Thursday, December 10, 2009
PEARL HARBOR: 7TH OF DECEMBER 1941
These are excerpts from the THE SAGA OF FRAY PACO: Book Four: The Indomitable Dona Esperanza.
"Something dark and fearsome awoke me at four this morning. I pray I am wrong. We have been expecting a Japanese attack any moment."
She went over what Uncle Alcibiades had strongly declared last night over a richly laden dinner table in her Villa Gloria situated in Manila's 16th century walled city - Intramuros built by the Spanish when they initiated their colonization of the Philippines in 1536. Manila's elite lived within those walls. So did the wealthy merchants, government bureaucracy and several exclusive all boy and all girl schools run by Catholic religious orders.
"The question dear niece is not if they will attack but when and where. All bets are off in the casinos in town," declared Don Alcibiades, the Banker.
Esperanza's Villa fronted the Manila Hotel, an elegant and architecturally handsome building built at the height of the Depression in the "Mother Country" the United States. General Douglas MacArthur resided there with his wife and son and high ranking members of his staff.
He was Commander of the American Armed Forces in Asia headquartered in Manila because it was the official seat of their Empire in the Pacific. It was never officially confirmed because Heaven forbid, the United States, supposedly a republic, affirming democratic principles, should ever admit to a lust for an Empire in the Pacific.
The Philippine Archipelago was located strategically within the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits. It was their strategy in monkey wrenching Japanese dreams of expansion in the Pacific. America's conquest of the Philippine Islands from 1898 to 1903 was vicious and brutal. Water boarding, concentration camps, cruel interrogations of men and boys all began in their Conquest of the Philippines.
The cry heard amongst the troops fresh from slaughtering Indians back home was:
"Fucking kill all the men and boys, rape the women and torture everyone for information."
Mark Twain, the writer, journalist, humorist and essayist became the most vociferous critic of American Imperialism and its bloody war in the Philippine Islands. He founded the Anti-Imperialist League which created a vocal and brave public opinion against U. S. involvement in the Philippines. Sound familiar? We always repeat the same political and historical mistakes don't we?
It must be stressed that although General Emilio Aguinaldo, the Chinese- Malay Commander of the Philippine Revolutionary Army surrendered to General Arthur MacArthur ( yes indeed, father of General Douglas MacArthur) many islands under various guerilla leaders resisted until 1910, if not well into 1912.
Authors Note: Historian Gore Vidal personally told me that he and others like him calculated that between 650,000 (conservative estimate) to a million Filipinos perished in America's first foray into Imperialism.
Dona Esperanza sat tensely on a carved Annamese arm chair in the verandah overlooking Manila Hotel. Her binoculars reposed on a lace doily beside her.
"No matter what happens I don't want to miss the comings and goings out of Manila Hotel. Most of all, I want to catch a glimpse of the General."
Fray Paco perched on her shoulder. He felt her stiff muscles and back. He did not feel like uttering any words. For once, he was at a loss to explain what was about to happen.
"It must be horrifying , that's all I can think of."
She did not speak and no one dared address a word to her. Her attitude spelt an I don't want any interruptions this morning. She prayed in silence.The atmosphere was far from silent. She had ordered her household staff to bring the radio into the verandah and turn on their radio station DZRP. For the moment, only the music of Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra as lead singer was heard.
Her sons-in law Edmund, who was married to Camilla, Lucrezia's mother and Rudy, husband of daughter Dahlia always spent the early part of the morning at the posh and exclusive Wack-Wack Country Club enjoying a take no prisoners kind of golf game. Heavy betting went on. Each golf swing cost them $100.00. General Basilio Valdes, a cousin of the Ortigas-Nieto clan also joined them. He was MacArthur's Chief Medical Officer and Great-Uncle Basilio was almost as impressive. Tall, majestic, turquoise blue eyes, dark hair, fair skin and a disarming smile( he was a Doctor after all). On this day, he could not disguise the concern in his demeanor.
"It's either Pearl Harbor or Manila," declared Edmund looking into his Uncle -in law's eyes.
"No other possibilities?" asked Rudy.
"Here's an interesting bit for all of us to digest. The Japanese will bomb Pearl because they have to make a point but after they have bombed the shit out of Pearl, they will turn around and head for Asia. That's what they want. Asia. Not California," said Great-Uncle Basilio.
"Dios Mio Uncle, that means us and ....", Edmund could not bring himself to continue.
Rudy ran his eyes towards all three of his relatives. "We are going to be next."
"And they won't turn around as in Pearl Harbor. They are going to come in and occupy us and rule us,"
Great Uncle Basilio could not stifle the urgency in his voice.
"Until the Japanese do that, let's try to enjoy a good game of golf," suggested Edmund, hiding his hands behind his back and holding them tightly to keep them from twitching.
"Good idea, I mean they have not bombed Pearl Harbor yet nor are they anywhere near the place," replied Rudy.
"We'll cross that bridge when we have to Rudy," countered Edmund, practicing a few broad swings.
"Right boys, this may be the last time we"lll enjoy a good game of golf," piped in Uncle Basilio.
"Viva Lapu-Lapu. You're the best and undisputed fighting cock in the entire Philippine archipelago." Don Alciabiades, the Banker, gazed at his sky blue and royal blue cock. It was an unusual color for a fighting cock. His great ancestor Zapata had also been born a little cock blue. The amazing part was that he had mated frequently with Maganda who was predominantly a blue hen, as fierce in fights with other hens and roosters for Lapu-Lapu's attention and sexual thrusts. He had few scars and none defaced or took away from his beauty.
"Give us this one last victory and Dona Ibon and I will be thrilled to see you do nothing but mount Maganda and other hens with the best bloodlines to give us yet greater warrior cocks," said he, caressing Lapu-Lapu's blue feathers.
Don Alcibiade had a "pakirandam" a gnawing feeling in one's gut that something tragic was about to take place. Something which, would change and influence their lives for generations to come.
He disliked cockfights. The blood made him feel faint. On this Sunday, anything was better than staying home and waiting. Waiting for what? He could only suspect it had something to do with the desperation of the Japanese, as the United States continued to close every trading door essential to its economic survival. When they could no longer count on the oil fields in Indonesia, Burma and Indochina, Don Alcibiades knew without the slightest uncertainty that Imperial Japan had no choice but to retaliate. A few months ago, the United States government and the American owned and managed multinational corporations operating in Indochina, Indonesia and Burma had closed off their spigots to all things, properties and people Japanese.
"There is not a drop of oil to be had. This will push Japan over the brink. I fear that this action will prove to be gruesome to all of us, including the Japanese themselves."
A slow anger had been smoldering in Alcibiades Ortigas Nieto's heart since the Japanese had taken first, Korea and then Manchuria.
"I curse the day Commodore John Dewey fought in Manila Bay, I curse the Philippine- American War, I curse Don Cesar's unconditional backing of the American War against the helpless and hapless Filipinos. I curse the way Filipinos have been parasitized since then. What about us? The so called Illustrious families? I curse the desperate Japanese who will most certainly attack the island of Oahu or Manila. Oahu will be a canape, compared to the atrocities they will commit in Manila, the Pearl of the Orient. Most of all, a thousand maledictions on the American Commodore Matthew Perry, who, in 1852, used the power of his armed ships anchored in Tokyo Bay to force Japan to open her ports to trade with America and Britain. May you lie shackled in blackest Hell, President Theodore Roosevelt for making a secret treaty with Japan giving her Korea and Manchuria in China. Did you think Japan would bow, say "Arigato" and stop her Hegemonic desires? How absurdly naive!"
Author's Note: For more about Teddy Roosevelt's secret treaty of 1905 I refer you to the enclosed video clip: http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/746.html
These dark thoughts did not as a rule form part of Don Alcibiades forma mentis.
"I am beside myself in righteous anger and indignation and there is nothing any of us can do except wait for the bombs to screech down upon our heads," he thought with resignation but never acceptance.
One of the Filipino young men who manned the telephones, had been instructed by General Basilio Valdes to keep the radio tuned to AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service) radio sprinted all the way to the 15th hole at the Country Club. He was pale, gasping and coughing and could not at first utter a word.
They all knew what he was about to tell them. They had scanned the skies; no Mitsubishi zeroes. It had to be Pearl Harbor!
Without another word, they all dashed down the slopes of Wack-Wack to hear for themselves what was occurring.
By now AFRS Radio blared from the bar where dozens of members, guests and staff had gathered aghast.
"At approximately 7:30 this morning, 350 Japanese planes from the Imperial Japanese Navy under the command of His Most Courageous Admiral Yamamoto, attacked the American Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu." Tora! Tora! Tora! (Tiger. Tiger, Tiger )
"O Dios ko," murmured the Filipinos.
"God help us," said Edmund and Rudy in unison.
"Jovenes (young men) I shall see you later, which means I don't know exactly when. General MacArthur, along with the rest of us will be up all night, I may be able to stop by this evening for just a few moments at Villa Gloria, since we are almost across the street, in a manner of speaking. I can't promise anything. I have faith in Esperanza. She will plan the best strategies and tactics for our clan to follow," General Valdes declared somberly.
Odd that, thought Edmund. He did not say a word about what MacArthur will do to safefuard and protect Manila. As usual, every thing's a secret.
At Villa Gloria, Dona Esperanza with all her household staff gathered around her, had listened to the announcement of the horrifying events unfolding in Pearl Harbor.
"It's going to be Manila's turn for sure," she quivered in the cool breeze of a December day. "Their death planes might even show up later this afternoon, they 'll pay us a call again tomorrow and the next day, which is the 9th. At any rate not later than the 10th; we can expect a not so friendly visit from our Asian friends - the Japanese Army together with their homicidal Mitsubishi planes," she informed them with a leaden heart and a raucous voice.
She directed her binoculars towards the porte cocher of Manila Hotel which was now rapidly filling up with Officers from the various branches of the Armed Forces and members of the Philippine Constabulary which made up the rearguard of General MacArthur's army in the Philippines.
The General himself was standing in front of the entrance to the Hotel, greeting, shaking and clasping hands. Esperanza zoomed her lenses towards MacArthur. He was still very much the Unconquered Hero. Just a setback. Avery terrible setback. Yet his face betrayed his body language and his words. It was an anguished face. The countenance of a military general who hated to lose his fighting men.
"He reminds me of Julius Caesar," muttered Esperanza under her breath. "Let us hope and pray that no one assassinates him."
Don Alcibiade's warrior cock, Lapu-Lapu was just about to go in for the kill when Don Wak Nam; Hakka tycoon, restaurateur, smuggler and Alcibiades most trusted friend, whispered into his ear. "Call off the fight this instant. Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor a few minutes ago. We must act quickly to protect our families and our assets. We have just ran out of time, Don Alcibiades."
Alcibiades looked into the black orbs of his friend, Don Wak Nam. "Not quite. If we work feverishly, I'm hoping we have 48 hours of damage control. Remember that in the eyes of the Japanese, as well as most Americans and Europeans, you Chinese do not exist. You are a declining race garbed in silk embroidered robes and shoes while they and the Japanese preen themselves before their mirrors in bespoke suits. That attitude will save us from a great deal of bother and trouble from the Japanese."
Don Wak Nam could not suppress a chuckle. "That is certainly true. It might even save our lives. Their arrogance may give yet give us the opportunities necessary to carry on our work. Lest we forget the Filipino, Northern Chinese, Mestizo and Spanish collaborationists who have made up a formidable Fifth Column for the Japanese since the 30's. The Japanese victory has just rendered it easier for them to spy and inform on us."
Alcibiades paused as he covered Lapu-Lapu's eyes with a soft suede cloth and sheathed his claws in Cordoban leather.
"Don Wak Nam, we must have ears and eyes behind our heads. For nearly 40 years, many of the men and women that make up the Fifth Column had and still have legitimate grievances against the Americans."
"Perhaps. But those people who certainly know you and may even be friends and acquaintances, will not have any tweaks of conscience in turning you over to the Japanese High Command to end your days beheaded, but not before torturing you to their heart's delight," affirmed Don Wak Nam with fierce conviction.
To recapitulate. Commodore Perry begun the travesty in 1852 against Japan. It was continued by President Theodore Roosevelt in a secret treaty with Japan which bypassed the Senate in 1905. The attack on Pearl Harbor is either a tale of endless SNAFUS( situation normal all fucked up) ineptitude and hubris on the part of the American High Command and/or President Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew about the impending attack and kept mum for reasons of political expediency.
Certainly, Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the German SS, SD, RHSA, and INTERPOL was informed of Japan's plans to attack Pearl Harbor on the 24th of October by Lord Chichibu, Chief of His Imperial Majesty's Intelligence Service. In addition, Lord Chichibu was the closest brother and confidante of Emperor Hirohito. This renders this information highly credible.
Moreover, since September of 1941, Heydrich was now Reichsprotektor of Bohemia- Moravia, a political post second only to the Fuhrer in power, prestige and influence. It is worth noting that Professor Alan Turing who had deciphered parts of the Enigma code was never able to penetrate Heydrich's coded and ciphered SS or SD communiques. Enigma cracked part of the Wehrmacht code, but too small a part to be of any significance. Turing may also have compromised Admiral Canaris's Abwehr, the Military and Naval Intelligence Service. By that time, Heydrich had rendered Canaris toothless and harmless.
In retaliation for Pearl Harbor the U. S. launched a series of terrifying reprisals against the Japanese. The plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto was brutally shot down. It was a good tactical move but this resulted in thousands upon thousands of American, English, Australian, Dutch and new Zealanders living and dying in horrifying conditions in Japanese concentration and death camps. The most infamous of these was the Bataan Death March , where more Filipinos than Americans died and Changi Camp in Singapore, a place of horror for Chinese and Europeans alike.
To be sure, the firebombing of Tokyo was as much of a Holocaust as Dresden and Hamburg. The climax of this war to end all wars was the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities crammed with the elderly, women and children.
Meanwhile, back in the Philippines, the liberation of Manila in February 1945 was conducted room by room. It took months for the Americans to liberate Manila.
The Japanese had decided to take as many lives as they could with them. So they went out of their way to burn, slash, bayonet, behead, shoot, carve up, blow up with hand grenades countless Filipino and foreign civilians residing in Manila.
The Americans did not pussyfoot around either. Their planes disgorged bomb after bomb into churches and cathedrals - filled with Filipino and European civilians that had sought refuge there. One of the priests who survived ( he lost an arm and a small part of his upper cranium, which had to be covered with a plate of glass and taped over) said that he could not even squeeze through the aisles of Saint Augustine's Church, not even on his hands and knees because the copious amounts of blood which kept flowing after each unrelenting attack by the Americans caused him to slide on the floor. Others slid along the marble floors of the Church too. The only ones who could not move proved to be the dead or dying.
In Manila Bay, in order to blast out the Japanese still holed up in every house and building, with crazed snipers shooting at civilians and American soldiers, destroyers and aircraft carriers continued their shelling of buildings without pausing to take a breath.
Jones bridge was one such spot. Japanese sappers and demolition teams had placed deadly charges in the pylons of the bridge. When the bridge blew up, due to the gung ho attitudes of the B-29 U. S. bombers, the high winds caused the flames to sweep into the affluent areas of Ermita and Malate just as the Japanese had hoped. Two hundred and fifty thousand souls perished almost instantly. They had passed from our world to another dimension without their even realizing it. In a matter of seconds they turned into ghosts still anchored to their homes and streets.
This has led me to the conclusion that War is a racket. The best there is. Most of its finest and its youngest die as a result. You could say that it is am optimum form of killing one's young without lifting a finger. They are mourned by only their families and friends and then they are forgotten evermore by the rest of the nation.
The lessons of Pearl Harbor and the War in the Pacific in WW2, as well as WW2 in Europe; are that it was useless. Hardly any one learnt a single thing from it because those in Power are not in the least bit interested in learning anything from any war. They are after all, its Promoters and Fomentors. It's all about Money, Control and Hegemony. It has brought us no lasting benefits except to those very nameless few at the top of the pyramid.
While I pray and remember ALL the dead, regardless of which side they fought, I always think of the many members of my family and clan whom I never met; who died at the peak of their youth. Several toddlers slowly bled to death as their Mothers clasped them to their breasts on the marble floors slimy with blood, inside the Church of San Agustin. Other small children received shrapnels so large in diameter, that their lungs dropped out of their backs.
My mother's cousin, Maria Mecca, who was running with her three year old son Tito inside the Manila Cathedral to seek refuge under yet another nave, had her head neatly sliced off by a long and sharp thin piece of metal flying through the air. As Mari-Mecca dropped to the floor in a dead heap, blood spurted out and covered Tito's face. Mercifully, the sliver had pierced his jugular vein and he was probably dead before he hit the floor.
My aunt Mari-Guilia, herself wounded, broken and bleeding in her arms and legs( she wasn't sure which ones) crawled inch by inch dragging her 7 year old son Valerio who was mortally wounded in the lungs. But she had to find her sister Mari-Mecca! She glimpsed her head along with pieces of cartliges and bones. Her nephew Tito was dead.
Ernest, her husband appeared out of nowhere. His whole face was punctured by the tiniest of shrapnels, to stanch the flow he had torn off a piece of his silk shirt but the blood flowed on. He found the strength to drag Mari-Mecca's head and Tito's lifeless body underneath one of the pews in the Cathedral. Valeriano 's lungs held out for two hours. Each time he took a breath he whimpered from the pain. The blood from his lungs gurgled into his chest and throat. It was sheer torture for them. Mari-Mecca's body was never found.
To the day she died at the age of 98, my aunt Mari-Guilia wore black every single day of her life, in public or in private. Her broken arms and legs had been set as best they could by the American medics. She had five operations at Johns Hopkins in 1949 and well into the fifties to correct these errors. After all, a good week went by before she could obtain any medical attention. The Americans and the Filipinos continued to fight the Japanese house to house or, as one of General MacArthur's staff said''Manila was fought room to room."
History moves in decades if not centuries. May the Cosmic Forces protect us from the next Apocalpyse. No one else will.
Ad Majoram Dei Gloriam. To the Greater Glory of God.