(News Feature)Epic “Battle of the Pockets” in WWII remembered

MANILA-- Little is known about the "Battle of the Pockets" during the Second World War, but it was one of the major victories scored by Filipino forces against the Japanese, killing about 1,000 of the invading troops in a close-quarter fighting in Bataan that lasted over two weeks in January 1942.

A re-enactment of the epic battle was staged last Saturday at Camp Aguinaldo parade ground in Quezon City witnessed by top defense-military officials and surviving World War 2 veterans and their families.

Defense Undersecretary Ernesto G. Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), read the prepared speech of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was out of town.

Lorenzana said that the "Battle of the Pockets was one of the most important during the Second World War as it further delayed the timetable of the Japanese Imperial Army in conquering the Philippine archipelago."

The Japanese thought that they would conquer the Philippines easily without much resistance, they underestimated the fighting spirit of the Filipino and American forces, who defended Bataan for four months before they surrendered.

The re-enactment of the "Battle of the Pockets" showed the dexterity of the Filipinos composed mostly of cadets from the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and cadets from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1942, and other civilian volunteers.

Lorenzana explained that "in warfare jargon, 'pocket' refers to an isolated group contrasted with a surrounding element. It carries with it a connotation that the encircled forces have not allowed themselves to be encircled intentionally."

It was in Bagac, Bataan that heavy fighting broke out between the Filipino and Japanese forces on the last week of January 1942.

The enemy was 'pocketed" during the heavy fighting and the ensuing engagement was dubbed as the "Battle of the Pockets."

Similar fighting also broke out in Gogo-Cotar River Valley in Bataan.

The Japanese who tried to infiltrate to the rear of the Ist Regular Division suffered a crushing defeat on Feb. 18, 1942.

"The Battle of the Pockets is just one of the testaments that the Second War War was the most difficult yet the most heroic era in our nation's life," Lorenzana said.

Another speaker during the re-enactment was Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, whose father, Col. Eliseo Rio Sr., was a member of PMA class 1942, who fought during the war, recalled his father's memoirs on the bravery of the Filipinos.

"In the Battle of the Pockets, we pulled off what undoubtedly was a signal and decisive victory. For the first time in the war, we had engaged the enemy in a major offensive operation and wiped out an entire battalion of about a thousand men," the young Rio quoted his father as saying.

"Our troops had prevailed over an enemy not only far better armed and equipped but also decidedly battle-hardened with their long years of war elsewhere. We had proven that despite our deficiencies in training and armaments, we were fully capable of slugging it out with the Japanese toe."

He cited the bravery of Brig. Gen. Fidel Segundo, commander of the Ist Regular Division, who led his troops in the epic Battle of the Pockets, in crushing the highly superior Japanese Imperial forces.

The re-enactment was part of the series of events of the Bataan Day anniversary to be celebrated nationwide on April 9.

Source: Philippines News Agency