When the Japanese attacked and bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 8, 1941, there already existed in the Philippines the Visayas Mindanao Force (VMFO) under Brig. Gen. William F. Sharp. It was tasked to defend what was loosely called “the southern islands.”
At that time, the Philippines was divided into groups of provinces called Military Districts. Under then Colonel Sharp were the 6th Military District (Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo in Panay Island), the 7th Military District (Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental in Negros Island, including the sub-province of Siquijor), the 8th Military District (Bohol and Cebu), the 9th Military District (Leyte and Samar) and the 10th Military District (Mindanao and Sulu).
In 1941, Army intelligence had indicated that a war with Japan was inevitable but no one in Cebu or in the Philippines knew when it would start.
On July 26, 1941, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who retired in September of 1937, was recalled to active duty to head the newly formed United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). At that ime, the only American forces in the Far East were those in the Philippines.
MacArthur, who was then the military adviser of the Philippine Commonwealth, had prepared the country’s defenses against external aggression. He decided to call to the colors some already organized Philippine Army units.
Using the provisions of the Tydings-Mcduffie law, then US President Franklin Roosevelt thus placed under the US Armed Forces “all the organized military forces of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.”
The Philippines at that time had a total of 10 Military Districts. One reserve division was organized in each military district, with the first digit of the division’s number indicating the district where it belonged.
Thus, in the 8th Military District, the 81st Division was organized, with 8 indicating it was under the said military district.
In Cebu, outside the infantry regiments of the 81st Infantry Division, there were units of the other services, like the Philippine Constabulary, Provisional Medical Battalion, Provisional MP Battalion, Philippine Air Corps Detachment and a Quartermaster Depot.
A Cebu Brigade was formed out of these units and placed under the command of Col. Irvino C. Scudder, who was later assigned chief of staff when Brig. Gen. Bradford G. Cheynoweth became commander of the Visayas Force, which was once part of the Visayas Force.
The 82nd Infantry Regiment had 90 Filipino officers, 1,908 enlited men and two American officers, or a total strength of 2,000. Its commander was a regular officer, Col. Emigdio V. David.
The 83rd Infantry Regiment also had 2,000 people–three American officers, 90 Filipino officers and 1,907 enlisted men–under the command of Col. Fortunato Borbon.
The Cebu MP Battalion under Lt. Col. Howard J. Edmunds had three American officers, two American enlisted men, 50 Filipino officers and 1,345 enlisted men for a total of 1,400 people.
The Cebu Medical Battalion had one American officer, 12 Filipino officers and 187 enlisted men for a total of 400.
The Cebu Headquarters and Headquarters Company Special Troops had five American officers, one American enlisted man and 144 Filipino enlisted men for a total of 150.
The two infantry regiments had officers from the ROTC and the SRC (School of Reserved Commission) and enlisted men who were trained in 1936, 1937 and 1938. Because of this, a retraining program was set up from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, 1941.
As envisioned, American officers and non-commissioned officers and Philippine Scout commissioned officers were designated as instructors.
On Aug. 28, 1941, one regiment from each of the ten divisions were initially ordered to report for military service in their respective mobilization centers.
In Cebu, the 82nd Infantry Regiment was called to active duty on Aug. 28, 1941 in Argao, Cebu. They were later sent to Tubigon, Bohol for retraining (called refresher course).
The ten divisions had a strength pegged at 8,200 officers and men, lower than the original plan. This was possibly because there were not enough supplies and equipment in the mobilization centers.
Furthermore, the arms and clothing were old and obsolete. The rifles were mostly World War I vintage 1917 Enfield models whose extractors broke easily. There were even some 1905 rifles and a sprinkling of US made 1903 Springfield rifles.
What few machineguns were available were also World War I vintage that were water-cooled and without spare parts. There were no anti-tank guns, no hand grenades, gas masks and steel helmets. The head gear was the “ginit” type.
Uniforms were not enough. Initially, the men were issued two pairs of khaki shirts and shorts. The shoes were of the rubber-soled tennis type that did not last long.
Ammunition was barely enough for practice.
The strategy for Cebu island was for the troops to occupy defense positions in probable landing sites. When enemy landing could not be stopped, the next step was to delay their movement inland. Thus, successive lines of defense were set up. Units were to break up into small groups that would engage the enemy in guerilla warfare.
The 82nd Infantry Regiment soldiers were inducted into the USAFFE by 1Lt. Russel H. Cracraft on Sept. 1, 1941 at Barrio Candabong in Argao, Cebu.
On April 1, 1942, a Japanese detachment from Borneo and commanded by Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi landed on Lingayen Gulf as one of the reinforcements for General Homma’s forces in Bataan. However, this detachment, composed of the 35th Infantry Division with a reported strength of 4,852 men arrived late since Bataan fell on April 9, 1942.
The Japanese high command then decided to send this detachment to Cebu. It arrived in a convoy of 11 transport ships escorted by three Japanese warships.
The news that Cebu did not want to hear was spread by word of mouth. The telegraph operator who could have given the early warning left his post in panic without sending the information that the Japanese had landed at Barrio Bato, Pinamungahan in western Cebu. (Next: The Unvanquished)
[This article, titled “The Eve of War,” was written for the series by Col. Manuel F. Segura, who wrote the books “Tabunan: The Untold Exploits of of the Famed Cebu Guerillas in World War II” and “The Koga Papers.” It came out on March 17, 1995.]
Old SoldiersNever Die, They Just Write Books:
Manuel F. Segura was an athletic youth in his college days, indulging in what he termed as “too much extra-curricular activities” such as running, skydiving and a stint with the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC).
But as fate would have it, Segura’s trading a college degree for other concerns served him in good stead when the Filipino-Japanese War broke out in 1941.
The young Segura was already 22 years old when he was called to active duty on Aug. 28, 1941. That time, he was studying at the Mapua Institute. On Sept. 21, 1941, he joined the 82nd regiment of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East whose first base was in Candabong, Argao.
Segura was the regimental adjutant and S-1 since the regiment’s activation up to its disbandment on May 15, 1942 when the troops were ordered to surrender to the Japanese.
“I did not surrender because I was on homeground,” Segura said.
After a brief rest, he returned, this time with other Filipinos and a sprinkling of Americans who formed the Cebu Area Command based in Tabunan, Cebu City. He became adjutant of the group and was later credited with having the biggest enemy kills among guerilla units in the Philippines.
After the war, Segura completed his engineering course, taught for five years at the Philippine Military Academy then joined the Philippine Constabulary where he rose to the rank of colonel three years before he retired in 1972.
In 1975, he published his first book entitled “Tabunan: The Untold Exploits of the Famed Cebu Guerillas in World War II,” which was followed by “The Love and Lives of Manuel and Nenita” that dealth about reincarnation. Then he wrote “The Koga Papers.”
Segura has faded into the background, helping out with the activities of World War II veterans, attending meetings about the occult and resting in his house in Gorordo Ave., Cebu City.
When we asked permission from him to publish some of his writings, he readily said yes. Segura must have realized that many things are still to be said about the past.
March 17, 1995