Just ten hours after their assault on Pearl Harbour, the Japanese invaded the Philippines as part of their concurrent attacks across Southeast Asia and the Pacific in December 1941. Fighting from Filipino and US soldiers continued until surrender in Bataan in April 1942, a period that saw around 100,000 Filipino soldiers and 23,000 US soldiers killed or captured. The 105km forced ‘Death March’ of the 80,000 Bataan POWs saw a further 10,000 die.
Filipino resistance grew in the aftermath, particularly in the jungles and mountainous regions, with roughly 260,000 people involved in guerrilla groups. Supported by US supplies, so successful were these groups that by the time of Japan’s surrender the occupiers had control of just 12 of the country’s 48 provinces.
Amongst the most remarkable Filipino guerrillas was Nieves Fernandez, a schoolteacher in Tacloban (a city on the Filipino island of Leyte) at the time of the Japanese invasion. Following the outbreak of war, she joined the resistance and led a guerrilla group of around 110 native men from south of Tacloban.
With just three rifles, she taught them how to improvise grenades and guns made from gas pipes, or stole Japanese weapons. Wounded only once, yet managing to kill 200 Japanese soldiers, Fernandez and her guerrillas were so effective that US intelligence reported that the Japanese put out a bounty of 10,000 Philippine Pesos for her.