Bataan Diary
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121st Infantry Regiment:

When the Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 7, 1941 (US time), they landed their first large troop contingent at Vigan on the north coast on December 10 (Philippine time).  Walter Cushing, one of three Mexican-American Cushing brothers living in the Philippines, immediately began organizing some local Filipinos into a guerrilla unit in order to help with the war effort if called upon. 

The main body of the Japanese invasion force landed at Lingayen Gulf on December 22, 1941.  The Filipino-American divisions assigned to defend the coast, the 11th, 21st, and 71st Infantry Divisions, PA, were quickly dispersed and retreated into the mountains of north Luzon, then down the central plain to Bataan.  However, several groups of Fil-American soldiers were cut off in the mountains and unable to retreat.  Among them was Lt. Robert Arnold, who Walter Cushing recruited to train his guerrillas. Cushing and his men pulled off several successful attacks on the Japanese in north Luzon.

In January 1942 Lt. Colonel John P. Horan, who had been commandant of Camp John Hay in Baguio before the war started, organized a group of 2500 miners, former soldiers, constabulary officers and Igorote tribesmen into a guerrilla force he designated the "43rd Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts." He sent Lt. George Barnett to contact Walter Cushing and added Cushing and his men to his organzation as the "121st Infantry Regiment."

The 121st Infantry did quite well against the Japanese until Bataan fell on April 9, and Corregidor fell on May 6, 1942. On direct orders from General Wainwright, Col. Horan surrendered also.  But many of his men, including Walter Cushing, refused.  Cushing's guerrillas continued in operation, continuing to designate themselves the "121st Infantry."  In September 1942, Walter Cushing was killed in action.

The 121st Infantry, now led by Capt. William Peryam, joined the United States Army Forces in the Philippines--Northern Luzon, the guerrilla organization led by Lt. Cols. Martin Moses and Arthur "Maxie" Noble.  Moses and Noble's activities, their October 1942 attack on the Japanese Itogon mines, and eventual capture and execution are described in Bataan Diary.  Charles Cushing, one of Walter's brothers, was also part of this organization.  Peryam was captured by the Japanese in January 1943.  Charles Cushing surrendered in March 1943.  Moses and Noble were captured in June 1943, and subsequently executed.

After Moses and Noble were captured, the 121st was taken over by (guerrilla) Major George Barnett. Barnett was arrested by the Japanese on January 25, 1944.

The 121st Infantry was one of the more important and more successful guerrilla organizations in the Philippines during the war.  It was probably the first resistance group to be formally organized, it was authorized and given its unit designation by General MacArthur, and it operated all the way through the Japanese occupation. 
In an interesting aside, a third Cushing brother, James, was a guerrilla leader on Cebu island, and at one point in 1944 he captured one of the highest ranking admirals of the Japanese Navy, and with him the Japanese defense plans for the Philippines.  Unfortunately, the Japanese retaliated on the local Filipino population until they forced Cushing to give up both the admiral and the plans.

There have been several books written about the guerrillas of north Luzon.  The most complete one is Bernard Norling's The Intrepid Guerrillas of North Luzon.  Another is Phillip Harkins' Blackburns Headhunters, based on the personal diary of Donald Blackburn.  Norling co-authored two other books on the subject, Behind Japanese Lines with Ray Hunt and Lapham's Raiders with Robert Lapham.  For a Filipino perspective, and an account of some of the more ruthless undertakings of the north Luzon guerrillas, try The Bad Guerrillas of North Luzon by Ernesto Rodriguez, Jr. 

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Copyright © 2006, 2008, 2014 by Chris Schaefer.