January 6, 1945

Air raid alarm at 7:45 a.m. Eight planes bombed and strafed Nichol’s, Neilson, and Zablan; later a whole bunch of dive bombers worked on them again including Grace Park. Two flights of B-24’s came over during the morning — no bombing close by — probably farther south.

Plenty of raids throughout the day. Our boys mean business now. Won’t be long now.

Note: Grennell, Dugglby, and Larsen were taken outside last night and were told to and did dress in winter clothing. Looks like Japan for them. Not so hot.

Had a rounding ladle of boiled camotes with gravy tonight. Not enough but they tasted good for two reasons. It was a change and they were sweet.

Japanese were burning papers up till 10:00 p.m. and packing boxes and hauling them out of the camp in trucks. Some of our men who went out to the Insular Cold Stores yesterday to get camotes saw the Japanese burning papers on the Plaza in front of that plant. Looks good.

November 5, 1944

Airraid at 7:30 a.m. Could hear our planes before alarms went. Heavy bombing at Zablan, Nichols, and Neilson air fields. Several dog fights. I saw one plane come down in flames. It was spinning like a top, nose down. It was said that six others were shot down over toward the South.

Saw one flight of our planes, 32 in all. Quiet again at 8:15 a.m. 9:30 a.m. another wave of planes came over. Heavy bombing. Another plane fell and blew up at Zablan Field. Alarm again at 12:50. Two more in the afternoon.

September 23, 1944

Although the alarm sounded, the musician of the sky was actually playing its music elsewhere today.

How big were the casualties of both sides in the raids yesterday and the other day? After releasing conflicting figures, the local press adopted the data given by Tokyo, which had more precise information on what was happening here. Out of the 500 attackers, the number of American planes shot down, but the figures given seemed to be inflated. Yesterday, official sources reported that out of the two hundred planes, nineteen were shot down. Another exaggeration. The damage done in military installations was allegedly insignificant. However, anyone who saw the fires could not believe that.

More than 20 ships were sunk in the bay. The only information I have of the airfields is the report about Nielson Airbase, which I received from someone who lived about forty meters from the base. According to him, twenty-eight planes were burned, the strips were destroyed and the hangars were reduced to their framework. Several hundreds of workers and Japanese soldiers were killed by enemy machineguns. This base is the smallest among those installed around Manila. At both sides of the street along Baclaran, mounds of debris from a portion of Nichols Airbase could be seen. Fort Stotsenberg in Pampanga was greatly damaged by heavier bombs. Those who heard Radio San Francisco were more inclined to believe the figures of casualties in these three raids; namely, about five hundred planes, seventy ships, aside from the total destruction of Piers 1, 3, and 5, and the partial destruction of the monumental Pier 7.

More than two thousand port workers who lived and worked in the vicinity of the piers have taken refuge in the Cathedral where they are sheltered. The attacking forces have left them without food and without employment. Because someone ran amuck and killed a soldier, the Japanese have cordoned the vicinity of the Cathedral from all passers-by and searched a number of houses.

President Laurel has declared Martial Law over the whole Philippines, “there being an imminent danger of invasion, and such being required by public security.”

September 22, 1944

Yesterday, the sky was filled with dark clouds. Today the horizon is even darker and gloomier. We had a reveille, and although the enemy came behind the thick clouds, the siren operators were not as sleepy as they were yesterday. At 7:15, the whining signal shook everybody out of bed. In fifteen minutes, the infernal blasts of engines, anti-aircraft guns, bombs, machineguns and guns filled the air. The vanguards burned the gasoline depot in Pandacan and riddled the Neilson Airfield in Makati. The main corps of the American attackers worked on the ports, the piers and the warehouses of the Port Area. A wave of planes attacked the premises of the Japanese Embassy (formerly of the American High Commissioner) where a very powerful anti-aircraft battery was installed, thus burning part of the building. One of the planes dropped its bombs behind the Binondo Church, razing a whole block of Chinese houses. A strong wind caused the fire to spread rapidly to the La Insular cigarette factory. The Oriente Building, the general headquarters of the Constabulary where some anti-aircraft guns are furiously firing, was also burned, and so were the Church and convent of Binondo. These three historical treasures were offered in a fiery holocaust to the implacable fury of Belona, the sultaness of Pasig. The three buildings were constructed during the Spanish era. The Oriente Building was a hotel, the biggest and most sophisticated during the past century. The La Insular building was constructed in 1888 by Don Joaquín Santamaría, founder of the tobacco factory of the same name. The Arabesque facade, unique of its kind in Manila, were imported from Spain. The Binondo Church on the other hand, was reconstructed after the earthquake of 1863, through the Chinese whose help was solicited by the Dominican fathers. It has actually been the parish of the Filipino residents of the district and of the Chinese Community in Manila.

August 22-September 21, 1944

The partial blackout started on Aug. 22. There was an occasional practice air-raid alarm and one or two actual air-raid alarms during August and the early part of Sept.

From about Sept. 16 the Japanese were having anti-aircraft gun practice every morning and sometimes at night with dozens of searchlights. The blackout continued in effect.

On the morning of Sept. 21, the anti-aircraft were shooting at a towed target while a number of Japanese planes were circling and diving over the City and Harbor.

At about 9:20 a.m. a swarm of American planes appeared on the scene and blasted the plane and target from the air.

Suddenly the sky was full of American planes (est. 150-300). The bombing had gone 8 or 10 minutes before the air raid alarm sounded. We could see our planes dive through a curtain of anti-aircraft shells and release their bombs over their objectives. Two planes in particular made spectacular dives over Grace Park. After these planes had started two fires at that place they dived and strafed the field. The rattle of their machine guns could be plainly heard at Sto. Tomas.

Those two planes left and two more appeared and dived right into the smoke from the fires and when they pulled up another fire broke out.

The roar of exploding bombs and sharper rattle of anti-aircraft and machine guns was deafening.

Falling shell fragments and machine gun bullets were falling all over the compound. Two anti-aircraft shells exploded in the grounds.

The all-clear sounded at 11:30 a.m.

At about 2:45 p.m. more American planes came over. The air-raid signal did not sound until the bombing had been going on for some time.

We watched three planes bomb Camp Murphy. Several small fires started, probably trucks, as there was a motorpool in that neighborhood.

One of our planes was seen to explode over the waterfront. He had just gone into a dive and evidently a shell hit him and exploded the bombs as he went out in a flash.

Many fires were started in the bay, along the waterfront, Nichols Field and Neilson airport during the two raids. All clear went about 5:05 p.m.

One fire (evidently an ammunition dump or ship) burned until about 8:00 p.m. There were a number of small explosions and finally, with a flash that lit up the skies for miles around accompanied by a terrific explosion it went to kingdom come.

The City was blacked out all night but everything was quiet.

December 17, 1941

The next morning, Brownwell, Stone, Crosby, and I went out to Fort McKinley where the Air Force Headquarters was then located and got an idea of what was expected. We were told that some colonel had made an inspection of Nichols and Nielson. Everything, including the maintenance on planes and camouflage for planes, was so bad that he said they must and would improve. That was our job. I was given half the maintenance crews from the 17th and was told to get things in order at Nichols. Lt. Stone was given the same job at Nielson. I made an inspection of each plane on Nichols and tried to find out just what had to be done. The planes were all in bad shape. Since the war started, they had been flown almost continuously and no work had been done on them. True, all inspections and work required by Tech. Orders during peace time couldn’t be complied with under the conditions that existed at Nichols at this time. In spite of these hardships, under which maintenance had to be carried out, I contended that the conditions of the planes should be far better during war time because now the pilots really had to depend on perfect operation of all parts of the plane. I set this for the goal and although I never reached it I think it could and should be done. I had always been interested in engineering.

It was during the first morning after my return to Nichols that I was caught in the center of my first bombing raid. For the past few days the bombers had been making a raid every day on Nichols at about eleven o’clock. Everyone had been in the habit of retiring to their fox holes or to some safe place at this time, but I guess I was overly eager to get things started because even after the air raid warning had sounded, I stayed on the field thinking  could hear the planes coming and get to cover before they were within bombing range. I was fooled however. I heard planes a few minutes later. and there they were. It was too late to get off the field and I couldn’t find a hole anywhere. I think that was the only time that I was ever really excited and thought death was staring me in the face. There was a small patch of weeds near by so I wormed my way back into a slight depression in the outer edge of this patch. I don’t know why I tried to hide; the planes were over 10,000 feet high, and I should have known they couldn’t see me. Even if I were in the open and if they could have seen me, they wouldn’t have bothered with me because they were after bigger things. There I lay though, wringing wet with sweat, and my heart pounding away. Then I heard a whistling, hissing sound above, and although I’d never heard a bomb on its descent before, I knew what it was. Then I heard what sounded like hundreds more failing, and I burrowed my nose into the ground and thought dully, “This must be the end”.

The first one hit several hundred feet from me and went off with a terrific explosion. Then the others hit all around me, but none really close. After a few seconds of quiet, I pulled my nose out of the dirt and ventured a look out. There were the bombers coming back for another attack. Back I crawled, and in a few seconds I could hear more bombs falling. This time the first one hit close enough to make the ground shudder under me. This time I felt certain my time had come, but I lived through that attack also. Then came another, and there I was, still alive. I have been through many other raids since and have had bombs hit within several feet of where I lay and shower me with dirt, but since that first initiation, I have always been more or less calm and unafraid of bombs. If you are in a hole, only a direct hit can hurt you, and your chances of being the target of a direct hit are so few there just isn’t any need to worry.

December 16, 1941

Lts. Brownwell, Crosby, Stone, and myself, all from the 17th Pursuit Squadron, were told to go back to Nichols, take over the 17th and reorganize it, and take charge of maintenance work at both Nichols and Nielson airfields. From all reports everything was pretty much of a mess at these places. Lt. Brownwell was the officer in charge. This was a break for me because I wanted to be in Manila, and I was determined to do my best.

Even though we had been apart for only a week, it was a happy reunion that Dorothy and I had when I reached Manila that evening. Also, it was quite treat to sleep in a warm bed after spending a week sleeping on a cot in the open at Clark. It rained nearly every morning before daylight where we were, and everyone would be soaked.