Philippines Campaign, Phase 2
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
12-28 Dec 1944
Before American forces could consider assaulting Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines and home to the capital city Manila, advance airbases must be established so that the troops could move under the protection of friendly aircraft. On 12 Dec, Brigadier General William Dunkel and his troops sailed for Mindoro under the protection of the Seventh Fleet by way of Surigao Strait. The landing took place on 15 Dec. Completely surprising the Japanese, who thought Negros or Panay would be the next American target, the landing was unopposed. Carrier-born aircraft circled above also nearly unchallenged, but many Kamikaze aircraft slipped through and caused considerable damage to American shipping including sinking two landing craft, though in the grand scheme of the invasion the sacrifices achieved little. By 28 Dec, two fighter bases were ready for the Luzon invasion scheduled for 9 Jan. With Mindoro lost, Japan also lost the use Manila as a central transfer station of naval transports.
"What you have done on Leyte and are doing on Mindoro are masterpieces", George Marshall complimented Douglas MacArthur.
9 Jan-15 Aug 1945
With Mindoro secured, American forces were now just south of Luzon. While MacArthur's intention was to make his main landing assault at Lingayen in northern Luzon, elaborate attempts at deception were made in the south. He had his aircraft unceasingly make reconnaissance flights and bombing missions in southern Luzon. Transport aircraft made many paradrops with dummies, while minesweepers cleared Balagan, Batangas, and Tayabas Bays. Filipino resistance fighters in southern Luzon, too, were called to conduct major sabotage operations. All the effort was to provide a false notion that the American landing was to take place in southern Luzon instead of Lingayen. General Tomoyuki Yamashita, commander of the Japanese ground forces in the Philippine Islands, must had at least made slightly unsure, for that he did not move his headquarters to northern Luzon until after the landing had already taken place at Lingayen. The opening amphibious operation at Luzon, unopposed by the Japanese except for air attacks, landed more men than the first wave of the Normandy landing, and 175,000 were ashore within the first few days, securing a beachhead twenty miles wide. Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome noted after the war that he "had no advance information of [American] movement against Lingayen until the fleet actually [departed]." Even by then, the Japanese believed the landing would be attempted around Manila Bay, and they "were taken by surprise when [Americans] appeared in Lingayen and started landing there." Nevertheless, Yamashita knew well that the vast coastlines of Luzon meant defenses established closed to the shores would be useless; instead, most of his men were fortified well inland, leaving only small units closer to the shore to delay the advance of American units. When all of MacArthur's first-phase landers set foot on Luzon, he had 280,000 men at his disposal; that was more than the number Eisenhower had in the campaigns for North Africa, Italy, or southern France.
Special Attack units, again, posed a threat for the landing forces. USS Ommaney Bay, an escort carrier, was lost when a Kamikaze aircraft dove through its wooden flight deck. Two dozen other warships were damaged by similar suicide attacks, with one destroyer sunk. As the campaign stretched on, Rear Admiral Oldendorf would lose more than twenty vessels from Kamikaze before the Japanese defenders ran out of aircraft.
Yamashita led the defending Japanese troops in fighting valiantly against the advancing US army. Though wielding a larger force, he could do little to stop the American advance without air power. He decided to take part of his troops into the island's interior and attempted to draw the campaign as long as possible; this strategy was approved by the Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ) at Tokyo on 18 Jan. Yamashita split his forces in two major groups, one fortifying Luzon's mountains and the other to defend Manila.
Clark Field was captured by US XIV Corps on 23 Jan, reclaiming the airfield that saw the destruction of part of the US air force helplessly on the ground. On 31 Jan, MacArthur visited the US 1st Cavalry Division and gave Major General Mudge an order: "Go to Manila. Go around the Nips, bounce off the Nips, but go to Manila. Free the internees at Santo Tomás. Take Malacañang Palace and the Legislative Building." The push toward Manila was conducted in three columns each consisted of the 37th Infantry Division, the 1st Cavalry Division (Brigadier General Chase), and the 11th Airborne Division (Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger). The first two of the three columns had their troops riding on top of tanks as the tanks sped toward Manila, 100 miles to the south, while the 11th Airborne Division made a landing south of the city. The three columns competed to be the first to reach Manila. On 3 Feb at 1835 hours, forward elements of the 1st Cavalry Division reached Manila first. At 2050 hours, with the help of local guides, the cavalry troops reached Santo Tomás University, freeing 200 Allied prisoners of war. On the same day, the Malacañang Palace was secured by Troop F of the 8th Cavalry Regiment.
Fighting in Manila was only beginning. 20,000 Japanese troops were fortified in the city, slowly falling back toward the Intramuros, a fortress-like district built by the Spanish colonial government of a former era.
Although the Americans were under orders to advance without causing too much destruction in the city, influenced by MacArthur's liking for the city, the city still suffered dearly from American artillery and air attacks during the month-long urban fighting; an estimated 1,000 Filipinos were killed from American tank and artillery fire. However, a much greater part of damage, both material as well as in human lives, were caused by the Japanese. Before Yamashita had left Manila for his new headquarters in Banguio, he left Vice Admiral Denshichi Okochi instructions to destroy the port facilities and declare Manila an open city. However, Okochi defied his orders. With a division-equivalent of mostly naval personnel, Okochi and his men engaged in a horrendous pillaging act. Hospitals were set afire with patients tied to their beds. Women of all ages raped and murdered. Babies' eyeballs were gouged out and smeared on walls. 100,000 Filipinos would be murdered mercilessly in Manila and all around Luzon in the last days of Japanese control.
While the tactics were in the hands of MacArthur's field commanders, the general grew bored and decided to visit prisoners recently liberated from Santo Tomás. Some of the prisoners there were his Bataan troops. He was surrounded by thousands of his former soldiers, he recalled,
On 25 Feb, MacArthur marched into his former residence, where his wife Jean and his son Arthur witnessed 132 Japanese aircraft ravaging the American base at Cavite from the balcony over three years ago. The city was finally declared secure on 3 Mar 1945. By this time, Manila was only nearly a pile of rubble; in WW2, only Warsaw experienced greater damage than Manila. 70% of the utilities, 75% of the factories, 80% of the southern residential district, and the entire business district were destroyed.
When MacArthur, en route to Manila, sailed by Corregidor, he stood on the deck of the ship and stared in deep thought. He later commented.
Jean MacArthur's comment after seeing Corregidor once again, under the protection of American fighters up above, was more of the casual nature:
Jean's comments were not unfounded. George Kenney, MacArthur's air chief, did indeed drop four thousand tons of various bombs on the island before it was recaptured by MacArthur's troops.
On 27 Feb 1945, Manila was considered safe for the return of the Philippines government. At Malacanan Palace, a formal ceremony restored Sergio Osmeña as the head of all of Philippines.
Meanwhile, the American offensive in southern Luzon began on 20 Feb, initially by XIV Corps but on 14 Mar took over by XI Corps, though some of the units remained in fighting, just that they were reporting to a new set of superiors. Japanese troops at the city of Antipolo, at Bicol Peninsula in southeastern Luzon, and other locations defended their positions with stubborn determination, and the battle would not end until the Japanese surrender in Aug 1945 that ended the war.
The campaign on the island of Luzon was costly for both sides. The Japanese saw 205,535 killed and 9,050 captured as prisoners. The Americans suffered 8,310 dead and 29,560 wounded.
10 Mar 1945
Eichelberger and the US 8th Army landed on Mindanao on 10 March following the capture of Manila. Japanese troops at Mindanao would fight a guerilla war in the mountains of Mindanao until the last days of the war.
Conclusion of the Campaign
The Philippines were finally declared secure on 30 Jun 1945, and on 5 Jul MacArthur announced that "[t]he entire Philippine Islands are now liberated". In the end, as 17 divisions of American forces moved against the defenders, nearly all 23 divisions of Japanese troops were annihilated. At the end of the Luzon campaign, MacArthur received the report at his desk that the Philippines campaign at that point only cost 820 American lives, while over 12,000 Japanese were killed; such was the result of the superior firepower employed by the Americans by air, land, and sea.
After Manila was secured, MacArthur engaged in a bitter campaign to clear Japanese soldiers from every inch of Filipino soil. This campaign was highly criticized, for many viewed it as a campaign that wasted American lives for objectives that were inconsequential. The campaign was considered by many as MacArthur's selfish venture that fulfilled the obsession of clearing every corner of Philippines of the Japanese.
Across all the islands, efforts of local resistance groups against the Japanese should not go unmentioned, as they rivaled the effectiveness of the French resistance. By 1944, 180,000 Filipinos had served in the resistance in some way, with one in six of them serving in Luis Tarluc's Hukbalahaps. The Huks, as they were referred to by Americans, were a band of Marxists that were consisted mostly of the middle class whose devotion were attributed to their faith in MacArthur. The Huks and other resistance groups, after Hollandia, sent Australia nearly 4,000 radio messages every month, detailing from military maneuvers to the guest list at the Manila Hotel. MacArthur, in return, sneaked equipment, transmitters, and even commando teams to the guerillas by submarines. The Japanese secret police put price on resistance leaders and publicly beheaded those caught, but the Filipinos only fought on with greater determination. One such leader was Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Nakar, a former member of the 14th Infantry of the Philippine Army. After being caught sending intelligence info to MacArthur's forces, he was tortured and beheaded. Instead of shutting down his cell's operations out of fear, however, "a new leader rose to carry on the fight", recalled MacArthur. As American troops advanced in Luzon, guerilla forces cut telephone wires to disrupt Japanese communications, while key bridges behind Japanese lines were dynamited. MacArthur commented that these irregulars in Luzon "accomplished the purpose of practically a front-line division." He noted that
Beginning in Dec 1944, after the American occupation of Mindoro, the flow of oil into Japan was cut to nearly zero. In Sep 1944 700,000 tons of tankers ferried oil and rubber from various ports in the South Pacific to the home islands; by the end of the year that number would be cut down to 2,000. With control of Philippines, the United States and the Allies added another instrument to blockade Japan.
Sources: American Caesar, Interrogation of Japanese Officials, the Pacific Campaign, Reminiscences, World War II US Cavalry Units.
Philippines Campaign, Phase 2 Timeline
|12 Dec 1944||The American invasion fleet for Mindoro, Philippine Islands set sail.|
|14 Dec 1944||Fearing they were about to be invaded, Japanese defenders in Palawan in the Philippine Islands murdered 145 American prisoners of war by shooting, bayoneting, clubbing and setting them on fire while still alive. Far to the east, the US Navy Fast Carrier Task Force arrived 90 miles east of Luzon, Philippine Islands and began to launch aircraft to cover the landings on Mindoro.|
|15 Dec 1944||US troops landed on Mindoro, Philippine Islands.|
|16 Dec 1944||The US Navy Fast Carrier Task Force retired from Philippine waters after three consecutive days of air operations.|
|30 Dec 1944||The US Navy Fast Carrier Task Force sortied from Ulithi, Caroline Islands for the invasion of Luzon, Philippine Islands.|
|1 Jan 1945||American aircraft attacked Japanese airfields at Negros Island and Luzon (Clark Field) in the Philippine Islands.|
|3 Jan 1945||In the Philippine Islands, the forward elements of the American invasion fleet for Luzon passed through the Surigao Strait. In support, aircraft of Task Fleet 38 struck Japanese airfields in Taiwan.|
|5 Jan 1945||In the Philippine Islands, Japanese aircraft attacked the American invasion fleet bound for Luzon. Special attack aircraft damaged cruiser USS Louisville, Australian cruiser HMAS Australia, destroyer USS Helm, destroyer USS Stafford, Australian destroyer HMAS Arunta, escort carrier USS Manila Bay, and escort carrier USS Savo Island. Meanwhile, American aircraft sunk Japanese destroyers Momi and damaged destroyers Hinoki and Sugi west of Manila Bay.|
|6 Jan 1945||Japanese special attack aircraft sank minesweeper USS Long at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Islands.|
|9 Jan 1945||The US Sixth Army invaded Luzon Island, Philippine Islands.|
|10 Jan 1945||A Japanese Army special attack aircraft damaged USS Le Ray Wilson in the Philippine Islands.|
|12 Jan 1945||The Japanese Army launched its final special attack mission in the Philippine Islands area.|
|29 Jan 1945||American troops landed near San Antonio, Luzon, Philippine Islands unopposed.|
|30 Jan 1945||About 500 Allied prisoners of war were rescued at Cabanatuan, Luzon, Philippine Islands by a raid conducted by the US Army.|
|3 Feb 1945||US forces engaged Japanese troops in Manila, Philippine Islands.|
|16 Feb 1945||On Luzon, Philippine Islands, American troops captured the Bataan Peninsula while paratroopers assaulted the island of Corregidor at the tip of the peninsula.|
|19 Feb 1945||US troops landed on Samar and Capul in the Philippine Islands.|
|23 Feb 1945||Fighting at the Intramuros district of Manila, Philippine Islands began. On the same day, the US 11th Airborne Division, with Filipino guerrillas, freed the captives of the Los Baños internment camp in the Philippine Islands.|
|26 Feb 1945||American troops captured Corregidor, Philippine Islands.|
|3 Mar 1945||US and Filipino troops captured Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands.|
|10 Mar 1945||US troops landed on Zamboanga Peninsula, Mindanao, Philippine Islands.|
|16 Mar 1945||US troops in landed on Basilan in the Philippine Islands.|
|18 Mar 1945||Filipino guerrillas welcomed the invading American troops on Panay, Philippine Islands.|
|1 Apr 1945||US 158th Regimental Combat Team landed near Legaspi, Luzon, Philippine Islands.|
|2 Apr 1945||US troops landed on Sanga Sanga, Sulu, Philippine Islands without resistance; Filipino guerrilla fighters had already secured the island prior to the landing.|
|10 Apr 1945||In the Philippine Islands, US troops captured Jolo in Sulu and Lamon Bay at Luzon.|
|20 Apr 1945||US Army troops landed on Catanduanes, Philippine Islands.|
|1 May 1945||The Mexican Expeditionary Air Force arrived in the Philippine Islands.|
|17 May 1945||Mexican 201st Expeditionary Squadron with P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft began operations from Clark Field in the Philippine Islands.|
|19 May 1945||US 43rd Division secured the Ipoh dam area north of Manila, Luzon, Philippine Islands. US 25th Division began mopping up operations at Santa, Romblon, Philippine Islands.|
|18 Jun 1945||Japanese resistance on Mindinao, Philippine Islands ceased.|
|21 Jun 1945||US troops captured Aparri, Luzon, Philippine Islands.|
|28 Jun 1945||General MacArthur announced the end of Japanese resistance throughout the Philippine Islands.|
|5 Jul 1945||Douglas MacArthur announced that the Philippine Islands had been liberated.|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945