When the 1,400 POW names were posted in the Camp O’Donnell BB last Jul. 16, it was announced that they are comparatively the healthy survivors remaining in Capas. The sick started being released last June 30. This healthy group are now about to complete Rejuvenation Training in Camp Dau. Let me talk about this group as every passing day I came to know many of them for the first time…
When we first assembled at Capas Main Gate to leave for Camp Dau last Jul. 17, everyone was on his feet marching with their bags but did not look as strong as our Malolos POW Group. As the facilities and food at Dau was better than Capas, we all improved physically. There were no deaths in Dau.
Our group represented a cross section of surviving USAFEE soldiery, all ages, cultures, military education, experiences, etc. From among senior PCA grads are Cols. Claro Lizardo ’15; Tomas Domaoal ’17; Manuel Turingan ’17; Lamberto Javalera ’18: Leoncio Tan ’28; Jesus Vargas ’29 to contemporaries like Pelagio Cruz, Done Ojeda, P. Q. Molina. Early pioneers of ROSS like Alfredo Santos, S. Villa, C. Barbero, L. Villareal; Friedlander; fellow alumni of PMA Cl ’40; 41; 42 & 43; and the unforgettable young group of Ateneo ROTC volunteers like Sgts Fred X. Burgos, Ramon Pamintuan and Bagatsing under Capt. E. G. Lara of Angono, Rizal. From Baban of the Ibaloi tribe to Sulu’s Pulong Arpa. Then we have this Maj. E. Batongmalaque ’31 whose tales of experiences in Mindanao seem endless specially about his weirdo CO, the legendary Lt. Canuto better known as King Canuto.
I was also able to have an idea of the intellectual capabilities of each group. Early PCA grads had the equivalent of high school education with knowledge of criminal procedures and law to bring cases before the court. They were basically police officers but are very proficient in verbal and written communication. Those with baccalaureate degrees like from PMA or ROSS have better intellectual capacities to analyze problem situations. It is here I understood what Gen. Vicente Lim once said, “I will only be happy when the Chief of Staff is a PMA graduate.”
Nevertheless, I am very proud to be a part of this roll of USAFFE officers’ — all tough survivors from the crucible of Bataan, Death March and POW Camp O’Donnell.
Our morale remains high and our Camaraderie is much stronger. We can only hope and pray for happy future.
This is a significant day for our young 5-year old Phil. Army. In consonance with Pres. Roosevelt’s order last July 26, the Phil. Army Air Corps (PAAC) is the first unit of PA inducted to the USAFFE today. What is remarkable is the inducting officer is Gen. MacArthur himself who swore the PAAC under the command of Maj. Basilio Fernando with his 141 air pilots, 17 ground O’s, 1,200 EM’s and 64 planes. Aside from Maj. Fernando and my 17 Classmates led by Lts. Victor Osias, Tomas Tirona, Bartolome Cabangbang, Pedro Baban, Horacio Farolan etc, among the others I know personally inducted today are Capts. Pelagio Cruz, Eustacio Orobia; Lts Benito Ebuen, Bienvenido Ferrer, P. Q. Molina, Jonas Victoria, Renato Bareto, Godofredo Juliano, Augusto Jurado, Manecio Raventar, Juan Guevara, J B Ramos, Jose Basa and Jesus Villamor.
It may be pertinent to remark here that PAAC was given early priority among the PA branches of service. It was organized in 1936 with Major William L Lee, USAAC on detail with MacArthur’s Military Advisors Office as its first Comdg O until 1938. It was Maj Lee who trained our early Phil pioneer air pilots like Majors Zablan, Fernando, etc. It was also during his time that Major Eisenhower earned his wings with PAAC.
Despite Hitler’s nightly air raid, Churchill’s England keeps fighting back. Their radar system are a great help. The PA’s two elite branches, the OSP and PA Air Corps (PAAC) are busy with their training programs. Because they are located in Manila area our classmates easily maintained contact and found ethos sympathetic to our PMA experience. I became a sort of message center being stationed in Port Area and residing in Manila, among my classmates from the different PA branches far and wide.
My classmate who kept me abreast of the goings on at PAAC is Cav Alberto “Kabayan” Aranzaso, a close chum at PMA. PAAC Hq is located at what was popularly known as Nichols Field but their specific base is called Zablan Field (now Villamor AB) named after an early pioneer, Maj Porfirio Zablan PCA ’15, who died in a plane crash. Out of the 32 class ’40 that tried out, 17 finally got their wings. Tomas Tirona was the first to solo flight while Nolasco Escobar with his instructor Maniquis, crashed, killing Maniquis and an Air Field was named after him. Escobar survived and got his wings.
To date, my 17 PAAC classmates are assigned to various post participating in rigorous training. Alberto Acena and Pedro Baban are with the 9th Obsvn Sqdn in Cebu; Mariano Punzalang, Pedro Bartolome, Crisosostomo Monta, and Damian Pavon are with the 7th Adv Trng Sqdn Maniquis Field, Cabanatuan, as flight instructors: Bartolome Cabangbang, Alberto Aranzaso, Urbano Caldoza, Horacio Farolan, and Pedro Aragon are with the 6th Pursuit Sqdn under 1st Lt Jesus Villamor; Tomas Tirona was appointed Comdt PAAC Basic Flying School with Lauro Ello, Nolasco Escobar, Victor Osias, and Epifanio Segovia as Flight Instructors.
After getting his wings and qualifying as an air pilot, Francisco Vitug, crashed his plane, survived but lost an eye. He transferred branch of service to Finance Service (FS). PAAC is proud of the fact that then Maj. Dwight Eisenhower while on the staff of MacArthur and helped establish PMA, learned to fly and earned his wings under the of PAAC, particularly credited to Lt Pelagio Cruz ’35 of Bulacan.