In remembrance of the Araw ng Kagitingan commemoration of those who died during World War II, our history chronicles the following events:
1931 Sept. 18 — Japan invaded Manchuria in North China.
1937 July 7 — Japan invaded China.
1940 Sept. 22 — Japan pushed into French Indochina.
1941 Dec. 7 — The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Guam and Wake Island; they invade Thailand and Malaya; Japan declares war on the United States and the United Kingdom. Air attacks also on Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines.
Dec. 8 — The United States declared war on Japan.
Dec. 10 — Guam surrendered to the Japanese. Japan invades Burma. Clark Field in the Philippines is bombed, and many American aircraft are destroyed on the ground. British battlecruiser HMS Repulse and battleship HMS Prince of Wales sunk by Japanese air attack. Japanese invade Burma.
Dec. 12: Japanese landings on the southern Philippine Islands—Samar, J o l o , Mindanao. Japanese under General Yamashita continue their push into Malaya. Under General Homma the Japanese forces are firmly established in the northern Philippines. Hong Kong is threatened. Dec. 22: The Japanese land at Lingayan Gulf, on the northern part of Luzon in the Philippines.
Dec. 23: General MacArthur declares Manila an “Open City.” Japanese forces land on Sarawak (Borneo)
Dec. 23: Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese.
Dec.. 25: British troops at Hong Kong surrendered.
1942 Jan. 2 — Manila fell to invading Japanese forces
Jan. 11 — The Japanese landed in the Netherlands East Indies.
Feb. 15 — Singapore surrendered to the Japanese.
Mar. 7 — The Japanese occupied the Netherlands East Indies.
April 9 — Bataan surrendered to the Japanese. May 6 — The Japanese occupied Corregidor.
By April, 1942, Japan had almost fully conquered Burma, Philippines, Malaya, Dutch East Indies, and Singapore , inflicting severe losses on Allied troops and taking a large number of prisoners. A big number of these prisoners of War, except those in the Philippines, were transported to the Burma Thailand border to work on the 415 kilometers railway that was vital to the Japanese army as link for their supplies route in Southeast Asia.
I had visited Kanchanaburi, a border city of Thailand connected to Burma (now Mynmar) with my friend Babes; we came to see some historical memorials of World War II. We visited the War Cemetery; and across the War cemetery is the Thailand Burma Death Railway Bridge Museum and Centre that has 6 galleries depicting the Japanese expansion in Asia, the design and construction of the railway and bridge across the river Kwai and the over 700 POWs prison camps spread all over hundreds of kilometers of the mountainous range and rivers from Burma to Thailand. There were pictures and dioramas of the ambitious railway plans, prison camps, the dead and burial grounds; these pictures depict the cost of life and the engineering feat of the 415 kilometer railway through mountains and over the River Kwai that the Japanese army used throughout the war.
A somber thought crossed my mind as I looked at the marked map of South East Asia where the Japanese army transported Dutch, Australian, English and American POWs to the “Death Camps” for the hard labor on the death railway. The Philippines was too far from the Indochina Japanese empire, otherwise Filipino and American POWs from the Philippines could have also been transported to Thailand and suffered the same fate. We had the Bataan Death March where thousands died along the way to the prison camps; Indochina had the death march that ended in the labor camps where prisoners were conscripted to hard labor and where many died. As the Japanese army ravaged the Philippines, it did with as much brutality in many parts of Asia.
So as we remember April 9, let’s pause and maybe read a bit of history and remember those who, where ever they were, served their country well, suffered and died that we may live in freedom today. I pray this page of our history is not forgotten by our youth.