Along the way, on Rizal Avenue, I saw many GIs in full battle gear being mobbed by street urchins who were shouting “Victory Joe, you want a pom-pom Joe?” as they tried to cadge a Hershey chocolate bar from them. Along the way, there were already a few bars and make-shift halls with banners announcing girlie shows. As we walked past one of them,   I could hear the last refrain of the song “You Are My Sunshine” followed by the melodious but  melancholy voices of the Mills Brothers singing “I Want to Buy a Paper Doll That I Can Call My Own.”

         After days of searching, we finally found my mother at the San Lazaro Hospital. She had received proper treatment but her left arm had been fractured and peppered with shrapnel, her left eye injured by tiny stone particles, but the infection that had set in on her injured left arm, which could have caused its amputation, was fortunately arrested on time.

         Even after sixty-four years after the Battle of Manila had ended, long repressed memories still surface unbidden in my mind. The smell of rotting flesh, the pangs of hunger and of thirst, and the fear of death still haunt me in many unguarded moments. Memories bring me back to February 17, 1945, our day of liberation, but unknown to us then, a day also that marked the merciless massacre of civilians by Japanese marines at the house of Dr. Rafael Moreta, our neighbor at Isaac Peral Street. I often think and remember Mr. Andy Cang and his loving wife Remedios, whose generosity and kindness helped us survive those last harrowing days at the PGH.  I think of that kind American officer who gave us water from his canteen, and I wonder if he too survived the Battle of Manila.

         I think of the hapless crew of that B-24 Liberator shot down over Manila on January 8, 1945, whose fate I learned only in 2002 when, after sixty years, I met Sascha Jean  Jansen nee Weinzheimer again when she returned on a sentimental journey with an American tour group of former American Manila residents interned at the UST.  Sascha also saw the downing of this B-24 from her shanty at the UST where she was interned. She spent time researching the identity of that B-24 and its crew and discovered that this B-24 Liberator, with serial number 44-40553, belonged to the 307th Bombardment Group (H) known as the “Long Rangers.” When it was shot down on January 8, 1945, it had just flown in from its base in Ambon, the Moluccas, and had just finished its bombing run over Nielsen Field (now all of Ayala Avenue, Makati Avenue, and Paseo de Roxas in Makati City) All of its crew of eleven were killed, including that lone parachutist who was shot and murdered while dangling in the air over Ermita. The pilot of this B-24 was 2nd Lt John D. Lucey and his co-pilot was 2nd Lt. William O. Goodlow. Their remains now rest in the Manila American Cemetery at Fort Boniface, formerly Fort Wm. McKinley.

         But more than anyone else, I always think of Narda, the poor unfortunate girl, just in her early teens, barely an adult when she was killed at the age of fifteen. She held such great promise. She was in her third year of high school at the Philippine Women’s University where she always finished at the top of her class. She was the hope of her poor peasant family. And in a flash, this hope was dashed, gone forever, in a cruel twist of fate. I often wonder what had happened to her remains. Narda has no grave that anyone can visit to lay flowers in memory of her tragic death; no gravestone to mark the end of a promising life until Memorare Manila, under the untiring leadership of Ambassador Juan “Johnny” Rocha, erected in Intramuros, on February 18, 1995, an elegant and heart wrenching memorial, very much like Michelangelo’s Pieta, to honor the memory of all the innocent civilians who died during the Battle of Manila. Its moving inscription reads:

"This memorial is dedicated to all those innocent victims of war, many of whom went nameless and unknown to a common grave, or even never knew a grave at all, their bodies having been consumed by fire or crushed to dust beneath the rubble of ruins."

"Let this monument be the gravestone for each and every one of the over 100,000 men, women, children and infants killed in Manila during its battle of liberation, February 3 - March 3, 1945. We have not forgotten them, nor shall we ever forget."

"May they rest in peace as part now of the sacred ground of this city: the Manila of our affections."

 

 

Jim Litton


                                   This article first appeared on the Battling Bastards of Bataan Website

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

FURTHER READING

The Japanese Occupation of Singapore from February 1942 to August 1945 was a particularly momentous period of loss and sacrifice for the Chinese population as compared to other ethnicities, because they were the targets of brutal Japanese military policies. During a month of screening procedures and indiscriminate massacres in 1942 known as sook ching, or cleansing operations, an undetermined number of civilians were separated from their families and friends and suffered uncertain fates.

The involvement of General Yamashita in the sook ching was direct, personal and not in evidence before the War Crimes Trial in Manila.   His involvement has been overlooked in books concentrating upon the analysis of the Manila trials, and revisionists who write of Yamashita's innocence,  or of the unfairness of the trial he faced,  are perverting the public record of a man who disgraced humanity. To conceal the issue of his involvement in Singapore, and in China, is nothing short of scandalous.

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