National Heroes Day, 2015

Today, Monday, 31 August 2015, the last Monday of August, is National Heroes Day in the Philippines, Araw ng mga Bayani. It is a regular national holiday.

According to the webpage of the Office of the President at Malacanang, “Our national heroes are often portrayed as a pantheon of distinct and powerful personalities (see the banner above) who have managed to get their names published in our history books by virtue of their words or actions. But National Heroes Day specifies no hero; the law that put into practice the celebration does not name a single one. And this lack of specifics offers an opportunity to celebrate the bravery of not one, not a few, but all Filipino heroes who have braved death or persecution for home, for nation, for justice, for freedom.”

Since this web log is focused on the Bataan campaign, it is fitting to salute the Filipino veterans who served in that early war series of battles on the Bataan peninsula. Whether Philippine Army or Scout, whether Philippine Army Air Corps or in the Offshore Patrol, there are many examples of bravery and selfless sacrifice to remember and honor.

So we remember heroes like Philippine Army Air Corps Captain Jesús A. Villamor, who bravely piloted a PAAC PT-17 biplane trainer (Boeing-Stearman Model 76D) biplane trainer on 9 February 1942, in order to conduct a photo reconnaissance of the Ternate area near Cavite for enemy artillery that was firing on the Manila Bay forts.

Heroic and much decorated Filipino pilot. Jesús Antonio Villamor.    (Courtesy Impak ng Sikat web log)

Heroic and much decorated Philippine Army Air Corps  pilot. Jesús Antonio Villamor. (Courtesy Impak ng Sikat web log)

It was a daylight mission in a slow and vulnerable aircraft, in an area which Japanese fighters could intercept. Indeed, Villamor crisscrossed Ternate several times so Master Sergeant Juan Abanes from the 5th Photographic Squadron could obtain the needed pictures for effective counterbattery fire against the pesky enemy artillery.

A Boeing PT-13D "Kaydet 2-seater, open cockpit and fabric-covered  primary trainer biplane (also known as the Stearman Model 75) at the Philippine Air Force Museum in Manila.  The PT-17 was similar.  (Courtesy Firingyourimagination.blogspot.com)

A Boeing PT-13D “Kaydet 2-seater, open cockpit and fabric-covered primary trainer biplane (also known as the Stearman Model 75) at the Philippine Air Force Museum in Manila. The PT-17 was similar. (Courtesy Firingyourimagination.blogspot.com)

Villamor barely made it back to Bataan before six Nakajima Ki-27 (Allied code name NATE) Imperial Japanese fighter planes of the 50th Sentai from the Manila area made an effort to shoot him down. His P-40 escort fought them off, but not before a harrowing landing under fire (see earlier posting related to this mission, “Finding Earl Stone,” at: https://bataancampaign.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/finding-earl-stone/ )

Villamor is remembered today by the name of Villamor Air Base in Manila, the former Nichols Field, greatly expanded into Manila International Airport (Ninoy Aquino International Airport). It is the headquarters of the Philippine Air Force.

Gate 4 of Villamor Air Base, circa 2013.  (Courtesy Endlessrise.com)

Gate 4 of Villamor Air Base, circa 2013. (Courtesy Endlessrise.com)

There are many examples of courage under fire in the Bataan campaign, from land and sea and air. So on this National Heroes Day, remember also the heroes of Bataan, who fought for freedom for their country and future generations in those difficult days of World War II.
References

Gordon, John, Fighting for MacArthur: The Navy and Marine Corps’ Desperate Defense of the Philippines, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, page 168

National Heroes Day, at: http://malacanang.gov.ph/8720-national-heroes-day/

Museum Feature:  Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum – Indoor Exhibits (Pasay City), at:  http://firingyourimagination.blogspot.com/2012/11/while-waiting-for-my-father-in-laws.html#.VeQOrfTm5g8

Villamor Air Base, Wikipedia entry, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villamor_Air_Base

Villamor AB gate picture, at: http://www.endlessrise.com/endlessrise-joins-relief-efforts-for-typhoon-haiyan-victims-2/

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