January 9, 1945

The Great Day, our Great Day! The troops have landed on Luzon, at Lingayan Bay. That’s just where the Japs landed. I had my money on Mindanao, or did have until they made that landing in Mindoro. But they are here, not two hundred miles away. Oh happy day!

At this moment, I can see thirty or more of our planes slowly soaring just above the reach of the little antiaircraft still functioning, and I feel avenged for those bitter days of December, 1941, to May, 1942, when we watched the Japanese planes pounding Corregidor and Bataan after they’d finished Manila, with never a chance of retaliation on our part. The seaplanes seem to be dropping their loads far across the city, perhaps Sablang Field, or the far end of Nielsen Field.

I heard such a nice story about Nielsen. I hope it is true. Seems the Japs had built dummy hangars there to fool our boys, but the Americans bombed everything on that field except the dummies.

One school of thought places our troops in Cavite, another in Zambales, and one lovely optimistic tale is that they are parachuting in Paranaque. We live very near the dividing line between our town of Pasay and Paranaque, and I cannot quite believe the parachute tale yet, much as I would like to.

All streets, big streets running north and south, are being laid for mines. But the Japanese are a little slow in spots. I watched a lovely performance the other day. Mine laying. One group of Jap soldiers dug the holes, neat, symmetrical jobs, then came the next group to lay the mines, and finally a third group following to cover the mines and stick a little piece of something over the mound. Somehow, on the curve of Taft Avenue extension, the third group got slowed up for some reason, and between them and the second mine-laying group, around the bend, came a group of Filipinos who stole two mines and dashed away in a carretela. The third group of Japanese finally arrived and placidly and methodically covered up the empty holes and stuck in the indicator. I was on my bicycle, and I giggled all the way home; but I am having a hard time making anyone believe my story.

Our tiny street, two blocks long, has a barricade built of logs cut from nearby trees. It has practically everything, mines, sticks of dynamite, sharp-pointed sticks, barbed wire, all dirt covered. I call it “Janson’s Last Stand,” for I am sure if the Americans ever encountered anything so formidable as this tank trap, they’d turn right around (and that’s a joke). The children inspected it the other day, right while the Japanese were working in it, and the kids think they could make a better tank trap with their Christmas hammer and saw, and I am not so sure they aren’t right.

Our reactions to all these exciting events are varied and interesting. I always get what Sander calls “goose pinkles” when I see the big planes. Dorothy gets teary round the lashes, but I must say none of us spends any time weeping. I’ve shed very few tears these last three years, and mostly of rage. We can shed a few of joy soon, we hope. Let joy be unrefined when it comes.

The Spanish woman nearby with the charming house was approached by the Japanese about giving it up. She demurred, but they told her if she didn’t give it up and go away, they would move in with her. She seemed to prefer that to losing her home, so the commandant of our district moved into half her house along with his aide. He is a navy officer, which confirms the report that the Japanese Navy has taken over. However, he wears civilian clothes and has asked her and her servants not to use his rank of captain in addressing him and not to tell the neighbors who he is! Shows which way the wind blows, or the Japs run, methinks.

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.

October 3,1944 (Tuesday)

Waking up early this morning at 5:00, we proceeded to the offices of the Japan Airways, just a few blocks away from our Yamaume Hotel to board the bus that took us to the airport.

At 7:15 a.m., we again boarded our plane, and we were off in no time. This time I wore very comfortable clothing, no more the thick layers of khaki which I wore from Fukuoka to Taihoku. (I wrapped all my extra clothing in a furoshiki [cloth wrapper], together with a bottle of mass wine which I was bent on bringing home.)

Our plane did not fly very high. I noticed there were clouds above and below us, and we must have been flying at 15 or 10 thousand feet above the sea. I again went to sleep to the drone of the twin motors which already sounded like music to my ears after flying so many hours.

Philippine Land Ahoy! At 10:00 a.m. we sighted Philippine territory. We were flying quite low (about 5,000 feet) parallel to Luzon. At about 10:15 a.m., a wireless message was received that we would be flying over San Fernando (La Union) at 10:33, over Arayat at 11:06, and would land at 11:23 at Manila. Excitement took the better of me from then on.

Looking through the window, I beheld for the first time my country from the skies—an actual bird’s-eye view of the Pearl of the Orient Seas. The vast ricefields of the Central Plains of Luzon spread under us like a beautiful lawn, the network of roads looking like narrow pathways cutting across this wonderful garden-island of Luzon. We passed close to the dented peak of Arayat Mountain, and 20 minutes later beautiful Manila spread under us. San Sebastian Church, the City Hall, University of Santo Tomas, Quezon Institute—these were the most conspicuous buildings from the air. We were now flying at about 1,000 feet, and we could see people and vehicles moving about. At exactly 11:23, we landed at Nielson Airport which just about a week ago (September 21) was the target of bombs by American planes.

The hangars and buildings were hit, and many planes were still fresh in their wreckage. Nobody was at the airport to meet us but the employees of the Nippon Airways who went about their job unmindful of the grim aspect of Nielson Airport after the recent bombing raid. The staff officers who were our co-passengers rode special cars while we waited for a bus to take us. Waiting for the bus was an ordeal. There we were back in Manila but practically strangers with no one to talk to but the Japanese employees (there were only 2) of the airport who kept assuring us that a bus would come to take us. I could not even phone as I planned, as all electrical installations had been wrecked by the bombs.

The bus finally came, and we had ourselves taken to the Constabulary Academy No. 1. Passing through the dirty streets of Manila, we noticed the big change that has come to the city after one year and three months. It was not the same Manila of yesteryear. We noticed that the pedestrians looked bored and pale and emaciated.

Bad News. I have always expected the worst but not what I was told. When I heard that our house at Sta. Mesa Heights had been taken over by the army just a few days ago, I thought at first it was a joke. But it was not, and soon I realized how terrible the situation in Manila had become. I tried to contact my brother Tony, Papa at the office and other people by phone but in vain. When I left the Academy at 2:00 p.m., it was literally a search for my family. This was a case of a homecoming without a home to go to; what a welcome for a homesick pensionado who has been away from home one year and three months!

Home-Coming. It was the same as when I went home from the concentration camp of O’Donnell in August two years ago. I came home unannounced and unexpected. I just went right home. Mama took me in her arms, and she cried. My sisters cried. I did not cry (I never do in the presence of people), but inside me, my heart pounded with joy. I was again back in the bosom of my family which I have been missing for so long a time since the war broke out in 1941. My chapter in Tokyo is over. Today begins a new chapter in my life. What comes next ? That is still another question.

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.

4-25-44

Two patients admitted from Port Area work detail at 1000 this date. At 1030 this date eighteen (18) patients admitted from Nielson Field. The following named deceased prisoner of war was brought to this hospital for burial from the Las Pinas work detail at 1445 this date: Cause of death, Dysentery, amebic. Autopsy held at Bilibid. Burial services conducted. Buried in hospital plot, row four, grave seventy-three. WHITTAKER, Patrick, Private, U. S. Army, ASN: 6850017.