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
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
of Fil-American soldiers were cut off in the mountains and unable to
retreat. Among them was Lt. Robert Arnold, who Walter Cushing
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
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.
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
Cushing, refused. Cushing's guerrillas continued in operation,
continuing to designate themselves the "121st Infantry." In
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
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
During this period, command of the 121st appears to have passed to Maj.
George Barnett. Enriquez and Barnett were reportedly arrested by
Japanese in January 1944, but this may have been a ruse on Enriquez'
part. Enriquez suspected that guerrilla agent Franco Vera Reyes
Japanese spy, and attempted to get him arrested and discredited before
he could do major harm. He was not successful. Franco Vera
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,
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.