The 8th of September 2020 came and went with nary a fanfare, perhaps adding to further proof that the Second World War is now all but forgotten in the minds of most Filipinos.
However, that date should be remembered by Filipinos in Mindanao because it marked the 75th Anniversary of the official end of hostilities on the island between the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and the Allied Forces.
Three quarters of a century earlier on 08 September 1945 the Japanese 35th Army signed the terms of unconditional surrender at Camp Impalambong, Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
Signing on behalf of the Imperial Japanese Army was Lieutenant General Gyokasu Morozumi, acting commanding general of the IJA 35th Army and commanding general of the 30th Panther (Leopard, in other reports) Division.
Signing on behalf of the Allied Forces was Brig. Gen. Joseph C. Hutchinson, commanding general of the 31st Infantry Division (AUS).
Under the terms of the unconditional surrender, Morozumi surrendered all the officers and men, arms, military equipment, records and supplies under his command to Hutchinson in his capacity as commanding general, 31st Infantry Division (AUS).
The terms further stipulated that Morozumi would use all means in his possession to secure as early as possible the assembly of all troops under his command within the Reception Centers established by the US Army, and take action under Hutchinson’s direction to liaison with units and individuals who had not yet surrendered at that point.
Not the least, Morozumi committed to report all known locations of explosives and mines, both land and water, whose presence constitute a hazard to life and property.
It should be noted that the surrender of Japanese troops in Mindanao came five days after the official surrender of Japanese forces in the Philippines on 03 September 1945 and six days after the official Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. Like the USAFFE surrender in Mindanao on 10 May 1942, the delay was due to the time it took for the official orders to trickle down the south from Manila.
Photos provided to the December 2002, Vol. 8 No. 12 issue of The History Crier, a publication of IndianaMilitary.org, by Mrs. Marion Hess, (widow of Fredrick W. Hess, Jr.) in her capacity as President of the 124th Infantry Regiment Association, provide some interesting sidelights to the surrender ceremony.
The 124th Regiment was one of the three organic infantry regiments of the 31st Division, along with the 155th and 167th. The unit saw intense fighting on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines in 1945, especially in the Battle of Colgan Woods, named after Father Thomas Colgan, the Regimental Chaplain, who was killed in action while assisting wounded.
Lacking artillery support and facing an entrenched opponent, the 124th advanced for six days. The unit survived two banzai charges and inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. In the fighting, the 124th suffered 69 killed and 177 wounded. The regiment was inactivated 16 December 1945 at Camp Stoneman, California.
The surrender rites were held in a makeshift thatched roof building at Camp Impalambong in Malaybalay, which is now Camp Osito D. Bahian, headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 403rd “Peacemaker” Brigade.
According to the notes scribbled on the photo of the signing, Morozumi had an interpreter at his side to ostensibly explain to him the terms of the surrender (the surrender document was written in both English and Japanese characters) and also assure both documents were correct in form and substance.
On the other hand, while Hutchison looks like he has his entire staff and officers witnessing the signing behind him, while Morozumi only had his interpreter beside him.
Another photo shows Morozumi escorted by Col. Hal Hardenbergh between the ranks of the 31st Headquarters, Special Troops after the signing. The caption said Hardenbergh hand-picked the troops so that all were 6 feet tall or taller so they would tower over the Japanese general!
Hutchison was one of the few brigadier generals in the National Guard serving in the South Pacific War Theatre. His 21 months in combat ended Sept. 8, 1945, when he accepted the surrender of the Japanese 35th Army at Mindanao, in the Philippine Islands. His World War II military honors include the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. He retired as a lieutenant general in the National Guard in 1952.
On the other hand, Morozumi was a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and served with the IJA 58th Infantry Regiment during the tail end of the Russo-Japanese War. He later served as battalion commander IJA 59th Infantry Regiment, IJA 1st Infantry Regiment, IJA 29th Infantry Regiment and IJA 65th Infantry Regiments and as commander of the Hongo Regimental District.
The IJA 65th Fukushima Regiment was one of the units at the Battle of Nanking in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War and was accused of the massacre of prisoners of war following the battle’s end.
Morozumi was promoted to major general and assigned to the IJA 39th Division, which was still engaged in operations on the Chinese mainland, including the Battle of Zaoyang–Yichang and the Central Hubei Operation. In 1943, he became commander of the IJA 5th Depot Division
In March 1944, Morozumi was promoted to lieutenant general and was given command of the IJA 30th Division, a garrison force based in Korea. However, in November of the same year, the IJA 30th Division was ordered to the Philippines and Morozumi was based at Surigao in northeastern Mindanao under the overall command of the IJA 35th Army.
After General Sosaku Suzuki, commander of the IJA 35th Army transferred to Leyte to coordinate defenses against the invading Allies in the Battle of Leyte, Morozumi was left in command with the defenses of the island of Mindanao, which soon came under attack by the American 24th, 31st, and 40th Infantry Divisions and the Philippine Commonwealth military including local resistance fighters. Most of his division was fed into the defense of Leyte in October to November 1944.
By April 1945, his forces were split and isolated. Morozumi was officially confirmed as commander of the IJA 35th Army after Suzuki was killed in battle on April 19th. However, in practice, Morozumi largely ignored his appointment, knowing that communications were too poor to permit any real supervision of the other elements under his nominal command. He was forced to surrender Mindanao by the war’s end.
The 31st Infantry Division (“Dixie”) was an infantry division of the United States Army National Guard, active almost continuously from 1917 to 1968.
Organized in 1917 during World War I from the national guardsmen of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, the division deployed to France in September 1918, arriving weeks before the Armistice of 11 November that ended the war. In France, it was reduced to a cadre and most of its troops used to provide replacements for units already in France. It returned to the United States in December and was demobilized in January 1919.
The 31st was reorganized in 1923 with national guardsmen from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It was mobilized in 1940 during World War II, and spent several years training in the United States. In 1944 it was sent to the South-West Pacific Area, fighting in the New Guinea campaign and in the Battle of Mindanao.
On 22 April 1945, the 31st Infantry Division landed on Mindanao to take part in the liberation of the Philippines, along with units of the 24th and later 40th Divisions. Moving up the Sayre Highway and driving down the Kibawe-Talomo trail, fighting in knee-deep mud and through torrential rains, the 31st with the help of Filipino guerrillas forced the enemy to withdraw into the interior and blocked off other Japanese in the Davao area. After the end of the war the division was demobilized in December 1945.
1. Surrender photos from The History Crier, December 2002, Vol. 8 no. 12, a publication of the IndianaMilitary.org, a privately owned and funded organization dedicated
to the preservation of Indiana Military History. West, James D., Editor
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- 15. Gary Taylor of The Sentinel Staff, The Orlando Sentinel