Silent Hunter header

Doctor Who?

Most published accounts about what happened to the submarine USS Robalo (SS-273) refer to a guerrilla leader named "Dr. Mendoza." The following quotation is from the 1946 government publication United States Submarine Losses World War II. (I note that this publication misspells his name.)

The following information was received via Philippine guerrillas and a U.S. Navy enlisted man who was a prisoner of war at Puerto Princesa Prison Camp, Palawan, P. I. On 2 August 1944, a note dropped from the window of the prison cell in which survivors from ROBALO were held was picked up by an American soldier in a work detail and given to H. D. Hough, Y2c, USN, another prisoner. On 4 August, Hough contacted Mrs. Trinidad Mendosa, wife of guerrilla leader Dr. Mendosa, who furnished further information on the survivors.

In doing research for an article I was writing about the Robalo, I decided to see if I could find more information about this guerrilla leader. Using the book The Guerrilla Movement in the Philippines: 1941-1945, by Major General Charles A. Willoughby, and some articles by helpful Filipino bloggers, I found the mysterious doctor's full name is Higinio Acosta Mendoza, Senior.

Higinio Acosta Mendoza, Senior

He was born in Puerto Princesa on July 27, 1898, and was the fifth of six children born to Augustin Mendoza and Juana Acosta. Higinio gained his Bachelor of Science degree in 1921 at Indiana University and in 1929, his Doctor of Medicine degree at Hahnemann University Hospital, ranking fourth among 400 examinees in Pennsylvania.

He returned to the Philippines in 1930 and served as governor of Palawan from 1931 to 1937. During his term as governor he married Trinidad Clark. They had four children.

In 1942, he organized the first Palawan-based guerrilla unit, A Company. General Douglas MacArthur appointed him A-Company's leader with the rank of Captain. As the Japanese prepared to occupy Puerto Princesa in May 1942, Captain Mendoza supervised the town's evacuation. He moved his headquarters to Tinitian, north of Puerto Princesa.

Captain Mendoza assisted some American POWs that escaped from the Puerto Princesa prison camp. His guerrilla unit also captured and executed many Japanese spies in Puerto Princesa.

The Japanese made his capture a high priority. On January 7, 1944, they arrested him near Tinitian. Accounts of what happened next vary, but most agree that on January 24, 1944, he was taken to a location in Canigaran, near Manila, where he was forced to dig his own grave. He was then shot and buried. Some accounts say he was also beheaded. Another account says he was executed at a remote location on his father-in-law's coconut plantation at Canigaran. Some Tagbanua natives that were in Canigaran picking up shellfish witnessed the execution, but never revealed its location until 1947 for fear some harm might befall them. One of them agreed to guide authorities to the spot where the execution took place. After two days of searching they found Mendoza's remains.

Mendoza memorial

Today Higinio Mendoza's remains are interred below a memorial marker at Mendoza Park, in Puerto Princesa City, on Palawan.