Introduction During the earlier days of my childhood, my grandfather and I would spend a lot of time together. My grandfather was a World War II veteran as well as a member of the Philippine Resistance Movement after the Japanese Occupation in 1942 and because of the stories he would tell me as a child, I have always had a keen interest in that period of Philippine History.
Ten hours after the Japanese bombing on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, the Japanese raided Camp John Hay in Baguio and Davao Gulf in the early morning of December 8, 1942. The Japanese main target was to destroy U. S. B-17 bombers in Clark Field Air Base, and by the end of the first day of war, General Douglas MacArthur’s air forces were reduced to less than half. This was the start of the Japanese Philippine Campaign (Jose). The Japanese occupation of the Philippines had three main objectives.
First, the Philippines was a part of their plan to form the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” coined by Japanese Prime Minister Fuminaro Konoe in 1940, which initially aimed to free Asian countries from Western Powers to unite Asia therefore promoting “peace and prosperity” (Lebra). However, Japanese Nationalists saw it as a clear opportunity to gain resources and raw materials for war, and to manipulate local populations and economies for the benefit for a stronger and larger Imperial Japan.
Second, the Philippines was a perfect strategic location for the Japanese campaign of conquest for South East Asia, making countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Netherland East Indies (presently Indonesia), and even Australia, more vulnerable to Japanese attack. Lastly, the International Oil Embargo in 1941 was catastrophic to Japan as it was heavily involved with trading with the U. S. for 80% of its oil imports (Herbert). This forced Japan to look southward for these resources, such as the Netherland East Indies, known for its abundant resources of oil and rubber.
However, the U. S. forces (more specifically the U. S. Fleet) in the Pacific stood in the way of Japan’s interests, and with the bombing of Pearl Harbour, an obvious declaration of war to the Americans, the Japanese were forced to rid of U. S. control of the Philippines as well, not only to clear out the path for expansion and recovery from the loss of trade and resources, but also to prevent the Philippines from being an advanced base operations for the American forces in the Pacific, a key advantage in the war the Americans were not going to easily hand over to the Japanese.
The Japanese were not exactly compassionate conquerers during their reign in Philippine territory, and this study will examine the backfire of this Japanese tyranny as it asks, “Did Japanese Atrocities in the Philippines have an impact on the uprising of the Philippine Guerrillas Movement after the American/Filipino defeat in 1942? ” It was only natural for any country under the Japanese state of suppression, to seek for independence and vengeance, which did in fact happen during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines.
The joint forces of 151,000 American and Filipino troops fought hard against the Japanese until their last stand in Corregidor on May, 1942 (Morton). The Japanese mounted a full scale invasion of the island on the night of May 5, 1942 complete with aerial and artillery attacks forcing General Wainwright to surrender the very next day. However, following the capitulation of the organized forces in the Philippines, saw the birth of a nationwide guerrilla resistance against the Japanese –– “a struggle for freedom that preserved the ideals of Filipinos throughout their colonial history” (Jose).
The Japanese atrocities towards the Filipino people, such as in the Bataan Death March, Camp O’Donnell and other concentration camps, and the “Comfort Women” System, provoked the uprising of this Filipino-American Guerrilla Resistance Movement who collaborated with the returning U. S. Forces (1945) and contributed greatly in the success of the Philippine liberation from the Imperial Japanese Army. Understanding Japanese Motivations The Japanese invasions in Asia were infamously known for its atrocities towards prisoners of war.
To understand better how a whole nation could adapts this sort of mindset, we must examine its roots. Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army were trained intensely, based on traditional Samurai values such as the Bushido code which centralized honour, courage, loyalty, and freedom from fear of death. These concepts from the Bushido code were illustrated clearly by the Kamikaze fighters used against the Allied Forces towards the end of the Pacific Campaign in World War II. Kamikaze fighters sacrificed themselves by crashing their TNT-loaded planes onto American warships.
Japanese soldiers were taught to believe that surrendering to your enemy was tantamount to admitting cowardice, which may be the reason why many Japanese soldiers preffered suicide over arrest. This war philosophy contrasts the Western war philosophy where one fights until one realizes defeat and then surrenders in good faith. This led to the idea that Japanese soldiers, who preferred death over incarceration, have the right to mortify these surrendering cowards through torture, slave labour, and death.
Discipline in training soldiers for the Imperial Japanese Army was harsh. Besides the rigors of daily physical training, soldiers were often given corporal punishment. For instance, it was a common occurrence for soldiers to be slapped across the face by their superiors for the most minor infraction. The brutality of Japanese officers towards their soldiers were transferred down the social heirarchy, abused soldiers took a sadistic pleasure in tormenting the more “inferior” prisoners and civilians, as their enerals did to them. Azuma Shiro, a Japanese soldier, explains his philosophy in his tenure with the Japanese Army in Nanking, “If my life was not important, an enemy’s life became inevitably much less important…” (Chang). The abuse of POW’s and civilians was a routine, but occasionally it would evolve into murderous frenzies, where the Japanese publicly committed the most heinous war crimes in history.
Although Western armies’ were also beastly towards their defeated enemies on several occasions, such as the comparable atrocities during the Red Army occupation of eastern Germany nearing the end of the war, their savagery was not on such a grand scale as did so many low ranking Japanese soldiers. The Japanese methods of torture were sometimes so gruesome, yet on some occasions it was simply considered as a “game” or “sport” for the common soldier.
A famous photograph (seen below) reported by the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Simbun released on December 13, 1937 shows a contest between two Japanese officers, Toshiaki Mukai and Tsuyoshi Noda, competing to see who could kill (with a sword) one hundred people first. The bold headline reads, “‘Incredible Record’ (in the Contest To Cut Down 100 People: Mukai 106 – Noda 105 – Both 2nd Lieutenants Go Into Extra Innings” (Wakabayashi) “Games” like these were perhaps facilitated by a national education system and heavy use of propaganda that inculcated feelings of racial superiority in the lowliest Japanese.
It was also a way to train the common Japanese soldier to numb themselves to the human instinct to kill combatants and non-combatants alike. The combination of this superior complex together with a somewhat corrupted traditional code of honour –– the belief that a surrendering soldier is a display of weakness, were the rational for the barbarity towards the prisoners of war in Japanese-occupied countries. The Bataan Death March The initial landings of Japanese forces, despite being outnumbered three to two, advanced towards the interior of the Lingayen Gulf faster than expected.
General MacArthur’s anti-invasion units failed to defend the beachheads as they were no match to the more organized, better equipped Japanese mechanized infantry. With the failure of the beachhead defence plans, General MacArthur was forced to initiate WPO-3 (War Plan Orange 3) on December 26, 1941 (Morton). WPO-3 was a pre-war plan to defend only Bataan and Corregidor only to delay the Japanese invasion for six months until the expected arrival of reinforcements from the U.
S. However, when General MacArthur temporarily substituted WPO-3 with the unsuccessful WPO-5 (War Plan Orange 5) which aimed to defend the whole archipelago instead of just Bataan and Corregidor, the supply plan for WPO-3 was cancelled. This posed a big problem as the supplies needed for Bataan were scattered and to make matters worse, the evacuation of Manila resulted for the need to sustain around 80,000 men for six months instead of the projected 43,000 men (Morton).
Victories were won by the USAFFE in the “Battle of the Points” and the “Battle of the Pockets,” and reduced the Japanese forces into a single brigade, however, on March 28, a new wave of Japanese forces bombarded the severely weakened and malnourished Allied forces with air and artillery attacks (Jose). Prolonging the fight would only mean more men would die, but defeat was inevitable. 74,800 Filipino and 10,500 American defenders, along with some 20,000 civilians who took refuge with the USAFFE became prisoners of war (McArthur). The fall of Corregidor soon followed the fall of Bataan, a month later.
Bataan defenders were assembled in Mariveles, the starting point of the notorious Bataan Death March. The ninety-seven kilometre Bataan Death march is considered one of the more familiar instances Japanese mistreatment of the POW’s. Although the exact death toll is still unknown, more than 18,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war died in a span of one week during the march (Gilpatrick). The 97 km (60 mi) route of the Bataan Death March The first major atrocity occurred when over 400 officers and men of the 91st Division were singled out after their surrender and executed near the Pantingan River (Gilpatrick).
When the march from Mariveles to San Fernando had started, there was little order; some marched without guards, while others were escorted, some were killed and molested for having Japanese money, but as much as possible, the Japanese soldiers kept the POW’s nearby to ensure that the forces at Corregidor would not fire at them. Prisoners from all over Bataan were grouped together in Balanga, where some lucky prisoners received a little food and water, when the unlucky ones were starving and dying of thirst. Some resulted in drinking water from Carabao wallows and polluted streams, that is, if the Japanese did not catch them.
Overcrowding and poor hygiene also caused the rapid spread of diseases among the prisoners most commonly dysentery and malaria. Continuing their journey to the San Fernando Train Station, rifle-butt beatings were common, and many prisoners were bayoneted for trivial offenses. Filipino Civilians who tried to help the POW’s by giving them water or food, were also brutally killed. Mr. Alf Larson, U. S. Army Corps, and survivor of the Bataan Death march recounts his experience: “On the first day, I saw two things I will never forget. A Filipino man had been beheaded.
His body lay on the ground with blood everywhere. His head was a short distance away. Also, there was a dead Filipino woman with her legs spread apart and her dress pulled up over her. She obviously had been raped and there was a bamboo stake in her private area. These are instances I would like to forget” (Gilpatrick) The Japanese also frequently ordered for the “Oriental Sun Treatment” where the POW’s would sit on an open field with temperatures exceeding 100?F (Caraccilo). “We just sat there, the hot sun beating down on us like mad” (Gilpatrick).
For the ones who could not continue the march, they were either put to death or crushed by trucks, sometimes called the “Buzzard Squads” or the “Clean-up Crews” (Gilpatrick). When the POW’s finally reached the San Fernando Train station, 100 or more prisoners were forced into boxcars that were to carry only 50 people. “They packed us in the cars like sardines, so tight you couldn’t sit down. Then they shut the door. If you passed out, you couldn’t fall down. If someone had to go to the toilet, you went right there where you were” (Gilpatrick).
When they arrived in Capas, Tarlac they then had to walk another 12 kilometres to reach Camp O’Donnell Concentration Camp. The abuse of the Japanese soldiers in the death march, witnessed by many Filipino civilians, stirred an uprising for Guerrilla warfare, led by American and Filipinos who were not captured, or fugitives and escapees from the Bataan Death March itself. Filipinos in all levels of society joined this Anti-Japanese Movement. One of the most outstanding Filipino Guerrilla was Alfredo M.
Santos, a renowned general who shared the sufferings of those in the Bataan Death March. However his fighting spirit and pride for his country led him to overcome these challenges. He joined the guerrilla movements and fought with the Americans in countless battles, notably the liberation of Manila in March 1945 and was recognized with many awards such as Distinguished Conduct and Service Star, the Philippine Liberation medal, the Silver Star, and the SEATO Service Badge. (Jose) Treatment of POW’s in Camp O’Donnell and other Concentration Camps
Following the horrors of the Bataan Death March, the POW’s had to endure more hardships in Camp O’Donnell internment camp. Around 1,500 American and 22,000 Filipino prisoners died at the camp (Provost Marshall Report). Horrendous accounts of torture, slave labour, and even human experimentation went on in this Camp as well as in other Japanese concentration camps. The conditions of the barracks were extremely unpleasant, and diseases spread quickly, but despite having a hospital, medicines were not provided. The Hospital was often called the “Pest House” where many men entered but few returned.
Thousands of deaths occurred in the month in the camp, so the Japanese ordered the prisoners to dig mass graves, there being so few able men with the strength to perform hard labour. An image of a mass grave at POW Cemetary, Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac Sergeant Gaston, a POW in Camp O’Donnell, witnessed one of the wards at the camp and described it in the following statement, “The men in the ward were practically nothing but skin and bones and they had open ulcers on their hips, on their knees and on their shoulders…maggots were eating on the open wounds.
There were blow flies…by the millions… men were unable to get off the floor to go to the latrine and their bowels moved as they lay there… we entered what must have been the dysentery ward for the floor was covered with emaciated bodies in various stages of undress, lying in their own filth. I do not believe any one of them could have stood on his feet, and most of them did not appear to be aware of where they were, nor of the seriousness of their condition. There were no bedpans but, if there had been, the men could not have used them.
Not only were the clothes of the men, but the blankets and the floor around them soiled. The physical state of the men was so pitiable, the living conditions so frightful, and the odour so overwhelming, that I could not take it anymore”(Caraccilo). In November 2006, Akira Makino, a former medic of the Imperial Japanese Navy admitted in an interview with the Kyodo News Agency, that human experimentation was conducted in the height of Japanese occupation of the Philippines just as they did in their occupation in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).
Akira Makino was assigned to an airbase camp in Zamboanga, Mindanao on August 1944, and started witnessing human experiments in the camp starting December 1944, when he was 22 years old (Ozawa). He witnessed Filipino men undergo vivisection, and was even ordered by a high ranking doctor to make the incision in the patient’s body. Amputations of the arms and legs, Stitching of blood vessels, and abdominal dissections were also processes performed in that camp.
Muslim guerrilla bands in Mindanao were the common enemies Makino used to keep as prisoners, and they were the usual subjects of the human experiments in that area. These captured guerrilla fighters were ordered to dig holes in the ground, and then thrown into holes after being experimented on. “The mud got in all over the human stomach. My captain said there was no need to close the wounds because that would just be a waste of suture thread” Makino stated in the interview (Ozawa).
Other guerrillas were also engaging on various rescue missions and sabotage against the Japanese. Obviously, these rumours and stories of POW’s circulated around the provinces and towns around the Philippines and would stir up feelings of anger among the Filipino civilians. During my interview with former soldier of the Philippine army and Guerrilla, Mr. Nemer Domingo, stationed in Zambales in 1942, I asked him what his reasons were for joining the Guerrilla movement in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation.
He answered, (translated) “Well first of all, if you were a soldier [before the Japanese occupied the Philippines], you were sure to join the Guerrilla forces, we also didn’t want to be captured by the Japanese because we all knew how they were, they beat and murder people, even if it was just based on suspicion…some of my fellow Guerrillas were captured, but when interrogated for the location of the Guerrilla headquarters, they would not answer, and so they were tortured and killed… henever I witnessed my friends and fellow fighters die, I would get so angry…if we had the chance, we would’ve killed them all. ” (Domingo) Mr. Domingo also claimed to have rescued POW’s on various occasions, especially those who were held captive in schools that were transformed into prison camps by the Japanese. A portrait of Mr. Domingo dressed in the Philippine Army uniform, prior to becoming a Guerrilla, and his authenticated WWII Veteran I. D. from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Comfort Women in the Philippines
Sex slavery of women, or “Comfort Women” (Japanese: ???), was another Japanese war attrocity involving the forced prostitution of about 200,000 women mostly from ages between 11 and 20, from Korea, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, and other Japanese occupied countries. In the Philippines, it was estimated that over 1,000 women were kept as comfort women during the war (Rose). Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army would kidnap women from their homes, or lure them with a job offering at factories, and then rape them in “Comfort Stations. Beatings and other forms of physical abuse were common, sometimes even death. The Japanese claimed to have set up this Comfort Women system to keep their soldiers from rioting and revolting against their superiors. For around three decades or more, the women involved in the Japanese military sexual slavery generally kept quiet about their experiences, but eventually in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the women decided to break the silence and let the world know what the Japanese had done to them during the war. Maria Rosa Henson, was the first Filipina comfort women to tell her story in 1992, when she was 65 years old.
In her book called “Comfort Women: A Slave of Destiny” she shared with the world vivid memories and experiences during her abuse as a comfort woman. “I was forced to stay at the hospital which they have made as a garrison. I met six women in the garrison after two or three days in the place. The Japanese soldiers were forcing me to have sex with several of their colleagues. Sometimes 12 soldiers would force me to have sex with them and then they would allow me to rest for a while, then about 12 soldiers would have sex with me again” (Henson).
Over 200 more Filipina comfort women followed Maria Rosa Henson in revealing their personal stories to the world, resulting in the formation of the “Lila-Pilipina” organization, where women victims of rape and sexual slavery could join together and advocate against the use of sex slavery as a tool of war. Maria Rosa Henson also mentioned in her book, her participation with the Hukbalahaps, the communist Guerrillas in the Philippines, after she was raped by three Japanese soldiers when she was trying to gather firewood.
She gathered food and medicine and served as a messenger for the Hukbalahaps, another evidence of the rise of Guerrilla members as a result of Japanese ill-treatment. Unfortunately, she was captured by the Japanese and brought to a former hospital in Angeles City that was transformed into a garrison. Maria Rosa Henson stayed there for nine months, washing clothes and doing chores in the morning, and raped by scores of Japanese men at night. Fortunately, she was eventually rescued by the Hukbalahaps in 1944. ”When the soldiers raped me, I felt like a pig.
Sometimes they tied up my right leg with a waistband or belt and hung it to a nail on the wall as they violated me. I was angry all the time…you cannot say no as they will definitely kill you…”(Henson). The comfort women of Lila-Pilipinas and other organizations of surviving comfort women continued to fight for reparations and compensations for the crimes against women during WWII. “Telling my story has made it easier for me to be reconciled with the past. But I am still hoping to see justice done before I die” (Henson). Maria Rosa Henson passed away in 1997 at the age of 69, due to a heart attack.
Many former comfort women, including Maria Rosa Henson were also identified to have lived where Guerilla movement was located, particularly at the time of Japanese Occupation such as in Luzon and in Panay, Visayas, suggesting a link between Japanese sexual violence and procurement of women and the strength of the once popular Guerilla resistance (Toshiyuki). Conclusion After the fall of the Philippines, many Filipinos and Americans joined or formed guerrilla forces, which grew to accounts of more than 180,000 guerrillas throughout the Philippines (Morton).
The Bataan Death March, Concentration Camps (such as Camp O’Donnell), and the Comfort Women Stations during Japanese occupation in WWII clearly attribute to a rise of Guerilla resistance throughout the war. Major Guerrilla Forces in the Philippines, 1942-1944 The Guerrillas fought bravely alongside the U. S. forces and were instrumental in the liberation of the Philippines in 1945. They were heavily involved reconnaissance missions for the advancement of returning American troops, as well as in combat operations.
Guerrillas were also known to have sabotaged roads, bridges, mountain passes, and railroad facilities to interfere with Japanese troops and supply movements. A notable victory of the Guerrillas in collaboration with the U. S. Army Rangers was the raid of Camp Cabanatuan, led by American senior Guerrilla chief, Major Bob Lapham, and Filipino guerrilla leader, Juan Pajota, where they liberated over five hundred Allied POW’s from a Japanese Camp. The raid at Cabanatuan was one of the most complex operations the U. S. Rangers conducted in WWII and is considered as the greatest rescue mission in U.
S. military history. Captain Prince from the 6th Ranger Battalion recalls his experience with Pajota’s team, “There was a sizable force of Japanese, but Pajota and his men just killed everything in sight that came up that river and across the bridge. They were the ones that kept this thing from being a tough deal for us” (McArthur). The effectiveness and assistance of the Filipino Guerrillas in the liberation of the Philippines was acknowledged by General Krueger, leader of the 6th Army in Luzon, “The gallant Filipino forces, despite remendous difficulty and with very limited means at their disposal, rendered invaluable support to our operations. Their accomplishments are worthy of high praise” (McArthur). The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines in 1941-1945 was one of the most horrific periods in Philippine History, with Japanese war crimes that left scars in Filipinos and other Asians under Japanese rule. However, these cold-blooded acts of slavery and torture provoked an uprising of Filipino Guerrillas across the archipelago which ultimately led to Filipino sovereignty.