War and Rememberance:
Celebrating 2002 Memorial Day
This is research in progress and I am looking to interview some of the people who fought the war in Cagayan Valley. Feel free to encourage some of the older folks you know to share their stories with me. - Thanks! (email@example.com)
There is nothing better than oral history. Books are nothing but footnotes and having said that, I hope that sometime before Alzheimer's claims your grandparents' gifted minds, you have accessed the contents of that generation's stories. Together you could string a living century of generations. There are books by Ambrose, Manchester, Morrison,pseudo historians and lately the revisionists, but there is nothing better when you hear the answer to a child asking, "What did you do during the war, Lolo? Where were you?.
All I remember was a spectacular air show, not "da plane" from Fantasy Island. Instead, to the eyes of this 5-year old of Isinai Island, it was a roaring silhouette of liberators celebrating in the sky. There were no dogfights, as the air war was already over. There were two kinds of planes, a single body and another that I would never see again, a double body. The double fuselage inspired my innovation to build a kite of similar Design that stayed in my mind, as I grew older.
They flew over Tokyo at the height of 32,000 feet, whereas the Japanese planes flew at 25,000 feet maximum. In a quick bushido move, the Japanese planes were stripped of weapons and avionics just to sustain the altitude. Without guns they resorted to ramming the plane they fearfully called B-san. My kite never made it (higher) beyond the shadows no matter how far I let my lines go. Still thinking about it now, if I could only remove the tail or shorten it just enough for stabilization, I could angle sharply to 10 o'clock without slack in my string. Back then; the planes became kites to me. I did not know a few years later I would be "flying" a submarine. These were like planes, but not onboard the carrier. My first job when I volunteered was spreading the underwater "wings" by rigging out the bow planes when the submarine dived. The "height" became the depth and they had the same kinds of angles and dangles. At that young age, however, my imagination only went as far as what I could do with my kites. The Yankee soldiers returned with Macarthur's historical promise.
My youngest sister at that time was baptized inside St. Ferrer Church that miraculously survived the bombing. The godfather was a GI, an Americano. This event was just a few days beyond the reach of my memory. His name was Anthony Russo and we never heard what happen to him as they continued their campaign towards the Tokyo. The American pilgrims, the legionnaires described by Brokaw as the greatest generation preempted assault on America's soil from December 7, 1941 to September 11, 2001. The remains buried in the Pacific and the largest grave shrine outside the US could be found in the Philippines. It was the summer of 1945. The planes were all propeller-driven; fresh from the US war machine factory engaging dogfights against the Mitsubishi built Japanese Zeros. Liberator planes from the Ford Assembly line engaging the Mitsubishi Bombers. But among the brave pilots were the Mexican Air Force, who volunteered for the Philippine war effort. These unknown Mexican bandits might not have been as famous as the Black Sheep Squadron, Tuskegee Airmen, or the Doolittle Bombers but we certainly could relate to them.
The US Army granted their request of assignment in the Philippines because of language compatibility and common cultural Spanish background. The Joint Mexican-US Defense Commission (JMUSDC), created in Washington DC, coordinated the US and Mexican military. The Mexican Government preferred to participate in the liberation of the Philippines, due to the historical and cultural connections between both nations. This decision proved beneficial beyond the combat aspect, since the MEAF (Mexican Expeditionary Air Force) personnel also became a valuable social contact with the Spanish speaking Filipinos. The Mexican Senate authorized sending the squadron in 1944 and the unit arrived in Clark Airforce Base in May 1, 1945. They were trained at Maxwell Base in Louisiana and other part of the United States before coming to the Philippines. They flew the P-47s, forerunners of the famous P-51 Mustang fighter planes. After a short briefing from the US Army Air corps, the pilots were loaned 15 Thunderbolts (P-47). Advanced instructions were completed and on the early June 1945 the planes with US and Mexican markings were flying over the northern part of Luzon. The First combat mission was over Aritao.What's interesting was that half of their missions were over the Isinai triangle of towns. Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax are the only towns where Isinai is spoken.
These were my childhood Stomping grounds. Cagayan Valley was one of the last regions liberated from the Japanese. It was also the first beach that the Japanese invaded when they landed in Aparri a couple of days after Pearl Harbor. General Yamashita however did not have any plan to escape north. They were ready to fight to the last man. The natural fortified mountains surround the valley. The Japanese became the Guerrillas and fought close combat in the thick ravines under the cover of the forest's canopy. The brunt of the fighting was now carried by the Filipino guerilla that when the paratrooper parachuted in the highland, they were warned not to mistake the Filipinos from the desperate Japanese.The gunfire that echoed in the jungle were heard so distinctly that we named the Japanese' rifle Ping-pok from its pinging sound. Then only passage from the south is thru the Caraballo Mountains. The protracted hunt of the elusive Tiger in the jungle cost about 100 Japanese soldiers a day. One of the bloodiest sites of the Pacific land war took place and continued in the Kiangan battlefield.The only tank battle took place when Yamashita realized that his remaining tanks were no match against the GI Tanks. He therefore ordered to ambush American tanks by ramming, in the tradition of Kamikaze.
The 25th US Army regiments lost General Dalton from Japanese snipers and Heavy artillery could not be moved easily. On May 15, Filipino veteran, Restie Valerio (now living in Jersey City, next door to the Philippine he was in his late teen when he joined the liberation party and saw action in Nueva Vizcaya.
The Imperial Army retreated and entrenched to delay the imminent invasion of their homeland. April 16th, Yamashita was forced to remove his headquarters from Baguio further back into the mountains to Banbang.On May 20th, the pressure of the military situation was such that Yamashita had to move his headquarters again--this time to Riangian (I think he meant Kiangan, Japanese tongue favoring the r sound) where he remained until again forced to move on June 18th. His final headquarters establishment was at a place called Rest House No. 9 in the vicinity of Takben, set up on July 22nd, where he remained until ordered by Tokyo to surrender on September 2nd. Yamashita himself carefully recounted the last few days in northern Luzon to his American Defense counsel in the Bilibid Prison (Muntinglupa) while awaiting his war trial. The local men volunteered (Mabungad, Payatos, Ramel etc) and indigenous people of Nueva Vizcaya joined Filipino volunteers from the south in the dangerous end game as the Regular US Army Unit (6th Army) were already engaged in the beachhead of Formosa. Iwo Jima was secured on March 26, and Okinawa landing on April 1, 1945. On the European front Hitler shot himself on April 30. Germany was ready to surrender. A few weeks later the heaviest fighting took place in Kiangan. On Aug 6, a new era of warfare arrived; the first atomic bomb was dropped. Unleashing its new power, it leveled Hiroshima and probably wiped out the Hiroshima Military School attended by General Yamashita. He received his order from the emperor to surrender. The issue of course now is the justification for the use of the bomb. As the heat of that summer in Nueva Vizcaya started to cool down, the heated battle had not yet diminished. Under his command at this point was a jungle-trained strong army between 50,000 to 100,000 waging a war of attrition. The Allies were sweeping the Pacific at incredible speed, leapfrogging to the Island of Japan itself. The Imperial Japanese Military however held up longer than the allies when they invaded the Philippines. Bataan fell before the heat of summer. One might argue that at this point Japan had already lost the war, but Yamashita was not retreating to Cagayan Valley to escape to Aparri where his predecessor, General Homma landed. It was an easy out, all he had to do was to follow the stream: Cagayan River flows towards Japan. It was a strategic move; he knew inland fighting was in his favor though he heard the successful American amphibious assaults. Nueva Vizcaya was suited for him: the jungle-experienced Japanese rearguard units were on high ground. It was completely landlocked and free from naval bombardment.
One of the unknown facts of WW2 was the heavy toll suffered by the indigenous tribes during the war. They lived in the heart of the jungle oblivious of world politics. They were forced out or simply and silently executed. According to Renato Rosaldo (Harvard Professor, foremost author of headhunting), the Ilongots lost about one-third of their population, primarily in June of 1945, when the US army forced retreating Japanese soldiers into the Ilongot hills (which they called uninhabited). The Japanese were starving and in disarray at that point.
To view original hut, shot by the mountaineering club as they arrived in Lusod, the website reads..."we met some Ibaloi tribesmen. We stopped for rest and I took the opportunity to take photographs of a native house, one of the two remaining authentic huts spared by the Japanese when they burned the village in World War II."
I met the daughter of the most famous guerilla fighter in Mountain Province in New York, the former Congressman Duyan. (Stories later)
On July 4, 1945 General MacArthur declared to the world that the Philippines was liberated. Just few days later, early July, a newly developed firebomb was used. The Napalm bombs (gasoline gelled with soap) dropped over the Kiangan Trail were just the beginning. The horrifying graphics followed the Korean conflict, extensively dropped in the Vietnamdelta, lately captured by TV cameramen over the caves in Afghanistan.
The warriors were just gearing up for closer combat.In order to save lives on both sides, a Japanese-American serviceman of the US Army Military Intelligence Service (MIS) unit announced over a megaphone in Japanese that the emperor has accepted the unconditional surrender. His counterparts however thought it was a trick and even angered the kamikaze spirit. He was targeted and was shot as a traitor by an avenging Japanese suicide squad that had slipped the enemy lines. The actual day of surrender of Yamashita did not go without a hitch. In the confusion the Filipino soldiers started shooting. The shots might have been made in anger, they were told to keep away. The Japanese soldiers buried more than the famous Yamashita red (Gold) Restie added, he saw the prisoners had no personal effects with them. Watches, rings, and other personal belongings were all gone although he noticed fresh skin marks indicating wear. Almost all the Japanese women took their own lives in the sharp ravine. Captain Thomas accepted the surrender, as there were no other senior officers present. Today the hunt for Yamashita gold continues in the mountains of the Philippines.Kirang Pass, a monument in honor of the gallantry of the Japanese Soldiers during World War II, was rebuilt in the region to attract local and foreign tourists. Tourism Regional Director Blessida Diwa said the shrine was built in 1978 by Rakunsankai Society of Japan which is made up of glazed stone. A memorial was engraved in the tablet in Japanese and English languages. The shrine was called Kirang Pass because it stands amidst mountains and Hills right in the center of barangay Kirang, Aritao in Nueva Viscaya. The regional Director revealed that Kirang Pass was the scene of one of the bloodiest encounters between the Japanese soldiers and the Allied Forces during World War II. Diwa said that the area is visited by Japanese students and tourists, not only for its historical beauty but also to remind them how Filipino ancestors were able to survive the furious war that existed between the Japanese soldiers and the Allied forces. With further developments, the area would attract historians and students not only in the country but also from abroad to come for a study about war and to reflect on what happened during World War II, she said. This news was reported by the PNA.
The Filipino reinforcements in the liberation were issued arms and Received Mustering pay in Bacnotan, La Union. I remember going to college in Manila using the veterans educational Benefit earned by my father. Similar benefits enabled thousands of US soldiers and sailors who participated the in the western Pacific theater. I think this was the most successful post war program invented by the United States. Thousands of veterans took advantage and became professionals and CEOs. On these Memorial Day let us pay tribute to veterans of foreign war who paid the ultimate price and those who survived.
Double V Day - Victory in Vizcaya (high ground)
The American Legion Departed but not without leaving new English software argons and military hardwares: bivouacs, amphibians, jeeps, bayonets, canteens, etc. Scrapnel in the heart and minds, those who did not survived were buried. The little warriors (guerrilla) went back to farming as the rainy season approached. They found tons of expended shell as the land was tilted.
GI wrote to their homes in the USA about the magnificent rice terraces and lowland paddies they saw along the battlefield. The boys gave the two finger victory signs as the slow moving carabaw mellowed in the water trapped in bomb crate. Restie unitcrossed the wide Magat River in a make shift bamboo raft and in Dupax saw the St Ferrer Church later.
bivˇouˇac (būv">-?k", būv"w?k") n. 1. A temporary encampment often in an unsheltered area. --bivˇouˇac intr.v. bivˇouˇacked, bivˇouˇackˇing, bivˇouˇacs also bivˇouˇacks. To camp in a bivouac. [French, from German dialectal beiwacht, supplementary night watch : bei-, beside (from Middle High German bi-, from Old High German; see ambhi below) + Wacht, watch, vigil (from Middle High German wahte, from Old High German wahta; see weg- below).]ambhi. Important derivatives are: by1, be-, ambi-, amphi-. ambhi. Also Šbhi. Around.I. Probably derived from ant-bhi. See ant-. 1. Reduced form *bhi. a. BY1; ABAFT, BUT, from Old English bi, bē, be, by; b. BE-, from Old English be-, on all sides, be-, also intensive prefix.
American English returned to its old glory, Solano High School named Dalton School and the gateway to the Valley was forever changed to Dalton Pass in honor of the General Dalton who spearheaded the liberation. The famous two-century-old baroque Spanish church San Vicente Ferrer might have survived the bombing during the liberation not from divine intervention from heaven. These aviadores delos Mexico were able to recognize it as the shrine, the same adobe type red brick construction that replaced the Incas temple in Mexico. The Japanese took shelter in my grandfather's house in the village and that was therefore bombed to the ground. Today however the San Vicente Ferrer Church in Dupax still stands to remind us of history.
The following is translation from the Spanish air log. MEXICAN AIR FORCE SQUADRON 201 The mission's reports are found at the San Joaquin Public Library in California . Details are available here. Mexico supported the Allied cause in World War II in a number of ways, the most direct being the participation of the 201st Squadron of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The following "brief on the operations" was manually transcribed from a microfilmed 1946 US War Department typescript, designated MIS 251677(SSC). Both the original cover letter and distribution list have been omitted. Barring transcription errors, the grammar, capitalization, punctuation and spelling (and misspellings) are preserved from the original document.
Further war documents related to NuevaVizcaya and Cagayan Valley: