In the Philippines, December 8 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception where festival honoring the Virgin Mary are taking place in several towns. This is celebrated with evening processions, supplemented by cultural presentations, beauty pageants, and fireworks.
December 8 is also marked as the Second Pearl Harbor. Due to International Date Line, where Pearl Harbor is remembered in the United States on Dec. 7, in the Philippines it was actually Dec. 8 when ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “another Pearl Harbor” of even more devastating consequence for American armed forces occurred in the Philippines, forty-five hundred miles to the west.
On December 8, 1941, 196 Japanese Navy bombers and fighters crippled the largest force of B-17 four-engine bombers outside the United States and also decimated their protective P-40 interceptors. The first Japanese bombs to fall on Philippine soil hit Camp John Hay in Baguio. The Japanese bombers stationed in Taiwan just north of the Philippines bombed Iba airfields destroying all sixteen P-40’s on the ground or about to touch down. They also did great damage to Clark Air Base.
When the last Japanese planes left Clark and turned toward Formosa, they had destroyed eighteen of the 35 B-17s, along with fifty-three P-40s and thirty other crafts. Half of MacArthur’s air force was gone within the first hour of the war and several men dead. The base was totally destroyed. Tank after tank blew up and flames could be seen as far away as Manila. The Japanese had bombed and strafed the key U.S. air bases on Luzon: Iba, Clark, Nichols, Nielson, Vigan, Rosales, La Union and San Fernando fields.
MacArthur had been informed in the small hours of that morning of the Pearl Harbor attack but for some reason failed to act for five long hours. Maybe it was too much information coming all at the same time but nobody could figure out why the inaction on his part.
Maj. Gen. Lewis Brereton, MacArthur’s commander of the air force, wanted to launch an immediate attack on the Japanese airfields on Formosa but did not get an answer until 10:10 A.M. but only to launch a photo reconnaissance of Formosa, in preparation for an air strike by the B-17s the next day. As a result, his aircrew decided to go to lunch instead, while his planes, eighteen B-17s, assorted fighters, mostly P-39 Air Cobras and P-40 Tomahawks were parked outside exposed to enemy fire. Coming in several V-shaped formations, the Japanese pilots was surprised to find the sky clear and rows and rows of planes on the ground. They dropped bomb after bomb on the parked planes.
The Japanese surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.