The Impact of War

The transition from peace to war in the Philippines was a sudden one. The civilian population and the untrained Filipino soldiers were ill prepared to withstand the initial shock without displaying signs of nervousness and apprehension. Although a war with Japan had been expected for some time, bomb shelters had not been completed and the Philippine Army was still in the process of mobilization. A voluble and excitable people, the Filipinos saw danger everywhere and their fertile imagination produced reports of enemy activity that kept the USAFFE staff busy searching for the grain of truth in the wild tales that came in over the wires.

The most fantastic reports were accepted and widely circulated. During the first air raids, the belief that the Japanese bombers were "at least partially manned by white pilots" was given sufficient credence to be reported to the War Department.1 Dewey Boulevard was supposed to be lined, the planeless 27th Bombardment Group heard, with A-20's ready to fly into combat. The same unit also reported a telephone message stating that its A-24's were at the docks being unloaded. A frantic but unprofitable rush to the water front followed.2

Many residents in Manila reported hearing short-wave messages to Japan, but the most careful search by Army authorities failed to reveal a short-wave transmitter. One day there was news that the fleet was sailing across the Pacific to the rescue; another day that the water supply in Manila had been poisoned and that poison gas had been spread in the port area. Again, the Japanese were supposed to have sailed into Manila Bay and put ashore 1,000 men at the mouth of the Pasig River.3 From 9 December on, Admiral Hart wrote, "An extraordinary crop of incorrect enemy information flowed in over the warning net. Too many reports came in of enemy sightings when nothing actually was sighted. . . ."4 "The Army," said one writer, "was travelling as much on rumors as on its stomach."5

Each fresh rumor made the civilian population more uneasy. No one knew what to believe. Numerous air raid alarms, all of them false, and the blackout added to the tense and foreboding atmosphere. The air alarms in Manila became so frequent that General Sutherland had to order wardens to clear through the Army headquarters before sounding the sirens.

The blackout was rigorously enforced, and the criminal element in the city took full advantage of the darkness and confusion. They were unwittingly aided by


guards, sentries, and air raid wardens, who "popped up seemingly at every corner to issue a nervous challenge."6 If not answered promptly and satisfactorily, they fired. In an effort to control crime and reported fifth-column activity, the police were given orders to shoot if the reply to a challenge was not satisfactory. Many interpreted their orders narrowly, challenging and firing at the same time. With sentries, air raid wardens, and police shooting, sometimes at each other, the confusion became even worse. Finally, USAFFE ordered all firearms turned in.

Manila showed all the signs of a modern city under attack. Shop windows were covered with adhesive tape and entrances barricaded with sandbags. Improvised bomb shelters appeared in shops and public buildings. Those fortunate enough to have cellars in their homes spent their nights there. Transportation was commandeered by the Army and gasoline was rationed. Those who drove cars had to shade their headlights in the approved fashion.7 Street traffic became disorganized, and trucks, ambulances, and official cars raced through the streets at top speed with complete disregard for traffic signals.

Life in Manila during these days was topsy-turvy. Residents fled the city to seek safety in rural areas, and their country cousins flocked to the city for the same reason. Main thoroughfares were blocked with trucks, animal-drawn vehicles, and handcarts moving in both directions. Vehicles were loaded with household goods, trussed pigs, and chicken crates. To the rear trailed the dogs. To their barking was added the squealing of the pigs and the clucking chatter of the fowls. The skies were watched anxiously for any sign of Japanese planes. People began to hoard food. Radio and cable offices were filled and it was impossible to handle all the messages to the outside world.8

With the first bombs the people rushed to the banks to withdraw their money. Frantic mobs pushed and milled outside the banks and swore at the tellers. Those banks and commercial houses that had not already done so sent their gold to Australia and the United States. After several days withdrawals were limited to 200 pesos in paper money weekly. Filipinos hoarded silver money and the result was a shortage in change. Most merchants sold only for cash, thus increasing the difficulties of the business community.9

During these days of confusion, military and civilian authorities worked closely to restore the confidence of the people. Bomb shelters were constructed and the people began to pay less attention to the air raid warnings when the Japanese failed to attack the city. The Commonwealth Assembly met in emergency session and made available to President Quezon the sum of 20,000,000 pesos for defense. The United States contributed an equal sum for civilian relief. Government employees were given three months' advance in pay so that they could move their families out of the city to places supposedly safer than Manila. But it never became necessary to establish martial law, and after a week or two the Filipinos quieted down and life in the capital became more normal.

The troops were just as nervous as the civilians. Most of them were convinced


that a well-organized Japanese fifth column existed in the Philippines. Flares, rockets, strange lights, descending paratroopers, cut wires, and interrupted communications were all observed and cited as evidences for this belief. Rumors circulated as widely among the troops as the civilians and were as firmly believed.

The assistant supply officer of USAFFE, Maj. Frank F. Carpenter, Jr., on a visit to a barrio about fifteen miles north of Manila, heard stories of American convoys, shortages of ammunition, the landings at Aparri, and other military matters, which the average American soldier did not know. He was told that Germans wearing the American uniform had been seen and that 1,500 Japanese soldiers in civilian clothes were living in Manila, "all set to take action at the proper time." It was Major Carpenter's considered judgment that fifth columnists in the uniform of the American soldier were spreading information and creating dissatisfaction, and he asked the intelligence officer to investigate.10

Almost all survivors of the campaign agree that they saw flares or that they know someone who did. These lights were apparently unlike signal flares; they were small, orange in color, and could be seen close to the ground or just above the trees. Other observers noted rockets rising over uninhabited areas, and series of lights forming a straight line pointing to an airfield or military target just before an attack. Colonel Collier tells this story of the predawn raid on Nichols Field on the morning of 9 December: As the sound of the Japanese planes became audible, an old automobile near Nichols burst into flames, casting a glow over the field. At the same time, about a dozen fishing boats were observed in the bay, just outside the breakwater. They formed a circle with their lights pointing toward the center. The straight line from this point to the blazing automobile formed a line which the Japanese bombers presumably followed to reach the field.11

Similar stories are told about the raids on Clark Field and Cavite. One witness states that he learned from an unnamed cavalry officer-since killed-that a Filipino who operated a bar near Clark Field was largely responsible for the success of the Japanese attack on 8 December. This Filipino is supposed to have had a powerful short-wave transmitter with a beam director in a room in back of the bar and to have informed the Japanese when all the B-17's were on the ground. He was discovered at the dials of his transmitter after the raid and a "grim sergeant from the 26th Cavalry went into the place with a tommy gun."12 The presence of collaborators at Clark is also mentioned by Lt. Joseph H. Moore, commander of the 20th Pursuit Squadron, who states that he found a mirror tied to a tree above his quarters. Presumably the reflections from the mirror guided the Japanese aircraft to the field.13

A variation of the Clark Field story was told of the raid on the Cavite Navy Yard. Here a secret radio transmitter was also supposed to have been found. The operators, according to this account, were an American with a Japanese wife, both later discovered and arrested. At Cavite, also, an attractive girl of Japanese ancestry, who was


employed in a trusted position at the yard, was "caught red-handed in act of treachery." Someone decided she had to be executed immediately and the officers drew lots. The task fell, so the story goes, to a young naval officer who was in love with the beautiful spy. He led her outside and performed the sentence "without hesitation."14 Official records do not support any of the stories told about secret radio transmitters, beautiful spies, or fifth columnist barkeepers.

Reports of paratroops were frequent also, but upon investigation all proved to be false. A drop of 20,000 paratroops about ten miles east of Clark Field was reported on 10 December. USAFFE placed enough reliability on the report to order the Philippine Division there to meet and destroy the enemy. When the reported Japanese paratroopers failed to appear, the division was ordered elsewhere.15

Interrogation of Japanese officers after the war and a study of Japanese and American records fail to support the belief that a Japanese fifth column existed in the Philippines. There is not a shred of evidence to indicate that any organized effort was made by the Japanese to utilize the sympathies of the Japanese population in the Islands or of Filipino collaborators. To have done so would have involved knowledge by a Japanese organization in the Philippines of the 14th Army's detailed plans well in advance of the attack, communications with the airfields on Formosa, and an elaborate organization to receive information from agents and relay it on to Japanese headquarters on Formosa. Such an organization did not exist. If an effort to assist the attacking Japanese was made, it must have been sporadic and on an individual basis.

It is possible to explain some of the observed phenomena on grounds other than fifth-column activity. The flares may have been caused by American and Filipino troops using faulty .30-caliber tracer ammunition of World War I vintage. No one was ever able to find any person who fired flares, and examination invariably revealed that the strange lights and flares came from an area where American troops were stationed. Sometimes those searching for the origin of the flares used lights which others reported as signs of fifth-column operations. The reports of Japanese paratroopers can be explained by parachuting pilots from damaged aircraft, by the descending burst of antiaircraft fire, or by jettisoned spare gas tanks. The heated imagination of men during the first days of war is capable of conjuring up visions far more fantastic than strange lights and descending paratroopers.

The possibility of sabotage and fifth-column activity had been anticipated in prewar plans. The Philippine Department G-2 and the Commonwealth secret service had listed enemy aliens and had kept many individuals under surveillance. Provision had been made to secure information and locate enemy agents in the event of a Japanese attack. Several FBI operators of Japanese parentage (nisei) had been brought from Hawaii before the war to circulate among the Japanese population. Many American businessmen, engineers, and planters had been enrolled secretly in the intelligence organization and provided a potential American fifth column in the event of a Japanese occupation of the Islands. The Philippine Constabulary also


provided secret agents for counterespionage.16

At the outbreak of hostilities, all suspected persons were quickly and quietly taken into custody. Japanese civilians living in the Japanese section of Manila were ordered to remain in their homes, and the military police took over the guard of this area.17 On the first day of war, General Mac Arthur reported to the War Department that 40 percent of the enemy aliens in Manila, and 10 percent of those in the provinces had been interned.18 The Philippine Constabulary picked up aliens wherever found-in homes, offices, clubs, and on the streets. On 13 December, two days after Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, German and Italian residents in the Philippines were also interned.19 The aliens were first screened at Bilibid Prison in Manila and those cleared were released at once. Those not able to explain their business satisfactorily were then transferred to a camp south of the city to await examination by a board consisting of a representative of the High Commissioner and several Army officers.20

Although the civilian population and the untrained troops were nervous during the first days of war, the task of mobilizing the Philippine Army continued. According to the prewar plan the last units were scheduled for induction on 15 December, a week after the attack came. Some, such as the 43d Infantry, had already been brought in and, as soon as hostilities opened, all remaining units were immediately mobilized. Those divisional elements not yet in service, usually the third infantry regiment and the field artillery regiment, were brought in immediately. A provisional Constabulary regiment, later designated the 4th, was formed and, with the 1st and 2d Regiments, became the basis for the 2d Regular Division, organized early in January and consisting entirely of Constabulary troops. The 1st Regular Division (PA), which in peacetime consisted mainly of cadres for training reservists, was brought up to strength and inducted, without an artillery regiment, on 19 December. It was assigned to the South Luzon Force and its 1st Infantry moved at once to the Mauban area along Lamon Bay.21

In the Visayas and in Mindanao, mobilization was about one-half completed when war came. On orders from MacArthur's headquarters, the 72d and 92d Infantry (PA) were sent to Luzon on 9 December. Numerous provisional units were organized and equipped by local commanders. These units consisted of volunteers, ROTC cadets, and reservists not yet called or who had failed to report.22

All reservists were ordered to report to the nearest unit or mobilization center on 8 December. As a result, some units found themselves overstrength and additional units were hastily organized. Men undergoing instruction and not yet assigned were organized into separate units. Coast artillery personnel at Fort Mills (Corregidor), for example, was organized into the 1st Coast Artillery (PA), with a headquarters battery of twenty-eight men and four gun


batteries of one hundred men each. The coast artillery reservists at Fort Wint in Subic Bay were similarly organized.23

In some cases, units were formed to utilize armament or equipment lying in warehouses or elsewhere. At the suggestion of General King, Mac Arthur's artillery officer, the 301st Field Artillery (PA) was formed from two groups of volunteers, altogether 700 men, and equipped with 24 wooden-wheeled 155-mm. guns of World War I type, and 2 155-mm. howitzers of the same vintage. These were the 155's that had been sent to the Philippines to protect the straits leading into the inland seas and were the only weapons of this caliber in the Philippines, outside of Corregidor. Col. Alexander S. Quintard was brought from Mindanao to command the unit.24 At about the same time, three separate provisional battalions of field artillery of four 4-gun batteries each were formed. These units were armed with 48 of the 50 75-mm. guns on self-propelled mounts that had been shipped to the Philippines in October. Personnel was secured from the Philippine Scouts, Philippine Army reservists, and the 200th Coast Artillery (AA). Two of the battalions were assigned to the North Luzon Force, and one to the South Luzon Force.25

Immediately upon the outbreak of war, USAFFE ordered all procurement agencies to fill their needs by purchase in the local markets. The quartermaster bought all the new and used automobiles and trucks he could find, as well as large quantities of clothing and food. Several motor transport companies were taken over by the Army, lock, stock, and barrel. The Signal Corps purchased all available photographic, radio, and telephone equipment, and took control of the Manila Long Distance Telephone Company, commissioning its president, Joseph Stevenot, a lieutenant colonel. The Medical Corps gathered up all the medicine, bandages, and surgical equipment it could find in the Islands. Buildings of all kinds were occupied by the Army- the Jai Alai Club became a hospital; Rizal Stadium, a medical depot.26 The officers assigned to the former inherited the food, chefs, and service of the club, and for a few days dined sumptuously on onion and mushroom soup, steak, broiled lobster, and Viennese pastry, served on snowy linen gleaming with silver by waiters in natty green and white uniforms. After headquarters heard of this arrangement, the medics ate Army fare.27

Manila, the commercial center of the Islands, was exploited for supplies to supplement existing stocks. On orders from General MacArthur the quartermaster took over from the large oil companies all their bulk petroleum products stored in the vicinity of Manila. He sought especially to procure food from local sources, for it was evident already that there would be a shortage should the campaign last long. From Chinese merchants in Manila, the Army secured thousands of 125-pound sacks of polished rice, and from ships in the


harbor large quantities of food. The quartermaster took over from Armour, Swift, and Libby large quantities of canned meats and other foods.28

Within a few days after the opening of hostilities, the port area in Manila had become crowded with rapidly expanding military installations. Fort Santiago, headquarters of the Philippine Department, was on the edge of this area, as was the mouth of the Pasig River, now jammed with interisland freighters and other craft. The supply services that had warehouses and depots in the area decided it would be safest to move out, although Manila had not yet been bombed. The engineers were the first to go; they moved to the University of the Philippines. The quartermaster took over Santo Tomas University, and the other services followed. By 20 December most of the service installations in the port area had quietly moved to safer quarters.29

An unexpected addition to the tanks of Col. James R. N. Weaver's Provisional Tank Group was received shortly after the start of war. The Japanese attack left marooned in Manila Harbor the Don Jose, a vessel belonging to the Canadian Government and carrying a cargo of motor equipment for two Canadian motor battalions in Hong Kong. MacArthur immediately requested that this matériel be released for use in the Philippines, and the War Department secured the Canadian Government's consent. The cargo included fifty-seven Bren gun carriers, forty of which were made available to Colonel Weaver. Unfortunately, the guns for the carriers were not included in the cargo, and they had to be armed by the Manila Ordnance Depot.30

The immediate reaction at Headquarters, USAFFE, to the first Japanese landings was one of calm. General MacArthur optimistically reported that the Philippine people had withstood the shock of war "with composure," and that there were "no signs of confusion or hysteria."31 The Japanese moves were correctly analyzed but a counteroffensive was not launched to drive off the invaders. "We did not disperse forces," says General Sutherland, "but waited for what we felt would be the main attack."32

More concern was felt during the first days of the war over the rapid dissolution of the Far East Air Force than over the Japanese landings. "The present phase of enemy action," MacArthur told the War Department on 12 December, "involves a series of concentric thrusts probably intended to confuse and demoralize northern movement. Probably has the additional objective of securing airdromes for operation of land based aircraft."33 The next day he declared that the enemy's intent was clearly revealed. The Japanese, he said, were seizing airbases outside the heavily defended area of central Luzon, and ground action could be considered sporadic and unimportant.34


This view was expressed also in Col. Charles A. Willoughby's intelligence estimate to the War Department on 13 December 1941. He expected the Japanese forces at Aparri, Vigan, and Legaspi to be reinforced, but pointed out that the landing areas were not suitable for the employment of strong forces in offensive operations. The purpose of the landing, he correctly analyzed, was to establish advance airbases. "As soon as air support is established," he warned, "a major landing effort can be expected; it is estimated after 15 days."35

The only change in plans made by MacArthur as a result of the Japanese landings was the new mission given the North Luzon Force on 16 December. Before that time General Wainwright had been charged with the defense of all northern Luzon, and his orders were to meet the enemy at the beaches and drive him back into the sea. The main line of resistance was the beach. Such a mission was impossible of execution with the available means and in the absence of air and naval support. On the 16th the North Luzon Force was relieved of responsibility for the defense of that portion of Luzon north of San Fernando, La Union, and required only to hold the enemy north of an east-west line through that city.36

Within a few days after the landings the pattern of the Japanese plan had become clear to the American command. First, Japanese air and naval forces were to cut off the Philippine Islands from all possible aid. Then, Japanese aircraft could destroy or neutralize the defending air and naval forces and gain superiority in the air and on the sea. At the same time, Japanese ground forces would secure advance bases at the northern and southern extremities of the island of Luzon and on Mindanao where the opposition was negligible or non-existent. The major enemy effort, it was clear, was still to come. That it would come soon-Colonel Willoughby thought 28 December-there was no doubt, and when it did the objective would be Manila, the capital. Before the year was out, the worst fears of the early pessimists were to be realized. Even before the advance landings were completed, the main elements of General Homma's 14th Army were already nearing the Luzon coast.


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