-planned sabotage.
For the last 48 hours, a gigantic column of smoke has been spouting, very black in the daytime and very luminous at night. Officially, these fires are a proof that Manila has become indeed an open city with no military installations. The general belief was that the gasoline stocks were burned to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.
The Japanese forces are advancing, without opposition. They are about a hundred kilometers north and south of Manila. Although the newspapers do not admit the impotence of the USAFFE to stop the Japanese advance, one can see that the only resistance offered are some strategic retreats. All the soldiers who had returned from the front and those who have been waiting to be called for the last few weeks—are sent to Pampanga. But the invaders are already in Nueva Ecija and have in fact reached Cabanatuan.
The Japanese success is attributed not only to the numerical superiority, but also to their plan of flanking and attacking the most unexpected and most vulnerable places. The American strategy consists in fortifying the Manila Bay and the Batangas Bay simply because they thought that the Japanese would land there. The Japanese, however, landed in La Union and Tayabas and, evading the fortified areas, reached Manila without encountering much resistance.
This afternoon I went to San Juan del Monte. While I was there, Dr. Domingo Fernández called up from the Manila Gas. He wanted to inform me that they were planning to set on fire the huge gasoline deposits in Pandacan.
I ran to notify the Sisters of Santa Catalina. “Don’t get frightened, Sisters,” I began telling them. “There will be a…”
Boom! Boom! As I was talking, the explosions shook the house and the glasses as if there was an earthquake of a major intensity. Immediately, gigantic columns of smoke started to rise and the fire spread to the nearby houses and factories.
I returned to San Sebastian. From its high steeples I could see how most of the city and its environs were burning. The piers, the customs area, the army camps, the Military Hospital of Sternberg, the ice factory, the whole district of Pandacan and many other places were a virtual inferno.
Terror was painted in every face. Last day of the year 1941.