February 20, 1945

Let us shift our view for a while from this scenario of horrors, and take a look at the Manila of the liberators, as it was narrated to me.

The American High Command has not failed to notice the vandalistic scheme of the Japanese in the attempt to save themselves with the City and with the residents of the Capital, of converting the city into a heap of rubble and killing all the inhabitants, starting with the internees in Santo Tomas.

This was confirmed by some well-meaning Japanese. The program of destruction, murder and suicide, which is being launched in the southern zone is also being planned for the northern section. Written orders to this effect had been found and brought by the guerillas to the headquarters of General MacArthur.

The Japanese did not expect the American advance forces at the approach to Manila until about the 6th or 7th of February, so that on the 3rd, it was supposed that the front line was about fifty kilometers from Balintawak. On the eve of this day, at about 8:00 o’clock, the priests and internees of Santo Tomas heard tanks penetrating through España street. They posted themselves in front of the gate of the University campus. Lights went on and illuminated the buildings. Jubilant shouts and outbursts of joy were heard from the detainees who barely perceived that their liberation was forthcoming. In a few moments, volleys sounded from within and without the campus. The tanks and machine-guns replied. A number of soldiers and guerillas who served as guides fell, among them Manuel Colayco and the young Kierulf who died later. Absolute silence. Total darkness. Then the lead tank barged in through the fence into the campus, followed by seven others and by twenty trucks loaded with troops, the first with lights on, the others without lights. They reached the front of the Main building. Another shout and welcome from the prisoners. A new discharge of fire from the Japanese defenders, and then another sepulchral silence. The monstrous caterpillars kept advancing along the sides of the building until they were positioned one at each alley. Some internees started fraternizing with the liberators and received their first cigarettes, biscuits and canned goods. Other tanks positioned themselves towards the gymnasium and the Education building.

So passed the night.

At daybreak, the capture of the Gymnasium. There were Japanese soldiers there guarding the prisoners. But they fled into the darkness. The Americans scoured the place fearing that the Japanese had hidden themselves in a nearby grassy area. But they could not be found.

Later, the conquest of the Education building. There were some seventy Japanese soldiers dispersed behind the detainees. The Americans appealed to the Japanese to surrender. No response. They were promised to be let free out of the campus. Negative. They were promised to be transported with their arms up to the Japanese lines. The Japanese conceded, and in two trucks they were transported up to the Rotonda.

That was how the campus which had imprisoned some four thousand internees, and, incidentally, occupants of the seminary, was recaptured. But they were so far the only liberated buildings together with those near Malacañang. The rest of the city, during the night of the 3rd and the whole day of the 4th, were still not re-occupied, except in the sense that the liberators were almost in the middle of the capital. But there was only a handful of American troops who had entered the enemy territory. It was a blow which was as bold as it was daring.

The First Cavalry, dismounted but motorized, had left Cabanatuan two days before. As it was left behind forty kilometers from the main body of the advance forces, it opened up a road through Novaliches and Balintawak, Rizal Avenue and Quezon Boulevard, spitting machinegun shells against Japanese troops and trucks they encountered along the way, and penetrating almost into the heart of the city. They were about a thousand men surrounded by Japanese forces bent on defending the city. Their audacity rattle the enemy. If the Japanese had a foreknowledge of the small number of the infiltrating forces, and had they organized a rapid and decisive attack on the Americans, the liberating forces would have been annihilated. They had thirty-six hours to do it and they faltered. Thus were saved the First Cavalry, the American prisoners and the north of Manila.

In the morning of the 5th, when the Japanese initiated a disorganized attack from España street, from Far Eastern University and from Bilibid, the 37th Division had already penetrated the City from the north and from the east, joining the liberators of Santo Tomas, and jointly re-occupying Quezon City and the sector of Manila north of Azcarraga. Malacañan and Bilibid, where some one thousand two hundred seventy war and civil prisoners were detained including those who came from Baguio, were also liberated.

The Japanese began their program of destruction. They placed cans of gasoline and mines in big buildings of the Escolta, and surrounding streets, and destroyed fire engines and equipments. They blew up and burned buildings, and the uncontrollable fires razed the whole of the commercial district from Azcarraga to the Pasig.

On the 6th, the Americans positioned themselves along the Pasig River. The whole northern region was thus liberated, although small groups of Japanese continued burning clusters of houses and forcing the Filipinos under their control to do the same. On the 7th, the battle of the Philippine General Hospital shelled the north of the city, especially the University of Santo Tomas which suffered fifty to sixty hits, mostly on the construction of P. Ruaño, the principal target of the Japanese guns. There was a lamentable number of casualties, some forty dead and three hundred wounded among the recently liberated. In the Education building, five were wounded. In the Seminary, there were only two slight casualties, a priest and a househelp. The attack lasted forty-eight hours.

The Japanese blew up the four bridges across the Pasig. On the 7th, further beyond Malacañan, five battalions of the 37th Division crossed the river in tanks and amphibian trucks and, after fierce fighting, they opened up a path through the cleared areas of Paco and the Gas factory. The Japanese defenders started converting each house and building into a fortress, burning them and killing their occupants when they had to abandon their posts.

In the meantime, the 11th Airborne Division, after a successful landing in Tagaytay, advanced until they joined the first wave at the southern approaches to the capital through Baclaran and Nichols Field. They mopped up these areas, destroying one hundred Japanese fighter planes and capturing seventy-five pieces of artillery and one hundred and twelve machineguns. They then proceeded towards Pasay. The cavalry made a second crossing of the Pasig through Sta. Ana. After a bitter house-to-house fighting, they drove back the Japanese from the hippodrome and from Makati. They then joined the 37th Division near the Paco Railroad station, and the 11th Airborne at the north of the Polo Club.

With these reunited forces, the Japanese defenses in Manila have been isolated and pushed back in Singalong, Malate, Ermita, Paco, Intramuros and the Port Area. American advance is slow. They are not employing the air force and they use the artillery with moderation for the sake of the civilians. The soulless defenders entrench themselves behind houses and concrete buildings, devoting their time more to arson and murder rather than in fighting the liberators. The Americans, in a rapid execution of strategy, were able to save some seven thousand refugees at the General Hospital before the vandals could effect their diabolic plans.

Wednesday 2-1-99

Went to Singalon[g] in a.m. Got a “bolo” from a native. A few days ago the ins. caught a staff officer and a 1st Lieut. and were going to kill them –and had the staff officer tied to a tree, when they were rescued. I have been over the same ground many times. They have a cannon there now, and a large outpost. Slept and platted in p.m. Were called to arms at 3.30 a.m. & stayed in the court until 7 a.m.

Saturday 1-14-99

Last night a Penn. killed oner man on post & captured 3 others –and a force of 300 forced the pickets on our line. But they fell back to block house & held them off. Co. M out last night, and we patrolled this portion of city.

Got a proclamation off a post in Singalong. We are called out (1st batt.) and I have been ordered to report as guide. They are falling in now, 8.30 p.m. They are going to attack us tonight, so all the Filips say. Other rumours say they open up the ball tomorrow, Sunday.

Thursday 12-29-98

Started to Singalon[g] at 6.30 relieved 1st Idaho at 7. Sergt Burtt at b.h. 12, 2nd Lieut Lamping at b.h. 13. Made maps of good, high, dry artillery ground in a.m. Went to insurgent lines beyond b.h. 13 where a large outpost is. Also one of about 30 further on, from which 2 guards were sent with me. Went to b.h. 14 which is literally shot to pieces. They told me at least 400 Spaniards were killed here. And the condition of the fort and the trees surrounding would justify such a conclusion. Got some Mausers, and located a 6 inch shell at a native house. Took observation of trenches and breastworks. Went back with guards to post and watched them play ball with their feet. Keeping it in the air as long as a tennis ball is usually. A Chinaman told the Lieut. that I was captured and he bro’t a guard to my relief. Watched the ins.[urgents] drill. They all talk and laugh in the ranks, but the movements are all quick and full of life. All barefooted and armed with Mausers. Took gun and went out to b.h. 12 at eleven p.m. Splendid night.

Wednesday 12-28-98

Map nearly ready for tracing. Co. A came in from trenches this morning and we go out to outpost in Singalon[g] tomorrow. Hot today, but warm in eve, with easy breeze. Native huts & shops decorated and fiestas being giving all week. Picture taken in Paco boneyard. 1st Batt of Tenn, 18th Regulars & the 3rd Art. left for Iloilo, where the insurgents are looting the city & torturing the Spanish prisoners. Will be some fighting there, I think. Were issued smokeless today and Kraf’s are on the way for us. Rumors say –1st Wn leave outpost next week & take Minn. place as police guards of Manila. Home all eve.

Wednesday 12-21-98

Up at reveille, and in heavy marching order Co. D and Co. I went to outposts at Singalong. Co. D had blockhouses 12 & 13.

On our right about 100 shots were exchanged during the day. We each had 150 rounds and surely expected fighting. Six troops of 4th Ca. 1st Wash, 1st Tenn. & 14th U.S.A. all the 2nd brigade were posted in the trenches. Our hdqrs were on the spot where the Astor battery made their great stand and pistol charge. Block 13 was burned when full of S[panish]. wounded. In a.m. all the natives left the vicinity –pickets were posted. Late in eve 5 reg., 6000 strong, came out up to lines, occupied old S. trenchments. I crossed creek and went along strip of timber, dodged several ins[urgent]. pickets and got on high timber land back of Santa Ana. Took meander line of creek between b.h’s, 11 & 12 in p.m. Ins. bugles were blowing all day. Trouble all along the line, but yet –no fight. Boys are terribly disappointed. We’ve been called out so often on special duty, yet took Corp Fairbank’s duty for one relief. Slept on old window shutter.