5:20 a.m. I woke up with the sound of two airplanes flying low over our house. I thought “It’s nice to have our planes patrolling”. A few seconds later I was startled by two explosions nearby. The concussion blew away my mosquito net. I jumped out of bed. I took a quick bath, as I was wet with perspiration, dressed and went to the place where the bombs had exploded. The first one fell over a nipa house killing the whole family who were asleep. A woman and six children. The husband was out working for the U.S. troops unloading. When he returned home he found his home destroyed and all his family killed. Poor man. The second bomb fell about 60 yards from the house occupied by the other members of the Presidential party. The President slept elsewhere. Some small shell fragments went through the house. About 20 yards from the explosion, a house occupied by the War Correspondents was badly hit by bomb fragments killing Mr. Hazel Bush Associated Press correspondent and mortally wounding Mr. Gunn of Texas. Two other War Correspondents had minor injuries.
Disembarked and went ashore to Tacloban. In front of the Capitol of the province, General MacArthur read the proclamation declaring null and void all laws promulgated by the Japanese and the puppet republic, and replacing those of the Commonwealth. His proclamation was followed by a speech by President Osmeña. At 2 p.m. I returned to the ship on a PT boat to get my luggage and return to Tacloban at 5 p.m. I was going to stay in the house occupied by the Japanese commanding general, which was made available for the President, but due to lack of space I accepted the invitation of Mrs. Losa to live in her home.
Attended Mass at 9:15 a.m. on the main deck. Received Communion. At 11 a.m. I found the PC where Howard (the husband of my sister Chiquita) is, was in our convoy. I asked Commodore Noble to send a radio after luncheon at 2 p.m.. The PC 1134 was near our ship. I went over and had a visit with Howard and his officers. They asked me to stay for dinner. I returned to my ship at 6 p.m. before the arrival of the Japanese planes.
At 5:30 a.m. ‘general quarters’ were sounded. All rushed to their respective guns and fired at approaching Japanese planes. The Australian cruiser Australia was about 300 yards from our starboard side. A Japanese plane coming from the stern flew very low strafing the cruiser. He accidentally came too low and hit the wireless and crashed on the forward deck near the bridge killing the Captain and mortally wounding the Commodore, who died six hours later. The cruiser Honolulu was also hit and was beached to save it. The Australia returned to Australia for repairs.
At 5 p.m. some more Japanese planes attacked us and we downed two.
Entered Leyte Gulf at midnight. Reached our anchorage at 7 a.m. The battleships, cruisers, and destroyers opened fire on the beaches and finished the work begun two days before ‘A Day’ by other U.S Navy units. The boys in my ship where ready at 9:45 a.m. At 10 a.m. sharp they went down the rope on the side of the ship. Their objective was Palo. At 1 p.m. General MacArthur and members of his staff, President Osmeña, myself, General Romulo, and Captain Madrigal left the ship and proceeded on an L.C.M for Red beach. The beach was not good, the landing craft could not make the dry beach and we had to wade through the water beyond our knees. We inspected the area, and at two instances shots were fired by Japanese snipers. General MacArthur and President Osmeña spoke in a broadcast to the U.S. We returned to the ship at 6 p.m. under a torrential rain. We transferred to the Auxiliary cruiser Blue Ridge flagship of Admiral Barbey, as the SS John Land was leaving for Hollandia.
We attended a special Mass at 6 a.m. and received Communion. We left General Head Quarters at 8:30 a.m. for Hollandia port. At 10:40 a.m. we boarded our ship the APH SS John Lang. Captain Graf the skipper, a very charming U.S Navy officer met us. Several cabins belonging to the officers of the ship were prepared for us. I occupy the cabin of Lieutenant John F. Moorehead the navigator, and I am very comfortable. The bay is covered with ships of all kinds — hundreds of them: L.C.V’s, L.C.I’s, L.C.M’s, L.S.T’s, APA Cruisers, Destroyers, Airplane Carriers and P.T. Boats. Airplanes are flying over us continuously. What a magnificent display of force. This wonderful picture shows what the U.S can do when she gets started. The alert has been sounded for 1:30 p.m. In a few hours we will start moving, and then the biggest convoy set for an attack, since the invasion of France, will be on its way. I have talked to several officers and men. The morale is high, the enthusiasm inspiring. They are all happy to go, anxious to meet the foe in a death struggle. I am happy to be with them.
At 2:30 p.m. life belts were distributed and instructions were given to us on how to use them in case of sinking. It is on the same principle as the Mae West life vest used by Aviators. It becomes inflated with carbon dioxide. We were advised to keep it on continuously and not to inflate until after we are in the water, as it would be dangerous to jump overboard with that inflated.
It is warm; sea is calm, perhaps a presage of the “hell” to come. I hope the weather is good when we reach our objective. With the grace of God we cannot fail.
The convoy started on its way at 4 p.m.. 400 ships of all kinds. We travel only at eight knots per hour because the L.C.I’s cannot go faster.
Landed at Sentani Airfield at Hollandia at 7 a.m. We lost one day during the flight when we crossed the international date line. General Sutherland and General Romulo were at the field. We took the cars ready for us and we drove to the General Officer’s Mess for breakfast. I was housed in a two bedroom bungalow with General Romulo. The President and his aide Captain Madrigal occupy the bungalow next to us.
Arrived Hickham Field Honolulu at 6:40 a.m. Admiral Nimitz and his chief of staff Admiral McMaster, Lieutenant General Richardson, Commander General of the region and Brigadier General Ryan, Commander ATC, were at the field to meet me. They accompanied me to the guest house where the President, myself, Colonel Melchor & Captain Madrigal were installed. At 10 a.m. we took off from Hickham Field for Kwajalein. Landed at Kwajalein at 7:30 p.m. Admiral Barnard, Brigadier General Cross ATC and a Major General of the U.S Marines were at the field to greet us. Then we boarded the Admiral’s launch and went to another island where his headquarters are. It was a twenty minute trip which was very welcome as the night was hot & sticky. This is the first atoll I have seen and I was deeply impressed. It is the largest and it consists of a central lagoon 300 square miles in size, surrounded by islands. In his quarters the Admiral served beer and Coca-Cola. I took the latter. Shortly after Commander Peabody, of the Peabody Conservatory of Music and four other musicians gave us an impromptu concert which was very entertaining. At 12 a.m. we took off for Hollandia.
When you meet a friend in the street today or anywhere for that matter, the first thing said instead of the usual “nice weather eh” is “Well when do you think?” or “How long more?” and you are expected to say “very soon, man, maybe in a day or so” otherwise you are apt to be taken for a defeatist or a pro-Jap. And then you lower your voices and look around you and then “You’ve probably heard the latest from KGEI, haven’t you?” and of course the answer is “You bet, so many more miles to Berlin and the British Navy is already in the Indian Ocean and so many Jap planes and ships sunk here and there, heh, heh.” And of course, if the conversation gets prolonged it usually turns to the food situation. “Wothedickens, did you know how high rice is at present?” and “while we Filipinos starve, the Japs are giving white rice to their horses, to hell with co-prosperity.” And this is the usual end of all talk: “With all this obvious unfairness and oppression, how the hell can that guy Aquino and Laurel be such pro-Japs?” …. oh well!!
Still no bombing, still no landing, still no nothing…. if that’s grammatically correct!