General Masaharu Homma and Manila, the open city

The day after Christmas 1941, when his forces left, US Army General Douglas MacArthur had declared Manila an open city and retired to the Bataan and Corregidor Island. Darkened windows were in lights again, and nightclubs were filled with frantically cheerful people. The same day the huge warehouses of oil burned, to prevent the fuel fall into Japanese hands.

Manila, the open city

Over the city were the clouds of thick, sooty smoke, as well as flames from the burning tanks. In the distance the explosions from the Cavite Naval Base, the Fort William McKinley and Nielson airport could be clearly heard. Tokyo announced on the radio that Manila is an open city, but the bombers soon appeared again, and continued to attack until the city was occupied again.

The boy on the destroyed Manila streets

As the Japanese Army  approached Manila, many citizens fled in panic in the villages around. The others were waiting for their destiny. Japanese Imperial Army General Masaharu Homma stopped his troops about 15 miles before Manila and ordered his men to clean up and improve discipline. He knew that  dirty and exhausted soldiers do not march proudly and are much more prone to looting and rape.

The news from the front

It is not clear whether Homma ordered the atrocities that occurred during the Bataan Death March (the forcible transfer, by the Imperial Japanese Army, of 76,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war), but it is clear that his lack of administrative expertise and inability to adequately delegate authority and control his men led to atrocities. Late in the afternoon on 2nd January 1942, Japanese troops entered the city from the north and south at the same time, and raised the Japanese flag.

Japanese army entered the city

Once settled in Manila, General Homma ordered his soldiers to respect traditional habits of Filipino community, and to be friendly with them. At one occasion General Homma even refused to spread propaganda material  which claimed that Americans exploited Filipinos. He said that Americans ruled very well, and Japanese duty is to do it even better. General Homma was warned to be more strict, but after he had not change his attitude he was  replaced by new officer.

The city after the battle

Homma retired from the military and lived in semi-seclusion in Japan until the end of the war. Despite all that, some 100,000 civilians were killed in Manila between November 1944 and February 1945. It was the second most devastated city in the world after Warsaw during the Second World War.

US Army General Douglas MacArthur

After the war, General Masaharu Homma was charged for war crimes and he was sentenced to death and shoot with the approval of General Douglas MacArthur. Many Americans saw it as a great unjustice, because MacArthur was his old enemy, and he personally appointed the prosecution and the defence lawyers, and trial became more or less MacArthur’s revenge.

General Homma at trial