USS Nautilus Landing
During World War II, Abuyog, like other well-known towns of the Province of Leyte, had also important role played during those dark days in Philippine History. Abuyog local guerillas fought the Japanese Imperial Forces since July 1942. Due to intense guerilla pressure, the enemy abandoned the town on October 13, after four months of occupation. But they came back strong to occupy the town on November 26, 1943. But these guerillas of Abuyog engaged the enemy in a “hit and run” battles. One of these battles happened on May 5, 1944 when Japanese two-pronged patrol fell into the guerillas trap and lost their commanding officer and two-thirds of their number at the Maitum Hill, in barrio Odiongan. There were numerous undocumented accounts of heroism of these unsung heroes and until finally the Japanese withdrew once more and retreated towards Ormoc before the Leyte Gulf Landing of 1944.
Meanwhile, more than one year and a half before General Douglas Macarthur landed in Leyte, at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, it was decided that further Japanese expansion must be prevented or stopped. This meant that despite requirements in Europe, sufficient forces would be provided for a continuing offensive in the Pacific. Macarthur’s immediate problem was to seize the northern coast of New Guinea, ending the threat to Australia. After his forces accomplished this, they would be within striking distance of the Philippines.
In the central pacific, the problem faced by Admiral Nimitz was more complicated. There as no intention of retaking conquered territories, island by island. The objective was to seize a succession of naval and air bases, drawing ever closer to the Philippines and Japan. Wherever possible, direct attacks on strong bases were to be avoided. These bases were to be cut off and neutralized by gaining control of the supply routes. This strategy was called “island hopping”.
In line with this brilliant plan, in early July 1944, the United States together with Australia sent war supplies to the Philippines on US Submarine “Nautilus”. News about this US aid was published on pamphlets of “I Shall Return”, a wartime gazette of General MacArthur, and also through radio stations in the Philippines. One of these stations was in Davao-Lanao and was being managed by Col. Fertig of the US Army. The other station was in Kikilo Heights, Abuyog, Leyte under Sgt. Nucles of the US Army assisted by Col. Ruperto Kadavero Kangleon and his guerilla followers.
Colonel Kangleon, one month before the landing, informed all his trusted guerilla leaders in Leyte to prepare for the coming of the USS Nautilus, which was scheduled to arrive on July 14, 1944, in San Roque, a coastal barrio of Abuyog, Leyte. Abuyog guerilla leaders were also instructed to prepare and make rafts for the unloading of supplies from the submarine. While on the other hand, platoons of soldiers secured all possible points of entry of the enemies to protect the men assigned to make rafts and, possibly, thwart the much-awaited submarine landing.
From the account of an eyewitness and crewmember of the USS Nautilus, MALCOLM CORDUAN, EMC (SS), Retired, now living in Florida USA, (as interviewed by Rev. Leo T. Almendra, an Abuyognon Roman Catholic Priest formerly assigned in United States):
“The USS Nautilus under Capt. G.A. Sharp surfaced at exactly 1943 hrs (7:43 PM). At 2030 hrs, the first boat came along side to receive cargo. During the unloading, the submarine positioned at an average distance of 600 yards from the beach. After the initial waits for boats, the unloading went well. There were may boats ….. and the ship never lacked boats and rafts to load. Colonel Kangleon’s organization was good and he and his men had only one desire – guns and ammunitions. The ship unloaded supplies that included Thompson, Garand and Carbine guns, hand grenades, dynamites and other explosives, ammunitions, medicines, clothing and foodstuffs. The unloading lasted more than six hours and the submarine submerged at exactly 0129 hrs. (1:29 AM), July 15, 1944.”
In the book of Francisco C. Aurillo, The Guerilla Movement in Leyte, page 13- 14, 1991 Edition, it was Mayor Pedro Gallego who mobilized 5,000 men for an expeditious handling of that cargo, and when the Japanese in Abuyog learned hours later that a submarine had surfaced nearby, there was not a trace of the event. For this, Kangleon expressed his elation and appreciation through his Judge Advocate, in the following letter to Mayor Gallego:
“The cooperation of the people of Abuyog through your initiative and leadership of the army authorities in the handling of the shipment unloaded from the U.S. Sub-marine “Nautilus” in the evening of July 14, 1944, is highly appreciated by this Headquarters. By that readiness, the people of Abuyog, more especially the civilian volunteers, have shown that utmost in their hearts is the desire to drive the enemy from our land as soon as possible, because endurance to his ruthlessness and barbarity and want on destruction of lives and properties has reached the point of no return.
“Inform your people that they have shown a palpable act of patriotism which the generations to come will appreciate and love.
“In the name of the United States Forces in the Philippines and the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, I now make of record that patriotic act of the people of Abuyog, which is commendable and which I now hereby commend
‘RUPERTO K. KANGLEON
“For the Commanding Officer: (Sgd.) F. CRISOSTOMO FERNANDEZ, Major, JAGS”
The USS Nautilus Landing was very crucial and significant to the people of Leyte, in particular. General Douglas MacArthur had four options in cutting war supplies of the Japanese in the mainland to its forces scattered in the Pacific Islands after a battle referred in history as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” on June 19, 1944. Japan suffered heavy casualties and damages to her fleet, which resulted the resignation of the Japanese Premier Tojo and his cabinet. From here, originally, MacArthur planned to land somewhere in Mindanao or Luzon, or invade Formosa (Taiwan), which is nearer to Japan. However, the last option was very risky and costly in terms of American lives and armaments. He chose Leyte because of the successful landing of the Nautilus. Through this, the people of Abuyog was liberated by the Americans 98 days ahead before the so-called “Leyte Gulf Landing” on October 20, 1944.
After the Second World War, the barrios in the north were separated from Abuyog and organized into a regular municipality with the seat of government in Barrio Tarragona and known as the Municipality of MacArthur. It was embodied and/ or provided under Executive Order No. 324 signed by the then President Elpidio Quirino on June 17, 1950.
Then, Barrio Mahaplag followed and the barrios in the west were organized into an independent municipality under Executive Order No. 3087, which was signed into law by President Carlos P. Garcia on July 21, 1958.
The Municipality of Abuyog was further reduced tremendously with the creation of the Municipality of Bugho under Republic Act No. 3422, which was enacted without Executive approval on June 18, 1961. This Law was amended by Republic Act. No. 4365, dated June 19, 1965, renaming the Municipality of Bugho and to be known as the Municipality of Javier, in honor of the Javier Family that donated the municipal site for the said municipality.
Atlas of 20th Century Warfare by Richard Natkiel, 1986 Edition
Eyewitness Accounts of Ric Jervoso, Ruperto Apdo, Irenea Gallego-Tan and other Local Veterans of Abuyog, Leyte as interviewed by Rodulfo M. Cabias, 1998
Old MPDC Files, 1982 Edition and below
House of Representative Library, Quezon City
National Library, Manila
Leyte Provincial Library, Tacloban City
People’s Center & Library, Tacloban City
RMC Library, Abuyog, Leyte