Feature: Pangasinan, the path that led to freedom

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, April 10 (PIA) — Unknown to many, the Lingayen Gulf played a significant role during World War II when the country’s soldiers and veterans fought in Bataan and Corregidor against the Japanese Imperial Army.

Historians say the Lingayen Gulf was where General Douglas MacArthur first landed to lead the war against the Japanese and which continued in Bataan and Corregidor where the gallantry and valor of Filipinos were displayed.

President Benigno Aquino III, by virtue of Proclamation No. 59 he issued on August 16, 2012, had affirmed the observance of the Araw ng Kagitingan every April 9 to honor Filipinos who fought during the war.

MacArthur was the field marshal of the Philippine Army who was also the Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II.

From Lingayen Gulf on January 9, some 70 warships of the Allied Forces started shelling the beaches of San Fabian, Dagupan, Lingayen, and Sual, forcing the army of the Japanese Empire to leave their stronghold and retreat.

Inching their way towards the shore, Allied soldiers eventually secured the beachheads, and forced the Japanese Empire that occupied the country for more than two years to surrender seven months later.

It was 1945.

The landing marked the day when Gen. Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his promise to return and liberate the country from the clutches of the Japanese Empire after he left it when ordered to Australia.

But more than two years before that, the country was facing a dismal and uncertain future, as the Japanese Empire was gaining vast stronghold in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

The road to liberty was long, arduous, and bloody, literally.

In 1941, ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, Japanese war planes began bombing Clark Airfield in Pampanga paving the way to Japanese invasion of the Philippines.

The attack was swift that, only two weeks later, MacArthur with his forces, then in Manila, was forced to retreat to Bataan, in his effort not to keep the Japanese at bay but to merely delay the invasion.

On December 26, as MacArthur was retreating, Manila was declared an open city to keep it from being destroyed by the enemy. The Japanese nevertheless bombed the city, as it moved southward to continue its invasion.

By January 7, after capturing Manila and a U.S. Naval base at Cavite, the Japanese started attacking Bataan, which took more than three months to capture. By then MacArthur had already left for Australia.

The Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 led to the unconditional surrender of the Filipino and American forces. The surrender was considered by historians to be one of the United States’ largest in terms of the size of forces involved.

To Filipinos, however, it was the Araw ng Kagitingan, or the Day of Valor.

Gen. Edwin King, the US commander at that time, said, “But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of something more than flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come. Bataan has fallen but the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all liberty-loving peoples of the world cannot fall.”

But the end of the battle did not come. The very next day, in one of the most harrowing chapters in world history, the prisoners of war were forced to walk the 60-kilometer distance from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac, known as the Bataan Death March.
Historians differ as to how many civilians and soldiers were forced to march. Some put it at 60,000, some at 80,000, even others at 100,000.

Although, differing in the figure, historians are consistent as to how the prisoners of war were treated: beaten, forced to walk day and night without food or water, those who collapsed were stabbed or run over by truck to ensure they are dead. An estimated 5,000 Americans perished.

One month and three days later, the last American stronghold in Mindanao fell, putting the entire country under Japanese control. Japan was to take the entire country for more than two years, until MacArthur returned. (MCA/ARF-PIA1, Pangasinan)#

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