Duterte brings up another 'US atrocity': The Battle of Manila

Kimberly Jane Tan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 25 2016 04:45 PM

How hundreds of thousands were killed in the 1945 Battle of Manila

Manila City Hall (1945). Photo courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library

In expressing his resentment against the Americans, President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday recounted how thousands of Filipinos were supposedly killed when the United States took back Manila from the Japanese in 1945.

"200,000 died here. Ang Manila talaga (Manila really) flattened in just two days of bombing. These are historical [facts] that will never go away," Duterte said just before leaving for his official trip to Japan.

But just how accurate is the President's account of the story?

Known as the "Battle of Manila," the 1945 conflict is the "fiercest and first urban fighting in the region," according to HistoryNet.com, the website of the world's largest publisher of history magazines.

"Very few battles during the last few months of WWII [World War II] are known to have exceeded the brutality and destruction in Manila," it said.

It began with the campaign of the US to recapture the Philippines from the Japanese, whose soldiers launched a bloody war to keep Manila.

The Japanese blew up historic bridges, burned down houses, raped women and massacred innocent civilians, war crimes which later became known as the "Manila Massacre." 

The Americans, meanwhile, retaliated using heavy artillery, including bombs that were dropped on the city daily. 

During the month-long battle that battered Manila from February 3 to March 3, 1945, at least 1,000 allies, 16,000 Japanese and 100,000 Filipino civilians were killed, according to historians.

Seventy percent of utilities, 75 percent of factories, 80 percent of the southern residential district and 100 percent of the business district were also razed during the battle, according to "American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 - 1964" author and historian William Manchester.

This gave Manila the unfortunate title of being the second most devastated city during World War II. After the battle, the Americans reportedly bulldozed what was left of Manila, flattening it to a pulp.

But there are some who say that this is a conservative estimate and the damage might be even worse than other atrocities committed during the war.

And this is already considering the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, where at least 200,000 were killed, and the British-American bombing of Germany's Dresden, which claimed the lives of at least 25,000, both in 1945.

But the only other atrocity that could rival the Battle of Manila is the 1937 Nanjing Massacre or the Rape of Nanking, where Japanese soldiers raped and killed at least 300,000 Chinese people.

"When you listen to and watch the people who survived, you will feel their anger towards the heavy artillery shelling by the Americans; but you will also sense their hatred of what the Japanese did. On balance, then and today, they were glad to be liberated even at great cost to themselves and their beautiful city," according to Peter Parsons, who authored "The Battle of Manila - Myth and Fact."

This was not the first time Duterte brought up atrocities allegedly committed by the Americans.

Last September, he raised the 1901 Balangiga, Samar massacre, where residents over 10 were ordered killed by a US general, and the 1906 Bud Dajo massacre, where hundreds of Moros were killed by US forces in Sulu.