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    Guerrilla Padre’s Eyewitness Report on the bombing of Cagayan

    Fr. James Edward Haggerty, S.J.

    By Mike Baños

    FR. James Edward Haggerty S.J., was the Rector of Ateneo de Cagayan when World War II broke out on Dec. 9, 1941. He joined and later became a key figure in the guerrilla resistance in Mindanao, which was the largest organized resistance group in the Philippines during the Second World War.

    Fr Edward James Haggerty S.J. was known to the Mindanao Resistance as the Guerrilla Padre.

    The first recorded bombings of Cagayan by the returning US forces occurred on September 9-10, 1944 of which there are eyewitness/primary accounts both from eyewitnesses on the ground and from reports filed by the US airmen themselves.

    Perhaps the most popular, mainly perhaps because of the status of the author and the accessibility of many students to his memoirs, is Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao by Fr Haggerty, S.J, then Rector of Ateneo de Cagayan, the most prestigious school at the time mostly due to the efforts of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) which owned and administered it.

    Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao by Fr. James Edward Haggerty, S.J.

    From page 218 to 222 Fr. Haggerty describes his eyewitness accounts of the day’s events in a chapter titled The Planes are Ours.

    “It began just as I was finishing Mass-this wonderful day. A roar of planes-many planes-swept over us just before the end of Mass. I turned around and told the congregation to take cover. I unvested and stepped down into a little creek which formed a tunnel. Strangely, I felt no fear this time, although from the number of planes and the nearness of the bombings I though the Japs were beginning a really systematic clean-up of guerrillas.

    Fr James Edward Haggerty, S.J. as the Rector of Ateneo de Cagayan when World War II broke out.

    To my amazement my boys dashed breathlessly happy down the hill to our gully.

    “Our planes! Our planes!” they shouted. “The Jap airfields are both on fire! The planes dived at the wharf of Cagayan! The town is on fire! Ships are exploding in the bay! ”

    “I ran up the hill, saw great black columns of smoke at the Lumbia Airfield at Kilometer Seven – then explosions at the Patag Airfield. But the planes were gone.”

    “The boys said there had been about forty of them-not like those old Jap training planes that machine-gunned us – those were real planes! “The hills around us each had its little group who had climbed out of their hiding places as the news swept around. Even now they were jumping up and down, and cheers came from far away on the breeze.” They knew it was America’s day, and in delirium they shouted over to me:

    “Father, Father, America has kept her promise to return.”

    “Two hours later, another roar grew louder out of the east. Racing up the steep hill we counted the tiny specks rushing nearer-twelve, sixteen, eighteen, more, more, the sky full of them as they circled. We caught the glint of silver wings, the dark markings on the wingtips-carrier planes-carrier planes.”

    Two Consolidated B-24 Liberators like the ones which destroyed downtown Cagayan on 21 Sept 1944. (warfarehistorynetwork)

    “They dived from all directions, and as the thick smoke rolled up they flashed in and out of it – one of the most beautiful sights, it seemed, I had ever seen. A little off to the right, I knew, was the college, and the big gymnasium that the students themselves had helped to build. It was our pride; the only one outside of Manila. From that direction the smoke was thicker, and I felt not even a pang of regret-it was the Japanese stronghold.”

    “Three hours later planes returned for another pounding. Now the whole horizon is filled with billows of smoke. For hours explosion after explosion has continued. Just now, fourteen hours after the first attack, the sky above Cagayan is aglow and a heavy black pall hangs over the area for miles. Occasionally still an explosion like a bursting shell roars out, and the flames leap high again.”

    North American B-25C-5 Mitchell bombers like the ones which bombed Cagayan poblacion & Tin-ao on 10 May 1944. (42-53400)

    “It has been a happy day!”

    As a key transport and logistics hub for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, Cagayan de Oro (formerly Cagayan de Misamis), was a major target of American bombers of the US Army Air Corps, US Navy and US Marines.

    On October 16, 1944 P-38 Lightning fighter-bombers struck facilities and shipping at Cagayan Harbor, airfields and trucks at Cagayan.

    The most destructive air raid was carried out by seven B-24 Liberators on October 21, 1944, in which the Ateneo de Cagayan, the Macabalan Wharf (Cagayan pier), St. Augustine Church and the Bishop’s House and Convent were totally destroyed.

    The Bishop’s House and St Augustine Cathedral after the 21 October 1944 bombing of Cagayan by US bombers (Jesuit Archives Manila)

    Fr. Haggerty’s account of the October 21, 1944 air raid wasn’t as ebullient as his first.

    “The next day, October 21st, we saw for the first time flights of Liberators. Explosion after explosion came up the wind to us. As we trotted down the road to home other flights were circling overhead. Those Liberators wrecked the town of Cagayan and its wharves. When the day was over the old transit showed our college in ruins, the century-old cathedral gone, and the lovely house of the Bishop a heap of concrete.”

    I wrote simply in my diary: “One group of seven Liberators destroyed in fifteen minutes our material labor of fifteen years. What is now left to show we gave her the best years of our life, unless we look into the souls of our people.”

    What remained of the Ateneo de Cagayan after the American bombings of 21 October 1944 (Photo from Xavier University Museo de Oro).

    Besides Cagayan, the B-24s also bombed the port city of Parapare in South Sulawesi, Indonesia while B-25s and fighter bombers hit Misamis and blasted trucks in Kibawe, Bukidnon.

    A mission report filed by elements of the 22nd Bomb Group to which the B-24s belonged said “On October 21st, the government school at Cagayan [sic], doing double duty on the north coast of Mindanao, was destroyed by a wing strike.”

    The following day, October 22nd, another bombing run was conducted by 12 B-24 Liberators of the 43rd Bomb Group on Cagayan.

    The mission report succinctly reported how “Due to extensive mechanical problems, only 12 of 18 planes sent by the 43rd made it to Cagayan, but they recorded an excellent bombing run, with seven administrative buildings destroyed in the attack. Among the target buildings was one with a red cross on the roof, which did not deter the bombing crews. One 64th Squadron airman recalled it blew up “like an oil explosion.”

    For his wartime services as chaplain of guerrilla groups in Mindanao, Fr. Haggerty was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor and the Bronze Star by the US Government after the war.

    -30-

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