History of the Zobel Guerrilla Unit (More Detailed) - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore History of the Zobel Guerrilla Unit (More Detailed) - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

History of the Zobel Guerrilla Unit (More Detailed)

The Zobel Guerrilla Unit was a guerrilla organization that supposedly operated from the western Batangas town of Calatagan. It was supposedly commanded by one Guerrilla Lt. Colonel Jacobo Zobel. The reader is advised that this unit failed to obtain official recognition from the United States Army and that many of its claimed achievements as well as manpower were found to have had overlaps with Emilio Macabuag’s Unit, another guerrilla organization that operated in and out of Calatagan. In this document1, a second organizational history, with more details than the other, is provided as one of the requirements for the unit’s application for official recognition by the United States Army.

Guerrilla Files

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Calatagan, Batangas


Calatagan is one of the twenty-six municipalities in the Province of Batangas and it is a jutting peninsula bounded by Balayan Bay in the East, Mindoro Strait on the south and China Sea on the west. It has a rolling and irregular terrain with a population of 8,400 peaceful and law-abiding “Calatagueños” who, when the proper time came, ever conscious of their heritage as free men, did not hesitate to contribute their might in the war between the United States and Japan.

It was in this particular place where the Zobel’s Guerrilla Unit was born under very trying circumstances. It sprung from the seed left behind by Captain Jacobo Zobel (he was a captain then) during the latter part of December 1941 when he said on the eve of his departure, “We are leaving, I trust everyone left behind will carry on.” Under an atmosphere of conflicting emotions, we who remained vowed that we would not fail in our trust. Not having the opportunity to actively serve in a military capacity, which fact was no deterrent towards the aim in view, they decided to organize themselves into a guerrilla unit with Captain Zobel as the guiding spirit. Contacts were made and as early as January 30, 1942, the layout of the organization had been prepared. Key men were placed in responsible positions and secret meetings were held. In one of the organization meetings held in the house of Jose P. Tan, wherein the following were present: Jose P. Tan, Demetrio B. Hernandez, Teotino Fagara, Dalmacio Carcabuso, Isidro Mendoza, Dr. G. Manas, Buenaventura Caunceran, Olimpio Sayo, Jose L. Jocson and Wenceslao Pangan, it was decided to name the organization as the ZOBEL’S GUERRILLA UNIT. From this meeting up to the end of September 1942, the activities were passive.

The prisoners of war were released from Capas and among the released was Major Zobel. In spite of poor health, he assumed command and with the help of some of his men from Bataan, proper steps for the activation of the unit were taken. Orders for recruiting men and training them emanated from his headquarters in Manila and sent to Calatagan by special messenger. By the end of 1943, the ZOBEL’S GUERRILLA UNIT was fully established.

Since in guerrilla work, ingenuity must be resorted to, the CO, with the help of his wife, established charity clinics in Manila with guerrilla doctors as the heads. The purpose was in one way alleviated the poor needing medical attention and the other to serve as secret meeting centers of the guerrillas. It was thru these clinics that contact was had with Major Ramsey in Montalban when the CO sent Dr. de los Reyes whom Major Ramsey recognized and extended due appointments. The efficiency and success for which these charity clinics were established is gauged by the fact that up to the day of the liberation, it was able to elude discovery by the much-hated Japanese Military Police.

On December 8, 1943, a message was received from Mindoro requesting the unit to send men for contact. The CO ordered Emilio Macabuag with some men to proceed by banca to Barrio Calansan, Paluan, Mindoro, to meet Major L. H. Phillips and Capt. Ricardo Galang, both intelligence officers of the U. S. Army SWPA, who had just come from Australia. After duly recognizing the unit, instructions were received to gather information regarding locations of Japanese outposts, barracks, garrisons, camps, strengths

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of Japanese Units in said places, kinds and numbers of weapons used by the Japanese, locations of landing fields and enemy dispositions and movements. These instructions were reported to headquarters and the necessary men were sent out to gather the required reports for transmittal to Mindoro.

On January 3, 1944, upon orders from Major Phillips, members of the unit escorted Army radio operators Lt. Mosquera, Ramon Vitorio and Sgt. Benjamin Harder from Calansan, Paluan, Mindoro, to Calatagan, Batangas for the purpose of setting up a radio station in the vicinity of Cape Santiago. This station was set up and contact was had with Mindoro.

On December 28, 1943, the unit reported to Major Phillips the presence of some Americans in Mt. Batulao, Tuy, Batangas. It was decided that it would be safer for Corp. Harold Guinea, one George, Lt. Bob and Lt. Patrick Guentner to be transferred to Mindoro. Under cover of darkness and in conjuction with guerrilla units of Tuy, they were brought safely to Paluan, Mindoro. One unexpected hitch developed, however. Harold Guinea was captured by the Japanese in Paluan and was brought back to the Nasugbu garrison where he squealed on those who helped him. As a result, Jose P. Tan, Demetrio B. Hernandez, Teotino Fagara, Emilio Macabuag, Dalmacio Aytona and Sixto Buceta were picked up by the Japs and subjected to tortures. Jose P. Tan, Demetrio Hernandez, Teotino Fagara, Dalmacio Aytona and Sixto Buceta were killed and Emilio Macabuag released. In spite of this happening, the existence of the unit was undiscovered and work proceeded as usual.

By the middle of 1944, the CO with his family arrived in Calatagan. Various important meetings were held and [the] proper carrying out of additional activities prepared. Supplies in the form of cash and palay were furnished other units.

Then, by September of 1944, Japanese soldiers arrived in Calatagan for the purpose of constructing some defenses. The mouth of the Santiago River was dredged and small suicide boats were based there. This situation did not in any way hamper the work of the unit for everything was reported by our S-2 to the proper authorities. By the end of 1944, the Japanese detachment in Calatagan were already well-entrenched in the Mts. of San Pedriño and this fact was reported to Major Jay Vanderpool in Kutad. Beside this report, Dr. Reyes was sent to Mindoro to report to Lt. Nicholson this fact and request for arms for use of the unit.

Three days after the landing in Nasugbu, Calatagan was subjected to naval bombardment from 10:00 pm to 3:00 am of February 3. There were no casualties in Calatagn except that the Japs were well scared already. An aftermath of the shelling was the report received at the headquarters from the operatives of the unit wherein some Americans were stranded in Kilitisan, Calatagan as the result of the sinking of PT Boat 77 and the grounding of PT Boat 79. Dr. Manas and Capt. Sayo were sent to investigate and report. It was found that 17 Americans under Hanson Slacker of the grounded PT in Kilitisan had landed in this place and were in danger of being captured by the Japs who were but three kilometers away. It was further revealed that the sinking and grounding were the result of shooting by the American destroyers themselves who erroneously thought them to be enemies. Immediately, steps were taken to ensure the safety of these 17 Americans and it was decided that it would be safer for them to be brought to Matabungkay where proper contacts for rescue could be made. Under the

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very nose of the Japanese who already had an inkling of the presence of these Americans, and were actually starting to search, they were brought safely to the rescue point where they were picked up by another PT Boat.

On the return of Major Reyes from Mindoro, he brought with him an authority from Sgt. Ash requesting for the delivery of the 45 carbines left by the rescue party at Matabungkay to the unit. Major Gasilao refused to give these up alleging that his men were already using them. Meanwhile, plans for some sort of defense for Calatagan was evolved. The 11th Airborne was already in Nasugbu. Calatagan is but 25 kilometers from Nasugbu. So near and yet so far.

Finally, on February 28, Calatagan was liberated. The American flag was hoisted with due ceremonies. The unit under the authority of PCAU 11th Airborne set up the local government with Capt. Sayo as the Acting Municipal Mayor. With all men of the unit actively mobilized, the town was given all protection possible by the unit, from the danger of Japanese stragglers in the Mts. of San Pedriño.

Patrols were sent out everyday. In all places where Japs stayed before retreating, sufficient number of men was sent. Patrols were sent to Mt. Itim and it was in one of these patrols that the unit burned three ammunition dumps left by the retreating Japanese. In Bucal, our patrol encountered two Japanese stragglers whom they killed on the spot. All in all, the unit can account for 30 Japanese killed.

On March 6, 30 men were sent to Nasugbu for training.

Our CO joined the 158 RCT Staff as G-5 and was with them in the landing at Camarines after cleaning Batangas. Major de los Reyes, being the executive officer, assumed command. When Major Reyes left for Manila during the latter part of May, 2nd Lt. Alfredo M. Poblete PA, in conjunction with Capt. Enrique Zobel, assumed command.

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Z O B E LS    G U E R R I L L A    U N I T

Col, Inf (Guerrilla)

Notes and references:
1 “Zobel’s Guerrilla Unit,” File No. 137, online at the United States National Archives.
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