Announcement of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita’s appointment as Commander-in-Chief of Japanese forces in Philippines has served to bolster Japanese morale recently on the downgrade due to successive U.S. gains in Central and SW Pacific, Leyte landings, inability of Japanese planes to combat U.S. raiders.
Main reason for relief of Lt. Gen. Shigenori Kuroda as Philippine Commander-in-Chief of Jap forces was due to air attack on Luzon by Halsey’s fleet on September 21 which caught Japanese Army completely by surprise.
When extent of damage caused by said raid to military personnel and installations was determined, Tokyo sent Lt. Gen. Takahashi to Philippines to replace Lt. Gen. Kuroda. But the new Commander-in-Chief made a serious political blunder, a few days after holding office. He immediately ordered the dissolution of the Philippine Constabulary due to reported mass “desertions” of P.C. garrisons in various provinces. This order was made without previous consultation with Puppet Jose Laurel, who is making strong efforts to convince himself that he is not a puppet. Puppet Laurel complained to Premier Koiso because he claimed Takahashi’s act was flagrant disregard of Philippine Republic which created Constabulary. This led to appointment of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita.
Japs attach great importance to Leyte operations. E. Masatomi, Jap editor and columnist of Tribune, privately opined that “if we lose the Philippines, we lose the war”. He expressed strong belief, however, in ability of Jap forces under Yamashita to retrieve lost ground in Leyte and pointed to unceasing Jap attempts to reinforce Leyte garrisons under Lt. Gen. Makino.
During last few weeks, more or less, since naval battle off Philippines, several Jap ships have been able to land troops in Manila. Newly arrived troops looked haggard, weary and hungry. Some were asking for food from passers-by and many were asking if this was Australia. Evidently, Japs are not being told of reverses.
Meanwhile, Japs are rushing troops to probable landing points in coastal towns of Luzon. Trains are exclusively for Army use. Trucks, cars are being commandeered. Even bicycles are being taken on the spot as need arises. Downtown Manila is now filled with Jap soldiers walking around trying to find transportation.
Food situation is getting more acute. Rice is at ₱5,600.00 per sack and a kilo of pork costs ₱250.00. A banana –only available fruit– costs over ₱3.00. It is not an uncommon sight to see lean, hungry, dirty-looking men and children begging for “a little rice or anything” in Manila streets. Some persons search garbage cans for food or scrape the rice that trickles from Jap trucks carrying supply of rice to quartermaster depots.
Former Chinese consul of Iloilo, Cabo Chan is reported forcing rich Chinese in City to contribute sums ranging from ₱20,000.00 to ₱1,000,000.00 for creation of some sort of Chinese Army for the protection of Chinese under the sponsorship of Japanese Army. Those who do not contribute are brought by Japs to Fort Santiago and are kept under lock and key until they give their contribution.
Japs are now unable to ship rice from port of Aparri to Manila due to intensified submarine activity around Philippine waters. They are making preparatory moves towards unifying BIBA with Jap rice control whereby arrangement may be had giving Japs authority to draw from rice supply of Central Provinces.
When friends meet downtown, instead of talking about weather, usual greeting is “when?” and generally the answer is “very soon, maybe before the end of the month”. Most pessimistic view is “After Christmas, maybe!”