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182nd Infantry Posts

Japanese Surrender on Cebu: Exactly Where Was It?

  • Comparison of 1945 footage of the Japanese surrender on Cebu with background terrain taken in 2015. (Source: Internet Archive/film, Dave Colamaria/Photo).

I’ve been watching a film of the August 1945 surrender of Japanese forces on the island of Cebu in the Philippines (you can watch it here). There is just a bit under 10 minutes of footage posted online. I noticed that there are a number of wide shots, showing the background. This got me thinking about where precisely the ceremony took place. In March 2015 I traveled to Cebu to visit key World War II battle sites, and follow the path of the Americal Division in liberating the island from Japanese occupation. Our trip ended in the far north of the island, near Ilihan, where a new monument was dedicated at the surrender site (read the story here). The land for the monument was generously donated by Mrs. Eusebia Ycot, who was present at the surrender ceremony 70 years earlier.

A comparison to the 1945 film footage shows that the terrain has changed a bit. The tree cover seems a bit denser in 2015 than in 1945, though this may just be a function of where I was standing. Many of the shots in the middle portion of the film show a wide open vista of rolling hills – a view I don’t recall seeing during our trip. One of the other struggles is that this is not a high resolution film transfer, so the footage is a bit blurry. It is difficult to pick out details.

The camera pans repeatedly to follow Japanese and American soldiers moving in the field, giving a good view of the terrain. I studied the film, looking for anything that I could use to compare to photos that I took in 2015. I immediately focused on the footage beginning at 3:15, just following the formal surrender. In the background, two small hills can be seen. There appears to be some similarity to two small hills in a photo I took in 2015. It is not an exact match, as I believe that the perspective is a bit off. From what I can surmise, I believe that the 1945 film camera footage was taken from a vantage point slightly different than mine. I think if I were to have walked forward and to the left a few hundred yards, I may have been on the exact spot of the surrender.The hills in my photograph were to the north, and we were told that the Japanese troops marched down from these hills to the surrender site. Thus, the fact that Japanese troops are standing with their backs to the hills is another small clue. For a side-by-side comparison, I stitched three frames of the 1945 film footage together and lined it up next to my 2015 photo, which can be seen in Photo 1.

There are two other noticeable terrain features in the film footage. The footage at various times shows a tree lined road in the background, with a gully between the road and the foreground. I don’t recall a gully that deep, but it was a hectic day when we visited in March 2015. I found nothing else distinctive in the footage, in part due to the poor resolution of the transfer.

Based on where I was standing when I took that photo in relation to the new monument (the monument would be off to the right of the photo, maybe 100 yards away), I suspect that the surrender most likely took place a few hundred yards off the main road, perhaps almost directly behind the location of the monument. Unfortunately, unless I have a chance to travel to the Philippines again the future, I can’t be much more accurate than that.


Interview with James Gann of the 182nd Infantry

  • James Gann sits for an interview in 2015. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • (L to R) James Gann, Allen Moore, Carl Fowler, taken in 1943 (likely Fiji). Source: James Gann Collection.
  • Company street, Headquarters Company, 182nd Infantry Regiment, Bougainville. Source: James Gann Collection.
  • James Gann on Cebu, 1945. Source: James Gann Collection.

Last week, I traveled to Arizona to visit with James Gann, who served in the 182nd Infantry during World War II. He joined Company G in 1943 on Fiji, survived the Battle of Hill 260, and finished the war (Leyte, Cebu, and Japan) in the Wire Section of 182nd Regimental Headquarters. James was kind enough to allow me to interview him about his experiences, and we recorded 90 minutes of his detailed first hand accounts of the war. He also allowed me to digitize his photographs from the war, which include many of the men of Company G in various Pacific locations. Some years ago, James had sent me photocopies of these pictures, but now we have the ability to share them in digital high resolution. Of particular importance to me was to get a good scan of his photos of James “June” Edwards, one of the men who was killed in action during the war.

I’ve included a few of James’ photos on this page. In the future I hope to upload either a transcript of the full interview, or perhaps the interview itself to YouTube. I’m still working out the best strategy on that, so please stay tuned.

World War II Veterans at the 2015 Americal Division Reunion

  • Six World War II veterans of the Americal Division gather at the 2015 Americal Division Veterans Association Reunion in Norfolk, VA. (Source: Dave Colamaria)

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 reunion of the Americal Division Veterans Association (ADVA), held in Norfolk, VA. There was a great crowd for the event, somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 people. This was primarily comprised of Vietnam veterans of the Americal and their spouses. But we were lucky to have 6 veterans of World War II on hand. One of the men, Ken Vander Molen (second from right in the above photo), is 182nd veteran from Company G – and a good friend. Ken made the trip down from Michigan with his two daughters. I also had the chance to meet another 182nd veteran, whose full name I believe was Devel McGriff (far left in the photo above). He served in Company G, and took part in the action on Cebu. He told me that he had not known about our trip earlier this year to Cebu, or he would have come along. What a shame, it would have been amazing to have him along with us. At dinner, I shared a table with Ken Vander Molen and a veteran of the 164th Infantry, Fritz Klein (far right in the photo), who attended with his wife and daughter. 70 years after the end of World War II, this was his very first reunion.

The ADVA treated the World War II veterans like royalty. Their rooms at the hotel were provided free of charge. And they were singled out and recognized at the Saturday evening banquet. Each was presented with a gift bag including an ADVA pocket knife and DVD. And most impressively, their great sacrifice and service was thanked with a booming, rousing, standing ovation from their veteran brothers from Vietnam. It was a real thrill to see these men treated like the heroes they are – particularly from a room full of fellow veterans.

(Incidentally, if Mr. McGriff or his family should read this story – please contact me if you feel like it, I would love to hear more about his war experiences.)

How a Tropical Cyclone Defeated a U.S. Army Offensive

As we here on the east coast of the United States await the landfall of Hurricane Joaquin, it brings to mind another big storm that occurred on the other side of the world, 71 years ago this week. Deep in the jungles of Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands, Allied troops were locked in a long standoff with Japanese forces. The Allies had established a perimeter on the Japanese-held island in November 1943. Japanese forces planned and executed a huge offensive in March 1944, but this attack failed, and their remaining troops faded off into the jungle (read more here). Allied airstrips on the island remained safe and operational, and major fighting on the island was over. Yet thousands of Japanese soldiers lurked in the deep jungle and massive mountains beyond the American perimeter. U.S. Army units slowly expanded the perimeter, but there was no concerted effort to drive the Japanese off the island or wipe them out.

There were periodic small clashes. In late September1944, the 182nd Infantry set off into the jungle near the Laruma River to wipe out a reported Japanese encampment. The soldiers clawed their way up steep hills, and waded through chest-deep rivers. By 1 October, they were in position to launch what they referred to as “The Battle of Nip Gap” along the Doyabie River. PFC Arnold West of Company G was killed in attack on a pillbox, while Sergeants Jack Morton and Robert Egler of the company were awarded Silver Stars for their actions that day. The fighting continued for days, with the 182nd Infantry claiming nearly 200 enemy soldiers killed, and multiple pillboxes. On 6 October the American troops returned to camp to resupply, before heading out the next day to knock out another Japanese camp near the village of Piateripaia. As they moved in to encircle and attack the Japanese position, rain began to fall. This was a daily occurrence on Bougainville, but this storm strengthened and conditions worsened. The rain turned into a deluge, and the wind began to roar. The Laruma River flooded. Seven bridges built to cross the river were destroyed. Communication wires were ripped out. Trees were knocked down, and the 182nd began to take casualties – from the storm. Food spoiled, and supplies were washed away.

In the midst of this carnage, the 182nd Infantry kept advancing on the Japanese. But they soon found themselves out of position. The terrain, even in the best of conditions, was nearly impassable. Compounding that problem, some of the trails and roads had been washed away by the storm. Other routes were blocked by downed trees. The loss off food and supplies left the soldiers hungry, and emergency rations were being used. By 10 October, the 182nd Infantry offensive was called off, and the exhausted troops returned to their base behind the front lines. Their attack was over, defeated by a storm that laid waste to the battlefield.

Researching a World War II Veteran

I am very lucky to regularly hear from veterans of the 182nd Infantry from World War II, as well as their children and grandchildren. Sometimes, I am even able to help them find new information, documents or photographs of a particular veteran. It can be difficult to track down the specifics of an individual’s wartime service, though. I wanted to share a few tips here, along with some guidelines for what I can and can not help with on the research front.

First of all, it is important to note that my research focuses on one company of the 182nd Infantry, and their service during World War II. Over the years I have collected hundreds of primary source documents from locations such as the National Archives and the Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives. While some of these documents relate to the entire 182nd Infantry, or even the full Americal Division, in most cases they pertain only to Company G of the 182nd. This unit of approximately 200 men made up just a small portion of the 182nd during the war. Thus, I am often unable to help researchers trying to find out more about their relatives. Please contact me if you are unsure what company a 182nd Infantry serviceman served with – I may be able to determine this.

Since I can’t answer everyone’s questions, I always try to point them in the proper direction to do their own research. The starting point for any research into a U.S. service member is the National Archives. The most important pieces of paperwork to track down are discharge papers and separation records. These days, those forms are known as the DD-214, but during World War II, they went by other designations such as WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, and NAVCG 553. These forms list the veteran’s name, address, rank, duties, foreign service, and other important facts. Unfortunately, when researching U.S. Army records during World War II, there is a rather serious problem. In 1973, a massive fire at the National Archives repository in St. Louis destroyed most of these records (read more about that fire here). If you do not have a copy of the veteran’s service records, you should request them through the National Archives here, but be aware that they may no longer exist due to the fire. These records, when they do exist, are held at the National Archives location in St. Louis, at a place known as the National Personnel Records Center.

Other important military records from World War II can be obtained to expand the knowledge of a veteran’s war service. At the National Archives in College Park, MD, dozens of boxes contain the original reports and documents created by Americal Division units during the war. These include important records such as Unit Histories (example here), Operations Reports (example here), and many others. The College Park location of the National Archives also holds photographs of many war time events and people. You can learn more about visiting this location to do research at this link.

Other documents generated by World War II U.S. Army units can be found at the National Archives location in St. Louis. These included Unit Rosters, and Morning Reports (see example here). These reports are highly informative. Morning Reports were created each day by each company, and they list what the unit did during the day. The also list out any changes to the unit’s personnel, such as the departure of sick and wounded, arrival of replacements, and reporting of those killed. You can find out more on their website.

The last archival destination I recommend for 182nd Infantry research is the Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives. Located in Concord, MA, this facility houses the records pertaining to the unit’s time prior to departure for the Pacific in January 1942. There is a wealth of photographic material here on the pre-war years, as well as rosters and paperwork. Please note that this National Guard facility does not hold records related to the 182nd’s four years overseas in the Pacific – a period when the unit had been federalized and served in the U.S. Army.

In terms of reading material, one book in particular is crucial to knowing the story of the 182nd Infantry Regiment in World War II. This is Under the Southern Cross, written by Captain Francis D. Cronin a few years after the war. It can be purchased from the Americal Legacy Foundation in their Online Store.

I hope this this general information is helpful to those investigating the service of a World War II service member. If you have specific questions about a 182nd Infantry Regiment individual, please feel free to contact me at

Americal Legacy Foundation Goes Live on the Web

ALF Website

As we remember the end of World War II on the 70th anniversary of the surrender of the Empire of Japan, a new website has been launched to help remember the soldiers who made that victory possible. The Americal Legacy Foundation is a new non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the soldiers who served in the U.S. Army’s Americal Division during World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. A new website supporting the Foundation just launched this week, and can be found at:

The Americal Legacy Foundation seeks to preserve the division’s legacy through monuments, public media, museum displays and scholarship programs. The Foundation will also provide a central point for the purchase of the division’s history of World War II, Under the Southern Cross. The monument program is in full swing, with a number of accomplishments to show. There is a monument at the National Infantry Museum, outside Fort Benning. As written about on this site, a monument at the site of the Japanese surrender on Cebu at the end of World War II was dedicated in March 2015 (read that story here). A future monument to honor Americal Artillery units is in the works, to be located at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Another Monument is envisioned at Fort Sam Houston, Texas to honor Americal medics, doctors and nurses.

Looking forward into the future, the preservation of the legacy of the Americal Division depends on the families and descendants of those who served. I encourage any and all to contact the Americal Legacy Foundation, make a donation, and inquire about other ways to help this important cause.

Cebu 2015, Part V: A New Monument to the Japanese Surrender

  • Monument near the site where Japanese forces on Cebu surrendered to the Americal Division at the end of World War II. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Despite formal capitulation from Toyko, Japanese forces on Cebu continued to hold out for several days. This flyer was dropped all over the island in an attempt to convince the thousands of remaining Japanese soldiers to give up. Source: National Archives.
  • Japanese and American soldiers discuss plans for surrender of Japanese forces on Cebu in August 1945. Source: Under the Southern Cross.
  • Old sign marker along the road at the location of the Japanese surrender on Cebu at the end of World War II. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Panorama of the Japanese surrender site on Cebu. Japanese forces marched out of the hills north of Ilihan (at right in this photo) into the field. The well where they stacked their weapons is in the trees straight ahead. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Terry Davenport of VFW Post 12130 speaks at the dedication of the Japanese surrender monument on Cebu, 27 March 2015. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Members of the Americal Division Veterans Association and VFW Post 12130, and Mrs. Eusebia Ycot pose with the new Japanese surrender site monument near Ilihan, Cebu. Source: Dave Colamaria.

(Note: for a detailed introduction to the Americal Division Veterans Association’s 2015 trip to Cebu, along with links to other stories from the trip, read our introductory story Cebu 2015: The Ghosts of World War II, 70 Years Later. Learn more about the World War II battle for Cebu here.)

As World War II came to an end in August 1945, the island of Cebu was still divided. American forces had recaptured the central portions of the long thing island, including Cebu City. Japanese forces had retreated, consolidating in the north. Following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito ordered the surrender of all Japanese military forces. Unfortunately, the remaining Japanese troops on Cebu were living primitively on the island, and did not have a working radio. Flyers were air dropped over their positions, indicating that the war was over (see Photo #2). A series of notes was exchanged, pinned to a tree, but the Japanese were skeptical. Finally, they were able to get in contact with their superiors, and confirm that the war was over. Arrangements were made for a formal surrender (see Photo #3). On 28 August, 2600 Japanese soldiers marched out of the hills to an open field near Ilihan. General Tadasu Kataoka presented his sword to Major General William Arnold. The Japanese piled their weapons on the ground, and the war on Cebu was effectively over. Over the next few days, thousands more surrendered. They were rapidly moved to the coast for travel back to Japan, under the watchful eye of Americal Division troops. This wasn’t so much for fear of Japanese treachery, but rather, to protect them from Cebuanos, angry at their brutal treatment during 3 years of occupation.

In March 2015, our group from the Americal Division Veterans Association spent a week on the island. On our last day, we traveled to the far north, to attend the dedication of a new monument near the spot of the Japanese surrender. This monument was the brainchild of members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12130 – retired American servicemen living on Cebu. With assistance from the Americal Division Veterans Association, they steered the project from idea through completion.

On the morning of 27 March 2015, we arrived at Ilihan under gloomy, rainy skies. The gleaming black monument is erected by the side of the main road, on a raised platform (see Photo #1). The owner of the land, Mrs. Eusebia Ycot, greeted us on the morning of the dedication. She was a young girl when the surrender happened, and she remembers it well. She graciously donated the street frontage area for the monument. Previously, only a small, lonely, rusted sign marked this historic spot (see Photo #4).

Tables and chairs were arranged for the day’s ceremony, with a feast to close the event. We started with a tour of the nearby field where the surrender took place. It is an open field, with a few small buildings in the vicinity. Lush mountains can be seen in the distance. A well sits off to one side, under some trees. We were told that the Japanese soldiers neatly stacked their weapons around this well. To the north, we could see the hills where the enemy troops had marched down in formation. It is a quiet, peaceful spot (see Photo #5).

The dedication ceremony began with a blessing from a local Catholic priest. The prayer was followed by remarks by the precinct mayor, representatives and leadership of the VFW (see Photo #6), and Roger Gilmore, President of the Americal Legacy Foundation. Sam Arnold, great grandson of General Arnold, also spoke. With the monument formally dedicated, we all gathered around tables for a feast, featuring a roasted pig, or “lechon,” a local delicacy.

As the crowd enjoyed the meal, I took the opportunity to slip off to the quiet surrender field just 50 yards away. I reflected on my grandfather Ed Monahan‘s service in the 182nd Infantry. He was drafted in early 1941, and served with the unit until he was rotated home in May 1945. He survived the combat campaigns on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Leyte, and Cebu. But he was sent home just a few months before final victory was achieved. In the months leading up to the trip, I’d begun to think of my attendance at the dedication as symbolic closure for him. I’m not a spiritual person, but as I stood alone in that peaceful, grassy field on that morning, I felt a powerful connection to him – a version of him that was finally at peace.

The monument dedication was our last stop as a group (see Photo #7). Our week long trip had been an eye opener, a connection to the men of the Americal Division who fought in World War II. We said our goodbyes and headed off to the hotel and the airport, back to our lives in the United States. Before returning home, I made a brief stop in Manila to visit men from Company G buried at the Manila American Cemetery (read that story here). My time in the Philippines had been brief, but I will never forget the history or the gracious people of Cebu.

(NOTE: You can see a brief comparison of the surrender site in 1945 vs. 2015 here.)

Cebu 2015, Part IV: Battle Sites on the West Coast

  • Driving through the rugged interior hills of Cebu. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Pillbox on the west coast of Cebu, looking down into a valley where American and Filipino forces attempted to halt one portion of the Japanese invasion in 1942. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Pillbox near Toledo, Cebu. Note that it has been moved from its original location, and the broken base that would have been below ground is now fully exposed. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Tank barriers near Toledo, Cebu. They were part of the failed Allied defense of the island in 1942. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Dave Taylor of the Americal Division Veterans Association poses with tank barriers near Toledo, Cebu. Source: Dave Colamaria.

(Note: for a detailed introduction to the Americal Division Veterans Association’s 2015 trip to Cebu, along with links to other stories from the trip, read our introductory story Cebu 2015: The Ghosts of World War II, 70 Years Later. Learn more about the World War II battle for Cebu here.)

In the closing months of World War II, the U.S. Army’s Americal Division landed on the hostile shores of Cebu on 26 March 1945. In less than a month, they had captured Cebu City and its airfield, and broken the main Japanese line of defense on Babag Ridge. With the Japanese in retreat, the soldiers of the Americal began to disperse and pursue. The men of the 182nd Infantry Regiment were transported by truck across the rugged inland mountains, to the west coast, about 20 miles away. They operated out of Tabuelan and Asturias, towards the northern end of Cebu, and spent May and June hunting down Japanese outposts in the hilly interior of the island.

Our Americal Division Veterans Association group had the opportunity to visit the west coast of the island on the second day of our March 2015 tour. Loaded into our touring van, we navigated the twisting roads atop Babag Ridge. The scenery was impressive – in fact, we were all surprised at the rugged terrain of Cebu (see Photo #1). For over an hour we took in the beautiful mountains and dense jungle, winding up and down through the hills. I thought about the men of the Americal, who took a similar ride in Army trucks at the end of April 1945, unsure of what awaited them on the other side of the island.

We descended down from the mountains at the small town of Toledo on the west coast, and turned south. The road followed the coast, and off in the distance, across the Tanon Strait, we could see the nearby island of Negros. We could just make out the massive bulk of Kanloan Volcano (an active volcano), its 8,000 foot peak lost in the clouds.

Our first stop was a hill just outside of Toledo, site of a fairly new city administration building. Behind this building, numerous pillboxes sit in a quiet field, with a good view of the coastline to the west, and the valleys and mountains to the east. It was on this spot that American and Filipino defenders fought their first battle against the Japanese in 1942, soon after the invaders landed. The invasion on the west coast was merely a diversionary feint, as the main thrust of the 1942 invasion happened at the same point where the Americal landed in 1945: Talisay Beach. The Japanese invasion of 1942 was too strong, and the defense of Cebu – as with the defense of the remainder of the Philippines – was a failure. Allied forces surrendered, but many of them melted into the hills to form the guerrilla army that would harass the Japanese for the next three years. The pillboxes outside Toledo are well preserved, but many of them were plucked out of the ground and moved to allow for the construction of the administrative center. Thus, in many cases the broken foundations sit above ground, giving the pillboxes a funny appearance (see Photo #2 and Photo #3).

The sun was beating down on us, and after peeking into the various structures, we climbed back into the van to head to our next destination. This location was a bit challenging to track (even for our Cebuano driver and our gracious guide Dr. Jobers Bersales of the University of San Carlos) and we asked for directions from locals. Their directions often conflicted with each other, and we had to make several u-turns. Finally, a young man on a scooter offered to show us the way. We headed back inland, on a bumpy dirt road. We finally arrived at the site. In an area of jungle and rice paddies, with just a few houses and shacks nearby, stand a row of imposing concrete blocks (see Photo #4 and Photo #5). These tank barriers were built by American and Filipino forces as a defense against possible Japanese invasion. They ultimately proved useless. The long barrier runs perpendicular to the dusty dirt road. We were told that portions of it may soon be removed for development, as yet another tangible piece of World War II slips away to history.

We spent only half a day on the west coast of Cebu, and by early afternoon we were once again winding our way through the steep inland hills. Our tour of the west coast of Cebu gave us a sense of what World War II was like during the desperate first six months of action, with the Japanese marauding through the Pacific, a nearly unstoppable force.

Read the next piece in this series here: Cebu 2015, Part V: A New Monument to the Japanese Surrender

Cebu 2015, Part III: Bloody Battles in the Hills

  • The imposing peaks of Babag Ridge can be seen in the distance of this photo taken during the invasion of Cebu, 26 March 1945. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, 80-G-259246.
  • Looking west towards Babag Ridge from the coast of Cebu, March 2015. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • The Japanese on Cebu retreated to caves and fixed positions in the hills. Here, soldiers of the 182nd Infantry rifle through Japanese materials left behind in a cave on Babag Ridge. Source: National Archives.
  • Members of the Americal Division Veterans Association tour a Japanese tunnel complex on Cebu. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Members of the Americal Division Veterans Association, accompanied by the Go Chan family, walk the slopes of Go Chan Hill in 2015. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Local children point out the buried entrance to the Japanese tunnel complex under Go Chan Hill. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Peaks along Babag Ridge, as seen from Tops Skyline Garden in 2015. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Dave Colamaria at Tops Skyline Garden on top of Babag Ridge, looking down on the sprawl of Cebu City below. Source: Dave Colamaria.

(Note: for a detailed introduction to the Americal Division Veterans Association’s 2015 trip to Cebu, along with links to other stories from the trip, read our introductory story Cebu 2015: The Ghosts of World War II, 70 Years Later. Learn more about the World War II battle for Cebu here.)

The most brutal fighting on Cebu during World War II occurred on the imposing hills that rise up just a few miles from the shoreline. The Japanese defenders essentially conceded the beach and Cebu City, choosing to hunker down in caves and fortified positions high in the hills. This was consistent with their overall strategy in the Pacific in 1945, and it led to terrible American casualties in that last year of the war. After securing the city and its airfield, Americal Division troops began to take fire from Japanese emplacements in the hills above. The first half of April 1945 was a terrible slog for the men of the Americal, as they inched their way up the hills in the face of stubborn resistance. The final battles on Babag Ridge in mid-April finally broke the Japanese defense, and caused them to flee northwards along the long, thin island.

Our group from the Americal Division Veterans Association had a chance to visit these hills in 2015. You can see in Photo #1 what those hills looked like in 1945, and in Photo #2 what they look like in 2015. On the afternoon of our first day of touring, our van wound its way up narrow mountain roads, with small shacks and shanties cobbled together to the very edges of the drivable surface. At times, we wondered if we would even fit past vehicles coming in the opposite direction. The hills were covered with heavy tree growth on all sides. In 1945, this was not the case, the terrain was more open. After the war, trees were brought in from abroad as part of a reforestation program.

We first visited the reservoir at Buhisan Dam, which was captured on the second day of the invasion by two companies of the 182nd (not Company G) in conjunction with Filipino guerrillas. After a short drive, we took a quick hike to the location of two Japanese tunnels, carved out of the side of mountain faces (Photo #3 shows tunnels in 1945, Photo #4 shows what they look like in 2015). It was eerie inside the tunnels, particularly when looking out of the firing hole, with a clear view down the road that American troops would used for their advance. This was also our first opportunity to meet the local Cebu media, who followed us around for a bit. You can read one of their stories here. You’ll note that we had some communications issues, as the reporter mistakenly believed that I am a Vietnam veteran. But it made me feel good to get my grandfather Ed Monahan‘s name in the local papers 70 years after he arrived on the island under fire. Another story here features a nice photo of two of our fellow travelers in one of the caves.

On our second day of touring, we visited a significant battle site called Go Chan Hill – and uncovered the story behind its name. Rising up in the foothills at the base of Babag Ridge, Go Chan Hill is a small rise that had a lighthouse tower on it at the time of the war. On 29 March 1945, Company A of the 182nd Infantry was advancing up the hill, when a massive explosion shook the entire area. When the smoke cleared, the company had been virtually annihilated. Already understrength due to the fighting in the previous months on Leyte, the killed and wounded from this explosion rendered Company A unfit for battle, and it was withdrawn. There is some disagreement as to the source of the explosion. The men of the Americal were convinced that the Japanese defenders had set a timed explosion to ignite bombs and ammo dumps in the caves under the hill. Some believe that an American tank fired a round into a cave opening and accidentally ignited an ammo dump.

70 years later, we set out to visit this hill, on the outskirts of the built-up urban center. I was surprised to find that the hill took its name from the family that owned it: the Gochans. Members of the family still live near the hill, in a beautiful complex overlooking the hill itself. The family was gracious enough to invite us over for food and drink, and they shared their family memories with us. It was truly a thrill to meet Mrs. Gochan, who was just a small child during the war. I had the chance to speak with her for a few minutes, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The Gochans also arranged for us to tour the hill, which at this time is mostly free of development. We walked up the steep slopes of the hill itself (Photo #5), and then took a short hike through some woods to see buried openings that lead to the Japanese tunnel complex (Photo #6). We also met up with their cousin Harley for a group outing later in the week. It was a real pleasure to meet this family, and explore their connections to World War II.

Buhisan Dam and Go Chan Hill served as a good introduction to the steep hills of Cebu, but looming above was the rugged range of Babag Ridge. The steep ridge line soars 2,000 feet above sea level, just a few miles from the beach. All of us in the group were surprised at how intimidating these hills were. We’d read about them in history books, but seeing them in person really brought home how difficult it must have been for the soldiers of the Americal to wrest them from the Japanese. We had several chances to visit the ridge during our trip. On our first day of touring, we had dinner at beautiful Chateau de Busay, an elegant restaurant and lodge built just a few hundred feet below the top of the ridge. Knowing full well that the battles along the ridge were the toughest of the Cebu campaign, I had contemplated what it would be like to stand on those hills. Unfortunately, during that first visit to the hill, I did not have a chance for quiet reflection. There were two weddings going on simultaneously on the grounds of the chateau, and their music echoed through the air around us. We did have one rather surreal moment at the Chateau. After dinner, we lounged about, discussing the guerrillas on Cebu with several knowledgeable locals. The quiet night air was broken by a serious of loud cracks. We realized that one of the wedding parties was celebrating with fireworks. The rattle and explosion of the fireworks continued for several minutes, and for a brief moment I imaged what it must have been like during the night battles along the ridge during the war.

One downside to our first trip to Babag Ridge is that we did not make it to the top of the ridge. From what we understand, there may be Japanese fortifications still in place on the hill, but they are not easily accessible. I felt a bit of remorse throughout the week that we had not made it to the top, but on the last day of the trip, following the dedication of the surrender monument, I found myself with a few extra hours before my flight was scheduled to depart for Manila. I’d been hearing about a place called “Tops,” a scenic spot at the top of the ridge. We consulted with the hotel concierge, and he said it was a short drive, so Sam Arnold and I secured a cab and headed up. I was a bit nervous, with my flight scheduled for that evening, but the trip proved well worth it. Tops Skyline Garden is the best view of Cebu City and the coastline that you can get. It is a stunning panorama, with a commanding view for 180 degrees. I don’t know if this hilltop is the one that the men of Company G assaulted on 12-13 April 1945 in a daring night time bayonet raid. It might have been, or maybe it was one of the nearby hill tops (see Photo #7). At this time I can’t say. But what I can say is that my last few hours on the island were well spent in that short side trip to Tops (see Photo #8).

Read the next piece in this series here: Cebu 2015, Part IV: Battle Sites on the West Coast

Cebu 2015, Part II: Tracking the War in Cebu City

  • Map overlay showing movement of the 182nd Infantry during the first few days of the invasion of Cebu. In pink the movements of the 2nd Battalion can be followed from the beach, along the coast to Cebu City and Provincial Capitol Building, to Lahug Airfield, and on to the base of the heavily defended Japanese-held ridges. Source: National Archives.
  • A ruined city block in Cebu City, March 1945. Source: National Archives.
  • Japanese machine guns on display at Museo Sugbo, Cebu City. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • A basement classroom at Cebu Normal University in 2015, the scene of torture and rape of local Cebuanos by the Japanese during World War II. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • IT Park, a busy modern center in Cebu City. During World War II, this was the site of Lahug Airfield, with the runway following the course of this road. Source: Dave Colamaria.
  • Cebu Provincial Capital Building, photographed in July 1945, after recapture by the Americal Division. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, 80-G-355809.
  • Cebu Provincial Capital Building, March 2015. Source: Dave Colamaria.

(Note: for a detailed introduction to the Americal Division Veterans Association’s 2015 trip to Cebu, along with links to other stories from the trip, read our introductory story Cebu 2015: The Ghosts of World War II, 70 Years Later. Learn more about the World War II battle for Cebu here.)

Following their successful landing at Talisay Beach in March 1945, the Americal Division advanced northwards along the coast of Cebu, towards the capital, Cebu City (see Photo #1). The Japanese occupied the city following their 1942 invasion of the island, and they ruled the local Filipinos with an iron fist for 3 years. Beginning in late 1944, carrier aircraft of the US Navy raided the island, and the capital city was heavily damaged. The pre-invasion naval and air bombardment only increased the damage (see Photo #2). Just one day after the invasion, troops of the Americal Division entered a ruined city, and had their first (and only) experience clearing an urban center.

In March 2015, I had the opportunity to tour numerous sites in Cebu City, along with Vietnam veterans from the Americal Division Veterans Association. We toured many of the sites where the men of the 182nd Infantry fought and died, and visited buildings and facilities where the Japanese committed atrocities against the people of Cebu. It was somewhat surreal to see many of these places – the scene of horrific crimes – still in use in daily activities. But when an entire city is subjected to brutal violence, the people of the city have no choice but to move on with their lives, carrying on in places where their ancestors had suffered terribly.

One of the first locations we visited was Museo Sugbo, a 19th century complex now serving as a museum to the long history of Cebu. During the first year of World War II, the American government used a series of small rooms to intern Japanese prisoners. Following the Japanese conquest of the island, they used these cells to imprison Filipino and American prisoners. In the upstairs of the main building, there is an entire room dedicated to World War II, with many fascinating artifacts from the war. It was at this point, on the first day of our touring, that I experienced my first emotional moments of the trip. Looking at a display of Japanese machine guns captured during the fighting in 1945, I wondered to myself if these guns had ever fired upon my grandfather Ed Monahan. I furthered pondered the fact that one of those guns, aimed just a little to the left or right, could have killed him – as well as me and my entire as yet unborn family (see Photo #3). It was a rather unsettling thought. My early morning emotional roller coaster continued as a listened to a young museum staff member tell us about other artifacts in the museum. She mentioned that her grandfather had been killed by the Japanese during the war. Her grandfather was killed by the Japanese on Cebu…my grandfather survived battles with the Japanese on Cebu. I realized that in a way, I was linked to this complete stranger.

That same morning we visited Cebu Normal University, a college focused primarily on teaching and nursing. On the morning of our visit, it was bustling with young students preparing for graduation. But in 1942, it was a Japanese military garrison, and headquarters of their secret police, the Kempeitai. We toured locations throughout the campus, many of which were the scene of terrible atrocities. Deep in the basement of one of the buildings, we visited classrooms – still in use today – where Cebuanos were tortured and raped by the Japanese (see Photo #4). Peaceful gardens and courtyards may still hold the remains of locals, executed during the war. I had never in my life visited a site of the war in the Pacific, and this first day brought the brutality into sharp focus for me.

At the end of our second day of touring, we had dinner in IT Park, a gleaming, modern center for technology professionals and home of corporate call centers. During World War II, this was the location of Lahug Airfield, one of the objectives captured by the 182nd Infantry during the first days on the island. This was the spot where John Mulcahy was shot through the side of the face, a wound he would recover from and return to the unit. A road (see Photo #5) now follows what was once the main airfield.

We visited other sites such as Rizal Memorial Library, headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army on Cebu, and University of the Phillipines, Cebu College, where announcements were made from a balcony to gathered Cebuanos by their occupiers. The last significant building we visited in the city was the Cebu Provincial Capital building (see Photo #6 and Photo #7). This grand structure was built during the American period of the early 20th century, and completed in 1938. It was damaged during the war, but was rebuilt and continues to function in its original capacity. This building was captured by the 182nd Infantry during the first days of the invasion, and Company G’s Fred Davis claimed to be the first soldier in the building.

The urban sites we visited over the course of the week really made me think. I’ve studied World War II since I can remember, but I had never visited any sites where the war had taken place. In many of these places in Cebu City, I pondered the absolute worst that war brings – the torture, rape, and murder of innocent civilians. And all of these sites were surrounded by the buzz of modern, daily life, bringing in to focus how the people of Cebu have healed from the war and moved forward with their lives.

Read the next piece in this series here: Cebu 2015, Part III: Bloody Battles in the Hills