“Evacuation Experiences in the mountains in Davao, Philippines”

“Evacuation Experiences in the mountains in Davao, Philippines”
Youichi Touma, 81 years old
(Place of birth: Davao City, Philippines)


When the war started, I was not yet old enough to be enrolled in school.
I was seven years old then, and remember that the Filipino employees working at the store run by my parents excitedly said, “Japon, bombar, bombar.” Japon means Japan and bombar means bomber in Spanish. Japan bombed the airport called Rasan according to them.

It was on December 8. We, all Japanese people in our village, had to evacuate because it was no longer safe to stay at our houses. My parents ran a large retail store called Osaka Bazar and had many employees. It was at about 9 o’clock at night, I believe. We all got together and evacuated to the Japanese school called Mananbran Elementary School after sunset. All Japanese people living in the Mananbran area gathered there.

The next morning after sunrise, at about 10 o’clock, a Filipino corps came and told us that they would intern all Japanese. We also were told that would be divided into male and female groups.

My grandmother was with me. She went to see a doctor at Mintal Hospital on the day the war started, but it seems that she was captured there and never came back.

Then, we were told that we would be interned in another facility and taken all the way to the place called Santana by truck.

About two weeks later, there was a rumor that a Japanese fighting plane came on a bombing mission but made an emergency landing. Then we, women and children, were ordered to move to somewhere else for our safety and taken to Mintal from Santana by truck.

There was a big Japanese hospital and I learned that my grandmother was being hospitalized there. We were happy to see each other again for the first time in two weeks. While we were talking to each other celebrating our reunion, the Japanese Army landed on the Philippines. Then, we were relieved and safely returned home.

For two years after that, I could receive the education which was as good as the one given at national schools in Japan and I thought there would be no more war. However, all the Japanese corps in Saipan performed Gyokusai (dying before dishonor) and many survivors came to our village. After a while, the Americans led by MacArthur regained lost ground and landed on the Philippines. We had no choice other than to evacuate into the jungles.

(Schools back then)
We could study at the elementary school until we finished the second-grade program given at national elementary schools in Japan. The school building was made of Japanese cedar just like in the graduation ceremony song called “Sugi-no-ki-no-tou” (A School Building Made of Japanese Cedar). The classrooms were built on floors that stood high above the ground to cope with the hot weather in the Philippines.

Fourth and fifth graders had to run military drills. Because I was in a lower grade then, I did not have to do the drills. When we progressed to fourth grade, we had to perform the drill called Hofuku-Zenshin (moving forward at a crawl) and were forced to crawl in the school yard. All girls were taking a class to be a nurse.
We had Kyujou-Youhai every morning at the school where we prayed to the Emperor for five minutes with our heads down and facing east.

Because I was a militaristic boy, I believed that the Emperor was the greatest being. I was a member of the Great Japanese Youth Association and we had a catchphrase which went, “Young men, new as the rising sun. We are the Great Japanese Youth Association.”

However, after a while, the school building became military housing for the corps called the Abe Corps and we no longer could have any classes at the school. We moved to a branch school. While I was in third grade, all students in grades one through three studied together, together with my younger brother of grade one, and there was only one teacher there. However, our school life did not last long. Grumman planes flew over and shot at us. At my family’s retail store, I found the marks of the bullets fired from the machineguns all over our community notice and the empty large water tank, with the holes through which all water drained out.

Since then, the bombers, B24s, started flying over us every day. There were about two hundred of them, I believe, up in the air and they dropped bombs like falling rain. The airport called Rasan was completely destroyed and the Japanese soldiers started evacuating toward the jungles one after another. We, too, headed for the jungles and I could see the trench mortar cannon shells flying over Kogon Field, the open field which was covered with the weed which looks like pampas grass.

Starting from that point, there were the signposts that read “1 km” and “2 km.” It seemed that some other people from Osaka Bazar who went into the jungle before us put the signposts along the trail for us every kilometer. The signposts were made of cut and shaved wood. At the point of 16 km, we found the signpost that read, “The Imperial Japanese Military Police.” I thought that we would finally be safe after having come this far, but we were told to go further into the jungle. My shoes were damaged and slipped off while I was walking in the mud. Then I felt an itch. My feet were swarming with leeches. They entered our eyes while we were sleeping. There was a middle-aged woman who was attacked by the leeches in the eyes and her eyes turned red.

We first gathered at the group shelter made by Osaka Bazar members at the point of 4 km. However, the glider-like plane called an observation plane, frequently flew over and whenever it looked like it spotted us, trench mortar cannon shells were fired at us without fail. Many people lost their lives there.

Since it was no longer safe to stay at the 4-km point, we started moving again. At the 8 km, 10 km, 16 km and 20 km points, there were shelters made for us by the members of Osaka Bazar who departed first. As we then started running out of food, we ate the leaves which look like the lotus leaf called Dharan. We went out and tried to find some food only to return empty handed. I was told that, one day, there was a buffalo called Karabao that was killed by machinegun fire and people were fighting over the meat. When my father and grandmother arrived at the location, only the bones were left, but they cut the bones and brought them back because the bones could be good meals for us.

We suffered from severe nutrition deficiency then. My three-year-old young sister was in the condition where she could no longer walk although my mother was secretly giving us brown sugar, which she was hiding somewhere, little by little to try to keep our strength up.

I heard many stories about abandoned children. We finally decided to surrender when the things became overwhelmingly bad for us to keep running away further from 20 km point. While we were coming out of the jungle, we saw a small child lying dead on its mother and many dead people along the trail, including some Japanese soldiers. They must have starved to death and many had died by the river. They were in desperate need for water up to their last moment, I believe. There were many maggots which bred on the dead bodies. It was so horrible that it could have been a scene from hell. People who still had some energy took off the shoes from the dead bodies to exchange their shoes.

After walking further for a while, we saw some demobilized soldiers, who were half-naked, only wearing a belly band and service cap. They were eating some peanuts. They became thieves and mugged other people by saying, “Give us what you got!”

It was around April 15th, an American plane flew over and dropped handbills. The hundreds of handbills looked so beautiful, sparkling and falling from the sky. The handbill read, “Young men, do not die for nothing! Surrender now.” Nonetheless, no one left the jungle. We thought we would be killed if we left the jungle. Because we were taught that the Americans were devils, we did not have any doubt that we would be killed immediately once we were captured.

We finally decided to leave the jungle and surrender. After crossing a road and going a little further down, at the direction of some noise, we found some black soldiers standing there, wearing manila-hemp-like colored camouflaged uniforms. That was the American front. They made a basketball court and were enjoying playing basketball. It was only about one month after the war was over. It showed that they had so much more left in reserve. We were given some distribution food, rations so to speak. They contained various goods including sausages, chewing gum and three pieces of cigarette. Then, we were taken to the camp called Daliaon Camp and stayed in custody for a month or so. Because we did not have enough food and had been eating nothing but the leaves called Dharan, the rationed food was too much for our stomachs to digest and many of us developed severe diarrhea and died in the camp.

(Being sent back to Japan)
In October 1945, we were finally sent back to Japan. We were taken to a beach by a truck. A couple of warships were there and we were sent back to Japan on those warships. We stopped by at Leyte on our way to Japan. We arrived at Leyte at night and when we looked at Leyte Bay the next morning, we found that the bay was completely filled with American warships. After leaving Leyte for Japan, some of the people with us died. Each time someone passed away, we had a funeral with a military band playing funeral music for the dead. Then, the body was wrapped with a Navy Blanket and sent away into the sea. After the ship sailed around the body once, we headed for Japan again. Since we had the funeral ceremony so many times during our returning journey, when we got to Kagoshima, two weeks or more had already passed since we left Leyte.

(Looking back at the war)
Although force cannot change the hearts of people, it can control people. Although people’s minds may not be ruled by force, their lives may be. As I was a militaristic boy, I believed, without even a slightest doubt, that going into war was perfectly reasonable. I think that it is warning us how influential education can be.