Marquardt Recounts Post-Landing Experiences
How he felt on returning to the Philippines on the heels of the retreating Japanese and his experiences subsequent to landing are told by Frederic S. Marquardt, formerly Assistant Editor of the FREE PRESS and now Foreign News Editor of the Chicago Sun, as part of an article written for the August number of “The Rotarian.” After declaring that World War II “destroyed the economic life of the Philippines” but that it “didn’t upset the independence timetable,” and giving a rapid review of event from Dewey’s landing to the Japanese occupation and the terrible destruction they wrought in the islands, he continues with what he describes as his—”HOME-COMING.”
September 21, 1946–I HAD the unforgettable experience of seeing at first hand what the Japanese had done in the Philippines and how the Filipinos had resisted. For I Also returned. I remember the day I landed on Leyte, and as I walked ashore on the beach on which I had played as a child, I kept repeating the words of what had once been the Philippine national anthem, “This is my own, my native land.”
That night I went around to Walter Price’s house in Tacloban, where General MacArthur had established his headquarters, to chat with his aide-de-camp, Larry Lehrbas. The General was pacing up and down the wide veranda, and as he saw me he came walking toward me, hand outstretched, and said, “Hello, Fritz. I’m glad to see you. Welcome home.”
It was home all right, for him as well as for me. I had gone there as an infant in my mother’s arms. In fact, I would have been born in Tacloban instead of Manila if there had been adequate hospital facilities there. And MacArthur had gone to Leyte as a “shavetail” fresh out of West Point. He has done his first campaigning on the nearby-island of Samar, where an insurrecto’s bullet had knocked his high-peaked hat off his head.
In a way, it occurred to me, the United States was also going home. Here in the Philippines American arms had suffered the greatest military defeats in their history, on those black days in 1942 when Bataan and Corregidor had fallen. And here now, on the full tide of such military might as the world had never seen, Americans were returning to liberate 18 million Filipinos as a necessary prelude to giving them their independence. In the future, the liberation of the Philippines and the redemption of the independence pledge would stand the United States in good stead, not only in Asia, but throughout the world.
A few days later I met Colonel Ruperto Kangleon, the Filipino guerrilla leader whose forces were harrying the Japanese rear while the American troops hit them from the front. “Are you related to the blue-eyed W.W. Marquardt who expelled me from the fifth grade when he was superintendent of schools in Leyte?” Kangleon asked me.
Back in Luzon
“Sure,” I said. “He’s my father. Were you a guerrilla then too?”
“Tell him to come back to Tacloban,” Kangleon said. “We’ll give a big banquete for him. We owe a lot to those American teachers.”
In Manila I saw 80 percent of the city pulverized and destroyed as the Japanese fought their senseless lastditch stand on the south bank of the Pasig. I attended the first postwar luncheon of the Manila Rotary Club in Gil Puyat’s furniture factory, miraculously saved from the flames. It was probably the only building in town that boasted 30 chairs.
I even went out to Kawit to talk to old General Aguinaldo, who had fought the Americans so bitterly at the beginning of the American regime. During the Bataan campaign he had sent a message to MacArthur, urging him to surrender to the Japanese. After Manila had been liberated he had tried to see MacArthur and Osmeña, but neither of them would have anything to do with him. Now he sat among his autographed pictures of famous Americans, a simple old man who had been an ineffective pawn in the hands of the Japanese.
In many respects The Philippines was less prepared for independence in 1946 than it had been in 1898. The factories, the banks, the work animals, the transportation companies, the telephone systems, the power plants, the sugar and coconut and rice mills — almost the entire physical plant erected during the American regime had been destroyed. Then, after liberation, liberal spending by the American Army, in the absence of an almost complete lack of consumer goods, added a disastrous inflation to the other woes of the country. Although wages were doubled, the peso had a purchasing power of only one-sixth of its war value.
But the Filipinos had something more essential for the maintenance of independence than a going commercial and industrial plant. They had the determination born of scores of uprisings against the Spaniards; of long years of fighting against, and later cooperating with, the Americans; of the brutal injustices of the Japanese rule.