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October 15, 2020

The Burning of Rosario and Other Japanese Atrocities in the Town in 1945

Image has no relation to this article. Credit: US National Archives.
Image has no relation to this article. Credit: US National Archives.
On the 31st of January 1945, the United States 8th Army made its long awaited landing on the beaches of the town of Nasugbu in western Batangas. Its initial role was to support the assault on Manila by the 6th Army from Lingayen and to prevent the escape of Japanese forces south. The offensive to free Batangas from Japanese occupation was not undertaken until after Manila was retaken in March 19451.

In the month of February 1945, soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army stationed in Batangas were committing increasingly brutal atrocities against the civilian population in the province. These inhumane acts were seen as acts of retribution by the Japanese for the losses they suffered at the hands of the Allied Forces; the humiliation dealt by the liberation of prisoners-of-war from an interment camp at Los Baños, Laguna2; and the increased guerrilla activities in the province.

In fact, even before the landing at Nasugbu, Major Jay D. Vanderpool, the guerrilla coordinator in Batangas and Cavite sent as part of an advanced party from the office of General Douglas MacArthur, had issued strike orders for guerrilla units to “attack every motor column” and “destroy any other means of transportation being used by [the] enemy3.”

This order would be followed by others instructing guerrilla units to disrupt Japanese communication lines, ambush enemy troops, rescue downed Allied aviators and many others to help the invading Allied forces.

A lot of the Japanese atrocities were committed in the town of Lipa, where the Imperial Army had a large presence. However, the smaller towns nearby were not spared.

In the towns of Rosario and Taysan, one Lt. F. C. Banog, a member of the Luansing Regiment of the Fil-American Irregular Troops (FAIT) guerrilla organization, reported that on the 18th of February, some thirty Japanese soldiers got off a truck in the barrio of Maalas-as and Mahanadiong, armed with rifles and a machine gun, and wantonly killed two women. Fifteen others were carried off to Lipa where they were presumably raped and possibly killed4.

Earlier that same day, probably the same Japanese troops confiscated four work animals from civilians in the barrio of Lumang-Bayan (presently the town of Padre Garcia) and also raped three women. These acts, Banog continued, were all “unprovoked5.”

By the 26rd of February, one Captain Tiburcio Carandang, also of the Luansing Regiment, reported that no Japanese had been seen in Rosario since the 23rd of that same month6. He likewise reported on the 3rd of March that no Japanese soldiers had been stationed in the town since the 25th of the previous month6.

The Rosario Japanese garrison, apparently, had been withdrawn to Lipa, from where Japanese soldiers would intermittently conduct patrols in neighboring towns, including Rosario. Crucially, the dates that Carandang reported coincided with the height of Japanese savagery in Lipa, when they were rounding up civilians from their own homes in the different barrios to massacre them.

The atrocities were such that, Carandang reported, one Lt. Col. Paran, a guerrilla commander, felt it imperative to order the evacuation of civilians from Lipa, where the massacres “were still ongoing” and where the Japanese were indiscriminate, killing young and old and innocent or not7.

All the attention that Lipa was getting did not mean that Rosario had been forgotten by the Japanese. On the 3rd of March up to the following day, one Lt. Emilio Bulusan of the Luansing Regiment reported, the Japanese returned to Rosario to burn down the poblacion.

Bulusan reported that on the south side of the provincial road, only eight houses were saved, among which was those of one Dr. Crisanto Gualberto, then Mayor of Rosario. To the north of the road, meanwhile, from “Mr. Tagle’s house, except the public dispensary, as far as Mr. Miguel Castillo’s (house) to the east, all burned8.”

The Roman Catholic Church and neighboring houses, including those of Teofilo Aguila, Inocencio Inandan, Ireneo Pita and Hermogenes Urea, were set ablaze. Fortuitously, there were few casualties.

These uncalled for acts of destruction towards the civilian population were, needless to say, mirrored in other towns of Batangas. As horrible as life must have been for these people, however, there was always a ray of hope in the knowledge that the Americans were already back in Luzon.

That same day when Rosario was burning, the United States’ Army’s 158th Regimental Combat Team and other forces of the 11th Airborne Division moved out from Nasugbu to commence the liberation of Batangas.

Japanese atrocities in Batangas are well-documented. Batangas History, Culture and Folklore recommends these further readings:
Japanese WWII Atrocities in Bauan, Cuenca, Lipa, Mataasnakahoy, San Jose, Santo Tomas, Rosario, Taal and Tanauan
US Army War Crimes Investigation Results about Massacres in Lipa in 1945
WWII Japanese Atrocities Committed in the Barrios of Lipa
When the Japanese Massacred Bauan’s Male Population in 1945

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Notes and references:

1 “US Army in World War II, The War in the Pacific, Triumph in the Philippines” by Robert Ross Smith, published in 1993 by the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, Washington D.C.
2 Robert Ross Smith, ibid.
3Memo Relaying Strike Order from Major Jay Vanderpool, February 1945,” from the file “Luansing Unit, Fil-American Batangas Guerrillas,” File No. 63, downloaded from PVAO.
4Lt. Banog's Intelligence Report on Jap Atrocities in Rosario, 20 February 1945,” by 1st Lt. F. C. Banog, February 1945, from the file “Luansing Unit, Fil-American Batangas Guerrillas,” File No. 63, downloaded from PVAO.
5 Banog, Ibid.
6Captain Carandang's Report on Jap Activities in Batangas, 26 February 1945,” by Captain Tiburcio Carandang, 26 February 1945, from the file “Luansing Unit, Fil-American Batangas Guerrillas,” File No. 63, downloaded from PVAO.
7Captain Carandang's Report on Jap Activities in Batangas, 3 March 1945,” by Captain Tiburcio Carandang, 3 March 1945, from the file “Luansing Unit, Fil-American Batangas Guerrillas,” File No. 63, downloaded from PVAO.
8 Carandang, op. cit.
9Lt. Emilio Bulusan's Report on the Burning of Rosario, 4 March 1945,” by Lt. Emilio Bulusan, 4 March 1945, from the file ““Luansing Unit, Fil-American Batangas Guerrillas,” File No. 63, downloaded from PVAO.

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