By Ben Cal
MANILA -- Exactly 77 years ago today, Dec. 8, Japanese forces invaded the Philippines in a sneak attack on military installations in Luzon, 10 hours after Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was bombed, triggering World War II in the Pacific.
American and Filipino forces were completely caught by surprise that they were forced to hastily withdraw to Bataan and the nearby island of Corregidor, north of Manila on Jan. 2, 1942.
Clark Airbase in Pampanga where the main force of US warplanes were based, Baguio City and other adjoining provinces were bombed by Japanese airplanes, completely destroying the US airbase.
On Dec. 8, 1941, Filipino Catholics were attending Mass to celebrate the Immaculate Conception, a holiday of obligation, when World War II broke out in the Philippines.
Pandemonium broke out in the entire archipelago of 7,107 islands as millions of civilians fled to the mountains to seek refuge from the fighting.
Ten hours earlier, Japanese warships and airplanes launched a searing attack on Pearl Harbor that also caught the US by surprise.
During that attack, many US warships and aircraft were destroyed.
The attack on Pearl Harbor triggered the US' declaration of war on Japan.
Japan had long prepared to attack the Philippines.
Before the invasion, thousands of Japanese fifth columns or spies came to the Philippines as “traders” or even street sweepers. But when war broke out, these Japanese spies immediately wore their military uniforms to the great surprise of the Filipino people.
World War II records show that the American and Filipino troops fought back when the country was invaded, but they were no match to the well-prepared and superior Japanese forces.
When American forces, led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and Filipino soldiers retreated to Bataan and Corregidor, fighting continued where they held Bataan for more than three months until they ran out of ammunition, food and medicines. The US and Filipino troops defending Bataan were forced to surrender on April 9, 1942.
Corregidor fell on May 9, 1942.
MacArthur fled to Australia weeks before Bataan was captured. He proceeded to the US where he was ordered to prepare a plan to retake the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
For more than three years, Filipino and American forces, who escaped from Bataan and Corregidor, organized themselves into guerrilla forces to fight the Japanese invaders.
MacArthur made good on his promise of “I shall return” when the allied forces he led made a historic landing on Leyte Island on Oct. 20, 1944 and liberated the Philippines from the clutches of the Japanese invaders.