(from an 18 January 1946 letter)
Due to an unforeseen shortage of troops eligible for discharge, many ships are waiting in Manila Bay. There are only three possibilities: wait until it’s our turn to load troops, proceed to another port, perhaps in China or Japan (possible but not likely because the same situations must exist there), or least likely, proceed home empty. Whatever we do, I am really making the best of this trip by getting around ashore.
In the Philippines you cannot possibly imagine all there is to see. You might think that the ruins are simply rubble, dirt, and twisted steel. Not here because every bullet hole, every demolished wall or building seems to tell a story. The sadistic desire of the Japanese military to destroy and kill is written on every particle. The destruction is the only indication left of that desire. The mild prisoners are very successful at concealing their former rage.
Just yesterday I attended the war-crimes trial of General Masaharu Homma. He is the officer responsible for the Bataan Death March and other mass murders. His appearance gave not the slightest indication of his past. He, by far the neatest present, wore a light-blue civilian suit, snow-white shirt, and a tie that matched perfectly with the hanky protruding from his breast pocket.
Throughout the proceedings Homma sat silent, not sullen, very dignified, and without any sign of the certain death that awaits him. He appeared to be a smart man who gambled and lost. Realizing his fate, he knows that any defense would be as futile as attempting “to tie a handful of sand with a piece of string.”
Of the witnesses who testified, one was a Filipino rural-school teacher. He was present during the execution of ten American soldiers as an act of reprisal for an escape by one of their buddies. The teacher told of a Sergeant Isaac Landy, who after the first volley, struggled to his feet and while badly wounded, pointed to his heart and shouted, “Come on! Hit me here! Long live America!”
The Sergeant was immediately shot down again.
Another American interviewed was a white-haired lieutenant colonel who was confined in the same cell in Bilibid Prison for three years. Afterwards, I visited the prison; three years of it would turn anyone’s hair white.
His testimony confirmed the almost fifty-percent death toll due only to the lack of medical care. The witness, though a soldier, was visibly trembling. No doubt it was a day that he looked forward to during his long imprisonment. Through all of this, Homma never blinked an eye.
Today I borrowed a jeep and toured the countryside. It was wonderful; rice paddies, water buffalo, salt and fish-ponds, and natives of every description. I rested a while at the hut of an old woodcarver. Driving a jeep over long distances is quite tiring. I found it necessary to rest standing up.
The woodcarver’s hut was constructed from bamboo and on stilts. The hut had a thatched-grass roof of amazing construction and strength; being located on the edge of a stream in a banana grove, added to the enchantment of it all.
I then drove to the coast and visited Cavite. The town and the naval base were literally pulverized. In my estimation the last few bombings merely rearranged the rubble.
Saturday I plan to visit Corregidor and on Sunday I will go to Santo Tomas University. I have already been to the Chinese cemetery, to the Intramoros, that is an old enclosed city, and also to Fort Santiago. The latter two places are now masses of tottering walls.
Just as spectacular are the many shipwrecks in Manila Bay.
Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo