By Edward James Haggerty, SJ
One early morning about the middle of March 1942, I received a telephone call from Major Joe Webb of Utah, commander of the 103rd Regiment at Cagayan.
“Padre, want to be in on a good show?”
“Come down to the wharf in fifteen minutes.”
“Sorry; I am just vesting for Mass.”
“Well, you’re going to miss the chance of a lifetime. No, no danger-just a thrill-something big.”
Later, there was a noise of many planes flying low over the bay. The engines died out, but we saw no planes. An hour later I learned that three P.T. boats had roared in to dock.
About ten I drove to Del Monte on business with General Sharp. Del Monte had become the only big airfield after Clark and Nichols Field had fallen to the Japs (sic) on Luzon. For four months after the capture of Manila, bombers from Australia still stole in at night to remove Air Corps personnel.
Fr James Edward Haggerty, S.J. was the Rector of Ateneo de Cagayan when World War II broke out.
Although the headquarters guard seemed unusually alert this particular day, I passed by without challenge to the reception room. I noted strangers with the insignia of generals and admirals and colonels, but was intent on my interview and suspected nothing,
General Sharp was nervous and preoccupied, and seemed willing to have me gone. So I became bolder and asked authorization after authorization to help me in a project we had discussed of preparing an evacuation place for American civilians. All requests were quickly granted.
As I was ready to leave, an air alert sounded, and two lone enemy planes circled high. To my amazement, a handsome four-star general came calmly from the bedroom, inquired about the alert, walked straight across the wide room, shook hands without introduction and called me “Father.”
I could only manage a few words of admiration for his gallant stand – then the world’s most absorbing interest. It was MacArthur!
MacArthur at Del Monte
General Sharp was nearby, anxiously telephoning. MacArthur apologized, went back to his room and brought out his wife, his son, and the Chinese amah and placed them in safety in a dugout and returned. Again he walked over to where I was sitting.
“Would you like to go to a shelter, Father? There are only two planes, I never bother about so few.”
“No,” I chattered, “your calmness makes me feel brave.”
He sat down beside me and we were absolutely alone. I noticed his worn, unpressed khaki, his tired eyes, unshaven face. But he looked vital, young. Somehow he was both aloof and personal. Without a question from me, he took me into his confidence in a way that made me his firm admirer, impervious thereafter to any criticism against him.
“Bataan cannot b e take if food holds out. We have food for less than two months…The men on Bataan are splendid…they have proven their valor far beyond my expectations – beyond the expectations of friend, and especially, of the enemy.”
As he talked, I saw Bataan. I felt how this leader could inspire heroism as he painted the picture in chiseled yet glowing words,.
“…and I have been ordered by President Roosevelt to Australia to begin the offensive…If the Jap (sic) does not take Mindanao by Easter, all he will receive is bullets…”
The All Clear sounded. I had been hypnotized for five minutes-fortified in spirit for the two discouraging months that followed.
Sharp returned and MacArthur went for his wife and boy without a word about secrecy. General Sharp took me to the door:
“Padre,” he smiled, “I think you’ve scooped a few of us. Please consider everything secret – even his presence here.
It was a request hard to keep; it meant living tens of thousands sliding into hopelessness. MacArthur’s words would have pulled them up – at least for a time.
Two nights later we heard the roar of planes coming in from the south. An hour later, the planes were roaring back south into the night and MacArthur and his staff were gone.
Fr Edward James Haggerty S.J. was known to the Mindanao Resistance as the Guerrilla Padre.
In order to save weight for additional stranded pilots to fly south, the General’s party left with only small musette bags-paltry remains of American empire-building in the East.
(an excerpt from pages 7 & 8 of 261, from Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao by Edward James Haggerty SJ)