BATTLE OF MANILA
The Battle that wasn’t Supposed to be
General (Gen) Douglas MacArthur had promised the people of the Philippines “I shall return” and he had done just that, coming ashore at Leyte on 20 October,1944. After more than 2 months of fighting, he and his forces had secured Leyte. On 6 January,1945, Gen MacArthur led an invasion force of more than 200,000 at Lingayen Gulf. US and Filipino forces slugged their way south and found themselves on the outskirts of Manila on 3 February,1945. Gen MacArthur was once quoted as saying Manila was “The place my Mother died, my wife was courted, and my son was born.” Manila, his beloved Manila was still occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army as US forces approached. Intelligence had learned that the Japanese commander, General Yamashita had fled Manila and planned to try and draw out the war by taking the fight out of the city and into the mountains and jungles. He had ordered his troops to withdraw from the city. There was to be no battle for the city. The only problem, Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi with 12,500 troops had other ideas. Iwabuchi claimed he was not under Yamashita’s command and therefore did not have to obey his order. He was backed in this decision by the War Council back in Japan and set upon preparing for the Massacre of Manila. As Yamashita left Manila, he ordered a small security detail of 4,500 soldiers to stay behind and act and cover the withdraw. Once Yamashita had departed, Iwabuchi immediately reoccupied the city with the combined 17,000 troops. Iwabuchi ordered his men to rig explosives throughout the city and prepare for a complete destruction of the city and slaughter of as many civilians as possible. The destruction began almost immediately and on February 9, almost 10,000 Filipino civilians were brutally murdered. After 1 month of house to house, street to street, urban fighting, Manila was secured by US and Filipino forces. The acts of Iwabuchi and his men were nothing short of pure evil. The atrocities which were perpetrated during the massacre of Manila were some of the worst of WWII. The end came for Iwabuchi at his own hand, committing suicide on 26 February,1945. He was a coward to the end!
When Gen MacArthur entered his beloved Manila he found nothing but devastation. Nearly 616 square blocks of the city had been destroyed. 11,000 buildings were either leveled or would need to be razed as a result of the battle. The historic Intramuros had been nearly destroyed. It is estimated that 100,000-240,000 civilians perished during the retaking of the city. Most civilians were murdered by the Japanese, but many died as a result of being caught in the crossfire of one of the fiercest urban battles in history.
Manila was never the same. The Pearl of the Orient that Gen. MacArthur had tried to spare by declaring it an open city. Gen. MacArthur and his family had lived in the best penthouse in town at the Manila Hotel. When Gen. MacArthur and his family fled Manila ahead of the Japanese, they took but 2 suitcases of possessions with them. His entire estate, including his 10,000-volume book collection and all his family possessions were lost when the Japanese torched the Manila Hotel. It is said he did not grieve for those physical possessions, but rather grieved the rest of his life for the suffering his men and the Filipino people had endured.
The Filipino people are renowned for their eternal sense of optimism. This optimism persists even after such horrendous suffering and loss. This optimism is the true victor of the Battle of Manila and the Filipino people who show it daily do the victims proud by demonstrating it.