Waiting for General MacArthur

TITLE:  Waiting for General MacArthur

AUTHOR: Virgilio Gonzales

PUBLISHER: Rosedog Books


REVIEW PUBLISHED IN DANBURY NEWS TIMES (July 21, 2012)  By Jacqueline Smith

Virgilio’s Story Had to be Told

The time had come when Virgilio Gonzales just had to tell his story. It could wait no longer.

Time had not softened the memories of his youth, when the Japanese occupied the Philippines, his native country, during World War II.

The story, as all powerful stories, had to come out into words that would last. And so the now-80-year-old Danbury resident sat down to write.

It took four years to complete and publish “Waiting for General MacArthur.” Virgilio can now hold the softcover book in his hands.

On Dec. 8, 1941, only 10 hours after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacked Manila.

Virgilio remembers it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and an attack was unexpected.

“The Japanese planes emerged from a bank of clouds, glistening in the sun like a school of bangus (milk fish) in the sky. The anti-aircraft guns around Manila opened up in a deafening barrage. The air raid sirens screamed and went on screaming like the world had gone crazy.”

For the 9-year-old boy, it had.

From the point of view of a child named Carlos, who, of course, is Virgilio, the scene unfolds in rich detail.
“Darkness invaded Manila. Total blackout was enforced for the first time. The children stayed in their room, quiet as mice. They had not recovered from the air raid, they sat down on the floor, their back against the wall.
“Whatever they were thinking, they kept to themselves. The house was still and quiet. The only light in the house came from the votive oil lamp on the wall altar of the Virgin Mary.”

That night his brother, Rey, left his engineering studies at the University of the Philippines to join the military and went off to war with three cans of Libby’s Pork and Beans.

Two days later, when the Japanese bombed and obliterated the U.S. naval yard where Virgilio’s father, Arsenio, worked, the family with nine children fled Manila.

Over the course of three years they would move from place to place, seeking safety and hoping MacArthur would hold true to his promise — “I shall return.”

Virgilio’s story holds tender moments and descriptive details, from the fright of a family trying to survive to eating fried crickets for the first time. (“They were crunchy like cheese curls…”)

The story holds tragedy. Virgilio’s father joined the underground and was executed by the Japanese. Virgilio’s future father-in-law, Capt. Sofronio Jimenea, also died in the war.

When MacArthur returns and liberation finally occurs, the relief and joy come through the pages.

Years later, Virgilio received a chemistry degree from the University of the Philippines and married a fellow chemist, Maria Corazon Jimenea, who everyone calls Baby. They emigrated to the U.S. in 1978.

Why they came to Danbury, and what it was like to establish themselves in a new country, would make another interesting story.

For now, Virgilio is pleased that his family and others can read his words.

“Waiting for General MacArthur” was self-published through Rosedog Books in Pittsburgh and sells for $16.

Virgilio will be the first to tell you that the book has typos. He has macular degeneration, which affects his vision.
“The book with all its flaws is dear to me,” he said to me in an email. “It is better for a book to see the light of print than gather dust on my dust.”

I, for one, am glad he sat down four years ago to finally tell his story.

Everyone, actually, has a story inside.

Don Jose, An American Soldier's Courage and Faith in Japanese Captivity

TITLE:  Don Jose, An American Soldier’s Courage and Faith in Japanese Captivity

AUTHOR:  Ezequiel L. Ortiz, James A. McClure

PUBLISHER:  Sunstone Press (2012)

Binding: Paperback, 176 pages


REVIEW PUBLISHED IN MILITARY WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA,  www.mswadispatches.com  By  Barbara Peacock (2012)

Author’s Summary

In 1941 the Japanese invaded the Philippines with overwhelming force and forced the surrender of American troops at Bataan and Corregidor. Prisoners of war were subjected to brutal captivity and thousands did not survive. This is the story of an American soldier who survived and became a hero. When American troops liberated the Niigata POW camp after the Japanese surrender, Corporal Joseph O. Quintero greeted them with a homemade American flag that had been sewn together in secrecy. The son of Mexican immigrants, Joseph Quintero grew up in a converted railroad caboose in Fort Worth, Texas, and joined the Army to get $21 a month and three meals a day. He manned a machine gun in the defense of Corregidor before his unit was captured by the Japanese. When prisoners of war were transported to Japan, Joseph survived a razor-blade appendectomy on the ”hell ship” voyage. In the prison camp he cared for his fellow prisoners as a medic and came to be known as Don Jose. Joseph’s narrative is an enlisted man’s view of the war with first-hand descriptions of conditions in the POW camps and personal glimpses of what he and his buddies did, endured and talked about. The authors have drawn on other histories and official documents to put his story into perspective and focus on a little-known chapter of World War II.

MWSA Review

Ortiz and McClure honor an old friend’s wish to be remembered in this stirring biography of Joseph Quintero, US Army private and Japanese POW. They mix a standard biographical narrative with Joseph’s own accounts of his experiences. The result is a highly readable story of a soldier’s struggles to survive under the most horrendous of conditions, with bravery, honor, and compassion.

Joseph Quintero possessed the ability to love and serve others, traits handed down to him by his deeply religious and affectionate mother, Lorenza. A first generation American born to Mexican immigrants in Texas, young Joseph helped his father support his family of nine children by going to work at age thirteen. As these were the depression years, his variety of jobs at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Fort Worth, including ambulance assistant, paid little. Joseph therefore decided to enlist in the Army along with some friends. Because he was undersize, the recruiters rejected him. Joseph’s friends told them either he went or they’d walk out. Joseph was allowed to enlist.

Throughout Joseph’s wartime experiences, his attention to his fellow soldiers’ needs and sufferings led them to warmly reciprocate. He utilized the basic medic skills he’d learned in Fort Worth during the Japanese siege of Corregidor. Afterwards, from prison camp to prison camp: Bilibid and Cabanatuan in the Philippines, then at the infamous Niigata Labor Camp in Japan, where he remained until the end of the war.

Along the way, Joseph underwent an appendectomy in the cramped hold of the POW transport, Taga Maru, in semi-darkness with Major Keggie operating with a razor. The surgeon attempted the impossible because of his high regard for Joseph. Perhaps the Almighty, hearing Joseph’s repeated prayer, “I believe in God. I believe I will live,” and knowing his passion for helping other, assisted.

The Taga Maru passage showcases Ortiz and McClure’s talent for using Joseph’s words together with excerpts from other published accounts of the affair, both at the time and later. The authors repeatedly corroborate their story with such inclusions. Indeed, three of their four appendices provide meticulous details of the 60th Coast Artillery, Joseph’s unit, at Corregidor. Such touches help further round out his story.

Joseph’s story is recommended reading for anyone who wishes to pay honor, like the authors, to a vanishing generation of soldiers.