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Thursday, January 3rd 2019, 12:53am

Philippine News and Events 1949

Butuan Naval Shipyard, Mindanao, 1 January 1949

Commander Trevor Stevens, American naval attaché in the Philippines, considered his good fortune. Thanks to the influence of the Ambassador Stevens had been given the opportunity to tour the Butuan yard at witness the keel-laying of several of the Philippine Navy’s latest warships.

From what he had learned the Numancia-class ocean escorts were well suited to the needs of that service. Relatively inexpensive to construct, there were touted as good antisubmarine platforms, and featured an antisubmarine stand-off weapon – reported of Chilean origin – in addition to conventional depth charges. This, matched with a decent anti-air battery and a good suite of sensors, made then a threat to any Chinese submarines, or aircraft for that matter, that intruded into their range. He also noted that they were also planned to carry three torpedo tubes – giving them a weapon suitable for employment against surface targets. He had already sent to Washington a preliminary report of the design, which would be useful should Spanish submarines ever threated American seaborne commerce.

His tour also included the opportunity to examine the latest destroyers being built in the yard. His hosts invited him to board the destroyer Roxas, which was moored in the fitting-out basin nearing completion. Three of her sisters were alongside; the Roxas and Rosario would complete by early spring, the others not far behind.


Wednesday, January 23rd 2019, 12:57am

Cavite, Wednesday, 5 January 1949

The Russian flag cargo ship Dalnegorsk was slowly eased to the side of the pier at the Cavite naval base and once he was made fast the crew began preparations for off-loading the cargo. This was but the first stop the Dalnegorsk would make – he would spend the better part of a week shifting between anchorages – but the large crates that would soon pass from the holds to the dockside were the most precious. The line of low-loader transport trailers were ready and waiting as the first crates were hauled up from the forward holds and then placed carefully onto the trailers.

The entire operation was under the supervision of a mix of Philippine naval personnel augmented by technicians of the Philippine Air Force – who gave special care to the crates being off-loaded. The task took several hours, as the operation proceeded deliberately. Nevertheless, by late afternoon, the portion of the Dalnegorsk’s cargo of interest to the Philippine military had been landed, and tugs were standing by to warp the freighter to the commercial docks.

The low-loader transports formed up an in convoy, under military escort, slowly made their way towards Villamor Air Force Base.

The Manila Times, Friday, 7 January 1949

The Ministry of Defense has acknowledged the arrival from the Russian Federation of the first batch of six Mikoyan MiG-15 conversion trainers. These have been provided on loan to aid in the training of pilots for the MiG-15 interceptors due to be delivered in the spring. A number of Philippine Air Force personnel


Monday, January 28th 2019, 2:45am

The Freeman (Cebu), Thursday, 13 January 1949

The coastal escorts Alcotan and Halcon called here today at the conclusion of their final operational training cruise. It is anticipated that they will continue to be based here to carry out anti-submarine patrols within the archipelago.


Wednesday, January 30th 2019, 2:32pm

Naval Operating Base Cavite, Tuesday, 18 January 1949

It was late afternoon when the submarines Cairina and Coracina cast off from their moorings at the submarine pier. The boats had completed their training and were now setting forth on their first operational patrols. Her orders saw the Cairina destined to take station off the Chinese port of Swatow, and the Coracina to picket the routes leading to and from the port of Canton. They would relieve their sisters already on station; the Philippine naval staff accorded great importance to the monitoring of Chinese naval movements, particularly to and from the island of Formosa. Any invasion force the Chinese might gather to threaten Luzon would, they believed, would gather in this area – and the submarine patrols were to monitor any such threat.

Thus far, however, the Chinese had shown no inclination to mount such an effort; indeed, Chinese naval activity was at an unexpectedly low level. The Cairina and the Coracina would likely have uneventful cruises until they, in turn, were relieved by their squadron mates.


Saturday, February 9th 2019, 9:34pm

Naval Operating Base Puerto Princesa, Thursday, 20 January 1949

Vice Admiral Fernando Suarez, commander of the Western Fleet, took notice of the first reports regarding the Dutch naval exercises in the South China Sea. The Dutch had chosen to exercise their fleet near the Riau Islands – well clear of Philippine territory but right in the midst of busy shipping lanes. The current exercise followed hard upon the exercise run by the Dutch in the Makassar Strait the previous October, and he wondered what the increased level of activity might portend. He rose from his desk and walked out to the Operations Room.

“What assets do we have available that could be deployed to observe the latest Dutch naval exercise?”

“The frigate Sulu, with the sloops Agusan and Sagawa, are exercising in the southwestern reaches of the Kalayaans sir.”

“Hmm… anything else?”

“The submarine Relampago is in route to her normal patrol station…”

Suarez shook his head. “I would rather not go poking around a Dutch fleet with a submarine; they might mistake it for one of those big Chinese boats our ‘friends’ continually boast of. Air assets?”

“The first of our PB4Ys haven’t been delivered yet – even shuttling PBYs through Itu Aba and Tan Son Nhut we’d be hard pressed to cover the region.”

“Damn. Cut orders for the Sulu and her consorts to extend their patrol in the general direction of the Riau Islands with specific orders to observe and gather information. If the Dutch object, they are to back off immediately.”


Friday, February 15th 2019, 12:34am

Nichols Field, Manila, Saturday, 29 January 1949

The KNILM airliner made its final approach turn and straightened up on the runway preparatory to landing. Buckled into his seat Kapitein-luitenant ter Zee Phillip Buis had a decent, if restricted, view of Manila, which stretched out along the shore of its namesake bay. He put down the pocket guidebook he had been reading and watched the ground slowly rise beneath the aircraft’s wing. With a thump they were on the ground and as the pilot applied the aircraft’s brakes Buis felt the safety belt take the weight of his body. Landings were like that – a lesson in applied physics.

The aircraft taxied across the field to the arrivals apron – Nichols Field did not have the level of traffic Buis associated with Batavia – and the cabin staff prepared for deplaning. His heavy luggage would be taken to the customs hall where he could reclaim it, but for now he gathered up his personal belongings and joined the queue headed towards the aircraft’s door.

He reclaimed his luggage and, advancing to customs, handed his passport and visa to one of the inspectors – and pleasantly discovered himself being waved through the name BUIS. “A welcoming committee? How thoughtful.”

The taller of the two introduced himself as Kapitein-luitenant Lacomblé – the man he was to replace as naval liaison in the Philippines; the shorter was the embassy’s driver and general factotum.

“The minister thought it wise that I should meet you, so as to brief you on the situation here. We’ve developed the good working relationship the Philippine Navy, though of late they’ve shown a bit more interest in our naval exercises than might be warranted.”

Lacomblé brought up a subject Buis was all too familiar with. “I thought their primary concern was Chinese expansionism?”

“Yes, it is. They are also concerned with what goes on in the Indies – they are concerned, and rightly so if you ask me, that talk of greater home rule could reignite the separatist movement in Mindanao and the outer islands. So they have stepped up their monitoring of our ship movements in the last couple of months – out of paranoia perhaps.”

Lacomblé went on to explain that Buis would receive a full briefing once they arrived at the embassy and met with the minister, and that on Monday a meeting with their Philippine counterparts was scheduled. Only after assuring a smooth transition would Lacomblé depart for Batavia and his next assignment.


Wednesday, February 27th 2019, 12:45am

Nichols Field, Manila, Friday, 4 February 1949

Kapitein-luitenants ter Zee Buis and Lacomblé reprised their journey to Manila’s airport but today their roles were reversed. Buis was wishing Lacomblé the best on the latter’s new assignment in Batavia while Lacomblé was making the best of his last opportunity to brief his successor on how best to continue the harmonious relationship he had built up between the Dutch and Philippine navies.

“The Philippine authorities, the Navy in particular, want to keep friendly relations with us, but for their own reasons – not necessarily because they love us. That the Chinese are a threat is beyond question, but the Filipinos constantly see them over their shoulder. Sometimes I wonder if that viewpoint is played up to keep the current government in power. But for that reason they want to have good relations with us, the French, and the Americans.”

Buis nodded. “Given the damage to civilian targets during the war, Philippine fears of Chinese aggression are not without foundation.”

“True. But they also want us to keep a lid our own natives. Despite the victories that Filipino forces achieved over their separatists in Mindanao and the outer islands, the Moro threat is still latent – and the settlement of northerners in the area still a cause for friction.”

“If that’s the case, would they help us against Sukarno and his lot, if push came to shove?”

“That’s a good question. There are those inside the Senate that would advocate for that, but it would be unpopular unless properly presented to the average Filipino. That said, the Philippine government is rather good at managing public opinion.”

“You’ve mentioned the Philippine government, and just now the Senate. Aren’t they one and the same?”

Lacomblé paused before answering, his brow furrowed, searching for the best analogy.

“Real power – economic and political – is concentrated in the Philippine Senate. The ministers who make up the government are in many respects front men. There is a lot of jockeying between the two to get legislation through and implement policies. Thankfully I’ve never had to deal directly with either end of that particular string – the Philippine naval staff being fairly reasonable folk. But keep your ears to the ground, try to stay on good terms with everyone, and never forget they are a proud people.”


Friday, March 8th 2019, 9:03pm

The Freeman (Cebu), Friday, 11 February 1949

The anti-submarine gunboats Centinela and Serviola, completed late last year, have now finished their initial operational training and have taken up duties patrolling the Central Sea Frontier.


Tuesday, March 12th 2019, 1:54am

The Mindanao Post, Sunday, 13 February 1949

The anti-submarine gunboats Vigía and Atalaya are due to be completed and commissioned today at the Butuan naval shipyard. The last of eight such handy vessels constructed for the Navy they will serve to assure the security of trade routes between Mindanao and Luzon in the event of war.


Tuesday, March 26th 2019, 4:02pm

Manila, The Army-Navy Club, Tuesday, 15 February 1949

The invitation to attend a gathering at Manila’s Army-Navy Club had come to Buis as a surprise, but a quick check with his fellows at the embassy disclosed that the Philippine military frequently held such affairs where senior officers and government officials could meet informally with their foreign counterparts. It was a good opportunity to make and cultivate contacts within the Philippine establishment. Lacomblé had advised him to keep his ears to the ground; to Buis it seemed a sound idea.

The main lounge buzzed with conversation, and Buis followed his escort, Commander Carlos Salazar, in making the rounds. Salazar regaled the Dutchman with stories of his days commanding a small disaster response ship in the Southern Seas – during which Buis found that he and his escort had unknowingly crossed paths. Suddenly Salazar noticed an American officer at the bar and steered his charge in that direction.

“Commander Stevens, good to see you! Permit me to introduce Kapitein-luitenant ter Zee Phillip Buis, Royal Netherlands Navy liaison here in Manila. Kapitein-luitenant ter Zee Buis, Commander Trevor Stevens, United States Navy, American naval attaché in the Philippines.”

Hands were shaken all round, and Salazar asked the bartender for San Miguels, while they repaired to a table to talk ‘shop’. After a few moments Stevens brought up a topic that was familiar enough to Salazar.

“So, when will your Navy give ‘us’ a chance to see Scarborough Station?”

A quizzical look came over Buis’ face. “Scarborough Station?”

“The Philippine Navy has constructed a listening post at Scarborough Shoals in the South China Sea to monitor… well, who knows what. Rumor has it is keeps track of every ship movement for a radius of a hundred miles as well as every aircraft that traverses the region.”

Salazar laughed deceptively. “We try…”

Buis, who was familiar enough with the network of ‘civilian outposts’ and ‘aids to navigation’ the Philippine authorities had constructed across the Spratly Islands, tried to consider that the station might be capable of.

“I will make you a promise. I will put your request through to Senor Magsaysay, the Minister’s right-hand man, again. Perhaps he will relent in your favor.”


Friday, April 5th 2019, 10:24pm

The Manila Times, Monday, 21 February 1949

The Ministry of Defense confirmed that a military-technical commission will depart for Europe in this week to evaluate the potential acquisition of new armored vehicles for the Philippine Army. Concerns have been raised regarding the relative weakness of the Army’s mechanized forces in the face of reports of China’s continued military build-up.


Saturday, April 6th 2019, 12:37am

The Manila Times, Monday, 21 February 1949

The Ministry of Defense confirmed that a military-technical commission will depart for Europe in this week to evaluate the potential acquisition of new armored vehicles for the Philippine Army. Concerns have been raised regarding the relative weakness of the Army’s mechanized forces in the face of reports of China’s continued military build-up.

The Russian Federation humbly suggests that the Filipino commission take the opportunity to observe the "Armoured Spearhead" event at the 1949 International Militariad in April, as it will afford them the opportunity to observe probably a dozen or more of the most modern types in service. Should the technical commission so wish, a second private demonstration of Russian-built armoured vehicles could be arranged...


Saturday, April 6th 2019, 1:08am

Given the commission's anticipated arrival in Paris (their first destination in Europe) in early March, extending their tour to attend the Militariad should be easily accomplished.


Monday, April 8th 2019, 12:24am

Cavite Naval Shipyard, Monday, 28 February 1949

The launch of the light cruiser Tarlac was an occasion of great importance, attended by many dignitaries. Alongside the President, the ministers, the senators, and the other delegations the foreign guests, including Buis and Stevens, almost faded into insignificance. For these ‘official observers’ it was an opportunity to cast critical eyes on the most recent vessel for the Philippine Navy.

“Perhaps our hosts will give you the opportunity to visit the yard at Butuan. It is practically an assembly line for destroyers.”

Buis nodded. “I have read my predecessor’s reports, but I would like to see it myself.”

“Ah, my friends, there you are!” It was Salazar, and he seemed in a very happy mood. “I am glad I have found you, as I have good news. Minister De la Vega has approved your request to visit Scarborough Station.”

“Thank you Carlos!” The American grasped Salazar’s hand with a smile. “The United States Navy appreciates the courtesy of the Philippine Navy.”

“And the Royal Netherlands Navy appreciates the trust reposed by your Government in our discretion.” Buis was mindful enough to understand that he might not see everything that might be seen, and that he ought not to be too inquisitive.

“The date has not been set, but I can assure you that you will receive official invitations within the week.”


Thursday, April 18th 2019, 2:33am

Philipping News and Events, March 1949

The Mindanao Examiner, Tuesday, 1 March 1949

The Ministry of Defense has announced the formation of the Army’s Third Civic Action Group, which will be deployed to support development efforts in Bukidnon, Lanao, and Misamis.

The Manila Herald, Wednesday, 3 March 1949

The escort destroyers Roxas and Rosario were completed today at the Butuan naval shipyard. The ships will commence builders’ trials and followed by operational training and work-up with the Central Fleet.


Monday, April 22nd 2019, 2:24pm

Scarborough Station, Monday, 7 March 1949

The supply ship that had brought them from Manila hove to some distance from the station itself, lowering a launch that would carry Buis, Stevens, and their escort, Salazar through the shallow waters of the reef and to the station itself. Even at a distance it looked impressive – besides the principal observation station itself two other structures formed part of the complex – one raised upon stilts high above the water and one much closer to the water which seemed to form a small artificial island. Worked seemed to be proceeding apace on other elements as well.

The launch threaded its way inside the shoals and headed towards the main station, raised high above the water on three pylons. A heavy steel framework supported the ‘deck’ upon which the domes protecting the electronic observation equipment were placed. Moments later, when they had boarded the station they could see that there was much else beside the domes – the low compartments that formed the work and living space for the crew that manned the station.

Salazar explained that the personnel assigned to Scarborough Station worked a six-week tour before being relieved, and were then allowed a rest-and-recreation period of six weeks ashore.

Stevens was curious about the low structure. “What is the purpose of the sea-level portion of the station? Is that a motor torpedo boat I see tied up there?”

“Yes – it is the forward operating base of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three. They have at least a pair of boats stationed here at all times. The Chinese might be tempted to pay us a visit – an unlikely event but one we must prepare for.”

Buis was more interested in the second tall structure, sited some distance from the main station. He noted that it was surmounted by its own radar dish, of the type normally associated with antiaircraft fire control. Salazar was reticent to answer questions regarding its purpose, suggesting that it was part of ‘expansion plans’.


Tuesday, April 30th 2019, 8:16pm

Scarborough Station, Tuesday, 8 March 1949

Buis and Stevens had spent the night in the rather spartan guest quarters of Scarborough Station. Salazar, their escort, explained in extending the invitation, “I think you will find it interesting.”

In many ways it was. They had the opportunity to observe the radar, or as their hosts would say, dradis operators during the watches, each aircraft or ship entering the station’s vicinity being identified and tracked. They shared meals with the station’s officers in their mess, noting that the fare served there was not that different from the rations served to the station’s crew, though perhaps prepared with greater care and served in less confined quarters. They were enjoying breakfast just about sun-up when the blare of a siren startled them. Buis and Stevens made their way to the station’s main deck, guided by their escort.

“It is interesting?”

From the railing that ran around the perimeter the two officers could see a pair of tugs slowly edging a huge concrete structure into place some distance from the station. They threaded their way between the shoals until the structure reached its destination. The structure sported both large and medium caliber antiaircraft guns, as well as radar aerials.

“What the devil?” Stevens had never seen anything like it before. He watched the tugs cast off and then the structure began to sink by one end. Then the portion that had sunk beneath the surface struck bottom and the forward portion flooded down to bring the structure to rest on an even keel.

“It is the work of an Englishman, Guy Maunsell, together with the labor of many of my countrymen. A mobile fort, which can be built near shore and towed to where it is needed. This is the first of several planned for the defense of this station.” Salazar showed a toothy grin.

Buis had expected something, but not this. If the Philippines planted several of these ‘sea forts’ at Scarborough Station its defenses would be complete. Moreover, if they could be afforded, such forts could dot the entire archipelago, plugging gaps in the existing defenses. This, he realized, was something Batavia, if not The Hague, would find very interesting indeed.


Saturday, May 4th 2019, 8:03pm

Liege, Belgium, Friday, 11 March 1949

Colonel Francisco Magundayao of the Philippine Army sat at the desk of his hotel in the ‘arms capital’ of Europe. The Technical Mission of which he was chief had been quite busy since their arrival in France nearly two weeks previously; after touring several of the principal French defense establishments several members of the mission had moved on to Britain, and others to the Netherlands, while he and the remainder of the mission had toured the Fabrique Nationale facilities. Their brief was wide – after lavishing much of the available funds on the growth of the Navy and the Air Force the Government had finally recognized that if all else should fail, the Army would have to defeat any Chinese invasion on the beaches with overwhelming force – and to do that the Army needed modern arms and equipment.

Thus far they had reached a decision on only one item on their putative shopping list – modern all-terrain tactical vehicles. A letter of offer from the Swiss firm of MOWAG Motorwagenfabrik had been accepted with alacrity, such was the need to replace the Army’s ancient trucks. The decision for new light armored vehicles – the mission’s highest priority – was far more complex, requiring the balancing of capabilities with costs as well as deliveries. They still had purveyors in Central Europe to visit – indeed the mission’s representatives from Holland and Britain would not rendezvous for several days – and they were committed to at least a week in the Russian Federation.

Much as he might want to Magundayao could not rush nor buy everything offered to him.


Friday, May 10th 2019, 7:38pm

The Mindanao Examiner, Monday, 14 March 1949

The freighter Dona Mercedes departed the port of Bataraza on Palawan yesterday with the first load of nickel ore from the recently opened Rio Tuba Nickel Mine. She is bound for Butuan, where a processing facility will prepare the ore for shipment overseas. The output if the Rio Tuba mine is considered particularly valuable, with a nickel content in excess of fifty percent with significant amounts of cobalt. Several other mining projects on Palawan are under way and are expected to come on stream in the months and years ahead.


Monday, May 13th 2019, 9:04pm

Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, 17 March 1949

The members of the Philippine Technical Mission had reassembled and has spent the previous day comparing notes. Those who had the opportunity to visit Great Britain spoke highly of the light armored vehicles – the Mission’s chief interest – they had been shown – the Ferret scout car, the Saracen troop carrier, and the Saladin armored car; alas, the last named were still in prototype form and would not be available in quantity for many months. Those who had spent the longest time examining the offerings of French industry favored the Hotchkiss firm’s family of light armored vehicles – not necessarily as advanced as what the British had to offer, but available now. Colonel Magundayao was thankful that they did not need to make an immediate decision – they had several days of visits to German factories lined up before they continued their survey.

The Germans had little in the sort of hardware the Philippine Army was looking for, though he personally found the promised demonstration of helicopters to be intriguing. Such aircraft would be quite useful in certain circumstances, and he had seen the French aircraft of this sort some months ago in Indochina; so he kept an open mind. From Germany the mission would go on to Czechoslovakia – an almost mandatory stop for any military mission vising Europe.