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‘The Silent Killer’: The Untold Story of Nieves Fernandez, The Teacher Who Killed 200 Japanese Soldiers

From teaching children the alphabet to teaching men how to kill.

Ann Moises

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  • Nieves Fernandez was a school teacher turned guerilla leader during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
  • Alone and armed with a makeshift shotgun and a ‘bolo,’ she stealthily ambushed Japanese soldiers in the jungle, thus; she was dubbed ‘The Silent Killer.’
  • She eventually led a group of 110 guerrillas and killed 200 Japanese fighters during the second World War.

In December 1941, hours after the Imperial Japanese Army attacked Pearl Harbor, they invaded the Philippines through the Lingayen Gulf. So another nightmare for the Filipinos began.

The Japanese soldiers took everything as they tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos during the occupation. As if that wasn’t enough, they also raped helpless women and forced them to become ‘Comfort Women’ in brothels set up across the country. Some of these women survived to tell their tales of horror in the hands of the enemy.

While a few bravely fought with the resistance as nurses, spies, or soldiers, one remarkable woman led a group of 110 guerrillas to annihilate 200 Japanese soldiers.

Nieves Fernandez from Tacloban, Leyte was a protective school teacher who resorted to killing Japs.

They took everything she owned including her small business. However, when they threatened to take away her students too, she decided to fight back.

“When the Japs came, no one could keep anything,” Fernandez told the Lewiston Daily Sun on November 1944. “They took everything they wanted.”

“They had ways of persuading, like giving you scalding hot baths and freezing cold baths alternately, with never a rest, never any food, never any water except the soapy water in the baths,” she said in the article titled ‘School-ma’am Led Guerillas on Leyte.’

Fernandez silently ambushed Japanese soldiers in the jungles using a makeshift shotgun and a bolo.

For two and a half years she worked alone. Barefooted and dressed in black, she silently attacked by targeting the enemy’s carotid artery and jugular vein.

In this photo by Stanley Troutman taken on November 7,1944, she was showing US Army Private Andrew Lupiba how she used the blade to fight and kill the enemy soldiers in Leyte.

Her bravery and boldness inspired the native men from south of Tacloban to follow her. From being ‘Miss Fernandez’ to her students, the men addressed her as ‘Captain Nieves Fernandez.’

Dubbed as ‘The Silent Killer,’ she taught the Waray guerrillas how to improvise grenades and shotguns out of gas pipes loaded with gunpowder and old nails. These are called ‘Latongs’ or ‘Paltik.’

With these plus three American rifles and stolen enemy weapons, they managed to kill 200 Japanese soldiers. The Americans sometimes called them ‘The Gas Pipe Gang’.

Her guerrilla army was so efficient and deadly that the Japs placed a bounty of 10,000 pesos on her head, Heroes of the Resistance wrote. Fortunately, no one dared to betray her. She was wounded once – a bullet hit her right forearm – but the fierce woman’s courage did not waiver.

She continued the fight, freeing prisoners of war and comfort women. They raided outposts and sabotaged Japanese supplies as well.

When the American forces came to Leyte in 1944, Captain Nieves Fernandez and her troop had already liberated many villages from the Imperial Japanese Army.

Captain Nieves Fernandez was the only female guerilla commander in the Philippines during World War II.

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