I’m going to take a break from transcribing directly from my grandfather’s memoirs to give a bit more context and background to the wider military developments which, at the moment we left off, were even then engulfing the city of Manila, its inhabitants, and of course my family.
Below are some maps to help the reader better visualize the location of the Philippines:
When the U.S. Army began the campaign to oust the Japanese from Luzon (they had already invaded the islands to the south), they actually managed to embark from the north, via the Lingayen Gulf along the northwestern coast of Luzon, due north and west of Manila, on January 9th, 1945.
You would expect that the U.S. Army would prefer to deliberately proceed southward to evict the Japanese. However, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur had received intelligence that the American and other Allied prisoners held in places like Manila and at other locations were to be slaughtered if the American army got too close. MacArthur was desperate to rescue as many American lives as he could and sent an advance force south to Manila with all haste to secure Santo Tomas among other known prison camps.
As you saw previously in my grandfather’s memoirs, this was accomplished by February 5th, 1945. Though the Japanese guards were allowed to leave, other Japanese units continued to bombard Santo Tomas for roughly a full week afterward, taking many American soldiers lives as well as, in a sad irony, many newly-freed American internees (again, as has been seen previously in the memoirs).
Perhaps somewhat naively and definitely optimistically, MacArthur declared that Manila had “fallen” on February 4th. He and his staff were said to even be planning a victory parade. Indeed, the general in charge of the Japanese Army, Tomoyuki Yamashita, did not believe he could defend Manila and had ordered his troops to abandon the city and fall back to the foothills to the north.
Had this policy been carried out by the entire Japanese military apparatus in the Philippines, all would have been well as far as Manila was concerned; countless lives would have been spared and the city, known as the Pearl of the Orient for its beauty that combined Spanish, American and native architectural styles from its varied multicultural heritage, would have been preserved.
Unfortunately, the Japanese Navy, commanded by Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji, was committed to defending Manila at all costs, and in defiance of his colleague Yamashita, was determined to inflict the maximum possible damage on the advancing American forces, and more horrifically, on the defenseless Filipino civilian population, including such atrocities as rape, mutilation, bayoneting, and ultimately slaughter. In the end, it is estimated that 100,000 Filipinos were killed during the month long Battle of Manila (some estimates are as high as 500,000), and not all by Japanese soldiers, but also due to friendly fire from the advancing Americans who were unable to always differentiate the civilians.
By the end of the battle on March 3rd, 1945, the Pearl of the Orient was reduced to a pile of rubble and laid waste in one of the most vicious urban battles of World War 2.
It is against this backdrop that we return to my grandfather’s memoirs…
Feb 6, 1945 Cont.—Heavy fighting continues, Jap demolition time bombs continue to explode, about 15 sq miles of the city north of the river now burned; three of our armies said to have advanced close to Manila; the First Cavalry troops who rescued us were only about 700 strong.
We are to be moved tomorrow to the GYM to make room for Hospital; Red Cross says to leave everything behind as they will give us new clothes and beds; but we know the Red Cross and will hold on to our old stuff till we see their new supplies (never did get them).
Feb 7—Shelling of Camp continues; Gen MacArthur visited Camp; at 2PM I was in Main Building to send radio, and hurried away from the crowd at the front door as we were to load our things on a truck to the Gym; just got away in time as a shell hit just over the door and killed several people and wounded many; When I finally got things loaded shells were coming our way, one hit in front of main building, killing a soldier on plaza; several just missed our roof and hit the wall behind garden, one killed some Japs hiding in a house behind camp; Nelson said, let’s get out of here, so I went down behind the building, and stayed there while shelling was heavy.
Feb 7 cont.—I did not go to the Gym with some who left our room; as they were fixing their bunks in the Gym several shells hit it and killed “Java” and fatally wounded Tom Henderson, and severely wounded several others and most of the folks ran over behind the Seminary; I finally made a run for the Main Building and lined up inside for chow, about 5:00PM; as we waited in the chow line, shells hit the rooms at south corner and killed and wounded many people, mostly women, some of the girls who dip out food for us were killed, Rev. Foley and Phil Carmen also killed.
The dead and wounded were carried past me into room 13, for emergency Hospital; they were very badly mangled by shrapnel; after supper we stayed on the sidewalks north east side, it was raining slightly, many of us had diarrhea from eating too much, fighting was heavy, machine guns were firing tracer bullets at our guns, several soldiers were killed; an officer came by and gave me two cigars, said with compliments of General MacArthur; shells hit room above us and showered fragments; had no blankets and all in all it was a night to remember.
About 4:00AM Crumrine and I got into the back door of the Main Building, it was crowded, and as the emergency hospital was full and some wounded and died, there was much weeping and distress among the women and children; until daylight it was not a nice situation to be in.
Several soldiers were killed and wounded in the night fighting.
Feb 8—Daylight brought some lull and good breakfast; I at last got my longed for bread and butter; went to Gym and found my clothes but no cot so I used Graham’s as he is in Hospital, this is a fairly quiet day and got a little sleep. Battle still raging in Manila but only few shells near hear. Thousands of Japs are in Walled City and Ermita and Malate and our troops are attacking.