The Tanauan Guerrillas who Helped Downed US Pilots Escape the Japanese in WWII - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore The Tanauan Guerrillas who Helped Downed US Pilots Escape the Japanese in WWII - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

The Tanauan Guerrillas who Helped Downed US Pilots Escape the Japanese in WWII

Beginning on the 10th up to the 20th of October 1944, planes of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise started raiding Japanese airfields in Okinawa, Formosa1 and the Philippines in preparation for the Allied invasion of the island of Leyte2.

One of these was a 23-year old ensign by the name of William “Bill” Foye3, pilot of a Grumman F6F fighter aircraft4 that was shot down somewhere over Luzon and eventually had to bail out over Los Baños in the province of Laguna5.

Foye was initially rescued by one Sgt. Feliciano Estubasa of the President Quezon’s Own Guerrillas’ 25th Red Lion Division, a guerrilla outfit operating out of Bay, Laguna, on the 18th of October. He was immediately taken into hiding by the guerrillas because Japanese soldiers and spies called the Makapilis6 were on the lookout for him7.

Hellcat fighter
The Grumman F6F Hellcat. Image credti: by USN; Public Domain,

A report later submitted to the United States Army by one Phil Avanceña, commanding officer of the Red Lions Guerrillas, described Foye’s condition as “very delicate for he suffered from body aches… that he could hardly move.” Apparently, Avanceña continued, Foye had fallen hard on the ground because his parachute had not fully opened8.

Because the Japanese were looking for the downed pilot, the guerrillas had to clandestinely whisk him away every now and again “through the backwoods of Los Baños, Santa Rosa and Tanauan9.” At the last town, he was turned over to the Tanauan Guerrilla Organization, which was formerly affiliated with the Red Lions Guerrillas10.

With Foye was another downed American pilot, Ensign John A. Boyle, who was also under the care of the Red Lions Guerrillas11. Little else had been written about Boyle, but like Foye he was also a United States Navy pilot and probably also flew from the USS Enterprise or other carriers of the Task Force Group assigned to raid airfields on the Philippines.

In his report, Avanceña wrote that Boyle had a “forced landing at San Lucas12, Santo Tomas, Batangas” and “was rescued by the men of Lt. Col. Felino Paran, Chief G-2 of the PQOG13.” Like Foye, he was immediately sought out by Japanese troops but quickly spirited into hiding by the guerrillas.

Once the two pilots were in the hands of the Tanauan Guerrillas, they were taken to “Pulo” in the middle of Taal Lake, otherwise known as the Main Crater Island of Taal Volcano. The Crater Island had served as an evacuation center for inhabitants of barrios and towns surrounding the lake.

Once in Pulo, the two American pilots were taken care of by another guerrilla outfit under one Col. Amando Laurel. From sources found by Batangas History, Culture and Folklore, it appears that this outfit also operated in the then-town of Tanauan, although what the name of this outfit was cannot as yet be ascertained.

The transport of the two pilots to Pulo was so timed so that it coincided with the airdrop of the 11th Airborne Division’s 511th Paratroop Regiment into Tagaytay Ridge from 3-4 February 194514. The guerrillas at the Crater Island tried communicating with the Americans by sending signals using a wall mirror.

Finally, the signals were acknowledged by the Americans and, before long, a seaplane landed on the lake and picked up the two pilots. Within days, Foye was on his way to Honolulu in Hawaii for recuperation15. Presumably, Ensign Boyle was with him.

In September of 1944, just over a month before Foye’s plane was brought down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire, the Tanauan Guerrilla Organization, at the time still an affiliate of the Red Lions Division, had also rescued an Ensign William Lamb.

Lamb was forced to land his F6F fighter plane right in the middle of Taal Lake and was rescued by the Tanauan Guerrillas under the command of Lt. Col. Martiniano Carandang. Lamb was, in fact, a more prominent pilot than either Foye or Boyle. He was a recognized Navy Ace with five enemy “kills” to his name during World War II, adding a sixth during the Korean War. For his bravery, he was awarded with the United States Navy Cross.

Notes and references:
1 Formosa is presently known as Taiwan.
2 “USS Enterprise (CV-6),” Wikipedia.
3 “Son's Tribute is researching, sharing father's story,” by Anne Baldelli, published April 2014 in the Press Reader. Baldelli’s article referred to Foye as “Lieutenant,” the Army and Air Force equivalent of the Navy’s “ensign.”
4 The “Grumman F6F Hellcat” was a World War II carrier-based aircraft, Wikipedia.
5 ‘Foye and the Filipinos': A script that Hollywood missed,’ by Buddy Gomez, published October 2019, online at ABS-CBN News.
6 “Makapili,” stood for “Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino,” a pro-Japanese organization of Filipinos in World War II. Wikipedia.
7 “Report on American Navy Pilots, US Soldiers and Internees Rescued by the Red Lions Guerrillas, File No. 271-10, 25th Red Lion Division, I Corps, President Quezon’s Own Guerrillas,” by Phil Avanceña, online at PVAO.
8 Avanceña, ibid.
9 Gomez, op. cit.
10 “History of the Tanauan Guerrilla Organization, Tanauan, Batangas, File No. 255,” online at PVAO.
11 Ibid.
12 There is no barrio called San Lucas in Santo Tomas. However, there is one so named in Lipa close to the shared border between Santo Tomas and Lipa.
13 Avanceña, op. cit.
14 “The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division 1943-1946,” by Major Edward M. Flanagan Jr., published 1948 in Washington.
15 Gomez, op. cit.
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