A young guerrilla’s eyewitness account

Defending Dipolog April 1945

The Battle of Dipolog is an interesting study of World War II in the Pacific Theatre, because not only was it a small scale showcase of the American armed forces joint operation tactics to retake its Philippine territories from the Imperial Japanese Army, featuring close coordination not only between the US Army, Navy and Marines but even more strategic, how the intelligence on the ground and support from local Filipino-American guerrillas contributed to the eventual victory.

Although founded earlier by Spanish missionaries, Dipolog was only separated from the Segundo Distrito de Misamis in 1903 as part of the  Dapitan District of the Provincia Mora (which later became Zamboanga), and became a barrio of Dapitan a year later.

In 1912, John J. Pershing, Governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, granted the petition to reorganize Dipolog into a municipality and it was formally inaugurated as a municipality on July 1, 1913.

In 1942,  the Seat of the Provincial Government was transferred from Zamboanga City to Dipolog by Acting-Governor Felipe B. Azcuna, making it the cabacera de facto.

Dipolog Airfield

Dipolog rose to prominence in the Victor IV Operations to retake Mindanao due to the complementary, albeit significant role it played in the ensuing Battle for Zamboanga and the Sulu Archipelago, because of the strategic location of its airfield.

Two C-47 (Douglas R4D Skytrain), on the tarmac of Dipolog field in 1945 as its squadron of fighter bombers were away for  bombing and air support missions. (US Dept of Defense)

Built in 1937 with a single 500 meter runway surfaced with macadam at the instance of Gov. Matias Castillon Ranillo, it was located near the Philippine Constabulary Camp, now Camp Hamac in Sicayab.

In 1942, it was occupied by the Japanese until 1945. Gov. Ranillo was appointed by Col. Wendell W. Fertig as provincial military governor and Filipino guerrillas seized control by late 1944.

Prelude to Zamboanga

By 1945, bands of Filipino guerrillas had seized control of key areas in Mindanao. They controlled over half a dozen airstrips where Army transport aircraft, escorted by Marine F4U Corsairs, often landed with necessary supplies.

One of these was the Dipolog airfield. Not far from the town, in a clearing right next to the water’s edge (Sulu Sea), lay a narrow grass-surfaced airstrip with importance out of proportion to the relatively small facility it afforded.

Col. Lyle H. Meyer, center, CO Marine Aircraft Group-24, with Lt Gen Robert L. Eichelberger, left, CG, Eighth Army, and Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert, X Corps Commander.

Eight Army Commander Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger and his staff had noted the airfield at Dipolog in planning VICTOR IV Operations and were counting on it as a base from which to stage a MAG-12 fighter squadron to cover landings and subsequent assault operations in the vicinity of Zamboanga town.

It seemed necessary to ensure friendly control of Dipolog, at least until the bigger San Roque Airfield in Zamboanga could be s seized and readied for aircraft operations.

Allied Air Forces planes taking supplies to 10th Military District (Mindanao Guerrillas) under Col. Wendell W. Fertig’s guerrillas had been using the field since late 1944; the field had also been the site of many emergency landings by American aircraft.

(For a firsthand look at the Dipolog Airfield “Rescue Station” here’s archival film footage from the 1945 Army Air Force Weekly Digest #69 Philippine Operations, 1945 72572 you can view by clicking here go to 00.10.21:20-00.13.12:14 Rescue Station)

Col. Wendel W. Fertig (4th from left) was the recognized overall guerrilla commander in Mindanao by General Douglas MacArthur. (NARA)

Many times during January and February, Marine pilots from Leyte and Samar had landed at the airstrip on supply missions, or simply seeking haven for their planes when weathered away from their bases.

But because of increasing pressure from Japanese forces in the area, the guerrillas were finding it increasingly difficult to hold Dipolog.

A week before the first Army landing, two US Marine officers with six enlisted men were inserted behind Japanese lines and taken to the guerrilla held airstrip near the town of Dipolog. Captured at the airfield were a Japanese L2D Tabby and a G4M3 Betty Bomber.

The Thirteenth Air Force therefore decided to send a squadron from Marine Air Group 12 to Dipolog to supplement the air support that could be provided from other available bases.

To strengthen the guerrilla garrison at Dipolog during the critical support period, two reinforced companies of the 21st Infantry Brigade , 24th Infantry Division, were brought in by air to Dipolog Field on 08 March to provide additional protection for 16 F4U Corsairs of Marine Air Group 12 on 08 March (two days before Zamboanga’s J-Day) and then to provide blocking forces in the north for the invasion force that landed on Zamboanga on 10 March.

The fabulous Vought F4U Corsair, the Marines’ aircraft of choice in the Pacific War, gave Leatherneck pilots a victorious edge over their Japanese opponents. As a versatile fighter-bomber, it could carry bombs to 1,000 pounds (as shown here) and provided both close and long-range air support. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) A412617

This was but one example in the campaign of ground forces directly supporting the air domain. From there, the Marines could cover a larger landing on Zamboanga on 10 March with the 162nd and 163rd Infantry of the 41st Infantry Division. 

On the same day (08 March) naval bombardment units began a pre-assault pounding of the beaches at the other end of the peninsula, near the town of Zamboanga. Combat air patrol for the bombardment units was furnished by Marine planes temporarily stationed at Dipolog.

Within the next two days, 16 planes from MAG-12 had been flown to the little airstrip, and as the task force approached its objective from Mindoro, these planes flew cover over the convoy, and later covered the landing of the 41st Sunset Division at Zamboanga on D-Day, March 10, 1945. It was used by USMC Marine Air Groups 12 and 32 during March 1945 to support operations in southern Mindanao and as an emergency airfield.

MAG-12 Corsairs taking off from Dipolog made support strikes in the San Roque-Pasonaca area in Zamboanga on March 12-14. Dipolog based planes had also flown daily patrol missions over the beach area during this period.

Unsung heroes of the air war were the ground crews, who ensured that each squadron would have a high operational rate of its aircraft. (Capt Elton A. Barnum Collection)

Dipolog Airfield was occupied by minimum personnel necessary to stage one fighter squadron from 08 March through 22. A temporary flight control center was also set up there from 06 March until such time as the fighter control center could be established at Zamboanga.

By March 15, American forces were able to operationalize the San Roque Airfield (renamed Moret Field) with Marine units VMF-114, followed in the next three days by flight echelons of VMF-211, VMF-218 and VMF-313 (all from MAG-12) from Tanauan Field, Leyte and commenced operations. Nine days later, MAG-32s SBD’s patrol dive bombers arrived from Luzon.

Counterattack

But the Japanese were not about to give up Dipolog Airfield without a fight given its’ strategic role in providing air cover to the Zamboanga and Sulu operations, and protecting the logistics lifeline from the Visayas.

About 150 Japanese troops armed with two knee mortars, a light machine gun, two automatic rifles, and over a hundred rifles, had advanced within 16 kilometers of Dipolog on March 27.

These were well-seasoned troops that had been moved into the area from Zamboanga about five weeks earlier. Over 500 Filipino guerrillas who opposed the Japanese forces “were evidently keenly interested in avoiding a fight with the Japs.” Major Donald Wills felt that an air strike might boost their morale and damage the enemy at the same time.

There were no maps or photographs of any kind available, no method of marking targets, and no means of communication with the troops – all these factors combined to make control of the strike by normal means impossible. But ingenuity found a way.

Air Ground Coordination-2dLt W. C. Olsen & 1stLt W. S. Sharpe demonstrate the method used to carry Major D. H. Wills, AUS, leader of Dipolog guerilla forces, as he directed Marine Corsairs against jungle-hidden enemy positions.

Into the cockpit of a Marine Corsair climbed Major Wills, who was thoroughly familiar with the enemy positions; after him climbed the smallest of the Marine pilots in the division, First Lieutenant Winfield S. Sharpe.

Both men squeezed into the cockpit, with Sharpe sitting on Major Wills’ lap. Soon afterward, with the major pointing out targets to the pilot, the Corsair led the four plane division in six strafing passes over the enemy’s positions\

The planes used all ammunition with which they had been loaded; the enemy area was thoroughly strafed; compelling the Japanese to withdraw 3-5 kilometers.

Cpl. Ilogon’s Final Mission

At this point, we are fortunate to have access to a first-hand account of the final phase of this battle by a young guerrilla who was dispatched with the 108th Expeditionary Company in early 1945 to reinforce the guerrilla forces defending Dipolog Airfield early April, 1945.

Corporal Jesus B. Ilogon, who just turned 20, was just recovering from a minor operation at the 108th Division Regimental Hospital at Talacogon, Alubijid in Misamis Oriental, when he was summoned by his commanding officer, Capt. Gil Sumpio to join the 108th Expeditionary Company to Dipolog.

Corporal Jesus “Jake” B. Ilogon in his younger years (Ilogon Family Archives)

“My immediate reaction was to refuse him,” Ilogon wrote in his unpublished manuscript, “Memoirs of the Guerrillas: The Barefoot Army”. “I was enjoying my life in Iligan as a teen-ager. I had several new Iliganon friends, both guerrillas and civilians. Iligan was very lively compared to what we had undergone in the mountains. I wanted to continue my four months of glorious, carefree life. I found the courage to tell him ‘No’. So far, my tale was about being alive in 1942-1945, being young and have my share of war.”

But Capt. Sumpio would not take no for an answer and told him, “an order is an order.”

According to Ilogon, the 108th Expeditionary Company was a composite unit. The enlisted men came from various companies of the 120th Regiment and the officers from the 108th Regiment. Both were part of the 108th Division.

“I met my old friends like Private Dominador Rosal from Laguindingan, and First Sergeant Raymundo Diaz from Initao, a classmate from Misamis Oriental Provincial High School. We were to reinforce the 105th Regiment guerrilla force under Major Marcelo Bonilla at Dipolog, Zamboanga. We were given more ammunition. I was lucky to be issued a pair of leather army shoes, my first shoes in two and a half years. The others were still barefoot and we wore the same ragged clothes.”

This operation was undertaken to prevent the enemy from pushing into Dipolog. The 108th Expeditionary Battalion with a strength of five officers and 78 men aided the 107th Infantry Regiment, 105th Division, and the Headquarters Company Service Troops of the 105th Division.

The 108th Division Expeditionary Battalion left Iligan on an LCI No. 361, on 06 April 1945 arriving at Katipunan, Zamboanga on 07 April, 1945.

Filipino guerrillas unload rice from LCI (L)-361 at Gingoog, Misamis Oriental on 20 May 1945. This is the same boat ridden by Cpl. Jake Ilogon from Iligan to Katipunan, Zamboanga on April 9, 1945. (NARA 80G259554)

“The people of Iligan were at the pier to send us off. The 108th Division marching band played martial music. The American sailors were shocked to see a different kind of army-no shoes, no uniform, no helmet,” Ilogon noted.

“The guerrillas who were mostly farmers and barrio boys were excited because it was their first experience to ride a boat across the sea and there were many interesting things in the ship, like toilet paper, water flushing in a toilet bowl, water shower, and soap, among other things. Things my friends from the barrios never though existed.”

“The sailors were dumbfounded to see guerrillas unrolling very long toilet paper for no purpose, washing their hands in the toilet bowls, and smelling the sweet fragrance of the soap.”

“The guerrillas could not understand the frantic mutterings and gestures of the sailors, as if the guerrillas wanted to tell the sailors to mind their own business.”

When they arrived in Katipunan, the town next to Dipolog, the whole town turned out to greet the first American ship to arrive there since the war started but were startled to see a ragged group of guerrillas instead of American soldiers disembarks from the boat.

The Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) – LCI(L)was a large beaching craft intended to transport and deliver fighting troops, typically a company of infantry or marines, to a hostile beach. Photo shows two later variants of the LCI (L)s with the round conning tower and bow and side ramps. (US Navy)

“We were also shocked to see the front wall of the ship open and disembarked us on the beach instead of a wharf! Surprises all around. We were ordered to follow a dirt trail until we reached our assigned position.”

On 08 April 1945, instructions were received from Major Donald Wills and Maj Marcelo Bonilla who were then in charge of the operation. Maj Wills showed them the map of the Japanese occupied area.

On 09 April 1945, the Expeditionary Battalion left with Maj. Bonilla and Lt. Lubaton, S-3, passing his Advance Command Post for Dinoman Valley. The troops then bivouacked at the school building and established security. The enemy could be seen at the nearby hill.

Attack Carefully Planned

The morning of 10 April 1945, the troops succeeded in getting through the Jap’s first line of defense which our troops occupied in turn. This location was about 300 yards from between the hills. Security was again established and maintained.

At noon of 11 April 1945, Lt. Alviola of the 107th Infantry, with his .50-cal. Machine gun arrived. He then supported the advance to Barren Hill supposed to be the second line of defense of the Japs.

“In skirmish formation we rushed nearer the Japanese positions,” Ilogon recalled. “The Japanese in their foxholes were still full of fight.”

His unit was flanked  by the 105th Regiment (guerrilla) on the other side of the hill in slit trenches. The first platoon under Lt. Bartolome Canoy of Maigo, Lanao to their left, and the 3rd Platoon under Lt. Antonio Picardal of Linamon, Lanao to their right.

The 2nd Platoon, under a former Philippine Constabulary noncom was between the first and 3rd Platoon.

The fight lasted for about one and a half hours. The area was taken and line maintained until 13 April, 1945.

Ilogon was apprehensive since they were facing veteran Japanese jungle fighters who had conquered Asia and the Southwest Pacific.

Air Marines

On 14 April 1945, nine US planes bombed and strafed the enemy. Assaults were then made at the Bushy Hill nearby, where Japs established their line of defense. This assault should have been successful had the Combat Company of Maj. Bonilla which was supposed to be the reserve company appeared.

The men did succeed in reaching the top of the hill, but were stopped there and withdraw shortly thereafter. This troop had to withdraw due to the superiority of fire from the enemy.  One Pvt Calisagan of the Expeditionary Battalion was killed in the morning of 15 April 1945 by a sniper who was able to follow the withdrawal.

On 16 April 1945, the force moved back to Dinoman and waited for orders from Maj Wills and Maj Bonilla. A patrol was sent to contact them. On 17 April 1945, S-2 (Regiments Intelligence Section-107th Regmt) reported that the enemy moved to Dohinob Diet. Lt. Caballero with four enlisted men was sent out to verify the report.  They came back with a report that the Japs were actually occupying the place. Six planes bombed and strafed the Japanese occupied area.

After breakfast on 18 April 1945, the troops left for Japono to contact the enemy, but were late. The enemy was followed but the Jap move was too fast for them.

On the evening of April 23, 1945, Ilogon was ordered to lay out three white 2×20 foot reflectorized sheets fifty meters in front of each platoon to direct US planes towards the enemy.

Cpl. Jake Ilogon witnessed a strafing run by 3 P-38 Lightnings during the battle to defend Dipolog Airstrip on 24 April 1945. (USAF)

“At 8AM in the morning of April 24, 1945 three P-38 Lightnings (called double-body by the locals) made a shallow dive and strafed the Japanese in three passes. The plane barrage was a grim show from our grandstand ridge.”

As he ran towards the three platoons to monitor their movements for the jump-off, Ilogon noted his fellow guerrillas had the “bright glint of fear in their eyes.”

“Faces were tense, lips moving in silent prayer. They were now engaged in a war very different from the guerrilla where they were in an ambush position waiting for the enemy to appear. They care about staying alive and making sense of what was happening immediately around them. For many, especially the civilian volunteers, it was their first taste of what a real battle was and thus obviously an unforgettable experience.”

Ilogon survived the skirmish unscathed and lived to write his memoirs 56 years later in the US while visiting his children.

Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon in his later years. (Ilogon Family Archives)
Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon Special Orders relieving him from active duty dated
12 December 1945

In the assessment of the 10th Military District written in its History of the Mindanao Guerrilla: “The operation in Dipolog was a success. The enemy was not able to proceed to the town proper, thus was unable to occupy the airstrip, two kilometers north of the town. The combined troops of the 107th Infantry Regiment, 10th Headquarters Company Service Troops, and the 108th Expeditionary Battalion, not only proved good fighters, but also proved to be disciplined soldiers.”

Ilogon’s memories of his final mission were no less succinct: “On May 1, 1945, we were ordered back to Iligan via Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental, leaving one dead and four wounded confined at the Dipolog Army Hospital. This long after, I can still remember every day of those twenty days and nights as clearly as though they were days and nights last week.”

Memoirs of the Guerrillas – The Barefoot Army details Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon’s personal experience as a guerrilla fighter during World War II (Ilogon  Family Archives)

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References:

1.      Ilogon, Jesus B., Memoirs of the Guerrillas: The Barefoot Solder (Unpublished Manuscript)

2.      History of the Mindanao Guerrillas,10th Military District, United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USFIP)

3.      Eichelberger, Robert L., AUS, 8thReport of the Commanding General Eight Army on the Mindanao Operation (Victor V)

4.      Schmidt, Larry S., Major USMC, American Involvement in the Filipino Resistance Movement on Mindanao during the Japanese Occupation, 1942-1945. The John                  Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, 1970, page 233

5.      Rein, Christopher M., Multi-Domain Battle in the Southwest Pacific Theatre of World War II., Combat Institute Pres, US Army Combined Arms Center, Fort                              Leavenworth, KS, 2017,  page 160

6.      Boggs, Jr. Charles W., Major, USMC, Marine Aviation in the Philippines, Historical Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps

7.      Chapin, John C., Captain, USMC  Reserve (Ret)…And a Few Marines: Marines in the Liberation of the Philippines, 2002

8.      US Army in World War II – The War in the Pacific Volume 12, page 591

9.      History of the X Corps on Mindanao 17 April 1945-30 June 1945

10.   Smith, Robert Ross Triumph in the Philippines-US Army Center of Military History, United States Army in World War II, The War in the Pacific, 1993

11.   Report on Close Support Aviation, MAG-24, Lt. Col. Keith B. McCutcheon, 12)

12.   History of Dipolog City

13.   Dipolog Airfield, Pacific Wrecks

14.    1945 Army Air Force Weekly Digest #69 Philippine Operations 1945 72572

Cagayan de Oro’s Square Garden

70th Adlaw Kagay-an Feature

Did you know our pre-Spanish Kagay-anon ancestors once had their own version of the famous Madison Square Garden?

Gaston Park was known as the Parque before World War II. (Kagay-an Kaniadto)

Present-day Kagay-anons will be proud of the fact that they share a common bond with their 15th century forefathers-they all have, at one time or another, taken a stroll along our local square.

Our square was once one of these things: an arena similar to Blasco Ibañez’s Blood and Sand epic, a baseball park, a military camp, a place of Catholic worship, a battlefield, and a dreaded execution site.

An old illustration of the first palisade which preceded the Fuerza Real de San Jose.

It is now a lover’s lane, a place for evening meditation, a jogger’s delight, and a place where a royal prince fell in love with a Moro princess-thus giving the town its name, Cagayan.

If a tape recorder were available during these different eras, we would be able to hear the different events that transpired at the Square. The “hisses”, the “boos”, the thunderous ovations, the sobs, the laughter, the “vivas!”, the groans of deep pain, the religious hymns. What a delight it would have been to be able to “hear” history in the making!

1734 map of the Fuerza Real de San Jose fortification that defended the first Cagayan settlement. (CDO Museum)

During the pre-Spanish era, the Square was a fortified place where the royal family of Cagayan lived. It was here where the Higaonon chieftain, Bagani, and the Maranaw princess, Bai Lawanen, met and fell in love at first sight. The legend dwells on the shame the loving pair brought on their tribes-a shame, locally translated as kagayha-anVoila! The settlement finally had a name!

Then the Spaniards came. As usual, the fair-skinned colonizers started bastardizing the local names of places. Finding Kagayha-an a tongue-twister, the kastilaloys chose the sexy-sounding Cagayan. The name has stuck to this day.

Cagayan Waterworks Water Tank (CDO Museum)

Now when you think Spanish, you usually think matador. The Spaniards, naturally, influenced our fashion, manners, our religious beliefs, our culture, and our hobbies.

The most popular sport during that era was the Juego de Toro. Not the toro-toro some present Pinoys enjoy but the real thing! A bullfight during those days drew in the crowds from far and wide. The Square was the arena.

Bullfights used to be held in what used is now Gaston Park. La suerte de la capa by Lake Price.
[Between 1860-1870]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

A local, Bernardino Daang, was acclaimed the best Pinoy matador. He was said to be agile in his movements, swift in his passes. What a glorious sight the Square was then! Oles! and Bravos! literally filled the air.

During our first encounter with the American forces, the fight for freedom saw Filipino bolos and spears matching the American rifles. The Pinoys lost the fight but the gallant defenders won the respect of the enemy. The Square witnessed the clash of weapons and the cries of the dying.

Public executions by hanging also used to be held at Gaston Park. (philippineamericanwar.com)

There were no gas chambers or “hot seat” during the early American occupation. Criminals, mostly bandits, were executed by public hanging. The Square saw hundreds die. The crowd-drawer was the execution of the notorious Balodong, the outlaw. His life and exploits were as savage as America’s infamous Dillinger.

Just before World War I (i.e., 1914-1918), the Square became the local aficionados’ diamond – much like the World Series playing field. Winning teams included: Smith Bell, Constabulary, Government Employees, Central and High School. They played real baseball then, not kid stuff. A familiar sight during such games was the famous “Cracker Jack”, a junk food similar to the present-day popcorn.

Filipino girls playing baseball in the early 1900s. Americans introduced baseball to the Philippines.

Kagay-anon volunteers for overseas duty -the National Guard- trained at the Square during World War I, prior to their assignment to the Middle East. The 1918 Epidemic of influenza claimed a heavy toll among the volunteers. Nevertheless, the survivors were able to embark on the USS Liscom with their American officers for Camp Claudio at Baclaran.

During the pre-war years, on the evening of the Feast of Corpus Christi, altars were built around the Square. Believers visited each altar with deep reverence. Hymn-singing devotees were a common sight during these festivities.

Ca. 1960s photo of Gaston Park taken from St Augustine Cathedral belfry by the late Tony Malferrari. (Photo from Jesuit Archives, Manila)

Before the Second World War, the Square was transformed into an aesthetically landscaped park. It served as the town’s playground. The estate belonged to the provincial government, but after the war, it was deeded to the municipal government.

Now, the Square- locally known as Gaston Park- stands proudly as a mute witness to Cagayan de Oro’s colorful past and glorious heritage. Lover’s lane, jogger’s delight, snatcher’s paradise, or haven for the homeless… Gaston Park may be all these today but what park isn’t? Gaston Park may have lost its past glamour just as the once-famous Luneta has, but both landmarks have HISTORY written all over them. Well can other parks beat that?

Cagayan Waterworks Water Tower under consruction in 1921 (CDO Museum)

(A modern adaptation of an article by Dr. Blas Ch. Velez published in the 32nd Charter Day anniversary souvenir program of Cagayan de Oro City. Dr. Velez, a doctor of medicine (UST 1937) and a WWII veteran, was a man of many talents. He was the past president of the Misamis Oriental Medical Society,  Misamis Oriental High School Alumni Association, UST Medical Association, Cagayan de Oro Cultural and Historical Society and Apovel Enterprise, Inc. 

A barangay captain and member of the Cagayan de Oro Rotary Club, the late doctor was a former municipal and city councilor of Cagayan de Oro before and after WWII. A 4th degree Knight of Columbus, he was a professor in legal medicine at the Xavier University College of Law).

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The Forgotten Fruit Trees of Cagayan de Misamis

Himugso Heritage Feature

Along with the old houses, street names and landmarks which have become a part of the heritage of Cagayan de Oro, are some trees and their fruits which seem to have inexplicably disappeared over time.

Two trees which have figured prominently in the culture and heritage of Cagayan de Oro are the Lambago and Kayam.

Lambago blossom

“Our place was once known as Kalambagohan because of the abundance of lambago,” Roy Gaane, president and founder of Kagayanon International, recalls.  The Lambago tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus) is a member of the Malvaceae tree family that thrives in low altitude areas like seashores, riverbanks and other areas reached by tidal streams.

Long-time resident Titus Velez reminisces how the lambago produced a yellow flower with some red stripes. As the day came and went, the flowers deepened to orange and then to red before falling off. The branches of the tree would bend over time and the wood has been used for boats, firewood, wood carvings and many other uses. It has also been used by Hawaiian Polynesians to make rope.

“They serve as anti-erosion sa mga riverbanks, trapping silt during the seasonal floods of the Cagayan River,” Velez said. “We use to climb this tree from on tree to another. Kasi almost interlocking ang mga branches. The branches are also very flexible and strong even the small ones. We also use the branches as an improvised diving board. During summer we would enjoy its shade.”

“Under the tree we would cook banana with ginamos and a bottle of coke. We could sleep in the branches while bringing the old transistor radio (the ones with Nora Aunor’s face on the dial), while listening to dramas from DYHP. We also fly out kites there, well actually on a small clearing besides the trees,” he added.

“Those were the days. The last lambago I saw was along Iponan river but it’s not there anymore. I’m not sure if there are still lambago if we go upstream. I think it is a victim of rapid urbanization.”

On the other hand, the Kayam was better known to elder Kagay-anons for its nut which was a popular delicacy during their childhood days in the city.

Kayam Nut

“I remember that my mother had a suki who would deliver cooked or boiled kayam to the house,” wrote Wendy Ramos-Garcia in her reminisces entitled Memories of the Old Hometown. “I haven’t seen kayam for a long, long time now.”

“It tastes like castañas (chestnuts) except it is bigger,” Gaane said. “ You can look it up in Google under the name of Tahitian Chestnut or Polynesian Chestnut.”

The tree was even linked in popular culture to one of the city’s barangays.

“When I was still in grade school, there were kayam trees in Consolacion, then known as the red light district of Cagayan,” Gaane said. “When men who patronized the district were asked where they had been, they would say, Nang kayam ‘mi . It became notorious and that was probably why the trees were cut.” 

Gaane also recalls other fruits of his childhood in Cagayan de Oro but which are now hard-to-find.

“There was the alubijid tree once found by the side of the Provincial Capitol,” he said. “Its fruit is evergreen and its seed is hairy like that of the siniguelas except that the alubijid is round and big as a tennis ball.  It probably can still be found in the town of Alubijid. It’s crunchy like an apple, green, with hairy kernel. Just like the pangi fruit which was once found in Barangay Tagpangi.  It must still be there,” he added.

A clump of cherries (also known as cereales elsewhere) at Searsolin, Upper Balulang (photo by Mike Baños)

Gaane also recalls a fruit better known as the cherry which was brownish and about the size of lanzones. “There used to be a tree at the Kempski compound that later became Rizal Theatre.  Being a family friend, I used to get my cherries there.”

When he was a grade schooler in Ateneo de Cagayan (now better known as Xavier University), Gaane said he was a patron of the cherries which used to be sold by the Neri’s who had a property right next to the old gymnasium.   

“I remember that cherry tree which belonged to the family of Luisito Neri,” Ramos-Garcia said. “It was delicious but the tree was full of thorns.”

Jazmin Ramos-Sumalinog, eldest daughter of former Pilgrim Institute High School Principal Severino Ramos recalls they used to have a cherry tree in their front yard.

Cherries also known as cereales

Didto mi sa taas sa cherry pirmi magsaka to get the dark plum-colored ones.  Daghan gusto mopalit when the fruits look so tempting to passersby,” she said.  “Dante, Bobom, Totic and myself agreed to own part of the tree as our respective branches, so that we get fruits only from our assigned branch. Nakaka miss !”

“The cherry is known as cereales in Davao and serali in the Visayas,” said Sylvia Aguhob, a food tech faculty from Xavier University’s College of Agriculture.  She said many of the trees still line the pathway in the car park of  the now cloistered Southeast Asian Rural Social Leadership Institute (Searsolin) at the Manresa campus of XU.

Songsong Kabaw (photo courtesy of MarketMan)

Another fruit which was once abundant in Carmen in what is now the Golden Village was the songsong kabaw . “When ripe it is red and hairy like the mabolo but you only eat its flesh like the mangosteen,” Gaane recalls. Like the cherry, he said he hasn’t seen one since his high school days.

Building inclusive ‘cashless’ ecosystems critical as gov’t accelerates digital push – PayMaya

Providing a complete and inclusive way for Filipinos to transact with government online through ‘cashless’ ecosystems is critical as the government accelerates its digital push in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, an executive from digital financial services PayMaya said recently. 

“Everything is going online, including government services, but we have to ensure that every Filipino is able to continue transacting with government and receive much-needed aid through cashless ecosystems that are pervasive and at the same time inclusive,” said Orlando B. Vea, Founder and CEO of PayMayaduring the BusinessWorld Insights Forum which discussed digital payments acceptance for LGUs held on Tuesday. 

Vea said this means enabling government to accept a wide range of payment methods, including credit/debit cards and e-Wallets, complemented by a vast and accessible physical payment center experience that can help bridge the gap for the unbanked and the underserved segment of the population. 

This end-to-end payments ecosystem is what PayMaya provides its partners as it brings the full payment suite–from a consumer e-Wallet app, to a host of solutions for government payment acceptance, and more than 30,000 Smart Padala touchpoints able to process digital financial transactions nationwide. 

To date, PayMaya has helped enable more than 50 government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations, as well as local government units in their respective bids to digitize their processes and bring a more efficient and transparent government service to the people. It has also disbursed more than P1.4 billion in financial aid on behalf of its national and local government partners as part of their respective financial aid programs in response to the current COVID-19 crisis.

Just recently, PayMaya signed a partnership with the Bureau of Customs to enable the agency with digital payments acceptance as it prioritizes online transactions for safer and more transparent delivery of services, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs to allow them to accept credit/debit card and e-Wallet payments for passport application and renewal appointments. 

Other government partners of PayMaya include the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Social Security System, PAG-IBIG Fund, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Science and Technology, as well as the Professional Regulation Commission, among many others. 

On the local level, the cities of Caloocan, Las Piñas, Manila, Mandaluyong, Pasig, and Quezon City have also utilized PayMaya to deliver financial aid to senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), solo parents, and scholars, among other constituents in their respective localities. 

The BusinessWorld Insights Forum with the theme “Enabling LGUs in the New Normal through Digital Payments Acceptance” is presented by PayMaya and the USAID E-PESO program, in cooperation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Anti-Red tape Authority, the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, and the Management Association of the Philippines. 

The story of that B-17 that crash landed at Patag in 1941

Come Hell or High Water

Cagayan, Misamis (as Cagayan de Oro in the island of Mindanao, the Philippines, was then known) got its first whiff of World War II when a B-17D bomber crash landed at the Cagayan Airfield (site of the present Patag Golf Course) on 14 December 1941.

Raul Ilogon, whose father Jesus ran away from their home to join the guerrillas at the tender age of 17, tells how the latter used to tell them how he saw the wounded airmen from that B-17 near their house.

Ato and Ilogon families at the ancestral house in Licoan, Cagayan dated May 9, 1940. Jesus B. Ilogon, 16, (rightmost) saw the wounded airmen from Capt. Wheless B-17D. (Ilogon Family Album)

“My father’s family lived in Licoan where the provincial hospital was located nearby. My father said he saw the wounded American airmen on that plane. During daytime they were taken out of the hospital for fear of Japanese bombings and hidden beneath the canopy of century old acacia trees near their house. They were in stretchers and wheelchairs. He saw the look in their eyes that in his young mind was telling him they were going to lose the war.”

What many people didn’t and couldn’t have known then, was that the pilot of that B-17 was going to be feted as a war hero back home in the US, star as himself in a movie that won an Oscar, make a significant contribution to the eventual defeat of Japan, and become a future general of the US Air Force.

‘Shorty’ Wheless

Capt. Hewitt T. Wheless of the US Army saluting the flag. (Photo by Mark Kauffman)
(The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images)

Lieutenant General Hewitt Terrell Wheless was born on 31 October 1913 in Menard Country, Texas, USA.  Growing up as a kid in Menard, Texas his classmates nicknamed him ‘Nun’ because “There was scarcely none of him at all”.

Menard Welcome Sign

 As he grew up, his nickname changed to ‘Shorty’. Even while working as ranch hand in Menard, Wheless was always interested in the military; he graduated in March 1932 from the Gulf Coast Military Academy at Gulfport, Mississippi, in May 1932, and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas from Austin, Texas in 1936. While at the University of Texas, he was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army Infantry Reserve in January 1935.

Wheless wanted to become a pilot, but his friends told him he was too short. They bet him a new pair of cowboy boots that he couldn’t make it. Wheless proved them wrong and won the boots.

He began pilot training as an aviation cadet at Randolph Field (now Randolph Air Force Base, a part of Joint Base San Antonio), Texas, in June 1938, and graduated at Kelly Field (now Kelly Air Reserve Base, a part of Joint Base San Antonio), Texas with his pilot wings.

He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps Reserve in May 1939 and was first assigned as assistant operations officer of the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron at March Field (now March Air Reserve Base), California.

FEAF Unit Dispositions (littlerock.af.mil)

Wheless trained on multi-engine bombers and was eventually assigned to the 19th Bomb Group equipped with the B-17-C Flying Fortress. In October 1941 he was assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group of General Douglas MacArthur’s Far East Air Force (FEAF).

Far East Air Force Order of Battle as of 08 December 1941

The Far East Air Force (FEAF) was the military aviation organization of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE)  just prior to and at the beginning of World War II. Formed on 16 November 1941, FEAF was the predecessor of the Fifth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Air Force.

Japanese planes destroyed half of the Far East Air Force on the ground at Clark Field, south of Manila, Philippines on 08 December 1941. (NARA)

Initially the Far East Air Force also included aircraft and personnel of the Philippine Army Air Corps. Outnumbered operationally more than three-to-one by aircraft of the Japanese Navy and Army, FEAF was largely destroyed during the Philippines Campaign of 1941–42.

South Pacific Air Ferry Routes, 1916-1942 (Pacific Eagles)

The 19th flew the first mass formation bomber movement from the west coast of California to Hawaii, eventually ending their journey at Clark Field in the Philippines. 

The 30th helped make aviation history on the night of 13–14 May 1941 when they took off from March Field to Hickam Field, Hawaii to transfer them to the 11th Bombardment Group there, landing on schedule within 30 minutes of each other and in the order they took off.

As part of the reinforcement effort of the Philippines, the squadron redeployed to Clark Field, Luzon between 16 October and 4 November 1941. The bombers traveling individually and at night on their longest leg, flew a trans-Pacific route from Hickam Field to Midway Island; Wake Island; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, then into Clark Field, a distance of over 10,000 miles, nearly all of it over water.

When Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8th, 1941, the 19th Bomb Group was almost entirely destroyed on the ground. Though lacking airplanes and supplies, the 19th immediately went on the offensive.

When the war broke out, 28-year-old 1st Lt. Shorty Wheless was a Boeing B-17D Flying Fortress pilot with the 19th Bombardment Group, stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines.

Clark Field in 1938 (NARA)

After the Japanese attacked the Philippines on the afternoon of December 8, Wheless and others — along with what was left of the original 17 B-17s at Clark — flew south to Del Monte Field at Tankulan,  Bukidnon on the island of Mindanao two days later.

19th Bombardment Group Unit Dispositions December 1941(littlerock.af.mil)

There, they were some 500 miles out of range of Japanese bombers. On the afternoon of December 14 six of the Fortresses were ordered to attack an enemy invasion force at Legaspi, on the southern tip of Luzon. Wheless’ B-17 was one of the six assigned to the mission.

The Legaspi Mission

A detailed analysis of the action that followed is described in an article was written by Donald J. Young published in the July 2002 issue of Aviation History Magazine:

A 19th Bombardment Group B-17D being loaded with 100 and 500-pound bombs probably at Del Monte Field, Mindanao, Philippines, early in 1942. Note the Fortress is parked in a rough, dirt area and the early M1917 helmet and pre-war uniform worn by one of the ground crew indicating the photo was taken in a combat area in the first few weeks of the war. (Source: USAF Historical Research Agency via B-17 Flying Fortress Units of the Pacific War, Osprey Publishing; First Edition (April 20, 2003) ISBN: 184176481) Photo: US Army Air Force

Although the Legaspi attack would be the biggest single raid against the Japanese to date in the week-old war, bad luck and mechanical difficulties, which had plagued the 19th Bombardment Group from the beginning, continued.

When the lead B-17, piloted by Lieutenant Jim Connally, began its takeoff run, a tire blew out, forcing the big ship off the runway. As the Fortress slid off the field, its right wingtip dipped to the ground and crumpled. Clearly, that was one less plane available for the mission.

The five remaining planes, piloted by Wheless and Lieutenants Lee Coats, Jack Adams, Elliot Vandevanter and Walter Ford, got off safely, the last plane leaving the runway at 12:14 p.m.

Rear Aerial View of Trio of B-17 Bombers Heading To Target (worldwarphotos.info)

About 200 miles out, the group ran into a spot of bad weather. When they broke out of the storm a few minutes later, Wheless was nowhere to be seen. His No. 3 engine had quit, forcing him to drop out.

From that point on, things went from bad to worse. A half-hour out from the target, Ford radioed Coats, who had taken over from Connally, that he was having engine trouble and was returning to Del Monte. At the scheduled rendezvous point, about 35 miles from where the flight was to make its final turn for the target, Coats radioed that his engines were performing so badly that he was unable to make altitude, and was turning back.

That left Vandevanter and Adams to go it alone. Forced to drop down to 18,000 feet because of cloud cover, Adams was the first over the target.

The Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” is a long-range fighter aircraft formerly manufactured by Mitsubishi Aircraft Company, a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945. .The Zero is considered to have been the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world when it was introduced early in World War II, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range. The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) also frequently used it as a land-based fighter.

After releasing his eight 600-pounders at the line of enemy transports sitting off the Legaspi beach, he was jumped by five Mitsubishi A6M Zeros. Although a Japanese carrier was not spotted in the invasion force, one probably was lurking nearby, given how quickly the Zeros appeared.

Adams had two of his engines were knocked out and two of his crew were wounded. Adams’ crew managed to shoot down two of the enemy fighters during the race for the clouds, but the remaining three Zeros were waiting for them when they came out.

At that point, Adams ‘pulled a cute one,’ according to Harry Schrieber, his navigator. ‘He throttled back suddenly and one Zero overshot us to the left, which our side gunner picked off. Another came up under the stabilizer, and our bottom gunner got his second for the day.’

Losing altitude while still battling the last enemy fighter, Adams decided to try for a beach landing on the nearby island of Masbate, just south of Luzon.

Unfortunately, there was no real beach — ‘only jagged rocks with white surf wrapped around them,’ Schrieber recalled.

Desperately looking for a place to land, Adams spotted a rice paddy. ‘Cutting the remaining two motors so we wouldn’t have to climb out of her in flames, he made as nice a belly landing as you could hope for,’ said Schrieber. After a couple of passes over the downed bomber, the lone Zero turned for home.

Vandevanter, in the other B-17, arrived over the target three minutes behind Adams. Fortunately for him, Adams had attracted the attention of all the Zero pilots, so Vandevanter was able to make three uncontested runs over the target before more fighters appeared and chased him into a cloud bank. Vandevanter’s plane escaped without a scratch and returned safely to Del Monte.

Del Monte Landing Field, Bukidnon as of 08 May 1938 (NARA)

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (KJV)

Meanwhile, the engine trouble that had caused Wheless to drop out of formation had been fixed. Although he was far behind the other four B-17s, he chose to continue on to the target, knowing that he would likely be attacking an alerted enemy whose defense might well include fighter planes.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt during one of his Fireside Chats broadcasted on NBC Radio (NBC Universal via Getty Images)

That decision would soon vault his name into virtually every major American newspaper and magazine. The crew’s heroism was cited by no less than US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat (radio address to the nation) on April 28, 1942.

 For the most part, the president’s account was accurate.

Roosevelt: ‘By the time [Wheless] arrived over the target, the other four Flying Fortresses had dropped their bombs and stirred up the hornet’s nest of Japanese Zero planes. Eighteen of these Zero fighters attacked our lone Flying Fortress. Despite this mass attack, our plane proceeded on its mission….’

In fact — although Wheless didn’t find it out until two days after the mission — only the two B-17s had made it to the target ahead of him. Although the number of enemy planes that jumped him was estimated at 18, in reality it was probably closer to 12. While the running battle with the enemy fighters was in progress, Wheless headed straight for the six enemy transports neatly lined up off Legaspi. 

Wheless B-17 was attacked on both sides by no less than a squadron of Japanese Zeros. (courtesy of Beautiful Warbirds)

At 2:25 in the afternoon, Wheless found a break and saw six Japanese transports lined up below him. He gave control of the B-17 to bombardier R.W. Schlotte and told his gunners to keep a look out for enemy fighters.

The plane was committed to the bomb run; they were flying straight and level unable to take evasive action. A gunner called out eighteen enemy fighters, two squadrons, one on the left and one on the right bearing into them.

The bombardier had control of the ship as he lined up the target in the bomb-sight, all Wheless could do was sit still and hope he didn’t get shot down. The bombardier shouted “Bombs away, bomb bay doors closed, kick her in the behind!”

Still from a Japanese propaganda film showing the Kimura Detachment landing at Legaspi

After bombardier released his eight 600-pounders, Wheless’ attention was focused on taking evasive action and giving his gunners a crack at the Japanese fighter pilots.

Wheless went into a sharp turn and desperately looked for cloud cover. He only saw scattered cumulus clouds, not enough to hide a B-17 for very long.

The Essence of Valor

Roosevelt:‘…As it turned back on its homeward journey, a running fight between the bomber and the 18 Japanese pursuit planes continued for 75 miles. Four pursuit planes of the Japs attacked simultaneously at each side. Four were shot down with the side guns. During this fight the bomber’s radio operator was killed, the engineer’s right hand was shot off, and one gunner was crippled, leaving only one man available to operate both side guns. Although wounded in one hand, this gunner alternately manned both side guns, bringing down three more Japanese Zero planes.’

Gunners Russell Brown and William “Pat” Williams each claimed a Zero before being wounded.

As Young noted in his Aviation History story, the early B-17s didn’t have tail guns. Williams battle station was in the “bathtub,” a bulge in the plane’s belly that was equipped with twin .50-cal. machine guns.

Gondola bathtub on a B-17C. Most were later upgraded with twin .50-cal MGs. (ww2aircraft.net forums)

“I was busy firing those guns,” he said. “They were coming from the left and right.”

Williams was one of the four gunners in the plane’s mid-section. The others were two waist gunners firing from each side and the radio operator who shot twin machine guns from the top of the plane.

Williams gun jammed, but being a mechanic, he managed to clear them with a screwdriver.

Then W.G. Killin, the radio operator’s guns jammed and he asked Williams to change places with him and unjam the guns.

“He got into the bathtub,” Williams said, “and instantly his head was blown off.”

 Williams, who was hit by a 20mm shell from one of the enemy planes, had his leg ripped open, knocking him out of the fight.

Brown, whose right hand had been nearly shot off, was unable to operate his gun. The job of firing both waist guns went to Sergeant John Gootee, who though himself wounded in the right wrist, kept firing both guns until helped by the bombardier, Schlotte.

The seven enemy planes claimed by Wheless and the four claimed by Adams in his brief fight may seem hard to believe in light of later WWII statistics.

Remember, however, that this was the first time the Japanese had tangled with a B-17. The Zero pilots were unfamiliar with the Fortress’ firepower and the location of its guns.

On the other hand, the system of authenticating a kill by a witness had not yet been put in place by the U.S. Army Air Forces. Had it been, the count might have been reduced to five or less.

Also, it was apparently not possible for a large number of planes to literally swarm all over a B-17.

Saburo Sakai, China 1939. He was the Imperial Navy’s fourth-ranking ace and Japan’s second leading fighter pilot to survive the war. warbirdsresourcegroup.com

Saburo Sakai, the Japanese ace who shot down Colin Kelly, said: ‘It was impossible for (a large number of Zeros) to make a concerted attack against the bomber, for in the rarified air we could easily over control and collide with each other. Instead, we swung out in a long file, and made our firing passes one after another, each plane making its run alone.’

B-17D clearly showing the bathtub upgraded with twin .50-cal machine guns (ww2aircraft.net.forum )

This was particularly easy against the D-model B-17, since it had no tail gun, relying instead on the gun in the bathtub position to help cover the tail.

Roosevelt:‘…While this was going on, one engine in the American bomber was shot out. Out of 11 control cables, all but four were shot away. The rear landing wheel was blown off entirely, and the two front wheels were both shot out.’

As far as it went, this assessment of the damage was correct. The 5-foot-6, 138-pound Wheless was struggling for all he was worth to keep the big plane in the air while it was being shot to pieces by machine-gun and cannon fire from the Zeros.

The running battle with the Japanese fighters, which had begun the minute the plane appeared over the target, would last, as the president said, for 75 miles.

The B-17 had dropped from 9,000 feet to 3,500.  First the No. 1 engine was shot up, its throttle cable shot in two and had to be feathered as he could see gasoline spraying out. The gas tank for the number 4 engine was also leaking.

Then, in rapid succession, bullets shot out the radio and the oxygen system and his number 3 engine was smoking.

Then a 6-inch hole appeared in the right wing fuel tank, the result of 20mm cannon fire. After that came a sudden loss of control, when a hail of 20mm fire severed seven of the control cables of the big plane, leaving cables intact for only right rudder, one elevator and both ailerons.

Concentrating on flying, Wheless did not know what was happening in the rest of the airplane.

The radio operator had been killed, his upper gunner had his thigh split from hip to knee by an explosive shell, he lay on the floor crippled, reaching for his gun to fight back with. One waist gunner was wounded and the other manned both guns, ignoring the pain from a cracked wrist. The flight engineer fought on too, steadying his gun with one hand because his other hand was shot away.

B-17 waist gunners manning their .50-cal. machine guns.(worldwarphotos.info)

By that time, as the president stated, both wheels had been shot flat and the tail wheel had been blown completely out of its mount. Then there were the three wounded crewmen and one killed in action — with three machine guns jammed or otherwise out of commission. Fuel was spewing freely out of the right wing tank, which meant that a second engine would quit just miles from the Mindanao coast.

Roosevelt:‘…The flight continued until the remaining Japanese pursuit ships exhausted their ammunition and turned back. With two engines gone and the plane practically out of control, the American bomber returned to base after dark. The mission had been accomplished. The name of that pilot was Captain Hewitt T. Wheless.’

It ain’t over till it’s over

Well, there were a few dramatic details left out.

Looking for protection from the gang of Zeros on his tail, Wheless ducked into a cloud bank as he left the Luzon coast. When he broke out minutes later, not a Japanese plane was to be seen.

After their epic dogfight with Wheless B-17, the Japanese Zeros dropped off, possibly out of ammunition and low on fuel. (from a painting)

The enemy pilots — either low on ammunition or fuel, or sure the battered B-17, trailing smoke and gasoline and limping along on three engines, was finished — had given up the chase.

Wheless was afraid to pick up his microphone since he thought everyone in the ship must be dead. He was relieved to see the navigator alive when he came up to offer a hand and patch up the wounded.

The plane was running on two engines, lost its oxygen system, seven out of eleven control cables, the tail wheel was gone and both of its landing wheels were shot flat. Without much control surface left, there was little Wheless could do but fly straight and level.

As Wheless neared the Mindanao coast, it was getting dark and had started to rain.

Pre-War View of Cagayan Airfield looking ESE into river valley (NARA)

After fighting to keep the plane in the air for more than 300 miles, he knew his chances were slim of reaching Del Monte. When the second engine ran out of gas, with nothing but jungle between the Mindanao coast and Del Monte, Wheless decided to head for an auxiliary strip at Cagayan, on the northern coast of the island.

Crash Landing in Cagayan

Afraid to fly other than in a straight line because of his damaged control cables, Wheless would not be able to check out the field first before coming in. He knew that he would have just one shot at landing.

As he gingerly banked the plane toward the field and started in, he was aghast to see it had been barricaded in anticipation of its being used by the Japanese. Past the point of no return, Wheless lowered his landing gear, possibly unaware that the tires had both been shot flat.

He could not belly land as there was no way to strap down the wounded. As the plane flew over the barricaded field, one of the two remaining engines ran out of gas.

The plane landed, hitting a palm tree on the way in, ripped through several barricades, then some 200 yards down the runway the big bomber’s brakes suddenly locked, and after it rolled 500 feet, the 39,000 lbs. aircraft stopped suddenly and went up on its nose for a second before crashing down on its tail.

Dec 14, 1941  Crash landed on parade field Cagayan City Mindanao Island PI (ianbob.com)

They were down at last, even though it was far from the routine landing the president had implied. After getting the wounded crewmen to the small hospital at Cagayan, the ground crew counted at least 1,200 bullet holes in the plane. Each propeller blade had been hit five or six times.

For his gallant efforts in bringing the shot-up Fortress and her wounded crewmen back to base, Lieutenant Hewitt T. Wheless was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Wheless B-17D 40-2073, camouflaged after its crash-landing at Cagayan (b17d-402073-crash-l-cagayan-city-parade-field-mindanao-island-14-dec-41)

Let me tell you about those guys

That tale alone told six odd decades after the fact, already has enough valor and action to deserve a retelling many times over. But nothing perhaps would compare to the eyewitness account told by Wheless himself barely five months after that epic flight back to Cagayan.

Here, in his own words, is Wheless’ personal account of that action, as told to International News Service Staff Correspondent Lee Carson, in Washington, 18 May 1942, giving full and complete credit to the men who made up the crew of his bomber on that memorable flight:

As Captain Wheless says: “Let me tell you about those guys.”

Helluva Fight- Capt Wheless uses a model of an American Flying Fortress to illustrate his story of the work of his crew in epic battle with Japs over Philippines.

Ten minutes away from our bombing target, [Legaspi Bay, Luzon, P.I. Dec 14, 1941] the gunner reports Japs coming in fast on either side and on our tail. We were in trouble all right, but we decided to go on ahead and unload the eggs as long as we were almost there.

The Japs came in like greased lightning. Sgt Russell B. Brown and Sgt John M. Gootee were on the side guns. They got the two coming in on the side. Private William C. Killin, the radio operator, was in the “bathtub” — the tunnel underneath.

He had just traded places with Cpl William W. Williams, who was trying to unjam the top radio guns. Just as Killen crawled into the bathtub the Jap on our tail let loose, and Killin was killed. Our number 2 engine was shot out, at the same time as the Jap got the throttle cable.

Things began happening pretty fast then. Williams got it in the hip and it tore his right leg wide open down to and below the knee. Just the same, he boosted himself up and tried to man the radio guns. He was pretty badly smashed up. But he tried.

Riding in hail of lead

The way the bullets were coming through the fuselage it was like being out in the open in a hail storm. But Sgt Albert H. Cellette — the bombardier — got the beam on our target and unloaded. We dropped about 4,800 pounds of stuff on them while their planes were coming at us like a bunch of hornets from a kicked over nest. Yep — we were sure  busy.

I was looking for clouds. When we came in toward the target we had a nice overcast to hide in. But when we came up on the target — wham — no clouds. Completely clear.

Wheless B-17 was attacked on both sides by no less than two squadrons of Japanese Zeros. (courtesy of Beautiful Warbirds)

The Japs were getting underway — eighteen of them — or there abouts — non one had time to stop and count — were swarming all over us. I was dodging in and out of what cloud scraps I could find. We’d be in one for ten of fifteen seconds, which gave the guys a chance to reload.

My co-pilot Lt Taborek, and I did what we could. But it wasn’t much. Bullets were coming into the cockpit like rain. The instrument panel was shot to hell. A high explosive shell hit the radio and it opened up like a flower. Another one got the No 4 tank and the gasoline poured out.

Ol’ Gootee caught a bullet in the hand and it just ripped his whole hand almost off. Only thing that kept it from falling off was a couple threads of flesh. So he put on a glove to hold his hand on his arm and helped Brown load and aim.

Cross-section drawing of B-17D and crew positions and armament

That boy Brown was busy as a two headed cat in a creamery. He ran from one side to the other operating the side guns in the tail. Gootee’d reload for him while he was busy on the other gun. Then one of the Japs got a bead on Brown while he was working over the mess with his gun, shot the sights right off the gun and got Brown in the wrist. Without stopping his relay race between the two guns, he tied a handkerchief around it — tight — and went on shooting.

Another gun jams

The Navigator, Lt William F. Neenagh, went back to see if he could get Killin’s body out of the bathtub. But he couldn’t get him out. Williams’ gun jammed and Neenagh tried to help him fix them, but it was no go. So he came on back to his post and sort of alternated between what gunners were left.

This painting of wounded and embattled B-17 waist gunners vividly illustrates the plight of Wheless B-17D as it fought off a dozen Japanese Zeroes.

Cellette was down in the bombardier’s bubble at the guns. But we never get a head on attack so he couldn’t do anything but sit there and be shot at. Another round of fire got our flattener controls so the plane was wobbly as hell. We did the best we could, keeping her on an even keel with the rudder. By this time the Fortress looked like a worn out sieve.

About seventy-five or a hundred miles later, the Japs wheeled and went off. Out of ammunition I guess. God knows they threw enough at us.

Nobody said anything for a long while.

Just catching on

Then Brown swore and said: “Hell, I was just catching on how to get ‘em — and then they have to beat it. Of all the consarn luck!”

At that he did pretty well. Between them the boys got six or seven Japs.

We didn’t have but two of the engines left, and all but four control cables were shot out. But we managed to zigzag back the 350 miles. There wasn’t one word spoken on the trip back. They were all too tired, I guess. And not exactly in one piece.

Approaching Cagayan Airfield at dusk, Wheless had no choice but to put down the crippled B-17 despite the barricades set up against the enemy. (NARA)

It was dark when we got over the field in the jungle. My front wheels were shot flat and the tail wheel had been shot off long ago. The field [Parade Field, Cagayan, Misamis, Mindanao Island, P.I.] had been barricaded against enemy landing, and I could just make out the rocks and stuff that had been scattered around it.

For a minute I didn’t know whether it would be better to pancake in or try to land on those shot wheels. But with a wounded crew I didn’t want to shake ‘em up, so I tried the wheels.”

One Hell of a Fight

Williams had lost a lot of blood — and I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it and the docs saved his leg too.

I came in on the rims — careful — and as we hit the ground the plane nosed over and hung there while I held my breath. Then she settled back and we were all right.

We quickly got some cars and took the crew off to the hospital, and got the Killin kid out of that bathtub — at last.

Operating room of the Misamis Provincial Hospital where the wounded airmen from Wheless B-17 were brought for treatment (photo courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

The men were something I tell you. All they had to say was that it was “one hell of a fight” and they just grinned.

You know they all figure it’s war and we’ve got to lick the Japs. They welcome a scrap — anytime — any place. Sure they’re scared. They’d have to be idiots not to be. But that doesn’t bother them in a fight. They’ll all fight to the end. Take Brown — he’d never been in combat before, and with his wrist plowed open to the bone he manned both those side guns — and Gootee — same thing.

Plane awash in blood

Williams had one of the ugliest shell rips I’ve ever seen. But he held on. Put a tourniquet around his leg and kept shooting until his guns jammed. I personally don’t know how he did it. That plane was awash with blood.

I didn’t feel much like grinning when I said so long to the boys. They I reported to the commanding officer — Maj Emmet “Rosie” O’Donnell. He heard me through with no comment.

Then he said.  “Have a drink, Wheless.”

That’s all.

A lot of guys in the Philippines went right on and fought in Java until that was shot from under them too. I got sent to Australia and missed it — worst luck. Just wait until I get back there. Will I ever get a ribbing about all this “hero” stuff. I’m no “hero.” The heroes are still out there. My crew were the heroes.

Well, see you after the war. We’ll get together and throw milk bottles out of ten story windows — just for fun.”

The Bomber Crew

The Crew of the Flying Fortress that crash landed in Parade Field, Camp Edilberto Evangelista:

Capt. Hewitt T. Wheless, pilot
Lt. Taborek, co-pilot
Lt. William F. Neenagh, navigator
Sgt. Albert H. Cellette, bombardier
Sgt. Russell B. Brown, waist gunner-mechanic, wounded,
Sgt. John M. Gootee, waist gunner-mechanic, wounded,
Pvt. William C. Killin, top gunner-radio operator (KIA)
Cpl. William W. Williams, “bathtub” gunner-mechanic, wounded.

Wheless went from Mindanao to Australia and then to the US for Bond selling tours, and to help make a movie.  The media needed a hero and he was “ordered” to play the role.  

(Left to right) Captain Hewitt T. Wheless of Menard, Texas, actress Dorothy Lamour and Texas Governor Coke Stevenson during a war bond drive.

An Oscar in Hollywood

Beyond the Line of Duty is a 1942 American short documentary film, (22 minutes) directed by Lewis Seiler which had Wheless reenacting his training and heroism in the Philippines.

The short sketches out his decision to join the Army and his qualification to become a bomber pilot.

Beyond the Line of Duty (1942)

Having already joined the peacetime army and qualified as a bomber pilot, Wheless was in the Philippines when the Japanese struck in 08 December 1941. Wheless’s bomber is one of five sent to bomb Japanese troop transports. Wheless’s mission becomes highly hazardous when Wheless’s bomber is delayed, forcing Wheless to attack the Japanese troop transports alone.

Future President of the United States Ronald Reagan, himself judged unfit for combat service due to poor eyesight, provides narration.

Beyond the Line of Duty Cast and Credits (IMDB)

Following the attack on Pearl HarborHollywood rushed to turn out films that would help to help win the war. The studios produced more than features, with countless cartoons and short subjects that were intended to inform the public, boost morale, encourage support of the Red Cross and other organizations that were helping at home and overseas or in recruitment. There were also films that were shown only to members of the armed forces. These films either trained them or entertained them.

Beyond the Line of Duty is one of the best examples of how Hollywood pitched in and worked to boost morale and also recruit men and women into military service. The film won the Oscar for Best Short Subject at the 15th Academy Awards in 1943. You can watch the entire short film at YouTube here.

Wheless returned to the United States in April 1942 and worked as an operations officer for the 34th Bomb Group and later deputy commander of the 88th Bomb Group before becoming a staff officer at 2nd Air Force Headquarters.

Operation Meetinghouse

Shorty Wheless returned to the Pacific in 1944 and served as director of operations for the 314th Bomb Wing at N. Field, Guam and often flew missions with 30th Squadron of the 19th BG.  

After that unforgettable battle above the skies of the Philippines and winning an Oscar in Hollywood, you’d think Shorty was done with winning the war against Japan.

But he had one more major accomplishment for which he is mostly forgotten, but which might have been his most significant one, as reported by Donald J. Young in the same aforementioned story published in the July 2002 issue of Aviation History Magazine.

US Air Force Gen Curtis LeMay and Lt Gen Hewitt T. Wheless shaking hands at Lockbourn Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio after the war.

Although history usually credits General Curtis LeMay for the shift in the strategic bombing of Japan from daylight high-altitude bombing to fire bombing at night, the concept was the actually the brain child of  Brig. Gen. Thomas Power and (now) Colonel Hewitt Wheless.

The two men had gotten the idea after studying a strike photo of Tokyo, where several blocks of the city had burned after the last high-altitude raid. LeMay listened intently to their idea, then gave them 24 hours to put it into practice.

Tokyo burns under B-29 firebomb assault, 26 May 1945 (US Air Force)

The first firebombing attack in this campaign—codenamed Operation Meetinghouse—was carried out against Tokyo on the night of 9 March 1945, and proved to be the single most destructive air raid of the war.

 XXI Bomber Command mounted a maximum effort, and on the afternoon of 9 March 346 B-29s left the Marianas bound for Tokyo. They began to arrive over the city at 2:00 am Guam time on 10 March, and 279 bombers dropped 1,665 tons of bombs. 

A residential section Tokyo that was destroyed following Operation Meetinghouse, the firebombing of Tokyo on the night of 9-10 March 1945

The raid caused a massive conflagration that overwhelmed Tokyo’s civil defenses and destroyed 16 square miles (41 km2) of buildings, representing seven percent of the city’s urban area.

The Tokyo police force and fire department estimated that 83,793 people were killed during the air raid, another 40,918 were injured and just over a million lost their homes; postwar estimates of deaths in this attack have ranged from 80,000 to 100,000.

Cenotaph of a citizen. Bombing of Tokyo in World War II, Sumida park, Taitō, Tokyo.

While this campaign was intended to form part of preparations for the Allied invasion of Japan, LeMay and some members of Arnold’s staff believed that it alone would be sufficient to force the country’s surrender.

Japanese cities attacked by B-29 bombers during World War II

Postscript

 After the war, Wheless became the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Director of Plans in September 1960, and in July 1962 he was named its Chief of Staff. In June 1963 he was assigned to Headquarters US Air Force, Washington DC as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Programs and Requirements and became its Deputy Chief of Staff the following February and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

In February 1965 he became the Assistant US Air Force Vice Chief of Staff at Washington DC and in 1967  was appointed Senior Air Force Member of the Military Staff Committee, United Nations in concurrent capacity.

He retired at these positions in June 1968 with the rank of Lieutenant General after 33 years of continuous military service.

Wheless: Lt. Gen. Hewitt T. Wheless (pimmair.org)

Among his military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 oak leaf cluster, the Air Medal with 1 oak leaf cluster, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. He was rated a command pilot and navigator.

Wheless gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery

He died on 07 September 1985 at the age of 72 in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, USA and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Arlington Country, Virginia, USA at Section 30 Site 384-1.

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REFERENCES:

1.     History of Cagayan de Oro

2.       General Hewitt Terrell Wheless, Memorial/findagrave.com

3.     B-17 Hero in the Philippines, Hewitt T. Wheless, WWII History Articles, A War to be Won

4.     Far East Air Force, Wikipedia.

5.     United States Army Forces in the Far East, USAFFE, Wikipedia.org

6.      Ianbob.com

7.      Young, Donald J., Hewitt T. ‘Shorty’ Wheless and Boyd T. ‘Buzz’ Wagner: World War II Fighter Pilots. Aviation History Magazine July 2002 visa  historynet.com

8.      Beyond the Line of Duty, Wikipedia

9.       Film/Beyond the Line of Duty, tv.tropes.org

10.  Beyond the Line of Duty (1942), YouTube.com

11.    The Hall of Valor Project, The Military Times

12.    Captain Hewitt T. Wheless Of Menard, Texas, Actress Dorothy Lamour And Texas Governor Coke Stevenson During A War Bond Drive, University of Texas Arlington, UTA Libraries Digital Gallery

13.  Hewitt T. Wheless, Wikipedia

14.  Recognition Of The Japanese Zero Fighter (1943), YouTube

15.  Campbell, Douglas E., Save Our Souls: Rescues Made by U.S. Submarines during World War II, page 320-321

16.  Matt, P.E., The South Pacific Air Ferry Route, Pacific Eagles, WWII Pacific Air Combat, 04 December 2015, History, Southwest Pacific

17.  R.R. Slater, And Then There Were None, Army Air Corps Last Stand in the Philippines

18.   75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor and Attack on 19th BG at Clark Field, Little Rock Air Force Base, History,19th Bombardment Group-BG

19.    The Clark Field Disaster and Retreat from the PhilippinesThe Java Gold’s Blog

20.   19th Bombardment Association. 19th Bomb Group, Turner Publishing (February 22, 2000), ISBN 1563116839 via military.wikia.org

Honoring Kagay-anon Patriots of World War II

Memorial Day in the Philippines

On May 31, 2021, the United States celebrates Memorial Daya federal holiday dedicated to honoring and mourning military personnel who had died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Previously observed on May 30, it has been officially moved to the last Monday of May since 1971, purportedly to allow people to enjoy a long weekend.

American and Filipino flags adorn graves of US and Filipino servicemen who died while serving their countries at the Clark Veterans Cemetery on Memorial Day 2019.
(photo courtesy of Bamban Museum, all rights reserved Bamban History Society, photo by Rhonie de la Cruz)

Memorial Day in the Philippines

Memorial Day has been similarly observed in the Philippines in cemeteries of American military personnel who died in the line of duty. Most notable examples are the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Cabanatuan American Memorial and Clark Veterans Cemetery which are officially cared for by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines occupies 152 acres on a prominent plateau, visible at a distance from the east, south and west. It contains the largest number of graves of our military dead of World War II, a total of 17,184, most of whom lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines.

The Clark Veterans Cemetery was formed between 1947 and 1950 by moving the headstones/markers and remains from at least four other U.S. military cemeteries (Fort Stotsenburg 1 & 2, Fort McKinley, and Sangley Point Naval Cemetery) to the new 20.365 acre, 12,000 plot cemetery located just inside the main gate of Clark Air Base.  All WWII dead were moved to the American Cemetery in Manila.   

Clark Cemetery contains the remains of U.S. veterans from the USA, USN, USMC, USCG, USAF, Philippine Scouts (PS) and their dependents.  Some, but not all, were veterans of the Spanish/ American, Philippine Insurrection, WWI, WWII (died after the war), Korean, Vietnam, and Iraq wars.  The largest category interred are civilian, mostly U.S. and Filipino and their dependents, all of whom worked for the U.S. Government. There are nearly 9,000 individuals buried in the cemetery as of May 1, 2019. Dual flags have flown over the cemetery since March 1984.

Victory Week

While there is currently no Philippine equivalent to Memorial Day, the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office and Armed Forces are pushing to have September 2nd officially recognized as Victory Week to honor and mourn military personnel who died while serving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The formal surrender of Japanese Forces in the Philippines under General Yamashita held at Camp John Hay, Baguio Sept 2, 1945.

“We have started informally building the surrender of Gen. Yamashita as Victory Week since last year, which we treat as the equivalent of the US Memorial Day. It takes a legislative action to establish it so we made it initially as a tradition until we could elicit acceptance,” said Brig. Gen. Restituto L. Aguilar (ret.), executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and former chief of the PVAO’s Veterans Memorial and Historical Division.

Even before that is officially recognized by the Philippine government, allow us the privilege of honoring and mourning some of our local heroes who perished during the Second World War in service of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and the guerrillas of the United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP), when the Philippines was still a colony of the US.

Although bitter adversaries during the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 (still carried in American history books as the ‘Philippine Insurrection’), and the first and only colony of the US in Asia since that time, Filipinos never bought into Imperial Japan’s line they were here to free us from the American yoke as partners in the ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”.

From Chaos to New Dawn. The text accompanying this photograph from a Japanese serial in the early 1940s says that the Americans left the Filipinos poor and miserable in the war, and that the Japanese will usher in a better period for the country that was now part of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Nippon Philippines Nos. 13-14, 1942-44
(Nippon PH No. 13-14)

When the Pacific War broke out in December 8, 1941, with Japanese planes bombing Clark Field and other US installations in the Philippines, the greater part of the Filipinos sided with the US and when the USAFFE forces under Maj. Gen. William F. Sharp, Jr. surrendered to the invaders on 10 May 1942 in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, most of the American and Filipinos melted away in the hills of Mindanao to start what eventually became the biggest and most organized group of guerrillas in the 10th Military District, USFIP under Col. Wendell W. Fertig.

For this year’s Memorial Day, we honor and mourn some of our Filipino martyrs who fought and died in the service of their beloved Philippines and their adopted country the United States of America.

Some Local Heroes

Captain Antonio Julian C. Montalván, G-2, 10th Military District, USFIP (courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

Capt. Antonio Julian C. Montalvan (Feb. 8, 1906 – Aug. 30, 1944) was a member of an espionage team as G-2, MC Liaison and Intelligence Officer, of the 10th Military District under Fertig in Mindanao, who reported directly to Gen. Douglas MacArthur

As a medical doctor, he was able to get information by moving through various hospitals in Manila about Japanese troops in Mindanao, which he passed on to Fertig and which eventually reached MacArthur in Australia. As a member of a spy network, he helped establish coastal radio relay stations in Mindanao, Visayas and Southern Luzon.

After three successful intelligence gathering trips by banca to Manila from Mindanao, he was arrested by the Japanese Kempeitai (Military Police) in  Tayabas, and was later detained and tortured in Fort Santiago and the Old Bilibid Prisons in Manila.

On August 30, 1944 he was executed by decapitation with the group of Senator José Ozámiz, and the Elizalde Group of Manila which included the writer Rafael Roces and Blanche Walker Jurika, the mother in-law of guerilla leader Charles “Chick” Parsons. The execution took place at the Manila Chinese Cemetery. Dr. Montalvan is buried with the rest of the Ozamiz/Elizalde group in Manila’s North Cemetery.

Dr. Fidel Saa Sr. and His wife Enriquita during happier days. Photo was taken during their wedding in Gingoog, 1937. (ThePacificWars.com)

1st Lt. Fidel Saa, Sr.   of Cagayan, Misamis, was the 109th Regiment’s dental surgeon. He married Enriquita Mercado of Gingoog City with whom he had three sons: Le Grande, Fidel Jr. and Ruel. On 03 January 1944, he and four other guerrillas and one civilian were captured, tortured and bayoneted to death when the Japanese ambushed their headquarters in El Salvador around 04 January 1945.

The other victims were 2nd Lt. Eufronio Jabulin, Sgt. Gregorio Macapayag, Cpl. Gerardo Saguing, Pvt. E. Eling and Chong Ing, a Chinese trader. The Japanese also captured Maj. Fidencio Laplap’s father  Melanio and brought him to Cagayan where he was tortured and killed.

The Monument dedicated to the 109th Guerrillas at El Salvador City today, vandalized and forgotten. (ThePacificWars.com)

The Japanese had no reservations about the age of the suspected spied and guerrillas they killed. Sometime in 1942, Cox  Banquerigo, an intelligence asset of the guerrillas was betrayed by a “friend” and neighbor at the Parke (now Gaston Park) who was an enlisted man with the Japanese-sponsored Bureau of Constabulary (BC). Only 16 at the time, Cox was brought to the Ateneo de Cagayan where he was interrogated, tortured and beheaded. The guerrillas eventually caught up with the traitor and killed him at Barangay, Agusan. 

The Parke (Old Gaston Park)

Perhaps the most remarkable Kagay-anon patriots were the Tiano siblings, for whom the Tiano Brothers street in Cagayan de Oro is named after, another story apparently forgotten by the present generation. No less than six of the siblings, five males and one female, were involved in fighting the Japanese in World War II, making them our counterpart to the famous Sullivan Brothers of the US Navy.

Sgt. Nestor B.Tiano (MOGCHS 72nd Anniversary Foundation Souvenir Program 1980)

Although only the second eldest sibling Nestor  was killed in action vs. the Japanese at the young age of 24 while repelling a Japanese attack at Aglaloma Point, Bataan on Jan. 23, 1942, this does not by any measure diminish the sacrifice of his five other siblings in the struggle against the Japanese Occupation during the war.

1Lt. Ronaldo B. Tiano (MOGCHS 72nd Anniversary Foundation Souvenir Program 1980

The eldest Ronaldo, a 1st Lt. in the nascent Philippine Army Air Force (PAAC) with the 7th School Squadron based at Maniquis Field, Nueva Ecija, survived the Bataan Death March, but was released by the Japanese from the concentration Camp in Capas, Tarlac and instructed to report to the Japanese headquarters in Cagayan. He came home wearing his full PAAC uniform. Instead, he joined the 120th Infantry Regiment under Maj. Angeles Limena as one of his staff. After the war he joined the newly organized Philippine Air Force (PAF) but left after 18 months to join Philippine Airlines (PAL). He died in a plane crash on Jan. 24, 1950.

2nd Lt. Apollo B. Tiano (MOGCHS 72nd Anniversary Foundation Souvenir Program 1980)

Apollo became a 2nd Lt. and platoon leader of “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, 108th Division based in Initao, Misamis Oriental. He died fighting with the 19th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) defending Hill 191 (also called Arsenal Hill) and Hill Eerie, comprising Combat Outpost No. 8  at the Chorwon-Siboni corridor in the west central sector of  Korea on June 20,1952 while repelling a superior force of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. The Philippine Navy’s BRP Apollo Tiano (now decommissioned) was named in his honor.

Uriel became a sergeant of “A” Company, 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, 108th Division based at Pangayawan, Alubijid, Misamis Oriental, and ended the war in the Signal Corps.

Lt. Fe B. Tiano and her brother PFC Jaime during the Liberation. To Lt. Tiano’s right is Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon (Ilogon Family archives)

The youngest brother Jaime was a private first class at only 15 years of age, and served as medical aide of the 120th Regimental Hospital together with his sister 1st Lt. Fe B. Tiano (RN), who was the unit’s sole regimental nurse at the regimental hospital at Talacogon, Lugait, Misamis Oriental.

As Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon relates in his unpublished manuscript, Memoirs of a Guerrilla: The Barefoot Army,” Lt. Fe Tiano and PFC Jaime Tiano were engrossed in their hospital work, tending to the sick of the regimental hospital. They were so busy that they forgot to apply for their vacation, and when they did, it would be disapproved.” Truly a dilemma that our frontliners in our hospitals and health care facilities could relate with!

“This is the story of the Tianos-brave and courageous, their battles are now part of history. While they went to war, their parents Emilia Bacarrisas and Leocadio Tiano and two sisters Ruth and Emily were left in Lapad (Alubijid, now part of Laguindingan), to stoke the home fires burning,” Ilogon noted.

There are too many others, both known and unknown, who suffered the ultimate sacrifice in our fight for freedom, and it’s beyond our limited knowledge and capacity to mention all of them here.

But let this not diminish our recognition of their uncommon valor and faith in our ultimate victory that may serve to inspire us withstand the trials of this unseen enemy which now confronts us the world over.

Thank you for your service to the Philippines and the United States of America! MABUHAY!

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Life During Wartime

75th Cagayan Liberation Feature

When Cagayan de Oro had to mark the 75th Anniversary of its Liberation from Imperial Japan on May 12, 2020 behind closed doors, it recalled a similar situation when everyone’s freedom of movement was drastically curtailed by the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945.

The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) imposed tight restrictions on travel between towns and travelers had to provide “passes” similar to the Barangay Exit Pass permits only one person to step outside a residence for essential errands like medicines, foods and the like.

In fact, those violating existing community protocols and loudly complaining in social media about having their freedom of movement constrained should consider themselves lucky they only get a pat on the wrist or at worst, a fine to contend with. During the Japanese occupation, violators often found themselves imprisoned, or worse, tortured and killed for merely being suspected guerrillas or spies.

However, what most people could relate to during these times of the global pandemic is the adverse effects on their livelihood, household incomes and as a consequence, their daily bread, that in hindsight, is minuscule compared to the deprivations, fear and stress our lolas and lolos experienced during the three long years of the Japanese occupation.

3 Taong Walang Diyos

When the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro came out last April to encourage the establishment of household and community gardening for local food production to help sustain especially vulnerable residents in the informal sector, the unemployed, and those unable to be gainfully employed at this time, it was a virtual throwback to those “3 Taong Walang Diyos” as how the title of a popular local movie then describes the dark days of the Second World War.

From Chaos to New Dawn. The text accompanying this photograph from a Japanese serial in the early 1940s says that the Americans left the Filipinos poor and miserable in the war, and that the Japanese will usher in a better period for the country that was now part of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Nippon Philippines Nos. 13-14, 1942-44
(Nippon PH No. 13-14)

Since many farms were abandoned and many farmers hiding out in the hills to escape the Japanese and local bandits, the shortage of food was a daily problem that haves and have-nots alike had to deal with.

Agriculture Top Priority

By sheer necessity, agriculture needed to be given priority.

In Misamis Oriental and almost all provinces occupied by the guerrillas, Army Communal Farms were under cultivation. These were cultivated by civilians under the so-called “pagina system”.

All the produce was for the Army. Evacuees were permitted to cultivate abandoned parcels of land and to them went the produce. Short season crops were produced intensively.

Community farms and victory gardens, poultry and hog raising projects, sponsored by the Army and civil officials, were intensified everywhere.

As vividly described by the late Cpl. Jesus B. Ilogon in his “Memoirs of a Guerrilla: The Barefoot Army”, his father Pastor P. Ilogon, Sr., as the Chief Food Administrator for the 109th Infantry Regiment, frequently and generously shared the produce of his farm in Lapad, Alubijid (now Laguindingan) with soldiers and civilians alike.

Pastor Ilogon’s Sugar Mill at Lapad, Laguindingan. served as a command post for Maj. Angeles Limena (Ilogon Family Archives)

“Every space of the land was cultivated. Papa (Pastor Ilogon, Sr.) planted seven hectares of sugar cane, then constructed a crapetche(sugar mill) powered by huge carabaos. He planted five hectares of cassava (camoteng kahoy), and the rest with peanuts, corn, camote, and bananas (kantong and kadisnon). His five hectares in nearby poblacion Laguindingan was fully planted with corn by tenant Isias Madjos. Because of water irrigation, the four hectare ricefield in nearby Tanabog, Alubijid was planted twice a year by tenant Amado Llamera.”

“His rice produced in Bohol was transported by Barcos Dos Velas (known in local parlance as plain Dos Velas).” “From Alubijid, they were carried to Lapad by a train of carabaos. We had the luxury of eating rice as our staple food. He raised more than 100 white leghorns (chickens). The chickens were healthy because they were fed with aroma (ipil-ipil) seeds and leaves. Aroma trees grew in abundance in the farm.”

Illustration of traditional equipment used in making lye from wood ash for natural soap making. (Picture courtesy of Carla Emery from the Encyclopedia of Country Living)

Manticao, Initao, Misamis Oriental was the corn granary of both the 109th and 120th Regiments. Alubijid, Misamis Oriental, El Salvador, Cagayan and Libertad, Initao were the salt and crude soap producing areas. Soap was made from coconut oil and wood ashes. Gitagum, Alubijid was a safe haven of big Dos Velas carrying tons of goods from Negros, Cebu, Bohol, and Misamis Occidental.

But as the war entered its third year in 1944, food became scarcer and corn increasingly difficult to obtain. Despite this, Ilogon described the prevailing situation at their farm in Lapad:

“The fields were a beehive of activity with peanuts, camote and bananas being harvested and processed. For three years, the farm was constantly occupied with the cycle of planting, harvesting, storing and selling.”

“Some evacuees survived by bartering their clothes for food. Others subsisted on boiled unripe bananas and the bananas inner core. Evacuees from afar camped on the cassava plantation and made cassava chips from the roots, still others shucked then shelled the kernels off corn cobs to store them in sacks. Traders coming from as far as Imbatog and Talakag, Bukidnon, slept in the field and were up before dawn to load their cattle with sacks of matamis (brown sugar).”

Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental has one of the biggest livestock markets for hogs, goats and poultry. A tabo at Bgy. Gazi that started even before World War II continues every Saturday with traders coming from as far as Bohol, Cebu, Negros, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.
(photo courtesy of Raul B. Ilogon)

However, in spite of favorable weather during the period February 1943-November 1944, food shortages occurred due to heavy floods in free Cagayan which cost the lives of 47 persons and the loss of approximately 200-300 cavans of rice and corn in 1943. Locust infestation in June 1943 in Free Cagayan and the municipal districts of Lumbia, destroyed approximately 60% of standing crops.

The Bureau of Constabulary helped defend Talakag from cattle rustlers even during the war. (NARA)

In Bukidnon before the war, the cattle industry was flourishing, but this was virtually wiped out. People, like the other provinces, resorted to agriculture by cultivating forested areas.

Despite the confluence of plant pests and animal diseases, floods and drought, and on top of it active Japanese patrols which seemed to have conspired together during a period of turmoil and distress, the products produced improved the food situation impressively and led to the lowering of prices.

Carabao sleds, carts and sailboats and launches were some of the means utilized in the transportation of foodstuffs from one place to another. In two of three sectors, trucks were used but only for short distances as most of the roads and bridges were unserviceable –either blasted purposely in the early days of the war or destroyed by action of the elements, and never repaired.

Home & Village-Level Industries

In all places, the civil government waged a campaign directly supported by the Army for the development of home industries. More Industries Encouraged (pp. 128)

Clothing made from abaca fiber was in great demand but couldn’t alleviate the shortage.

Weaving was encouraged. Cloth was manufactured from cotton, ramie and abaca fiber. Finished products were in great demand, which, of course, could not be met because of the limited production.

Crude hand made cigarettes were in great demand but supply was hampered by the lack of rolling paper.

Cigarettes, crudely manufactured, substituted for American brands- though a poor substitute, were in great demand. The biggest handicap was lack of rolling paper.

Salt, soap, coconut oil, and alcohol from tuba were produced in sufficient quantities to supply civilian and army needs. The intensified stimulus for the production of food products included the tending of home gardens, and the employment of unarmed soldiers in Army farm projects.

In the provinces of Agusan, Surigao, Misamis Oriental , Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga, merchants frequented the market place to sell their good and commodities. Business was retail. Articles sold were rice, corn, soap, salt, fish, sugar, vegetables and other foods.

Inter-island trade

It is consoling to note that even during the dark days, Mindanao had been able to share food with adjacent areas in the Visayas, like Leyte, Cebu and Bohol. Slow-moving bancas were used to ply between Agusan and the Visayas. Productive industries consisted in the manufacture of tuba, nipa wine and nipa shingles. Weaving was lucrative.

In Lanao, periodic trips were undertaken by traders from Bohol, Negros, Siquijor, Cebu and Camiguin, bringing in sugar, garments, dried and salted fish, medicines and others. On their return trip, they brought with them rice, corn, and other food which were lacking in their places. Very often, these trips were undertaken by the ubiquitous Dos Velas sailboats.

Some examples of Barco Dos Velas anchored off Camiguin Island. Each could carry 100 sacks of corn, 150 kerosene cans of guinamos and 20 men. Two big sails made them a fast sailing craft.

Barco Dos Velas was a 2-masted sail boat common between Visayas and Mindanao during colonial times,” said Antonio J. Montalvan II, a Europe-based Filipino public writer, social anthropologist, university professor and heritage activist. “Vela means sails in Spanish. These were the sailboats which many Visayan immigrants took when they moved to Mindanao.”

The sailboats and bancas revived the inter-island trade interrupted by the war. They traded in salt, corn, rice, guinamos, dried fish, sugar and soap.

Japanese armored barges patrolled inland waters and made inter-island trade by sea risky.

Normal trade relations existed between Lanao and Misamis Occidental. This trade relation, however, between these two provinces and from other islands in the Visayas, were at times paralyzed due to active Japanese patrols, both by land and sea.

The daring viajeros crossed the sea at night and hid in island coves during daytime to avoid Japanese sea patrols that prowled Macajalar and Iligan Bays searching for guerrillas going to and fro Fertig’s headquarters at Misamis, Misamis Occidental.

It was the usual practice of guerrillas going to Misamis to commandeer a sailboat, cross Iligan Bay at night to avoid Japanese motor launches based in Iligan, and arrive in Jimenez in the morning.

When a banca was commandeered, its skipper was given a “Jefe de Viaje”(Safe Passage Pass) by the area guerrilla commander which guaranteed him safe passage through territories controlled by the guerrillas.

The Japanese Travel Pass should be read side ways, top to bottom and from right to left like the Japanese do .(shared by Neo K Wen in WWII Philippines).

However, savvy traders were also known to obtain similar safe passage passes from the Japanese (written in Nihongo) which they flashed when hailed by Japanese patrols. Of course, these were usually kept under wraps from the guerrillas.

The Japanese often intercepted sailboats at sea, confiscating their cargo, and took the crew prisoner. Because of this, business declined and later, markets and retail stores were closed. The sudden rise of commodity prices inevitably followed.

Unlike the other provinces, Cotabato and Davao whose coastal areas were occupied by the Japanese, and land-locked Bukidnon, could not fully sustain inter-island commerce. Salt and fish, for instance, were difficult to obtain.

Native cloth like pinocpos and saguran made from buri palm, were brought in by some bancas from other provinces, were also difficult to secure. Some inhabitants who depended on selling the rice, corn or tobacco they cultivated, also found it hard to trade due to Japanese patrols which confiscated their produce.

So the next time you hear someone griping about how the coronavirus have made life so much harder, remind him our grandparents fared even worse during the “3 Taon Walang Diyos” and survived to tell their tales.

With all the help people are now receiving from their barangays, local government units and national agencies like DOLE, DSWD, DTI and DA, not to mention the hundreds of good Samaritans and NGOs sharing their blessings, they should stop complaining and stay put at home.

The better we comply with the health protocols of social distancing, mandatory face masks, and limiting time outside our residences to essentials, our chances of beating this virus increases and with it, our chances or returning to closer semblance of how it was before. (Compiled by Mike Baños)                                     

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The Tagoloan-Bugo Operations 27 April -09 May 1945

Prelude to Cagayan’s Liberation

(We are presenting the following story of the prelude to the Liberation of Cagayan, Misamis on 12 May 1945, in commemoration of its 75th Anniversary so we can remember those who sacrificed and paid the ultimate sacrifice that we may enjoy freedom as a democratic republic. Mabuhay!)  

Before the Liberation of Cagayan, Misamis on May 12, 1945 by local guerrillas of the 10th Military District, preliminary operations were already being carried out at the Bugo-Tagoloan areas in coordination with US Army X Corps.

Late in April, when it became apparent that the Japanese Imperial Army (IJA) was planning to consolidate for a final stand in the hills northwest of Davao. Lt. Gen. Richard L. Eichelberger, commanding general, 8th Army, decided to land a regimental combat team at the rear of the enemy in the Macajalar Bay area of northern Mindanao.

Lt Gen Richard L. Eichelberger, CG 8th Army and Maj. Gen. Franklin .C Sibert, CG X Corps, AUS examine Jap equipment captured by the 124th Infantry (NARA)

This force would drive down the Sayre Highway to meet the 31st Division advancing from the south. The 108th Regimental Combat Team of the 40th Division from Leyte was selected for the operation.

Prelude to Macajalar Bay Landing

But even before that, Col. Wendell W. Fertig, commanding officer of the 10th Military District, had already been authorized by Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert, commanding officer of the X Corps, to eliminate the Japanese forces at the Bugo-Tagoloan area. Fertig ordered the 1st Battalion (Bn), 110th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division to undertake the mission.

10th Military District showing Divisional & Regimental Areas & Dates of Activation (courtesy of Marie Vallejo)

The 110th Division garrisoned portions of Misamis Oriental east of the Tagoloan River and the provinces of Agusan, Surigao and Davao. Activated on November 20, 1942, it consisted of the 110th, 113th, 114th and 30th Infantry Regiments. The division had 317 officers and 5,086 enlisted personnel.

 It was commanded by Lt. Col. Edward Ernest McClish with headquarters at Medina, Misamis Oriental, which was later moved to Buenavista, Agusan (when it was still one province.)

McClish was a Native American of the Choctow tribe from Okmulgee, Oklahoma, who was called to active duty in the National Guard on 1940 and sent to the Philippines, where he commanded a company of Philippine Scouts. He organized one of the first guerrilla units in 1942 that later joined the 10th Military District under Fertig.

The 110th Infantry Regiment headed by Maj. Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr. covered the area from Tagoloan River to Lenugos (present day Magsaysay), Misamis Oriental with headquarters at Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.

Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr., Commanding Officer, 110th Infantry Regiment, 10th MD, USFIP

The 110th Regimental staff under Dongallo included Capt. Clyde Abbot (Executive Officer); Capt. Benjamin Pacana (Adjutant, S1); Lt. Fabian Villaroya (Intelligence, S2); Lt. Ireneo Villano (Plans & Training, S3); Lt. Papias Tiro (Finance Officer); Dr. Julian Tolentino (Regimental Surgeon); and Alfredo Hojas (Food Procurement Officer).

The company commanders included Capt. Benjamin Hernandez, Capt. Fernandez, Lt. Emeterio Moreno, Lt. Nilo Moreno, Lt. Jose Docdocil, and Lt. Atilano Labuntog.

Dr. Gerardo Sabal was the 3rd Battalion medical officer stationed in Sta, Ana, Tagoloan.

During a later reorganization, Dongallo handpicked the following officers, assigned them to responsible positions and assigned to strategic areas of the 110th Regiment: Lt. Eustaquio Carpio, Eustaquio Embate, Felino Pangilinan, George Ramos, Realino Edquila, Benjamin Valmores, Natividad del Pilar, and Bonifacio Pailagao.

The ‘Eastern Front’

At 1700 Hrs on 27 April 1945, battalion units crossed the Tagoloan River and occupied Tagoloan and Baluarte without any opposition. Earlier, enemy positions were bombed by B-24 Liberators and B-25 Mitchell bombers. [1]

A Marine flight crew arrives to board a VMB-611 North American PBJ medium bomber
(called the B-25 Mitchell by the AAF).

Patrols were sent out to look for the enemy but found none. However, later six Japanese were killed in an encounter with no guerrilla casualties when they attempted to escape by fording the Tagoloan River at Nabulod.

On 28 April 1945, troops of “A” Co., 1st Bn, ambushed an enemy patrol while on combat patrol towards Kimaya, at Tacpon, in the vicinity of Sta. Ana, inflicting 25 enemy casualties. The enemy patrol was on a foraging mission from Claveria. The remaining Japanese dispersed in twos and threes but were hunted down.

On the same day, four more enemy stragglers were cornered and killed in action (KIA) by  “A” Co. troops at Inablayan.

The 2nd Bn was ordered to pull out on 01 May 1945 to reinforce the 1st Bn at Tagoloan River perimeter. The 1st Bn perimeter ran from Sabaya to Tagoloan Ferry, with the 2nd Bn securing the perimeter from Ferry to Balacanas.

On the same day, Japanese troops re-occupied Tagoloan and Baluarte.

The Strafers came calling

In the following days, American B-25J Mitchell and PBJ-1 (the US Marines variant of the same aircraft) medium bombers strafed and bombed Tagoloan, Natumulan and Maliba.

Many post-war readers of this account may wonder why the Japanese soldiers kept clearing out of Tagoloan and Baluarte even before the guerrillas attacked. Credit should be given to the low-level bombing attacks of the  North American B-25 “Mitchell Medium Bomber.

The B-25J-2  “Strafer”  was especially a fearsome weapon. The factory made available kits to the Air Depot system to create the strafer-nose B-25J-2.

The B-25 Mitchell (PBJ-1 in USMC livery) had as many as 18 forward firing .50-cal. MGs and a 12-plane squadron had more .50-cal MGs than four infantry regiments.

This configuration carried a total of 18 .50 caliber (12.7 mm) light-barrel AN/M2 Browning M2 machine guns: eight in the nose, four in the flank-mount conformal gun pod packages, two in the dorsal turret, one each in the pair of waist positions, and a pair in the tail – with 14 of the guns either aimed directly forward, or aimed to fire directly forward for strafing mission, giving the plane a battery of 14 .50-caliber machine guns with a total throw weight of about 215 pounds per second. One version of the late-model B-25J had 18 forward-firing machine guns.

By the end of the war, the B-25 was the most heavily armed aircraft in the U.S. Army Air Forces’ inventory. A single 12-airplane squadron of B-25s carried more .50-caliber machine guns than four infantry regiments!

No wonder the Japanese would hastily hot foot it out of the areas every time the “Strafers” dropped by to pay a visit.

Clearing the beach head

On 07 May 1945 the 1st and 2nd Bns were ordered to prepare to cross the Tagoloan River and proceed to beach areas of the shoreline from Baluarte to Bugo to form a beach head for the expected American landing and clear the rear areas of Japanese.

At 1700 HRS the next day 08 May 1945 the two units crossed the Tagoloan River and re-occupied Tagoloan and Baluarte without any opposition.

Illustration of a typical guerrilla from the Macajalar Bay Area, Misamis Oriental. Courtesy of Mandirigma, Uniforms of the Filipino Fighting Man 1935-1945. More photo from their FB Page MANDIRIGMA.

By the next day 09 May 1945 patrols made a three-pronged attack on the Japanese in Bugo to establish the beach head. Six Japanese were reported KIA and 2 guerrillas killed with 3 wounded.

Although there were earlier reports that 3 Japanese tanks were located at Bugo, the Lt. Gen. Gyokasu Morozumi, commander of the 30th Division defending the coastline, admitted in a post-war interrogation they only had a few armored cars used to tow troops and artillery but did not see any action.

Type 1 Ho-Ha armored personnel carrier deployed by the Imperial Japanese Army to the Philippines in late 1944.

However, the Japanese with the help of reinforcements which arrived by truck from Alae, Bukidnon, forced the guerrillas to withdraw to Baluarte.

Later, all troops were ordered to withdraw further north of the Tagoloan River to avoid the scheduled air and naval bombardment of the area scheduled the following day to clear the way for the American landing at Tin-ao, Barangay Agusan, Cagayan, Misamis.

The Americans return

The Visayan Attack Group Task Force 78.3  was a 67 ship-strong flotilla under Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble  with the USCGC Ingham (Cmdr. K.O.A. Zittel) as flag and guide. On 09 May 1945, the Macajalar Bay Attack Unit (Task Unit 78.3.4) was formed and departed for Mindanao.

USCGC INGHAM at the U.S. Navy Yard, South Carolina on 11 October 1944 (US Navy)

It consisted of five warships including Ingham, three destroyers (USS Frazier, Meade, Abbot) and one destroyer escort (USS Brazier), 7 LSTs, 10 LCMs, 7 LCIs, and USS LCI (L) 612 (Lt. Kaufman) as Control Unit. Inshore fire support was provided by 4 LCS under Lt. Sendree, with four minesweepers (YMS) and 2 PT Boats.

USS LCI(L)-551, of the same type as LCI(L) 612 which acted as control unit during the Macajalar Bay operation.

An augmentation force of 27 US Army (AUS)  ships consisting of 1 PCE E (R), 7 FS, 18 LCMs, and 1 picket boat accompanied the USN flotilla.   

Task Force 78.3 under Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble on its way to land the 108RCT, 40th Div (AUS) at Tin-ao, Agusan, Cagayan on 10 May 1945. (photo courtesy of Rico Jose)

On 10 May 1945 (Q-Day) a line of departure was established 3,000 yards off Brown Beach, the designated beach head, and destroyers commenced shore bombardment of the beach area at 0730 Hrs, with Ingham directing operations.

At 0803, Landing Ships, Tanks (LSTs) began discharging the 1st Battalion of the 108th Regimental Combat Team (40th Division) Tracked Landing Vehicles (LVT’s) for the first and second waves, the first wave hitting the beach with no opposition at 0830 and the second landing four minutes later.

American landing craft heading for Brown Beach at Tin-ao, Agusan on 10 May 1945 with the 108th RCT, 40th Division. The first wave of LVTs landed with no resistance at 0830. (photo courtesy of Ricardo Jose)

Guerrilla Clear the Way

They found the beachhead at Tin-ao, northeast of Agusan near Bugo in the Macajalar Bay Area already secured by the guerrillas.

The close coordination between the guerrillas and the invasion force is illustrated by the official chronology of this operation which details how guerrilla officers reported on board the Ingham at 0928 Hrs to discuss the situation ashore, departing at 0942.

Another view of LCI(L)-363 being unloaded at Gingoog, Misamis Oriental most probably by guerrillas of the 110th Infantry Regiment. This is one of the vessels which ferried guerrillas from Villanueva, GIngoog and Balingasag to Brown Beach in Tin-ao, Barangay Agusan, Cagayan de Misamis to help secure the American beach head. (US Navy Photo)

Later the same day, two LCIs shuttled guerrillas from Villanueva and Gingoog to Brown Beach, and again on May 12 ferrying more guerrillas from Gingoog, Balingasag and Babamoo to secure the beach head.

Close Air Support & Cover

If the previous strafing and bombing sorties of the 13th Air Force and the Marine Aircraft Groups, Zamboanga (MAGSZAM) were fearsome, they just couldn’t compare to the day long air bombardment of the Tagoloan and Cagayan areas on 10 May 1945.

At least 65 sorties were carried out by various aircraft, the most by 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers which strafed and bombed Tagoloan with another 16 hitting Cagayan starting at 0730 Hrs. Each B-25 carried 12 100-lb. bombs and both missions reported 90% of bombs on target with no antiaircraft fire reported.

A U.S. Navy SBD releasing a bomb. Note the extended dive brakes on the trailing edges.

They were supported by 16 SBD Patrol Bombers which dive bombed targets in the Sayre Highway to prevent Japanese reinforcements from coming to the aid of their beleaguered comrades in the beach head, while Marine F4U Corsairs flew combat air patrol over the area, being relieved by P-61 Black Widow night fighters early evening. A lone PBY Catalina also flew over the area to pick up downed aviators but no enemy aircraft appeared to contest the landing.

Landing at Tin-ao, Agusan

At 0908 Medium Landing Ships (LSM) began beaching and unloading. The operation proceeded as planned and the Army forces pushed inland.

This landing, which was known as the Victor-V-A Operation was made in accordance with General Eichelberger’s plan for the clearance of the Sayre Highway in Bukidnon.

The force had been staged on Leyte by Eight Army and was directly under army control until juncture with the 31st Division was made, when it was released to the X Corps and attached to the 31s Division.[2]

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM F. SHARP AND HIS STAFF, 1942.

It marked the first time American forces landed in Cagayan at exactly the same day three years earlier that the USAFFE Vis-Min Forces under Maj. Gen. William F. Sharp surrendered to the Japanese in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

Two days later, guerrillas liberated Cagayan on 12 May 1945, as the 108th Regt went straight up the Sayre Highway for its link-up with the 31st Division.

Two days further on 14 May 1945, another US unit, the 3rd Battalion (reinforced) of the 16rth Infantry (American Division), landed at Barangay Agusan, Cagayan from Cebu and was placed in combat team reserve.

Soldiers from the 108t RCT, 40th ID arrive at Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Phillippines, May 26, 1945. ( California State Military History Museum)

The 108th Regimental Combat Team and the 155th Regimental Combat Team of the 31st Division linked up just outside Impalutao, Bukidnon on 23 May 1945.  The juncture of the two forces marked the end of Japanese resistance along the Sayre Highway.(compiled by Mike Baños In memoriam Romel S.T.Racho)

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Antonio Julian Montalvan: The Forgotten World War II Martyr of Cagayan de Misamis

75th Cagayan Liberation Anniversary Feature Story

One of the perpendicular streets which links Burgos to Don Apolinar Velez streets in Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines is named  Antonio Julian Montalvan , but few of those traversing it or even living along it have any idea whom it is named after. 

The young Antonio Julian Montalvan with his father.
(courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

Antonio Julian Montalván y Corrales (Feb. 8, 1906 – Aug. 30, 1944) was a member of an espionage team working for the 10th  Military District under Col. Wendell W.  Fertig in Mindanao, who reported directly to Gen. Douglas MacArthur

“He was a medical doctor, first assigned at the Misamis Provincial Hospital (now the Northern Mindanao Medical Center), then to Cebu, then Palompon in Leyte,” said his namesake and nephew local historian and columnist Antonio J. “Nono” Montalvan II. He later served as public health doctor in Iligan.

Antonio Julian Montalvan on his graduation from UST Medical School in 1934.
(courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

When the war began, he was the personal medic of Col. Wendell W. Fertig, head of the organized guerrilla resistance in Mindanao under the 10th Military District, United States Forces in the Philippines. He was recruited to serve as a spy by their cousin and brother-in-law Senator José Ozámiz, Nono added

“He did intelligence work for Col Fertig,” said Nono’s brother Eduardo, who now serves as Board Chairman of the Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD). “Because of his familiarity with the UST Hospital, and as a doctor, he was able to get information from patients on the movements of Japanese troops in Mindanao. The information he passed on to Col. Fertig was so vital in the guerrilla operations in  Mindanao.”

“He commuted to Manila from Mindanao by banca, going from one island to another. In one of his trips he was accompanied by Roque Ablan, Vicente Raval and Ferdinand Marcos (who was the most junior in the group) who were trying to get the assistance of the Mindanao Guerrilla Movement, “ Ed noted.

The Montalvan Family with Antonio Julian as the youngest (righmost).
Courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II

The group helped establish coastal radio relay stations in Mindanao, Visayas and Southern Luzon. Later, he became part of a Manila spy network.

“His role was first to serve as courier between Manila and Mindanao. The boat would land in Pagbilao, Quezon which is just near Tayabas. Then he would proceed to Manila to get in touch with the Manila spy network (Spyron),” Nono relates.

“He made 3 boat trips. He was about to make a 4th boat trip to Mindanao when he was captured in Tayabas. A carpenter who was doing work in the house squealed to the Japanese. He was brought to Fort Santiago, then to Bilibid,” he added.

Antonio Julian Montalvan and his wife Rosario Llamas on their wedding day on Sept. 11, 1940.
(courtesy of Antonio J. Montalvan II)

Then newly married to Rosario Llamas, a cousin of Virginia Llamas Romulo, — the first Mrs. Carlos P. Romulo—he was arrested by the Japanese Kempeitai in Tayabas town, in the house of his mother in-law Doña Tecla Capistrano Llamas. He was about to pack his bags for another clandestine boat trip to Mindanao.

The Japanese later detained and tortured him in Fort Santiago and at the Old Bilibid Prisons in Manila.

Cable dated May 31, 1944 from Col. Wendell Fertig to Gen. Douglas MacArthur detailing the arrest of Capt. Antonio Julian Montalvan by the Japanese in Manila. (courtesy of Marie Vallejo)

On August 30, 1944 he was executed by decapitation with the group of Senator José Ozámiz, and the Elizalde Group of Manila which included the writer Rafael Roces and Blanche Walker Jurika, the mother in-law of guerilla leader Charles “Chick” Parsons. The execution took place at the Manila Chinese Cemetery.

“They were executed together by decapitation. It was a large group — about 40 of them,” Nono said. “There’s a war memorial for them at Manila North Cemetery.”

Philippine historian Ambeth Ocampo describes Montalván as a “World War II hero of Mindanao”.  (compiled by Mike Baños)

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75th Cagayan Liberation Anniversary Feature – Maj. Jose Manuel Corrales Montalvan, 1st Camp Commander of the‘Kampo’

 Few Kagay-anons today are aware that the first camp commander of the Philippine Army’s biggest military camp in Mindanao was a Lumad (native Kagay-anon).

1st Lt. Jose Manuel Corrales Montalvan as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve in 1928 (Montalvan Family Archives)

Major Jose Manuel Corrales Montalvan was initially assigned as Cadre Commander of the 2nd Misamis Oriental (Machine Gun) Cadre at Camp Bulua (present day Camp Edilberto Evangelista) in Cagayan, a post he served in from January 1-Dec. 31, 1939.

 When the camp was renamed Camp Evangelista, then 1st Lt. Montalvan was appointed its Camp Commander and Mobilization Center Officer on January 1, 1940, a post he served up to the outbreak of World War II.

 Dr. Montalvan, who was also known as Ñor Peping, was born on March 17, 1903 in present day Cagayan de Oro (then known as Cagayan de Misamis, capital town of the Segundo Distrito de Misamis, and later as Misamis, Cagayan under the American regime) to Jose Gabriel Montalvan, a retired Spanish soldier from Belmonte, Cuenca, Spain who was assigned by the Spanish government to the Philippines and Concepcion Corrales y Roa of Cagayan de Misamis.

 In 1927, he was graduated with honors (3rd highest) from the Philippine Dental College, Manila with a degree of Doctor in Dental Surgery (DDS).

Upon his return to his hometown in 1928, he practiced dentistry and became one of the first teachers of the Ateneo de Cagayan (present day Xavier University) and was its Commandant of the Corps of Cadets.

Dr. Montalvan was commissioned a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1928, was trained and successfully completed the U.S. Army Extension Courses. From 1933 to 1937 he was the instructor for Military Science and Tactics at the Ateneo de Cagayan.

However, the lure of a full-time career in the newly formed Philippine Army proved irresistible and he resigned from the U.S. Army Reserve and was commissioned as a First Lieutenant, Infantry Reserve, of the Philippine Army on July 16, 1936. He was called to active duty training at Camp Murphy Training School for Reserve Officers (Infantry), assigned as Company Commander of the training officers company, and graduated No. 5 with a general average of 90.7% in 1938.

While assigned as the first camp commander of Camp Evangelista, he graduated from the School of Military Law and Courts-Martial Procedure, Camp Keithley, Lanao in 1940.

Upon his induction into the U.S. Army Forces – Far East (USAFFE) on September 6, 1941, he was appointed Division Finance Officer and Division Quartermaster of the USAFEE’s 102nd Division.

Later, he was appointed Division Inspector General, 102nd Division, USAFFE, with Headquarters at Tankulan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon then promoted to Captain, Infantry, in April, 1942.

Following the surrender of the USAFFE forces in Mindanao under Gen. William Sharp to the Japanese Imperial Army on May 10, 1942, Dr. Montalvan was taken as a prisoner-of-war (POW) by the Japanese and detained at the Ateneo de Cagayan campus which had been converted into a POW Camp.

“During his captivity he developed polyneuritis, which caused his leg to become shorter, as a result of the hard labor he underwent in prison when he and others would carry sacks of potatoes and coffee under the rain, soaking their only clothing in their bodies,” recalls his daughter Annabel Montalvan Corrales.

“One night after such experience his whole body became numb and his leg started to give him extreme pain. The doctors at that time did not know what it was but was later diagnosed as polyneuritis.”

However, he successfully escaped and joined his family in Talakag, Bukidnon. He walked for days to Talakag, away from the road, because the Japanese were looking for him. Again, the rains came and soaked his clothes. When he got to Talakag he had very high fever and the polyneuritis he contracted became worse.

Officers of Camp Bulua (present day Camp Edilberto Evangelista) at Cagayan de Misamis in 1939. (Montalvan Family Archives)

He then proceeded to Misamis Occidental to join the guerrillas of Col. Wendell Fertig, commander of the United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) in Mindanao, which was made up of escaped prisoners-of-war and Filipino and American soldiers and civilians who refused to surrender to the Japanese.

Between 1942 and 1944, USFIP forces raided Japanese occupation forces in Mindanao and provided valuable intelligence to the Allied forces.

For his military service before and during World War II, Dr. Montalvan received the following awards and decorations: Philippine Defense Medal; American Defense Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal; Philippine Republic Unit Citation Badge and the U.S. Distinguished Unit Badge.

Following his polyneuritis, Dr. Montalvan reverted to inactive status on July 11, 1946 and was promoted to the rank of Major, Infantry Reserve in January 20, 1950.

 “He suffered so much under the hands of the Japanese and often got slapped for no reason,” Ms. Montalvan said. “Many years later, that Japanese that put him under hard labor came back to Cagayan de Oro to apologize to him and to others he tortured. And my dad readily accepted his apology!”

He resumed his duties as a professor of Spanish at the Ateneo in 1949 and took up law at the Cagayan Law School of the Ateneo, graduating with a degree of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) in 1953, passed the Bar exams and was admitted to the Bar in June 1954 and established a law practice.

He married the former Mercedes Acero Roa of Cagayan de Oro City and with whom he had six children: Marrieta, Daisy, Annabel, Eduardo, Consuelo and Antonio.

Dr. Montalvan passed away on September 21, 1978, his patriotism and service to the country and military apparently forgotten by the new generation of Kagay-anons.

To rectify this situation, Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) and Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. (Abante Mindanao- Party List) filed House Bill 4735 with the 15th Congress during its first regular session seeking to rename Camp Edilberto Evangelista to “Camp Jose Montalvan in honor of a Kagay-anon and Mindanaoan war hero who fought against the Japanese to protect the freedom of the Philippines.”

Patag Airstrip just before World War II. This is also the future area of Camp Bulua, training ground for the Philippine Commonwealth Army, later renamed Camp Edilberto Evangelista. (courtesy MacArthur Memorial, Norfolk, Va.)

Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Barangay Patag, Cagayan de Oro City, is the largest military camp in Mindanao with an area of 129 hectares. It is the home base to the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division and covers the Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

The explanatory note to the HB 4735 reads in part: “It is readily apparent that Major Montalvan is a war hero who fought against the Japanese in order to ensure that the Philippines retain its independence. He gave up the best years of his life to fight for our country. It is therefore appropriate that he be honored by renaming Camp Evangelista into Camp Jose Montalvan, in honor of a Kagay-anon who risked his life for our country.”

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