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.
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.
Five days earlier, P-38 Lightning fighter-bombers struck facilities and shipping at Cagayan Harbor, airfields and trucks at Cagayan.
Fr. Haggerty’s account of the October 21, 1944 air raid was described in his book “Guerrilla Padre in Mindanao:
“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.”
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.”