YEAR WAS 1942:  THE  ESCAPE  OF  GEN.  DOUGLAS  MACARTHUR  65  YEARS  AGO

CEBU
, MARCH 14, 2007 (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila - As you read this column, I will be in Las Vegas, Nevada attending the ShoWest annual convention of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) in America. This annual convention will give me an insight of tomorrow’s technology on the exhibition side of the film industry. I will be back home around the end of the month. As I’m making an advance column, it gives me the opportunity to write about my favorite subject – World War II as it happened here in the Philippines.

Sixty-five years ago on March 11, 1942, PT-Boats, PT-41 under the command of Lt. John Bulkeley, together with PT-35, PT-34 and PT-32, undertook a precarious mission… taking Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his wife Jean and five-year old son Arthur from Corregidor to Cagayan de Oro so they could reach the Del Monte airfield there and fly to Australia. This move was widely criticized by MacArthur’s critics who said that he abandoned his men to die in Bataan. But the truth was that he was ordered by then US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to get out of the country and prepare an invasion force to take the Philippines back.

I have two books on this story – "MacArthur’s Escape" by George W. Smith and "MacArthur’s Undercover War…Spies, Saboteurs, Guerrillas and Secret Missions" by William B. Breuer. Both books were great reads and give us a good insight of history. Unfortunately, our students are not taught about historic events here in their history classes. This story was also made into a movie in the ’50s entitled, "They were Expendable" starring John Wayne.

While MacArthur escaped from Corregidor via PT-Boats, President Manuel L. Quezon and his Cabinet left the island via submarine and were dropped off in the island of Negros. Quezon, who headed the team seeking independence for the Philippines, counted on Roosevelt as a friend and when the Japanese invaded the Philippines, he was confident that the Americans would repulse the Japanese invaders. What he didn’t know was that America itself was ill prepared for a war. No help was coming here!

Indeed, the Americans were unprepared in Pearl Harbor as they were ill prepared for the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma was already in Manila, which was declared an open city, when Quezon heard a radio broadcast over Radio Tokyo that Japanese Premier Gen. Hideki Tojo "promised to grant the Philippines full independence," something that Quezon and his Vice President, Sergio Osmeńa Sr., have been fighting for a long time. This was Japanese propaganda.

Fearing that America had abandoned the Philippines, especially with the flight of MacArthur, Quezon told his aide, Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, "we must try to save ourselves, and to hell with America… the fight between the United States and Japan is not our fight." Indeed this was the sentiment echoed by many Filipinos…that the war wasn’t our fight. Unfortunately, they forgot that when Japanese soldiers started killing Filipinos, it has become our fight too!

I’m sure most Filipinos have not forgotten the famous fighting words of President Quezon when he said, "I would rather see the Philippines run like hell by Filipinos rather than see it run like heaven by the Americans." Pundits have called this the "Curse of Quezon," which is why today we are run like hell by stupid Filipinos. But there had to be something more to Quezon’s statement and why he made this remark.

This book gives us an idea of how Quezon felt about the Americans and how dejected he felt. Years later, while in exile in America, Quezon most probably changed his mind about our American friends.

Gen. MacArthur’s perilous 33-hour PT-Boat trip to Cagayan made him seasick as the small boats swayed badly because of the huge waves. They eventually made it to Cagayan de Oro. But MacArthur was bothered by the sentiments of Quezon, as he had a spy within the Quezon cabinet. Upon his arrival in Cagayan de Oro, he ordered Lt. Bulkeley on a top-secret mission to go over to Negros Island and find the President and his Cabinet and bring them to the Del Monte Plantation. From there, they would all fly to Australia and establish the Philippine government in exile.

What puzzled Lt. Bulkeley was when MacArthur angrily told him, "I don’t care how you get him here – just do it! We’re sending Quezon to Australia to form a Philippine government-in-exile, whether he likes it or not!" Lt. Bulkeley, who didn’t know the trappings of politics and always thought that Quezon was a staunch ally of America, was quite surprised why MacArthur was sending for Quezon whether he liked it or not?

Arriving in Zamboanguita, Bulkeley didn’t find Quezon, but a constable told him that he was in the town of Bais. He commandeered a few old cars and drove to Bais where he finally found the President. He told Quezon his mission, but Quezon refused… to which Lt. Bulkeley told Pres. Quezon… "To hell, you’re not coming with me!" Lt. Bulkeley argued with Pres. Quezon with a Tommy gun on his arm. On this mission, Lt. Bulkeley brought PT-41 and PT-35, but PT-35 scrapped its bottom and had to be abandoned in Bais.

So there was only one PT-boat to bring Quezon, his family, Osmeńa, and his Cabinet to Cagayan. They all had a huge amount of luggage that they brought to the dock in Bais. But Lt. Bulkeley ordered them to be left on the dock as there was no longer any room in the boat as he also had to take the whole crew of the disabled PT-35. What he allowed was the seven duffle bags of the Philippine Treasury containing $15 million dollars in cash. This money was used to set up the Philippine government in exile in the United States.

Hence, Quezon relented and was brought to Cagayan where he was given arrival honors by a military contingent upon the orders of MacArthur. While watching Quezon, Lt. Bulkeley turned to Ensign Anthony B. Akers, the skipper of the abandoned PT-35 and said, "I wonder when the statute of limitations for kidnapping expires." Was Quezon really kidnapped or was he rescued? That is a question still being raised even today. I hope we have enriched your history today.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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