In time for the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan, I would like to honor a group of patriots whose small but dangerous organization was credited to have contributed materially to the eventual defeat of the enemy during World War II.
The herioc story of these young men and women must be told.
"That the organization was so effective in causing damage to the enemy is evidenced by the fact that, about 20 percent of the total membership were executed by the Japanese, " Col. Wendell Fertig, Commanding Officer, 10th Military District, United States Forces in the Philippines ( USFIP ).
Col. Fertig was not talking about the 36,000 strong guerrilla combatants in Mindanao under his command but rather to a small propaganda, intelligence and sabotage unit with a recognized strength of 74 members in Manila under his command.
Members of this group regularly took clandestine trips to Mindanao to the headquarters of the 10th Military District highly valuable intelligence materials like information on the location of American POW concentration camps, strength of Japanese garrisons, number of planes in Japanese airfields, troops movement as well as movements of Japanese ships, gun placement and the like.
On their return trip to Manila, contraband cargoes of their two-masted inter-island bancas included demolition materials like hand grenades, blasting caps, plastic and incendiary time bombs, radio transmitters for distribution to select guerrilla groups in Luzon, medicines, money and propaganda materials like chocolates candy and cigarettes with I Shall Return markings, and magazines such as Readers Digest, Life, Victory, Look and Library.
Aside from propaganda and information gathering, their operation also includes sabotage, liquidation of spies and collaborators. At one time an order was received to eliminate Japanese puppet Pres. Laurel, Gen. Francisco and General Kuruda of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Due to the high risks inherent in the type of operations undertaken by the unit, 19 of their 93 members were executed by the Japanese. Several others were captured and tortured but miraculously released including 5 young women. Only 3 out 9 original members of the core group survived.
LOD Founders pay the price
Among those executed by the Japanese was the founding leader Capt. Jose O. Flores, who was only 25 years old at the time of his execution. His 21 year old brother and two cousins were also executed. Fortunately, his two other brothers who were also members of his organization survived the war.
Capt. Jose O. Flores, a 24 year old former officer of the Philippine Scouts from the municipality of Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental, was the organizer of Live or Die, popularly known in the underground movement as LOD. Their group specialized in information gathering, propaganda, sabotage and assassination.
"The members have unanimously approved of calling the organization LOD because it was something suicidal, something so sensitive that a destructive explosion was fearlessly being hinted anytime. In a more simple way, it was literally "Live or Die," reads the Report on LOD History submitted to Fertig by Capt.Julian L. Alvarez .
Capt. Flores was a Bataan Death March survivor. When he was released from Capas concentration camp he wasted no time in organizing a Sabotage and Espionage underground group.
On Dec 1, 1942, inspired by the promise of Gen MacArthur to return and provoked by the cruelty of the Japanese regime, Capt. Flores started organizing the Live or Die ( LOD ) while still recuperating from an illness he got in concentration camp.
The core group was composed of close friends and relatives of Capt. Jose Flores . He was the Commanding Officer and also the head of Intelligence Detachment. His brother, 1st Lt Teodorico was the executive officer. The Sabotage Detachment was commanded by his cousin, Capt. Pedro Enerio with 1Lt Antonio Rivera as executive officer. Capt. Maximo Blas, a reserve officer before the war whose wife was a town mate of Capt. Flores, was the Commanding Officer of Propaganda Detachment. The EO was 1Lt Pulturico Tabanao. All these leaders were later executed by the Japanese.
In Sept. 10, 1943, 1Lts Ricardo and Guillermo Flores, brothers of Capt. Flores were released from Capas concentration camp. 1Lt Ricardo Flores took over command of Intelligence Detachment from his older brother Jose. 2lt Guillermo Flores and their cousin 2lt. Roberto Velasquez who were assigned to the Courier Detachment. All were similarly executed by the Japanese.
The LOD was composed of unsurrendered soldiers who escaped from Bataan and those who were released from Japanese concentration camp at Capas, Tarlac. There were also women recruits, young but brave ànd courageous.
The work of LOD Sabotage Detachment delivered the most devastating blows on the enemy in the history of the guerrilla. The targeted facilities for demolitions were oil, ammunition dump and other military facilities.
For a starter, the tunnel in San Juan, Manila, that was used as an ammunition dump was completely destroyed but the ammunition failed to detonate.
Not long after, their success rate was increasing from 75 to 100% in terms of damage to the enemy installations and war logistical resources, such as the oil depot at the Manila Port Area that burned and took the whole day and night to put out with 75% of the facility destroyed.
They also sabotaged a Japanese oil tanker whose blast so damaged a nearby destroyer that both sank as a result.
The sabotage unit's biggest sabotage was the complete destruction of the former Navy Yard in Cavite which so alarmed Caviteños who thought they were being bombed by the liberating US forces. It was considered by the U.S. and the Guerrilla Forces as the biggest Sabotage in Guerrilla History.
Their intelligence reports were accurate, reliable and of great value and were forward to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Australia by Col. Fertig.
Through their Propaganda Detachment, they were successful in countering Japanese propaganda. Leaflets containing messages from President Manuel L. Quezon were also distributed along with the aforementioned "I Shall Return" marked collaterals and American magazines and other reading materials.
Col. Bernard Anderson, CO of Anderson Guerrilla in Northern Luzon who often coordinated with LOD had nothing high praises to this group of young men and women.
"It was my opinion that the LOD unit that operated in Luzon was a unit of 15 to 20 very high caliber individuals." Col Anderson testified in an signed affidavit issued after the war.
To be continued.
World War 2 Declassified Documents, National Archives and Records Administration ( NARA )