A set of pictures taken by the United States Army Signal Corps in the Philippines in 1945 and filed away at the United States National Archives in digital format are labeled has having been taken in the “town of Santo Tomas, Luzon, P.I.” In the island of Luzon, there are towns named Santo Tomas at least in the provinces of La Union, Isabela, Pampanga and, of course, Batangas. The phrase “at least” is used because these are what show up in the initial pages of a Google Search.
A closer examination of the captions, however, confirm that the town called Santo Tomas where the pictures were taken was, indeed, the northernmost town of the Province of Batangas. First, all the pictures were dated 18, 24 or 25 March 1945. Second, two combat groups of the United States Army were involved: the 7th Calvary as well as the 8th Cavalry. Finally, the captions seem to indicate that the pictures were taken at around the time when the town of Santo Tomas was being liberated from Japanese Occupation.
We refer now to a United States Army document listing the approximate dates when the towns of the Philippines were liberated from Japanese control. For Santo Tomas, the date given was 28 March 1945. It further stated that the town was “seized” from the Japanese by the 7th Cavalry. These details were contradicted by Robert Ross Smith2 who, in a book, wrote that Santo Tomas was taken four days earlier on the 24th; and that the combat group involved was the 8th Cavalry.
From the captions, we learn that both the 7th and 8th were BOTH involved in the liberation campaign. A “liberation festival” was held as early as the 18th, but this does not necessary belie the dates given by the US Army document and Smith. The pictures when the festival was being held appear to have been taken in the poblacion or town center; and it is entirely possible that the dates given by the US Army document and Smith were for when the entirety of the town was freed of Japanese control.
Original caption: Pfc. Joseph Quesada, Aiden, Arizona, Pfc. Melvin Taylor, New Martinsville, West Virginia and Pfc. Henry Pagget, El Paso Texas, member of the 7th Cavalry Headquarters Troop; man a road block to prevent enemy infiltration on Highway #1, north of Santo Tomas, Luzon, P.I. Taken 25 March 1945.
Original caption: A patrol of cavalrymen of the 8th Cavalry Regiment moves into the battered town of Santo Tomas, Luzon, P.I.to dispose of the remaining Japs in the area. Taken 24 March 1945.
|US Army soldiers examine a culvert for the presence of the Japanese. Image source: United States National Archives.|
Original caption: Cavalrymen of the 8th Cavalry Regiment look into a culvert in the battered main street of Santo Tomas, Luzon, P.I. looking for Japanese. Taken 24 March 1945.
Notes and references:1 “List of Towns Liberated by the US Army from 17 October 1944 to 11 August 1945,” created 1945 by the Office of the AC/S for Intelligence, G2, United States Army Philippines-Ryukyus Command.
2 “US Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific, Triumph in the Philippines,” by Robert Ross Smith, online at Ibiblio.org.