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Date

Feb 03 2024

Time

All Day

Liberation of University of Santo Tomas

Liberation of University of Santo Tomas / University of Santo Tomas, Manila

The Liberation of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp (STIC) was part of the Luzon campaign which, at that time, was the most important plan for the liberation of the Philippines. This was led by the “flying column”, a selected group of men taken from the 5th Cavalry (1st Brigade) and 8th Cavalry (2nd Brigade) under the First Cavalry Division, XIV Corps of the veteran Sixth Army under the command of General (then Lieutenant General) Walter Krueger. The 8th Cavalry was assigned to liberate Santo Tomas while the 5th Cavalry hastily made their way to Malacañang Palace. The men from the flying column were supported by guerrilla units such as the Manila Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB), who provided invaluable information on Japanese defensive installations that may slow down the rapid advance of the American columns aimed to surprise the Japanese defenders in Manila.

The group assigned to liberate Santo Tomas was led by two guerrillas: Captain Manuel Colayco and Lieutenant Diosdado Guytingco. Colayco, a veteran of the Defense of Bataan in 1941 under the Philippine Army’s 1st Regular Division and a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March, led the column that was assigned to liberate the internment camp. The group was later ambushed at the Padre Gomez Elementary School, and the convoy detoured towards the camp to avoid being pinned down by the Japanese garrison in the area. Colayco and Guytingco guided the group to the camp and was able to avoid mined areas that could have delayed them from their objectives. The group arrived outside the campus at night with the column resting before entering the camp. A grenade came over the fence and hit Colonel Conner and Captain Colayco, with the latter mortally wounded after being hit in mid-body.

After the encounter, the camp entrance was forced by the famous tank, “Battling Basic”. The Japanese guards took men hostages in the Education building (now the hospital) to negotiate for a safe passage. After two days of coordination, their request was granted.

The “flying column” mirrors the quick response of liberating internees in various camps in Luzon such as in Los Baños and Cabanatuan. The Liberation of Santo Tomas Interment Camp saved 3,785 civilian internees from their three years of imprisonment during the war.