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The Japanese occupation of the Philippines was the period in the history of the Philippines between 1941 and 1945, when the Empire of Japan occupied the previously American-controlled Philippines during World War II. I was seven years old at that time.
The invasion of the Philippines started on December 8, 1941, ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As at Pearl Harbor, the American aircraft were severely damaged in the initial Japanese attack. Lacking air cover, the American Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines withdrew to Java on December 12, 1941. General Douglas MacArthur escaped Corregidor on the night of March 11, 1942 for Australia, 4,000 km away. The 76,000 starving and sick American and Filipino defenders on Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942, and were forced to endure the infamous Bataan Death March on which 7-10,000 died or were murdered. The 13,000 survivors on Corregidor surrendered on May 6.
For over three years, right to the day of the surrender of Japan, the Philippines were to suffer grievously under military occupation. General MacArthur discharged his promise to return to the Philippines on October 20, 1944.
The landings on the island of Leyte were accomplished by an amphibious force of 700 vessels and 174,000 army and navy servicemen. Through December 1944, the islands of Leyte and Mindoro were cleared of Japanese soldiers.
Japan launched an attack on the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor. Initial aerial bombardment was followed by landings of ground troops both north and south of Manila. The defending Philippine and United States troops were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who had been recalled to active duty in the United States Army earlier in the year and was designated commander of the United States Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The aircraft of his command were destroyed; the naval forces were ordered to leave; and because of the circumstances in the Pacific region, reinforcement and resupply of his ground forces were impossible. Under the pressure of superior numbers, the defending forces withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula and to the island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay. Manila, declared an open city to prevent its destruction, was occupied by the Japanese on January 2, 1942.
The Philippine defense continued until the final surrender of United States-Philippine forces on the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942 and on Corregidor in May. Most of the 80,000 prisoners of war captured by the Japanese at Bataan were forced to undertake the infamous "Bataan Death March" to a prison camp 105 kilometers to the north. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 men, weakened by disease and malnutrition and treated harshly by their captors, died before reaching their destination. Quezon and Osmeña had accompanied the troops to Corregidor and later left for the United States, where they set up a government-in-exile. MacArthur was ordered to Australia, where he started to plan for a return to the Philippines.
The Japanese military authorities immediately began organizing a new government structure in the Philippines. Although the Japanese had promised independence for the islands after occupation, they initially organized a Council of State through which they directed civil affairs until October 1943, when they declared the Philippines an independent republic. Most of the Philippine elite, with a few notable exceptions, served under the Japanese. Philippine collaboration in Japanese-sponsored political institutions-which later became a major domestic political issue-was motivated by several considerations. Among them was the effort to protect the people from the harshness of Japanese rule (an effort that Quezon himself had advocated), protection of family and personal interests, and a belief that Philippine nationalism would be advanced by solidarity with fellow Asians. Many collaborated to pass information to the Allies. The Japanese-sponsored republic headed by President José P. Laurel proved to be unpopular.
Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by increasingly effective underground and guerrilla activity that ultimately reached large-scale proportions. Postwar investigations showed that about 260,000 people were in guerrilla organizations and that members of the anti-Japanese underground were even more numerous. Their effectiveness was such that by the end of the war, Japan controlled only twelve of the forty-eight provinces.
One resistance group in the Central Luzon area was furnished by the Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon), or the People's Anti-Japanese Army organized in early 1942 under the leadership of Luis Taruc, a communist party member since 1939. The Huks armed some 30,000 people and extended their control over much of Luzon.
Other guerrilla units were attached to the SWPA, and were active through out the archipelago. Some of these units were organized or directly connected to pre-surrender units ordered to mount guerrilla actions. An example of this was Troop C, 26th Cavalry. Other guerrilla units were made up of former Philippine Army and Philippine Scouts soldiers who had been released from POW camps by the Japanese. Others were combined units of Americans, military and civilian, who had never surrendered or had escaped after surrendering, and Filipinos, Christians and Moros, who had initially formed their own small units. Colonel Wendell Fertig organized such a group on Mindanao that not only effectively resisted the Japanese, but formed a complete government that often operated in the open throughout the island. Some guerrilla units would later be assisted by inserted allied forces, such as the 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion, and Alamo Scouts.
End of the occupation
MacArthur's Allied forces landed on the island of Leyte on October 20, 1944, accompanied by Osmeña, who had succeeded to the commonwealth presidency upon the death of Quezon on August 1, 1944. Landings then followed on the island of Mindoro and around the Lingayen Gulf on the west side of Luzon, and the push toward Manila was initiated. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was restored. Fighting was fierce, particularly in the mountains of northern Luzon, where Japanese troops had retreated, and in Manila, where they put up a last-ditch resistance.
The Philippine Commonwealth troops and the recognized guerrilla fighter units rose up everywhere for the final offensive. Fighting continued until Japan's formal surrender on September 2, 1945. The Philippines had suffered great loss of life and tremendous physical destruction by the time the war was over. An estimated 1 million Filipinos had been killed, a large proportion during the final months of the war, and Manila was extensively damaged.
Personal Note: My father was an active member of the Filipino- American guerilla forces in Panay Island at that time. He served in the Dental Corp at time since he was a licensed dentist. My childhood experiences of this war is described in one of my blogs, http://theintellectualmigrant.blogspot.com, Chapter 1 dated 5/09/09.
Planning to Visit the Philippines Soon?
There are hundreds of tourists attractions in the Philippines. But as a lover of the Island of Marinduque (Home of the Morions and Heart of the Philippines), I am indeed partial to its beauty, charm and its friendly and hospitable residents. Therefore, help me achieve my dream of seeing this island becomes a world tourist destination, by telling all your friends and relatives about this site. Welcome, to you all, new readers and faithful followers of this site! The photo above is Poctoy White Beach in Torrijos, Marinduque with beautiful and majestic Mt Malindig in the background. Some of the photos and videos on this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on infringing your copyrights. Please do not forget to read the latest National and International news in the right side bar of this blog!