Memoirs of World War II by Jaime Kelly Pimentel

Sixty-eight years ago this month, General Douglas MacArthur’s vaunted US 1st Cavalry Division liberated my town of San Juan, Rizal, in mid-morning. I was 10 years old, and as soon as I recognised the incoming column of battle-weary soldiers as American, I and a number of us boys rushed up to greet them. One of the GIs ~ I remember him as Sgt. James Earl, from Seattle, Washington ~ returned some months later to spend a weekend at our home in A. Lake Street. It was the end of months watching dog-fights across Manila’s skies, witnessing a B24 heavy bomber explode above us and crash in a thousand parts across my town; of years of humiliation under check-points and sentries; of days seeing dead bodies of friends, downed American pilots, and bullet-ridden bodies of Japanese soldiers.

The war years are deeply etched in my heart and mind. The visions and heartache still come to me often, many times in dreams. I lost three uncles to the war. First was uncle Luis Pimentel, a lieutenant straight out of the Ateneo de Manila army cadet corps. He was captured in the Fall of Bataan and forced to walk the infamous Death March to Capas (Tarlac) where he died from dysentery. We never saw him again.

Uncle Amado Magtoto was handpicked by General Douglas MacArthur as a captain in the Philippine Army. He too was captured, but was released. Once free, however, he covertly joined Filipino guerrillas. One night, I was staying with my cousins in his house when a Japanese army detachment knocked on the door. He met his captors all dressed and ready to be taken to the dungeons of Fort Santiago to be tortured and never to be seen again.

Uncle Ricardo Pimentel was a Jesuit priest at the Ateneo de Manila. He died in the Battle of Manila. A shrapnel had pieced through the side of his head as he lay sleeping under one of the school’s desks.

I feel the losses to this day.

But I also feel lucky to have lived through war. I have been humbled by the experience.

Updated: 2013-03-07 — 16:22:11