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 Fil-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 over the next several months.  In January 1942 he teamed up with Captains Manuel Enriquez and Guillermo Nakar, and together they formed the 1st Provisional Guerrilla Regiment, under the command of 11th Infantry Division Major Everett Warner.  Cushing's group was designated the "121st Infantry Regiment," a designation that may have been assigned by General MacArthur's staff on Corregidor.  They were in radio contact with MacArthur, and General MacArthur authorized the new organization.  It should be noted that Major Warner had a rival for command of the guerrilla regiment in the person of Lt. Col. John P. Horan. 

Walter Cushing's 121st Infantry was doing quite well against the Japanese until Bataan fell on April 9, 1942.  After the surrender, Col. Horan took over from Warner and used the designation "121st Infantry" to cover his larger organization, which still included Cushing's guerrillas. 

Corregidor fell on May 6, 1942, and Col. Horan surrendered to the Japanese as ordered by Gen. Wainwright.  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 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.

After Moses and Noble were captured, the 121st was taken over by guerrilla Lt. Col. Manuel Enriquez, a well-connected and daring underground leader who had recently been paroled by the Japanese, and who nominally reported to Major Russell Volckmann in north Luzon.  Volckmann had consolidated most of the north Luzon guerrillas into one large organization, the United States Forces in the Philippines--Northern Luzon, and he held them intact until the end of the war.  During this period, command of the 121st appears to have passed to Maj. George Barnett.  Enriquez and Barnett were reportedly arrested by the Japanese in January 1944, but this may have been a ruse on Enriquez' part.  Enriquez suspected that guerrilla agent Franco Vera Reyes was a Japanese spy, and attempted to get him arrested and discredited before he could do major harm.  He was not successful.  Franco Vera Reyes is also described in Bataan Diary.

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 by Chris Schaefer.