- 2 -

Life started getting difficult after 21 September 1944, the date of the first air raid on Manila by US carrier aircraft. US troops landed on the island of Leyte on 20 October, 1944 and began the liberation of the Philippines. The first landing on Luzon was in early January, 1945, at the Gulf of Lingayen, North of Manila. American troops moved towards Manila in a cautious way, as most Japanese troops had abandoned Manila for the mountains of northern Luzon, and were in positions flanking the approaching Americans.  

For my family, the Battle for Manila began at 11 am on the morning of 20 January, 1945, two weeks before the liberation of Santo Tomas Internment Camp. We were sitting on the porch, and heard pounding on the garden gate. It flew open and a skirmish line of Japanese troops approached the house with fixed bayonets. Yells coming from the kitchen were followed by the servants bursting in, prodded by more troops with fixed bayonets. Fortunately my younger brother and sister were playing at a neighborís house and so were not arrested. We were herded into a corner of the porch, and the soldiers began a 3-hour meticulous search of the premises. All suspect items, including radios and toy pistols were collected.  

The men had their hands tied behind their backs, and we were marched 6 blocks to a former Masonic temple, the headquarters of the Japanese Marines. We were left in a corner of the yard. About 5 pm that evening, a list of names was read out, and these people were released. My brother Ian and I were included together with our servants. We never again saw my mother, grandmother, uncle Alfred, aunt Helen and the two family friends who were at home that day.  

We returned home, and for about one week were allowed each day to send hot food to the family. Some days later, in the evening, there was a pounding on the garden gate, and a group of bandits entered and took over the house, searching for valuables. They stayed until early dawn the next morning, when a bus arrived and the men departed with the items they had selected. A Spanish friend of my motherís, married to a German, complained to Japanese Army headquarters, and so we found ourselves for some days having two Japanese army sentries patrolling our home each evening, while the Japanese marines were holding our family!  

By this time, the American army had entered north Manila, and things became even more difficult. It was impossible to go out to shop for food. Artillery shells landed unexpectedly throughout the day, large fires started, and many who had lost their homes took shelter with us. Our home was protected by a large garden, but the garage, a separate building on the property line, was destroyed by fire. In early February, in what is now called the St. Paulís Convent massacre, hand grenades were thrown into rooms packed with people who had been arrested. They blew out the walls, killing and wounding many. Those escaping came running to our home. I remember well the wave of people coming over the six-foot garden wall. By this time some 150 people were sheltering under our home, as it was too dangerous to stay in the house because of the artillery shelling. As with most homes in our district, the house was built 5 feet off the ground because of the frequent floods during the rainy season. The deceased were wrapped in sheets and placed in the drawing room. The utilities ceased. There was no electricity nor gas, no refrigeration, and water was drawn from a well in our front yard.

  On the 16th of February we discovered that American troops were only 100 yards from the house, and together with several other men, we went to ask whether we should remain. One soldier told us they would be pulling back that evening and recommended that we cross the line. Most of the people sheltering at home decide to do so. We were shepherded across no manís land by two GIís, while snipers fired at us. At one point we had to wait for a tank destroyer to block an intersection guarded by a Japanese machinegun nest.  

That night we slept out in the open and saw a magnificent display of tracer bullets, shell bursts and flares in the sky. The area was devastated. All houses had been destroyed by fire. Next morning we started to build ourselves a shelter. Breakfast was provided by a mobile US Army canteen that fed all of us refugees. I saw a family friend walking by, who told me that my father was frantic for news of us. He offered to take us to the internment camp. We walked and hitchhiked on army trucks in a big detour around Manila to avoid the areas with heavy fighting, and those still under Japanese control, and arrived at Santo Tomas in late afternoon. where we were reunited with our father.  

Following publication of The Battle for Manila on the 50th Anniversary of the liberation in 1995, the British Military Staff College at Sandhurst conducted a study on FIBUA (fighting in built up areas), concluding it had been a mistake for the US Army to surround Manila without allowing the defenders an escape route, which might have saved the city from such destruction. My personal conclusions are different. When the Japanese army under General Yamashita, pulled out of Manila to stage their defence in the mountains of North Luzon, command of the city had been transferred to Admiral Iwabuchi. His personal circumstances, I believe, doomed Manila. The Admiral had the great dishonor of having survived the sinking of the ship he commanded without losing his life. I believe he was determined never again to abandon his post. I further believe that a contributing factor in the destruction of Manila was the strategy employed by General MacArthur, with one landing at Lingayen Bay. MacArthur did not plan a simultaneous landing South of Manila, as the Japanese had done in 1941. However, because of the slow progress, in late January, after much vacillation, he decided on a second landing by the 11th Airborne Division, by parachute at Tagaytay Ridge, and by landing craft at Nasugbu, in Batangas Province, South of Manila. These troops made rapid advances to Manila, which they reached in three days. There they met their first resistance from a defensive line that had not been built until after the Lingayen landings in the North. I believe that had MacArthur planned simultaneous landings to the North and South of Manila, there is a good chance that most of Manila could have been spared destruction. However, I am no military tactician nor aware of the problems MacArthur faced.  

We returned to our home from the internment camp in early April. There the army had provided us with a generator and a water trailer. There were less than five houses left standing within a radius of 300 yards around our house. Here we stayed until 25 May, when my father arranged for my brother Ian and I to travel with the Red Cross to Edinburgh, Scotland, where we joined my grandmother and resumed our education. I saw the celebration of VE Day while in Manila, and was present for the parade on Princes Street in Edinburgh marking VJ Day.

R.C.M.Hall

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FURTHER READING

The Japanese Occupation of Singapore from February 1942 to August 1945 was a particularly momentous period of loss and sacrifice for the Chinese population as compared to other ethnicities, because they were the targets of brutal Japanese military policies. During a month of screening procedures and indiscriminate massacres in 1942 known as sook ching, or cleansing operations, an undetermined number of civilians were separated from their families and friends and suffered uncertain fates.

The involvement of General Yamashita in the Sook Ching was direct, personal and not in evidence before the War Crimes Trial in Manila.   His involvement has been overlooked in books concentrating upon the analysis of the Manila trials, and revisionists who write of Yamashita's innocence,  or of the unfairness of the trial he faced,  are perverting the public record of a man who disgraced humanity. To conceal the issue of his involvement in Singapore, and in China, is nothing short of scandalous.

Download "Justice Done?"