Liberation of the Philippines: Luzon (1945)

World War II battle for Manila
Figure 1.--An American soldier in Manila is recuing an injured Filipino girl (February 1945). Defying orderes fro General Yamashita, Japanese Marines in Manila went on a barbaric killing spree. MacArthur refused to bomb the city. The Japabese who refused to surrender had to be rooted out byulding by building. Civilians were not just caught in the crossfire. The Japanese actually sought out civilians to kill. An estimated 100,000 civilians perished, most were killed by the Japanese on purpose. Source: MacArthur Memorial.

The Americans finally reach the main island of Luzon with landings at Lingayen Gulf (January 9, 1945). The initial American landings were unopposed. Japanese Imperial Army General Tomoyuki Yamashita had been tasked with the defense of the Philippines. He was one of the Japanese's most effective generals. He devised the plan for defeating the large British garrison in Singapore commanded by General Percivel and became known as the Tiger of Malaya. He has been side tracked because of differences with Tojo, but was assigned to defend the Phippines. He realized that he could not stop the Americam landings at Lingayen Gulf and to oppose them would exposed his force to devestating air attacks when they retired into the hills. He conceived of a defense based using the mountanous teraine in the interior using caves, pillboxes, and artillery to shield his force from American firepower and to cause as high American casualties as possible. The Japanese strategy at this point had become to make the American pursuit of the War so costly that they would not dare invade the Home Islands. MacArthur pushed toward Manila. Yamashita conducted a skillfull defense, but without air support and the armor and artillery support of the Americans could not stop them. The Americans within a month had crossed Luzon's Central Plain and were approaching Manila. Yamashita at this time evacuated Manila for defenses prepared in the mountains. He left troops in Manila to take a toll on and tie down the advancing Americans. Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi commanded the force of 16,000-19,000 mostly Imperial Marines in Manila. I am not sure what orders he was following. He defied Yamashita's orders. What ever the orders, cut off by the Americans, the Japanese turned on the defenseless civilian population of Manila. They seemed to have decided that if they were going to die that they would take as many Filipinos with them as possible. The Japanese targeted and killed an estimated 100,000 Fhilippino civilians in an outporing of mindless violence which has become known as the Rape of Manila. The city had to be taken block by block in vicious hand-to-hand combat. Iwabuchi and almost his entire force were killed. Manila finally fell (March 4). Yamashita with a force of about 50,000-65,000 soldiers resisted in the hills north of Manila. MacArthur decided against pursing him there n forcebecause of the casualties that would have resulted. While Yamashita did not surrender, without supplies and by withdrawing to remote mountaneous areas, he was no longer a factor in the War. The Americans were horrified at the condition of the POWs and civilians held in Japanese concentration camps. MacArthur declared the Philippines secure (June 30, 1945). Yamashita continued to hold out, however, until the the Emperor ended the War (August 15). Yamashita finally surrendered (September 2).

Leyte (October 1944)

The lsargest and most important island in the Philippines is Luzon. Leyte was, however, the most vulnerable to naval forces coming from the east. And with the Imperial Navy able to deploy powerful forces, Leyte was the logical first step. U.S. Army rangers began the invasion of Leyte (October 17). As the U.S. Army invasion proceeded inland the soldiers were supported by the planes from Taffy 1, 2, and 3. A 2- day naval bombardment was followed by landings of the 6th Army under General Walter Krueger (October 22). MacArthur President Sergio Osmeņa waded ashore with the main invasion force at Leyte Gulf (October 20??, 1944). The American Army forces advanced steadily. The Japanese resisted, but could not match American fire power. The destriction of the Japaese fleet in the naval Battle of Leyte Gulf opened the way for the land campaign. The Armericans pushed the Japanese 35th Army out of Luzon's central valley and into Leyte's mountain backbone. Bitter fighting ensued as the Americans pushed the Japanese north. Further landings occurred at Ormoc, an important port (December 7, 1944). The kamikazes appeared in substantial numbers at Ormoc. The Japanese had prepared fortified positions supported with heavy artillery. Ormoc fell (December 10). The primary objective of assaulting Leyte from the beginning was was to provide a staging area for the much larger effort needed to liberate Luzon. It was on Luzon Luzon where most of the Japanese combat forces were positioned. The completion of msajor conbat operations on Leyte gave the Americans their first foothold in the Philippines.

Mindoro (December 1944)

Mindoro is a large island south of Luzon. It was closeer to Manila tham Leyte and thus could be used to provide valuable air support for the retaking of Luzon. With the Imperial Fleet lsrgely destoyed in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the lightly defended islamd could be attacked. Mindoro is moutaneous island, but because of its size, there were plenty of locations for airfields. The mountains trap clouds moving up from the south, resulting in daily rains and high humidity and make the island a breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitos. Amercan planners decided to land in thes south and build airfields in the southwest near San Jose. Landing in the north would have exposed the force to Japanese air attack fromm the fields around Manila. Japanese air power n the Philippines had been severely weakned in bttle for Leyte, but was still capable of deasly blows on naval shipping. They chose Mangarin Bay, Mindoro's best anchorage. Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger's Sixth Army was given there task of seizing the islsand. Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff who commanded the 24th Infantry Division used his 19th Infantry Regiment and the separate 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team. The initial plan was for the 503d to jump, but there was insufficent facilities at Leyte aifield to mount a lage jump. As aresult both units assulted Mindoro in an amphibious landing. Naval support included six escort carriers, three battleships, six cruisers as sell as many smaller ships--inprecedented for such a mall landing force. The major opposition to the landings came from Japanese land-based kamikaze suicide attacks. The Japanese had begun kamikaze attacks during the Leyte campaign as were increasingly tuning to this tactic for their dwindling air force. Japane air attacks began as the the attackibg force moved toward Mindoro. A kamikaze hit the light cruiser Nashville (December 13). Over 130 men on the ship were killed and 190 injured. Among the caualties was Brig. Gen. William C. Dunkel, commander of the landing force. Further kamikaze attacks damaged two landing ships, tank (LSTs) and severely danaged several other ships. American naval air forces and flyers from Leyte airfields attempted to cover the landing force, reporting more than 500 Japanse aircraft destroyed in the air or on the ground. The landings began in clkear weather (December 15). This permitted the full deployment od American air power to support the landing force. The ladings were virtually unopposed. There were only about 1,000 Japanese troops on the island and about 200 survivors from ships moving toward Leyte Gulf and sank by American carrier aircraft. Almost immediately, Army engineers had begun prepasring asirfields. One strip was ready (December 20) and a second (December 28). Thus Japanse defenders on Luzon had to contend with air attacks from the south and east (Leyte) as well as carrier attacks from the north.

General Yamashita

Japanese Imperial Army General Tomoyuki Yamashita had been tasked with the defense of the Philippines. He was one of the Japanese's most effective generals. He devised the plan for defeating the large British garrison in Singapore commanded by General Percivel and became known as the Tiger of Malaya. He has been side tracked because of differences with Tojo, but with Tojon gone he was assigned to oversee the defense of the Philippines.

Japanese Strategy

Yamashita concluded that Luzon would be the next American objective and they woukd land at Lingayen Gulf, just as the Japanese had done in 1941. He realized that he could not stop the Americam landings at Lingayen Gulf and to oppose them would exposed his force to devestating Naval artillery and then air attacks when they retired into the hills. He conceived of a defense based using the mountanous teraine in the interior using caves, pillboxes, and artillery to shield his force from American firepower and to cause as high American casualties as possible. The Japanese strategy at this point had become to make the American pursuit of the War so costly that they would not dare invade the Home Islands.

Japanese Preparations

General Yamashita after the naval losses in the Nattle of Leyte Gulf and the heavy attrition of air power, realized that he would have to fight the battle for Luzon with the forces on the island. Little support or reinforcements could be expected. He had a sizeable force Luzon, about 260,000 men. They were, however, poorly supplied with vehicles and heavy arms (artillery and armor). And they would not have air support. Yamashita fully understood tht they could not sucessfully engaged the well-supplied and heavily armed American Army with air support in conventional battles. MacArthur in his 1941-42 defense of the Philippines, had sought to hold Manila, the central Luzon plains, and the Bataan Peninsula because of the naval facilities and airfields there. He failed becase he neglected to appreciate the stregth bof the Japanese and did not preposition supplies on the Batan Peninsula. Yamashita had a better understanding of the attacking force than did MacArthur. With the Japanese fleet destroyed and air power devestated, naval facilities and airfields had no importance for Yamashita, Thus his strategy was to stage delaying attacks and to withdraw his forces into three widely separated strongholds where because of rugged terraine, American heavy equipment would have less affect. Here he believed he could hold out in an extended battle of attrition, causing a maximum of American casualties and delaying the American push toward the Home Islands. Yamashita divided his Luzon forces into three groups, each based around a remote geographical region (Shobu, Kembu, and Shimbu). Shobu Group was directly commanded by Yamashita. It was locrted in northern Luzon. Shobu force totaled about 152,000 men. Kembu Group was a much smaller force with about 30,000 troops men. They occupied he rugged mountains west of Clark Air Field which Yamashita reliazed was a primary Japanese targe as well as the Bataan Peninsula and Corridor. Shimbu Group was located in the southeast and had about 80,000 men spread out along Luzon's island's long Bicol Peninsula extending toward Leyte and the mountains east of Manila. Most Shimbu units were positioned close to Manila and controlled reservoirs which provided Manila's water supply. Prepositioning these forces was important because the Japanese were not fully mechanized with a limited number of vehices to move men and equipment and would be vulnerable to air attack if they tried to shift positions once the Americans landed and had Clarke Field. .

General MacArthur


American Plans

Luzon's mounaneous Bicol Peninsula is extemnely rugged anf had few roads. It is is separate from Leyte by a very narrow strait. This mean the American forces on Leyte were only a few miles from Luzon. But fighting up the rugged Peninsula would have been a nightmare and would have thrown away the great advantage he Americans had in heavy equipment and mechanization. Thus General MacArthur planned an amphibious operation toi liberate Luzon. He chose Lingayen Gulf in the north, an area of sheltered beaches. It was located ariund half way down Luzon's wesern coast. And it led directly into central plains which provided a realtvively unobstructed route south to Manila. It allowed the Americans to bypass northern Luzon. The central plain was the heart of the island and where the best roads existed for mechanized American equipment as well as the rail network. On the Central Plain, the substantial American force would have room to maneuver. And it included the two greatest prices--Clark Field and Manila. Possession of the Cenbtrl Plain and Manila would not only give the Americans control of the island's core, but also divide the Japanese forces. MacArthur commended a massive force of 10 U.S. divisions and five independent regiments as well as Philipino irregulars. This was a larger force than the United States deployed in North Africa or in Italy. It would prove to be the largest American campaign of the Pacific War,

American Landings (January 1945)

The U.S. Sixth Army commaned by General Krueger finally reached the main island of Luzon with massive landings at Lingayen Gulf along the northwestern coast of Luzon (January 9, 1945--S Day). This was where the Japanese had invaded 4 years earlier. The weather was perfect for the Americans, good visibility and light seas. The pre-assault bombardment began (0700) followed by the initial landings (0800). Yamashita conducted a skillfull defense, but without air support and the armor and artillery support of the Americans could not stop them. He faced the same problem that MacArthur had faced against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. He had a substantial force on the island, but his men were out-gunned by the Americans. The major landings were conducted at Lingayen Gulf. The drive south was supported by subsequent Mike 6 landings north of Batan and southwest of Mamila. Within a month they had retaken Clark Field and reached capital.

Lingayen Gulf Beachhead

I Corps landed on the eastern part of Lingayen Gulf's southern end near San Fabian. XIV Corps landed west off the Dugupan River. The initial American landings were largely unopposed. The 43rd Division encountered six dug in Japanese batalions. [Rottman, p. 304.] Landings at Lingayen Gulf continued for more than a week. Nearly 175,000 men along a 20-mile beachhead. There were few developed airfields in the bridgehead area which limited air cover. I Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Innis P. Swift, protected the beachhead's flanks. XIV Corps commanded by Lt. Gen. Oscar W. Griswold prepared the drive south. The initial objective was Clark Field and then on to Manila. I Corps was to hold its position on the flamks until Manila had been liberated. Then it was to move north and east to the road junctions leading from the beachead into the mountains of northern Luzon. At an early stage MacArthur and Kruger quarled about the pre-invasion plans. Sicth Army Commander, General Krueger wanted the I Corps to secure the roads out of the beachhead east into the mountains before XIV Corps moved south. He was concerned that I Corps was encountering on the beachhead's eastern flank, while the XIV Corps was reporting little resistance the south. Krueger was concerned about a southern drive to Manila before his eastern flank was secured. MacArthur was stronly committed to a rapid advance south. He thought a Japanese attack on the beachead unlikely. He ordered Kruher to proceed south as planned. Neither MacArthur or Kruger were aware that Yamashita had massed his forces in the mountains east of the beachead. Yamashita had, however, commited Shobu Group to a defensive campaign.

XIV Corps: Clark Field

XIV Corps began the drive south (January 18). By this time most of the American foirce had landed. The 37th and 40th Infantry Divisions began the drive south on a narrow front without protecting its flank. The Japanese did not resist the breakout from the bridgehead with any substantial force. Most of the Japanese forces on the Central Plain had alreasy been evacuated. XIV did not encounter significan resistance until it neared Clark Field (January 23). The airfield was defended by Kembu Group, the weakest of the three Japanese combat groups organized by Yamashita. The Japanese resisted the American advance for about a week. General Kruger committed the 40th Division to defend the Clarke Fieldarea. Before the War, Clarke Field has been the center of American air power in the Philippines. Actually it was not just one airfield, but a huge complex of 11 airfields. Thus air strips aleady existed and could be quickly activated for use by Americam air groups.

Rangers: Cabanatuan raid (January )

The Japanese held 511 American and Allied POWs in Pangatian prison camp, near Cabanatuan. They were emaciated sick and near starvation. Worse still, the camp commander like other camp commabders had orders to kill them if the Americans were prepared to seize the camp. The POWs included soldiers, Marines, sailors, pilots, as well as civilians. They were mostly Americans but there were also a few from other Allied countries. Most were survivors of the Batan Death March (April 1942). MacArthur ordered Lt. Col. Henry A. Mucci commander of the 6th Ranger Battalion along withnAlamo Scouts were ordered to rescue the POWs in a surprise attack behind Japanese lines.

XIV Corps: Manila

Kruger ordered the 37th Division to continue the drive south toward Manila (February 2). MacArthur was not pleased with the pace of the drive. He drove up and down the American columns urging them to move faster and complaining to Kruger.

1st Calvalry

MacArthur was focused on the drive on Manila. After the 1st Cavalry Division landed on Luzon to reinforce XIV Corps (January 26). MacArthur met with the division commander, Maj. Gen. Verne D. Mudge, and told him "Go to Manila, go around the Nips, bounce off the Nips, but go to Manila." Mudge formed a mechanized task force, a flying column, around the 1st Brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. William C. Chase. It consisted of two motorized cavalry squadrons reinforced with armor and motorized artillery and support units. This operated as a "flying column" which rushed toward Manila while the rest of the division followed more slowly, mopping up the rear areas. The 1st Brigade reached the northern ouskirts of Manila (February 3)

XI Corps: Operation Mike 6 Part I

MacArthur opened a second front in the drive on Manila. Even before XIV Corps began the drive south, the first part of Operation Mike 6 commenced (January 29). This was a second amphibious landing, albeit on a much smaller scale than at Lingayen Gulf. XI Corps commanded by Major General Charles P. Hall landed at San Antonio north of Subic Bay, 25 miles west of the Batan Peninsula. Some sources calling this the Zambales Landings referring to the name of the proivince. Filipimo guerills reported the Japanese were not present and there was no pre-invasion barage. The landings were unopposed. The Japanese held up the advance at Zigzag Pass for 2 weeks. MacArthur replaced the division commander. XI Corps joined the west flank of XIV Corps, cutting off the Japanese on the Batan Peninsula. Some were able to evacuate to Corregidor or the mainland by crossing Manila Bay. [Rottman, p. 304.]

11th Airborn: Operation Mike 6 Part II

The 11th Airborn coducted the second part of Mike 6, again staging an amphibious landing instead of jumping. They landed some 45 miles southwest of Manila (January 31--X-ray Day). This totally surprised the Japanese who were fixed on the American drive from the north. Two regiments of the 11th Airborne Division, under Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Swing, landed unopposed. The paratroopers were able to seize a bridge near the beach before the bewildered Japanese could demolish it. This enabled the the paratroopers to begin the southern drive on Manila. The Divisions Third Regiment (511th Parachute), did jump to join the other two regiments. They were soon advancing north along a rare paved highway. Filipino civilians lined the highway cheering them on. The 11th Airborne Division was one of Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger's Eighth Army units which had been pushig up the New Guinea coast. The Division was initially to be used to contain Japanese troops throughout southwestern Luzon. MacArthur decided to use the Division to add to the drive on Mamila. It proved to be an epic drive. The Japanese mounted a defense near Imus, only 5 miles south of Manila (February 3). An entenched force of about 50 Japanese held a position centered on an old stone building. A bombardment by the battalion's 75-mm. howitzers failed to dislodge them. T. Sgt. Robert C. Steel managed toget on the roof and poured in gasoline with a phosphorous grenade. The Japanese rushed out and were mowed down. Three miles further up the road towad Manila was the Las Pinas River bridge. A Japanese detaschment on the north bank of the river was ready to blow it. As a result of ppor communicationsm they were unaware of the fighting at Inus and were surprised wehen the Ameriucans appeared. . The paratroopers managed to secure the briudge before the Japanese demolished it. One battalion guarded the vital span while another continued the drive on Mania. The nest day as the Division approsached the southern out\sskirts of Manila, they were stopped at Paranaque River, this was part of the main Japanese defenses around Manila. A danaged bridge stopped them. And they were hit with artillery fire from Nichols Field. [U.S. Army, pp. 11-12.] One division did not have the strength to break through here. But it mean that the Japanese defenders could anticipate no support from Shimbu Group to the east. This left the Japanese in Manila completely cut off.

Manila (February 4-March 4, 1944)

MacArthur pushed toward Manila. The Americans within a month had crossed Luzon's Central Plain, taken Clarke Field and were approaching Manila. They also landed forced in the south and were poushing north. The highrst priority was the POWs and internees at Santo Tomas. Yamashita at this time evacuated Manila for defenses prepared in the mountains where most of his men were already dug in. He left troops in Manila to take a toll on and tie down the advancing Americans. Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi commanded a force of 16,000-19,000 mostly Imperial Marines in Manila. I am not sure what orders he was following. He defied Yamashita's orders. What ever the orders, cut off by the Americans, the Japanese turned on the defenseless civilian population of Manila. They seemed to have decided that if they were going to die that they would take as many Filipinos with them as possible. The Japanese targeted and killed an estimated 100,000 Fhilippino civilians in an outporing of mindless violence which has become known as the Rape of Manila. The city had to be taken block by block in vicious hand-to-hand combat. Iwabuchi and almost his entire force were killed. Manila finally fell (March 4). It is said to the most heavily devestated Allied city next to Warsaw. (We suspect tht this excludes Stalingrad.)

Batan and Corregidor

Liberating Manila was important for both military and psychological reasons. One important objective was to open the port at Manila. Logistics at Lingayen Bay were a major bottlneck. There were no real port facilities there. Supplies and equipment had to be labded on the beach which signioficatly slowed fown operations. Manila on the other hand was a major port with facilities thsat could hsandle ocean-going shipping. Operating the port, however, would be difficult with Baatan and Corregidor still in Japanese hands. The fight for Corregidor wa a bitter one. American planners thought there were about 1,000 Japanese on the island. There were in fact 5,000. American paratroopers landed on the island. They found a huge Japanese force, but entirely underground.

Resistance in the North

Yamashita with a force of about 50,000-65,000 soldiers resisted in the hills north of Manila. He established three mountainous strongholds. MacArthur decided against pursing him there in force because of the casualties that would have resulted. Except for Yamashita's mountanous retreat in north-central Luzon, Japanese resistance in Luzon was overcome by the end of May. While Yamashita did not surrender, without supplies and by withdrawing to remote mountaneous areas, he was no longer a factor in the War. MacArthur declared the Philippines secure (June 30, 1945). Yamashita continued to hold out, however, until the the Emperor ended the War (August 15). Yamashita finally surrendered (September 2).

Furthur U.S. Operations

The U.S. Eighth Army after liberating Manila completed the operation on Leyte, subdued the Japanese in the southern Philippines in a series of amphibious attacks, and conducted the mop-up phase of operations on Luzon.

Japanese Internment Camps

The Americans were horrified at the condition of the POWs and civilians held in Japanese concentration camps. There was fear that the Japsanese might killn the internees before the Americans reached them. Los Baņos Internment Camp was located 40 miles south of Manila. It held 2,150 civilian internees. Company A (1st Battalion, 5111th Parachute Infantry conducteed a jump to liberate the camp (February 23). Th rest of the battalion had previously landed by amphibious tractors from Laguna de Bay. [Rottman, p. 305.] Filipino irregulsars aided the opersation. The 25o guards were killed in sharp action. The erranged Japanese took out their recenge in a nearby Filipino village.

Sources

Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Liberation of the Philippines (1963).

Rottman, Gordon L. World War 2 Pacic Island Guide.

Schaller, Michael. Douglas MacArthur: Far Eastern General (1989),

Smith, Robert Ross. Triumph in the Philippines (1963).

Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of World War II(1980).

Toland, John. The Rising Sun (1970),

U.S. Army. "Luzon 1944-1945" The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II CMH Pub 72-28.






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Created: 6:55 AM 10/6/2008
Last updated: 2:04 AM 2/1/2010