May 12, 2020 – 75th Anniversary of Cagayan de Oro’s Liberation during WW2

May 12, 2020 is the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of what was then known as Cagayan (or Cagayan de Misamis to the older folks) from the Japanese Empire during World War II.

US Army forces conducting clearing operations against Japanese troops at the Sayre Highway, Bukidnon.

Unfortunately, due to restrictions enforced by the city government according to the IATF general community quarantine guidelines, no public ceremonies are still allowed to mark this milestone in our local history.

According to the account documented in “The History of the Mindanao Guerrillas” shared with us by the late president of the American Guerrillas of Mindanao (AGOM) Virginia Hansen Holmes, Cagayan, Misamis (as Cagayan de Oro was then known) was wrested from the Japanese by the US forces and guerrillas under the 10th Military District, US Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) on 12 May 1945.

However, as early as May 9, 1945, operations were already underway for the liberation of the city.

Iponan-Cagayan Operation

9 May 1945

St Augustine Cathedral was bombed by the Americans during the battle to liberate Cagayan on May 9-12, 1945.

“Just before the landing of American forces in Mindanao on 10 May 1945, there were still Japanese pockets totaling about 300 men in the area west of the Cagayan River.”

“In coordination with the plans of the American Forces, the guerrilla troops launched a general attack on these isolated Jap pockets with the end in view of driving the enemy from this area, occupy Cagayan proper, and afford protection to the right flank of the beachhead established by the American forces in the Bugo-Agusan area.”

“Units participating in the operation were the 109th Infantry Regiment, composed of 39 officers and 350 enlisted men, and 120th Infantry Regiment, 108th Division, composed of one officer and 350 enlisted men. The 111th Infantry Regiment, 109th Division joined the operation on 10 May 1945. The attack began 9 May 1945 as planned and ended 12 May 1945.”

Patag Airstrip Captured

The 1st Battalion of the 108th Regiment under Capt Andres Bacal, captured the Patag Airstrip around noon
of May 9, 1945.

“The general offensive of Iponan, Bulua, Patag, Bonbon and Bayabas, started on 9 May 1945. On the same day, the enemies at Iponan were reinforced by approximately 100 Japs at 10:00 in the morning. The enemy reinforcements possibly came from Carmen or Calinogan.”

Capt Andres Bacal, the CO of 109th regiment which retook Patag airstrip on May 9, 1945.
(photo courtesy of Raul B. Ilogon)

“The enemy resisted the fight, but at 11:00 of the same day, the 1st Battalion of the108th Regiment under Capt Andres Bacal, captured the strip at Patag and the enemy was reported to have withdrawn to Carmen Hills. In the afternoon of the same day, the 120th Infantry Regiment was able to cross Iponan River as planned.”

Planes Strafe

The St. Augustine Cathedral and Bishop’s Residence were bombed by American planes during the May 9-12, 1945 battle to liberate Cagayan (Jesuit Archives)

“Fighting continued at the Iponan River from early morning of 10 May 1945 till 10:00 AM. At 2:00 PM of the same day, the entire 120th Infantry Regiment was  moved out West of Iponan River, per instruction of higher headquarters, leaving the three battalions of the 109th Inf Regt across the river without support from the left rear of the enemy. CO of the 109th Inf Regt was odered to pull out his troops west of Iponan River and fighting continued.”

“At the same date, at about 7:30 in the morning, American troops landed between Cagayan and Bugo. Planes were seen flying low strafing Patag strip. Instruction was received that the plans of the troops clearing the areas west of the Cagayan River still stood. So the CO, 109th Inf Regt was directed to move out immediately with Kauswagan and Carmen as the objectives. Fighting continued and at noon of 11 May 1945, our troops occupied Kauswagan and Carmen. The 111th Inf Regt met them in Carmen the same day.”

Casualty of War. The residence of Pastor Ilogon took a direct hit from a bomb dropped by US planes on May 10, 1945, the second day of the Battle for the Liberation of Cagayan. (Ilogon Family Archives)

“The Japanese numbered 300 at the west bank of the Cagayan River, stationed at Balulang, Carmen Hill, Carmen, Patag, Bulua, and Iponan. 200 of them immediately moved east of Cagayan River. They withdrew passing Balulang, Indahag, Kili-og, Libona and proceeding to Santa Fe.”

“On 11 May 1945, the 109th Inf Regt was ordered to push toward west side of Cagayan road. Route of approach was made at three points: 2nd Battalion from beach to highway, 3rd Battalion and Combat Co. in National Highway, and 1st Battalion from highway to Patag.”

“Movements started at 8:00 AM and with initial point at Iponan River. At 10:00 AM, the entire Regt was at its objective  – Cagayan River. The while west side of the Cagayan River bank was occupied by this Regt without opposition.”

Cagayan Occupied

The Ateneo de Cagayan administration building after the Battle for the Liberation of Cagayan on May 9-12, 1945 (XU Alumni Office)

“On 12 May 1945, this regiment was ordered to occupy Cagayan and at 9:00 in the morning of the same date, the109th Infantry Regiment (US Army) crossed Cagayan River in three points, namely: 2nd Battalion at Julao-Julao (present day Consolacion), 3rd Battalion at Jap wooden bridge(connecting Lirio St., Carmen to Yacapin street)), and the 1st Battalion at steel bridge (present day Ysalina Bridge at Carmen).”

“The whole town was occupied at 9:30 AM on 12 May 1945.”

Lucas Hall Ateneo de Cagayan May 1945

“All ground defenses were established. The defenses were as follows: 2nd Battalion from Macabalan to Old Provincial Building to Ateneo; and the 1st Battalion with the Combat Co Attached from Ateneo to Macasandig to east bank of Cagayan River.”

“Strongholds were made at Camaman-an and at Macasandig for a possible route of Jap counterattack. Mopping operation was ordered and after the search, Cagayan was declared clear from enemy occupants.”

“The mission as stated in the first paragraph was completed successfully. The enemy casualties were undetermined, while on our side, one Cpl Bonifacio Jabonan was wounded. “


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