The driving distance from our jumping off point at the SM City parking lot in Iloilo to the McArthur Memorial Monument near Tigbauan is approximately 27 kilometres. Which translates into a driving time of about 35 minutes to 40 minutes.
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The Battle of the Visayas was fought by U.S. forces and Filipino guerrillas against the Japanese from 18 March – 30 July 1945, in a series of actions officially designated as Operations Victor I and II, and part of the campaign for the liberation of the Philippines during World War II. The battle was waged to complete the recapture of the central portions south of the archipelago and secure them from remaining Japanese forces.
Within two weeks of ordering the seizure of Palawan and the Zamboanga peninsula, General Douglas MacArthur directed the capture of the isolated Visayan islands of Panay, Negros, Cebu and Bohol in the central Philippines.
With Filipino guerrillas controlling most of the countryside in these islands, some thirty thousand Japanese troops held the vital coastal towns including Cebu City on Cebu island and Iloilo City on Panay, among the largest cities in the Philippines. Aside from fulfilling his desire and promise to clear the Japanese from the islands, Gen. MacArthur wanted these two port cities as vital staging points for the expected large numbers of troops scheduled for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. Earlier, the United States Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff had told him to be prepared to stage twenty-two divisions for the mainland operation at bases across the Philippines by November 1945, with another eleven to follow by February 1946.
Two areas of operations were suggested to divide the entire region, given the mountainous terrain of Negros, a dominant terrain feature that ran north to south of the island, and the planners chose to seize the western portion, including Northwestern Negros and Panay island, which was named VICTOR I. Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, the Eighth Army commander, appointed the 40th Infantry Division, a California National Guard formation and veterans of the recent fighting in Luzonunder Maj. Gen. Rapp Brush, with the 503rd Airborne Regimental Combat Team in reserve.
Panay Island was the first objective. On 18 March 1945, within two weeks of aerial bombardment on Japanese positions, the 40th Infantry Division, spearheaded by the 185th Infantry Regiment landed unopposed at Tigbauan district, several miles south of Iloilo City, where a 23,000 strong guerrilla force had secured most of Panay, under Col. Macario Peralta. Recalled Gen. Eichelberger: “Filipino guerrillas stood stiff, resplendent in starched khaki uniforms and ornaments and decked in battle gear”. The regiment proceeded to seize the airfield at Santa Barbara and at nearby Mandurriao district. The Japanese were holed up in Iloilo City, and the 40th Division easily swept these Japanese outposts in two days. Mopping up operations by the guerrillas and 2nd Battalion of the 160th Infantry Regiment continued, and at war’s end, some 1,500 Japanese troops surrendered.
Guimaras and Inampulagan islands, between Panay and Negros, were seized on the same day Iloilo fell, 20 March and the next day, respectively with no opposition.
A story on General Macario Peralta will follow soon!
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