An order of the Commander-in-Chief appeared today, carrying the following date: “Seventh day of the second month of the seventeenth year of the Syowa.”
Do they want to nipponize even our calendar?
An order of the Commander-in-Chief appeared today, carrying the following date: “Seventh day of the second month of the seventeenth year of the Syowa.”
Do they want to nipponize even our calendar?
I was told today about an incident which revealed that Japan has prepared well to occupy these islands. The incident was recounted by a Spanish priest, the parish priest of Cavite, who, a few days after the entry of the Japanese in the neighboring city, was notified that he was to report to the new Commander at the plaza. He appeared personally at the office of the Commander who, at that time, was occupied and whose head was inclined forward. The priest could only see the face partially, but he knew that it was a familiar face. As the priest entered the Japanese lieutenant colonel raised his head and on seeing the parish priest, said in perfect Spanish, “Hello, Fr. Pedro, how are you? You don’t know me anymore?” He was the priest’s former barber for several years and was likewise the barber of many American officers. Shortly before the war he disappeared.
It was clear that the barber was not promoted to colonel overnight as the Reds had done in Spain, but that he disguised himself as a barber to study and to spy on the naval base. It was an open secret that the Japanese maintained an army of spies in the Philippines. We have heard of cases of Japanese officers going about in the Islands working as drivers, mechanics, agents of commercial firms, and even as tailors and carpenters. They knew every geographical detail of the country better than the American officers did, and possessed complete maps, not only of the details of the terrain and coasts, but also of all fortifications, and they were posted on the movement of troops and armaments, their number and quality. They even knew the plans of the American High Command. All Japanese officers came provided with maps marked in Japanese with all details, streets and houses, roads, rivers, bridges, barrios, hills, factories, etc. well marked. When they came to a place, they could immediately identify it through their maps.
Japan possesses inexhaustible human reserves. Aside from the 70,000,000 in the mainland, they have another 20,000,000 in Korea, 35,000,000 in Manchukuo, and innumerable millions in conquered China. We have seen not a few Korean, Chinese, Manchurian and even Russian soldiers in Japanese uniform. The officers, though, are always Japanese, generally belonging to the Samurai class.
With these human reserves and their stoic disregard for life, the officials do not have any concern about sacrificing lives as long as they achieved their end.
“After all,” a Japanese told me the other day, “this way we save more lives in the end. The army that loses a thousand lives in a sudden smashing victory avoids the loss of ten or twenty thousand in a prolonged war of many months.” How many casualties the invading army has suffered was never announced by the Japanese Command. It seems that the attack on Bataan caused a very great mortality on their part. We saw a number of trucks passing through Manila carrying the remains of dead Japanese soldiers. Those who died in battle were cremated, their ashes placed in boxes and sent to their families in Japan. When they were brought to Manila, they came in a long line of trucks, each one with six or eight soldiers standing and in possession of one of those boxes placed in a white handkerchief, the ends of which were tied around his neck. I was told that this was done only with Japanese soldiers. In the campus of San Beda College, they held Buddhist funeral ceremonies.
Having assessed the opinion of representative and impartial persons in the country these last few days on the causes and effects of the fast occupation of Luzon by the Japanese forces, I shall attempt to reflect on them in brief.
The causes of the army’s defeat can be attributed to many factors. Firstly, the insufficiency of armament, particularly of tanks and war planes. Only the High American authorities know the quantity and quality of the war equipment which they are banking on for the defense of these islands. That this equipment is insufficient has been attested to time and again by military men who undertook the task of encountering the invaders. We, who witness the war, can testify that the planes or pilots, or both, are not capable of offering resistance to the Japanese who are complete masters of the air.
Another cause of defeat is the scarcity of combat troops. It is difficult to determine whether this is the cause or the effect of the insufficiency of war materials. I do not think that the American forces here exceed thirty thousand in manpower strength. That of the Philippines is between sixty to eighty thousand. Another hundred thousand, already trained, should have been drafted, and another million could be trained in a short time. But why was this not done? Was it for lack of armaments or lack of officers? Or was it due to the recognition of the uselessness of such a move?
The fact is that there was no general mobilization, and the American High Command should have known that they would have to defend the country with their own resources, considering that the Japanese have cut off means of communication with the United States through the assiduous and final capture of the bases in the Pacific.
The American Army committed a tactical error in defending the Batangas Bay, the Lingayen Gulf and the Manila Bay. The Japanese landed a few kilometers from both and met with no opposition. Within two days of the start of the war, the Japanese had landed in Aparri, Vigan, Legazpi, and other points where there were not more than a hundred Constabulary men in each. Tayabas and La Union were likewise undefended. A well-equipped and well-supplied Air Force could have avoided these landings. But this was the heel of Achilles in the defense and aggression tactics of the United States.
Moreover there was an utter lack of preparation of troops. I am not referring to the remote preparation, but to the lack of vigilance and immediate preparations. That the thunderous attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, caught the Americans by surprise is understandable, though not necessarily excusable. It was launched before the war was declared. But that twenty-four hours after the attack, the pilots and anti-aircraft defense of the Philippines were not on the alert, leaving more than two-thirds of the planes to be charred like insects, is unjustifiable and unlikely. This carelessness or over-confidence has led to other considerable losses in the air, at sea and on land. Hardly had there been a battle. There was nothing but brilliant retreats of the defending army until they were entrenched in the mountains of Bataan where, having recovered from shock and being tired of running, they defend themselves firmly and brilliantly.
The politico-military errors of Roosevelt and his advisers also precipitated the situation into war. If Mr. Roosevelt had not known the power and war preparations of Japan and how helpless the American possessions in the Pacific were, his information machinery was defective. If, however, he had known them, then it was rash and highly indiscreet to have pressed Japan with hard taxing conditions, and which left it with no other choice but war or a shameful retreat.
The observers who voiced out their opinions are not enemies of America nor friends of Japan. They long for the return of the Americans but are furious at the lack of foresight and skill, and the stupidity displayed by the American leaders. What remains for the people to do, if not to collaborate with the new regime, is to work for and with them in order to survive.
On the other hand, the causes of Japanese victory can be attributed firstly to their gigantic preparations. In order to carry out their effective attacks and successful landings almost simultaneously in such distant points as Hawaii, Guam, Wake Island, various points in the Philippines, Siam, and Hongkong, the Japanese war machine must have been not only well-lubricated but its bearing must have been perfect and the synchronization of its movements well-coordinated. It was evident that the attacking forces did not come directly from the Japanese mainland but were already positioned in nearby islands, probably Formosa.
Also, the Japanese had learned much from the German campaigns in Europe. They have new offensive strategies which I don’t believe they copied. They limited some techniques but improved on theirs. The Japanese carried out drastic and suprise air attacks to destroy enemy planes and paralyze the communications with the rearguard. They made rapid and sustained attacks along the length of roads, advancing and entering as far as possible to avoid frontal battles and so as not to give the enemy time to organize frontal defenses and establish themselves in positions of advantage. They used these German tactics with flexible variances and obtained the same results in the Philippines as they did in Europe.
Japanese victory can be attributed also to the fighting spirit of the troops. Aside from the personal valor of the Japanese which evolved from patriotism to a loyalty bordering on religious fanaticism, aside from their indifference to death for a national cause, the Japanese believe personally that either Japan wins once and for all or sinks into oblivion: either Japan gets rich from the spoils of the three empires and the wealth of the white race or it is submerged in abject national and personal misery.
Another asset which led to the Japanese victory is their numerical superiority. It is difficult to determine for sure and evaluate this point. The Japanese have never revealed numbers or figures. But judging from the testimony of witnesses of actual battles and from what we have seen in Manila, their numerical superiority in men and armaments is, from all respects, evident. The quality of some of their equipments as tanks and cannons, cannot be more excellent nor as big and imposing as those of the Americans, but as soldiers, they are veterans of their campaigns: the man knows the equipment.
The yard of Letran has been completely cleared of debris and plants. We thought of turning it into a garden where we can plant things other than flowers. Many people are likewise converting their gardens and yards into vegetable plots, planting all sorts of greens and root-crops. The people want to keep busy and pass their time. Above all, they fear scarcity, not so much of these garden vegetables which abound in the suburbs of Manila, but of the money with which to buy them.
The majority of employees in various firms have been laid off. Many government employees are holding office, but they are not working—for lack of work to do. They have not received their salaries for the last two months. Nor do they know when they would receive it and how much.
The Philippine National Bank and the Bank of Commerce were given today the permission to pay out the withdrawals of their depositors. However, only few have accounts in the banks. Besides, the non-Filipino banks—and there are many of them—cannot open. It is believed that the military had taken over all their deposits. By all means, the money which the banking institutions can dispose of must be very limited, as all banks had turned over the greater part of their funds to the American Army on December 9, to be transferred to Corregidor or to the United States. The Philippine National Bank alone sent more than four million in bills, silver and gold bars.
On the other hand, the newly-opened banks have closed their credit facilities. Many proprietors had income-earning properties, but as nobody collected, nobody paid, except for what they bought in cash. Since the start of the war no tenant has paid house rentals. The owners are only too happy that at least someone takes care of their house thus saving it from being ransacked or confiscated by the Japanese. We are in a paradise of tenants, debtors and bad payers.
The Philippines already has a new spic-and-span government. Jorge Vargas, who has surfaced overnight, was named head of the Executive Commission, the central administrative organization. Under him are six departments whose heads are called Commissioners, under which are several bureaus. All these officials had signed a manifesto in which they accepted the new Japanese regime, praised the good plans of the conquerors and offered their collaboration towards the reconstruction of what the war has destroyed.
Everybody knows this is a puppet government. Behind it is an invisible government which actually rules and governs.
It is rather amusing to see how these sons of the Rising Sun are ruling the island of Luzon which, so far, is the only one they have occupied. Nobody knows the name of the general who commands all the invading forces, nor any of all the other generals and chiefs of the campaign. At the bottom of all orders is written “Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Expeditionary Forces”, but no name is ever given. Sometimes the Press carries the pictures of personages of the new government giving banquets or holding receptions, but the names are not mentioned. All that is said is “A representative of the Commander-in-Chief” or “a Japanese offical”. We are under an anonymous government of shadows, mute and mysterious.
All of us know that neither Vargas nor anyone of his subordinate officials can lift a finger without the permission of the “shadows”. Well-informed persons have assured me that Vargas is always accompanied by a Japanese officer in his house, in the office and in the streets. Even in going to church, he is accompanied in the car by an officer who remains at the door of the church where he is within view.
The newspapers published today an order requiring the surrender of all transmitting equipment and prohibiting radio antennas. Perhaps they are suspecting that a lot of messages are being transmitted outside, particularly to Bataan. Actually, there is no need for the radio to establish communications between Manila and the troops in Bataan. USAFFE soldiers and officers are continuously infiltrating Manila, disguised as fishermen, to visit their families for a day or two, and then return to the front.
The people who are suffering most from the war, aside from the nationals of enemy countries, are the Chinese. Some say they always pay, others they always gain. The Japanese hold them in contempt since the Chinese, aside from being their strongest competitors in business, had contributed millions of pesos the past year to support China in her war against Japan. The Japanese arrested twenty or thirty of the richest Chinese, requiring them to contribute some fifteen million pesos as the first payment of their ransom. They have been dispossessed of their business establishments which are valued at fabulous amounts. From Yutivo alone, the Japanese have confiscated more than ₱6,000,000 in machines, motors, tools, etc. The small businessmen are not being molested, but they have already lost much due to the widespread looting all over the country.
I visited Fr. Daniel Castrillo, an Augustinian and a townmate of mine, who was Parish Priest of Porac, Pampanga, and Señor Suárez, a Spanish national from the same town, who had two sons in Letran. They came to Manila several days ago, and their tragic experiences could fill several volumes.
On January 20, the invading forces came to the neighborhood of Porac in their advance march from Bulacan, to surprise the forces which were defending Fort Stotsenberg and southern Tarlac. However, the USAFFE had abandoned the town. The inhabitants of the town had likewise fled. Fr. Daniel and his assistant sought shelter with a friend’s family in a nearby valley.
Then an advance Japanese platoon came, scanned the town, and left immediately, undoubtedly to report that the town was clear of enemies. Shortly afterwards, a big contingent arrived, installing themselves in abandoned houses for the night.
It was a trap. The USAFFE had retreated to the hills surrounding and overlooking the town, and when the Japanese were asleep, they rained artillery on the occupied houses razing them to the ground. More yellow faces came, and the battle ensued without letup for five days and five nights. The Japanese finally succeeded in flanking the USAFFE, driving them to the mountains of Zambales and Bataan.
Fr. Daniel and his fellow refugees in the valley saw and heard the bullets whizzing over them. After two days, when the firing had somehow subsided, Fr. Daniel went up to the valley to see if the fighting had ended. Hardly had he raised his head when he was fired at. He had time to drop down but the machine gun continued firing and he could feel the bullets whistling over him. When he believed that the danger was over, he started to crawl. The machine gun opened fire again. The good Father was hoping that night would come fast so he could free himself from that nest. He could not tell whether it was American or Japanese but that was immaterial. He descended the valley under the cover of darkness. His companions, however, had left, having given him up for dead. He wandered about for a while until he lost his bearings. Finally he came across several men whom he asked to lead him to the hacienda of Señor Suárez. Some of the men, especially the communists, were equipped with arms which were left behind by the fleeing USAFFE. They started accusing him of being a fifth columnist and threatened to kill him. Because he was raising the helm of his habit which was hindering his steps and gathering dust, they accused him of signalling to the Japanese. They therefore removed his habit and gave him a shirt with colored stripes. The other communists threatened to kill him, as colored stripes were signals to enemy planes.
Meanwhile, Señor Suárez, who was at his home, could hear the battle from five kilometers away. When the fighting ended, he refused to join the forces and the people in fleeing to the mountains.
Before he knew it, armed socialists were plundering his household. These people attacked, burned and killed. After providing his wife and his son with rifles, Señor Suárez barricaded his house with mattresses, determined to fight it out to the end. For twenty-five days they stood guard. One of them saw a man approaching, waving a piece of cloth. He looked Spanish, with worn out shoes, bloody legs and the body so consumed that they did not recognize him until he came in. He was Father Daniel who, after crossing hills and mountains, arrived more dead than alive. They made inquiries and sent out search parties for Fr. Pablo, but after several days of searching, they gave him up for dead, a victim of murder and robbery at the hands of the bandits.
At last, thanks to the kind gesture of the Spanish consul, Fr. De Celis was able to fetch him and bring him to Manila in a social welfare truck. He recounted that almost all the towns of Pampanga had been destroyed. Not one house remained standing in Angeles, Porac, Guagua, Lubao, Apalit and other towns which had a total population of about 20,000. More than half of San Fernando was razed to the ground. Some houses were destroyed by the troops, others by marauders. The whole populace, rich and poor alike, fled to the mountains, leaving behind their crops which later withered and died. Their greatest danger was from the bandits who possessed plenty of arms and ammunition abandoned by the Army.
When I returned from Calamba last night, I found the city a little changed. They have resumed the blackouts at night. Perhaps because a few nights ago a number of American planes flew over the city. It was not known how many, nor was there any mention of the places bombed. It seems that there were only five planes and that they dropped two bombs at San Luis street, near the Luneta. Allegedly, they were aiming at Camp Nichols. According to the American broadcast from Bataan, one of the pilots was Captain Villamor; the planes were hit by an anti-aircraft shell, were forced to flee, and had to drop the bombs. The press said that it was at the University of Santo Tomas were they had dropped the bombs. But that was not true.
The cleaning up of the debris at Letran is going fast. But materials for repairs are not available, and there is no money to buy anything.