The Japanese would burn a home and kill those who fled the fire.
In Manila, the thoughts of an escape route
for the “bottled up Japanese” is totally irrelevant. I have talked to
Emmanuel Ocampo, a guerrilla with the ROTC Hunters, who has told me that
the southern part of the city would have been easy for the Japanese to
leave from had they wanted to. And this seems to confirm Rod Hall’s
thoughts that the southern attack began too late. The Lingayen invasion
was on January 9; the 11th
Airborne paratroopers (511th Parachute Infantry) did not begin to attack
in the vicinity of Nichols Field until February 4th;
they waited to be joined by the 188th
Infantry coming down from Tagaytay Ridge. Then the combined forces, being
shelled by Japanese artillery (from Fort McKinley), engaged the Japanese 3rd
Naval Battalion in a battle to reclaim the air base. These were among the
strongest defense positions in Manila and the US forces could not claim
possession until February 12th.
The oncoming American force was somewhat
undermanned and also somewhat lost and it actually depended on guerrillas
for their advance to the city, which went along the coast from Cavite. But
this begs the question. The Japanese in Manila (with few exceptions) did
not intend to escape, and no one has yet written about their trying to or
wanting to. Aluit
himself writes that Gen. Yokoyama pointed out to Iwabuchi, as late as
February 21, an escape route that a few others had been using, into the
foothills of the Sierra Madre. Iwabuchi gave no response to this. This was
essentially the same response he offered on February 14 when Yokoyama
offered to organize a counter-attack to free Iwabuchi and his troops.
rear admiral was engaged in “gyokusai” (glorious self-annihilation).
The orders came from high up in the
military command; they were carried out willingly and even gleefully. To
accuse MacArthur of equal culpability is a real travesty of history and is
totally unfair to a brilliant military man who personally cared for the
country and its people. I suspect that in doing this, Mr. Aluit was
responding to some revisionist pressure to bash Americans. The British
authors seem to be flexing their intellectual military prowess in the
comforts of their English ivory tower. It is always a cheap and easy shot
to demean Americans, especially dead ones.
In these cases it is the truth that gets demeaned.
I confess to finding
a definite and fairly strong anti-American, or at least anti-MacArthur
bias in Aluit’s book. But this is not altogether unusual. One of my oldest
and best friends is Dr. David Steinberg is certainly no lover of
MacArthur, and he is quick to let it show.
Aluit mocks the General when, at his
speech in Malacanang Palace, returning the reins of government to
President Osmena, he choked up and could not proceed. Aluit quotes the
part of Macarthur’s reminiscence that says “It had killed something in me
to see my men die.” And says that the General had nothing to say about the
100,000 civilian deaths. But why did he omit a very powerful and evocative
sentence coupled to that quoted:
“To others it might have seemed my moment
of victory and monumental personal acclaim, but to me it seemed only the
culmination of a panorama of physical and spiritual disaster.” Does this
make the man sound like a revenge-driven egomaniac, which is what Aluit
claims for MacArthur? You can do anything with selective—and
He also demeans the American military policy of trying to protect
“precious American lives.”
And he also does a deep intake of breath
at the discovered cache of food at Santo Tomas Internment Camp, pointing
out the scarcity of food in Manila.
Here is the monumental horde of food (in part):
bottles of Bovril; 120 pounds of coffee; 388 cans of corned beef; various
cans of milk, both powdered and condensed; 122 kilos of tiki tiki; 300
2-5/8 oz cans of sardines; 300 6oz cans of dried peas;
6 pounds of black bean soup;
kidney beans, 1239 kilos; mongo beans 283
Ok, it seems like a lot at first glance, but here were about 3,500 people
already on starvation diets. You figure how long this might last the
prisoners. And yet the author writes: “It startles the mind that there was
this much food of this kind at this time available in Manila. At least it
was available for the Americans at Santo Tomas.”
And why does he give a dig at the Lichaucos who were doing miraculous work
at their home on the banks of the Pasig, by taking in hundreds of
refugees? “In Santa Ana Marcial Lichauco had the problem of feeding 113
refugees in his home at 2915 Herran Street, but there was powdered milk
and oatmeal for his daughters.” Was this because Jessie is an American?
And how can a book of this magnitude and quality (it is possibly the best
yet on this subject, given my own quibbling caveats) fail to mention the
dirty work of the Makapilis? They get two mentions in the entire 456
pages. One is to comment that after the Japanese are routed from one
building there were two Filipinos left inside, both of them Makapilis. The
other mention of them gives an account of two Filipinos guiding some
refugees to a “safe” place, only to return later, laughing with the
Japanese soldiers who proceeded to kill the civilians who had thought they
were well off. That’s it.
I am terribly disappointed in these uncalled for and rather stupid remarks
of Aluit’s; I can only imagine the kind of nationalista pressures being
put on him. Filipino historians,
expert in this phase of the war, tell me that it was the Makapilis,
Filipinos, leading the Japanese to houses which they themselves set on
fire. The Japanese then would kill those who fled the flames. Aluit’s
treatment of this grave Filipino problem is a serious flaw in his book.
have talked with Filipino historians
who have told me that had the American thrust towards Tokyo by-passed the
Philippines, the suffering here by starvation and by Japanese brutality
would have been nearly as bad, or worse, than what actually transpired.
Guerrilla leader Ramsey wrote that “Manila [is] doomed with widespread
There were guerrilla reports that the Japanese planned to take the entire
new harvest of rice for their own military uses, and even supervise the
harvesting to ensure this. Ramsey had written earlier that “In Manila [an]
average of 100 persons [are] dying daily due [to] starvation. And
Cabangbang had written on December 24 that the “Nip is busy killing
civilians in Manila Districts and Bulacan towns just north of Manila” by
gathering men, women and children and machine-gunning them. Town officials
were being hanged and beaten. This apparently was a sort of preview show
of things to come, or better yet,
a dress rehearsal.
Which brings me to yet another myth about the Battle of Manila: the number
of dead. The first time a number appears it is in Robert Ross Smith’s
book. He tells how the US Army used the figures of the funeralistas who
were tasked with picking up the bodies. To this is added an arbitrary
number of those who were killed and never found; and another estimate of
those who were burned beyond recovery.
show how arbitrary these figures are, one pair of historians shortly after
the war, wrote that there were 240, 000 civilians who died during the
I would like to add the deaths by
starvation. If they were dying at the rate of 100 every day in December,
what would have been the rate in February when food and water were
essentially unavailable? So would this add another 6,000 people, mostly
women and children? And those who died of some disease or sickness? Hardly
any medicines or medical care was available. Why not add another estimate:
say, another 6,000.
Filipino civilians like these were the intended targets of Japanese
And what about the apportioning the
responsibility for these deaths. Remember that everything here is an
estimate, an arbitrary divvying up of sums. It seems that the convention
is to say that of the 100,000,
30,000 were caused by shelling (meaning
American artillery, thus absolving Japanese artillery of any culpability
here?); the rest were caused by Japanese atrocities. What do we do now? Do
we add 12,000 to the accepted figure? Do we include these in that number
and subtract 6,000 from the American and Japanese responsibilities?
If one would listen to Manila movie maker Nick de Ocampo, for instance
when he spoke to the Manila Studies Association last August, one would
hear this incredibly inept observation: “It is obvious that the
destruction of Manila was caused by the Americans.” The destruction of
Manila includes the buildings and its inhabitants. Why would the Americans
destroy the bridges and then paddle across the Pasig River? Why would they
fight their way up to the fourth floor of the UP (Padre Faura) building
and then explode it from under themselves only to come crashing down with
This represents to me the loose cannon
type of historical comment.
I feel that the Japanese, by all rules of
war, Geneva Convention (which they had signed but not “ratified”), by all
human considerations had a duty to evacuate themselves from Manila; they
chose not to; in one sense ALL the deaths and demolitions are attributable
Other than saying that, it is entirely
possible that the conventions in place are fairly accurate. No one will
ever know for sure.
But it remains certain that it was the Japanese who blew up most of the
important buildings and destroyed the bridges and other infrastructure.
And they were shelling Manila every bit as heavily as the Americans. The
Yanks were using portable howitzers, whereas the Japanese were using
bigger guns from all land-based compass points around the city. Further,
the Japanese were shelling as heavily as they could, whereas the Americans
were circumspect because of the restrictions under which they were
operating. It is a grave error to consider that the word "shelling"
applies exclusively to the Americans. the devil is in the details,
it was a matter of intent - the Americans intended to do damage to the
Japanese military targets, but the Japanese cared not a whit.
When you listen to and watch the people
who survived, you will feel their anger towards the heavy artillery
shelling by the Americans; but you will also sense their hatred of
Japanese did. On balance, then and today, they were glad to be liberated even
at great cost to themselves and their beautiful city.
Mrs. Lita Rocha Clearsky has told us of how her aunt tried to wring the
neck of an American artillery director for having very recently killed her
sister, Lita’s (and Johnny’s too) mother. Friends of my father had their
husbands killed by American shells. And no one can forget Carmen
Guerrero’s spitting on the first American she came across. Luckily for him
she had no saliva, only lots of intention. What is interesting is that
having given a long paragraph devoted to the horrors of Japanese brutality
that killed and tortured members of her family, her most heated
vilification is saved for the Yanks, and seems to have become a sort of
The “shelling” was not merely from the
Americans, however, and I know that there are people in here tonight that
could distinguish between the Japanese and the American fire, and between
mortars and howitzers. But after the Americans took over Rizal Stadium,
the Japanese began to shell the area from Ft. McKinley. And it is really
hard to understand how flying spotters for the Americans could not make
out that people on rooftops waving at them were NOT Japanese. And why did
they continue to direct artillery at PGH for over a week? I have a number
of people who say they stopped waving and took to their shelters because
every time the waved in friendship and hope, down came the shells!
One thing that no one mentions is the
"infernal noise machines" [mentioned by
Modesto Farolan in his war crimes testimony] meant to simulate artillery
fire that the Japanese had set up at PGH. I have learned that these
machines produced a flash and a noise that duplicated exactly the sounds
of large guns. Perhaps it is too inconvenient a truth to include.
Yamashita never declared Manila an Open
City, not when he was there and had the power and the authority to do so,
and certainly not later when he was holed up in Baguio. The intent seems
clear from the start to defend it to the last man and to kill off the
Don’t forget his leaving behind 4,000
of his own forces to defend north Manila. Nor that his reason for bringing
the “puppet” government to Baguio was to save their lives!
I think we should also remember that when
these accused generals, like Yamashita, Homma, Yokoyama were testifying
[my dad took us to several of the hearings at the US Embassy] they were
not under any constraints to tell the truth before any Christian God;
their purpose was to protect their own God, their Emperor. Better they
should be found guilty of some US law than a man, a god, who we are finding of
late was responsible for so much of the cruelty meted out by his troops
throughout Southeast Asia, where they treated the captured and surrendered
and treated the civilians
as worse. These generals suckered the US legal system, and died happily in
covering up their Emperor/God.
A more eloquent and better summary is
provided by Armando Ang in his book
Brutal Holocaust: He
“According to reliable evidence gathered from prisoners of war,
military personnel, Philippine officials and civilians, and Japanese
documents, the rape of Manila was not a random act of melee, mayhem and
wanton destruction but an act of coldly planned atrocities by the Japanese
high command from Tokyo.”
I couldn't say it better myself.
It was a deliberate use of
atrocity as a tool of war.