Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C. May 30th 1942
A few days ago, Quezon had wired me at Charlottesville, Virginia, inviting me to join him as his guest at the Ambassador Hotel in New York and just as I was about to start for there another wire came stating he was coming down to Washington, so I joined him here this morning at nine o’clock –our first meeting since his despedida party for me at Malacañan Palace on Christmas day of 1938 in Manila– two and a half years during which the constitution of the Philippine Commonwealth had been amended so as to permit his re-election as President last November. Within thirty days thereafter, the Japanese had struck, and Quezon’s inauguration for a new term was held after Christmas of 1941 in the beleaguered fortress of Corregidor, without the presence of the Legislature and under the Japanese bombs.
The President was not yet up when I arrived at the hotel but welcomed me very warmly, clad in his pajamas. He was in good spirits, as animated as ever, but he had a very bad cough which he ascribed to the continual dust of the bomb shelters on Corregidor Island.
He told me of his escape with his family from that fortress by submarine, and his exciting and hazardous journey by boat and plane down to Melbourne, Australia; all of which is to be told in the book he wishes to write.
They had left Manuel Roxas, by then a Colonel in the army, in Mindanao, and had designated him as President-elect or “Designate” in case Quezon and Vice-President Osmeña failed to survive the hazardous journey before them. Roxas had refused to accompany them out of the Philippines, since he insisted on staying behind to continue the fight. The last they saw of him was at the Del Monte plantation in Mindanao, from which their two planes took off for Australia. Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos had already left the fleeing presidential party, and had gone to Cebu, where subsequently the Japanese found him and later killed him because he refused to cooperate with them in any way. Thus perished a dear and greatly esteemed friend of mine, whose lofty character and ardent patriotism should entitle him to an especial shrine in the memory of the people of the Philippines.
In the City of Melbourne, Quezon fretted greatly, in spite of the many courtesies paid him there by General MacArthur, and the gratifying statement made to him by the Governor General of Australia, who said to the exiled President that the delaying action on Bataan and Corregidor had saved Australia.
Quezon felt, however, that while his country was being occupied by the Japanese, he was, at that moment doing nothing useful to help them and he became exceedingly restless in Melbourne living idly in comfort while his fellow countrymen at home were in the “Clutch of Circumstance.” So he decided to go to Washington.
President Roosevelt sent a cruiser to escort the President Coolidge from Australia to San Francisco; gave Quezon and his family and their suite the presidential train across the American continent, and, together with his Cabinet officials, met Quezon at the train at the Union Station in Washington. Quezon and his family stayed overnight at the White House, and to the guests at a Cabinet dinner, he told that evening his story of the invasion of the Philippines and of his own daring escape from the hazards of Corregidor. He found himself a hero of the Administration and of the American public.
I found him very reluctant to be considered a hero since he had really wanted with all his heart to stay behind in the Philippines with his own people in their supreme test. His health was shattered by his experiences but his spirit was that of a lion.
Osmeña, who joined us at breakfast in Quezon’s rooms at the Shoreham was cordial, and told me that his own plan had been to escape from Corregidor and join Manuel Roxas and Guingona as remontados in the mountains of Mindanao.
Quezon reverted again to the fame which had come to him as a “hero” –he said that in fact he had been dreadfully scared by the bombing on Corregidor. He had been greatly impressed by the cool courage there of his eldest daughter, “Baby,” who whenever the bombing began, refused to run for the shelter of Malinta tunnel. She explained to her worried mother that when all those big men were running for the tunnel, she preferred “not to get trampled upon at the entrance.”
While they were at first on Corregidor, the Japanese had sent Quezon word that if he would come back to Malacañan Palace they would give the Filipinos their independence “with honor.” Quezon was at that time in real doubt whether, for the sake of his people, he should not accept –he was greatly bothered by the responsibility of his decision, knowing that no early relief or reinforcements would be sent to the Philippines, so he cabled to President Roosevelt a summary of his perplexities. On December 28th, 1941, the President replied to him stating that the United States would give the Filipinos back their country and an independence which the United States would secure and protect.
He thinks the Americans and Filipinos in Manila were at first well treated by the Japanese forces, but was not fully informed as to conditions there until he arrived in Panay, where he met several governors of Provinces in Luzon, who had managed to slip through the lines.
I enquired about several of my friends –Quezon said that Alejandro Roces was publishing Japanese stuff in his papers, but that he did not blame him for that, because the enemy had probably taken possession of his publishing plant.
He said he did not leave Manila and go to Corregidor until strongly urged to do so by General MacArthur and American High Commissioner Sayre went with him to the island fortress. There was incessant bombing around them while they were in the tender at the little wharf by the Manila Hotel for an hour and a half. When General MacArthur followed that night, he was not bombed in the darkness.
Quezon left nobody in Malacañan Palace because the superintendent, Nick Kaminsky was in Baguio; all his papers were left behind there, but he is told that the Palace had not been damaged. The beautiful old Treasury building near the mouth of the Pasig River was destroyed because there were some inter-island boats moored there at which the Japanese bombers were aiming. He said the first lot of the enemy bombers were remarkable shots.
Quezon then went on to describe the army in defense of the Philippines at the time. As mobilized, it consisted of 7,000 American soldiers and 8,000 Philippine Scouts (American Army troops who are Filipinos), and 120,000 Philippine Army soldiers and officers; 75-80,000 of the Filipino Army were on Luzon. There were heavy casualties in the field before they got to Bataan; once there, there were not very many killed, but a considerable number of officers, both American and Filipino were later picked off by the Japanese sharp-shooters. Quezon’s own nephew was wounded.
He remarked that Aguinaldo was no “Quisling” –that he only wanted independence. George Vargas, the presidential secretary was left in charge of the City Administration.
On Corregidor, Quezon said, General MacArthur was utterly fearless; refused to take shelter while the bombing went on, and declined to wear a steel helmet. Others ran for shelter.
He also commented that in his opinion this war was a direct result of the American policy towards China to which the United States had so consistently adhered.
Quezon declared that before leaving Manila for Corregidor, he had laid his perplexities as to the policy best for the welfare of the Philippines before his Council of State as also before General MacArthur. The General told him he must not falter now because he had become a “world hero.” He replied to MacArthur that he and the general had worked together for eight years, but the general did not really know him yet, adding: “I never took any decision in my career merely to gain the esteem of others but only to retain my own –I am still your President.” MacArthur replied by rising and stating: “You are still my President.”
Quezon seemed very sore about England; especially as to their handling of the Singapore campaign, and even more than that over Great Britain’s pulling away all the American navy for use in the Atlantic. He is sure the United States Navy could have defeated Japan at the beginning if they had then sent their whole navy against the Japanese fleets. Was also angry when he spoke of the American troops being sent to Ireland. This was what the American and British official propaganda cynically called “global strategy,” meaning the abandonment of the Philippines until Germany should be defeated.
Since his arrival in Washington, Quezon said Secretary of the Navy Knox has asked him whether General Hurley had not sent the Philippines abundant supplies from New Zealand since the attack, and Quezon had replied that Hurley had sent practically nothing –“only a basketful.”
The rest of this morning was spent by us in driving about and looking at big houses with a view to acquiring a presidential residence for the Quezons; I observed that since my own time in Washington, residences had dropped to less than half their former capital values although rents are as high or higher than they were long ago. This is due to the recent heavy taxation on luxury homes; the Philippine Government might have to pay these taxes. Osmeña and Soriano were with us –the usual hurry and scurry went on as always on one of Quezon’s outings.
Then back to the Resident Commissioner’s residence where an informal Cabinet meeting was held to hear an accounting from the Philippine Purchasing Agent Harry L. Hershey, who is stationed in New York. Quezon evidently thought that Hershey had been getting commissions for his purchases, and questioned him as to that more than once. Hershey, of course, replying that his only recompense had been his salary. “How much do you get?” asked Quezon. “Six thousand dollars a year,” replied Hershey. Quezon expressed surprise and asked: “How do you live on that?” Hershey replied very modestly and simply. “Why, I have never had more than that to live on –it’s all we need.” That won Quezon, who told me later that he had sent for Hershey to fire him. I heard Hershey from across the big room say he had been my secretary in Malacañan, and had been appointed Purchasing Agent by me –so I put in: “Yes, he was the best Secretary to the Governor General I ever had, and the most reliable.” Quezon told me later he was going to raise Hershey’s salary.
We next went to a luncheon party given at the Cosmos Club in Washington by former Representative Keating of Colorado, now, I believe, the publisher of a labour newspaper in Washington. The twelve men present, with one or two exceptions had been in the House of Representatives when Quezon was Resident Commissioner from the Philippines, and I was a former member of the House from New York. There were with us now Senators Norris, La Follette, MacKellar, Gerry and Hayden and old Sabath of Illinois from the House; also Sumner and Crosser, Woodbury of Michigan and ex-Representative Timothy Ansberry of Ohio, now a lawyer in Washington, and an old friend of Quezon.
In a reply to a toast to him, Quezon made a short speech and then for two hours they fired a barrage of questions at him in very sympathetic terms, showing that the fight put up by the Filipinos had raised them to a “new high” level in American esteem. It was all very gratifying to Quezon, who answered all their questions in his customary frank and quick way –except when they came to investigate preparations made for the initial defense of the Philippines, where he did not allow a single criticism against the American Command out there. To escape questions on American preparedness in the Philippines he answered by saying he did not know –had not even wished to enquire.
The timing of the Japanese attack in relation to that on Pearl Harbor was the subject of many questions.
Quezon’s story of his own personal experiences and observations during those first few days of the invasion of his country were listened to by those present with absorbed interest. He said he was first awakened in Baguio at five-thirty in the morning by a telephone call from Manila from George Vargas his secretary, to say that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Quezon stated: “I had foreseen events pretty much as they actually happened, but I never had believed they would assault Pearl Harbor. I thought that perhaps, Vargas was still half asleep at that early hour, and was imagining things, so I told him to call up General MacArthur and verify the rumour. I don’t know whether he actually did so, but a few minutes later he called me again and said the report was true. At seven-thirty, I was talking with Major Speth, an American who was vice-mayor of Baguio, when we saw some thirty or forty planes over the town. We ran out to watch them, and Speth said: ‘American bombers’ –but then they began to drop bombs on nearby Camp John Hay, the American military reservation nearby, and my house shook. Their bombing, as I afterwards learned, was extremely accurate; they had come, not from carriers, but from the islands of Formosa, just to the north of Luzon.”
Quezon was then asked by the American statesmen present what the American defense was doing at that time? He replied that some of their planes had been ordered up at once but were recalled from the air for instructions, and it was while they were grounded again at Camp Clark, near Stotsenburg, that the Japanese bombs fell on them about half past ten in the morning, and destroyed most of these planes.
At this point in the conversation, Ansberry, who sat next to me whispered: “Casey is skating on pretty thin ice, but has crossed it very well.” Since Quezon up to that point in his narrative, had had no responsibility for the defense, he did not let himself be put in the position of criticizing it. The only point –at which he let go some criticism against the policies of the U.S. Army; was later on describing the Filipino division which he and I had raised in the First World War. He said: “Some of the American generals in 1917 were afraid of us (i.e. of their loyalty) and delayed the formation of our division until it was too late, but Filipinos would have fought just as bravely for the Americans then as they did lately when their own lands were invaded.”
I was referred to by Quezon and put in that they held us up so long that it took us eighteen months to get our division to the point where it could be mustered into the federal service. That was just before the armistice in November 1918.
Quezon pointed out to those present that the Philippines had been invaded because the American flag was there –that the Japanese had not wanted to attack the Filipinos. That he had always tried to make friends with the Japanese, as he had with the Chinese; that every time he had been to Japan, even on vacation, each Japanese Foreign Minister had made a big fuss over him, and added that he had been invited to luncheon with the Emperor. But he added the American Government had always been suspicious of all this, and had interfered with him.
He told them how on December 28th, when he arrived at Corregidor he was uncertain whether or not it was his duty to his people to continue the resistance and had wired President Roosevelt to that effect and Roosevelt replied pledging to free the Philippines of the Japanese, give the Filipinos their independence as previously promised, and to secure and protect it. This Quezon added was a great gain over the previous pre-war position where the United States had proposed to say “Good-bye boys, we’ve been good friends, but now you must look out for yourselves.” With this great advantage in the future now promised by President Roosevelt, Quezon decided to continue the resistance. “Of course,” he added, “I know that the President has not the authority to bind the American people, for I have been in the legislature myself.” But he added that he had relied upon the nature of this promise and the circumstances in which it was made, to consider it binding for the future.
The Senators quizzed him about the number of troops engaged in the Philippines, how many planes, etc., but most of all as to whether the stubborn resistance of the Filipinos was not based upon the treatment which the United States had given them. He gave this an emphatic affirmative. La Follette insisted that similar treatment must be secured for all the rest of the subject people of the world. Norris dwelt upon the kind of disarmament which should not be imposed upon the aggressors –Germany and Japan– to overcome their belief in their own superiority in which this generation had been brought up: “We must see that they have not a gun, not a tank, no means of war for fifty years if that is necessary.”
Quezon continued on the subject of Japanese-Philippine relations before the war by saying that he had never believed the former would attack them: that this aggression was because of the presence of the American Army there.
Note the wisdom of Quezon’s successful campaign in Congress in 1935 to get the Hare-Hawes-Cutting law amended by the existing Tydings-McDuffie law!
Now, he remarked, the situation was entirely changed; the Japanese and the Filipinos were no longer friends but enemies –the Philippines could never be safe as an independent nation after this war, without a new international system.
About the Filipino Army, he said the soldiers were not mere taos, for all the best families in the islands had sent their sons. His nephew had been wounded. General Francisco had told him in the weeks of war that they could win if properly supported, since “We can kill ten Japs for every Filipino we lose.” That at Singapore the British army had suffered greatly by “infiltration.” When the Japanese penetrated their lines and shot them from behind. On Bataan however every single Japanese soldier who got through was killed or taken captive. At one time, 500 of them got through and almost all were destroyed or captured; some of them threw themselves over the cliffs rather than surrender.
They asked him whether Japanese bravery was not due to their religion, that if they were killed in battle, they would go to Heaven. Quezon replied that religion had very little to do with Japanese character –that it was their training from boyhood– their devotion to their Emperor. He admitted that this was a “sort of religion.” Now, he added, the Japanese learned that the Filipinos could and would fight.
Quezon said he went to Corregidor on MacArthur’s urgent persuasion the day after Manila was declared an open city. That from that day on he really knew very little of what was going on in Manila and the surrounding provinces except from messengers who got through the Japanese lines both by sea and land. When he got away and arrived at the Visayas he met there the governors of several of the Luzon provinces who had escaped; and thus he learned more about the actual situation.
The losses among the Filipino soldiers had been very considerable in the open warfare on Luzon before the battle of Bataan; afterwards, on Bataan there had been important losses of both American and Filipino officers from snipers, but not so many among the enlisted men. He did not believe that in the whole Philippine war, the United States had had as many of their officers and men killed as at Pearl Harbor.
Later in the day, at the Shoreham Hotel with Quezon and Osmeña, I remarked that Secretary of War Stimson was one of the best members of Mr. Roosevelt’s administration, and we could be sure he would provide the Philippines with all the support in this war which was possible. Quezon was thus led to tell the story of how they had secured Stimson’s appointment some thirteen years ago as Governor General of the Philippines on the death of Governor Leonard Wood. Quezon and Osmeña were in Washington and were determined not to have again so terrible a time in the Philippines as they had experienced under General Wood. Stimson was then Secretary of War, and he refused their urgent appeal to come out to the Philippines, though he remarked to them that the post of Governor General was one of the most important in the American Government. Then Quezon went to him again and promised to support him as Governor General, and if he came to the point where he differed from him, he would keep silent –but if it came to some issue which he in conscience could not put up with he would resign. After Stimson became Governor General, finally such a big issue arose in Manila. He served notice that he was going to veto a bill passed by the legislature which they regarded as absolutely essential; so Quezon went to the Palace and was escorted upstairs by Colonel Winship (afterwards Governor of Puerto Rico). As they entered his office, Stimson said: “Get out Winship,” believing that Quezon had won him over. Winship vanished like smoke. Then Stimson, slapping his desk, said it was no use talking to him because he had made up his mind. Quezon then went to work and repeated the exact words he had first used in persuading Stimson to take the office, and added that the precise situation had now arisen, and that he would resign as President of the Senate. After hearing Quezon’s argument and his statement that the whole legislative body would be roused against him by a veto, Stimson reversed his position and told Quezon he had “saved him from himself”; a phrase he again used in his final report as Governor General.
Another incident with Governor General Stimson was when Don Miguel Unson, Secretary of Finance, and Filimon Perez, also then in the Cabinet, came to Quezon and insisted they must resign because Stimson had insulted them. Quezon went to Stimson and told him he did not know how how to treat the Filipinos; that as Quezon knew, Stimson had never intended to insult any of them, that with Quezon, he could tell him to “go to hell,” and Quezon could answer back in the same terms and neither would be insulted, but with the rest of them, Stimson could not use that brusque manner. Stimson replied: “Why, I consider Don Miguel Unson the best man I have in my Cabinet.” He really appreciated Quezon’s advice and the whole issue was successfully ironed out.