history

A GERMAN EXPAT IN THE PHILIPPINES: WITH BEETHOVEN UNDER PALMS (XIII)

May 2, 2021

Chapter XIII: Philippines, we are coming! "Do you actually know that we will be flying in two weeks?" My question to Rossana caused an unbelievable frenzy. A little later I was also very nervous. But where were our tickets? An express letter with our tickets reached us two days before our departure. A big stone fell from our hearts. Berlin - Frankfurt, Frankfurt - Singapore, Singapore - Manila with Singapore Airlines, and finally Manila - Davao with Philippine Airlines. Finally, after four weeks, we were on our way to Rossana's home. And it was our fourth wedding anniversary. That had "fatal consequences".  A stewardess had noticed that we were toasting each other over a glass of champagne. "Sir, Ma-am, is it okay for you if you transfer to the First-Class-Section?", she asked. "We would like to prepare you a particularly pleasant flight from Singapore to Manila on your very special occasion!" We felt on cloud 9 again. Six wonderful weeks with Rossana's family followed. The negative news from previous letters quickly dissipated. The first time the thought occurred to me what it would be like to be able to live forever in the Philippines. I started to love typical Filipino dishes. Yes, even balut! During that vacation, I met journalist, columnist, and book author Antonio "Tony" Figueroa. An amazing writer. I didn't know then that Tony and I would both be columnists in Mindanao Times starting in 2003. At the farewell party, many tears flowed again. We had to promise our family to come back after two years at the latest. That happened in 1989 together with four of our best German friends. Back in Berlin, I got to know another Filipino tradition: car blessing. Father Hermogenes "Gene" E. Bacareza blessed our new car, our Sunny.  During that time, Father Gene told me about his plan to publish two magazines for Filipinos - one in English (Ang Mabuhay) and one in German (Deutsch-Philippinischer Informationsspiegel Berlin). I was very excited and loved to work with him. His book about German-Filipino Relations greatly guided me in my work. Rossana loved the nature of Berlin and its surroundings more and more, even if our excursions by bike often reached their limits. The Berlin Wall, which enclosed the entire city of West Berlin, stopped us several times.  Often the exact boundary course between West Berlin and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was not identified for us. We were with our bikes on a dark forest path in the north of West Berlin, the so-called Eiskeller (Ice Cave). Suddenly uniformed and armed border guards were standing in front of us. (To be continued)

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The Battle of Colgan Woods: The fiercest battle of World War II in Bukidnon

May 2, 2021

On 17 April 1945, the returning forces of the United States successfully landed in Parang, Cotabato for the final phase of the Battle for Mindanao dubbed Operation VICTOR V. The second-largest island in the Philippines, Mindanao has a long and irregular coastline. Inland, the topography is rugged and mountainous. Most of the terrain is covered by rain forests and contains innumerable crocodile-infested rivers, except for those areas that are lake, swamp, or equally trying grassland. Exacerbating the problem of movement on Mindanao was the existence of only a few roads worthy of the name. Two were operationally significant. Cutting across the southern portion of the island, from just south of Parang on Illana Bay in the west to Digos on the Davao Gulf in the east and then north to Davao, was the generously named Highway No. 1. At Kabacan, about midway between Illana Bay and Davao Gulf, the main north-south road, the Sayre Highway (also known as Highway No. 3), ran north through the mountains to Cagayan and Macajalar Bay on the northern coast. The Japanese had long expected MacArthur to begin his reconquest of the Philippines with an invasion of eastern Mindanao. Believing that the American attack would come in the Davao Gulf area, they had built their defenses accordingly. VICTOR V Operations On 11 March General MacArthur formally ordered the Eighth Army to clear the rest of Mindanao in Operation VICTOR V. MacArthur expected that the campaign could take four months. But Eight Army Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger’s staff produced an operation plan to deal with the Japanese dispositions as efficiently as possible. Instead of a frontal assault into the teeth of the Japanese defenses, the plan called for securing a beachhead at Illana Bay in the undefended west, then drive eastward more than one hundred miles 23 through jungle and mountains to strike the Japanese from the rear. Eichelberger assigned ground operations to Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert’s X Corps whose principal combat units were the 24th Infantry Division, under Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff, and the 31st Infantry Division led by Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin. The plan called for Task Group 78.2, now under Rear Adm. Albert G. Noble, to carry the 24th Division and the X Corps headquarters to the assault beaches near Malabang on 17 April to secure an advance airfield. Then, five days later the 31st Division would be transported twenty miles farther south to Parang, located near Highway 1, the route to Davao. Major General Paul B. Wurtsmith's Thirteenth Air Force, reinforced by elements of the Fifth Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Command, and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing under Maj. Gen. Ralph J. Mitchell was designated "air assault force" for the Mindanao Operation. Its mission prescribed a continuing air offensive over the Southern and Central Philippines to neutralize Japanese air, ground, and naval forces, and to prevent Japanese reinforcements and supplies from reaching the objective area. Displacement of the four scout bombing squadrons equipped with the SBD Dauntless patrol dive bomber from Luzon to Moret Field in Zamboanga (formerly San Roque Airfield) began on 24 March. VMSB's 236 (Black Panthers) and 142 (Wild Hares/Wild Horses) arrived at Moret on the 24th; followed by VMSB-341(Torpid Turtles) on the 25th and VMSB-243 (Flying Goldbricks) on the 26th. As Task Group 78.2 moved toward Illana Bay, Colonel Fertig sent welcome word that his guerrillas owned Malabang and its airstrip but could not evict the Japanese. Beginning on 3 April, Colonel Jerome’s Marine aviators from Dipolog landed at the airstrip, received targeting information from the guerrillas, and then bombed the Japanese positions. This broke the stalemate, and by 14 April the surviving Japanese had fled through the guerrilla lines. With complete control of Malabang, Generals Sibert and Woodruff and Admiral Noble quickly changed their plans to take advantage of the new developments. Although one battalion from the 21st Infantry would still land at Malabang, the bulk of the 24th Division was to come ashore at Parang, much closer to Highway No. 1, and thus speed up the entire operation. The landing at Parang on 17 April went unopposed, and the division quickly headed inland along Highway 1. Correctly perceiving that the Japanese would destroy the bridges along the highway, the planners decided to use the 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 3d Engineer Special Brigade, to exploit the Mindanao River (Rio Grande de Mindanao). This waterway ran roughly parallel to Highway 1 and was navigable for thirty-five miles, some ten miles west of the crucial town of Kabacan and the north-south Sayre Highway. On 21 April Lt. Col. Robert Amory led a small fleet of gunboats upriver and seized Kabacan and the junction of Highway 1 and the Sayre Highway the next day. The Mindanao River soon became the main line of supply as troops and supplies were offloaded far upriver. General Martin’s 31st Division began landing on 22 April, the same day that Marine Air Group 24 arrived at Malabang to provide air support for Mindanao ground operations. With both divisions ashore and ahead of schedule, Sibert ordered them to undertake separate thrusts. General Woodruff’s 24th Division was to continue its advance along Highway 1 to Digos, then seize Davao City. General Martin’s 31st Division would follow to Kabacan and then attack north up the Sayre Highway toward Macajalar Bay. The Japanese apparently blundered in allowing the Americans to seize the key road junction of Kabacan so easily; the 30th and 100th Japanese Divisions were hopelessly separated with the American advance while allowing X Corps to build up momentum and ultimately lead to their destruction. With General Woodruff's 24th Division moving so rapidly, the Americans were almost on top of the Japanese around Davao before General Morozumi realized that the western landing was, in fact, not a diversion. Upon reaching Digos on 27 April, the Americans quickly overwhelmed the defending Japanese, who were prepared only to repel an assault from the sea, not from their rear. The 24th Division immediately turned north and headed toward Davao City. Highway 1 to Kibawe Meanwhile, the 31st Division had forged ahead to the town of Kibawe on Highway 1, some 40 miles (64 km) away, since 27 April, with the 124th Infantry Regiment of Colonel Edward M. Starr at the point. The 124th Infantry Regiment consisted of three battalions. Each battalion consisted of four companies, and each company had about 200 men at full strength. “We arrived at Cotabato, Mindanao, on 23 April and debarked under peaceful conditions as the 24th Division had landed here a couple of weeks before and headed due East to Davao on the East coast,” wrote Maj. Thomas Deas, regimental surgeon of the 124th Medical Detachment in his post-war memoirs. “We were given the assignment to move by land and by boat to Fort Pikit and Kabacan. “ Getting to Kabacan involved a 50-mile trip in landing craft up the crocodile-infested Mindanao and Pulangi Rivers to Fort Pikit.  The so-called highway, General Eichelberger later recalled, was soon “discovered to be something of a fraud.” A thirty-mile stretch had never been completed and dissolved into deep mud whenever it rained—and it rained virtually every day. Japanese Disposition on Sayre Highway In central Mindanao, where there were fewer troops to cover a far greater area, operational preparations of the 30th Division had been virtually stalemated because of other urgent requirements. Due to an acute shortage of foodstuffs in the upper highlands along Highway 3 since August 1944, troops were used to forage for provisions, but Morozumi hastily stopped these foraging operations and proceeded with regrouping his available troops thus three widely dispersed elements were moving to the northern part of Central Mindanao by mid-April when an American landing in Cagayan became imminent. The 3d Battalion, 41st Infantry, had recently arrived in the Ampayon area en route to Balingasag from Surigao. The main strength of the 11th Battalion, 74th Infantry, was ordered to suspend the foraging of supplies in the Dulawan area and was near Kabacan en route north to join the main strength of the regiment. Farther south, the 11th Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment, was in Dulawan on its way north from Sarangani Bay.  When the Sayre Highway operation began, Morozumi had about 8,200 men to defend it. He had two field artillery companies, one howitzer company with 12 pieces altogether moved by manpower with 100 rounds per weapon concentrated at Malaybalay. The infantrymen all had rifles with 240 rounds each supported by four light armored cars, which were used to tow artillery and patrol the roads but were never used in combat. Kabacan to Kibawe Departing Kabacan about 1800 on 27 April, Col. Starr’s 124th Infantry led the division’s advance up the primitive road. At approximately 2200 about nine miles north of the Pulangi crossing during the first evening of the advance, the division vanguard—Lt. Col. Robert M. Fowler’s 2d Battalion with Battery B, 149th Field Artillery —ran into the 1st Battalion of the 74th Infantry Regiment, IJA 30th Panther Division with a strength of 350 under Major Kasuyoshi Hayashi that was moving north from Kabacan on its return to Malaybalay. Fowler committed his force unit by unit into the fighting. Battery C, 149th Field Artillery, hurriedly unlimbered its 105-mm. howitzers and within twenty minutes delivered accurate support fire, as observers at the front adjusted range by the sounds of the exploding shells. Before the skirmish was over at dawn on 28 April, the 124th Infantry had lost about 10 men killed and 25 wounded and had killed at least 50 Japanese. The Japanese battalion broke and disappeared from the Sayre Highway. After 28 April the 124th Infantry drove on northward against very scattered opposition, delayed mainly by the poor condition of the highway. Guerrilla demolitions, given the finishing touch by engineers of the Southern Sector Unit, had accounted for most of the bridges along the road north of Kabacan, and there were some seventy bridges, in varying states of ruin, from Kabacan north twenty-five miles to the Mulita River.  “With the retreating Japs blowing up about 75 bridges, it made our advancing troops face many problems while crossing streams and ravines,” recalls M/Sgt. Aubrey (Paul) Tillery of the Service Co. who wrote a World War II History of the 124th Infantry after the war. “Getting trucks through with supplies was extremely difficult, At points, we moved jeeps as well as supplies across these places on cables rigged for such purposes. At other times, the “Biscuit Bombers” (C-47 Skytrains) were used.” Deep gorges and landslides induced by heavy rains added to the 31st Division's supply problems. At one point, the 124th Infantry and the 108th Engineer Battalion had to rig cables to get jeeps, quarter-ton trailers, three-quarter-ton weapons carriers, and 105-mm. howitzers across a pair of gorges. It was not until 3 May, when engineer bulldozers completed fills, that the 124th could bring up heavier equipment. Obviously, the 31st Division would have to depend in large measure upon air supply to maintain its advance northward. The 124th  reached Kibawe on 3 May after a 45-mile, five-day push up the Sayre Highway and set up roadblocks north of that barrio, and probed about a mile southeast along the trail that supposedly led to Talomo on Davao Gulf. The advance from Kabacan to Kibawe had cost the 124th Infantry approximately 15 men killed and 50 wounded, while the Southern Sector Unit had lost over 175 men killed. The Talomo Trail Recon in Force Until the first week of May, the 31st Division had been able to employ only one RCT along Sayre Highway. When the 41st Division's 162d Infantry reached eastern Mindanao from Zamboanga, it took over responsibility for the protection of the X Corps rear areas from Parang to Fort Pikit and permitted the 31st Division to bring its 155th RCT forward. The 167th RCT, 31st Division, aided by guerrilla units, protected the supply lines from Fort Pikit to Kibawe. Since two RCTs were now available along Sayre Highway, General Sibert directed the 31st Division to continue northward to clear the highway and to establish contact with the 108th RCT, 40th Division. General Eichelberger, the Eighth Army's commander, had decided to put the 108th ashore at Macajalar Bay both to speed the conquest of Mindanao and to open a new supply route to the 31st Division, the supply problems of which increased with every step its troops took northward. The 31st Division's second job was to strike southeast along the Kibawe-Talomo trail. General Sibert's preoccupation with this maneuver reflects the state of mapping and of weather information the Army had concerning Mindanao. Kibawe was the northern terminus of a supposed Japanese supply trail that twisted and turned south until it reached the ocean shore town of Talomo, a few miles west of Davao City. Sibert soon learned from Colonel Fertig that much of the Kibawe-Talomo trail was a figment of the imagination. After making an aerial reconnaissance over the ground southeast from Kibawe, Eichelberger decided to forego a major effort southeast along the trail from Kibawe and directed Sibert to limit operations on the trail to a battalion-sized reconnaissance-in-force. Since the 24th Division had the situation in Davao, Sibert directed the 31st Division to push one battalion southeast from Kibawe as far as the Pulangi River and with the rest of its available strength to resume the drive up Sayre Highway. A battalion of the 167th Infantry began moving down the Talomo trail on 11 May. Eighteen days were required to reach the Pulangi River, some thirteen miles down the trail, and the sheer physical requirements of occupying the trail soon entailed committing the entire regiment to the operation. Yet even with the assistance of Filipino guerrillas, it took the 167th Infantry until 30 June to move five miles beyond the Pulangi River and seize the Japanese trail-force headquarters at Pinamola Mountains in Kibawe. By that time the enemy was already retreating farther south, and the 167th let them go.  Skirmishing along the trail cost the American regiment 80 men killed and 180 wounded while counting almost 400 Japanese dead. Appalled by the speed of the 31st Division's advance as far as Kibawe, Morozumi directed his units to start assembling at Malaybalay immediately in preparation for retreat eastward to the Agusan Valley. He ordered a battalion of infantry southward to delay the 31st Division in the vicinity of Maramag, fifteen miles north of Kibawe, until 10 May at least, by which date he hoped his main forces would have passed through Malaybalay. The Japanese battalion was hardly in position when the 124th Infantry, which had started north from Kibawe on 6 May, reached Maramag. Into the woods The 124th Infantry had resumed its progress up the Sayre Highway on 6 May and moved into its toughest fight of the Mindanao campaign, if not of the Pacific war itself. The blown bridges, rain, and generally impassable terrain left the artillery battalions farther and farther behind the hard-pushing infantry so there was an initial lack of artillery support. Morozumi had decided to consolidate his 30th Division around Malaybalay before undertaking a final withdrawal eastward into the Agusan Valley. To buy time for this movement, Morozumi ordered Ouchi to engage the enemy while in the dense forest. The 2nd Battalion, 74th Regiment, under the command of Major Hotta, was ordered to Omanay as reinforcement. With no heavy artillery in place, the regiment advanced with the support of a company of 4.2-inch mortars. After only a few hundred yards the regiment encountered the enemy in strength and began the hardest, bloodiest, most costly action during its entire service. The Japanese troops had entrenched themselves in well-prepared and completely camouflaged spider-type pillboxes with connecting tunnels. These lined both sides of Sayre Highway, which was little more than a dirt road. The advancing American soldiers could pass within a few feet of the pillboxes and not see them. The Japanese occupants would let the troops pass and then rise up and shoot the unsuspecting soldiers from behind. An entire morning’s fighting by the 1st Battalion gained 300 yards. “The Japs were effectively dug in and determined to halt our advance at this point,” recalls M/Sgt. Paul Tillery. “Being well prepared for combat and with such strong positions they were able to inflict heavy losses upon our attacking troops. Our foot soldiers attacked these positions time and again, sustaining heavy casualties to no avail.” Since artillery was not available and the supporting mortars were not sufficiently effective against Jap positions, Starr got support from a squadron of Marine SBD dive bombers. For the ensuing six days, they bombed the enemy positions each morning with demolition and firebombs. Each day the hard fighting men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions furiously and relentlessly attacked the positions, but each day [only] a few short yards were gained a ta terrific cost. Describing the concentrated strikes in the Colgan Woods, one of the pilots, First Lieutenant Thurston P. Gilchrist, said: “This was the most heavily bombed area of any in the whole Philippine campaign. The Japs were dug in underneath trees and in foxholes so well that we had to blow up the whole area before the Army could advance. Our Marine observers, who were with the ground liaison party in this area, said the damage was terrible and almost indescribable. Flight after flight of planes bombed and strafed this small area for days. When we began it was a heavily wooded area and when we finished there wasn't anything left but a few denuded trees. It was from these Marine observers that we pilots found out for about the first time how much damage we were doing to the Japanese troops.” On 8 May, VMSB-241(Sons of Satan) and VMSB-133 (Flying Eggbeaters) flew what one squadron report termed "the closest support mission yet flown." The Japanese lines were only 200 yards from the infantrymen of the 31st Division, and the enemy was unyielding. Marked with smoke, the tiny target area was plastered with nearly five tons of bombs, and the Japanese position simply disintegrated. However, the 124ths infantrymen on the ground did not share the Marines’ optimism on the efficacy of their bombing sorties. “It would be days before the sorely missed artillery could get up in order to land their support. In the meantime, Marine dive bombers were called in and made raids for a few days but were not effective against these strong enemy positions,” M/Sgt. Tillery opined. “Our artillery finally arrived and began shelling and in just a few hours on 12  May 1945, our troops were able to move through this area. The remaining Japs retreated from this heavy artillery barrage.” On the same day, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to bypass the bogged down 1st Battalion and secure the Maramag airstrip No. 1 less than two miles to the north. They were caught in the flank by a banzai attack which inflicted heavy casualties. Cries for medics could be heard and the corpsmen of the 124th Medical Detachment dashed into the woods to evacuate the wounded. They, too, were shot down. “The 1st Battalion was stopped and so was the 2nd Battalion on the other side of the road. Many were wounded. The Japs would let us advance so far and then come out of their holes and shoot from behind,” Deas said.  “Their holes were not over two feet wide and were five to seven feet deep with connecting tunnels. It was a devious situation.” “They had prepared these positions well in advance with the intention of wreaking severe damage to any American troops coming up this road. Thus, they were well prepared when our 124th Infantry foot soldiers arrived. Their pillboxes were connected with tunnels, some of which ran under tree roots. The positions were well covered and camouflaged rendering them most difficult to recognize. Troops would pass nearby and not even be aware of these fortifications. Considering these well-built defenses, it’s no wonder it took the artillery to drive them out,” Sgt Tillery noted. Chicago Streetfighter Fr. Thomas Aquinas Colgan, the 124th’s chaplain walked up to the battalion command post, calmly surveyed the situation and said to the command post personnel, "Those are my boys in there. They need me. I should be with them." Staff Sgt. Charles Morgan, who often assisted the priest in his duties, said Father Colgan disregarded a warning from a senior officer that he should not attempt to go into the woods because of snipers. "He just went down the road and walked right into the woods," Morgan recalled. "He must have known that he had little hope of coming out alive." Father Colgan entered the woods amid the fighting. Spotting a wounded man, he began to make his way ducking automatic fire. Suddenly he was hit in the shoulder, but he still continued to crawl through the underbrush until he reached the wounded medic Robert Lee Evans lying in a shell hole. A moment later, a quick burst of machine-gun fire killed Chaplain Colgan instantly. The cruel war Banzai charges struck the 124th, fighting without supporting artillery, first on 7 May and then on the night of 14 May. The latter ended in a rout, as American automatic weapons stopped the attackers, killing 73 Japanese, marking the end of the battle. The 149th Field Artillery managed to get within range on May 12 and after an intense barrage, the 2nd Battalion plus L Company finally pushed through the shrapnel-shredded woods. The Americans named the side of the woods where Chaplain Colgan was killed as Colgan Woods, while the woods on the opposite side of the Sayre Highway they named  Berlin Woods. The woods were finally taken after six days of mortar fire, dive-bombing by Marine SBD dive bombers dropping high explosive and firebombs, and daily infantry assaults. In the fighting for Colgan Woods and Maramag, an area the size of a city block had cost the 124th Infantry Regiment 69 men killed and 177 wounded from 6 to 12 May. In a post-war interrogation, General Morozumi admitted about half of the battalion defending the Colgan woods were killed in action, with the remnants retreating into the mountains to conduct guerrilla warfare. An IJA battalion typically has a complement of 1,100 men in  4 companies of 180 men each, along with other units commanded by a lieutenant colonel. American estimates placed the number of Japanese casualties from this action at 130. The casualties could now be retrieved, and Father Colgan was found, his arms still embracing the man he had tried to save. He was identified by the marks on his uniform. Filipino Guerrillas Before landings, guerrillas harassed Japanese units, provided valuable intelligence about enemy dispositions and the relative suitability of landing beaches. And after each landing, the Filipinos fought alongside the Americans and pursued the Japanese through the island's interior. But in the case of the Battle for Colgan Woods, American officers apparently did not give much weight to intel reports from the two battalions guerrillas in Bukidnon who had joined up with them in the course of their advance, perhaps resulting in more casualties than they should have. “I told Colonel [Edward M.] Starr that a big force of Japanese had dug in around the lake, and advised him to strafe and bomb the area” before proceeding, said Franklin Labaon, in a personal interview conducted by author Ronald K. Edgerton on 29 April 1977 in Kibawe and published in the latter’s book “People of the Middle Ground, A Century of Conflict and Accommodation in Central Mindanao 1880s-1980s.” 1Lt Lieutenant Labaon was the commander of the guerrillas 2nd Battalion,117th Regiment, 109th Division under Lt. Col. James Grinstead. The 117th Regiment under Maj. Waldo McVickers had a personnel complement of 41 officers and 534 enlisted men with headquarters near Mailag. Even though his troops had outdistanced their artillery support, Starr went ahead and sent one company to reconnoiter. They immediately came under heavy enemy fire. In his article The Battle of Pinamaloy published in the April-June 2013 issue of The Army Troopers Newsmagazine, Brig. Gen. Restituto A. Aguilar (ret)., former head of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and currently executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), said the Americans ignored repeated warnings from the guerrillas about the well-entrenched Japanese and would have even suffered more casualties had not the Filipino guerrillas helped them destroy the well-sited Japanese fortifications. “Many of them were barefooted that was why perhaps the Americans thought they were not knowledgeable in the art of fighting,” Gen. Aguilar noted. “They did not have decent uniforms, some were in tattered clothes or old khaki uniforms.” Gen. Aguilar relates how he got first-hand accounts from two former guerrillas who witnessed the brutality of the fighting in the Colgan Woods when he was assigned to Cotabato in 2004. One rued the complete lack of accounts about the battle, while another related how he cried upon seeing the gory scenes of dead Japanese. The terrible scenes of carnage were apparently the reason why many who witnessed the Battle of Colgan Woods were reluctant to talk about it, if at all. (With Marion Hess and Maj. Thomas Deas, MD)

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Anzac Day 2021: Remembering Australian Guerrillas in Mindanao during World War II

April 26, 2021

Australia and New Zealand celebrate Anzac Day on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served”. Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was first intended to honor members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the First World War (1914–1918). For this year’s commemoration of Anzac Day, we honor the memory of two outstanding soldiers of the Royal Australian Army who fought against the Japanese occupiers alongside Filipino and American guerrillas in Tawi-Tawi and Lanao during World War II. Australian military involvement in the liberation of the Philippines began in June 1943, when eight Australian servicemen who had escaped from Sandakan in Sabah joined the Filipino guerrillas fighting on Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines. Among them were then Robert Kerr “Jock” McLaren and then Lt. Rex Blow of the 2/10th Australian Field Regiment, 8th Australian Division of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) fighting the Japanese in British Malaya and became prisoners-of-war (POWs) with the fall of Singapore. McLaren and two others escaped but were betrayed, recaptured and again imprisoned in Singapore. They contrived to add themselves to a contingent of prisoners being sent to Borneo to a concentration camp. As part of ‘E’ Force, McLaren and Blow were among five hundred British and five hundred Australian prisoners transferred to Borneo in March 1943. The Australians were taken to a camp on Berhala Island, at the entrance to Sandakan harbor in British North Borneo. They wasted no time in escaping again and stealing a boat from a nearby leper colony, set off to the Tawi- Tawi islands where they were told other Australians were fighting as guerrillas. . Their escape from Berhala Island saved their lives as they then missed the early 1945 Sandakan Death Marches. They soon contacted Filipino guerrillas, who assisted McLaren and six others to link up with the 125th Infantry Regiment in Tawi-Tawi commanded by veteran Philippine Constabulary officer, Col. Alejandro Suarez  in June 1943. This group was recognized by Col. Wendell W. Fertig, the commanding officer of the 10th Military District, Mindanao guerrillas, and composed primarily of Muslim Tausugs, Samals, some Christians and even some sea gypsies. McLaren had been promoted sergeant in July and served with distinction in the Philippines, receiving a field commission (January 1944) and the rank of temporary captain (April 1945) with the 105th Infantry Regiment in Tawi-Tawi, and later with the 108th Division in Lanao. From early 1943 the Filipino guerrillas were supplied by submarine with weapons and equipment from Australia. One delivery brought an 8-meter (26-foot) whaleboat. McLaren took a fancy to the vessel and fitted it with a 20mm cannon in the bow, a .50-calibre gun in the rear and twin .30-inch guns amidships. He was tempted to add an 81mm mortar until Blow warned him that if he ever fired the mortar it would “blow her stern off”. McLaren named his boat the Bastard and sailed up and down the coast disrupting enemy supplies and destroying installations. He attacked Japanese small craft and coastal installations with dash and aggression, qualities he also displayed when commanding combat patrols on land.  The boat would sail into Japanese-controlled ports in daylight hours, direct its automatic fire at the piers and fire its mortar at Japanese boats. It is said that its crew would even challenge the Japanese by sending them invitations. This craft was also effective against Japanese aircraft.  On one mission he and his handpicked Moro crew sailed into the well-defended harbor at Parang, Sulu on the west coast of Mindanao, sinking three enemy vessels. That action won him the first of his Military Crosses. On 2 April 1945 McLaren and Blow headed elements of the guerrilla108th Division in an assault on the last Japanese stronghold in Lanao province. Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Hedges, the American division commander, recorded that the fighting ended with the capture of the garrison and the destruction of about 450 enemy troops.  As senior officers at both the guerrilla unit and army levels began to appreciate his initiative and dependability, he was often assigned to make small unit and solo forays into Japanese held areas for intelligence. Toward the end of the war, high-level U.S. and Australian commands relied on him to penetrate Japanese areas in the Philippines and former Dutch colonies ahead of planned invasions for the latest intelligence and to scout possible enemy routes of retreat which could then be interdicted. As a member of the American forces in the Philippines, McLaren was under U.S. command. However, on 20 April 1945, upon the request of the Australians who had a need for his talents, Lt. General Robert L. Eichelberger personally signed an order releasing McLaren back to Australian command. During the course of his service, McLaren was decorated with the Military Cross twice for his heroic actions, as well as being Mentioned in Despatches. To be mentioned in dispatches (or despatches, MiD) describes a member of the armed forces whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which their gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy is described. His M.C. citation read: ‘throughout the whole of his service with the Guerilla Forces, Captain McLaren displayed outstanding leadership in battle and had no regard for his personal safety. His cheerful imperturbability was an inspiration to all with whom he came into contact’. The Americans awarded him the Philippines Liberation ribbon. Except for a short leave in Australia toward the end of the war, he spent most of the war years serving as a coast watcher and guerrilla leader. Blow lived a long life, dying of natural causes at 83. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for “highly successful command and leadership during active operations” by the UK, and the Silver Star, third-highest military decoration for valor in combat by the US Army for his service with the guerrillas in the Philippines. Despite the time he spent incommunicado as a prisoner of war and a guerrilla fighter, his war was quite well documented. McLaren was an altogether more elusive figure. Brigadier John Rogers, Australia’s wartime director of military intelligence, described him as a “cloak and dagger” man. Having begun the war as a private in a field workshop, repairing and maintaining artillery, he ended it as a captain in special operations, but circumstances meant that most of his war was spent out of sight of the authorities. Between April 1942 and April 1944 his service record lists him as “missing”; then “reported prisoner of war”; and finally “escaped & on active service – no date given”. Captain Ray Steele, one of the group that escaped from Sandakan, remembered him as “completely fearless”. On Mindanao, McLaren’s reckless bravery soon made him a marked man. According to Richardson, the Japanese published a bulletin with his photograph and a 70,000-peso reward for his capture, dead or alive. However, the Japanese never caught him again and he died on 3 March 1956, when he was killed in an accident near his home, after he backed a vehicle against a dead tree, and timber fell on him. Both men’s wartime exploits are well recorded in books: And Tomorrow Freedom: Australian Guerrillas in the Philippines by Sheila Ross, and Bastard Behind the Lines by Tom Gilling. On this Anzac Day 2021, we remember and honor the memory of Capt. Robert Kerr “Jock” McLaren, and Major Rex Blow. Thank you for your service to the Philippines and its people. We shall never forget.                  

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A GERMAN EXPAT IN THE PHILIPPINES : With Beethoven Under Palms (XII)

April 26, 2021

Chapter XII: Special Visitors The time just flew by. Rossana's culture shock was gone. I wondered why she never talked about homesickness. The first year of her stay in German was over. We spent our first vacation in the Canary Islands - one of my favorite places before. Sun, sand beaches, the ocean, blue sky, and pleasant temperature.  The editors' conferences of my law magazines made it possible to travel more and more: by plane or by car. Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Bayreuth, and then Cologne. My publisher just let Rossana come with us. "At least that's how she gets to know Germany", he replied when he saw my incredulous looks. "I feel so insanely small", she was amazed when we visited and inspected the Cologne Cathedral. Back in Berlin, we visited one of the largest trade fairs in the city - the International Tourism Exchange. "There is sure to be a Filipino stand there too?" Rossana asked me. "I'm pretty sure, there is", I replied. It was the first time she'd speak to Filipino compatriots. Eva was one of the first. She invited us to join the Filipino Community in Berlin. The community became her second home in Berlin. Cultural events as well as Filipino customs like the Santacruzan or Flores de Mayo took place. Santacruzan is a religious-historical beauty pageant held in many cities, towns and even small villages throughout the Philippines during the month of May. Flores de Mayo (or “flowers of May” in Spanish) is a month-long festivity held in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Santacruzan (that's “holy cross” in Spanish), on the other hand, is a colorful procession that recalls Queen Helena's search for the holy cross.   The regular Filipino Sunday mass with Father Gene Bacareza and happy get-togethers: well, Rossana's homesickness didn't exist anymore. Letters from her family asked more and more often, when we would visit the Philippines again. And then came the big day of a private visit of Vice President Salvador Laurel and family. Salvador Roman Hidalgo Laurel (November 18, 1928 – January 27, 2004), also known as Doy Laurel, was a Filipino lawyer and politician who served as the vice-president of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992 under President Corazon Aquino and briefly served as the last prime minister. Rossana had so many questions for entertainer son Cocoy. Then finally Rossana and I sat down and discussed how we could book our flight to the Philippines because the news from home wasn't all positive. (To be continued)

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Philippine Eagle released back into the wild in San Fernando, Bukidnon

April 26, 2021

On 22 April 2021 (Earth Day 2021), a rescued and rehabilitated Philippine Eagle was released back to its forest home. Tagoyaman Fernando is among the seven Philippine Eagles that were rescued last year – the highest rescue rate recorded in the history of Philippine Eagle conservation – and the first Philippine Eagle to be released back to the wild this year. Tagoyaman’s release was made possible through the support of the Australian Government, Whitley Fund for Nature, Jurong Bird Park, DENR Region X, and the local governments of San Fernando and Bukidnon. “Rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing Philippine Eagles in the middle of a pandemic is very challenging. It’s difficult to mobilize field operations when travel restrictions are imposed and sources of funds are shut down. Still, we are able to persevere, thanks to the support of the Australian Government and other conservation partners,” said Dennis Salvador, Executive Director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF). The short program in honor of Tagoyaman’s release was attended by the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven J. Robinson AO, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, San Fernando Vice Mayor Norberto Catalan, and Philippine Eagle Foundation Trustee Mr. Francis Ledesma. “The Australian Embassy is proud to continue our support to the Philippine Eagle Foundation for the protection and preservation of the Philippine Eagle. I travelled to Bukidnon to witness Tagoyaman’s release because it is an important milestone in the Philippines’ efforts in conserving local wildlife biodiversity. Australia stands with our friends in the Philippines as they protect their natural resources, in their lands or seas. This initiative reinforces our deep and expanding relationship as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries,” Robinson said. Tagoyaman was retrieved on October 2020 in San Fernando, Bukidnon, after getting accidentally caught in a native trap intended for other animals. The bird was then brought to the Philippine Eagle Center for further check-up and rehabilitation. “We hope to see Tagoyaman successfully breed and contribute to his species’ wild population in the future. His release on Earth Day is also our resounding call for long-term solutions to our problematic relationship with nature and wildlife. We believe that by conserving the Philippine Eagle and the biodiversity it represents, we can avoid another disease outbreak,” Salvador said. The PEF, through the support of its conservation partners took measures to improve Tagoyaman’s chances of survival in the wild. An education campaign targeting communities surrounding the release site was conducted and Indigenous forest guards were trained to perform voluntary forest patrols and monitor Tagoyaman’s movements using the GPS transmitter attached to its back for the next six months. “Collaborations and partnerships play a big role in Philippine Eagle conservation. The PEF can’t save the eagles alone. We need the help of our local communities, government agencies, the private sector, and the Filipino people so that one day Philippine Eagles will thrive in the wild,” Salvador stressed. (Australian Embassy in the Philippines)

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Four Days of Hell in May: Two Battles for Purple Heart Canyon (1942 & 1945)

April 26, 2021

Probably one of the most intriguing tales to come out of Bukidnon during World War II were the two battles fought in Mangima Canyon in 1942 and 1945. In the first instance, the Mindanao Force of the United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) under Lt. Gen. William F. Sharp was defending Northern Mindanao against the invading Kawamura Detachment of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942. Barely three years later, it was the Imperial Japanese Army’s (IJA) 30th Panther Division turn to defend the same area against the returning Allied Forces led by the 108th Regimental Combat Team of the US Army’s 40th Sunrise Division supported by guerrillas of the 110th Division of the 10th Military District, US Forces in the Philippines under Col. Wendell W. Fertig in 1945. What made these two events particularly interesting besides happening at the same place exactly three years apart was that each time it took the aggressor force approximately the same time (four days) to dislodge the spirited defenders who were both considered disadvantaged in terms of manpower, logistics, air support, but held the hellish terrain from which to fight a tenacious defense. Also, in both cases, the strategic targets remained the same, control of the Sayre Highway (Highway No. 3) which links the north coast of Mindanao at Bugo, Cagayan, Misamis to Davao City southern terminus. At the time, it was the only passable (if barely) road artery linking both sides of the island which made its defense and capture strategically important. Another strategic objective of these two operations was the Del Monte airfield complex in Tankulan (present-day Manolo Fortich) which was the only airfield in Mindanao capable of handling heavy bombers. Control of this key airfield complex meant shorter transit and longer loiter times for fighter and bomber sorties to any point in Mindanao and the Visayas. World War II comes to Northern Mindanao The defense of Mindanao and the Visayas in 1942 rested with the Visayan- Mindanao Force, commanded by Brig. Gen. William F. Sharp, who had his headquarters at Cebu. This force was composed almost entirely of Philippine Army troops. Of the five divisions mobilized, in the south, only the 61st, 81st, and 101st remained in the area. The 71st and 91st were moved to Luzon, leaving behind their last mobilized regiments, the 73d, 93d. In addition, a large number of provisional units and some Constabulary units were formed at the outbreak of the war. Between 2 and 3 January 1942, the 61st and 81st Field Artillery Regiments were shipped to Cagayan from Panay and Negros, respectively, as part of a large-scale relocation of troops from the Visayas to Mindanao to strengthen the latter’s defenses. Both units were organized and equipped as infantry, due to the lack of artillery. On 12 January, United States Army Infantry Colonel William P. Morse was assigned commander of the Cagayan Sector of the Mindanao Force portion of the Visayan-Mindanao Force, including both regiments. General Sharp's problems were similar to those faced by the USAFFE commanders on Luzon. His untrained men lacked personal and organizational equipment of all types. There were not enough uniforms, blankets, or mosquito bars to go around, and though each man had a rifle-the Enfield '17- not all understood its use. Moreover, many of the rifles were defective and quickly broke down. Many of the.30- and .50- caliber machine guns issued were defective and had to be discarded. Spare parts for all weapons were lacking and guns that could have been repaired had to be discarded. There were no antitank guns, grenades, gas masks, or steel helmets for the issue, and the supply of ammunition was extremely limited. Sharp's most serious shortage was in artillery. Though he received eight old 2.95-inch mountain guns from Manila in December, three were immediately lost two weeks later at Davao. The remaining five pieces constituted Sharp's entire artillery support throughout the campaign. The organization of the Visayan-Mindanao Force established early in January lasted only about one month. On 4 February, USAFFE assumed direct control of the garrisons on Panay and Mindoro, both a part of Sharp's command. A month later, the remaining Visayan garrisons were separated from General Sharp's command which was then redesignated the Mindanao Force. This separation reflected MacArthur's desire to ensure the most effective defense of Mindanao, which he hoped to use as a base for his promised return to the Philippines. Individual and unit training continued at a steady pace and was supplemented by special instruction at a school in infantry tactics in central Mindanao. The school was staffed by Philippine Scouts of the 43d Infantry. The greatest drawback to the training program was the shortage of ammunition. The supply was so limited that its expenditure on the firing range was prohibited. Instead, the men spent long hours in simulated fire, with doubtful results. The Cagayan Sector In the critical Cagayan Sector, which included the northern terminus of the vital Sayre Highway and the vital Del Monte Airfield, Sharp had the Mindanao Force reserve, and the 102d Division (PA). This division, formed from existing and provisional units after the outbreak of war, consisted of the 61st and 81st Field Artillery, organized and equipped as infantry, and the 103d Infantry. Col. William P. Morse, the division and sector commander, posted his troops along Macajalar Bay, between the Tagoloan and Cagayan Rivers. The 81st Field Artillery, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John P. Woodbridge, reinforced by a 65-man detachment composed of ground personnel-turned-infantrymen from the 30th Bombardment Squadron (that had been left at Del Monte when their squadron departed for Australia), held a four-mile sector from the Tagoloan to the Sayre Highway. The four-mile stretch of coastline from the highway to the Cugman River was defended by the 61st Field Artillery under Col. Hiram W. Tarkington. On the left (west), extending the line to the Cagayan River, was Maj. Joseph R. Webb's 103d Infantry. Soon after the assignment of sectors to the 61st and 81st Field Artillery, Major Reed Graves' 1st Battalion, 101st Infantry reduced the 81st Field Artillery sector by taking over positions west from Tin-ao Canyon to the Little Agusan River. Around a week later the battalion was transferred south and replaced by the 3rd Philippine Constabulary Regiment, which took over the area from the Cagayan River to Barrio Gusa. The constabulary unit was in turn relieved by the 103rd Infantry, less 2nd Battalion, around 15 February. The formation of the 102nd Division from the troops of the Cagayan Sector under the command of Morse was authorized by Gen. Douglas MacArthur via USAFFE General Order No. 43 on 15 March during his brief layover in Del Monte, Bukidnon after his successful breakout by PT Boat from Corregidor. Its 102nd Engineer Battalion was organized from personnel of the Surigao Provisional Battalion, while men from the Agusan Provisional Battalion and 2nd Provisional Battalion (Cotabato) were used to form the Headquarters Company, Service Troops, the 102nd Maintenance, Quartermaster Companies. “I was in the middle of my architecture studies at Mapua Institute of Technology in Manila, after reverting to inactive status in the military, when I was called to active duty, “ recalls the late Col. Leonardo Hernando (ret.), then 26 years old and earlier commissioned as a 3rd Lieutenant in the Philippine Army at the School for Reserved Commission in Camp Keithley, Lanao in 1937.  “The war in Europe and the conflict in the Pacific in 1941 were spreading to the Philippines, I was inducted into the USAFFE [United States Army Forces Far East] and later mobilized in Zamboanga as a company commander in the 1st Battalion, 103rd Infantry Regiment,” Col. Hernando recalled in Annie Gorra Rago’s anthology “City of Gold”. About 1 May, the 102nd Division numbered 4,713 men, including nineteen American officers, 67 American enlisted men (65 from the Air Corps detachment and two in the 61st Field Artillery), 268 Filipino officers, and 4,359 Filipino enlisted men. The 103rd Infantry was the strongest with nearly 1,800 personnel, while the 61st and 81st Field Artillery numbered slightly more than 1,000. The Japanese invasion of Mindanao Japanese planning for operations in the south did not begin until late in the Philippine campaign. The initial 14th Army plan for the conquest of the Philippines contained only brief references to Mindanao and the Visayas, which were expected to fall quickly once Manila was taken. Finally, early in March, came orders to begin operations in the south concurrently with those against Bataan and Corregidor. It was several weeks before the troops scheduled for deployment in the south reached the Philippines. The first contingent came from Borneo and arrived at Lingayen Gulf on 1 April. It consisted of Headquarters, 35th Brigade, and the 124th Infantry, both from the 18th Division. Led by Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi, the brigade commander, this force, with the addition of 14th Army supporting and service troops, was organized into a separate detachment known as the Kawaguchi Detachment. Four days later elements of the 5th Division from Malaya, consisting of the headquarters of Maj. Gen. Saburo Kawamura's 9th Infantry Brigade and the 41st Infantry, reached Lingayen. With these troops, augmented by service and supporting troops, Homma formed the Kawamura Detachment. These two detachments, plus the Miura Detachment already at Davao, constituted the entire force assigned the conquest of the southern Philippines. The Japanese plan provided for a coordinated attack from three directions by separate forces toward a common center, followed by a quick mop-up of the troops in the outlying portions of the island. The Miura Detachment, was already on the island, on garrison duty at Davao and Digos, a short distance to the south. It was to be relieved by a battalion of the 10th Independent Garrison and then strike out from Digos toward the Sayre Highway. Its route of advance would be northwest along Route 1, which intersected the Sayre Highway about midway across the island. The other two forces committed to the Mindanao operation, the Kawaguchi and Kawamura Detachments, would have to make amphibious assaults. Each would be relieved of responsibility for the security of the island it had occupied, embark in the waiting transports, and sail under naval escort by divergent routes to its designated target. Kawamura was to come ashore in northern Mindanao at the head of Macajalar Bay, the starting point of the Sayre Highway. While a small portion of his force struck out to the west to meet Kawaguchi's men, the bulk of the detachment would march south through central Mindanao, along the Sayre Highway. Ultimately, elements of the three detachments-one marchings east, another west, and the third south-would join along the Digos-Cotabato stretch of Route 1 across the narrow waist of the island. Late in April, three battalions of the 10th Independent Garrison took over garrison duty on Mindanao, Cebu, and Panay. Colonel Miura immediately moved south from Davao to Digos to prepare for his advance along Route 1, while Kawamura and Kawaguchi began to embark their troops for the coming invasion. First to sail was the Kawaguchi Detachment which left Cebu on 26 April in six transport escorted by two destroyers. Kawamura's departure from Panay came five days later and brought him to Macajalar Bay as Kawaguchi's troops were fighting their way northward to greet him. Wainwright's order to Sharp on 30 April, to hold all or as much of Mindanao as possible with the forces he had, found that commander already engaged with the enemy on two fronts. The 1st Macajalar Bay Landing About 0100 of May 3rd, the Japanese force of about 4,000 men began coming ashore at both extremities of the line, at Cagayan and at the mouth of the Tagoloan River. Supported by fire from two destroyers offshore, the Japanese secured a firm hold of the beach line between the Tagoloan and the Sayre Highway by dawn. “The Japanese forces landed in great number in the vicinity of Bugo and proceeded toward town,” recalls Col. Hernando.   Kawamura's men who came ashore in the vicinity of Cagayan met a warm reception. Major Webb attacked the beachhead with two companies and would have driven the enemy back into the sea was forced to break off when his right flank became exposed. In response to the Japanese landing, Sharp moved forward the 2.95-inch gun detachment of Major Paul D. Phillips, the 62nd Infantry of Lieutenant Colonel Allen Thayer, and the 93rd Infantry of Major John C. Goldtrap. Major Phillips' detachment had hardly set up its guns when it came under fire from the Japanese advancing along the Sayre Highway at 0730. In the initial attack, the detachment was forced back about 700 yards. Fortunately, the Japanese failed to press their advantage and Phillips was able to organize another holding position at his new location. He was joined here early in the afternoon by advance elements of the 93d Infantry; the rest of that regiment when it reached the area prepared a second position a short distance to the south. The 62d Infantry, whose assembly area was farther south on the Sayre Highway, failed to join the other two units that day. Although the enemy controlled the beaches and the northern terminus of the Sayre Highway, his own troops had disengaged without loss and were in position along a secondary line of defense. Already part of his reserves was blocking the highway and other troops were moving up to their support. So optimistic was the general that he set his staff to work on a plan to counterattack north along the highway the next morning. The optimism at force headquarters was quickly faded when it was learned the enemy had pushed back the 61st and 81st Field Artillery, with the 103d Infantry in danger of being outflanked. Hopes for a counterattack were dealt the final blow when, at 1600, Morse ordered a general withdrawal to defensive positions astride the Sayre Highway, about six miles south of the beach. The move was to be made that night under cover of darkness. “We soon abandoned our beach defenses and withdrew to the hills of Kiliog, Bukidnon,” noted Col. Hernando. Before this plan could be put into effect it was changed by Sharp, who, after a conference with Morse, Woodbridge, and Webb, decided to establish his next line even farther south than the line already selected. The position selected paralleled the Mangima Canyon, a formidable natural barrier east of the town of Tankulan, and the Mangima River. At Tankulan the Sayre Highway splits, one branch continuing south then east, the other east then south. Before the two joined, eight air miles east of Tankulan, they form a rough circle bisected from north to south by the Mangima Canyon and River. East of the junction of the canyon and the upper road lies the town of Dalirig; to the south, the river cuts across the lower road before Pontian. Possession of these two towns would enable the defenders to block all movement down the Sayre Highway to central Mindanao. At 2300, 3 May, Sharp issued orders for the withdrawal to the Mangima line. The right (north) half of the line, the Dalirig Sector, was to be held by the 102d Division which had been reorganized and now consisted of the 62d Infantry, the 81st Field Artillery, the 2.95-inch gun detachment, and Companies C and E of the 43rd Infantry (Philippine Scouts), under Morse's command from force reserve. Col. William F. Dalton, took command of the Puntian Sector on the lower (southern road) with the 61st Field Artillery and the 93rd Infantry. Separated by the Japanese advance, the 103rd Infantry was made independent, tasked with defending the Cagayan River valley. The Third Battalion, 103rd Infantry Regiment under Maj. Robert V. Bowler withdrew to Talakag. In the Dalirig Sector, Lt. Col. Allen Thayer's 62d Infantry, closely supported by the 2.95-inch gun detachment, occupied the main line of resistance along the east wall of Mangima Canyon. Companies C and E, 43d Infantry (Philippine Scouts), Colonel Morse's reserve, were stationed in Dalirig, and in a draw, 500 yards behind the town were the 200 men of the 81st Field Artillery, which had had a strength of 1,000 when the Japanese landed. The 1st Battle of Mangima Canyon The division's 62nd Infantry held the main line of resistance along the east wall of Mangima Canyon, closely supported by the 2.95-inch gun detachment, while the reserve, Companies C and E of the 43rd Infantry (Philippine Scouts), was stationed in Dalirig Poblacion. The remnants of the 81st Field Artillery, reduced to 200 men, were stationed in a draw 500 yards behind the town. On the morning of 6 May the Kawamura Detachment resumed its attack, passing through Tankulan, began to advance along the upper road toward Dalirig. Late that afternoon the Japanese moved into Tankulan in force and began to register their artillery on Dalirig. There was little action the next day. Japanese artillery, well out of range of Major Phillips' 2.95-inch guns, dropped their shells accurately into the 62d Infantry line while their aircraft bombed and strafed gun positions and troops. The left battalion suffered most from the bombardment and Colonel Thayer finally had to send in his reserve battalion to bolster the line. On 08 May the Japanese attacked the 3d Battalion, 103rd Infantry defending Talakag so effectively only ninety of Bowler’s men managed to escape. This opened a dangerous backdoor “into the very heart of Bukidnon.” In the Puntian Sector, the Japanese contained Dalton's troops by artillery fire. The bombardment continued until 19:00 of the same day when Kawamura attacked Sharp’s main line of resistance across the Sayre Highway at Mangima Canyon, successfully infiltrating the division's lines. Until the night of 8-9 May, Dalton had been able to maintain contact with the 62d Infantry on his right (north) but during the confusion which marked the fighting that night he lost contact. After holding through the night, the 62d Infantry held on as long as possible but by morning the tired and disorganized Filipinos had been pushed off the main line of resistance and were falling back on Dalirig. Already the 2.95-inch gun detachment had pulled out, leaving the Companies C and E of the 43rd Infantry, Philippine Scouts as the last organized resistance in the sector. In an effort to relieve the pressure on Thayer's regiment he launched his own attack the next morning. Though the attack was successful it failed to achieve its purpose, for the disorganized 62d Infantry was already in full retreat. At about 1130 of the 9th, as the 62d Infantry began to withdraw through Dalirig, Kawamura’s men entered the town from three sides and struck the retreating Filipinos. Already disorganized, the troops of the 62d Infantry scattered. The two Scout companies under Maj. Allen L. Peck made a brave stand but finally withdrew just before they were encircled. By the end of the 9 May, the Dalirig Sector forces no longer existed, except for the 150 men of the 2.5-inch gun detachment, holding positions five miles to the east of the town. Along the southern branch of the highway Dalton and his two regiments still held firm at Pontian. But already Kawamura was sending additional troops to this sector and increasing the pressure against the Puntian force. "North front in full retreat," Sharp radioed MacArthur. "Enemy comes through the right flank. Nothing further can be done. May sign off any time now." Except for the resistance of scattered units, the Japanese campaign in Mindanao was over. Mindanao Surrendered  Sharp surrendered his command on 10 May 1942 in Malaybalay, after the Fall of Corregidor, having ordered the 102nd Division units in the Dalirig Sector at 21:30 on 9 May to surrender at daybreak.  Including the 103rd Infantry, the division surrendered sixteen American officers and four enlisted men, as well as eighty Filipino officers and 622 enlisted men. The remainder were listed as missing in action. Three American officers, seven Filipino officers, and 166 Filipino enlisted men from the 62nd Infantry surrendered, while only the two American officers of the two 43rd Infantry companies surrendered. The surrendered personnel of the division were sent to the former 101st Division camp (Camp Casisang) at Malaybalay, along with the other surrendered personnel of the Mindanao Force. The 102nd Division personnel who remained unsurrendered simply disappeared into the hills of Mindanao; many later continued the fight as guerrillas. “Our unit under Major Joseph Webb, commander of the 103rd Infantry Regiment disbanded in Tagitik, Bukidnon near Imbatug. Some of my fellow soldiers opted to return to Zamboanga while I chose to stay in Imbatug,” Hernando recalled. He later joined the 109th Infantry Regiment under Major Fidencio Laplap and was designated the Regimental Intelligence Officer (S-2), and later promoted to 1st Lieutenant by 30 April 1945. The Turn of the Tide Three years later, the fortunes of the war in the Pacific had reversed and Allied forces under Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur were island hopping towards Japan in a two-pronged offensive across the Pacific. Two of the greatest naval battles in history sealed Japan’s doom. In the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Mobile Fleet under Vice-Admiral JisaburĊ Ozawa, was so decimated by the US Fifth Fleet under Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, it limped home with only 35 aircraft of the 430 with which it had begun the battle.  Four months later, the two armadas faced off again in The Battle of Leyte Gulf, dubbed the greatest naval engagement in history, and the largest naval battle of World War II. For the Japanese the defeat at Leyte Gulf was catastrophic, the Imperial Japanese Navy had suffered its greatest ever loss of ships and men in combat. On 20 October 1944 the US Sixth Army landed on the eastern shore of Leyte, north of Mindanao. The US Sixth Army continued its advance from the east, while the Japanese rushed reinforcements to the Ormoc Bay area on the western side of the island. After retaking Mindoro, ten US divisions and five independent regiments battled on Luzon, making it the largest campaign of the Pacific War, involving more troops than the United States had used in North Africa, Italy, or southern France. The Victor operations followed with the retaking of Palawan, Panay, Cebu, Negros until the US Eight Army finally landed in the Mindanao mainland on Zamboanga and Parang, Cotabato in the final phase dubbed Victor V.  The IJA Defense of Northern Mindanao Lt. General Gyokasu Morozumi assumed command of the defense of Mindanao following the departure of Gen. Sosako Suzuki to Leyte and found himself in similar dire straits as Lt. Gen. William Sharp three years earlier. Morozumi, commanding the 30th Division, had about 17,500 troops under his control. His strength included 8,000-odd men of his own division, around 4,500 troops of attached combat and service elements, and nearly 5,000 Army Air Force personnel. Trained ground combat effective numbered roughly 5,800. Morozumi divided his combat strength among five defensive units. The Northern Sector Unit with 4,500 men defended the shores of Macajalar Bay, on Mindanao's north-central coast 30 air miles northwest of Malabalay, and Sayre Highway from the bay southeast 25 miles to Maluku.  From the deployment of his Central and Northern Sector Units--well over half his strength--it seems obvious that Morozumi was more concerned with the possibility of an attack from Macajalar Bay than with an American drive north from Kibawe. Adding to the manpower and logistics shortages facing Morozumi at the time was the intensified Allied air attacks on Mindanao beginning 09 September 1944 which greatly hampered the movement of his troops and resulted in considerable damage to his supplies. The 2nd Landing at Macajalar Bay When it became apparent that the Japanese were planning a final stand in the hills northwest of Davao. General Eichelberger ordered the 108th Regimental Combat Team, 40th Division, to land at Macajalar Bay on 10 May 1945, and open the Sayre Highway from the north. This force would then drive down the Sayre Highway to meet the 31st Division advancing from the south. This landing, known as the Victor-V-A Operation was made in accordance with General Eichelberger’s plan for the clearance of the Sayre Highway. At 0830 on 10 May (Q-Day), the 108th Regimental Combat Team (40th Division) made an unopposed landing and secured a beachhead northeast of Agusan near Bugo in the Macajalar Bay Area. Commanded by Col. Maurice D. Stratta, made contact almost immediately with the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 110th Infantry Regiment (guerrilla) of the 110th Division which had earlier secured the beachhead at Tin-ao, Barrio Agusan. Leading elements of the 108th Infantry quickly secured the high ground 4,700 yards south of Agusan on the Sayre Highway and the 1st Battalion reached a point three miles northeast of Alae. It met only light and scattered resistance, and found that many excellent defensive positions along the road had been abandoned. There were 20 enemy casualties on 10 May. Guerrillas from the 109th Division captured Cagayan on 12 May, flushed out an estimated 300 Japanese, drew them to the east. They reported that the entire north coast of Mindanao was clear of Japanese. At this time it was learned that the enemy to the south was burning supplies and destroying bridges on the Sayre Highway. The 3rd Battalion secured Del Monte Airfield on 12 May and the 1st Battalion met light resistance as it advanced north on the highway to 2,300 years northeast of Tankulan. Purple Heart Canyon Advancing inland, the 108th RCT encountered no significant resistance until 13 May, when, eighteen miles inland, it came upon strong Japanese defenses where Sayre Highway zigzags up and down the steep slopes of the Mangima River canyon. Here Morozumi had posted a delaying force of about 1,250 men supported by a few pieces of light artillery. Patrols from the 1st and 3rd Battalions ran into the heavy fire at the entrance to the canyon. The 1st Battalion CP received 31 rounds of 90mm mortar fire. This was the first determined resistance encountered by the 108th on Mindanao. It was going to develop into one of the most difficult operations in the Philippines. The enemy defenses covered both flanks of the entrance to the canyon, and patrols reconnoitering the area discovered that the canyon itself was strongly defended. Weapons of every caliber, from small arms to field artillery, were strategically emplaced and well camouflaged, commanding every approach with registered fire. Many barbed wire installations with mines attached had been set up. Air force base personnel, left behind to cover the evacuation of the main Japanese forces to the east, manned these defenses and 90mm antiaircraft artillery, and placed heavy fire on our personnel. The canyon terrain itself already presented the Americans with a formidable obstacle, just like it did to the soldiers of the Kawamura Detachment three years earlier. Coupled with the intricate defenses of the Japanese defenders made it a formidable natural fortress. “10 miles inland there was a huge canyon running parallel to the beach that was a natural defensive position, so the Japs slowly pulled back to this position, called the Mangima Canyon,” wrote Charles Edwin Dyer of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 108th RCT, in his post-war memoirs. “This was the logical place to make a determined stand. There was a deep, fast-flowing river at the bottom of the canyon and the bridge across it had been blown up. Patrols were sent down the canyon wall in several places and all encountered fire from the other side.”  “Part of the canyon was vertical and solid rock and it protruded out some, offering us some protection. Bullets kept hitting this rock and I remember thinking how much this was like a John Wayne movie because those ricochets really did sound like the ones in the movies. The sides were pretty steep in places and it was difficult to move around the rocks and ground cover. None of the companies were able to find a crossing place and they all took casualties, so this became known as Purple Heart Canyon. Besides the unforgiving terrain and fanatical Japanese resistance, the troops also had to cope with the hellish fighting conditions and climate. Although Morozumi probably did not know it, he had stationed his delaying grouped at the same point a USAFFE force had chosen to hold just three years earlier when the Kawamura Detachment foreshadowed the 108th RCTs operation and landed at Macajalar Bay to drive south along Sayre Highway.  On 14 May the 3rd Battalion launched an attack down the Sayre Highway against heavy opposition. If anything, it seemed the hail of gunfire coming from the Japanese intensified even more. Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion crossed Mangima Canyon east of Tankulan with little opposition. Pillboxes along the line of attack had to be destroyed, thereby slowing down the advance.   After an airstrike on the morning of May 15th, the Second and Third Battalions launched an attack with the 3rd Battalion coming under intense heavy mortar, artillery, rifle fire, and ran into a wired minefield with machine guns covering the mine-field. The 3rd Battalion continued the attack on 16 May against the Japanese strongholds at the river crossing, but during the day it was relieved by the 1st Battalion which continued to press the attack. Leading elements of the 2nd Battalion reached the high ground 2,700 yards east of Tankulan after crossing the Mangima River south of the highway. The 108th History recounts how the covering fire drove the Japanese into their caves, allowing the assault platoons to move up to the entrances and destroy about 25 of the enemy and six positions, using bazookas, grenades, and rifles. Continuing their advance, the 2nd Battalion advanced 800 yards and occupied high ground commanding the southern mouth of the canyon, while the 3rd battalion moved east. On 18 May the 1st Battalion eliminated the last enemy pocket at the Sayre Highway crossing and continued east on the highway, occupying Dalirig the following day. At the same time, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions advanced abreast, astride the highway, reaching a position one mile east of Dalirig. They patrolled along the Mangima River and mopped up scattered enemy pockets, and on 20 May advanced into Maluko without resistance. Battery A, 164th Field Artillery Battalion had displaced from Del Monte to the rim of the canyon after an effective bombardment on Maluku and so severely damaged the enemy it influenced their evacuation and abandonment of the town. The withdrawal took place on May 18th. On June 1st, the reconnaissance unit at Dalirig withdrew to a point just north of Dalwangan. Reduction of this strong point was completed on the same day, and the remaining Japanese troops were overcome within the next few days. Following this action, the 108th Infantry--it is rear protected by the 3d Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Americal Division's 164th Infantry, which landed on Macajalar Bay on 14 May--continued south to its rendezvous with the 31st Division. On 21 May the 108th RCT moved south on the Sayre Highway without opposition and on 23 May leading elements of the 1st Battalion made contact with the 155th RCT of the 31st Division near Impalutao, completing the operation in 13 days. Its share in the task of clearing Sayre Highway cost the 31st Division approximately 90 men killed and 250 wounded, while the 108th Infantry, 40th Division, lost roughly 15 men killed and 100 wounded. (Non-combat casualties from battle fatigue, sickness, and heat exhaustion were probably heavier.) Together, the two units killed almost 1,000 Japanese during their operations along the Highway and captured 25 more. The 108th Infantry’s juncture with Hanna’s 155th Infantry meant total American control of the Sayre Highway and the end of organized Japanese resistance in Mindanao.

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