My name is Jamy Jacinto Monte Varona, a native Filipino. I was born in Tanauan, Leyte, a lovely town on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean. It used to be a long beautiful seashore lined with coconut trees. But practically all the trees are gone because they were cut down during the Second World War when the United States Forces under General Douglas Mac Arthur landed there. On the seashore, they constructed airstrips for the fighter planes.
Before World War 2 I was already in the service of the Philippine Scouts as a private joined and assigned to Battery B. 91 ST. Coast Artillery Corps United States Army (PS). In fact, all the armed forces of the Philippines were organized by Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur who had been requested by Philippine President Manuel Quezon to be the Field Marshall of the Philippine Defense Forces.
During the war, all armed forces of the Philippines become a part of United States Armed Forces in the Far East under the Command of Gen. Mac Arthur. It was under him that our Philippine armed forces fought valiantly the Japanese in Bataan and Corregidor. And when Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright finally was forced to surrender after four months of fighting with lack of food and ammunition… the Japanese forced our defeated men to undergo the Death March.
I was among the thousands of soldiers who suffered the Bataan death march, but by the grace of God I got sick along the way and was left to die. But I managed to survive. So now I tell my story.
I first began my life as a soldier, when I first enlisted in 1933 in the United States Army stationed at For Mills Corregidor. Due to Post Regulations, I must be discharged on September 9, 1936. During the three years in the Army, I qualified as a gunner on a six (6) inches disappearing gun; a crew member firing a 155-millimeter gun. It was in 1935 during a rifle 30 caliber competition that I won and was awarded 35 pesos by Master Sergeant Sergio Balacano of the 91st CAC U.S. Army. To win competition bears respect among us. This award came from Regimental Fund.
On September 10, 1938, I re-enlisted in the Infantry. I was assigned to Company E. 45th Infantry U.S. Army. It is a must for an expert in the 30 caliber rifle at Company E stationed at Fort McKinley which was swapped with Company D. 45th Infantry coming from Baguio City in Northern Luzon. In this new plan, the personnel of each Company had to stay as they were. Only the letters of the Companies were swapped. Company D was a machine gun Company consisting of pack horses and riding mounts with machine guns. Obviously, those below the grades were detailed as stable guards and cleaners.
Here, I learned to groom riding horse assigned to me. We trained to pack and herd the packed mules to the field for a few hours. I learned to this job of herding and talked to my horse and how intelligent these mounts are.
On two occasions I happened to be around when a mounted Orderly made some mistakes on riding the horse and fell down, leaving the Commanding Officer at the field range. The Sergeant, the stable guard, ordered me to be a mount orderly for the Commanding Officer of the 45th Infantry Regiment. These mistakes that happened to the orderly had happened two times. The Colonel go on horse riding on Saturdays and on two occasions I have to go look for the Commanding Officer at B range as his mounted Orderly. Company D became a motorized Company. I had the good fortune to become a carrier driver.
Our motorized Company participated in the second phase of the maneuver. This was on February 20, 1941. As I was greatly interested in taking an active part in it, though I knew I was only a small fry in the war game, I remember quite well the name of our new S-3 War Planning Officer, Major John Wright. Being a carrier driver I was involved in the operation. Each vehicle participating in the maneuver was scheduled to start at an interval of two minutes and then follows each one of the other. A trench mortar gun and their crews were on a weapon carrier. A back Sergeant was in charge of the crews. Sergeant Camata was the in-charge seated next to me the driver. We had approximately covered a hundred miles, I heard some of the soldiers requesting for personal necessities. They wanted to take a leak. Of course, the Sergeant had to give the order. So I stopped the weapon carrier. The soldiers jumped down to relieve themselves. A lieutenant on a civilian truck suddenly appeared and asked me why I stopped.
The Sergeant and I reasoned out that these soldiers had requested for personal necessities and I added that they were on the verge of urinating in their pants. The Lieutenant did not like it and he added about my name and the Company to which I belonged.
On the third day of the maneuver, our Battalion vehicle parked between two ridges of hills two miles away from the Battalion kitchen where we drivers could eat. I remember a Lieutenant’s name, Lt. Whitehurst came to the place where we had parked and called us to assemble. This Officer approached our parking area. We saluted to him. He did the talking. Then, he asked if there was any question. Private First Class Borego of Company G, 45th Infantry asked boldly the Lieutenant saying, “Sir, when do we eat?”
The Officer was somewhat annoyed, so he turned to us and said, (I quote) “I don’t care if you don’t eat, but as long as I want to be sure my own men eat” (unquote).
When he saw me standing nearby, he faced me and said, “You are the driver who stopped the weapon vehicle at the side of the highway?” “Yes, sir,” I answered. He just walked away a bit vexed.
It was already about a quarter past four o’clock and we’re raring to go to the eating place. I supposed the Lieutenant was eager to eat too and that’s why he did not want to waste time with me.
I was glad Lt. Whitehurst walked away because thereon I had to hurry and ride with the driver’s crowd and joined with my company for dinner. I was halfway through my meal when our First Sergeant, Melchor Roa, called for assembly. Then the Company Commander Captain appeared and talked about courtesy, in emphasizing on a particular, discourteous manner of a private from Company D. No doubt, the Captain was referring to me. He ordered the first Sergeant “to disarm Private Varona”, only allowing me, however, to still drive the vehicle until we got to Fort William McKinley.
It was the following day, around noontime when we arrived at Fort William McKinley. I remember meeting back Sergeant Saldivar who was the In-charge of Quarters, who told me to report to him every thirty minutes. I went to lie down on my bed until three o’clock in the afternoon when Sergeant Saldivar called me to appear before the Summary Court.
Now I’m going to tell you that when you are a soldier you just have to endure not only the physical difficulties but also the troubles that some Officers curse at you… because you do not act right in accordance with their modes.
It seemed that I had offended First Lieutenant Whitehurst and also our Company Commander, Captain Forte. The specific offense was that this Private Jacinto Varona is a reckless, ruinous driver, a disrespectful and a liar. And upon arrival at home Fort put him on barracks arrest.
Captain Forte was the first on the witness stand and he stated the complaints to the Summary Court. Then the Summary Court Officer turned to me and asked me whether I have any to say. I waited for a few seconds before answering. Then I said, “Yes, sir.” I said: “But may I ask a question to Captain Forte? Sir, which one came first: your order for the Company per personnel to assemble or when you had a talk with the Officer Lieutenant Whitehurst regarding the charges?”
In reply Captain Forte pounded the table top with his fist and disapproved the privileges granted me to question the complaint. I requested the court that as a defendant I have to withdraw my question. And again Captain Forte pounded the table with his fist.
The Summary Court resented this action of Captain Forte and reprimanded him for using his fist to emphasize his words. He was dismissed from the witness stand.
First Lieutenant Whitehurst was called to the witness stand. He was, of course, the first and the original accuser. Lieutenant Whitehurst was asked by the Summary Court Officer to state his complaint. He answered by repeating Captain Forte’s words of accusation. The court, knowing that I was joined and assigned to Company D 45th Infantry, here the Summary Court exercised the American way of fairness to a back Private against accusers.
Company D 45th Infantry of which Captain Forte was the Commanding Officer decided to find the whole truth by dismissing Lieutenant Whitehurst from the witness stand and summoning other witnesses from Company D. Like First Sergeant Melchor Roa, Private Lagmay and Private First Class Borego of Company G 45th Infantry Regiment, a driver and present during the Lieutenant visit at the parking area.
Testifying one after the other of those summoned to testify both First Sergeant Melchor Roa and Private Lagmay told the Court that they did not know anything about the case. They were dismissed from the witness stand and then Private First Class Borego’s turn comes in. He told the Court that of what the questions and the answers from First Lieutenant Whitehurst, “I do not care if you don’t eat, but as long as I want to be sure my own men eat.”
Pfc. Borego’s voice was a bit loud. Lieutenant Whitehurst was displeased and the Court seemed not to like the turn of the Summary Court hearing. So it decided to suspend the hearing for the moment until later when it will be continued. Meanwhile, I was told to contact Company Office when the Court would let me know about the next hearing.
As I am serving quarters arrest, I have no place to go but to report to the in-charge of quarters every 30 minutes.
In the second Summary Court hearing, I was told that the presiding officer will be Lieutenant Colonel Lathrop. The Court will convene at exactly 11 o’clock in the morning. I made my plea that I am innocent of the charge against me. The Colonel asked me about my family. I simply answered that my parents were living in the Town of Tanauan in the Province of Leyte. It was there where I was born. I honestly told him that my parents were constructive disciplinarians, but there was love for everyone in the family. We were all raised will by our parents to be good members of the family. My oldest sister grew up well educated and become a school teacher and got married to Mr. Matthew McFarland, an American educator, who was school supervisor in the district of Leyte.
On this second Summary Court hearing, I can imagine the easy forbearing to the inquiry from Colonel Lathrop. I continued my family story as the Colonel was interested, saying that our parents valued education and my other sisters became educators too, and I happened to be the only one who is now away from home from my parents at Tanauan, Leyte.
After hearing to my brief narration about our family, the Summary Court stopped the hearing without telling me the reason. But the Colonel told me that there would be a third hearing and would be presided by the executive, Colonel Doyle of the 45th Infantry Regiment and the executive would set the time and date.
I found the suspense of waiting distressing. I was being tried by the Summary Court and it seems to me that they could not summarize my guilt. I knew in my own conscience I am innocent. But I guessed they were unable to decide with good conscience to do with me or how to deal summarily with my accuser.
Poor, I was beginning to lose my patience, but I kept thinking that as a soldier I had to put up with it. I thought those Officers were trying my patience by subjecting me to wait and wait for this was a necessary discipline every soldier has to learn. Well, I told myself, I would show them that I could take it that I would not collapse from such a test.
Dated February 28, 1941, I was instructed to be at the Headquarters and appear before the Summary Court hearing. This was to be the third hearing and I expect that a final decision will be rendered by the Court. Whatever will be will be.
I was getting full up to my neck, waiting for their decision and this waiting was getting into my nerves. I was losing my sleep, I was losing my appetite, and I know I was getting somewhat irritable. It was an evidence the whole process was affecting my health. But I was determined not to break down in my career as a soldier would be finished. I love to be in the Army and am a well-disciplined soldier. I do remember that at exactly 11:55 a.m. the door of the Headquarters conference room opened.
There entered a stately person with a gray hair. I yell, enough to hear. Attention, then the Executive, the Summary Court Officer, Colonel Doyle answered, at ease. Then I addressed to the Colonel as saying, “Sir”. I announced my name and rank, followed by the Company I was joined and assigned and the Regiment to which I belong. The Colonel acknowledged this military courtesy and told me to be at ease. He studied the paper before him which contained the previous summaries of the case by Major John Wright and Lieutenant Colonel Lathrop. The Colonel finished reading each page.
The Colonel gave this instruction to me: Private, go back to your Company and tell your First Sergeant that you are exonerated. You are free and your case is closed. Colonel Doyle wrote his decision on a piece of paper which he gave to me. I saluted, made one step backward and said, “Thank you, sir”.
It was past 12 o’clock noon when I was at my Company D office and handed the court decision to the First Sergeant. He was glad to receive it and ordered me to get my pay at Captain’s Office. There the Captain seems a bit unhappy to know about the outcome of my case. He threw the envelope containing my pay on the top of the table, stood up and walked away.
By luck, I have to go for 193 days to serve on the batch, the remaining, for the three-year enlistment. The Philippine Scouts, a military contingent noted for being well-disciplined and a good fighter. I was glad to be a member of the U.S. Army Philippine Scouts. I was on line duty that is, any kind of duty assigned to me. It was good because I experienced various kinds of works such as maintaining and care horse stables and participating in sports. There were many kinds of activities. I was working at dining tables and kitchen, police job, and so forth. At dining tables, it must be a strict discipline on table manners.
One time I have been assigned to work as head waiter, among the 100 recruits and 75 old-timer soldiers to eat at lunchtime. I have to apply a systematic method of discipline in order to handle the recruits the right way and not hurting their feelings. The overall works in the kitchen, an in-charge, an NCO, a Technical Sergeant. The Technical Sergeant after work in the afternoon may have been impressed I had shown on the table discipline I made. He asked me to be assigned permanently to the kitchen job. I said to the Technical Sergeant to see the top cake.
My grueling years as a soldier is now about to end. But please, do not make me wrong. I loved the service… I was tested and liked the course of army discipline.
Then on September 9, 1941, I obtained an honorable discharge from Company D. 45th Infantry U.S. Army. Now, as a civilian, I was hired by United States Depot at Fort Area, Manila and later on was sent to work on constructions of roads, airstrips, barracks, etc. I did not know that World War Two was already happening. On December 12, 1941, an emergency landing field was already bombed and destroyed. The Iba landing field was already bombed and destroyed. Suddenly, there appeared a US twin-engine light bombers pelted with bullets. I was the pilot coming from the plane seemed to be shaken and looking for transportations.
Now that there was war I wanted to be in all war activities. I brought my honorable discharge from 45th Infantry to Firs Sergeant Cecilio Valenzuela of Battery H. 92nd CAC U.S. Army.
As I recall the honorable discharge paper I presented to First Sergeant Cecilio Valenzuela was dated September 09/41. The stealthy attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii dated December 07/41. I was only out of the Army for four months. First Sergeant Valenzuela knew me dating back in our first enlistment at For Wills Corregidor and my discharge paper can be evaluated and was brought to the Brigadier General for confirmations of every printed matter on the discharge documents. Much more to say that the Brigadier General has had signed this document that time when he was the Regimental Commander of the 45th Infantry U.S. Army.
Brigadier General Blumeil ordered the Officer whose rank was a Major, a Battalion Commander, 92nd Coast Artillery Corps U.S.A. to send Jacinto Varona to Fort Huges Subic Bay to duly formalize my re-enlistment. My taking the Oath of Re-enlistment was done at midnight of December 14, 1941. I was joined and assigned to Battery H. CAC U.S. Army. Battery H. gun emplacement was San Miguel, San Antonio, Zambales. Transportation was allotted a special trip to San Miguel, San Antonio. I was still aligned with the 155-millimeter gun routine job when needed. A crew member on this particular gun had been well attached since this gun moved to Matain, Subic Bay in 1937 until December 24th of 1941, the start of the war.
By this time I found myself in the midst of intensive hostilities by the Japanese Imperial Air Force supporting the sea and land invasion forces. We sighted Japanese battleship along China Sea, no doubt coming from Formosa. But they did not attack the U.S. units in Olongapo. They were bound for Manila or the south Philippines.
But the Japanese bombers continued to bomb the U.S. Base at Clark Field, Fort Stetsenberg, bombed to the level of the ground which means destroying all ground aircraft. Other U.S. installations were continuously bombed for five consecutive days. Manila and vicinities were also bombed. This was in preparation for troops landing.
We in Olangapo learned of the Japanese landing in Lingayen, Pangasinan province, north of Zambales. But we do not have the capability of confronting them there since our fighting units were small. Instead, we joined the entire U.S. forces in Bataan. It was there that our forces would fight the invading Japanese.
The enemy had the full control of the air and did a great job of supporting the Japanese fighting men on land. On our side were mountains and had the rough terrain and wilderness of Bataan. To aid us Corregidor and Manila Bay were at our back.
In the course of a fierce fighting which lasted for more than four months, we were retreating inch by inch, so to speak, until eventually lack of food and inadequate weapons forced General Wainwright to whom General Douglas MacArthur entrusted the fighting forces to surrender.
The Filipino fighting forces had to go along with the surrender since they are now part of the U.S. Armed Forces. There were mixed feelings among them, saying that had the U.S.A. given us independence, the Philippine nation would not have been embroiled in the war mess.
General MacArthur had left for Australia with President Manuel Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña and their families. To be sure, General MacArthur promised, “I shall return.” Everybody doubted it because it seemed the U.S. government did not send great reinforcements or help during the Bataan campaign. It seemed to us the Philippines was just forgotten by America.
LOOSE TALKS ON GEN. MACARTHUR’S DEPARTURE
Let me throw a few speculative political statements. Americans don’t want that five-star General to be a prisoner of war by the Japanese Armed Forces. The facts rest; high-ranking officers would always consult the advisory body of the government on a specific special subject in their field.
BATAAN THE THEATER OF WAR
In Bataan, we were able to pick up the broadcast coming from the Tokyo Radio Press, especially the news spoken by a female broadcaster. The propaganda said in part that the Japanese forces were beginning to conclude the war in the Philippines; to be sure they were already fighting us in Bataa, but they were still stabbing the peninsula as our force was fiercely resisting their invasion. Of course, I could not personally know how much of the peninsula the Japanese forces had penetrated, whether they had already occupied the river that was in the middle of the peninsula.
The Division in Command was aware only of the stabbing actions by the Japanese. And we knew Company G 45th Infantry was in the vicinity where the enemy was awaiting their reinforcement. The meager intelligence was enough to make us ready for them. Battery H 92nd Coast Artillery prepared the guns emplacement of the 155-millimeter gun, ready for firing.
It was now a day after Christmas when we were joined by Battery H 92nd. CAC just came from Zambales, northeast of Luzon. Battery H gun crews prepared the guns for action, mounting the guns on points advantageous to us against the enemy, considering the range of the target. The 155 mm gun zeroed to the moon a command load, a salvo fire was released.
The result of the salvo fire by the 155 mm gun, the target was directly hit. On the following morning, the sea coast fog was thick enough and we hardly sighted two barges in convoy. The distance of these barges to the shore was about a thousand yards. Our shore Batteries and the possibilities for us to distinguish as to whether they were friends or foes our small caliber fired; but not until the battery of the 37 mm gun fired when few were swimming ashore.
Under the inquiry about their purpose, they confirmed that they were going to the river. The mouth of this river was a few hundred yards to the barges that was fired at and was hit.
This obscured target has several hollow depressions or concavity and several Japanese soldiers awaiting their reinforcement but fired by the 155 mm gun which was a direct hit. These were confirmed by those who swam ashore from the two barges that were hit and sank.
In 1934, Battery B. 91st Coast Artillery Corps in the month of May was assigned to watch Lumber Jack cutting lumbers at the U.S. reservations along the Quinawan River.
Battery B camp was a few yards to the mouth of the river. I was at the time enlisted, joined, and assigned to Battery B 91st CAC (PS) U.S. Army. This was to confirm the physical mouth of the river with the premise of irregularities, depressions, or caves.
It was known that the Japanese losses were so great they wanted reinforcement which was granted. Not only that they needed more soldiers, but also war supplies. We got this information from some natives who served as lookouts and civilians to counteract or prevent the Japanese supply ship from entering Subic Bay and re-supplying their land forces. Battery H CAC of the U.S. Army installed a 155 mm gun at Morong Point facing the entrance of the Bay. This was a hard job which our men overcame because these were set up in the mountainous and forested areas where some Japanese snipers who ambushed the U.S. mounted Cavalry and attacked them to prevent our personnel in order to deprive them of guns and supplies.
I was involved in this aspect of hostilities. It was a big headache to our Battalion Commander, Major John Ball. I was with him as his car driver. We were both adequately armed. I had with me an automatic rifle, six clips loaded with 30 caliber ammunition, plus a loose of 250 rounds. Major John Ball was similarly equipped.
Before we started to go, Major Ball had to get fresh information from an Officer who seemed to know where the danger of Japanese snipers might be encountered. On the way, we came upon a road which descended about 200 yards and hit a blind curb. Major John Ball asked me to slow down and stop.
Again we started and drove slowly. Moving to about a hundred yards up, and then stopped. Major Ball got off the car and walked to our left of the road. There he saw three soldiers lying on their belly in a ditch. Major Ball asked them why they were in such position. They said they were snipers somewhere and told him to watch out because of the presence of snipers. One soldier pointed to a spot on our right at the opposite sides of the road where the snipers were supposed to be hiding. The continuation of this article can be seen in the photos of the document below.)