2008-05-28 / Star Journal

Philippines Fall To Japan In May 1942

Philippines Fall To Japan In May 1942 

Photo pubic domain Later in his naval career Bulkeley was promoted to Rear Admiral by President John F. Kennedy.
Get into a conversation with a long-time Queens resident and  you're likely to discover a subscriber of the Long Island Star-Journal, a daily paper that informed the community about local and world news until it folded in 1968. A banner across the Star-Journal masthead reminded readers that the newspaper's name came from the merger of the Long Island Daily Star (1876) and the North Shore Daily Journal--The Flushing Journal (1841).

Welcome to May 1942!

Five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, World War II firmly dominated the headlines.

On May 6, Corregidor in the Philippines, under heavy assault surrendered to the Japanese. The garrison, bombarded night and day by artillery shells, slept in shifts at their guns. Dive-bombers dropped a rain of 1,000-pound bombs on them. One by one, the other forts in Manila Bay fell.

Photo pubic domain Wainright after World War II and promotion to full General
General Jonathan Wainwright arranged capitulation terms for the 10,000 weary, hungry, and disease-ridden American and Filipino defenders. About 3,000 were civilians. It was 27 days after the fall of Bataan and just a day short of 44 years since Admiral George Dewey had cabled home his victory in the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish- American War- the date United States took possession of the islands. Although the formal resistance was over, knots of brave American and Filipino guerillas who continued to harass communication lines kept in touch with Australia with their weak field radios. General Douglas MacArthur, who was ordered to flee to Australia, pledged his faith as a soldier to return.

Stateside, the war effort was beginning to ramp up. On May 5, the sixth minesweeper to be built in Whitestone in the past seven weeks slid into the East River. The boat was christened at the Wheeler Shipbuilding Corporation's yard at the foot of 154th Street. Officials at the Wheeler yard indicated that minesweeper production was gradually being stepped up and would soon maintain a pace of one a week. The company held the coveted Navy "E" pennant for efficiency in turning out the highly important minesweepers.

Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. MacArthur at the Manila City Hall, Philippine Islands, 2 August 1945.
Approximately one million persons gathered at Times Square to see a phenomenon. For 20 minutes there was a complete blackout of Midtown Manhattan, something which had never happened in living memory. When the lights went out, the crowd showed an enthusiasm normally reserved for New Year's Eve. When, on occasion a stray light appeared, a thunderous shout went up, demanding the offender turn it out. Observers said they could hear shouts on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building

On May 18, Queens underwent its first blackout. Only the Flushing and Astoria trains and factories engaged in war production were exempt. More than 35,000 air raid wardens in the borough took part in the blackout. All streetlights and traffic lights were to be turned off and automobiles were stopped and drivers required to turn out their lights. Traffic was at a standstill for 20 minutes. A photograph from a roof at Steinway Street and 30th Avenue showed lights only at the distant Brewster Building, where workers were busy turning out Brewster aircraft for the war effort.

A Star Journal reporter went around to 50 gas stations trying to get gas without a ration card. At each station he got the same response: no card, no gas. Even if he had had the card, in most of the stations there was no gas to be sold. At one station half a dozen cars were parked around the tanks. The dealer stated, "I expect a delivery of gas in 15 minutes. These drivers are regular customers and I told them to come at this time." In another station, a dealer refused to sell more than three gallons. "We haven't enough gas to sell more."

Even though the Army had been ordered to take charge of the nation's commercial airlines, LaGuardia Field "will not be taken over tomorrow afternoon, or next week", Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia said as he arrived on Friday evening May 15. He was returning from Washington were he had met President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a conference on "routine business". LaGuardia Field, the busiest airport in the world, had been busier than ever in recent months as the number of military personnel traveling on official business increased steadily. Although the Army was not expected to curtail civilian travel entirely, such travel was severely restricted. Unless it was "absolutely necessary", civilians were to take trains.

The ranking naval hero of Queens, Lieutenant John Bulkeley, who sent a Japanese cruiser down to Davey Jones' locker with a torpedo from his PT boat, was introduced by Mayor LaGuardia to a crowd estimated to top a million at an event in Central Park on Sunday, May 17. Billed as the "I am an American Day Rally", the event was planned as a "reaffirmation of allegiance of the Constitution and all-out support for the nation's war programs". Bulkeley also notched another spot in the hall of fame when he piloted the PT boat which spirited General Douglas MacArthur from Bataan to Australia under the very guns of the Japanese fleet.

Attending dignitaries included Governor Herbert Lehman, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, boxing champion Private Joe Lewis and actor Paul Muni, who delivered brief remarks. More than 1,000 police were on hand to direct the crowd. Several hundred park employees and hundreds of additional special ushers and Boy Scouts assisted the police. Famed African-American contralto Marian Anderson and French-born Metropolitan Opera coloratura Lily Pons performed musical selections. Music was furnished by mass bands of the Police, Fire, Parks, and Sanitation Departments. The evening ended with a singing of "God Bless America" by "the entire assemblage", led by Irving Berlin, the song's composer.

That's the way it was May 1942!

On Monday June 2, at 7 p.m., the society's newest exhibit, "A Journey, A Dream and A Fulfillment: The Story of the Greek American Immigrant Experience", will open with a lecture by Kathy Boulikas, co-founder of the Center for Greek American Heritage. Boulikas will present the story of this under-documented group from the first Greek immigrants' arrival in New York City in the early 1800s to the present. The presentation, based upon the exhibit, will include photographs relating to the Greek impact on various trades, including the flower, food, fur and candy industries. These images trace the story of the Greek immigrant imprint on the community - - their work ethic, their families, their connections to their church and their successes. Displayed artifacts will include tools from trades and handicrafts and accompanying text.

Seating may be limited. For more information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.


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