11 July 2017

Operations of the Hunters/ROTC Guerillas in Batangas Prior to the 1945 Nasugbu Landing in WWII

Image credit:  John Tewell.  Taken from the Presidential Museum and Library.
On 31 January 1945, troops of the United States 8th Army landed on the beaches of Nasugbu in Batangas virtually unopposed. That they did was partly due to the efforts of a guerilla group called the Hunters/ROTC, who provided not just vital intelligence but also harassed Japanese troops stationed in the province.

The group was formed on the 15th of January 1942, less than a month since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and, just nine hours later, the then-Commonwealth of the Philippines1. Initially, the group was made up of cadets from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and the ROTC and was led by Miguel Ver of the PMA Class of 19432.

Initially, the group’s operations were limited to the province of Rizal – the San Juan-Antipolo area. Over time, more patriotic Filipinos rallied to join the group in Rizal, Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Tayabas, Zambales, Pangasinan, Bataan and, of course, Batangas.

Organizationally, guerilla operations were conducted by two divisions, each with its own distinct territorial assignment. The 44th Division, also called the “Hunters,” operated in the provinces of Rizal, Laguna and Tayabas. On the other hand, the 47th Division, also called the “ROTC,” operated in Manila and the provinces of Cavite and Batangas.

In the first year and a half of the group’s operations, its members carried out “action against Japanese patrols, columns, installations and the elimination of spies and collaborators3.” Later, as the organization expanded in scope, the guerillas gathered intelligence and procured armaments from Japanese arsenals, constabulary academies and prisons. They also continued with the elimination of spies and collaborators.

Among the guerillas, there were those who conducted active combat operations against the Japanese as regulars and those held in reserve as barrio and town units of what was called the Home Guards. These barrio and town units provided the combat camps with food, clothing, labor and information and also performed other tasks.

Operations in Batangas were under the umbrella of the organization’s 49th Infantry Regiment. The group was commanded by one Jacinto del Pilar of the PMA Class of 1944. Its command post was somewhere in the mountains of the Lian-Calatagan area.

By late 1944, the 49th Infantry Regiment maintained camps, apart from the Lian-Calatagan mountains, in the towns of Lipa and Batangas. The 1st Batallion was in Calatagan while the 2nd and 3rd Batallions were in Batangas and Lipa, respectively4. In all, the 47th Division had 25 officers and about 150 armed men in active combat spread around Manila, Cavite and Batangas.

There were more guerillas among the Home Guard, of course; those who acted as reserves and provided support to combat duties. There were 200 officers and men in Tuy and Balayan; 250 in Talisay and Calaca; 300 in Lian, Mabini, Batangas, Lobo and Mataasnakahoy; 350 Calatagan and Malvar; 400 in San Juan and Santo Tomas; and 600 in Lipa5. [See notes and references.]

Col. Eleuterio L. Adevoso, Commander of the Hunter/ROTC Guerilla Group and who used the pseudonym Terry Magtanggol, described the members of the Home Guard as
“composed mainly of the cream of youth, function very secretly and yet very efficiently. They do sabotage and counter-propaganda work; eliminate spies, dealers in war materials and other traitors to the cause; control the government behind the scene; maintain peace and order in towns by eliminating robbers and other criminals; and see to it as much as possible that the democratic way of life is preserved.”
By late 1944, the General Headquarters of the Hunters/ROTC Guerilla Group transferred to a place called Cutad in Nasugbu, Batangas from Infanta in Tayabas. Unless Google Earth is mistaken, the place is a small mountainous peninsula close to the border between Batangas and Cavite.

It took the men of the GHQ, led by Adevoso, two weeks to reach the area, all the while taking precautions to avoid detection. Cutad was considered a more “strategic location,” probably with an eye to the impending landing of American forces in Luzon.

The more frequently documented landing of Allied Forces in Luzon was that of the United States 6th Army in Lingayen. Less known is the landing in Nasugbu by the 8th Army. Two days before the landing, the 1st Battalion of the Hunters/ROTC Guerillas under a Major Calixto Gasilao conducted a survey of water depth leading to Nasugbu’s shores and scouted Japanese military installations in the area6.

Finally on the last day of January in 1945, Adevoso and Hunters/ROTC 49th Regiment Commander Lt. Col. Juanito Ferrer met Lt. General Robert Eichelberger of the US 8th Army at the beachhead in Nasugbu7. The landing was virtually unopposed and considered a success beyond expectations. The guerillas continued to support the US Army not just in the battle to liberate Manila but also in the ensuing campaign for the liberation of Batangas.

A more detailed chronicle of the landing at Nasugbu is available here.

Notes and references:
1Military history of the Philippines during World War II,” Wikipedia.
2 Along with other bits of information contained in this article, from “Data on the Hunters or ROTC Guerillas,” a declassified memorandum addressed to the GHQ Liaison Officer, written on 1 December 1944 by Col. Eleuterio L. Adevoso.
3 Strange as it may sound in the overall context of the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, but there were, indeed, Filipinos who preferred to take the side of the Japanese. In 1944, an organization made up of such Filipinos, called the Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino, was formed to “give military aid to the Japanese Imperial Army. “Makapili,” Wikipedia.
4 Along with other bits of information contained in this article, from “G-1 Report, 1 September to 19 November 1944,” dated 20 November 1944 and submitted by Col. Eleuterio L. Adevoso. The camps mentioned in the document, although not explicitly stated, were most likely operations camps for the combat active guerillas.
5 The most number of civilians massacred in Batangas by the Japanese was in Lipa, primarily in retribution for the support local guerillas were receiving from the civilian population. As the numbers showed, Lipa had the most number of Home Guard guerilla members.
6Success Beyond Expectation,” published 2012 by Chris Antonette Piedad-Pugay, online at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
7How the Hunters lived and died rescuing POWS in Los BaƱos,” by Col. Frank B. Quesada, Ret., online at Freedom at Dawn.

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