The sinking of the S.S. Corregidor, December 16-17, 1941

The S.S. Corregidor of the Compañia Maritima, which sank on December 16, 1941. Photo from Chad Hill.
The S.S. Corregidor of the Compañia Maritima, which sank on December 16, 1941. Photo from Chad Hill.

On December 16-17, 1941 (around midnight, hence the event straddling two dates), the S.S. Corregidor, an inter-island steamship of the Compañia Maritima, hit a mine off Corregidor Island and sank, resulting in a tremendous loss of life.

Here is a map of the area (click on this link for the original scan).

Detail of sketch of minefields around Corregidor island, provided by Peter Parsons.
Detail of sketch of minefields around Corregidor island, provided by Peter Parsons.

There is a very interesting discussion on the disaster, and the question of whether negligence was involved, and if so, who should be assigned blame, in the The Loss of the S.S. Corregidor thread of Corregidor Then and Now Proboards. Within the thread can be found recollections by George Steiger (an officer in Corregidor), Charles Balaza (serving in an artillery detachment on Corregidor) and others.

Here is a dramatic account by one of the survivors of the sinking of the ship, in the memoirs of Jose E. Romero (Not So Long Ago: A Chronicle of My Life, Times, and Contemporaries, Alemar-Phoenix, Quezon City, 1997 reprint):

The S.S. Corregidor Disaster

WAR HAVING BEEN DECLARED, the next day the National Assembly met at the house of Speaker Yulo to pass legislation giving the President powers to be able to cope with emergency. After that the members of Assembly were concerned with the problem of returning home to their provinces and their families. I was very much chagrined that close friends of mine had been able to take passage on the S.S. Legaspi that was making trips to my hometown, Dumaguete, via Cebu, a trip that took two days, without having difficulty from Japanese boats and planes. I was also chagrined to learn that my good friend, the District Engineer of my province who had come to Manila with me a few days previously, had been able to get out of Manila by way of the Bicol provinces and then made it to Samar and Leyte and back to our home province. A few days later, another boat was scheduled to depart for the South, including my hometown of Dumaguete. Passengers, including myself, were aboard when an hour later we were told to disembark by order of the U.S. Army, probably for fear of enemy action.

Inasmuch as the Japanese had already bombed Clark Field, Camp Nichols, Cavite, and Manila itself, particularly the Intendencia building and the Herald building and Santo Domingo Church, I thought it would be safer, being alone in Manila with my houseboys, for me to live in my office in the Legislative building. (The basement at the Legislative building had been sandbagged and was converted into an air-raid shelter.) I immediately arranged with the late Ramon Fernandez, whose boats were making trips to the Visayas, to advise me whenever any of his boats made a trip for the South, but this he never did. I had also arranged with my good friend, Salvador Araneta, who was then one of the principal owners of the FEATI (Far East Aviation Transport Co., Inc.), which owned the planes making trips between Manila, Iloilo, and Bacolod, to advise me whenever there was a chance to get on one of those planes. I was very much worried because, as already stated, I had come to Manila immediately after the election, and being very confident that in case of emergency I could easily return to my province either by a FEATI plane or by boat, I had not made sufficient provision for the maintenance of my family during my absence. In any event we had used up practically all of our financial resources during the political campaign and I had precisely come to Manila, among other things, to make arrangements to meet my immediate financial problems.

Although Mr. Araneta did his best to try to get an accommodation for me on the plane to the South, the man actually running the affairs of the FEATI was so swamped with demands for passage on his planes that even Mr. Araneta’s recommendation could not help me. One night I received a message from Mr. Araneta advising me that if I would go to Batangas that night, I might be able to get a passage on a plane. (The Manila airfield at Nichols had been bombed and was not safe for takeoff and landing of planes.) This was very difficult because the country was then under blackout orders, it was not safe to travel at night, and there was no certainty that I would get on the plane. It was the last trip that the plane made, so I missed this chance.

One day the member of the Assembly were advised that a special train was being reserved for us to go to Sorsogon. From there we could get launches or sailboats for Samar, Leyte, and our respective provinces in the Visayas. At the appointed day and hour many of us gathered at the Paco Station and we were hardly seated in the car when we were asked to come down because the Japanese had landed in Legaspi. A couple of days later, I saw my colleagues who like me had been living in the Legislative building rushing toward the Compañia Maritima office. One of them shouted to me that the S.S. Corregidor was leaving for the South. I immediately packed up the few things that I had and, together with a cousin of mine and his daughter who were living with me in the Legislative building, hied myself to the Compañia Maritima building. It was chaos there, with hundreds of people trying to get into the building to buy a ticket for the trip. A security guard, gun in hand, was at the door trying to prevent people from going into the building. I explained to him that I had an arrangement with Don Ramon Fernandez to get on the first boat going to the south, but he said that he knew nothing about the arrangement and would not let me in. My cousin, his daughter, and I left the building very disappointed when a little farther on we met Don Ramon’s nephew, Carlos, who today is still active with the shipping company. I explained my situation to him and he asked me whether I was really anxious to go on that trip. When I answered in the affirmative, he personally took me inside the office and helped me get a ticket for myself, my cousin, and his daughter. I also bought a ticket for a fellow townsman who wanted to return home but was without funds. But the danger of the trip was made manifest by our being asked to sign a waiver of any responsibility on the part of the shipping company in case a mishap occurred during the trip.

From the Compañia Maritima office and the Muelle de la Industria, we went to the South Harbor where the S.S. Corregidor was docked. There were hundreds of people and it seemed that there were many who got aboard even without tickets. I was delighted to find aboard Senator Villanueva, his recently married son and daughter, and their household help. He told me that he had been trying to contact me repeatedly the last few days, because he was anxious that we should go home together. In times of emergency like this, personal animosities among relatives are forgotten and the old family ties reassert themselves. I also met Captain Calvo of the boat, who had been a longtime friend of mine, with his pretty young wife that he had just married. He told me that I must be anxious to get back home under such conditions of danger. I told him that if he and his wife, my relatives and other people were willing to take the chance, there was no reason why I should not do the same. The boat was being located with ammunition and other military equipment for the South. I was quite nervous and I was told later that he had not wanted to make that trip. This probably partly explains why he was taking his wife along with him. I was also told later that on previous occasions, while passing the mined sections around Corregidor he had been warned that he was passing too close to the mines.

Probably the trip would not have been as risky as it was surmised. The plan was to land at the first port in the South at daybreak and from there the passengers would take sailboats or other means of transportation to the provinces which were still unoccupied by the Japanese. There were many times more passengers than should ordinarily have been allowed aboard. We stayed aboard for several hours and strict blackout was observed. Senator Villanueva and his family and I and my cousin with his daughter seated ourselves directly in front of a lifeboat as we thought we could quickly get on it in case of emergency. We were all furnished life belts and hundreds of other life belts were strewn around the deck. About midnight the boat started to leave in pitch darkness. I was half-asleep but noticed that light signals were being flashed from what I think was Corregidor Island. I was to learn afterward that the signals were to warn the captain of the boat that he was not on the right track. (The passage between Corregidor and the mainland in Manila Bay had been mined.) All of a sudden there was a dull thud and then an explosion. We had hit a mine. The boat shuddered as if mortally wounded. It did not sink immediately and the group already referred to who were seated near a lifeboat got aboard it.

Before the boat left, as already stated, we had been supplied with life belts. My companions were very prudent in having attached the life belts to their bodies, but I only held mine in my hands. A husky Spaniard had been saying that this was a bad joke we were playing with the life belts, but I told him that it was customary, even in peacetime, to have drill aboard the ships and practice the use of life belts. When we hit the mine this husky man grabbed my life belt, since he had not taken the precaution to provide one for himself. I insisted that the life belt was mine, but he claimed that it was his and proposed that we throw the life belt into the water, confident that later on, if we had to struggle for that life belt, as a much huskier man he would have the advantage. But the man from my province, whom I had helped to get a ticket on that trip and for which ticket I had paid, handed me another life belt. Again it was grabbed by another person. This faithful protege of mine handed me another one and still another one, but each time somebody would grab the life belt away from me. Remembering that I was the only one without a life belt and recalling that hundreds of life belts had been scattered on the deck in the early evening, I went down to the deck to see if I could find another life belt. At this moment, there was a second and more terrible explosion. It seemed that it was the boiler that exploded and the boat immediately sank headlong into the water. We were all drawn by the suction and had the water in those parts been deeper, we could not have returned to the surface.

When the boat reached the bottom and there was no more force of suction, I instinctively swam with all my force toward the surface, and when I reached the surface after what seemed an endless effort to reach it, it seemed this was a second life for me. Right in front of me was a life belt and a piece of board just enough for me to lie down on. If ever there are or were miracles, this certainly was one. I had gone into the water without a life belt and here right in front of me was the board of salvation and a life belt. I did not realize it then, but I had ugly cut in the head which must have been caused when the boat touched the bottom and my head hit something hard. I was too weak to tie on my life belt and it was really the board that saved me. I was too weak from loss of blood, so I only hung on to the board which, as I said, was just sufficient to keep my body afloat. Fortunately, it was as long as my body so that my body covered it almost entirely, otherwise other people who were floating around without support might have tried to grab it from me. I just lay over that board semi-conscious for several hours. Fortunately, the sharks that infest these waters must have been kept away by the explosion and by the oil from the sunken ship. About four hours later. I felt as if there were some bright lights. It was one of the P.T. or so-called mosquito boats that had been sent to rescue the survivors. I looked up and one of the American crewmen threw me a life belt which was tied to a rope that he held. I took hold of the life belt and he pulled me toward the boat. I must have looked like a real mess, covered all over with oil from the boat that sank and with the blood of my head over my face. I just lay there on that boat while we were being taken to Corregidor. It was just beginning to dawn when we docked at the harbor of Corregidor. I will never forget, especially after seeing the callousness and cruelty of the Japanese later, seeing one of the American soldiers who had come to the dock to meet the survivors take particular notice of me, saying, “This man is badly hurt.” He immediately ran up the gangplank, took me in his arms, loaded me into the car that he was driving, and then rushed me like mad to the hospital in Malinta Tunnel. The others who were not so badly hurt were taken to Manila. Only about one-third of some one thousand people that were in the S.S. Corregidor were saved. Senator Villanueva and his son, my cousin and his daughter, as well as two of my colleagues, Representatives Ampig and Reyes of Iloilo and Capiz, respectively, perished in the disaster, as did the wife and children of Representative Dominador Tan. Representative Zaldivar, later Justice of the Supreme Court, survived.

In Corregidor Hospital

At the hospital in Malinta Tunnel, which I revisited later, the wound in my scalp was sewn up by a kind American doctor. Fortunately, the wound was only skin-deep and did not fracture my skull. When a Filipino nurse found out who I was, she made a lot of fuss about it and many people were soon coming to see me. (Much later when I was Secretary of Education, on a visit to Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, I was fortunate to see her again with her husband.) Two of the young officers who visited me in Corregidor were from my town and province. A medic or medical assistant, an American, took very kind interest in me. (To anticipate my story, when I left Corregidor Hospital ten days after I entered it, I was to wear his civilian clothes as I had none of my own. I gave him my address and after the war when the House of Representatives, of which I was a member, was reconvened, one day an American came to my office and greeted me joyously. When I could not quite remember him, he said, “I was the one who sewed up your head in Corregidor.” It was a happy reunion. He gave me his address in the U.S. to which he was returning and when I was Ambassador to London, I unfailingly sent him a Christmas card. I did not receive any reply from him, but after the third or fourth time I sent him a card, I got a reply explaining that the reason he did not acknowledge my previous cards was that he did not know the address of the Philippine Embassy in London, not realizing that it would have been sufficient for him just to put the Philippine Embassy as address. He told me that he was working somewhere in the Middle East and was doing pretty well financially.)

I developed a slight case of pneumonia, but thanks to the sulfa drugs that had just recently been discovered, this danger to my health was averted.

To return to my story, next to my bed at the hospital was that of Captain Kelly of the United States Navy, a man made famous by a book written in the United States by American escapee during the War, entitled They Were Expendable—a bestseller. Like many Americans in Corregidor, they were still confident that military aid would come from the United State and that the Philippines would be retaken. But this was not to be for more than three years.

During my ten-day stay in Corregidor, from December 17, the day of the sinking of the Corregidor, until December 27 when we were ordered to evacuate to Manila, many prominent officials went to Corregidor. Among those who visited me were the Commanding General of Corregidor and the U.S. High Commissioner, Francis B. Sayre, Vice-President Osmeña and his family, ex-Speaker Roxas, and Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos. President Quezon and his family, however, who also arrived at Corregidor on Christmas Eve, did not visit me. When casually one night I saw him and Mrs. Quezon, he did not even talk to me. I think he was ill and depressed when he saw me with my bandaged head and, perhaps thinking that I was more badly hurt than I really was, he simply was too depressed to talk to me. However, Mrs. Quezon who was seated next to me while we were seeing a movie just outside the entrance to Manila Tunnel during a lull in the bombing by the Japanese, held my hand and gave me words of comfort. From Vice-President Osmeña, I learned for the first time that my relatives by affinity, ex-Senator Villanueva and his son, had not survived the sinking of S.S. Corregidor, although the ex-Senator’s daughter-in-law, who was expecting a baby (and who is still very much alive), and two maids survived.

Christmas Eve was celebrated in Corregidor, and in my condition, away from my family, it was indeed a sad Christmas Eve for me. The singing of Christmas carols by the American and Filipino nurses and other personnel only added poignancy to my depressed spirit. On December 27 an order was received from General Douglas MacArthur for the evacuation of all civilians in Corregidor to Manila, as the Japanese were fast approaching Manila. The medic who took such interest in me suggested that I ask President Quezon to contact General MacArthur and get him to make an exception in my case by allowing me to stay in Corregidor. I contacted Mr. Roxas, who immediately got in touch with President Quezon and who in turn tried to get in touch with General MacArthur. However, General MacArthur was busy directing the withdrawal of USAFFE troops to Bataan and could not be contacted. Mr. Roxas urged me, however, to go to Manila. He said that I could get better medical treatment there and, besides, the boat leaving for Manila might be the last one that could make the trip as, with the arrival of the Japanese, Manila would be isolated from Corregidor. So I decided to leave.

We left again in pitch darkness, as complete blackout was ordered everywhere. I shall not forget another American soldier who took me in his car to the waiting ship and then removed his overcoat and placed it over me. After my experience on the S.S. Corregidor, to travel again in complete darkness could not but inspire fear in me, but we made the trip uneventfully. Upon arrival in the South Harbor, we were placed in a covered truck where it was also very dark. The driver had to stop at every street corner to find his way, and finally I was deposited at the Philippine General Hospital which was then under the direction of my good friend, the late Dr. Augusto Villalon. I was placed under the direct care of Dr. Santos Cuyugan, who was a specialist in wounds and burns. Because of the infection of my wound, it took about three months to heal, although it was only a superficial one

The Philippine Diary Project contains several points of view discussing the S.S. Corregidor disaster. The earliest one appears in an entry in the diary of Teodoro M. Locsin, December 16, 1941:

Today the inter-island vessel Corregidor struck a mine near the mouth of Manila Bay and sank in a few minutes. The ship was packed to the gunwales with passengers leaving the city for the southern islands, thus reintroducing the “Samarra” theme.

The number of people on board was estimated at from 600 to 1,000. The exact number may never be known. Government officials used their influence to make the ship’s agents issue them and their friends tickets. Many went up the gangplanks just before the boat sailed, thinking to get their tickets from the purser afterward, when the boat was out at sea. Each, in one way or another, properly sealed his fate.

Later in the day, I was shown a wire from a man in Iloilo asking a friend in the city to secure a ticket for his mistress on the Corregidor. The war caught the woman in Manila and the man wanted her with him. The friend, I need not say, got the ticket.

Locsin, then a young newsman in the Philippines Free Press, would have been among the first to receive important news. Others got the day after. Fr. Juan Labrador OP, December 17, 1941 mentions how most other people got the news, and details that shocked the public:

At noontime, an “extra” of the dailies announced the great catastrophe of the vessel “Corregidor”. This was the heaviest and fastest of the boats anchored at the river. It set sail the night before without previous notice. Nevertheless, it was teeming with passengers destined for the Visayas. Around midnight, it hit a mine near the island of Corregidor and in three to five minutes it was swallowed up by the black waters of Manila Bay. It cannot be ascertained how many lives were lost. The Compañía Marítima does not have a list of the passengers. Many had filtered in without paying the fare, or mounted aboard with the idea of paying later on. Only 200 passengers were rescued, and the number of those drowned is estimated at 600 to 800.

Among the passengers were assemblymen, students from the South, and well-known families, including the brothers of the Archbishop of Cebu, one of whom was a professor and secretary of the Faculty of Law of the University of Santo Tomas; the other was a member of the Assembly. The assemblyman drowned, but the faculty member of UST was saved after swimming and floating for six hours. Those who were trapped in the cabins—women and children, for the most part—are forever buried in the bosom of the sea. Even among those who were on deck and had time to jump overboard, many were drowned for lack of lifesavers or for their inabiity to resist the current of the waves.

It was the first great tragedy of the war, and God permit that it be the last.

A young officer in the Philippine Coastal Patrol (the fledgling Philippine Navy) wrote about the tragedy as he received the news from colleagues in the US Navy. See Ramon Alcaraz, December 17, 1941:

By night time, the tragedy was compounded by the sinking of S.S. Corregidor in our own defensive minefields guarding the entrance to Manila Bay west of Corregidor Fortress.  S.S. Corregidor is one of the best among our inter-island commercial vessels with civilian and military personnel aboard bound for Visayas and Mindanao.

Loaded also are Artillery pieces, equipment and supplies of the 101st FA, and other Vis-Min Units.  From initial scant report I got from my Mistah Alano, ExO of Q-111 that participated in the rescue, he said the ship hit a mine and sunk so fast virtually all passengers went down with the ship including her Captain.  There were very few survivors.  The mined area is under the responsibility of the Harbor Defense and PT RON 3.  I should know more details about this tragedy after I talk with some of my comrades on duty then at PT RON 3.

Five days later, Alcaraz had more information about the tragedy. See Ramon Alcaraz, December 22, 1941:

I also talked with Ens. George Cox, CO PT 41 on duty when S.S. Corregidor sunk five days ago.  He said PT 41 was leading the ill fated ship at the channel but suddenly, all at once, the S.S. Corregidor veered course towards the minefields and his efforts to stop her were to no avail.  There was a loud explosion after hitting a mine, the ship sank so fast virtually all aboard went with her including the ship captain. There were very few survivors.

Events would rapidly overtake the S.S. Corregidor disaster. See December 24-25, 1941 in diaries; The Great Escape of the S.S. Mactan: December 31, 1941Evacuation of the Gold Reserves of the Commonwealth, February 3, 1942The debate on taking the Philippines out of the war: February 6-12, 1942Bataan, 1942: views of a father and his son; Life, death, decisions, during the Japanese Occupation; Diary entries on the Leyte Landing: October, 1944; and The Battle of Manila, Feb. 3-March 3, 1945 for more features on entries in the Philippine Diary Project.

 


Hugh Gibson’s Food Mission Diary: Herbert Hoover in Manila, 1946

(above) British Pathé newsreel of a portion of former President Herbert Hoover’s mission to assess food requirements for devastated parts of the world, 1946.

While this diary is part of the Herbert Hoover papers, the diary of Hugh Gibson gives a useful glimpse into an interesting mission –Hoover’s task to survey the globe to see food requirements for devastated countries– and American perspectives about those countries and peoples. Among the nations visited was the Philippines. See The Food Mission Diaries of Hugh Gibson (1946 and 1947), particularly 2nd diary: 1st trip (part II), 1946 April 27–June 19, which contains the portion on the Philippines.  The entry starts at the bottom of page 11 and concludes the Philippine portion in the middle of page 20. It provides an American’s impressions of war-devastated Manila (Monday, April 29, 1946):

We drove through the ruined town which is far worse than it looks from the air. Instead of having been destroyed with bombs which scatter the walls, these buildings were for the most part knocked out by artillery and fire, so the walls still stand in utter desolation. Some of the newer structures stood up better to the punishment but there is very little that is fit for habitation. Wherever there is a vacant lot the squatters have swarmed in with scraps of corrugated iron, ply-board or tin and have erected shanty towns of the most appalling variety. With a weak government there is some doubt as to how and when they can get these people out.

It also includes an interesting vignette of a visit to Malacañan Palace in April, 1946 (pages 11-15, Monday, April 29, 1946):

 Malacañan was occupied by the Japs and consequently escaped destruction. It was mined but as so often happened, when the time came the enemy was so busy getting out that he neglected to carry out his fell purpose.

We were escorted up the red-carpeted staircase and through several big drawing rooms in one of what was a tremendous and rather fine chandelier. Holes showed where two other had hung. It seems the Japs made off with them but there is hope they may be hidden somewhere near at hand as it is doubtful whether they could have been packed and shipped in time at their disposal.

Osmeña was waiting at the door to receive us and escorted us across the room to instal us in big arm chairs. Then he sat down, composed his features and was silent in several languages at once. After waiting for him to sound off the Chief [Hoover] made some remark about being happy to tell him that an idea had appeared this morning as to how the Philippine food needs could be met. Osmeña nodded his head without batting an eyelash. He did not ask what the solution was, but nodded and then stopped as if turned off. The Chief made another remark and again got a nod for his reply. [U.S. High Commissioner] McNutt leapt into the fray with two efforts and got two nods for his pains. As things were rollicking along at this rate servants came in with champagne. Osmeña raised his glass and uttered two words: “Your health.” After this outburst of garrulity he relapsed into silence and after a time the Chief allowed he must not take up any more of his time. He evidently agreed as he offered no protest, but accompanied us all the way downstairs to get his picture taken by the waiting photographers.

This entry gives a glimpse of the reaction of Americans to the increasingly hard-of-hearing Osmeña; and incidentally documents the absence of two of the three large Czechoslavak chandeliers in the Reception Hall of the Palace –in the 1950s Minister of Presidential Protocol Manuel Zamora would recount that the chandeliers had been taken down for cleaning right before the war broke out, and were buried for safekeeping for the duration of the war.

On page 18 of the diary, there is also an account of a dinner given in honor of Hoover by the American High Commissioner, Paul V. McNutt, in which President Osmeña and President-elect Manuel Roxas were both present:

At 7:30 dinner at the High Commissioner’s. He has an agreeable house facing the bay, adequate but nothing like the style of Malacañan which [Frank] Murphy stupidly gave over to the Philippines so that he could go and live near the Elks Club. The High Commissioner has been a vagrant ever since and it has not added to his prestige. Murphy built a house of the water front where he and [Francis B.] Sayre lived, which may have been comfortable inside but which looks like of the less distinguished Oklahoma high schools. Why we had to put up something of that sort in a country where there is a distinguished native style is a mystery. Fortunately the cursed thing was thoroughly bombed and it is to be hoped that something decent will be be built or required for our new diplomatic mission.

Most of our party was asked to the dinner, a number of official Americans and several Filipinos, including the President and his wife and the President-elect and his. There was no love lost between then. I sat next to Señora de Osmeña. Directly across her was Señora Rojas [sic], wife of the Pres. elect. Not one word was exchanged between them through the dinner although McNutt did his valiant best. My neighbor is as chatty as her husband is taciturn and kept up a steady flow of conversation –but I haven’t an idea of what she talked about. Perhaps she does this as compensation like Mrs. Coolidge.

It was hot as blazes and we dripped through dinner which was served out of doors in a loggia. The thermometer stood at 102 which is high for people who were not so long ago in the snows of Scandinavia. We had some talk among the men after dinner…

In the same entry, there is another interesting vignette: about agrarian conditions:

FitzGerald ran into an interested situation here today. The Government people are crying famine and calling for help in securing rice for the starving. It seems that after the war the people in the valleys of Northern Luzon decided to get rid of their landlords and take over the land for themselves. So they shot some landlords and chased the rest away. Thereupon Mr. Osmeña’s boys moved in, organized a cooperative, and announced it would take the place of the landlords. Of course the landlords had been wrong to take half of the rice as their share, so the co-operative would take only thirty percent. However Osmeña’s party was essential to keeping the co-operative afloat, and there were some expenses of the underground which had to be met, so another ten percent would be knocked off for that. The net result is that Osmeña and his people have forty percent of all the rice crop of the region hidden away in hundreds of little warehouses, ready to play politics or make a fortune, or both. But it does indicate that the people are not going to do so badly with all the fruit and vegetables that grow so easily and all the fish they can have in any quantity.

And he closes with a snapshot of American official opinion on the prospects of Philippine independence:

On May 25 Rojas [sic] takes over as Pres. of the Commonwealth and on July 4th comes complete independence. The prospect is not rosy. The Osmeña government has had a year to put things in order. Congress is voting $600,000,000 for rehabilitation which is a fabulous amount compared to the work that has to be done. Many of the local people are already unhappy and look forward to disintegration as soon as the P.I. [Philippine Islands] are left to their own devices. The remark is frequently heard that within five years the people will be clamoring for the United States to move back in again. And at that they have not yet begun to envisage the possibility that China or Russia might move in. Asia for the Asiatics is a grand slogan but the mess they are going to make of it is terrifying.


The Great Escape of the S.S. Mactan: December 31, 1941

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Photo above: recently offered for sale on eBay, a Baltimore Sun wirephoto of wounded soldiers aboard the S.S. Mactan.

Late at night, on December 31, 1941, an old ship prepared to weigh anchor to escape Manila. Its destination was Sydney, Australia. On board, were 224 wounded USAFFE soldiers (134 of them Americans and 90 of whom were Filipinos); 67 crew members, all Filipino, and 25 medical and Red Cross personnel, all Filipino except for one American nurse, and some others.

The ship was the S.S. Mactan. Its journey represents one of the great escapes of World War 2.

In the book At His Side: The Story of the American Red Cross Overseas in World War 2, by George Korson, chronicles the story of the S.S. Mactan.

Page 22 of the book contains this scene:

On the morning of December 24, some twenty Red Cross volunteer women were in the official residence of Francis B. Sayre, High Commissioner to the Philippines, packing Christmas gifts for soldiers and sailors in hospitals in and around Manila. Mrs. Sayre was in charge of the group.

Suddenly, at eleven o’clock, Mrs. Sayre looked up from her task at the tables to see her husband standing in the patio doorway beck- oning to her. She slipped quietly out of the room and stood in the patio. “I have an urgent message from General MacArthur,” said Mr. Sayre in a low voice. “The city may fall, and we must be ready to leave for Corregidor at one-thirty!”

Mrs. Sayre was stunned. “But we must finish these bags. They’re the only Christmas our boys will have.”

“Pack as quickly as you can,” he said and left hurriedly. Mrs. Sayre went back to the tables. The women worked quickly,  and in silence, to complete their task before the daily noon Japanese air raid over Manila.

The treasure bags, as they were called, made hundreds of American and Filipino soldiers and sailors happier in their hospital wards that dark Christmas Day. Irving Williams helped Gray Ladies make the distribution in the Sternberg General Hospital. The work was under the direction of Miss Catherine L. Nau, of Pittsburgh assistant field director at the hospital, who later was to distinguish herself for her work among the troops on Bataan and Corregidor, before the Japanese interned her.

Of the gift distribution at Sternberg General Hospital, Irving Williams said, “I shall never forget the boys’ beaming faces and delighted eyes as we went from ward to ward. The simple comfort articles meant so much to these boys, who had lost all of their possessions on the field of battle.”

The Philippine Diary Project contains General Basilio J. Valdes’ diary entry for December 24, 1941, giving the Filipino side of that day’s hectic events.

The Red Cross book continues with Gen. Valdes returning to Manila to contact the Red Cross:

Not until three days later December 28 did Williams know that these same boys would be entrusted to his care on one of the most hazardous missions of the war. Major General Basilio Valdes, then commanding general of the Filipino Army, came straight from MacArthur’s headquarters on Corregidor with the urgent request that the American Red Cross undertake to transport all serious casualties from the Sternberg General Hospital to Australia. President Manuel Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth helped the Red Cross locate the Mactan.

The Commonwealth Government had, of course, by this time, withdrawn to Corregidor, and Manila had been declared an Open City. Sending Gen. Valdes to Manila was therefore rather risky.

The Philippine Diary Project contains Gen. Valdes’ entries about this mission, which began on December 28, 1941:

We left Corregidor on a Q Boat. It took us 45 minutes to negotiate the distance. The picture of Manila Bay with all the ships either sunk or in flames was one of horror and desolation. We landed at the Army and Navy Club.

I rushed immediately to Red Cross Headquarters. I informed Mr. Forster, Manager Philippine Red Cross, and Mr. Wolff, Chairman of the Executive Board of my mission. I then called the Collector of Customs Mr. de Leon and I asked him what ships were still available for my purpose. He offered the government cutter Apo. I accepted. He told me that it was hiding somewhere in Bataan and that he expected to hear from the Captain at 6 p.m.

From his house, I rushed to Sternberg General Hospital where I conferred with Colonel Carroll regarding my plans. Then I returned to the Red Cross Headquarters and arranged for 100 painters and sufficient paint to change its present color to white, with a huge Red Cross in the center of the sides and on the funnel.

At 3 p.m. I again called Collector de Leon and inquired if he would try to contact the Apo. He assured me that he would endeavor to contact the Captain (Panopio). At 11 p.m. Mr. De Leon phoned me that he had not yet received any reply to his radio call. I could not sleep. I was worried.

There’s an extensive chronicle in his diary entries for December 29, 1941:

At 6:30 a.m. I called up Mr. Jose (Peping) Fernandez one of the managers of Compania Maritima and told him that I had to see him with an important problem. I rushed to his house. He realized my predicament. “I can offer you ships, but they are not here,” he said. After studying my needs from all angles we decided that the best thing to do would be to ask the U.S. Army to release the SS Mactan.

We contacted Colonel George, in charge of water transportation, and asked him to meet us at USAFFE Headquarters so that we could discuss the matter with General Marshall. We met at 8 a.m. and it was decided that the U.S. Army would release the Mactan to me to convert it into a hospital ship. I was told the SS Mactan, was in Corregidor and it would not be in Manila until after dark. I rushed to the Red Cross Headquarters and asked Mr. Forster to have the painters in readiness to start the painting without delay, as soon as the ship docked at Pier N-1.

Last night Mr. Forster sent a telegram to the American Red Cross in Washington informing them of our plan.

At 11 a.m. Collector de Leon phoned me that the Apo was sailing for Manila that evening. I thanked him and informed him that it was too late.

At 5 p.m. Mr. Wolff phoned me that they have received an important radiogram from the Secretary of State, Hull, and that my presence in the Red Cross was urgent to discuss the contents of this radiogram. I rushed there. Mr. Wolff, Mr. Forster, Judge Dewitt and Dr. Buss of the High Commissioner’s Office were already busy studying the contents of Mr. Hull’s radiogram. It was specified in it that the sending out of Red Cross hospital Ship was approved; that the Japanese government had been advised of its sailing through the Swiss Ambassador and that it was necessary that we radio rush the name of the ship and the route that would be followed. Moreover, we were told to comply strictly with the articles of the Hague convention of 1907. These articles define what is meant by Red Cross Hospital Ship, how it must be painted and what personnel it must carry. It clearly specifies that no civilian can be on the boat.

I left Red Cross Headquarters at 6:30 p.m. No news of the SS Mactan had been received. At 9 p.m. I called Dr. Canuto of the Red Cross, and I was advised that the ship had not yet arrived.

At 11 p.m. I went to Pier N-1 to inquire. No one could give me any information about the Mactan

And December 30, 1941:

At 5 a.m. Mr. Williams of the Red Cross phoned me that the ship had arrived but that he was not willing to put the painters on because there was still some cargo of rifles and ammunition left. He informed me that the Captain (Tamayo) and the Chief Officers were in his office. I asked him to hold them. I dressed hurriedly and rushed to the Red Cross Headquarters. They repeated the information given to Mr. Williams. Believing that this cargo belonged to the U.S. Army I asked them to come with me to the USAFFE Headquarters. I had to awake General Marshall. Pressing our inquiry we found out that this cargo consisted only of 3 or 4 boxes of rifles (Enfield) and 2 boxes of 30 caliber ammunition belonging to Philippine Army. It had been left as they were forced to leave Corregidor before everything had been unloaded. We explained to them that there was no danger and with my assurance that these boxes would be unloaded early in the morning, they returned to the ship, took on the painters and left for Malabon for the painting job.

From the USAFFE Headquarters, I rushed to the house of Colonel Miguel Aguilar, Chief of Finance. I found him in bed. He got up, and I asked him to see that the remaining cargo there be removed without delay. He assured me that he would contact the Chief of Quartermaster Service and direct him accordingly. My order was complied with during the course of the day.

At 9 a.m. I contacted Mr. Forster. He informed me that the painters were on the job and that in accordance with my instructions, two launches were tied close to the ship to transport the painters to the river of Malabon in case of a raid. I then went to Colonel Aguilar’s office at the Far Eastern University to discuss with him some matters regarding finance of the Army. From there I went to Malacañan to see Sec. Vargas, and from there to the office of the Sec. of National Defense, to inquire for correspondence for me.

At noon, I called Mr. Jose (Peping) Fernandez to inquire where the ship was. He asked me to have luncheon with him and to go afterwards to Malabon. After lunch we went by car to Malabon. I saw the ship being painted white. It already had a large Red Cross on the sides and on the funnel.

I returned to the Red Cross Headquarters to ascertain if all plans had been properly carried out. Mr. Forster was worried as he did not know whether the provisions and food supplies carried by his personnel would be sufficient. I then contacted Colonel Ward by phone, and later Colonel Carroll. Both assured me that there would be enough food and medical supplies for the trip.

With that assurance, and the promise of Mr. Forster that his doctors and nurses were all ready to go and of Colonel Carroll that as soon as the boat docked at Pier 1, he would begin to load his equipment, beds, etc. and transport his patients, I felt that my mission had been successfully accomplished.

Here, the Red Cross book continues the story on page 16:

Late in the afternoon of December 31, 1941, Army ambulances came clanging down Manila’s Pier 1 and halted alongside the American Red Cross hospital ship Mactan moored there.

They were followed by others, and for three hours an unending line of stretchers bearing seriously wounded American and Filipino soldiers streamed up the Mactan’s gangplank. Men with bandaged heads, with legs in casts, with arms in slings, and with hidden shrapnel wounds were borne aloft by Filipino doctors, nurses, and crew.

Their faces pallid and eyes expressionless, they had no idea where they were being taken. They did not seem to care, except that the large red crosses on the ship’s sides were a reassuring sign that they were in friendly hands.

There were 224 officers and enlisted men in the group of wounded young boys of the new Philippine Army, youthful American airmen, grizzled veterans of the Philippine Scouts (an arm of the United States Army), and gray-haired American soldiers with many years’ service in the Far East. All had been wounded fighting the Japanese invaders during the bloody weeks preceding the historic stand on Bataan.

These casualties had been left behind in the Sternberg General Hospital when General Douglas MacArthur withdrew his forces to Bataan. Anxious, however, to save them from the rapidly advancing Japanese armies, he had requested the American Red Cross to transport them to Darwin, Australia, in a ship chartered, controlled, staffed, and fully equipped by the Red Cross. The only military personnel aboard, apart from the patients, would be an Army surgeon, Colonel Percy J. Carroll, of St. Louis, Missouri, and an Army nurse, Lieutenant Floramund Ann Fellmeth, of Chicago.

Aboard the Mactan, berthed at Manila’s only pier to survive constant Japanese air attacks, Irving Williams, of Patchogue, Long Island, lanky Red Cross field director, observed the three-hour procession of wounded up the gangplank. From now on until the ship reached Australia an estimated ten-day passage if things went well responsibility for them was in his hands.

The book on page 16 continues by explaining how the Mactan ended up the chosen ship for this mission:

Only forty-eight hours had elapsed since the Mactan had been brought from Corregidor where she was unloading military stores for the United States Army. A 2,000-ton, decrepit old Philippine inter-island steamer, she was the only ship available at the time when everything in Manila Bay had been sunk or scuttled or had scampered off to sea.

Working under threat of Manila’s imminent occupation by Japanese troops, Williams and his Red Cross associates, and the crews under them, performed a miracle of speed in outfitting the Mactan as a hospital ship. Simultaneously, steps were taken to fulfill the obligations of international law governing hospital ships: The Mactan was painted white with a red band around the vessel and large red crosses on her sides and top decks; a charter agreement was made between the American Red Cross and the ship’s owners; the ship was commissioned in the name of the President of the United States; in accordance with cabled instructions from Chairman Norman H. Davis in the name of the American Red Cross, the Japanese Government was apprized of the ship’s description and course; all contraband was dumped overboard; and the Swiss Consul, after a diligent inspection as the representative of United States interests, gave his official blessings.

The Mactan, lacking charts to navigate the mine-infested waters of Manila Bay, set steam late in the evening of December 31, 1941. The Philippine Diary Project has Gen. Basilio J. Valdes solving the problem of the charts (involving the charts of the presidential yacht, Casiana, recently sunk off Corregidor), in his entry for December 31, 1941:

At 5 p.m. while I was at Cottage 605, the telephone rang. It was a long distance from Manila. I rushed to answer. It was my aide Lieutenant Gonzalez informing that the ship would be ready to sail, but the Captain refused to leave unless he had the charts for trip, and same could not be had in Manila. I told Lieutenant Gonzalez to hold the line and I asked Colonel Huff who was at General MacArthur’s Quarters next door, and he told me that the charts of the Casiana could be given. I informed Lieutenant Gonzalez. Half an hour later Lieutenant Gonzales again called me and told me that the boat would leave at 6:30 p.m.

I was tired. After dinner I retired. At 10:30 p.m. a U.S. Army Colonel woke me up to inform me that the ship was still in Pier N-1 and that the Captain refused to sail unless he had the charts. We contacted USAFFE Headquarters. We were informed that the Don Esteban was within the breakwater. We gave instructions that the charts of the Don Esteban be given to the Captain of the SS Mactan and that those of the Casiana would be given to the SS Don Esteban.

I then called Collector of Customs Mr. de Leon, and asked him to see that the ship sails even if he had to put soldiers on board and place the Captain under arrest.

At 11:40 p.m. we were advised by phone that the SS Mactan, the hospital ship had left the Pier at 11:30 p.m. We all gave a sigh of relief.

The Red Cross book describes the ship’s departure as follows om p. 19:

Off the breakwater, the Mactan dropped anchor to await the Don Esteban.

As the hours passed, a little group joined Julian C. Tamayo, the Mactan’s skipper, on the bridge for a last look at Manila’s skyline. Besides Williams, there were Father Shanahan, Colonel Carroll, and Chief Nurse Ann Fellmeth.

Having been declared an open city, Manila once again was ablaze. The incandescent lights, however, were dimmed by the curtains of bright flame hanging over the city. The Army was dynamiting gasoline storage tanks at its base in Pandacan and its installations on Engineer Island to prevent their use by the enemy. The docks were burning, and over smoldering Cavite Navy Yard, devastated by heavy Japanese air attacks, intermittent flashes of fire reddened the sky.

As if by design, promptly at midnight the last of the Pandacen gasoline tanks blew up with a terrific explosion, throwing up masses of flame which seemed to envelop the whole city. A new year was ushered in, but the little group on the Mactan’s bridge was in no mood for celebration.

The charts brought by the Don Estebarfs master were not the ones Captain Tamayo had asked for. They were too general.

“Do you think you can sail without detailed charts?” askedWilliams.

“I think so,” replied the swarthy, pug-nosed little skipper with characteristic confidence.Once again, the Mactan weighed anchor. The moon was high in the sky as the ship approached Corregidor for a last-minute rendezvous with a United States naval vessel. From the shadow of The Rock sped a corvette, a gray wraith floodlighted by the moon, to lead the Mactan through the maze of mine fields. The corvette led the lumbering Mactan a merry chase; highly maneuverable, the former made the various turns at sharp angles, while the latter would reach the apex of a triangle and extend beyond it before making a turn.

A 26 year old American nurse, Floramund Fellmeth Difford, who ended up on board after being given a daring assignment, has her own version of events:

While the other nurses stationed in Manila were evacuated to Bataan and Corregidor, Difford was chosen for a special assignment because of her surgical nurse experience. A plan was devised to evacuate as many of the hospitalized soldiers as possible to Australia aboard an inter-island coconut husk steamer called the Mactan, under the auspices of the International Red Cross. It would be the largest single humanitarian evacuation of military personnel to date. And it was a suicide mission.

Col. Percy J. Carroll, the commanding officer of the Manila Hospital Center, told Difford the secret assignment was voluntary and risky. There was no guarantee the ship, which was barely seaworthy, would make it to its destination, but for the wounded, staying in Manila meant certain death. “It never really entered my mind to refuse, as we were accustomed to following orders,” Difford related in her book.

While the Japanese were on the outskirts of Manila, Difford awaited word to board the Mactan. She carried with her a note that explained that she was a noncombatant, but with the Japanese closing in, she prepared herself to become a prisoner. On Dec. 31, 1941, the order finally came. The Mactan, newly painted white with red crosses on its sides and decks so planes would recognize it as a “mercy ship,” was loaded with 224 wounded soldiers (134 Americans and 90 Filipinos); 67 crew members, all Filipino; and 25 medical and Red Cross personnel, all Filipino except Difford, who was the chief nurse, Col. Carroll, and a Catholic priest from Connecticut, the Rev. Thomas Shanahan, the ship’s chaplain.

Although the Red Cross was given clearance for the ship to leave by a Japanese commander, this was the first hospital ship to transport wounded soldiers in a war that the United States had just entered. There was great concern that the ship would be attacked by air or torpedo. Those aboard the ship rang in New Year’s Day 1942 to the sight of Manila in flames as the Americans blew up gasoline storage tanks to keep the supplies out of enemy hands.

The journey was fraught with peril. The ship had to zigzag through a maze of mines just to leave Manila Bay, following a Navy ship for guidance, and had a close call when it made a wrong turn in the darkness. The ship was infested with cockroaches, red ants, and copra beetles. Violent storms tossed the ship and drenched the patients on their cots on the decks, sheltered only by canvas. There was a fire in the engine room, and for a time those aboard prepared to abandon ship. Two wounded soldiers died from their injuries during the crossing, and a depressed Filipino soldier committed suicide by jumping overboard.

On Jan. 27, 1942, the Mactan arrived in Sydney Harbor to much fanfare, especially after newspapers had falsely reported that the ship had been attacked multiple times. Despite the primitive conditions aboard the vessel, the wounded soldiers arrived in very good condition and were quickly taken to a hospital on land. The Mactan’s voyage made headlines in the United States. Difford was cited for bravery by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1942, among other awards. She and other military nurses were belatedly awarded the Bronze Star Medal for their service in 1993.

On board the ship, Major William A. Fairfield, kept a diary –he called it a “log”– from January 1, 1942, when the S.S. Mactan left Manila, to January 27, 1942, when they entered Sydney Harbor. You can read his diary and his recollections of the opening weeks of the war in the Philippines.

At the end of the voyage, the soldiers who’d been saved, all signed the document:

S. S. Mactan, Red Cross Hospital Ship
At Sea, January 12, 1942

National Headquarters

American Red Cross

Washington, D. C.

We, the undersigned officers and enlisted men of the USAFFE, in grateful appreciation of the services rendered by the Philippine Chapter of the American Red Cross under the supervision of Mr. Irving Williams, Field Director, wish by this letter to express our gratitude.

The evacuation of the wounded soldiers from Manila by the Red Cross prior to its occupation by the enemy was instrumental in preserving the lives and health of the undersigned.

The document bore the signatures, rank, and home addresses of 210 of the Mactan’s patients all of them except those who had died or were too sick even to write their names. The addresses represented almost every state in the Union and every province in the Philippines.


December 25, 1942

Halleluyah, we are spending our first Christmas in two years quietly and frugally as dictated by the time. Last night we heard midnight mass by Belgian Fr. Lambrecht at Bayombong Church overflowing. Today, with the economy going from bad to worst, at least we have a semblance of Xmas minus the usual gifts. Even prime commodities are getting scarcer and expensive as the Japanese occupation forces are living on the land, none coming from Japan or abroad. They get priority on supply of foodstuff and other prime commodities.

As I looked back, Christmas 1941 did not exist for us USAFFE members who were on the run then. The alert orders for the Q-Boats to proceed to Lingayen was changed Dec 24,1941 to escort SS Mayon in evacuating the seat of government led by Pres. M. Quezon and High Commissioner F. Sayre from Manila to Corregidor. Gen. MacArthur declared Manila an Open City with USAFFE HQ and USN 16th Naval District also transferring to Corregidor. The Japanese forces had landed in Lingayen Gulf and Lamon Bay three days ago and War Plan Orange was ordered, that all troops retreat to Bataan. The US Asiatic Fleet abandoned us leaving our naval defense to nine Motor Torpedo Boats (3 Phil Q-Boats and 6 US PT Boats). Our Q-Boats were occupied with the transfer of seat of gov’t for a week. Christmas 1941 went unnoticed. At least we have Christmas 1942 and hope we will celebrate a better Christmas 1943. We can only hope and pray for better days to come.


August 26, 1942

At lunch.

Quezon opened by declaring that he was the happiest man in the world today. He had received the best news since leaving the Philippines. Reported a telephone conversation with “Chick” Parsons, who had just arrived on the Gripsholm from the Far East. Parsons is an American whom the Filipinos receive as one of themselves. He is Panamanian Vice Consul at Manila and because of this is believed not to have been “confined to quarters” by the Japanese. He telephoned Quezon this morning that he had frequently seen Vargas and Alunan and the rest and they are still absolutely loyal to Quezon. Quezon had received on Corregidor a letter from Vargas written just as the Japanese were entering Manila, in which Vargas stated that wherever he might be, whether (as Quezon’s arrangement had been), in Malacañan–the Japanese permitting–or in his own house, “you will always have a loyal servant in me.” Parsons is coming down to Washington tomorrow to report, as Quezon didn’t wish to continue the conversation over the telephone.

Quezon then began to talk again about the history of the American regime in the Philippines. He said that there were three Governors General who left the Islands with the hatred of most of the Americans there. Taft “because of his brave fight against the Generals while the swords everywhere were still rattling in the scabbards”; Stimson “because he put the foreign (and American) banks under the control of the government for the first time”; and myself, “for giving self-government to the Filipinos.”

Governor General Wright was an easy-going man–a southerner Republican–adding “you know what that means.” He was Forbes’ ideal. Did not go over well with the Filipinos.

Quezon then told the story of the “Bank Control” incident. He said Stimson and I were the bravest of the American Governors General because neither of us really cared whether we held on to our “job” or not. Stimson hadn’t wanted to accept the post, and returned to the United States within eighteen months to become Secretary of State.

The bank incident arose as follows: I (the present writer) had tried to put the foreign banks under Philippine Government control in my time, but had been stopped by a cable from “that imperialist Secretary of War whom Mr. Wilson had to relieve later–Lindley M. Garrison.” In Stimson’s time, Lagdameo was still Insular Treasurer, and was also Inspector of banks; he was one of the most honest and hard working of the government officials, and was sadly underpaid. When hardup he once borrowed 200 pesos from an American, formerly Insular Treasurer and a good friend, who was by then an officer in the Banco de las Islas Filipinas, (Spanish bank). This man entered the loan on the bank’s books not as from himself, as Lagdameo supposed, but as from the bank. So Stimson called Quezon in and told him the story and said he would have to fire Lagdameo. Quezon said he was inclined to agree with him but would like to talk with Unson, the Secretary of Finance. Unson told Quezon that Lagdameo was a man of perfect honesty–“if it had been 20,000 pesos, instead of 200 pesos. I might not think so–the smallness of the sum, in my eyes, confirms his honesty. If he is dismissed from the service, I shall resign as Secretary of Finance.” Quezon reported this back to Stimson who at once saw the seriousness of the situation. Quezon said it would be disastrous to his administration, such was the complete confidence of the public in Unson. “But,” he said, “I can show you a way out of it–put the banks under government inspection, appoint an American as inspector and leave Lagdameo, who has too much work anyway as Insular Treasurer. Stimson agreed, but Quezon told him of the political danger of a move so violently opposed by the banks as was government control. Stimson was quite indifferent to that–hadn’t even known that these banks were not subject to government inspection, and insisted that they ought to be. So Quezon had the law passed after giving hearings to protests from the bank lawyers. Then Stimson agreed to hold hearings before signing the bill, whereupon Quezon rushed around to know whether this meant he was not going to sign the act. Stimson smiled and said: “These people have the right to be heard, and I have the right to disregard their advice.”

Stimson staged a big public meeting in Malacañan Palace with lots of chairs, and sat there on a sort of throne, listening very seriously. Jim Ross, Dewitt et al. as lawyers made arguments. Roxas (Speaker) made a serious statement on the subject which he had studied. Stimson allowed two or three days to pass, and then signed the bill.

“Tiny” Williams of the National City Bank of New York had from the beginning, led the campaign against the bill and was organizing powerful interests in the United States by cable. Stimson sent for him and said: “I am leaving the Philippines in fifteen days and shall be Secretary of State when I land in the United States. If you do not withdraw your effort to coerce me, I shall as Secretary of State be disinclined to show any favours to the National City Banks abroad, and not much support.” Williams broke all records in getting to the cable office.

When Stimson left, Quezon in bidding him good-bye and congratulating him on a successful administration added that he had bad as well as good things to tell him–that the Americans in the Islands hated him worse than they did Harrison. Stimson replied: “My God, is it as bad as that?”

Quezon said that Stimson believed that I had tried to replace American officials too fast. Quezon added that, if I had not done so, my administration would have been a failure, for I would have lost the confidence of the Filipinos.

Stimson was a non-social man, who saw few people outside his official duties.

Taft’s speech to his opponents in the Philippines (sometimes credited to me–F.B.H.) was to the “Lions of the Press”; to them he said the waters on both sides of Corregidor are wide enough to allow then all to go home in one day.

Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. O’Doherty was formerly a close friend of Quezon, who had given up his friendship for the Archbishop after a series of cold-blooded abandonments by the latter of those who had served him loyally; beginning with General Thos. L. Hartigan who would have been penniless in his last years if Quezon had not helped him. Hartigan as lawyer for the Church had made 15,000,000 pesos for the archepiscopal see. Then came the Archbishop’s abandonment of Whitaker (son of an Oxford Don) who had made himself responsible for some of the Church’s debts (Visayan Refining Co.). Then the Archbishop went back upon O’Malley and Father Fletcher. Quezon sent for the Archbishop and told him he had lost faith in him; listened to O’Doherty’s explanations of each of the four cases and then replied that he was no longer his friend; that he would continue to show him every official and personal courtesy–but “he was through.”

High Commissioner Sayre, who got back from Corregidor to the United States before Quezon, wrote a report to the State Department thru Secretary Ickes, pointing out those whom he believed to be the “Fifth Columnists” in the Philippines, and suggesting that Quezon was one. Learning of this on his arrival, Quezon spoke at the Press Club (no publicity) referring to High Commissioner Sayre who was present, and to the latter’s suspicions. This led Sayre to go to Secretary Ickes, who had held up Sayre’s letter, and to demand that it be forwarded. Ickes still did not act, until Sayre sent a written request which Ickes could not ignore. So he forwarded Sayre’s letter with the endorsement: “President Quezon, a Filipino, does not yield in loyalty to F.B.S., an American–his value to this country is one thousand times greater.” In fifteen days Sayre was out of office.


June 22, 1942

Shoreham Hotel.

Quezon returned from a conference with Secretary Ickes, whom he greatly likes.

He is getting more interested every day in composing ideas for his book, which I am glad to see. Today, he expressed his wish not to have any controversial subjects in this war story, but will save them for the biography he wishes to write later. He may insert Japanese atrocity stories of their invasion of the Philippines, but only “as told to him”–not as being of his knowledge true. This settles neatly a ticklish question of policy.

Quezon observed that Assistant Secretary of State Sumner Welles is more “effective” than our old friend Hull, and believes it best to sound him out first on any plans for the future of the Philippines.

Stated that he had told ex-Vice Governor Hayden that in his book he had been so kind about him that he felt he could say in criticism only that Hayden appeared to be an adherent of Governor General Wood–“You are still a Republican”–Hayden reddened. Quezon told him that the theory that Leonard Wood had “saved” Philippine finances was ridiculous. “If I had not stopped him, he would have thrown away assets worth three hundred million pesos in the Philippines.” Hayden replied “I suppose you mean the railroad, bank, etc.”

Lord Halifax had given Quezon a luncheon. This was the day after Quezon’s first appearance upon the Pacific War Council. Halifax said to Quezon at luncheon: “I liked your remark to the press.” Quezon said he liked Lady Halifax better than he did her husband. She had told Halifax after luncheon: “You’d better have a talk with President Quezon–You may learn something.”

Mrs. Quezon who was then present with us, had just attended a luncheon given for her by Mrs. Sayre. Sayre is about to resign as High Commissioner. She told Mrs. Quezon that there had been a broadcast from Manila in May arranged by the Japanese. In it an American lady told how the American civilian prisoners at Santo Tomas in Manila were allowed to establish their own form of government; had their own entertainments and their own schools for their children. Exercise was allowed daily in Santo Tomas grounds etc. She then added that their chief concern was that they had no milk for their children–at this point a Japanese spokesman interrupted and said: “That is the fault of the Americans for destroying all supplies before we arrived.” I asked Mrs. Quezon if it was true that they had destroyed all the food supplies before going to Corregidor, and she replied “Of course.”

I then asked Quezon further about his famous luncheon with the Japanese Emperor in 1937–whether the Emperor had offered him any “special treaties” (n.b. this was one of the questions recently submitted to Quezon by the Cosmopolitan). He said “no.” I asked him whether Ambassador Grew’s annoyance with this whole affair had not changed the United States Government’s attitude toward Quezon for a time. He said not; that President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull were all right, but that he might have had some enemies, like Stanley Hornbeck, the “Far Eastern expert” in the State Department. Denied that the State Department had interfered to spoil his subsequent trip to Mexico; that the Mexican President had sent him his gorgeous $500,000 train,–“like a hotel” to convey him to Mexico City.

Told the story of his shift in plans during his escape to Australia in going from Dumaguete by speed boat with Lieutenant Bulkeley across to Mindanao. Wainwright had wired him that there were five Japanese destroyers in the straits, and it was inadvisable to go now–better to postpone. But Colonel Soriano together with Major Fernando of the Philippine Army Air Corps had just spent several hours in one of those old planes off Negros waters. They had sighted only one Japanese destroyer, which at 6 p.m. had gone off towards the Sulu Sea. So, after midnight, when he and his family, having received Wainwright’s warning message, had gotten nearly all the way back from Dumaguete to Bais (20 miles), Soriano caught up with them in the dark, and he and Bulkeley advised Quezon to turn around again and take the chance of getting across that night to Mindanao. Quezon accepted.

To an enquiry as to whether Mrs Quezon ever expressed her opinions about such decisions on this dangerous voyage; he replied: “Never; she always did just what I decided.” I then enquired how he had felt about the possibility of his capture by the Japanese? He said he did his best to avoid capture, but he always felt that if taken by them, they would treat him with every consideration, and probably put him right back in Malacañan.

He added that he thought Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos had gotten caught by the Japanese in Cebu. (N.B. they shot him there).

Exchange of cables between Quezon in Corregidor and Roosevelt: Quezon advised him that he was in grave doubts as to whether he should encourage his people to further resistance since he was satisfied that the United States could not relieve them; that he did not see why a nation which could not protect them should expect further demonstrations of loyalty from them. Roosevelt in reply, said he understood Quezon’s feelings and expressed his regret that he could not do much at the moment. He said: “go ahead and join them if you feel you must.” This scared MacArthur. Quezon says: “If he had refused, I would have gone back to Manila.” Roosevelt also promised to retake the Philippines and give them their independence and protect it. This was more than the Filipinos had ever had offered them before: a pledge that all the resources and man power of United States were back of this promise of protected independence. So Quezon replied: “I abide by your decision.”

I asked him why he supposed Roosevelt had refused the joint recommendation of himself and MacArthur. He replied that he did not know the President’s reasons. Osmena and Roxas had said at the time that he would reject it. Roosevelt was not moved by imperialism nor by vested interests, nor by anything of that sort. Probably he was actuated by unwillingness to recognize anything Japan had done by force (vide Manchuria). Quezon thinks that in Washington only the Chief of Staff (General Marshall) who received the message from MacArthur in private code, and Roosevelt himself, knew about this request for immediate independence.

When Quezon finally got to the White House, Roosevelt was chiefly concerned about Quezon’s health. Roosevelt never made any reference to their exchange of cables.

Quezon added that, so far as he was aware, the Japanese had never made a direct offer to the United States Government to guarantee the neutrality of the Philippines, but many times they made such an offer to him personally.

“It was not that I apprehended personally ill treatment from the Japanese” said Quezon; “What made me stand was because I had raised the Philippine Army–a citizen army–I had mobilized them in this war. The question for me was whether having called them, I should go with this army, or stay behind in Manila with my people. I was between the Devil and the deep sea. So I decided that I should go where the army did. That was my hardest decision–my greatest moral torture. I proposed by cable to President Roosevelt that the United States Government should advise the Japanese that they had granted independence to the Philippines. This should have been done before the invasion and immediately after the first Japanese attack by air. The Japanese had repeatedly offered to guarantee the neutrality of an independent Philippines. This was what they thought should be done.” Quezon is going to propose the passage by Congress of a Joint Resolution, as they did in the case of Cuba, that “the Philippines are and of right out to be independent” and that “the United States would use their armed forces to protect them.”

When asked by Shuster to try to describe his own frame of mind when he was told at 5:30 a.m. Dec. 8 of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Quezon said he had never believed that the Japanese would dare to do it; but since they had done so, it was at once evident that they were infinitely more powerful than had been supposed– therefore he immediately perceived that the Philippines were probably doomed.

In Washington the other day, he asked the Chinese Ambassador whether the Japanese had not fooled all the rest of the world by pretending to be weak. The ambassador just laughed. Quezon says that if consulted, he would have advised the Chinese to take a leaf from the Japanese book on cunning. The Japanese had been checked in their expansion plans three times, (after each of their three successful wars), by the concert of Great Powers–each time they “bowed their head” and submitted. Finally, after waiting nearly half a century, their chance had come, and they took it. So, if the Chinese, at the time the “China Incident” broke had pretended to submit, then allowed themselves to be armed and trained by the Japanese, they would only have had to wait their chance.


June 13, 1942

At Waldorf-Astoria.

Story of Lt. Colonel Andres Soriano:

Soriano said that it did a great injustice to Aguinaldo to call him a fifth columnist. The General was perfectly loyal.

Bombing of air fields:

“The bombing of Baguio was at 7:30 a.m. on December 8th; these enemy planes then turned northwards and bombed the Cagayan valley–Aparri, Tuguegarao and Iligan.

“At about the same hour, Davao was bombed.

“Next they came over Clark Field–not a fighter up to oppose them. Many of the officers were at luncheon when the Japanese struck. They said: ‘We don’t know how it happened.’ At that time, 17 B-40s were destroyed on the ground at Clark Field. Explanation: the wires to detectors had been cut by enemy agents.”

Soriano, when I asked about the American planes which, according to Quezon had taken the air when news came of the bombing of Baguio at 7:30, said they were probably some planes which were en route for Mindanao at that time, and were recalled.

By the 10th & 11th of December, almost all our planes (80%) were destroyed–“it was worse than Pearl Harbor.”

“Three-quarters of an hour after they struck at Clark Field they were over Iba Field–all the officers were having luncheon.

“MacArthur took command of all the armies on July 20 (?). He did not have five months in which to pull them together. General Lewis Brereton arrived early in November, a very amiable man–he found a Brigadier General in command of the air force, an officer of the old laissez faire school. They put him in command of the fighter planes, when they should have shipped him off home.” Those fighter planes were ready to start for Formosa, and actually started, “I don’t know why they were recalled to the ground–some of them may have been included in the squadron which started for Davao that morning and had been recalled.

“After December 10th or 11th, the Japanese were entirely masters of the air, unopposed. I understand that the Americans had 38 four engine bombers, and about 170 other planes in the Philippines before the invasion.

“Supplies for besieged armies on Corregidor & Bataan: An officer told me: ‘All through the battle of Bataan we expected relief and reinforcements, though we knew the American Pacific Squadron had been temporarily put out of action at Pearl Harbor. On my first trip back from the front at Bataan to see General Sutherland on Corregidor the boys in the trenches had asked me to bring them food, tobacco and whiskey. This was on February 3rd; on February 18th I was again sent from the front on an errand to Corregidor, and this time all that the boys asked me to bring back was only “good news”–i.e., of relief coming. We all expected help until we heard President Roosevelt’s address on February 22nd. The truth about the sending of supplies is as follows: three convoys started from Australia. The first was diverted to Singapore; the second to the Dutch East Indies, and the third, consisting of three cargo boats started at last for the Philippines. Two of the vessels turned back and went to the West coast of Australia–to Brisbane. One boat, the Moro vessel Doñañate (?) got through to Cebu; it carried 1,000 tons of sugar and 1,000 tons of rice, both commodities we already had in the Visayas, so it was like carrying coals to Newcastle. Very little of this got through to Corregidor and Bataan, because of the blockade. Another vessel went aground near Leyte but the cargo was salvaged. We understood that after Pearl Harbor, the American Navy could not convoy supplies to us. Nor, of course, could they strike directly at the Japanese Navy as had always been the plan.’

“On Dec. 1st, Quezon sent for Admiral Hart, and questioned him. Hart seemed very confident. He thought that if the Japanese ever cut the communications between the mainland (U.S.) and the Philippines, it would, at the most, be 18 days before it was re-established.

“Of the airplanes sent from the United States via Australia in the months just preceding Pearl Harbor, the bombers, which could fly all the way, got through to the Philippines. A shipment of 200 fighters intended for the Philippines, had inexperienced young boys as pilots and crews, and they smashed up 180 of these 200 planes in Australia. ”

Soriano’s account of important visitors to the Philippines just before, based on which, Quezon had believed that there was a well prepared plan worked out for the defense of the Far East. Quezon was not really consulted, or informed in detail, but he had every reason to think that the defenses of the Philippines were.

“Quezon saw Duff Cooper and was not at all impressed by him. General Sir Brooke Popham was in Manila several times from the end of 1940 to April 1941. He conferred only with Sayre, Grunert and Hart.

The Dutch Chief of Staff who after visiting the United States from Batavia, became Commander-in-Chief for the Netherlands East Indies when his chief was killed in an air accident. He visited the Philippines.

“Litvinoff came to Manila about November 1st or a little later. Quezon was ill, and Litvinoff was only there for two days, but the President saw him and was very much impressed by him.”

Then Kurusu, whom they all knew in Manila because he had been Consul General there in my time, came through on his mission to the United States about the middle of November.

In October 1941, the Secretary of the Colonies and the Secretary of Finance of the Netherlands East Indies made a trip across the Philippines.

Soriano had had reservations for the September Clipper from the United States to the Philippines but became so uneasy over international relations that he left America on July 29th instead.

After MacArthur had been given Supreme Command there was real co-operation established with the American Army, which had been rather sore theretofore with General MacArthur because he had accepted service with the Filipinos. Soriano thinks, however, that MacArthur was glad to take Filipino Command, otherwise he would lose rank as Lieutenant General at the end of his extended term (five years) as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and would have had to step down and become a young Major General. (As a matter of fact, he became the Field Marshal of the Philippine Army.) General Grunert was coming to the end of his term as Department Commander of the Philippines; he had been offish with MacArthur because he worked with the Filipinos, and the Department Commander had been an “ally” of Sayre. Now Grunert is very friendly with Quezon.

The Americans in Manila, after Soriano arrived back there were still “asleep at the switch”; only a small percentage of them were awake to the seriousness of the situation. Right up to the 1st of December many people thought that nothing was going to happen. Quezon was one of the few who seemed aware of the danger, tho he was not informed as to the real strength of Japan. He kept cool-headed. He realized the situation after Secretary Knox’s ballon d’essai statement of November 11th and Secretary Hull’s comprehensive and sweeping statement of November 26th to the two Japanese Ambassadors in Washington.

In Manila during those last weeks some of the Americans feared that the Filipinos would not support them–these were the “Old Timers” who had always looked down on the Filipinos. In Soriano’s opinion there was absolutely no justification for this fear among the “Old Timers.” He did feel some uncertainty as to the real though concealed sentiments of some of the members of the Legislature. Possibly some of the Filipino lawyers who had as clients the more important Japanese financial interests in the Philippines were luke-warm, or followed the line of least resistance. He also suspected the real feelings of some of the professional Filipinos who had taken their degrees in Japan. The only pro-Japanese Filipinos of whose sentiments he was sure were two Filipino businessmen he named.

“In September, military supplies from the United States began to trickle in; there was a very noticeable increase of them by November, when bomber squadrons arrived. Nearly everybody thought that the crisis would not come before Spring and this would have given MacArthur a real chance of success. Even with the small air force we had there at the moment of invasion we could have gone far to stop the Japanese landings at Lingayen Bay and Guman Bay (e. coast Bicols), if we had learned the lesson of the battle of Crete. We might also, with our limited air force intact, have been able to keep the Asiatic fleet in our waters and thus impede the invasion. This would have served to stop the Japanese on their way to Singapore.

“We could have preserved the bulk of our air force if we had dug shelters for them in the hills around the air fields. There was a perfect opportunity for this at Stotsenburg, for example. This was what MacArthur did with the few rickety planes he had left, on the air fields he constructed on Mariveles Bay during the siege of Bataan. With the immense amount of mining machinery we already had in the Philippines we could easily have dug out shelters of our air defenses and airplanes.”

I asked Soriano whether the Spaniards in the Philippines had to be watched. He replied: “Perhaps I am partial, but in my opinion the great bulk of the Spaniards then in the Philippines were entirely loyal. They are, of course, extremely influential in the Islands.”

About the disastrous campaign on Malaya, Soriano said that the acid criticisms of the Australian General Gordon Bennet were probably correct. Soriano, who was educated in England, said that the Englishmen of the colonies are probably of a somewhat lower social stratum–it was their arrogance and that of their women which led to disaster. The especial harshness of the Japanese towards the English was due to championship of the Asiatic races. They humiliated the English because of their political and personal bossiness towards Asiatics. They are leading a race movement for their fellow Asiatics. (N.B. “Old Timers” and the policy of “Prestige in the Philippines.” F.B.H.)

“The Filipino Scouts were the back-bone of our armies–I consider them the equals of any crack regiment in any army in the world.

“The Philippine Army were mostly draftees–some divisions were fairly trained–most of them were just barely trained. The young Filipino officers, the first class to graduate from their Military Academy at Baguio, were excellent; many of them were killed.

“When I was commissioned, I reported to General Jones at Fort McKinley; he was the commander of the Southern Luzon forces. An officer of the Philippine forces was not considered the equal of an American officer. We managed to secure the same pay for the Filipinos.

“On Bataan, relations became excellent between American and Filipino officers; no distinction was made; promotions and citations were equal.

“Vicente Lim, and Generals Capinpin and Francisco, in the front line were really fine soldiers. General Segundo, tho he had been at the best military schools in the U.S., was always uncertain–he should not have fallen back at the first day’s battle at Morong. Quezon had previously disciplined him by sending him for a year to Mindanao, and then called him up to command the Military Academy at Baguio. He lost all his batteries and equipment at Morong. Lim, Capinpin and Francisco are all three prisoners of the Japanese now. Homma’s Chief of Staff really did commit hara-kiri.

“Colonel Juan Moran, a brother of the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, who was Chief of Staff of the 11th Division, did an excellent job.

“The 26th Cavalry, the 45th and 57th Infantry and 24th Field Artillery were Scouts.

“A Philippine division contains only 7,500 men.

“We could have licked the Japs at the beginning, if we had been properly equipped. After the battle of Malaya, no. If we had had an adequate air force, we would have thrown out the Japanese, they cannot stand up against air attack–not even the Manchurian veterans. What enabled us to stand so long on Bataan against such odds, was our artillery. The Japanese simply will not stand artillery fire.

“The Japanese soldier with his bushido and fanaticism is individually better than the German; the Jap is more of a savage, while the German is, in comparison, more civilized.

“The technique and minute preparation of the German and Japanese armies are about equal.”

The Americans in Manila behaved with dignity, and the civilian population conducted themselves well, noticeably so when, after the first two or three days, the enemy had complete control of the air.

In the battles in the Philippines the draftees had to be steadied by the Scouts when infiltration occurred–almost all troops are shaken when fired on from the flanks and from the rear, and think themselves cut off from their base. (Soriano suggests we do not praise the draftees too highly since that they might provoke answers from Americans.)

“A French-American pigeon keeper or trainer (Soriano called him pigeonnier) at Fort McKinley, whom they called ‘Frenchy,’ (named Saulnier), made so good on Bataan, calling out the range for the soldiers that he was finally put in command of a battalion–much to the surprise of the commanding officer, who, however, acquiesced when told what this boy had done.

“The Filipinos had shown great ability in jungle fighting when they were drawn from the frontier type, but not so much so the ilustrados or “white collar” men. Once on the Tuol River in W. Bataan about 3 kilometers from Bagao, a Filipino 2d Lieut, (later Captain), in command of a company, found that they were surrounded by a larger force of Japanese. He had only two platoons, and recognized his inferiority in numbers and equipment. He lay in ambush for 24 hours without food. Knowing the Japanese tactics of reopening their attack just after sunset, he took the initiative and succeeded in making contact on both flanks. They killed a great part of the Japanese platoons around them; 25 or 30 Japanese corpses were found, and he lost only 6. (n.b.) This happened on the 8-9th of February.

“Negritos–(they often saw them); Negritos have learned to speak Tagalog. Used them sometimes as guides, but found them so unrealiable that we quit. They served the Japanese just as willingly. Many of them were killed. We came across a former constabulary soldier from the lowlands named Mariano Daiit, who was living among the Negritos–he had a patch of camotes and some papaya trees. He was a very loyal guide for my commanding officer, General Jones. Once when General Jones and I and two young officers, with only 67 men were surrounded, Mariano, as always, found a way out for us. When we withdrew to Matic, we were no longer able to find Mariano and fear he fell into the hands of the Japanese and suffered the fate they often meted out to civilian assistants.

“When the Japanese High Command got behind in their program, their army became much more brutal. They changed their propaganda by leaflets, and began to call on the Filipino troops to kill the ‘real enemy,’ their American officers. They also changed their treatment of their Filipino prisoners–at first they used to strip off their uniforms, kicked them in the ass and told them to ‘get out.’ Many of them came back to us. As a rule they treated their military captives well, tho they perpetrated savagery upon civilians caught with the troops. When their program fell behind, they changed noticeably; they still took the uniforms, but used the soldiers as cargadores; sometimes they bayoneted their military captives, acting with complete savagery.

“We took very few prisoners, for two principal but very different reasons. First, many of them killed themselves rather than become prisoners. Second, our men often found that a Japanese offer of surrender was only a ruse, or bait, to lead us up to machine gun nests. After several of those experiences, we could not control our boys.”

At one time, the Japanese effected a landing at three places on the S.W. coast of Bataan peninsula, but they were driven off or destroyed.

By the end of the war, the town of Mariveles had been completely destroyed. A vast “all-weather” airport had been established at Mariveles; this was finished just before the surrender of Bataan. It had caves into which the planes could be pushed.

Soriano further suggested that, for the purposes of Quezon’s book the question of stressing atrocities by the Japanese be carefully considered. Will the American public demand the gruesome? He mentioned the weight of other considerations in this matter. He, personally, saw corpses of Filipino men and women mutilated by the Japanese and thrown by them into the Abo-Abo River in Bataan. He told also how one Vicente Logarta (?), a newspaper man from Cebu, left Manila on February 25th and went to the province of Bulacan, where he found that out of 176 cases of rape of girls aged from eleven to sixteen years, 110 had died. There was, as yet, very little information as to what took place in the provinces; it is not believed, however, that such savagery had been shown there as took place in Hong Kong. (Query: had the abundant supply of liquor in Hong Kong something to do with that?)


June 3, 1942

Shoreham Hotel. Helping Quezon with the preparation of his address to be made before the United States Senate tomorrow. I suggested to him that if he used the phrase that “he did not come to ask that they send troops to drive the invader from his beloved land,” (in preference to their putting their American effort into another theater of war)–he might be called into account later by his own people. He replied: “I have an answer to that: I do not want the Philippines to be utterly wrecked by becoming again the theater of war–I hope the United States will strike directly at Japan. God forbid that our country should be treated like France today–that is simply awful.”

Osmeña came to see Quezon, but the latter was closeted with Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter, so Don Sergio came to my room for a talk. His purpose was to suggest the introduction in the speech tomorrow of a strong statement Quezon had made in October 1941 in Manila in which he stressed the absolute necessity for the Filipinos to join with the United States if they were drawn into the war. I think Quezon will use it.

I asked Osmeña about the early days of American government in the Philippines. He said that General Franklin Bell as Provost Marshal of Manila was considered by them as a liberal. Frank McIntyre was the first American he ever met. Osmeña was then editing a newspaper in Cebu and McIntyre was the Military Censor there. General MacArthur (the father) was Military Governor of the Philippines for only a short time–then he had a row with Mr. Taft over turning over the government to the latter.

Osmeña and Quezon were then governors of their respective provinces and together founded the Nacionalista party, but advocated co-operation with the Americans–which produced a storm of protest. The opposition to the Americans, however, came rather from the Spanish and Spanish mestizos than from the bulk of the Filipinos; Quezon was an exception. Dr. Pardo Tavera was active in opposition to America.

Don Sergio said that another time they would not fortify the region around Manila, which is indefensible; it is better for them to have their capital in the mountains of Pampanga or Tarlac–says at Fort Stotsenburg, which can be defended. He thinks that with the help of the United States the damage now done to the Philippines can be repaired in a comparatively short time.

Dinner with Quezon. He is very much disturbed by the evening news of the bombing by the Japanese of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. I told him that if they effected a foothold on the mainland of Alaska, they could bomb Chicago and Detroit. He said: “then somebody ought to be impeached.”

Our talk was then mostly about Japan. He said he had first met Matsuoka when the latter was head of the South Manchuria Railway; at that time, Matsuoka talked very frankly against the Chinese policy of his own government and ridiculed the idea that an indemnity should be exacted by them from China. “Why,” he asked “should we make them pay when we ourselves have invaded and devastated their country?” Quezon believes that he himself might have been asked to be a referee between China and Japan except for the complete control of Philippine foreign policy by the United States.

I expressed again to Quezon my regret that Professor Africa’s plea in 1936 for the training of young Filipinos in American consulates which I had at that time favorably recommended to him, had not been allowed by the United States. He replied that Secretary of State Hull had, at the time, agreed to the proposition and he supposes it had been blocked by some clerk in the State Department, or possibly a chief of bureau.

Quezon then turned to the subject of his luncheon with the Emperor of Japan. The presentation and wait before lunch were very formal. Then the Minister of the Household disappeared and they sat down at the table. Quezon was to the left of the Emperor, whose brother was on his right and on the other side of him sat American Ambassador Grew. Grew’s deaf ear was turned towards the rest of them, and the Emperor’s brother talked very loudly into it. This enabled the Emperor to have a quiet conversation with Quezon. His Majesty spoke English, but an interpreter stood behind his chair; he asked a good many questions of Quezon, and Quezon of him. Afterwards, Grew asked Quezon what they had talked about, especially when the Emperor and Quezon were alone in the “study.” Quezon refused to tell what the Emperor had said to him, and also what he, himself had said in reply, stating that it would be insulting if Grew suggested that he, Quezon, had said anything disloyal to the United States. This was in February, 1937.

He then turned again to a discussion of Francis Sayre, the High Commissioner to the Philippines. He touched on a discussion which had occurred between them as to the future trade relations between the United States and the Philippines which had taken place while Sayre was still in the Department of State. It was then suggested that this most important subject be referred to a Joint Committee, and Sayre proposed as Chairman former Vice Governor Hayden, recommending him because he was a professor. Quezon made a grimace. “Why,” said Sayre, “I have been a professor myself.” Later, when Sayre was appointed High Commissioner, and Quezon gave him a banquet, he introduced him as a “professor,” and everybody laughed. Quezon added that he entirely agrees with the opinion once expressed by Professor Becker, head of the Agricultural College at Los Baños, who stated before the Board of Visitors of the University of the Philippines (Governor General Wood, Quezon and Osmeña), that: “A Doctor of Philosophy cannot run anything.”

Turning to another subject, Quezon lamented that the United States Government had not backed up Morgan Shuster on his mission as treasurer of Persia, but had let him be run out of office by Sir Edward Grey, then the English Foreign Secretary. He added the remark to me that: “Shuster and you certainly started something thirty years ago–he in Persia, and you in the Philippines.”

Turning back to the subject of Japan once more, Quezon said he was sure Prince Konoye tried to prevent war between Japan and the United States. He sent Nomura over here as Ambassador to this country. When he saw he was going to fall. Prince Konoye resigned as Premier.

Finally, Quezon observed that Siam had made a mistake in joining even nominally with Japan; that France and England are no longer able to parcel off pieces of Siam for their own Empires, and would never be so again. Sic transit gloria mundi.


May 31, 1942

Quezon came into my room at the Shoreham for a two hours’ talk. Yesterday he had offered me an official position to go around with him and help him with his English in preparing his speeches. I told him I thought his command of English was excellent, and that I had not come to him to get a job. “But that was the reason why I asked you to come,” he replied. So here I am back again as adviser to the President, as I had been in 1935 and 1936. I hope I may be of some use to him in his very trying situation as head of a government-in-exile.

I then asked him whether he had foreseen the coming of war between the United States and Japan. He replied that during those last few weeks before the Japanese struck he had been sure of it. I enquired what he had thought of the note handed by Secretary of State Hull on November 26, 1941 to the two Japanese Ambassadors. He replied: “What did you think of it?” “I thought it,” I said, “the equivalent of a declaration of war upon Japan.” “So did I,” he put in; “with such a people as the Japanese,–no government could possibly accept such a proposal as to get out of China and give up Manchuria; the government which did that could not survive. So immediately I asked Admiral Hart urgently to call on me, and told him: ‘Admiral, this is the same as a declaration of war by the United States upon Japan. What will happen if our communications with the Mainland (i.e., the U.S.) are cut?’ The Admiral replied: ‘Oh, it will only be a matter of three weeks.'” Quezon continued by saying that a few days before Pearl Harbor in his speech on “Heroes’ day” (on December 2nd, 1941) at the University of the Philippines in Manila, he told the students how heavy his heart was, because many of those magnificent young men who had just passed in parade before him were soon to lay down their lives for their country.

Quezon then went on to describe to me the meeting of the American-Japan Society in Tokyo which was attended by Ambassador Grew, on the occasion of the appointment of Nomura as Ambassador to the United States. At this meeting, Foreign Minister Matsuoka had told them of his efforts to get Nomura, a retired admiral, to go to United States as Ambassador, because Nomura was known to be a personal friend of President Roosevelt. At first Nomura had been unwilling to accept the post, but Matsuoka went to his house and persuaded him to take on the serious and difficult talk of reaching a working agreement with the United States Government. Matsuoka then emphasis his opinion that it was the duty of the United States and of Japan to avoid war–if not, it would be a terrible conflict, and would destroy civilization. Matsuoka then sent a letter to Quezon enclosing a copy of this speech and wrote at the bottom of the letter as follows: “To His Excellency President Quezon: Dear Mr President, I hope you will agree with my views.” The envelope was addressed in Matsuoka’s own handwriting, and was handed to Quezon by the Japanese Consul General at Manila–so every precaution had been taken to conceal the identity of the person to whom the letter was to be delivered–even the stenographer was not to know. Quezon said that at the time, he thought this was a very “suspicious circumstance,” and that Matsuoka was in deadly earnest. “But,” Quezon added, “I did not then know anything about the real strength of Japan, and I simply wondered how they dared even to consider a war against the United States, since he assumed that America would immediately send their whole fleet against Japan and completely destroy the Japanese navy.”

He did not believe that the second Japanese envoy Kurusu was sent to the United States to join with Nomura in order to “gain time.” Indeed, he thought that it was the United States that needed “time”–not Japan, and he added: “The seriousness of the situation was apaprent when the attack was made on Pearl Harbor, because the Japanese never go to war unless they are thoroughly prepared.”

On the question as to why the Japanese aviation had bombed President Quezon’s birth place, Baler, Quezon did not believe at any time that this was done in reprisal because he had called upon his people to support the American side; “If it was aimed at me,” he asked, “why did they respect my houses at Baguio, at Mariquina and Malacañan Palace itself? Those buildings have not been damaged nor looted.” (N.B. It transpired later that the bombing at Baler had been aimed at the small wireless station there.)

Quezon then reported a conversation he had had a few days ago with the Chinese Ambassador who had told him Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek had recently gone to India not, as reported, to try to persuade the Indians to join the English in resistance against Japan, but to try to persuade the British Government to give independence to India!

I then asked the President to elucidate the phrase he had used: “doubts as to my duty to the people of the Philippines” which beset him when he arrived at Corregidor and of which he at once had informed President Roosevelt by cable. Of course, I could understand his perplexity as to whether it would be best to insist upon further resistance when he was already convinced that the United States neither could nor would send reinforcements nor supplies to them while concentrating on the German War, but I asked him to explain further his state of mind then on that momentous question. Thereupon, he replied that he might have considered advising his countrymen to join an association of Asiatic nations which were to be partners in the real meaning of the word but that he had no confidence in the Japanese offer to them of self-government. He added: “Those fellows would not really leave us alone to govern ourselves—-it would take them three hundred years longer to learn how to do so.”

Asked about the internal situation in the Philippines just before the war, Quezon began his reply by stating that he himself was a sincere democrat and really believed in the rule of the people, but that in dealing with the application of this theory, especially in times of strain, there were too many people going around advocating democracy for everybody without any real sense of responsibility towards the people themselves or knowledge of the struggle and fight necessary to protect democracy. He believed it was especially necessary to know the background of a people, and to understand what their history meant. This, of course, recalled my effort in 1936 to prepare for him at his suggestion, and when first acting as his adviser, a bill to reform the system of landholding in the Philippines, so as to protect the millions of small farmers (taos) in their tenant holdings and really to begin the dividing up of the many great haciendas. The bill was modelled upon Gladstone’s “three F’s” land bill of the 1880’s for Ireland, as had been suggested to me by Quezon himself. But, as related in the first part of this “diary,” the members of his Cabinet all balked at it and the President had handed it back to me with the remark that it was “loaded with dynamite.” I replied that I had, at the time, been greatly distressed by the failure of this effort at reform, but that I know a little of the background in Philippine history: how, always until the Spanish liberals had begun in their own country for reforms, with repercussions upon the Filipinos, the state of society in the Philippines as in other Malay communities elsewhere had been entirely aristocratic. “Why,” I said, “Your own Cabinet then, and most of the members of the legislature–those gentlemen were almost all aristocrats.” “Except me” he interrupted, “I wasn’t one.”

Then I got him to tell part, at least, of the story of the constant friction existing between High Commissioner Sayre and himself during the year before this war. He started by saying that Sayre is, personally, a very nice fellow, but unlike his late father-in-law, Woodrow Wilson, he does not understand government. He is one of those lovers of liberty who goes around trying to apply liberty as a solution to problems which arise without much consideration of the results to follow; that he started all his arguments with him (Quezon) with the statement: “I am a Christian gentleman,” which is no doubt perfectly true, but in itself does not solve by its application all political problems. The serious disagreement between Quezon and Sayre which had some bearings on inadequate civilian preparedness in the Philippines just before this war broke out, arose through what the United States would call the “Office of Civilian Defense,” and had nothing to do, as I had previously presumed, with any attempt by President Quezon to spend part of the $50,000,000 then held in the United States for the Philippines. Nor did Quezon try to get the United States to pay for his Office of Civilian Defense.

The trouble between the President of the Philippines and the High Commissioner started in 1940 when the legislature passed an act delegating to Quezon powers to regulate the civilian defense corps and otherwise prepare for a supply of food and for making air-raid shelters for the protection of the civilian population of the Philippines. The Philippine constitution placed his power in the legislature only “in a national emergency,” with restrictions on the power to be exercised by the President. They had studied the history of difficulties which had arisen in the United States over the “delegated powers” which are forbidden by the American constitution.

In 1941, during the growing tension throughout the Far East, Quezon issued the necessary executive orders based upon this grant to him of limited delegated powers. At once, a group of young Filipinos called the “Civil Liberties Union” passed a resolution of protest. High Commissioner Sayre was aroused, and is believed to have notified President Roosevelt who cabled Quezon warning him that adverse sentiment was aroused in the United States since the American “Civil Liberties Union” had joined in the fray. Quezon at once cabled back to Roosevelt that he would not exercise any of the powers so delegated to him without a direct application to him from High Commissioner Sayre.

A few months later, Major General Grunert then in command of the Philippine Department of the American Army, asked Quezon to attend a meeting with him. High Commissioner Sayre and the American Admiral. The general wanted to know what plans there were for the protection of the civilian population in the event of war and complained that so far as he could see, nothing had been done; what was Quezon going to do about it? The President replied: “Ask High Commissioner Sayre”–who sat absolutely silent. Finally, at this conference, it was agreed that a committee should be appointed as an Office of Civilian Defense, consisting of General Douglas MacArthur, then a retired Lieutenant General of the American Army, but engaged as Quezon’s Adviser on Military Affairs and occupied in organizing the Philippine Army, and Quezon’s secretary George Vargas, and A. D. Williams, adviser to the President on public works. This committee was to cooperate with the American General and Admiral. At the meeting, General MacArthur asked Major General Grunert if he would state to him first of all, as Department Commander, whether the American Army was going to protect the Philippines and what plans he had for getting the equipment necessary for such protection? The Department Commander replied that he was only a soldier, and knew nothing of politics; that he intended to fight for the protection of the Philippines but could not state what equipment would come to him for that purpose. General MacArthur then expressed himself as dissatisfied with the latter part of the Department Commander’s reply, and refused to serve on this committee until he had a satisfactory answer. So MacArthur retired from this committee and A. D. Williams and Vargas went ahead with their plans for air-raid shelters, etc.

Shortly after this, A. D. Williams returned to the United States after forty years of service in the Philippines on public works and construction, and by this time General MacArthur had been put in command of all American and Philippine forces in the islands.

At the public meeting on “Heroes’ day,” December 2, 1941, to which reference has already been made in these pages. President Quezon said in his public address that he had not been able to discharge his full duty and prepare adequately for the civilian population a sufficient food supply nor adequate air-raid shelters because he had been prevented from doing so by the President of the United States, and this statement was reported in garbled and misleading form in some newspapers in the United States. Further, Quezon stated that the protest against due preparation in the Philippines had been started by the local Civil Liberties Union, and that if they were thus responsible for any evil results, they merited condign punishment.

At dinner that evening, Quezon told me had rented the house of General Hurley, “Belmont,” near Leesburg, Loudon County, Virginia from next Sunday for the summer, so he will be only two days at Hot Springs–another of those sudden and unexpected changes of his plans to which his entourage are thoroughly well accustomed. This means, however, that I am not to have him to myself to get on with the manuscript.

Bridge in my room at the Shoreham, nine p.m. to two a.m. Very lively bidding and the playing was animated. The other players were Quezon, Dr. Trepp, his devoted physician from Manila and the attractive and modest young a.d.c., Lieutenant-Colonel Velasquez from the Province of Bulacan, a West Pointer, who has been through the battle of Bataan. When the Governor General of Australia met Quezon a few months ago, Quezon told the Governor General that Velasquez was one of the Filipinos who had been doing the fighting. The Governor General talked with him for five minutes and turned and thanked Quezon for the delaying battle in the Philippines which had helped to save Australia. Quezon, however, agrees with me in doubting whether the Japanese plans included the conquest of Australia.