The Philippines was the site of some of the most vicious fighting in the Pacific theater. By the time the war ended, 320,000 Japanese occupation troops on the Philippines had died. Of an American force of 300,000 that occupied the archipelago, 15,000 died and 48,000 were wounded, The hardest hits were taken by the people of the Philippines. The Philippines lost more than five percent of its total population (1 million dead out of 18 million people in the Philippines).

Some scholars have argued that the Philippines could have been bypassed in a direct assault on Japan. But as one Filipino veteran of the Battle of Leyte told William Branigin of the Washington Post, "There would have been no fighting, no damage, no casualties. But who would dare contradict MacArthur? An American veteran added, "MacArthur wouldn't let us bypass the Philippines. He had a sacred pledge.”

By some estimates over 1.1 million Filipinos were killed during World War II. This is out of a wartime population of 17 million. "Every Filipino family was hurt by the war on a very personal level," one sociologist told the New York Times.

Heading to the Philippines

Ray Anderson, a gunner on a navy ship, wrote: Our ship then joined a huge task force of 700 ships that for 38 days were underway almost continuously. I can still remember the day that we left Pearl Harbor on September 11th. There was a nervous tension on our ship as we began the long sea journey to our first invasion. The ship was made ready for sea and all hands tried on their life jackets, helmets and gas masks. With painstaking care we took every precaution to see that gas masks fit exactly. Our objective was Yap and for a week we carefully studied all the top-secret material and poured over maps, pictures, and intelligence reports until we were familiar with every part of Yap and knew our job thoroughly. [Source:Ray Anderson's Eyewitness Account to World War II, The American Legion, ==]

“We arrived at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands on the 25th of September, refueled, took on water and other provisions. The next day we pulled out and started on a southernly course. No one could understand why we were on this course. It would never take us to Yap. Had our objective been changed? All over the ship the scuttlebutt was that our objective had been changed and that we would invade the Philippine Islands instead. Upon our arrival in Manus in the Admiralty Islands our suspicions were confirmed. Our new objective was Leyte in the Philippine Islands. ==

“The only war news that we received en route to the P.I.'s was that 1,000 planes from Admiral Halsey's task force had raided Formosa. This would reduce the Jap's capacity to resist our seizure of Leyte. Days later as we lay at anchor in San Pedro, we listened to Tokyo Rose who claimed that the Japs had sunk 8 battleships, 7 carriers and downed 800 of our planes.

Bombardment of Leyte

Guns on the USS Portland

The Leyte operation began with a viscous naval bombardment creating enough space on the shore for the landing of 200,000 American troops using landing crafts. It took place after a 1,500-mile seaborne operation that has been called "one of the most daring amphibious landings ever conceived."

Ray Anderson, a gunner on a navy ship at Leyte, wrote: “On October 19th, we remained at our battle stations all day long and went to condition 2 watches (Port and Starboard), four hours on and our hours off. At dawn on October 20th we could see the Island of Leyte - our objective - and more than 700 ships passed between two islands to go into the Gulf. Japs had fled taking only their rifles with them. At midnight we passed through the entrance into the Gulf. The convoy kept changing speed and course which made it very difficult to keep in station. We almost rammed the ship ahead of us once. For three days previously larger ships in our convoy had begun the initial bombardment and fleet minesweepers had swept the Gulf. We could see tracer shells from battleships, carriers, cruisers and destroyers blasting away at the beach. When the sun came over the horizon our planes appeared overhead en route to the beach on bombing missions. The Naval bombardment and aircraft bombing became heavier and heavier. The noise was terrific. [Source:Ray Anderson's Eyewitness Account to World War II, The American Legion, ==]

“At 0900 we headed toward the beach escorting numerous landing crafts that were loaded with invasion troops and amphibious vehicles. We also were firing our mortars and rockets on the beach and farther inland for 15 minutes after the first wave hit the beach. As we neared the beach we began firing 20MM shells strafing the beach and soon from this combined firing the beach was covered by a cloud of smoke. Despite the terrific concentration of fire power there were a few Japs left alive (dug in) and our troops promptly killed them. After we ceased firing we followed the troops as they pushed ahead on the beach. Naval bombardment continued all day and troops kept pouring ashore and LST's (landing ships, tank) beached and unloaded their supplies. Tacloban Airfield and Catmon Hill, the main objectives, were captured that day. Filipinos were running toward the troops waving their arms so our soldiers wouldn't shoot them. We were about 1,000 yards from the beach and ready to give our troops fire support if they needed it. ==

USS Princeton burning

“Our crew was very tired and the men were lying all over the decks trying to get some rest. At sunset, we anchored off the beach between the enemy line and ours to prevent enemy infiltration by small boats, etc. We kept watch armed with Springfields, Carbines and Thompson sub-machine guns looking for Jap swimmers, suicide PT boats and midget subs. No Japs were sighted. Just as we anchored I looked up and saw four Jap bombers flying overhead, almost directly over our ship. They dropped their bombs and I'll never forget that feeling as I watched the bombs coming down. As I watched the bombs coming down I got so weak assuming that they would hit our ship that I collapsed and fell down on the deck. Luckily, the bombs fell in the water off our fantail - too damn close for comfort. ==

“The bombardment kept on all night. Destroyers behind us were blasting away with their 5"38s and the noise was terrible. We could hear the shells swishing through the air overhead. Huge balls of fire shot out from our battleships and cruisers as their 16", 14", and 6" guns kept firing all night but the noise was nothing compared to the sharp banging of the destroyer with their 5"38s. Red and white tracer shells kept pouring on the beach and star shells and flares lit up the whole areas. Occasionally we could see tracers from machine guns and hear rifle fire from our troops ashore. Tacloban Airfield was all lit up as soldiers worked on the airstrip all night. ==

“We went to GQ at daybreak and watched numerous ships firing toward the sky but saw no Jap planes. Two 5"38 shells burst on the water very close to our ship. We were afraid that we would get hit by fire from our ships. We were sent on a firing mission at 1020 and fired at a target area for several hours expending 600 rounds (3 mortar rounds per minute). The surf was high and our ship kept broaching so it was necessary to go out and then go in for another run firing our mortars. Our target was a Japanese infantry concentration. We had good results and no Japs were left in the target area.” ==

“After sunset we moved from the beachhead and anchored in front of a heavy cruiser. The cruiser kept firing at the beach all morning with its 6" guns. We were so close to the cruiser that every time they fired a salvo our whole ship would shake and puffs of wind from the gun blasts blew back my cabin curtain each time they fired. The entire ship would vibrate. The lamp in my cabin rattled and the typewriter desk and typewriter would shake making it difficult for me to type.” ==

Land Battle of Leyte

On October 20, 1944, the U.S. Sixth Army supported by the Seventh and Third fleet landed on Leyte island, beginning the campaign to liberate the Philippines. MacArthur's Allied forces were accompanied by Osmeña, who had succeeded to the Philippine presidency upon the death of Quezon on August 1, 1944. Landings then followed on the island of Mindoro and around the Lingayen Gulf on the west side of Luzon, and the push toward Manila was initiated.

American troops on Leyte not only had to deal with Japanese troops, they also had to contend with jungles, diseases, gooey swamps, three typhoons and an earthquake. The fighting for a while was touch and go for the American forces.During the first month of fighting, typhoons dropped 30 inches of rain. "Our fatigues rotted off of us," a veteran of the battle told the Washington Post. "We had more illness casualties than battle casualties on Leyte — jungle rot, dengue fever, dysentery, you name it."

"The Japanese fought to die, the Americans to live," one observer wrote of the Battle of Leyte. Only a handful surrendered. More than 65,000 Japanese soldiers, including almost an entire garrison of 50,000 men, fought to the death at Leyte. Slightly more than 3,500 American GIs were killed and 12,000 were wounded.

A key moment in the battle came when American soldiers were pinned down by machine gun fire below a hill dubbed "Bloody Ridge.” A squad leader, who was part of a company that lost half of its men and ran out of ammunition, later told William Branigin of the Washington Post, "At that moment, when the Japanese could have come over and wiped us out, they quit and retreated. It was like an act of God."

MacArthur Lands at Leyte Beach

MacArthur's skill as military leader revealed itself once the war got going. After his exile to Australia he devoted the next 31 months to liberating the Philippines. Of the 56 amphibious landings undertaken during his command every one was successful. His attack plan was almost scuttled in early 1944 when the U.S. Navy proposed bypassing the islands, driving the Japanese from Formosa, and attacking Japan directly, but in the end Roosevelt sided with MacArthur who said that abandoning the Filipinos would adversely affect the prestige of the United States in the Far East "for many years."

On October 20, 1944, MacArthur made his famous landing on Leyte beach. "He wore a crisply starched uniform," wrote historian Geoffrey Ward, "and the sunglasses and soft cap that had become his trademark, and he was eager to step ashore and proclaim his return. Then, 50 yards out, the barge ran aground. Landing craft burned around him, bodies were rolling in the surf, sniper bullets still whined overhead, and when the harried harbor master heard about the general's potential embarrassment he was unmoved. "Let 'em walk! he said."

"Cursing under his breath while photographers clicked, MacArthur and his companions stepped knee-deep into the surf and grimly walked ashore...then he saw a photographers print and realized the dramatic impression it would make in newspapers around the world. Thereafter, he made sure he waded ashore for cameras when landing on other islands.”

MacArthur Says "I Have Returned"

In a radio broadcast, delivered from the landing beach, over a mobile-radio hookup, MacArthur said: "People of the Philippines, I have returned. The hour of your redemption is here...Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead one...Let every area be steeled...As the lines of the battle roll forward to bring you within the zones of operations, rise and strike...For your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike!"

After hearing the broadcast, a radio columnist who was 18 at the time later told Branigin, "My reaction then was to cry for joy." All around him "soldiers and civilians alike...had tears flowing down their cheeks." The broadcast fueled a sudden burst of guerilla activity, which in turn led to the massacre of thousands of civilians by the Japanese.

When MacArthur returned to the Philippines in 1961 three years before his death at 84 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the nation’s independence some two million people filled the streets of Manila to welcome him back.

Naval Battle of Leyte

The Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 22-27, 1944 in Philippines was the largest naval battle in World War II and some have called it the greatest naval battle in history. It pitted combined American and Australian forces against the Japanese navy,

Several days after the Leyte Beach landing, Japanese naval forces began challenging the landing forces and a battle broke out offshore in Leyte Gulf involving 282 (218 Allied and 64 Japanese) ships and 1,996 (1,280 Allied, 716 Japanese) aircraft. The battle consisted of three engagements: all won by the United States. In an attempt to scatter and destroy the American flotilla, the Japanese launched kamikaze attacks for the first time. When the battle was over the Japanese Imperial navy sustained a quarter of all the losses since the beginning of World War II. It lost four aircraft carriers and virtually its entire naval air force as well as four battleships, 14 cruisers, and 43 other ships.

Among the ship that were sunk was the great battleship Musashi. Jon Henley wrote in The Guardian: “On October 18 1944, Japanese vice admiral Takeo Kurita sailed with a 67-strong fleet, including both the Musashi and Yamato, into the Sibuyan Sea, west of the Philippine island of Leyte, aiming to throw back an American landing and attack vulnerable US transport ships on the other side of the island. [Source: Jon Henley, The Guardian, March 4, 2015 /+]

“At 8.10am on October 24 a spotter aircraft from the US carrier Intrepid spied the Japanese fleet, and by 10.27am, according to Japanese naval records, battle was formally engaged, with the Musashi’s massive guns in action for the first time. But with few Japanese aircraft to fend off the airborne attacks, the enormous vessel eventually became a sitting duck, reduced to firing its mammoth guns into the water to send up huge spouts of water aimed at knocking the attacking aircraft out of the air. “Running into one of these geysers was like running into a mountain,” one US pilot, Jack Lawton, was recorded as saying after the battle. “I felt the muzzle blast each time they fired. I could swear the wings were ready to fold every time these huge shockwaves hit us.” /+\

“The last American attack was over by 3.30pm, according to the US Naval Historical Centre, leaving the Musashi listing heavily from some 37 direct torpedo and bomb hits (the figure is disputed). At 7.15pm, Captain Toshihira Inoguchi retired to his cabin, intending to go down with his ship. The order to abandon ship came 15 minutes later and at 7.36pm the Musashi capsized and sank. Of the crew of 2,399, only 1,376 survived.” /+\

Musashi and Yamato Battleships

Japanese ship Chikuma

The World-War-II-era Japanese battleships— the Yamato and Musashi — were the largest battleships ever commissioned. They each displaced 78,387 tons, were 863 feet long and were armed with 18-inch guns that fired 3,200 pound projectiles. The pride of the Japanese fleet, they were described as “the world’s greatest battleships” by Encyclopedia Britanica.

On the Musashi, Jon Henley wrote in The Guardian: “Designed to take on multiple enemy ships simultaneously, the Musashi was the second of the imperial Japanese navy’s colossal Yamato-class heavy battleships. Launched in November 1940, it measured 263 meters (863 feet) overall, weighed 73,000 tonnes fully laden, carried a crew of 2,500, and could travel at speeds of up to 27 knots (50 kph). [Source: Jon Henley, The Guardian, March 4, 2015 /+]

“But what most alarmed the Allies was the warship’s terrifying armament, which included the largest-calibre guns ever fitted to a warship: nine 46cm (18.1in) cannon mounted in three triple turrets, each capable of firing up to two 1,460kg (3,220lb) armour-piercing shells a minute over a maximum range of 26 miles. She was an awe-inpiring sight. “I had never,” the World War II Database records gunner Russ Dustan of the American aircraft carrier USS Franklin as saying, “seen anything as big in my entire life … It was huge.” /+\

“But mighty as she was, the Musashi was not invulnerable – especially to aerial attack.” She sunk without trace in the Battle of Leyte (See Below). Despite numerous witness accounts of the sinking, the exact location of the Musashi’s wreck was never clearly established. The Yamato was ordered to attack the Allied amphibious force in Okinawa in what essentially was a suicide mission. The Yamato was ordered to beach itself and to act as an unsinkable gun emplacement and continue to fight until destroyed. and steer itself into the middle of an invading American armada and blow itself up. On April 7, 1945, en route to Okinawa, the Yamato was attacked by 280 aircraft and sunk in the South China Sea off Kyushu. Only 260 members of 2,800-member crew survived.” /+\

Legacy of Leyte

Musashi under attack in Sibuyan Sea

The defeat of the Japanese at Leyte gave the American military and beachhead on the Philippines which eventually led to the defeat of the Japanese in the Philippines and 50 percent reduction of its the empire. MacArthur later wrote, the Battle of Leyte paved the way "for the final assault against Japan itself." The battle also gave the Americans control over the Pacific, a position which they retain to this day.

MacArthur's successes in the Philippines earned him a fifth star, a rank that signified his promotion to "general of the army." When MacArthur walked through the streets in the Philippines Filipino threw flowers before him and rushed to embrace him. He was selected to lead the invasion of Japan, a move that became unnecessary after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Harvard historian Eliot Morrison wrote: “When the Mississippi discharged her twelve 14-inch guns at Yamashiro at a range of 19,790 yards, at 0408 October 25, 1944, she was not only giving that battleship the coup de grâce, but firing a funeral salute to a finished era of naval warfare. One can imagine the ghosts of all great admirals from Raleigh to Jellicoe standing at attention as [the] Battle Line went into oblivion, along with the Greek phalanx, the Spanish wall of pikemen, the English longbow and the row-galley tactics of Salamis and Lepanto.”

Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen Finds the Musashi

In March 2104, Paul Allen, the multibillionaire Microsoft co-founder and one of the world’s wealthiest men, said he found the Musashi. Jon Henley wrote in The Guardian: Paul Allen posted photographs of the wreck of the Musashi....“WW2 Battleship Musashi sank 1944 is FOUND,” Allen announced on Twitter, beneath a ghostly underwater photograph of the mammoth vessel’s rusting, coral-encrusted bow clearly bearing the chrysanthemum crest of the Japanese imperial family. [Source: Jon Henley, The Guardian, March 4, 2015 /+]

“Other pictures taken on the floor of the Sibuyan Sea by a team from the Octopus, Allen’s luxury yacht and undersea exploration vessel, showed one of the warship’s enormous anchors and a heavily encrusted valve captioned: “RIP crew of Musashi, approximately 1,023 lost.” Allen, who has devoted a small part of his estimated $17.5bn fortune to deep-sea and space exploration, said on his website that the discovery of the wreck, at a depth of more than half a mile, marked “an important milestone in the annals of World War II naval history”. /+\

“Despite numerous witness accounts of the sinking, the exact location of the Musashi’s wreck was never clearly established. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975 and is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 51st richest person in the world, said he began searching for the battleship more than eight years ago. In a statement, the billionaire said his team conducted a bathymetric survey of the ocean floor to eliminate large areas from the search, then conducted the final phase of the search using a autonomous underwater robot, or AUV, to detect the wreckage on Monday. An ROV, or remote operated vehicle, fitted with a high-definition camera and operated from the Octopus, later successfully filmed the battleship. /+\

“Allen said he had long been fascinated by second world war history and was “honoured to play a part in finding this key vessel in naval history and honouring the memory of the incredible bravery of the men who served aboard her”. The entrepreneur is also working on a project to put “cost-effective” cargo and manned missions into space, and launched SpaceShipOne, the first privately built craft to enter suborbital space, in 2004.” /+\

Battle of Luzon

After the Battle of Leyte civilian government was restored in the Philippines. But at that time there were 350,000 Japanese still occupying the Philippines, most of them in Luzon, and about 180,000 Filipino guerilla fighting them. Fighting was fierce, particularly in the mountains of northern Luzon, where Japanese troops had retreated, and in Manila, where they put up a last-ditch resistance. Guerrilla forces rose up everywhere for the final offensive.

In an effort to take Luzon the U.S. army landed at Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945, Subic Bay on January 20 and Batangas on January 31. These attacks trapped the Japanese in giant pincers. The Japanese fought back fiercely in Manila, at Balete Pass and in the Cagayan Valley. Without authorization MacArthur "liberated the central and southern Philippines in a series of costly campaigns that some critics believed unnecessary." The Americans followed the same route the Japanese had used to drive them out. Organized Japanese fighting ended on June 28, but pockets of resistance continued fighting for months after that. American prisoners were freed at Santo Tomás, Cabanatuan, Los Baños and Baguio.

Ray Anderson, a gunner on a navy ship, wrote: Our second invasion was January 9th when an invasion force of more than 850 vessels entered the Lingayen Gulf north of Manila. Several days later our sister ship the LCI(M) 974 was sunk by a Japanese suicide torpedo boat. There were 29 survivors including Captain Brown with a broken back. One day we were lying to about 2,500 yards from the beach near the Cruiser Nashville, the one that took MacArthur to the invasion of Leyte, when two Jap fighters came out of the sun with machine guns blazing away. We opened fire and believed we hit one plane which then turned and went into a suicide dive hitting the Cruiser Nashville exploding in a great billow of flame. It was a horrible sight. The Nashville's flag went down to half-mast indicating that personnel had been killed. [Source: Ray Anderson's Eyewitness Account to World War II, The American Legion,]

F. Sionil Jose wrote in the New York Times: I was in Manila during the first American air raid in September 1944. By that November, people in the city were starving; some were forced to eat rats. My mother, a cousin and I returned to Rosales — we walked all the way, passing empty towns. In the daytime, the skies were full of American planes flying so low we could see the pilots. At night, the Japanese marched — we could hear them as we camped in the abandoned houses along the highway. [Source: F. Sionil Jose, New York Times, August 13, 2010]

“We reached Rosales after a week and shortly after, the Americans landed in Lingayen. I immediately joined the U.S. Army as a civilian medical technician. Since our unit was with the combat engineers, we were often the first to reach liberated towns and villages. We would be met by grateful and starving Filipinos as we offered gifts of fresh eggs and live chickens.

Battle of Manila

Balete Pass, Luzon

The bloodiest fighting of the Philippines campaign occurred in the Battle of Manila between February 3rd and March 3rd, 1945. Manila residents suffered horrifically. Street fighting there left the capital in ruins. An estimated 100,000 to 150,000 Filipino civilians, in a city of 1 million, died. Many residents were killed by U.S. shells or slaughtered by Japanese marines "in a bloodbath that rivaled the 1937 rape of Nanking in China."

By the time MacArthur marched into the city a city that had been one of the finest in Asia was a smoldering heap. The historian William Manchester wrote, "The devastation of Manila was one of the great tragedies of World War II. Of Allied cities in those war years, only Warsaw suffered more. Seventy percent of the utilities, 75 percent of the factories, 80 percent of southern residential district and 100 percent of the business district were razed."

Manila was captured by American forces through bloody street to street fighting. Fort Santiago, at the bayside end of Intramuros, gained notoriety in 1945 when Americans staged an eight-day siege. After pounding their way through dirt and concrete barriers two stories high and 40 feet thick, victorious GI's found the bodies of 600 Filipinos and Americans in the dungeons of Fort Santiago.

Corregidor was retaken in February 1945. In an assault lead by America paratroopers dropped from cargo planes, bombers blasted the fortress so heavily that an American soldier remarked, "We had the impression of standing on jelly.” When the 15-day campaign was over 210 American were killed and 790 were wounded (280 of these in landing mishaps). Of the 5,200 Japanese who guarded the fortress only 50 were believed to have survived. There are so many bomb fragments and shrapnel in the soil around Corregidor that one boy scout troop on a camping trip found their compasses to be useless. [Source: William Graves, National Geographic, July 1986]

The 513 prisoners who remained alive in the Bataan Death March Prison were dramatically rescued by the 8th Ranger Battalion, which slipped through the jungles, with the help of Filipino guerrillas, past Japanese encampments to the prison. In a hail of gunfire the Rangers fought their way into the prison and loaded the prisoners onto water buffalo that carried them to safety. The daring rescue is recalled in the book “Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides (Doubleday, 2001).

Fighting continued until Japan's formal surrender on September 2, 1945. The Philippines had suffered great loss of life and tremendous physical destruction by the time the war was over. An estimated 1 million Filipinos had been killed, a large proportion during the final months of the war.

Books: 1) Aluit, Alfonso. “By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II.” Makati City: Geba Printing, 1994; 2) Connaughton, Richard, Pimlott, John, and Anderson, Duncan, “The Battle for Manila,” Makati City: Platypus Publishing, Inc., 1995. 3) Lichauco, Marcial P., “Dear Mother Putnam: A Diary of the Second World War in the Philippines, “ Hong Kong: C.B.L. Fung, 1997. 4) Lopez, Salvador P., Elpidio Quirino: “The Judgment of History. Manila: President,” Elpidio Quirino Foundation, 1990. 5) Office of the Inspector General, XIV Corps. “Report of Investigation of Alleged Atrocities by Members of the Japanese Imperial Forces in Manila and other parts of Luzon, Philippine Islands” (9 April 1945), from

See Separate Article on the BATTLE OF MANILA

Atrocities at the Battle of Manila

Tapel Massacre

In the Rape of Manila. men, women children were slaughtered on the streets and in private homes, churches, hospitals and school by rampaging Japanese occupation troops. One Japanese soldier later told the New York Times: "In the beginning, we could not kill even a man. But we managed to kill him. Then we hesitated to kill a woman. But we managed to kill her, too. Then we could kill children. We came to think as if we were just killing insects."

In the village of Lipa, outside of Manila, over 1,000 people were killed. More than 400 people were thrown down a well. One woman died when her head was smashed by a Japanese soldier while she combed her hair. Describing the massacre of 2,000 people at the village of Calamba, south of Manila in February 1945, one former Japanese soldier told the New York Times, "They took the old men in a truck to the church. They used a rope to strangle them. It was an easier and cheaper way to kill them than with rifles and bullets."

One Filipino woman told the Washington Post she saw Japanese soldiers kill her mother and sister in a hail of bullets. Her two-year-old sister survived, but then a Japanese soldier walked over and tossed the girl in the air and speared her with his bayonet.

F. Sionil Jose wrote in the New York Times: “Manila was liberated in March 1945 and I received permission to visit the city to see relatives. There had been heavy fighting---the city was devastated. It seems as if it were only yesterday that I beheld the ruins and smelled the carrion in Ermita-Malate, where the Japanese massacred thousands. It has been said that Manila, next to Warsaw, was the most devastated city in World War II. I found my relatives; luckily they were unharmed.[Source: F. Sionil Jose, New York Times, August 13, 2010]

“Being in the U.S. Army, I thought I would take part in the coming invasion of Japan---and I relished the thought. But that August, when atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war came to an end. There was much rejoicing all over the Philippines and, even more so, among the GI’s.

Legacy of World War II on the Philippines

In early 1946 Japan's General Tomoyuki Yamashita was tried as a war criminal and hanged by order of MacArthur. In 1986, a salvage group located the wreck of a Japanese ship containing $500 million worth of treasure in Filipino waters. The ship was sunk in World War II.

In 1994, President Fidel Ramos had hoped to turn the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte into a sort of an Asian version of the D-Day commemoration at Normandy. President Clinton and MacArthur's 92-year-old widow were invited to event but neither were able to attend. In their place came the U.S. Secretary of State William Perry and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili.

After World War II and independence, the United States Congress reneged on promised to give benefits to Filipino soldiers who fought on the Allied side against Japan. In 2009 Associated Press reported: “Men and women from the Philippines were promised recognition and benefits when they enlisted to fight alongside US troops during World War II. Many of those honors are only arriving now, 64 years after the war ended. The Fil-Am veterans are also set to receive long-awaited benefits that the United States pledged during the war. [Source: Associated Press, June 7, 2009]

“Some 250,000 Filipinos enlisted in 1941 to help defend the Philippines, a US commonwealth at the time. They were promised that they could become US citizens if they chose, and receive benefits under the G.I. Bill. The US Congress took away that offer in 1946 when the Philippines became an independent nation. Congress passed legislation in 2009 rewarding the soldiers for their service with $9,000 payments for non-US citizens and $15,000 for those with citizenship. In 2009, about 18,000 Filipino veterans, many in their 80s and 90s, were still alive. Ravaged by old age and disease, they were dying at the rate of 10 a day, officials said. “

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, “Unlike in other countries where the war's end brought renewal and hope, there is a strong sense in this country that the war victimized Filipinos twice over, that its horrifying toll went beyond the destruction of its cities. If the war destroyed 80 percent of the Philippine economy, its consequences - the reparations, the ensuing relationship between Manila and Tokyo, the Cold War, the rise of Ferdinand Marcos, who exploited Japan's postwar penitence and benevolence and almost single-handedly repaired relations with the Japanese - damaged Filipinos even further, diminishing their sense of pride and their ability to appreciate their past and learn from it. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, August 13, 2005 +=+]

“In short, World War II left the Philippines devastated long after it ended, historians and sociologists say. This damage, they say, defines the modern Filipino: poor and lost, perpetually wandering the globe for economic survival, bereft of national pride, and - like the women of Mapanique - forced to suffer, to this day, the indignities of their violation. "Filipinos have a very short historical memory," said Ricardo Trota Jose, the country's foremost scholar on Philippine-Japan relations, who teaches history at the University of the Philippines.” +=+

Legacy of World War II on One Small Philippine Village

Reporting from Mapanique, Philippines, Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, On November 23, 1944, Japanese soldiers stormed through this village, burning down houses and killing all the Filipino men they could find. They then herded dozens of women to a red mansion that had been turned into a garrison. There, the soldiers took turns violating the Filipinas; they raped a mother and her daughter at the same time in one of the many rooms. To this day, the women of Mapanique - many of those still alive are now in their 70s - talk about their ordeal with chilling clarity. "I will never forget that horrible day," said Maxima dela Cruz, 76, one of the survivors. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, August 13, 2005 +=+]

“In other countries, remembering the atrocities of Japan is a matter of honor. In this village about 60 kilometers, or 37 miles, north of Manila, remembrance is at once cruel and bitterly ironic: Dozens of relatives of the women raped in the red mansion, many of them grandchildren, are toiling today in Japan - in its tofu factories, on its construction sites and in its homes. In many instances - and this is what the survivors find particularly outrageous - they work there as entertainers, which is often a euphemism for prostitution. +=+

"We did not have a choice. We're poor people," said Ruperto Quilantang, who worked for years as a construction worker in Japan. Quilantang's wife, 78-year-old Maria, was one of those raped inside the red house. "Of course it's painful," said one of the Mapanique women when asked about a grandchild who now works as a hostess in a Tokyo bar. "But we need this," she said, forming the money sign with her thumb and index finger. +=+

Surprising Friendliness of Filipino Towards Japan Despite World War II

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, “But for a people wounded by Japan like no other in Southeast Asia, Filipinos are now very friendly toward Japan - a phenomenon that baffles many historians and sociologists considering that, in countries like China and South Korea, anti-Japanese sentiment still smolders and occasionally flares. "It's not just historical amnesia," said Michael Tan, a sociologist and anthropologist who has been studying the impact of conflicts on Filipinos. "A large part of the blame goes to the failure by our historians to remind our people of our past," Tan said. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, August 13, 2005 +=+]

“He points out the case of textbooks, where many of the atrocities committed by the Japanese, among them the systematic rape of Filipinas who are now called "comfort women," are not even mentioned. As a result - and here Jose agrees - Filipinos are not as offended as the Chinese or the Koreans are, for example, about the fact that these atrocities are given only fleeting attention in Japanese classrooms, if at all. +=+

“A main factor in all of this is economic. "Beggars can't be choosers," Tan said by way of explaining why Filipinos, particularly those who suffered at the hands of the Japanese during the war, decided to forget the past and try to survive the present. According to officials in Manila, the majority of entertainers in Japan's nightclubs and bars are Filipinos. The number of Filipino entertainers there has increased over the years; today, at an estimated 80,000, they now comprise the biggest number of Filipino workers in Japan, the majority of them women. +=+

“These women, along with an estimated seven million Filipinos working in other parts of the world, send $8 billion a year to their families back home, thus helping to prop up one of the weakest economies in Asia, a country chronically saddled by huge foreign debts and budget deficits. Aida, a dressmaker in a Manila suburb who asked that only her first name be used, is unapologetic about the decision by one of her daughters to work as a bar girl in Japan. "Her children are growing up and my daughter was worried she could not feed them well or send them to school," said Aida, whose father fought the Japanese as a guerrilla. When asked what her father would think of her daughter, Aida replied: "My grandchildren cannot eat the past." +=+

Lack of Accounting and History in the Philippines on World War II

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, “But another factor in what Tan calls "national historical amnesia" is a conscious effort by the Japanese to change the way Filipinos regard them and the creation by the ruling class of Filipinos of an ideology that, according to Tan, "convinces us that we have to be grateful to Japan." This class, he says, gained from collective amnesia and from the friendship of Manila and Tokyo after the war. According to Jose, the Philippines have never had an official history of the war. Most of the literature on the war was written by foreigners, many of them by American veterans and Japanese scholars. The first book on the Japanese occupation written by a Filipino was published in 1994, nearly half a century after the war's end. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, August 13, 2005 +=+]

“Not surprisingly, Tan says, hardly anybody protested - except the group of women raped by the Japanese during the war - when the tourism office in the town of Mabalacat a few years ago put up a memorial for Japanese kamikaze pilots. There was a kamikaze air base at the town during the war. The town is in Pampanga, a province north of Manila that was the center of an anti-Japanese rebellion during the war. Among the pilots honored was a lieutenant the memorial hailed as the "world's first official human bomb!" +=+

“Nor did many find any irony late last year, when, while Filipino "comfort women" continued to lobby and demonstrate in search of justice and compensation from Tokyo, hundreds of young Filipino women held rallies in Manila protesting a move by the Japanese government to tighten rules in the hiring of Filipino entertainers. +=+

Japan’s Exploitation of the Philippine Economy After World War II

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, “Historians point out that Japan never ceased trying to win back the Philippines' sympathy after the war. It poured in tremendous amounts of money and resources - more than any other country, including America - as part of its postwar diplomacy. To this day, Japan is the Philippines' top donor of so-called official development assistance. Japan is also the Philippines' top foreign investor. Japan is among the top countries in the world in sponsoring the education of Filipino scholars, while its cultural diplomacy is among the most extensive. "Our neighbors did not receive the same amount of aid and assistance from Japan," said the historian Manuel Quezon 3rd. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, August 13, 2005 +=+]

“What is not widely discussed here, however, is that most of these resources from Japan were actually loans and were, in fact, linked to Japan's quest for export markets after the war. Japan tied these loans, which were mainly used for infrastructure like highways, to contracts with Japanese contractors and suppliers. On the Philippine side, only a small clique of influential Filipino contractors and businesses benefited from the postwar largesse. Most Filipinos thus did not benefit substantially from reparations. +=+

“According to one study, Japanese "reparation payments to the Philippines were relatively less efficient than in other countries." In fact, according to another study, the reparations "provided investment mainly to private-sector projects for reaping short-term profits, leaving long-term profitable key industries with insufficient capital." The result is that the Philippines did not develop its industries, a defect whose impact is still felt today. Worse, according to historians, the way the loans and reparations money and goods were utilized ushered in the era of bureaucratic corruption that is now so prevalent here. +=+

“Japan increased its engagement with the Philippines after Washington shifted its attention to the Cold War. During the Korean War, Washington actually gave more support to Japan than it did to the Philippines, because of Japan's strategic relevance, Quezon said, even though Filipino guerrillas had fought side by side with Americans against the Japanese. +=+

“While Tokyo had little success in repairing relations with Philippine presidents immediately after the war, things changed when Ferdinand Marcos took power in the 1960s. Marcos repaired relations with Japan, ingratiating himself with Tokyo, which was only too happy to pour in more loan money. Marcos, in turn, used the loans to prop up an economy that was becoming increasingly weak because of his mismanagement. Some historians even point out that the Japanese loans allowed Marcos to fatten his and his cronies' wallets and, perhaps more important, prolong his brutal regime. The loans Marcos incurred contributed to the foreign debts that are still choking the Philippines to this day. The debts prevent the government from developing industries and creating more jobs, thus pushing Filipinos to seek a better life abroad, even in countries their loved ones loathe.” +=+

Japanese Dead, Filipino Bones

It is said around 500,000 Japanese soldiers died in the Philippines during WWII, with the bodies of around 380,000 yet to be recovered. In the late 2000s reports began to emerge that the bones of Filipinos were being passed off as Japanese World War II dead. In 2011, AFP reported:Grave robbers have dug up the remains of Philippine tribesmen and passed them off as the bodies of Japanese soldiers killed in World War II, tribal leaders said Wednesday. The skeletons of hundreds of Mangyan and Ifugao tribesmen have been shipped to Japan since 2008 after being unearthed by looters paid by a Japanese group, they claimed. [Source: Agence France-Presse, February 23, 2011 ]

Aniw Lubag, a Mangyan leader, told a news conference his tribe briefly detained three people in 2008 as they stole bones from a burial cave on the central island of Mindoro. "They said they were hired by non-Mangyans. We heard other Filipinos ordered (the digging up of bones) and then gave them to Kuentai," said Lubag, referring to a Japanese group established to find and repatriate the bodies of fallen soldiers.

“Caesar Dulnuan, a head of the Ifugao tribal group, said skeletons had vanished from their northern mountain community after the Japanese group began searching for the remains of their war dead in the area. "We don't know who received the bones. There were a lot of people and they paid them 500 pesos (11.40 dollars) per (skeleton) recovered," he said. The looters said they were paid by others to bring bones to Kuentai, whose website says it is a "non-profit organization" seeking to repatriate the remains of half a million Japanese soldiers killed during the occupation of the country.

“Koji Nakamura, a spokesman for a group of Japanese war veterans and relatives, urged the Philippine government to investigate. "If this is true, it is unscrupulous and profane," Nakamura told the news conference. He said Kuentai had not checked whether the remains were those of Japanese soldiers, emboldening impoverished residents to dig up and sell Filipino bones. "All they need is an affidavit from some Filipino people, saying 'We found these Japanese bones here and there,' and have it signed by a village official so the Japanese government has no reason to doubt them," he said. The bones were later cremated and sent to Japanese national cemeteries for burial, making it impossible to bring them back, Nakamura added. Nakamura said Philippine National Museum staff had taken part in Kuentai's retrieval program but told him they had no way of checking if the bones were Japanese.

Kyodo reported: A group of former Japanese soldiers and Philippine tribal leaders formally sought a permanent ban on the collection of remains of World War II Japanese soldiers in the Philippines by a Japanese nonprofit organization, alleging the skeletal remains of Filipinos are being passed off as those of Japanese soldiers. In a petition letter, retired Japanese soldier Toshio Kawamura and Wataru Kamei, son of a missing Japanese soldier assigned in a northern Philippine province during the war, asked President Benigno Aquino to ''immediately ban Kuentai's retrieval activities in the Philippines.''[Source: Kyodo, February 23, 2011 ~]

“The increase in the number of retrieved bones during the Kuentai missions compared with previous years and missions has raised doubts as to the authenticity of the remains recovered, said Koji Nakamura, a facilitator for Kawamura, Kamei and other petitioners. Aside from the difficulty of finding and authenticating Japanese remains so long after the war, the petition alleged there have been ''terribly disgusting cases'' in which the remains of Filipino tribe members have been dug up and stolen to be sold off and passed off as those of Japanese soldiers. ~

Supporting the petition against Kuentai, Ceasar Dulnuan and Aniw Lubag, representing the tribes from Ifugao and Mindoro Oriental provinces, respectively, asked for ''justice'' for the loss of the remains of their ancestors and tribesmen. Lubag claimed that the remains of some 1,600 people from the Mangyan tribe graves in Mindoro Oriental have been stolen since 2009, while Dulnuan said some 500 skeletal remains from his tribe in Ifugao have gone missing since 2008.

Image Sources: National Archives of the United States; Wikimedia Commons; Gensuikan;

Text Sources: National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun, The New Yorker, Lonely Planet Guides, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wikipedia, BBC, “Eyewitness to History “, edited by John Carey ( Avon Books, 1987), Compton’s Encyclopedia, “History of Warfare “ by John Keegan, Vintage Books, Eyewitness to, “The Good War An Oral History of World War II” by Studs Terkel, Hamish Hamilton, 1985, BBC’s People’s War website and various books and other publications.

Last updated November 2016

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