25 August 2017

Gen. Yamashita's Surrender, 1945

From Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, by Robert L. Eichelberger (Gorget Books, 2017; first published 1950), Kindle Loc. 4619-68, 4674-83:
The headquarters of the 38th Division, which had been assigned the job of cleaning up central Luzon, was on a ridge only about an hour’s ride east of Manila. Major General William G. Chase, division commander, met me at Nielson Field, and we made the inspection trip to the front together. From a high hill. Chase and General Bill Spence pointed out to me the Ipo Dam area and other battlefields of the 38th; although the tempo of the fighting was now slowed, two hundred and fifty-nine Japanese were killed between dawn and dusk the day I visited there, and twenty-nine were captured. The 38th and elements of the 43rd Division inflicted appalling losses on the enemy during a six-week period. Some sixty-three hundred Japanese were killed or found dead and more than nine hundred were made prisoners. Much of this slaughter was accomplished by combined artillery fire and aerial attack. Losses of the 38th Division and 43rd Division were small.

That evening at Chase’s headquarters I wrote General MacArthur that I had inspected the combat-active divisions on Luzon and found morale very high. My own morale was high. I was convinced that the back of Japanese opposition was broken and that the enemy was incapable of effective resistance. I might not have been so optimistic if I had known that, considerably after the official Japanese capitulation. General Yamashita was to come out of the mountain wildernesses to the northeast of Baguio and surrender forty thousand well-disciplined troops. Although negotiations with Yamashita for surrender were completed after Eighth Army had relinquished control of Luzon, the story should be told here. It must be remembered that Japanese forces at this period had little or no communication with the homeland. On August 7 — the day of the fall of the first atomic bomb — an American pilot was forced to abandon his disabled plane and parachute behind the Japanese lines in northern Luzon. He was picked up by an enemy patrol the next morning and taken after five days of forced marches to General Yamashita’s headquarters, then southwest of Kiangan.

There he was subjected to vigorous and prolonged interrogation. He was threatened with physical violence when he steadfastly refused to answer questions. On August 16 — the Emperor first offered to capitulate on August 10 — the attitude of the Japanese interrogators abruptly changed. The pilot received medical treatment for his parachute-jump injuries and was extended many small courtesies. The next day the American was guided toward the American lines; when the Japanese soldiers had gone as far as they dared, they gave the flier a letter, written by Yamashita himself, which explained the circumstances of the pilot’s capture and commended him for his military spirit and devotion to duty.

On August 24 the same pilot flew an L-5 liaison plane over the area in which he had been held and dropped a message of thanks to General Yamashita and two signal panels of great visibility. The message, written by General Gill of the 32nd Division, suggested that if Yamashita were in the mood for surrender negotiations he should display the two signal panels as evidence of his willingness to parley. The following morning another pilot found the panels staked out according to instructions; also on the ground were many cheering, hand-waving Japanese soldiers, who beckoned the plane to land. Instead, a second message was dropped. It suggested that Yamashita send an envoy to the American lines to receive detailed instructions for his surrender. Late in the afternoon of August 26 a Japanese captain, carrying Yamashita’s answer, entered the American lines under a flag of truce. The letter, which was written in English, follows:

August 25, 1945
TO: General W. H. Gill, Commanding General
Kiangan-Boyombong Area
United States Army in the Philippines

1. I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication addressed to me, dropped by your airplane on August 24th as well as your papers dropped on August 25th in response to our ground signals.

2. I am taking this opportunity to convey to you that order from Imperial Headquarters pertaining to cessation of hostilities was duly received by me on August 20th and that I have immediately issued orders to cease hostilities to all units under my command insofar as communications were possible. I also wish to add to this point the expression of my heartfelt gratitude to you, full cognizant of the sincere efforts and deep concern you have continuously shown with reference to cessation of hostilities as evidenced by various steps and measures you have taken in this connection. To date of writing, however, I have failed to receive order from Imperial Headquarters authorizing me to enter into direct negotiations here in the Philippines with the United States Army concerning the carrying out of the order for cessation of hostilities, but I am of the fond belief that upon receipt of this order, negotiations can be immediately entered into. Presenting my compliments and thanking you for your courteous letter, I remain, yours respectfully,

/s/ T. Yamashita
Tomoyuki Yamashita, General, Imperial Japanese Army, Highest Commander of the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines.

This message was the first of a series exchanged between Yamashita and General Gill. The exquisite courtesy of the exchanges probably has for the average reader something of the quality of Through the Looking-Glass; these same troops and same commanders had been fighting each other in the same area with no quarter whatever and in a completely barbaric manner.


Eventually an American radio group, escorted by a Japanese safe-conduct party, moved into Yamashita’s headquarters to take over communications. Details of the surrender were worked out. On the morning of September 2 General Yamashita and a party of twenty-one, which included Vice Admiral Okochi (“Highest Commander of the Japanese Naval Forces in the Philippines”), entered American lines at Kiangan. The party was escorted to Baguio where the formal instrument of the surrender of all Japanese Army and Navy personnel in the Philippines was signed in my former headquarters.

I was sorry that General Griswold who had directed XIV Corps operations could not be there to accept Yamashita’s sword. But it was entirely fitting that the 32nd Division should receive the vanquished enemy. Three years before at Buna they had won the battle that started the infantry on the jungle road to Tokyo.

General Yamashita was tried for “crimes against humanity” by an American Military Court in Manila. He was sentenced December 7, 1945, and hanged on February 23, 1946.

No comments: