A Piece Of History of My Hometown San Jose Reviews
My Town May 01, 2009
I have not known about this facts until I read this in Inquirer, a Filipino broadsheet.
Here is the link: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view_article.php?article_id=107006
Mindoro: Key that unlocked RP liberation
By Rodolfo Meim Acebes
Last updated 02:31am (Mla time) 12/15/2007
The author is a retired NBI employee, a free-lance print and broadcast journalist and founding member of the Occidental Mindoro Historical Society.
MANILA, Philippines--THE WORLD watched when Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore in Leyte, fulfilling his promise of "I shall return."
After the battle of Leyte Gulf, the Americans prepared for their considerably lesser known second landing, this time in Mindoro, 63 years ago Saturday.
When it was still one province, Mindoro played a significant role in the liberation of the country from the Japanese occupation during World War II.
Mindoro's geographical location--it is between Luzon and the islands of Visayas and Mindanao--was of great importance to MacArthur.
When he was preparing for his return to the Philippines in 1944 after leaving Corregidor for Australia in 1942, his plan was that after his invasion of Leyte, his next landing would be Mindoro.
Defying the Pentagon
But the Pentagon, believing that Mindoro was well defended by the Japanese, overruled MacArthur. To the Pentagon, "landing in Mindoro is too daring in scope and too risky in execution."
But MacArthur knew otherwise. When the time came, he knew he'd defy the Pentagon.
Earlier, when Col. Macario Peralta, the guerrilla leader of the 6th Military District in Panay Island, finally succeeded in establishing contact with him in Australia, MacArthur's first question to him was, "Can you rendezvous a submarine? If so, name five contact places in order of preference."
Of the five contact places provided by Peralta, two towns in Western Mindoro were chosen by the headquarters of the Philippine Regional Section (PRS) in Australia. The PRS, headed by Col. Courtney Whitney, handled the submarine missions to the Philippines.
The first submarine, the USS Narwhal, commanded by Maj. Lawrence Phillips, surfaced in Paluan Bay, northwest of Mindoro, on Oct. 23, 1943. The men with Phillips were Lt. Commander Charles "Chick" Parsons, Capt. Ricardo Galang, 1st Lt. R.F. Songco, Warrant Officer Braynard Wise, and five Filipino volunteers of the US Army namely Sergeants Benjamin Harder, Arcangel Baniares, Vicente Pinuela, Alfredo Alberto and Ramon Vitorio.
Phillips' mission was to establish a coast watcher in Mt. Calavite in Paluan Bay to monitor the Japanese ship movements entering and leaving the Manila Bay. He also had one important mission: To settle differences between two Mindoro guerrilla leaders due to a power struggle.
Parsons, on the other hand, had a separate mission: To organize an intelligence network called Spy Squadron or SPYRON.
Although there were several guerrilla units in Mindoro, two major groups were at war with each other. One was led by Maj. Ramon Ruffy, a Batangueño from Bauan and the provincial commander of the Philippine Constabulary assigned in Mindoro before the outbreak of the war. The other was led by Capt. Esteban Beloncio of Calapan, who was a public school principal called to active duty by the Mindoro Cadre when the war broke out.
Phillips met the two guerrilla leaders in Mamburao in December 1943. After three days of negotiations, he succeeded in uniting the two leaders. Thus, a provisional command was organized with Ruffy as the overall commander and Beloncio as the executive officer. The new command was based in Naujan.
Phillips' radio network began reporting to headquarters which, in turn, transmitted messages of the position of Japanese ships passing the Mindoro Straits. This led to some sinking of enemy ships. Unfortunately, an informant tipped the Japanese of Phillips' location. He was later killed in a gun battle.
Despite Phillips' death and because Mindoro was an important intelligence base for MacArthur, a second submarine mission commanded by Cmdr. George Rowe was sent to Barrio Calintaan, a municipality of Sablayan, on July 10, 1944. The mission of USS Nautilus, called ISRM or "I Shall Return MacArthur" had the same mission as that of USS Narwhal: To monitor the Japanese movements at sea and in the air.
But Rowe had strict instructions, this time, not to meddle with the problems of the guerrillas. He was accompanied by 21 Filipino commandos led by 1st Lt. A. Hernandez. They brought an air warning device, a high-powered camera, and a photostat machine for copying captured Japanese documents. They also brought drums of gasoline, brand-new garands, carbines, .45 pistols, grenades, blankets, combat boots, medicines, K-rations containing chocolates, chewing gums, cigarettes and food provisions for distribution to the guerrillas.
Rowe settled in Mt. Matabang, Sitio Labanan, in the town on Abra de Ilog. From this observation hideout, he monitored the 7 1/2-mile Isla Verde Passage that separates Batangas and Mindoro. The body of water was important because it is near the mouth of Manila Bay and a step away from Lipa which had an airfield controlled by the Japanese.
Parsons' contacts in Manila were prominent citizens like Sen. Jose Ozamis, sugar planter Virgilio Lobregat, Spaniard Juan Miguel Elizalde, Italian Enrico Pirovano and Swiss Hans Menzi. But when the Japanese Kempetai (military police) discovered that Parsons was operating a spy network in Mindoro, they offered a prize for his capture.
Prominent Filipino spies
One of those who joined the group of Rowe was Claro M. Recto, the minister of foreign affairs when Jose P. Laurel became the president of the so-called puppet republic. Recto, whose nom-de-guerre was Justice, chose Rowe's unit because his two sons-in-law, Francisco Mata Gomez and Johnny Ysmael were with Rowe's group. Other prominent Manileños who were in the dangerous spy mission for Rowe were Col. Dominador Barilea, Jesus "Tuting" Roces, Rafael "Liling" Roces Jr., Jose "Peping" Roces, brave sons of Don Rafael Roces Sr., the owner of the publishing house and the Ideal Theater on Avenida Rizal.
Unfortunately, a SPYRON courier was caught by the Kempetai. Found in his possession was a letter of Parsons' wife Katsy to her mother, Blanch Walker, a missionary pastor of the Cosmopolitan Church in Manila. Tortured in the dungeons of Fort Santiago, the courier revealed names. Ozamis was also captured and executed. Found in his person were some papers, one of them was a letter to Col. Manuel A. Roxas from Parsons.
In February 1944, Blanch was arrested with Helen Wilkes, Mary Stagg and Samboyd, Mary's son. Mary's other son, Samuel, a columnist of the Philippines Free Press using the name, Jungle Philosopher, had earlier hid in Mt. Casague in Sta Cruz, Mindoro, with Isabelo Abeleda and his family.
Like domino pieces, Lobregat, Pirovano, Elizalde and Rafael Roces Jr., suspected by the Japanese of feeding valuable information to either Parsons or Rowe in Mindoro, were arrested.
The Kempetai imprisoned and tortured them in Fort Santiago. On Aug. 28, 1944, the prisoners, with 23 other members of the resistance, were taken in a truck to Manila's Cementerio del Norte. There, they were beheaded and buried in one common ground.
On Oct. 20, 1944, the American liberation forces finally landed in Leyte.
MacArthur, on board his favorite cruiser Nashville, set foot in Palo, Leyte, next town to Tacloban. He, thus, fulfilled his promise of "I shall return."
After the battle of Leyte Gulf, the Americans prepared for their second landing, this time, in Mindoro with deliverance day set on Dec. 15, 1944. The mission to Mindoro had three forces: 1) the Mindoro Attack Group under Adm. Arthur Struble with Nashville, eight destroyers, 31 LCI, 17 minesweepers, 14 small craft and 12 escort destroyers; 2) the Close Covering Group under Rear Admiral Berkey with two light cruisers, one heavy cruiser, and seven destroyers; 3) the Motor Torpedo Boat Group with 27 PT boats under Lt. Cmdr. Burt Davis.
MacArthur was right
MacArthur knew Mindoro well. To him, getting Mindoro meant dividing the Japanese forces in Luzon from those in Visayas and Mindanao, thus weakening the strength of the enemy. Mindoro was only 200 miles south of Leyte and 300 miles north of Luzon. It had a solid ground where he wished to construct airfields for his assault in Luzon via Lingayen.
To MacArthur, with Mindoro in his hands, only the island bastions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa stood between America and Japan.
Dec. 13, 1944 was an unlucky day for the Mindoro Attack Group. Its convoy was spotted from the air by a Kamikaze fighter plane carrying two powerful bombs. The suicide pilot dived toward Nashville and exploded. Some 120 American officers and men died, including Col. John T. Murtha, commander of the 310th Bombardment Wing.
Brig. Gen. William Dunckel, leader of the ground forces and many others were injured. They were immediately transferred to Dashiell, a destroyer.
At dawn of Dec. 15, 1944, Struble, the leader of the naval force, ordered the bombardment of San Jose-Pandurucan to clear it for the landing of the liberation forces. MacArthur was right; there were not many Japanese soldiers in Mindoro to meet his force. They retreated to the mountains while the others were left to guard their radio equipment.
At 7:10 a.m., the 24th Infantry Division with 11,780 combat men, 9,516 Army Air Force and 5,901 service troops landed at the Red Beach in Caminawit Point, White Beach in Barrio Bubog, Blue Beach in Barrio San Agustin and Green Beach across the Bugsanga River. It was followed by the landing of VII Amphibious Forces carrying 16,500 soldiers with 27,600 tons of supplies.
At 10:45 a.m., the wounded Dunckel assumed command of all forces that landed in San Jose. His instruction from MacArthur was the immediate construction of airfields.
Machines like bulldozers, graders, cranes, trucks and jeeps came out of the ships. The airfield built in San Jose where B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberator planes landed was named McGuirre Airdome in honor of Col. Thomas McGuire who crashed in Negros. The airfield in Barrio Upper Mangyan where B-25 Mitchell bombers landed was named Murtha Airfield in honor of Colonel Murtha who died in the Nashville. In three more airstrips, P-51 Mustang planes taxied for landing and takeoff.
With the arrival of the American liberation forces in Mindoro, UP professor, lawyer and Romblon Assemblyman Gabriel Fabella, who himself came to San Jose to look for work, wrote: "Overnight, San Jose became a city, promising and very prosperous. Upon hearing this, almost everybody wanted to go to San Jose."
With Mindoro now as base for the American naval and aerial armaments, the liberation forces sailed the seas and flew the skies to Luzon via Lingayen and on to final victory.
To use the words of Mrs. Douglas MacArthur who sent a letter to this writer on Dec. 15, 1994, during the 50th anniversary of the Mindoro landing, "Mindoro became the key that unlocked the liberation of the Philippines."
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