GEN. WAINWRIGHT SURRENDERS
Dispelling any doubt as to the authenticity of this startling bombshell, a major from the Staff Office tent arrived to confirm the surrender of Corregidor. He added: "Gen. Wainwright is coming to Cabcallo in a speedboat and Gen. Homma is preparing to meet him. You had all better get ready and be on the scene."
The tent returned to life. Newsmen dashed out and gathered their belongings. Col. Katsuya led the group to waiting cars—Cabcallo was about five miles along the coast to Mariveles.
More rough driving, more remnants of defeated American troops, and at last Cabcallo—three shacks on the highway and a pier for loading lumber. Is this to be the scene where the epic surrender is to take place, I mused, as we all clambered noisily from the cars. A newsreel cameraman hurriedly set his camera and sound effect equipment into position. There, on the verandah of one of the Filipino shacks, stood Gen. Wainwright and a group of senior officers. It was easy to tell which was the American, C-in-C for he was the eldest, tallest and most distinguished looking in the party despite the tired, haggard, frightened look on all their faces. Several of the Japanese Staff Officers had also arrived and the newsreel cameraman began taking long distance "shots" but Gen. Wainwright turned away as soon as he was aware that he was the focus of all the cameras.
There was a lot of talk going on among the newsmen. The general consensus of opinion was. . . ."The Americans are too self-centered. If they were going to surrender today, why didn't they do it last night instead they would then have avoided that dreadful massacre in the dark hours that preceded the dawn. The Japanese should fight on until every single one of their dead has been paid back ten to one or at least in equal ratio." It was a dramatic moment. In an effort to quiet the men, I imagined, Col. Katsuya quietly climbed the stairway, saluted Gen. Wainwright and said something to him. Immediately after, the American C-in-C and his staff stepped down from the verandah and lined up for pictures. A barrage of cameras went into action. . . .and the journalists were appeased.
Then General Homma arrived. With him came beer, orange juice and fresh fruits galore. The beer and orange juice were put into a bucket of ice in the adjoining room, while Japanese soldiers, standing on guard, looked on enviously.
The conference of surrender was held on that open verandah, with the Americans sitting on one side of an oblong table and the Japanese on the other. The newsmen were kept at a distance by the gendarmes. I happened to be standing just behind Staff Officer Col. Nakayama. A Lieut. Nakamura, the official interpreter, stood behind Gen. Homma and passed on his statement: "Welcome to Cabcallo. You must be very tired and weary."
"Thank you, Gen. Homma," Gen. Wainwright began. "I have come to surrender my men unconditionally."
Gen. Homma understands English perfectly but is less confident in speaking it. He turned to his interpreter, then to Wainwright and said, "I accept the surrender of the entire Filipino-American Forces in the Philippines." (First in Japanese, then translated into English.)
"I can only surrender my men on Corregidor and other fortified islands in the vicinity," corrected the American C-in-C.
"But you are the C-in-C of the American Forces in the Philippines," insisted Gen. Homma. "Even the latest Washington reports confirm your position, Gen. Wainwright."
"I was recently relieved of the command over American forces in the southern islands. Gen. Short is now in command. He comes directly under Gen. MacArthur."
That was a dramatic moment and an uproar ensued among the Staff Officers. A lot of talking in Japanese continued. Gen. Wainwright and his officers looked worried. Finally, Gen. Homma thumped his fist on the table and slowly announced: "At the time of Gen. King's surrender in Bataan, I did not see him. Neither have I any reason to see you if you are only the Commander of a unit of the American forces. I wish only to negotiate with my equal, the C-in-C. of American forces in the Philippines. Since you are not in supreme command, I see no further necessity for my presence here." Gen. Homma was about to stand up.
"Wait!" Lieut.-Col. Peuh pleaded. He was Gen. Wainwright's aide-de-camp. He drew closer to his Commander and a murmured conference took place between Wainwright, Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Beebe and himself. Then Gen. Wainwright spoke again. "In face of the fact that further blood-shed in the Philippines is unnecessary and futile," he declared, "I will assume command of the entire American forces in the Philippines at. the risk of serious reprimand by my government following the war."
Gen. Homma listened very intently. The sudden change of attitude was unexpected and uncalled for, according to his Staff Officers. In consequence, the final decision of the Japanese C-in-C did not altogether come as a surprise.
"You have denied your authority," he stated, "and your momentary decision may be regretted by your men. I advise you to return to Corregidor and think this matter over. If you see fit to surrender, then surrender to the Commanding Officer of the division on Corregidor. He ,in turn will bring you to me in, Manila. I call this meeting over. Good day."
In three minutes Gen. Homma and his Staff were gone from Cabcallo. A few officers lingered behind, including Staff, Officer Col. Nakayama in charge of the Japanese forces in Bataan. The American group stood bewildered by the quick turn of events. Gen. Wainwright leaned on his cane, a look of worry clearly lined on his face; Gen. Beebe was speechless; Lieut.-Col. Peuh, youngest of the group, asked Lieut. Omura, once an English school teacher in Osaka, what was ,going to happen. The lieutenant answered that Gen. Wainwright should return to Corregidor and either resume fighting or surrender to the Japanese commander there.
Lieut-Col. Peuh rushed to Gen. Wainwright and whispered in his ear. There was a moment of indecision. Some animated conversation in a muted tone, and then Peuh came back. "Gen. Wainwright will surrender the entire American forces in the Philippines to Gen. Homma unconditionally," he stated. "We have given orders for our men to lay down their arms. Take us to Gen. Homma and Gen. Wainwright will dispatch me to Mindanao to instruct Gen. Short to comply with his demands." ....It was a desperate, sorrowful plea. I stood by Nakayama and interpreted. After giving it a moment's thought, he replied in Japanese and I translated to Gen. Wainwright: "I shall go with you to Corregidor and safely turn you over to the Commanding Officer there. Stay for the night and first thing tomorrow go to Gen. Homma with a new surrender and an understanding to contact other U.S. forces in the Philippines."
The Americans readily agreed to this. I knew by their expressions that they were relieved at the change in the situation. It was already beginning to get dark and I noticed soldiers reloading the iced beer on to a truck—symbolic in itself of that sudden, startling hitch in the proceedings.
In silence we got into a car and drove to one of the piers. There, we were about to board the speedboat which Gen. Wainwright had used when we noticed that it had rammed the pier and had sprung a leak, whereupon we decided to use one of the special Japanese landing boats. Some eight U.S. soldiers were waiting on .the pier and now joined us, complete with enough luggage to satisfy a couple of newly-weds. Altogether there were fifteen of us including Col. Nakayama, Lieut. Uemura and myself with the four Marine officers and the eight soldiers. By the time we had got started the channel was in complete darkness.
There was a rough sea running but the night itself was uncannily still. My imagination warned me that hell might break loose at any moment. Since Wainwright's surrender had not been accepted, the fighting might break out anew any time now as an hour had already elapsed since the collapse of the peace conference.
As our specially constructed boat—kept secret from enemy eyes (probably Gen. Wainwright and his staff were the first foreigners ever to ride in one) — cut through the water, Corregidor loomed ahead of us. On the left and right extremities of the island the lights of the American occupied positions were visible, while two or three blazes indicated the positions where the Japanese troops were camping, awaiting instructions for the next move. Turning round, I noticed a body on the heap of luggage belonging to the American soldiers aboard the boat. I stared at it in fright. "What's the matter?" I demanded. From the darkness a male voice moaned: "I'm not feeling well." It was Gen. Beebe. . . . seasick.
At this point Col. Nakayama brought out a small paper bag from his pocket. "This is what the Japanese soldier eats in place of candy," he declared, handing it to me for Gen. Wainwright. The latter took a couple and passed the bag on to Lieut.-Col. Peuh, who remarked, "Not bad." But I knew they were surprised. These cookies were something like dog biscuits, less tasty, perhaps harder. Col. Nakayama, however, was munching them with apparent enjoyment as if they were chocolate. I gnawed my portion—less enjoyably.
Suddenly it occurred to me that we were now within the Bay at a point midway between Infantry and Cavalry points. Here, ,only twenty-four hours ago, a massacre had taken place. . . . the most ghastly piece of close range fighting to scar forever the memories of all who survived. In stark contrast was the peaceful calm that reigned over everything tonight. The phosphorus on the water seemed to light up the boat, leaving an irridescent trail in its wake. A sparkling omen of good luck.
As we approached the shore, unseen voices in the darkness demanded our identity. I shouted back: "Staff Officer Nakayama!" Figures materialized, silhouetted against the campfires.
Of a sudden our smooth progress was brought to a jolting stop; there was a sickening sound that told us we had grounded—some fifty yards from the shore. Every possible method of getting the boat off the rocks was tried, but in vain. It was hopeless. Finally, as a last resort, the American soldiers were told to get out and push. Reluctantly they concurred, wading up to their hips in water and endeavouring to push the boat clear. Still nothing happened.
There was only one thing left to be done. Col. Nakayama jumped over the side into the water, shouting "You walk—when you can!" and so we waded in, all of us, with the exception of Gen. Wainwright and Gen. Beebe— one well on in years, and the other seasick. These two ordered their men to carry them ashore. A human sedan chair was created and awkwardly the men carried their human burdens shoreward — disastrously in the case of Beebe, for the niggling group collapsed just a few yards before it reached the shore and the officer received a most unwelcome ducking.
He was too weak even to protest and only managed to groan as his repentant troops offered their multiple apologies.
Sympathizing with his plight, Col. Nakayama gave orders for us all to sit down and rest. He passed the biscuits round once again and this time they were more readily accepted as it was long past dinner time.
At last the little procession started on its way with Col. Nakayama, Lieut. Uemura and myself in the lead, followed by Gen. Wainwright aided by a private bearing a white flag, Gen. Beebe aided by two privates, Lieut-Col. Peuh, Major Lawrence, and a string of soldiers carrying a huge quantity of baggage, trailed by two Japanese soldiers who had joined us on the shore. First we climbed an embankment for a distance of about 200 yards. I had no idea what the surroundings were like. Once in a while we would stumble over Japanese troops sleeping on the ground. Rudely awakened from their much needed sleep, they stared at that strange procession in mute astonishment, but by the time they had come to their senses, we had already passed on. We came at last to the main road, a rough dirt affair. What had once been a forest was now only a gaunt skeleton of charred wood, carrying grim memories of what hell war can inflict even on Mother Nature.
We had only two flashlights between us; I held one and the soldier at the rear carried the other. Once, sharply etched against the sky, I discerned a twisted mass of steel—the remnants of an American bomber. Still further on, a pillbox lay in ruins, blown to bits by a direct hit from a Japanese shell; there were large smudges of blood spattered on the concrete walls. Several times I saw dark familiar forms on the ground. Flashing my torch in their direction, I found my hunch to have been correct.... they were corpses, most of them victims of the big berthas over on the Bataan side. They had been dead only a few hours—at most a day.
We must have gone on walking for a mile and a half before we pulled up. Here I was asked to remain behind with the two soldiers to guard the prisoners while Col. Nakayama and Lieut. Uemura took Gen. Wainwright, Lieut-Col. Peuh and Major Lawrence to the headquarters of the Japanese Commanding Officer on Corregidor, a spot the location of which I never discovered. The little party disappeared into the darkness while the rest of the prisoners lay down on the hillside and promptly fell asleep. After tossing a blanket over Gen. Beebe, who had also stayed behind, I sat down and began chatting to the Japanese guards. They started to tell me their experiences. .
Coming out with the second contingent, they said, they had begun to draw enemy fire when their boats were a mile out. Shells had rained on them from every type of light and heavy artillery. The channel had been lit up with red-hot steel, and livid tracer bullets from light machine-guns had streaked past and around them, singing their song of death. But the landing of the first group had improved the situation .and the firing ceased as their boat approached Corregidor.
Finally, the little armada reached the shore, though most of the boats were by then leaking badly. As soon as they landed, a light tank from one of them went trundling off into the darkness, while hand-grenades, hurled from the top of the embankment, exploded around, them without causing any real damage though several soldiers were killed instantly. There were some American troops on the trees taking pot-shots at us with considerable success, they related, but these were soon silenced by our machine-gunners when they had once been sighted in the dark. With the breaking of the dawn, the Americans began a general retreat. They had suffered comparatively few casualties since most of our .men had been wiped out. "I still don't know why they didn't finish us off," one of the soldiers concluded with a broad grin; "we were so few, in number and we were lodged in such disadvantageous positions. But, fortunately for us, they began to withdraw from their strategic positions and we gained ground rapidly.
"For four solid hours," he continued, `I feigned dead after finding myself isolated from the rest of the attacking forces and within range of Filipino-American machine-gunners. Not even a finger moved, not a muscle twitched, during those long, dreadful hours of waiting. At last, some-time after daybreak, the enemy voluntarily withdrew. It was only later that I learned that the Japanese had reached San Jose Point and had virtually cut off the enemy opposite us from their main forces. Most of our men had been brought down by machine-gun bullets, which had torn their thighs and ripped their hips to pieces. Few survived. Perhaps those who did not were better off," he murmured feelingly, perhaps seeing again in the darkness, those maimed, bleeding figures writhing in their agony of death.
His narrative ended, the three of us sat on in silence, each of us absorbed with our own particular thoughts, running, I imagined, on very much the same lines. ..."How lucky we are to be here—alive". ..while inwardly to myself I thought: "What of these poor Americans—prisoners of war for the duration—and nobody knows when it will end. Wonder how they feel?"
I turned and peered into the darkness at their recumbent forms. They were all sound asleep by now. They were tired—they had not slept peacefully for several nights... ever since the big guns on Bataan had thundered into action on the night of May 1. What little rest they were snatching now was well deserved. I was deep in these thoughts and getting drowsy myself.
The next second I nearly jumped out of my skin. With the suddenness of death, hell itself had broken loose! A distant roar followed by a low whistling sound rising in tempo as it neared the spot where we were sitting, shattered the peaceful silence of the dark hours until finally it rose to a crescendo of noise and burst with an ear-splitting detonation a few hundred yards away! It was followed in quick succession by another one, and another one, and another. Five—ten—sixteen explosions rocked the earth beneath us as if by a series of earthquakes. This opening barrage was quickly followed by another and another.... The shore batteries on Bataan had commenced pounding Corregidor. . . .General Wainwright's surrender had been denied because he had sought to waive his responsibility at the last moment. In the meantime—here we were on Corregidor!
The Americans snapped out of their sleep, wide-eyed, looking round in horror to see that it was no nightmare. They were prisoners of war and yet the shelling was continuing from Bataan. Some of them, however, maintained their calm and one remarked: "Don't worry, they know what :liey're doing."
The shelling continued and I began to worry about the safety of Col. Nakayama and our own, men—they must have been several thousand Japanese troops on this section of the island. A terrific thunder rent the skies; a shrill, shrieking whistle tore over our heads and the .air vibrated with such intensity that I almost imagined I could see that red-hot shell flying through space till at length it smashed on to its target somewhere behind us with a stupefying crash of sound. Not since my days at Nanziang in Shanghai and Ocheng near Hankow had I been so closely under fire.
Shells were flying in front of us and behind us. Some seemed to be directed at Fort Scott, while others went hurtling on to Fort Hughes located about a mile southeast of Corregidor. The dreadful bombardment continued. for about an hour, and then—as suddenly as it had come—it ceased. The storm was over. The prisoners went back to sleep.
With a relieved mind, I paced the road for a few yards in the darkness, until at length I stumbled over the corpse of an American (illegible). It brought me up with a jolt and I quickly retraced my steps to the slumbering prisoners. This time I stayed with that sleeping company, standing in their midst--quietly.
Soon there came some Japanese soldiers carrying stretchers laden with wounded who had received only rough first aid treatment so far. Some of the groans made one shudder. Other troops passed, looking for men who had been left behind earlier in the day. Later on, another patrol came by in search of the remnants of some U.S. troops who were believed to have reverted to guerrilla tactics. This was a bad night for anyone to be wandering around, I thought.
It must have been an hour later when I heard voices in the distance and saw movement in the dark shadows—Col. Nakayama had returned. Several soldiers came along to take over the prisoners. We started our march back to the boat and to Bataan. When I reached the Propaganda Corps tent at Lamao, it was 2.30 a.m. Slipping into a mosquito net in a crowded tent, I fell sound asleep—dead to the world in practically three minutes.
Seconds later, it seemed, everybody was up. It was already 6 o'clock and most of the war correspondents had gathered around the Propaganda Corps .tent. Lieut. Machizuki was to lead the first group of war correspondents to Corregidor. I joined them. By 7.30 a.m. we were all on board a special landing boat. It transpired that the lieutenant in charge had participated in the second landing at 4 o'clock on the morning of May 6. When this became known, he was bombarded with questions and the newsmen clamored for a personal account of the landing. At first the lieutenant was reluctant. It was too awful, he said, and he had lost too many of his men. Gradually, however, he yielded to the persistent demands and unfolded his experiences in broken, staccato phrases.
"In my squadron there were six boats," he revealed. "We left Lamao for a certain position about a mile off Infantry Point. There, we were to join another squadron from Cabcallo and jointly attempt a landing near the position where the first contingent had gone ashore. When the two squadrons met at the given time, the big guns of Bataan were scheduled to go into action with the idea of covering our landing and protecting us from the direct fire of the shore defences on Corregidor. Unfortunately our squadrons were 10 minutes behind schedule owing to unusually rough waves in the channel that night. The plan went awry.
"At the appointed time, the big guns on Bataan went to work but we were not ready for the attack. Making the best of a bad job, however, we took our adjacent positions and movcd shoreward. But before we got there, we were detected and became the impotent targets of a merciless barrage at close range. American high powered machine-guns poured a stream of bullets on us from all directions. Rifle fire augmented that hail of death. Our men who were huddled in the center of the: boat were all either killed or wounded. Those who clung to the edges of ,the ships' sides were hit by shells that pierced the steel plating. The boat had already sprung several leaks when we finally came within landing distance of Corregidor. Desperately I gave the signal and led the charge against the shore defences. I don't remember how many men responded. I know I heard only a small chorus in that mad dash for the shore, many were drowned as they dropped into the water mortally wounded. Many were killed outright. As I thrashed through the water, wildly, desperately, endeavoring somehow to reach that shore, the phosphorus sent a thousand tell-tale sparkles of light scattering in all directions. Bullets whistled round me, splashing into the water. A soldier beside me gasped "His Imperial…..,Majesty...." and that was the last of him. If it had not been for the fact that it was the dark hour before the dawn, pitch black, I doubt if any of us would be alive today to tell the story.
"I do not know how we did it, but somehow a group of us made the shore and hugged close to the steep embankments. We did not dare to shoot as we were in no position to take the offensive. Most of us just kept still—half-leaning, half-lying against the slope—just waiting, hoping, that reinforcements would arrive. The shells from Bataan never ceased. Soon we heard the sound of planes above. The gods had answered our prayers. Day began to break and the aviators went to work with a will, accurately finding their marks.
"We began to stir, cautiously moving up the embankment, carefully crawling through the shattered barbed wire entanglements.
"We stood up and hid behind trees. Off in the distance against the roadway and the higher level of the hill could be seen the snooping figures of retreating U.S. troops. Further to the right, I noticed several helmets which I recognized as ours. I immediately assembled our men and launched them up the hill into the attack. The Marines began to fire wildly, concentrating their fire on a small mound several hundred yards in front of them, from which there flew a Japanese flag; they were trapped between two prongs of our advancing troops. Here was our chance. . . .Vengeance! We opened fire, advancing step by step. There must have been about fifty of them, though what reserves they had waiting further off to the left we did not even pause to consider. There was a spasmodic exchange of firing and then suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, a pursuit plane appeared from nowhere. It dived and let loose a single bomb. That was the end of the American resistance. Those who survived threw down their guns and stood. still .... they were Marines," he concluded.
As soon as he had finished his vivid narrative, the lieutenant was once again subjected to a barrage of questions; pencil and paper were placed in front of him and a diagram of the landing was also requested. The channel was rough and a couple of the newsmen left the group with a sickly look on their faces. The lieutenant complied to the general request and hurriedly sketched a diagram of the landing. Then he pointed to the side, of the boat. "As you can see," be exclaimed, "many of the bullets went clean through the side here." And sure enough, the sides of the boat had been riddled with holes which had been welded during the past 24 hours. This happened to be No. 2 boat of the lieutenant's squadron.
The pilot's position was built like the conning tower of a submarine and was of solid steel plating. That too had been blasted by powerful shells and was completely shattered. It was incredible that the lieutenant or any of the men had survived the terrible enemy fire.
"How many men did you lose?" asked an Osaka Mainichi correspondent. "I don't know yet," the lieutenant replied. One of my boats carried 76 men and only seven reached the shore. That buck private up there in the pilot's tower is Hirai. He stayed on the boat to lower the anchor but he never got a chance to get to the shore—he jumped off and stayed in the water behind the boat for seven hours, with just his hands and face above the surface. One of our boats was sunk several hundred yards off the shore. I don't know how many of the men on board survived. You must remember that these men carry between 70, and 100 pounds on their bodies even when going out on a landing expedition."
Introduction | Author's Note | On to the Front | Gen. Wainwright Surrenders | Prisoners of War | Fort Mills Hospital | Racial Discrimination | Goodbye Corregidor | Lieut.-Comm. F. H. Callahan | Gen. Wainwright's Appeal | Official Communiqués | Santo Tomas Internment Camp |
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