‘Guerrilla’ Lt. Made Col. in 3 Years

(Source: “The Stars and Stripes,” Ramstein Bureau, Tuesday, August 18, 1964, by Ray Wright.)

VERDUN, France (S&S)—From a first lieutenant to a bird colonel in three years while he was listed as missing in action may sound fantastic, but it happened. The man to whom it happened is Lt. Col. Arthur P. Murphy, liaison officer of the Supply and Maintenance Agency, Com Z, Maison-Forte, with offices at Verdun, France.

Art Murphy Verdun France circa 1964

This was guerrilla war in the Philippines during World War II, after the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, and the Corregidor surrender on May 6, 1942.

“While MacArthur’s slogan was ‘I shall return,’ our motto was ‘We remained,’” Murphy said of the mixed forces of Americans and Filipinos that made up the guerrilla army.

Murphy was at Camp John Hay, Baguio, in the Philippines when the war came. “We were bombed the first day. Eleven of our men were killed and 21 wounded. Under the old war plan, our two companies were supposed to go down to defend the beaches, but in the meantime, two divisions of the Philippine Army had been mobilized in the same area.

“We were told to stay put until further orders. Then the Japanese moved down the coast, driving back the two divisions and cutting off all roads leading out”

The small force in Baguio marched over the mountains in an attempt to get out and rejoin the main American-Philippine forces retreating toward Bataan, but failed to make contact by midnight.

“A group of us—a couple of Army officers, a couple of enlisted men, and some civilians we picked up along the way—then followed the Japanese who were following the Americans to Bataan. We were almost to Manila when we heard over the radio that another unit which hadn’t headed for Bataan but had remained in North Luzon, had wiped out a Japanese airfield there.

“We figured there was no point in going to Bataan if there was fighting going on up north. We worked our way back through the countryside now occupied by Japanese and were almost at Baguio when we heard of the surrender of Bataan and Corregidor.”

Many American guerrillas eventually surrendered in response to an official order issued because of Japan’s threat to wipe out the prisoners of Bataan and Corregidor unless all American forces on the island surrendered.

Murphy and a number of others refused even though they were informed that after the war—if they should live that long—they would be court-martialed for disobeying orders. “I don’t know if I was stubborn or just lucky,” Murphy said.

“I was just a lieutenant at that time and had lots to learn—and unlearn. One thing we all had to unlearn was our formal military strategy. We had no connection with the outside, and our only weapons and ammunition were what we scrounged. We lived off the land. When there were just a few of us, we ate with the local natives and moved in with them.

“As time went on, we picked up more Americans and Filipinos and organized into companies and platoons. Meanwhile, other guerrilla units were doing the same thing. We spread ourselves out in various areas and made arrangements with people to supply our ‘Army’ with certain hard foodstuffs on a periodic basis.

“Local people built houses of bamboo and grass for us in our camps and, more than that, they were essential to our security. When a Japanese patrol came into our area, the local chief sent a runner to warn us where they were, how many, and what they were doing.

“We reaped the benefits of 40 years of good government in the Philippines by the United States,” Murphy said. “The people were loyal, went without food so we could eat, and suffered torture and death at times to protect us. I probably wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for their support. Certainly our guerrilla action couldn’t have succeeded without them.

“Americans remained U.S. Army officers,” Murphy said. “Fortunately for us, the U.S. Army, when they later wrote our paychecks, also recognized retroactively the promotions we received in the guerrilla army.” Murphy reverted to his present rank during the postwar demobilization.