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A Philippine Scout's Diary

(As told to the author by Mang Berting, an indigent patient and a frail old man in his 80’s during a Medical Mission in Bagong Nayon, Antipolo, Rizal in 1996)

 

Revenge Bataan Unit


The Year was 1945.


I was part of the contingent of Philippine Scouts that greeted the first Americans at Lingayen, Pangasinan. We were briefed the night before by our commanding officer to accompany the GIs on their way to Manila to liberate the more than 3,700 prisoners of war interred in the University of Santo Tomas Campus.


So off we went with 700- strong 2nd squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division under the command of a certain Lt. Col. Haskett Connor with tanks, jeeps, weapons carriers, command cars, trucks and engineering and service outfit with one task in mind- to liberate UST from the enemy.


February 2 -

When we encountered a stiff resistance from a hard-fighting unit of the Japanese Imperial Army in the highways off Bigaa about 18 miles from Manila but their weapons were no match to our mounted light and heavy machine guns and 20 mm & 40 mm mortars. We annihilated them in no time and squeezed into the blown up bridges and pockmarked dirt road with minimal casualties.


February 3-

We were able to move from Bigaa at noon to Sta. Maria just before midnight with sporadic clashes with the rag-tag enemies. At dawn we can here the bell tolls from nearby churches and chapels, a signal that the town was liberated of the last Japanese resistance. The “Japs” fought to the last man. There were no prisoners taken.


Then at 10 am on our way out of Sta. Maria, Col. Connor received a report that our Recon team was ambushed and wiped out. We positioned our artillery and shelled the Japanese position. After about an hour or two, a lull in the fighting was declared and we passed by the burning Japanese Tanks with dead bodies littered on the ground. But there were lots of skirmishes and pocket resistance from the resisting “Japs” that slowed down our advance.


A staff meeting was immediately called and Col. Connor was now growing impatient because our objective was to be in Manila before dark. He told us that we should annihilate the last enemy at all costs and be in Manila by 20 hrs.


It was raining hard when we finally arrived at Novaliches about 8 miles from Manila. The dirt road turned up into a soggy slippery mess thus bogging down our advance when all hell broke loose. The Japanese resistance was heavy. From the two-story house on other end, we can see the smoke and the heavy volume of fire as well as hear familiar staccatos of the Japs’ Machine guns and 75s. But the Revenge Bataan Unit will not be denied and after an hour of fierce fighting the last resistance in Novaliches was wiped out what with the two-story house leveled to the ground from the constant bombarding from our tanks and 105-howitzers.

We proceeded without a hitch until we reached the Chinese Cemetery when a young boy warned us that there were a handful of Japanese soldiers inside but we let them be and decided to by-pass them and proceed to our main objective. We passed by Grace Park Airfield with its hangars burning briskly from constant US bombardments until we swung into the area of Rizal Avenue until we finally reached the walls of UST. We could see fires were burning over much of the city.

The half of the University of Santo Tomas front gate was open and the inside was black. We shouted and got no answer. Then two tanks rumbled into the front gate with its powerful lights turned on. We cut a hole in the fence and crawled in but could see nothing. Then near the guard house at the gate entrance a Jap jumped out from the other side, shrieked and fired point blank at us. The flash from the gun momentarily blinded me. When I regained my sight, the Jap was gone and my two companions lay dead but I am miraculously unharmed.

Then a battle basic medium tank rammed and broke into the concrete fence as if it were corrugated paper. We made our way inside the Campus with bullets whizzing between and above our heads. Then somebody shouted Grenade! And we all scampered and dropped to the ground but it was a nothing but a knee-jerk reaction from an overly anxious GI that made some of us laugh albeit nervously!


Then an excited voice coming from the main building was heard, "You Americans?"


"Yes"

"God Bless America!"


"Oh how long we’ve waited."

"Thank God you're here."

Suddenly, there were firing from the Education building, just to the right of the Main Building. We were told that about 65 “Japs” with 201 American interns are holed inside. The “Japs” are on the second floor, the Americans on the third. The troops attempted to break into but the enemy had an overwhelming advantage besides the Education building was made up of steel-reinforced concrete.
February 4-

There were short exchanges of fire between our men surrounding the building under Col. Connor and the Japs inside, and we suffered light casualties as the day wore on. The next day negotiations went on and was agreed upon to give the Japanese forces safe conduct passes. The Officers told their men not to be trigger-happy and to honor the terms of the agreement.

We hastily formed a unit that will escort the remnants of the Japanese Army out of UST with Col. Connor himself leading it. Slowly but surely the Japanese soldiers emerged from the building and marched in formation with their weapons until we arrived at Legarda and Aviles Sts.

Col. Connor then told Col. Hayashi, the Commander of the Japanese Army,

"This is as far as we go. This is the front line. You are on your own."

They then saluted each other as the Japanese Army marched up north to live and fight another day but we couldn’t care less for what is important at that point in time were the lives of the American Prisoners of War that we liberated.

#102301

Email: Scoutranger70@hotmail.com

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