Gen. Douglas MacArthur argued with Pres. Roosevelt and Gen. Marshall on the
importance of the Philippines in the war against Japan. He said that America has
a moral duty to get back the Islands. The capture of the Philippines would also
cut off the Japanese war machine of vital supply of oil, rice, rubber and other
resources. It would regain the morale and faith of the American people on their
battle against the Imperial Army.
McArthur started his Philippine offensive with a juggernaut strategy by landed in Leyte on October 20 in three points, San Jose, Dulag and Himay-angan. This was to divide the enemy forces in two and deny the Japanese Army in Mindanao their much-needed supplies. It was a decisive naval, air and land battle and known as the largest Naval Battle ever fought. The Japanese knew that if they let the Americans gain foothold in Leyte, their war against the United States would be difficult.
On 21 of Nov. 44, Cabangbang from MacArthur Command was able to establish contact with Lt. Col. Merrill in Zambales. A radio set was handed to them to establish a faster line of communication.
On Nov. 5, 1944, Lt. AV (N) Francis Joseph Grasshaugh, U.S.N.R. 85931 was forced to parachute from his plane during a strike on Clark Field. He managed to contact the guerrilla forces in the south Tarlac district and lived with Capt. Bruce of that force. His plane was from the U.S.S. Hornet and of Torpedo Squadron Eleven. The plane crashed and burned immediately leaving no evidence. His two-crew men were not observed to leave the plane.
Another two Americans bailed out and were rescued by South Tarlac Military Dist. Under Capt. Alfredo D. Bruce. They were Ensign Maurice Naylon and Lt. Gardner. Frank Gyovai from Headquarters 155 and Capt. Kendle were sent to see them. They also captured and killed a Jap pilot.
Oraku Maru sank in Olongapo
On the recollection of Ensign George Karl Petritz, USN from Inshore Patrol,
Sixteenth Naval District (C.O. U.S.S. Fisheries II) who was captured on
Corregidor; interned at Camp # 1 Cabanatuan until Oct. 13, 1944, Bilibid Oct.
13-Dec. 12, 1944, here is what happened to Oraku Maru, a prison ship on its way
"On or about Dec. 13, 1600 Prisoners of War were placed aboard the Japanese transport Oraku Maru at Manila. These 1600 consisted of about: 1300 officers of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps (probably 25% of Field Officer rank); 200 enlisted men, U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps; 65 American Civilian Prisoners of War (not Sto. Tomas internees); 35 British & Dutch Officers and Enlisted men (survivors from the Japanese transport sunk on Sept. 21 off Iba). These prisoners were herded into the holds as follows: 400 in each of two forward holds, 800 in the after hold. On this same ship were taken Japanese civilians, Japanese soldiers and Taiwan soldiers.
I was in the after hold, and from here on can report only conditions existing there. You may assume conditions equally horrible in the forward holds. As to crowding, a space measuring 8" wide, 12" long, 6" high served to accommodate eighty (80) prisoners and their gear (these figures are accurate). Temperature about 120 degrees F; latrine facilities for 800 prisoners - for 5 gallon cans which the Japanese would not empty when filled; water - none; exactly ½ canteen cup of tea per man was the only beverage issued during the three days the prisoners were in the hold; food - two canteen cups of steamed rice plus about two T. I. spoons of fish per man, again, not per day, but for the three day period; obviously, from the condition of crowding the food & tea could not be distributed satisfactorily, and about 20% of the prisoners received no food and no beverage aboard ship.
The foregoing conditions the prisoners could perhaps withstand, but not the lack of air. At best, this hold could provide adequate ventilation for not more than forty men. The deaths from suffocation in the after hold I estimate at: a 50 Dec. 13; 200 Dec. 14; 200 Dec. 15. The Japanese would not permit any prisoners (except a very few the first night) to be brought on deck, be they sick, unconscious or dead. The Japanese remained deaf to all American requests.
On the 14th, American dive-bombers attacked the ship. There were no casualties in the after hold. (I believe all hits were amidships). The ship put into Olongapo, were the Japanese civilians and soldiers disembarked. Taiwan soldiers were left aboard to keep the prisoners in hold, even though there was ample time to evacuate all the prisoners. On Dec. 15th dive bombers again attacked.
Carried to the bottom the bodies of between 800 and 1200 prisoners. Olongapo observers estimated the survivors at 400 (25%). Might I suggest that if a report of this atrocity is made to American officers, stress be laid on the fact that suffocation, not the air attacks, killed most of the prisoners. In fact, had the ship not been attacked, 75% of the prisoners would have suffocated before reaching Japan, and another 25% would in their weakened condition, have contracted influenza and died from the change in climate. Under no circumstances should the American forces permit the Japanese to bring another ship into Manila Bay to evacuate the remaining prisoners from Manila to Japan. The Japanese will surely try to repeat this atrocity.
After leaving the ship, I swam toward Banicain instead of to the beach at Olongapo where the Japanese were. I was picked by a banca (outrigger canoe) about 200 yards off Banicain and taken to that barrio. For safety, I was immediately taken to Banicain woods, and met another escapee. He is Darnell Kadolph, Pfc. USA, Age: 30; Home town - Waupaca, Wis. Former organization -59th CAC band (Drummer), Prison history - Same as mine.
The night of Dec. 15th, Kadolph and I were transferred by banca to Tibawa. Kadolph remains there by preference. I was transferred from Tibawa to the camp of Squadron D the night of Jan. 5th6th, and have remained here since.
I owe my life to your guerrilla organization. The methods the guerrillas have used to insure my safety even while in close proximity to the Japanese are uncanny. I quickly learned to place myself in their hands with complete confidence. Further, the guerrillas have provided me with food, clothing, quarters, books, and medicine. Their efficiency as guerrillas is outweighed only by their generosity as hosts. Once back with the Fleet, I shall promptly submit to Admiral Chester W. Nimtz a report of the splendid treatment your people have accorded me.
I do not know all the people who have contributed to my welfare since escaping, but I would like to make specific acknowledgement of kindnesses rendered me by Capt. E.S. Johnson, Capt. L. Ramirez, Lt. L. Solis, Lt. H. Andico and his family, Fortunato Mellado and family, Guillermo Redondo and Isidro Patarata.
If I can be of service to your organization, you have only to order me, sir. Respectfully" George Karl Petritz, 13 Jan. 45, report to Lt. Col. Edgar Wright.
On Dec. 13, Col. Merrill was reported sick and Col. Calver took over.
Dec. 15, two Americans from Aircraft Carrier Lexington were forced to bail out from their burning plane and landed on the area of Headquarter 155 (Mindoro). They were H.C. Hogan, 114302, Lt. U.S.N.R. and W.E. McGrath, 6475051, A.R.M.I.C., U.S.N.R. This was reported by H.C. Conner Jr. 0-429144, 2nd Lt. 27th Bomb GP (L), Commander.
On Jan. 9, Col. Merrill made a report of aviation personnel whose airplanes were shot down, were rescued by his unit and are in their care.
Maurice Lawrence Kayich, Ens. AV (N), 325691 USNR; Russell Oliver Burnhan, ENS, AV(N) 320811, USNR; Hurrett, Augustus Dinef, ARK 2/C 2453192; Francis Joseph Grassbauch, Lt. AV(N) 85321, USNR; Carl Merle Mclerray, AV 2/C, 6391970; C. Hogar, Lt. AV(K) 114362, USNR; W.W. King, ARN 3/C 8372586; Rodger F. Jones, ADM 2/C 6487890; Nicholas J. Roccafortz, Ens. AV(N), 220662 USNR; Wayne Donker, 2nd Lt. AC, 0-756516; George Edward Records, ENS, AV(N), 315246 USNR; and Alexander Vraciu Lt. JG 124731 USNR.
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