April 4, 1942

HQ, Bataan

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(later)

 

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

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

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

Fred asked: “Where is the convoy?”

 

(later)

 

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


January 28, 1942

HQ, MIS

Bataan

 

Gap in western sector widening. Japs penetrating Segundo’s line in force. 1st regular division in wild retreat. Hell has broken loose in this area. Many dying, dead.

No reinforcements can be sent to bridge gap. No more reserves. 1st regular given up for lost. Japs following successes slowly, surely, cautiously.

USAFFE line will be shortened to stabilize and consolidate front. All divisions packing up to make last stand on Pilar-Bagac road. If this line, if this last front line breaks, our days are numbered.

Went to eastern front to see conditions there. Everybody is moving, retreating, to avoid being outflanked.

Saw Jesse Hocson of Ateneo pep band. He is a lieutenant. He said they were told to retreat. He was looking for Juan Fernandez, Capinpin’s aide. Jesse looked very tired.

Leonie who was with me was looking for Manny de Leon but the 201st engineering corps had changed area. We saw Fr. Karasig S.J. who offered us some coffee which we gladly received. Karasig asked me about Morita. He said “Let’s not talk of the fighting.” The father was in a good mood.

Saw Jaime Mercado walking ahead of his troops. Jaime had the same familiar stride but he was very black, sunburnt, unkempt. He looked very much older. His troops were retreating.

Saw Toto Cruz towering over all around him. Leonie talked to him.

Everything down the road troops were groaning under their packs, hastily moving back to the new line. The boys looked weak, thirsty, hungry, dirty, and very, very tired. Some were sleeping in the roadsides to get some rest.


January 1, 1942

Bataan

41st division, C.P.

 

Dead tired. Streets jammed from Bulacan to Bataan. Absolutely no traffic order. Roads filled with dust that covered entire body, entered ears, nose, eyes, lungs. Tanks were rattling up and down the road like lost monsters. Trucks loaded with food and ammunition were moving on, not knowing where to go. Haggard, weary troops retreating from southern front straggled on, looking for their officers. Men were shouting at one another to move out of the way so that their cars could pass. Trucks that stalled were dumped on the roadside. Gasoline cans were littered on the road for everybody’s use. American MP’s assigned to direct traffic lay drunk on the fields beside the main road singing “God Bless America.” The general told me as our car wormed its way to San Fernando: “If the Japs spot this convoy we are all goners.” Neither the general nor I could find our division in the assembly area. The night was very dark but I kept shouting for the names of the company commanders but there was no answer. Men of other divisions were in our area. Troops came to me asking where to go. Some belonged to the 71st, others to the 91st, others with the 1st regular. It was a chaotic retreat but the Japs were apparently asleep. The general then decided to leave me in San Fernando while he looked for the troops in Bacolor.

I stood under the monument at the plaza in front of San Fernando’s church, at the foot of the bridge. From afar there was a red glare that filled the skies in the direction of Manila that gave me the impression that the entire city was afire. Troops, tanks, cars, jeeps, trucks, cannons, trawlers passed by me. Some were asking where to go and I said I didn’t know and that I was also looking for my unit. Hours passed and there were no more tanks, no more troops, no more traffic. San Fernando was like a ghost city. I was all alone except for several Americans who were trying to fix their motorcycle under the starlight. In a deserted store, I could hear several drunk soldiers singing “Happy days are here again.” From the direction of Arayat came the distinct, metallic boom-boom-boom of Jap artillery. One of the Americans fixing the motorcycle asked: “Is that Porac or Arayat?” Another said: “Don’t worry bud, that’s our artillery.” They finally got their motor fixed and they asked me to join them. “We can squeeze you between us,” they said. I thanked them and explained I had to wait for the general. I was really tempted to join them but I was afraid the general might look for me. I must admit that I was getting very worried, if not afraid. I looked around for a hiding place and I kept fingering my .45 and six bullets. I must have cursed the general a thousand times and I kept telling myself: “What a way of spending New Year.” Then from a distance, I saw the hooded light of a car. It was the general and he said he almost forgot me. “We are going to Bataan,” he said. “Everybody is going there,” he explained. I was very tired and I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up, we were in Bataan and it was morning and there we were parked between two huge U.S. trucks in a dusty road, because there was another traffic jam and two tough-looking American drivers were arguing about who had the right of way.

Right now I’m here in Gen. Vicente Lim’s command post. My general and Lim are good pals. This C.P. is well-hidden on the side of a dried stream. The men have dug themselves inside the banks so that they are relatively safe from bombs and shells.

Gen. Lim is in good spirits. His belly is considerably thinner and his face is tanned. When we arrived, he said: “Don’t worry, in a week the convoy will be here.” He compared war to boxing. “They’ve won the first round,” he said, “but the war’s not over yet.” He gave us quite a good breakfast: coffee and carabao meat. Ernesto Santos and Vidal Tan, both friends of mine, are his aides.

From the conversation during breakfast, I gathered that all troops from the North and South fronts have been ordered to retreat to Bataan. This hilly spot of land, this bottle-neck will be USAFFE’s “last stand.” The principle of retreating to a favorable terrain and there engaging the enemy is going to be the strategy. The other half of the grand game will be up to the United States. Out here in Bataan, we will hold to the last ditch; the U.S. Navy on the other hand will rush the reinforcements.

Just a few minutes ago, the air was filled with the roar of many planes. Gen. Lim looked up and said “They’re ours.” Gatas Santos, his senior aide, was skeptical and his doubts were soon confirmed by the barking of AA guns. In a few seconds, the beautiful formation was broken up. More AA fire. Smoke oozed out of one plane, its wings wavered, it fell out of line and a silvery veil trailed its earthward descent. That is the first real action picture I’ve seen of a plane going down. I hope I see more.

Nice bunch out here in the 41st. Lorrie Tan said Teddy Arvisu is here too as staff sergeant. Montemayor and Henry Powers are also with this unit. Powers is in “No Man’s Land” as head of a scouting patrol. Estanislao Feria is assistant G-2 in Lim’s staff and Rufino is chief quartermaster.

The view is beautiful. Very many talls trees that give a lot of shelter. Beyond are grassy plains and little hillocks. Behind are old wooden barracks and a small training camp but Lim’s troops are not using the garrisons, In front is a flat terrain with call cogon and many clumps of bamboo and tall trees here and there. To the left of the 41st is Gen. Capinpin’s 21st which has behaved very well in the face of strong enemy thrusts in Lingayen. Johnny Fernandez, my classmate, is Capinpin’s aide. Johnny has always loved military life. Now I guess he is going to get a full dose of it.

Nice weather here. Cool January breeze. Can hear many birds chirping on the treetops. Must stop writing now. Now I think the general is going to our sector.

 

Later

 

Bataan

51st div. C.P.

 

Arranged division maps. Acquainted myself with operational plans. Noted down all field orders of General.