April 17, 1942

News about the fate of Bataan’s defenders are coming in trickles. Father Provincial, who had just made a visit to Sta. Rita, Pampanga, related that he saw thousands of prisoners, mostly Filipinos, being led to San Fernando. They were travelling on foot, in groups of about 500-1000, guarded by around half a dozen armed soldiers. The prisoners are enervated with fatigue, hunger and thirst under the terrific heat of those days which reached up to 36.8 degrees, the highest in 27 years. Tottering, some of them had to be supported by their comrades, while others just fell along the way. Out of compassion, the people would give them something to eat and drink when the sentries were not looking.

The town of Sta. Rita is about the only town left intact in Pampanga, and which the people have not yet deserted. The College of the Dominican Sisters was converted into a hospital where many patients are received and treated free of charge. Among the patients are former fighting men who are afflicted with malaria and are recovering under the care of the doctors as sisters. As it is very dangerous to give asylum to these escapees, their uniforms and identifications are burned. Fr. Municha, the chaplain, is however happy at the thought that nobody dies without being shriven.

The incessant and unimpeded bombardments have cut off communications between Bataan and Corregidor where most of the provisions are stored. In Bataan, meanwhile, some 60,000 soldiers and 20,000 civilians who have followed the army have to be fed, and the food situation is becoming increasingly difficult.

Former fighting men alleged that it was the aerial attacks which dealt the fatal blow on the defenses and defenders of Bataan. The crafty Japanese airmen did not attack at random, but they pounded on the defenses systematically, section by section, pulverizing one sector, then another, so that nothing and nobody could escape the dragnet. Against the furious Japanese attacks, the defense army had no other means of counter-attacking, aside from artillery, machine guns and a few antiaircraft guns. Many are of the opinion that the absence of fighter planes was the most decisive factor in the fall of Bataan.

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