Philippines History – The Japanese Occupation

With the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the occupation of the Philippines was a major immediate target for the Japanese.

At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, the major presidencies of the Philippines were located on the islands of Luzón and Mindanao. In Luzón there were army corps I (gen. JM Wainwright right), in the north of the island, and II (gen. Parker), in the southern part, with a total force of about 60,000 men. On December 8, 1941, the Japanese opened hostilities in the Philippines, taking over the small island of Lubang. On 10 December they bombed Cavite, in the bay of Manila, the only fortified area of ​​the archipelago, and completely destroyed its arsenal: the Asian US fleet was therefore left without a point of support, and was forced to move to Java (Soerabaja). On the 11th, they landed with about 3000 men in Aparri, far north of Luzón, and with a small contingent south-east of Manila, in the bay of Legaspi. A landing followed on the 13th in Vigan and another, on the 16th, in the small island of Batán, one of the northernmost ones. The invasion began with the arrival in the Lingayen Gulf, of a convoy of 84 transports, escorted by a naval team under the command of General Masaharu Homma (shot in Los Baños, Luzón, on April 3, 1946, as a war criminal for mistreating prisoners in the famous “death march” in Bataan). The troops landed in the north had reached Tuguegarao on the 18th; the Americans, however, had not allowed themselves to be attracted by this diversionary attack and concentrated their efforts on trying to face the greater threat. But on the 21st, other Japanese troops landed in Lingayen who, overwhelmed the defenses of the 11th The troops landed in the north had reached Tuguegarao on the 18th; the Americans, however, had not allowed themselves to be attracted by this diversionary attack and concentrated their efforts on trying to face the greater threat. But on the 21st, other Japanese troops landed in Lingayen who, overwhelmed the defenses of the 11th The troops landed in the north had reached Tuguegarao on the 18th; the Americans, however, had not allowed themselves to be attracted by this diversionary attack and concentrated their efforts on trying to face the greater threat. But on the 21st, other Japanese troops landed in Lingayen who, overwhelmed the defenses of the 11thtoFilipino division along the west coast, continued east and south. General Mac Arthur, having received news that from the 20 th also in the bay of Davao and in the gulf of Sindangan, on the island of Mindanao, there had been huge Japanese landings, and that the departments landed at Legaspi had been reinforced with others who got off at Lamon, threatening Manila directly, he considered the situation very serious; on 23 December, therefore, he moved his headquarters to the fortified island of Corregidor and gave orders that all the forces of Luzón retreat to the Bataan peninsula, where it was estimated that they could resist for at least six months, as many as were expected to need it to make get adequate reinforcements from the United States. The retreat on Bataan (see in this App.) of the troops deployed to the north had to be carried out in five successive phases, with as many stops on retarding lines, in order to allow the 2nd army corps to go up from the south, go around the bay of Manila and take up to the right of the 1st corps in Bataan. The plan, under the growing Japanese pressure and albeit with serious human and material losses, was implemented with sufficient adherence to the forecasts and completed on 1 January 1942. The next day the Japanese entered Manila and the important naval base of Cavite which, however, they could not use, as the entrance to Manila bay was blocked by the fortifications of the Bataan peninsula, the island of Corregidor and the neighboring islets. All organized defense of the Philippines remained concentrated in these locations, while outbreaks of resistance were fueled in the Visayan Islands and in Mindanao by troops under the command of General William Philippines Sharp. From the end of February to almost the whole of March there was a relative pause in the fighting; On March 10, General Mac Arthur was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces east of Singapore, based in Australia, and handed over command to Gen. JM Wainwright, who moved to Corregidor (March 21).

On 29 March the Japanese resumed the massive attacks on the Bataan Peninsula, which had to capitulate on 9 April; on April 16 they landed at Iloilo (Panay Island), where they amassed troops for an attack on the Visayan and Mindanao islands, and intensified their efforts on Corregidor (see in this App.), which fell on May 6. The gen. Wainwright was forced by the Japanese (May 12) to order the surrender of the units that still resisted in other places on the islands. The methodical Japanese occupation of the whole territory was completed in June.

The Japanese military government installed itself after the occupation, while on the one hand it opened concentration camps where 3500 American and British citizens were imprisoned, on the other it tried to win the sympathy of the Filipinos and promised the independence of the country with respect for the institutions and the Catholic religion., obtaining the collaboration of the Archbishop of Manila M. O ‛Doherty who appealed for the pacification of souls. JB Vargas, ex-secretary (left to take care of civil affairs) of President Manuel Quezón was appointed mayor of Manila. The latter (with powers extended by a law of the North American Congress in 1943) with Sergio Osmeña had established in Washington (May 1942) the government of the Philippines in exile, signatory of the United Nations Declaration.

The new situation appeared favorable to the awakening of Filipino nationalism and, after many decades, old patriots of the revolt against the Spanish misrule of 1896 and the American conquerors of 1898 returned to the scene from exile. The main exponents were Emilio Aguinaldo and General Artenio Ricarte, who organized a fascist party (“Kalibapi”), the only recognized supporter of the collaboration with Tōkyō, which on October 15 recognized a republican government chaired by José P. Laurel, an instrument of Japanese politics, while on the other hand continued the partisan action, with its own political organization.

In the autumn of 1944, the Japanese had the perception of the imminence of the American recovery and concentrated their forces in the areas that lent themselves to greater resistance and, on 17 September, perhaps to warn the opponent about their preparation and intimidate him, they announced the eviction. of Danao, the capital of Mindanao, “in view of the enemy invasion”. This was not long in coming.

In October the Americans heavily bombed Mindanao from the air and, on the 19th (20), after a violent naval bombardment, an army corps landed in the bay of Leyte reaching the capital, Tacloban on the same day; the total conquest of the island was completed on 21 December. In the meantime, landings were made in the Suluan archipelago, at the southwestern end of the Philippines and, from 15 to 20 December, Mindoro was reoccupied. On 9 January 1945, after three days of uninterrupted air strikes, the army corps I and XIV (6 in US Army, gen. W. Krueger), backed by 7 tonaval team and a mighty air fleet, landed in three areas of the gulf of Lingayen (Luzón) and, strongly opposed by the Japanese, marched south, joined the 11th Corps, landed in the southern part of the island, and entered Manila on February 4th. Ten days later they were in Cavite and on the 16th they reoccupied Bataan and Corregidor. Subsequent landings were made on February 21 in Palauan, between Mindoro and Borneo, on March 2 in Lubang and on March 3 in the islands of Burias and Ticao: the Americans thus ensured the passage from the Pacific to the China Sea. Then some smaller islands were reoccupied: on March 19, Panay and, between 27 and 30, Cebu. In Mindanao, from March 12 he worked 8 to armed (gen. RL Eichelberger); the 24 aUS division had landed on April 20 in Cottabato and, on May 2, reached Davao; he went to the north, to be reunited, on May 24, with 40 at division that had taken the floor to Macajalar; Japanese resistance was fierce and lasted until 6 June. Even in the northern part of Luzon there were fierce fighting: May 13th, crossed the step of Balete, the troops of 6 to armed broke into the Cagayan valley, but it was necessary to use three infantry divisions and 11 inairborne division to complete the occupation of the whole island on 27 June. On 3 September, in Baguio (Luzón) he surrendered to gen. JM Wainwright the Japanese commander-in-chief gen. T. Yamashita (later convicted as a war criminal and hanged on February 23, 1946).

The liberation, which lasted almost nine months, had required the use of 17 divisions and had cost 17,000 dead and 46,000 wounded and prisoners. The Japanese had committed 23 divisions and lost – according to American calculations – 317,000 men.

After the liberation. – On 9 June 1945, summoned by President Sergio Osmeña – re-established in office since the first landings (Quezón had died in Saranac Lake, NY, on 1 August 1944) – the first Philippine parliament met again, which remained closed during the Japanese occupation. Of the 98 members of 1941 only 70 could intervene. Elected president (April 1946) Manuel Roxas, the planned independence of the Philippines was solemnly celebrated on 4 July. The national flag was formed with horizontal red and blue stripes, with the sun of freedom and three gold stars on a white field. To remedy the very serious damage caused by the war and the Japanese occupation – 10-15% of buildings destroyed, industrial and communications installations in ruins, chaotic finances for the issue of billions of paper dollars – the American Congress allocated (April 1946) 620 million dollars for the reconstruction (of which 400 for indemnities to private individuals), ceded for 100 million remnants of war; a trade treaty, up to July 1974, favors Philippine exports to the US; other measures, then, favor the investments of American capital in the islands; the agreement for the bases (see above) was followed, on March 21, 1947, by the agreement for military assistance. The elections of 11 November 1947 gave victory to the Liberal party; in February 1948 an amnesty was granted to the collaborators; the Communist Party was banned (October 17); when Roxas died, he was succeeded, on April 17, 1948, by vice president E. Quirino.

Philippines History - The Japanese Occupation