Gen. Vicente Lim and the 41st Philippine Division
The idyllic town of Calamba, Laguna birthed on this date in 1888 the highest ranking Filipino military officer during the Second World War.
The first Filipino graduate of the United States Military Academy (Class of 1914) at West Point, General Vicente Lim had a decorated military career. General Lim rose through the ranks and in 1940 he was promoted as the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army.
On August 28, 1941, the 41st Philippine Division was organized in Tagaytay City, Cavite. The division was formed pursuant to the Military Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued on July 26, 1941 and Proclamation No. 740 by President Manuel L. Quezon on August 10, 1941.
The 41st Division was placed under General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). General Lim was tasked to head the 41st Division whose primary responsibility was to protect and secure Southern Luzon.
When the war broke out on December 8, 1941, the 41st Division was deployed to defend the beaches along the western coast of Batangas against possible enemy landings.
Ordered to move out to Bataan on December 24, 1941, the 41st Division was assigned to defend the biggest portion of the main battle position, the Abucay-Mauban Line. In the Abucay Line, where one of the fiercest battles in Bataan was fought, the 41st Division repelled the heavy enemy armored and infantry attacks from January 9 to 23, 1942, constantly inflicting severe casualties on the enemy.
In the commemoration for outstanding performance of duty in the Abucay Line, the 41st Division was cited for having helped save Bataan from an early fall which upset the Japanese timetable for the conquest of the whole of Southeast Asia.
The 41st Division was marked for special treatment by the Japanese forces. This was confirmed by the brutalities inflicted on and the massacres of many 41sters after their surrender and during the infamous Death March.
For his part, General Lim was one of the survivors of the Death March. While being confined at the Philippine General Hospital, he was secretly holding guerilla activities. Before he could rejoin General Douglas MacArthur in Australia, he was captured by the Japanese who imprisoned him and executed by firing squad on December 31, 1944.
On January 24, 1942, the USAFFE forces withdrew to the reserve battle position, the Pilar-Bagac Line. In the Pilar-Bagac Line, where the last stand of the USAFFE forces was made, the 41st Division repeatedly denied ground to superior enemy forces by resisting and stubbornly turning back with heavy casualties every Japanese attack until the order to surrender was given on April 9, 1942, which is more popularly known as the Fall of Bataan.
In recognition to his heroism and contributions, General Lim was posthumously awarded with the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart. General Lim, together with Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and Josefa Llanes Escoda, appears in the Philippine one thousand peso bill.
At the former site of the 41st Division is a shrine erected to commemorate and honor the bravery and sacrifice of the officers and personnel of the 41st, 42nd and 43rd Infantry Regiments, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Medical Batallion, 41st Engineering Batallion, and the Division’s Service Units. Engraved in marble slabs is the full roster of the 41st Division of General Vicente Lim. Replicas of the officials seals of the City of Manila and the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Rizal are hung inside the shrine.