THE BATTLE OF MANILA
by Peter Jaynul Uckung
General Yamashita considered Manila as too vulnerable to American attack and ordered his troops to evacuate to Northern Luzon for a last ditch stand where the mountains stood as national barriers to any military assault.
Most of his soldiers quickly obeyed his command. But the Japanese naval troops under Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi stayed in Manila; determined to fight to the death. While the main American attack force was sweeping aside feeble Japanese defense position in their push to Manila, Iwabuchi’s forces were laying out an elaborate defense plan around Manila.
Streets were lined with razor-sharp barbed wires; trucks were overturned as barricades and machine guns placed on seemingly empty houses; naval cannons were brought in from Japanese ships and placed in strategic places; and everywhere mines awaited unwary soldiers. If Manila would be taken, the streets would be awash with Allied blood.
Bridges were blown off as well as military installations, power and water facilities. Manila stood still as a vengeful Japanese force waited for its final battle with the not-so-distant euphoric Allied army.
Basking in euphoria were the Americans when they reached the capital on February 4, 1945, sensing victory. But the Japanese defenders would never give them the city in a silver platter.
The Japanese soldiers fought with the savage ferocity of a wounded beast; displaying a kind of barbarity so alien to the Filipinos and Americans alike.
Civilian were moved down; old men, women and children. The Japanese massacred them. Shot them, bayoneted them, burned them and raped them. The Japanese rampage in Manila would be remembered in history as one notorious chapter of man’s inhumanity to man.
Manila was destroyed in the ensuing battle. So fierce was the battle that not even the elegant giant stone buildings that distinguished Manila as one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Asia survive the holocaust.
A grim tally of 100,000 people perished.
It was a devastated Manila that the Allied army retook on February 7, 1945.