Japanese invasion of the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941 recalled
December 7, 2011 10:37 pm
By Ben Cal
MANILA, Dec. 8 – Retired Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Banez Jr., now 88 years old, vividly remembers when Japanese warplanes bombed Baguio City on that fateful day of December 8, 1941 that started World War II in the Philippines.
Banez was in school when he and his classmates heard the roaring engines of planes which they thought were American aircraft flying over the city almost daily.
Out of curiosity, they went outside to see the planes and waved their hands when they heard explosions and saw the planes dropping bombs.
Camp John Hay was bombed!
Banez said pandemonium followed as frightened city folks, particularly women and children, started crying while looking for family members who were somewhere else when the incident occurred.
From Baguio, Japanese planes also attacked Clark Air Field in Pampanga.
The air raids caught United States and Philippine military forces by surprise.
As a cadet of the Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC), Banez said he immediately thought of joining the guerrilla movement in Luzon.
The airstrikes by Japanese warplanes on the Philippines came just 10 hours after Japanese aircraft staged a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that destroyed all American aircraft on the ground. This hastened the entry of the U.S. in the Second World War.
The Japanese attack in the country occurred as thousands of Filipinos were inside Catholic churches to hear Mass on December 8, 1941 to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Banez also said that on the same day, Japanese troops made a beach landing in the towns of Cervantes and Vigan in Ilocos Sur. A small contingent of the then Philippine Constabulary was easily overrun.
On December 22, 1941, Japanese troops also landed at the Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan and proceeded to Central Luzon and Manila.
As a tactical move, American and Filipino forces made Bataan and Corregidor their last line of defense.
The Japanese thought they would easily overrun the two enclaves in a month’s time but they erred.
The gallant Filipino and U.S. soldiers held their ground for over three months, delaying the Japanese offensive that allowed Gen. Douglas MacArthur to escape to Australia.
When Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, thousands of Filipino and American troops were held prisoners of war. They were forced to go to the province of Tarlac in the infamous “Death March” where thousands died along the way due to exhaustion, lack of food, water and medicine.
But many were able to escape and join guerrilla forces to continue their fight against the Japanese invaders.
The guerrillas proved to be a pain in the neck of the Japanese as they prolonged the war until Allied forces led by American troops commanded by MacArthur made a historic landing on the beach of Leyte following the crushing defeat of the Japanese Imperial Navy during the battle at Leyte Gulf, considered as the biggest naval battle in history that eventually liberated the Philippines. (PNA)