National Geographic : 1945 Mar
What Luzon Means to Uncle Sam BY FREDERICK SIMPICII N OW that our forces are back on Luzon, its strategic importance to America in creases as our fight against Japan mounts in fury. Here decisive battles of the Pacific war are being fought. The Japs needed this big island to protect their long sea lane to the Netherlands Indies, and as a base from which to control the rest of the Philippines. Largest of the Philippine group, Luzon is only 225 miles south of Jap-owned Formosa and a 485-mile hop from Hong Kong. In whatever direction our land forces move, whether against Formosa, the China Coast,* or the island empire of Hirohito, Luzon must stand as a powerful bastion on that far Pacific frontier with which, for better or worse, destiny now links us. Big as Kentucky, rich in farms, gold, iron, chrome, copper, and lumber, and with hosts of skilled workers among its 7,375,000 people (about 45 percent of the population of the Philippines), this island is destined to be a huge, convenient, Far Eastern base for Ameri can airfields, reserve troops, supplies, naval installations, and repair shops for planes, ships, and other fighting equipment. Until the Japs bombed Manila in December, 1941, and later drove Uncle Sam out of the Philippines, most Americans at home had lost interest in these islands. Few editors wanted any stories about the doings of Filipinos; the islands were on their way to enjoy full free dom, as an independent republic, in July, 1946. Congress had so voted. Now the eyes of our whole nation are fixed again on these rich, historic islands, as we fight our stubborn way to Japan and the China Coast. Already, by Joint Resolution of Congress, we are planning to build a series of permanent Army and Navy bases and airports at strategic points on Luzon and elsewhere in the Philip pines, after negotiation with the head of the Philippine Government. That, in itself, shows how this war has changed our Pacific aims. * "Today on the China Coast," by John B. Powell, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1945. t Members may obtain additional copies of the new map of "The Philippines" (and of all other maps published by The Society) by writing to the National Geographic Society, Washington 6, D. C . Prices, in United States and Possessions, 500 each, on paper; $1 on linen; Index, 25. Outside of United States and Possessions, 75(' on paper; $1.25 on linen (postal regulations generally prohibit mailing linen maps outside of Western Hemisphere); Index, 500. All remittances payable in U. S . funds. Postage prepaid. Also, if Uncle Sam sees fit, he may under this Resolution give the Filipinos full freedom before July 4, 1946. By another Resolution, approved June 29, 1944, a joint Filipino-American commission is authorized to study postwar island economy, trade, finance, and damages done to people and their property by enemy attack and occupa tion. That commission is now at work. It has nine American and nine Filipino members; the American section includes three Senators and three Representatives. New NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Map Shows Strategic Philippines Besides big, rich, populous Luzon, there are 7,082 other islands-many small ones unin habited-in this archipelago. Its strategic position, extent, and character are vividly shown on a new 7-color map supplement of the Philippines, with this number of THE GEOGRAPHIC.t This map shows the Philippines in detail, with an inset which pictures their setting be tween western New Guinea and enigmatic Vladivostok, and their geographic relation to Japan, the Marianas, western Carolines, the Netherlands Indies, and the China Coast. On the map are 3,787 names. Slightly smaller than the British Isles, with an area of 115,600 square miles, the Philip pines stretch from latitude 21°07' N. down to 4°40' N.-a distance of about 1,150 miles from north to south. For centuries most Philippine invaders have landed on the big northern island of Luzon. Chinese, Spaniards, Dutch, British, Americans in 1898, and Japs in 1941, all came ashore on Luzon. But when our Army and Navy hit the Philippines on October 20, 1944, our forces landed on the east coast of Leyte, about the center of the group. Conquering that island during weeks of typhoon season, flood, and mud, the Americans soon moved a little over 200 miles northwest, to take Mindoro and then tiny Marinduque isle. Today, as this is written, the largest American army ever as sembled anywhere in the Pacific has landed on Luzon, north of Manila. Opposing it are Jap forces of equal or even greater strength. Never in all their stormy history have the Philippines seen battles of such magnitude as rage there now, on land, on the sea, and in the air (page 308).