Several times a week I find myself on a small ship being transported between Philippine islands. Almost everyone around me is looking down at their phone for most of the slow 30-minute commute. Since I don’t carry a phone, I typically watch the small children finding creative ways to annoy their parents, or I simply daydream while looking at the endless ocean. During those times I often wonder what it was like for the 2 great navies (Japan and the USA) doing battle in Philippine waters during world war two. I’m a bit of a WW2 history buff, and the war in the Pacific during the early 1940’s is fascinating reading. Did you know that the largest naval battle in history was called, The Battle of Leyte Gulf? Japan had almost no navy left when it was over. If Japan hadn’t been so stubborn and surrendered earlier when it was obvious they couldn’t win the war, the Philippine battles need never had been fought.
Imagine a small man and a big man about to fight. The small man figures the only chance he has of winning is to hit first with all his might. He hits the big man and the big man wobbles on his feet but doesn’t go down. The little man moves forward planning to land the finishing blow, but the big man suddenly recovers and pushes the little man away. That’s basically the story of Japan and the U.S. at the beginning of the second world war. Japan tried to win with the first punch at Pearl Harbor and tried to finish off the U.S. at Midway Island. When Japan lost the Battle of Midway, it had little chance of winning the fight/war. The respected Japanese military leader Admiral Yamamoto realized this, even if other Japanese leaders didn’t want to face reality. Admiral Yamamoto was killed about half way thru the war, more than a year before the great navies battled it out around the Philippines. It would seem that Japan’s fate was sealed when his voice was silenced.
History is littered with questions of, “What if?”. For example, a fateful moment in the Battle of Midway occurred when a Japanese airplane radio didn’t work. A Japanese pilot had located the American fleet but couldn’t send the location back to his ship. That seemingly small mishap set in motion a series of events that led to the sinking of 4 extremely important Japanese carriers. What if the radio had worked properly? Maybe Japan would rule over the Pacific today. I can only wonder.
Finally, what if the little man had simply lowered his fists in 1943 and begged the big man for mercy. What if the little man had unconditionally surrendered prior to the American fleet returning to the Philippines? How many Filipino, American, and Japanese lives would have been spared? Would the U.S. had still quickly granted the Philippines independence after the war, as they did in 1946? If not, what would the Philippines be like today? Would it still be a U.S. territory instead of an independent nation? What would the world be like today? Would I still have married a Filipina and made a home in the Philippines? Was my path in life forever changed when that Japanese radio didn’t work, even though it was years before my birth? Was yours? What if?