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Full text of "United States Army In World War II The War In The Pacific Leyte The Return To The Philippines"

940.933 C22L 55-00848 



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stacks 940.933 C22L 
Cannon, M. Hamlin. 

Leyte: the return to the 
Philippines. 
1954. 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 



The War in the Pacific 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO 
THE PHILIPPINES 



by 
M. Hamlin Cannon 




J MlllTARy INSTTRVCTJONy 



OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF MILITARY HISTORT 

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY 

WASHINGTON, D. C., 1954 



This volume, one of the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN 
WORLD WAR II, is the fifth to be published in the subseries 
THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC. All the volumes will be closely 
related, and the series will present a comprehensive account of the 
activities of the Military Establishment during World War II- A 
tentative list of subseries is appended at the end of this volume. 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 5361979 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. 8, Government Printing Office 
Washington 25, D. C. Price of this volume, $6,75 (Cloth) 



\ A O . C V^" 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor 

Advisory Committee 
(As of 1 May 1953) 

James P. Baxter Brig. Gen. Verdi B. Barnes 

President, Williams College Army War College 

John D. Hicks Brig. Gen. Leonard J. Greeley 

University of California Industrial College of the Armed Forces 

William T. Hutchinson Brig. Gen. Elwyn D. Post 

University of Chicago Army Field Forces 

S. L. A. Marshall Col. Thomas D. Stamps 

Detroit News United States Military Academy 

Charles S. Sydnor Col. C. E. Beauchamp 

Duke University Command and General Staff College 

Charles H. Taylor ' 
Harvard University 

Office of the Chief of Military History 

Maj. Gen. Albert C. Smith, Chief* 

Chief Historian Kent Roberts Greenfield 

Chief, War Histories Division Col. G. G. O'Connor 

Chief, Editorial and Publication Division Col, B. A. Day 

Chief, Editorial Branch Joseph R. Friedman 

Chief, Cartographic Branch Wsevolod AglaimofT 

Chief, Photographic Branch Maj. Arthur T. Lawry 



*Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward was succeeded by General Smith on 1 February 1953. 



Ill 



S50OH4H 



The History of 

THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC 
prepared under the direction of Louis Morton 

The Fall of the Philippines 
Guadalcanal: The First Offensive 

Victory in Papua 

CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul 
Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls 

Campaign in the Marianas 

The Approach to the Philippines 

Leyte: The Return to the Philippines 

Triumph in the Philippines 

Okinawa: The Last Battle 

Strategy, Command, and Administration 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



With the Leyte Campaign the War in the Pacific entered a decisive stage. 
The period of limited offensives, bypassing, and island hopping was virtually 
over. American troops in greater numbers than ever before assembled in the 
Pacific Theater, supported by naval and air forces of corresponding size, fought 
and overcame Japanese forces of greater magnitude than any previously met. 

Though the spotlight is on the front-line fighting, the reader will find in this 
volume a faithful description of all arms and services performing their missions. 
The account is not exclusively an infantry story. It covers as well the support of 
ground fighting on Leyte by large-scale naval operations and by land-based air 
power under the most adverse conditions. In addition, careful attention to 
logistical matters, such as the movement of supplies and the evacuation of the 
wounded, gives the reader a picture of the less spectacular activities of an army 
in battle. 

ORLANDO WARD 

Washington, D. C. Maj. Gen., U. S. A. 

30 January 1953 Chief of Military History 



Vll 



The Author 



M. Hamlin Cannon received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History 
from the American University of Washington, D. C. He is already known to 
American historians for his writings on Mormon and Civil War history which 
have appeared in historical journals. During World War II he served with the 
Navy in Australia and New Guinea. 



viii 



Preface 



The landing of the American forces on Leyte on 20 October 1944 brought to 
fruition the long-cherished desire of General Douglas MacArthur to return to the 
Philippine Islands and avenge the humiliating reverses suffered in the early days 
of World War II. The successful conclusion of the campaign separated the 
Japanese-held Philippine Archipelago into two parts, with a strong American 
force between them. More important, it completed the severance of the Japanese 
mainland from the stolen southern empire in the Netherlands Indies from which 
oil, the lifeblood of modern warfare, had come. 

The Leyte Campaign, like other campaigns in the Pacific, was waged on the 
land, in the air, and on and under the sea. In this operation all branches of the 
American armed forces played significant roles. Therefore, although the emphasis 
in this volume is placed upon the deeds of the United States Army ground soldier, 
the endeavors of the aviator, the sailor, the marine and the Filipino guerrilla have 
been integrated as far as possible into the story in order to make the campaign 
understandable in its entirety. At the same time, every effort has been made to give 
the Japanese side of the story. 

Obviously, to include every exploit of every branch of the armed forces, of the 
Filipinos, and of the Japanese would be far beyond the compass of a single volume. 
A careful selectivity was necessary throughout in order to avoid the Scylla of 
omission while skirting the Gharybdis of oversimplification. Despite these pre 
cautions, because of the nature of the available documentary evidence, I may have 
unwittingly fallen into some of the very pitfalls that I tried to avoid. 

I wish to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to the many people who have 
given fully of their time and talents in the preparation of this volume. 

Especial thanks are due to Dr. John Miller, jr., who, during his tenure as 
Chief of the Pacific Section, Office of the Chief of Military History, carefully 
reviewed the final draft of the manuscript. His sound advice and constructive 
criticism eliminated many a roadblock. I wish, also, to thank Dr. Louis Morton, 
Chief of the Pacific Section, under whose direction this volume was started; he 
made constructive criticism of several of the chapters. Dr. Kent Roberts Green 
field, Chief Historian, Department of the Army, devoted much time and effort to 
reviewing the manuscript and his many penetrating comments on the various 
chapters were invaluable. 



Appreciation is due to the people of the Historical Records Section, Depart 
mental Records Branch, Office of the Adjutant General, who helped to locate 
source material and furnished working space for me and the records. To Mrs. Lois 
Aldridge, Mrs. Frances Bowen, Mrs. Clyde Christian, Miss Margaret Emerson, 
Mrs. Ellen Garrison., Mr. Robert Greathouse, Miss Matilda Huber, Mrs. Margarite 
Kerstetter, Mr. Wilbur Nigh, Miss Sue D. Wallace, and Miss Thelma K. 
Yarborough thanks. 

I wish also to thank the members of the U. S. Air Force Historical Division, 
Air University, and the Naval History Branch, Naval Records and History Divi 
sion, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, for placing at my disposal the 
pertinent air and naval records. 

Thanks are also due to the members of the historical sections of the U. S. 
Navy and the U, S. Air Force and to the many participating commanders of 
various branches of the U. S. armed forces who read all or parts of the 
manuscript. 

The late W. Brooks Phillips started the editing of the manuscript. He was 
succeeded by Col. B. A. Day, Chief of the Editorial and Publication Division, and 
Mrs. Loretto Stevens. Mrs. Stevens also prepared the final copy for the printer. 
Miss Mary Ann Bacon prepared the index. 

Mrs. Martha Willoughby, in addition to accomplishing the arduous task of 
interpreting my handwriting, typed many of the drafts of the manuscript and saw 
that the subject and predicate agreed. Mrs. Wynona Hayden, Mrs. Stella Hess, 
and Mrs, Michael Miller also typed parts of the manuscript. Miss Elizabeth 
Armstrong painstakingly typed the final copy. 

Mr. Wsevelod Aglaimoff and Lt. Col. Robert F. O'Donnell, as well as other 
members of the Cartographic Branch, spent many months in research for and 
preparation of the maps. At the time this volume was being prepared for publica 
tion, no reliable maps of Leyte were available. The maps for this volume are based 
on the highly inaccurate maps used by the troops during the operation. The relief 
in particular, as shown on these maps, has little in common with the terrain 
configuration which confronted the troops. Thus, both military and geographical 
information as given on the maps in the volume should be regarded only as an 
approximation of the actual situation at the time of the battle. 

Major Arthur T. Lawry selected and edited the photographs used in this 
volume, Lt. Roger Pineau (USNR) furnished me the photograph of General 
Suzuki. Mr. Israel Wice and his capable assistants in the General Reference 
Branch were helpful at crucial stages of the manuscript. 

My sincere appreciation and thanks go to Maj. Gen. Harry A. Maloney, 
Chief of Military History, and to his successors, Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward and 
Maj. Gen. Albert C. Smith, as well as to members of their staffs, for their 
understanding and co-operation. 

15jSl953 D ' G M> HAMLIN CANNON 



Contents 

Chapter Pa S e 

I. THE STRATEGIC PLAN 1 

Preliminary Discussion 1 

Plans Agreed Upon 8 

II. THE NATURE OF THE TARGET 10 

Geography of Leyte 10 

The Resistance Movement on Leyte 14 

Liaison Between Leyte and Australia 18 

III. PLANS ARE MADE AND FORCES ARE READIED 21 

Estimate of the Enemy Situation 21 

The Tactical Plan 23 

The Logistical Plan 35 

IV. THE RETURN '. 40 

The Convoy Forms 40 

Softening the Target 42 

Japanese Plan of Defense 45 

Securing the Channel Approaches 54 

The Convoy Enters Leyte Gulf 58 

V. A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 60 

Bombardment of the Shores of Leyte 60 

X Corps Goes Ashore 62 

XXIV Corps Goes Ashore 72 

Bringing in Supplies 

VI. THE JAPANESE REACTION 85 

The Air Forces 85 

The Battle of Leyte Gulf 88 

The Japanese Reinforce the Leyte Garrison 92 

VII. SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 103 

The SHO Operations 103 

Enlarging the 96th Division Beachhead 107 

Catmon Hill Area 114 



XI 



Chapter Page 

VIII. SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 124 

The Dulag-Eurauen Road 1 24 

Securing the XXIV Corps Beachhead Line 133 

IX. NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 146 

San Juanico Strait ,/. 146 

Leyte Valley Entrance 157 

X. NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 168 

Drive up Leyte Valley 168 

Capture of Carigar a 179 

XL LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 184 

Logistics 184 

Medical Support 192 

Civil Af airs 198 

Relations With Filipino Refugees 200 

XII. THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 206 

The Coastal Corridor 206 

Battle of Breakneck Ridge 211 

XIII. THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 221 

Reinforcements , 221 

32d Division Assumes the Offensive 223 

Battle of Kilay Ridge 227 

Central Mountain Range 235 

XIV. MEASURE OF THE FIGHTING 244 

The American Ground Forces 244 

Japanese Warfare 251 

XV. BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 253 

American Plans and Preparations 253 

Battle of Shoestring Ridge 257 

Battles of the Hills 266 

XVI. THE FALL OF ORMOC 275 

Plan for Amphibious Movement 276 

The Movement Overwater # 280 

Drive Toward Ormoc , . . 284 

Two Sevens Are Rolled in Ormoc . . . 290 



Xll 



Chapter Page 

XVII. BATTLE OF THE AIRSTRIPS ............... 294 

The American Dispositions ................. 296 

First Japanese Effort .................... 297 

Battle of Buri Airstrip ................... 298 

Attack From the Sky ............... ..... 300 

XVIII. LOGISTICS ........................ 306 

Construction ....................... 306 

Supplies ......................... 308 

XIX. THE ENTRANCES TO ORMOG VALLEY ......... 313 

Southern Entrance to Ormoc Valley .............. 313 

The Mountain Passage ................... 321 

The Drive South ............... ...... 323 



XX. SEIZURE OF ORMOC VALLEY ............... 

Drive From the South to the Libongao Area ........... 330 

The 32d Division Resumes the Offensive ......... ... 339 

Debouchment From the Mountains ............... 342 

XXI. WESTWARD TO THE SEA ................ 347 

The 77th Division Goes West ................ 348 

X Corps Goes West .................... 354 

The Japanese Retreat ................... 358 

XXII. LEYTE IS LIBERATED ........ . ......... 361 

The Eighth Army Assumes Control .............. 361 

The Road Ends ...................... 367 

Appendix 

A. GHQ OPERATIONS INSTRUCTIONS NO. 70, 21 SEPTEMBER 

1944 ............................ 371 

B. BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS ............... 378 

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS . . : . ................ 380 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE .................... 383 

INDEX ............................. 391 



xui 



Tables 

No. 

1. Sixth Army Daily Strength Reports, 12 November~25 December 1944 . . 222 

2. Shipping Tonnage Discharged in Leyte-Samar Area, 28 October-25 De 

cember 1944 ......................... 310 

3. Airdrops by llth Air Cargo Resupply Squadron, 11 November-25 Decem 

ber 1944 ........................... 

4. U. S. Army Battle Casualties at Leyte, 20 October 1944-8 May 1945 .. 368 

5. Sixth Army Battle Casualties by Arm or Service, 20 October-25 December 

1944 ............................. 369 

Charts 

1. Operational Organization for the Leyte Campaign .......... 25 

2. Organization of the Central Philippine Attack Force ......... 29 

3. Japanese Army Organization of Major Units for the Leyte Operation . . 48 



Maps 



1. Pacific Ocean (National Geographic Society Map] ....... Inside back cover 

2. Leyte Island ...................... Inside back cover 

3. Sixth Army Plan, 23 September 1944 ............... 32 

4. Situation in the Pacific, Mid-October 1944 ............. 47 

5. X Corps Landings, 20 October 1944 ............... 64 

6. XXIV Corps Landings, 20 October 1944 ............. 73 

7. 96th Division Advance, 21-30 October 1944 ............ 105 

8. 7th Division Advance to Dagami, 21-30 October 1944 ........ 125 

9. Securing the Tacloban Area, 21-23 October 1944 . . ........ 147 

10. Fight for Entrance to Northern Leyte Valley, 21-25 October 1944 ... 158 

11. Drive to Jaro, 26-29 October 1944 ................ 169 

12. Advance to Carigara, 30 October-2 November 1944 ......... 177 

13. Battle for Northern Entrance to Ormoc Valley, 3-15 November 1944 . 207 

14. Battle for Northern Entrance to Ormoc Valley, 16 November 14 Decem 

ber 1944 ... ........................ 225 

15. Shoestring Ridge, 23-25 November 1944 .............. 255 

16. Shoestring Ridge, 26-27 November 1944 ............. 261 

17. Battle of the Ridges, 5-12 December 1944 ............. 267 

18. Situation on Leyte, 7 December 1944 ............... 274 

19. Securing the Southern Entrance to Ormoc Valley, 7-15 December 1944 . 278 

20. Japanese Attack on Burauen Airfields, 6 December 1944 ....... 295 

21. Mountain Passage, 25 November-22 December 1944 ......... 321 

22. Seizure of Ormoc Valley, 15-21 December 1944 ...... .... 329 

23. Opening the Palompon Road, 22-31 December 1944 ......... 348 



xiv 



Illustrations 

Page 

Conference at Pearl Harbor 5 

Guerrillas Prepare for Inspection at Consuegra 15 

Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita 51 

Lt. Gen. Sosaku Suzuki 51 

Patrol of Company F, 6th Rangers 56 

Convoy Off Leyte 61 

Landing Beaches 63 

Troops of the 1st Cavalry Division 66 

75-mm. M8 Self-Propelled Howitzers 70 

Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert 71 

Beach Area 75 

Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger and Col. Ruperto K. Kangleon 79 

Unloading Supplies at Dulag 81 

Japanese Air Attacks 87 

Air Strikes Against Japanese Installations 95 

Antiaircraft Gun 97 

Lockheed P-38 98 

Japanese Convoy Under Attack 100 

Landing Areas and Leyte Valley 106 

Crew of a Light Armored Car M8 109 

Filipino Civilian Guides U. S. Tank 113 

San Vicente Hill 118 

105-mm. Self-Propelled Howitzer M7 Firing 120 

Dulag and Bayug Airstrips 126 

Maj. Gen. John R. Hodge 127 

Disabled M4 Tank 132 

Burauen 134 

Engineer Troops 140 

A Patrol From the 7th Cavalry 149 

Maj. Gen. Verne D. Mudge 150 

8-inch Howitzers Readied for Action 151 

General MacArthur 153 

Proclamation to the People of the Philippine Islands 1 54 

Tacloban 156 

Tank-Supported Infantrymen of the 34th Regiment 160 

Palo 162 

Pastrana 172 

U. S. Antitank Platoon 174 

155-mm. Guns Firing on Carigara 180 

U. S. Patrol Crossing the Canomontag River 182 

Access Road From White Beach 1 86 



xv 



Page 

Tanauan Airstrip 189 

LST's Unloading at Tacloban Airfield 191 

Road Conditions : 193 

A Litter Squad Evacuates a Casualty 196 

A Casualty Receives Treatment 196 

An Operating Room at the Station Hospital, Tanauan 197 

A Casualty is Evacuated by Ship to a Rear Area 197 

An Officer of a Civil Affairs Unit 200 

Refugee Area on Orange Beach Near Dulag 202 

Engineers Remove Land Mines 214 

View From the Ridges Looking North up the Limon Valley 217 

American Troops in Limon 226 

Lt. Col. Thomas E. Clifford, Jr. . , 229 

Filipino Carriers Haul Supplies 236 

Foothills of Central Mountain Range 238 

General MacArthur and Maj, Gen. Archibald V. Arnold 245 

Troops of the 77th Division Board LCPs at Tarragona 281 

Convoy Carrying 77th Division Approaches Deposito 282 

A Patrol of the 307th Infantry 288 

Aerial View of Ormoc 292 

Buri Airstrip 299 

San Pablo Airstrip 301 

Operational Losses at the Burauen Airfields 307 

Approach Road to Quartermaster Service Center 309 

Heavy Machine Guns Cover Crossing 315 

U. S. and Japanese Tanks 327 

Japanese Dug-in Positions Along Highway Banks 332 

Japanese Light Tank 335 

Palompon After Allied Bombings 350 

All illustrations but one are from Department of Defense files. The photograph of 
Lt. Gen. Sosaku Suzuki on page 51 was contributed by Lt. Roger Pineau (USNR). 



xvi 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



CHAPTER I 



The Strategic Plan 



"It is with the deepest regret that I must 
inform you that conditions over which I 
have no control have necessitated the sur 
render of troops under my command." l 
With this message of 20 May 1942, from 
Lt Col. Theodore M. Cornell, U.S. Army, 
to Bernardo Torres, Governor of Leyte, the 
control which the United States had held 
over the island since 1898 came to an end. 
Nearly two and a half years were to elapse 
before the sound of naval guns in Leyte 
Gulf would announce to the world the open 
ing of the Leyte Campaign, the first phase 
of the re-entry of American forces into the 
Philippine Archipelago, (Map 1 inside 
back cover] 

The primary purpose of the Leyte Cam 
paign was to establish an air and logistical 
base in the Leyte area in order to support 
operations in the Luzon-Formosa-China 
coast area and particularly to nullify Japa 
nese strength in Luzon. Leyte is one of the 
Visayan Islands, which constitute the geo 
graphical heart of the Philippines. It was 
hoped that the fertile Leyte Valley, broad 
and flat, could be utilized for major airfields 
and base sites from which large-scale opera 
tions could be launched against the rest of 
the Philippines. 



Preliminary Discussion 

Behind the decision to go- into Leyte lay 
a series of strategically significant victories, 
which had followed a staggering initial re 
verse. American prewar plans for the Pacific 
had originally been based on the assumption 
that only the United States and Japan would 
be at war and that the U.S. Pacific Fleet 
would be in existence. 2 But the destruction 
of the fleet at Pearl Harbor and the entrance 
of Germany and Italy into the war nullified 
these plans. The strategy of the Joint Chiefs 
of Staff 8 in early 1942, therefore, was con 
cerned chiefly with trying to limit the rapid 
advance of the Japanese and with keeping 
the line of communications to Australia 
open. The Pacific Theater was divided into 
command areas the Southwest Pacific 
Area, with General Douglas MacArthur as 



1 Philippine Municipal Government Reports, 
Folder 2, App. DD, Guerrilla File 6910.23 (B), 
Military Intelligence (MI) Library. 



a Louis Morton, "American and Allied Strategy 
in the Far East," Military Rsview, XXIX (De 
cember, 1949), 38, 

8 The Joint Chiefs of Staff were General George 
G. Marshall, Chief of Staff, United States Army; 
Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. 
Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations; General 
Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air 
Forces; and Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of 
Staff to the Commander in Chief the President of 
the United States. The Joint Chiefs were respon 
sible for the conduct of the war in the Pacific, sub 
ject to the decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. 
The latter were representatives of the United States 
and the United Kingdom. The Joint Chiefs repre 
sented the United States. 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Supreme Commander (he referred to him 
self, however, as Commander in Chief) , and 
the Pacific Ocean Area (which included the 
Central Pacific)., with Admiral Chester W. 
Nimitz as Commander in Chief. 4 

In 1942 and 1943 the Allied forces had 
halted the Japanese at Papua and Guadal 
canal and started to push them back. On 8 
May 1943 the Joint Chiefs approved a 
"Strategic Plan for the Defeat of Japan," 
which was endorsed by the Combined Chiefs 
in December. The objective of the plan was 
to secure the unconditional surrender of 
Japan, an objective that might necessitate 
an invasion of the Japanese home islands. 
As such an invasion promised to be a "vast 
undertaking," it would be necessary to se 
cure a large supply base from which a great 
aerial offensive could be mounted against 
Japan. According to the original plan this 
base was to be located in China, but the 
Mariana Islands were afterward substituted 
for China. The plan called for the acquisi 
tion of successive island bases which could 
be used as "steppingstones," preferably those 
which would shorten the sea route, provide 
for its security, and at the same time deny to 
the Japanese bases from which they might 
interfere with the Allied line of communica 
tions. The main effort was to be through the 
waters of the Pacific Ocean. Nimitz 3 opera 
tions were to be conducted west through the 
Japanese mandated islands while MacAr- 
thur's proceeded northwest along the New 
Guinea coast. The two series of operations 
were to be mutually supporting. 5 

4 Memo, Gen Marshall and Admiral King for 
President, 30 Mar 42, no sub, and two incls, "Di 
rective to the Commander in Chief of the Pacific 
Ocean Area" and "Directive to Supreme Com 
mander in the Southwest Pacific," OPD ABC 323.31 
POA (1-29-42), 1-B. 

JCS 287/1, Strategic Plan for the Defeat of 
Japan, 8 May 43; CCS 417, Over-all Plan for the 
Defeat of Japan, 2 Dec 43. 



Although no specific islands were named 
in the Strategic Plan, the Philippine Archi 
pelago, because of its strategic position and 
long possession by the United States, nat 
urally loomed large in the planning. The 
Philippines lie athwart all sea routes south 
from Japan to the economically important 
Netherlands Indies rich in rubber, tin, oil, 
and rice. The capture of the Philippines 
would help to sever this line of communica 
tions and would furnish an excellent staging 
area for attacks against China, Formosa, or 
Japan. Aside from strategic considerations, 
the liberation of the Islands was important 
for reasons of Far Eastern politics and pres 
tige. 6 The obligation of the United States to 
the subjugated Filipino people could not be 
lightly ignored. Furthermore, General Mac- 
Arthur was imbued with a burning deter 
mination to return to the Philippine Islands 
and avenge the humiliating defeats suffered 
by the American forces in 1941 and 1942. 

By the spring of 1944 the operations in 
the Pacific were going so well that the suc 
cesses had exceeded even the most opti 
mistic hopes of any of the planning officers. 
On 1 2 March the Joint Chiefs ordered Gen 
eral MacArthur to prepare plans for a 
return to Mindanao, southernmost island 
of the Philippines, with a target date of 15 
November 1944. 7 General MacArthur on 
15 June issued a plan for his future opera 
tions. The entrance into the Philippines was 
to be accomplished in two phases. The first 
would be a preliminary operation on 25 

'United States Strategic Bombing Survey 
[USSBS], Military Analysis Division, Employment 
of Forces Under the Southwest Pacific Command 
(Washington, 1947), p. 32. 

T JCS to CINCSWPA, GM-IN 5137, 12 Mar 44. 
CM-IN and CM-OUT numbers used in the foot 
notes of this volume refer to numbers on copies of 
those messages in General Marshall's Message Log, 
on file in the Staff Communications Office, Office 
of the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. 



THE STRATEGIC PLAN 



October into the Sarangani Bay area in 
southern Mindanao in order to establish 
land-based air forces to augment the carrier- 
based air support for the principal effort. 
The major effort was to be an amphibious 
landing operation with forces mounted from 
New Guinea for the seizure on 15 November 
of airfields and bases on Leyte. 8 The latter 
was to follow quickly on the heels of the 
first operation in order to take full advan 
tage of the surprise tactics. 

Leyte occupies a commanding position in 
the Philippine Islands. Because of its central 
location, its repossession by the United 
States would not only divide the Japanese 
forces in the Philippines but would alpo pro 
vide an excellent anchorage in Leyte Gulf, 
together with sites for bases and airfields 
from which land-based aircraft could bomb 
all parts of the Philippines, the coast of 
China, and Formosa. To an even greater 
extent than Mindanao, Leyte could be made 
into an excellent springboard from which to 
launch subsequent operations against the 
Japanese in Formosa or in the rest of the 
Philippines. 

In his planning, General Mac Arthur 
recognized that the Leyte operation, his 
most ambitious to date, would require 
"massed carrier-based air support" and all 
of the "combined amphibious and naval 
forces available at the time." 9 

By June 1944 General MacArthur's 
forces had pushed up the New Guinea coast 
to the island of Biak, about nine hundred 
nautical miles southeast of Davao, Minda 
nao, while those of Admiral Nimitz were 
poised to strike at Saipan some twelve hun 
dred miles northeast of Davao. In most of 
their previous campaigns the Americans had 
struck with overwhelming force at weakly 



GHQ SWPA, RENO V, 15 Jun 44. 

Ibid. 



held Japanese garrisons. Since the tide of 
war was now so favorable to the Allied 
cause, the Joint Chiefs thought that the Pa 
cific timetable of pending operations might 
be accelerated. On 13 June they had there 
fore asked MacArthur and Nimitz their 
opinions with regard to three ways proposed 
for speeding up operations: "(a) By ad 
vancing target dates of operations now 
scheduled through operations against For 
mosa; (b) By by-passing presently selected 
objectives prior to operations against For 
mosa; and (c) By by-passing presently se 
lected objectives and choosing new ones 
including the home islands." Although the 
Philippine Islands were not explicitly named 
as targets that might be bypassed, they were 
certainly included by implication. 10 

On 18 June General MacArthur replied 
to the query of the Joint Chiefs, 11 and on 4 
July Admiral Nimitz made known his opin 
ions. 12 On the advancement of the target 
dates, both commanders were in complete 
agreement it was impossible unless certain 
conditions could be changed. The logistic 
resources in the Southwest Pacific were 
being strained to the limit to meet the fixed 
target dates, while the strengthening of Jap 
anese garrisons made it unlikely that the 
Central Pacific could make its present 
scheduled dates. 

With respect to bypassing objectives prior 
to the seizure of Formosa, MacArthur 
thought it would be "unsound" to bypass 
the Philippines and launch an attack across 
the Pacific directly against Formosa an 
attack which would have the benefit of no 
appreciable land-based air support and 

10 Rad, JCS to CINGSWPA and CINCPOA, 
CM-OUT 50007, 13 Jun 44. 

11 Rad, CINGSWPA to CofS, CM-IN 15058, 18 
Jun 44. 

12 Rad, GINCPOA to GOMINGH, CM-IN 2926, 
4 Jul 44. 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



which would be based upon the Hawaiian 
Islands, 5,100 miles away. In his opinion it 
was essential to occupy Luzon and establish 
land-based aircraft thereon before making 
any move against Formosa. 13 Nimitz stated 
that in a series of informal discussions be 
tween his and MacArthur's planning offi 
cers, the latter anticipated the seizure in 
early September of Morotai Island, 300 
statute miles southeast of Mindanao. This 
was to be followed in late October by a 
limited occupation of the Sarangani Bay 
area on Mindanao, which was to be used 
primarily as a base for short-range aircraft. 
The major operation was to be the occupa 
tion of Leyte about 15 November. Nimitz 
thought that this timing was "optimistic." 
He felt that the critical and decisive nature 
of the Leyte operation required "practically 
all available covering and striking forces, fire 
support forces, and all available assault 
shipping." If successful, however, the Amer 
icans would achieve air supremacy over the 
Philippines. Therefore, since the inclusion 
of the Leyte operation with that of Min 
danao would expedite subsequent opera 
tions, Nimitz considered it "advisable." u 

As to the feasibility of bypassing present 
objectives and choosing new ones, including 
the Japanese home islands, the two com 
manders were not in complete agreement. 
MacArthur pronounced the concept "utter 
ly unsound," since the available shipping 
was limited to a seven-division lift and there 
was insufficient air support, Nimitz thought 
that no decision should be made until after 
further developments. 

The proposals disturbed General Mac- 
Arthur, who concluded his message to the 
Joint Chiefs with the following peroration : 

**Rad cited n. 11. 
M Rad cited n. 12. 



It is my opinion that purely military con 
siderations demand the reoccupation of the 
Philippines in order to cut the enemy's com 
munications to the south and to secure a base 
for our further advance. Even if this were not 
the case and unless military factors demanded 
another line of action it would in my opinion 
be necessary to reoccupy the Philippines, 

The Philippines is American Territory 
where our unsupported forces were destroyed 
by the enemy. Practically all of the 17,000,000 
Filipinos remain loyal to the United States 
and are undergoing the greatest privation and 
suffering because we have not been able to 
support or succor them. We have a great na 
tional obligation to discharge. 

Moreover, if the United States should de 
liberately bypass the Philippines, leaving our 
prisoners, nationals, and loyal Filipinos in 
enemy hands without an effort to retrieve 
them at earliest moment, we would incur 
the gravest psychological reaction. We would 
admit the truth of Japanese propaganda to 
the effect that we had abandoned the Fili 
pinos and would not shed American blood to 
redeem them; we would undoubtedly incur 
the open hostility of that people; we would 
probably suffer such loss of prestige among all 
the peoples of the Far East that it would 
adversely affect the United States for many 
years. . . , 1B 

In reply, General George C. Marshall, 
Chief of Staff, cautioned MacArthur to "be 
careful not to let personal feelings and Phil 
ippine politics" override the great objective, 
which was to end the war. He also pointed 
out that "bypassing" was not "synonymous 
with abandonment." 16 

Admiral William F. Halsey, the com 
mander of the Third Fleet, and his staff, 
when they heard of the proposal, were en 
thusiastic about the possibility of bypassing 
the more immediate objectives. But in con 
trast to Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of 
Naval Operations, who wished to move di- 

"Rad cited n, 11. 

"Rad, CofS to GINGSWPA, CM-OUT 55718, 
24Jun44, 



THE STRATEGIC PLAN 




CONFERENCE AT PEARL HARBOR irwigr to*tA*r (left to right) General Douglas 
Mac Arthur f President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Admiral William D. Leahy and Admiral Chester 



rectly to Formosa, bypassing the Philippines, 
Halsey felt it necessary and profitable to go 
into the Philippine Archipelago, which he 
considered to be "the vulnerable belly of 
the Imperial dragon." 17 Halsey stated that 
when Rear Adm. Robert B. Carney, his chief 
of staff, was asked by King, "Do you want 
to make a London out of Manila?" Carney 
replied, "No, sir. I want to make an England 
out of Luzon." 1S 

The Joint Chiefs, of Staff concluded that 
none of the currently selected objectives 
could be bypassed. They continued, how 
ever, to search for means by which the tempo 
of the war in the Pacific might be acceler 
ated. 



William F. Hal&ey, Admiral Htdsefs Story 
(New York, 1947), pp. 194-99. 
p. 195. 



In the latter days of July, General 
Marshall invited General MacArthur to 
visit Pearl Harbor in order to confer with 
Admiral Nimitz on future plans for the war 
in the Pacific. MacArthur arrived on 26 
July. To his surprise, the President of the 
United States was present. President Roose 
velt invited him and Admirals Halsey and 
Nimitz to dinner. After dinner the President 
drew out a map and, pointing to Leyte, is 
reported to have said, "Well, Douglas, 
where do we go from here?" 19 



M Information was furnished by Capt. Samuel 
Eliot Morison, USNR, 22 January 1951, who stated 
that Roosevelt had related the incident to Mm. 
Lt. Gen. Robert G. Richardson, who was not present, 
states that MacArthur told him that the President 
pointed to Mindanao when he made his remark. 
Ltr, Gen Richardson to Gen Marshall, 1 Aug 44, 
Book 21, OPD Exec 9. 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Although Mac Arthur had been given no 
intimation that strategy was going to be dis 
cussed, he launched into a long talk on the 
necessity of taking Luzon before moving 
against Formosa. Nimitz did not enter into 
the conversation. The following morning 
the discussions were continued. Admiral 
William D. Leahy, who was present, later 
declared: "Both General MacArthur and 
Admiral Nimitz felt that they did not re 
quire any additional reinforcements or as 
sistance" for the scheduled operations. 20 
This Admiral Leahy considered most un 
usual. 

Admiral Nimitz reported to Admiral King 
that the conferences "were quite satisfactory. 
The general trend of the discussion . . . 
was along the line of seeing MacArthur into 
the Central Philippines. . . ." 21 

There was no strong disagreement be 
tween General MacArthur and Admiral 
Nimitz. Admiral Leahy said, "I personally 
was convinced that they together were the 
best qualified officers in our service for this 
tremendous task, and that they could work 



whole of his planning toward the reoccupa- 
tion of the Philippine Islands, and on 10 
July had issued a plan for all operations into 
the archipelago. According to this plan the 
conquest of the Islands was to be accom 
plished in four major phases. 

The initial phase envisaged footholds in 
the southern and central Philippines for the 
establishment of bases and airfields from 
which subsequent operations could be sup 
ported. The first operation, planned for 1 
November 1944, was to be the seizure of the 
Sarangani Bay area in southern Mindanao 
for the purpose of establishing land-based air 
forces to augment the carrier-based air sup 
port for the advance into Leyte. The Leyte 
operation., the main effort of this series, was 
to come on 22 November. Major air, naval, 
and logistic bases were to be constructed on 
the shores of Leyte Gulf for the control of 
Leyte, Samar, and Surigao Strait, and for 
the neutralization of the Japanese aerial 
strength on Luzon. 28 The other phases cov 
ered the occupation of Luzon and the con 
solidation of the Philippines. 



together in full agreement toward the com- ^ On 26 July the Joint Chiefs agreed that 
mon end of defeating Japan." 22 / the primary purpose of the occupation of the 

Strong efforts were already under way to<MLeyte-Mindanao area was to establish air 
accelerate operations in the Pacific. A short- /forces there in order to reduce the enemy 
age of shipping appeared to be the bottle- / air strength on Luzon. Some of Admiral 
neck which halted all attempts to speed up vNimitz' assault craft which were suitable for 
the operational target dates. General Mac- shore-to-shore operations were to be trans 
ferred to General MacArthur. The Joint 
Chiefs, therefore, asked their planners to 
submit their views on the possibility of ad 
vancing the target date for Leyte to 15 No 
vember by compressing the intervals be- 



Arthur at Brisbane had been directing the 



M Interv with Admiral Leahy, 5 Oct 50, OCMH. 

11 Memo, GOMINGH for GofS, 9 Aug 44, OPD 
ABC 384 Pacific (1-17-43). 

tt Interv with Admiral Leahy, 5 Oct 50, OGMH. 
See also, Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, I Was 
There (New York, 1950), pp. 247-52. In answer 
to, an inquiry about the conference made to the 
director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, the 
author was informed that "a careful search of the 
papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt in this Library has 
not revealed any materials that would be pertinent 
to the subject, . . ." Ltr, Herman Kahn to author. 
20 Oct 50, OGMH. 



tween contemplated operations or by the 
elimination of certain scheduled opera 
tions. 24 



* GHQ SWPA, MUSKETEER Plan, 10 Jul 44. 

* Rad, JPS to Staff Planners of GINCPOA and 
CINCSWPA, CM-OUT 71483, 27 Jul 44. 



THE STRATEGIC PLAN 



In furtherance of this directive, planning 
officers from Washington met with General 
MacArthur and his staff in Brisbane in the 
early part of August and discussed means of 
accelerating the target date for Leyte. Gen 
eral MacArthur told them that a substantial 
interval between the operations at Saran- 
gani Bay and Leyte was necessary. His 
reasons were as follows: (1) the assault 
shipping that was used for the Sarangani 
Bay operation woiild have time to turn 
around, reload, and then be used for the 
Leyte operation ; ( 2 ) in the interval six com 
bat air groups could be installed in the Sa 
rangani Bay area to support the Leyte oper 
ation; and (3) the carriers would have suffi 
cient time to execute two strikes before the 
Leyte operation. 25 

The planners from Washington, however, 
felt that there was sufficient assault shipping 
in the Pacific without using the same craft 
for both the Sarangani Bay and the Leyte 
operations. An enumeration of the vessels 
assigned to the Southwest Pacific and the 
Central Pacific gave the areas more than a 
six-division lift. As Brig. Gen, Frank N. 
Roberts, chief of the Strategy and Policy 
Group, Operations Division, War Depart 
ment General Staff, in Washington, told 
Col. William L. Ritchie, his deputy, who 
was in Brisbane, "If you sit down and look 
at those figures a bit you will see that there 
should be sufficient assault lift for Leyte just 
on playing the numbers racket, without 
touching the shipping on Sarangani." 26 

Both Washington and Brisbane recog 
nized that the operations in the Leyte- 
Surigao area were necessary in order to 
provide air bases, depot areas, and a fleet 



* Tel conf, Washington and Brisbane, 7 Aug 44, 
WD-TC 797. 

* Tel conf, Washington and Brisbane, 10 Aug 44, 
WD-TC 809. 



anchorage for any future advance whether 
in the Philippines, against Formosa, or by 
a direct route into the Japanese homeland. 
Consequently, the planners never seriously 
entertained any idea of bypassing this area, 
although they continued to probe for means 
which would accelerate the target date. 

The determination of the target date was 
dependent upon the availability of assault 
shipping and the desire of General Mac- 
Arthur to have each successive advance sup 
ported by land-based aircraft. The existing 
shipping was needed for operations already 
scheduled. The planners concluded that ad 
ditional shipping could be made available 
if certain phases of the campaigns of Cen 
tral Pacific forces into the Palaus, scheduled 
to start on 15 September, were canceled or 
set ahead of schedule. The alternatives were 
to modify the concept of providing land- 
based air support for subsequent operations 
or to execute the Sarangani Bay and Leyte 
operations simultaneously. 27 There the mat 
ter rested. Apparently the Joint Chiefs had 
decided that the time was not opportune for 
an acceleration of the target dates. 

On 27 August General MacArthur fur 
nished General Marshall a timetable for fu 
ture operations by his forces. On 15 Sep 
tember a division and a reinforced regiment 
were to seize Morotai in order "to protect 
.the western flank" and to provide land- 
based aircraft for advances northward. On 
15 October a division less one regimental 
combat team was to land in the Talaud 
Islands northwest of Morotai in order "to 
neutralize the [Japanese] western flank," to 
establish air bases from which the neutral 
ization of Mindanao and the western Vis- 
ayan Islands could be accomplished, and 
to set up a base for airborne troops. On 15 
November two divisions were to land in the 



r Ibid. 



8 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Sarangani Bay area in order to construct 
bases for land-based aircraft that were to 
support the Leyte operation. On 7 Decem 
ber a regimental combat team and a para 
chute battalion were to drop on Mindanao 
and establish an airfield for fighter cover for 
the aerial neutralization of the western Vis- 
ayan Islands and southern Luzon. On 20 
December five divisions were to land on 
Leyte for the purpose of providing "major 
air and logistic bases for operations to the 
northward." The plan was predicated on 
the assumption that there would be avail 
able in the Pacific sufficient amphibious lift 
and fleet support. 28 

Plans Agreed Upon 

On 1 September 1944 the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff in their 171st meeting reviewed the 
situation in the Pacific. The time had come 
when it was necessary to issue a directive 
for future operations in that area. After 
much discussion, the Joint Chiefs left in 
abeyance the question of what operation 
should follow Leyte but " directed the Joint 
Staff Planners to prepare, as a matter of 
urgency, a directive to the Commander in 
Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, and the 
Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, 
to carry out the Leyte operation." w 

Accordingly, on 8 September, the two 
commanders were given the following mis 
sions: General MacArthur, after conduct 
ing the necessary preliminary operations, 
was to take the Leyte-Surigao area on 20 
December, with Admiral Nimitz furnishing 
fleet support and additional assault ship 



ping. Both commanders were to arrange for 
co-ordination of plans and mutual support 
of operations; to co-ordinate plans with 
General Joseph W. Stilwell, Commanding 
General, United States Army forces, China. 
Burma and India, in order to get maximum 
support from that theater; and to arrange 
with General Henry H. Arnold, Command 
ing General, Twentieth Air Force, for sup 
porting operations. 30 

Concurrently with the issuance of this di 
rective, momentous events were taking place 
in the Pacific. Admiral Halsey was in com 
mand of scheduled operations against the 
Palau Islands. On 7 and 8 September air 
craft from his carriers struck at Yap and the 
Palau Islands, against which Admiral Nim 
itz had scheduled operations, and for the 
next two days bombed Mindanao. On the 
12th and 14th the bombers hit the central 
Philippines in support of the operations 
against the Palau Islands and Morotai 

Admiral Halsey advised Admiral Nimitz 
that, as a result of the strikes, few serviceable 
planes in the Philippines were left to the 
Japanese, the bulk of the enemy's oil sup 
plies was destroyed, there was "no shipping 
left to sink," the "enemy's non-aggressive 
attitude [was] unbelievable and fantastic," 
and "the area is wide open." ** Halsey also 
told Nimitz that one of his downed carrier 
pilots had been told by his Filipino rescuers 
that there were no Japanese on Leytc. 3 * He 
therefore felt that it was time to accelerate 
the operations in the Pacific, and he strongly 
recommended that the intermediate opera- 



"Rad, CINCSWPA to OofS, GM-IN 24770, 27 
Aug 44. 
" Min, JCS 171st Mtg, 1 Scp 44. 



"Rad, JCS to GINGSWPA and CINCPQA, 
CM-OUT 27648, 8 Sep 44. 

81 Rad, ComSdFlt to CINCPOA, CM-IN 13120, 
14 Sep 44, 

w Rad, Gom3<pat to CINGPOA, GINGSWPA, 
and COMINCH, CM-IN 12893, 13 Scp 44. 



THE STRATEGIC PLAN 9 

tions Yap, Talaud, and the Sarangani Bay vided; the logistic support was practicable; 

area on Mindanao be canceled. Leyte and the XXIV Corps could be used. 35 

could be seized immediately and cheaply General Marshall received this answer at 

without any intermediate operations. Hal- Quebec on 15 September while he, Admiral 

sey's fleet could cover the initial landing Leahy, Admiral King, and General Arnold 

until land-based aircraft could be estab- were at a formal dinner given by Canadian 

lished. The force intended for the occupa- officers. The Americans withdrew from the 

tion of Yap could be made available to table for a conference. Within an hour and a 

General MacArthur. 38 half after the message arrived, the Joint 

When this message was received, the Chiefs ordered MacArthur and Nimitz to 

Combined Chiefs of Staff were attending a cancel the three intermediate operations of 

conference in Quebec. The recommenda- Yap, Talaud, and Sarangani, co-ordinate 

tions were transmitted to Quebec by Ad- their plans, and invade Leyte on 20 

miral Nimitz, who offered to place at Mac- October. 86 

Arthur's disposal the III Amphibious Force, Later that evening, as he was on his way 

including the XXIV Corps, which was load- to his quarters after the dinner, General 

ing at Pearl Harbor for Yap. General Mar- Marshall received this message : "Subject to 

shall so informed General MacArthur and completion of arrangements with Nimitz, we 

asked his opinion on the proposed change shall execute Leyte operation on 20 Octo 

of target date. 8 * ber. . . . MacArthur." 87 

The message reached MacArthur's head- On 3 October the Joint Chiefs of Staff 

quarters at Hollandia, on New Guinea, directed General MacArthur to occupy Lu- 

while MacArthur was en route to Morotai zon on 20 December 1944, the date orig- 

and observing radio silence. His chief of staff inally set for the entrance into Leyte. 38 The 

advised General Marshall that although the decision had been made. General Mac- 

information from the rescued pilot that there Arthur was to return to the Philippine 

were no Japanese on Leyte was incorrect, Islands in force. 
the intermediate operations could be elim- 



inated. The 1st Cavalry Division and the "Rad, CINCSWPA to JCS, CINCPOA, and 

OVUUT r * TV vv, ffi ' * Com3dFlt, CM-IN 12636, 14 Sep 44. 

24th Infantry Division with sufficient service WRadj ' JC$ to GINCSWPA ^ ciNGPOA, and 

troops were available for the Leyte opera- ComSdFlt, 15 Sep 44, OCTAGON 31-A, CofS 

tion- adequate air strength could be pro- CM-OUT Log, 15 Sep 44; Biennid Report, p. 71, 

3 ^ cited n. 34; General of the Air Force Henry H. 

- Arnold, Global Mission (New York, 1949), pp. 

* Rad, ComSdFlt to CINCPOA, CM-IN 12893, 529-30. 

14 Sep 44. "Rad, CINCSWPA to JCS, CM-IN 17744, 15 

* Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the Sep 44. 

United States Army, July 1,1 943, to June 30, 1945, "Rad, JCS to CINCSWPA *t al, CM-OUT 

to the Secretary of War (Washington, 1945), p. 71. 40792, 3 Oct 44. 



CHAPTER II 



The Nature of the Target 



The Philippine Islands, the largest island 
group in the Malay Archipelago, were dis 
covered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. 
They became a Spanish possession in 1565 
and remained so until 10 December 1898 
when they were ceded to the United States 
by the Treaty of Paris as a result of the 
Spanish-American war. In the spring of 
1942 Japan secured military domination 
over the Islands. 

The Philippine Archipelago lay in the 
geographical heart of- the Far Eastern 
theater of war. As a pivotal point of con 
trol the Islands were centrally placed in re 
lation to Japan, China, Burma, French 
Indochina, Thailand, British Malaya, and 
the Netherlands Indies. Being the most 
northerly part of the Malay Archipelago, 
the Philippines were also close to the vital 
areas of Japan and the Chinese-held areas 
of the Asiatic mainland. Located southeast 
of the continent, they occupy much the 
same position with respect to the mainland 
of Asia that the West Indies do with respect 
to North America. 

The Islands are among the remnants of a 
great continent that once extended over the 
space now occupied by the entire East In 
dies. There are some 7,100 islands and islets 
in the Philippine Archipelago, which has a 
land area of 1 14,830 square miles. Of these, 
about 460 have an area of one square mile 
or more and 2,773 are named. The Philip 
pine Islands are divided into three main 



groups Luzon and adjacent islands in the 
northern sector; the Visayan Islands in the 
central portion, comprising Sarnar, Leyte, 
and numerous others; and finally, in the 
southern part, Mindanao and the Sulu 
Archipelago. The Philippines had a prewar 
population of about 16,000,000, of whom 
14,550,000 were Christians, 678,000 were 
Mohammedans, 626,000 were pagans, and 
about 64,000 were Buddhists and Shin- 
toists. 1 

Geography of Leyte 

The northeastern Visayan group, which 
consists mainly of Leyte and Samar, was 
selected as the point of entrance into the 
Philippines. Leyte had the higher potential 
military value. The air distance from the 
capital city of Tacloban to Manila is 295 
miles. Leyte is a natural gateway to the rest 
of the Philippines, and its possession would 
greatly facilitate and support further opera- 
tions to the north as well as expedite control 
over the remaining islands in the Visayan 
group. 2 



1 MI Sec, WDGS, Survey of the Philippines, 3 
vols., 15 Feb 43; Div of Naval Intel, Office, Chief 
of Naval Opns, ONI 93, Field Monograph of the 
Philippines, Jan 44; Allied Geographical Sec, GHQ 
SWPA, Terrain Study 84, Leyte Province, 17 
Aug 44; ASF Manual M365-1, Civil Affairs Hand 
book, Philippine Islands, 25 Apr 44, 

8 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5, Unless other 
wise stated the material on terrain is based upon this 
report, pages 5-7. 



THE NATURE OF THE TARGET 



11 



Leyte roughly resembles a molar tooth 
with its crown toward Samar and its roots 
pointing to Mindanao. The eighth largest 
island in the Philippines, with an area of 
2,785 square miles, it runs generally from 
north to south, with an approximate length 
of 1 1 5 miles and a width of 15 to 45 miles. It 
is situated on one of the principal sub 
merged shelves of the Philippine Archipel 
ago, and the waters over the shelf have an 
average depth of 22 fathoms. (Map 2 
inside back cover) 

The Terrain 

The island is mainly volcanic in origin. 
A range of mountains, the topographical 
backbone of the island, extends southeast 
from Biliran Strait in the north to Cabalian 
Bay in the south and separates the Leyte and 
Ormoc Valleys. All of southern Leyte is 
mountainous and, militarily speaking, of 
little importance. The northwest coast is also 
rugged, and except for the port of Palompon 
has little tactical significance. The heavily 
forested central mountain range is com 
posed of numerous knifelike ridges and 
spurs and deep ravines and serves as an 
effective natural barrier between the 
island's eastern and western coastal areas. 
It is a major obstacle to the rapid movement 
of troops and can be utilized very effectively 
in defending the island. 

Leyte Valley, a broad and fertile plain, 
stretches across the northeastern part of the 
island from Leyte Gulf to Carigara Bay. 
More than twenty-five miles wide along the 
shore of the gulf, it is gradually narrowed 
by the mountain ranges to the north and 
south to less than ten miles as it reaches 
Carigara Bay. Most of the island's popula 
tion live in this valley, and here too are 
most of the principal cities and airfields. 



The main road net of the island runs 
through Leyte Valley, a great number of 
streams interlacing it. The numerous rice 
paddies, centuries old, disrupt the natural 
drainage of the valley. Rarely is the water 
level more than a few inches below the sur 
face. Even in the drier months, vehicular 
movement is limited to the existing roads. 
In 1944 these were poor, inadequate, and ill 
suited for heavy military traffic. The best 
of them had only a light bituminous surface 
and were neither wide enough nor strong 
enough for two-way military traffic. 3 It was 
hoped that Leyte Valley could be developed 
into a large air and logistical base to support 
further operations, but it was not well suited 
for this purpose. 

The shore line of Leyte Valley along 
Leyte Gulf and San Pedro Bay affords the 
best landing beaches on the island. This 
coast is dangerous for beach landings during 
northeast monsoon periods, when heavy 
surf, high winds, and torrential rains im 
peril men, equipment, and shipping. July, 
August, and September are the best months 
for landing. In general there are good firm 
sand beaches, onto which landing craft can 
go directly. A road parallels the shore line, 
but there are few exit roads from the beach 
to this road and beyond. In many places 
close to the shore there are swamps 3Jid rice 
paddies which prevent rapid egress from the 
beach. There are other good landing beaches 
on the east coast of Ormoc Bay, but they are 
crossed by innumerable creeks and streams. 
. Leyte Gulf is large and open, offering an 
excellent anchorage for a considerable num 
ber of vessels, including those of largest size. 
Carigara Bay, to the north of the island, is 

* S. D. Sturgis, Jr., Brigadier General, U.S. Army 
Air Engineer, USAF, Engineer Operations in the 
Leyte Campaign, reprinted from The Military Engi 
neer, November and December, 1947, and January, 
1948, p. 4. 



12 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



twenty miles wide, but shallow waters, 
swamps, and the hilly terrain of its eastern 
and western sides restrict its value for mili 
tary operations. A narrow neck of the cen 
tral mountain range separates the bay from 
the northern end of Ormoc Valley. San 
Juanico Strait, which separates Leyte from 
Samar in the north, connects Carigara Bay 
and San Pedro Bay, the latter being a 
northern extension of Leyte Gulf. The strait 
is thirteen and a half miles long with an 
average width of a quarter to a half mile. 
Small landing craft can navigate the chan 
nel, but there are strong tidal currents which 
cause violent rips and swirls at many points. 

Wedged in between the central mountain 
range and the hill mass of the northwest 
coast of Leyte, the Ormoc Valley, about five 
miles wide in its largest part, extends from 
Ormoc Bay to the north for fifteen miles 
where a narrow neck of the central ridge 
separates it from Carigara Bay. Through 
the valley runs a narrow road, its northern 
portion marked by steep grades and sharp 
curves. Halfway along, a branch road zig 
zags its course to Port Palompon on the west 
coast. Although most of the southern part of 
the valley is under cultivation, there are 
large patches of forest, scrub growth, and 
cogon grass in the north/ 

The largest city on the island, the pro 
vincial capital, is Tacloban, which lies at the 
head of San Pedro Bay. As the only sizable 
port in the area, it handles most of the out 
bound shipping, mainly from Leyte and 
Samar.^Its prewar population was about 
31,000. Other important towns are Cari 
gara and Barugo on the north coast ; Baybay 
and Oimoc, the leading ports on the west 
coast; and Palo, Tanauan, and Abuyog 
along the east coast All the more significant 

* Allied Geographical Sec, GHQ SWPA, Terrain 
Study 84, Leyte Province, 17 Aug 44, p. 43. 



towns are situated on the main road system 
of the island, and the larger coastal barrios 
(villages) have roads of a sort. 

The road system is divided into a northern 
and a southern coastal road net. The former, 
which is the better, was designed for the 
transportation of agricultural produce from 
the northern interior areas to Tacloban. 
The latter is composed of narrow, round 
about roads that are constantly in need of 
repair. The two systems are joined by a road, 
scarcely better than a trail, which runs west 
of Abuyog and corkscrews its way through 
heavily forested mountains to Baybay. An 
other road, long, narrow, and broken in 
parts, goes north from Baybay to Ormoc 
and thence through the Ormoc Valley to 
Carigara. 

The Tacloban airstrip, the principal air 
field on the island, was located on the Ca- 
taisan Peninsula, which lies just southeast 
of Tacloban. The Japanese had constructed 
another airfield, known as the Dulag air 
strip, two miles west of Dulag; three 
others the Buri, Bayug, and San Pablo 
airstrips near Burauen, five miles west of 
Dulag; and still another at Valencia in the 
Ormoc Valley, eight miles north of Ormoc. 

Control of the island of Leyte is depend 
ent upon control of the Leyte and Ormoc 
Valleys and their adjacent hills and moun 
tains. Thus, before a successful movement 
into Leyte Valley could be assured, control 
of the high ground in the vicinity of Palo 
would be essential. Continued dominance 
over the valley is dependent upon control of 
the high ground at its northwestern end in 
the vicinity of Pinamopoan on Carigara 
Bay, possession of which would preclude in 
filtration from Ormoc Valley. The control 
of Ormoc Valley and use of the excellent 
anchorage and harbor facilities of Ormoc 
is dependent upon control of the low- 



THE NATURE OF THE TARGET 

land in the vicinity of Ormoc city and the 
commanding hills to the east. 

The People 

In 1939 the total population of Leyte was 
915,853, of whom more than 912,000 were 
native Visayans of Malaysian stock. The 
largest other group consisted of 3,076 Chi 
nese, half of whom were engaged in retail 
trade. There was a sprinkling of other na 
tional groups 40 Spaniards, 20 Germans, 
8 1 from other European countries, 56 Amer 
icans, and 73 Japanese. 

Because of their insular position and 
somewhat primitive culture, the inhabitants 
are primarily an agricultural and fishing 
people. The principal crops are rice, sugar 
cane, corn, and copra. Judged by Occidental 
standards, the mode of farming is backward 
and shows little tendency to progress. The 
Filipinos who have been exposed to indus 
trial life, however, have been able to adapt 
themselves to employment in the limited 
trade crafts and manufacturing on the 
island. 

According to his own standards, the Fili 
pino lives well enough. His chief foods are 
rice or corn, fish, camotes (sweet potatoes) , 
and occasionally chicken or other meat. The 
men's clothing is simple; the average man 
has several changes of cheap cotton shirts 
and pants made of imported cotton cloth or, 
in the more retnote districts, from homespun 
material. 

Most of the dwelling houses are made of 
bamboo and sheathed with palm leaves on 
roof and sides. The material is gathered 
locally and tied with rattan. The houses 
rarely consist of more than two rooms, and 
many are raised on piling, with space for the 
family pig and chickens underneath. In one 



13 



of the rooms, or outdoors, is an open fire 
place with a mud and stone hearth for cook 
ing. There is little furniture, and in three 
out of four families the personal possessions 
would not be worth more than ten dollars. 

Less than 5 percent of the people have a 
rising standard of living. This higher stand 
ard is exemplified by a better type of habita 
tion, which ranges from a three-room house 
to a dwelling similar to that of the American 
middle class. The diet of more prosperous 
Filipinos is basically the same as that of 
the poorer class, but it offers a greater 
variety. Clothing follows the Occidental 
fashion. The wealthiest people and those 
with foreign education or contacts, who 
make up less than 1 percent of the popu 
lation, dress and live in the same manner as 
Occidentals. 

The Japanese, during their occupation, 
governed through the old administrative 
organization of the province. They and their 
puppet officials also set up larger governing 
bodies that exercised superior jurisdiction. 
On 6 February 1944 the puppet president 
of the Philippine Republic, Jos6 Laurel, ap 
pointed a commissioner who held super 
visory power over the local governments in 
the Visayan Provinces. 

The governor of the province of Leyte, 
who previously had been ^n elected official, 
was appointed by the president. He was the 
chief operative and administrative head of 
the province and on all provincial adminis 
trative matters his decision was final. The 
treasurer of the province, who reported di 
rectly to the governor, was its chief financial 
officer and tax assessor. He collected all taxes 
and license fees, national and local, and 
prepared financial statements for the gov 
ernor but he had no say in administrative 
matters. The law officer of the province was 



14 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



legal adviser to the governor and to the 
municipal authorities. He could advise only 
on administrative matters. 

The Japanese Military Administration 
maintained liaison between the Japanese 
Army and the civil government. The mili 
tary police collected military intelligence 
and information and disseminated propa 
ganda. The Japanese allowed only one po 
litical party on the Islands the Kalibapi 
to which all government officials were re 
quired to belong. This party was one of the 
principal propaganda agencies, being the 
prime mover of the pacification programs 
in the province, and exercised general 
supervision over the local neighborhood as 
sociations. The latter helped in maintain 
ing law and order, assisted the constabu 
lary, and aided in the distribution of scarce 
commodities. 

It should be emphasized that during most 
of the occupation there were few Japanese 
on Leyte. Southern Leyte in general main 
tained the same Filipino institutions and 
officials as in the prewar years. The heel of 
the Japanese conqueror pressed but lightly 
on most of the people of Leyte. Beginning 
in early 1944, however, the Japanese Army 
forces on the island were reinforced. From 
that time forward the Filipinos had their 
crops appropriated and in other ways were 
subjected to the will of the Japanese. 
Misery, hunger, and poverty became com 
monplace and a resistance movement grew. 

The Resistance Movement on Leyte 
The Organizing of Guerrilla Bands 

A period of uncertainty and confusion 
followed the surrender of the American and 
Filipino forces in the Philippines in the 
spring of 1942. Civilians and members of 



the armed forces who did not surrender to 
the Japanese Army fled into the hills. Some 
went because they wanted to continue the 
fight, others because they felt that the 
chaotic conditions on the Islands would 
afford unequaled opportunities for looting 
and pillaging. 

Once in the hills, the men formed them 
selves into guerrilla bands. 5 At first all of the 
bands, because of their lack of money and 
supplies, freely raided farms and storehouses 
for food and equipment whenever they had 
the opportunity. Moreover, there were real 
bandit groups who frequently and wantonly 
raped the countryside. For a time all of the 
groups were discredited by the people. 
Gradually, however, strong men emerged 
who formed the guerrilla bands into semi- 
military organizations. The leader of each 
band, who was generally an ex-member of 
the armed forces, gave himself a "bamboo 
commission," usually considerably higher 
than the one he had hitherto possessed. 

The following oath of allegiance taken by 
the members of one of the bands is probably 
typical: 

I do solemnly swear that I shall obey orders 
from my superior officer; that I shall fight the 
enemy of the Government of the Common 
wealth of the Philippines and the United 
States of America whosoever and wherever 
he maybe [sic] in the territory of the Philip 
pines; that I shall never allow myself nor any 
arm or ammunition to be caught by the 



9 Unless otherwise stated, material on the guer- 
rillas is based upon the Guerrilla Papers, a collection 
of disorganized, miscellaneous records by and about 
the guerrillas in the Philippine Islands. It is located 
in the Documents Files Section, G-2, Department 
of the Army, 

The records of the Leyte guerrillas are incom 
plete, inadequate, and controversial. Some of the 
guerrilla bands had no records, and all that is known 
of others is from violently prejudiced sources. Con 
sequently, the full story of the guerrillas can prob 
ably never be told. 



THE NATURE OF THE TARGET 



15 




GUERRILLAS PREPARE FOR INSPECTION AT CONSUEGRA 



enemy; that I shall never turn traitor to my 
country nor the United States of America; 
and muchless [sic] reveal to the enemy .any 
secret of the Army to which I honorably be 
long; that I shall never abandon a wounded 
brother in arms; that I join the United Forces 
in the Philippines without personal or party 
interest, but with the determination to sacri 
fice myself and all that is mine for FREE 
DOM and DEMOCRACY; that I shall pro 
tect the lives and property of all loyal Filipinos 
everywhere. 

I make this LOYALTY OATH without 
mental reservation or purpose of evasion. 

SO HELP ME GOD. 6 

For some time the various guerrilla bands 
on Leyte operated separately, and there was 
little or no co-operation between them. They 
were united, however, in their hatred of the 
Japanese. Jealousy and strife between 
groups were rampant, but circumstances 



24th Div G-2 Jul, 22 Oct 44. 
2e0817 O 54 -8 



gradually compelled the smaller bands to 
submit to absorption, either by force or per 
suasion, into the larger and more powerful 
groups. The fact that there were few Jap 
anese on the island enabled the guerrillas 
and loyal provincial officials to organize the 
governments of most of the barrios. 

All of the guerrillas declared that their 
primary purpose was to aid the civilians, 
maintain peace and order, and keep the 
Japanese from abusing the people. They 
also assumed control over various phases of 
public activities the allotment of food sup 
plies, the issue of emergency currency, and 
the punishment of criminals. The guerrillas 
in northern Leyte depended upon voluntary 
contributions to support them, while those in 
southern Leyte levied a loyalty tax. Hard 
money having been driven out of circulation, 
the guerrilla units tried to issue paper, which 
was acceptable only in those regions where 



16 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the particular unit was active. There was no 
widespread circulation or acceptance of any 
of the guerrilla money. 

The most important of the guerrilla lead 
ers on Leyte were Lt. Col. Ruperto K. 
Kangleon and Brig. Gen. Bias E. Miranda. 
Colonel Kangleon had served for twenty- 
seven years in the Philippine Army and was 
a graduate of the Philippine Academy and 
General Service School. General Miranda, 7 
a former member of the Philippine Con 
stabulary, was very hostile to the Japanese 
and to anyone who surrendered to them. 
He killed many former prisoners, whom the 
Japanese had released, on the pretext that 
they were enemy spies. Miranda was espe 
cially bitter toward Kangleon, a former 
prisoner of the enemy. 

Official recognition from General Mac- 
Arthur's headquarters was slow in reaching 
the guerrillas on Leyte, a fact that brought 
about misunderstandings. General Mac- 
Arthur had early established contact with 
Col. Macario Peralta on Panay and Col. 
Wendell Fertig on Mindanao. In the middle 
of February 1943 MacArthur sent Lt. 
Comdr. Charles Parsons, USNR, to the 
Islands by submarine. Before his departure, 
General Headquarters had established the 
policies to be followed. The prewar military 
districts, as of December 1940, were to be 
revived. 8 Since General MacArthur had re 
ceived information that Colonel Fertig had 
successfully created an effective guerrilla 
organization on Mindanao and Colonel 
Peralta one on Panay, he recognized them 

T Miranda's rank is obscure. At various times he 
is referred to as lieutenant, major, colonel^ and 
briga<Jier general. 

8 MI Sec, GHQ AFPAC, Intelligence Series, 
Vol. II, Intelligence Activities in the Philippines 
During the Japanese Occupation (hereafter cited 
as Intelligence Activities in the Philippines), 
App. 7. 



as commanders of the 10th and 6th Military 
Districts, respectively. Radio communica 
tion from Mac Arthur's headquarters in 
formed Peralta and Fertig of the appoint 
ments on 21 February 1943. Commander 
Parsons also carried formal letters, dated 13 
February 1943, making these appoint 
ments. 

Parsons safely reached the Philippines in 
early March and established friendly rela 
tions with Colonel Fertig. While on Min 
danao he made several local trips, one to 
southern Leyte where he heard of Colonel 
Kangleon who had escaped from the Butuan 
prison camp and returned to his home. 
Parsons visited Kangleon with the promise 
that he would be made commander of the 
9th Military District (Leyte and Samar), 
and succeeded in persuading him to join 
the guerrilla movement on Leyte. 9 

Until area commanders could be selected 
for the 7th, 8th, and 9th (Leyte) Districts, 
Peralta and Fertig had been authorized by 
MacArthur's headquarters, through Par 
sons, to organize the guerrillas on neighbor 
ing islands, as well as on their own. Each 
thought he was to organize the guerrillas 
on Leyte. Peralta made contact with Gen 
eral Miranda on northwestern Leyte; Fertig 
got in touch with Colonel Kangleon. Both 
Peralta and Fertig told their contacts to 
organize Leyte with the official sanction of 
General MacArthur's headquarters. Con 
sequently, Kangleon and Miranda each 
thought the other to be a usurper. 10 

Miranda was adamant in his refusal to 
treat with Kangleon. Colonel Kangleon 
thought that Miranda should be ordered to 
"forget his established kingdom," but if 
this failed, he declared, the 92d Division, 



9 Intelligence Activities in the Philippines, p, 56. 
"Ibid., pp. 16-18. 



THE NATURE OF THE TARGET 



17 



commanded by himself, would "force . . . 
Miranda to join us." n 

The situation became extremely tense, 
since both Kangleon and Miranda felt much 
bitterness. In August 1943 Kangleon sent 
a force against Miranda and during a clash 
between the two parties some of the men 
were killed. Miranda was routed and many 
of his followers joined Kangleon. 12 The 
power of Miranda was broken. Kangleon 
incorporated the other guerrillas on the 
island into the 92d Division, and Leyte was 
then unified under his command. 

On 21 October 1943 General MacArthur 
recognized Colonel Kangleon as the Leyte 
Area Commander, and in a letter accom 
panying the appointment he told Kangleon 
what he expected of him. "I desire that you 
establish and maintain direct communica 
tion with this headquarters at your earliest 
opportunity and thereafter you keep me 
informed of major developments involving 
enemy movement, dispositions and other 
activity within your area and observa 
tion." 13 

Japanese Punitive Expeditions 

In the latter part of 1943 the Japanese 
military authorities tried to conciliate the 



u Memo, Col Kangleon for K-50-OCTOPUS 
(probably for MacArthur), 23 May 43, Guerrilla 
Papers. 

u The estimates on the number of deaths vary con 
siderably. In a letter to President Manuel Quezon 
by Senator Carlos Garcia, dated 16 October 1943, 
the deaths are mentioned as "several"; a manu 
script by Mrs. Charlotte Martin, who was on Leyte, 
says "many lives were lost"; and 1st Lt. Jack Haw 
kins, USMC, a guerrilla, stated in December 1943 
that "over three hundred casualties were suffered 
by the contesting sides." Guerrilla Papers. 

w GHQ FEC, MI Sec, GS, Messages in the Guer 
rilla Resistance Movement in the Philippines, Kang 
leon 201 File, DRB AGO. 



guerrillas, offering, in return for their sur 
render, not only freedom from punishment 
but also jobs and the opportunity ,to resume 
their normal family life. A great many 
guerrillas took advantage of this offer of 
amnesty and surrendered. 14 Among the 
guerrilla units that surrendered to the Japa 
nese were those of Maj. Marcos G. Soliman 
and other subordinates of General Miran 
da's command. 15 They gave themselves up 
in January 1944, but General Miranda 
himself refused to surrender and left for 
either Gebu or Bohol. 

After their attempts at pacification, the 
Japanese launched more frequent and in 
tensive patrols against the guerrillas. The 
garrison troops that had been stationed on 
Leyte were reinforced. Southern Leyte, 
which had known few Japanese, was "rein- 
volved" on 8 December 1943. The guer 
rillas withdrew and hid in the interior. It 
was thought that after a month the troops 
would leave and be replaced by constabu 
lary officers. But after two weeks the Japa 
nese turned their attention to the civilians. 
Some they arrested and imprisoned for days 
without food and water, others they tortured 
and executed. Houses were broken into, 
property was looted, and food was stolen. 
Spies were brought in from neighboring 
islands to locate the guerrilla hideouts. 

Since the people begged for action, 
Colonel Kangleon held a meeting of his unit 
commanders on 24 January 1944. With his 
officers in unanimous accord, he issued an 
order to fight, commencing on 1 February 
1944. All officers and enlisted men of his 
command signed a loyalty oath that they 



" Office of Strategic Services, Research and 
Analysis Br, Rpt, Guerrilla Resistance in the Philip 
pines, 2 1 Jul 44, Guerrilla Papers. 

" AXIS, GHQ SWPA, Current Translations, 148, 
6 Feb 45. 



\ 



18 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



would not allow either themselves or their 
weapons to be captured. 

From 1 February until 12 June, accord 
ing to Colonel Kangleon, the guerrillas in 
southern Leyte had only 10 casualties. In a 
report dated 18 May 1944, the Japanese 
casualties were listed as 434 killed, of whom 
4 were officers, and 205 wounded. 

The Japanese commander in Leyte made 
quite a different report. He stated that from 
1 January to 31 August his forces had taken 
part in 561 engagements with the guerrillas. 
They had seized 7 vehicles; 7 generators; 
37 radios and other items of wireless equip 
ment; 1,556 weapons, including rifles, bay 
onets, and homemade shotguns; and 55,348 
rounds of ammunition, as well as sticks of 
dynamite. The Japanese declared that they 
had taken 2,300 prisoners of war, including 
3 Americans; that 6 Americans and 23,077 
Filipinos had surrendered; 1,984 guerrillas 
had been killed; and that the Japanese cas 
ualties amounted to 7 officers and 208 en 
listed men killed, and 1 1 officers and 147 
men wounded. 16 

In the month of October 1944 General 
MacArthur's Military Intelligence Section 
estimated that the strength of the guerrilla 
92d Division was as follows : Headquarters, 
Leyte Area Command, 23 officers and 107 
enlisted men; 94th Regiment, 71 officers 
and 1,210 enlisted men; 95th Regiment, 78 
officers and 954 enlisted men; 96th Regi 
ment, 37 officers and 710 enlisted men ; total 
strength, 209 officers and 2,981 enlisted 



men. 



16 ATIS, SWPA, Enemy Publications 359, Guer 
rilla Activities in the Philippines, 2 parts, 28 Apr 45, 
passim, DRB AGO. Any resemblance between the 
Japanese figures and those in Kangleon's reports is 
purely coincidental, 

IT MI Sec, GHQ SWPA, G-2 Info Bull, The 
Resistance Movement on Leyte Island, 7 Oct 44, 
Doc Files Sec, G-2, Dept of Army. 



Colonel Kangleon stated that as a result 
of guerrilla activities the Japanese sent out 
fewer patrols, staying mainly in the towns. 
The civilians, he claimed, were therefore 
able to plant and harvest their crops. De 
spite these brave words the guerrillas were 
definitely on the defensive, since Japanese 
intelligence had accurate information on 
their movements and strength. Nevertheless, 
the Japanese also knew that the guerrillas 
had established communication with Gen 
eral Mac Arthur in Australia and that they 
were sending important information to 
General Headquarters. This service the 
Japanese were unable to cut off. 

Liaison Between Leyte and Australia 

After his arrival in Australia in March 
1942, General MacArthur had maintained 
radio contact with Corregidor until 6 May, 
but because of conditions in the Philippines 
radio communication with other parts of 
the Islands was all but impossible. 18 Before 
its fall, Corregidor maintained radio con 
tact with military commanders on the other 
islands. Afterward, a few men escaped and 
made their way to Australia. The sum of 
information they brought was not large, 
but it included the welcome news that guer 
rilla units were in existence all over the 
Islands. In the summer of 1942 General 
Headquarters began to receive messages 
from the guerrillas in the Philippines, 
though at first General MacArthur was not 
sure that the messages actually came from 
the guerrillas. 

In August 1942 MacArthur decided to 
get in touch with the members of the resist 
ance movement in the Philippines, and for 
this purpose he enlisted the services of Maj. 



8 Intelligence Activities in the Philippines, p. 5. 



THE NATURE OF THE TARGET 



19 



Jesus Antonio Villamor, who had escaped 
from the Islands and who volunteered to 
return. 19 From August to December meth 
ods were devised and plans were made for 
sending an intelligence party to the Philip 
pines. 20 On 27 December 1942 Major Villa- 
mor received orders to return secretly to the 
Islands by submarine with three other Fili 
pino officers and two enlisted men. 21 They 
were instructed to establish an intelligence 
and secret service network throughout the 
Philippines; develop a chain of communica 
tions within the Philippines and to Australia, 
together with an escape route from the 
Islands for the evacuation of important per 
sonages; build up an organization for 
subversive activities, propaganda, limited 
resistance, and sabotage; and make an in 
telligence survey to obtain information on 
Japanese political, military, and civil inten 
tions as well as the strength and disposition 
of Japanese military, naval, and air forces. 22 
Armed with these instructions, Major Vil- 
lamor returned to the Philippine Islands. 
Slowly but carefully, from December 1942 
to November 1943, he established an intelli 
gence network that covered Luzon and the 
Visayan Islands. His story is told in part as 
follows : 

I established this network principally with 
the idea that this net would be entirely inde 
pendent of all intelligence nets previously es 
tablished by the guerrillas, believing that in 
all probability you [General Mac Arthur] could 
rely more on guerrilla intelligence activities 

M Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton considered Villa- 
mor "the most daring of the Filipino pilots.*' Lewis 
H. Brereton, The Brereton Diaries (New York, 
1946), p. 58. 

* Interv with Maj Villamor, 12 Oct 50. 

31 The party consisted of Major Villamor, 1st Lt. 
R. G. Ignacio, 2d Lt. D. C. Yuhico, 2d Lt. E. F. 
Quinto, Sgt. P. Jorge, and Sgt. D. Malie. 

M AIB, GHQ SWPA, Instructions to Maj Villa 
mor, 27 Dec 42, Guerrilla Papers. 



for the present. I wanted to establish some 
thing that would really be underground and as 
secret as possible. For that reason., I took my 
time about it. I took as much as two months 
to train each individual man. I tried to im 
press on each man that after he left my place, 
he would be on his own and that no matter 
what happened to me or to the rest of the net, 
he would carry on. I assured him that both 
GHQ and I would ,have faith in him. 23 

Kangleon was largely responsible for the 
Leyte radio network. This intelligence net 
work did not cover the entire island but only 
those positions over which he had control. 
General MacArthur did not furnish any 
considerable supplies for this net until 
shortly before his return in October 1944. 24 
On 3 July 1944 Kangleon received seventy 
tons of supplies; an additional shipment of 
supplies and men followed on 20 July. 25 This 
allotment was in addition to money sent him. 
The funds available to Kangleon consisted 
of $50,000 in prewar currency ("only a few 
hundred" of which were spent by him), 
$225,000 in "bogus Japanese" currency, 
and $479,198 in emergency currency 
printed in the Islands and used for "army" 
purposes. 26 

Several clandestine radio stations were in 
operation on or near Leyte in June 1944. 
These were primarily contact stations estab 
lished originally to integrate more closely the 
activities of the various guerrilla units with 
the directives of Colonel Kangleon's head 
quarters, which was in touch with General 
Headquarters. After the Leyte Area Com 
mand was recognized by General MacAr 
thur, the first radio was sent to Leyte, but 
the Japanese captured it early in 1944 before 



23 Villamor Rpt on Intel Net in Philippines, Guer 
rilla Papers. 

84 Intelligence Activities in the Philippines, p. 77. 

M Ibid., App. 2. The number of men and the 
amount and kinds of supplies are not given. 
W., App. 1. 



20 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



it could be put to use. Kangleon received a 
new set from Mindanao. There were two 
coastwatcher stations in operation one in 
southern Leyte and the other on Dinagat 
Island. These furnished MacArthur infor 
mation on the activities of the Japanese in 
the area. Colonel Kangleon also used the 
radio set in southern Leyte to maintain con 
tact with Colonel Fertig on Mindanao. 27 

As a result of information received from 
the intelligence network, on Leyte and in 
other areas, together with information from 
other sources, General MacArthur's intelli 
gence officers were able to piece together a 
reasonably accurate picture of the Japanese 
units on Leyte, their strength, dispositions, 
and fortifications. 

Kangleon's network, however, was not as 
active as most of the others in the Philip 
pines that were operated by coastwatchers 
and guerrillas. From March 1944, when 
Kangleon's network was established, to Oc 



tober 1944, when the American forces re 
turned, the monthly totals of messages 
received by General Headquarters from 
Leyte were as follows: March, 6; April, 7; 
May, 7; June, 12; July, 13; August, 13; 
September, 17; and October, 26. 28 

The guerrillas of the Philippine Islands 
made far-reaching contributions to the war 
effort. They were an extremely valuable 
source of intelligence; their activities forced 
the Japanese to retain in the Philippines 
comparatively large forces which would 
otherwise have been sent south; it is esti 
mated that they killed from eight thousand 
to ten thousand Japanese troops; and, 
finally, they bolstered the morale, spirit, and 
loyalty of the Filipino people. 28 They kept 
alive the hope and belief that the forces of 
the United States would return and redeem 
the Islands. 



" Ibid., passim. 



38 GHQ FEG, MI Sec, GS, A Brief History of the 
G-2 Section, GHQ SWPA, and Affiliated Units, 
Plate 10, facing p. 32, copy in OCMH. 

M Office, Chief of Naval Opns, Guerrilla Activities 
in the Philippines, 14 Sep 44, file OP-16 FE. 



CHAPTER III 



Plans Are Made and Forces 
Are Readied 



Estimate of the Enemy Situation 

American knowledge of the Japanese 
forces on Leyte was derived from many 
sources. 1 The guerrillas on Leyte and other 
islands in the archipelago sent information 
to Australia on the movements, dispositions, 
fortifications, and defenses of the Japanese. 
Commander Parsons, on his submarine trips 
to the Islands, brought back with him im 
portant intelligence. Just before the invasion 
an intelligence officer from Sixth Army and 
one from the Seventh Fleet secretly went 
ashore from a submarine and gathered ma 
terial on Japanese coastal fortifications and 
defenses in the beach area. 

Much effort was expended before the in 
vasion in mapping the island, but this work 
was based on prewar maps and the results 
were very inaccurate. Since much of the 
island was under heavy fog for long periods, 
the photomaps that were produced had little 
value. They missed many important terrain 
features and misplaced others by thousands 
of yards. In general, however, the maps of 
the beachhead areas were accurate. 

In the spring of 1944 General MacAr- 
thur's headquarters received information 

1 Unless otherwise stated this section is based up 
on a report by Col H. V. White, G-2 Sixth Army, 
sub: G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, 20 Sep 44, Sixth Army 
Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 167-70. 



that the Japanese were starting to reinforce 
their Philippine garrisons. An early estimate, 
made in June, put the number of enemy 
troops on the island at 20,000, a sharp in 
crease over the 5,900 of the previous month. 
The increase resulted from the movement to 
Leyte from Samar of the veteran 16th Di 
vision, which had fought at Bataan, and the 
arrival of 4,000 naval troops from the 
Palau Islands. 2 For the next month reports 
flowed in to General Headquarters that the 
16th Division was building coastal defenses 
and air-raid shelters, and improving the air 
fields and garrison defenses of the island. 3 
In July 1944 the Americans received in 
formation that all was not going well in the 
Japanese homeland. From a radio intercep 
tion they learned that Premier Hideki Tojo 
and his entire cabinet had resigned on 18 
July. The Japanese message stated: "The 
situation is the result of the period of 



2 GHQ SWPA Philippine Monthly Combined 
Sitrep, 15 Jun 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 15 Jun 44. 

8 GHQ SWPA Philippine Islands, G-2 Est of 
Enemy Sit 4, 11-17 Jun 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 17 Jun 
44; GHQ SWPA Philippine Islands, G-2 Est of 
Enemy Sit 5, 18-24 Jun 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 24 
Jun 44; AAF SWPA Intel Sum, Ser 216, GHQ G-3 
Jnl, 13 Jun 44; GHQ SWPA Philippine Islands, 
G-2 Est of Enemy Sit 6, 25 Jun-1 Jul 44, GHQ 
G-3 Jnl, 1 Jul 44; GHQ SWPA Philippine Islands, 
G-2 Est of Enemy Sit 7, 2-8 Jul 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 
8 Jul 44; AAF SWPA Intel Sum, Ser 225, GHQ 
G-3 Jnl, 14 Jul 44, 



22 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



'sweating blood' and we sincerely regret 
causing anxiety to the Emperor. We thank 
the people at home and at the front for co 
operating with the government. ..." * 
The tenor of the announcement and of sub 
sequent statements made it abundantly 
clear, however, that the Japanese were de 
termined to do their utmost toward prose 
cuting the war to a successful conclusion. 

Meanwhile, all the Japanese garrisons in 
the Philippines were reinforced. The senior 
headquarters in the western Pacific was 
transferred from Singapore to Manila, and 
the brigades in the Islands were being de 
veloped to divisional strength. Of the esti 
mated 180,000 troops, 80,000 were believed 
to be on Luzon, 50,000 in the Visayan Is 
lands, and 50,000 on Mindanao. It was also 
believed that the enemy air strength on the 
Islands was being greatly increased. There 
were 100 to 120 airfields in operation and 
between 700 and 1,500 aircraft, of which 
half were combat planes and the others 
training aircraft. 6 

In September 1944 Sixth Army G-2 
estimated that the Japanese forces on Leyte 
consisted mainly of 16th Division units and 
service troops a total of 21,700 troops. 
The 35th Army had just been activated on 
Cebu and was to be charged with the de 
fense of all the Visayan Islands. It was esti 
mated that the Leyte garrison consisted of 
the following combat troops : 20th Infantry 
Regiment, 3,000; 33d Infantry Regiment, 
3,000; 16th Division Reconnaissance Regi 
ment, 1,000; elements of 102 d Division, 
1,700; 7th Independent Tank Company, 
125; and 16th Division Headquarters 
troops, 1,800. The total amounted to 10,625 



4 AAF SWPA Intel Sum, Ser 228, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 
25Jul44. 

1 Notes, WIDEAWAKE Conference, 20 Jul 44, 
GHQ G-3 Jnl, 24 Jul 44. 



men. In addition there were 1,000 base- 
defense troops and 10,075 service troops. 

It was believed that the Japanese would 
commit one division on the day of the land 
ing and the equivalent of another division, 
assembled from the tactical reserves on the 
island, not later than three days after the 
landing. For the next ten days, five to eight 
regiments might be sent in from neighboring 
islands. These would constitute the "maxi 
mum numbers of reinforcements predicated 
upon the existence of conditions most favor 
able to the enemy." 6 The enemy had an 
undetermined number of, tanks and armored 
cars. The only artillery known to be avail 
able were some coastal defense guns em- 
placed along the east coast and some artillery 
pieces on the hills overlooking Tacloban. 

Sixth Army believed that on Leyte there 
were five operational airfields; three prob 
ably operational or under construction; 
seven nonoperational; and one seaplane 
base. The two most important operational 
airstrips were the one at Tacloban with 
forty-five hardstandings and the one at 
Dulag with twenty hardstandings. The Tac 
loban airstrip could accommodate both 
bombers and fighters. At the time of the in 
vasion, it was estimated that the Japanese 
could oppose the amphibious movement 
and the landing with 442 fighters and 337 
bombers from airfields scattered throughout 
the Philippines. 

Although the possibility existed that the 
Japanese Fleet, which was based in waters 
near the home islands, might move to the 
Philippines, such a move was considered 
doubtful. It was believed that the principal 
and immediate threats consisted of a strong 
cruiser-destroyer task force; submarines; 
and motor torpedo boats and similar craft. 

a Sixth Army G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, 20 Sep 44, 
Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 170. 



PLANS ARE MADE AND FORCES ARE READIED 



23 



Sixth Army concluded that the town of 
Tacloban, with its important port and air 
field, was the key to the Japanese defense of 
the island. Consequently, a strong perimeter 
defense of the town and the surrounding 
area was expected. Since it was impossible 
for the Japanese, with a limited number of 
their troops on the island, to defend all of 
the east coast, strong forces and emplaced 
defensive positions were likely to be con 
centrated at road junctions and at the oper 
ational airfields. Mobile reserves would al 
most certainly be held in readiness at key 
points in Leyte Valley, ready to be rushed to 
the east coast areas under attack; It was 
assumed that strong defenses were already 
established in the Ormoc area and along 
the northeast coast of Ormoc Bay, since the 
port of Ormoc could be used to bring in 
reserves from the- other islands in the archi 
pelago. A strong garrison was expected at 
Carigara to protect the northern approaches 
to Leyte Valley and to repel any amphibious 
landing through Carigara Bay. 

The plan for the liberation of Leyte called 
for more men, guns, ships, and aircraft than 
had been required for any previous opera 
tion in the Pacific. For the first time ground 
troops from the Central Pacific and South 
west Pacific were to join and fight the foe 
under a common commander. General 
MacArthur, who had left Luzon in a motor 
torpedo boat, was to return to the Philip 
pines with a vast armada the greatest 
seen in the Pacific up to that time. 

The Tactical Plan 

The Southwest Pacific Area was the com 
mand responsibility of General MacArthur. 
He had under his command Allied Air 
Forces, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney com 
manding; Allied Naval Forces, Vice Adm. 



Thomas C. Kinkaid commanding; Allied 
Land Forces, Gen. Sir Thomas Blarney 
commanding; United States Army Services 
of Supply (SWPA), Maj. Gen. James L. 
Frink commanding; and ALAMO Force, 
which was virtually Sixth Army, Lt. Gen. 
Walter Krueger commanding. 

On 31 August 1944 General MacArthur 
issued his first formal directive covering 
projected operations in the Philippines. 
The Leyte operation was known as KING 
II. The Southwest Pacific forces were to 
"seize objectives in the Mindanao, Leyte 
and Samar areas in order to establish air, 
naval and logistic bases to cover subsequent 
operations to complete the reoccupation of 
the Philippines." The assigned target dates 
were as follows: southern Mindanao, 15 
November 1944; northwestern Mindanao, 
7 December; and Leyte Gulf-Surigao 
Strait area, 20 December. The Sixth Army, 
covered by Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet 
and supported by the Allied Air and Naval 
Forces, was directed to carry out the three 
operations. 7 On 15 September General 
Krueger received word that the Talaud and 
Mindanao operations had been canceled 
and that the target date designated as 
"A Day" for the Leyte operation had been 
advanced to 20 October. 8 

The American Forces 

The immediate task assigned the forces of 
the Southwest Pacific, supported by the 
Third Fleet, was the seizure and control of 
the Leyte Gulf-Surigao Strait area in order 
to establish air, naval, and logistic bases to 
support further operations into the Philip 
pines. Before the invasion, air and naval 
operations were to be conducted so as to dis- 



T GHQ SWPA Warning Instns 5, 31 Aug 44. 

8 GHQ SWPA Warning Instns 5/1, 15 Sep 44. 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



organize Japanese ground and air defenses. 
The ground operation was divided into three 
phases. In the first phase overwater move 
ment and minor amphibious operations to 
secure entrance into Leyte Gulf were to take 
place. The main effort, which constituted 
the second phase, was to involve a major 
assault to caputre the airfields and base sites 
in Leyte Valley and to open up San Juanico 
and Panaon Straits. In the final phase, the 
remaining portions of the island in Japanese 
hands and the western part of southern 
Samar were to be secured, and Surigao 
Strait was to be opened. 9 The target date 
had been set for 20 October 1 944. 

General plans for the operation had long 
since been worked out, but not until 20 Sep 
tember did General MacArthur issue his 
final plan for the occupation of Leyte. It 
was based upon the assumption that Ameri 
can forces were or would be established 
along the Marianas-Ulithi-Palaus-Morotai 
line and that the Japanese land and air 
forces in the Philippines and Formosa would 
have been "seriously crippled and that the 
Japanese Fleet would elect to remain in 
Empire waters" with only "light forces re 
maining in the vicinity of the Philippines." 
The Japanese were expected to have one 
well-supplied division in the area with only 
limited ability to reinforce it from others of 
the Visayan Islands and with all subsequent 
supply deliveries cut off. It was assumed that 
Japanese defenses would be concentrated in 
the vicinity of the airfields in the Leyte 
Valley and at Tacloban. 

The command organization was as fol 
lows: General MacArthur was Supreme 
Commander, but during the amphibious 
movement and landing Admiral Kinkaid, 



as commander of the Naval Attack Force, 
was to be in command of all amphibious 
operations. (Chart 1) Army officers, who 
took control of their forces ashore, were to 
continue under the Commander, Naval 
Attack Force, until the next senior Army 
commander assumed control. Upon his ar 
rival ashore and after notification to Ad 
miral Kinkaid, General Krueger was to take 
control of the ground troops. General Ken- 
ney, as commander of the Allied Air Forces, 
would report directly to General Mac- 
Arthur. 

Admiral Halsey, as commander of the 
Third Fleet, was to co-ordinate his opera 
tions with those of General MacArthur but 
he was responsible to Admiral Nimitz, Com 
mander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Area. The 
Third Fleet was composed of Vice Adm. 
Marc Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force, 
together with miscellaneous elements. Mit 
scher's force was divided into four carrier 
groups. 1 * 

The Allied Naval Forces, which consisted 
principally of the U. S. Seventh Fleet under 
Admiral Kinkaid, was to transport and 
establish ashore the ground assault force. 
The Central Philippine Attack Force con 
sisted of three task forces. Task Force 77, 
commanded by Admiral Kinkaid, was to 
furnish direct air and naval support and was 
composed of battleships, light and heavy 
cruisers, destroyers, destroyer escorts, car 
riers, escort carriers, gunboat and mortar 
flotillas, mine sweepers, auxiliary vessels, 
and underwater demolition teams. The 
transports and cargo ships of the Northern 
Attack Force, Task Force 78, under Rear 
Adm. Daniel E. Barbey, and the Southern 



8 GHQ SWPA Stf Study, KING II, 4th ed., 20 
Sep 44. This study was not a directive but a fiasis 
for planning the operation. 



10 CINCPAG-CINCPOA Opn Plan 8-44, quoted 
in Annex A, CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opns in POA, 
Oct 44, pp. 56-57, A-16-3/FF12, Ser 00397, 31 
May 45. 



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26 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Attack Force, Task Force 79, under Vice 
Adm. Theodore S. Wilkinson, were to trans 
port and set ashore the ground troops. Task 
Force 79 had been lent to General Mac- 
Arthur by Admiral Nimitz for the operation. 

The Allied Air Forces, principally the Far 
East Air Forces under General Kenney, was 
to neutralize hostile air and naval forces 
within range of the Philippines. The Allied 
Air Forces consisted of the Fifth Air Force, 
commanded by Maj. Gen. Ennis P. White- 
head; the Thirteenth Air Force, com 
manded by Maj. Gen. St. Clair Streett; the 
Royal Australian Air Force Command 
under Air Vice Marshal William D. 
Bostock; and miscellaneous elements. On 
order, the Fifth Air Force was to be pre 
pared to take over the mission of furnishing 
direct air support to the ground troops. 

The United States Army Services of Sup 
ply, Southwest Pacific Area, commanded by 
General Frink, was to furnish logistic sup 
port for the operation. The Eighth U.S. 
Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Robert L. 
Eichelberger, and the Allied Land Forces, 
commanded by General Blarney, were to 
take over missions previously assigned the 
Sixth Army and to assist the latter in train 
ing, staging, and mounting the troops for 
the Leyte operation. 

The ground troops who were to attack 
Leyte constituted a field army the Sixth 
Army, which had fought its way up the 
New Guinea coast since April 1943 as 
ALAMO Force. On 25 September 1944 
ALAMO Force was dissolved and Sixth 
Army assumed its tactical missions. General 
Krueger was commanding general for all 
these campaigns. The principal component 
parts of Sixth Army were X and XXIV 
Corps. The former consisted of the 1st Cav 



alry and 24th Infantry, Divisions, under Lt. 
Gen. Franklin C. Sibert, a seasoned com 
mander who had successfully fought the 
Japanese on New Guinea at Wakde-Sarmi. 
The XXIV Corps, under Maj. Gen. John R. 
Hodge, who had defeated the Japanese on 
Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and Bougain 
ville, was composed of the 7th and 96th In 
fantry Divisions. In reserve were the 32d and 
77th Infantry Divisions. The Sixth Army 
Service Command was to perform engineer 
functions on the island and give general 
logistic support. 

Approximately 1 74,000 troops were made 
available for the initial assault phase of the 
operation. About 51,500 of these made up 
the XXIV Corps and 53,000 the X Corps. 
In addition to these troops, the reserve 32d 
and 77th Divisions had a strength of about 
14,500 and 14,000 troops, respectively. All 
of the assault divisions were reinforced 
with tank battalions, amphibian truck and 
tractor battalions, joint assault signal com 
panies, and many attached service units. A 
total of about 202,500 ground troops was 
committed to the Leyte operation. 11 

Headquarters, Sixth Army, had never 
participated as such in any campaign, but 
as Headquarters, ALAMO Force, it had di 
rected the operations up the New Guinea 
coast. Both the X and XXIV Corps were 
yet to be battle tested, though all their divi 
sions with one exception had participated 
in previous campaigns against the Japanese. 
The 1st Cavalry Division had taken part 
in the Admiralty Islands campaign; the 7th 
Division had defeated the Japanese at Attu 
and Kwajalein; the 24th Division had 
fought in the Hollandia campaign; the 32d 
Division had won the Papua Campaign and 



1 Sixth. Army FO 25, 23 Sep 44, Annexes 6a-6f. 



PLANS ARE MADE AND FORCES ARE READIED 



27 



been victorious at Aitape on New Guinea; 
and the 77th Division had shared in the 
victory at Guam. Only the 96th Division 
was yet to be combat tested. 12 

General MacArthur's Warning Instruc 
tions 5 and Operations Instructions 70 were 
used by each of the major commanders as a 
basis for his own operations orders. Al 
though each order was derived from the one 
next above it, all were planned concur 
rently. There was need for constant inter- 
theater, interservice, and intraservice con 
ferences and discussions on all phases of the 
plans as they evolved. Frequently the plan 
ning was made easier by using the work done 
on plans for other operations. For example, 
the logistical plan for the canceled Yap 
operation was adapted with very little 
change to the Leyte operation. The general 
schemes of maneuver and the employment 
of support forces which had been found 
valuable in previous operations were also 
adapted with minor variations to the plans 
for Leyte. 

Air Support 

The Navy was to bear the brunt of fur 
nishing air support in the early stages of the 
campaign. By arrangement with Admiral 
Nimitz, the Carrier Task Force from Ad 
miral Halsey's Third Fleet was to strike 
northern Luzon and Okinawa or Formosa, 
or both, from A Day minus 10 to A minus 7. 
From A minus 4 through A Day, strikes 
were to be made on Luzon, the Cebu- 
Negros area, and the Leyte area in support 
of the landings. As soon as the Palau air base 
facilities would permit, shore-based air 



forces from the Central Pacific were to oper 
ate in the Bicol area. 18 

The Allied Naval Forces was to furnish 
carrier aircraft as protection for convoys 
and naval task forces and, supplemented by 
aircraft of the Third Fleet and the Allied 
Air Forces, to provide direct air support for 
the landings. In addition, it was to furnish 
protective air support and cover by carrier 
aircraft prior to A Day for the preliminary 
landings in Leyte Gulf and for the mine 
sweeping. 14 

General Mac Arthur assigned air support 
missions to the Allied Air Forces. General 
Kenney's airmen were ( 1 ) to make aerial 
reconnaissance; (2) in co-ordination with 
Third Fleet carrier-based aircraft, to neu 
tralize hostile naval and air forces within 
range of the Philippines from A minus 9 in 
order to cover the movement of naval forces, 
the landing, and subsequent operations; (3 ) 
within capabilities and when requested by 
Admiral Kinkaid, to protect convoys and 
naval forces and provide direct support of 
the landings and subsequent operations; 
and (4) to destroy Japanese shipping and 
installations in the Sulu and Arafura Seas 
and the East Indies. 15 

On 24 September General Kenney issued 
his order for the Leyte operation and asr 
signed missions to the Allied Air Forces. 
He designated General Whitehead's Fifth 
Air Force as the Air Assault Force. It was 
to support the operation by intensified air 
activities against enemy installations, destroy 
hostile air and surface forces in the Celebes 
Sea and assigned areas in the Philippine 
Archipelago, and provide air defense for 



u Hist Div, Dept of the Army, Combat Chronicle, 
An Outline History of U.S. Army Divisions, 
passim, OCMH. 



11 CTF 77 Opns Plan, Ser 00022A, 26 Sep 44, 
GHQ G-3 Jnl, 6 Oct 44; CINCPAC-CINCPOA 
Opn Plan 8-44, cited n. 10, above. 

14 GHQ SWPA Opns Instns 70, 21 Sep 44. 

"Ibid. 



28 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



existing bases and forces in transit to Leyte 
within range of its capabilities. It was also 
to be prepared to establish, on order, land- 
based air forces on Leyte. The Thirteenth 
Air Force was to support the missions of the 
Fifth Air Force, while the Royal Australian 
Air Force Command was to destroy Japa 
nese installations and sources of raw mate 
rials in the Netherlands Indies. 18 

Aircraft from other theaters agreed to aid 
in the operation. The Fourteenth Air Force 
from the China-Burma-India Theater and 
the Twentieth Air Force from the Central 
Pacific were to conduct strikes against 
Formosa. The Southeast Asia Command 
was asked to schedule air offensives against 
Burma and Malaya just prior to A Day. 17 

Naval Support 

The Seventh Fleet under Admiral Kin- 
kaid was assigned the following mission: 
"by a ship to shore amphibious operation, 
[to] transport, protect, land and support 
elements of the 6th Army in order to assist 
in the seizure, occupation and development 
of the Leyte area of the Southern Philip 
pines." M (Chart 2) 

The Seventh Fleet was designated the 
Naval Attack Force. For the operation Ad 
miral Kinkaid organized two attack forces : 
the Northern Attack Force (VII Amphib 
ious Force), under Admiral Barbey, and 
the Southern Attack Force ( III Amphibious 
Force), under Admiral Wilkinson. In addi 
tion, several subordinate units were created : 
a bombardment and fire support group 
under Rear Adm. Jesse B. Oldendorf ; and 
a close covering group, an escort carrier 

10 AAF SWPA Opns Instns 71, 24 Sep 44. 
M FEAF, History of Far East Air Forces, I, 117, 
AAF Hist Archives. 

"CANF SWPA Opns Plan 13-44, 26 Sep 44. 



group, a mine-sweeping group, and twelve 
underwater demolition teams. The Northern 
Attack Force was to transport and land 
the X Corps, while the Southern Attack 
Force was to do the same for the XXIV 
Corps. 

The task groups of the two attack forces 
were to sortie from the mounting areas at 
Manus in the Admiralties and Hollandia in 
Netherlands New Guinea and rendezvous 
en route to the objective area. Both were "to 
land main elements as nearly simultaneously 
as practicable at H Hour on 20 October." 
Meanwhile, an advance group on 1 7 Octo 
ber was to land the 6th Ranger Infantry 
Battalion on the islands guarding the ap 
proaches to Leyte Gulf. The task groups 
were to regulate their speed of advance so 
that they would arrive at the entrance of the 
approach channel to Leyte Gulf at specified 
times. The mine-sweeping group and certain 
units of the bombardment and fire support 
group which were to render fire support for 
initial mine-sweeping operations were to ar 
rive at 0600 on 17 October. They were 
to be followed fifteen minutes later by 
the attack group assigned to the island ap 
proaches. At 1000 on the same day the rest 
of the bombardment and fire support group 
were to arrive. Beginning at 2300 on 19 
October the transports and LST's of the two 
attack forces were scheduled to arrive in 
successive groups. Their time of arrival was 
also set so that each group would reach its 
transport area in sufficient time to dispatch 
the assault waves to the beach at the desig 
nated hour. 19 

On arrival in the objective area, the bom 
bardment and fire support group was to 
divide into northern and southern fire sup 
port units, which were then to move to their 
respective target areas. The northern fire 



9 Ibid., Apps. 1 and 2 to Annex G. 



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30 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



support unit consisted of 3 old battleships 
the Mississippi, Maryland, and West Vir 
ginia and 3 destroyers. The southern fire 
support unit was composed of 3 battle 
ships the Tennessee, California, and Penn 
sylvania 13 destroyers, 3 light cruisers, 3 
heavy cruisers, and 1 small seaplane tender. 

The destroyers in the two target areas 
were to furnish protection to the mine 
sweepers and the underwater demolition 
teams. The latter were to cover the northern 
and southern beaches before A Day and 
search out and destroy any obstacles, either 
Japanese-made or natural, in the waters 
surrounding the landing beach areas. The 
mine sweepers were to start clearing Leyte 
Gulf of fixed or floating mines on 1 7 Octo 
ber, three days before the main assault. On 
the following days, including 20 October, 
they were to make more intensive sweeps of 
the channels and landing beach areas, with 
the vessels going as close to shore as possible 
without endangering gear. 20 

Admiral Oldendorf was to direct the 
bombardment and fire support. The bom 
bardment was to start on 17 October in 
preparation for the landings on the island 
approaches. The gunfire before 20 October 
was for the purpose of rendering unservice 
able both airfields and Japanese aircraft on 
the ground, in addition to destroying guns 
and emplacements, fuel storage and ammu 
nition dumps, naval forces and shipping, 
beach defenses and strong points, troops, 
torpedo launching ramps, and torpedo 
barges. Close fire support was to be given 
to the underwater demolition teams and de 
structive fire was to be delivered against 
enemy forces attempting overwater move 
ments. Finally', night harassing fire was 



Ibi d. 3 App. 3 to Annex E. 



scheduled to prevent any night attempts 
of the Japanese to reconstruct the fortifica 
tions and airfields. 

On 20 October the naval gunfire support 
units were to cover the approach of the 
transports to the unloading areas and to 
furnish necessary counterbattery fire; thor 
oughly cover the landing beach areas from 
the low-water line to approximately 400 
yards inland ; and closely support the land 
ings with rockets, 4.2-inch mortars, and 
gunfire of all caliber from the ships. After 
the landings, the naval gunfire units were 
to deliver fire on call and prevent the Japa 
nese from either reinforcing or evacuating 
the island. 21 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff had directed 
Admiral Nimitz to support General Mac- 
Arthur's operation against Leyte. Admiral 
Nimitz ordered Admiral Halsey's Third 
Fleet to "destroy enemy naval and air forces 
in or threatening the Philippine Area." The 
Third Fleet was also to protect the air and 
sea communications along the Central Phil 
ippines axis. If an opportunity to destroy 
major portions of the Japanese Fleet should 
arise or could be created, such destruction 
was to be the primary task of all naval forces 
from the Central Pacific. Admiral Halsey 
and General Mac Arthur were to arrange 
the necessary measures for the co-ordination 
of their operations. 22 

In support of the Leyte operation the 
Third Fleet was to contain or destroy the 
Japanese Fleet and to destroy enemy air 
craft and shipping in the Formosa, Luzon, 
Visayan, and Mindanao areas from 9 Oc 
tober through 17 October, and from A Day 
for as long as necessary during the next thirty 

n Ibid., App. 1 to Annex E. 

n CINCPAC-CINCPOA Opn Plan 8-44, cited 
n. 10, above. 



PLANS ARE MADE AND FORGES AR READIED 



31 



days, in order to "maintain their continued 
neutralization." From 18 October until 
such time as the escort carriers could as 
sume direct support, the Third Fleet was to 
destroy enemy ground defenses and installa 
tions in Leyte and adjacent areas. Finally, 
the Third Fleet was to provide direct sup 
port by fast carrier aircraft for the landing 
and subsequent operations. 28 

Submarines from both the Southwest 
Pacific and Central Pacific were to support 
the operations by maintaining an offensive 
reconnaissance over the most probable 
Japanese route of advance, maintaining ob 
servation and lifeguard services and furnish 
ing weather reports and strategic patrols. 
Submarines from the Central Pacific were 
to patrol in the Formosa, Luzon, Tokyo 
Bay, and Sasebo areas, while those from the 
Seventh Fleet patrolled in the area of 
Makassar Strait, the Celebes Sea, and the 
Sulu Sea. Submarines from both areas were 
to maintain a strong patrol in the Hainan- 
northern Luzon areas! 24 

The naval gunfire, the air support, and 
the artillery fire were to be carefully co-ordi 
nated. At every level from battalion to army 
representatives from each support arm were 
to co-ordinate the use of their support arms 
against targets in their respective zones of 
action. Requests for support were to be 
screened as they passed through the various 
echelons for approval. Commanders in the 
field felt that the passage of requests through 
many channels was time consuming and 
consequently sometimes nullified what might 
have been an immediate advantage. How 
ever, requests for support were usually acted 
upon within an hour. 



The Ground Forces 

The ground forces designated for the 
Leyte operation came from two different 
theaters the X Corps from the Southwest 
Pacific and the XXIV Corps from the Cen 
tral Pacific. The XXIV Corps, originally 
intended for the Yap operation, had been 
substituted for the XIV Corps, originally 
intended for Leyte. As the new assignment 
of the XXIV Corps placed it under the oper 
ational control of General MacArthur, it 
was necessary that agreements on the co 
ordination of operations be reached by the 
commanders in chief of the two areas. The 
XXIV Corps, with its original shipping, had 
been turned over to General MacArthur. 
During the combat phase at Leyte, General 
MacArthur was to furnish the replacements 
required by the XXIV Corps, but subse 
quent replacements were to be supplied by 
Admiral Nimitz. 25 

The initial assault for the island of Leyte 
was to begin in the dim half dawn of 17 
October, when elements of the 6th Ranger 
Infantry Battalion were to land under the 
protection of naval gunfire and seize the 
small islands that guarded the entrance to 
Leyte Gulf. (Map 3) Harbor lights were to 
be placed on Homonhon Island and the 
northern tip of Dinagat Island in order to 
guide the passage of the convoy into the 
gulf. Since it was believed that there were 
valuable mine charts on Suluan, that island 
was added to the objectives of the 6th 
Rangers. 

General Krueger had wanted to use either 
the reinforced 158th Infantry Regiment or 



1 GHQ SWPA Opns Instns 70, 21 Sep 44. 
* GANF SWPA Opns Plan 13-44, 26 Sep 44. 



M Memo, Rear Adm Forrest P. Sherman, Plans 
Off POA, and Maj Gen Stephen J. Chamberlin, 
AGofS G-3 SWPA, for CINGSWPA and CINC- 
POA, 21 Sep 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 21 Sep 44. 



32 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



o 



SIXTH ARMY PLAN 

23 September 1944 

ROAO V/////A HIGH <3RUND 

P - Palo T - Tonauan 

Numbers 1,2, and 3 indicate objectives 
for the three phases of operation, 

10 . 20 MILES 



10 



20 KILOMETERS 




MAP 3 

the reinforced 112th Cavalry Regimental 
Combat Team to secure the island ap 
proaches to Leyte Gulf and the Panaon 
Strait area. The 21st Infantry, which was 
assigned the mission of securing the Panaon 
Strait area, then could have remained with 
the 24th Division, its parent unit, and the 
6th Ranger Battalion could have been used 
wherever and whenever needed. In addi 
tion, these missions would have been put in 



the hands of a general officer who had an 
experienced staff to assist him. Neither of 
the desired regiments, however, could be 
made available for the Leyte operation be 
cause of shortage of troops and previous 
commitments. 26 

While the Rangers were seizing the small 
islands, the mine sweepers and underwater 



9 Ibid. 



PLANS ARE MADE AND FORCES ARE READIED 



33 



demolition teams were to start clearing the 
gulf of natural and man-made obstacles. 
The fire support units were to move in and 
start softening up the beaches. The com 
pletion of these missions would conclude the 
first phase of the operation. 

The second phase comprised "a major 
amphibious assault to attack and destroy 
hostile forces in the coastal strip Tacloban- 
Dulag inclusive, and to seize airdromes and 
base sites therein; a rapid advance through 
Leyte Valley to seize and occupy the Capo- 
ocan-Carigara-Barugo area; [and finally] 
open San Juanico and Panaon Straits " Z7 

In the very early hours of 20 October the 
Northern and Southern Attack Forces were 
to move to their appointed beach areas and 
be prepared to disembark their assault 
troops. The reinforced 21st Infantry Regi 
ment was to go ashore at 0930 in the vicinity 
of Panaon Strait at the extreme southeast 
tip of Leyte and secure control of that en 
trance to Sogod Bay. To the north at 1000, 
the X Corps was to land with two divisions 
abreast in the Marasbaras and Palo areas. 
About fifteen miles farther south, in the 
Dulag area, the XXIV Corps was to go 
ashore simultaneously with two divisions 
abreast. The two corps would be so widely 
separated and their objectives so divergent 
that initially they could not be mutually 
supporting. Even within the zones of action 
of the two corps, the missions assigned the 
divisions would limit the ability of the di 
visions to support each other. 28 

As General Krueger felt that the Japa 
nese would offer the greatest resistance in 
the north, the initial objectives of the X 
Corps were limited to the seizure of Palo 
and the capture of Tacloban and its airfield. 
The northernmost unit, the 1st Cavalry Di- 

27 Sixth Army FO 25, 23 Sep 44. 

**Ibid.; Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 23. 



vision, actually an infantry square division, 
was to land with brigades abreast in the 
Marasbaras area, advance to the north, and 
seize Tacloban and its airstrip, the most im 
portant objective for A Day. Thereafter, the 
division was to secure control over San 
Juanico Strait. To the left of the 1st Cavalry 
Division, the 24th Division was to go ashore 
with regiments abreast in the Palo area, 
seize Palo, and then advance northwest 
through the Leyte Valley. The two divisions 
were to converge on Carigara, at the north 
ern end of Leyte Valley on Carigara Bay. 29 

In the XXIV Corps zone, the 96th Divi 
sion with regiments abreast was to land in 
the area between Dulag and San Roque, 
and to secure that portion of Highway 1 in 
its zone, Catmon Hill, and, finally, the 
Dagami-Tanauan area. On its left the 7th 
Division with regiments abreast was to go 
ashore in the Dulag area. One element was 
to go south and seize the Highway 1 bridge 
and crossings of the Daguitan (Marabang) 
River at Dao while the main force of the 
division was to advance along the axis of the 
Dulag-Burauen road and capture Burauen. 
The 7th Division would then be in a position 
to move north toward Dagami. All hostile 
airfields in its zone of action were to be seized 
and occupied. The division was to be pre 
pared, on corps order, to seize Abuyog, to 
the south, and Baybay, on the west coast, 
destroying enemy forces on the west coast 
and in the southern portion of Leyte. 80 

Completion of these missions of the X 
and XXIV Corps would bring to an end the 
second phase of the Leyte operation. By this 
time, General Krueger hoped, the back of 
the Japanese resistance would be broken. 



*X Corps FO 1, 30 Sep 44; 1st Gav Div FO 1, 
2 Oct 44; 24th Inf Div FO 1, 1 Oct 44. 

* XXIV Corps FO 3, 28 Sep 44; 96th Div FO 2, 
1 Oct 44 ; 7th Div FO 9, 1 Oct 44. 



34 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



With Leyte Valley and its airfields and base 
sites firmly in the hands of the Sixth Army, 
General Krueger's forces would be in a posi 
tion to apply firmly the pincers on the re 
maining Japanese on the island. The X 
Corps was to drive south down the Ormoc 
Valley to Ormoc while the XXIV Corps was 
to move north from Baybay along the shores 
of Ormoc Bay and make juncture with the 
X Corps. The remnants of the Japanese 
forces, driven into the mountains of western 
Leyte, would be unable to continue an or 
ganized resistance. 31 

The eastern shores of Leyte were chosen 
for the initial landing, since the beaches on 
this side were the best on the island, and 
were the logical entrance to the important 
airfields, base sites, and roads in Leyte 
Valley. 

Since the large number of naval vessels 
required considerable room for landing the 
assault troops and for maneuvering, the 
landing beach areas of the two corps were 
widely separated. In addition, the value of 
the road net which connected Dulag with 
the Burauen airfields formed an important 
consideration in the determination of the 
landing beach sites of the XXIV Corps. 
"This latter factor which took precedence 
over the potentiality of strong enemy resist 
ance from Catmon Hill had determined 
the selection of beaches in the Dulag area." 82 

Although it was recognized as necessary 
for elements of the XXIV Corps to advance 
south to Abuyog and then overland to Bay- 
bay in order to destroy the enemy forces on 
the west coast, these maneuvers would leave 
great gaps in the batde line if only four di 
visions were at first employed. General Krue- 
ger therefore asked General Headquarters 

81 Sixth Army FO 25, 23 Sep 44. 

82 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 23. 



of the Southwest Pacific for additional com 
bat troops, and during the progress of the 
campaign General MacArthur made them 
available. 33 

The Sixth Army was also troubled about 
its reserve force. Although the 32d Division 
at Morotai and Hollandia and the 77th Di 
vision at Guam had been designated as 
Sixth Army Reserve, it would be impossible 
for these units to arrive at Leyte before the 
middle of November. The shortage of am 
phibious shipping made it necessary to 
mount these divisions on the turnaround of 
assault shipping. Since the floating reserve 
would have to come from one of the assault 
divisions, it was difficult to determine from 
which division to take it. It was decided that 
the 96th Division, considering its mission, 
could best spare such a unit, and the 381st 
Infantry of that division was therefore 
selected. 34 

To summarize the mission of the Sixth 
Army : on 1 7 October, the 6th Ranger In 
fantry Battalion would seize Suluan, Dina- 
gat, and Homonhon Islands, in the entrance 
to Leyte Bay. At 0930 on 20 October, the 
21st Infantry Regiment was to land in the 
vicinity of Panaon Strait and secure control 
of that entrance to Sogod Bay. At 1 000 on 
the same day the Sixth Army with the X 
and XXIV Corps abreast would make a 
major amphibious landing on Leyte. In the 
north the X Corps, with the 1st Cavalry 
Division and the 24th Infantry Division 
abreast, after moving ashore in the Maras- 
baras and the Palo areas, would capture 
Tacloban, its airfield, and Palo. In the south 
the XXIV Corps with the 96th and 7th In 
fantry Divisions abreast would go ashore to 
secure control in the Dulag area. 88 



88 Ibid. 
"Ibid. 
85 Ibid., p. 20. 



PLANS ARE MADE AND FORCES ARE READIED 



35 



The Logistical Plan 

Construction 

The decision to land on Leyte at the be 
ginning of the rainy season and to construct 
a major supply and air base thereon pre 
sented a serious problem to the engineers. 
The poor soil, inadequate roads, and heavy 
rains were obstacles that had to be met and 
in some way overcome if the operation was 
to be a logistical success. General Mac- 
Arthur recognized the need for making use 
of Leyte as a logistical base by creating for 
the first time in the Southwest Pacific an 
army service command and by detailing his 
chief engineer, Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Casey, to 
be its commander. ASCOM, as it was 
called, was to provide the logistical services 
required for the operation and to build and 
operate the Army base facilities until the 
United States Army Services of Supply 
(SWPA) could take over. This transfer was 
expected to take place about thirty days after 
the assault troops first landed on the shores 
of Leyte. 36 

General MacArthur directed the Sixth 
Army to establish the following air facilities 
in the Leyte area : by A plus 5, facilities for 
two fighter groups, one night fighter squad 
ron, one photo squadron, one medium 
bomber group plus one squadron, three 
patrol bomber squadrons, and one Marine 
reconnaissance squadron; by A plus 30, ad 
ditional facilities for two light bomber 
groups, one air-sea rescue squadron, one 
tactical reconnaissance squadron, and one 
fighter squadron; additional facilities by A 
plus 45 for one fighter group, one patrol 
bomber squadron, two heavy bomber 
groups, and one laboratory squadron; and 
by A plus 60, further facilities for one photo 



squadron, one patrol bomber squadron, two 
troop carrier groups, and one combat map 
ping squadron.* 7 

The final Sixth Army plan for the Leyte 
operation directed ASCOM to establish 
naval facilities in the Leyte area as well as 
the aforementioned air facilities; to make 
topographic and hydrographic surveys, fol 
lowed by suitable changes in the plans for 
the construction of bases, docks, roads, and 
airdromes; to unload all units, supplies, and 
materiel arriving in the area and to store 
and issue supplies to ground and air units; 
and, in co-operation with the Philippine 
Civil Affairs Units, recruit and direct native 
labor. 38 

The construction program as planned for 
Leyte brought strong remonstrances from, 
the Sixth Army engineers. On 10 August 
Col. William J. Ely, the executive officer, 
protested against the employment of Leyte 
as a major supply and air force base. The 
reasons for his objections were prophetic. 
The operation was to be launched during 
the season of heavy rains in an area where 
high winds and typhoons occurred. The 
harbor was so shallow and so obstructed by 
patches of coral that the approaches would 
have to be as much as 800 feet long. The 
fact that the flat Leyte Valley was interlaced 
by many streams and flooded with rice pad 
dies indicated that the soil was "most un 
stable." The condition of the soil and 
drainage would require the hauling, fre 
quently for long distances, of considerable 
quantities of rock for the construction of 
roads. The existing roads and bridges, in 
most places so narrow as to permit only one 
way traffic, would soon disintegrate under 
the constant heavy rains and the pounding 
of military vehicles. Colonel Ely forecast 



T Ibid., p. 19. 

8 Sixth Army FO 25, 23 Sep 44. 



36 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



that, in the light of past experience with 
poor conditions of soil and drainage, the 
construction and enlargement of the air 
strips would be difficult. The shortage of en 
gineer troops decreased the possibility of 
providing major air and supply bases In 
sufficient time to properly support further 
operations. He concluded that "the con 
struction mission cannot be satisfactorily ac 
complished with the engineer troops avail 
able, particularly during the first 90 days." 
Colonel Ely gloomily summarized, "Per 
haps we can mud and muddle through 
again on a shoestring but the shoestring 
must be frayed by this time and if it broke 
we may lose our shirt as well as our shoe." 

If the strategic plan were fixed, he recom 
mended that one or more of the following 
measures be adopted : ( 1 ) increase the num 
ber of engineer construction troops; (2) 
shift the operation to an area where major 
air and supply bases could be constructed 
without encountering the adverse weather 
and port conditions existing on Leyte; (3) 
"decrease the tempo of the strategic plan"; 
and finally (4) decrease the scope of the air 
and supply requirements. Nothing was to be 
gained "by undertaking an overambitious 
program from the beginning that cannot be 
completed on a time schedule that will as 
sure early and adequate support to future 
operations." 89 

Col. Samuel D. Sturgis, Jr., Sixth Army 
Engineer, forwarded Colonel Ely's report 
with a strong concurrence to General Mac- 
Arthur's engineer, but General Headquar 
ters decided to proceed with the original 
logistical plans for the operation. 40 

89 Memo, Col Ely, Exec Off, Sixth Army Engi 
neer, for Col Samuel D. Sturgis, Jr., Sixth Army 
Engineer; Air Evaluation Board SWPA, The Leyte 
Campaign, pp. 400-403. 

40 Interv with Maj Gen George H. Decker, for 
merly GofS Sixth Army, 7 Sep 51. 



Supplies 

The supplies required for the operation 
involved staggering quantities. For an in 
vasion force of 150,000 men, the War De 
partment figures showed that, for the land 
ing period alone, 1,500,000 tons of general 
equipment, 235,000 tons of combat vehicles, 
200,000 tons of ammunition, and 200,000 
tons of medical supplies were required. 
Thereafter, 332,000 tons of equipment 
would be required every thirty days.* 1 Ac 
cording to the final plan, issued by General 
Krueger on 30 September 1944, 42 the units 
of the Sixth Army, X Corps, and Sixth Army 
Service Command, under General Casey, 
which were to arrive at Leyte between 20 
and 30 October were to take ashore a mini 
mum of ten days' supply of all classes (ex 
cept engineer supplies, which were to be 
for at least thirty days), and two units of 
fire. 43 In this way the strain on ASCOM 
supply units would be lessened, and 
ASCOM, it was hoped, would have time to 
establish dumps and make the necessary 
supply installations. In addition to supplies 
accompanying the assault troops, sufficient 
quantities were to be brought into Leyte by 
30 October to bring the total supplies for 
the troops to the following figures, expressed 
in days: thirty days of food, clothing, and 
equipment; fifteen days of motor transport 
fuel and distillate ; and thirty days of other 
petroleum products. There were also to be 
five units of fire for combat troops and three 
for service troops. The original plan had 
called for a thirty-day supply of all petro 
leum products to be brought in by A plus 1 0, 



41 MI, GS, GHQ FEG, History of the United 
States Army Forces in the Far East 1943-1945, p. 
69. 

48 Sixth Army Admin O 14, 30 Sep 44. 

41 Sixth Army Admin O 14, Annex 4, 30 Sep 44. 



PLANS ARE MADE AND FORCES ARE READIED 



37 



but this quantity was reduced when General 
Krueger adopted a plan for the installation 
by A plus 7 of bulk fuel storage. The XXIV 
Corps supply levels were to remain the same 
as those planned for the now-canceled Yap 
operation, since the corps was already 
loaded with supplies which were considered 
adequate for the Leyte invasion. 44 

There were certain differences in the 
loads carried by the X and the XXIV Corps. 
The XXIV Corps embarked with a thirty- 
day supply of rations and medical supplies, 
twenty days of clothing, weapons, vehicles, 
fuels, lubricants, construction materiel, and 
seven units of fire for all artillery and five 
units for other types of weapons. Since the 
type of equipment loaded had been selected 
for the Yap operation, amphibian vehicles 
were favored over wheeled vehicles. Less 
than 50 percent of the Table of Equipment 
allowance of general purpose vehicles and 
dump trucks accompanied the units. Fur 
thermore, many badly needed items of or 
ganizational equipment were carried by the 
rear echelons, which did not arrive until 
January 1945, after Leyte had been 
secured. 45 

The supplies which were to accompany 
the troops during the initial phases of the 
Leyte operation were to come from bases in 
New Guinea and the Central Pacific. Re- 
supply shipping to be called for as need 
ed was to be loaded at bases in the United 
States, Australia, and, if necessary, New 
Guinea. 46 In addition, ten loaded liberty 
ships were to be held in floating reserve, 
eight at Hollandia and two in the Palaus. 
Two of these were loaded with aviation 
gasoline, two with fuel oil and lubricants, 

44 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 24. 
" XXIV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 35. 
40 Ibid. 



two with ammunition for the air forces and 
four with ammunition for the ground forces. 
Admiral Nirnitz was to furnish two of the 
four last mentioned. Except for the LST's 
transporting the XXIV Corps, each LST 
arriving on 20 October was to carry thirty 
tons of technical supplies for the air forces. 
All LST's arriving from A plus 1 through A 
plus 4 were to carry forty tons of similar 
supplies. 47 General MacArthur charged the 
Commanding General, United States Army 
Services of Supply (SWPA), with providing 
the Sixth Army with all supplies, except air 
force technical supplies, that would be 
needed for the operation. 48 

An Army garrison force for Yap under 
Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff had been 
scheduled to go with the XXIV Corps, and 
at Admiral Nimitz 5 suggestion this force 
was designated to accompany the corps to 
the new target, Leyte, though the South 
west Pacific Area had never used an organi 
zation of this type. 49 It was hoped that the 
force might be useful in taking over "house 
keeping" duties and the development of rear 
areas, thus relieving the assault commander 
of those responsibilities. Incidentally, Gen 
eral Krueger made little use of the garrison 
force. Units which furnished logistic sup 
port for carrier operations were also in 
cluded and were to be assigned to the 
Seventh Fleet. Admiral Nimitz was to con 
tinue furnishing logistic support to the 
XXIV Corps until relieved by General 
MacArthur. 50 



* T Sixth Army Admin O 14, 30 Sep 44. 

* GHQ SWPA Opns Instns 70, Annex 4, 21 Sep 
44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 2 1 Sep 44. 

46 Ibid., p. 18. 

M Rad, CINGPOA to GINCSWPA, 16119, 19 
Sep 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 19 Sep 44; Info Ra.d, 
GINCSWPA to CINGPOA, CX 18072, 20 Sep 44, 
Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 21 Sep 44. 



38 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Shipping 

On 21 September, Pacific Ocean Areas 
and Southwest Pacific Area reached an 
agreement on resupply of ammunition for 
the XXIV Corps. Arrangements were made 
for loaded ships from San Francisco to be 
sent to the Leyte area periodically to alle 
viate the shipping shortage. 51 It was ex 
pected that at least twenty-two cargo ships 
would so arrive from San Francisco during 
the operation. 

The change in target dates and the sub 
stitution of the XXIV Corps for the XIV 
Corps reduced the amount of amphibious 
shipping available for the Leyte operation. 
Consequently representatives of the Sixth 
Army, the VII Amphibious Force, and the 
Fifth Air Force met at General Krueger's 
headquarters to work out the details for a 
new shipping schedule. They made minor 
changes in the dates for the movement of 
convoys, and rearranged echelons, eliminat 
ing one. 52 The shipping for the XXIV Corps 
and the ten- resupply ships were to remain 
the same as planned for Yap. 53 

The amphibious shipping allocated to 
MacArthur was to be made available for 
such turnaround shipping as would be re 
quired. The date of release of the amphib 
ious vessels in order to mount subsequent 
operations would be announced later, but 
none were to be released for return to Nim- 
itz' control without permission from Mac- 
Arthur. An additional division lift, which 
was not included, was to return the 77th 



51 Memo, Adm Sherman, Plans Off POA, and 
Gen Chamberlin, AGofS G-3 SWPA, for CING- 
SWPA and GINGPOA, 21 Sep 44, Sixth Army G-3 
Jnl, 22 Sep 44. 

53 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 19. 

53 GHQ SWPA Opns Instns 70, Annex 4, 21 Sep 
44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 21 Sep 44. 



Division from Guam to Guadalcanal or to a 
location indicated by Admiral Nimitz. 54 

On 25 September Sixth Army submitted 
to General Headquarters a schedule of 
cargo loadings of heavy shipping for the 
Leyte operation and made suggestions as to 
heavy shipping for direct movement of 
troops. All troops and supply ships with the 
assault convoy which were to depart from 
Hollandia must arrive in that area not later 
than A minus 9. C5 

The shipping instructions specified that 
the ships were to be loaded for selective dis 
charge; all resupply ships transporting ra 
tions, clothing, vehicles, weapons, and am 
munition would be duplicate loaded; 
loaded floating reserve ships would be pro 
vided; medical supplies would be top 
loaded to avoid breakage and damage; and 
sufficient stevedore gear would be placed 
aboard each ship to handle its cargo. On 25 
and 26 September General Krueger's trans 
portation officer submitted to General 
Headquarters the heavy shipping require 
ments for the overwater movement of cargo 
and troops, respectively. It was considered 
necessary to utilize "all types of shipping 
from Navy LSM's, LST's, and assault trans 
ports to army controlled merchant ships and 
troop carriers." 66 Additional shipping was 
obtained by making use of that which had 
carried the 1st Marine Division and the 81st 
Division to Peleliu and Angaur in the 
Palau Islands. 57 The shipping specified 
above was assembled at Manus and Hol- 



M Ltr, GHQ SWPA to Comdr Allied Naval 
Forces, 23 Sep 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 26 Sep 44. 

M Ltr, Lt Col James W. Hill, Asst AG Sixth Army 
to CINGSWPA and CG USASOS, 25 Sep 44, sub: 
Heavy Shipping Requirements for KINO II Opera 
tion, Sixth Array G-3 Jnl, 25 Sep 44, 

00 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, Rpt of Transpor 
tation Off, p. 270. 

OT GTF 77 Attack Plan A304-44, 2 Oct 44. 



PLANS ARE MADE AND FORCES ARE READIED 



39 



landia and was assigned to the 1st Cavalry 
Division and the 24th Division, which were 
embarking, respectively, at those two ports. 
The XXIV Corps, after leaving the Ha 
waiian Islands, was brought to Manus 
where it remained in its original shipping* 
On 8 October General Krueger asked the 
commanding generals of X Corps, XXIV 
Corps, and ASCOM, together with the 
commanding officers of the 6th Ranger In 
fantry Battalion and the 21st Infantry 
Regiment, whether they would be able to 



meet the target date for Leyte. 68 Upon re 
ceiving affirmative replies, he laconically 
informed- General Headquarters: "Sixth 
Army Forces designated for KING TWO 
Operations are ready to meet KING TWO 
Target Date." 59 



^Rads, CG Sixth Army to GG X Corps, CG 
XXIV Corps, CG ASCOM, CO 21st Inf Regt, and 
CO 6th Ranger Inf Bn, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 8 
Oct 44. 

59 Rad, CG Sixth Army to GHQ SWPA, Sixth 
Army G-3 Jnl, 10 Oct 44. 



CHAPTER IV 



The Return 



For more than two years the high com 
mand of the Southwest Pacific had antici 
pated the promised return to the Philip 
pines. Thaj; objective had governed nearly 
all of the planning and most of the earlier 
invasions. Now the day had arrived. Plans 
had been made and troops and cargo were 
aboard ships. The fleets of the Pacific Ocean 
Areas and the Southwest Pacific Area were 
about to join forces in a mighty assault 
against the Philippines. 

The Convoy Forms 

That part of the VII Amphibious Force 
which carried the 24th Infantry Division 
and the Sixth Army Service Command as 
sembled at the harbor of Hollandia, Nether 
lands New Guinea. In this force were over 
470 ships, ranging in size from small rocket- 
launching craft to 5,000-man troopships, 
loaded and now waiting for the message to 
weigh anchor and head for the Far Shore, 
as Leyte was designated. They were sched 
uled to pick up that part of the force which 
was carrying the 1st Cavalry Division from 
Manus Island and then rendezvous with the 
III Amphibious Force. 

At 1600 on Friday, the thirteenth of Oc 
tober, the word was given and the great 
fleet at Hollandia got under way for the tar 
get Leyte 1,300 miles distant, 1 Mine- 



'Opns Rpt GIF 78 to GOMINGH, Ser 00911, 
10 Nov 44. 



sweeping task groups had preceded it on 1 1 
and 12 October. 2 By sundown the convoy 
was formed and the ships were darkened. 
On 14 October the ships of the convoy 
crossed the equator without ceremony. Gen 
eral quarters (battle drill) and abandon ship 
drills were held. The part of the force carry 
ing the 1st Cavalry Division was sighted dur 
ing the day. On the following day the two 
units joined and the convoy proceeded. On 
1 7 October the convoy made visual contact 
with the tractor groups of the III Amphib 
ious Force. This force had come from Ha 
waii with the XXIV Corps to help in the 
liberation of Leyte. 8 

XXIV Corps Afloat 

In the early morning hours of 1 3 Septem 
ber the headquarters of XXIV Corps at 
Schofield Barracks, Oahu, Hawaii, was 
awake and active, Breakfast was served at 
0330, and all men who had been informed 
the day before that they were to embark for 
an unknown shore shouldered their barracks 
bags and carried them to waiting trucks. 
By 0700 the men had been loaded on the 
trucks, which took them to the narrow-gauge 
Oahu railroad. In flat cars they traveled 
some twenty miles to Honolulu Harbor, The 

3 Rpt, Capt Ray Tarbuclc, USN, 3 Nov 44, GHQ 
SWPA G-3 Jnl, 30 Oct 44. (Hereafter cited as 
TarbuckRpt) 

"Opns Rpt GTF 78 to COMINCH, Ser 00911, 
10 Nov 44. 



THE RETURN 



41 



usual seeming delays followed, but eventu 
ally the hot, tired, and perspiring headquar 
ters men boarded the George F. Clymer and 
were assigned bunks. The Clymer was but 
one unit of a large convoy that stretched 
toward the horizon in every direction. At 
1 1 15 on 15 September the convoy got under 
way for a destination believed to be Yap. 
As the ships departed, word was received 
that the Yap operation had been canceled 
and that Leyte was to be their destination. 
For the men on board, life fell into the mo 
notonous routine common to all transports. 
Reading, card and dice games, eating, sleep 
ing, and interminable "bull sessions" helped 
to pass the time. 

On the 25th of the month the Clymer 
anchored at Eniwetok Island, an anchorage 
already crowded with hundreds of trans 
ports, warships, and cargo vessels. The men 
were allowed to go ashore, where they were 
given beer and other refreshments. The 
XXIV Corps was notified that it would 
leave for Manus, in the Admiralty Islands, 
where further orders would be received and 
the staging completed. The LST flotilla left 
on 26 September and two days later the 
transports followed. Maps, terrain studies, 
and aerial photographs were distributed 
and studied en route. 4 At the same time the 
XXIV Corps issued a tentative field order 
which was distributed to lower unit com 
manders, who then held conferences and 
issued tentative verbal field orders. 5 

Early in October the convoy crossed the 
equator. On many of the ships ceremonies 
were held transforming pollywogs into shell 
backs, with the result that some of the men 
preferred standing to sitting for a few days. 
On 3 October the convoy arrived at Manus, 6 
The assault troops of the XXIV Corps were 

4 96th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 20. 
8 7th Inf Diy Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. 
6 XXIV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 



transferred from AKA's to LST's. The 96th 
Division on 9 October issued a final field 
order for the Leyte operation. This order 
allowed the regimental headquarters less 
than forty-eight hours to complete final or 
ders, plans, and maps, and distribute them 
to the headquarters of the assault battalions. 7 
On 1 1 October the LST transports carry 
ing the assault battalions filed out of the 
Manus anchorage, and on 14 October the 
rest of the convoy again formed and started 
on the last stretch of the journey. 8 Its prog 
ress was satisfactory, and on 15 October the 
President of the United States sent his best 
wishes for the success of the operation to 
President Sergio Osmena of the Philippine 
Commonwealth, who was at sea with the 
expedition. 9 When the III Amphibious 
Force rendezvoused with the Seventh Fleet, 
the largest convoy ever seen in the Pacific 
up to that time was formed. 10 

Composition of the Convoy 

Thirty-four months had been spent in 
building and preparing these combatant and 
amphibious vessels. Practically none of them 
were in existence at the time Corregidor was 
besieged. Most of the 183 vessels of Task 
Force 77 were warships, while Task Forces 
78 and 79, the amphibious forces, consisted 
mainly of transports, cargo ships, and a wide 
variety of landing ships and craft. Fully 518 
ocean-going vessels were included in Task 
Forces 78 and 79. 11 

Of the vessels assigned to participate in 
the operation, 157 were combatant ships: 
6 old battleships, 5 heavy cruisers, 6 light 

7 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 25. 

8 XXIV Corps Hist Rpt for 1944, Sec Histories, 
History of the Adjutant Generals Section from 8 
April to 3 1 December 1944, pp. 10-11. 

9 Tarbuck Rpt. 

10 Ibid. 

11 GTF 77 Opns Rpt, Ser 00302-G, 31 Jan 45. 



42 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



cruisers, 18 escort carriers, 86 destroyers, 25 
destroyer escorts, and 11 frigates. There 
were 420 transport vessels, including 5 com 
mand ships, 40 attack transports, 10 LSD's, 
151 LST's, 79 LCI's, 21 LCT's, and 18 
high-speed transports. The remainder in 
cluded patrol, mine-sweeping, hydro- 
graphic, and service ships. 12 

The convoy did not include the combat 
ant ships of Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet. 
The main striking force of the Third Fleet 
was Task Force 38, composed of four pow 
erful carrier task groups, under Admiral 
Mitscher. Each group contained fast car 
riers, cruisers, destroyers, and the newest 
American battleships. 13 

After forming, the convoy proceeded 
toward the target. At this time a disquieting 
report was received from the meteorologists 
on board the ships : a typhoon was headed 
toward the Leyte Gulf area. Such a disturb 
ance could be fatal to the expedition. A 
severe storm did in fact lash the gulf area 
from 14 through 17 October, but it gradu 
ally abated and the morning of A Day, 20 
October, was clear. This favorable weather 
augured well for a successful landing. 

Softening the Target 
Early Strikes 

Allied aircraft had already visited the 
Philippine Archipelago. The first aerial 
strikes since 1942 were made in the early 
fall of 1944. On 1 September B-24's from 
New Guinea bases initiated their first large- 
scale air attack against airdromes in the 
Davao area, though bad weather prevented 

M GINCPAC and CINCPOA Rpt Opns in POA 
in Oct 44, Ser 002397, 3 1 May 45. 

"USSBS, Employment of Forces Under the 
Southwest Pacific Command, p. 40. 



the protective fighter escort from attacking 
the target. The airborne defense encoun 
tered was surprisingly light only three in 
tercepting fighters opposed the strike. The 
bombers dropped 100 tons of bombs, de 
stroying 34 planes on the ground and killing 
about 100 men. 14 Two American bombers 
were shot down and six received minor dam 
ages. 15 General MacArthur believed that the 
Japanese were conserving their air strength 
in order to concentrate it against anticipated 
Allied landings. 16 

On 4 September the first aerial recon 
naissance flights were made over Leyte. 
During the period 9-14 September, Admiral 
Mitscher launched a large-scale, carrier- 
based air assault against the Japanese air 
defenses in the Philippine Islands in order 
to protect the Palau and Morotai landings. 
On 9 September aircraft from the carriers 
attacked airdromes and installations in the 
Mindanao area, destroying 60 aircraft on 
the ground and 8 in the air. On 1 2 Septem 
ber the attack was directed against the 
Visayan Islands. Of an estimated air 
strength of 225 aircraft in the sector, 125 
were destroyed on the ground and 75 in the 
air. During the night of 12 September the 
Japanese flew in reinforcements from 
Luzon. A Third Fleet strike on 13 Septem 
ber against the reinforced air strength 
destroyed an estimated 135 aircraft on the 
ground and 81 in the air. On the 14th, the 
Third Fleet planes encountered no enemy 
air opposition but destroyed from 10 to 15 
aircraft on the ground. The air strength 
which the enemy had conserved for an 



" Japanese Studies in World War II, 14, Naval 
Air Operations in the Philippine Area, 1942-45, 
p. 18. (Monograph numbers cited in this volume are 
file designations used by OGMH.) 

M GHQ SWPA Sum of Enemy Sit 894, GHQ 
G-3 Jnl, 2 Sep 44. 

19 Ibid. 



THE RETURN 



43 



anticipated American invasion was thus 
decimated. About 500, or approximately 57 
percent of the 884 aircraft believed to be in 
the Philippines, were rendered nonopera- 
tional or destroyed. This successful knock 
ing out of the Japanese air strength in the 
Philippine Islands was an important factor 
in the decision to speed up the landing at 
Leyte by two months. 

On 2 1 September Central Pacific carrier- 
based aircraft directed their attention to the 
Luzon area. In spite of their vigorous de 
fense of the Luzon airfields, the Japanese lost 
an estimated 110 aircraft in the air and 95 
on the ground. These included not only 
combat aircraft but also reconnaissance, 
transport, and training planes. The remain 
ing air strength in the area was estimated 
to be 350 aircraft, of which 10 percent were 
in Mindanao, 20 percent in the Visayan 
Islands, and 70 percent in Luzon. 

At the same time, the carrier-based air 
craft made strong strikes against enemy 
shipping in the central and southern Philip 
pines. It was estimated that from 1 Septem 
ber to 15 September 105 merchant vessels 
were sunk in those waters by carrier planes, 
destroyers, cruisers, and submarines. Al 
though exact information was lacking on the 
number of enemy vessels present in the 
Visayan and Mindanao areas, it was thought 
that 50 percent of the Japanese merchant 
marine in those areas was eliminated. A 
successful attrition of the Japanese air and 
naval strength in the Philippines had been 
accomplished. 17 

The Third Fleet's carriers then started to 
neutralize the approaches to the Philippine 
Islands. The carrier-based aircraft launched 



strikes against enemy aircraft staging areas 
in the Ryukyus, of which Okinawa is the 
largest and most important. As a result of 
attacks on 10 October, they destroyed an 
estimated 23 enemy planes in the air and 88 
on the ground or in the water. Admiral Hal- 
sey reported that his flyers sank 1 subtender, 
1 mine sweeper, 1 destroyer escort, 2 mine- 
craft, 4 midget submarines, 20 cargo ships, 
and 45 other craft. In addition, nearly as 
many ships, mostly of small size, were dam 
aged. 18 On 1 1 October the flyers struck at 
Luzon. 

Air and Naval Action 
in the Formosa Area 

The plans of the Third Fleet called for 
strong carrier-based strikes against For 
mosa on 12 and 13 October. The four task 
groups of Task Force 38 were assigned tar 
gets in the southern Formosa, northern 
Formosa, central Formosa, and the Takao 
areas, respectively. (Takao is a port city on 
the southwest coast of Formosa.) After a 
fast run on the night of 1 1-12 October the 
carriers of Task Force 38 arrived in position 
off Formosa in the early morning. Although 
the Japanese were aware of the approach of 
the task force, they made no attacks against 
it before dawn. As the first fighters started 
sweeps over their respective areas, heavy op 
position developed, but it dropped markedly 
during the day. From 12 to 14 October the 
Japanese lost some 280 aircraft, 19 while the 
Americans lost 76. As a result of the opera 
tion, the Japanese lost half of their naval 
air strength. This loss gave assurance that 



17 GHQ SWPA, Philippine Islands, G-2 Est of 
Enemy Sit 16, 3-9 Sep44; 905, 13-14 Sep44; 914, 
22-23 Sep 44; 916, 24-25 Sep 44; and 907, 15-16 
Sep 44; GHQ G-3 Jnl, 9-25 Sep 44. 



M CINCPAG and CINCPOA Rpt on Opns in 
POA in Get 44, Ser 002397, 31 May 45. 

"Japanese Studies in WW II, 102, Philippine 
Area Naval Operations, Oct-Dec 44, Part II, The 
Battle of Leyte Gulf, pp. 4-11. (Hereafter cited as 
Philippine Naval Opns.) 



44 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the U. S. forces would have air superiority 
over the Leyte area on A Day. 20 

On the evening of 13 October the Ameri 
can heavy cruiser Canberra was torpedoed 
eighty-five miles off Formosa. Admiral 
Halsey kept his forces in the area another 
day in order to afford protection to the 
Canberra. Attacks, therefore, continued 
against enemy aircraft, airfields, and instal 
lations. By this time, Japanese reinforce 
ments had arrived. On the evening of 14 
October an aerial torpedo hit the heavy 
cruiser Houston. 

Admiral Halsey decided to capitalize on 
the damage inflicted on the two cruisers. 
He ordered two task groups, which included 
the battleships, to retire eastward out of 
sight; he sent another of the task groups to 
conduct intermittent air raids against north 
ern Luzon; and he assigned the remaining 
task group to protect the crippled Canberra 
and Houston. Halsey instructed this last 
task group to send out messages in the clear 
begging piteously for assistance. He hoped 
that by this ruse, which he called the "Lure 
of the Streamlined Bait," the Japanese fleet 
would be led to believe that this task group 
was all that remained of the task force and 
would therefore sweep down for the kill. 
The two task groups which had retired east 
ward would then appear and engage the 
enemy. The Japanese swallowed the bait 
and dispatched destroyers and cruisers to 
ward the "crippled" American force. Un 
fortunately, their search planes uncovered 
the two task forces off Formosa, and the 
Japanese surface ships hastily withdrew. 

The enemy pilots made such greatly ex 
aggerated claims of success that Imperial 
General Headquarters decided to order out 
the 2d Diversion Attack Force against the 

"USSBS, Naval Analysis Div, The Campaigns 
of the Pacific War ("WasHngton, 1946), p. 283. 



Americans. The flying units of Carrier Divi 
sions 3 and 4 were transferred to the 2d Air 
Fleet. These air units proceeded to Formosa 
on the 12th of October. Carrier Divisions 3 
and 4 y however, remained in the Inland Sea 
until they sortied forth for the Battle of 
Leyte Gulf. 21 The exaggerated claims of the 
Japanese air force were accepted jubilantly 
on the home islands. The people felt that 
the American Navy had indeed been given a 
death blow, and the Finance Ministry dis 
tributed "celebration sake 35 to all households 
in the country to commemorate the event. 
The Tokyo radio made the unfounded claim 
that "a total of 57 enemy warships includ 
ing 1 9 aircraft carriers and four battleships 
were sunk or heavily damaged by the Japa 
nese forces . . . the enemy task forces lost 
the majority of their strength and were put 
to rout. . . ." 22 It also predicted that the 
Allied losses would delay the invasion of the 
Philippine Islands by two months, 23 

Admiral Halsey's reaction was to report 
that "all 3d Fleet Ships reported by radio 
Tokyo as sunk have now been salvaged and 
are retiring towards the enemy." ** 

The convoy, as it steamed toward Leyte, 
received the news of the United States suc 
cess with considerable satisfaction. At this 
time, however, Admiral Halsey announced 
that the Third Fleet was being deployed for 
action, since he was expecting the Japanese 
to rise to his bait. Consequently the Third 
Fleet, except for the current strike at Luzon, 
could not furnish any more carrier support 
for the operation. 25 The Third Fleet task 

31 Philippine Naval Opns, pp. 5, 85-86. 

M AAF SWPA Intel Sum, Ser 247, GHQ G-3 
Jnl, 29 Oct 44. 

M AAF SWPA Intel Sum, Ser 246, GHQ G-3 
Jnl, 22 Oct 44. 

*Rad, ComSrdFlt to CINCPAC-CINCSWPA, 
170352 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 17 Oct 44. 

M Rad, ComSrdFlt to CINGPAC and var., H 
2692, 0321, 15 Oct 44, AAF Hist Archives. 



THE RETURN 



45 



group which went to the Luzon area suc 
cessfully struck at enemy airfields and ship 
ping. From 17 to 19 October it destroyed 
an estimated ninety-nine enemy aircraft on 
the ground and ninety-five in the air. 26 

Realignment of Air Support 

On the heels of Admiral Halsey's an 
nouncement that no assistance in connection 
with the Leyte landings could be expected 
from the Third Fleet, Far East Air Forces 
stated that the Fifth Air Force would sup 
port the Leyte operation as a "priority mis 
sion." 27 At the same time the Seventh Fleet 
requested intensive reconnaissance of San 
Bernardino and Surigao Straits in the Leyte 
area. This mission was assigned to the Fifth 
Air Force, which was also charged with 
neutralizing the Visayan airfields. The 
Thirteenth Air Force was to expedite the 
basing on Morotai of heavy bombers which 
could be called forward in support when 
requested by the Fifth Air Force. From 18 
to 19 October the carrier aircraft of the 
Seventh Fleet protected the convoy and 
struck at small vessels and airfields in north 
ern Mindanao as well as defense and com 
munications installations and airfields on 
Leyte. 25 

Although the missions Admiral Halsey 
had assigned his carriers apparently pre 
vented any aircraft of the Third Fleet from 
participating in direct support of the land 
ings, Halsey nevertheless ordered one of the 
task groups to strike at the Leyte, Samar, 
Cebu, and Negros areas on 18-19 October 
and to provide direct air support for the 



Leyte operation on 20 October. 29 More 
over, by 18 October news was received that 
the Japanese had discovered the ruse and 
withdrawn their warships from the Formosa 
area, thus leaving Admiral Halsey's forces 
free to protect the operation by covering San 
Bernardino and Surigao Straits. 30 

The carrier force of the Seventh Fleet was 
to bear the brunt of the tactical air support. 
By the afternoon and night of 17 October 
the weather had cleared, and flying condi 
tions were perfect as the carriers moved into 
their operation areas the following morning. 
The force was divided into three units : one 
unit operated in the southern part of Leyte 
Gulf to protect the landings at Panaon 
Strait; another operated near the entrance 
to the gulf in order to support the landings 
of the Southern Attack Force at Dulag; and 
the last operated southeast of Samar Island 
to support the landings of the Northern At 
tack Force at Tacloban. 

During 18 and 19 October, aircraft from 
the carriers struck at enemy airfields on 
Cebu, Negros, and Panay Islands. There 
was very little enemy activity from the Jap 
anese airfields in the Leyte area, since they 
were still sodden from the recent storms. In 
the two days 3 strikes, the Seventh Fleet air 
craft destroyed an estimated thirty-^ix 
enemy planes and damaged twenty-eight 
more. 31 

Japanese Plan of Defense 

The air blows on the Philippines served 
as a warning- that the Americans were ready 
to return to the Islands an event long ex- 



29 Air Evaluation Bd SWPA Rpt, Leyte Cam 
paign Philippines, 1944, p, 16. 



FEAF, pp. 261-63, AAF Hist Archives. 
8 Air Evaluation Bd SWPA Rpt, p. 16. 



M Rad, GomSrd Fit to CTG 38.1, 160216, 16 Oct 
44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 17 Oct 44. 
30 Tarbuck Rpt. 
n CTG 77.4 Opns Rpt, Ser 00120, 15 Nov 44. 



46 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



pected by the Japanese. By the end of June 
1944, the Japanese military situation had 
considerably worsened. The outer circle of 
Japan's perimeter had been pierced and the 
impetus of the American drive showed no 
signs of slackening. ( Map 4 ) 

The Allied nations had hit the Japanese 
from east and west and seriously interfered 
with their seaborne commerce. Japan was 
in grave danger of being separated from her 
stolen southern area the source of her raw 
materials. Units within this area were also 
being forcibly isolated from each other. The 
fall of Saipan had brought about a "most 
serious crisis." Premier To jo was removed 
and Kuniaki Koiso formed a new cabinet. 82 

In the summer of 1944 Imperial General 
Headquarters had started to strengthen the 
Philippines, the Ryukyus, the Kurile Islands, 
and Japan itself the "first line of sea de 
fense." If the Allies landed forces in any 
of these areas, the Japanese would concen 
trate their land, air, and sea forces and 
attempt to repel the landing force. These 
operations were known as the SHO (Vic 
tory ) Operations. Defense of the Philippines 
was SHO I. 33 

The Japanese strategy was simple. Japan 
wished to remain in the war, and to do so 
she must at all costs keep open the lines of 
communication to the sources of her raw 
materials in the Netherlands Indies. 

In the first part of August 1944, the head 
quarters of the 14th Area Army, which was 
to be charged with the defense of the Philip 
pine Archipelago, was organized under the 

82 Japanese Studies in WW II, 72, Hist of Army 
Section, Imperial General Headquarters, 1941-45, 
p. 131. (Hereafter cited as Hist of Army Sec, Im 
perial GHQ.) 

p. 131-32. 



command of the Southern Army, while the 
35th Army, which was to defend the Visa- 
yan Islands, was established under the com 
mand of the 14th Area Army. 

The Philippine Islands were under the 
jurisdiction of the Southern Army, whose 
command organization was extremely com 
plex. (Chart 3} The supreme commander 
was Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terau- 
chi. There were four area armies in the 
Southern Army: the 2d Area. Army occu 
pied Netherlands New Guinea, thence west 
to Timor; the 7th Area Army was at Singa 
pore; the Burma Area Army was at Ran 
goon; and the 14th Area Army, command 
ed by Lt. Gen. Shigenori Kuroda, was in 
the Philippines with its headquarters at 
Manila. The Southern Army also had two 
air armies and three garrison armies: the 
3d Air Army in Singapore; the 4th Air 
Army, consisting of two air divisions in the 
Philippines and one air division in western 
New Guinea; and a garrison army stationed 
in Thailand, another in French Indochina, 
and a third in Borneo. The commander of 
the 14th Area Army maintained a staff liai 
son with the 4th Air Army but otherwise had 
no control over it. 

The 1st Air Fleet, under the command of 
the Southwest Area Fleet, was stationed in 
the Philippines, with headquarters at Ma 
nila, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, commander 
in chiej: of the Combined Fleet with head 
quarters at Tokyo, controlled the entire 
naval forces, including the Southwest Area 
Fleet.** 



* Japanese Studies in WW II, 6, 14th Area Army 
Plans, 1944. (Hereafter cited as 14th Area Army 
Plans.) 

38 The organization of Japanese forces is discussed 
in detail in Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ,. 



SITUATION IN THE PACIFIC 

Mid -October 1944 



2J^J5 JAPANESE -CONTROLLED AREAS 



By-passed Japanese-held islands 
not indicated. 



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S3 



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THE RETURN 



49 



Plans for the 14th Area Army 

The Japanese during the summer of 1944 
anticipated that the United States forces 
would return to the Philippine Islands, but 
when and where were two questions for 
which not even Tokyo Rose., the Japanese 
radio propagandist, had the answers. Con 
sequently, the Japanese wished to keep their 
troops sufficiently mobile that reinforce 
ments might be rushed to the point of con 
tact. The original plan called for the main 
defensive effort of the ground forces to be 
made on Luzon, since there were too few 
Japanese troops in the archipelago to defend 
all of the Philippines. The Japanese Navy 
and Air Forces, however, were to carry out 
"decisive" actions in the central and south 
ern Philippines. 36 

To General Kuroda fell the task of mak 
ing and executing plans for the defense of 
the Philippines by the 14th Area Army. 
General Kuroda was essentially a realist. 
He stated in June 1947 that in October 1944 
he had told Maj. Gen. Seizo Arisue, Chief 
of Army Intelligence, Imperial General 
Headquarters, that "it would be best for 
Japan to negotiate an immediate peace be 
fore the Americans could destroy our nation 
by air power." 37 Kuroda thought that all 
available land forces should be concen 
trated in the Luzon area in order to counter 
attack any American landing within the 
Luzon perimeter. However, because of their 
predominant aerial strength, the Americans 
in their next attempt could unless they 
made "some terrible mistake . . . land in 
force and once ashore, could take the Philip- 

86 Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, pp. 140-41. 

^Interv, 2d Lt Stanley L. Falk with General 
Kuroda, at Sugamo Prison, Tokyo, 13 Jun 47, copy 
in OGMH. 



pines." 3S General Kuroda' s plan was never 
considered. Imperial General Headquarters* 
plan for the defense of the Philippines called 
for the employment of ten divisions and five 
brigades : five divisions and two brigades in 
Luzon, four divisions and two brigades in 
the southern Philippines, and one division 
and one brigade in China and Formosa. 
The two units last mentioned would be 
rushed to the Philippines as soon as the 
American landing became imminent. 39 
When the Americans landed, all of these 
units, acting in concert, were to participate 
m fighting a decisive battle against the 
American troops. This plan was never car 
ried out in its entirety. 

The Japanese occupation troops of the 
Philippine Islands had grown soft and had 
"no particular will to fight." In the spring 
of 1944, there were only minor units avail 
able to set up an organized defense. 

Imperial General Headquarters and the 
Southern Army thought that because of the 
many islands in the archipelago emphasis 
should be placed on air power. Air attacks 
could destroy the American forces before 
they arrived at the landing areas or at least 
before they could make appreciable gains. 
The way could then be opened to turn a 
defense into an offensive. 40 General Kuroda 
threw cold water on this plan by bluntly 
stating : 

That concept is good, but you cannot fight 
with concept alone. Words alone will not sink 
American ships and that becomes clear when 
you compare our airplanes with theirs. That 
is why the major battles have been occurring 
on land. We can say that the power of our 
air force is negligible at this time. No matter 



*Ibid. 

88 Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, pp. 132-33, 
135, 140, and errata sheet to above. 
40 Maj Gen Yoshiharu Tomochika, The True 



50 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



how much the Fourteenth Army devotes their 
efforts toward air power, in actuality, should 
there be a decisive fight, they must fight on 
land. The preparation and conduct of an 
operation, and the responsibilities thereof can 
not be conducted by airplanes and air units. 
The land army should initiate its own prepa 
rations. For example, for what purpose were 
the group of air bases constructed at Davao 
and Tacloban? Even though they are built, 
they aren't used. It amounts to construction 
for the use of the enemy. 41 

During the month of August, the Jap 
anese devoted their main efforts toward 
strengthening the air force. After the first of 
September more emphasis was placed on 
building up the ground troops while the air 
preparations continued to some extent. The 
Southern Army in late August ordered about 
one half of a division to Sarangani and one 
division to Davao against the wishes of the 
14th Area Army. This meant a reshuffling 
of the troops that had been moving and re 
pairing defenses since the first part of Au 
gust. "The order was carried out begructe- 
ingly." * 2 

Lt Gen, Sosaku Suzuki, the commander 
of the 35th Army, thinking that the Amer 
ican Army would land on 1 October, said : 
"Contrary to what has been announced by 
General Headquarters our air force cannot 
be prepared and equipped in time, nor can 
the Combined Fleet be depended upon. The 
situation grows worse and for this reason 
the land force preparations must be has 
tened. Yet, in spite of that, we must not dis 
courage the air forces and should do as much 
as possible to prepare aggressive aerial 
opposition." 4S 

Facts of the Leyte Operation, p. 8, typescript of 
translation in OCMH 



. 9. 

Ibid., p. 8. 



In the middle of September, Imperial 
General Headquarters decided to replace 
General Kuroda with General Tomoyuki 
Yamashita. Not only did General Kuroda 
have a concept of the Philippine operations 
that differed from that of his superiors, but 
he was charged with neglecting his duty as 
field army commander.'** Lt. Col. Seiichi 
Yoshie of the Personnel Bureau of the War 
Ministry, who had been sent to the Philip 
pines to investigate personnel matters in the 
Southern Army, said of the incident: 

Stories reached the War Ministry that Lt. 
Gen. Kuroda was devoting more time to his 
golf, reading and personal matters than to the 
execution of his official duties. It appeared 
that his control over staff officers and troops 
was not sufficiently strong and that there was 
a good deal of unfavorable criticism of his 
conduct among the troops. There were also 
indications that discipline was becoming very 
lax. 

On 4 September 1944, I left Tokyo under 
orders ... to investigate. As a result I ob 
tained many statements substantiating the un 
favorable stories in regard to Lt. Gen. Kuroda. 
The recommendations of all the staff was 
that Lt. Gen. Kuroda be relieved as soon as 
possible, and be replaced by Gen. Yamashita 
. . . who was a superb tactician and excellent 
leader, 45 

General Yamashita, who was in Man 
churia, received notification of his appoint 
ment on 23 September, and on the 9th of 
October he assumed command of the 14th 
Area Army** On his arrival in the Philip 
pines, he found conditions were "unsatis 
factory." Of the eleven members of the old 
staff only five were left and the new staff 

44 Ibid. 

48 Statement of Lt Col Seiichi Yoshie, Circum 
stances Leading to the Relief of General Kuroda, 
1 Oct 51, copy in OCMH. 

* United States vs Tomoyuki Yamashita, Testi 
mony of Yamashita, XXVIII, 3518-19, DRB AGO. 



THE RETURN 



51 




GEN. TOMOYUKI YAMASHITA 

officers were unfamiliar with conditions in 
the Philippine Islands/ 7 The state of aff airs 
was well exemplified by a remark of his new 
chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Akira Muto, who ar 
rived in the Philippines on 20 October from 
Sumatra, where he had been in command 
of the 2d Imperial Guards Division** Upon 
being told that the Americans had landed 
on Leyte, Muto is said to have replied, 
"Very interesting, but where is Leyte?" <i9 

Maj. Gen. Toshio Nishimura, one of 
three assistants to Yamashita, states that the 
planning for the Leyte campaign was "very 
bad. 53 The supply situation, however, was 
favorable. Since Manila was the main depot 
not only for the Philippines but also for 



47 Ibid., XXVIII, 3519-20. 

48 Ibid., Testimony of Muto, XXII, 2998. 

49 A. Frank Reel, The Case of General Yamashita 
(Chicago, 1949), pp. 18-19. 



LT. GEN. SOSAKU SUZUKI 

other places in the south such as Borneo and 
Singapore, a sufficient amount of every 
thing needed was at hand. 50 

There were two tactical concepts of de 
fense of the islands in July and August 1944. 
One was termed the policy of "annihilation 
at the beachhead 5 ' and the other the policy 
of "resistance in depth." The respective 
merits of the two concepts were bitterly de 
bated by their partisans. The proponents of 
resistance in depth thought that the beach 
defenses, which had been constructed with 
a great deal of labor, were useless, since it 
was believed they could not withstand naval 
bombardment. On the other hand, the 
friends of annihilation at the beachhead felt 
that semipermanent beach fortifications 
could withstand bombardment. Imperial 



USSBS Interrog 418, Interrog of Maj Gen 
Toshio Nishimura, 19-22 Nov 45, MS, OGMH. 



52 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



General Headquarters, after studying the 
battle lessons of the Pacific Campaign and 
the actual effect of naval bombardment, de 
cided to adopt the resistance in depth tactics 
and instructed the entire army forces to 
comply. Consequently, the various group 
commanders abandoned their beach de 
fenses with regret and began to build strong 
fortifications in selected areas of the 
interior. 51 

The control of the Visayan Islands and 
Mindanao was vested in the 35th Army, 
which was the equivalent of an American 
army corps. General Suzuki, its commander, 
compromised between the two concepts of 
defense. At a meeting of the 35th Army unit 
commanders in the middle of August 1 944, 
he stated that although the main battle was 
to be fought away from the beaches some 
troops should remain to resist the American 
landings and "therefore part of the troops 
must suffer premature losses, 35 62 

The 16th, 102d, 30th, and the 100th Di 
visions, which were in Leyte, Panay, and 
Mindanao, were placed under the 35th 
Army, whose headquarters was at Cebu. 63 

The Suzu Plan 

On 17 August General Suzuki issued the 
Suzu orders for the defense of the Visayan 
Islands and Mindanao by the 35 th Army. 
The 100th Division was to protect the Davao 
area on Mindanao while the 16th Division 
would defend Leyte. Most of the 30th Di 
vision and two infantry battalions were 
made mobile units which could be rushed to 
annihilate the American force wherever it 
landed. However, if the Americans landed 
simultaneously on Davao and Leyte, the 

61 Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 6. 

Ibid. 

"Ibid. 



main force of the 30th Division was to be 
sent to Davao and the other mobile units 
would go to Leyte. 

In late August, Suzuki received orders to 
dispose his troops as follows: a reinforced 
division in the Davao area, three battalions 
in the Sarangani Bay area, three battalions 
in the vicinity of Zamboanga, two battalions 
in the Job Islands, a "strong unit 3 ' in the 
vicinity of Surigao, and one division in the 
Leyte Gulf area. The 55th Independent 
Mixed Brigade was to be assigned to the 
35th Army. Units of the 16th Division 
which were in Luzon were sent to the 16th 
Division on Leyte. These elements, which 
consisted of one engineer company, an in 
dependent transportation unit, and a medi 
cal unit, were placed under the commander 
of the 33 d Infantry Regiment,** 

Lt. Gen. Shiro Makino, commanding the 
16th Division, which was the major force 
on Leyte, had directed his efforts since April 
1944 toward the construction of defensive 
positions on the island. The first line of de 
fense, which was on the east coast in the 
Dulag area, was practically completed by 
the middle of October. The third defensive 
line was in the middle of Leyte Valley in 
the vicinity of Dagami. The second line of 
defense was between the two others, while 
the bulk of supplies was assembled in the 
central mountain range at Jaro. 

The distribution of the other troops at the 
time of the American landings was as fol 
lows: one battalion of the 9th Infantry 
Regiment in the Catmon Hill and Tanauan 
district, and the main strength of the 33 d 
Infantry Regiment in the Palo and Tacloban 
area. The larger part of the 33 d Infantry 
Regiment, which was less adequately trained 

w Japanese Studies in WW II, 11, 35th Army 
Operations 1944-45, pp. 14-20. (Hereafter cited 
as 35th Army Opns,) 



THE RETURN 

than the other regiments, had arrived on 
Leyte in mid-September from Luzon. Its 
officers were unfamiliar with the terrain 
and did not fortify their positions. 55 

On 17 October General Makino, having 
heard that American warships had ap 
proached Leyte Gulf, alerted the 16th Divi 
sion for the impending battle and ordered 
all units to "shatter the enemy landing at 
tempts. 33 56 On 18 October the 14th Area 
Army received a report from the 16th Divi 
sion which indicated that the latter was not 
certain the vessels sighted off Leyte were an 
enemy attacking force. They might be ships 
seeking safety from the storms, or vessels 
damaged in the naval battle off Formosa. 
Consequently, 14th Area Army was not sure 
that an attack was imminent at Leyte. 57 

Plans for the 4th Air Army 

The principal assignment of the 4th Air 
Army was to attack American transports 
and interdict American shipping and, if 
given the opportunity, to attack the Ameri 
can combatant vessels. The 4th Air Army 
was also to give aerial support to the move 
ment of reinforcements. 58 

In October the 4th Air Army issued a plan 
for anticipated operations. In co-operation 
with the Army and the Navy, the 4th Air 
Army would attempt to destroy the Amer 
ican forces when they struck the Philip 
pines. The Army air force in concert with 
the naval air units would try to destroy 

58 Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 6. 

w 16th Division Order 821, Tacloban, 17 October 
1944, translation in App. G to Annex Y, 7th Div 
Opns Rpt Leyte, DRB AGO. 

8T Japanese Studies in WW II, 7, 14th Area Army 
Operations on Leyte, p. 4 (Hereafter cited as 14th 
Area Army Opns Leyte.) 

^USSBS Interrog 506, Interrog of Maj. Gen. 
Yoshiharu Tomochika, Oct-Dec 44, p. 2, typescript 
copy in OGMH. 



53 

carrier-based planes and air bases. In opera 
tions against the American fleet, the Arrny 
and Navy air units were to have "a unified 
and tactful commitment." If the naval air 
units could not co-operate the Army air force 
was to venture a surprise attack with a few 
planes. Dusk, night, and dawn attacks were 
to be made against Allied air bases and all 
means exerted to foil Allied attempts to 
establish advance bases in the Philippines. 
The main strength of the fighter units was 
to move into the central and southern Philip 
pines in order to destroy the principal Amer 
ican landing force. The mission of the Jap 
anese 4th Air Army, operating from Min 
danao, Celebes, and northern Borneo, would 
be restricted to checking the current at 
tempts on the part of the Americans to es 
tablish bases on Halmahera and western 
New Guinea and the destruction of the 
planes there. For this purpose the Japanese 
air force would use bases in the southern 
Philippines. 

When the American convoy was sighted 
moving toward the Philippines, the heavy 
bombers were to deploy to the central and 
southern Philippines and make preparations 
for an immediate attack on the convoy after 
it had arrived in the harbor. The fighter 
units were to attack Allied aircraft and, if 
the circumstances were propitious, were also 
to attack the convoy. If the Americans 
should attempt simultaneous landings at va 
rious points, the Japanese Army air forces 
would "try to annihilate the landing parties 
one by one," w acting in concert with the 
Japanese Navy. 

Capt. Toshikazu Ohmae, the chief of staff 
to the commander in chief of the Japanese 
Third Fleet, was highly critical of the liaison 

M Japanese Studies in W\V II, 5, 4th Air Army 
Operations, 1944-45, pp. 1-50. (Hereafter cited as 
4th Air Army Opns.) 



54 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



between the Army and Navy air forces. 
"The Army and Navy always quarreled 
with each other. In theory they were sup 
posed to cooperate and on the higher levels 
it would work, but personalities were the 
trouble. 53 60 

Japanese Navy Plans 

On 21 July 1944 Admiral Toyoda re 
ceived a directive which laid down the basic 
policies for subsequent "urgent operations." 
A great deal of the contracting empire was 
abandoned. The Southwest Area, which 
embraced the region from Manila to Singa 
pore, was ordered to "maintain security of 
resources areas, hold vital sectors for their 
defense, and place emphasis on protection 
for fleet anchorages." Thus the Japanese 
planned to restrict battle "to the homeland 
and to the island chain which protected the 
last links" of the empire with the south. The 
forces in the Japanese home islands, the 
Ryukyu chain, Formosa, and the Philip 
pine Islands were told to take "all measures 
to expedite the establishment of conditions 
to cope with decisive battle. In event of 
enemy attack, summon all strength which 
can be concentrated and hold vital sectors, 
in general intercepting and destroying the 
enemy within the operational sphere of 
planes of our base air force." 61 

The success of Admiral Halsey's carrier 
strikes against Formosa had considerably 
weakened the strength of Japanese carrier- 
based planes, and less than one half of the 
Army planes remained. The necessity of 
sending reinforcements to Formosa also 



60 USSBS, Interrogations, I, 160. 

"James A. Field, Jr., The Japanese at Leyte 
Gulf: TheSHO Operation ( Princeton, N. J., 1947), 
p. 8. 



weakened considerably the Japanese aerial 
defense of the Philippines. The enemy be 
came almost completely dependent upon 
the remaining land-based planes.* 52 Within 
their capabilities the Japanese had made 
their plans and readied their forces, as the 
American convoy steamed towards Leyte 
to do battle. 

Securing the Channel Approaches 

Landings of the 6th Ranger Infantry 
Battalion 

The forward part of the convoy, which 
was carrying the 6th Ranger Infantry Bat 
talion, commanded by Lt. Col. Henry A. 
Mucci, had experienced stormy weather 
since leaving Hollandia, but by dawn of the 
17th the storm had slackened, though the 
ocean was still choppy. The transports carry 
ing the reinforced 6th Ranger Battalion, 
preceded by three mine sweepers, entered 
Leyte Gulf.* 3 

The USS Crosby, carrying Company D, 
arrived on schedule off Suluan Island, the 
outermost of the islands guarding Leyte 
Gulf. For twenty minutes the cruiser Den 
ver shelled the island. Under lowering skies 
and in a driving rain which rendered im 
possible the anticipated air support, 04 Com 
pany D, under 1st Lt. Leslie M. Gray, dis 
embarked from the transport and Headed 
for the island in landing craft. The mission 
of the unit was to secure mine charts which 
were believed to be located in a lighthouse 

M USSBS, Interrogations, I, 219; II, 500-504. 

88 Unless otherwise noted the account of the ac 
tivities of the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion is 
taken from the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion 
Operations Report Leyte. 

64 Rad, CTG 77.2 to CTF 78, 17 Oct 44, GHQ 
G-3 Jnl, 17 Oct 44. 



THE RETURN 



55 



on the island. At 0805 the boats touched 
shore. 

The landing was unopposed. The men 
immediately filed south 500 yards on a trail 
along the coast and then headed east toward 
the lighthouse. On the way, four buildings, 
one of which contained a Japanese radio, 
were found and set ablaze. The company 
then continued along the trail. Suddenly 
the enemy fired from a concealed position, 
killing one man and wounding another. 
When Company D went into attack forma 
tion, the enemy force disappeared into the 
heavy jungle bordering the trail. The march 
was resumed and the company reached its 
objective without further incident. The 
lighthouse, which had been damaged by 
naval bombardment, and adjoining build 
ings were deserted. 65 

In searching the documents found in the 
lighthouse, the company failed to turn up 
the hoped-for enemy mine charts. 66 It re 
turned to the beachhead area and, finding 
that the landing boats had been hopelessly 
battered and broken up by the surf, formed 
a perimeter for the night. 

As Company D was moving along the 
coast of Suluan Island, naval fire blasted 
away at the extreme northwest coast of 
Dinagat Island. At 0900 the first assault 
waves of the 6th Rangers, minus Companies 
D and B, started for the beach. Although 
coral reefs approximately one hundred yards 
offshore grounded the boats so that the men 
had to wade the remainder of the distance, 
the companies were all ashore by 1230. No 
Japanese were on the island and the troops 
accomplished their mission, the erection of 
a navigation light at Desolation Point to 



guide the movement of the main portion of 
the convoy. 

Company B of the 6th Rangers was to 
have landed on Homonhon Island at the 
same time landings were made on Suluan 
and Dinagat. Its mission, too, was the em 
placement of a navigation light, but bad 
weather and choppy seas kept the troops 
confined to the ship throughout the 17th. 67 
On the morning of the 18th, the ship's ad 
dress system clanged out general quarters. 
The men went below, put on their gear, and 
checked their weapons. At 0900 the troops 
were told to prepare to disembark. They 
bolted up the ladders and spilled out over 
the deck to the davits. 68 The boats were 
lowered and the first wave started for the 
beach. At the same time the guns from the 
destroyer and frigate which had escorted 
the transport concentrated fire against the 
shore line for twelve minutes. Three min 
utes later, the boats grounded on a coral 
reef forty yards from the beach, and the 
men waded the remaining distance to shore. 
They encountered no resistance and at 1038 
the company commander, Capt. Arthur D. 
Simons, notified the battalion commander, 
"Beachhead secured, supplies ashore. No 
resistance. No casualties." 69 The company 
set up a channel light. 

By 18 October, steady white lights were 
beaming from Dinagat and Homonhon 
Islands to guide the convoy in to Leyte 
Island. The one on Dinagat had a visibility 
of twelve miles and that on Homonhon a 
^visibility of ten. 70 



08 Co D, 6th Ranger Inf Bn, Opns Rpt Leyte. 
M Msg, CTG 78.4 to Tancier, 18 Oct 44, Sixth 
Army G^3 Wasatch Jnl, 18 Oct 44. 



"Rad, GHQ to CofS, 17 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 
Jnl, 18 Oct 44. 

M Go B, 6th Ranger Inf Bn, Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1. 

"Ibid. 

TO Rad, CTG 78.5 to CTF 77, 19 Oct 44, Sixth 
Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 19 Oct 44. 




PATROL OF COMPANY F, 6TH RANGERS, at Desolation Point (above), and inves 
tigating a native village on Dinagat Island (below). 




THE RETURN 



57 



Mine Sweeping 

The mine-sweeping plans contemplated 
that the mine-sweeping group would arrive 
on 17 October simultaneously with the 
troops that were to storm Suluan, Dinagat, 
and Homonhon Islands. On 1 1 October the 
slow-moving mine sweepers lifted anchor at 
Manus and departed for the objective area. 
They rendezvoused near the Palaus with 
the Dinagat force, which had left Hollandia 
on 12 October. On 15 October they were 
joined by the carriers and the beach demo 
lition and bombardment and fire support 
groups which had sortied from Manus on 12 
October. On 14 October information was 
received from guerrilla sources that there 
were no underwater obstacles off the beaches 
between Abuyog and Tacloban. Although 
the northern Surigao Strait was mined, it 
was considered doubtful whether the same 
condition existed at the southern entrances 
of Leyte Gulf. 71 The mine-sweeping groups 
that had left Hollandia on 1 1 October ar 
rived in Leyte Gulf during the storm of the 
evening of 16 October. Some of the mine 
sweepers had been delayed by the storm 
but were able to arrive in time to begin 
sweeping the channels. 72 

In the early dawn of 1 7 October the mine 
sweepers began their work on the channel 
approaches to Suluan Island. 78 By 0630 they 
had accomplished their task and then began 
to sweep the waters of the landing areas in 
Leyte Gulf until the storm forced them to 
suspend operations. At 1259 they resumed 
sweeping with great difficulty. Until A Day, 
intensive area and tactical mine sweeping 
continued. The sweepers started at dawn 



each day and worked continuously until 
nightfall. By 19 October it was known that 
the Japanese had heavily mined the ap 
proaches to Leyte Gulf but that there were 
no mines within the gulf itself. The north 
ern part of the main channel into the gulf, 
however, was not considered safe. 74 By the 
same date sweeping had been completed in 
the southern half, 186 mines having been 
destroyed. At about 0135 on 19 October, 
the destroyer supporting the mine-sweeping 
units which were in the gulf struck a float 
ing mine and while maneuvering away from 
the area struck another. The ship was dis 
abled and retired from action. By A Day, a 
total of 227 mines had been destroyed and 
a passage approximately six miles wide had 
been cleared just north of Dinagat Island. 
All ships were therefore directed to enter 
Leyte Gulf through that portion of the 
strait. 715 

As the mine sweepers came close to the 
land, boats containing Filipinos moved out 
to welcome the advance party of liberators. 
The reception they met was not enthusiastic. 
Admiral Oldendorf, the commanding offi 
cer of the bombardment and fire support 
group, "suspected that some might have 
come seeking information so detained them 
aboard their respective ships. . . . Directed 
no further patriots be taken aboard ship." 76 

Underwater Demolition Teams 

The naval plans for the amphibious phase 
of the operation contemplated the use of 
seven underwater demolition teams three 
to cover the northern coast beaches and 



71 Rad, Parsons to GTF 77, 78, and 79, 14 Oct 
44, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 14 Oct 44. 

72 GTF 77 to GOMINCH, Opns Rpt Leyte, Ser 
00302-C, 31 Jan 45, p. 8. 

78 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 31. 



T4 Rad, CTG 77.5 to GTF 77, 19 Oct 44, Sixth 
Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 19 Oct 44. 

TB Rpt, GOMINCH, Amph Opns- Invasion of the 
Philippines, GOMINGH P-008, pp. 1-3. 

Tfl CTG 77.2 to CTF 77, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch 
Jnl, 19 Oct 44. 



58 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



four to cover the southern beaches. The 
teams, starting A minus 2 (18 October ), 
were to locate underwater obstructions and 
detonate mines. On 18 and 19 October the 
underwater demolition teams made a re 
connaissance of the landing areas, accom 
panied by destroyers which bombarded the 
shores. The two days' reconnaissance dis 
closed no underwater obstacles or mines in 
the vicinity of the proposed landing beaches. 

The Convoy Enters Leyte Gulf 

By the evening of 19 October the pre 
liminary operations were almost completed. 
The beaches had been surveyed and found 
suitable for landing; mines had been cleared 
from most of the main approach channel; 
and the entrances to Leyte Gulf had been 
secured. 77 

All ships were to be prepared to attach 
paravanes (mine-cable cutting devices) on 
signal at any time after noon on 19 Octo 
ber. 78 Since the mine sweepers had not suf 
ficiently cleared the gulf, paravanes were 
attached preparatory to entering it. The 
mine sweepers were to have escorted the 
convoy into the area, but since they would 
not be ready for about two hours, the entry 
was ordered to be made without them. The 
convoy hugged the Dinagat shore line so 
closely that the distance from the center of 
the formation to the shore was only 3,800 
yards. 79 Some of the ships did not see the 
signal light which had been placed on 
Dinagat Island by the 6th Rangers and were 
delayed on that account. 

The convoy advanced without incident 



toward the target area. On the 1 8th Admiral 
Kinkaid radioed General Mac Arthur that 
the operations were going well, though the 
storm had somewhat delayed matters, and 
the General was made "welcome to our 
city." 80 Mac Arthur in reply said that he was 
"glad indeed to be in your domicile and 
under your flag. It gives me not only confi 
dence but a sense of inspiration," and, prob 
ably thinking of the many arduous months 
of planning and amphibious operations, he 
added, "As Ripley says believe it or not we 
are almost there." 81 

As the convoy came ever closer to the 
target, the atmosphere aboard the vessels 
became more and more tense. By 1800 on 
19 October most of the vessels had arrived 
outside the gulf. The Far Shore was now 
near and could be seen vaguely in the dis 
tance. On board one of the vessels Protestant 
and Catholic evening prayers were broad 
cast over the address system. Some of the 
men felt that it gave them a lift, but many 
felt that they were being administered the 
last rites of their church. 82 

All vessels arrived on schedule. Because 
the mine barrier in the entrance had not 
been completely cleared, the ships entered 
the gulf somewhat to the south of the center 
of the entrance, avoiding the main channel 
and keeping close to the northern point of 
Dinagat Island. Fears that strong ebb tides 
might impede progress of the slower vessels 
through the entrance proved groundless. 
Paravanes were retained until arrival in the 
transport areas, but no mines were encoun 
tered. 83 



"Rpt, CTF 77 to COMINCH, Amph Opn 
P-008, pp. 1-3. 

7a CTG 79.1 Movement Order, Al 73-44, 9 Oct 
44, GHQ G-3 Jnl,16 Oct 44. 

7fl Opns Rpt GTG 79.1 to GTF 79, Ser 00454, 
26 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 15 Nov 44. 



80 Msg, CTF 77 to GINGSWPA, Sixth Army G-3 
Wasatch Jnl, 18 Oct 44. 

81 Msg, GINGSWPA to CTF 77, Sixth Army G-3 
Wasatch Jnl, 18 Oct 44. 

"TarbuckRpt. 

83 Opns Rpt CTF 79 to Com7thFlt, Ser 00323, 
13 Nov 44, p. 71. 



THE RETURN 



59 



Naval plans called for bombardment of 
the enemy-held shores on A minus 2 (18 
October) , but because the water areas had 
not been completely swept for mines by 
that time, ships could not reach the bom 
bardment area. On A minus 1, bombard 
ment was chiefly for the purpose of provid 
ing effective support and coverage for the 
underwater demolition teams. However, 
many of the defenses and installations of the 
enemy on or near the landing beaches, in 
cluding buildings and supply dumps, were 
neutralized or destroyed. 

By the afternoon of 19 October, when it 
had become apparent to the Japanese that 
the Americans had returned to the Philip 
pine Islands, General Suzuki put his defense 



plan into effect. He ordered the 16th Di 
vision to annihilate the American force, 
and, failing that, to interfere as much as pos 
sible with the use of Leyte airfields by the 
American Army. The mobile units, includ 
ing two battalions from the 30th Division, 
were to speed to Leyte as fast as possible. 
Finally, the headquarters of the 35th Army 
was to move to Ormoc on the west coast of 
Leyte on the 23d or 24th of October. 84 

Through the night of 19-20 October, 
destroyers near the shore continued to shell 
the Japanese forces on land. The American 
forces were safely within Leyte Gulf A 
Day had arrived. 



84 Japanese Studies 11, 35th Army Opns, p. 24. 



CHAPTER V 



A Day: 20 October 1944 



Bombardment of the Shores of Leyte 

The waters of Leyte Gulf were glassy calm 
as the convoys bearing the assault forces 
steamed into their appointed positions off 
the shores of Leyte in the very early morning 
hours of 20 October 1944. 

There were three stages of the naval gun 
fire support : the pre-A-Day bombardment, 
A-Day bombardment, and close supporting 
missions to be delivered after H Hour and 
to continue until 24 October. A portion of 
the fire support group in support of the 
underwater demolition teams had bom 
barded the southern landing beaches and 
the town of Dulag on 18 October, a process 
which was repeated on the following day 
in support of the underwater demolition 
teams on the northern landing beaches. 1 

At 0600 on A Day, 20 October, the bat 
tleships assigned to the Southern Attack 
Force opened fire on the beaches. A lone 
Japanese plane appeared at 0612 over the 
northern beaches, circled the convoy, and 
despite gunfire from the Maryland and 
West Virginia disappeared unscathed. 2 At 
0700 the battleships of the Northern Attack 
Force commenced firing. For two hours the 
six battleships, three to each attack force, 
fired on the beaches. Since no specific targets 

1 CTF 79 Opus Rpt, Ser 00323, 13 Nov 44, (All 
naval records cited are in the Office of Naval Rec 
ords and Library.) 

2 COMBATOIV4 Opns Rpt, Ser 0322, 28 Dec 44. 



could be discerned or determined, the gun 
fire was directed at areas. Many enemy sup 
ply dumps and minor military installations 
were destroyed. An observer reported : 

Gray smoke plumes are rising from the 
shores. Battleship Mississippi is now working 
on the northern beaches. She is joined by the 
Maryland whose fire has apparently caused 
a large shore explosion. Jap ack-ack is fired 
at spotting planes but the performance is 
weak. 

Battleships move inshore and renew their 
constant thunder, Helldivers and Avengers 
from our GVE's are heading toward the 
shore. . . . 3 

At 0900 the battleships ceased their fire 
and the cruisers and destroyers moved in 
closer to the shore to deliver their scheduled 
bombardment. 4 

At 0850 gunfire was suspended in the 
vicinity of Catmon Hill, the most prominent 
coastal terrain feature near Dulag, in order 
to allow an air strike against installations in 
the interior by the planes from the CVE's 
of the amphibious force, During the day a 
total of 500 sorties by more than 140 planes 
were flown in direct support. Twelve direct 
support missions were carried out, nine 
against selected targets requested by ground 
troops and three against targets of oppor 
tunity. Dawn and dusk fighter sweeps were 
made against airfields. 5 The aircraft from 



8 Tarbuck Rpt. 

*GOMBATDIV 4 Opns Rpt, Ser 0322, 28 
Dec 44. 
* COMINGH P-008, pp. 2-8. 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



61 




CONVOY OFF LEYTE at dawn on A Day. 



the carriers, which were beyond the range 
of the guns of enemy coastal defenses, did 
not attempt secondary missions upon the 
completion of a mission in the target area. 6 
The principal bombing and strafing tar 
gets were revetments, dispersal areas, sup 
ply dumps, and bivouac areas, together with 
aircraft on islands near Leyte. Grounded 
planes were strafed and destroyed. The 
commander of the escort carriers made the 
surprising estimate that aircraft from his 
carriers had destroyed 125 planes on the 
ground and damaged an additional 90 
more in the first three days of this "close 
support at a distance." 7 Aircraft did not 



bomb the shore line, since gunfire from the 
vessels within the gulf was considered more 
effective. 

At 0900 the cruisers commenced bom* 
barding the beaches. They were joined at 
0930 by the destroyers. At 0945 the cruisers 
and destroyers lifted their fire and directed 
it at the inland areas, at the flanks of the 
landing beaches, and at important roads 
and towns. 8 

At 0800 the first anchor chains of the 
vessels had rattled out; LCVP's were 
quickly swung over the sides; boats circled 
mother ships and moved to their rendez 
vous areas. 9 The LCI mortar and LCI rocket 
ships took their places at the head of the 



6 ComSdAmph Force Opns Rpt, Ser 00317, 11 
Nov 44. 

T GTG 77.4 (Com Escort Carrier Group), Opns 
Rpt, COMINCH P-008, 30 Apr 45, Part 2, pp. 9, 

10. 



8 CTF 78 Opns Rpt, Ser 009 1 1, 10 Nov 44. 

8 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. Unless other 
wise stated all records of tactical units are in DRB 
AGO. 



62 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



assault waves. It was now 0945, fifteen min 
utes before H Hour. The LCI's raced simul 
taneously to the shores of Leyte, raking the 
landing beaches with rocket and mortar fire. 
The bombardment grew heavier and more 
monotonous. Hundreds of small boats, 
flanked by rocket ships and destroyers, 
headed toward the beaches; thousands of 
rockets hit the beaches with the rumble of 
an earthquake. It was impossible to distin 
guish one explosion from another in the un 
broken roar. 10 Over a smooth sea a hot, bril 
liant, tropical sun beat down. The American 
forces were ready to land. 

X Corps Goes Ashore 

Hours earlier reveille had sounded on 
board the transports and the troops had 
dressed by the red lights in the holds where 
they were quartered. There was very little 
talking. Many of the men sat on their bunks 
giving their weapons a final check. Others 
lay back and smoked in silence. A few sought 
the chaplains. 11 

Missions of Sixth Army Summarized 

The Sixth Army had been ordered to seize 
and establish beachheads in the Dulag and 
Tacloban areas and to secure the airfields 
in order to provide naval and air bases; and 
to seize such objectives in the Panaon Strait 
area as would permit safe passage of naval 
forces through the strait to the Gamotes 
Sea. 12 To carry out the operation General 
Krueger had assigned the 21st Infantry 
Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, to gain 
control of Panaon Strait; the XXIV Corps 
was to secure the Dulag area and its airstrip ; 



and the 1st Cavalry Division of X Corps 
was to land in the Marasbaras area and, by 
advancing north, capture the Tacloban air 
drome, the most important A-Day objective 
for the Sixth Army. At the same time, the 
24th Division, less the 21st Infantry, of the 
X Corps was to seize Palo and advance 
rapidly to the northwest. 13 The seizure of 
these areas would secure the important 
coastal airstrips for future air operations, cut 
off any Japanese attempts at reinforcement 
from the southern Philippines through the 
Mindanao Sea and Sogod Bay, secure the 
important eastern entrances into the interior, 
and enable the American forces to control 
San Pedro Bay and San Juanico Strait. 

The northernmost unit of X Corps, the 
1st Cavalry Division, was to land in the 
vicinity of San Jose ( also called San Ricardo 
and San Jose Ricardo) about three miles 
north of Palo, on White Beach. White Beach 
extended southward 2,000 yards from the 
Cataisan Peninsula. There was an interval 
of 1,500 yards between this beach and the 
northern limit of Red Beach, which was also 
2,000 yards long. 14 The 24th Division, less 
the 21st Infantry, was to land in the vicinity 
of the town of Palo, on Red Beach. (Map 5 ) 

1st Cavalry Division 

White Beach had a fairly good landing 
surface of white coral sand, but even at high 
tide it was suitable only for shallow-draft 
landing craft. Its average width was fifteen 
yards at low tide, at which time a small 
irregular bank two to three feet high ap 
peared at the water's edge. The underwater 
gradient was shallow, extending out half a 
mile in places. An irregular fringe of coco 
nut trees ran the length of the beach. In the 



10 Tarbuck Rpt. 

11 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 

12 GHQ SWPA Opns Instns 70, 21 Sep 44. 



u Sixth Army FO 25, 23 Sep 44. 

"GTF 77 Opns Rpt, Ser 00911, 10 Nov 44. 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



63 



jjjrf'"'''-' /'.#/' 'i^'t^^^^^^^^m'^. K ',' r 




LANDING BEACHES. White Beach is in the foreground, with Red Beach, bounded by the 
Palo River, beyond. 



southern section this fringe was narrow, with 
very wet and swampy cleared land behind it. 
Highway 1 roughly paralleled the beach 
about a mile inland. 15 

The roar of many guns could be heard 
as the 1st Cavalry Division prepared to 
disembark into landing boats, which were 
to rendezvous at the line of departure 5,000 
yards from shore. A pall of lazily billowing 
yellow smoke obscured the shores of Leyte. 16 

The 1st Cavalry Division, commanded by 
Maj. Gen. Verne D. Mudge, was to land on 
White Beach with brigades abreast the 1st 
Brigade on the left (south) and the 2d Bri 
gade on the right (north) and advance 
inland. The 1st Brigade, under Brig. Gen. 
William C. Chase, was to reconnoiter the 

18 CTF 78 Opns Plan 101-44, 3 Oct 44. 
w 1st Gav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p, 17. 
260317 0546 



hills on the west side of Tacloban Valley and 
establish observation posts which would 
command the entrances to the valley. The 
2d Brigade, under Brig. Gen. Hugh F. Hoff 
man, had the most important mission of the 
day. It was to advance northwest, capture 
the Tacloban airdrome and seize the Catai- 
san Peninsula, reaching Cataisan Point, the 
northern extremity of the peninsula, by 
1400. Col. William J. Bradley's 8th Cavalry 
Regiment of the 2d Brigade was held afloat 
in division reserve and was to be prepared 
to reinforce either the 1st or 2d Brigade. 17 

Flanked by rocket and gunboat LCPs, 
and preceded by amphibian tanks, the 5th 
and 1 2th Cavalry Regiments, which formed 
the 1st Brigade, and the 7th Cavalry, which 
with the 8th Cavalry (in reserve) composed 

17 1st Cav Div FO 1, 2 Oct 44, 



X CORPS LANDINGS 

20 October 1944 



CORPS A-DAY OBJECTIVE 
A-DAY ADVANCE 

Form tines only 
o 




MAP 5 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



65 



the 2d Brigade, raced for the shores of Leyte. 
The escorting rocket ships laid down a heavy 
barrage which covered the beach defenses 
to a depth of 1 ,800 yards inland and left the 
enemy incapable of organized resistance. As 
the boats neared shore, only small arms and 
machine gun fire opposed the landing. 18 As 
planned, the regiments landed abreast, the 
7th Cavalry Regiment on the right (north) 3 
the 12th Cavalry Regiment in the center, 
and the 5th Cavalry on the left (south) . 

The 1st Squadron of the 7th Cavalry was 
to land north of the 2d Squadron on the 
northern end of White Beach, which at this 
point coincided with the narrow neck of land 
connecting the Cataisan Peninsula to the 
rest of the island, and then go directly north 
to secure the entire peninsula and the air 
strip. On its left the 2d Squadron, 7th Cav 
alry, was to land on the right flank of White 
Beach, push inland, capture San Jose and a 
bridge across the Burayan River northwest 
of the town, and seize a beachhead line a 
thousand yards west of Highway 1 and three 
thousand yards from White Beach. The Ca 
taisan Peninsula would then be sealed off. 

Both squadrons landed on schedule, with 
only slight opposition, and immediately be 
gan to execute their assignments. The 2d 
Squadron, within fifteen minutes after 
landing, knocked out two pillboxes on the 
beach, killing eight Japanese in one and five 
in the other. It then organized rapidly and 
pushed on to secure its first objective, the 
town of San Jose. In the town the squadron 
engaged in a house-to-house search but 
found few Japanese. By 1230 twenty-four 
Japanese had been killed, San Jose was in 



18 Unless otherwise stated the material on the 1st 
Cavalry Division is taken from 1st Gav Div G 3 
Jnl, 20 Oct 44, and 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, 
pp. 2-4. 



American hands, and the Cataisan Penin 
sula was sealed off. The 7th Cavalry Regi 
ment established its command post on the 
west side of the town at 1245. The troops of 
the 2d Squadron then set out in a northwest 
erly direction astride the hard-surfaced, nar 
row San Jose-Tacloban road, but they were 
slowed down by swamps and flooded rice 
paddies on either side. 19 At 1400 they crossed 
the Burayan River on a bridge which the 
33d Infantry Regiment had attempted to 
destroy but had only damaged. The engi 
neers strengthened the bridge so that the 
medium tanks could cross, and at 1420 the 
forward movement continued. By 1630 the 
squadron had reached its objective a point 
3,000 yards from White Beach and im 
mediately set up its night perimeter. 

The 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry, landed 
in amphibian tractors on the north end of 
White Beach a few minutes after initial 
assault waves of the 2d Squadron, 7th Cav 
alry, had cleared the beach. It moved west 
off the beach 100 yards, pivoted to the right, 
and began to move up the Cataisan Penin 
sula. The squadron was expected to secure 
the peninsula and the airstrip with great 
speed. Engineer units had landed just be 
hind it and were waiting to start work on 
the airstrip as soon as it was seized. The 1st 
Squadron met with only light enemy opposi 
tion, the chief obstacles being the swamps, 
unoccupied pillboxes each of which had to 
be checked and the numerous Filipino 
shacks that afforded possible protection to 
the enemy. By 1600 the squadron had se 
cured the airstrip and the Cataisan Penin 
sula. 20 Later in the afternoon the squadron, 
less Troop A, was withdrawn from the 
peninsula. 

19 7th Cav Regt Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 2-4. 

20 Ibid. 



66 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




TROOPS OF THE 1ST CAVALRY DIVISION wade through a swamp to their A-Day 
objective. 



The 5th and 12th Cavalry Regiments 
landed on White Beach without incident at 
exactly 1000. Immediately beyond the nar 
row landing beach was a deep swamp 
through which the regiments must move to 
reach Highway 1 . The morass was often 
waist deep, in places even up to the armpits, 
and men of the advancing line of troops 
cursed heartily as they floundered toward 
the highway. 21 Under such circumstances it 
was impossible for the men to carry all of 
their personal equipment, and they had to 
make three trip's in order to complete the 
crossing of certain areas. At 1 100 a recon 
naissance platoon of the 5th Cavalry Regi 
ment made physical contact with elements 
of the 34-th Infantry, 24th Division, on its 
left. By 1500 both cavalry regiments were 

21 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 17. 



on Highway 1 . They pushed westward im 
mediately toward the next objective the 
foothills west of the highway. 22 Col. Royce 
E. Drake, the commanding officer of the 
5th Cavalry Regiment, went forward with 
a patrol from F Troop. At 1900, about 
three quarters of a mile south of Caibaan, 
the patrol made contact with the enemy. 
In the ensuing fight ten Japanese and one 
American were killed and two Americans 
wounded. At 1915 the 12th Cavalry Regi 
ment closed in on its A-Day objective and 
formed its night perimeter. 28 The 5th 
Cavalry Regiment formed its night perim 
eter at 2135, a few hundred yards short of 
the objective. 24 



22 1st Cav Brig Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. 

28 12th Cav Regt Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 1-2. 

K 5th Cav S~~3 Periodic Rpt 1, 20 Oct 44. 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



67 



The first elements of the 8th Cavalry 
Regiment, 2d Cavalry Brigade, the corps 
reserve, moved to White Beach at 1040, and 
by 1130 the entire reserve regiment was 
ashore. The regiment continued in corps 
reserve throughout the day and spent its 
first night in the Philippines on the western 
edge of San Jose. 25 

At 1400 General Mudge assumed com 
mand ashore of the 1st Cavalry Division and 
by 1630 had established the divisional com 
mand post at San Jose. 26 Preceded by a 
ground reconnaissance of the unit com 
manders, all of the 1st Cavalry Division ar 
tillery landed on White Beach at 1330 and 
immediately established a position in the 
vicinity of San Jose. Before nightfall all bat 
talions had registered and were prepared to 
fire, and beginning at 2115 the 61st Field 
Artillery Battalion throughout the night de 
livered harassing fire on the hills south of 
Tacloban. 27 By the end of the day the divi 
sion had secured the Cataisan Peninsula and 
the Tacloban airstrip and, after crossing 
Highway 1 , had made physical contact with 
the right flank of the 24th Infantry Divi 
sion. 28 

24th Infantry Division M 

In the southern part of the X Corps zone, 
to the left of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 
24th Infantry Division (less the 21st In 
fantry), under Maj. Gen. Frederick A. Irv 
ing, was to land on Red Beach on the morn 
ing of A Day. 30 Although there were no un- 

25 8th Cav Regt Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5. 

28 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 19. 

27 1st Cav Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3, 1st Cav 
Div Arty Unit Jnl, 20 Oct 44. 

28 1st Cav Div Msgs to X Corps, 20 Oct 44, 

29 Unless otherwise stated information in this sub 
section is taken from 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 
2-1 0, and 24th Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Oct 44. 

80 XCorpsFOl,30Sep44. 



derwater obstacles, mines, or barbed wire 
along Red Beach, the water was too shallow 
to permit vessels the size of LST's to come in 
and make a dry landing. Red Beach was 
narrow but consisted of firm sand. Back of 
it was flat, marshy ground covered with 
palm trees and jungle growth, extending 
inland in a southwesterly direction from the 
northern end of the beach. General Makino 
had converted a small stream bed in this 
area into a wide and deep tank trap which 
paralleled the beach for 1,500 yards. Several 
large, well-camouflaged pillboxes, connected 
by tunnels and constructed of palm logs and 
earth, were scattered throughout the area. 
Between the swamp and a low range of hills 
one and a quarter miles inland were open 
fields and rice paddies. The most prominent 
terrain feature was Hill 522 just north of 
Palo. This hill commanded the beach area, 
the town of Palo, and Highway 2, leading 
into the interior. It was partly wooded, and 
the 33d Infantry Regiment had interlaced it 
with tunnels, trenches, and pillboxes. 

From the beach a single deeply rutted 
and muddy exit road ran south to the Palo 
River, where it turned westward to High 
way 1 . The river was just north of the town 
of Palo and roughly paralleled Highway 2, 
which ran in a northwesterly direction from 
Palo into the interior, between the hills 
dominating this entrance to Leyte Valley. 

The 24th Division was to occupy Palo, 
advance with regiments abreast into the in 
terior in a northwesterly direction, 81 occupy 
the Capoocan Carigara-Barugo area, and 
secure Highway 1 between Palo and 
Tanauan. The 19th Infantry on the left 
(south) was to establish an initial beach 
head, advance to the west and south, seize 
Hill 522, and move on and capture Palo. 
The 34th Infantry on the right (north) was 



81 Ibid. 



68 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



to establish an initial beachhead, then move 
westward into the interior and be prepared 
to assist the 1 9th Infantry in the capture of 
Hill 522. 32 

The assaulting forces, having been trans 
ferred to landing craft, met at the line of de 
parture 5,000 yards from shore. After 
grouping, they dashed for the landing 
beaches, each regiment in column of bat 
talions. The division landed at 1000 with 
regiments abreast according to plan. The 
Japanese allowed the first five waves to land, 
but when the other waves were 3,000 to 
2,000 yards offshore, they opened strong 
artillery and mortar fire against them, 33 A 
number of the landing craft carrying the 1st 
Battalion, 19th Infantry, were hit and four 
of them sunk. There were numerous casual 
ties: the commanding officer of Company 
C was killed; a squad of the Ammunition 
and Pioneer Platoon was almost wiped out; 
and the Gannon Company suffered the loss 
of two section leaders, a platoon leader, and 
part of its headquarters personnel. 

Among the vessels hit by Japanese artil 
lery were four LST's, one of which was set on 
fire. Of the five remaining, two were driven 
away and three did not get in until much 
later. The enemy fired upon the retiring 
LST's, which carried with them the artil 
lery and most of the tanks. The command 
ing officer of Headquarters Company and 
the division quartermaster, together with 
the latter' s executive officer, were wounded. 
Many of the division headquarters person 
nel were killed or wounded. 

The first elements of the 3d Battalion, 
34th Infantry, inadvertently landed 300 
yards north of the assigned area and were 
immediately pinned down by heavy machine 



gun and rifle fire. The commanding officer 
of the regiment, Col. Aubrey S. Newman, 
arrived on the beach and, noting the situa 
tion, shouted to his men, "Get the hell off the 
beach. Get up and get moving. Follow 
me." 34 Thus urgently prompted, the men 
followed him into the wooded area. 

Company I was able to advance, but 
Company K ran into a defensive position of 
five pillboxes along a stream about seventy- 
five yards from the beach. It successfully 
stormed these pillboxes with rifles, BAR's, 
and hand grenades. The 3d Battalion then 
halted for reorganization. Company L, the 
reserve company, moved into the line south 
of Company K to close the gap between the 
19th and 34th Infantry Regiments, a gap 
created when part of the 34th landed too 
far north. 

By 1215 the 34th Infantry had cleared 
the beach area of the enemy, and the 3d 
Battalion was ready to advance across an 
open swamp to a line of trees 150 yards 
away. A preparatory concentration by 81- 
mm. mortars, tanks, and heavy machine 
guns was first laid down, At 1230 the 3d 
Battalion moved in. Although the going was 
rough and the mud waist deep, the troops 
reached the trees at 1300 and waited for 
the mortars and machine guns to arrive. 
The 3d Battalion then pushed on an addi 
tional 250 yards. 

The 2d Battalion, 34th Infantry, passed 
through the 3d Battalion^ crossed Highway 
1 at 1550, and dug in for the night 100 
yards west of the highway. 85 

The 34th Infantry established contact 
with the 1st Cavalry Division on the right 
and the 19th Infantry on the left. The 1st 
Battalion, 34th Infantry, remained in the 
beachhead area. 



* Ibid. 

1 19th Inf Regt Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1. 



84 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7. 
88 34th Inf Unit Rpt 1, 20 Oct 44. 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



69 



To the south the 19th Infantry, with the 
3d Battalion in the lead, had also struck 
heavy opposition on its sector of the beach. 
Through error the first waves of the regi 
ment landed almost directly behind the 34th 
Infantry and 800 yards north of the pro 
posed landing point. The later waves landed 
at the planned spot. 

Company K did not land on schedule, 
because its command boat broke down. 
Going in under heavy fire, the company had 
all its officers except one killed or wounded. 
One of its platoons was unable to make 
contact with the rest of the company until 
the following day. 

Company L, on the right, met little oppo 
sition on landing, established contact with 
the 34th Infantry, and reached the initial 
phase line 500 yards in from the beach. 
Company I, on the left, encountered stiff re 
sistance fifty yards off the beach. The de 
fenses of the 33d Infantry Regiment in this 
sector consisted of a tank ditch and light 
automatic weapons, mortars, 75 -mm. guns, 
and light and heavy machine guns in pre 
pared positions. Company I hit a group of 
pillboxes and knocked out several of them 
as well as a 75-mm. gun. In this action Pfc. 
Frank B. Robinson played a spectacular role. 
Crawling behind a pillbox, he dropped three 
grenades into it and then reached down and 
pulled the machine gun barrel out of line. 
After a further advance of 200 yards, when 
a flame thrower aimed at a pillbox failed 
to ignite, he threw a bundle of lighted papers 
in front of the pillbox. The operator of the 
flame thrower then fired through the blaze 
and the charge was ignited. By openly ex 
posing himself to fire from a third pillbox, 
Robinson enabled tanks to locate its posi 
tion. 36 



* Private Robinson was awarded the Distin 
guished Service Gross. 



During the next few hours platoons and 
squads fought independently. The 3d Bat 
talion, 19th Infantry, drove into the interior 
about 500 yards, where it reorganized, made 
contact with adjacent units, and then estab 
lished its perimeter on Highway 1 , 37 

The 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, had 
come in under intense fire in which several 
boats were hit, and numerous casualties oc 
curred. The battalion landed 300 yards 
north of its selected area, moved in 200 
yards, and then made a left, oblique turn in 
order to reach its predetermined assembly 
area. Company B suffered several casualties 
when it ran into strong rifle and pillbox fire, 
which pinned it down. The company was 
ordered to break off fighting and move to 
the northern edge of the Japanese positions. 
Lt. Col. Frederick R. Zierath, the command 
ing officer of the battalion, ordered the self- 
propelled guns to be brought up. They suc 
cessfully neutralized the pillbox and a sup 
porting position behind it. Company C, 
landing on the left flank of the battalion, 
was immediately pinned down by hostile 
fire. Zierath ordered it to disengage and pro 
ceed to the designated assembly area. Com 
pany A, which was split by enemy fire, re 
grouped inland and reached the assembly 
area just ahead of Company C, 

The 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, arrived 
at the beach just as the 1st Battalion was 
bypassing the initial resistance. By noon its 
first defense was formed around the beach 
head. At 1245 Company E, with a rocket 
launcher, silenced a 75-mm. gun which had 
been firing on the LST's. In its advance the 
company located two more 75-mm. guns 
which had been abandoned. Company G 
relieved Company E and prepared to move 
along the beach road southwest toward Palo, 
As the point started to move out at 1300 it 

87 19th Inf Unit Rpt 1, 20 Oct 44. 



70 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




75-MM. M8 SELF-PROPELLED HOWITZERS move in to support the infantrymen in 



their advance from the beach. 

was attacked by approximately a platoon 
from the 33d Infantry Regiment which at 
tempted to retake the gun positions. The 
Japanese were repulsed by rifle fire, leaving 
eleven dead. 

At 1430 Company G, in resuming its ad 
vance, ran at once into a series of mutually 
supporting pillboxes about 500 yards inland, 
where the beach road turns to meet High 
way 1. A stiff rifle fire fight followed, in 
which the Americans suffered fifteen casual 
ties. Since darkness was approaching, the 
battalion broke off the action and dug in 
along the road for the night. 

While the 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, 
was proceeding cautiously forward the 1st 
Battalion was working toward Hill 522. 
This hill, which rose directly from the river's 
edge north of Palo, overlooked the landing 



beaches and its upward trails were steep 
and winding. Hill 522 presented the most 
significant terrain feature which would have 
to be overcome before the American forces 
could push into the interior from Palo and 
it constituted one of the chief objectives for 
A Day. Three months earlier General 
Makino had started to fortify it, impressing 
nearly all of the male population of Palo 
for the work. By A Day they had constructed 
five well-camouflaged pillboxes of rocks, 
planking, and logs, covered with earth. 
Numerous tunnels honeycombed the hill; 
the communications, trenches were seven 
feet deep. 

During the preliminary bombardments 
the Navy had delivered some of its heaviest 
blows on the hill, and the bombardment 
was continued by Battery B of the 13th Field 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



71 




MAJ. GEN. FRANKLIN C. SIBERT (left), X Corps commander, confers with Maj. Gen. 
Frederick A. Irving, commander of the 24th Division, at a forward command post. 



Artillery Battalion and Battery A of the 63d 
Field Artillery Battalion. The 1st Battalion 
of the 19th Infantry sent reconnaissance 
parties to locate a northern route to the hill. 
The plan had been to move inland from the 
extreme south of the beachhead, but that 
area was still in Japanese hands. At 1430, 
when scouts reported finding a covered 
route on the northern side of the hill, the 
1st Battalion immediately moved out in a 
column of companies. The column had 
barely started when Company A, in the 
lead, was held up by enemy fire from the 
five pillboxes. The remainder of the bat 
talion moved north around Company A, 
and, skirting the woods, attacked Hill 522 
from the northeast, with Company C on the 
right and Company B on the left. 

The men, although tired from the day's 
activity and strain, made steady progress 



up the slope. As the troops moved upward, 
American mortars started to shell the crest 
of the hill. It was thought that this was 
artillery fire and a request was made that 
it be lifted. It came, however, from the 
chemical mortars. After a short delay the 
firing ceased. At dusk Company B reached 
the first crest of the hill and was halted by 
fire from two enemy bunkers. The company 
thereupon dug in. 

At the same time scouts from Company C 
reached the central and highest crest of the 
hill and espied about two platoons of Japa 
nese coming up the other side. They shouted 
for the remainder of the company to hurry. 
Company C got to the top of the hill barely 
ahead of the Japanese, and a sharp engage 
ment took place in which about fifty Japa 
nese were killed. Company C held the 
highest crest of the hill. During this attack, 



72 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



1st Lt. Dallas Dick was struck in the leg and 
his carbine was shot from his hands, but he 
continued to command his unit until his 
evacuation forty-eight hours later. 

During the night the Japanese made fre 
quent but unsuccessful attempts to infiltrate 
the company area and in the darkness they 
carried away their dead and wounded. 
During the action to secure Hill 522, four 
teen men of the 1st Battalion were killed 
and ninety-five wounded ; thirty of the latter 
eventually rejoined their units. General 
Irving, who had assumed command of the 
24th Division ashore at 1420, later said that 
if Hill 522 had not been secured when it 
was, the Americans might have suffered a 
thousand casualties in the assault. 

By the end of A Day, the division had 
crossed Highway 1 and established phys 
ical contact with the 1st Cavalry Division 
on its right flank. In spite of strong opposi 
tion on its left flank, the 24th Division had 
secured Hill 522, which dominated the route 
into the interior and overlooked the town 
of Palo, the entrance point into Leyte Val 
ley. Furthermore, the X Corps had now 
secured a firm beachhead area averaging a 
mile in depth and extending over five miles 
from the tip of the Cataisan Peninsula to 
the vicinity of Palo, and had captured the 
important Tacloban airstrip on the Cataisan 
Peninsula. 

XXIV Corps Goes Ashore 

While the X Corps was engaged in seizing 
a beachhead and capturing the Tacloban 
airfield, the XXIV Corps was carrying out 
its mission more than fourteen miles to the 
south. (Map 6 ) It was to land in the Dulag- 
San Jose area and establish a beachhead be 
tween Dulag and Tanauan. The Dulag air 
strip was the primary objective. The 7th and 



96th Divisions the 7th on the left (south) 
and the 96th on the right (north) made 
the landings. The most prominent terrain 
feature near the shore line is a short, finger- 
like hill range between the mouth of the 
Labiranan River and the village of Pikas. 
Ranging from 400 feet at its southern ex 
tremity, known as Labiranan Head, to 1400 
feet at Catmon Hill, southeast of Pikas, this 
hill mass dominates the surrounding plain 
for miles around. (The entire hill mass will 
hereafter be referred to as Catmon Hill.) 

The 9th Infantry Regiment, less one bat 
talion, was guarding the Catmon Hill area 
while the 20th Infantry Regiment, less one 
battalion, was defending the Dulag area. 38 

Immediately northwest of Dulag and just 
off the beach was a swamp, 39 and along the 
coast were coconut groves interspersed with 
rice fields. Many streams and rivers cut 
across the coastal plain. 40 Between Dulag 
and Labiranan Head was a good section of 
firm sand beach, backed by a broad alluvial 
plain extending ten miles inland. 

96th Infantry Division 

In the early morning hours of 20 October 
the Southern Attack Force moved to a loca 
tion off the shores of Leyte near the town of 
Dulag. The 96th Division was to land with 
regiments abreast in the area between the 
Calbasag River and the town of San Jose 
the 382d Infantry on the left (south) and 
the 383d Infantry on the right (north). 
The southern half of the division's beach 
head area was designated Blue Beaches 1 
and 2, and the northern half was known as 
Orange Beaches 1 and 2. The beaches had 



8 35th Army Opns, p. 27. 
89 GTF 79 Opns Rpt, Scr 00323, End A, 13 Nov 



44. 



1 383d Inf Regt FO 6 A, App. A, 30 Sep 44. 



XXIV CORPS LANDINGS 

20 October 1944 



Form lines only Elevations in feet 







MAP 6 



74 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



an average length of about 525 yards. The 
northern extremity of Orange Beach was 
about ten miles from the southernmost beach 
of the 24th Division in the X Corps sector. 

The order to "land the landing force" of 
the 96th Division came at 0845, and LVT's 
immediately began to spill out of the LST's 
and head for the line of departure. By 0930 
the assault waves, preceded by the amphib 
ian tank wave, had arrived at their ap 
pointed position 4,500 yards offshore. 41 At 
the head of the column were LCI gunboats 
which were to give fire support and act as 
guides for succeeding waves. The assault 
waves then headed for Blue and Orange 
Beaches. 

When the landing craft were within 100 
yards of the shore, the LCI's fired into the 
interior and to each side of the landing 
beaches. Thereupon the amphibian tanks 
began to fire directly beyond the beaches, 
in front of the advancing assault forces. The 
382d Infantry under Col. Macey L. Dill 
landed at 0950 on Blue Beach, and the 
383d Infantry under Col. Edwin T. May 
landed ten minutes later on Orange Beach. 

The 383d Infantry landed with two bat 
talions abreast the 2d Battalion on the left 
and the 1st Battalion on the right. By 1045 
both battalions had landed all of their as 
sault troops and had advanced 1,200 yards 
inland, encountering no resistance except 
intermittent mortar fire from the 9th In 
fantry Regiment in the vicinity of Catmon 
Hill. 42 Immediately befond the highway 
the two battalions reached an unsuspected 
swamp. The amphibian tanks bogged down 
at 1045 and were unable to catch up with 
^the assault troops during the rest of the day. 
Intermittent Japanese fire continued to fall 
on the beach area. The 2d Battalion crossed 

41 GTG 79.2 6pns Rpt, Ser 0032, 4 Nov 44. 

42 383d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1. 



the swamp without encountering the enemy 
and established its night perimeter 2,600 
yards inland from the landing beaches. 

The 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry, pushed 
northwest through the barrio of San Jose, 
which was on the beach, and along the 
marshy ground and swamps on the south 
bank of the Labiranan River for 2,200 
yards. It crossed the river at 1610. Company 
C placed a roadblock at the point where 
Highway 1 crossed the Labiranan River. 
After advancing 400 yards farther north 
west the battalion ran into fire from ele 
ments of the 9th Infantry Regiment. At 
1900 the battalion, still under enemy fire, 
dug in for the night. At the close of the 
day's action it was at the base of Labiranan 
Head in a position which would permit an 
attack to be launched on that terrain fea 
ture from the west. 

The 3d Battalion, which had been held 
afloat in regimental reserve, came ashore 
at 1045. It mopped up in the rear of the 
1st and 2d Battalions and established its 
night perimeter 800 yards away from the 
1st Battalion on the south bank of the 
Labiranan River. During the day the 383d 
Infantry Regiment, slowed by the terrain, 
had advanced 2,600 yards inland. 43 

As heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire 
fell on the beach, the 382d Infantry also 
landed with two battalions abreast the 2d 
Battalion to the right (north) at Blue Beach 
2 and the 3d Battalion to the left (south) 
at Blue Beach L.The 2d Battalion, though 
momentarily stopped by debris on the shore, 
was able to advance quickly and by 1025 
had penetrated 300 yards inland. This gain 
was increased to 700 yards by 1115. The 
battalion crossed Highway 1 before it en 
countered the first defensive positions of the 
9th Infantry Regiment, a series of zigzag 

43 Ibid. 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



75 




BEACH AREA 

deserted trenches roughly paralleling the 
beach. Although the 2d Battalion met no 
enemy opposition, the intense heat and the 
swampy ground made progress slow. At 
1630, when the battalion formed a perim 
eter for the night, it had pushed inland 
approximately 2,500 yards. 

The amphibian tractors carrying the 3d 
Battalion, 382d Infantry, were held up by 
the tank barriers of coconut logs and debris 
on the beach, and the troops were forced to 
debark at the water's edge. Several hundred 
yards off the beach this battalion began to 
receive heavy fire from Hill 120, which was 
about 600 yards from the beach. The hill 
dominated the regimental beach area M 
and was the A-Day objective for the bat 
talion. The fire pinned down the battalion. 



1 382d Inf Unit Jnl, 20 Oct 44. 



as seen from Hill 120. 

which thereupon called for mortar support 
and naval gunfire. The resulting barrage 
forced the Japanese out of their positions, 
and at 1040 the battalion advanced and 
captured Hill 120. 

The 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, which 
had been in floating reserve, landed on Blue 
Beach 1 and moved to the foot of Hill 120 to 
support the 3d Battalion. Immediately be 
yond the hill there was a small meadow 
rimmed by a deep swamp. The enemy fired 
upon the hill throughout the day but could 
not dislodge the 3d Battalion. This steady 
fire and the presence of the swamp limited 
the A-Day advance of the 3d Battalion to 
1,300 yards inland from the landing beach. 

At the end of the day, despite the swampy 
terrain and the harassing fire of the Jap 
anese, the 382d Infantry had advanced ap 
proximately 2,500 yards on the northern 



76 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



flank and 1 ,300 yards on the southern flank. 
Contact had been established at 1600 with 
the 32d Infantry, 7th Division, on the left 
flank, and the 383d Infantry, 96th Division, 
on the right flank/ 15 

At 1630 the assault forces of the 96th Di 
vision consolidated their positions and set up 
defense perimeters for the night. During the 
day the division had captured the barrio of 
San Jose, established control over both sides 
of , the Labiranan River, captured Hill 120 
overlooking the beach area, and progressed 
well inland. Although all units of the division 
fell considerably short of the objective for 
A Day, this delay was due fully as much to 
the swampy and difficult terrain as it was 
to enemy resistance. The 381st Infantry 
Regiment remained in Sixth Army floating 
reserve throughout the day. 46 

Maj. Gen. James L. Bradley arrived 
ashore at 1750, and at 1800 he assumed 
command of the 96th Infantry Division. 
The three light artillery battalions of the 
division had landed and were in position by 
1800. 

7th Infantry Division 

Concurrently with the landings of the 
96th Division, the 7th Division, on the left, 
was establishing a beachhead in its zone of 
action just south of the 96th Division. At 
0800 the assault troops of the 7th Division 
began to clamber down the nets of their 
transports into landing boats which were to 
carry them in the dash for the shore. 47 By 

" 382d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. 

43 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 33-37. 

4T Unless otherwise stated, the part of this sub 
section dealing with the 7th Infantry Division is 
taken from the following: 7th Inf Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, pp. 3-5; 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Oct 44; 
and 7th Inf Div FO 9, 1 Oct 44. 



0815 they were boated and at the line of 
departure, 

The 7th Division was to land on Violet 
and Yellow Beaches. Violet Beach ex 
tended 785 yards north from the northern 
edge of Dulag. The northern half of Yellow 
Beach, called Yellow Beach 2, which was 
south of Violet Beach and contiguous to it, 
was 400 yards long. Between the northern 
and southern halves of Yellow Beach was a 
swamp. The southern half of Yellow Beach, 
Yellow Beach 1, was approximately 425 
yards in length and was located south of 
Dulag and north of the Daguitan River 
mouth. 

The 7th Division was to go ashore be 
tween the Calbasag and Daguitan Rivers 
with regiments abreast the 32d Infantry 
on the right (north) and the 184th Infantry 
on the left (south) ; the 17th Infantry, less 
its 3d Battalion, was in reserve. The prin 
cipal A-Day objectives were the barrio of 
Dulag and its airstrip. The 3d Battalion, 
17th Infantry, was to swing south and se 
cure the bridge and the crossing of the 
Daguitan River at Dao and the crossing 
of the Talisay River. 

The 32d Infantry, under Col. Marc J. 
Logie, was to land on the northern and 
southern portions of Violet Beach, drive into 
the interior, and protect the right flank of 
the division. The 184th Infantry, com 
manded by Col. Curtis D. O'Sullivan, was 
to land on Yellow Beach 1 and Yellow 
Beach 2 and then drive inland, directing its 
main effort toward an early seizure of the 
airfield west of Dulag. It was also to seize 
and secure the crossings of the Daguitan 
River. 

After the landing waves had formed at 
the line of departure, the landing craft 
started for the beaches, preceded by the 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



77 



776th Amphibian Tank Battalion. As it got 
ashore, the tank battalion received hostile 
mortar and small arms fire that came from 
a tank barrier of coconut palm logs near the 
water's edge. The battalion overcame this 
opposition fifteen minutes after landing and 
advanced a distance of 200 yards inland to 
positions from which it could support the 
infantry. 48 According to plan, the 32d and 
184th Infantry Regiments followed abreast. 
The 32d Infantry landed with two battal 
ions abreast the 2d on the right and the 3d 
on the left. The regiment encountered minor 
resistance at the beach, consisting of light 
rifle fire and sporadic artillery and mortar 
fire. By 1023 the 3d Battalion had landed 
all its assault troops and by 1030 seven 
assault waves of the 2d Battalion had 
reached the shore. As the two battalions pro 
ceeded inland, they met opposition from the 
enemy. 

The 2d Battalion landed on the edge of a 
cemetery in which were small groups of the 
enemy very much alive. By 1 100 these were 
subdued by rifle fire and the battalion was 
able to advance without difficulty into the in 
terior. At about 1300 the 2d Platoon of 
Company F, after advancing some 600 
yards, ran into fire from three pillboxes con 
cealed in the tall cogon grass on the right 
flank. Tanks were brought up to knock out 
the enemy pillboxes. The advance then con 
tinued. By 1315 the 2d Battalion made 
physical contact with elements of the 96th 
Division on the right. Shortly after 1400 
the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 32d Infantry 
made contact and reached Highway 1 . 49 

Companies L and K of the 3d Battalion, 
32d Infantry, landed abreast. Company L, 
on the left, ran into heavy fire from Japanese 
machine gunners who had waited until the 

48 776th Amph Tank Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 
40 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 20 Oct 44. 



leading elements of the company exposed 
themselves. The Japanese were entrenched 
in bunkers emplaced in hedgerows and 
banana groves. The pillboxes, which were 
mutually supporting, were located at the 
ends of the hedgerows and occasionally in 
the middle of an open field. Each pillbox 
had machine guns and antitank guns. 
Company L suffered a number of casualties 
and was pinned down. The enemy gunners 
then turned to Company K and stopped its 
forward movement. In the space of fifteen 
minutes two officers and six men of the 3d 
Battalion were killed, and one officer and 
eighteen men wounded. Of the medium 
tanks that had come ashore at 1030, three 
were sent to support Company L and two 
to support Company K. The latter two were 
knocked out before they could adjust their 
fire on the pillboxes. The leading tank sent 
in support of Company L was knocked out 
by a direct hit from an antitank gun. With 
two tanks remaining, it was decided to hit 
the flanks of the entrenched pillboxes at 
1345. A platoon of Company K went to the 
right and another platoon from the com 
pany to the left. Simultaneously the remain 
ing elements of the two companies, co 
ordinating with the tanks, assaulted the 
pillboxes. The heavy volume of fire kept the 
enemy guns quiet until they could be fin 
ished off with grenades. The pillboxes were 
knocked out without further casualties. 

Paralleling the route of advance of Com 
pany L were several hedge fences, behind 
which were enemy machine guns and mor 
tars. Although under heavy fire, the com 
pany was able to break through the first 
barriers with the aid of the tanks. At 1630, 
since the enemy fire continued in volume, 
the 32d Infantry withdrew and established 
a defensive position for the night. During 
the day the 32d Infantry had reached a 



78 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



general line along Highway 1. The 2d Bat 
talion had advanced 400 yards beyond the 
highway and the 3d Battalion 100 yards. 50 

The 184th Infantry landed at 1000, two 
battalions abreast the 1st on the southern 
half of Yellow Beach and the 3d on the 
northern half. They encountered surpris 
ingly little resistance on either beach and 
were able to push inland at a much greater 
speed than had been anticipated. The 3d 
Battalion drove through the town of Dulag, 
which lay directly in its path, to the Dulag- 
Burauen Highway. The 1st Battalion pushed 
inland and reached the highway at 1210, 
just fifteen minutes after the 3d Battalion. 
At 1530 the two battalions established phys 
ical contact and maintained it throughout 
the. day as they continued their advance 
along the highway. At 1255 the 2d Battal 
ion, 184th Infantry, landed on Yellow 
Beach and went into regimental reserve on 
the regiment's southern flank. As the ad 
vance of the 32d Infantry on the right 
slowed up, Company G, 184th Infantry, 
was committed to fill the gap which had 
developed between the two regiments. At 
1835 the 184th Infantry, although it had 
failed to secure the Dulag airstrip, formed 
its night perimeter along the edge of the 
strip. 51 At the end of the day the regiment 
had no battle casualties, but three men had 
been overcome by the heat. Eleven Japanese 
had been killed in the regiment's zone. 52 

The 17th Infantry, less its 3d Battalion, 
was kept in 7th Division reserve. The 3d 
Battalion of the 17th had come ashore at 
1500 on the southern end of Yellow Beach. 
The battalion pushed west and south 
through light opposition, seizing the bridge 

80 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 
n 184th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. 
52 184th Inf Jnl,200ct44. 



over the Daguitan River at Dao, and by 
2100 had established a bridgehead south of 
the river and made contact with the 184th 
Infantry on the right. At the end of the first 
day's fighting the 7th Division had gained 
possession of the Leyte shore in its zone and 
penetrated inland 600 yards on the right and 
nearly 2,300 yards on the left. It had also 
reached the edge of the Dulag airstrip. By 
nightfall the XXIV Corps had established 
a firm beachhead line extending along the 
coast from San Jose on the north to just be 
low Dao on the south. 

Seventy miles to the south the 21st In 
fantry Regiment of the 24th Division, which 
was detailed to land in the vicinity of 
Panaon Strait on 20 October at 0930, half 
an hour before the launching of the great 
offensive, and to secure control of that en 
trance to Sogod Bay, successfully accom 
plished its mission. It encountered no 
Japanese. 

Thus at the end of A Day the Sixth Army 
had succeeded in landing assault forces all 
along the eastern coast of Leyte and was in 
control of Panaon Strait. Its casualties 
amounted to 49 men killed, 192 wounded, 
and 6 missing in action. There remained a 
gap of nearly ten miles between the X and 
XXIV Corps. The Tacloban airstrip on the 
Cataisan Peninsula had been secured and 
the American forces were on the edge of the 
airstrip at Dulag. Nearly as important as 
the capture of the airstrip was the seizure 
of Hill 522, which commanded the entrance 
to the broad Leyte Valley at Palo. The ad 
vance echelon of General Headquarters had 
opened on Leyte Island at 1200. 68 On the 
following day, when adequate communica 
tion facilities had been established, Generals 



68 Rad, GHQ SWPA to CG Sixth Army, Sixth 
Army G-3 Rear Jnl, 2 1 Oct 44. 









LT. GEN. WALTER KRUEGER AND COL. RUPERTO K. KANGLEON 

of the guerrilla forces head for the beach (above). Krueger talks with men of the 7th Division 
on the beach near Dulag (below). 




260317 O 5- 



80 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Krueger, Sibert, and Hodge assumed com 
mand ashore of the Sixth Army, X Corps, 
and XXIV Corps, respectively. 

Most of the 16th Division had withdrawn 
during the naval and air bombardment 
which took place just prior to the landing. 
The immediate invasion of the troops after 
this pounding enabled the Americans to se 
cure most of the coastal defenses before the 
enemy could regroup and return. As a con 
sequence, the only Japanese forces encoun 
tered were those left behind to fight a delay 
ing action. The meeting with the enemy in 
force was yet to come. 

Bringing in Supplies 

While the assault forces were securing the 
beaches of Leyte, supplies were being poured 
in to support the operation. Within an hour 
after the first assault wave hit the hostile 
shores, rations, equipment, and other sup 
plies were being rushed to the beaches. 
Each man going ashore carried a change of 
clothing in his pack, two days' supply of 
emergency rations, one day's supply of D 
rations, and two filled canteens, in addition 
to his gas mask, weapons, and ammunition. 

The Navy was responsible for transport 
ing the troops and supplies to the target 
area. Ships' companies unloaded the cargo 
from the cargo vessels and transported it in 
small craft to the beaches. Many of the ships 
had been improperly loaded for the journey 
to Leyte. The cargo should have been so 
loaded that articles first needed would be the 
last put on board ; instead it had been stowed 
haphazardly, with little attention given to 
the problem of unloading. 

As a result of the faulty stowage of sup 
plies on the ships, many badly needed items 
were at the bottoms of the holds, and articles 
that would not be needed until later in the 



operation were piled on top of them. The 
supplies were set ashore in random fashion 
and then were carelessly thrown on trucks 
and other vehicles. This sort of handling 
resulted in a loss of carrying capacity, in slow 
removal of the loads, and in a consequent 
delay in the return of vehicles to the landing 
beaches. 

The LSM's were used to very good ad 
vantage in the unloading of the APA's and 
AKA's. Vehicles and supplies could be load 
ed on them without difficulty, and in addi 
tion, two hatches on the LSM's could be 
worked at the same time. On each of the 
APA's, AKA's, and LST's which carried 
troops, a labor crew was detailed to remain 
on board to assist in the unloading, 54 

At the beach, the Army took over the 
cargo and moved the supplies to prear 
ranged dumps. On the northern beaches in 
the X Corps sector, the Army shore party 
was composed of the 53 2d and 592d Engi 
neer Boat and Shore Regiments of the 2d 
Engineer Special Brigade. After landing, 
these units facilitated the movement of 
troops, vehicles, and supplies across the 
beaches and controlled all unloading opera 
tions. 55 The 1122d and 1140th Engineer 
Combat Groups supervised the unloading 
in the XXIV Corps sector. They were assist 
ed by naval beach parties from the VII Am 
phibious Force, which brought the cargo 
ashore. 

The beachhead areas at which the sup 
plies were unloaded varied in quality and 
depth. Most of the beaches on which the 7th 
and 96th Divisions landed were very good, 56 



84 Extracted Report of Landing on Leyte in the' 
Philippine Islands by an Australian Officer Attached 
to the Northern Assault Force Landing at Red 
Beach. Copy in OGMH. 

w 2d ESB Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1 . 

56 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, Engr Rpt, p. 232. 




UNLOADING SUPPLIES AT DULAG on A Day (above), and (below) general view 
of the beach area on 22 October 1944. 




82 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



as contrasted with those in the X Corps area 
where the 24th Infantry Division and 1st 
Cavalry Division came ashore. The greatest 
difficulty was encountered along Red Beach, 
where the 24th Division landed. This stretch 
of coast line was ill adapted to the unloading 
of supplies, having poor exits and offering 
few dispersal areas ashore. 57 

LST's approaching Red Beach were un 
der intense enemy fire. Four of them re 
ceived direct hits. 58 Nearly all of the LST's 
were grounded 100 to 200 yards from the 
beach. Only one of them was able to come 
within forty to fifty yards of the beach, and 
it succeeded in unloading its cargo of heavy 
equipment only with considerable diffi 
culty. 59 Another put off a bulldozer, which 
disappeared in seven feet of water. With 
difficulty the other LST's withdrew and re 
turned to the transport area. 60 

The shore parties on both Red and White 
Beaches (X Corps sector) did not land early 
enough to effect a proper organization be 
fore the cargo began to come in. Although 
the parties worked hard, they were under 
manned, and it was necessary to augment 
them by "volunteers 53 in order to unload the 
large volume of cargo. 61 It had been planned 
to establish temporary beach dumps at the 
point of unloading of each LST, but since 
at Red Beach the LST's could not get 
ashore, the plans had to be changed. These 
craft were diverted to the 1st Cavalry Di 
vision's White Beach 2,000 yards north. 
The LSM's and LCM's were able to dis 
charge their vehicles in three or four feet 

37 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, G-4 Rpt, p. 218. 

58 Ltr, CG 2d ESB to CG Sixth Army, 22 Oct 44, 
2d ESB Jnl and Jnl File. 

BS GTU 78.1.7 Opns Rpt, GOMINGH P-008, 
Part 5, p. 2. 

00 Ltr, GG 2d ESB to GG Sixth Army, 22 Oct 44, 
2d ESB Jnl and Jnl File. 

61 CTU 78.2.1 and 78.2.3 Opns Rpt, GOMINGH 
P-008, Part 5, p. 3. 



of water. Many of these, being poorly water 
proofed, stalled and had to be pulled ashore. 
Once there, the heavily loaded vehicles 
churned up the sand, and many of them 
sank so deeply that they had to be pulled 
out. 02 

The strong resistance of the Japanese and 
the difficult terrain limited the depth of the 
24th Division's beachhead and prevented 
the establishment of division dumps beyond 
the beachhead areas. As a result, most of the 
supplies and nearly all supporting and serv 
ice troops had to be concentrated on the 
first three or four hundred yards of the 
beachhead. Fortunately there was no bomb 
ing or strafing of the area, and although the 
development of exit roads was slow, the 
congestion on the beach was cleared before 
trouble developed. 03 

The diversion of the 24th Division's 
LST's to the beaches of the 1st Cavalry Di 
vision naturally strained the facilities of the 
beach and shore parties on White Beach. 
The southern end of White Beach also 
proved unsuitable for landing LST's, which 
consequently were shifted to the northern 
end.^ However, the Army shore parties or 
ganized White Beach immediately upon 
landing. A two-way road was cleared along 
the beach with military police directing traf 
fic. Dump areas were marked off by white 
ribbons, and sign posts were erected. The 
supplies were unloaded from the landing 
craft by roller conveyors and "fire brigade 
methods" directly onto the waiting trucks 
and trailers. 65 After the ships had been un- 



62 Lts, CG 2d ESB to CG Sixth Army, 22 Oct 44, 
2d ESB Jnl and Jnl File. 

08 Maj F. W. Doyle to Brig Gen L. J. Whitlock, 
Rpt of Observations, KING II Opn, 4 Nov 44, 
GHQ G-4 Jnl, AGO KCRC, 
. M 2d ESB Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 

w Maj Doyle to Gen Whitlock, Rpt of Observa 
tions, KING II Opn, 4 Nov 44, GHQ G-4 Jnl. 



A DAY: 20 OCTOBER 1944 



83 



loaded the shore parties consolidated all of 
the supplies into dumps as rapidly as pos 
sible. The rations and ammunition, which 
were loaded on fifteen LVT's, were kept 
mobile to the rear of the troops. 66 

When Leyte was substituted for Yap as 
the target, it had been decided that the 96th 
Division should unload troops and supplies 
at Leyte as rapidly as possible. Consequently, 
supplies were unloaded with little regard for 
the order in which items would be needed 
ashore. 07 

There was no general unloading on the 
beach in the XXIV Corps area until the late 
afternoon of A Day, when water, rations, 
and ammunition were sent ashore. For about 
an hour the unloading proceeded satisfac 
torily, but the beach soon became congested. 
The beach parties brought in the supplies 
faster than they could be handled by the 
shore parties. 68 At one time more than eighty 
loaded boats waited over five hours before 
they could be unloaded. The slowness of the 
shore parties in unloading the boats was not 
entirely their fault. Many of the boats were 
improperly loaded with mixed cargo, a situa 
tion which caused the boats to ship water. 
They were forced to come in to the beach or 
sink. The shore parties were also handi 
capped by a lack of workers. A shore 
party of 250 men included headquarters 
personnel, military police, and communica 
tions men, leaving only fifty or sixty workers. 
The unloading was further retarded by lack 
of sufficient mechanical equipment and 

63 7th Gav Opns Rpt Leyte, Supplementary An 
nex, p. 3. 

er 96th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 73. 

68 Rpt of Sup Off to CO Funston, 23 Oct 44, in 
GO USS Frederick Funston Opns Rpt, Set 0101, 
31 Oct 44. The boat crews and beach parties had 
been fortified with a lunch consisting of turkey 
salad, ham and cheese, hot steak sandwiches, ice 
cream, and cold fruit juices. The Army assault 
troops carried K rations. 



failure to make full use of available trans 
portation. 60 

Loose cargo piled up on the beaches faster 
than it could be taken to the dump sites. 70 
A deep swamp, 250 yards inland and paral 
lel to Blue Beach, also limited the extension 
of dumps in that area. The congestion 
was relieved the next day, when the supplies 
were taken to selected dump sites nearly as 
fast as they could be removed from the boats. 

In the Dulag area, the organization of 
the shore party and its operations were well 
co-ordinated. 71 In the initial phase the 7th 
Division employed the "drugstore system 33 
whereby DUKW's carried the supplies di 
rectly to the front-line consumers of the di 
vision from specially loaded LST's which 
had been anchored off the landing beaches. 72 
By using this method the division was able to 
deliver critical supplies to the combat troops 
within an hour after the request was re 
ceived. At the same time, other supplies and 
equipment could be put ashore without 
interruption. 

In the wake of the initial assault waves, 
the engineer, troops landed and began at 
once to clear the beaches, prepare dump 
sites, and build access roads. The men 
worked around the clock in six-hour shifts. 73 

Within four hours the 7th Division's shore 
party was prepared to start full-scale opera 
tions, and two hours later began to issue 
supplies to the assault forces. Since the cargo 
came ashore in nets, it was possible to use 
cranes and bulldozers to good advantage. 
The cargo was initially moved over the 



c9 Com3dAmph Force Opns Rpt, Ser 00317, 11 
Nov 44. 

70 96th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 73-75. 

71 CTG 79.1 Opns Rpt, COMINGH P-008, Part 
5, p. 15. 

72 7th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, G-4 Rpt. 

73 CTG 71.1 Opns Rpt, GOMINGH P-008, 
Part 5, p. 15. 



84 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



landing beaches to regimental beach dumps 
500 yards inland, and as vehicles landed 
they were driven to temporary assembly 
areas or directly to their organizations. 7 ' 1 
Six hours after the first assault wave hit the 
beaches the 7th Division abandoned the 
floating drugstore system, since by that time 
sufficient supplies had been brought ashore 
to fill requisitions directly from the dumps. 75 
During the day a total of 107,450 tons of 
supplies and equipment were discharged 



74 7th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, G-4 Rpt. 
75 1140th Engr Const Gp Shore Party Opns Rpt 
Leyte. 



over the beaches of the Sixth Army. Al 
though the beaches in some instances were 
extremely congested, steps had been initiated 
to relieve the situation. 

News of the success of the American forces 
in establishing a beachhead on Leyte the 
first foothold in the Philippine Islands was 
joyfully received by the American nation. 
The President radioed congratulations to 
General MacArthur and added, "You have 
the nation's gratitude and the nation's 
prayers for success as you and your men 
fight your way back. . , ." 70 

70 The New York Times, October 20, 1944. 



CHAPTER VI 



The Japanese Reaction 

The Japanese undertook the defense of armed forces to do battle with the Ameri- 

Leyte with serene assurance. Their pilots cans. 

had erroneously reported the naval battle The essence of the Imperial General 

off Formosa as a great victory and declared Headquarters plan was simple. The Ameri- 

that only remnants of the once strong Amer- can convoys and carriers were to be given 

ican Navy remained. The defeatist attitude complete freedom in their journey to the 

of the summer of 1944 vanished. Philippine Islands. When they were suffi- 

During the summer there had been dis- ciently close to make retreat difficult, the 

agreement among the Japanese military main strength of the Japanese Army, Navy, 

leaders. Imperial General Headquarters and Air Forces would descend upon them 

felt that the decisive battle should be fought and deliver a knockout blow. If the opera- 

on Luzon and only delaying actions taken tion were launched too early, the Americans 

in other areas. To this the 14th Area Army could annihilate the inferior Japanese air 

agreed. The Southern Army, on the other strength before the battle could be fought; 

hand, believed that it would be impossible if too late, the Americans could escape and 

to wage a successful battle on Luzon if other the objective would be lost. Imperial Gen- 

areas, especially the Visayan Islands, were eral Headquarters, therefore, was "patiently 

allowed to fall into American hands. Since waiting" for the opportune moment. 2 
these islands, if captured, could be used as 

Allied air bases, the decisive battle should be j^ ^ Forces 
fought whenever and wherever the Amer 
icans attacked. 1 On the evening of 17 October the 4th 

Confident that the U. S. fleet had suffered Air Am ^ upon rec ei v ing word that the 

grievously in the battle off Formosa, the ^ s> forceg were in the vidni rf Suban 

Japanese closed ranks and all the commands j^ Qrdered ^ entire u ^ Div{sion 

agreed that the time was most opportune to to ^^ ^ Americans , The main st th 

deliver the coup de grace. The foolhardy - x , , A . , x , 

A . ill i n T . ot the nernter units was to be concentrated 

Americans would take a severe drubbing, , , , - ^ M . . 

i T j- , r i -v - in the central and southern rhiiippmes 

and Japan, after a long series of humiliating . . . , . . . rr _ 

and costly defeats, would regain the initia- areas ' Althou ^ h ^ ad Bather prevented a 
tive. It was therefore a jubilant Imperial reconnaissance, the increase in American 
General Headquarters that ordered its air raids on the central and southern PhUip- 
pines made it imperative for the Japanese to 



1 Japanese Studies in WW II, 21, Hist of South- 

ern Army, 1941-45, OCMH. 3 Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, p. 139. 



86 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



attack with their main air force. The 2d Air 
Division was ordered to move from Clark 
Field on Luzon to Bacolod on Negros 
Island. It was unable to do this because of 
' the bad weather, and it was therefore unable 
to forestall the American landings. The 
commander of the 4th Air Army decided on 
21 October, as a result of the American 
landings, to use the entire air force under his 
command., employing the 7th Air Division 
and the 30th Fighter Group, in addition to 
the 2d Air Division. The 12th Air Brigade 
of the 30th Fighter Group had just arrived 
in the Philippines from Japan, via Shang 
hai, and it was necessary to employ this 
brigade immediately because of the impend 
ing battle in Leyte Gulf. 

All the various units were to launch an 
attack against the American land forces and 
shipping by the evening of 23 October. On 
24 October there was to be a series of aerial 
attacks, the first early in the morning with 
the entire force; the second consisting of 
two waves; the third by the entire force in 
the evening; and during the night by waves 
of heavy and light bombers and assault 
planes. 3 

The Americans anticipated increased 
aerial activity over Leyte, and therefore the 
number of fighters was increased on 24 Oc 
tober to 36, on call from 0545 till dark, with 
an additional 16 fighters ready for immedi 
ate action upon request. Twenty-eight of 
the 36 were assigned to the attack force com 
manders and 8, retained by General Krue- 
ger, patrolled the beachhead area and pro 
vided additional fighters when and where 
they were needed. 

The Leyte area was subjected to a heavy 
air assault on the same day, 24 October, 
when an estimated 150 to 200 enemy planes 
(mostly twin-engined bombers ) approached 



northern Leyte. Sixty-six were definitely 
shot down and eighteen others were prob 
ably shot down. 4 On the American side, 
forty combat air patrol and ten direct sup 
porting planes participated in this engage 
ment. Three American aircraft crash- 
landed two on the Tacloban airstrip and 
one in the water. 5 Only a small percentage 
of the American air activity was directed 
toward the neutralization of the enemy air 
force, as most of the available aircraft were 
attacking the Japanese fleet. The Japanese 
were determined to "make Leyte the de 
cisive air battlefield as well as the decisive 
ground and naval battlefield of the Philip 
pines." For the first time since the Allied 
counteroffensive in the Pacific had started 
rolling, the Japanese, for an extended pe 
riod, risked aircraft in great numbers in day 
light raids as well as at night. The shipping 
off Tacloban and Dulag and the Tacloban 
airfield were the principal targets, though 
other air installations on the island were hit. 
An example of the enemy's dogged determi 
nation occurred during the evening and 
night of 27 October. At twilight, twelve en 
emy fighters and dive bombers dropped 100- 
pound bombs in the vicinity of Tacloban 
and tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to 
strafe the Tacloban airstrip. After a lull, the 
Japanese aircraft renewed the aerial assault 
just before midnight and continued almost 
uninterruptedly until dawn. Between 2332 
and 0125, there were nine raids of two to 
four planes each; between 0340 and 0450, 
three raids of two to four planes each ; and 
between 0454 and 0555 five additional 
planes made an attack on the area. 7 The 



s 4th Air Army Opns, pp. 38-43. 



4 Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 24 Oct 44. 
B Sixth Army G-2 Jnl, 24 Oct 44. 
8 Hist of V Bomber Command, Gh. 4, Jul-Dec 
44, p. 73, AAF Hist Archives. 
7 Ibid., pp. 73-75. 



;, j , :" ; 

' "_ *', ' ' "! ' ' ' , ' * / ''<,V > J U ' 1 "*,"!' t ' y* 







JAPANESE AIR ATTACKS on shipping (above) and supply dumps (below) were a con 
stant threat during the early days of the invasion. 




88 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Tacloban airstrip frequently was "well illu 
minated" by burning aircraft. 8 

The 2d Air Division assaulted American 
shipping from 24 through 28 October, but 
because of the increasing necessity for giving 
air cover to the convoys the main strength 
of fighters of the 4th Air Army was used to 
protect the transportation of reinforcements 
of the 14th Area Army of Leyte. From 25 
October on, the Bacolod airfield and the air 
forces protecting the Japanese convoys going 
to Leyte were attacked by American 
bombers and suffered serious losses. Since 
it had to participate in every phase of the 
action, the losses of the 4th Air Army were 
heavy. 9 

After 1 November the Japanese increas 
ingly felt the American air power through 
attacks upon their air bases and shipping. 
Their fighter units, which had suffered con 
siderable losses in protecting the convoys, 
were ordered to counterattack. They were 
not successful. At the same time the 4th 
Air Army received orders to protect the 
reinforcement convoys in the Manila area. 
By this time the Japanese air forces' wings 
had been clipped and "what had once been 
a formidable weapon was transformed into 
a sacrificial army of guided missiles." 10 The 
suicidal kamikaze pilot became the sole 
hope of the Japanese air forces. 

The Battle of Leyte Gulf 
Japanese Naval Plans 

On 2 1 July the chief of the naval general 
staff .Imperial General Headquarters, issued 
a directive for subsequent "urgent opera- 

8 Hist of 7th Fighter Sq, 49th Fighter Gp, 86th 
Fighter Wing, V Fighter Comd, Fifth Air Force, 
Nov44, p. 1, AAF Hist Archives. 

9 USBSS, Campaigns of the Pacific War, p. 285. 
16 Ibid. 



tions." n The operational policy to be fol 
lowed by the Combined Fleet was as fol 
lows: 

1. Make utmost effort to maintain and 
make advantageous use of the strategic status 
quo; plan to smash the enemy's strength; take 
the initiative in creating favorable tactical 
opportunities, or seize the opportunity as it 
presents itself to crush the enemy fleet and 
attacking forces. 

2. Go-operate in close conjunction with 
the Army, maintain the security of sectors 
vital to national defense, and prepare for 
future eventualities. 

3. Go-operate closely with related forces 
to maintain security of surface routes between 
Japan and vital southern sources of mate 
rials. 12 

On 26 July the chief of the naval general 
staff informed Admiral Toyoda, Com 
mander in Chief, Combined Fleet, that the 
future "urgent operations" were to be known 
as the SHO (Victory) Operations. There 
would be four SHO Operations. The first 
was to cover the defense of the Philippine 
Archipelago. 13 It was essentially the last 
chance for Japan to remain in the war. Said 
Admiral Toyoda of the situation at the time 
of the battle of Leyte Gulf : 

Since without the participation of our 
Combined Fleet there was no possibility of 
the land-based forces in the Philippines hav 
ing any chance against your forces at all ; it 
was decided to send the whole fleet, taking 
the gamble. If things went well, we might 
obtain unexpectedly good results; but if the 
worst should happen, there was a chance 
that we would lose the entire fleet. But I felt 
that that chance had to be taken. . . . 
Should we lose in the Philippines operations, 
even though the fleet should be left, the ship 
ping lane to the south would be completely 
cut off, so that the fleet, if it should come back 
to Japanese waters, could not obtain its fuel 

11 Ibid. 

13 Ibid:, App. 87, p. 292. 

M lbid, 9 App. 88, p. 294. 



THE JAPANESE REACTION 



89 



supply. If it should remain in southern waters, 
it could not receive supplies of ammunition 
and arms. There would be no sense in saving 
the fleet at the expense of the Philippines. 14 

Since their carrier force was weak, the 
Japanese had developed a plan based upon 
the main gunnery strength of the fleet and 
upon the land-based air forces. Battleships 
and cruisers from a southern base were to 
approach Leyte from the south, fight their 
way to the landing beaches, and destroy Al 
lied assault shipping. A decoy force was to 
attempt to lure the U.S. carrier task force 
away from the main action. Shore-based air 
forces were to inflict maximum damage on 
the American carrier forces whenever and 
wherever possible, but once the invasion 
came they were to conserve their strength 
until the day of the landings, when all the 
Allied assault shipping would be concen 
trated off the beaches and when their at 
tacks on the U.S. carriers would assist the 
advancing Japanese fleet. The plan was de- 
, signed to get the Japanese naval gunnery 
force into a position where it could do the 
greatest damage. Little attention was paid 
to getting it out. "The war had reached a 
point where the Japanese fleet, hopelessly 
outnumbered and, as imminent events 
would prove, even more hopelessly out 
classed, could not risk the fleet action it had 
previously desired but was forced to expend 
itself in suicidal attack upon the United 
States transports." 16 

Upon receiving information on 17 Octo 
ber that American vessels were off the 
shores of Suluan Island, Admiral Toyoda 
immediately alerted his forces. On 18 Octo 
ber Toyoda, after intercepting American 
messages dealing with the landings on the 
island approaches to Leyte Gulf, activated 



his plan for the defense of the Philippine 
Islands. The target date (X Day) for the 
fleet engagement was set for 22 October but 
logistical difficulties caused a series of delays 
and on 21 October Admiral Toyoda 
changed X Day to 25 October. "From the 
far corners of the shrinking Empire the 
whole combatant strength of the Japanese 
Navy converged on Leyte Gulf." 16 

The Naval Battle 17 

The strongest Japanese naval force the 
1st Diversion Attack Force moved from 
the south, reached Brunei Bay in northwest 
Borneo on 20 October, and after refueling 
split into two parts and proceeded on its way 
two days later. The main strength of the 
1st Diversion Attack Force, under Admiral 
Kurita, sailed northeast up the west coast 
of Palawan (one of the Visayan Islands), 
and then turned eastward through the 
waters of the central Philippines to San 
Bernardino Strait, while the smaller unit 
commanded by Vice Adm. Shoji Nishimura 
moved eastward through the Sulu Sea in 
order to force an entrance at Surigao Strait. 
The 2d Diversion Attack Force, com 
manded by Vice Adm. Kiyohide Shirna, 
after leaving the Pescadores on 21 October, 



14 USSBS, Interrogations, II, 317. 

18 USBSS, Campaigns of the Pacific War, p. 281. 



16 Ibid., p. 284. 

17 It is not within the scope of this history to deal 
with the ensuing battle between the Japanese and 
American Navies. A full discussion of the "greatest 
naval battle of the Second World War and the 
largest engagement ever fought on the high seas" 
would require a volume. Such a study is being pre 
pared by Samuel Eliot Morison in his series of 
studies on the U.S. Navy's part in the war. Two 
excellent accounts James Field's The Japanese at 
Leyte Gulf, and C. Vann Woodward's The Battle 
for Leyte Gulf (New York, 1947) have already 
appeared. The present volume attempts to present 
only those facts needed to understand the effect of 
the battle on land operations. (Quotation is from 
Woodward, Battle for Leyte Gulf, p. 1.) 



90 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



sailed south, past western Luzon, and after 
refueling in the Calamian Islands, just south 
of Mindoro, proceeded to follow and sup 
port the southern part of the 1st Diversion 
Attack Force in forcing Surigao Strait. 

The Main Body, consisting chiefly of par 
tially empty carriers with a destroyer escort, 
departed on the 20th, and on the evening of 
the 22d turned southwest toward Luzon. It 
was commanded by Vice Adm. Jisabuto 
Ozawa. The Main Body was to act as a 
decoy to draw off the main American 
strength. The Japanese submarines off For 
mosa were ordered south toward the eastern 
approaches to the Philippine Archipelago 
and the 2d Air Fleet, shortly before 23 Oc- , 
tober, began to arrive on Luzon. 18 

There were two American fleets in 
Philippine waters the Seventh Fleet under 
Admiral Kinkaid, whose superior was Gen 
eral MacArthur, and the Third Fleet under 
Admiral Halsey, whose superior was Ad 
miral Nimitz. The Seventh Fleet, which 
consisted of 6 old battleships, 16 escort car 
riers, 4 heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, 30 
destroyers, and 10 destroyer escorts, had 
escorted the convoy to Leyte and now stood 
by to protect it as it unloaded. The Third 
Fleet was composed of Task Force 38 under 
Admiral Mitscher. It consisted of four task 
groups which averaged 23 ships each, di 
vided about as follows: 2 large carriers, 2 
light carriers, 2 new battleships, 3 cruisers, 
and 14 destroyers. The task force was to 
secure air supremacy over the Philippines, 
protect the landings, and apply unremitting 
pressure on Japan. If the opportunity to 
destroy the major portion of the Japanese 
fleet should arise or could be created, that 
destruction was to be its primary task. 

The Japanese had 4 carriers, 7 battle- 

18 USSBS, Campaigns of the Pacific War, p. 284. 



ships, 19 cruisers, 33 destroyers, and 2 bat 
tleship-carriers which carried no aircraft; 
there were 108 planes on the carriers and 
about 335 shore-based planes in the Luzon 
area. 19 

On 23 October two American sub 
marines, the Dace and the Darter, en 
countered the 1st Diversion Attack Force 
and sank two heavy cruisers, the At ago and 
Maya, off the western coast of Palawan. 
The former was Kurita's flagship; its sink 
ing forced the Japanese admiral to transfer 
hurriedly to another vessel. The submarines 
also seriously damaged another heavy 
cruiser. 

Upon receiving information that the 
Combined Fleet was steaming toward the 
Philippines, Admiral Oldendorf s fire sup 
port group of the Seventh Fleet moved to 
the southern end of Leyte Gulf and formed 
a battle line across the mouth of Surigao 
Strait while motor torpedo boats patrolled 
within the strait and about its southern en 
trance. Halsey's Third Fleet moved toward 
San Bernardino Strait. The escort carriers 
from Kinkaid's Seventh Fleet cruised off 
Leyte Gulf. 20 

On the 24th, after receiving a report from 
the submarine, the carriers of the Third 
Fleet sent aircraft to search to the west and 
southwest. These aircraft sighted the main 
part of the 1st Diversion Attack Force south 
of Mindoro, and sighted and attacked the 
smaller force under Admiral Nishimura off 
Negros, slightly damaging a battleship and 
a destroyer. The aircraft of the carriers from 
their position off San Bernardino Strait 
struck repeatedly at Kurita's force while the 
smaller Nishimura force was left to the 
battleships in the gulf. One Japanese battle- 



10 Admiral Frederick G. Sherman, Combat Com 
mand: The American Aircraft Carriers in the 
Pacific War (New York, 1950), p. 286. 

20 Field, Japanese at Leyte Gulf, pp. 81-82. 



THE JAPANESE REACTION 



91 



ship of the 1st Diversion Attack Force was 
sunk, one heavy cruiser rendered impotent, 
and minor damage was inflicted on other 
battleships. The Japanese were forced tem 
porarily "to reverse course to westward." 21 

The aircraft from the Japanese 2d Air 
Fleet attempted to aid the naval forces 
which were moving eastward through the 
Philippines. In co-operation with some air 
craft from the Main Body., which was now 
about 1 00 miles east of Luzon, they attacked 
the northernmost unit of the American car 
riers. Halsey's airmen sighted and reported 
the sacrificial Japanese Main Body in the 
afternoon. Not knowing that this force con 
sisted mainly of empty carriers and believing 
that the 1st Diversion Attack Force had been 
severely damaged, Admiral Halsey with 
drew the battleships and carriers of his Third 
Fleet and steamed north to meet the new 
threat, leaving San Bernardino Strait wide 
open. At midnight Kurita's 1st Diversion 
Attack Force moved unmolested through 
San Bernardino Strait and turned south 
toward Leyte Gulf. The Japanese strategy 
had worked. 

In the early morning hours, Admiral 
Oldendorf s warships destroyed the Nishi- 
mura force as it sailed into Surigao Strait. 
Of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, and 
four destroyers, only the cruiser and one 
destroyer escaped from the strait, and the 
cruiser, which had been damaged, was sunk 
by aircraft from the U. S. carriers the next 
morning. 22 Admiral Shima's 2d Diversion 
Attack Force., entering the same strait thirty 
minutes after Nishimura's force, suffered 
damage to a light cruiser that was hit by 
American torpedo boats. Shima's force then 
made an abortive attack, during which its 



flagship was damaged by collision, and 
withdrew without having engaged. The 
Third Fleet far to the north fell upon the 
decoy forces, sank all four carriers of the 
Main Body, and thus "wrote an end to the 
Japanese carrier air force." ^ 

Admiral Kurita's 1st Diversion Attack 
Force "for which so much had been sacri 
ficed" M encountered Kinkaid's carriers and 
destroyers off the coast of Samar, Admiral 
Kinkaid was ill prepared to meet the main 
thrust of the Japanese Navy, since his car 
riers were protected only by destroyers and 
destroyer escorts. His "handling of the ex 
ceedingly difficult situation" was "su 
perb." 25 The aircraft from his carriers un 
der Rear Adm. Clifton A. F. Sprague rose 
to the occasion and gave a "magnificent per 
formance," 2S continually attacking the 
much stronger 1st Diversion Attack Force. 
Kurita's forces sank one carrier, two de 
stroyers, and one destroyer escort but lost 
three heavy cruisers and had one crippled. 
The American fighting strength was greatly 
diminished at the very time it was needed to 
protect the amphibious shipping that had 
carried the Sixth Army, and which still lay 
near the shores of Leyte Gulf. Just as it 
appeared inevitable that Kurita would move 
in and deliver the coup de grace, he sud 
denly broke off the engagement and retired 
toward San Bernardino Strait. After the war 
he stated in justification of this strange 
move: "The conclusion from our [the Jap 
anese] gunfire and anti-aircraft fire during 
the day had led me to believe in my useless- 
ness, my ineffectual position, if I proceeded 
into Leyte Gulf where I would come under 



21 USBSS, Campaigns of the Pacific War, p. 285- 
22 Ibid. 



23 Ibid. 
"Ibid. 

"Ltr, Gen Krueger to Maj Gen Orlando Ward, 
12 Sep 51, OCMH. 
z 'Ibid. 



92 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



even heavier aircraft attack. I therefore con 
cluded to go north and join Admiral Ozawa 
for coordinated action against your northern 
Task Forces." 2T 

Said Admiral Sprague: "The failure of 
the enemy main body and encircling light 
forces to completely wipe out all vessels of 
this Task Unit can be attributed to our suc 
cessful smoke screen, our torpedo counter 
attack, continuous harassment of enemy by 
bomb, torpedo, and strafing air attacks, 
timely maneuvers, and the definite partial 
ity of Almighty God. 33 28 

The battle for Leyte Gulf was over. It 
had ended in a resounding victory for the 
Americans, whose losses of 1 light carrier, 
2 escort carriers., 2 destroyers, and 1 de 
stroyer escort were small in comparison 
with the Japanese losses of 3 battleships, 1 
large carrier, 3 light carriers, 6 heavy 
cruisers, 4 light cruisers, and 9 destroyers. 29 

As the Japanese retreated throughout 
the 25th and 26th of October, carrier- and 
land-based aircraft struck at the enemy ves 
sels and inflicted fresh injuries upon them. 

The Sixth Army summarized its view of 
the probable consequences if the battle had 
gone against the U, S. Navy as follows: 

Had the [Japanese] plan succeeded the 
effect on the Allied troops on Leyte in all 
likelihood would have been calamitous, for 
these troops would have been isolated 'and 
their situation would have been precarious 
indeed. If it had been victorious in the naval 
battle, the Japanese fleet could have leisurely 
and effectively carried out the destruction of 
shipping, aircraft, and supplies that were so 
vital to Allied operations on Leyte. An enemy 
naval victory would have had an adverse 

* USBSS, Interrogations, I, 44. 
28 GTU 77.4.3 Opns Rpt, Ser 00100, 29 Oct 44 
InclB,p.2. 

23 Woodward, Battle for Leyte Gulf, p, 229. 



effect of incalculable proportions not only 
upon the Leyte Operation, but upon the over 
all plan for the liberation of the Philippines 
as well. 30 

The Sixth Army, however, was depicting 
the worst of all possible contingencies. 
Admiral Halsey's conclusion is quite differ 
ent: 

That Kurita's force could have leisurely 
and effectively carried out the destruction of 
shipping, aircraft, and supplies in Leyte Gulf 
was not in the realm of possibilities. . . . 
Kurita would have been limited to a hit-and- 
run attack in the restricted waters of Leyte 
Gulf. He would further have been subjected 
to the attack of the cruisers present in Leyte 
Gulf. He would have been limited to minor 
damage. . , . The statement that an enemy 
naval victory would have an effect of incal 
culable proportions not only on the Leyte 
operation, but upon the overall plan for the 
liberation of the Philippines as well, can only 
be premised on the thought that our naval 
forces would be almost totally destroyed. The 
prognostication of such a condition could be 
reasoned on none of the facts existing during 
this three days' engagement. 81 

The Japanese Reinforce the Leyte Garrison 

The Japanese felt that the honors of the 
battle were evenly divided and consequently 
continued with their program of making 
Leyte the decisive battle of the Philippines. 
Although the American fleet had soundly 
whipped the Japanese Navy, the Japanese 
were still able to send reinforcements in 
great numbers to their Leyte garrison. Be 
cause of the lack of sufficient aerial strength, 
the Americans were unable to check the 
steady flow of troops into the port of Ormoc. 



80 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 43. 
*Ltr, Adm Halsey to Gen Ward, 6 Jul 51, 
OGMH. 



THE JAPANESE REACTION 



93 



American Aerial Retaliation 

The carrier strikes of the Seventh and 
Third Fleets up to and through A Day had 
been most successful in forestalling any con 
centrated effort on the part of the Japanese 
against the American shipping in Leyte Gulf 
and the troops on the coastal strand. There 
after, the Japanese unleashed a furious air 
assault on the American forces and 
shipping. 32 

At the same time, American aircraft from 
the carriers struck at the Japanese troops 
and their installations in close support of the 
ground troops. The first called-for air strike 
was at 0834 on 21 October against bridges 
over streams that were not fordable along 
the road leading from Ormoc to Carigara, 
in order to prevent enemy movement along 
this road. 33 A total of 121 missions were 
flown in support of ground units during the 
first four days, of which only 33 had been 
requested by the air liaison parties. The tar 
gets for these missions included artillery and 
mortar positions, fuel and supply dumps, 
bridges, pillboxes, and other installations, 
together with trucks, armored vehicles, and 
tanks. 34 

During the initial stages of the campaign, 
Navy flyers gave efficient close support to 
the ground forces. 35 The average time re 
quired to carry out each of these support 



82 Hist of V Fighter Comd, Ch. 4, Jul-Dec 44, 
p. 73, AAF Hist Archives. 

83 Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 

84 Opns Rpt, CSA Seventh Fit to Comdr Seventh 
Fit, no ser, 2 Nov 44. 

38 AAF Evaluation Bd POA Rpt 3, The Occupa 
tion of Leyte, Philippine Islands, pp. 27 and 15. 
This report was prepared by Brig. Gen. Martin F. 
Scanlon, who accompanied the XXIV Corps to 
Leyte as an air observer for the Army Air Forces in 
the Central Pacific. By close support is meant 
operating to the immediate front of the first-line 
troops. 



missions was approximately one hour, 
though the usual difficulties of locating 
friendly troops and pinpointing the target 
were present. Enthusiastic reports on the 
effectiveness of this co-operation from naval 
air were made by the 7th Division. Members 
of this division, which formerly had been 
supported by Army and Navy air forces,, 
found Navy air support in the first days on 
Leyte far more satisfactory than that which 
the Army Air Forces had been able to pro 
vide in the past. They believed that this su 
periority was due to the system that the 
Navy had worked out for directing strikes at 
close-in targets without endangering friendly 
ground forces, and to the Navy's use of re 
hearsals with ground units to establish mu 
tual understanding and confidence. 36 

The Battle of Leyte Gulf interfered 
greatly with the close support rendered by 
the Navy, since the carrier-based planes had 
to be withdrawn. The combat air patrol 
assignments were also disrupted because of 
surface engagements and the repairing of 
the CVE's. 37 

At this time the Japanese had about 
432,000 men in the Philippines, including 
air force and construction units. Most of 
them believed that they were well prepared 
to meet the Americans. In fact a staff officer 
of the 14th Area Army, upon hearing that 
the Americans had landed on Leyte, is re 
ported to have jumped up and exclaimed : 
"Good, they have picked the place where 
our finest troops are located. 3 ' 38 It was also 
thought that the American troops on Leyte 
were "having a difficult time." 39 Neverthe 
less, General Yamashita, who had succeeded 



86 AAF Bd POA Rpt 3, p. 15. 

37 Opns Rpt, GSA Seventh Fit to Comdr Seventh 
Fit, no serial, 2 Nov 44. 

S8 USSBS Interrog 418, Interrog of Maj Gen 
Toshio Nishimura, 19-22 Nov 45, p. 6, OCMH. 

39 14th Area, Army Opns Leyte, pp. 2-3. 



94 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Kuroda as the commanding general of the 
14th Area Army, sent the 1st Division and 
other units to Leyte. The Japanese felt that 
"if the decisive battle in Leyte results in 
failure, it will upset the entire operation in 
the Philippines and the decisive battle in 
Luzon will be lost." 40 

By the 25th of October a battalion of the 
55th Independent Mixed Brigade and one 
of the 57th Independent Mixed Brigade 
from Cebu, together with two battalions of 
the 30th Division, had arrived on Leyte to 
reinforce the 16th Division. Shortly after the 
Sixth Army landed, the 35th Army com 
mander, General Suzuki, received orders 
from General Yamashita to undertake an 
all-out offensive against the Americans. All 
Japanese air, naval, and land forces were to 
participate. 41 

On 22 October the 14th Area Army 
asked the 35th Army how the 26th Division 
and 68th Independent Mixed Brigade were 
to be utilized if the Japanese decisively won 
the pending naval battle. The 35th Army 
stated that if the Japanese Navy were vic 
torious, the units were to prevent the land 
ing of more Americans at Leyte Gulf, but 
if it were unsuccessful the troops were to be 
landed at Carigara Bay. The optimism of 
the Japanese was high. Said Maj. Gen. 
Yoshiharu Tomochika, Chief of Staff, 35th 
Army: "We were determined to take offen 
sive after offensive and clean up American 
forces on Leyte Island. . . . We seriously 
discussed demanding the surrender of the 
entire American Army after seizing General 
Mac Arthur." 42 Then came the Battle of 
Leyte Gulf. 



40 Ibid., p. 6. 

41 10th I&HS, Eighth Army, Stf Study of the 
Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Part I, pp. 3-4, copy 
in OCMH. 

42 Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 13. 



Despite the setbacks caused by this dis 
astrous sea battle, the Japanese continued 
to send troops to Leyte through Ormoc. The 
reinforcement of Leyte consisted of moving 
five major units, in nine echelons : the 35th 
Army moved as many of its units as possible 
from Mindanao, Cebu, and Panay; the 1st 
Division was sent down from Luzon on 
1 November; then the 26th Division, the 
68th Independent Mixed Brigade, and one 
third of the 8th Division were sent from 
Luzon in the order given. 43 

On 27 October the Fifth Air Force took 
over the mission of supporting the Sixth 
Army. As the airstrips were not in service 
able condition, only a small detachment 
the 308th Bombardment Wing could be 
sent in. Aircraft from the carriers continued 
to give support. The Fifth Air Force felt 
that it could best check the Japanese rein 
forcement program, and at the same time 
give more lasting support to the ground 
troops, by attacking the Japanese convoys 
before they arrived in Leyte. The Fifth Air 
Force intended also to attack large move 
ments of land troops, concentrations, and 
supply areas. Army Air Forces doctrine as 
signed close support as the third priority 
mission of tactical air forces. 44 Since there 
were always insufficient aircraft for the mis 
sions assigned to the air forces, close support 
of ground troops suffered. 

The Allied Air Forces, which had been 
given the mission of supporting the Leyte 
operation, directed its main efforts against 
airfields in bypassed areas. Two fighter 
groups were on Morotai, one heavy bomber 
group was on Noemfoor, off the north coast 
of New Guinea, and two heavy bomber 



** 14th Area Army Opns Leyte, pp. 17-18, 37, 52, 
59, 93, 94, and 99. 

44 FM 100-20, 21 Jul 43, Command and Employ 
ment of Air Power, p. 16. 




AIR STRIKES AGAINST JAPANESE INSTALLATIONS included attacks on Baco- 
lod Airfield, Negros Island (above), and on shipping in ^amboanga harbor, Mindanao (below). 




260317 O 54 3 



96 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



groups were on Biak; they completed 175 
sorties in strikes against airfields on Min 
danao and the Visayan area. The main tar 
gets of attack were on Mindanao and Cebu 
and in the Negros area. 45 The XIII Bomber 
Command, which carried the burden of this 
assault, was to neutralize targets previously 
hit and protect the southwestern flank of 
the American forces in the Philippines. 
The 42d Bombardment Group (medium 
bombers) in October flew the greatest num 
ber of sorties in the history of the group up 
to that time. 46 

The heavy bombers (B-24's) of the 868th 
Bombardment Squadron, operating from 
Noemfoor, had as their main target enemy 
shipping in the Makassar Strait. At the same 
time, the B~24's that were within range of 
the Sulu Sea struck at the Japanese South 
ern Fleet as it retreated after its engagement 
with the Seventh Fleet. The fighters and 
medium bombers, which had been used to 
strike at targets on Mindanao, were alerted 
to strike any enemy naval vessels that came 
within range. 47 

While protecting the southwestern flank 
of the American forces in the Philippines, 
the XIII Bomber Command was extraor 
dinarily busy on 26 October. Part of the 
Japanese naval task force, consisting of three 
battleships, five cruisers, and four destroyers, 
had withdrawn from the Leyte area and was 
in the Sulu Sea when sighted by the 307th 
Bombardment Group. Twenty-eight B-24's 
of the bombardment group made their prin 
cipal targets two of the battleships one of 
the Kongo class and the other of the Yamato 



class. Three of the planes were shot down as 
the Japanese skillfully and evasively maneu 
vered their vessels so that none was sunk. At 
the same time B-24's from the 5th Bom 
bardment Squadron sighted and sank an 
enemy light cruiser at a different location in 
the Sulu Sea.* 8 

General MacArthur had originally allo 
cated the attack of all land targets in the 
Philippines to the Allied Air Forces, 49 and 
although subsequent events occasioned a 
modification of this order the Fifth Air 
Force officially established its advance units 
on Leyte at 1600 on 27 October and as 
sumed operational control of land-based 
aircraft. 50 The 308th Bombardment Wing, 
the advance echelon of the Fifth Air Force, 
had two major duties included in its mis 
sion. It was to obtain air superiority over the 
Philippines and to isolate the Japanese 
forces on the battlefield of Leyte. In addi 
tion to these two principal tasks it was to 
render maximum close support to the 
ground forces, establish night fighter pa 
trols and a system of courier aircraft, and 
provide maximum protection to Allied 
naval vessels. 51 Among the Army flyers of 
the 49th Fighter Group, an advance party 
of the Fifth Air Force that arrived on 27 
October, was Maj. Richard I. Bong, of the 
9th Fighter Squadron, the leading ace of 
the Army Air Forces. He celebrated his ar 
rival by shooting down an enemy plane. 52 



*" AAF Evaluation Bd, SWPA Rpt, Leyte Cam 
paign, p. 32, AAF Hist Archives. 

48 Hist of XIII Bomber Comd, Oct 44, p. 5, 
AAF Hist Archives. 

47 Ibid. 



"Jane's Fighting Ships, 1947-48 (New York), 
pp. 473-78; Hist of XIII Bomber Comd, Oct 44, 
p, 4, AAF Hist Archives. 

40 Rad, GHQ to CG Sixth Army et al, Sixth 
Army G-3 Rear Jnl, 28 Oct 44, 

60 Rad, CG Allied Air Forces to CG Fifth Air 
Force, 27 Oct 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 1 Nov 44. 

61 Hist of 308th Bombardment Wing, Ch. 3, p. 4, 
AAF Hist Archives. 

83 Hist of 9th Fighter Sq, Oct 44, AAF Hist 
Archives. 



THE JAPANESE REACTION 



97 




ANTIAIRCRAFT GUN in action 

On 28 October the Army flyers of the 7th 
Fighter Squadron got their first enemy air 
plane on Leyte. Since there were "only" 
three enemy air raids during the night, the 
men were able to get some much needed 
sleep.* 53 

The 29th of October,, however, was a day 
of heavy action for the Army flyers, as de 
scribed in a report of the 7th Fighter Squad 
ron: 

The 29th was a day that will be long re 
membered. . . . Two more Nips were added 
to the unit's score; ... the 49th Group's 
500th victory. But more important at that 
time was the fact . . . [that] the ... road 
between the strip and the camp collapsed 
under army traffic. . . . The already long 
hours were lengthened still more as pilots and 
men were forced to arise between three and 



B3 Hist of 7th Fighter Sq, Oct 44, pp., 5-6, AAF 
Hist Archives. 



at Tacloban airstrip, 27 October 1944. 

four o'clock in the morning, make their way 
to the barge at Tacloban., cross to the strip by 
water and then sweat out the pre-dawn raids. 
At night, the planes landing at dusk had 
hardly hit the runway before . . . BOFORS 
[40-mm. antiaircraft guns] went off and the 
lights went out. Then down to the end of the 
strip near the gas dumps, and another session 
of sweating beneath A/A [antiaircraft] await 
ing the barge for the trip back to Tacloban 
and then to camp. Supper was served as late 
as 10 o'clock ... a few brave" individuals 
tried an alternate road to the south, swinging 
out east to White Beach above Dulag and 
then north along the beach to Tacloban 
Strip. Japanese snipers soon put a stop to this 
travel during the hours of darkness. 

To add to the "big day" 29 October 
the weather observers reported a 50 knot gale 
on the way. Working after dark, pilots and 
linemen minus the regular tie downs and 
using tent ropes and anything available se 
cured the airplanes to jeeps, trucks, trailers 
and tractors. At night, in camp, the small 



98 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




LOCKHEED P-38 after Japanese raid on Tadoban airstrip. 



typhoon hit and with it went three or four 
tents, occupants of which awoke to find them 
selves thoroughly drenched and at odds with 
the world, Leyte in particular. 54 

Although 29 October was the most diffi 
cult day on Leyte for the men of the 7th 
Fighter Squadron, they were again disheart 
ened the following day, when one of the 
squadron's pilots was shot down by friendly 
antiaircraft. 65 

During the first week of November, offen 
sive operations by the Fifth Air Force were 
primarily against targets in Ormoc Valley 
and enemy shipping in Ormoc Bay. The bar 
rios of Ormoc, Valencia, and Palompon 
were the first land targets. Most of the 
strikes, however, were against Japanese ship 



ping in Ormoc Bay and in the vicinity of the 
Camotes Islands. 56 

By 4 November a number of P-38 5 s had 
been destroyed by bombs and strafing, some 
of which were completely burned up. To 
cut down the aircraft losses, it was decided 
to have planes of some of the squadrons use 
the Bayug airstrip in the Dulag area. But 
since this was a poor airfield which soon be 
came overcrowded and subject to Japanese 
air attacks, it was finally abandoned.* 57 

On 3 November fifteen P-38's of the 
49th Bomber Group struck "one of the most 
lucrative strafing targets of their history." 58 



&., pp. 6-7. 
65 Ibid., p. 7. 



cfl Hist of Fifth Air Force, Ch. V, pp. 42-43, AAF 
Hist Archives; Rad, Sixth Army to GHQ, 3 Nov 
44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44. 

67 Ibid. 

58 Hist of V Fighter Gomd, Jul-Dec 44, Gh. 4, 
p. 64, AAF Hist Archives. 



THE JAPANESE REACTION 



99 



In an early morning search for enemy ship 
ping in Ormoc Bay the bombers found noth 
ing, but on their return they sighted a 
ten-mile-long convoy of trucks, artillery, and 
tanks extending from Ormoc to Valencia. 
The convoy was strafed and dispersed, 
leaving twenty to thirty-five trucks destroyed 
and many other vehicles, including two 
tanks, in flames. 59 However, two American 
planes were shot down by enemy antiair 
craft fire, four came in on single engines, and 
all showed many bullet holes. The bombers 
made no further strikes against the convoy, 
"as all aircraft received extremely heavy 
and accurate ground fire." ** 

The airmen of the Fifth Air Force con 
tinued to hit shipping in Ormoc Bay and in 
the Camotes Islands, and they also achieved 
success against bridges, airfields, troops, 
camp areas, and transportation. 61 Although 
the number of Japanese air raids had di 
minished by 6 November, the Americans 
could not yet feel that they were "out of the 
rough." 62 There was insufficient direct air 
support for the ground troops throughout 
the operation and the Japanese continued 
to send troops into Ormoc. The constant 
stream of Japanese reinforcements coining 
into Leyte augured ill for the success of the 
operation. 

The TA Operation 

The TA Operation, by which name the 
Japanese program for the reinforcement of 
Leyte was known, continued from 23 Oc 
tober through 1 1 December. The numerical 



w Rad, COMAF5 to Sixth Army, 4 Nov 44, Sixth 
Army G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 

60 Msg, 308th Bomb Wing to G-2 Sixth Army, 
3 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44. 

61 Hist of Fifth Air Force, Gh. 5, pp. 42-45, 
AAF Hist Archives. 

"OPD 319.1, Sec VII, Case 248, DRB AGO. 



weakness of the U. S. land-based aircraft 
enabled the Japanese to land many thou 
sands of troops and tons of supplies on 
Leyte. Nine convoys in all were sent to the 
port of Ormoc, on the west coast. 63 As a 
whole, however, the operation was "literally 
gruesome 53 to the Japanese, since their trans 
ports and escort vessels were struck again 
and again by American aircraft. 

The first Japanese convoy had three eche 
lons. The first consisted of a landing barge 
and an auxiliary sailing vessel carrying 
about 300 troops of the 102d Division. The 
second echelon, whose composition was 
identical with the first, carried about 150 
troops of the same division. Both safely dis 
charged their troops on 23 and 25 October, 
respectively. The third echelon was made 
up of 2 destroyers, together with 4 trans 
ports carrying about 2,000 men of the 30th 
Division. The transports safely unloaded 
their passengers on 26 October, but Ameri 
can airmen later sank the destroyers and all 
but one of the transports. The remaining 
vessel was damaged. 

The second convoy consisted of three 
echelons, composed of 3, 1, and 4 transports 
respectively. The escorting vessels of the 
third echelon, the only one that had an 
escort, consisted of 6 destroyers and 4 coast 
defense vessels. The escort vessels carried 
the troops of the 1st Division: the first wave 
about 1,000 men, the second about 100 
headquarters men, and the third approxi 
mately 10,000 troops and about 9,000 ship 
tons of provisions and ammunition. All ves 
sels safely debarked their troops on 1 and 2 
November. 

The 5 transports of the third convoy car 
ried about 2,000 troops of the 26th Division 
and approximately 6,600 tons of supplies. 



w Activities of the Japanese Navy During the 
Leyte Operation, p. 94, A715 SWPA, Doc 2543. 




JAPANESE CONVOY UNDER ATTACK in Ormoc Bay. A destroyer escort is blown 
apart by a direct kit (above), and a large transport is straddled by bomb bursts (below). 




THE JAPANESE REACTION 

The convoy sailed from Manila on 9 No 
vember and was escorted by 1 submarine 
chaser, 1 torpedo boat squadron, and 4 de 
stroyers. On 10 November, when the convoy 
reached the mouth of Ormoc Bay, American 
airmen destroyed all of the escort vessels and 
transports before they could unload their 
troops and cargo. 

Each of the two echelons of the fourth 
convoy had 3 transports, but only the first 
one had an escort 6 destroyers and 4 coast 
defense vessels. The first echelon carried ap 
proximately 10,000 troops of the 26th Di 
vision and about 3,500 tons of supplies, in 
cluding provisions, ammunition, and four 
long-range guns. The second echelon car 
ried about 1,000 men of the 1st Division. 
Both discharged their troops safely on 9 No 
vember, a day earlier than the anticipated 
arrival of the third convoy, but because of 
American air action, they were able to get 
only a limited part of the supplies ashore. 

The fifth convoy was organized on the 
same pattern as its predecessor, but the first 
wave had a submarine chaser as an escort 
while the second had a destroyer. This con 
voy, which left Manila between 1 1 and 25 
November with an unknown number of 
troops and quantity of supplies, was com 
pletely destroyed en route to Leyte. 

The sixth convoy, composed of 2 trans 
ports, 2 submarine chasers, and 1 patrol 
boat, carried approximately 2,500 tons of 
provisions and ammunition. It entered Or 
moc harbor on 28 November and had com 
pleted rhost of its unloading when the ves 
sels were either sunk or set afire by U.S. 
aircraft and motor torpedo boats. 

There were four echelons in the seventh 
convoy. The composition of the first two is 
unknown, but it is known that the first eche 
lon completed unloading at Ipil just south 
of Ormoc on 30 November. The third and 



101 

fourth echelons, consisting altogether of 3 
transports and 2 destroyers, also carried an 
unknown number of troops and quantity of 
supplies. As they were unloading at Ormoc 
on 2 December, the vessels were attacked by 
American airmen who sank one of the de 
stroyers and damaged the other. The trans 
ports and the damaged destroyer returned to 
Manila. 

The 4 transports of the eighth convoy, 
escorted by 3 destroyers and 2 submarine 
chasers, carried about 4,000 troops the 
main body of the 68th Independent Bri 
gade and an unknown quantity of provi 
sions and ammunition. It unloaded some of 
its troops and a part of the cargo at San 
Isidro on the west coast of Leyte on 7 De 
cember; but immediately thereafter, Ameri 
can aircraft sank the transports and heavily 
damaged the destroyers. 

There were two echelons in the ninth 
convoy. The first echelon, which consisted of 
5 transports, 3 destroyers, and 2 submarine 
chasers, carried approximately 3,000 troops 
of the 5th Infantry Regiment, 8th Division, 
and about 900 tons of provisions and am 
munition. In unloading at Ormoc on 11 
December, 1 destroyer was sunk and 1 de 
stroyer and 1 transport were damaged. The 
remaining vessels then moved to Port Palom- 
pon on the west coast of Leyte and com 
pleted unloading. The second echelon con 
sisted of only one transport and carried an 
unknown number of troops and quantity of 
supplies. It was able on 1 1 December to 
elude the American airmen and complete 
its unloading. 64 

After the war, General Nishimura, who 
had been on the staff of the 14th Area Army, 
made the amazing statement that nearly 
80 percent of the vessels sent to Ormoc were 

64 Trans of Data on Reinforcement and Support 
of the Leyte Island Campaign, ATIS Doc 16946. 



102 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



sunk en route. Although most of the vessels 
went down close enough to the Leyte shore 
for the troops to swim ashore, the equipment 
lost could not be replaced. 65 It is estimated 
that the Japanese landed more than 45,000 
troops and something over 10,000 tons of 
materiel 66 



55 USSBS Interrog 506, Interrog of Maj, Gen. 
Yoshiharu Tomochica et al, MS, OGMH. 

66 14th Area Army Opns Leyte, Appended Table 1. 



Even though the Japanese had not suc 
ceeded completely in their reinforcement 
program, General Krueger was faced with 
a far stronger foe than had been anticipated. 
The Leyte Campaign was to be long and 
costly and was to upset the timetable for the 
impending Luzon operation. At the end of 
A Day the American assault forces had 
firmly established themselves on the shores 
of Leyte, but the battle for the island was 
yet to come. 



CHAPTER VII 



Southern Leyte Valley: Part One 



The SHO Operations 

In their preliminary planning, the Japa 
nese considered that the defense of Leyte 
would be only a delaying action. The de 
fenders were to inflict as many casualties as 
possible upon the invaders and also to pre 
vent them from using the Leyte airfields, but 
the decisive battle for the Philippines would 
be fought on Luzon. As late as 10 October 
the chief of staff of the 35th Army received 
the following order from Manila: "Depend 
ing on conditions the 35th Army will pre 
pare to dispatch as large a force to LUZON 
ISLAND as possible." 1 

On 21 October, after receiving news of 
the American landings. General Yamashita 
activated SHO ICHI GO (Victory Opera 
tion Number One ) . He made it clear that 
the Japanese Army, in co-operation with 
"the total force of the Air Force and Navy," 
was to make a major effort on Leyte and de 
stroy the American forces on the island. The 
35 th Army was to concentrate its forces 
there. The 1st and 26th Divisions, the 68th 
Brigade, and an artillery unit from the 14th 
Area Army would be sent to augment the 
35th Army troops. At the same time General 
Suzuki received information that the Japa 
nese Air Force and Navy would engage in 



1 35th Army Opns, p. 30. Unless otherwise indi 
cated, the following is based upon this study, pp. 
30-34. 



"decisive 55 battles in support. "The morale 
of the 35th Army rose as a result." 

The Japanese thought that only two 
American divisions had landed on Leyte, 
and that if the 1st, 16th, 30th, and 102d 
Divisions engaged the Americans, a decisive 
victory would be theirs. General Suzuki de 
cided to send forward the following rein 
forcements to Leyte: the main force of the 
30th Division, only three battalions of which 
would remain in Mindanao ; three infantry 
battalions of the 102d Division; and one in 
dependent infantry battalion each from the 
55th and 57th Independent Mixed Bri 
gades. These forces were in addition to the 
two battalions previously sent on 23 
October. 

General Suzuki believed that the Ameri 
cans would attempt to join and strengthen 
their beachheads in the vicinity of Tacloban 
and Dulag before they tried to penetrate 
inland. At the same time, since Catmon Hill 
and the high ground west of Tacloban Val 
ley were in Japanese hands, the 16th Divi 
sion should be able to contain the Ameri 
cans until reinforcements arrived. 

He therefore issued orders based upon 
these assumptions and also upon the assump 
tion that the Japanese air and naval forces 
would be victorious. The 35th Army was to 
concentrate its reinforcements in the Cari- 
gara area. The principal elements of the 
16th Division were to occupy Burauen and 
Dagami, and the rest of the division would 



104 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



occupy Catmon Hill and the western pla 
teau of Tacloban. The 16th Division was 
to protect the concentration of the main 
force of the 35th Army. The 102d Division 
was to occupy the Jaro area and give direct 
protection to the 1st and 26th Divisions and 
the 68th Brigade. The 30th Division was to 
land at Ormoc Bay in the Albuera area and 
then advance to the Burauen area in co 
ordination with the 16th Division and assist 
the main force of the 35th Army. The 1st 
Division was to land at Ormoc, the 26th 
Division and 68th Brigade were to land at 
Carigara. If the situation were favorable, 
however, the 68th Brigade was to land in 
the vicinity of Catmon Hill. After the main 
elements of the 35 1 h Army had assembled at 
Garigara and the area southeast of it, they 
were to move down Leyte Valley and anni 
hilate the American forces in the Tacloban 
area. All the important airfields, bases, and 
roads were also in the valley. 

The part of Leyte Valley where the Amer 
icans hoped air and supply bases could be 
developed is a broad and level plain inside 
a quadrangle formed by the main roads 
linking Tanauan, Dulag, Burauen and Dag- 
ami. (Map 7) The region extending ten 
miles westward from the stretch of coast 
between Dulag and Tanauan to the foothills 
of the central range is an alluvial plain, in 
terlaced by many streams, in which swamps 
and rice paddies predominate. Catmon 
Hill, about half way between Tanauan and 
Dulag, was the most prominent terrain fea 
ture near the shore line. 

Catmon Hill is actually a series of hills 
with many spurs. This hill mass starts at the 
mouth of the Labiranan River above San 
Jose where Labiranan Head meets Highway 
1, the coastal road, and extends in a general 
northwest direction to the vicinity of San 
Vicente and Pikas where it drops abruptly 



into the coastal plain. It is covered with 
cogon grass about six feet high, in the midst 
of which are found a few trees. The beach 
areas between the Calbasag River on the 
south and Tolosa on the north, together 
with much of southern Leyte Valley, are 
dominated by this hill mass. 2 

The 16th Division made use of the caves 
on Catmon Hill for shelters, artillery posi 
tions, and supply dumps, and established 
well-concealed coconut log pillboxes and ob 
servation posts at numerous vantage points 
on the hills. Some of these pillboxes, with 
good fields of fire and spider holes, were 
emplaced in positions to cover the roads. 3 A 
spider hole was dug about five feet deep, 
sometimes camouflaged with a removable 
cover, and was large enough to contain a 
man and his weapon. 

The American prelanding naval bom 
bardment destroyed a number of field pieces 
of the 22d Field Artillery Regiment, which 
was deployed in position along the first line 
of defense. The gunfire also disrupted the 
regiment's radio service, and direct com 
munication with the 35 th Army and the 
14th Area Army headquarters was tem 
porarily broken. 4 

After the heavy naval bombardment on 
A Day and the subsequent landings by 
American forces in the Dulag area, General 
Makino moved the command post of the 
16th Division to Dagami, a step which made 
communications very difficult and inade 
quate. The troops of the division were then 
disposed as follows : the 20th Infantry Regi 
ment, though considerably diminished in 
number, was holding Julita, and one of its 



* Allied Geographical Sec, GHQ SWPA Terrain 
Handbook 34, Tacloban, 25 Sep 44, p. 10. 

8 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 88. 

4 10th I&HS Eighth Army, Stf Study of Opns of 
Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, pp. 2-3. 



96TH DIVISION ADVANCE 

21-30 October 1944 



AXIS OF ADVANCE 
MAIN ROAD 
SECONDARY ROAD 



Form lines only. Elevations In feet 

i o i 2 MILES 

1012 KILOMETERS 




MAP? 



K, Johnstons 



' '. > : ';"''" ' 




LANDING AREAS AND LEYTE VALLEY ay seen from a captured Japanese observa 
tion post on Catrnon Hill. 



/ :;^^^ : M f f^^ 

1 ^'.^ ' '-' S ; ^Wi* 

\tfr**<^., ' > j " V; 1 ' 1 ; ; 



' ' 4 ;,- ' . ' ; , . . '' f ' ' 

,. ; > "'/ i v 1 ^'.; -'^fV:;^^^^ 



,, Vr . /^, : '> , "- ( B ,^^,, l , . , '"^ .-;-, ,' 
-^ '.' *'*'. ,', 'f'^/^'v ^;**^^^^ 




SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



107 



platoons patrolled the Daguitan River 
banks; the main part of the 9th Infantry 
Regiment was at Catmon Hill, while one 
of its battalions occupied Tabontabon. 5 

At the end of 20 October the Sixth Army 
was established on the shores of Leyte Gulf. 
The X Corps was in the north near Palo 
and Tacloban, and the XXIV Corps was 
in the vicinity of Dulag, poised for a drive 
into southern Leyte Valley. General Krueger 
planned to push rapidly through Leyte 
Valley and secure its important roads, air 
fields, and base sites before General Makino 
could regroup the 16th Division and offer a 
firm line of resistance. 

Enlarging the 96th Division Beachhead 

General Krueger had assigned the mis 
sion of seizing southern Leyte Valley to the 
XXIV Corps. The 96th Division was to 
seize Catmon Hill and its surrounding area, 
together with the Dagami-Tanauan road. 
The 7th Division was to proceed along the 
Dulag-Burauen road, seize the airfields in 
that area, and then proceed north to 
Dagami. 

General Bradley's scheme of maneuver 
for the 96th Division specified a movement 
into the interior from the beachhead area in 
a northwesterly direction with regiments 
abreast the 383d Infantry on the right 
(north) and the 382d Infantry on the left 
(south). The 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry, 
was to capture Labiranan Head and secure 
Highway 1 as far north as San Roque. The 
rest of the regiment was to proceed inland, 
bypass Catmon Hill at first, and then, after 
artillery, naval bombardment, and air 
strikes had neutralized it, to capture Catmon 
Hill and the adjacent high ground. 



The 382d Infantry was to proceed inland 
in a northwesterly direction and seize Ani- 
bung, which was erroneously believed to 
have an airfield. The regiment was then to 
be ready to advance either to the north or 
to the west. 6 

At the end of A Day the assault troops 
of the 383d Infantry, commanded by Colo 
nel May, were approximately 2,500 yards 
inland. The forward positions of the 1st 
Battalion were 400 yards up the sides of the 
ridge running north from where the troops 
had crossed the Labiranan River. The 3d 
Platoon of Company C had established a 
roadblock at the highway crossing; the 2d 
Battalion, protecting the regimental south* 
ern boundary, had advanced 2,600 yards 
inland from Orange Beach 1 ; and the 3d 
Battalion had established a night perimeter 
800 yards southwest of the 1st Battalion on 
the southern bank of the Labiranan River. 7 

The 382d Infantry, under Colonel Dill, 
had made a successful landing on A Day. 
The 2d Battalion, on the right, had pushed 
inland 2,700 yards, while the 3d Battalion, 
on the left, had gained 1,300 yards; the 1st 
Battalion was in reserve. Contact had been 
established with the 32d Infantry, 7th Di 
vision, on the 38 2d Infantry's left, and with 
the 383d Infantry on its right. 8 

Labiranan Head 

During the night of 20-21 October the 
361st Field Artillery Battalion fired upon 
Labiranan Head in support of the 1st Bat 
talion, 383d Infantry. 9 In addition naval 
guns, supporting the 96th Division, fired 
harassing and interdicting missions against 



B 35th Army Opns, pp. 22-23. 



96thDivFO2, 10Oct44. 

7 383d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3. 

8 382d Inf Unit Rpt 1, 20 Oct 44. 

9 361st FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte. 



108 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



possible enemy positions and lines of com 
munication. 10 At 0810 on 21 October an air 
strike was registered on Labiranan Head, 
followed by a three-hour naval and artillery 
barrage. 

The 382d Infantry was to move inland, 
maintain contact with the 7th Division, and 
forestall any Japanese attempt to reach the 
beaches. Concurrently, the 1st Battalion, 
383d Infantry, would advance on Catmon 
Hill from Labiranan Head while the 2d and 
3d Battalions of the regiment would swing 
around the northwest end of Catmon Hill 
and squeeze the Japanese in a pincers. 

At 1130 an assault force commanded by 
Capt. Hugh D. Young of the 1st Battalion, 
383d Infantry, attacked the Japanese posi 
tion on Labiranan Head. This assault force, 
a composite company, consisted of a platoon 
each from A, B, and C Companies, together 
with the weapons platoon from C Company. 
The troops moved up the ridge and within 
ten minutes after starting destroyed one 
machine gun and drove off the crew of 
another. Under cover of mortar fire, the 
Japanese retired to the next ridge. 

In co-operation with the advance of Cap 
tain Young's force, the 3d Platoon of Com 
pany C, which had established the roadblock 
at the Highway 1 crossing of Labiranan 
River on A Day, moved out just below 
Labiranan Head and hit the Japanese flank. 
The platoon met a strongly entrenched 
enemy position which consisted of seven 
pillboxes guarding ten 75-mm. guns. There 
were also six coastal guns but only two of 
these had been even partially assembled. 
When the men of the platoon got within 
twenty feet of the enemy position, they re 
ceived fire from the two flanks and the 
front. After knocking out a machine gun 
nest the platoon withdrew. 

10 96th Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5. 



Lt. Col. Edwin O. List, the commanding 
officer of the 1st Battalion, then ordered 
Captain Young to advance northward up a 
covered draw and secure a small hill in the 
rear of the enemy force. As the troops ad 
vanced up the hill, they observed smoke 
coming from Labiranan Head. Company D 
thereupon placed mortar fire on the posi 
tion which contained the ten 75-mm. guns. 
At 1430 Captain Young requested that the 
fire be lifted; this was done, and the advance 
continued. 11 

At 1600 Captain Young reported that his 
troops had secured Labiranan Head. At the 
same time, friendly naval gunfire shelled 
Young's troops. 12 This gunfire was not 
stopped, since there were known Japanese 
positions in the vicinity and it was believed 
to be of more lasting importance to knock 
them out than to hold this one position. 
Captain Young evacuated Labiranan Head 
and withdrew his troops, who swam across 
the Labiranan River and formed a night 
perimeter on the south bank. At the end of 
the day the front lines of the rest of the 1st 
Battalion, 383d Infantry, were along the 
northern banks of the Labiranan River and 
on the high ground 800 yards west of 
Labiranan Head. 13 

During the night the 361st, 363d, and 
921st Field Artillery Battalions delivered 
harassing fires on the positions of the 9th 
Infantry Regiment on Labiranan Head. 14 
The following morning, Captain Young's 
force rejoined the 1st Battalion, 383d In 
fantry. The 921st Field Artillery Battalion 
continued to pound the enemy emplace 
ments until 1200 and then supported the 
attack as the 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry, 



11 382d Inf Unit Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 
u 96th Div G~3 Jnl, 2 1 Oct 44. 
18 383d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 
M 921st FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



109 




CREW OF A LIGHT ARMORED GAR M8 prepares to fire on enemy positions in the 
Labiranan Head sector. 



with Companies A and C as lead companies, 
moved up the slopes of Labiranan Head. 
The antitank platoon of the 1st Battalion 
set up its 37-mm. guns in a position from 
which it could rake the south side of Labira 
nan Head from the river and support the 
advance of Company C on the left. The 
platoon knocked out four pillboxes and two 
machine guns and then directed fire on the 
enemy 75-mm. guns. Companies A and C 
pushed aside the Japanese and at 1630 
reached the crest of the hill, their objective. 
They immediately dug in, consolidated the 
position, and then formed a night perimeter 
from which the entire beach area from San 
Roque to Dulag could be observed. 15 

At 1930 the Japanese centered a counter 
attack on Company A on the right flank of 

15 383d Inf Unit Jnl, 22 Oct 44. 



the 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry. A com 
bined concentration from the 921st, 361st, 
and 363d Field Artillery Battalions repelled 
this assault. 16 While Labiranan Hill was 
being secured, a force consisting of the 3d 
Platoon, Company C, the 1st Platoon, Com 
pany D, 763d Tank Battalion, the 1st Pla 
toon, Cannon Company, and the battalion 
Antitank Platoon pushed along Highway 1, 
secured San Roque, and set up a road 
block. 17 From the 23d to the 26th of Octo 
ber the 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry, pa 
trolled the Labiranan Hill-San Roque area 
and protected the right flank of the 96th 
Division as the rest of the division slogged 
through swamps and rice paddies to the 
south. 



10 921st FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3. 
17 383d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 10. 



110 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Battling the Swamps 

At 0840 on 21 October the 2d and 3d 
Battalions, 383d Infantry, which were to 
go in a northwesterly direction around Cat- 
rnon Hill and isolate the Japanese force on 
the hill, moved out westward. They ad 
vanced through swamps and rice paddies 
but met no Japanese during the day. At 
1640, when they established a night perim 
eter, the 2d Battalion was 300 yards north 
of Tigbao and the 3d Battalion with the 
regimental command group was 1,100 yards 
northeast of the barrio and south of Catmon 
Hill. 15 

The 382d Infantry, while protecting the 
left flank of the 96th Division, was to ad 
vance rapidly into the interior and seize 
Tigbao. 19 During the night of 20-21 Octo 
ber artillery fire from an unknown source 
fell in the sector of the 2d Battalion, killing 
three men and wounding eight others. At 
0800, on 21 October, the 2d Battalion, 
382d Infantry, moved out, followed at 0812 
by the 3d Battalion. These troops, like the 
2d and 3d Battalions of the 383d Infantry, 
were confronted with waist-deep swamps 
which made the going slow and arduous. 
The 3d Battalion, 382d Infantry, immedi 
ately after moving out, ran into enemy pill 
boxes constructed of coconut logs and de 
fended by machine guns and riflemen. At 
first the troops bypassed the pillboxes but at 
1030 Company K went back and wiped 
them out. In addition to the morass through 
which the troops were moving, numerous 
empty pillboxes slowed up the advance, 
since each of them had to be checked. 20 At 
1430, because there was a gap between the 
2d and 3d Battalions, Colonel Dill com- 

18 Ibid., p. 9. 

1 382dInfF02 > 210ct44. 
20 382d Inf Unit Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 



mitted the 1st Battalion to close the line. 
The battalions then advanced abreast and 
kept lateral contact with the 2d and 3d Bat 
talions of the 383d Infantry on their right. 
At 1630., when the battalions established 
their night perimeters, they were far short 
of their objective. 21 

At 1745 Colonel Dill directed all of the 
battalions of the 382d Infantry to move out 
at 0800 on 22 October the 1st Battalion 
was to capture Tigbao and Bolongtohan 
and then push on to Hindang; the 2d Bat 
talion was to proceed toward Anibung; and 
the 3d Battalion, on the right of the 1st Bat 
talion, was to proceed to the northwestern 
edge of Bolongtohan. 22 

Since it was known that the Japanese 
were strongly entrenched on Catmon Hill, 
General Bradley had decided to bypass the 
hill temporarily. His plan called for the 2d 
and 3d Battalions of the 383d Infantry to 
envelop Catmon Hill from the south and 
then move north to make contact with the 
24th Division at Tanauan. 28 On the morn 
ing of 22 October, Colonel May of the 383d 
Infantry asked General Bradley for permis 
sion to attack Catmon Hill from the south 
with his 2d and 3d Battalions. General 
Bradley refused the request and ordered 
Colonel May to continue the enveloping 
movement he had started on 21 October. 24 
Later on that morning, therefore, the 2d and 
3d Battalions, 383d Infantry, moved out 
north-northwest. Encountering a deep 
swamp at 1130, the troops turned north 
west. This move did not materially help the 
situation, since they found that they had ex 
changed the swamp for rice paddies. The 
advance units reached Anibung at 1630 

21 382d Inf Unit Rpt 2, 21 Oct 44. 

22 382d Inf Unit Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 

28 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 38. 
24 96th Div 0-3 Jnl, 22 Oct 44. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



111 



without encountering any Japanese. By 
1800 all units had closed in on the vicinity 
of Anibung and set up a night perimeter 
400 yards north of the barrio. 

Few supplies had been brought forward 
because the vehicles of the battalions had 
advanced only 200 yards when they bogged 
down. The troops hand-carried their weap 
ons and communications equipment, while 
civilians with about eight carabaos 25 helped 
carry the supplies. In the transportation of 
supplies forward, ammunition was given 
priority over rations and water, even though 
the supply of the latter items, which had 
been issued to the troops before landing, 
was nearly exhausted. The men made free 
use of coconuts for food and drink. 26 

At 0800 on 22 October the three bat 
talions of the 38 2d Infantry moved out. By 
0900 the 1st and 2d Battalions had pushed 
through Tigbao, whereupon the regimental 
commander changed the orders for the day. 
He ordered the 2d Battalion to take Bolong- 
tohan, the 1st Battalion to seize Canmangui, 
and the 3d Battalion to go into reserve. 27 

The 1st and 3d Battalions of the 382d 
Infantry made contact with each other at 
1152. When patrols from the 1st Battalion 
did not find any Japanese at Canmangui, 
the battalion proceeded toward Bolongto- 
han. Upon nearing Mati, the 1st Battalion 
encountered an entrenched position of the 
enemy and by outflanking the position was 
able to knock it out. The Japanese fought 
a delaying action and withdrew during the 
afternoon. At 2000 the battalion formed its 
night perimeter at Mati. The other bat 
talions of the regiment encountered no Jap- 

25 A carabao is a domesticated native water 
buffalo that is used extensively in the Philippines 
as a beast of burden. 

26 383d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 

27 382d Inf Unit Jnl, 22 Oct 44. 

260317 O 54 9 



anese during the day's progress inland, and 
formed their night perimeters at 1800 the 
2d Battalion 800 yards east of Bolongtohan 
and the 3d Battalion 500 yards southeast 
of Tigbao. During the day the 382d In 
fantry had pushed forward approximately 
2,000 yards. 28 

At 2300 on 22 October General Makino 
issued an order for the defense of the island 
by the Japanese 16th Division. He organ 
ized his troops into the Northern and South 
ern Leyte Defense Forces. The Southern 
Defense Force was to protect the Dulag- 
Burauen road and the airfields in the vicin 
ity of Burauen. It was in the zone of action 
of the 7th Division. The Northern Leyte De 
fense Force 29 was to remain on Catmon 
Hill, the high ground south of Tanauan, 
and the high ground south of Palo. Ele 
ments were to be in the vicinity of Tabonta- 
bon and Kansamada, and a unit was to 
protect the artillery positions north of Cat 
mon Hill. The 16th Engineer Regiment 
( less three platoons ) was to be prepared to 
demolish the roads connecting Dagami and 
Burauen and those connecting Dagami and 
Tanauan, in order to check the advance of 
American tanks. Simultaneously, the main 
force of the unit was to secure the road 
running northwest from Dagami to Tingib. 
The division reserve and command post 
were to be in the vicinity of Dagami. 30 

At 0900 on 23 October the 2d Battalion, 
383d Infantry 3 sent a patrol to investigate 
the enemy situation west of Pikas and near 
the Guinarona River. At 1 130 the patrol re 
ported that there were a few Japanese on a 

28 382d Inf Unit Rpt 3, 22 Oct 44. 

29 This unit consisted of the 9th Infantry Regi 
ment (less the 2d Battalion) and two batteries of 
the 22d Field Artillery Regiment. 

80 96th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex C, Part 
III, Trans, KAKI Operational Order A-387, 22 
Oct 44. 



112 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



hill near Pikas. The 2d and 3d Battalions, 
383d Infantry, moved out at 1200 with the 
2d Battalion in the lead. At 1430 Company 
G, the leading company, surprised some 
Japanese who were swimming in the Guina- 
rona River. They were "literally caught with 
their pants down." 31 The leading companies 
were able to rout the enemy and continue 
the advance despite small forays which were 
broken up; about fifty of the enemy were 
killed. At 1810 the 2d Battalion, 383d In 
fantry, reached the high ground on the north 
bank of the Guinarona River, 600 yards west 
of Pikas. A force of approximately 100 Jap 
anese attacked the battalion as it was estab 
lishing a night perimeter. Fortunately the 
Americans, just fifteen minutes before, had 
put their machine guns and mortars in posi 
tion and were thus able to fire their weapons 
immediately and repulse the attack. The 3d 
Battalion, 383d Infantry, closed in on the 
area at 1900 and each battalion set up a 
perimeter for the night. 32 

During the day the regiment received a 
small quantity of supplies by Filipino and 
carabao trains and by airdrop from Navy 
planes. The amount of food came to about 
one-half ration for each man. On the fol 
lowing day Colonel May ordered the 1st 
Battalion, 383d Infantry, to remain in posi 
tion until a supply route could be estab 
lished. 33 

Early on 24 October General Bradley told 
Colonel May to hold his present positions 
and sent out patrols to find roads, trails, 
and solid ground that could be used as or 
converted into supply routes to the rear. 34 



"Orlando R. Davidson, J. Carl Willems, and 
Joseph A. Kahl, The Deadeyes, The Story of the 
96th Infantry Division (Washington, 1947), p. 23. 

32 383d Inf Unit Rpt 4, 23 Oct 44. 

33 96th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 3, 24 Oct 44. 

34 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 41. 



The communications between the regiment 
and the 96th Division were very hard to 
maintain, since the only radios the troops 
could move inland were hand-carried sets 
of short range. 

In the early morning hours of 25 October 
a division reconnaissance patrol, with light 
tanks and a motorized engineer platoon, 
went along Highway 1 with the mission of 
reconnoitering the highway as far north as 
the Binahaan River and making contact 
with the X Corps. By 1300 the patrol 
reached the river near Tanauan and found 
a damaged bridge. By 1600 the bridge had 
been repaired and the patrol pushed 
through Tanauan and made contact with 
Company K of the 19th Infantry, 24th Divi 
sion, the first between the X and XXIV 
Corps since the landing. 

The 382d Infantry spent 23 October 
patrolling. Contact was established and 
maintained between all of the battalions 
of the regiment during the day. Although 
the forward movement was slowed to allow 
much-needed supplies to come up, an ad 
vance of 600 yards was made. As the regi 
ment advanced farther inland it became 
apparent that the entire area was composed 
of swamps and rice paddies. The roads 
were only muddy trails and were impassable 
for wheeled vehicles. The M29 cargo car 
riers and LVT's were pressed into service 
to carry supplies, but the numerous streams 
and waistrdeep swamps soon halted all 
vehicular traffic. The task of supply and 
of evacuation of wounded soon assumed 
staggering proportions. For days the troops 
had had little food since priority had been 
given to the indispensable ammunition. 
Filipino and soldier carrying details were 
the only means by which the front lines 
could be supplied. 35 

88 382d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



113 




FILIPINO CIVILIAN GUIDES U.S. TANK to Japanese positions in Julita. 



On the morning of 24 October General 
Bradley ordered the 382d Infantry to have 
its 2d Battalion close in on Anibung. The 
3d Battalion was to occupy Hindang and 
the 1st Battalion was to proceed through 
Hindang to a position about 500 yards 
farther north. 36 

At 0830 the 1st and 3d Battalions, 382 d 
Infantry, moved astride the narrow trail that 
led to Tabontabon, with the 3d Battalion 
echeloned to the right rear. The 1st Bat 
talion passed through Bolongtohan at 0930 
and moved on in a northwesterly direction 
toward Hindang. At 1105, as the 1st Bat 
talion was pushing through Hindang, it 
came under enemy rifle fire. The Japanese 
had dug spider holes under the huts, and a 
trench extended along the western end of 
the barrio. The 1st Battalion, assisted by 

38 96th Div G-3 Jnl, 24 Oct 44. 



troops from Company B, 763d Tank Bat 
talion, moved through the town, leaving the 
3d Battalion the job of mopping up. The 3d 
Battalion reached Hindang at 1530 and im 
mediately attacked the enemy force there. 
The Japanese offered only slight resistance 
and then fled, abandoning thirty-six well- 
constructed defensive positions. At 1610 the 
barrio was secured. 

Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, after driv 
ing through Hindang with Companies A 
and C abreast, came upon a strong enemy 
position some 200 yards beyond the town 
on the left flank of Company A. A platoon 
of the Cannon Company and some light 
tanks had managed to get forward. The 
tanks and flame throwers flushed the Japa 
nese into the open where they were met by 
the fire of American riflemen who were wait 
ing for them. By 1600 the enemy strong 



114 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



point was secured and the battalion moved 
northwest and formed a night perimeter at 
1700. 

The 2d Battalion reached Anibung with 
out incident. The airfield believed to be in 
the vicinity of the barrio proved nonexistent. 
At the end of the day the regiment had ad 
vanced approximately 2,200 yards. The 2d 
Battalion was at Anibung, the 3d Battalion 
was just beyond Hindang, and the 1st Bat 
talion was in a position to move northwest 
against Aslom. 37 

On the morning of 25 October the 1st 
and 3d Battalions, 382d Infantry, moved 
out in a northwesterly direction toward As 
lom, with the 3d Battalion on the right, while 
the 2d Battalion moved out in a north 
westerly direction toward Kanmonhag. The 
Japanese had withdrawn during the night, 
leaving only scattered riflemen to oppose the 
advance. 

In their advance, the battalions were sup 
ported by elements of the 763d Tank Bat 
talion. At Aslom the two battalions en 
countered a strongly fortified position of five 
gun emplacements and four pillboxes, which 
the tanks were able to knock out. 38 The 1st 
Battalion formed its night perimeter near 
Aslom while the 3d Battalion pushed north 
1,500 yards and formed its perimeter. 

The 2d Battalion encountered only aban 
doned pillboxes on its front and left flank 
during its advance. At 1200 a patrol which 
reconnoitered Kanmonhag found no resist 
ance, and the battalion pushed on to form 
its night perimeter on line with the 3d 
Battalion. 39 

During the first six days of the operation, 
the casualties of the 96th Division amount 



ed to 5 officers and 89 enlisted men killed, 
17 officers and 416 enlisted men wounded, 
and 1 3 enlisted men missing in action. 4 * 3 In 
the same period the division had killed an 
estimated 531 Japanese and had taken one 
prisoner. 41 

Catmon Hill Area 

By the end of 25 October the 1st Bat 
talion of the 383d Infantry was in position 
to attack Labir Hill, while the 2d and 3d 
Battalions, remaining in position near Pikas, 
had sent vigorous patrols into Tabontabon, 
San Victor, and San Vicente. The 2d and 
3d Battalions of the 382d Infantry were be 
yond Aslom while the 1st Battalion was 
still at that point. By this time the supply 
line had been opened up and the main 
swamps had been traversed. The 96th Di 
vision was deep in southern Leyte Valley 
and had isolated a strong enemy force on 
Catmon Hill. The way was now open for 
the division to launch an attack against 
Tabontabon, bypass the positions of the 
9th Infantry Regiment on Catmon Hill, 
and secure the remainder of its beachhead 
area. 

Taking Tabontabon 

By 23 October the 383d Infantry, less 
the 1st Battalion, had crossed the Gui- 
narona River and established a position 
west of Pikas. Having been ordered by 
General Bradley to hold tliis position, the 
regiment limited its activities to patrolling. 
While awaiting orders to advance, Colonel 
May decided to give battle training to 



w 382d Inf Unit Rpt 5, 24 Oct 44. 

38 763d Tank Bn Unit Rpt 1, 25 Oct 44. 

** 382d Inf Unit Rpt 6, 25 Oct 44. 



40 96th Div G-l Daily Strength Rpts, 20-25 Oct 



44. 



L 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 5, 25 Oct 44. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



115 



various units by sending them out on 
patrolling missions to observe the enemy. 42 
Tabontabon and San Victor were assigned 
to the 3d Battalion commander as a train 
ing mission for one of his companies, while 
San Vicente Hill was assigned to the 2d 
Battalion commander for the same purpose. 
Tabontabon was a key point, since it was 
one of the main 16th Division supply cen 
ters. 

Company K, which had been selected 
by the 3d Battalion commander for the 
first mission, sent patrols into the Tabonta- 
bon-San Victor area on the afternoon of 
24 October. The patrol sent to Tabontabon 
found that the 9th Infantry Regiment had 
extensively fortified the barrio. There were 
deep foxholes and machine gun emplace 
ments dug in under the houses. None of the 
positions appeared to be occupied, but at 
the end of the town the patrol saw approxi 
mately twenty-five Japanese preparing their 
evening meal. Tabontabon was a fairly 
large barrio on the Guinarona River, with 
several blocks of shops and houses, includ 
ing a church and several two-story build 
ings, the axis of the town running east and 
west, 

On the basis of information brought by 
the patrol, it was decided to have Company 
K move out the following morning to seize 
Tabontabon. At 0645 on 25 October Com 
pany K, reinforced, advanced and at 0730 
took covered positions 200 yards east of the 
barrio. Under the plan for attack the 1st 
Platoon was to approach the northeastern 
edge of the village by a covered route, and 
await the completion of an artillery con 
centration scheduled for 0800. After the 



42 Unless otherwise stated the account of the 
patrol to Tabontabon is taken from 383d Inf 
Opns Rpt Leyte, Patrol to Tabontabon, 25 Oct 
44, Incl 1. 



artillery preparation a squad from the pla 
toon was to enter and reconnoiter for pos 
sible enemy positions. At the same time, 
the 2d Platoon, with a similar mission, was 
to enter Tabontabon from the southeast 
side. The 3d Platoon was to be prepared 
to support the action of either the 1st or 
the 2d. Machine guns and mortars were 
placed in such a way as to give direct 
support to both platoons. 

Because of unexplained communication 
difficulties, the artillery did not deliver its 
scheduled fire at 0800. Each platoon, how 
ever, sent a squad into Tabontabon. As soon 
as advance elements of both platoons en 
tered the town they came under intense 
rifle and mortar fire from enemy positions 
under the houses. It was obvious that the 
Japanese had heavily reinforced the barrio 
during the night. The reinforcements con 
sisted of a battalion from the 9th Infantry 
Regiment** 

The rest of the 1st and 2d Platoons 
came up and a fire fight ensued. The 3d 
Platoon was sent in at 1000 to support the 
1st Platoon, and in response to a request for 
reinforcements, a rifle platoon from Com 
pany I was brought up at 1040. The com 
manding officer of Company K advised the 
3d Battalion by radio that he could take 
Tabontabon with an additional rifle com 
pany but could not do so with his present 
force without suffering heavy casualties. 
The battalion commander ordered him to 
withdraw. The withdrawal, under support 
ing fire from the 3d Platoon, Company K, 
the platoon from Company I, and mortar 
and machine gun fire from the weapons 
company, was successfully accomplished at 
1155. At 1240 Company K rejoined the 
battalion. 



8 35th Army Opns, p. 28. 



116 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



General Bradley ordered the 383d Infan 
try to direct the patrols of the 3d Battalion 
elsewhere, since the 382d Infantry had been 
assigned the mission of securing Tabonta- 
bon. During the forthcoming attack the 
383d Infantry was to protect the flank of 
the 382d, whose 2d and 3d Battalions were 
to launch a co-ordinated attack on the town. 
On 26 October the 2d Battalion of the 382d 
Infantry moved west and established con 
tact with the 3d at 1200. After an artillery 
concentration had been placed on the town 
the two battalions moved out. 

By 1600 they had forded the shoulder- 
deep Guinarona River under heavy enemy 
fire and had reached the edge of Tabonta- 
bon. As the battalions slowly pushed their 
way to the outskirts of the barrio, they came 
under heavy fire. Elements of the 9th In 
fantry Regiment had dug in under the 
houses, and connecting trenches honey 
combed the streets from one strong point 
to another. At twilight, after heavy artil 
lery fire, the enemy launched a strong 
counterattack which forced the battalions to 
withdraw to the river bank, where they 
established perimeters for the night. 44 Until 
midnight, mortar fire from the 9th Infantry , 
Regiment fell in the 2d and 3d Battalion 
areas. 

At 2100 the 96th Division artillery com 
menced firing on the town and continued 
to fire throughout the night. The 1st Bat 
talion, less Company B which had been left 
at Aslom to guard supplies, had by now 
joined the rest of the regiment. At 1000 on 
27 October the 382d Infantry launched a 
co-ordinated attack against Tabontabon 
with the 2d and 3d Battalions. As Com 
panies I and K of the 3d Battalion started 
to wade the Guinarona River, Colonel Dill, 

u 382d Inf Unit Rpt 7, 26 Oct 44. 



the regimental commander, called to the 
men to follow him and then dashed across 
the bridge, which was swept by enemy rifle 
fire. The 3d Battalion followed him over 
the bridge and to the southeast corner of 
the barrio. 45 The troops met considerable 
opposition from elements of the 9th Infantry 
Regiment who were hidden in the tall cogon 
grass. After a short fire fight the two bat 
talions worked their way slowly through the 
western portion of the town and then ad 
vanced northwest. Although they met fire 
from several pillboxes, there was no organ 
ized resistance. Night perimeters were set up 
about a mile northwest of Tabontabon with 
the 3d Battalion on the left side of the road 
and the 1st Battalion on the right. 46 

The 2d Battalion, which had hit the cen 
ter of the town, encountered stiff and deter 
mined opposition. Company F proceeded 
cautiously down one street as Company G 
, went through the middle of the second block 
on its right. The Japanese had riflemen and 
machine guns under the houses and on the 
second floors of the large buildings. By noon 
the two companies had worked their way 
through to the northern edge of the town, 
where they encountered the enemy en 
trenched in force. 

The Japanese had placed machine guns 
to cover the exits from the barrio. The guns 
were aimed down each street and so placed 
that each gun was protected by another. 
Since in Company G men were dropping 
from heat exhaustion, Company E was sent 
in to relieve Company G. At the same time, 
the 2d Platoon of the Cannon Company 
moved forward, but its howitzers were un 
able to direct their fire effectively. Late in 
the afternoon, since it had become apparent 



48 Davidson et al. f The Deadeyes, p. 37. 
" 382d Inf Unit Rpt 8, 27 Oct 44. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



117 



that the 2d Battalion would not be able to 
secure the town before nightfall, the troops 
were called back to the center of the town, 
where the 2d Battalion set up its night 
perimeter. 47 

During the night the Japanese counter 
attacked, but American artillery and mor 
tar fire broke up the assault. 48 At 0800 on 
28 October the 2d Battalion continued the 
attack and succeeded in knocking out the 
enemy resistance northeast of the town, an 
action which enabled the battalion to move 
out north of Tabontabon at 1200. Leaving 
Company G to clear the area immediately 
outside the town, the 2d Battalion pro 
ceeded along the road toward the road 
junction at Kiling. 49 In spite of determined 
opposition, the Japanese supply center of 
Tabontabon had at last been taken and 
approximately 350 Japanese killed in the 
area. During the three days of fighting, the 
2d Battalion had thirty-four men killed and 
eighty wounded. 

Capture of Catmon Hill 

The capture of Catmon Hill falls into 
two separate and distinct actions the op 
erations of the 383d Infantry in the San 
Vicente sector and the assault of the 381st 
Infantry against Catmon Hill. 

On 24- October a Japanese prisoner stat 
ed that the fortifications on San Vicente 
Hill, the northern tip of Catmon Hill, were 
guarded by elements of the 9th Infantry and 
20th Infantry Regiments of the Japanese 
16th Division. 5 * On the morning of 26 Oc 
tober the regimental commander ordered 
Company E, 383d Infantry, under Capt. 



Jesse R. Thomas, to make a reconnaissance 
in force of San Vicente Hill. 51 Upon receiv 
ing his orders, Captain Thomas made his 
plans. The 1st Platoon was to move forward 
and take the left nose of the hill, operating 
on the right of the 2d Platoon. The 3d Pla 
toon was to move into an assembly area fifty 
yards behind the line of departure. 

On the morning of 26 October the 155- 
mm. howitzers of the 363d Field Artillery 
Battalion laid a ten-minute concentration 
on the crest of the hill. This fire was in 
effective, since it was too far ahead of the 
troops. At 1000 the platoons of Company 
E moved through the tall cogon grass to 
the edge of an open field approximately 200 
yards from the base of the hill. The men 
were under orders not to fire until fired 
upon. As the leading elements of the two 
platoons entered the field, the 9th Infantry 
Regiment opened fire with rifles and mor 
tars. The 3d Platoon then moved up into 
position along the line of departure, pre 
pared to support the attack. Since the 2d 
Platoon was not under heavy fire, it was 
ordered to move to the foot of the hill and 
take a position from which it could support 
by fire the advance of the 1st Platoon. 
Enemy mortars were dropping shells around 
the center of the area, but American mor 
tars silenced them. 

The 2d Platoon reported that it was 100 
yards from the base of the hill. The 2d 
Battalion commander, Lt. Col. James O. 
McCray, moved into the company com 
mand post, about seventy-five yards behind 
the attacking platoons at the edge of the 
open field. This sector began to receive 



4T Davidson et al., The Deadeyes, p, 38. 
48 382d Inf Unit Rpt 9, 28 Oct 44. 
40 Ibid. 
50 383d Inf Opns Rpt, p. 5. 



51 The operations report of the 383d Infantry for 
the Leyte Campaign has an "Account of Eyewit 
nesses Made Immediately Following the Action," 
which is Inclosure 2 to the report. Unless otherwise 
stated these statements are the basis for this account 
of the action on San Vicente Hill. 



118 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




SAN VICENTE HILL 



heavy fire from the right side of the hill and 
several men on the edge of the field were 
hit. Colonel McCray crawled up and 
started to help drag the wounded men to 
cover. At the same time he ordered the bat 
talion to open fire against the hill with all 
weapons except artillery, but an undeter 
mined number of enemy riflemen in the 
rear of the command post and on the left 
flank of the company started firing into the 
command post. 

Colonel McCray continued to bring back 
wounded men. At this time Captain Thomas 
was overcome by the heat, and the execu 
tive officer of Company E, 2d Lt. Owen R. 
O'Neill, took over. He ordered the with 
drawal of the force. It was now 1335 and 
the company, under continuous fire since 
1000, had been unable to advance. Captain 
Thomas revived and again assumed com 



mand, directing the withdrawal and the 
bringing back of the wounded. The body 
of Colonel McCray, who had sacrificed his 
life while dragging the wounded from the 
hill, was found about twenty yards from the 
command post. The withdrawal was com 
pleted. 

From 27 to 29 October, the actions of 
the 2d and 3d Battalions, 383d Infantry, 
were limited to reconnaissance patrols in 
the vicinity of the town of San Vicente and 
San Vicente Hill in attempts to find the 
strong positions of the enemy on the hill. 
At 0930 on 30 October Colonel May 
ordered the battalions to renew the attack 
from positions near the Guinarona River. 
The two units jumped off at 1300. The 3d 
Battalion advanced along the north bank 
of the Guinarona River, one company going 
through Pikas and the rest of the battalion 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



119 



making a wide swing through a coconut 
palm grove and open fields. The 2d Bat 
talion moved along the south bank of the 
Guinarona River, one company following 
a trail from Pikas to San Vicente and the 
rest of the battalion going directly to San 
Vicente Hill, which was taken without 
opposition since the enemy force had with 
drawn. The 3d Battalion went through the 
barrio of San Vicente without difficulty 
but encountered some small arms fire along 
the river 300 yards north of the village. 
Both battalions formed their night perim 
eters near the river. 

At the same time, the eastern slopes of 
Catmon Hill were being assaulted by ele 
ments of the 381st Infantry, which had 
been in Sixth Army reserve through 26 Oc 
tober. On 27 October Sixth Army had re 
leased the 381st Infantry to XXIV Corps 
control. At 1330 on the same day General 
Bradley ordered the regiment to relieve on 
the following day the 1st Battalion, 383d 
Infantry, which had been on Labiranan 
Head since 22 October. It was then to at 
tack and capture Gatmon Hill. 

Catmon Hill had been under steady 
naval and artillery fire since A Day 20 
October. The 96th Division artillery had 
constantly fired on targets of opportunity by 
day and harassed enemy positions in the 
area during the night. Starting at 2100 on 
27 October, the 105-mm. howitzers of the 
36 1st Field Artillery Battalion, the 155-mm. 
howitzers of the 198th Field Artillery Bat 
talion, a battery of 155-mm. howitzers from 
the 363d Field Artillery Battalion, and the 
75-mm. howitzers from the 780th Amphib 
ian Tank Battalion were to deliver harass 
ing fires on the hill until 1030 the following 
day. At that time all of the artillery units 
were to commence firing successive concen 



trations beginning at the bottom of the hill 
and working to the top in fifty-yard bounds. 
After the 381st Infantry, less the 3d Battal 
ion, attacked at 1200 on 28 October, the 
artillery was to fire concentrations in front 
of the troops as they advanced. 52 

In making his plans for the capture of 
Catmon Hill, Col. Michael E. Halloran, 
commander of the 381st Infantry, decided 
to have the 1st Battalion make an envelop 
ing movement from the northeast while the 
2d Battalion pushed west along the main 
ridge. The 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry, 
from its position on Labiranan Head, would 
support the attack by fire. On the morning 
of 28 October the 38 1st Infantry, less the 3d 
Battalion, moved into position for the attack. 
After a thirty-minute preparation by the 
artillery, the 381st Infantry jumped off to 
the attack at 1200. 

The 1st Battalion, 381st Infantry, moved 
to the foot of the hill, where it received "a 
bloody nose" from fire coming out of well- 
entrenched positions. It withdrew under 
cover of smoke and established a night 
perimeter in the vicinity of its line of de 
parture. The 2d Battalion, however, met no 
enemy resistance and advanced rapidly. At 
the close of the day the battalion was just 
short of Labir Hill. 53 During the night the 
Americans expended 3,000 rounds of artil 
lery ammunition on Catmon Hill, chiefly in 
front of the 2d Battalion sector. The plans 
for 29 October called for a morning attack 
by the 2d Battalion, supported by fire from 
the 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry, which had 
not yet been relieved; the 1st Battalion, 



** 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 45. Unless other 
wise stated the section dealing with the capture of 
Gatmon Hill is based on 381st Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, 
pp. 3-3c. 

63 38 1st Inf Unit Rpt 4, 28 Oct 44; 381st Inf Unit 
Jnl, 29 Oct 44. 



120 



LEYTE; THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




105-MM SELF-PROPELLED HOWITZER M7 FIRING on Japanese positions on 
Catmon Hill. 



381st Infantry, was to seek a new lane of 
approach and attack at noon. 

After a thirty-minute artillery prepara 
tion, the 2d Battalion, 381st Infantry, moved 
out at 0830. With the support of a platoon 
of light tanks, the battalion easily secured 
both Labir and Gatmon Hills. By 1300 the 
position had been consolidated. The 1st 
Battalion, 381st Infantry, supported by the 
massed fire of forty-five tanks and the Regi 
mental Gannon Company, jumped off at 
1200. The troops moved through a heavily 
fortified area, and at 1600 they established 
physical contact with the regiment's 2d Bat 
talion. 

During the heavy pounding of Gatmon 
Hill, the main body of Japanese troops, 
the 9th Infantry Regiment, had withdrawn 



from the hill on 26 October, unknown to the 
Americans, and rejoined the main force of 
the 16th Division in the Dagami area. 54 

At last Catmon Hill had been secured. 
The 1st Battalion, 383d Infantry, was re 
lieved and passed to the Sixth Army reserve. 
The 381st Infantry's command post was 
moved north of San Roque, and at 1800 its 
3d Battalion rejoined the regiment south of 
this position. During 30 and 31 October the 
entire Catmon Hill area was mopped up 
fifty-three pillboxes, seventeen caves, and 
numerous smaller emplaced positions were 
destroyed by demolition charges. The last 
enemy stronghold threatening the landing 
beaches had been removed. 



* 35th Army Qpm, p. 34. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



121 



Convergence on Kiling 

Since the main force of the 96th Division 
was centered in the vicinity of Catmon Hill, 
General Bradley had decided to secure the 
northern limits of the corps beachhead 
line the road running from Tanauan to 
Dagami concurrently with the assault on 
Catmon Hill. On 25 October Colonel Hal- 
loran had ordered the 3d Battalion of the 
381st Infantry to move north along High 
way 1 to Tanauan and thence southwest- 
ward along the Tanauan-Dagami road to 
Dagami. At the same time the 1 7th Infantry, 
7th Division, was advancing north toward 
Dagami on the Burauen-Dagami road. At 
0830 on 26 October the reinforced 3d Bat 
talion of the 381st Infantry moved out. 55 
The forward movement was halted by a 
bridge that had been mined and partially 
blown out. The battalion forded the river 
and the advance continued without tanks or 
vehicles, while engineers from the 321st En 
gineer Battalion deactivated the mines and 
repaired the bridge. The tanks and vehicles 
then rejoined the battalion. Two platoons 
supported by tanks were sent forward to 
guard the two bridges south and east of 
Tanauan. En route, the platoons received 
some machine gun and rifle fire from a hill 
between Vigia Point and Tanauan. During 
the night the enemy made his presence 
known by three rounds of mortar fire and 
by sporadic rifle fire on the bridge guards. 

At 0800 on 27 October the march was 
renewed. The troops again came under fire 
from the hill between Vigia Point and 
Tanauan. After a delay of two hours, in 



55 The reinforcements consisted of a platoon 
from the Cannon Company, 381st Infantry; one 
platoon from Company A, 321st Engineers; Com 
pany A, 763d Tank Battalion; one platoon from 
Company A, 321st Medical Battalion; and Battery 
C, 361st Field Artillery Battalion. 



which artillery fire was placed on the hill, 
the advance continued and the entrance 
into Tanauan at 1 145 was unopposed. The 
battalion then turned southwestward along 
the Tanauan-Dagami road toward Kiling, 
which is about midway between Tanauan 
and Dagami. The 3d Battalion had gone 
about two miles along the road when it came 
under fire from 75-mm. guns, mortars, and 
machine guns. Two hours were required for 
Company A, 763d Tank Battalion, and two 
flame-thrower tanks to reduce this 'resist 
ance. 56 Seven pillboxes and three 75-mm. 
guns were destroyed and a command post 
was captured. A night perimeter was estab 
lished on the road, at 1700, and only spo 
radic rifle fire occurred during the night. 

At 0800 the following day the 3d Bat 
talion, 381st Infantry, moved out and about 
1500 the advance element entered Kiling. 
An attack supported by Battery C, 361st 
Field Artillery Battalion, was launched 
against the enemy about 1630. The Japa 
nese countered with heavy machine gun, 
mortar, and rifle fire. The attack continued 
without success until 1800, when the 3d 
Battalion withdrew under a smoke screen 
and established a night perimeter about 
1,000 yards east of Kiling. Battery C, 361st 
Field Artillery, fired intermittently during 
the night to prevent any Japanese attack 
against the perimeter. 57 

At 0800 the following morning 29 
October the 3d Battalion, supported by, 
tanks and artillery, moved out against Kil 
ing. On the outskirts of the barrio the bat 
talion met stubborn and determined resist 
ance where the Japanese, with machine 
guns, mortars, and rifles, fought "to the last 
man." The resistance was overcome, and 
by 1500 the Americans occupied the town, 



58 763d Tank Bn S-3 Periodic Rpt 3, 27 Oct 44. 
BT 381st Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 3-3a. 



122 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



which was honeycombed with emplace 
ments and entrenchments. At 1600 the 3d 
Battalion, 381st Infantry, was relieved by 
the 2d Battalion, 38 2d Infantry, which had 
come up from Tabontabon by truck. At 
1800 the 3d Battalion, 381st Infantry, re 
turned by truck to the area north of San 
Roque. 58 

From Tabontabon two important roads 
lead to the Tanauan-Dagami road. One of 
these runs in a northeasterly direction and 
meets the Tanauan-Dagami road at Kil- 
ing; the other goes in a northwesterly direc 
tion and meets the road at Digahongan 
about one and a half miles east of Dagami. 
Colonel Dill ordered the 1st and 3d Bat 
talions, 382d Infantry, to pass through 
Tabontabon on 27 October and then to 
proceed northwest along the latter road to 
Digahongan. They were then to go north 
eastward along the Tanauan-Dagami road 
and at Kiling join the 2d Battalion, which 
was to proceed northeast along the road 
from Tabontabon to Kiling. 

The 1st and 3d Battalions, with the 3d 
Battalion in the lead, moved out of Tabon 
tabon and advanced about three quarters 
of a mile to Kapahuan where they estab 
lished night perimeters. During the night 
the Japanese charged the perimeter of the 
1st Battalion. The attack was repulsed with 
only three casualties to the battalion, while 
about one hundred of the enemy were 
killed. 

At 0830 on the 28th the 1st and 3d Bat 
talions jumped off abreast along both sides 
of the narrow road for Digahongan the 
1st Battalion on the right and the 3d Bat 
talion on the left. At 1200, when the 
battalions were about two miles northwest 
of Tabontabon, they encountered a strongly 
fortified position. The 16th Division had 



built coconut pillboxes and many spider 
holes, which were supported by two 70-mm. 
howitzers and a number of 50-mm. mor 
tars. Flame throwers and demolition teams, 
supported by the artillery, knocked out this 
fortified area. Taking their dead and 
wounded, the enemy withdrew. The Ameri 
can troops then advanced under protection 
of artillery fire toward the road junction 
at Digahongan, which they reached at 1500. 
During the day the battalions had been 
harassed by numerous hidden riflemen, 
mines, and booby traps. 

The 1st Battalion was to move east 
toward Kiling. The 3d received orders to 
stay and guard the road junction at Diga 
hongan, nicknamed Foxhole Corners, where 
it went into night perimeter. At 1600 the 
battalion successfully repulsed a counter 
attack by about 200 Japanese. In the mean 
time the 1st Battalion moved as far east 
on the Digahongan-Kiling road as Kansa- 
mada, where it established a night per 
imeter. During the night several small 
enemy groups of six to eight men each tried 
to enter the battalion lines but were driven 
off. 59 

The 3d Battalion spent 29 October in 
patrolling the area around Digahongan and 
guarding the road junction. It broke up one 
enemy attack by about thirty men. At 0800 
the 1st Battalion moved out from Kansa- 
mada toward Kiling against scattered en 
emy fire but at 1 1 30 the troops were stopped 
by heavy automatic fire which came from 
pillboxes astride the road. Shortly afterward 
the enemy artillery opened up and the 1st 
Battalion was forced to withdraw about a 
thousand yards to a point where it estab 
lished a perimeter. 60 During the fight Lt. 
Col. Jesse W. Mecham, the commanding 



8 Ibid. 



' 382d Inf Unit Rpt 9, 28 Oct 44. 
5 382d Inf Unit Rpt 10, 29 Got 44. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



123 



officer of the battalion, was mortally 
wounded. His last order to the battalion 
was that the troops should not risk their 
lives to get his body out. 61 That night, how 
ever, Maj. Joseph R. Lewis, who had as 
sumed command of the battalion, led a 
small party forward and recovered the body 
of Colonel Mecham. 

During the night the 9th Infantry Regi 
ment withdrew. On 30 October the 1st Bat 
talion, 382d Infantry, found no opposition 
during its advance forward to Kiling and 
at 1030 established contact with the 2d Bat 
talion, 382d Infantry. The 2d Battalion, 
less Company G, had moved out of Tabon- 
tabon on the northeast road to Kiling on 28 
October, spending the night on the out 
skirts of the town. 

The units of the 96th Division spent the 
next three days in patrolling and mopping 



up. The division had secured the beach 
head area of the XXIV Corps in its zone 
of action. Its units had seized the Catmon 
Hill mass, which dominated the landing 
beaches, had traversed and cleaned out the 
inland swamps, and had secured the im 
portant communications center and supply 
dump of Tabontabon and the main por 
tion of the significant Tanauan-Dagami 
road. Since landing they had killed an 
estimated 2,769 Japanese and taken 6 
prisoners in their zone of action. 62 The cost 
had not been light. Casualties of the 96th 
Division since 25 October had been 13 of 
ficers and 132 enlisted men killed, 30 officers 
and 534 enlisted men wounded, and 2 of 
ficers and 88 enlisted men missing in 
action. 63 



61 Davidson et aL, The Deadeyes, p. 41. 



62 96th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 13, 2 Nov 44. 

63 Compiled from 96th Div G-l Daily Strength 
Rpts, 26 Oct-2 Nov 44. 



CHAPTER VIII 



Southern Leyte Valley: Part Two 



Before the invasion, the Japanese had 
reached the conclusion that if and when the 
Americans landed on Leyte it would be in 
the Dulag area, and their greatest efforts 
had therefore been directed toward making 
that area impregnable. General Makino, 
commanding general of the 16th Division, 
had stationed the following units in the 
Dulag sector: the 20th Infantry Regiment 3 
commanded by Col. Keijiro Hokoda; ele 
ments of the 22d Field Artillery Regiment; 
the 54th Air Field Company, commanded 
by Comdr. Kazumasa Kumazawa; and the 
7th Independent Tank Company? At 0300 
on 21 October, General Makino withdrew 
from the Dulag area to Dagami and estab 
lished his command post in that sector. 2 
The effective fire of the preliminary naval 
bombardment had driven the Japanese 
from the landing beaches. 

The Dulag-Burauen Road 

The beachhead quadrangle of the XXIV 
Corps was bounded, generally, by the 
Dulag-Burauen-Dagami-Tanauan road. 
The sections of the road bordering the 
northern edge of the quadrangle (Dagami 
to Tanauan) and the eastern edge (Tana- 
uan to Dulag) were, in general, in the 96th 
Division zone of action. The southern and 

'7th Inf Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 2, 21 Oct 44, 
and Rpt 4, 23 Oct 44. 
2 35th Army Opns, p. 27. 



western sides of the quadrangle were as 
signed to the 7th Division. The road that 
ran along the coast between Dulag and 
Tanauan, was a one-way thoroughfare 
which soon disintegrated under the heavy 
rainfall and military traffic. (Map 8) 

Besides the Dulag airstrip, which was 
approximately one mile west of the town, 
there were three other airfields in the zone 
of action of the 7th Infantry Division. The 
San Pablo airstrip was approximately five 
miles west of Dulag and two miles east of 
Burauen. Its runway extended generally 
east to west with a width of 1 64 feet and a 
length of 4,920 feet. The field was over 
grown with weeds and had not been occu 
pied by the Japanese. The Bayug airstrip 
was just north of the highway and a half 
mile east of Burauen. It had a runway ap 
proximately 5,000 feet long. The Buri air 
strip, the most important one in the 7th 
Division zone, was about one mile northeast 
of Burauen, ran in a general east-west direc 
tion, and was also 5,000 feet long. 3 

Halfway to Burauen 

General Hodge ordered the 7th Division 
to capture the Dulag airfield and then drive 
west along the Dulag-Burauen road to seize 
Burauen and its airfields. After this was 



3 Fifth Air Force Opns Instns 6, Engr Annex, 28 
Sep 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 30 Sep 44. 



TTH DIVISION 
ADVANCE TO DAGAMI 

21-30 October 1944 

"^^ AXIS OF ADVANCE 

umwffltt POSITIONS REACHED AT INDICATED DATE 

'.'. - MAIN ROAD 

==== SECONDARY ROAD 

Form lines only Elevations in feet 



PATROLS !184TH 1] INFANTRY 




MAP 8- 




DULAG AND BAYUG AIRSTRIPS as they appeared in 1946. Dulag is above. 




SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



127 




MAJ. GEN. JOHN R. HODGE, XXIV Corps commander, outlines plans to his staff at 
corps headquarters in Dulag. 



done, the division was to turn north along 
the Burauen Dagami road and capture Da- 
gami. 4 The 32d Infantry was to protect the 
division's right (north), maintain contact 
with the 96th Division, and, if necessary, 
help the 184th Infantry on its left to secure 
the Dulag airstrip west of the town of Dulag. 
Securing the airstrip was to be the main 
effort of the 1 84th Infantry. 5 

At the end of A Day (20 October), all 
the assault battalions of the 32d and 184th 
Infantry Regiments of the 7th Division 
were ashore. The 32d Infantry was on the 
right (north) flank and the 184th Infantry 
on the left (south) flank. The 32d Infantry 
had advanced just beyond Highway 1 in 



the area northwest of Dulag. 6 The 3d Bat 
talion, 184th Infantry, was on the southern 
edge of the Dulag airstrip, while the 1st 
Battalion of the regiment was directly left 
of the 3d, and the 2d Battalion was in 
reserve. 7 The 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, 
protecting the left flank of the XXIV Corps, 
was across the Daguitan River at Dao; 8 the 
1st and 2d Battalions of the same regiment 
were to remain in division reserve. 

The 7th Division had scarcely established 
itself for the night of 20 October when the 
Japanese launched two small-scale tank at 
tacks against the perimeter of the division. 
Since a gap existed between the 184th and 



4 XXIV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 

5 7th Inf Div FO 9, 1 Oct 44. 

260317 054 10 



32d Inf Regt Jnl, 20 Oct 44. 

7 184th Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt 1, 20 Oct 44. 

8 17th Inf Unit Jnl, 20 Oct 44. 



128 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



32d Infantry Regiments, Company G of the 
184th was committed to fill the space. As 
the men of the company were digging in 
for the night, three tanks from the 7th In 
dependent Tank Company came down the 
road and sprayed the area with machine 
gun fire, but the fire was high and there were 
no casualties. Though the company fired 
rifles, bazookas, and mortars against them, 
the tanks escaped without injury. An hour 
later, when one of the tanks returned, it was 
knocked out and its crew were killed by a 
rifle grenade. An enemy scout car then 
dashed down the road, and its occupants 
killed two men and wounded three others. 

The 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, had 
established its night perimeter on the edge 
of the Dulag airfield, with its right flank on 
the Dulag-Burauen road. At 0130 three 
Japanese medium tanks moved along this 
road. Pfc. George W. Tilk of Company M 
stopped one of these, as it came into range, 
with one shot from his bazooka. The other 
two tanks continued down the road but on 
their return trip they were destroyed one 
by the battalion supply detail and the other 
by Pfc. Johnnie Johnson with his bazooka. 9 

The uneasy repose of the 7th Division was 
again broken at 0400 on 2 1 October when 
six enemy tanks attacked the sector of the 
3d Battalion, 184th Infantry. Within thirty 
minutes the battalion knocked out two of 
the tanks and forced the others to retreat. 10 
The next disturbance was at 0530 when 
about fifty Japanese launched a limited 
counterattack against the night perimeter of 



Lt Russell A. Gugeler, Battle for Dagami, pp. 
10-11, MS in OGMH. The author, a combat his 
torian attached to the 7th Division after the opera 
tion, knew many of the participants and has been 
able to give details that do not appear in the official 
records. Much of the material in this chapter is 
based on his manuscript. 

10 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 



Company K, 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry, 
with light machine gun and rifle fire. The 
Americans broke up the attack with ma 
chine guns, mortars, and artillery. 11 Day 
light revealed thirty-five enemy dead in 
front of the company perimeter, and there 
was evidence that others had been dragged 
away. 

Maj. Gen. Archibald V. Arnold, com 
mander, ordered the 184th and 32d In 
fantry Regiments of the 7th Division to 
move west toward the Burauen airstrips 
abreast. Since a gap of several hundred 
yards existed between the two regiments, 
the battalions of the 184th Infantry were 
ordered to veer to the right, At 0800 the 
7th Division attacked, the 184th Infantry 
on the left and the 32d Infantry on the 
right. There were four battalions in the 
assault, from left to right: 1st Battalion, 
184th Infantry; 3d Battalion, 184th Infan 
try; 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry; and 2d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry. 12 

As the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, moved 
forward, it encountered Japanese en 
trenched in positions along the hedgerows. 
Knocking out these positions from hedge 
row to hedgerow greatly retarded the ad 
vance. The 3d Battalion on the left faced 
an impassable swamp. In order to establish 
contact with the 1 84th Infantry and cover 
the area, Company I moved around the 
left side of the swamp, and Company L 
went around the right; Company K was 
to cover the gap between the 2d and 3d 
Battalions until the 2d Battalion could 
close it. 

There was an enemy strong point between 
the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 32d Infan 
try, but since Colonel Logic was anxious to 



U 32d Inf Regt Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 
u 7th Div, Detailed Division Narrative, King II, 
p. 4, DRB AGO. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



129 



continue the advance of the regiment and 
straighten the line between the battalions, 
he ordered the battalions to bypass the 
strong point, while the 1st Battalion under 
Maj. Leigh H. Mathias was ordered to move 
from its assembly area and reduce it. The 
lines were straightened somewhat, but the 
swamps and the heavy foliage made contact 
very difficult. 

The 2d and 3d Battalions came under 
fire from 75-mm. guns emplaced in bunkers; 
tanks reduced these bunkers and the ad 
vance continued. A report of the 32d In 
fantry boasts that "the reduction of pillboxes 
was right down our alley." 13 By 1520 the 3d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, had reached the 
regimental beachhead line; shortly there 
after the 2d Battalion came abreast of the 
3d. 

The 1st Battalion of the 32d Infantry, 
however, experienced difficulty in reducing 
the bypassed strong point, which it reached 
in the middle of the afternoon. The Japa 
nese defenses consisted of one 75-mm. and 
one antitank gun emplaced in bunkers and 
four machine guns in pillboxes; these were 
completely surrounded by an elaborate sys 
tem of trenches and foxholes and were occu 
pied by approximately two platoons of rifle 
men. 14 When the battalion reached the posi 
tion. Companies A and B, with Company A 
on the right, were on a line behind five medi 
um tanks and one M8 self-propelled 75-mm. 
howitzer from the Cannon Company. As 
the troops moved across an open field 
toward a hedgerow, the Japanese opened 
fire upon Company A. Company B also 
received fire as it moved beyond the hedge 
row. After several men had been killed and 
others wounded, Company B halted until 



the Japanese positions could be neutralized 
by the tanks and the howitzer. 

As the tanks emerged from the hedgerow 
they came under heavy fire from the Japa 
nese antitank gun. Although some of the 
tanks were hit, no serious damage was done; 
but the howitzer received a direct hit that 
set it ablaze and exploded its ammunition. 15 
The crew abandoned the burning vehicle. 
Pfc. Fedele A. Grammatico crawled up 
under enemy fire, removed the machine 
guns, which were intact, and brought them 
safely back behind the lines. In the mean 
time, Company A tried to advance and 
knock out the enemy antitank gun but the 
Japanese stopped the company with direct 
fire. 

Both companies were halted. The strug 
gle resolved itself into a battle between the 
tanks and the Japanese in entrenched posi 
tions. The tanks finally silenced the enemy, 
and the infantrymen moved in with rifles 
and bazookas and cleared out the foxholes. 
After the reduction of this strong point, the 
1st Battalion tried to overtake the 2d and 
3d Battalions. This was not possible, and at 
1800 the 1st Battalion formed its own per 
imeter. 

The 184th Infantry found little opposi 
tion in its area, but excessive heat and the 
difficulty of maintaining communication in 
the high cogon grass rendered its progress 
difficult. At 0900 the regiment secured the 
Dulag airstrip and continued its forward 
movement against sporadic rifle and ma 
chine gun fire. Contact had been broken 
with the 32d Infantry, and at 1245 a gap 
of 3,000 yards existed between the regi 
ments. At 1515 the 184th Infantry was 
ordered to hold up its advance and estab 
lish contact with the 32d. 16 It had advanced 



13 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5. 

14 Ibid. 



*Ibid. 

6 184th Inf Regt Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 



130 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



approximately 1,000 yards beyond the 
division beachhead line. 

On 21 October an unidentified Japanese 
soldier wrote in his diary : 

Finally the enemy's gunfire and bombard 
ment has reached our field and road area 
(except the runway). Gunfire seems to fade 
to Dulag area during the night. It seems that 
enemy tanks are approaching San Pablo vi 
cinity. We are preparing for them. . . . Bar 
racks and fuel dumps are to be burned. I am 
awaiting the opportune moment. . . . 

I feel alive during the night and dead 
during the day. Though life and death are 
separated by a thin sheet of paper I will not 
die until I see a face of a Yankee. 17 

During the night of 21-22 October all 
field artillery battalions delivered harassing 
fires, and just before the assault they fired 
a fifteen-minute barrage. 

At 0800 the 32d Infantry moved out to 
the attack. The 2d Battalion on the right 
faced difficult and swampy terrain lying 
along the winding, steep-banked Calbasag 
River, which the troops had to cross twelve 
times during the day's advance. In the after 
noon a platoon of amphibian tractors and 
another of amphibian tanks were sent to 
the aid of the battalion, and engineers from 
the 13th Engineer Battalion constructed 
temporary bridges over the river when 
necessary. 18 The 3d Battalion of the regi 
ment paced its speed of advance with that 
ofthe2d. 

In the meantime the 1st Battalion over 
took the others and at 1000 moved to the 
right of the 3d Battalion, bringing the three 
units into line. Earlier, at 0925, the 3d 
Battalion was advancing just to the right 
of the Dulag-Burauen road when it re 
ceived enemy artillery fire, which came 
from four 75-mm. field pieces to the rear 



17 7th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, App. G to Annex 2. 

18 13th Engr Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 



of a hedgerow 600 to 700 yards ahead. 
When the companies reached the hedge 
row, Company L received heavy fire from 
four machine guns which had been em- 
placed to protect the field pieces. 

Light machine guns and mortars were 
brought up, and the 31st Field Artillery 
Battalion placed a five-minute concentra 
tion on the enemy strong point. Three tanks 
from Company C, 767th Tank Battalion, 
were poised for an assault. As soon as the 
artillery lifted its fire, the tanks dashed for 
ward and destroyed one machine gun and 
one 75-mm. field piece immediately. The 
tanks then covered the rest of the area with 
machine gun fire until Company L moved 
up and destroyed the remaining gun posi 
tions with rifles and grenades. The action 
ended at 1240. 

As the 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry, was 
destroying the artillery position, Company 
G of the 2d Battalion received heavy enemy 
machine gun and rifle fire near the banks of 
the Calbasag River. The 3d Platoon of 
Company G walked into an ambush of 
machine guns, which fired from two pill 
boxes under native shacks. The platoon was 
pinned down, having suffered ten casualties 
from the first burst of fire. To keep the ad 
vance moving, Company G remained be 
hind to knock out the bunkers while Com 
pany F went forward to continue the ad 
vance with Company E. Since the swamps 
prohibited the use of tanks, and the mutually 
supported pillboxes prevented envelopment, 
and since the nearness of friendly troops 
made the use of artillery dangerous, all of 
Company G was held up. The 3d Platoon 
hugged the ground until darkness enabled it 
to withdraw. 

At 0900 on 22 October, planes from the 
Seventh Fleet bombed the Japanese forti 
fications in front of the 184th Infantry. As 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



131 



on the previous day, the heat, tangled foli 
age, and deep swamps, rather than enemy 
action, slowed the advance of the regiment. 
Since the 184th Infantry's rate of advance 
was more rapid than that of the 32d In 
fantry, orders were issued to the 184th after 
it had moved forward an additional 2,800 
yards to hold its position until the 32d In 
fantry could close the gap. 19 The 184th 
maintained contact with the 3d Battalion, 
1 7th Infantry, by means of patrols. 

The 184th Infantry waited most of the 
day for the 32d to come abreast. By 1800 
the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 32d Infantry 
had advanced approximately half the dis 
tance to Burauen. The 3d Battalion, 17th 
Infantry, on the southern flank of the divi 
sion, sent out reconnaissance patrols, which 
encountered small groups of the enemy 
1,000 to 1,200 yards south. The rest of the 
1 7th Infantry moved into an assembly area 
in the vicinity of the Dulag airfield. 20 

Changes in Plans 

On the evening of 22 October both Gen 
eral Makino, commander of the 16th Divi 
sion on Leyte, and General Arnold, com 
mander of the 7th Division, made changes 
in their plans. 

The 16th Division was divided into the 
Northern and Southern Leyte Defense 
Forces. The Northern Leyte Defense Force, 
consisting of the 9th Infantry Regiment re 
inforced by elements of the 22 d Field Artil 
lery Regiment, would defend the Catmon 
Hill area against the 96th Division. The 
Southern Leyte Defense Force, which op 
posed the 7th Division, was composed of the 
20th Infantry Regiment, less one battalion, 
the 2d Battalion of the 33d Infantry Regi- 

19 7th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 3, 22 Oct 44. 

20 Ibid. 



ment, the 7th Independent Tank Company, 
and two platoons of the 16th Engineer Regi 
ment. Some troops were to occupy the area 
in the vicinity of San Pablo and the Calba- 
sag River. The main force was to be cen 
tralized in a prepared position near Hin- 
dang. Another group was to occupy Julita, 
from which it would make small night raids. 
At the same time part of this force was to op 
erate along the right bank of the Daguitan 
River, protecting the 16th Division's right 
flank. Another unit of approximately 600 
troops was composed of the 98th Airfield 
Battalion, the 54th Airfield Company, and 
air-ground service units. It was to occupy 
the key positions the high ground west 
of Burauen, the south end of Burauen, and 
the Buri airfield and thus prevent the 
Americans from using the airfield and stop 
the advance of American tanks along the 
road. The main strength of the artillery (22d 
Field Artillery Regiment, less the 6th Bat 
tery] would support the Southern Leyte 
Defense Force. The engineers were to be 
prepared to demolish the road between 
Dagami and Burauen and between Dagarni 
and Tanauan. The main force of the engi 
neers was to secure the road connecting Da 
gami, Hiabangan, Rizal, and Tingib. A 
naval unit was to protect a supply dump east 
of Dagami, and all remaining units, together 
with the 16th Division command post, 
would occupy positions in the vicinity of 
Dagami. 21 

Three of the four airfields in the zone 
of the XXIV Corps were in the vicinity of 
Burauen. General Arnold wished to seize 
them as soon as possible, and at the same 
time he was anxious to advance so rapidly 
that the Japanese would not have time to 

21 96th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex C, 
Part III, Trans, KAK1 Operational Order A-837, 
22 Oct 44. 



132 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




DISABLED M4 TANK on the Dulag-Burauen road. 



construct additional fortified positions near 
the airfields. He accordingly rearranged 
the assault troops. The 17th Infantry, less 
the 3d Battalion, with the 2d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, attached, was ordered to 
pass through the 184th and 32d Infantry 
Regiments at 0830 on 23 October, attack 
west astride the Dulag-Burauen road, and 
capture the San Pablo airfield. The 767th 
Tank Battalion, in support of the regiment, 
was either to precede the 17th Infantry or 
to operate with it, as the terrain permitted. 
It was to jump off from the vicinity of the 
, Dulag airfield thirty minutes earlier than 
the assault units of the 17th Infantry. The 
32 d and 184th Infantry Regiments were to 
follow 1,000 yards behind the 17th.* 2 It was 

O II, 22Oct44. 



hoped that this "flying wedge" formation 
would catch the Japanese off balance and 
that the rear elements of the wedge would 
be able to take care of any disorganized 
enemy units that had been bypassed. 

On to Burauen 

The flying wedge was very successful 
The tanks of the 767th Tank Battalion 
moved out at 0730 on the morning of 23 
October. Though one of the tanks was 
knocked out about 3,000 yards west of 
Julita at 1 000, the others reached the west 
ern edge of Burauen at 1712 and scattered 
the enemy forces in that area. At 0800 the 
assault units of the 17th Infantry jumped 
off, 400 yards to the rear of the tank bat- 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



133 



talion. Because of the narrow front the col 
umn of troops was elongated, and it was not 
until shortly after 0900 that the 1st Battal 
ion, 32d Infantry, was able to move for 
ward. Because of the difficult terrain and 
the blazing heat, the infantrymen experi 
enced difficulty in keeping up with the tanks. 
The troops encountered sporadic opposition 
during the day, passed rapidly through the 
barrios of Julita and San Pablo, and se 
cured San Pablo airfield. At 1115 General 
Arnold notified Colonel Logie that the 32d 
Infantry was to be responsible for the right 
flank of the 7th Division's zone of action, 
less the 200-yard front covered by the 17th 
Infantry. 

At 1700 the units prepared their night 
perimeters, the 1st Battalion of the 32d, 400 
yards south of the San Pablo airstrip; the 
3d Battalion, 1,500 yards north of Julita; 
and the 2d Battalion in division reserve, 500 
yards southeast of Julita. 23 At the same time 
the 1 7th Infantry was on the west end of the 
San Pablo airfield. 24 The 184th Infantry, 
minus the 2d Battalion, was south of the 
highway between San Pablo and Julita. 
During the day's action, the commanding 
officer of the Japanese 20th Infantry Regi 
ment was killed. 25 The action for the next 
few days resolved itself into two separate 
engagements the seizure of the Buri air 
strip and the battle for Dagami. 

Securing the XXIV Corps Beachhead Line 
Burauen 

The 7th Division attacked at 0830 on 24 
October, using the same formation em 
ployed on the previous day except that the 



1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, reverted to 
regimental reserve. The 1st and 2d Bat* 
talions, 1 7th Infantry, continued along the 
road to Burauen; the 32d Infantry crossed 
San Pablo airfield and then went to the 
right in a north-northwest direction toward 
the Buri airstrip. The 2d Battalion, 17th 
Infantry, fought its way through the north 
eastern part of the town of Burauen and 
managed to reach the road to Dagami. As 
the main part of Burauen is south and west 
of the road, the barrio was in the zone of 
the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, which was 
advancing along the left side of the road. 

The 17th Infantry reached the edge of 
Burauen at 1030. As the troops explored 
the situation, they found that though there 
was no organized resistance in the town, 
scattered throughout Burauen were elements 
of the 20th Infantry Regiment, dug in under 
the buildings in spider holes and armed 
with satchel charges, Bangalor torpedoes 
made of bamboo, and antitank mines. 26 

As the American tanks moved through 
the barrio, some of the Japanese jumped out 
of their spider holes and held explosive 
charges against the tanks in an attempt to 
destroy them at the cost of their own lives. 
The assault forces of the 1 7th Infantry, de 
spite the difficulty of flushing the enemy 
from the spider holes under the buildings, 
made steady progress and by 1400 had 
mopped up and secured the town. The bat 
talions re-formed and were ready to go 
north to Dagami. 

The Buri Airstrip 

At 0800 on 24 October, Colonel Logie 
was transferred to the headquarters of the 
7th Division and Lt. Col. John M. Finn 



23 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 

a * 7th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 4, 23 Oct 44. 

25 35th Army Opns, p. 28. 



26 17th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, The Battle for 
Dagami, Annex A, p. 1. 



134 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




BURAUEN is searched for the enemy by troops of the 17th Infantry. 



assumed command of the 32d Infantry. 
Colonel Finn ordered the 1st Battalion, 32d 
Infantry, to advance to positions across the 
San Pablo airfield and then continue the 
attack northwest toward the Buri airstrip. 
The 2d Battalion remained in division re 
serve. 

The Buri airfield was northeast of Bur- 
auen, with a heavily wooded area on its 
northern edge. On the northern and western 
edges the Japanese had constructed pill 
boxes in the high grass and heavy brush, to 
gether with mutually supporting machine 
gun pillboxes interlaced with extensive 
trench systems. On the southern side of the 
airstrip the enemy had twenty strong field 
fortifications. Approximately 1,000 enemy 
troops were defending the sector elements 
of the 20th Infantry Regiment, the 98th 
Airfield Battalion, and the 54th Airfield 



Company. The airfield had been extensively 
mined with 1 00-pound aerial bombs buried 
nose up in the runway and scattered 
throughout the dispersal area. Some of these 
bombs had electric fuzes and could be 
detonated by enemy troops hidden in fox 
holes a short distance away. 27 

The 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, met no 
resistance as it moved out from the vicinity 
of the San Pablo airstrip at 1 123, but when 
the battalion was 1,000 yards northwest of 
the airfield it ran into well-camouflaged 
enemy positions. About 1400 the battalion 
attacked the emplacements with Company 
A on the right, Company C on the left, 
and Company B in reserve on the right rear 
of Company A. In the face of intense enemy 
resistance, Company A moved forward and 



r 7th Inf Div Opus Rpt Leyte, p. 7, 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



135 



placed heavy rifle and machine gun fire on 
the Japanese positions, which crumpled 
under the attack. 28 

Although Company C fought valiantly 
to keep abreast of Company A, the bulk 
of the enemy strength was in front of it. 
Heavy machine gun fire on its left flank 
and in front pinned the company down 
and kept it from moving forward. This delay 
created a gap between the two companies 
which a platoon from Company B was 
ordered to fill. 

When he found that Company C could 
not move. Major Mathias, commander of 
the 1st Battalion, started out to locate Com 
pany A but was wounded before he could 
reach it. Maj. Robert C. Foulston, Jr., the 
battalion's executive officer, assumed com 
mand of the battalion as Major Mathias was 
evacuated. 

Intense enemy rifle and machine gun fire 
hit both of the flanks and the front of Com 
pany C and forced the company to start a 
confused withdrawal. The 2d Platoon 
pulled back, but four of its men were cut 
off from the others and went the wrong way. 
These men, picking up another who was 
seriously wounded, proceeded three quar 
ters of a mile behind the Japanese lines be 
fore they discovered their mistake. To cover 
the withdrawal of the rest of the company a 
holding force, consisting of one platoon from 
Company C and one platoon from Com 
pany B, together with a section of heavy 
machine guns, was set up about 500 yards 
to the rear of Company C. 

As Company C started its withdrawal, the 
enemy moved forward. Keeping well con 
cealed, the Japanese edged forward and 
laid down a heavy volume of rifle, machine 
gun, and mortar fire on the troops, but the 
holding force stopped the advance. An in- 

28 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7. 



tense fire fight broke out in which both sides 
suffered many casualties. The Americans 
held on grimly. 

At 1530 Colonel Finn ordered the 3d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, to move to the left 
of the 1st Battalion, but the swamps and 
heavy foliage made progress slow. By 1630 
the 3d Battalion was 600 yards to the left 
rear of the 1st Battalion. 

During the fight Colonel Finn went for 
ward. Grasping the seriousness of the situa 
tion, he ordered the 1st Battalion to with 
draw to San Pablo airstrip and sent one pla 
toon of the 3d Battalion to assist the 1st 
Battalion in its withdrawal. The rest of the 
3d Battalion was to protect the withdrawal 
of the 1st. The troops rapidly carried out 
the orders and withdrew to the airstrip. 
The 2d Battalion, released from division 
reserve that evening, moved up on line with 
the 3d Battalion. The 32d Infantry formed 
a defensive perimeter for the night. 29 

During the day the 2d Battalion, 32d In 
fantry, captured a Japanese private, Isamu 
Nakamaru, who had been a mechanic with 
the 7th Independent Tank Company. He 
informed his captors that his company orig 
inally had eleven tanks. Eight of these were 
lost in the action near Julita; the others were 
at Buri but were out of commission. All the 
tanks were obsolete and had been used 
mainly to clear and roll the airstrips. 30 

On the morning of 25 October the 49th 
Field Artillery Battalion fired concentra 
tions from 0800 to 0830 in front of the 32d 
Infantry and covered an area of 400 yards 
on each side of the Buri airstrip. 31 At 0700 
the 3d Battalion moved to the right and in 
front of the 1st. The 32d Infantry was to 



-*Ibid. y pp. 7-8. 

80 Attachment to 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 5, 
24 Oct 44. 
81 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 



136 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



move out at 0830 with the 2d and 3d Bat 
talions abreast, each battalion to be pre 
ceded by a platoon of tanks. 

At 0830 the battalions attacked, both ad 
vancing 1,500 yards before they encoun 
tered any serious obstacle. The 2d Battalion 
on the right ran into the system of bunkers 
that protected the Buri airstrip. The 3d Bat 
talion halted and waited for the 2d to over 
come the bunkers and move forward. 
Though an antitank gun was brought up to 
fire on the bunkers, two futile attacks were 
launched against them and it became appar 
ent that the 2d Battalion would be consid 
erably delayed. Colonel Finn therefore 
ordered the 3d Battalion to advance and 
secure the edge of the Buri airstrip, and, 
with its reserve company, to close the gap 
thus created. 

Colonel Finn also ordered the 1st Bat 
talion to move closer to the right flank of the 
3d and prevent an enemy envelopment. 
Meanwhile, strong patrols which the 3d Bat 
talion had sent to within 300 yards of the 
airstrip reported that they had encountered 
only one strong point in the 3d Battalion's 
zone of advance. In order that the 3d Bat 
talion could be certain it was moving in the 
direction of the airstrip, Colonel Finn re 
quested an artillery liasion plane to drop a 
flare over the southwest edge of the airfield. 
After this was done the battalion resumed 
its attack and at 1700 reached the edge of 
the airstrip. Fortunately the battalion im 
mediately went into a defensive position, for 
at 1715 a sharp enemy assault had to be re 
pulsed with machine gun and rifle fire. 32 

Meanwhile the 2d Battalion probed at 
the bunkers located at the edge of the heavy 
woods on the northern fringe of the Buri 



airfield. These defenses consisted of three 
bunkers connected by an elaborate system 
of trenches and spider holes. Both flanks of 
the 2d Battalion received machine gun fire, 
which became heavier upon any attempt to 
carry out an enveloping movement. Under 
cover of fire from American heavy machine 
guns, the 2d Battalion withdrew its 
wounded. It then formed a night perimeter 
and waited for heavier supporting weapons 
to be brought up. 

On the following day the 2d Battalion 
was to move from its night perimeter on a 
400-yard front and secure the western end 
of the airstrip. The 3d Battalion, 32d Infan 
try, was to follow the 1st Battalion and pro 
tect the regiment from an attack from the 
north. Each of the assault battalions was to 
have attached a platoon of medium tanks 
and a platoon from the Cannon Company. 33 

On the morning of 26 October, the 49th 
Field Artillery Battalion for ten minutes 
concentrated its fire for 500 yards on each 
side of the airstrip. At 0800 the 32d Infan 
try attacked. The artillery fire had been 
effective, and the 2d Battalion knocked out 
the pillboxes that had stopped its advance 
the previous day. Aided by tanks, the bat 
talion was able to advance 700 yards along 
the south side of the airstrip by 1700. 

The 1st battalion, on the right, passed 
through the 3d and attacked west on the 
north side of the airstrip on a 400-yard front 
toward the other end of the airstrip. The 
1st Battalion immediately encountered a 
highly intricate system of pillboxes and 
bunkers, which slowed the attack until the 
tanks arrived. From that time on, a fiercely 
contested struggle continued throughout the 
afternoon. The battalion employed tanks, 



! 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 8. 



*32dInfFO6,25Oct44. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



137 



antitank guns, artillery, and mortars to cover 
its advance, and destroyed many bunkers 
with grenades, demolition charges, and 
automatic rifles. 34 

Company B bore the brunt of the assault 
and, fighting tenaciously, had battled 
through 900 yards of the fortified area by 
1700, The 1st and 2d Battalions made con 
tact on the edge of the airstrip and formed 
their night perimeters; the 3d Battalion 
protected the rear. During the night the 32 d 
Infantry repulsed several light counter 
attacks. 

On the following day, 27 October, the 
time for the attack was set an hour earlier 
in the hope that the Japanese would be 
caught off guard. At 0700 the 32d Infantry 
moved out, with the assault battalions in 
the same formation as on the previous day. 35 
To their happy surprise the troops encount 
ered little opposition as they readily secured 
bunker after bunker. The 20th Infantry 
Regiment had spent its strength. The Ameri 
can troops found enemy dead "in every 
bunker, trench, foxhole and bush," and 
wreckage of enemy 75's, machine guns, 
grenade launchers, and rifles was scattered 
about. More than 400 Japanese dead were 
found in the sector of the 1st Battalion. 86 
The infantrymen encountered only an oc 
casional rifleman while mopping up. By 
1 1 30 the Buri airstrip was secured. 

On 28 October the 2d Battalion was 
alerted to move to Abuyog at 0400 on the 
following day. The 3d Battalion was ordered 
to move to Guinarona for possible attach 
ment to the 1 7th Infantry, which had com 
mitted all three of its battalions in the fight 
north along the Burauen-Dagami road. 



On to Dagami 

After securing the barrio of Burauen at 
1300 on 24 October, the 17th Infantry 
had rested for an hour before attacking 
along the Burauen-Dagami road. 37 The 2d 
Battalion, 184th Infantry, remained at 
tached to the 17th. As the 17th Infantry 
started north, a patrol of four jeeps was 
sent ahead to reconnoiter. It encountered 
a strong force of the enemy on a road that 
forked off to the Buri airfield, and after a 
short but determined fire fight the enemy 
withdrew north. On its return the patrol 
reported that the road to Dagami had been 
mined with aircraft bombs that were buried 
nose up in the road and covered with palm 
fronds and other vegetation. A platoon 
from Company A, 13th Engineer Battalion, 
removed the mines and the column con 
tinued forward. 

About 1530 the right flank of the 17th 
Infantry came under mortar and machine 
gun fire which came from a ridge north of 
Burauen and east of the road to Dagami. 
The ridge was about 700 yards long, 50 
feet high, heavily wooded, and covered with 
dense undergrowth. Most of the fire seemed 
to be coming from an eastern spur that over 
looked the Bayug and Buri airfields. On the 
left (west) of the road the terrain was flat 
and marshy. 

At 1630 the 17th Infantry began to form 
its night perimeter on the southern edge of 
the ridge. The 1st Battalion protected the 
left (west) flank and tied in at the road 
with the regiment's 2d Battalion. The lines 
of the 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, covered 
the forward line of the ridge that extended 



34 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 
S6 32dlnf FO7, 27Oct44. 
* 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 



87 Unless otherwise stated the material on the 
drive to Dagami is based on 17th Inf Opns Rpt 
Leyte, Annex A, The Battle for Dagami, pp. 1-9. 



138 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



to the rear where the 2d Battalion, 184th 
Infantry, held the entrance to the eastern 
finger. The perimeter of the 2d Battalion., 
1 84th Infantry, extended south to tie in with 
the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry. 

Only the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, 
was able to set up its night perimeter without 
incident. The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, 
ran into determined resistance but was able 
to establish a firm bivouac for itself, using 
the vacated enemy positions. The 2d Bat 
talion, 17th Infantry, received scattered rifle 
fire but did not encounter any of the enemy. 
During the night the 2d Battalion, 184th 
Infantry, and the 2d Battalion, 17th Infan 
try, were harassed by patrols of ten to twenty 
Japanese each, probing for a break in the 
lines. 

Shortly after nightfall there were two 
abortive charges against the American lines. 
As soon as the troops heard the enemy, they 
called for protective fire, which prevented 
any of the Japanese from entering the lines. 
The enemy, however, continually fired into 
the area throughout the night. Earlier in the 
day an American tank had bogged down in 
a swamp to the left of the road, and the 
crew was forced to abandon it under fire, 
leaving the guns intact. During the night 
the Japanese captured the tank and sprayed 
the areas of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, 
and the regimental command post with the 
tank's 37-mm. and machine guns, and with 
four of their own machine guns. Fortu 
nately the bullets passed harmlessly over the 
heads of the troops. 

During the night Lt. Col. Francis T. 
Pachler discussed plans for the following 
day, 25 October, with his battalion com 
manders. He was faced with a choice be 
tween two courses of action. On the one 
hand, he could take advantage of the tacti 
cal surprise occasioned by his rapid advance. 



attempt to bypass the Japanese forces on 
the ridge, and make a dash along the 
Burauen-Dagami road, disregarding losses 
that might be inflicted on his flank; or, on 
the other hand, he could destroy the enemy 
forces on the ridge before advancing to 
Dagami. The first alternative must allow for 
a strong possibility that fire from the 32d 
Infantry, which was pushing west, might 
fall upon the 1 7th Infantry if it continued 
its advance before the Buri airfield was 
secured. After prolonged discussion, Pachler 
decided to destroy the enemy forces on the 
ridge before proceeding to Dagami. 

Colonel Pachler therefore ordered the 1st 
Battalion, 17th Infantry, to remain in its 
present position until the 2d Battalion, 
echeloned to its right rear, could swing up 
on line facing north. While waiting for the 
2d Battalion to move up, the 1st Battalion 
would send a strong reconnaissance patrol 
along the road north to the barrio of Buri 
to determine Japanese strength, and the 
condition of the road and terrain. The 2d 
Battalion, 1 84th Infantry, would attack and 
destroy the enemy force on the finger of the 
ridge and then come up, also facing north. 
The patrol moved out at 0730 on 25 Oc 
tober. A rifle platoon mounted the tops and 
sides of five tanks and headed north towards 
Buri. On its way, the platoon encountered 
and killed Japanese troops who were em- 
placed in spider holes and coconut log pill 
boxes under buildings, but a destroyed 
bridge at the edge of Buri prevented any 
further advance. The platoon returned at 
nightfall with the report that the road to 
Buri was clear and that it had killed forty- 
nine of the enemy. 

The 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, made 
its move without incident. The 2d Battalion, 
1 84th Infantry, advancing from its position 
on the heavily wooded eastern finger of the 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



139 



ridge, was forced to meet and destroy the 
enemy force with bayonets and grenades. 
Its progress was slow until a platoon of the 
Cannon Company and a platoon of medium 
tanks made a wide encircling movement 
through the Bayug airstrip and were able to 
bring fire to bear on the Japanese, By 1300 
the enemy threat was removed and the bat 
talion commenced its swing to the north 
to join the other two battalions. At dusk the 
three units were in line; the combat teams 
had advanced 400 yards and formed their 
night perimeters. 

At 1700 Colonel Pachler rearranged his 
troops and made plans for the following 
day. The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, was 
detached to guard the ridge. The 3d Bat 
talion, 17th Infantry, which had been 
guarding the divisional left flank south of 
Dao since A Day, was brought forward by 
truck to rejoin the regiment. The 17th In 
fantry would move out along the highway 
in a column of battalions the 1st, 2d, and 
3d. 38 

The 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, moved 
out at 0700, Company A on the left (west) 
and Company C on the right (east). Since 
the tanks were forced to remain on the road 
because of swamps on either side, tank sup 
port was reduced to a platoon. After having 
moved about 300 yards beyond the line of 
departure, Company C ran into a small 
pocket of enemy resistance which it soon 
destroyed with hand grenades and small 
arms fire; twenty-one of the enemy were 
killed and one was captured. Company A 
also met and overcame some resistance from 
enemy in foxholes in its zone, but was not 
held up. At 1000 the 1st Battalion received 
machine gun fire to its front and observed 
a movement in the marsh on its right flank. 



'17thlnf FO3, 25 Oct 44. 



When the heavy machine guns and 81-mm. 
mortars were brought to bear upon the 
marsh, approximately sixty Japanese began 
to run across the open fields. The 4.2-inch 
mortars of the 91st Chemical Company also 
fired on the fleeing enemy. 

When the forward elements were about 
1,100 yards south of Ginogusan, Company 
A encountered a rice paddy to its front. One 
platoon of the company went left to move 
around the rice field, and the support pla 
toon was committed to close the gap thus 
created. As the leading elements got past the 
field, an enemy force, which was en 
trenched just beyond it, started firing. The 
rear elements of the 1st Battalion immedi 
ately closed in and killed fifteen of the en 
emy with grenades and small arms fire. In 
the meantime, Company C encountered 
about twenty-five Japanese who had dug in 
under native shacks. Two tanks were called 
up, and after they had knocked over the 
shacks the infantrymen closed in and de 
stroyed the enemy. 

During this action the 3d Platoon of 
Company F, 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, 
reinforced by one squad of the antitank 
platoon of the battalion Headquarters Com 
pany, established a roadblock on one of the 
roads that led to the Buri airfield. The 
troops came under rifle and machine gun 
fire from their front. Within a few minutes 
the platoon leader and two other men were 
killed and another man was wounded. The 
platoon withdrew about one hundred yards 
and called for an 81-mm. mortar concen 
tration on the area. The rest of Company F 
was committed against the Japanese south 
flank. 

In the face of heavy fire Company F 
pushed through the difficult terrain and 
forced the enemy to withdraw. However, 
four Japanese machine guns remained in 



140 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




ENGINEER TROOPS of the 13th Engineer Battalion rebuild a bridge near Burauen. 



position and fired into the company. The 
leader of the antitank squad, though 
wounded in both legs, ran back to the bat 
talion command post and asked for tanks in 
support. A cannon platoon which was sent 
up silenced the enemy guns. While contin 
uing the fight during the enemy withdrawal, 
the company evacuated its wounded on im 
provised bamboo litters. 

Company F was then relieved by the 2d 
Battalion, 1 84th Infantry, which established 
a roadblock nearer the main highway. 
Company F rejoined its battalion and the 
regiment formed its night perimeter about 
600 yards south of Guinarona. The night 
was comparatively peaceful except for a 
minor bombing in the 2d Battalion area. 
The troops of the 17th Infantry were or 
dered to move out on 27 October in a col 
umn of battalions in the following order: 



3d, 2d, and 1st, with a distance of 500 yards 
between battalions: Since aerial photo 
graphs showed that all the bridges had been 
blown, a platoon of the 13th Engineer Bat 
talion was attached to the 3d Battalion. 

At 0700 the regiment moved out, with 
the 3d Battalion in the lead, on a 100-yard 
front on both sides of the highway. The 
tanks were forced to stay on the road. The 
3d Battalion was able to cross a small stream 
south of Guinarona, although the bridge 
had been damaged. When it reached the 
northern bank of the stream the battalion 
ran into the enemy. Approximately twenty 
Japanese were dug in around a school- 
house, with two machine guns mounted in 
the building. Company K, the lead com 
pany, under cover of machine gun and 

30 17thlnf FO4, 26 Oct 44. 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



141 



mortar fire, successfully stormed the school- 
house and killed seventeen of its defenders. 
The engineer troops from the 13th Engineer 
Battalion advanced and quickly repaired 
the bridge, after which the rest of the 1 7th 
Infantry moved forward. Since the bridge 
north of Guinarona was also damaged, the 
same tactics were used. The infantrymen 
of the lead company crossed the stream and 
stood guard while the engineers repaired the 
bridge. For 2,500 yards the advance con 
tinued, unopposed except for small groups 
of Japanese. The heavy machine guns of 
the regiment fired from the flanks of the 
American forces and covered the swamps 
on both sides of the road. The 17th In 
fantry went into night perimeter about 
2,200 yards south of Dagami and about 200 
yards south of a demolished stone bridge. 
As the regiment started to dig in, enemy 
rifle and machine gun fire fell on the front 
of the 3d Battalion but mortars returned 
the fire and silenced the enemy. Although 
there was sporadic air and ground activity 
during the night, no attempt was made to 
penetrate the lines of the regiment. 

Entrance Into Dagami 

The 1 7th Infantry learned from Japanese 
prisoners that in addition to elements of the 
20th Infantry Regiment in the Dagami 
sector, the following units were present : the 
2d Battalion, 33d Infantry Regiment (about 
200 men), together with scattered elements 
of the 16th Engineer Regiment and the 9th 
Infantry Regiment. 4 ^ 

The Japanese had firmly established 
themselves in positions in depth about 1,000 



yards south of Dagami. These defenses con 
sisted of mutually supporting pillboxes 
made of logs and sandbags, from which the 
Japanese could deliver interlocking bands 
of machine gun fire. They were situated on 
higher ground and could be approached 
only across open rice paddies. 41 

As the American forces came close to 
Dagami, the 17th Infantry was moving 
north along the Burauen-Dagami road, and 
the 382d Infantry, 96th Division, was ap 
proaching the road between Dagami and 
Tanauan. 

Lt. Col. Kakuda, the commander of the 
Japanese Central Area Unit of the 20th 
Infantry Regiment, issued a series of opera 
tional orders. At 1800 on 27 October he 
ordered the 20th Infantry Regiment to take 
a position southwest of Dagami and an 
nihilate the Americans. 42 

The 17th Infantry estimated that there 
were from 1,500 to 2,500 Japanese in the 
vicinity to oppose the regiment's advance 
and that about 500 of these withdrew from 
Dagami in orderly fashion. 43 The com 
mander of the 17th Infantry prescribed a 
column of battalions for the attack of 28 
October. The 2d Battalion would pass 
through the 3d Battalion, and the attack 
north would be in the order of 2d, 1st, and 
3d. All of the supporting arms were attached 
to the 2d Battalion for its attack. 44 

At 0730 the 2d Battalion attacked and 
immediately met very strong opposition. 
The stone bridge and road were in the 



40 7th Inf Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 9, 28 Oct 44. 
Unless otherwise stated the entrance into Dagami 
is based upon 17th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex A, 
The Battle for Dagami, pp. 1-9. 



41 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 

42 Central Area Unit Opns Order 2, 27 Oct 44, 
trans in App. G to Annex 2, 7th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte. 

43 1 7th Inf FO 5, 27 Oct 44. 

44 These were the Gannon Company, a platoon of 
the Antitank Company, a platoon of the 13th En 
gineer Battalion, 767th Tank Battalion, and the 91st 
Chemical Company minus the 1st and 3d Platoons. 



142 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



middle of a strip of waist-deep swamp 100 
yards wide, which funneled out to form a 
larger swamp. A crescent-shaped coconut 
grove lay beyond the swamp, one end in 
front of the road and the other bent to the 
south about 800 yards west of the road. The 
road and the curve in the coconut grove 
divided the swamp into three segments 
one on each side of the road, and the third 
west of and parallel to the road. In the face 
of intense rifle, machine gun, and mortar 
fire coming from an unknown number of 
Japanese, Company F and three tanks man 
aged to cross the creek. The tanks continued 
north up the road. As Company F waded 
through the waist-deep swamp, it pushed 
through direct enemy fire and past a large 
tank trap and found a line of pillboxes to 
its front and left flank. 

The company commander ordered his 
unit to hold its position and then returned 
south of the bridge to bring up more tanks. 
The 1st Platoon of Company F moved to 
the left rear to protect that flank, which was 
receiving considerable enemy fire. As the 
company commander rushed back to get 
the tanks, about twenty Japanese attacked 
the 1st Platoon in an attempt to envelop 
the left flank of the company. The platoon 
leader ordered his men to hold their fire 
until the enemy was only five yards away, 
and nearly all of the Japanese were killed 
in the initial volley. The platoon held its 
ground to prevent any further enveloping 
attempts by the Japanese. Meanwhile, Com 
pany F's commanding officer found that no 
tanks were available, since they could not 
cross the weakened bridge. He returned to 
Company F and ordered it to retire to the 
tank trap, reorganize, and evacuate the 
wounded. 

In the meantime, in order to relieve the 
pressure on Company G (on the right), 



which had run into somewhat the same 
situation, Lt. Col. William B. Moore, the 
battalion commander, committed Com 
pany E to the right (east) flank. Company 
E initially encountered determined opposi 
tion but managed to flank the enemy and 
assist Company G in its sector. At the same 
time the engineer troops of the 13th Engi 
neer Battalion, working feverishly under 
heavy fire, tried to repair the damaged 
bridge. One of the armored bulldozers lost 
three drivers, successively, to enemy fire. 

Under the close supervision of Colonel 
Moore, who was in the front lines, the 2d 
Battalion pressed the attack. Two M8 
armored cars were brought wide around the 
right flank in order to avoid the swamp. 
With their aid, Companies E and G rolled 
up the cast flank of the 20th Infantry Regi- 
pnent and broke through the pillboxes in 
their own area. 

Company C was committed to the left 
of Company F in order to aid it. Although 
this move was partially successful, Com 
pany C found itself pinned down by an 
enemy force entrenched in pillboxes and 
zigzag trenches. Since the Japanese defense 
line extended beyond the regiment's left 
(west) flank and around it to the south, 
Company B was committed further left to 
hit the southern flank of the enemy. 
Although Company B could not break 
through the line, it was able to locate the 
enemy right flank and neutralize the fire 
on that flank. 

One of the three tanks that had gone 
north in the morning returned at 1400 and 
was guided into the sector of Company F. 
With all of its guns blazing, the tank broke 
through the enemy fortifications, and Com 
panies C and F were then able to move in 
and mop up the enemy. The other two tanks 
had gone up the road some 250 yards when 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



143 



they met antitank fire which completely 
destroyed one and immobilized the other, 
trapping its crew. As soon as the bridge was 
made passable, two M8's, a medium tank, 
and a squad from Company F were sent to 
rescue the trapped crew. While the medium 
tank and the infantry covered the damaged 
tank, the M8's drew up to it and allowed 
its crew to escape into their open turrets. 
The detail withdrew, having suffered no 
casualties, and the immobilized tank was 
then destroyed. 

At dusk the 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, 
and the committed companies from the 1st 
Battalion pushed some 300 yards beyond 
the enemy strong point and formed a perim 
eter defense for the night. 45 Company B on 
the far left flank was withdrawn and closed 
into the perimeter. Although machine gun 
and mortar fire came from the left line of 
fortifications, there was no major action on 
the part of the Japanese. A few of the 
enemy, attempting to crawl through a 
trench into the position of Company F, be 
came ensnarled in the concertina wire and 
were then destroyed by grenades. 

Since the 2d Battalion had borne the 
brunt of the fighting on 28 October and had 
suffered numerous casualties, the regimental 
commander decided to have the battalion 
drop back into reserve. Although the drive 
to Dagami was to continue, the north-south 
line of enemy pillboxes on the left flank of 
the regiment could not be ignored. At 0800 
on 29 October the regimental lines were to 



45 During the day's action, Pfc. Leonard C. Bros- 
trom of Company F and Pfc. John F. Thorson of 
Company G so distinguished themselves that they 
were awarded the Medal of Honor. Private Brostrom 
singlehandedly destroyed a pillbox and killed six 
Japanese before collapsing from his wounds. Private 
Thorson sacrificed his life to save his comrades by 
throwing himself upon an enemy grenade that 
landed in his platoon's defensive position. 

260317 O 54 11 



be reorganized so that the 3d and 1st Bat 
talions, less Company B, would pass through 
the 2d Battalion, which would become the 
regimental reserve. Company B with a pla 
toon of M8's would attack the flank and 
rear of the enemy in the left line of pillboxes. 

At 0800, under cover of a heavy artillery 
concentration from the 49th Field Artillery 
Battalion, the 1st and 3d Battalions, 17th 
Infantry, passed through the 2d Battalion 
without incident. Company B, reinforced by 
the platoon from the Cannon Company, 
moved out to destroy the enemy force on the 
regiment's left flank. The company fought 
the Japanese from pillbox to pillbox, catch 
ing the enemy on his flanks and rear by 
rifle and machine gun fire, together with 
time-burst fire from the self-propelled howit 
zers. This completely demoralized the Japa 
nese, some of whom threw down their arms 
and tried unsuccessfully to escape. More 
than 120 enemy dead were counted in the 
area. The 1st Battalion entered the southern 
part of Dagami without encountering seri 
ous resistance. It then came under artillery 
fire from the hills west of the town. 

The 3d Battalion proceeded east of the 
road in a column of companies in the order 
L, K 3 and I, and met no serious opposition 
until it reached a cemetery south of Dagami. 
Overgrown with weeds seven to ten feet 
high and containing stone crypts built off 
the ground, the cemetery was divided by a 
path running east to west. As Company L 
moved into the burial ground, Company I 
swung around the right (east) side to come 
into position for the night. The leading ele 
ments of Company L passed through the 
cemetery and Company I moved into posi 
tion without incident, but as the 1st Platoon 
of Company L, the reserve platoon, crossed 
the path, a headstone tilted back and from 
the open grave four Japanese opened fire 



144 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



with an American Browning automatic 
rifle and other small arms. The small arms 
of the 1st Platoon had no effect and it be 
came necessary to bring forward a flame 
thrower to burn the enemy out. At the same 
time the platoon received fire from other 
open graves, from which the Japanese had 
removed the bodies. By punching holes 
through the stone they used the crypts as 
individual foxholes. The platoon broke into 
small units and pushed through the ceme 
tery, destroying the enemy forces wherever 
they could be located. 

Company K, which followed Company I, 
placed two platoons abreast behind Com 
pany L. As it came through the weeds past 
the cemetery path a Japanese officer 
charged on the right flank with his saber 
and wounded one man before he could be 
brought down. Since the platoons were also 
receiving heavy fire from the tombs, the 
commander of Company K drew his men 
back to the path where they reorganized. 
Preceded by a battery of six flame throwers, 
the men then marched shoulder to shoulder 
through the cemetery and burnt out the 
enemy. About 1900 the regiment completed 
the action and formed its night perimeter. 

During the fighting, the regimental oper 
ations officer, hearing the heavy fire and 
not being able to communicate with the 
3d Battalion headquarters, called Company 
K direct to ascertain if the Japanese had 
broken through the American lines. "Hell 
no," was the reported reply, "we're break 
ing through theirs and fighting for our 
bivouac." 4e During the night small infiltra 
tion parties of Japanese tried unsuccessfully 
to penetrate the regiment's defenses, and 
sporadic artillery fire was received from the 
hills west of Dagami. 



p. 9. 



17th Inf Opns Rpt, Battle for Dagami, App., 



By 1040 on 30 October Dagami was 
securely in American hands, and the 17th 
Infantry continued to mop up for the rest 
of the day. The 19th Infantry Regiment of 
the 24th Division, X Corps, across the 
Binahaan River north of Dagami, was 
reached by an airdrop message from the 
artillery spotter plane, and patrols reached 
the 382d Infantry of the 96th Division on 
the east. The mission of the 17th Infantry 
Regiment securing the town of Dagami 
and effecting junction with the X Corps and 
the 96th Division was completed. The 
regiment spent the next two days in mop 
ping up and patrolling the area around 
Dagami. 

The 7th Division had secured the limits 
of its beachhead line, but the. southern 
approaches to the line had not yet been 
secured. The road farther south, running 
across the island from Abuyog on the east 
coast to Baybay on the west coast, offered 
a potential route along which the Japanese 
might pour in reinforcements. 

At 0530 on 29 October the 2d Battalion, 
32d Infantry, left Burauen for Abuyog via 
Dao and the coastal road, Highway 1. Its 
progress was impeded by muddy roads and 
the previous destruction of the bridge over 
the Bito River. The battalion, less one 
company, crossed the river by DUKW's at 
0940 and by 1000 was in Abuyog, having 
encountered no Japanese. The 7th Cavalry 
Reconnaissance Troop, acting as an ad 
vance guard for the battalion, pushed west 
from Abuyog inland four miles on the road 
toward Baybay. 

On 30 and 31 October the 2d Battalion, 
32d Infantry, remained at Abuyog, but on 
the latter day it sent Company G, rein 
forced, toward Baybay on the Abuyog-Bay- 
bay road, which corkscrewed through the 
mountains for about twenty-seven miles be- 



SOUTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



145 



tween the east and west coasts. The com 
pany encountered no Japanese. On 1 
November no forward progress was made, 
but all elements of the 2d Battalion, 32d 
Infantry, patrolled. On 2 November Com 
pany G moved along the road and closed 
in on Baybay at 2200. 

Far to the south the 21st Infantry Regi 
ment, 24th Division, had been engaged 
since A Day in extensive patrolling of the 
Panaon Strait area. On 31 October the 1st 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, left the Bayug air 
field for Dulag and at 2200 sailed from 
Dulag to relieve the 21st Infantry. The bat 
talion arrived at Panaon Island at 0700 on 
1 November and during the day effected 
the relief of the 21st Infantry, which then 
moved north to rejoin the 24th Division. 47 

The initial mission of the 7th Infantry 
Division to land between the Calbasag 
and Daguitan Rivers, advance rapidly in 
land along the axis of the Dulag-Burauen 
road, seize hostile airstrips in its zone of 
action, secure the Burauen-Dagami road, 
an,d protect the XXIV Corps' left (south) 
flank had been accomplished. 



Since landing, the 7th Division had killed 
an estimated 4,21 1 Japanese and had taken 
19 prisoners. 45 Up to 1000 on 1 November, 
32 officers and 290 enlisted men of the divi 
sion had been killed; 48 officers, 1 warrant 
officer, and 777 enlisted men wounded; 15 
officers and 223 enlisted men injured; and 
2 1 enlisted men were missing in action, 49 

By 2 November, General Hodge's XXIV 
Corps had finished its assigned role for the 
second phase of General Krueger's plan for 
the capture of the island of Leyte. It had 
seized the southern part of Leyte Valley 
with its important roads, airfields, and po 
tential base sites. An element of the corps 
had pushed to the west coast of the island, 
and was preparing for the move toward the 
important port of Ormoc as part of the 
third phase of the plan. General Makino 
had been forced to give up his Dagami 
headquarters and other positions on the 
heights overlooking the town. Far to the 
north, the X Corps was engaged in securing 
the northern part of Leyte Valley. 



47 7th Div G-3 Periodic Rpts 10-14, 29 Oct-2 
Nov 44. 



48 7th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 13, 2 Nov 44. 

49 7th Div G-l Weekly Rpt 2, 31 Oct 44, Incl 2, 
Part 2, 1 Nov 44; 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, G-l 
Rpt. 



CHAPTER IX 

Northern Leyte Valley: Part One 

By the evening of 20 October the Taclo- enemy from crossing over from Samar. 
ban airfield and Hill 522, overlooking the Control of the road that led through the 
town of Palo at the northern entrance to interior of northern Leyte Valley would give 
Leyte Valley, were in the hands of the X the possessor a firm hold on the northern 
Corps. The night of 20-21 October was free part of the valley. With a successful two- 
from enemy activity in the sector of the 1st pronged attack elements of the 1st Cav- 
Cavalry Division, and the exhausted troops airy Division driving north along San Juan- 
were able to obtain an unquiet rest during ico Strait and units of the 24th Infantry Di- 
their first night in the Philippines. Having vision pushing along Highway 2 the X 
secured the Tacloban airfield they were in Corps would arrive at Carigara Bay, At that 
position to march on Tacloban, the capital point the corps would be in position to con- 
of Leyte, the following morning. Tacloban test any Japanese amphibious movement 
is situated on a peninsula at the head of San through Carigara Bay, and at the same 
Pedro Bay. A string of low hills, stretching time elements of the corps could drive south 
from Anibong Point along the base of the through Ormoc Valley and secure the im- 
peninsula to the southeast, commands the portant port of Ormoc. 
approaches to the town. 1 Throughout the Preceded by a naval and air bombard- 
night the 61st Field Artillery Battalion de- ment and a preparation by the 61st Field 
livered harassing fires on the hills south of Artillery Battalion;' the 1st Cavalry Division 
the town. 2 (Map 9} at 0800 on 21 October resumed the assault 

against the Japanese. 4 The division was to 

San Juanico Strait capture Tacloban and then secure control 

over San Juanico Strait." The 7th Cavalry, 

Drive Toward Caibaan 2d Brigade, had been assigned the mission 

of seizing Tacloban, which was defended 

General Krueger wished to push rapidly by elements of the Japanese 33d Infantry 

through Leyte Valley and secure its im- Regiment 7 

portant roads and airfields before the Jap- n the morni of 21 October ^ lgt 

anese could regroup and offer a firm line s d M Caval joined ^ ^ 

of resistance. In the north, securing San 1 

Juanico Strait would prevent any of the tjbid 3 

' 4 1 st Cav Div Msgs to X Corps, 2 1 Oct 44. 

1 7th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, Part II, Annex 2, fi 1st Cav Div FO 1, 2 Oct 44. 

Terrain Study of Operational Areas, pp. 1-3. 7th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, p, 4. 

1st Cav Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. * &5th Army Opns, p. 28. 



SECURING THE TACLOBAN AREA 

21-23 October 1944 



AXIS OF ADVANCE 
FRONT LINE, EVENING 33 OCT 
Form lines only 



SAN PEDRO 
BAY 




MAP 9 



148 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



ment's 2d Squadron in a drive on Tacloban. 
At 0800 the 7th Cavalry moved with squad 
rons abreast, the 1st Squadron on the right 
and the 2d Squadron on the left, astride the 
highway leading to Tacloban. Although the 
squadrons found the terrain extremely 
swampy and movement difficult, by 1400 
the 1st Squadron was on the outskirts of the 
town and the 2d was halted at the foot of 
a hill overlooking Tacloban. The Japanese 
had dug into the hills overlooking the capi 
tal. The division artillery then shelled the 
hill and the high ground to the north. 8 At 
1500 the fire was lifted and the forward 
movement proceeded. 

The men of the 1st Squadron entered 
Tacloban to conduct a house-to-house 
search for concealed Japanese. They re 
ceived a tumultuous welcome from the Fili 
pinos who lined the sides of the narrow 
streets, waving American flags and urging 
gifts of eggs and fruit upon the troopers. 9 
They were also welcomed by the governor 
of the province. The 2d Squadron, on the 
other hand, was held up by an estimated 
200 Japanese who were entrenched in pill 
boxes and foxholes and behind the dense 
vegetation that covered the hilly area. As 
heavy fire from the enemy pinned down the 
troops, Col. Walter H. Finnegan, the regi 
ment's commanding officer, sent the Anti 
tank Platoon and elements of the Regi 
mental Weapons Troop in support of the 
2d Squadron, where that unit faced the 
southern end of the hill mass. 10 

The Weapons Troop was ordered to lay 
aside its automatic weapons and assault the 
hill with rifles, but it was pinned down by 
intense fire from an enemy bunker to the 
immediate front. Pfc. Kenneth W. Grove, 



an ammunition carrier, volunteered to clear 
the Japanese from the position. He worked 
his way through the underbrush to the flank 
of the bunker, then charged in the open 
against its front and killed the gun crew. 11 
The advance then continued. 

The movements of the Weapons Troop 
and the Antitank Platoon were successful, 
and by 1800 the southern half of the hill 
and the town of Tacloban were in American 
hands. Shortly after the seizure of the 
capital, General Mudge, the division com 
mander, inspected the town from a medium 
tank. At one point, where the Japanese had 
turned over a truck to form a roadblock, 
the general personally received the surrender 
of forty Formosan laborers. 12 The regimen 
tal command post was established in the 
building that had housed the Leyte Inter 
mediate School for Girls. 

The following day, after an intensive 
mortar, artillery, and air bombardment on 
a hill southwest of Tacloban, the 2d 
Squadron of the 7th Cavalry moved out 
against the hill at 0820. Although the ter 
rain was rugged, the position was overrun 
by 1100. The 1st Squadron spent the day 
mopping up the town in search of the 
enemy. At 1108 General Mudge released 
the 8th Cavalry, commanded by Colonel 
Bradley, to 2d Brigade control. 

By the end of 22 October the capital of 
Leyte and its hill defenses were securely in 
American hands. The 7th Cavalry was one 
day ahead of schedule, a fact partly ex 
plained by the unexpectedly light resistance 
of the Japanese and partly by the vigor of 
the 7th Cavalry's advance. 13 

On the morning of 22 October the 8th 
Cavalry made a "victory" march through 



8 1st Cav Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3. 
9 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 19-20. 
10 7th Gav Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 



11 He was awarded the Silver Star. 

** X Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 18. 

18 2d Cav Brig Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 3-4. 




A PATROL FROM THE 7TH CAVALRY moves along Avenida Rizal in Tacloban 
(above). Flag-waving Filipinos greet the American troops (below). 



,., ,,, Vi , T . 

;yty^^ '' l/( ' ' .' , ; - -^ ' ',,;j; $ v :-V^'V 

*'''' ft,*', 'V ' ' ' 



, ' '; ,^v >: ;; ;^| 

' '-'V ' : r '"'^ 




150 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




MAJ. GEN. VERNE D. MUDGE (in tank) confers with Brig. Gen. William C. Chase 
in Tacloban. 



liberated Tacloban and went into perim 
eter to the west of the 7th Cavalry on the 
hills overlooking the town. Troop C went 
to Anibong Point in order to guard the 
brigade flank from a suspected Japanese 
barge landing through San Juanico Strait. 
Shortly after the command post was 
opened at 1830, the 8th Cavalry received 
orders for the 1st Squadron to depart at 
0700 on the following day. It was to pass 
through the 7th Cavalry and secure the 
bridge crossing the Diit River so as to pro 
tect the 2d Squadron, 8th Cavalry. The 
latter was directed to move northwest across 
the mountains, seize Santa Cruz, which was 
on Carigara Bay about sixteen miles north 
west of Tacloban, and locate the remnants 



of the Japanese who had opposed the 7th 
Cavalry in its advance through the city. 

The 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry, passed 
through the 7th Cavalry at 0900 on the 
morning of 23 October. By nightfall the 
squadron had crossed and secured the Diit 
River bridge and routed small groups of the 
enemy. The 2d Squadron experienced dif 
ficulty in securing Filipino carriers for the 
trip up the Diit River and across the un 
mapped and unknown mountains to Santa 
Cruz. It resolved the situation by driving a 
truck through the streets and seizing every 
able-bodied Filipino in sight. These "volun 
teers" were sufficient to get the squadron to 
its night bivouac on the Diit River. The 
"indignant carriers [then] dissolved into the 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



151 




8-INCH HOWITZERS READIED FOR ACTION against an enemy strong point 
southwest ofTacloban. 



jungle. 5 ' 14 - The 2d Squadron established its 
perimeter near the village of Diit. 

Meanwhile, the 1st Brigade of the 1st 
Cavalry Division had been ordered to move 
west on 21 October. This maneuver was 
designed to protect the southern flank of 
the 2d Brigade and to prevent the Japanese 
from reinforcing their troops in Tacloban. 
The 1st Brigade moved out at 0800 toward 
Caibaan, the 12th Cavalry on the right 
and the 5th Cavalry on the left. 15 Troop B 
of the 12th Cavalry advanced toward the 



14 8th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 6-7. 

15 At 0500 on 21 October Colonel Drake, the 
commanding officer of the 5th Cavalry, was killed 
while inspecting the regimental perimeter defenses 
in the vicinity of Caibaan. 5th Cavalry Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 2. 



barrio of Utap, and though it ran into en 
emy opposition it was able to secure the 
town after being reinforced by the regimen 
tal and brigade reconnaissance platoons. 
Swampy ground made the going very diffi 
cult. The troops captured a large Japa 
nese supply dump which contained quanti 
ties of foodstuffs, vehicles, and equipment, 
and valuable documents. 16 

The 1st and 2d Squadrons of the 5th 
Cavalry advanced abreast toward Caibaan 
and the high ground beyond the town. They 
encountered only sporadic rifle fire in 
Caibaan but at the foot of one of the hills 
they met determined opposition from about 
half a company of Japanese. After an ex- 



13 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 2, 21 Oct 44. 



152 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



change of fire, the Japanese signified they 
wished to surrender by waving a white 
flag. The heavy machine guns were brought 
into position and the American soldiers 
signalled for the Japanese to disrobe in 
order to forestall their using concealed 
grenades or other weapons. The Japanese 
opened fire and wounded five men. The 
automatic weapons then returned the fire, 
killing thirteen of the enemy. The remain 
ing Japanese withdrew over the hill, and 
contact was lost. 

There was no enemy activity in the 5th 
Cavalry's sector during the night of 21-22 
October, and at 0645 the advance elements 
of the 1st Squadron began to move up the 
steep east slope of a hill west of Caibaan. 
The squadron continued its advance, and 
at 1 200 engaged in a short skirmish between 
the hill and Caibaan, killing ten Japanese. 
The difficult terrain, rather than the Japa 
nese, slowed the advance. Hampered by tall 
cogon grass, which cut off every breeze, the 
troops struggled up steep slopes and sharp 
ridges. Exposed to the hot sun and burdened 
with equipment and ammunition, they were 
soon exhausted. At 1447 the 5th Cavalry 
received orders to halt all forward move 
ment until further notice. The 1st Squadron 
was in bad condition physically, since it 
had been steadily on the move for a day 
and a half and had consumed all its rations 
and water. At the end of the day, 22 Oc 
tober, the squadron was still at the base of 
the hill, but the rest of the regiment had 
reached Caibaan. 17 On the following day 
elements of the 5th Cavalry were sent to 
Tacloban to act as a guard of honor for 
General MacArthur. The other units re 
mained in position. 18 



1T 5th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 2-3. 

18 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 4, 25 Oct 44. 



Restoration of Civil Government 

The guard of honor, consisting of 1st Lt. 
John Gregory and thirty enlisted men of the 
5th Cavalry, arrived at Tacloban later on 
23 October. President Osmefia of the 
Philippine Commonwealth was also present, 
having come ashore for the occasion. 19 A 
simple but impressive ceremony was held in 
front of the municipal building of Tacloban, 
though the interior of the edifice was a 
shambles of broken furniture and scattered 
papers. A guard of honor of "dirty and tired 
but efficient-looking soldiers" 20 was drawn 
up in front of the government building. 
General MacArthur broadcast an address 
announcing the establishment of the Philip 
pine Civil Government with President Os 
mefia as its head. Lt. Gen. Richard K. Suth 
erland then read the official proclamation. 
President Osmefia spoke appreciatively of 
American support and of the determination 
of the Filipinos to expel the enemy. "To the 
Color" was sounded on the bugle, and the 
national flags of the United States and the 
Philippines were simultaneously hoisted on 
the sides of the building. Colonel Kangleon 
of the guerrilla forces was then decorated 
with the Distinguished Service Cross. 

Few Filipinos except representatives of 
the local government were present for the 
ceremony. Apparently the inhabitants had 
not heard of it, or did not know that they 
were permitted to attend. Information 
quickly spread, however, that the civil gov 
ernment had assumed control, and as Gen 
eral MacArthur and his party left town the 
civil population cheered them. 21 



19 5th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, p, 3. 

20 Rpt, Gapt Ray Tarbuck, USN, Observers Rpt 
of King II Opn, 3 Nov 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 30 Oct 
44. 

21 Ibid. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



153 




GENERAL MAcARTHUR announces the establishment of the Philippine Civil Govern 
ment. Seen in the front row, left to right, are: Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, Vice Adm. Thomas C. 
Kinkaid, Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, LL Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, General Mac Arthur and 
President Sergio Osmena. 



Drive up the Strait 

Though the 1st Cavalry Division had 
secured Tacloban and the region surround 
ing it, there remained the important task of 
seizing San Juanico Strait to prevent the 
Japanese from bringing in reinforcements 
from Samar. (See Map 2.) 22 San Juanico 
, Strait, connecting the Leyte Gulf with 
Samar Sea, forms a narrow passage between 
Leyte and Samar Islands. Highway 1 ends 
on its western shore, some fourteen miles 
north of Tacloban at Guintiguian, a small 
barrio (not shown on the map) two miles 
north of San Isidro. A ferry between Guin- 

22 As already indicated the maps of the Leyte area 
are often inaccurate. Map 2 is no exception. 



tiguian and La Paz, just across the strait 
on Samar, links the road networks of the 
two islands. The 2d Brigade's mission was to 
seize Guintiguian on Leyte; La Paz on 
Samar (including the establishment of a 
bridgehead on the north bank of the Silaga 
River, three miles northeast of La Paz) ; 
and Babatngon on the north coast of Leyte. 
By shore-to-shore operations it was also to 
seize Basey on the island of Samar and the 
area north and west of it. 23 

General Hoffman had been warned that 
his 2d Brigade would be assigned the mis 
sion of securing San Juanico Strait and 
possibly landing on Samar; he therefore 
directed an overwater reconnaissance of the 



3 2d Cav Brig FO, 22 Oct 44. 



GBNKRAX, HRAJDQUAHTERS 
SOUTHWBST PACIFIC ARKA 

OF 



gO JBE PBQPLE OP 3?HE PHILIPPINES; 

I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God 
our forces stand again on Philippine soil - soil ' 
consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We 
have come, dedicated and committed, to the task of 
destroying every vestige of enemy control over your 
daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of 
indestructible strength, the liberties of your 
people. 

At my side is your President, Sergio Osmena, 
worthy successor of that great patriot, Manuel Quezon 
with members of his cabinet. The seat of your govern 
ment is now therefore firmly re-established on Phili 
ppine soil. 

The hour of your redemption is here. Tour 
patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute 
devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges 
the best that is written on the pages of human history. 
I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may 

^/T !*? t ! m?er f " aroused *** outraged people 
witlxin that he has a force there to contend with no 
less violent than is the force committed from without. 

Bally to me* Let the indomitable spirit of 
Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle 
roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, 
rise and strike. Strike at every favorable opportunity 
For your homes and hearths, strike! Ifor future genera- 
tions of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name 
of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint 
5 r 8 !? arm ** 8teele *- EM guidance of divine 




NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



155 



sector. Consequently, on 23 October the 
staff officers of the 8th Cavalry and of the 
1st Squadron of the regiment boarded an 
LCI at the Tacloban dock. The landing 
craft made the trip through San Juanico 
Strait to the barrio of Babatngon on Jana- 
batas Channel without incident. On the re 
turn trip, the officers observed some Japa 
nese positions which overlooked the ferry 
crossing at the Guintiguian landing on 
Leyte. The party made a brief reconnais 
sance of the Guintiguian side of the ferry 
landing and of La Paz on the Samar side. 
There was no enemy contact. 24 

As a consequence General Hoffman, in 
issuing his orders for the next day, assigned 
the following missions: the 1st Squadron, 
7th Cavalry, under Maj. Leonard E. Smith 
would embark at 0630 on 24 October, and 
move overwater to seize the town of Ba 
batngon. This operation would seal off the 
western entrance into San Juanico Strait. 
Troop C, reinforced, of the 1st Squadron, 
8th Cavalry, under Maj. F. Raymond King, 
was also to embark at 0630 from Tacloban 
and move north to seize the ferry crossing 
between Guintiguian and La Paz. At the 
same time the rest of the 1st Squadron, 8th 
Cavalry, under Lt. Col. Mayers Shore, 
would drive north along the highway and 
effect a juncture with C Troop at Guinti 
guian. 25 

The 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry, sailed 
for Babatngon at 1030 on 24 October. The 
trip was uneventful, and at 1330 the squad 
ron arrived at Babatngon., sent out security 
patrols, and established a perimeter defense. 
On 25 October the Japanese launched an 
air attack, hitting an LCI in the Babatngon 
harbor. Eight men were killed and seventeen 

24 8th Gav Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7. 

25 2d Gav Brig FO 3, 23 Oct 44. 



wounded, all of them Navy personnel. 26 
For the next few days the 1st Squadron, 
7th Cavalry, made a series of overwater 
movements through Carigara Bay and ex 
ploited the lack of any strong Japanese re 
sistance along the northeast coast of the 
Leyte Valley. 27 

Reinforced Troop C of the 1st Squadron, 
8th Cavalry, was ready to sail by 0630 on 
24 October but was delayed by a Japanese 
air attack on the shipping in Tacloban har 
bor and San Pedro Bay, made by about fifty 
medium bombers and Army fighters. Before 
they could reach the beachhead area, many 
of the Japanese planes were shot down by 
Navy combat air patrol fliers, who also beat 
off another wave of about thirty more 
planes. Two of the American planes crash- 
landed on the Tacloban airfield, while a 
third landed in the water. 28 There was minor 
damage to American shipping. 

One of the Japanese planes crashed less 
than 200 yards from elements of Troop C 
but the force got under way. The troopers, 
after running down and killing five Japa 
nese in a canoe, arrived at La Paz, Samar, 
their destination, without further excite 
ment and established a roadblock on the 
road leading to Basey. 

The 1st Squadron of the 8th Cavalry, 
which was to travel overland by Highway 
1 to make junction with Troop C at the 
ferry crossing, broke camp at 0700 on the 
morning of the 24th. The squadron was 
accompanied by a platoon of light tanks and 
weapons carriers with rations and ammuni 
tion. Since the passage was through enemy- 
held territory and over unfamiliar terrain, 

26 7th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 6-7. 

27 1st Gav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 24-25. 

28 Rad, GG Sixth Army to G-2 Sixth Army 3 Sixth 
Army G-2 Jnl, 24 Oct 44. 




TACLOBAN/r0m the air (above). Close-up of the dock area (below), showing Sanjuanico 
Strait and the island ofSamar in the background. 




NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



157 



and since the strength of the Japanese forces 
was unknown, it was estimated that it would 
take the squadron a minimum of two days 
to cover the sixteen and a quarter miles be 
tween the two forces. The commanding offi 
cer of the squadron, however, by utilizing 
stream-crossing expedients to the utmost in 
snaking tanks and vehicles across the many 
intersecting streams and by driving the 
troops, was able to complete the difficult 
march to Guintiguian and go into perimeter 
with all his men except a rear guard at 2 1 30 
on the same day. At the end of 24 October, 
the 8th Cavalry, less the 2d Squadron, was 
in a position from which it could defend its 
beachhead on Samar. 29 

At 2300 an estimated hundred Japanese 
from the 2d Battalion, 9th Infantry Regi 
ment, attacked the roadblock which had 
been established on the road leading to 
Basey. The Japanese opened up with ma 
chine gun fire and tossed several grenades 
against the position. The defenders repelled 
the attack with machine gun and mortar 
fire, but for the remainder of the night "con 
fusion reigned supreme and the odds and 
ends were not rounded up until the next 
morning." 30 During the next three days the 
8th Cavalry consolidated its position and 
extended its perimeter to include a bridge 
head on the Silaga River. 

By the end of 27 October the 1st Cavalry 
Division had seized Tacloban and gained 
control of San Juanico Strait. Because of 
supply difficulties the 2d Brigade on 25 
October had ordered the 2d Squadron, 8th 
Cavalry, to discontinue its movement to 
ward Santa Cruz, to remain in bivouac 
along the upper reaches of the Diit River 
and patrol that area. At this time the casual 
ties of the 1st Cavalry Division amounted 



to 4 officers and 36 enlisted men killed, 14 
officers and 1 85 enlisted men wounded, and 
8 enlisted men missing in action. 31 During 
the same period, the divison reported it had 
killed 739 of the enemy and had taken 
prisoner 7 Japanese, 1 Formosan, and 1 
Chinese. 32 

The opposition had been light much 
lighter than had been expected. Elements 
of the division had therefore been sent south 
to reinforce the 24th Division, which had 
borne the brunt of the Japanese opposition 
in the X Corps sector in its drive through 
northern Leyte Valley toward Carigara 
Bay. 

Leyte Valley Entrance 
Defense at Pawing 

At the end of 20 October the 24th Divi 
sion had established a firm beachhead near 
Palo, averaging a mile in depth, and had 
secured Hill 522 which overlooked Palo. 33 
(Map 10} The 24th Division was to seize 
Palo and drive astride the road that ran 
northwest through the Leyte Valley to Cari 
gara. The 34th Infantry, in the vicinity of 
Pawing, had its 2d Battalion, commanded 
by Lt. Col. James F. Pearsall, Jr., 100 yards 
west of Highway 1, with the northern ele 
ments of the battalion in contact with the 
5th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division on 
the right. The 3d Battalion, 34th Infantry, 
was just short of the highway. The leading 
elements of the 19th Infantry were on Hill 
522. * 



* 8th Gav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 7-9. 
' Ibid. 



81 1st Cav Div G-l Daily Strength Rpts, 20-27 
Oct 44; 8th Army Opns Rpt, p. 14. 

82 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 8, 27 Oct 44. 

88 Unless otherwise stated the subsection is based 
upon the 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 1-39. 

84 34th Inf Unit Rpt 1, 21 Oct 44, 34th Inf Jnl, 
21 Oct 44. 



158 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 





f .*" * 

\\tACostiUa 

js\ 



FIGHT FOR ENTRANCE 
TO NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY 

21-25 October 1944 

ss^ssj^ssssss^ FRONT LINE, NIGHT 20/21 OCT 
_ ... FRONT LINE, NIGHT 25/26 OCT 

Form lines only 
l i MILE 



1 KILOMETER 



MAP 10 

At 0100 on 21 October three companies 
of Japanese, 35 part of the 33 d Infantry Reg 
iment, 36 under cover of darkness and aided 
by heavy machine gun and mortar fire, 
struck from the south along Highway 1 . The 
leading elements made a double envelop 
ment of the American flanks while the main 
force came down the road and attacked the 

35 34th Inf Unit Rpt 2, 34th Inf Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 
30 35th Army Opns, p. 28. 



perimeter of the 2d Platoon of Company G. 
By 0200 the enemy, still employing machine 
gun and mortar fire, had pushed to within 
a few yards of the American positions and 
had killed or wounded everyone but Pvt. 
Harold H. Moon, Jr., in the first two posi 
tions. 

The Japanese then centered their fire 
upon Private Moon, who, although 
wounded by this fire, replied with his sub- 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



159 



machine gun. An enemy officer attempted 
to throw grenades at Moon's position and 
was killed. The Japanese then brought up 
a light machine gun to within twenty yards 
of his position. Moon called back the range 
correction to friendly mortars which 
knocked out the machine gun. For over four 
hours he held back the enemy. At dawn 
an entire platoon with fixed bayonets 
charged toward him. From a sitting position 
he fired into the Japanese, killed eighteen, 
and repulsed the attack. He then stood up 
and threw a grenade at a machine gun that 
had opened up on his right. He was hit and 
instantly killed. 37 The Japanese then re 
sumed their attack, but the remnants of 
Moon's platoon fixed bayonets, charged, 
and succeeded in breaking through the 
enemy line. 

In the meantime the enemy hit the perim 
eter of Company L. For several hours the 
Japanese felt out the company positions, 
and then, covered by three machine guns, 
they charged in platoon strength on the east 
side of the company's perimeter. The com 
pany, supported by mortar fire, retaliated 
and assaulted the Japanese in front of the 
perimeter. Attempted movements around 
both the enemy flanks failed. A frontal as 
sault, protected by fire from both flanks, 
was then successfully made by the company, 
and the Japanese force was routed. There 
were 105 enemy dead in the immediate area 
of the company. 

By this time it was dawn, and PearsalTs 
men began extensive countermeasures. 
Concentrated mortar fire was laid down, 
and, since Japanese artillery was shelling 
the American positions, artillery and air 
strikes were requested. At 0900 Battery A 

87 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1 2. Private Moon 
was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. 
260317 O 54 12 



of the 63d Field Artillery Battalion fired 
150 rounds on the Japanese. 38 

At a point 1,500 yards south of Pawing 
naval flyers from the Seventh Fleet strafed 
the enemy and, in co-operation with the 
artillery fire, successfully broke the back of 
the offensive. The enemy scattered into 
the rice paddies. Members of the 2d Bat 
talion were then able to go down the road 
and mop up. More than 600 Japanese were 
killed during the engagement. 39 Company 
G, which had borne the brunt of the attack, 
lost fourteen men killed and had twelve 
wounded. 

The battalion had scarcely finished break 
fast when at 1 000 it was given the mission 
of seizing a hill mass immediately west of its 
position at Pawing. After artillery and naval 
gunfire had been placed upon the hill for 
fifteen minutes, 40 E Company was to take 
the northern knoll of the hill mass and F 
Company to take the southern knoll. It was 
not until 1400, however, that the attack 
jumped off. Company E met no opposition, 
and within twenty-five minutes was able to 
' occupy its objective. 

Company F, commanded by Capt. Paul 
Austin, had more difficulty. Its objective 
was a steep hill, heavily covered with cogon 
grass ten to twelve feet high, which limited 
visibility to a few feet. A trail ran west from 
a small clump of trees to the top of the hill, 
and then south along the crest of the ridge 
where the grass was only six inches high. 
The company proceeded west in a column 
of platoons and at 1430 reached the foot of 

38 63d FA Bn Unit Rpt 1, 21 Oct 44, 63d FA 
Bn Opns Rpt Leyte. 

39 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 13. This casualty 
figure from the 24th Division Operations Report 
seems excessive. 

40 34th Inf FO 4, 21 Oct 44, 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 
21 Oct 44. 



160 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




TANK-SUPPORTED INFANTRYMEN OF THE 34TH REGIMENT attack a 
hill near Pawing. 



the hill. At the western edge of the group of 
trees, the 1st and 3d Platoons turned left 
and advanced directly toward the highest 
point of the hill. The 2d Platoon, with ma 
chine guns, continued up the path. 

As the 2d Squad of the 1st Platoon 
reached the crest and as the 1st Squad had 
nearly done so, an estimated 200 Japanese 
from the 33d Infantry Regiment opened 
fire upon the troops with rifles and two ma 
chine guns that were emplaced upon a knoll 
overlooking the trail. Enemy riflemen also 
rolled grenades down upon the 1st Squad. 
These actions pinned down both of the 
squads. 

Protected by the machine gun fire, other 
enemy riflemen worked north along the 
reverse slope of the ridge and began to 



throw grenades down upon the 2d Pla 
toon. The Japanese possessed a seemingly 
inexhaustible supply of grenades, which 
they rolled down upon the Americans with 
telling effect. Company F was unable to 
advance. By 1500 the 1st and 2d Squads of 
the 1st Platoon were forced off the for 
ward slope. The 2d Platoon also had been 
unable to go ahead, and the company had 
suffered fourteen casualties. Captain Aus 
tin ordered his company to disengage for 
reorganization. Since the American mor 
tars could not fire directly upon the Japa 
nese for fear of hitting friendly troops, they 
were forced to fire over the enemy and 
gradually shorten the range as the Ameri 
can troops disengaged. Consequently the 
fire at first was not too effective. By 1600 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



161 



the reorganization was complete, but Colo 
nel Pearsall decided to delay the attack 
until artillery support could be obtained. 
Company F formed its night perimeter 500 
yards from Pawing. 

The following morning arrangements 
were made for an air strike by Navy flyers 
on the positions of the 33d Infantry Regi 
ment on the hill. It was not until afternoon, 
however, that the strike could be effected. 
At 1345 the 63d Field Artillery Battalion 
marked with smoke the right and left limits 
for the air strike.* 1 At 1410 naval dive 
bombers bombed and strafed the hill for 
ten minutes with very good results, and the 
Japanese power to resist was broken. 42 Cap 
tain Austin's Company F, accompanied by 
Colonel Newman, the regimental com 
mander, then moved out Supported by ar 
tillery fire, Company F captured the entire 
ridge by 1515 without a single casualty. The 
Pawing area was now securely in American 
hands. Farther south the 19th Infantry was 
engaged in fulfilling its mission of capturing 
the town of Palo. 

Capture of Palo 

At the end of the first day's fighting, C 
Company of the 19th Infantry had just 
secured the top of Hill 522 and Company 
B at dusk had been pinned down at the 
southern crest. The following morning ar 
tillery fire effectively knocked out some 
enemy pillboxes on the north crest. Both 
companies then simultaneously launched 
an attack down the far slope of the hill. 
In the sharp fight that followed fifty Japa 
nese from the 33d Infantry Regiment were 
killed and the hill was secured. 43 It was not 



until late in the day, however, that supplies 
could be brought to the troops and the 
wounded be evacuated. The 1st Battalion 
spent the next few days mopping up the 
area and sealing off the tunnels with, 
grenades. 

On the beach the 3d Battalion, 19th In 
fantry, on the morning of 2 1 October waited 
for naval gunfire to knock out positions 
that blocked the beach road to Palo. These 
defenses consisted of mutually supporting 
well-constructed pillboxes reinforced with 
logs and earth, with intercommunicating 
trenches and foxholes. They were designed 
to be used in resisting attacks from the beach 
and from the north. After an all-night 
mortar concentration, naval gunfire was 
directed against the positions, and at 1400 
the 3d Battalion attacked. When within 
200 yards of a road bend, Company I and 
elements of the Antitank Company, leading 
the main assault, met strong resistance, 
which forced the company to dig in. The 
other companies occupied the same posi 
tions they had held the previous day. 44 
During the night Company C of the 85th 
Chemical Battalion, expending 500 rounds 
of ammunition, laid intermittent fire from 
the 4.2-inch mortars on the Japanese 
positions. 45 

At 0900 on 22 October the 3d Battalion, 
with Company I in the lead, attacked with 
the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, which had 
been released from division reserve, on its 
left flank. This co-ordinated advance pushed 
past the defensive positions of the 33d In 
fantry Regiment, many of which had been 
abandoned. The positions of the 3d Bat 
talion, 19th Infantry, were taken over by 
the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry. The latter 
battalion patrolled the road and eliminated 



1 63d FA Bn Unit Rpt 2, 22 Oct 44. 

1 24th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 3, 22 Oct 44. 

' 19th Inf Unit Rpt 2, 21 Oct 44. 



1 Ibid. 

5 85th Chemical Mortar Bn Hist 1943-44, p. 28. 




PALO, with the Palo River and the slopes of Hill 522 in the background (above), and the junc 
tion of Highways 1 and 2 (below). 



JPPE 









NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



163 



scattered Japanese pockets of resistance 
south to the Palo River. 

The 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, was to 
secure Palo, which is situated about one mile 
inland on the south side of the Palo River. 
The town is an important road junction, 
the meeting point of the Leyte Valley and 
east coast road systems. The coastal road, 
Highway 1, which goes through Palo, 
crosses a steel bridge over the Palo River on 
the edge of the town. Highway 2, a one-lane 
all-weather road for most of its length, ex 
tends west to Barugo and Garigara. 46 Just 
outside Palo are two hills, one on each side 
of the highway, which guard the entrance 
into the interior. The Americans termed 
them Hills B and C. Elements of the 33d 
Infantry Regiment were guarding Palo. 47 

Early in the morning of 21 October, the 
2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, moved west 
through enemy machine gun and rifle fire 
and bypassed the enemy defensive position 
that had held it up the previous day. At 
1155 the battalion reached the junction of 
the beach road and Highway 1 . During the 
movement two men were killed and two 
wounded. At the road junction, the bat 
talion dispersed with machine gun fire a 
column of about thirty-five Japanese mov 
ing south on Highway 1 . Artillery fire was 
then laid on a grove of trees, west of the 
road, to which the enemy had fled. As the 
battalion proceeded south along the high 
way between the road junction and the 
bridge, it came under artillery fire from an 
undetermined source. The tempo of the 
march into Palo was accelerated "the 
troops wanted to move as rapidly as possible 
from that vicinity. They double timed across 



46 Allied Geographical Sec, Terrain Study 84, 
Leyte Province, 1 7 Aug 44. 

47 35th Army Opns, p. 28. 



the bridge. 35 4S At 1500 they entered Palo 
without further opposition. 49 

The residents of the town were crowded 
into the church. As the Americans entered, 
the church bell rang and the Filipinos came 
out and greeted the troops. After the first 
exuberant welcome had subsided, the sol 
diers ordered the civilians back into the 
church until they could secure the town. In 
the house-to-house search, the troops found 
some booby traps made from coconuts 50 
and encountered Japanese entrenched un 
der and between houses in the western sector 
of the town. Although the battalion had 
expected to outpost the entire town, the 
menace of the Japanese appeared so threat 
ening that a night perimeter was estab 
lished around the town square. 

Defense of Palo 

During the early part of the night there 
was continuous rifle fire from individual 
Japanese. The 13th Field Artillery Bat 
talion had arrived and began to fire on the 
roads leading into the town, expending 
some 300 rounds of ammunition. At mid 
night some Japanese ammunition stored in 
a house exploded, and the ensuing fire lasted 
for three hours. At 0400 on 22 October ele 
ments of the 33d Infantry Regiment coun 
terattacked along Highway 2 51 but were 
repulsed by fire from the outposts. The en 
emy then struck at the juncture of the left 
flank of Company F and the right flank of 
Company G. The 81 -mm. mortars of the 
2d Battalion fired on this point, expending 
all their ammunition. In the meantime Bat 
tery B of the 13th Field Artillery Battalion 

48 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 16. 
"Ibid.; 19th Inf Unit Rpt 2, 21 Oct 44. 
50 24th Div G-2 Jnl, 21 Oct 44. 
* 24th Div G-2 Jnl, 22 Oct 44. 



164 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



and elements of the 63d Field Artillery Bat 
talion moved up to within a hundred yards 
of the front outposts and fired. The enemy 
stubbornly continued to fight, throwing 
"everything he had into the attack." 52 
At the same time nearly a platoon of the 
enemy came out at the curve of the beach 
road and started toward the bridge on 
Highway 1 at Palo, but these troops were 
dispersed by light machine gun fire. Artil 
lery fire forced the Japanese to withdraw, 
and they were thrown back on all fronts. 33 
Though the battalion had lost 16 men 
killed and 44 wounded, it had killed 91 
Japanese. After the engagement, the bat 
talion requested additional ammunition, 
supplies, and equipment, and transportation 
for the wounded. 54 The requests were com 
plied with, though not without danger since 
the Japanese had mined the road. 

At 1330 the regimental headquarters of 
the 19th Infantry moved into Palo. The 
regiment's 3d Battalion relieved the 2d Bat 
talion at the same time, thus enabling the 
latter to attack Hill B at 1425. 55 The 3d 
Battalion spent the rest of the day and the 
following day mopping up in Palo and 
sending probing patrols southward in order 
to make contact with the XXIV Corps. 56 
A patrol in Palo killed seven Japanese 
dressed in civilian clothing, one of whom, a 
lieutenant, had his insignia pinned inside his 
clothes. 57 

On the night of 23 October Col. Tatsun- 
osuke Suzuki, the commanding officer of 
the 33d Infantry Regiment, led a raiding de 
tachment, armed with rifles, sabres, gren 
ades, and mines, into Palo from the south- 



M 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 18. 

58 19th Inf Unit Jnl, 22 Oct 44. 

"Ibid. 

"Ibid. 

"Ibid. 

67 19th Inf Unit Rpt 3, 22 Oct 44. 



west. 55 Using Filipino civilians in front of 
them, the men of the detachment tricked 
the guards at the outpost into believing that 
they were guerrillas. The Japanese were 
thus able to capture two machine guns and 
a 37-mm. gun. They penetrated to the town 
square and charged, throwing explosives 
into houses, trucks, and a tank, and broke 
into an evacuation hospital where they 
killed some wounded. They then moved to 
ward the bridge and mounted the captured 
machine guns on it, 59 firing until their am 
munition was exhausted and then abandon 
ing the guns. The American guards on the 
other side of the bridge, however, were able 
to fire upon the bridge and its approaches 
so effectively that they killed fifty Japanese, 
according to a count made the next morn 
ing. The raid was completely broken up, 
and sixty Japanese, including Colonel Suz 
uki, were killed. The American casualties 
were fourteen killed and twenty wounded. 
The 3d Battalion, 19th Infantry, had sent 
Company K to reconnoiter to the south and 
if possible make contact with the XXIV 
Corps. On the morning of the 24th the 
company entered San Joaquin to the south 
of Palo. By 1 600 the town had been secured 
and the company was prepared to defend 
it. Engineers began to repair the damaged 
bridge so that armored units could proceed 
southward along Highway 1 . On the mom- 
ing of 25 October Company K advanced 
south from San Joaquin and by 1200 had 
secured positions on the north bank of the 
Binahaan River, from which patrols were 
sent into Tanauan. At 1430 the patrols met 
a motorized unit of the 96th Division, estab 
lishing contact for the first time between 
the X and XXIV Corps. The rest of the 

88 35th Army Opns, p. 28. 

TO GHQ Observer to G~2 Sixth Army, Sixth 
Army G~2 Jni, 24 Oct 44. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



165 



battalion moved out of Palo the same morn 
ing and was able to advance rapidly with 
little opposition and set up a perimeter at 
Castilla, 8,000 yards southwest of Palo. 

Thus the northern and southern ap 
proaches to Palo and the beachhead area 
east of the town had now been secured. 
But on the western edge of Palo were the 
two hills athwart Highway 2 and blocking 
passage into Leyte Valley. Hill B on the 
southern side of the highway and Hill C 
on the northern side would have to be 
secured before the Americans could ad 
vance. Preliminary reconnaissance had re 
vealed that these hills were strongly held, 
and since the 24th Division, contrary to 
expectations, had encountered considerably 
stronger opposition than the 1st Cavalry 
Division, General Sibert decided to detach 
the 1st Brigade from the 1st Cavalry Divi 
sion and place it under X Corps control. 
The 2d Squadron of the 5th Cavalry re 
mained in position on the high ground west 
of Tacloban, while the regiment's 1st 
Squadron moved into position in Pawing, 
to relieve the 2d Battalion, 34th Infantry. 
The 1 2th Cavalry assembled in the vicinity 
of Marasbaras in X Corps reserve. 60 

Capture of Hill C 

At 0800 on 23 October the 1st Battalion, 
34th Infantry, commanded by Maj. Edwin 
N. Edris, and the 1st Platoon, 603d Tank 
Company, assembled 500 yards north of 
Hill 522 preparatory to launching an attack 
on Hill C. 61 It was reported that 300 Japa 
nese were in a strong defensive position be 
tween Hills C and 331, the latter located 
west of Pawing. Consequently, an air strike 

60 1st Gav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 3, 24 Oct 44. 
* 34th Inf FO 5, 22 Oct 44, 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 
23 Oct 44. 



was called for and delivered on the area, 
after which the battalion started for Hill C. 
The first obstacle encountered was a small 
ridge known as Hill Nan, and just beyond 
this ridge was another hill mass known as 
Hill Mike. Company B advanced up Hill 
Nan in a skirmish line. When the company 
neared the crest of the ridge, a machine gun 
200 yards to its front opened up, and at the 
same time the Japanese from dug-in posi 
tions on the reverse slope began to throw 
grenades over the crest. The company was 
halted. Three times during the afternoon 
it reached the crest, only to be driven back 
by enemy fire. Several counterattacks were 
repulsed, but the machine gun was not 
silenced. 

At 1800 the company received orders to 
disengage so that artillery fire might be laid 
upon the enemy positions. The Japanese 
immediately counterattacked. An American 
lieutenant and a sergeant of the company 
rushed to the crest with grenades which they 
threw upon the advancing Japanese. This 
action enabled the company to disengage 
and return to the assembly area with only a 
few casualties. 

During the night artillery and 4.2-inch 
mortar fires were placed on the ridge. As a 
result, on the following day, 24 October, the 
1st Battalion secured it without meeting 
any resistance. With this ridge in American 
hands, the 3d Battalion was able to pass 
through the 1st Battalion and secure with 
out opposition Hill Mike, the last remain 
ing obstacle before Hill C. During the night 
artillery pounded Hill C. 

On the morning of 25 October the 3d 
Battalion, 34th Infantry, moved out to at 
tack Hill C, with Companies I and K 
abreast. 62 Although the troops found the 
hill difficult to climb, elements of Company 

* Fragmentary FO, 34th Inf Jnl, 25 Oct 44. 



166 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



K reached its crest without opposition. The 
enemy started his usual tactics of throwing 
grenades over the crest of the hill at Com 
pany I as it neared the top. Since the com 
pany had suffered many casualties, a pla 
toon from Company K was sent to reinforce 
Company I. Finally, at 1700, the company 
took the crest of the hill and dug in for the 
night. 

The 2d Battalion, 34th Infantry, which 
had been relieved by the 1st Squadron, 5th 
Cavalry, moved out of Pawing at 0700 on 
24 October. At 1030 it received orders to 
seize a small hill southeast of Hill C. With 
Company E in the lead, the battalion pro 
ceeded in single file up the hill, which was 
covered with cogon grass. As it had hitherto 
been the practice of the Japanese to with 
hold their main fire until the Americans 
neared the top of a hill, the troops expected 
little opposition before reaching the crest. 
But while the company was still a consider 
able distance from the top, elements of the 
33d Infantry Regiment opened up with 
rifles, machine guns, and grenades. This 
fire pinned the company down, and the men 
immediately sought concealment in the 
cogon grass. Light machine guns were 
brought up, but, because of the steepness of 
the slope, they were ineffective. Artillery 
and mortars fired for two hours against the 
entrenched Japanese positions. At 1610 
Company E renewed the attack and this 
time secured the hill with little opposition. 
The 34th Infantry now occupied the hills 
on the north side of Highway 2. 

Seizure of Hill B 

On 22 October the 3d Battalion of the 
19th Infantry had relieved the 2d Battalion 
of the regiment at Palo, and the regimental 
commander ordered the 2d Battalion to 



proceed against Hill B. 63 Earlier, the 2d 
Battalion had sent patrols out preparatory 
to attacking the hill. The 13th Field Artil 
lery Battalion laid maximum supporting 
fires on Hill B as naval bombers strafed it. 64 
The 2d Battalion moved out to the attack at 
1425, and the concentrated artillery fire en 
abled it to secure without resistance a ridge 
east of Hill B and then push on down the 
road toward the hill. But as Company E, the 
lead company, reached the foot of Hill B, it 
was met by a large group from the 33d In 
fantry Regiment coming east down the road 
and around the hill. The Japanese had left 
riflemen dug in on the steep banks of the 
road and had posted others in the trees 
along the road. Some of these riflemen al 
lowed part of the American troops to pass 
and then opened fire. A sharp fire fight 
broke out in which Company E killed an 
estimated hundred of the enemy before 
being forced to withdraw to the ridge, where 
the 2d Battalion dug in for the night. During 
the night the 13th Field Artillery fired on 
Hill B. At 0730 the following day the 2d 
Battalion sent out two patrols to scout the 
enemy positions. The patrol on the right 
flank was stopped by machine gun fire at a 
point 200 yards west of the ridge and was 
forced to return. Mortar fire was placed on 
the enemy machine guns, after which the 2d 
Battalion advanced, reaching what was be 
lieved to be the crest of Hill B at 1530. 65 

As the forward progress was more difficult 
than had been expected, the 2d Squadron 
of the 1 2th Cavalry was sent to relieve the 
1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, which had been 
engaged in mopping up Hill 522. 66 This 



44. 



J 1 9th Inf Unit Jni, 22 Oct 44. 
1 Ibid. 
* 19th Inf Unit Rpt 4, 19th Inf Unit Jnl, 23 Oct 



66 1 st Gav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 3, 24 Oct 44. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART ONE 



167 



relieved battalion was given the mission of 
attacking Hill 85, to the south of Palo, 
where the 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Troop had located a strong enemy position. 
During the night the artillery placed con 
centrated fire upon Hill 85. 

At 0800 on 24 October the men of the 
2d Battalion moved out, attempting to 
complete the capture of Hill B. 67 They were 
held up by well-emplaced pillboxes and fox 
holes on the highest crest of the ridge, hav 
ing discovered that the crest they had first 
occupied was not the true crest. Since the 
33d Infantry Regiment seemed to be well 
emplaced on the hill, Lt. Col. Robert B. 
Spragins had his battalion move to the 
right, It took up a position overlooking a 
narrow asphalt road that ran from High 
way 2 to a Japanese supply dump to the 
south. Colonel Spragins decided to attack 
Hill B from this position on the following 
morning. 

The 13th Field Artillery Battalion again 
pounded the enemy positions on the hill dur 
ing the night. On the morning of 25 
October the 2d Battalion attacked with 
Companies G and E abreast. The troops 
moved down the slope, across the road, and 
up the hill, with no opposition. On reach 
ing the crest, they were met by heavy fire 
that came from well-constructed emplace 
ments. Some of these positions were six feet 
deep and five feet wide. Very heavy fighting 
broke out in which the companies were 
barely able to hold their positions. The 1 1th 
and 52d Field Artillery Battalions fired in 
front of Hill B, 08 and the enemy fire was 



67 19th Inf Unit Jnl, 24 Oct 44. 

68 24th Biv Arty Unit Rpt 3, 26 Oct 44. 



silenced. Company E was forced back, but 
Company G held on. 

Although the hill was in American hands, 
the hold was very precarious. Colonel 
Spragins therefore moved the rest of the 
battalion up to Company G and ordered 
the latter to move out to a far ridge in 
order to secure the hill firmly. This move 
was accomplished at twilight. The rest of 
the battalion moved out to join Company G. 

Starting in the dark, the battalion lost 
its way. At midnight the troops came to the 
true crest of the ridge where the enemy had 
an observation post surrounded by prepared 
positions. All were empty. The Japanese had 
formed the habit of going to the villages for 
the night and returning in the morning to 
man their posts. The night movement of the 
battalion "literally caught them napping 
away from their defenses. 35 69 The battalion 
had not reached Company G, but it set up 
a defensive perimeter for the night. The hills 
guarding Leyte Valley were now in Ameri 
can hands. 

During the day the 1st Battalion, 19th 
Infantry, secured complete control of Hill 
85 without opposition. The battalion found 
an abandoned position, mortar ammuni 
tion, and six dead Japanese. 

By the end of 25 October the X Corps 
had made substantial progress toward se 
curing northern Leyte Valley. After captur 
ing Tacloban, the 1st Cavalry Division had 
pushed north and secured control over San 
Juanico Strait. The 24th Division had se 
cured Palo and the hill fortresses that 
blocked the entrance into northern Leyte 
Valley. The corps was now in a position to 
launch a drive into the interior of the valley. 

69 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 27. 



CHAPTER X 



Northern Leyte Valley: Part Two 



General Krueger had expected stronger 
Japanese resistance in the zone of action of 
the 1st Cavalry Division than in that of the 
24th Division. He had therefore thought it 
safe to release the 2 1st Infantry for the land 
ings at Panaon Strait. When events proved 
otherwise, a portion of the strength of the 
1st Cavalry Division was shifted into the 
zone of the 24th Division to enable the latter 
to free itself of responsibility for rear areas 
and direct its effort to the advance into 
Lcyte Valley. 1 



Drive up Leyte Valley 

The Japanese planned to fall back into 
the mountains if the Americans were suc 
cessful in seizing the Tacloban airfield. 
They expected to take with them "munition 
sufficient for one and one-half units of fire 
for one division . . . and food for 20,000 
men for six month[s]. 3) 2 The rapid ad 
vance of the Americans, however, prevented 
the execution of this plan. After 25 October 
the remaining elements of the 33d Infantry 
Regiment withdrew to a position about 
three and three-fourths miles northeast of 
Jaro. 5 When the American forces had taken 
the hills dominating the entrance into Leyte 
Valley and overlooking Highway 2, Lt, 
Gen. Sosaku Suzuki, the commander of the 



1 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 38. 
2 14th Area Army Opns Leyte, pp, 2-3. 
3 35th Army Opns, p. 35. 



35th Army, concentrated his forces around 
Jaro on the southern edge of Leyte Valley. 
The 41st Regiment of the 30th Division and 
the 169th Independent Battalion of the 102 d 
Division, both of which had but recently 
arrived on Leyte as reinforcements to the 
16th Division, on 26 October were ordered 
to proceed from Carigara to Jaro. On the 
same day the 17th Independent Battalion, 
102d Division, moved toward Jaro. 4 

The 34th Infantry Advances 
Into the Valley 

After the successful capture of Hills B 
and C, the 24th Division resumed its at 
tack west. With the 1st Cavalry Division 
protecting the 24th Division's northern 
flank, the 34th Infantry was to proceed 
westward into the interior along Highway 
2. The 19th Infantry, as the 24th Divi 
sion's southern prong, was to follow an al 
most parallel route to Pastrana. 5 The 1st 
Cavalry Brigade was to relieve the combat 
troops of the 24th Division in the rear areas 
in order to enable the division to continue 
its advance into the interior. 

Highway 2 was a one-lane all-weather 
road, twelve feet wide with four-foot 
shoulders. It had a crushed rock and gravel 

4 10th I&HS, Eighth Army, Staff Study Opns 
of Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Interrog of Maj 
Gen Yoshiharu Tomochika, CofS 35th Army, Pt. 
I, P. 2. 

6 24th Div FO 3, 0700, 25 Oct 44. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



169 



DRIVE TO JARO 

26-29 October 1944 




MAP 11 

surface. In general it ran through level 
ground, with occasional groves of light 
timber, bamboo, and abaca. Much of the 
area was under cultivation. At Santa Fe a 
one-lane all-weather branch road ran four 
miles south to Pastrana, at which point a 
seasonal one-lane road ran southward for 
about five miles to Dagami and another 
northwest for about eight and a half miles 
to Jaro. 

At 1000 on 26 October the 2d Battalion 
of the 34th Infantry, commanded by Colo 
nel Pearsall, moved out of its assembly area 
at Malirong in a column of companies and 
pushed westward on Highway 2. The bat 
talion met slight resistance at the Malirong 
River bridge, but mortar fire knocked out 
the enemy opposition, and the advance con 
tinued. Since the battalion encountered few 



Japanese, the flank protection, which had to 
traverse difficult terrain, was called in, and 
the advance then proceeded at a much more 
rapid pace. The 2d Battalion met, and killed 
or routed, small groups of the enemy. It 
crossed streams where the bridges had been 
destroyed. The 3d Engineer Battalion put 
temporary structures in for two of these 
bridges in order that the first elements might 
proceed, and it placed a Bailey bridge over 
a third stream. The 1st Battalion, which 
followed the 2d, used Japanese handcarts 
to transport supplies between the destroyed 
bridges and the forward troops. 6 By 1730 
Colonel Pearsall had all of his battalion in 
Sante Fe. The following day, Lt. Col. 
Thomas E, Clifford, Jr., who had become 



5 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 26 Oct 44. 



170 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 
pushed his unit through the 2d Battalion 
and advanced 7,000 yards without opposi 
tion to the Mudburon River, where the 
troops established their night perimeter at 
1545. 7 

Mainit River Bridge 

On the morning of 28 October Colonel 
Clifford ordered the 1st Battalion to move 
out in a column of companies along High 
way 2 toward the town of Alangalang about 
a mile and a quarter northwest. At 0900 the 
battalion moved out. Company A, the lead 
company, entered Alangalang without in 
cident, set up local security, and then fell to 
the rear of the battalion, which passed 
through Alangalang 8 without pausing and 
moved toward the Mainit River about one 
and a half miles farther on. 

As Company C reached the Mainit River 
it made contact with the enemy, who had 
dug in on both steeply sloping banks of the 
river at the steel bridge crossing. The com 
pany suffered five casualties. It was opposed 
by the remaining elements of the 33d In 
fantry, which had been considerably mauled 
by the Americans. 9 Company C withdrew 
300 yards as Companies B and A pressed 
forward on the left side of the road under 
continuous rifle fire. Colonel PearsalTs 2d 
Battalion had followed the 1st Battalion, 
and both units were to make an assault 
against the 41st Infantry Regiment, which 



7 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 27 Oct 44. 

8 There is an interesting anecdote about the town : 
"Sergeant [Charles W.] Capps and Pvt. [Harold 
O.] Mottlet of G-3 got some help from a Jap 
sniper when they were hunting for Alangalang on 
a situation map. There was a 'ping' and they hit 
the dirt. "When they resumed work they found a 
bullet puncture practically through Alangalang on 
the map." 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 78. 

* Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 15. 



had arrived in the area. Three batteries of 
the 63d Field Artillery Battalion shelled the 
enemy positions for a depth of 300 yards on 
the eastern side of the river and 100 yards 
on the western side. 

After the artillery concentration was over, 
the two battalions were to move out to the 
attack the 1st on the left and the 2d on 
the right. The regimental commander or 
dered the 1st Battalion to attack, destroy 
the enemy resistance, and secure the eastern 
bank of the river. Five tanks were to follow 
in the rear of the assault companies and 
fire at targets of opportunity. Five hundred 
yards away, to the right of the 1st Battalion, 
Companies E and F of Pearsall's battalion 
were to cross the river, destroy enemy re 
sistance on the western side, and then go 
south on Highway 2 to contact the enemy 
at the bridge. 10 

The 1st Battalion moved to the water's 
edge, where it was pinned down by enemy 
fire. Companies E and F of the 2d Bat 
talion, however, were able to push north 
500 yards through the heavy brush, and 
amid a driving rain they managed to ford 
the river unobserved. Once on the other 
side they charged the entrenchments of the 
41st Infantry Regiment on the river, with 
Company F in the lead. As Company F 
neared the bridge it overran three mortar 
positions without stopping but was finally 
halted by heavy machine gun fire. After the 
company's 60-mm. mortar had knocked 
out the machine gun, the unit continued to 
advance and passed the bridgehead before 
it ran out of ammunition. Company E then 
relieved Company F, while the latter set 
up heavy machine guns to silence enemy 
machine guns in the woods to the west. 
By 1500 the bridge was in American hands. 
The Japanese had placed a demolition 

10 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 28 Oct 44. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



171 



charge on the bridge, but the American 
advance had been so swift that the enemy 
never had an opportunity to set off the 
charge. 

The 3d Battalion had meanwhile moved 
up to the rear of the other two battalions 
and established contact south of Santa Fe 
with the 1 9th Infantry, which was protect 
ing the southern flank of the division. 

Seizure of Pastrana 

On 25 October the 3d Battalion, 19th 
Infantry, advancing toward Pastrana, had 
pushed against slight opposition into Cas- 
tilla and established a perimeter there. 11 On 
the morning of the same day, Maj. Elmer 
C. Howard, the battalion commander, told 
Lt. Col. George H. Chapman, Jr., of the 
19th Infantry that he had learned from the 
Filipinos that there was no organized re 
sistance along the three miles from Castifla 
to Pastrana. He therefore asked permission 
to go to Pastrana and establish a road 
block. Colonel Chapman told Major How 
ard to stay out of Pastrana but to send pa 
trols to locate defenses around the town. 12 
Colonel Chapman later rescinded this or 
der, and at 1300 on 26 October Major How 
ard moved his battalion out from Castilla to 
attack Pastrana, which was 5,000 yards 
southwest of Santa Fe. Company I, the lead 
company, proceeded over a trail that was 
too narrow to accommodate vehicles. At 
1600 the point of Company I reached the 
outskirts of Pastrana but came under heavy 
enemy fire. The battalion pulled back and 
then attacked with Companies I and K 
abreast. The companies were stopped by 
fire that came from an unusual fortifica 



tion a star-shaped fort, with a tin roof, 
which looked like three or four native shacks 
in a cluster. The sides were banked with 
earth, over which grass had been allowed to 
grow a feature so exceptional that it 
aroused suspicion and gave away the na 
ture of the installation. Pillboxes flanked 
the fortification, which was backed by a 
system of trenches. Colonel Chapman or 
dered another attack at 1630, but casualties 
were so heavy that the troops dug in after 
getting within 100 yards of the fortress. 

At 1750 Battery C, llth Field Artillery 
Battalion, placed fire on the fortification, 
but after forty-two rounds of ammunition 
had been expended, the battery reported 
that the muddy ground "caused [the] guns 
to go out of action." 13 From 1850 to 1905, 
Battery A of the 14th Field Artillery deliv 
ered harassing fire on Pastrana, 14 and from 
2200 to 2400 the 13th Field Artillery Bat 
talion took over the task of placing fire on 
the sector around the town. 15 With the com 
ing of daylight, the 4.2-inch and 81 -mm. 
mortars took up the shelling. The night-long 
pounding of the Japanese positions around 
Pastrana was so effective that on the morn 
ing of 27 October Company K of the 3d 
Battalion was able to move around the town 
and establish a roadblock at a demolished 
bridge a few hundred yards southwest. The 
rest of the day the 3d Battalion, assisted by 
Colonel Zierath's 1st Battalion, which had 
followed the 3d Battalion, mopped up in 
the town and sent out patrols to investigate 
the terrain and enemy dispositions west and 
south of the town. 

The 1 9th Infantry was to continue to pro 
tect the southern flank of the 24th Division, 



11 19th Inf Unit Rpt 6, 25 Oct 44, 19th Inf Unit 
Jnl, 25 Oct 44. 

13 19th Inf Unit Jnl, 25 Oct 44. 



13 1 1th FA Bn Unit Rpt 6, 28 Oct 44. There was 
no report for 27 October. 

14 Ibid. 

18 13th FA Bn Unit Rpt 7, 27 Oct 44. 



172 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




PASTRANA was left a mass of smoldering ruins after the shelling of 26-27 October. 



which was driving toward Carigara, by 
moving toward Jaro the proposed assem 
bly point of the 35th Army. On the morning 
of 28 October, Colonel Zierath had the 1st 
Battalion establish a roadblock north of the 
Binahaan River in the vicinity of Macalpe. 
The 2d Battalion pushed forward to Tingib 
and established a perimeter there. For the 
next two days the 19th Infantry sent out 
patrols in all directions; they met only scat 
tered resistance from the Japanese. On 29 
October Company K left Pastrana and 
established a roadblock at Ypad. On the fol 
lowing day it moved south from Ypad to 
Lapdok, where it established contact with 
elements of the XXIV Corps. On the 30th 
two platoons from Company C encountered 
about 100 Japanese at Rizal. The enemy 
fought aggressively, but resistance ceased 
after artillery fire had been placed on the 



town. It was estimated that the majority of 
the enemy force was killed. As a result of the 
skirmishes and patrols. General Makino was 
unable to establish contact between ele 
ments of the 16th Division at Dagami and 
those at Jaro. 16 

Fall of Jaro 

At the crossing of the Mainit River, a 
one-lane all-weather branch road runs 
southwest for about three and a half miles 
to Jaro, and then northwest along the west 
ern edge of Leyte Valley for about ten and 
a half miles to Carigara on the north coast. 
At Jaro many dirt roads and trails branch 
out in all directions. 

The drive of the 24th Division toward 
Carigara was continued as the 34th Infan- 

16 35th Army Opns, p. 43. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



173 



try, protected by the 19th Infantry on its 
flank, moved toward Jaro. After the seizure 
of the Mainit River bridge, two tanks of 
the 1st Platoon, 603d Tank Company, at 
tached to the 34th Infantry, scouted north 
and made contact with forward elements of 
the 2d Squadron of the 8th Cavalry, which 
had arrived in the San Miguel area. 

On the evening of 28 October Colonel 
Newman issued orders to the 34th Infantry 
for the following day. The 3d Battalion, un 
der Lt. Col. Edward M. Postlethwait, was 
to pass through Colonel Clifford's 1st Bat 
talion and Colonel PearsalTs 2d Battalion 
and resume the offensive with 'Company L 
in the lead. From Cavite the battalion would 
move southwest along the road to capture 
Jaro. Company L would be sufficiently in 
advance to make reconnaissance of the route 
before the rest of the battalion arrived. 17 

At 0900 on 29 October, Company L 
moved out from Cavite, meeting no resist 
ance until an hour later when it ran into 
some of the enemy at a point about 100 
yards from Galotan. 18 The leading scout 
spied a man, whom he thought to be a 
Filipino, dashing into a shack. When he 
shouted for the man to come out, the scout 
was shot in the head. The company carne 
on and killed the man. It then came under 
machine gun fire. Platoons attacked from 
both flanks against Galotan. Since the 
enemy troops had dug in under the shacks, 
it was slow* bloody work digging them out 
with rifles and grenades. The 3d Platoon, 
which had been in reserve, closed in when 
the center of the town was reached and 
helped finish the job. In the meantime an 
other unit of the company, which had been 

17 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 28 Oct 44. 

18 The battalion journal laconically notes that 
Company L "meets slight resistance kill appx. 
50 Japs and continues." 3d Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 
29 Oct 44. 



sent to the right on a wide enveloping move 
ment, came under fire from a wooded knoll. 
Artillery and mortar fire soon drove the Jap 
anese off. Unable to retreat westward, the 
enemy moved northward down a stream 
bed and set up a defensive position 500 yards 
west of the road and opposite the center of 
the advancing column of the 3d Battalion. 
Fortunately, since the Antitank Platoon had 
displaced forward by sections, one section 
was in position at this point and was able to 
quickly eliminate the enemy threat. The 3d 
Battalion resumed its march and secured 
Jaro at 1700 without further difficulty. 

By this time the 19th Infantry had gained 
control of the area south and east of Jaro. 
Junction between the 34th Infantry and 
19th Infantry was accomplished on 31 Oc 
tober when the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, 
moved into Jaro. Other elements of the 1 9th 
Infantry were engaged in mopping up in 
the Pastrana sector. The 19th and 34th 
Infantry Regiments had been able to ad 
vance rapidly in their drives through Leyte 
Valley, had maintained contact with the 
1st Cavalry Division, and had arrived within 
ten miles of Carigara Bay. 

By 28 October the XXIV Corps had 
nearly secured the southern portion of Leyte 
Valley. General Sibert was anxious to have 
the X Corps advance rapidly to the shore 
of Carigara Bay and thus bring all of the 
valley under control of the Sixth Army. The 
24th Division was relieved by the 1st 
Cavalry Division of responsibility for pro 
tecting the rear areas from Santa Fe to 
Cavite. The 24th Division, thus freed, was 
to continue pressing the attack to its front 
with the utmost vigor. 19 

The American advance had been so 
rapid that General Suzuki did not have 
sufficient time to put into effect his plan 

19 X Corps FO 3, 28 Oct 44. 



174 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




U.S. ANTITANK PLATOON under enemy fire at Jaw. Soldier in foreground is taking 
cover behind a 37 -mm. antitank gun M3. 



for making Jaro the assembly ground for 
the 35th Army. He was forced to use the 
Garigara area as the new point of rendez 
vous for his troops. On the evening of 28 
October Colonel Newman planned his at 
tack for the remaining distance to Carigara. 
He hoped that the troops would make a 
swift passage, but later events proved that 
the Japanese intended to contest the ad 
vance bitterly. 

Drive From the North 

At the close of 27 October the 7th Cav 
alry, less the 1st Squadron, was in reserve, 
while the 1st Squadron was at Babatngon 
sending patrols along the north coast of 
Leyte and the southwest coast of Samar. 
The 1st Squadron of the 8th Cavalry was 



patrolling Samar in the La Paz area and 
the 2d Squadron of the regiment was pa 
trolling from its bivouac area in the upper 
reaches of the Diit River. In order to pro 
tect the rear of the 24th Division in its for 
ward advance, the 1st Squadron of the 12th 
Cavalry, which had been in reserve, was or 
dered to Castilla. The squadron closed on 
Castffla at 1200 on 28 October. 20 

In accordance with orders from General 
Sibert, General Mudge reassigned the var 
ious elements of the 1st Cavalry Division. 
On 28 October General Hoffman issued 
orders for his 2d Cavalry Brigade to move 
toward Carigara. The 2d Squadron, 8th 
Cavalry, was to establish a base at San 
Miguel, secure Cavite with one troop, pa 
trol and mop up the north and northwest 

20 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 8, 28 Oct 44. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



175 



area up to and including the Barugo road, 
and maintain contact with patrols of the 
1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry, that would be 
operating southeast from Barugo. The 1st 
Squadron, 7th Cavalry, while maintaining 
a platoon at Santa Cruz and a troop at 
Babatngon, was to move to the Barugo 
Carigara area and mop up and patrol the 
area to the south and southeast. 21 

In accordance with this plan, Troop C 
of the 7th Cavalry was to proceed by water 
from Babatngon to Barugo and then over 
land to feel out the enemy position in Cari 
gara. Troop C, under 1st Lt. Tower W. 
Greenbowe, on 28 October made the over- 
water and overland movements without 
incident. The troop entered the eastern end 
of Carigara without opposition, but as it 
neared the main intersection it received fire 
from several buildings. In anticipation of 
this contingency, the men of Troop C had 
been well deployed when they entered the 
town, and were able to return the fire im 
mediately. As the fight progressed, the 
Japanese transported their dead and 
wounded to five trucks near the beach road. 
The fire fight continued until late in the 
afternoon when Lieutenant Greenbowe 
withdrew his force to Barugo, and evacu 
ated his dead and wounded with him. The 
enemy had suffered an estimated 75 casual 
ties; Greenbowe's force had 3 men killed, 9 
wounded, and 1 missing. The mutilated 
body of the missing man was found later. 22 

Since intelligence reports stated that as 
many as 5,000 Japanese were in Carigara, 
General Sibert decided that the attack on 
the town should be a two-division operation. 
While the 24th Division was fighting its 
way up the road from Jaro to Carigara, ad 
ditional 2d Cavalry Brigade units assem- 

21 2d Gav Brig FO 6, 28 Oct 44. 

22 2d Cav Brig Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 

260317 < 



bled in the Barugo area. The 1 st Squadron 
of the 7th Cavalry joined its C Troop at 
Barugo on 29 October; the 2d Squadron, 
8th Cavalry, moved from San Miguel to 
Barugo on 31 October; and the advance 
headquarters of the 7th Cavalry Regiment 
and the 2d Cavalry Brigade arrived at 
Barugo on 31 October and 1 November, 
respectively. Attached to the 7th Cavalry 
Regiment was the 2d Squadron, 5th Cav 
alry, which closed into the Barugo area on 
1 November via Cavite and San Miguel. 23 

Drive to Tunga 

On 29 October the Japanese had pre 
pared new plans for the defense of Leyte. 
(See Map 2) In order to simplify planning, 
the 35th Army headquarters was relieved of 
command responsibility for Samar by the 
14th Area Army. Almost simultaneously, 
the 35 th Army received the erroneous report 
that the Japanese naval forces had de 
stroyed a large part of the U. S. Navy on 24 
and 25 October in engagements off Leyte 
and that the losses would prevent the Amer 
icans from continuing the operation. On the 
contrary, the American naval forces had 
secured a decisive victory. The Japanese re 
verse seriously affected General Suzuki's at 
tempt to put his new plans for the 35th 
Army into effect. 

The plans provided for the calling up of 
the 102d Division from Panay and the 1st 
and 26th Divisions from Luzon. These di 
visions were to land at Ormoc and then pro- 

23 The 5th Cavalry Regiment had moved behind 
the 34th Infantry on its advance along Highway 2 
to the Mainit River bridge. When the 34th Infantry 
moved south to Jaro the 5th Cavalry took over 
the Cavite area and, during the Carigara attack, 
the regiment (less its 2d Squadron) was respon 
sible for the protection of the line of communication 
from Cavite to Barugo. 5th Cav Opns Rpt, p. 5; 
1st Cav Div FO 6, 1 Nov 44-. 



176 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



ceed in three columns northward along 
Highway 2 through Ormoc Valley to the 
shores of Garigara Bay. They were then to 
advance eastward and destroy the Ameri 
can forces in the area between Tacloban 
and Tanauan. Since it was assumed that 
Carigara would remain in Japanese hands, 
the 68th Brigade, serving as 35th Army re 
serve, was expected to land in the north in 
the vicinity of Carigara. At the same time 
the 30th Division was to land at Albuera on 
the west coast and drive overland to 
Burauen, in order to support the operations 
of the main body of the 35th Army?* 

Although the American naval victory 
and rapid advance of land forces prevented 
the Japanese from bringing this plan to full 
fruition, sizable enemy forces opposed the 
drive of U.S. troops toward Carigara. 
About 28 October the 41st Infantry Regi 
ment moved from Carigara to the south 
east section of Jaro. The 169th Independent 
Infantry Battalion of the 102d Division, to 
gether with a battalion (Ternpei Battalion) 
of the 57th Independent Mixed Brigade, 
was in the Carigara area. The advance 
elements first engaged the Americans about 
30 October. 25 These units, however, con 
tinued out past Jaro and took up positions 
in the mountains. 

On the night of 29 October the 34th In 
fantry had captured Jaro and was about 
ten miles from Carigara along the Jaro- 
Carigara highway. (Map 12) At 0800 on 
30 October Colonel Newman ordered the 
3d Battalion of the 34th Infantry to start for 
Carigara down the highway. As the bat 
talion left the outskirts of Jaro, with Com 
pany L in the lead, it came under fire from 

u 10th I&HS Eighth Army, Stf Study of Opns of 
Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Part I, p. 5 : Part IV, 
p. 3, OCMH. 

25 10th I&HS, Eighth Army Stf Study of Japanese 
102d Division on Leyte and Cebu, passim, OCMH. 



Japanese who were dug in under shacks 
along the road. Upon a call from the com 
manding officer of Company L, the tanks 
came up in a column, fired under the shacks, 
and then retired. The leading platoon was 
drawn back so that artillery fire might be 
placed on the Japanese, but the enemy could 
not be located precisely enough to use the 
artillery. Colonel Newman then ordered 
a cautious movement forward without artil 
lery support, a squad placed on each side 
of the road and two tanks in the center. The 
squads had advanced only fifty yards when 
Japanese fire again pinned them down. 

When Cqlonel Newman came forward 
and discovered why the advance was held up 
he declared, 'Til get the men going okay.' 5 26 
Upon hearing that the regimental com 
mander was to lead them, the men started 
to move forward. The Japanese at once 
opened fire with artillery and mortars, and 
Colonel Newman was hit in the stomach. 
Although badly wounded he tried to devise 
some means of clearing the situation. After 
sending a runner back with orders to have 
Colonel Postlethwait fire on the Japanese 
position, he said, "Leave me here and get 
mortar fire on that enemy position." 2T As 
soon as possible Colonel Newman was put 
on a poncho and dragged back to safety. 28 

Meanwhile the troops, unable to move 
forward, broke contact with the Japanese in 
an orderly fashion. Lt. Col. Chester A. 
Dahlen, the regimental executive officer, as 
sumed command and at 1209 ordered that 
the attack be resumed. 29 The 3d Battalion 
was to move northwest along the road to 
Carigara for 3,000 yards and then set up a 
night perimeter. The 2d Battalion, in sup- 

* 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 33. 
w Ibid., p. 34. 

88 Colonel Newman was awarded the Distin 
guished Service Cross. 

* 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 30 Oct 44. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



177 



GAR1GARA BAY 



ADVANCE TO CARI6ARA 

30 October-2 November 1944 



, . , . , \ 2 MILES 

1 O 1 Z KILOMETERS 




MAP 12 

port astride the highway, was to secure the 
high ground 500 yards northwest of Jaro, 
while the 1st Battalion was to move to the 
town of Jaro from its position at the Mainit 
River bridge. 

The artillery concentrated its fire on the 
area to the front, and at 1230 the 3d Bat 
talion renewed the attack with Company K 
on the left of the road and Company I on 
the right. After the troops had proceeded 
about 200 yards, heavy artillery, machine 
gun, mortar, and rifle fire pinned them 
down. Company L in the rear thereupon at 
tempted a flanking movement to the left 
across an open field but came under heavy 



fire from a ridge that commanded the road. 
All the companies were forced to pull back. 
At the end of the day's action, the forward 
elements were still on the outskirts of Jaro. 

During the night, the 1 1th, 52d, and 63d 
Field Artillery Battalions fired continuously 
in support of the 34th Infantry. The corps 
artillery placed harassing and interdiction 
fire along the Jaro-Carigara road. 80 

On the morning of 31 October Colonel 
Dahlen ordered the 3d Battalion to move 
toward Tunga along the Jaro Carigara 
road. The 2d Battalion was to pass through 



' 24th Div Arty Unit Rpt 8, 3 1 Oct 44. 



178 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the 3d along the highway, and the 1st Bat 
talion was to be prepared to follow the 2d. 81 
The 19th Infantry was to protect the rear 
of the 34th Infantry and forestall any at 
tempt by the Japanese to send reinforce 
ments from north of the Binahaan River. 
The 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, was to 
move to Jaro via Tingib and Macanip to 
assist the 34th Infantry. 82 

At 0820 the 3d Battalion, 34th Infantry, 
supported by the 2d Battalion, attacked 
along the Jaro-Carigara highway. Com 
pany L went down the highway and then 
to the rear of the hill from which it had been 
repulsed the previous day; Company I 
moved forward astride the road ; and Com 
pany K was in reserve. As advanced ele 
ments of Company I reached a stream, they 
came under intense fire but moved to a po 
sition from which they could attack the re 
verse slope of the hill. Other elements of the 
company moved off the road to the top of the 
hill. When they pushed westward along 
the crest they discovered another hill behind 
it. 

In the meantime the troops that had at 
tacked the reverse slope came under intense 
fire from the second hill. Concentrated fire 
was laid on the second hill and a heavy 
machine gun was sent to the top of the first. 
Company I, protected by the fire, was thus 
able to assault and take the first hill. Com 
pany K, the reserve company, thereupon 
occupied the hill. These assaults drove the 
enemy into Company L, which was at the 
foot of the hill. A determined three-hour 
fight followed, and, although at one time 
elements of the' company were driven across 
the highway, the company retaliated and 
eventually cleared the area of Japanese, 

81 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 31 Oct 44. 
* 1 9th Inf Unit Jnl, 3 1 Oct 44. 



While this fight was going on the 2d Bat 
talion, with Company E as the point, moved 
along the highway toward Tunga. At 1 130 
the Japanese opened fire on Company E 
at the Ginagan River. Tanks, which had 
been brought up, fired with machine guns 
at the enemy positions on the left of the road. 
The Japanese retaliated with mortar and 
artillery fire, pinning down an antitank gun 
crew and Company E's mortar section. The 
artillery fired a concentration on the Japa 
nese positions and the advance was able to 
continue. 

At 1430 the enemy reopened fire on the 2d 
Battalion at the Yapan River. Company G 
was in the lead, with the 2d Platoon on the 
left of the road and the 3d Platoon on the 
right. Company E was on Company G's 
left flank. With all the troops in a skirmish 
line, the 2d Battalion, with tanks, moved 
down the road to attack. When Company 
G came under fire the tanks went to its as 
sistance, and the Japanese then concen 
trated their fire on the armor. 

Meanwhile Company E pushed down the 
left side of the road but was halted by fire 
from an enemy pillbox on a knoll. A self- 
propelled 105-mm. howitzer was brought 
up, and fire from this weapon completely 
disorganized the Japanese and forced them 
to desert their position. When the howitzer 
had exhausted its ammunition, another was 
brought up to replace it. By this time, how 
ever, the enemy's artillery was registering 
on the spot and the second was disabled be 
fore it could fire a shot. 

Elements of the 41st Infantry Regiment, 
protected by artillery, gathered in front of 
Company E and emplaced machine guns in 
a position from which they could enfilade 
the company. Thereupon Company E com 
mitted its reserve platoon to its left flank but 
shortly afterward received orders to protect 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



179 



the disabled howitzer and dig in for the 
night. A tank was sent up to cover the estab 
lishment of the night perimeter. Company G 
received orders to fall back and dig in for 
the night, and upon its withdrawal the Jap 
anese concentrated their fire on Company E. 
Although badly shaken. Company E held on 
and protected the howitzer, A tank was sent 
forward to tow the weapon, but since it was 
untowable because of broken treads the crew 
sent a shell through it to prevent its use by 
the enemy. Company E then disengaged and 
fell back through Company F, as Company 
G had done. 

Under the protective cover of night, the 
41st Infantry Regiment retreated. 

During the day the 19th Infantry had fol 
lowed closely, protecting the rear of the 
34th Infantry and the southern flank of the 
24th Division and blocking off the enemy 
escape routes. That night General Irving 
gave the plan of action for the following 
day 1 November for the 24th Division. 
The 19th Infantry was to continue to block 
the enemy escape routes and protect the 
southern flank of the division along the 
Binahaan River east from Tingib to Yapad, 
move a battalion into Jaro, establish a road 
block in the vicinity of Jaro, and protect the 
line of communications behind the advance 
of the 34th Infantry as far as Gibucauan. 
The 34th Infantry was to continue advanc 
ing along the Jaro-Carigara highway, seiz 
ing every opportunity to make a wide en 
velopment, especially from the northeast. 33 

In accordance with this order, Com 
panies A and B, 34th Infantry, were sent at 
0820 to make a wide flanking movement 
eastward to Tuba and then strike at Tunga 
from the northeast. At 0900, after patrols 
had reported no enemy contact, the 2d Bat- 

** 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 3 1 Oct 44. 



talion moved on down the Jaro-Carigara 
highway. 

Both battalions proceeded rapidly. At 
0900 the 1st Battalion was in Tuba, and at 
1100 the 2d had passed through the scene 
of the previous day's fighting and was in 
Giagsam. The troops found much materiel, 
including two 37-mm. guns and numerous 
range finders, machine guns, rifles, packs, 
and helmets, which the enemy had left in 
his precipitous flight. Both battalions closed 
on Tunga. They paused for rest and then 
moved on down the highway toward Cari- 
gara. At 1600 when the 34th Infantry 
formed its perimeter for the night, its ad 
vance unit, the 1st Battalion, was 1,000 
yards from Sagkanan, and its rearmost unit, 
the 3d Battalian, was at Tunga. 34 

On the previous day the regimental head 
quarters had moved into Jaro* It had been 
a bloody road to Carigara, but the 24th 
Division was knocking at the back door for 
admittance as the 1st Cavalry Division on 
the north was demanding entrance at the 
front door. 

Capture of Carigara 

By 31 October it became evident to the 
Americans that there was unusual activity 
on the part of the Japanese, who were ap 
parently building strong defensive positions 
around Carigara and pouring reinforce 
ments into the town. Statements by recon 
naissance parties and reports from guerrillas 
led to the belief that 2,000 to 3,000 Japa 
nese were in the town and its environs. 35 
The enemy was capable of bringing up a 
considerable number of reinforcements 
along the Ormoc road, or of attacking the 

84 34th Inf Unit Rpt 13, 34th Inf Jnl, 1 Nov 44. 

85 One guerrilla unit estimated the number of 
Japanese as high as 5,000. 



180 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




155-MM. GUNS FIRING ON CARIGARA 



American left flank from the south. 36 The sit 
uation remained unchanged on 1 November. 

Plans of X Corps 

In view of the apparent strength of the 
Japanese defenders. General Sibert felt that 
no means should be left untried to insure 
the successful reduction of the strong point. 
Both the corps and division artillery were to 
fire on the town, with a heavy 15-minute 
preparation from 0745 to 0800 on the front 
of the 24th Infantry Division to a depth of 
1,000 yards. Immediately thereafter a series 
of concentrations covering 1,000 yards in 
depth would be fired from 0800 to 0840, 
advancing at the rate of 100 yards every 
four minutes. All available artillery except 
one light battalion of the 24th Infantry Di- 

M X Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt 10, 31 Oct 44. 



vision would then fire in front of the 1st 
Cavalry Division to a depth of 1,000 yards 
from 0845 to 0900. Thereafter the artillery 
of each division would support its own 
division. 37 

The 2d Brigade, reinforced, was to seize 
Carigara from Barugo/ 8 while the 34th In 
fantry would attack along the Jaro-Cari- 
gara highway. General Hoffman of the 2d 
Cavalry Brigade commanded the attack 
against Carigara. In preparation for the 
combined assault, the forces of the 1st Cav 
alry Division had been gathering in the 
Barugo area. 

On 1 November General Hoffman ar 
rived at Barugo, examined the troops, and 
made last-minute arrangements. The assault 
from the north was to be in a column of 



37 XCorpsFO5, !Nov44. 
38 1st Cav Div FO 6, 1 Nov 44. 



NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



181 



squadrons: 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry; 2d 
Squadron, 8th Cavalry; and the 2d Squad 
ron, 5th Cavalry, in reserve. The squadron 
last mentioned was to establish and main 
tain communication with the 34th Infantry, 
which was to move out in a column of bat 
talions, wait on the outskirts of Carigara 
until the town had been secured by the 2d 
Cavalry Brigade, and then flank the town 
and move on to Capoocan. 39 

During the day of 1 November and the 
night following, General Suzuki withdrew 
his troops from Carigara and established 
very strong positions in the mountains south 
west of the town in the vicinity of Limon. 
By "clever deception as to his strength and 
intentions," the enemy completely deluded 
the Americans into believing that his major 
force was still in Carigara. 40 

Seizure of Carigara 

Unaware of the Japanese withdrawal, the 
Americans proceeded with the execution of 
their plans. During the American artillery 
fire on the morning of 2 November some of 
the shells landed in the sector of the 7th 
Cavalry, an accident which delayed the at 
tack until 0935. At that hour the 1st Squad 
ron, 7th Cavalry, followed by the 2d Squad 
ron, 8th Cavalry, jumped off. Since the 
bridge over the Canomontag River had been 
destroyed by the enemy and the river was not 
fordable, it was necessary to utilize native 
canoes, only two of which were available. 
This procedure consumed much time, but by 
1130 the troops completed the crossing. 
Troop E, 5th Cavalry, made contact with 
the 34th Infantry at 1 100. Since the troops 
encountered no resistance, the 1st Squadron, 

*34thInfFO7,2Nov44. 

40 Sixth Army Opus Rpt Leyte, p. 38. 



7th Cavalry, followed by the 2d Squadron, 
8th Cavalry, entered the town at 1200 and 
established a perimeter. General Mudge, 
the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, 
entered the town with the assault cavalry 
troops. 41 The 2d Squadron, 8th Cavalry, 
outposted the western and southern sections 
of the town. Patrols from the 34th Infantry 
were already in Carigara. 

At 0800 on 2 November the 34th Infan 
try moved out, the 1st Battalion leaving its 
bivouac area 1,000 yards southeast of Sag- 
kanan and going down the highway, fol 
lowed by the 2d Battalion, less Company G, 
and the 3d Battalion. Company G of the 2d 
Battalion was to reconnoiter the western 
side of Carigara in case an enveloping 
movement became necessary. 42 

By 0900 the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, 
reached a small bridge at the outskirts of 
Carigara and awaited word from the 1st 
Cavalry Division. After a wait of one and a 
half hours, patrols were sent into the western 
portion of Carigara, but they reported no 
enemy contact. All was quiet and the town 
deserted. The battalion then skirted Cari 
gara and proceeded along the coast toward 
Capoocan. It encountered difficulty in 
crossing the Carigara River, since the bridge 
had been destroyed, but was able to get as 
far as Balud, where it set up a night perim 
eter after being halted by enemy fire. The 
2d Battalion moved to the Carigara River, 
where it dug in for the night and was re 
joined there by G Company. The 3d Bat 
talion set up its perimeter just behind the 
2d, and the regimental headquarters of the 
34th Infantry was set up in Carigara. 

In the advance through northern Leyte 
Valley the 24th Division had lost 210 killed, 



1 7th Gav Unit Jnl, 2 Nov 44. 
1 34th Inf Unit Jnl, 2 Nov 44. 




U.S. PATROL CROSSING THE CANOMONTAG RIVER (above). Engineer 
troops replacing a Capoocan River bridge blown up by retreating Japanese. 




NORTHERN LEYTE VALLEY: PART TWO 



183 



859 wounded, and 6 missing in action, but it 
had killed an estimated 2,970 Japanese and 
taken 13 prisoners. 

With the capture of Carigara, the second 
phase of General Krueger's plan for the 
liberation of Leyte was completed. Panaon 
and San Juanico Straits, respectively south 
and north of the island, had been seized. 
Elements of the Sixth Army were on the 
west coast in the vicinity of Baybay on the 
shores of Ormoc Bay, and others were at 
Carigara near the northern entrance to Or 



moc Valley. The two forces were poised for 
a co-ordinated drive toward Ormoc Val 
ley the last important Japanese stronghold 
on the island. Nearly all the tactically sig 
nificant airfields and ports, together with 
Leyte Valley, were in the hands of the Sixth 
Army. Victory appeared to be in sight but 
continued reinforcement of the island by the 
Japanese and delay in the construction pro 
gram for building Leyte Valley into a major 
air and supply base were matters of grave 
concern. 



CHAPTER XI 



Logistics and Civil Affairs 



The old saw that for want of a horseshoe 
nail the kingdom was lost is applicable in 
some degree to the story of logistics on the 
island of Leyte. Fortunately the outcome 
in Leyte was less serious than that recounted 
in the proverb. But the cumulative effect 
of many unfavorable conditions, each ca 
pable of being overcome in itself but each 
entangled with the others, resulted in a pro 
traction of the campaign and a slowing of 
the schedule for future operations in the 
Pacific. 

Despite the forebodings of Sixth Army 
engineers with regard to developing major 
logistical and air bases in Leyte Valley, Gen 
eral MacArthur had assigned logistical 
missions to the Sixth Army which, even 
under the best of circumstances, would have 
taxed its facilities to the utmost. General 
Krueger thought that in the planning stages 
greater emphasis should have been placed 
on an appreciation of terrain when select 
ing landing beaches and their exits, as well 
as sites for base development, airdrome con 
struction, and headquarters installations. 
Terrain information should have been care 
fully analyzed by competent personnel in 
order that tactical and development plans 
could be based on the utilization of suitable 
terrain. The target dates and phase lines 
should have been flexible enough to allow 
for unsatisfactory terrain features. "Air 
dromes cannot be built speedily across rice 
paddies and swamps ; bivouac areas, depots 



and dumps cannot properly be established 
in swamps and rice paddies." l 

Logistics 

Scarcely had the assault troops landed 
when the gloomy predictions of Colonel Ely 
that conditions of soil and weather on the 
island would make it unfit for the establish 
ment of major bases began to be realized. 
Nevertheless, the necessity for early estab 
lishment of land-based air forces to support 
the operation made it imperative that the 
engineers start work immediately on re 
habilitation of existing airfields. Before this 
task could be carried out, however, it would 
be necessary to strengthen and widen the 
roads in order to move heavy construction 
equipment to the airfields. A breakdown of 
the transportation system for even a few 
days could affect adversely all aspects of the 
Leyte operation. Because of the shortage of 
engineer troops, the lack of road metal, and 
the continuous traffic, the construction and 
maintenance of roads presented a critical 
and continuing problem. 

Road Construction 

The troops found their progress greatly 
hampered by the poor quality of roads lead 
ing to the interior of the island. The type of 
soil made it difficult to provide sufficient ap- 

^tr, CG Sixth Army to CG X Corps et ed., 
25Nov44,p.24. 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 

preach roads and to maintain all-weather 
roads. Drivers did not dare come too near 
the edge of the pavement in passing,, even 
on the major two-lane roads, since their 
vehicles would probably become mired on 
the shoulder. The edges of hard-surfaced 
roads broke down under the constant wear 
until the roads were no longer wide enough 
for two-way traffic. Vehicles would often 
sink to their axles on the shoulders of the 
highway and on the many access roads, and 
frequently the roads into camp areas became 
unsuitable for traffic of any sort. 2 

In the 24th Division zone the engineers 
undertook to build an ancillary road, from 
the beachhead area to the existing coastal 
road, over the deep swamps and flooded rice 
paddies. After twenty-four hours' labor they 
abandoned the project as not feasible and in 
a few days rebuilt a trail that skirted the 
swamp along higher ground. This new 
thoroughfare was pronounced an "excel 
lent 53 three-lane egress road. 3 

By utilizing a narrow road leading inland 
to Highway 1, egress from the 1st Cavalry 
Division beachhead area was accomplished. 
Since the road forked near the beach and 
ran north to Cataisan Point it became an 
access road to the Tacloban airfield. All sup 
plies were routed along Highway 1 into the 
interior. When this road went to pieces un 
der the heavy rains of 25 October, no means 
remained of getting overland from the area 
of the 24th Division to that of the 1st Cav 
alry Division. The open country back of the 
Dulag area made the road problems of the 
XXIV Corps zone a little more manageable 
than those in the X Corps area. Dulag itself 
offered graveled streets for traffic, but un- 

3 Hist of Fifth Air Force, Gh. 5, pp. 34-35, AAF 
Archives. 

9 Sturgis, Engineer Operations in the Leyte Cam", 
paign, p. 6. Unless otherwise cited, the material on 
construction is taken from this study. 



185 

fortunately only one very narrow road, with 
deep ditches on both sides, led west toward 
the mountains. With the coining of heavy 
rains, this road was chewed to bits by heavy 
traffic. 

In order to preserve the roads as far as 
possible, the transportation officer of the 
Sixth Army decided to allow their use only 
to vehicles having the highest priority and 
to hold the transportation of civilians to a 
minimum. He forbade the use of trucks and 
other heavy vehicles for carrying personnel 
when lighter transportation was available. 4 
Throughout the Leyte operation, though the 
engineering troops worked unceasingly, the 
condition of the roads remained a tremen 
dous unsolved problem. A rainfall of 23.5 
inches during the month of November 
forced a continuous contest with the mud, 
and men and equipment employed on the 
airstrips had to be diverted to the roads, 
some of which were closed for days at a time 
while under repair. Traffic censuses were 
made as a basis for many corrective meas 
ures that were introduced to control, reduce, 
and equalize the flow of traffic. Supplies 
were issued at night to avoid congestion at 
peak periods. ASGOM made strong efforts 
to keep the road construction equipment in 
use and in workable condition, and placed 
stress upon provision for proper drainage. 
Filipino pick-and-shovel crews were used as 
much as possible. In spite of these measures, 
at the end of November the condition of the 
roads was "a major hindrance to base de 
velopment and operations/ 5 5 

Airfields 

The condition of the airstrips produced 
an even more perplexing problem than the 

* Draft of Memo, 30 Oct 44, Sixth Army G-4 Jnl, 
30 Oct 44. 
8 ASGOM Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 8-9. 




ACCESS ROAD FROM WHITE BEACH under repair (above). Filipino road workers 
on Route 2 (below). 




LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 



187 



roads. Immediately upon their arrival, en 
gineer reconnaissance parties followed the 
assault infantry and examined the various 
sites which had been selected during the 
planning for airfields. By 22 October they 
reported that all the proposed airdrome sites 
except Tacloban were unfit for use during 
the rainy season. 

Elements of the Sixth Army had captured 
both the Dulag and Tacloban airstrips 
within twenty-four hours after landing, but 
the Dulag airstrip was found to be out of 
use and unserviceable, 6 Since the Tacloban 
field was shorter than had been estimated 
and was in need of resurfacing, it was neces 
sary to construct practically a new airfield. 
Although Japanese air resistance was mod 
erate for the first few days and the weather 
temperate, progress was slow because of 
the condition of the roads and congestion 
of traffic. Trucks bearing gravel moved at 
a snail's pace. 

On 25 October the 7th and 8th Fighter 
Squadrons of the 49th Fighter Group as 
sisted in the work on the Tacloban strip. 
The 8th Squadron was dismayed. The en 
tire Cataisan Peninsula, on which the air 
strip was located, was an "unadulterated 
bog" and the "confusion was awe inspir 
ing." Labor details were called to work 
and then dismissed. Upon returning to their 
bivouac area, they would be recalled, and 
the process repeated. 7 On 25 and 26 Octo 
ber the Japanese air force came over the 
airfield in great waves. Many times the men 
were forced to drop their tools and sprawl 
into gullies and slit trenches as the Japanese 
"returned for more blood." 8 



With the naval battle of Leyte Gulf under 
way, activities on the airfield were further 
hampered. Construction crews attempted to 
lay a base of coral on the airfield for the 
steel matting at the same time that Navy 
planes used the field for emergency landings. 
About a hundred aircraft used the field on 
25 October, and twenty-five of these were 
destroyed in crash landings, one of which 
set the fuel dump afire at night. 9 In spite 
of enemy air raids, the landing of naval air 
craft, and the wrecked planes littering the 
airstrip, construction continued. By 30 Oc 
tober some aircraft were arriving and mak 
ing satisfactory landings on the runway, 
which at that time had nearly 4,000 feet of 
matting. 10 

On 27 October the Fifth Air Force took 
over the mission of supplying air support, 
Because of the poor condition of the air 
strips and the scarcity of available aircraft, 
however, it was announced on 31 October 
that only "sporadic bomb support by the 
heavy bombers" and strafing could be ac 
complished. Work on the airstrips had 
barely got under way at the end of October. 11 

At die same time General Casey, com 
manding the Army Service Command, 
painted a dark picture of the future. He 
stated that the construction of airfields in the 
Dulag area would require more effort than 
had been anticipated during the planning 
phase, since the Japanese, contrary to expec 
tations, had placed little or no surfacing ma 
terial on the runways and since soil condi 
tions were such that an eight-inch sand and 
gravel base covered with steel mat would be 



6 RAD, GTF 78 to CG Sixth Army, MG 1280, 
22 Oct 44, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 23 Oct 44. 

7 Hist 8th Fighter Squadron, October 1944, p. 7, 
AAF Archives. 

8 Hist 7th Fighter Squadron, October 1944, pp. 
4-5, AAF Archives. 



Opns Rpt, Gomdr Support Aircraft to Comdr 
Seventh Fleet, no serial, 2 Nov 44. 

10 Hist 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, 
86th Wing, V Fighter Command, Fifth Air Force, 
October 1944, p. 7, AAF Archives. 

11 Rad, Col Quinn to the 6, 8, and 9 Air Liaison 
Parties, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 31 Oct 44. 



188 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



required to support bomber traffic. 12 Fur 
thermore, the labor crews that were to have 
been used in airfield construction were being 
diverted to road building, still further reduc 
ing "the already insufficient amount of en 
gineer effort available for drome construc 
tion." 1S Aside from labor shortages, the 
chief causes for the disappointing delay in 
airfield construction were poor soil condi 
tions, enemy air raids, and rain. 14 Under 
such inauspicious circumstances, the Allied 
Air Forces undertook the mission of furnish 
ing air support on Leyte. Because of the 
poor condition of the airfields, only a token 
force from the Fifth Air Force was able to 
come in. 

Much ingenuity was exercised by the en 
gineers in overcoming difficulties. In enlarg 
ing the Tacloban airstrip, one of the greatest 
impediments to progress was the limited 
supply of coral for surfacing the runways. 
The engineers conceived the idea of having 
the dredge Raymond^ which had been 
brought forward to dredge the navigational 
channel, used to pump coral from the chan 
nel bottom onto the runways. The 2,800- 
horsepower pumps could transport solid 
matter one mile through pipes that extended 
across the bay and onto the land, and they 
could also raise the dredged matter as much 
as 300 feet above sea level. The engineers 
found that this pipeline was the quickest 
way to transport material to the Tacloban 
airstrip, though mechanical difficulties some 
times developed. 15 

Despite constant work on the morasses 
that constituted the San Pablo and Buri air- 



13 Ltr, Maj Gen Hugh J. Casey, -CG ASCOM, to 
Gen Krueger, GG Sixth Army, 31 Oct 44, Sixth 
ArmyG-4JnI, 7Nov44. 



"Hist Fifth Air Force, Gh. 5, p. 33, AAF Ar 
chives, 

u Hist of Engineer Corps in the Pacific, Ch. VI, 
Philippine Campaign, pp. 327-29. Copy in OCMH. 



fields, these strips continued to be in a gen 
erally unusable condition. Finally, on 25 No 
vember, ASGOM dropped all construction 
work on them. The Fifth Air Force, how 
ever, felt that it was necessary to continue 
using the Bayug airfield, and at least one 
aviation battalion remained at work on that 
strip. 

When work on the airstrips at Buri and 
San Pablo was abandoned, the Sixth Army 
units thus released began the construction 
of a new airfield on the coast at Tanauan, 
midway between Tacloban and Dulag. This 
field became operational on 16 December 
1944. 10 The fact that the main part of the 
Fifth Air Force was unable to displace for 
ward to Leyte made it possible for the Jap 
anese to reinforce their Leyte garrison and 
thus prolong the campaign. 

Although his engineers, before the open 
ing of the campaign, had protested vigor 
ously to General Headquarters against the 
establishment of a major base upon Leyte, 
General Krueger felt constrained to take the 
responsibility. Said he : 

There is no doubt that if I could have 
made adequate airdromes available on Leyte 
as scheduled we would have had ample air 
forces on hand to stop all Jap reinforcements 
from coming in. But this proved to be impos 
sible, because of terrific rains that flooded all 
level areas on the island. In consequence, we 
lacked the air support necessary adequately 
to support the operation. This was not the 
fault of the Allied Air Force, however, but 
mine. 17 

Base Construction 

After the assault troops had cleared the 
beach areas, a perplexing problem came to 
the fore. In the plans for the Leyte operation 

16 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 69. 

17 Ltr, Gen Krueger to Gen Ward, 13 Aug 51, 
OCMH. 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 



189 



, ' f >'$ ,'i ;-, ,, ;^1' i .' ' 




TANAUAN AIRSTRIP 

General Krueger had assigned to the various 
commands areas for such facilities as their 
supply dumps and hospitals. Upon arrival 
on Leyte, the Army Service Command dis 
covered that many of the sites were swamps; 
the tactical situation delayed reconnaissance 
for others. 

Throughout November the allocation of 
areas to the units continued to present diffi 
culties. On 1 2 November General Krueger 
formed the Area Allocation Group, which 
consisted of representatives from MacAr- 
thur's General Headquarters, the 'Sixth 
Army, the Air Forces, the Navy, and the 
Army Service Command. The various units 
submitted requests for particular areas to 
this group, which accepted or rejected the 
requests, or allocated different sites. Since 
many of the applicants wished to be in the 
Tacloban area, some of the requests could 



r eplace San Pablo and Buri airfields. 

not be granted because of insufficient space. 
Many of the sites best suited for hospitals 
or storage were occupied by MacArthur's 
advance headquarters and other headquar 
ters. The search of ASCOM for suitable 
storage areas continued throughout the 
month. 18 On 28 November General Krueger 
moved the Sixth Army command post from 
Tanauan to Tolosa so that an airstrip could 
be constructed in the Tanauan area. 19 

By 20 November General Krueger's pro 
gram for hospital construction was far be 
hind schedule. Of the eight hospitals 
planned for the area only one was as much 
as 34 percent complete, and one was only 
5 percent complete. 20 The lack of hospital 
facilities, which continued throughout De- 



1 Army Service Gomd Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 6, 9. 

' Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 69 . 

* 5201st Engr Const Brig Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5. 



190 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



cember, was somewhat offset by the rate of 
evacuation and the use of hospital ships and 
LST's operating under naval medical pro 
cedure. Next to airfields and roads the 
construction of hospitals was given priority. 
But u an adequate number of engineer bat 
talions ... to do justice to the original 
requirements" was not available. At the 
same time General Krueger ordered that 
the hospitals be given first priority on 
structural materials and on portable build 
ings. No lumber, including ship dunnage, 
could be used in constructing quarters for 
either officers or enlisted men until the hos 
pitals were completed. 21 All units that could 
be spared from airdrome and road con 
struction were used to build either hospitals 
or port and POL (petrol, oil, and lubri 
cants) installations. 

As for port facilities, the Japanese failed 
to destroy two existing deepwater berths at 
Tacloban. Despite numerous enemy aerial 
attacks on these docks and on shipping, no 
material damage resulted. By 1 December 
ASCOM had constructed an additional 
dock and several lighterage wharves. Dur 
ing November the Army Service Command 
established, in addition to the main supply 
base at Tacloban, a subbase at Dulag for 
the southern areas and a supply point at 
Carigara for the troops of X Corps. 22 

Supplies 

Since the assault troops had brought 
with them only limited supplies and am 
munition and since they were deep inside 
Japanese territory and 1,500 miles from 
their nearest supply base, at Hollandia, the 



need for immediate establishment and 
stocking of supply bases was especially 
urgent. 23 

Because some of the LST's offshore in the 
vicinity of Hill 522 and Palo were heavily 
shelled by the Japanese on A Day, the 
remaining LST's were directed to the Ca- 
taisan Peninsula, where many of them 
discharged their loads on the Tacloban air 
field, over which the supplies were scattered. 
The proposed runway and dispersal areas 
were strewn with hundreds of vehicles, to 
gether with thousands of tons of ammuni 
tion, rations, and petroleum products. 
Since there was only one egress road, the 
airstrip became tremendously congested. 24 

Another important cause of the conges 
tion was the dictum of General Headquar 
ters that certain airfields were to be opera 
tional by an early date, The Air Forces had 
therefore loaded the vessels with a consid 
erable number of service troops and a quan 
tity of equipment which could not be used 
until the airfields were in operation. When 
construction of the airfields was delayed, 
these troops and equipment were unem 
ployed for many days, thus cluttering the 
beaches and adding to the congestion. Iron 
ically, because of limited shipping space, 
they had displaced c 'engineers and other 
service troops which would have been of 
great value." 25 

On 8 November an estimated 120,000 
American troops were on Leyte. The rations 
of some of these were on board the vessels 
that had brought them to the island, and 
cargo was not being discharged at a satis- 



21 Sturgis, Engineer Opns in Leyte Campaign., 
p. 15. 

22 Army Service Comd Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9; 
Memo, G-4 Sixth Army for DG ASCOM, 11 Nov 
44 3 Sixth Army G-4 Jnl, 1 1 Nov 44. 



Sturgis, Engineer Opns in Leyte Campaign, 



p. 5. 



2C Ltr, Gen Decker, formerly CS Sixth Army, to 
Gen Ward, 9 Jul 51, copy in OCMH. 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 



191 




LST'S UNLOADING AT TACLOBAN AIRFIELD. The causeways leading from the 
beach to the ships were built by bulldozers scraping sand and earth to each ship as it landed. 



factory rate. Col. William N. Leaf, the sup 
ply officer of the Sixth Army, did not believe 
that more than sufficient rations, clothing, 
and construction equipment to meet min 
imum requirements could be unloaded un 
less the discharge capacity of the ports was 
substantially increased. While this condition 
was not entirely satisfactory, it was not as 
bad as appeared, since incoming units 
brought and discharged thirty days' supply 
for themselves." 6 General Krueger set up a 
committee to determine the priority of dis 
charge for the various classes of cargo. On 
9 November the committee gave top priority 
to the following items, in order of prefer 
ence: ammunition, 1 ? 400 tons a day; ra 



tions, 1,000 tons a day; bridge timber, no 
specified amount; landing field mats, 500 
tons a day; and aviation gasoline, 1,000 
drums a day. 2T 

On 27 November the priorities committee 
reviewed the status of shipping in the har 
bors and established new priorities for the 
unloading of cargo. In order of priority, the 
following commodities were given prefer 
ence: rations, ammunition, landing mats, 
and aviation gasoline. 28 Not all the vessels 
followed the priorities that had been set up 
for the discharge of cargo. General Krueger 
ordered that "appropriate disciplinary ac- 



M Memo, G-4 Sixth Army for Transportation 
Sec Sixth Army, 8 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-4 Jnl, 
8 Nov 44. 



^Rpt of Conference on Establishment of Prior 
ities, 9 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-4 Jnl, 30 Nov 44. 

28 Rpt of Conference on 27 Nov for the Establish 
ment of Unloading Priorities, 28 Nov 44, Sixth 
Army G-4 Jni, 30 Nov 44. 



260317 054 



-14 



192 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



tion" be taken against any Army personnel 
who were responsible. 29 

Since successive resupply convoys ar 
rived at Leyte before vessels of the preceding 
echelon had been unloaded, thus congesting 
the harbor, and since the Japanese were 
bombing the vessels, the assistant G-4 of 
Sixth Army suggested on 2 December that 
the number of vessels to be called forward 
from the rear area to be kept to an absolute 
minimum. 30 The time allocated for the dis 
charge of cargo was steadily increased : from 
20 October to 3 November it was twelve 
hours a day, from 4 November to 8 Novem 
ber eighteen hours a day, and from 9 No 
vember until Christmas, twenty-four hours 
a day. 31 

During the first thirty days the supplies 
in tons, stockpiled on Leyte or available on 
board ship for discharge, over and above 
current needs, increased as follows : 20 Oc 
tober, 30,313; 21 October through 30 
October, 128,051; 31 October through 9 
November, 193,838; and from 10 Novem 
ber through 19 November, 319,418. 32 

After the supplies were ashore and stored, 
the problem of getting them to the divisions 
and thence to the front-line troops presented 
tremendous difficulties. Nearly all types of 
transportation were utilized. As the roads 
disintegrated, more and more dependence 
was placed upon water transportation. 
Naval vessels and amphibian vehicles were 
used to carry the supplies as close as possible 
to the front-line troops, and motor vehicles 
transported them for the remaining distance 
whenever feasible. At other times the troops 

* Ltr, CG Sixth Army to CG ASCOM, 30 Nov 
44, Sixth Army G-4 Jnl, 1 Dec 44. 

"Memo, Asst G-4 Sixth Army to QM et al. 
Sixth Army, 2 Dec 44, Sixth Army G-4 Jnl, 2 Dec 
44. 

m Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2 18. 

* Memo, G-4 Sixth Army to Transportation Off, 
27 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-4 Jnl, 27 Nov 44. 



and Filipino civilians often had to hand- 
carry supplies to the assault forces. In addi 
tion there were many airdrops to troops who 
were otherwise completely cut off from the 
rest of the Sixth Army. 

Medical Support 

As the assault forces moved across the 
beaches, medical units accompanied them. 
The 110th Portable Surgical Hospital sup 
ported the operations of the 6th Ranger 
Infantry Battalion in the islands of Leyte 
Gulf. In the northern part of Leyte the 19th 
and 27th Portable Surgical Hospitals went 
ashore with the 1st Cavalry Division in the 
Tacloban area, while the 16th Portable 
Surgical Hospital supported the 24th In 
fantry Division in the Palo area. The 38th 
and 58th Evacuation Hospitals also landed 
on A Day in the X Corps zone but did not 
establish themselves hi positions to receive 
patients. In the zone of action of XXIV 
Corps hi the vicinity of Dulag, the 7th and 
96th Infantry Divisions were accompanied 
by the 51st and 52d Portable Surgical Hos 
pitals, the 394th Medical Clearing Com 
pany, and the 644th and 645th Medical 
Collecting Companies. Later in the day a 
platoon from the 69th Field Hospital landed 
and before nightfall was ready to receive 
patients. Earlier on the same day the 7th 
Portable Surgical Hospital had accom 
panied the 21st Infantry Regiment to 
Panaon Strait. 83 

Evacuation of Casualties 

General Bradley attached to each assault 
battalion a platoon from one of the collect 
ing companies of the 96th Division Medical 



w Rpt of Surgeon, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 262. 




ROAD CONDITIONS. Disintegration of the roads greatly increased the supply problem. 
Filipino carriers unload an amphibious LVT(4) (above); carriers for the 1st Cavalry Division 
near Carigara (below). 




194 



LEYTE: THE RETURN THE PHILIPPINES 



Battalion. These platoons landed with the 
assault waves, collected the casualties on the 
beach, gave them the necessary treatment, 
and then evacuated them to designated 
ships by landing craft. After the Navy beach 
parties had established aid stations the medi 
cal units cleared casualties through them. 34 

As the battle moved on beyond the 
beaches, the remaining medical units came 
ashore and hospitals were put into operation. 
For the first few days, however, the medical 
units evacuated all casualties to naval vessels 
in the harbor, w r hereupon the vessels sailed 
for a rear area base. It frequently happened 
that a man with a minor wound or illness, 
or a nonbattle injury, would be well and fit 
for further duty by the time the vessel 
reached the rear area. 35 

After the campaign had progressed be 
yond the beaches, both the corps evacuated 
to rear areas only those casualties wiio re 
quired prolonged hospitalization. The Fili 
pino Chilian employees of the Army and 
members of the Filipino armed forces re 
ceived treatment but were not evacuated 
from the island without approval from Sixth 
Army headquarters. Wounded or sick Japa 
nese prisoners were segregated in the hos 
pitals but, otherwise, they received the same 
treatment as other patients. 36 Within three 
days after landing, the XXIV Corps set up 
a field hospital which was ready to receive 
patients on the following day. Consequently, 
all casualties who had already been evacu 
ated to the ships but who required hospitali 
zation for less than fifteen days were brought 
ashore and held in the shore party medical 
section or admitted to the hospital. 37 

34 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 95. 

* Rpt of Surgeon, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 262. 

*X Corps Rpt of Medical Service Leyte Cam 
paign, pp. 3-4. 

81 XXIV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 38. 



Co-operation between the medical serv 
ices of the Sixth Army and those of the Sev 
enth Fleet was excellent. Col. William A. 
Hagins, Sixth Army Surgeon, praised the 
medical service of the Seventh Fleet in un 
stinting terms : "The LST's equipped to pro- 
\ide surgical service conformed to the high 
est professional standards and they, together 
with the APH's (transports for wounded) 
and the small PCE(R)'s (patrol craft, 
escort (rescue) ) formed a floating hospital 
reserve that varied between 3,000 and 5,000 
beds. Without this service, which relieved 
the hard pressed hospitals of many cases, the 
level of medical and surgical care on Leyte 
would certainly have been sub-standard. " 3S 

After the action had progressed beyond 
the beaches, the evacuation of troops be 
came more difficult. Each medical collect 
ing company of the 96th Division was fur 
nished nine ^4 -ton trucks and three other 
cargo carriers. The swamps and steep hills 
precluded the use of trucks, however, and 
the number of cargo carriers was insufficient 
for the task. The latter were most useful in 
evacuating casualties across swamps and 
rice paddies. It was necessary to use litter 
bearers in the mountains, but the narrow 
trails permitted the use of only two men to 
carry each litter. For some unexplained rea 
son, attempts to use Filipinos as litter bear 
ers were not successful. 39 The 24th Division, 
unlike the 96th, found the Filipinos to be 
excellent litter bearers and recommended 
their use whenever possible, since they were 
willing workers who conserved the efficiency 
of a combat unit by replacing the combat 
soldiers. 40 



88 Rpt of Surgeon, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 263. 

~ 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 95-96. 
* 24th IMv Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 197. 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 



195 



Medical Treatment 

With very few exceptions, all casualties 
were treated within one hour after the 
wound had been inflicted. At the forward 
aid stations the wounded soldier received 
only initial treatment necessary before 
evacuation to the collecting station. When 
the casualty arrived at that point, he was 
bathed and prepared for further evacuation 
to a clearing station. There the necessary 
surgery was performed to make the patient 
safe for further evacuation, and he was then 
taken to a rear area. Because of the swamps 
and steep hills in the 96th Division sector., 
the time lag in evacuation from the forward 
aid station to the clearing station varied 
from one hour to thirty hours. 41 In the 24th 
Division zone, the clearing stations re 
mained mobile. Only in rare instances, 
where it was impossible to remove patients 
because of heavy fighting, was a casualty 
more than four hours in reaching the clear 
ing station. 42 

Initial measures at the aid stations con 
sisted of treatment for shock, stopping hem 
orrhage, administering plasma, applying 
splints, and dressing wounds. At the clear 
ing stations and portable surgical hospitals, 
the initial surgical care consisted mainly of 
debridements, emergency laparotomies, and 
amputations. The medical officer performed 
surgical operations in these forward medical 
facilities only when it was thought that the 
wounded soldier could not stand the ardu 
ous trip to the rear or when his condition 
would not permit the delay necessary for 
evacuation. 43 

A great many chest wounds and com 
pound fractures were treated. The fractures 
were cleansed, injured tissue was removed, 

41 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 96. 

42 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 134. 

43 Ibid. 



and a splint or cast applied. The biggest 
problem in fractures was the immobiliza 
tion of the humerus. If the nerves could be 
readily found they were anchored. Plasma 
was extensively used, and whole blood, con 
sidered indispensable by the surgeons, was 
generally available. 44 

In the first days of the Leyte Campaign, 
because of the prelanding bombardment, 
more civilians than soldiers required treat 
ment by medical units. In the 7th Division 
sector for the first two days, 75 percent of 
the medical facilities of the only clearing 
company in operation were used in caring 
for civilian casualties. On 24 October the 
Army established a separate hospital on 
Leyte for civilians. 45 

The Sixth Army made a survey of 519 
patients who died from injuries suffered in 
battle. Of these 1 died of bayonet wounds, 2 
of blast concussion, 249 of gunshot wounds, 
170 of fragment wounds, and 97 of un 
classified injuries, many of which were be 
lieved to have been inflicted by bomb or shell 
fragments. The location of the gunshot 
wounds was as follows : 66 in the abdomen, 
21 in the back, 7 in the buttocks, 67 in the 
chest, 49 in the head, 18 in the lower ex 
tremities, 9 in the upper extremities, 3 of 
multiple character, and 9 of unclassified 
location. Of the fragment wounds 25 were 
in the abdomen, 7 in the back, 6 in the 
buttocks, 30 in the chest, 33 in the head, 37 
in the lower extremities, 11 in the upper 
extremities, 1 2 multiple, and 9 unclassified. 46 

Medical Supply 

The Sixth Army plan called for the as 
sault troops to go in with five days' medical 

* Ibid. 

46 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Medical Rpt, App. C 
to G-4 Rpt, p. 5. 

46 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 263. 




A LITTER SQUAD EVACUATES A CASUALTY in mountainous terrain. 




A CASUALTY. RECEIVES TREATMENT at a forward aid station. 




AN OPERATING ROOM AT THE STATION HOSPITAL, TANAUAN 




A CASUALTY IS EVACUATED BY SHIP TO A REAR AREA 



198 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



supplies. The other units would go in with 
thirty days' supply. The original plan pro 
vided for 300,000 troops over a sixty-day 
period only. Thereafter, it was expected 
that Sixth Army would depend upon re- 
supply shipping and the diversion to Leyte 
of shipments intended to fill theater require 
ments of the Southwest Pacific area. The re- 
supply shipping consisted of medical 
maintenance units. Since the average medi 
cal maintenance unit contained less than 
700 items as compared to the 3,000 to 3,500 
items eventually needed for a balanced sup 
ply, the medical plan of the X Corps called 
for loading three days' supply on their or 
ganic transports and on their personnel. 
The rest of the supplies were bulk loaded. 
The X Corps also had an emergency resup- 
ply of two medical maintenance units, one of 
which was never unloaded because of 
damage to the ship on which it was 
carried. 47 

When the XXIV Corps was ordered to 
prepare for the Yap operation, the 7th Divi 
sion began to make its medical plans. After 
receiving permission to take a thirty-day 
supply for 22,000 men on its assault ship 
ping, the division separated the stock into 
two sections, consisting of a ten-day supply 
and a twenty-day supply. The former was 
packed in ten identical units with one unit 
to a pallet, each weighing 1,840 pounds and 
having a volume of seventy-two cubic feet. 
One of these units was allotted to each bat 
talion of the division and one to the division 
headquarters. The twenty days 3 supply was 
packed in three identical units, each weigh 
ing about 21,648 pounds and having a vol 
ume of about 864 cubic feeL 48 



* Army Sendee Forces Monthly Rpt, Sec 7, 
Health, Jun 45, p. 10. 

48 7th Div Medical Rpt, App. C to G-4 Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 3. 



The 24th Division drew approximately 
thirty tons of medical supplies from the base 
medical supply. The division then mobile- 
loaded twenty of these tons on five 2 ^2 -ton 
trucks and assigned a truck to each collect 
ing company. The remaining medical sup 
plies were bulk loaded. Each medical unit 
also carried a five-day supply for immediate 
use upon commitment. 49 

When put into practice, however, this sys 
tem of the 24th Division was not entirely 
satisfactory. Because of the rapid advance 
of the assault troops and the lack of trans 
portation, the system of supply became an 
acute problem, Resupply became co-ordi 
nated with the chain of evacuation. Forward 
units would submit informal requisitions to 
the clearing companies at the second echelon 
of evacuation, whereupon the supplies 
would be issued and brought forward by 
ambulances on their return to the front. 
The clearing companies would submit 
requisitions to the main dump. The diffi 
culty of resupply can be appreciated when 
considerations of time and distance are 
understood. For instance, the round trip 
from Carigara to Tacloban, where the main 
dump was located, amounted to about 
seventy miles. 50 As greater and greater de 
pendence was placed upon human carriers 
to bring out the wounded and bring in sup 
plies, it proved indeed fortunate that the 
Sixth Army had established amicable rela 
tions with the Filipino civilians. 

Civil Affairs 

Although the United States Government 
had interested itself in the civil affairs of the 
Philippines as early as 13 January 1944, it 
was not until 10 November, after the Leyte 
Campaign had been launched, that General 

40 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 135-36. 
- m Ibid., p. 136. 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 



199 



MacArthur received his first directive on 
civil affairs. Between the two dates strong 
disagreements developed between the War 
and Interior Departments as to who should 
administer civil affairs in the Islands. The 
Interior Department insisted that a civil 
representative of the High Commissioner 
of the Philippines should accompany the 
assault troops, and General MacArthur was 
equally insistent that he should not. The 
President finally resolved the question in 
favor of MacArthur. 51 Lacking a directive 
from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mac- 
Arthur devised his own policy for civil af 
fairs during the reoccupation of the Philip- 
pines. 

The formulation of this policy may be 
said to have started on 22 July 1944 with a 
memorandum from Brig. Gen. Bonner F. 
Fellers, personnel officer of General Head 
quarters, to General MacArthur. He stated 
that although President Manuel Quezon 
had established a Division of Civil Affairs 
in the Philippine Army, the actual work 
would have to be done by the United States 
Army. General Fellers, therefore, recom 
mended that General Headquarters im 
mediately assume full responsibility for civil 
administration during the reoccupation. Ad 
ministration in the occupied areas should 
be done, however, in the name of the Philip 
pine Commonwealth and in complete co-op 
eration with its official representatives. 52 

On 30 August General MacArthur issued 
a directive creating a civil affairs unit in his 
headquarters and outlining the broad pol 
icies that were to be followed in the Philip 
pines. 53 This directive was subsequently ex- 

81 History of Civil Affairs Div, WD Special Staff, 
Philippines, pp. 1-17, typescript in OCMH. 

"Memo, Gen Fellers for CINGSWPA, 23 Jul 
44, U. S. Army Forces, Pacific, Report on Civil 
Affairs (2 vols), II, 1. 

* GHQ SWPA Staff Memo 35, 30 Aug 44; Rpt 
cited n. 52, pp. 6-9. 



panded on 28 September 54 but it was not 
until 9 October, eleven days before the land 
ing on Leyte, that MacArthur issued de 
tailed instructions on the procedures to be 
followed. 55 

During the combat stage General Krue- 
ger, the senior tactical commander, was to 
be responsible for such civil administration 
and relief as would be possible under the 
existing tactical situation. General MacAr 
thur would delegate the administration of 
civil affairs and relief in the liberated areas 
as promptly as possible to the authorized 
representatives of the Commonwealth Gov 
ernment. The only restrictions placed upon 
the Filipino people were to be those required 
by military necessity. By arrangement with 
General MacArthur the Philippine Com 
monwealth was, in general, to determine the 
guilt or innocence of suspected collabora 
tionists, though the U. S. Army command 
ers were to retain complete authority to 
deal with the suspects if necessary. 

General MacArthur also established the 
financial policies to be followed. A new series 
of Philippine Treasury certificates called 
"Victory Pesos" would be introduced hi the 
liberated areas. The exchange rate would 
be two for an American dollar. All prewar 
currency and all emergency currency offi 
cially determined to be bona fide would be 
accepted at face value. All other Philippine 
or enemy currency would be worthless. 
Wage rates to be paid Filipino labor were 
established and ceiling prices consistent with 
the approved wage scale were set. 

General Krueger delegated authority for 
civil administration and relief to Generals 
Hodge and Sibert for their respective corps 
areas. The commanding general of the 

W GHQ SWPA Staff Memo 40; Ibid., 28 Sep 
44, pp. 12-15. 

55 GHQ SWPA, Standing Operating Procedure 
Instns 26, 9 Oct 44; Ibid., pp. 22-42. 



200 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




AN OFFICER OF A CIVIL AFFAIRS UNIT pays off civilian workers with the new 
"Victory Pesos. 33 



Army Service Command was responsible for 
the recruitment and maintenance of civilian 
labor. General MacAithur attached to the 
Sixth Army eight Philippine civil affairs 
units, which were to assist the field com 
manders in the administration of civil affairs 
and relief. Two of these were retained by 
Sixth Army, two were attached to each of 
the corps, and two to the Army Service 
Command. 56 

As soon as the conflict had passed by an 
area, a civil affairs unit of the Sixth Army 
stepped in and started to restore the normal 
community life. Temporary appointments 
of Filipino officials were made, such ap 
pointments going to men who had been 
screened by the Counter Intelligence Corps 

88 Sixth Army Admin O 14, Annex 8, Civil Affairs 
Han, 30 Sep 44. 



or who were sponsored by Filipinos whose 
loyalty was unquestioned. In nearly every 
case the Philippine Commonwealth ratified 
these appointments. In every area reached 
by the Sixth Army, civil officials were ap 
pointed as soon as the tide of battle passed, 
and without exception cordial relations were 
established. The civil affairs officers of the 
Sixth Army did not attempt to interfere 
with civil operations unless requested to do 
so, or unless the military situation made it 
necessary. 

Relations With Filipino Refugees 

While the American assault forces were 
hitting the shores of Leyte, a delegation of 
Filipinos boarded the Blue Ridge and gave 
General Irving of the 24th Division infor- 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 



201 



mation regarding conditions on the island. 
They received a cordial welcome, the Fili 
pino steward's mates giving them much of 
their spare clothing. 57 

Many refugees who had been driven from 
their homes by the naval bombardment 
came into the American lines on the beaches 
seeking comfort and aid. These Filipinos 
had been without food or water for a con 
siderable time, some of them for as long as 
twenty-four hours. Many of those who had 
remained in foxholes during the naval shell 
ing were badly shaken up. 

Palo Sector 

In the area around Palo 58 fifty to seventy- 
five civilians had arrived by nightfall on A 
Day, 20 October. The Army gave them 
food and drink and then quartered them in 
two houses on the beach. By the following 
morning the influx of Filipinos had become 
very great and the arrival of many more 
was expected. The civil affairs officers there 
fore secured two more dwellings, had la 
trines dug, and maintained constant polic 
ing of the area, which was finally encircled 
by wire enclosures. The Army set up an 
evacuation hospital unit in the bivouac area 
to take care of the wounded and sick. A baby 
was delivered in an emergency obstetrical 
tent, "both mother and child faring well." 

Wells were dug to provide water for wash 
ing. During 21 October between 1,500 and 
2,000 refugees crowded into the area. By 
22 October the congestion had become so 
great that a larger site was imperative. Gen 
eral Sibert decided to move the civilians to 
Palo, even though the town had not yet 



57 Tarbuck Report. 

"The material on refugees in the Palo area is 
taken from 24th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex 13, 
pp. 146-48. 



been cleared of Japanese. After an Army 
chaplain had said Mass, the refugees pro 
ceeded on foot, in single file, to Palo. The 
Army adopted this mode of advance in 
' order to minimize interference with troops, 
supplies, and equipment and also to protect 
the refugees from mines and booby traps 
which the Japanese had placed on the 
shoulders of the road. Many of the civilians 
carried all of their effects with them ; chil 
dren, as young as three or four years, were 
impressed into carrying their share of the 
family's meager possessions. 

Because of the inpouring of refugees from 
surrounding districts, Palo suddenly grew 
from a normal population of about 6,000 to 
one estimated at 12,000 to 15,000. Nearly 
5,000 people with their animals crowded 
into a church and its adjacent compound. 
Sanitary conditions were very bad. 

The Army fed these refugees from cap 
tured stocks of rice and appointed a force of 
civilian police. After a survey of the area, 
the Army instituted sanitary measures for 
cleaning up the church and its compound, 
with removal and burial of the dead animals. 
Civilian laborers who had been checked for 
their loyalty undertook the burial of Ameri 
can and Japanese dead and the unloading 
of ships in the harbor. The Army disarmed 
all Filipinos except guerrillas and enforced 
security regulations, which prohibited civil 
ians from appearing on the streets after dark. 
As more military units entered the town, 
5,000 of the refugees were moved to its 
outskirts. The Army set up a hospital in the 
compound and surgeries in the schoolhouses, 
with separate wards for men and women. 
Teachers and other qualified women assisted 
as practical nursesJ Within one week the 
Army had organized the town and begun 
work toward rehabilitation. 



202 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




REFUGEE AREA ON ORANGE BEACH NEAR DULAG 



Dulag Sector 

On the beaches of XXIV Corps a naval 

civil affairs unit controlled the Philippine 
civilians. 5 This unit arrived ashore at 0700 
on 21 October. The area which had been 
previously allocated for a civilian compound 
was found to be a swamp. Approximately 
1,500 refugees were scattered around the 
landing beaches. The Army assembled these 
and moved them to a new site in the town 
of Dulag, but the location had undergone a 
three-day naval bombardment which had 
reduced it to smoldering rubble. The Army 
recruited laborers to clean the area. 

The military police assisted in control of 



08 Material on refugees in the Dulag area is based 
on the Report of Naval Civil Affairs Unit, 7 Dec 44, 
7th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Incl 1, App. G to 
Annex 1. 



the civilian population and procured and 
distributed food and water. A medical offi 
cer and several enlisted men from the 7th 
Division gave medical aid to large numbers 
of civilians who were treated for minor 
wounds, injuries, tropical ulcers, and other 
ailments. By 22 October the medical officer 
had referred at least 1 00 of the more serious 
cases to an Army field hospital near by. 
Fifteen unclaimed and unidentified civilian 
dead were buried in the Filipino cemetery. 
By the morning of 22 October, since the 
civilian population of Dulag had grown to 
approximately 10,000, General Hodge is 
sued orders to move the refugees to a new 
location. By 23 October, when a suitable 
place had been found, the number of refu 
gees had risen to approximately 30,000. 
The mass migration to the new location, 
which was two miles from Dulag, was most 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 



203 



difficult, and not until the civil affairs offi 
cers had sent food and water to the new 
site could civilians be persuaded to move. 
The selected area measured about 1,000 by 
600 yards and consisted of a coconut grove 
and a beach. Except for its inadequate size 
and its infringement upon military installa 
tions, it was completely satisfactory. After 
24 October the civilians were removed from 
camp and sent back to their home villages 
as soon as the latter were declared secure. 

Issuing of Supplies 

By the morning of 24 October the Sixth 
Army was taking care of some 45,000 peo 
ple, most of the population of about fifty-six 
communities. Although at first there was a 
shortage of food and water, by 24 October 
there was an adequate supply. Before that 
time the Army supplied the civilians with 
C and K rations, since it could not locate 
an appreciable quantity of the civilian food 
supplies. Seventy percent of these supplies, 
consisting of fish, rice, and meat, were later 
found and distributed by the civil affairs 
officers. 

The Army originally distributed food to 
individuals but later made distribution 
through leaders in the barrios until it could 
establish a general store. The civil affairs 
officers distributed 28,700 full rations, fifty 
cases of condensed milk for infant use, and 
five tons of captured Japanese rice. About 
5,000 full rations were stolen or not ac 
counted for. An Army purification unit set 
up a 3,000-gallon canvas water tank and 
furnished water to the area. 

A general store was in operation by 26 
October for the sale of necessities. Clothing, 
rice, biscuits, salmon, and candles were the 
items most in demand. Some articles were ill 



adapted to the use or customs of the Fili 
pinos. "The people would not buy or use 
the 4,000 rat traps or the rolls of toilet paper 
furnished nor would they buy or use canned 
or powdered milk." m Prices were fixed at 
prewar levels. 

The civil affairs units of the Sixth Army 
opened about 500 schools in the principal 
barrios, those in Tacloban being the first to 
open. Many school buildings were either 
rebuilt or repaired under the direction of 
civil affairs officers and with funds furnished 
by them. Since there were no primary text 
books, in one instance the civil affairs units 
mimeographed a series of three schoolbooks 
which were illustrated by an Army artist. 
The teachers of Leyte not only provided ex 
cellent service in school work but also acted 
as relief workers, sanitarians, and assistants 
in the dispensaries and hospitals. 
* At first, a number of improvised hospitals 
were opened up. When the civilian hospital 
supplies arrived, however, modern hospitals 
were established at Tacloban, Baybay, and 
Carigara. These were staffed by local doc 
tors and nurses, but the civil affairs unit 
continued to furnish food and supervision. 
Twenty-seven permanent dispensaries were 
also established. These were greatly needed, 
since the Japanese had not given the people 
any medical aid and had stopped all pre 
ventive medical measures. Dental treatment 
was given to more than 2,000 Filipinos, and 
smallpox inoculations were administered to 
more than 8,000. Also, when they seemed 
to be required, inoculations were given for 
typhoid, typhus, and cholera. 

The prescribed amount of civilian medi 
cal supplies proved to be inadequate, a situ 
ation which placed an undue burden upon 

80 Civil Affairs, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 279. 



204 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the medical units and facilities of all eche 
lons of the Sixth Army. The food supplies, 
however, were more than adequate. The 
sizes of clothing and shoes were often too 
large and there was not a sufficient supply 
of women's and children's garments. On the 
island 10,000 tons of civilian supplies were 
landed, of which 6,830 tons were distrib 
uted, About 1,102 tons of rice were sold or 
given away, a figure which does not include 
captured Japanese stocks of rice. More than 
400,000 refugees were fed and 287 3 OOO.re- 
lief clients were cared for. 61 By 25 December 
the relief rolls included only the aged, sick, 
and infirm,, and members of families without 
a breadwinner. 

Recruitment of Filipinos 

"Hundreds of self appointed guerrillas 
whose only claim to participation in the 
guerrilla organization was a recently realized 
ambition to be of service to their country 
and to their allies" confronted the assault 
forces on the beachheads. These individuals 
caused endless confusion, since it was prac 
tically impossible for the Americans to dis 
tinguish between the genuine guerrilla and 
his opportunistic counterfeit. After the first 
few days, however, the Army made contact 
with guerrilla headquarters and established 
liaison with the bona fide guerrillas. 62 

General Krueger made the guerrillas a 
part of his armed forces, and they became a 
source of additional strength to the Sixth 
Aimy. These men frequently operated and 
patrolled in enemy-held territory and 
brought the Americans valuable informa 
tion on Japanese movements and disposi 
tions; the unit commanders of Sixth Army, 



however, tended to discount reports from 
such sources with regard to the size of Japa 
nese forces. The guerrillas also guarded 
supply dumps and depots, bridges, and other 
installations in the rear areas. 

The generosity of the American soldier in 
giving away supplies made it difficult to re 
cruit civilian labor. Since gifts of food to 
prospective laborers diminished their in 
centive to work, the Sixth Army issued an 
order prohibiting such gifts. As early as 21 
October the Army got in touch with political 
and labor leaders to serve as advisers and 
assistants, telling them from day to day how 
many laborers would be needed. The Fili 
pino leaders were very co-operative and 
made arrangements to secure the necessary 
labor. Good results were obtained by enlist 
ing the support of local leaders, especially 
the parish priests. General Krueger de 
clared: "In all reported instances, the 
priests lent willing assistance and their in 
formation on individuals and conditions 
was found reliable and outstandingly im 
partial." ^ As the fighting reached past 
Carigara and Dagami and into the central 
mountain range the Filipinos acted as sup 
ply carriers for the troops and worked on the 
roads and trails. At one time there were as 
many as 8,000 Filipinos engaged in this 
labor. Army furnished transportation to the 
site of the work and paid wages according 
to the Commonwealth Government wage 
scales. 

Throughout November the logistical sit 
uation on Leyte remained bad. Work on 
roads, together with that on airfields and 
other installations, consisted largely of tem 
porary expedients. The difficult problem of 
getting supplies ashore and to the troops had 



e 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 22-23. 



** Ltr, CG Sixth Army to GG X Corps and others, 
25 Nov 44. 



LOGISTICS AND CIVIL AFFAIRS 205 

not been completely solved, a situation to give adequate close air support to the 

which hampered the progress of the tactical ground forces. This lack of support was an- 

troops. The lag in construction of airdromes other handicap to General Krueger's men . 

made it impossible for land-based air forces as they fought their way into the mountains. 



CHAPTER XII 

The Mountain Barrier: Part One 

The successful completion of the cam- the 947th Field Artillery Battalion which 

paign for the entire Leyte Valley on 2 No- was to assist the advance south by covering 

vember enabled General Krueger to embark a trail that ran from Jaro to Ormoc. 2 

on the next phase of his plan for the libera- Since the 21st Infantry had encountered 

tionof Leyie. virtually no opposition in the vicinity of 

This action was to consist of two drives Panaon Strait and since it was desirable 

converging on Ormoc: one south through that the regiment rejoin the 24th Division, 

Ormoc Valley by X Corps and the other General Krueger on 30 October had di- 

north from Baybay by XXIV Corps. The rected General Hodge to relieve the 21st 

remaining Japanese on the island would thus Infantry with one battalion of the 32d In- 

be forced into the mountains west of Ormoc fantry. 3 General Irving ordered the 34th 

Valley where they could not offer effective Infantry to continue its attack and secure 

organized resistance. At first, while some Capoocan. When the town was captured 

elements of the XXIV Corps continued to the 1 9th Infantry was to move into it on 4 

push west to reinforce the troops on the November while the 34th Infantry con- 

shores of Ormoc Bay and mopped up in tinued the drive west and secured Pinamo- 

southern Leyte Valley, the X Corps was to poan. 4 
secure control of the coast of Carigara Bay 

from Carigara to Pinamopoan. With the Tfle Coastal Corridor 
completion of this assignment, the northern 

elements of the Sixth Army would be in a Ca P oocan an d Pinamopoan . 

position to drive south along Highway 2 A , n7nn XT , , , 

whichtwistedand turned through thenorth- At 7 n 3 November the 34th Infa - 

ern mountains and central plains of Ormoc f 7 m Ved WCSt fr m itS ? erimeter at Ba - 

Valley to the port of Ormoc 1 (Map 13 } m a C lumn f battalions > ^ Ae lst 

General Sibert ordered elements of the f*?^' ^ C 10nel ^^ * the 

1st Cavalry Division to occupy Carieara ;7 lst BattaHon entered Capoocan 

while the 24th Division secured the coastal * 07 5 5 and thin ten ** had 



corridor that ran from Carigara to Pinamo- 'To 'n^T r , , 

poan and then drove south along Highway battahon moved out and con- 

2 and occupied Oimoc A battalion from ^"^ WSt al ng ^ COaStal road to Pina " 



the 24th Division was to move to the Jaro , Y P pn fi q M 
area and protect the 155-mm, howitzer, of IS fi ?TO 27,44 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 



207 



mopoan. After an advance of about 1,000 
yards. Company B, the point, encountered 
an enemy force, estimated at about 100 men, 
entrenched on the west bank of a stream. 
The column halted and placed mortar fire 
on the Japanese but failed to dislodge them. 
The company then withdrew while the how 
itzers of the 63d Field Artillery Battalion 
pounded the enemy position. 

In the meantime a platoon of Company 
B moved south to secure a ridge which par 
alleled the road. When the platoon located 
some Japanese dug in on the reverse slope 
Colonel Clifford sent Company A to its as 
sistance. The guides took Company A over 
the wrong trail and the troops ran into the 
strong enemy entrenchments well concealed 
by underbrush on the western bank of the 
stream. Company A launched a frontal 
assault, but after the first platoon had passed 
the hidden positions the Japanese opened 
fire and forced the company to withdraw. 
Colonel Clifford rushed Company C to the 
assistance of Company A, ordering it to de 
ploy around the left flank of Company A 
and onto the next ridge. The platoon from 
Company B returned to its morning position. 

Companies A and C then started against 
the Japanese emplacements on the opposite 
bank of the stream. 6 The leader of the ad 
vance squad of Company A was killed and 
Sgt. Charles E. Mower assumed command. 
As he started to lead his men across the 
stream, Sergeant Mower was severely 
wounded. From his exposed position in the 
middle of the stream he directed his squad 
in the destruction of two enemy machine 
guns and numerous riflemen, but he was 
killed when the Japanese turned their fire 
against him. Sergeant Mower was posthu 
mously awarded the Medal of Honor. 



At 1530 Colonel Clifford withdrew Com 
pany A. After the 63d Field Artillery Bat 
talion had blasted the ridge parallel to the 
road, Company B attacked, while Company 
C made its envelopment around the south 
flank and destroyed the Japanese pocket of 
resistance. At 1800 the 1st Battalion formed 
its night perimeter. 7 

Earlier, at 1430, Company K had made 
a reconnaissance in amphibian tractors from 
Capoocan to a point just west of Pinamo- 
poan. Since it encountered heavy enemy 
fire, the company withdrew and returned to 
Capoocan. 8 

During the night the llth and 63d Field 
Artillery Battalions massed their fires and 
laid interdiction fire up and down the high 
way. Under cover of darkness, the Japanese 
force opposing the 1st Battalion withdrew. 
On the following morning patrols sent out 
by the 1st Battalion scouted 1,000 yards to 
the front but encountered no enemy. The 
battalion therefore moved out at 0730 to 
Colasian where it set up a defensive position. 
The 2d and 3d Battalions then passed 
through the 1st. The 2d Battalion entered 
Pinamopoan and dug in, while the 3d 
passed through the town and continued west 
along the highway 1,700 yards. There it 
set up a defensive position just short of a 
ridge of hills that was later to be known as 
Breakneck Ridge. 9 Between Capoocan and 
Pinamopoan the Japanese had abandoned 
three 75-mm., one 40-mm., and five 37-mm. 
guns, together with ammunition dumps, 
signal equipment, and many documents. 
The 34th Infantry found some land mines 
on the road and destroyed them. Since the 
regiment had quickly secured the coastal 



8 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 3 Nov 44. 
26O317 O 54 15 



7 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 3 Nov 44. 
8 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 39-40. 
8 Ibid., p. 40. 



208 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



corridor and had started to move down 
Highway 2, the X Corps was now in a 
position from which it could drive south. 

Defense of the Coastal Corridor 

Some elements of the 26th Division had 
arrived on Leyte during the naval battle, 
and on 1 November most of the 1st Division 
and the 12th Independent Infantry Regi 
ment of the 26th Division landed at Ormoc. 
The 1st Division, which had been activated 
in Tokyo, had served in Manchuria during 
the "China Incident" and had been trans 
ferred to Shanghai in August 1944. Though 
it had no combat experience, this division 
was considered by General Tomochika to 
be the best equipped division of the Japanese 
Army. Under the command of Lt. Gen. Ta- 
dasu Kataoka, it had been held in reserve 
by Imperial General Headquarters for the 
decisive battle, and it was sent to Manila 
with great expectations. 3 * 

The arrival of these troops was in accord 
with a plan devised after the Battle of Leyte 
Gulf. The 102d Division, coming from Pa- 
nay, and the 1st and 26th Divisions, sailing 
from Luzon, were to land at Ormoc. Gen 
eral Suzuki planned to have these troops 
move north along the Ormoc-Limon road 
(Highway 2) through Ormoc Valley, from 
which they were to diverge in three columns 
and capture the Carigara-Jaro road. After 
seizing the road, the Japanese troops were 
to advance east and destroy the American 
forces in the area between Tacloban and 
Tanauan. After the 1st Division had secured 
Carigara, the 68th Brigade was to land in 
the north as 35th Army reserve. At the 
same time the 30th Division was to land at 
Albuera on Ormoc Bay and advance over 



mountainous trails to Burauen and later 
neutralize all resistance in the Dulag area. 11 
When General Suzuki received informa 
tion that the Americans had secured Cari 
gara, he realized that it would be impossible 
to drive toward San Pedro Bay with the 
Americans on his left flank. He believed, 
however, that the reinforced 1st Division 
could easily wipe out the American forces 
in the Carigara area. On 3 November he 
ordered the 1st Division to speed up its 
passage through Ormoc Valley and the 
102d Division to consolidate its forces with 
those of the 1st Division for an all-out at 
tack to annihilate the American troops near 
Carigara. The 26th Division was to advance 
on Jaro. 12 No alternative to this plan had 
been prepared in case the projected opera 
tions were not successful. 13 On 3 November, 
American aircraft struck at the 1st Division 
as it moved up Ormoc Valley in a ten-mile- 
long convoy of trucks, tanks, and artillery. 
They destroyed about thirty trucks and left 
two tanks burning. The aircraft received 
heavy and accurate ground antiaircraft fire, 
and two of the planes were shot down by the 
Japanese. 14 



1 Tomochika, Tnie Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 18. 



n 10th I&HS, Eighth Army, Stf Study of Opns of 
Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Part I, p. 5. 

12 Ibid., Part I, pp. 5-6. 

Ibid., Part IV, p. 2, interrog of Col Junkichi 
Okabayashi, CofS 1st Div. Colonel Okabayashi 
makes the following statement about Japanese 
planning: "It is not the ordinary practice in the 
Japanese Army for higher headquarters to provide 
unit commanders with alternate plans. When con 
ferences are held between unit commanders and the 
staff of higher headquarters, all possible alterna 
tives are, of course, discussed. At any rate, unit com 
manders are invariably oriented with the general 
plan of higher headquarters. In the event an origi 
nal order cannot be carried out because of the 
changing battle situation, the responsibility for 
making changes in plans devolves upon the com 
mander of the init concerned/' 

14 Rpt of Sixth Army G-3 Liaison Sec, 3 Nov 44, 
Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 



209 



The lack of defense at Garigara had come 
as a surprise to General Krueger, since the 
Americans had observed the Japanese re 
inforcing the area. General Suzuki had 
cleverly concealed from the Americans his 
strength and intentions and thus had gained 
time for a withdrawal by a "very successful" 
delaying action. 15 At the same time, the 
57th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division 
had been able to move north through Ormoc 
Valley and establish itself in the northern 
mountains surrounding Highway 2. 

The bringing in of reinforcements by the 
Japanese brought into sharp focus the lack 
of American aerial strength on Leyte. Al 
though the Fifth Air Force had numerous 
aircraft in the rear areas, these could not be 
brought forward because of the very poor 
condition of the available airstrips. The 
few aircraft based on Leyte could not pre 
vent the flow of additional enemy forces into 
the island or give direct support to the 
ground troops of Sixth Army. 

Since the Japanese had been able to send 
without difficulty about 13,500 troops into 
the Ormoc area. General Krueger recog 
nized that they were capable also of landing 
troops on the shores of Carigara Bay. This 
landing, if successful, would isolate the 
American forces in the Carigara area. To 
meet this threat, several courses of action 
were open to General Krueger : he could de 
vote the full energy of the X Corps to pre 
paring a defense against a sea force attack; 
he could disregard the threat and have the 
X Corps push vigorously south and secure a 
position on ground south of Limon, which 
was about two and a half miles southwest 
of Pinamopoan, before the Japanese could 
build defensive positions; or, finally, he 
could advance south with some elements, 
leaving others to guard the Carigara area. 

15 Sixth Army OpnsRpt Leyte, p. 38. - 



If the Japanese Navy and amphibious as 
sault forces entered Carigara Bay, the possi 
bilities for effective countermeasures were 
not very promising. The escort carriers of 
the Seventh Fleet, greatly weakened by the 
Battle of Leyte Gulf, could not give support, 
and it was quite possible that any assistance 
that could be furnished by the Third Fleet 
might not arrive in time. 

Ranking officers of the Seventh Fleet, 
however, did not believe it likely that the 
Japanese would launch an amphibious as 
sault through Carigara Bay. The reasons 
given were as follows: The Japanese had 
never made an assault landing against de 
fended beaches in the past; they were short 
of equipment to make a sustained amphib 
ious assault; and they would be landing in 
the face of the combined fire of the X Corps 
artillery which would cover the beachhead 
area from positions well behind the 
beaches. 16 

Although General Krueger realized that 
the high ground in the Limon area was the 
key to operations farther south, he decided 
that the threat to the Carigara area could 
not be ignored. Since he had insufficient 
forces to drive south and at the same time 
to prepare the Carigara area for defense, on 
4 November he directed General Sibert to 
protect the Carigara area from a seaborne 
attack before the advance to the south was 
continued. At the same time the X Corps 
was to send out units to explore for trails that 
led from Daro, about three miles southwest 
of Jaro, to Ormoc with the view of emplac- 
ing an artillery battalion of 155-mm. guns 
within effective firing range of Ormoc. 17 



w Memo, Maj Reppert for Col Clyde D. Eddie- 
man, Rpt of Conf with Rear Adm William M. 
Fechteler, 5 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 

17 Ltr of Instns, CG Sixth Army to CG X Corps, 
4 Nov 44, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 199. 



210 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



General Sibert immediately told General 
Irving to defer until further orders the ad 
vance south by the 24th Division. At the 
same time he directed Generals Irving and 
Mudge to have their divisions prepare de 
fenses to ward off a seaborne attack against 
the Barugo Carigara-Capoocan area. Pa 
trols of the 24th Infantry Division and the 
1st Cavalry Division were to maintain con 
tact at the Carigara River. 18 

General Mudge thereupon ordered the 
1st Cavalry Brigade to patrol the Carigara- 
Jaro road and to protect the movement of 
supplies and troops along the road. The 2d 
Cavalry Brigade was to establish two squad 
rons in the Carigara-Barugo area to protect 
the seaward approaches to the area, guard 
the bridge between Barugo and Carigara, 
and maintain the security of San Juanico 
Strait. The brigade was to be prepared to 
reinforce the 24th Division. 15 

General Irving, also, redisposed his forces. 
All the field artillery battalions had been at 
Carigara but, with the issuance of the order 
to protect the coast of Carigara Bay, the 
13th and 52d Field Artillery Battalions 
moved to Colasion Point on 4 November, 
while the 63d and llth took positions east 
and west of Capoocan. 20 

On 5 November General Sibert returned 
the 21st Infantry to the 24th Division and 
recommended that General Irving send the 
regiment to Pinamopoan to relieve the bat 
tle-weary 34th Infantry. 21 By the end of the 
day the 1st and 3d Battalions, 21st Infantry, 
had relieved the 34th Infantry and were on 



" Ltr, GG X Corps to GG's 24th Div and 1st Cav 
Div, 4 Nov 44 ; X Corps G~3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 

a 1st Cav Div FO 7,4Nov44. 

28 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 103. 

*X Corps Opn Plan, 5 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-3 
Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 



the edge of Breakneck Ridge west of Pina 
mopoan. 22 

The American aircraft made two strikes 
at the convoy of the 1st Division as it moved 
north up Highway 2. The first one at about 
1430 destroyed about thirty trucks, several 
tanks, and an ammunition dump and killed 
fifty to seventy-five men and thirty to forty 
horses. The second strike at about 1745 hit 
trucks loaded with Japanese soldiers who 
scattered when attacked. All the vehicles 
were camouflaged with palm leaves. 2 '" 

By 6 November, since the X Corps had 
disposed its force to protect the seaward 
approaches and since the Navy had given 
assurance that an amphibious assault was 
unlikely, General Krueger felt that the at 
tack south could be continued. He was 
anxious to have the Sixth Army drive rap 
idly down Highway 2 and secure the port 
of Ormoc, through which the Japanese had 
reinforced the Leyte garrison. He also 
wished to guard against the possibility that 
the Japanese^ as more and more of their 
troops moved up Ormoc Valley, would at 
tempt to debouch into northern Leyte 
Valley. He therefore directed General Sibert 
to expend his main effort in the drive south 
but also to send elements of his force into 
the mountains east of Ormoc Valley. These 
units were to seize the mountain passes and 
secure positions in the Daro area from which 
the artillery could deliver long-range fire 
upon Ormoc in support of the advance 
south. At the same time, elements of the 
XXIV Corps were to guard the mountain 
passages into southern Leyte Valley. 24 



32 24th Div Opns Sum, 5 Nov 44, X Corps G-3 
Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 

* Msg, G-2 X Corps to G-3 Sixth Army, 5 Nov 
44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 6 Nov 44. 

* Sixth Army FO 29, Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 



211 



Battle of Breakneck Ridge 

The Battle Begins 

On 5 November General Sibert instructed 
the 24th Division to complete the relief of 
the 34th Infantry and at the same time to 
push strong, aggressive patrols to the south. 
The 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry, was to 
protect a battalion of 155-mm. guns, which 
was to deliver long-range fire on Ormoc, 
about fourteen miles to the southwest. The 
attack south was to begin on 7 November. 25 

Accordingly, General Irving ordered the 
21st Infantry, after the completion of its 
relief of the 34th Infantry, to reconnoiter 
Breakneck Ridge to its front on 6 November 
and on the following day to launch its drive 
south. A battalion of the 19th Infantry was 
to move to Pinamopoan and protect the line 
of communications of the 21st Infantry as 
the attack progressed. The rest of the 19th 
Infantry was to move to the mountains hi 
the vicinity of Daro and Jaro to protect the 
226th Field Artillery Battalion and secure 
the mountain passes that led into Leyte 
Valley. 28 

The 21st Infantry relieved the 34th In 
fantry in the vicinity of Pinamopoan with 
out difficulty and sent out strong patrols to 
Breakneck Ridge. One of these patrols was 
led by Lt. Col. Frederick R. Weber, the regi 
mental commander. 

Breakneck Ridge, over which Highway 2 
corkscrewed its way between Pinamopoan 
and Limon for about 7,200 yards, was ac 
tually a hill mass with many spurs branching 
off from an irregularly shaped crest line to 
ward the shores of Carrigara Bay to the 
north and the Leyte River valley to the 



55 X Corps Amendment to FO 6, 5 Nov 44. 
*24thDivFO7,5Nov44. 



south. Shoulder-high cogon grass was thick 
on the low ground, and the pockets between 
the hills were heavily forested. The valleys 
were deep, with precipitous sides. The 1st 
Division had heavily fortified the area, tak 
ing advantage of the innumerable thickly 
wooded pockets that served as natural forts. 
The Japanese had also built an elaborate 
system of trenches and other defensive po 
sitions and had honeycombed the area with 
spider holes. Many of the latter were on re 
verse slopes some distance below the crests 
and were protected from direct fire. In front 
of each spider hole the enemy had cut fire 
lanes through the cogon grass, which was 
left so short that even a crawling soldier 
would be exposed to fire. The constant rain 
fall made the hills slippery and treacherous, 
and, more important, provided a protective 
curtain in the day and covered movements 
of the enemy at night. 27 

On 5 November, before the relief of the 
34th Infantry, Maj. Kemuel K. Blacker, 
leading an artillery forward observer's party 
from the 52d Field Artillery Battalion and a 
patrol from the 34th Infantry, had recon- 
noitered far forward on Breakneck Ridge to 
the top of a knoll, later called OP Hill, 
which was some 2,500 yards west of Pina 
mopoan., and was directing fire from that 
point. 28 The party was attacked by a group 
of about platoon strength from the 57th 
Infantry Regiment and took refuge in an 
abandoned position. At 1 230 Colonel Weber 
ordered the 3d Battalion, 21st Infantry, 
to move out to the party's assistance. Com 
pany K, on the right side of the highway, 
was able to secure the northern approaches 

27 Col William J. Verbeck, A Regiment in Action 
(n. p., n. d., copy in OGMH), p. 16; 24th Div 
Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 42. 

28 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 42. 



212 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



to the hill and rescue the observation party, 
though it ran. into heavy machine gun and 
rifle fire. In the meantime Company I 
moved to the left and against stiff resistance 
secured a ridge later known as Corkscrew 
Ridge, which was about 1,200 yards south 
east of OP Hill and which formed the south 
eastern spur of Breakneck Ridge. Since both 
companies needed more ammunition, ve 
hicles with the required supply were sent up 
along the road. After hidden Japanese rifle 
men had punctured the tires : the vehicles 
withdrew and the ammunition was carried 
up by hand. A platoon of riflemen from 
Company I cleared out the enemy position 
but received mortar fire from an unknown 
source. 29 

Both companies were so far in advance 
of the rest of the 2 1st Infantry that only lim 
ited supplies of ammunition and rations 
could reach them. As the afternoon hours 
wore on, the pressure from the 57th In 
fantry increased but the companies dug in 
and held their positions. During the night 
they repulsed three counterattacks of about 
fifty men each. 30 On the following morning 
the 57th Infantry placed mortar fire upon 
the companies, 31 augmented at first by fire 
from one artillery piece and later by fire 
from a four-gun battery. 32 The intensity of 
this fire forced the companies to withdraw 
from their position and rejoin the rest of the 
3d Battalion on the beach near Colasion. 33 

During the day the 1st Battalion tried 
unsuccessfully to secure positions to support 
the attack through Breakneck Ridge, At 
the close of 6 November the 57th Infantry 

39 24th Div G-3 Jnl, 5 Nov 44. 

89 24th Div G-2 Jnl, 6 Nov 44. 

* Rad, Maj Clark, X Corps, to G-2 Sixth Army, 
BA 669, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 6 Nov 44. 

**Msg, S-2 21st Inf to CG 24th Div, 6 Nov 44 
24th Div G-2 Jnl, 6 Nov 44. 

** 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 42. 



of the 1st Division securely occupied Break 
neck Ridge and its northern approaches. 
For the assault the following day, General 
Irving attached the 3d Battalion, 19th In 
fantry, to the 21st Infantry. The 3d Bat 
talion, 21st Infantry, had reorganized about 
2,000 yards east of Pinamopoan. The 1st 
Battalion was on the regiment's right, the 
2d Battalion was in the center astride the 
highway, and the 3d Battalion, 19th In 
fantry, was on the 21st Infantry's left. 34 

The 2d Battalion, 21st Infantry, was the 
object of a night attack that started at 2000 
and lasted for two hours. The enemy used 
mortars and grenades against the battalion 
but was unable to penetrate its perimeter. 35 
Colonel Weber ordered the 21st Infantry 
to be prepared to move out at 0800 on 7 
November. The assault was to be made in 
column of battalions, the 2d Battalion in the 
lead, with a spur of Breakneck Ridge as the 
initial objective. This spur or branch ridge 
extended east and west across the road 400 
yards south of the front line. General Irving 
ordered the 52d Field Artillery Battalion to 
mass its fire immediately in front of the 
troops for fifteen minutes just before they 
jumped off and then to shift its fire to the 
ridge. Attached to the 2d Battalion for sup 
port were a platoon from the 44th Tank 
Company, a company from the 85th Chem 
ical Battalion, and a company from the 
63 2d Tank Destroyer Battalion. 36 

At 0940 the 308th Bombardment Wing 
bombed the headquarters of General Su 
zuki at Ormoc and strafed the highway 
near by. Ormoc had also been under con 
stant fire from the battalion of 155-mm. guns 
in Jaro, at a range of 25,000 yards. Only a 

M Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 7 Nov 44. 

85 Msg, S-2 21st Inf to G-2 24th Div, 7 Nov 44, 
24th Div G-2 Jnl, 7 Nov 44. 

88 2 1st Inf FO 19, *7 Nov 44, 24th Div G-3 Jnl, 
8 Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 



213 



few houses were left standing after the bom 
bardment was completed. 37 

The troops moved out as scheduled. Com 
pany E, on the west of the road, reached the 
branch ridge at 0915 and came under fire 
from enemy automatic weapons on the right. 
Company G ran into about 200 men from 
the 3d Battalion, 57th Infantry Regiment. 
They were well entrenched at a bend of the 
road on the forward slope of the high 
ground, and Colonel Weber had the self- 
propelled guns of the tank destroyer bat 
talion brought forward. These fired into the 
pocket, and although they killed the com 
mander of the 3d Battalion the unit held 
fast. 38 Weber then called two tanks forward, 
but as they moved along the road a Japanese 
soldier jumped out of the high cogon grass 
and disabled one of the tanks by planting a 
magnetic mine against it. The other tank 
then withdrew. 39 

General Sibert was dissatisfied with the 
progress of the 21st Infantry and felt that 
Colonel Weber was not sufficiently aggres 
sive. Accompanied by his G-2, Col. William 
J. Verbeck, he visited the command post of 
Colonel Weber at noon. Dispensing with the 
usual command channels and in the pres 
ence of General Irving, he relieved Colonel 
Weber and made Colonel Verbeck the com 
manding officer of the 2 1st Infantry. -Colonel 
Weber was retained in the regiment as its 
executive officer. 40 

Colonel Verbeck ordered Company L 3 in 
support of the 2d Battalion, to make a wide 



** Msg, 308th Bombardment Wing to Sixth Army, 
7 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 7 Nov 44. 

M Msg, GO 21st Inf to CG 24th Div, 7 Nov 44, 
24th Div G-3 Jnl, 7 Nov 44; 35th Army Opus, p. 57. 

* Msg, S-3 21st Inf to GG 24th Div, 7 Nov 44, 
24th Div G~2 Jnl, 7 Nov 44. 

^Interv with Col Verbeck, 26 Sep 51. Colonel 
Verbeck stated that for the remainder of the cam 
paign Colonel Weber was an excellent and loyal 
executive officer. 



flanking movement to the east and secure 
the ridge which had been denied to Com 
pany G. The company moved out at 1630 
but was unsuccessful. As it withdrew it made 
contact with Company F which had success 
fully pushed forward but because of an un 
explained misunderstanding of orders had 
withdrawn. 41 Night perimeters were estab 
lished on the edge of Breakneck Ridge. 

On the same day Colonel Chapman, 
commander of the 19th Infantry, ordered his 
2d Battalion to send a reinforced rifle com 
pany to Hill 1525 about 2,600 yards south 
east of Limon, seize this ground, and, in 
support of the advance south by the 21st 
Infantry, direct artillery fire on Highway 2. 
Company G, 19th Infantry, moved out on 
this mission with only two thirds of a ration 
per man, since its kitchens were still in the 
Jaro area. The guides with Company G lost 
their way, and the company set up a night 
perimeter after a patrol had located a strong 
enemy position on a ridge west of its course. 
The company position was thought to be in 
the vicinity of Hill 1525, but it was actually 
far east of the hill. 42 

As the 2d Battalion, 21st Infantry, had 
failed to secure the ridge 400 yards to its 
front, Colonel Verbeck that night ordered 
the battalion, with Company L attached, to 
continue the attack toward the ridge after 
an artillery barrage on the following morn 
ing. The 1st Battalion was to secure Hill 
1525, establish contact with the 2d Bat 
talion, 19th Infantry, and from the hill 
envelop the southern flank of the 1st Dim- 
sion. 43 

On the morning of 8 November a 
typhoon, moving in from the west, swept 

ti Msg, S-3 21st Inf to G-3 24th Div, 7 Nov 44, 
24th Div G-3 Jnl, 7 Nov 44; 24th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 43. 

42 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 43. 

** 24th Div G-3 Jnl, 7 Nov 44. 



214 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




ENGINEERS REMOVE LAND MINES from a bridge on Breakneck Ridge. 



over the entire island. Jan Valtin, a mem 
ber of the 24th Division, graphically de 
scribes it : "From the angry immensity of the 
heavens floods raced in almost horizontal 
sheets. Palms bent low under the storm, 
their fronds flattened like streamers of wet 
silk. Trees crashed to earth. In the expanse 
of ... [cogon] grass the howling of the 
wind was like a thousand-fold plaint of the 
unburied dead. The trickle of supplies was 
at a standstill. On Carigara Bay the ob 
scured headlands moaned under the on 
slaught of the ... seas. Planes were 
grounded and ships became haunted things 
looking for refuge. Massed artillery . . . 
barrages to the summit of Breakneck Ridge 
sounded dim and hollow in the tempest. 
Trails were obliterated by the rain. The sky 



was black." M In the midst of the storm, the 
infantry attacked. 

The 2d Battalion, 21st Infantry, effec 
tively used flame throwers to drive the 
enemy troops out of spider holes and caves. 45 
Although shelled by sporadic artillery fire, 
the battalion continued to advance. Strong 
elements of the 57th Infantry hotly con 
tested the American assault. Meanwhile 
Company E pushed farther along the road 
until it was halted at the site of a bridge 
which had been destroyed by the enemy. The 
Japanese had flanked the site with emplace 
ments from which rifle, automatic weapons, 
and mortar fire resisted the frontal attack of 



44 Jan Valtin [Richard J. Krebs], Children of 
Yesterday (New York, The Readers Press, Inc., 

.1946), p. 187. 

45 24th Div G-3 Jnl, 8 Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 



215 



the company. 46 At nightfall Company E fell 
back to its morning position. The 57th In 
fantry continued to make a determined 
stand against the 2d Battalion. Concealed 
Japanese riflemen fired continuously on the 
front, flanks, and rear of all positions and 
small enemy detachments infiltrated 
through the lines. In concert with the attack 
of the 2d Battalion, the 1st Battalion had 
moved out that morning toward Hill 1525. 
Since the maps were grossly inaccurate, the 
precise location of the hill was unknown, 
but the battalion reported that it had 
reached the southern slope of the hill at 
1600 and was digging in under automatic 
weapons fire. At 0700 the 2d Battalion, 19th 
Infantry, under Colonel Spragins, moved 
out through a driving rain and over precipi 
tous trails to join the battalion's Company 
G. During the day Company G drove the 
enemy off the ridge where the company's 
advance had been halted the previous after 
noon. In their flight the Japanese aban 
doned much equipment, most of which was 
new. Of more importance, a significant field 
order of the 1st Division was found on the 
body of a Japanese officer. 

When the consolidation of the battalion 
was made, Colonel Spragins determined 
that he was east of Hill 1525 as shown on 
the maps. Although the battalion was in a 
position to observe Leyte Valley, it would 
have to move westward in order to get a 
view of Ormoc Valley. At 1530 Colonel 
Spragins therefore sent Company E to oc 
cupy a ridge 1,000 yards to the west. The 
battalion then dug in for the night. 47 On the 
following morning General Irving placed 
the battalion under the operational control 
of the 21st Infantry. 

46 24th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 20, 8 Nov 44. 
* T 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 45. 



Immediately in front of the 21st Infantry 
was a Japanese force estimated to be of 
battalion strength. To the east was an un 
determined number of enemy machine guns. 
In front of Company E a bridge was out 
and tanks could not pass. On the steep sides 
of the gulch around this bridge site, elements 
of the 57th Infantry with rifles, automatic 
weapons, and mortars stopped all attempts 
of Company E to move forward. 48 

Through the night torrential rains fell. 
At dawn of 9 November two begrimed, 
soaked, and weary battalions of the 21st In 
fantry jumped off to the attack, the 2d Bat 
talion, less Company F, on the west side of 
the road and the 3d Battalion on the east. 
Heavy artillery preparations had already 
pounded the Japanese front lines. As the at 
tack progressed, mortars and artillery placed 
fires on targets of opportunity. In destroying 
pockets of resistance in the gulch, grenades, 
rifles, and flame throwers were used, to 
gether with heavy machine guns. 

At 0930 Company I, 21st Infantry, 
reached the crest of the intermediate ridge 
on the east side of the road which ran south 
ward toward the center of Breakneck Ridge. 
An hour later Company E, 21st Infantry, 
moved out from the perimeter it had held 
for two days. Its mission was to cut west of 
the road and secure the commanding high 
ground in the rear of the emplaced Japanese 
at the bridge site where the advance of the 
company had been stopped on the previous 
day. At the same time Company L, 21st In 
fantry, passed through Company I and at 
tacked the center of Breakneck Ridge as 
Company G started a wide envelopment to 
the west from Company E 5 s position to as 
sault OP Hill from the west. Artillery for 
ward observer parties went with the com- 



g, CO 21st Inf to GofS 24th Div, 8 Nov 44, 
24th Div G-2 Jnl, 8 Nov 44. 



216 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



panics and called artillery fires on targets of 
opportunity. 

At 1150 Company L encountered deter 
mined opposition from enemy rifle and mor 
tar fire but doggedly pushed ahead for sev 
eral hours and secured the top of the ridge. 
Company G reached its objective, but upon 
receiving intense enemy fire was forced to 
retire to the eastern slopes of a ridge 300 
yards to the north, where it reorganized. 
Company E also reached its objective and 
then formed its night perimeter. At 1815 
the Japanese launched a counterattack 
against the perimeter of Company G but 
the attack was repulsed. For the night a 
platoon of heavy machine guns was at 
tached to each rifle company to protect its 
perimeter. 

Since the position of the 2d Battalion, 
19th Infantry, had by this time become 
clear, Colonel Verbeck ordered the bat 
talion to move from the east and to relieve 
the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, on Hill 
1525. One company was to be established on 
a ridge overlooking Highway 2 while the 
remainder of the battalion was to block the 
trail that passed Hill 1525. 49 The 1st Bat 
talion, 21st Infantry, was to push westward 
from its position on Hill 1525 and cut the 
Ormoc road some 1,800 yards south of Li- 
mon in order to forestall the escape of Japa 
nese troops from Breakneck Ridge. Com 
pany A was to remain on the hill and hold 
it until the 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, 
arrived. 

The 1st Battalion, less Company A, 
jumped off at 0730. After it had advanced 
about one and a half miles and was within 
sight of Highway 2, the battalion was halted 
by heavy enemy fire from the front and both 
flanks. It renewed the attack and informed 



Msg, G-3 24th Div to G-2 24th Div, 9 Nov 44, 
24th Div G-2 Jnl, 9 New 44. 



Colonel Verbeck that it was moving slowly 
northwest and was less than a mile from 
Limon. In the meantime the enemy attacked 
Company A on Hill 1525, and the company 
was able to maintain its position with diffi 
culty. Because of this fight and the fact that 
no contact had been established with the 2d 
Battalion, 19th Infantry, Colonel Verbeck 
ordered the battalion to rejoin Company A. 
The troops therefore returned and took part 
in the fight to repel the Japanese. The 1st 
Battalion withstood the enemy force until 
1400, when an estimated battalion of fresh 
troops from the 57th Infantry was thrown 
into the fight. 50 The Americans then broke 
off the engagement, and the battalion, cov 
ered by Company A, withdrew from Hill 
1525 to the vicinity of Pinamopoan. 51 

Information that the 1st Battalion, 21st 
Infantry, was being attacked on Hill 1525 
reached the 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, 
shortly after noon as it was on its way to 
relieve the 1st Battalion. Colonel Spragins 
pushed forward immediately with two com 
panies, hoping to reach the 1st Battalion by 
1500, but progress was slowed by steep, 
slippery slopes that were often blocked by 
huge fallen trees. At 1630, without having 
heard any sounds of battle, which they had 
hoped would guide them to the 1st Bat 
talion's position, the troops reached what 
they believed to be the western slopes of 
Hill 1525. Patrols reported no contact either 
with friendly or enemy units and the 2d 
Battalion set up its night perimeter. 

"At this time," states the 24th Infantry 
Division operations report on Leyte, "it be 
gan to dawn on all concerned that Hill 1525, 
as shown on the map, was not a single hill 
mass, but a long ridge of many knolls and 
hilltops.' 3 52 

50 24th Div G^3 Periodic Rpt 21,9 Nov 44. 
61 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 47. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 



217 




VIEW FROM THE RIDGES LOOKING NORTH UP THE LIMON VALLEY 



Breakneck Ridge: Second Phase 

On 9 November the Japanese 26th Di 
vision arrived at Ormoc in three large trans 
ports with a destroyer escort. The troops 
landed without their equipment and am 
munition, since aircraft from the Fifth Air 
Force bombed the convoy and forced it to 
depart before the unloading was completed. 
During the convoy's return, some of the 
Japanese vessels were destroyed by the 
American aircraft. 53 

The arrival of these troops was in accord 
with a plan embodied in the order which 
had been taken from the dead Japanese offi 
cer on the previous day. This plan envisaged 
a grand offensive which was to start in the 
middle of November. The 41st Infantry 
Regiment of the 30th Division and the 



169th and 171st Independent Infantry Bat 
talions of the 102 d Division were to secure 
a line that ran from a hill 3,500 yards north 
west of Jaro to a point just south of Pinamo- 
poan and protect the movement of the 1st 
Division to this line. With the arrival of the 
1st Division on this defensive line, a co 
ordinated attack was to be launched the 
1st Division seizing the Carigara area and 
the 41st Infantry Regiment and the 26th 
Division attacking the Mt. Mamban area 
about ten miles southeast of Limon. (See 
Map 2.) The way would then be open for 
a drive into Leyte Valley. 54 

General Krueger was quick to realize the 
significance of this order. Since General Su 
zuki apparently wished to make the moun 
tains of northern Leyte the battleground for 



8 35th Army Opns, p. 59, 



'"Ibid.; Sixth Army Opns' Rpt Leyte, p. 50; 
Sixth Army G-3 Jul ? 9 Nov 44. 



218 



LEYTE; THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the island, Kmeger disposed his farces to 
meet the enemy threat. The X Corps was to 
continue its drive south down Highway 2 
but at the same time was to dispose units 
in the central mountain range to protect the 
exits from Ormoc Valley into Leyte Valley. 
The XXIV Corps was to send a reinforced 
regiment into the hills northwest of Dagami 
to prevent any Japanese from infiltrating 
into Leyte Valley, and the corps was also to 
be prepared to assist elements of the X Corps 
that guarded the trail running from Daro to 
Dolores, a village about six miles northeast 
of Ormoc. A regiment of the XXIV Corps 
was to be placed in Sixth Army Reserve at 
Dagami, where the central mountain range 
began. 55 

General Sibert then ordered the 24th Di 
vision to continue its attack south. The 1 1 2th 
Cavalry Regimental Combat Team, under 
Brig. Gen. Julian W, Cunningham, which 
was expected to arrive on 14 November, 
was to relieve elements of the 1st Cavalry 
Division that guarded the beaches in the 
Carigara-Barugo area. The 1st Cavalry 
Division was then to drive southwest from 
the central mountains and relieve some of 
the pressure against the 24th Division. 56 

General Hodge at the same time ordered 
the 96th Division to seize the high ground 
between Jaro and Dagami, secure all routes 
of exit from the west coast through the cen 
tral mountain range, and send patrols 
through the passes to the west coast of Leyte. 
The division was also ordered to maintain 
in the vicinity of Dagami one infantry regi 
ment in Sixth Army Reserve. At the same 
time elements of the 7th Division had 
reached the shores of Ormoc Bay in the vi 
cinity of Baybay and were ordered to send 



patrols toward Ormoc and to prepare the 
route for a future advance in strength. 57 

If the attention of the Japanese could be 
fastened upon the X Corps in the north and 
northeast, it might be possible for General 
Krueger to put into effect his plan to send a 
strong force from the XXIV Corps over 
the mountains far to the south along the 
Abuyog-Baybay road to the eastern shores 
of Ormoc Bay in order to reinforce elements 
of the 7th Division already there. This force 
w r as to drive north toward Ormoc while ele 
ments of the X Corps pushed south toward 
the town along Highway 2. It might even 
be possible later to land an amphibious 
force, perhaps as large as a division, at a 
point just below Ormoc. But first it was all- 
important that the Japanese be contained 
in Ormoc Valley and that their attention 
continue to be directed to the north. 58 

On 9 November General Irving ordered 
the 24th Division to launch a co-ordinated 
assault on the following day to drive the 
1st Division from Breakneck Ridge and also 
deny it commanding ground from which 
the Japanese could conduct delaying actions 
just south of the barrio of Limon. (See Map 
13.) The 21st Infantry was to drive south 
along Highway 2 and the 2d Battalion, 
19th Infantry, was to proceed west from its 
position on the east flank of the enemy and 
establish a roadblock on Highway 2 about 
2,000 yards south of Limon. The 1st Bat 
talion, 34th Infantry, was to make a wide 
enveloping movement around the west flank 
of the 57th Infantry and seize the high 
ground known as Kilay Ridge which was 
about 700 yards from Highway 2 and west 
of the proposed roadblock of the 2d Bat 
talion, 19th Infantry. General Irving an 
nounced: "Success of the Leyte Campaign 



w Sixth Army FO 30, 11 NOT 44. 
58 X Corps FO 1 2, 1 2 Nov 44. 



57 XXIV Corps FO 23, 10 Nov 44. 

58 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 57. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART ONE 



219 



depends upon quickly and completely de 
stroying hostile forces on our front." 59 

By the morning of 10 November the 1st 
Battalion, 21st Infantry, had reorganized 
and re-equipped itself. The 2d and 3d Bat 
talions of the regiment were disposed along 
a ridge southwest of Pinamopoan. The com 
panies of the two battalions were inter 
mingled. 60 

The rains continued to pour down upon 
the troops, and the thick mud was slippery 
and treacherous underfoot. After the artil 
lery had fired a ten-minute concentration 
on Breakneck Ridge, the 21st Infantry at 
tacked at 0945. Company A, the lead com 
pany, passed through Company E and 
pushed south. At 0955 Company G seized 
OP Hill. Simultaneously, Company I moved 
to the site of the destroyed bridge 300 yards 
east of OP Hill. Company L moved toward 
the high ground 300 yards southeast of its 
position and at 1120 secured this ground. 

Colonel Verbeck then ordered the 1st 
Battalion to attack a ridge 200 yards to its 
front by maneuvering through the defiles on 
each side of the enemy-held spur. The ma 
neuver was unsuccessful and the 1st Bat 
talion resumed its former position. 61 The 
Japanese resisted all efforts of the 2d Bat 
talion to move down the reverse slope of 
OP Hill. 62 During the day the 1st Battalion, 
34th Infantry, and the 2d Battalion, 19th 
Infantry, moved out to secure the command 
ing positions south of Limon. 63 

The ten guns of the 2d Battalion, 1st Ar 
tillery Regiment of the 1st Division, were 
moved to a position east of Limon where 
they could be used to assist the 57th Infan- 



8 24th Div FO 8, 9 Nov 44. 

24th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 22, 10 Nov 44. 

24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 49. 

24th Div G-2 Jnl, 10 Nov 44. 
* Ibid., pp. 53, 61. 



try Regiment* 6 * During the night of 1011 
November the 57th Infantry severed the 
telephone lines from the headquarters of the 
21st Infantry to all of the regiment's 
battalions. 

That night the American artillery fired 
heavy interdiction fires, and before 0900 on 
1 1 November it delivered preparations, in 
cluding white phosphorus shells, on enemy 
pockets and strong points on Breakneck 
Ridge. Company C of the 85th Chemical 
Battalion maintained constant harassing 
fires on the reverse slopes of the east ridge 
and OP Hill, at the rate of approximately 
two 4.2-inch mortar rounds every five min 
utes. 65 Colonel Verbeck attached Company 
L to the 2d Battalion. 

The 21st Infantry resumed the attack at 
0900 with the 1st and 2d Battalions abreast, 
the 1st Battalion to the north of OP Hill and 
the 2d Battalion south and west of the parts 
of Breakneck Ridge previously captured. 

Strong elements of the 57th Infantry 
from the south and from positions in the 
wooded ridges east of Corkscrew Ridge im 
mediately fired upon the 2d Battalion and 
pinned it down for the rest of the day. The 
1st Battalion encountered little opposition 
until it reached a point about 300 yards 
south of the crest of Breakneck Ridge, where 
the Japanese strongly resisted. The troops 
then moved west of the enemy left flank 
about 200 yards to enable the tanks from 
Company A, 44th Tank Battalion, to make 
an attack against the main position of the 
57th Infantry on Breakneck Ridge. 66 

The tanks proceeded along Highway 2 up 
Breakneck Ridge and down its reverse slope. 
They destroyed an estimated twenty-five en 
emy positions which contained automatic 



64 35th Army Opns, p. 60. 

65 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 49. 
<* 24th Div G-3 Jnl, 1 1 Nov 44. 



220 LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 

weapons. One tank got stuck when it went on the right of the road with the mission of 

off the edge of the road. As darkness ap- enveloping the Japanese left (north) flank. 70 

preached, its crew was rescued by another There was little resistance, and soon after 

tank which then put a 75-mm. shell into the 1200 the crest of Breakneck Ridge was in 

stalled vehicle to prevent its use by the the hands of the 21st Infantry. But shortly 

Japanese. 67 afterward the 2d Field Artillery Battalion 

At 1600 the 308th Bombardment Wing of the 1st Division shelled the regiment and 
dropped twenty-eight 500-pound bombs on stopped all forward advance. 71 
the Valencia airfield in the middle of Ormoc On 13 November the 1st and 2d Bat- 
Valley and twenty-four 500-pound bombs talions took up the fight, with machine guns 
on a Highway 2 bridge in the vicinity of the from the vicinity of OP Hill firing in sup- 
airfield. 68 . port. The 1st and 2d Battalions advanced 

At nightfall the 1st Battalion had secured 600 and 400 yards, respectively. By 14 No- 
its objective, a ridge 300 yards to the south- vember it appeared to General Irving that 
west of OP Hill, and all positions were con- the 21st Infantry had eliminated nearly all 
solidated. During the night the 226th and resistance on Breakneck Ridge. The regi- 
465th Field Artillery Battalions placed har- ment controlled the ridge proper, but several 
assing fire on the enemy positions. In order adjacent spurs, notably Corkscrew Ridge, 
to shake the morale of the Japanese, the were still controlled by the 57th Infantry. 
artillery fired its rounds at exact five-minute On 15 November the 1st Battalion, the most 
intervals but scattered the fire throughout advanced unit, was about 1,500 yards north 
the enemy-held area. 69 of Limon. On 16 November the 128th In- 

On the morning of 12 November the 3d f antry O f the 32 d Division relieved the 21st 

Battalion, supported by sk tanks and a pla- M a^ The battle of Breakneck Ridge 

toon from the 632d Tank Destroyer Bat- had not bem ^ easy Qne for ^ 21gt ^ 

tahon, moved out along the road skirting f it had ^ 63Q men ^ w 

thecrsstof Breakneck Radge. By 1115 it had and ^ her ^ m men from 

passed over the crest and was moving down other ^ ^ 

the reverse slope. After the 3d Battalion < 77Q T T2 

crossed the hill, the 1st Battalion attacked V/y Japanese. 



24th Div Opm Rpt Lcyte, p. 50; 44th Tank " 24th Div W ** 12 Nov "' 24th Div 

Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. R P* Le J te > P- 50 - 

"Msg, 308th Bombardment Wing to Sixth Army, " 24th Div - 3 Periodic Rpt 24, 12 Nov 44; 

11 Nov 44, Sixth Aimy G-3 Jnl, 1 1 Nov 44. 35th Army Opns, p. 62. 

* X Corps Arty S-3 Periodic Rpt 22, 12 Nov 44. TS 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 51. 



CHAPTER XIII 

The Mountain Barrier: Part Two 



By the middle of November both the continued and that the battle for Leyte be 

Americans and the Japanese realized that brought to a successful conclusion. General 

the struggle for the island of Leyte was going Yamashita is said to have replied, "I fully 

to be long and costly far longer and costlier understand your intention. I will carry it 

than either had anticipated. out to a successful end." 2 

On 9 and 10 November, Field Marshal 

Hisaichi Terauchi, the senior officer of the Reinforcements 
Japanese forces in the Philippines, held a 

series of conferences on the progress of the At the same time General Krueger was 
campaign. General Yamashita, command- anxious to complete the third phase of the 
ing general of the 14th Area Army, strongly American campaign, the two-pronged drive 
urged that the Leyte operation be discon- toward the port of Ormoc. He felt, however, 
tinued and offered reasons for this stand: that there were insufficient troops to both 
There was little likelihood that additional protect the mountain passes into Leyte Val- 
reinforcements would reach the Philippines, ley and make the drives toward Ormoc. 
and the vital manpower needed for the de- In preparing for the Leyte Campaign, 
fense of Luzon would be drained off use- General Krueger had asked that the units 
lessly at Leyte. The naval battle of Leyte which were to participate be embarked with 
Gulf, he also thought, had been "unsatis- a 10 percent overstrength. This request was 
factory" and there was reason to believe that disapproved. Just before the embarkation, 
the air battle off Formosa had been equally however, he received 5,000 untrained re- 
disappointing. The shortage of shipping and placements. 3 He had also requested that dur- 
escort strength greatly aggravated the al- ing the course of the operation 18,800 re- 
ready difficult problem of troop transporta- placements be delivered to the combat zone, 
tion. Finally, the land operations were not the first 10,000 to arrive by A plus 10. Dur- 
proceeding favorably. 1 But Yamashita's ing the first thirty days of the operation he 
superior, Field Marshal Terauchi, com- would need the following replacements: 
manding general of the Southern Army, 14,300 Infantry, 1,300 Field ArtiUery, 1,130 
insisted that the reinforcement program be Cor P s of Engineers, 750 Medical Corps, 375 
Antiaircraft Artillery and Coast Artillery, 

*GHQ FEC, MI Sec, Hist Div, Statements of 185 Quartermaster Corps, 185 Ordnance, 

Japanese Officials of World War II, Vol. II, p. 687, 

Statement of Maj Gen TosMo Nishimura [Asst * I&M*.., 1, 541. 

CofS 14th Area Army], copy in OGMH. * G-l Rpt, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 152. 



222 LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 

TABLE 1 SIXTH ARMY DAILY STRENGTH REPORTS, 12 NovEMBER-25 DECEMBER 1944 



Authorized strength 



Difference Between Effective and 
Authorized Strength 



Dati 



OfHcei 



Enlisted Men 



Officers 



Enlisted Men 



12\ 7 ovl944 _- -. 


6,978 


107 461 


1 050 


11 754 


19Novl944 


9,290 


147, 497 


1,099 


15 058 


26 Nov 1944 


11,977 


185 462 


1 603 


17 977 


2 Dec 1944 


11,637 


191 060 


1 819 


19 01? 


9 Dec 1944 


10, 721 


174 148 


1 194 


18 261 


16 Dec 1944 


10, 905 


176 466 


1 361 


21 059 


25 Dec 1944 


11,019 


176 628 


1 228 


22 536 













Scna-cf: Sixth Army Operations Report Leyte, 20 October-25 December 1944, p. 153. 



185 Signal, and all others 375. Approxi 
mately 6 percent of these should be 
officers. 4 

As the fighting extended into the moun 
tains, the lack of sufficient replacements be 
gan to be greatly felt. At no time did General 
Knieger know when replacements would 
arrive, or whether they would be combat 
or service troops, or what their individual 
specialties would be. During the course of 
the operation he received only 336 officers 
and 4,953 enlisted men as replacements. 

To add to these difficulties, General Mac- 
Arthur's headquarters used figures for "as 
signed strength" rather than "effective 
strength," that is, the number actually pres 
ent with a unit, in computing the need for 
replacements. Such figures gave an entirely 
erroneous picture, since evacuations were to 
change rapidly the figures for medical in 
stallations, and dispositions reports were de 
layed for long periods. For example, on 12 
November the assigned strength of the 
Sixth Army was only 289 officers and 1,874 
enlisted men short of its Table of Organ 
ization strength, but its effective strength 

4 Ltr, CG Sixth Army to GING SWPA, 29 Aug 
44, sub: Replacements for Forthcoming Opn, 
Sixth Aimy G-3 Jnl, 29 Aug 44. 



was 1,050 officers and 11,754 enlisted men 
short of the Table of Organization strength. 
By 20 December this shortage had pyra 
mided to about 21,000 considerably more 
than a division. (Table 1} General Krue- 
ger was seriously concerned about the situ 
ation, especially since nearly 79 percent of 
the casualties occurred in the infantry. 5 

Fortunately, the 32d and 77th Infantry 
Divisions the Sixth Army reserve were 
due to come in soon or had already done so, 
and there were on the island additional units 
that were to have used Leyte -as a shipping 
area for subsequent operations. The avail 
ability of the 1 1th Airborne Division, under 
Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Swing, and the 1 12th 
Cavalry Regimental Combat Team, 6 under 
General Cunningham, was most timely. 
They could be used to help guard the moun 
tain passes into Leyte Valley and also to give 
support to the drive of X Corps south down 
the Ormoc Valley. 

At the same time General Krueger pro 
posed that as soon as there were sufficient 
troops and supplies available, an amphibi 
ous landing be made near Ormoc to capture 

B Ltr, Gen Krueger to Gen Ward, 12 Sep 51, 
OGMH. 

8 This unit was a separate regimental combat team. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



223 



the town. This operation would speedily re 
duce the Japanese opposition south of Or 
moc, cut the enemy's line of communication 
at Ormoc, and place the hostile forces in 
Ormoc Valley "in a vise which could shortly 
squeeze them into extermination." 7 

The supporting naval forces, however, 
could not make available sufficient assault 
and resupply shipping to mount and sup 
port such an operation. The Navy also 
thought that there was insufficient air sup 
port on the island to insure the safe arrival 
of a convoy into Ormoc Bay. There was a 
strong possibility that severe losses might 
result from the suicide bombing techniques 
of the Japanese pilots. General Krueger 
therefore set aside his plan until it could be 
introduced at a more opportune time. 8 
When the 1 1th Airborne Division arrived, 
General Krueger could attach it to the 
XXIV Corps in southern Leyte. General 
Hodge could then relieve some of the troops 
that had been guarding the mountain en 
trances into the valley and also send addi 
tional support to the troops on the shores of 
Ormoc Bay, thus enabling the XXIV Corps 
to launch a strong drive toward Ormoc 
from the south. 

General Krueger originally had planned 
to have the 32d Division, under Maj. Gen. 
William H. Gill, establish control over south 
ern Samar, but in view of the limited num 
ber of Japanese on that island, he decided to 
make use of the division to add momentum 
to the attack of X Corps and to give rest to 
the weary troops of the 24th Division. 9 On 
14 November General Krueger therefore di 
rected General Sibert to relieve the units of 
the 24th Division with elements of the 32d 
Division. At the same time, the 1 12th Cav 



alry was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division 
in order to give impetus to the attack. 10 

32d Division Assumes the Offensive 

General Sibert made arrangements for 
the introduction of the 32d Division and the 
112th Cavalry into the battle. The 2d Bat 
talion, 19th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 
34th Infantry, which had reached positions 
overlooking Highway 2 south of Limon, 
were to remain in those locations and tem 
porarily under the operational control of 
General Gill. The 112th Cavalry was to 
operate in the mountains between Ormoc 
and Leyte Valleys and assist the 1st Cavalry 
Division in a drive to the southwest toward 
Highway 2. A regimental combat team from 
the 32d Division was to relieve the 21st In 
fantry on Breakneck Ridge. Another regi 
ment from the division would mop up in 
the vicinity of Hill 1525 and prepare to 
assist in the drive south. Elements of the 
division were to relieve the units of the 24th 
Division in the Daro area, from which the 
artillery had been shelling Ormoc. The 24th 
Division artillery was to support the ad 
vance of the 32d Division until relieved. 11 
The flanks of the 32d Division were pro 
tected. The 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, had 
established a roadblock on Highway 2, 
about 2,000 yards south of Limon, and the 
1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, was on the high 
ground known as Kilay Ridge, which was 
700 yards from the road and west of the 
roadblock of the 2d Battalion, 19th 
Infantry. 

General Gill directed the 128th Infantry 
of the 32d Division, commanded by Col. 
John A. Hettinger, to pass through the 21st 
Infantry and attack south astride Highway 



T Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 62. 

*Ibi<L 

9 Ibid. 

260317 O 64 1$ 



10 Sixth Army FO 32, 14 Nov 44. 

11 X Corps FO's 12-15, 12-16 Nov 44. 



224 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



2, to push through Breakneck Ridge, and to 
capture Limon, 1,500 yards to the south. 
Colonel Hettinger ordered the regiment to 
move out on 16 November at 0800 with 
battalions abreast the 3d Battalion, com 
manded by Lt. Col. William A. Duncan, 
on the right (west) of Highway 2, and the 
1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. James 
P. Burns, on the left. 12 (Map 14) 

The forward elements of the 1st and 3d 
Battalions moved out of their assembly areas 
on time. They were followed by the re 
mainder of the troops as fast as rations and 
ammunition could be distributed. The bat 
talions assembled immediately in the rear 
of the 21st Infantry and at 1200 pushed 
through that regiment and entered upon 
their first battle on Leyte. 13 

Colonel Hettinger ordered Colonel Burns 
to overcome the enemy opposition on Cork 
screw Ridge. The 1st Battalion made little 
progress. Company A was immediately 
pinned down by machine gun, mortar., and 
rifle fire, and Company B went forward 
only 150 yards. The 3d Battalion encoun 
tered no opposition and advanced to a point 
350 yards south of its line of departure, from 
which Company M delivered machine gun 
fire and Company L rifle fire at long range 
on the enemy in the vicinity of Limon. 14 

On the morning of 17 November the 1st 
Battalion reached the slopes of Corkscrew 
Ridge, where it dug in. At 0737 the 3d 
Battalion moved out along Highway 2 with 
companies abreast Company K on the 
right and Company L on the left. Company 
K met no resistance, advanced about 1,000 
yards, and reached a ridge about 500 yards 
north of Limon. Elements of the 57th In 



fantry stopped Company L almost immedi 
ately, but a platoon from the company 
moved fifty yards west around the pocket 
of resistance and destroyed it. The company 
then continued its advance to the ridge. 15 
Companies K and L dug in on the ridge 
for the night. 16 

On the following morning Colonel Het 
tinger ordered the 3d Battalion to hold its 
position until the 1st Battalion could come 
abreast. The 3d Battalion therefore limited 
its activities to sending out patrols. The 1st 
Battalion again attacked Corkscrew Ridge 
but made very limited gains. 

Elements of the 57th Infantry had dug in 
on the reverse slope of the ridge, and heavy 
jungle prevented complete observation of 
these enemy positions. The Japanese regi 
ment had placed automatic weapons to 
command the only routes of approach, thus 
forcing the American troops to move uphill 
hi the face of hostile fire. The 2d Artillery 
Battalion had placed its guns so that they 
covered Highway 2. 17 

The 1st Battalion continued to besiege 
Corkscrew Ridge until 20 November, while 
the 3d Battalion remained on the ridge over 
looking Limon. Late in the afternoon pf 2 1 
November, Colonel Hettinger ordered the 
128th Infantry to seize Limon, and then 
move south to secure a bridge-crossing over 
a tributary of the Leyte River. The 1st Bat 
talion was to contain the enemy on Cork 
screw Ridge. The two assault battalions of 
the regiment got into position on the ridge 
north of Limon, the 2d Battalion on the 



8 128th Inf FO 4, 15 Nov 44. 

1 3d Bn, 128th Inf, Opus Rpt Leyte, p. 1. 

1 128th Inf Unit Rpt 1, 16 Nov 44. 



25 Capt Julius A. Sakas, The Operations of the 
3d Battalion, 128th Infantry ... at Limon . . ., 
p. 29, Advanced Infantry Officers Course, 1949-50, 
The Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Ga. 

18 1 28th Inf Unit Rpt 2, 1 7 Nov 44. 

11 35th Army Opns, p. 66; 128th Inf Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 2. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



225 



east side of Highway 2 and the 3d on the 
west side. 18 

During the night the 120th Field Artil 
lery Battalion delivered harassing fire along 
the road between Limon and the Limon 
bridge. 19 At 0800 the assault troops moved 
out. The 3d Battalion met little opposition, 
but the 2d met strong resistance from the 
57th Infantry. 20 Company I encountered no 
resistance as it moved along a bluff which 
was just west of the town and which over 
looked Limon and the bridge. Company K 
and the 2d Battalion pushed through Limon 
and at 1400 the leading elements crossed a 
tributary of the Leyte River south of the 
town. A determined Japanese counterattack 
forced back the left flank of the 2d Battalion 
and exposed Company K. A sudden flood 
of the stream, caused by heavy rains, cut off 
the advance elements of Company K south 
of the river from the rest of the company. 
These troops moved to the right and joined 
Company I on the bluffs. The rest of the 
company and the 2d Battalion established a 
night perimeter along a ridge east of the vil 
lage. The 3d Battalion, less Company K 5 
established itself for the night around the 
positions of Company I that overlooked the 
bridge and the tributary of the river. 21 

On 23 November the 128th Infantry 
straightened out its lines and consolidated 
its positions. For the next three days activity 
was limited to extensive patrols and the 
placement of harassing fire on an east-west 
ridge that overlooked the highway about 
1,000 yards south of Limon. Entrenched on 
this ridge, elements of the 1st Division suc- 



18 128th Inf Unit Rpt 6, 21 Npv 44; 128th Inf 
Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3. 

* 32d DIv Arty Unit Rpt 2, 20 Nov 44. 

* X Corps G-2 Jnl, 23 Nov 44. 

21 X Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt 34, 22 Nov 44; 
X Corps G-2 and G-3 Jnls, 22 Nov 44. 



cessfully resisted until 10 December all 
efforts of the 32d Division to dislodge 
them. 22 

With the occupation of Limon, the battle 
of Breakneck Ridge was over, but a number 
of bypassed pockets of resistance were not 
eliminated until mid-December. The battle 
cost the 24th and 32d Divisions a total of 
1,498 casualties, killed, wounded, and miss 
ing in action, as compared with an estimated 
5,252 Japanese killed and 8 captured. 23 

The Japanese had failed in their attempt 
to block off Highway 2 at the northern en 
trance to Ormoc Valley. In no small meas 
ure, the establishment and maintenance of 
a roadblock south of Limon by the 2d Bat 
talion, 19th Infantry, and the defense of 
Kilay Ridge in the rear of the Japanese 
front lines by the 1st Battalion, 34th Infan 
try, had made this achievement possible. 
(See Map 13.) Under constant fire and 
greatly outnumbered, these units had pre 
vented General Suzuki from sending addi 
tional troops into Limon. From 12 to 23 
November the 2d Battalion, 19th Infantry, 
had defended the roadblock under ex 
tremely difficult conditions. The operations 
report of the 24th Division graphically sum 
marizes the deeds for which the battalion 
received a presidential citation: 

These bearded, mud caked soldiers came 
out of the mountains exhausted and hungry. 
Their feet were heavy, cheeks hollow, bodies 
emaciated, and eyes glazed. They had seen 
thirty-one comrades mortally wounded, 
watched fifty-five others lie suffering in 
muddy foxholes without adequate medical 
attention. Yet their morale had not changed. 
It was high when they went in and high 
when they came out. They were proud that 
they had rendered invaluable aid to the main 
forces fighting in ORMOC CORRIDOR, 

9 32d Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7. 
38 X Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 29. 


















AMERICAN TROOPS IN LIMON (above), and taking cover there as enemy shells hit 
the area (below). 



-# 




THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



227 



by disrupting the Japanese supply lines and 
preventing strong reinforcements from pass 
ing up the ORMOG ROAD. They were 
proud that they had outfought the Emperor's 
toughest troops, troops that had been battle 
trained in Manchuria. They were certain 
they had killed at least 606 of the enemy 
and felt that their fire had accounted for 
many more. And they were proud that this 
had all been accomplished despite conditions 
of extreme hardship. Two hundred and forty- 
one of the battalion's officers and enlisted 
men were hospitalized for skin disorders, foot 
ulcers, battle fatigue,, and sheer exhaustion. 24 

The 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, under 
Colonel Clifford, operated west of Highway 
2 on Kilay Ridge, behind the Japanese front 
lines. It "wrote a brilliant page in the history 
of the campaign" 25 but, since its influence 
on the situation was not appreciated until 
later and since it affords an excellent ex 
ample of a battalion fighting independently, 
the operation of "Clifford's Battalion" will 
be discussed separately. 

Battle of Kilay Ridge 

When General Krueger told General 
Sibert to push the X Corps south with all 
possible speed down Highway 2 toward 
Ormoc, the latter had selected the 24th Di 
vision to make the drive. General Irving 
wished to protect the sides of the road and 
prevent the Japanese from sending rein 
forcements north up the highway. On 9 
November he therefore ordered the 34th 
Infantry to send a battalion around the 
Japanese west flank to harass the enemy's 
rear and thus relieve the pressure that was 
holding up the frontal attack of the 21st 
Infantry on Breakneck Ridge. 



Nipponese Caught Napping 

At 1 00 on 1 November Colonel Dahlen, 
commander of the 34th Infantry, alerted 
the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, for an am 
phibious landing to take place at 0700. The 
battalion had been in contact with the 
enemy for twenty-one days and was reduced 
to an effective strength of 560 men. The 1st 
Battalion, with an observer's party from the 
63d Field Artillery Battalion, was ordered to 
move from Capoocan in eighteen LVT's 
and proceed seven miles northwest up the 
coast of Carigara Bay, 26 It was then to move 
inland and seize Kilay Ridge, which was 
west of the Ormoc road some 3,000 yards 
behind the Japanese front lines. 27 

At 0700 the battalion, under Colonel 
Clifford, moved out, taking every available 
man on the mission and leaving only a 
minimum of cooks and drivers behind. 
Since the troops had to hand-carry their 
equipment the Headquarters Company left 
the antitank guns behind, and Company D 
took only one section of heavy machine guns 
and one section of 81 -mm. mortars. Colonel 
Clifford used the men thus released to carry 
other weapons and ammunition. Because 
of the scant time allowed by the orders, the 
battalion left without sufficient rations. 

At 0750 Clifford's battalion went aboard 
the LVT's and at 0930 arrived at its desti 
nation. Debarking without opposition it 
pushed rapidly inland and at 1 145 reached 
a hill approximately one mile from the 
landing area. At dusk the 1st Battalion 
reached a ridge in the vicinity of Belen and 
about 2,000 yards north of Agahang. 



4 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 59. 
s X Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 27. 



"1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 10 Nov 44. 

* 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 61. Unless other 
wise stated this subsection is based on the above 
report, pages 6168. 



228 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



There It set up a night perimeter. Since his 
maps were inaccurate. Colonel Clifford re 
lied upon the services of Filipino guides 
from this time until the end of the mission. 
The rugged and muddy hillsides, made con 
siderably worse by almost constant rain and 
fog, were similar to those encountered by 
other units fighting in the area. 

At 0730 on 1 1 November Colonel Clif 
ford sent out patrols to pick up a promised 
airdrop of rations. The battalion had been 
without food since the morning before. At 
0910 Colonel Dahlen ordered Colonel Clif 
ford not to move on to Agahang, which was 
about 3,800 yards northwest of Limon, until 
he received rations. The rations were not 
forthcoming but at 1400 Dahlen told Clif 
ford to obtain the promised rations at Aga 
hang, to which the battalion then proceeded. 
No supplies were received, but Filipinos fur 
nished the unit with bananas, cooked rice, 
boiled potatoes, and a few chickens. A night 
perimeter was set up. 28 

At 0850 on the following day Colonel 
Clifford's men received their first airdrop 
of rations. Ten minutes later the command 
ing officer of the 1st Battalion of the guerrilla 
96th Infantry made contact with Colonel 
Clifford and gave him a resume of the 
enemy situation. (The guerrillas rendered 
invaluable aid to the 1st Battalion, 34th 
Infantry, throughout the Kilay Ridge epi 
sode by furnishing intelligence and protect 
ing the rear of the unit.) The battalion 
moved out at 1200 for Consuegra near the 
Naga River and entered the town at 1240. 
At 1310 Colonel Clifford outlined to the 
officers the plan for the next two days. For 
the rest of the day, the battalion was to ad 
vance to Cabiranan and bivouac for the 
night. On the morning of 13 November it 



w r as to split into two columns and make a 
fast advance by separate routes to Kilay 
Ridge, where it would reorganize. As Colo 
nel Clifford was briefing his officers, LVT's 
entered Consuegra with rations for the 
troops. The LVT's had left Carigara Bay, 
passed through Biliran Strait, gone down 
Leyte Bay and into the Naga River, and 
then proceeded up the river to the vicinity 
of Consuegra. 

At 0855 on 13 November a column of 
Filipino men, women, and children entered 
the perimeter and brought approximately 
thirty-five boxes of rations from Consuegra. 
The battalion left the area at 0930 and 
reached the ridge without opposition. 
Trenches and prepared gun positions with 
out a man in them honeycombed the ridge 
from one end to the other. It was evident 
that elements of the 1st Division had in 
tended to occupy the area in the latter stages 
of the battle for Limon. 29 

Kilay Ridge ran from southeast to north 
west, with its northern tip about 2,500 yards 
directly west of Limon and its southern end 
about 3,000 yards south and slightly west 
of the same point. The ridge was approxi 
mately 900 feet high and though narrow in 
some places in others it widened to 400 
yards. The summit was broken into a series 
of high knolls from which the entire Limon 
area and some parts of the Ormoc road 
could be observed. A view of the latter fea 
ture was obstructed to some extent by a 
ridge, hereafter called Ridge Number 2, be 
tween Kilay and the road. Kilay Ridge was 
about 3,900 yards southwest of Breakneck 
Ridge. It would be necessary to maintain 
control of Kilay Ridge and deny its use to 
the enemy in order to give complete support 
to units advancing south from Breakneck 
Ridge. 



M 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 1 1 Nov 44. 



1 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 1 3 Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



229 




LT. COL. THOMAS E. CLIFFORD, JR., discusses plans with his staff as Filipino 
guerrillas look on. 



Preliminary Attack 

On 14 November Colonel Clifford or 
dered his battalion to entrench itself along 
the ridge in positions that would afford the 
best tactical advantage. The battalion estab 
lished strong points and observation posts on 
the knolls, placed blocks on the trails leading 
through the area, and sent out reconnais 
sance patrols to locate enemy positions. Col 
onel Clifford made arrangements to utilize 
the Filipinos as carriers. These men were to 
use a trail on the north end of the ridge and 
bring supplies to the battalion from a supply 
dump at Consuegra. The first human pack 
train arrived in the area at 1010 with 



twenty-eight cases of rations and a supply 
of batteries for the radios. 30 

At 1125 enemy artillery shelled the south 
ern end of the ridge and twenty minutes 
later shifted its fire to the Limon area. The 
battalion did not succeed in establishing 
physical contact with the 2d Battalion, 19th 
Infantry, which was operating east of the 
road, but it was able to make radio contact. 
Throughout the day, patrols of the battalion 
were active in searching out enemy positions. 

On 15 November Company A sent a pa 
trol to Ridge Number 2, which was 600 
yards east of the battalion's positions and 
which overlooked the Ormoc road. The pa- 

80 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 14 Nov 44. 



230 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



trol found numerous enemy emplacements 
and approximately fifty Japanese, who be 
gan firing with mortars. After killing five of 
the Japanese the patrol retired. 31 During the 
day the 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Troop reported to Colonel Clifford and was 
assigned the mission of patrolling the west 
flank of the battalion. Although patrols 
from the 1st Battalion pushed east of the 
Ormoc highway south of Limon, they again 
were unable to make contact with the 2d 
Battalion, 19th Infantry. On 16 November 
Colonel Clifford again sent out patrols 
which tried, still unsuccessfully, to establish 
physical contact with this battalion. 32 

A platoon from Company B, on 17 No 
vember, carried on a running fire fight with 
the Japanese and forced its way past Ridge 
Number 2. It crossed the Ormoc road and 
made contact with the 2d Battalion, 19th 
Infantry, at its roadblock. A line of com 
munication between the battalions could 
not be established because of the strong 
enemy forces between them. At the same 
time parts of Companies B and D engaged 
the enemy on Ridge Number 3, six hundred 
yards south of Ridge Number 2 and slightly 
lower. Approximately 200 of the enemy 
with rifles, machine guns, mortars, and 
artillery were entrenched on Ridge Number 
3. The American fire killed at least fifty 
Japanese. A patrol from Company D probed 
the Japanese defensive position but was 
forced to retire with two men missing and 
one wounded. Then Company B entered 
the fray, and the fire fight grew in intensity. 
The Japanese directed fire from at least 
three automatic weapons as well as strong 
rifle fire against the Americans. 

Colonel Clifford went to investigate and 
found Company B engaged in a bitter fight. 

31 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 15 Nov 44. 
33 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 16 Nov 44. 



While he was there the company sustained 
six casualties. One of the men had been shot 
through the thigh and was unable to walk. 
Since the heavy underbrush and bad trails 
made it impossible for two men to carry 
him on a litter. Colonel Clifford carried the 
wounded soldier on his back for about a mile 
to the command post, over a difficult moun 
tain trail which ran for several hundred 
yards in the bed of a swift stream. 33 Colonel 
Clifford was awarded a Distinguished 
Service Cross. 3 " 1 

At nightfall Company B was separated 
from the rest of the battalion. Colonel Clif 
ford decided to pull the company off the 
ridge and replace it with Company C. He 
was determined to hold what he had "at 
all costs." " During the day General Sibert 
attached the battalion to the 32d Division. 

Red Badge of Courage 

At daylight on 18 November Colonel 
Clifford brought heavy machine guns into 
place on the perimeter of the battalion and 
began to fire on the enemy positions on 
Ridge Number 3, catching a group of about 
twenty-five Japanese who were cooking 
their breakfast. At 0700 a carrying party 
with rations and medical supplies moved out 
toward the besieged Company B, and at 
1100 Company C started forward to re 
lieve the company. Colonel Clifford decided 
to displace a platoon at a time during the 
day. Under intense rifle fire, Company C 
succeeded in relieving Company B. The fire 
fight continued throughout the day, and 
approximately fifty more Japanese were 

33 1st Bn, 34th Inf 3 Unit Jnl, 1 7 Nov 44. 

** Curiously enough, while on leave in the United 
States, he had been caught without his dog tags 
and arrested for "impersonating an officer." 24th 
Div Opns Dpt Leyte, p. 78. 

35 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 17 Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



231 



killed. At 1200 the battalion conducted 
burial services for Henry Kilay, a Filipino 
soldier and guide who had served the bat 
talion well. 36 During the night and continu 
ing into 19 November, Japanese heavy 
machine guns fired into the perimeter on 
Ridge Number 2. 

In the meantime the enemy began to de 
liver heavy fire against Company B, which 
had moved to the south flank of the battalion 
on Kilay Ridge. Colonel Clifford estimated 
the Japanese assault force to be one rein 
forced company well equipped with mortars 
and light machine guns. By 0905 on 19 No 
vember the Japanese had destroyed one 
heavy machine gun and had begun a flank 
ing movement to the east of the southern 
most outpost of Company B. 

The artillery liaison party moved south 
and directed artillery fire on the enemy. By 
1150, however, Company B was being sur 
rounded and its ammunition was very low. 
Colonel Clifford made a reconnaissance of 
the area and ordered the besieged company 
to fall back 1 00 yards to the north and set 
up a strong point with the assistance of Com 
pany A. The next morning Company A was 
to attack and retake the knoll from which 
Company B had been forced to retire. Be 
cause of strong Japanese resistance, the grad 
ual attrition of the battalion's forces, and 
the "extreme scarcity" of ammunition, Colo 
nel Clifford also decided to have Company 
C withdraw from Ridge Number 2 to Kilay 
Ridge on the following morning. 37 

Rain fell constantly upon the troops and 
churned the surface of the ridge into a 



* 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 18 Nov 44. Jan 
Valtin in Children of Yesterday, page 247, states 
that Henry Kilay was the owner of the ridge. Prop 
erly the ridge bears his name. 

K 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 19 Nov 44. 



"slick mass of mud and slime." M Men were 
tired. With insufficient rations, broken sleep 
in sodden foxholes, and constant harassing 
fire, many had sickened. Fever, dysentery, 
and foot ulcers were commonplace. 

Early on the morning of 20 November 
Company C withdrew silently in the rain 
without the knowledge of the Japanese, who 
threw an attack of company strength 
against the position thirty minutes after it 
had been vacated. Company C established 
a strong position 200 yards south of the bat 
talion command post. The artillery fired in 
termittently on the enemy to the south until 
1 200, when it concentrated its fire in front 
of Company B. So intense was the rain that 
although artillery shells were falling only 
150 yards away, the artillery liaison party 
had to adjust the fire almost entirely by 
sound. At 1225 Company B moved out in 
an effort to retake the knoll from which the 
enemy had launched his attacks the previous 
day, but it came under intense rifle and 
mortar fire which forced it to retire. At this 
point the battalion's supply of ammunition 
became critically low. 39 

The downpour continued through the 
night and the next day. Patrols, sent to 
search for a means of flanking the Japanese, 
were unsuccessful, but they brought back 
information which made it possible to place 
artillery and mortar fire on enemy positions. 
At 1430 Colonel Clifford received the report 
that two strong Japanese columns were con 
verging on the battalion from the southeast 
and northeast. One of the platoons from 
Company C moved to the north end of the 
ridge to assure that the supply line to Con- 
suegra would be kept open. A carrying party 
from Consuegra brought in rations and at 



38 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 63. 

39 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 20 Nov 44. 



232 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



1705 the battalion received an airdrop of 
blankets, ammunition, and litters. 40 There 
was no major enemy contact. 

The rains persisted during the night and 
the next day, 22 November. Throughout the 
morning, patrols probed the area. At 1130 
the battalion received an airdrop of ammu 
nition, medical supplies, and ponchos. The 
main perimeter lines were comparatively 
quiet until 1430 when the enemy pinned 
down Company B with heavy fire and as 
saulted Company A. These attacks rapidly 
grew in intensity. The Japanese with fixed 
bayonets charged against the perimeters and 
almost completely surrounded both com 
panies. 

At 2000, since the enemy completely sur 
rounded Company B, Colonel Clifford or 
dered the company to break through and 
withdraw through Company A to the rear 
of the battalion command post. Under cover 
of machine gun and artillery fire, the com 
pany withdrew. When a litter train of the 
wounded was ambushed, one of the bearers 
was killed by enemy fire. 

Within the new perimeter of Company B, 
750 yards north of the battalion command 
post, Colonel Clifford established a rear 
command post and all communications 
moved to it. From this new location the mor 
tars from Company D began to fire in front 
of Company A, the most advanced com 
pany. The battalion cached all supplies and 
ammunition in case the enemy should sud 
denly break through. The rains continued. 

Colonel Clifford made tentative plans to 
withdraw during the night but abandoned 
them when General Gill ordered him to hold 
the ridge at all costs. Advance elements of 
the 32d Division had entered Limon, and 
the withdrawal of Clifford's battalion would 

48 1 t Bn, 34th Inf , Unit Jnl, 2 1 Nov 44. 



have left their western flank completely 
exposed. 41 

Fortunately the Japanese did not follow 
up the attacks on 23 November, but there 
was scattered automatic weapons and artil 
lery fire. Next day American artillery and 
mortar fire repulsed a small enemy attack 
at 0830. A platoon from the battalion 
slipped through the enemy lines and brought 
information on the situation to General 
Gill. It returned with orders that the bat 
talion was to hold fast. Two airdrops of sup 
plies, although they drew enemy fire, were 
successfully recovered. 

For the next two days there was com 
parative quiet in the sector except for patrol 
activity and intermittent fire. At 1000 on 
25 November, General Gill sent Colonel 
Clifford the following message: "You and 
your men are doing a superb job. Hang on 
and keep killing the Japs. ..."** 

At nightfall on 25 November, however, 
the semiquiet was shattered when an enemy 
force armed with automatic weapons, mor 
tars, and artillery began a heavy assault 
against the perimeter of Company A. The 
company beat off the attack with losses to 
both forces. On the following morning, 
Colonel Clifford had Company C relieve 
Company A. At 1630 Colonel Dahlen in 
formed him that he, Clifford, was "in a tight 
spot," since the 32d Division could give "no 
immediate help," and advised him to "use 
artillery* and hang on. 53 43 It became appar 
ent that the Japanese were so disposed that 
they could launch attacks from different 
directions. Further evidence to this effect 
was supplied on 27 November, when a 
Japanese patrol of almost platoon strength 

* 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 22 Nov 44. 
** 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 25 Nov 44. 
** 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 26 Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



233 



got astride the supply line to Consuegra on 
the northern front of Kilay Ridge. A patrol 
from Company B dispersed the unit and 
killed three of the enemy. Colonel Clifford 
estimated that elements of the 1st Regiment 
were disposed as follows: a minimum of one 
reinforced company was south of him, at 
least two reinforced companies were on the 
ridge about 1,000 yards to the east, and a 
strong but unknown number of the enemy 
opposed him on the west. If this last force 
pushed northward Clifford's supply line to 
Consuegra would be severed. From 1725 to 
2020 on 27 November, Company C came 
under a strong long-range attack from 
enemy positions on the ridge to the east. A 
patrol from the 128th Infantry, 32d Divi 
sion, brought Colonel Clifford the welcome 
information that reinforcements were en 
route, 

The Main Effort 

At 1000 on 28 November the battalion re 
pulsed a small party of the enemy that at 
tacked from the south. There was a lull 
until 1930 when the Japanese unleashed a 
strong effort to drive the defenders from 
Kilay Ridge and recapture it. The opening 
was marked by 90-mm. mortar fire upon the 
outposts of the battalion. Heavy weapons 
from the ridge on the east then began firing 
as at least two machine guns and many 
small arms began to rain lead from the west. 
The enemy fire rose to a crescendo as the 
mortars joined in and directed their heaviest 
fire at a platoon of Company C on the 
southwestern end of the ridge. The Japanese 
began to deploy troops, apparently in an 
attempt to reach a gulch to the west of 
the battalion's positions. A heavy assault 
was launched from the south against Com 
pany C. 



By 1955 the mortars of the battalion were 
brought to bear against the advancing 
Japanese as the crews worked in feverish 
haste to break up the assault. At 2015, al 
though Company C now had mortar sup 
port, the enemy charged with bayonets and 
grenades. Fighting was at close quarters 
and the Japanese began to infiltrate the for 
ward positions. An hour later the advance 
platoon of Company C pulled back to join 
the company, which had been cut off from 
the rest of the battalion. The fire fight con 
tinued throughout the night with constant 
rifle fire, numerous attempts at infiltration 
by the Japanese, and intermittent mortar 
fire. 44 

At dawn on 29 November the Japanese 
forces were still on the ridge in strength and 
their automatic weapons began to fire anew. 
All forward elements of the battalion were 
under attack and Company C was still 
separated from the rest of the battalion. A 
reinforced platoon from Company B, at 
0730, was able to break through to Com 
pany C, kill six of the enemy, and seize two 
machine guns en route. As Company C's 
ammunition was practically exhausted, 
Colonel Clifford immediately sent a carry 
ing party forward. Since the Japanese had 
blocked off the trail immediately after the 
passage of the platoon from Company B, 
the carrying party was pinned down. 

In the meantime two carrying parties 
from Consuegra entered the perimeter of the 
battalion with food and ammunition. One 
carried the "Thanksgiving ration of roast 
turkey and . . . fresh eggs." The battalion 
therefore hoped for "a good meal" if the 
situation permitted. 45 

Colonel Clifford urgently requested Gen 
eral Gill to send reinforcements. At 1325 



* 1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 28 Nov 44. 
1st Bn, 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 29 Nov 44. 



234 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Gill told Clifford that he had ordered the 
2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, 32d Division, 
to proceed to Kilay Ridge immediately and 
come under Clifford's control. Colonel Clif 
ford forcibly reopened the trail to Company 
C and had food and ammunition brought 
into the forward position. A short time later. 
Company G, 128th Infantry, arrived and 
Clifford immediately committed it to rein 
force Company C. The remainder of the 2d 
Battalion, 128th Infantry, arrived at 1835 
and was held in reserve. (See Map 14.) 

The action for 1 December began at 0800 
when a patrol from Company B proceeded 
down a draw to the west of Kilay Ridge. 
The patrol was to swing wide and approach 
the right rear almost directly south of the 
enemy-held knolls on Kilay Ridge. These 
were thought to be the Japanese strong 
points and were the objectives for the day. 
A preparatory concentration from support 
ing artillery and from mortars of both bat 
talions was first laid. The heavy machine 
gun section of the 128th Infantry moved 
into the draw to the west and set up its guns 
on the right flank of the ridge in order to be 
in a position to fire across the face of the 
ridge when the main assault began. Com 
pany E of the 128th Infantry then passed 
through Company C and launched an at 
tack against the Japanese-held knolls on the 
southeastern end of the ridge. Heavy and 
light machine gun fire from Company C 
protected the flanks of Company E. 

The company took the first knoll easily, 
but heavy fire from behind a huge log on 
the second knoll halted Company E. Com 
pany A sent a bazooka team forward to 
knock out the position and Company C 
sent all of its grenades forward, but by 1320 
the Japanese soldiers were still resisting all 
attempts to dislodge them. The patrol from 
Company B returned at 1 345 with the report 



that it had been to the rear of its objective 
and had seen no enemy activity. No unit 
made any further progress that day. At 1720 
General Gill ordered Colonel Clifford to 
withdraw the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry. 46 

At 0925 on 2 December, Company E, 
128th Infantry, attacked the knolls at the 
south tip of Kilay Ridge, while Company F 
moved down the ridge and swung to the 
right to attack the ridge to the south the 
objective of the two-battalion assault. The 
1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, withdrew one 
unit, but at 1245 Colonel Clifford received 
orders to halt all further withdrawals pend 
ing orders from the commanding officer, 
128th Infantry. By then Company E had 
taken its objective but Company F had en 
countered determined resistance fifty yards 
from the top of the ridge. It doggedly ad 
vanced and by 1625 reached the crest and 
dug in, though still receiving hostile mortar 
fire. 

The next day examination of the battle 
field where the two battalions had been 
fighting revealed numerous enemy dead and 
the following abandoned equipment: three 
70-mm. mountain guns, four heavy machine 
guns, seventeen light machine guns, one 90- 
mm. mortar, and many rifles, pistols, sabers, 
and field glasses. Documents containing val 
uable intelligence were also found. On 4 De 
cember the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, 
started to withdraw. During the next two 
days elements of the battalion moved 
through Consuegra and Calubian to Pina- 
mopoan. The battalion had lost 26 men 
killed, 2 missing, and 101 wounded, but it 



48 The message to Colonel Clifford, a former ail- 
American football player from West Point, con 
cluded: "You and your men have not been for 
gotten. You are the talk of the island, and perhaps 
the United States. Army beat Notre Dame 59 to 0, 
the worst defeat on record." 24th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 67; 1st Bn 3 34th Inf, Unit Jnl, 1 Dec 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



235 



estimated that it had killed 900 men of the 
1st Infantry Regiment. The 1st Battalion, 
34th Infantry, had acquitted itself well. It 
had prevented the Japanese from reinforc 
ing the Limon forces and imperiling the 32d 
Drvision. For its work the battalion received 
the presidential unit citation. 

Central Mountain Range 
1st Cavalry Division 

As elements of the X Corps were pushing 
south on Highway 2 through Breakneck 
Ridge, other units from the corps were en 
gaged in securing the central mountain 
range that divided Leyte and Ormoc Val 
leys in order to prevent any Japanese forces 
from debouching into Leyte Valley. General 
Suzuki had ordered the 1st Division com 
mander to place the 57th Infantry in the 
Limon area while the 1st and 49th Infantry 
Regiments were to go to the central moun 
tain range. The two regiments last men 
tioned were to prevent any American at 
tempts to infiltrate into Ormoc Valley and 
to exploit any favorable opportunity to break 
through into Leyte Valley. About 8 Novem 
ber the 102d Division, including its signal, 
artillery, and engineer units, arrived at Or 
moc and General Suzuki immediately sent 
them into the mountains of central Leyte.* 7 

General Krueger had already anticipated 
this movement and had stationed elements 
of the X and XXIV Corps at the principal 
entrances into Leyte Valley. On 10 Novem 
ber General Mudge sent elements of the 1st 
Cavalry Division to patrol the area exten 
sively. 48 

The northern mountains between Ormoc 
and Leyte Valleys were high and rugged. 



47 35 1 h Army Opns, pp. 47-48. 
* 1st Gav Div FO 9, 1 Nov 44. 



with precipitous sides. The area was heavily 
forested, and there were many ground 
pockets which constituted natural, heavily 
wooded fortresses for the Japanese. The very 
few trails in the sector were scarcely better 
than pig trails. The area had not been prop 
erly mapped and at all times the troops were 
seriously handicapped by insufficient knowl 
edge of the terrain. The nearly constant 
rainfall bogged down supply and made the 
sides of the hills slippery and treacherous. 
From 5 November through 2 December, 
elements of the 1st Cavalry Division exten 
sively patrolled the central mountain area 
and had many encounters with small forces 
of the enemy. At all times the supply situa 
tion was precarious. 

The 1st Cavalry Division utilized motor 
transport, LVTs, tractors and trailers, na 
tive carriers, and airdrops to get supplies to 
forward troops. Motor transport hauled sup 
plies from the warehouses in Tacloban to 
Carigara, a distance of thirty miles. At this 
point LVFs of the 826th Amphibian Trac 
tor Battalion hauled the supplies, through 
rice paddies churned into waist-deep mo 
rasses, to Sugud, three miles south of Cari 
gara. The supplies were manhandled from 
the LVTs into one-ton two-wheeled cargo 
and ammunition trailers, which were towed 
by the tractors of the artillery battalions that 
fired in support of the division. The tractors 
wound their way laboriously into the foot 
hills through boulder-strewn streams and up 
steep inclines that made it necessary for the 
tractors to be arranged in tandem. There 
was always mud, which made traction diffi 
cult, and the LVT's were better able than 
the tractors to navigate through slick, soft 
mud which had little body texture. 

The 12th Cavalry established high in the 
foothills, at the entrance to the passes 
through the mountains, a supply base that 



236 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




FILIPINO CARRIERS HAUL SUPPLIES over slippery mountain trails for the 12th 
Cavalry. 



was also a native camp, a hospital, and a 
rest camp. About 300 Filipino carriers were 
kept here under the protection of the guer 
rillas. The carriers had been hired for six 
days at a time and were not allowed to leave 
without a pass from their Filipino leader. 
This precaution was necessary, since the 
ration-carrying assignment was extremely 
arduous. 

Under armed escort, the long train of 
carriers, two men to each fifty-pound load 
of rations, ammunition, and other types of 
supply, began immediately to struggle for 
ward from the supply camp over narrow, 
slippery trails, across waist-deep rivers and 
streams, and through heavy undergrowth. 



In the never-ending climb to gain altitude, 
it took five hours to traverse a track that 
measured less than three miles. At the base 
of a vertical descent of more than 500 feet, 
there was a second supply base, the relay 
station. From this station it was another 
day's forced inarch to the forward troops. 
An additional 300 .Filipinos were stationed 
at the relay station in the mountain wilder 
ness, surrounded by elements of the enemy. 
These carriers made the last half of the 
tortuous journey, while the others returned 
to the base carnp for resupply. It took four 
days to get supplies from the warehouses to 
the front-line troops. 49 

** 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 43-45. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



237 



The 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat 
Team, under General Cunningham, had 
arrived at Leyte on 14 November. 50 At this 
time the 21st Infantry was advancing very 
slowly along Breakneck Ridge, against 
strong resistance, and the units of the 1st 
Cavalry Division were spread thinly over 
the central mountain area. 51 In order to 
strengthen the defense line, the 11 2th Cav 
alry* was committed upon its arrival and 
passed to the control of X Corps. 52 On 15 
November General Sibert attached the 
112th Cavalry to the 1st Cavalry Division 
and ordered it to operate in the Carigara 
area. 53 General Mudge directed the 112th 
Cavalry to assume, on 16 November, the 
responsibility for beach defenses in the Ca- 
poocan-Carigara-Barugo area and to mop 
up in the Mt. Minoro area about 3,000 
yards south of Capoocan. 54 

The 112th Cavalry patrolled the Mt. 
Minoro area until 22 November. In accord 
with General Kraeger's desire to relieve 
some of the pressure that was being exerted 
against the 32d Division in its drive south 
down Highway 2, General Mudge on 23 
November ordered the 112th Cavalry to 
move southwest from Mt. Minoro toward 
the highway. The combat team encountered 
sporadic resistance and on the morning of 
30 November reached a ridge about 2,500 
yards east of Highway 2 and about 5,000 
yards southeast of Limon. 65 A strongly en 
trenched enemy force on the ridge resisted all 
attempts of the 1 12th Cavalry to dislodge it. 
The ridge was covered with a dense rain 
forest, and the lower slopes were thickly 

50 1 12th Gav Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1. 

n Sixth Army O-3 Periodic Rpt 514, 14 Nov 44. 

52 Sixth Army FO 32, 14 Nov 44. 

58 X Corps FO 14, 15 Nov 44. 

54 1st CavDivFO 11, 14 Nov 44. 

55 X Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt 47, 5 Dec 44. 



spotted with bamboo thickets and other ex 
tremely dense vegetation. Clouds covered 
the tops of the peak and rain fell almost con 
tinuously, churning the ground into ankle- 
deep mud. Visibility was limited to only a 
few yards. The enemy defensive field works 
consisted of foxholes, prone shelters, com 
munication trenches, and palm-log bunkers. 
These positions presented no logical avenue 
of approach. They were complete perimeters 
and employed all-round mutually support 
ing automatic weapons fire. Although the 
fields of fire were limited, the weapons were 
so effectively placed that they covered all 
approaches. 56 

The strong resistance made further prog 
ress impossible and the 1 1 2th Cavalry estab 
lished its perimeter. During the night the 
Japanese subjected the 1st and 2d Squad 
rons, 112th Cavalry, to heavy artillery fire 
and launched several patrol attacks against 
the perimeter of the 2d Squadron. The night 
assaults were beaten off. 57 

The next two days were spent by the 2d 
Squadron,, 1 1 2th Cavalry, in trying unsuc 
cessfully to dislodge the Japanese from the 
ridge. At 1310 on 2 December the 112th 
Cavalry received orders to move north- 
northwest toward the Leyte River, from 
which point they were to send out patrols to 
make contact with units of the 32d Divi 
sion. 58 At this time, however, the 112th 
Cavalry was still opposed by a strong enemy 
force. Troop A nevertheless moved out to 
make contact with the 32d Division and to 
reconnoiter to the west for further enemy 
concentrations and for routes by which the 
1 1 2th Cavalry could advance to Highway 2. 

58 7th Cav Opns Rpt, Leyte, Part IV, S-2 Rpt, 
Tactical and Technical Characteristics of the 
Enemy, pp. 2, 5. 

BT 1st Cavalry Division G-3 Periodic Rpt. 42 3 
1 Dec 44. 

58 1 12th Cav S-2 and S-3 Jnls, 2 Dec 44. 



238 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




FOOTHILLS OF CENTRAL MOUNTAIN RANGE are patrolled by dements of *the 
1st Cavalry Division. 



On 3 December, after an artillery concen 
tration, Troop G, 2d Squadron, 1 1 2th Cav 
alry, started out toward the enemy-held 
ridge. The slope was so precipitous that the 
troops could not climb and shoot at the same 
time. The Japanese were able to throw gre 
nades upon Troop G without exposing 
themselves, and the troop retired to the bot 
tom of the hill. An artillery concentration 
was called for and delivered on the ridge, 
after which the troop again started up the 
hill. The Japanese, however, quickly re 
gained their former positions after the artil 
lery 7 fire ceased and again repulsed Troop G 
with grenades and small arms fire. The 
troop withdrew to its former position at the 
bottom of the hill. For the remainder of the 
day, the artillery placed harassing fire on 
the enemy strong point while patrols probed 



to the south and west around the flanks of 
the Japanese position, seeking better avenues 
of approach. 59 

Troop A journeyed without incident to 
ward Highway 2 ? at 1415 on 3 December 
made contact with the left rear of the 126th 
Infantry west of Hill 1525, and at the end 
of the day was moving southwest to make 
contact with the leading elements of the 
126th Infantry. No contact had been made 
with the enemy and there was little sign of 
enemy forces. The 1st Squadron received 
orders to proceed to the Leyte River and 
locate a dropping ground. 60 



59 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 45, 4 Dec 44; 
1 12th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6; 1 12th Cav S-2 and 
S-3 Jnl, 3, 4 Dec 44. 

00 1 12th Cav S-2 and S-3 Jnl, 3, 4 Dec 44 ; 1 12th 
Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



239 



Henceforward, until 10 December, the 2d 
Squadron, 112th Cavalry, was stalemated 
by the strongly entrenched Japanese force. 
Each day repeated attacks were made 
against the enemy position, but to no avail, 
and patrols that probed the flanks of the 
enemy to discover a means of enveloping the 
hostile force had no success. On 8 and 9 De 
cember the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry, 
attempted to locate and cut off the supply 
line of the Japanese force that was holding 
up the advance of the 2d Squadron. 61 

On 10 December the 2d Squadron, 7th 
Cavalry, which had been in the Barugo- 
Capoocan area, relieved the 2d Squadron, 
1 1 2th Cavalry, which passed to the control 
of Sixth Army. In the meantime the 1st 
Squadron, 1 12th Cavalry, less Troop A had 
moved west toward the Leyte River. Troop 
A reached the left flank of the 126th In 
fantry. The progress of the 1st Squadron 
was slow because of the hilly terrain, but on 
the morning of 7 December it arrived at the 
Leyte River and established physical contact 
with Troop A and the 126th Infantry. 62 At 
the end of 10 December, the 1st Squadron, 
1 1 2th Cavalry, was on the Leyte River. 

The 2d Squadron, 7th Cavalry, after re 
lieving the 2d Squadron, 112th Cavalry, 
sent out patrols to study the terrain and at 
tempt to find avenues of approach to the 
flanks and rear of the enemy strong point 
which had long held up the 2d Squadron, 
112th Cavalry. An aerial reconnaissance 
was made of the area. The aerial observer 
reported that the Japanese position was 



Ml 2th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 6-8; 112th 
Cav S-2 and S-3 Jnl, 4-10 Dec 44; 1st Gav Div 
G-3 Periodic Rpts 46-51, 5-10 Dec 44; 1st Gav 
Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 46-50. 

02 112th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 6-8; 1st Cav 
Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 47-50; 112th Cav S-2 
and S-3 Jnl, 4 Dec 44, 6-9 Dec 44; 1st Cav Div G-3 
Periodic Rpts 46-51, 10 Dec 44. 
260317 054 17 



"definitely as bad" as the 2d Squadron, 
1 1 2th Cavalry, had reported it to be, and 
that the approach from the rear was even 
worse than the one from the front. 63 

The 2d Squadron, 7th Cavalry, spent 1 1 
December in sending out patrols on both 
sides of the enemy-held ridge. The Japanese 
let the patrols through and then fired, 
wounding two of the men. The patrols then 
returned. An artillery concentration was 
placed upon the enemy position, and at 1 245 
the 2d Squadron, 7th Cavalry, moved out 
behind a barrage which lifted twenty-five 
yards at a time. One platoon attacked fron- 
tally while the other platoons attempted to 
flank the Japanese. The platoon on the right 
flank suffered three casualties and was im 
mediately pinned down. After the other 
platoons got to within fifty yards of a Japa 
nese machine gun position, they also were 
pinned down. At 1600 they dug in for the 
night at the base of the hill. 

During the engagement fifteen to twenty 
enemy bunkers were observed on each side 
of the ridge and four machine guns were 
definitely spotted. A night infiltration party 
armed with hand grenades, rifles, and 
knives was sent to knock out these bunkers. 
It destroyed two machine guns and killed 
four Japanese. 

At 0730 on the morning of 13 December, 
the 2d Squadron, 7th Cavalry, moved out 
and came under fire from two Japanese 
machine guns well emplaced on a cliff. The 
ridge narrowed to ten feet with sixty-degree 
slopes, making forward passage almost im 
possible. The troops were pinned down. In 
the meantime, Troop F of the squadron 
worked south in an attempt to envelop the 
rear of the enemy force but was unable to 
do so and returned. The 2d Squadron estab- 

63 112th Cav S-2 and S-3 Jnl, 10 Dec 44. 



240 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



lished night perimeters near the same posi 
tions it had held the previous night. 

On the following morning the 75-mm. 
and 105-mm. artillery and the 4.2-inch and 
60-mm. mortars began to register heavy fire 
on the Japanese strong point. At 1200 
Troop G of the 2d Squadron jumped off, 
attacking the enemy position frontally while 
Troop F moved in from the rear. Employing 
flame throwers, Troop G steadily pushed 
forward and by 1445 had knocked out four 
enemy bunkers and destroyed several ma 
chine guns. Of more importance, it was 
fifty yards beyond the enemy front lines. 
Troop F also continued to advance. By the 
end of the day the enemy force had been 
rooted off the high ground, and the 2d 
Squadron, 7th Cavalry, was in firm posses 
sion of the ridge. The unit captured a 
quantity of enemy ordnance, including 12 
light and 3 heavy machine guns, 9 grenade 
launchers, and 73 rifles, together with con 
siderable quantities of grenades and ammu 
nition. Before the ridge was secured, "over 
5000 rounds of artillery fire had been 
placed on [the] . . . position without ap 
preciably affecting it." ** 

The 96th Division 

By the end of October the XXIV Corps, 
having secured the southern part of Leyte 
Valley, the Dulag-Burauen-Dagarni-Ta- 
nauan road net, and all airfields in the area, 
was ready for the next phase of its mission. 
General Hodge thereupon immediately ini 
tiated operations whereby the XXIV Corps 
was to liberate southern Leyte concurrently 
with the drive of the X Corps in the north. 

* 112th Cav S-2 and S-3 Jnl, 9-14 Dec 44; 7th 
Gav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 11-12; 112th Gav 
Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 7-9 ; 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic 
Rpts 53-56, 12-15 Dec 44. 



General Hodge's plan called for the 96th 
Division to make a holding attack east of 
the mountains while the 7th Division drove 
north from Baybay up the coast of Ormoc 
Bay. 65 (See Map 2.) He therefore ordered 
the 96th Division to defend the Tanauan- 
Dagami-Burauen Dulag area and to relieve 
as rapidly as possible all elements of the 7th 
Division in the area. Finally it was to mop 
up all enemy forces in its zone and to furnish 
security for all the principal roads and in 
stallations in the area. 66 General Bradley on 
2 November ordered Colonel Dill's 382d 
Infantry to relieve the 1 7th Infantry of the 
7th Division hi the vicinity of Dagami, to 
send strong reconnaissance and combat pa 
trols into the hills to the west and northwest, 
and to destroy all enemy forces encoun 
tered. 67 

General Suzuki was desirous of pushing 
through to Leyte Valley, one of the best en 
trances to which was through the Dagami 
sector. At the foot of the central mountain 
range, Dagami was the center of a net 
work of roads that led to all parts of Leyte 
Valley and to the airfields. Since it was one 
of the key positions for control of the valley, 
its recapture would be of great advantage 
to the 35th Army. Just west of Dagami, the 
central mountain range served as a natural 
fortification. The mountains consisted of a 
series of ridges separated by deep gorges 
which were usually covered with a dense 
tropical growth. At key points in the area, 
the 16th Division had built coconut-log and 
concrete pillboxes. 

There were substantial parts of the 9th, 
20th, and 33d Infantry Regiments of the 
16th Division in the mountains west of 



* XXIV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 

* XXIV Corps FO 22, 8 Nov 44. This order con 
firmed previously issued oral orders. 

w 96th Div FO 3, 2 Nov 44. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 



241 



Dagami. In the latter part of October the 
16th Division became short of food and Gen 
eral Makino asked that it be supplied by air. 
The 4th Air Army therefore attempted with 
six light bombers to supply the division, but 
for some unexplained reason it failed. The 
16th Division henceforward was forced to 
supply itself and forage off the land. 68 

On 2 November the 382d Infantry started 
to relieve the 17th Infantry. The 2d Bat 
talion at 1500 relieved the 3d Battalion, 17th 
Infantry, just north of Dagami and at 1430, 
the 1st Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion, 
17th Infantry, about 1,000 yards west of 
Dagami. 69 

Elements of the 16th Division were en 
trenched on "Bloody Ridge," a small prom 
ontory on the left side of the road west of 
Dagami just short of Hitomnog in front of 
the 382d Infantry. A waist-deep swampy 
rice paddy was between the ridge and the 
road. The 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, 
after moving into this area engaged the 
enemy, but at nightfall it broke off the fight 
and established its night perimeter. 

At 0805, the 1st Battalion renewed the 
attack and met increased heavy resistance as 
it advanced through the rice paddy. The 
companies came under mortar and auto 
matic weapons fire at 1445 as they came into 
the open. 

The Japanese took full advantage of the 
exposed troops and from machine guns and 
mortars delivered heavy fire which immo 
bilized the 1st Battalion. The unit was un 
able to move in any direction until nightfall, 
when, with the aid of some artillery smoke, 
the troops began to withdraw. "Men threw 
away their packs, machine guns, radios and 
even rifles. Their sole aim was to crawl back 
through the muck and get on solid ground 



once more. Some of the wounded gave up 
the struggle to keep their heads above the 
water and drowned in the grasping 
swamp." 70 After every officer hi Companies 
B and C had been killed or wounded, 1st 
Sgt. Francis H. Thompson took charge and 
organized the evacuation. He silenced an 
enemy machine gun and also assisted in re 
moval of the wounded. As a result of his 
leadership both companies successfully with 
drew and reorganized. 71 

At 1745 five enemy planes strafed the 
battalion. The advance units of the 1st Bat 
talion withdrew some 300 yards in order to 
consolidate their defensive positions for the 
night. During the day Company E of the 
2d Battalion reached Patok, and Company 
G moved out at 2100 to reinforce the 1st 
Battalion. 72 

During the night of 34 November the 
16th Division launched a strong counter 
attack of an estimated two-company 
strength against the perimeter of the 1st 
Battalion. Mortar and artillery fires repulsed 
the assault. There was no further enemy 
activity during the night. On the morning 
of 4 November the 1st Battalion moved out 
against light resistance, advancing about 
800 yards and past the scene of the bitter 
fighting of the previous day. Colonel Dill 
ordered the 2d Battalion (minus Company 
E) and one platoon from Company G to 
move west from Dagami and join the 1st 
Battalion. The 2d Battalion joined close be 
hind the 1st Battalion in a column. At 1430 
the 1st Battalion encountered increased 



68 14th Area Army Opns Leyte, p. 8. 
** 382d Inf Unit Rpt 14, 2 Nov 44. 



70 Orlando Davidson, J. Carl Willems, and Joseph 
A. Kahl, The Deadeyes: The Story of the 96th 
Infantry Division (Washington, Infantry Journal 
Press [now Combat Forces Press], 1947), p. 49. 

71 Sergeant Thompson was awarded the Distin 
guished Service Gross. 

72 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 54; 96th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 14, 3 Nov 44; 382d Inf Unit Rpt 15, 
3 Nov 44; Davidson et al, The Deadeyes, p. 49. 



242 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



enemy resistance and committed its reserve 
company on the left flank. The 2d Battalion 
received orders from Colonel Dill to move 
up to the left flank of the 1st, but the 2d 
arrived too late for the two battalions to 
launch a co-ordinated assault before night 
fall. They therefore consolidated their posi 
tions for the night, having advanced about 
1 3 000 yards. 73 

The night of 4-5 November was not 
quiet. The Japanese delivered harassing fire 
on the 1st Battalion, and at 2205 elements 
of the 16th Division launched a heavy as 
sault against the perimeter of the 2d Bat 
talion. An artillery concentration immedi 
ately stopped the attack, and the Japanese 
fled, leaving 254 dead and wounded behind 
them. 

The following morning, after the artillery 
had fired a preparation in front of the 1st 
and 2d Battalions, the two battalions re 
newed the attack at 0900 and two com 
panies from the 3d Battalion protected the 
regimental left (south) flank. The battalions 
advanced about 1,000 yards before they en 
countered any strong resistance. The de 
fenses of the 16th Division consisted of a 
great many concrete emplacements, con 
cealed spider holes, and connecting trenches. 
By nightfall, at 1700, the two battalions, as 
sisted by the tanks from Company A, 763d 
Tank Battalion, successfully reduced the en 
emy to their front and captured the ridge. 
Each battalion formed its own perimeter 
and made plans to renew the attack on 6 
November. 74 



78 Davidson et <d. 3 The Deadeyes, p. 51; 96th DIv 
Opus Rpt Leyte, p. 54; 382d Inf Unit Rpt 16, 
4 Nov 44 ; 96th DIv G-3 Periodic Rpt 1 5, 4 Nov 44. 

7 * Davidson et al. 3 The Deadeyes, p. 51 ; 382d Inf 
Unit Rpt 17, 5 Nov 44; 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 55; 96th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 16, 5 Nov 44; 
763d Tank Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5. 



At 0830 the 1st Battalion, with light tanks 
in support, moved out in the attack west 
ward against a strong enemy force that was 
well entrenched in foxholes and pillboxes. 
Each of these defensive positions had to be 
reduced before the advance could continue. 
At 1300 the 2 d Battalion moved to the high 
ground on the right flank of the 1st. The 1st 
Battalion encountered a strong concrete en 
emy pillbox which was believed to be a com 
mand post, since there were no firing aper 
tures. As grenades had no effect it became 
necessary finally to neutralize the pillbox by 
pouring gasoline down the ventilation pipes 
and setting it afire. Two officers and nineteen 
enlisted men of the enemy were killed in the 
pillbox. The Japanese continued to fight 
tenaciously. There was no withdrawal, but 
by the end of the day only isolated pockets 
of enemy resistance remained. 75 

The Japanese 16th Division was taking 
a bad beating. Its supply of provisions had 
run out. All the battalion commanders, most 
of the company commanders, and half the 
artillery battalion and battery commanders 
had been killed. On the night of 6 Novem 
ber the 16th Division contracted its battle 
lines and on the following day took up a 
new position in the Dagami area. The new 
position ranged from a hill about four and a 
half miles northwest of Dagami to a point 
about three and three-fourths miles north 
west of Burauen/ 6 

On 7 November all three battalions of 
the 382d Infantry engaged the enemy and 
maintained constant pressure against his 
positions. The 1st and 3d Battalions ad 
vanced west, while the 2d Battalion drove 
north and west. The 3d Battalion encoun- 



75 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 55; 382d Inf 
Unit Rpt 18, 6 Nov 44. 

w 35th Army Opns, pp. 57-58. 



THE MOUNTAIN BARRIER: PART TWO 243 

tered the more determined resistance. Ad- in its sector and removed the threat to 

vancing, preceded by tanks, it met heavy Dagarni, 

enemy machine gun and rifle fire. A large By this time General Krueger was devot- 
enemy force assaulted the troops at close ing the main effort of the Sixth Army toward 
quarters and tried to destroy the tanks, but preventing the 35th Army from debouching 
when the 382d Infantry introduced flame into Leyte Valley. The 96th Division re- 
throwers and supporting machine guns, the ceived orders from General Hodge to halt 
attackers fell back in disorder. The regiment the relief of the 7th Division and to move 
overran the Japanese defensive positions north to the Jaro-Palo road and secure the 
and killed an estimated 474 of the enemy. 77 mountain entrances in that sector. The 7th 
Company E of the 2d Battalion had^ re- Division was to relieve the 96th Division on 
mained in the Patok area, engaged in pa- the Dagami-Burauen road. A regiment was 
trolling and wiping out isolated pockets of ako to be made available for immediate 
enemy resistance motor movement to the north and another 

On 8 November strong patrols from the for . a P ro | oscd P eration OG northern 

1st and 2d Battalions probed west into the ^ an n a ; w . . 

i rpi , j ., i r , n i r ,1 The 96th Division moved to the moun- 

hills. They encountered the left flank of the . r _ . 

. . . , tains northwest of Da?aim and sent exten- 

enemy supporting position at a point about . x , . A < , 

rt ' i r T i A i sive Patrols into the central mountain ranee 

2,600 yards w^t of Patok A very heavy ^ & ^^ ^ ^ ^^ ^ 

rainfaJlonthemghtof 8-9 November made Dagami tQ Jara CQ ^ ^ ^^ 
an assault against the position impossible on with ^ enemy cont}nued ^^ ^ md of 
9 November. After _aJl-night artfflery fire, the campaign . The 7th Division patroUed 
the 1st and 3d Battalions moved out at 0900 ^ e Burauen area 
on 10 November. They met no resistance, xhe Sixth Army had prevented the 
but progress was slow because of the Japanese from debouching into Leyte Val- 
swamps. By 1225 the two battalions, sup- ley. The X Corps had secured Limon, the 
ported by a platoon of light tanks, occu- entrance to Ormoc Valley, and was in a po- 
pied the ridge formerly held by dements of sition to drive south down the valley to the 
the 16th Division. The 1st Battalion had ad- port of Ormoc. Although General Krueger's 
vanced 2,500 yards. 78 The 382d Infantry troops had performed well, they had made 
had destroyed all organized enemy resistance mistakes which gave their commander 
serious concern. 



TT 382dInfUnitRptl9,7Nov44. 

B 382d laf Unit Rpt 22, 10 Nov 44. w XXIV Corps Opus Rpt Leyte, p. 1 1. 



CHAPTER XIV 



Measure of the Fighting 



By the latter part of November, the fight 
ing on the island had entered a crucial stage. 
The additional troops received from General 
MacArthur had enabled General Krueger 
to put into effect his squeeze play against 
the Japanese. While the X Corps continued 
to apply unremitting pressure on the 1st and 
102d Divisions in the northern mountains 
of Ormoc Valley near Limon, elements of 
the XXIV Corps would drive north against 
the 26th Division along the shores of Ormoc 
Bay toward Ormoc. 

General MacArthur had full confidence 
in the ability of General Krueger to carry 
out this plan and thus bring the Leyte Cam 
paign to a successful conclusion. Once hav 
ing given the Sixth Army commander the 
assignment for the operation, General Mac- 
Arthur did not interfere with General Krue- 
ger's prosecution of the battle. But from his 
headquarters on Leyte, he closely followed 
the progress of the campaign, frequently 
visited the command posts of the Sixth Army 
units, and made available to General Krue 
ger additional troops upon request. 

Similarly, General Krueger allowed his 
corps commanders to exercise their inde 
pendence of judgment and kept his orders 
to the minimum. He, too, made frequent 
visits to the front lines, observed the prog 
ress of the fighting, inspected the living con 
ditions of the men, and noted the status of 
the construction program. General Krue- 
ger's concern is made evident by a critique 



issued on 25 November in which he analyzed 
the performance of the Sixth Army on 
Leyte. 1 

The Americans had had time to test their 
experience on Leyte against past operations, 
as well as to determine the good and bad 
features of their training and tactics and the 
performance of their weapons and to con 
trast them with those employed by the Jap 
anese. An evaluation of American methods 
at this point serves to explain in concrete 
terms the nature of the fighting that had 
occurred and of that which would occur in 
the critical days ahead. 

The American Ground Forces 

Tactics 

Following the customary procedure, the 
divisions went ashore with two regiments 
abreast. Within the regiments there were 
variations, some going ashore with the bat 
talions abreast and others with the battalions 
in column* The size of the landing beach and 
the nature of the expected opposition de 
termined the type of landing formation that 
was employed. Once ashore, the nature of 
the tactical situation resulted in numerous 



1 Ltr, CG Sixth Army to CG X Corps et al. } sub: 
Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned in K-2 Oper 
ation, 25 Nov 44, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 
204-212. Unless otherwise stated this chapter is 
based upon General Krueger's critique. 



MEASURE OF THE FIGHTING 



245 




GENERAL MAcARTHUR AND MAJ. 

Headquarters., 7th Division. 

independent actions by subordinate units. 
The formation most frequently used was the 
normal one of two units in the assault and 
one in reserve. 

Frontal assaults were usually employed 
against enemy positions., and not enough 
use was made of envelopments. When en 
velopments were tried they were nearly 
always successful. It was sometimes advan 
tageous to bypass isolated enemy strong 
points, leaving them to be mopped up by 
the follow-up units. 

Although the primary mission of the in 
fantry is to close with the enemy and de 
stroy or capture him, the natural reluctance 
of American infantrymen to engage the 
enemy in close quarters had to be overcome. 
There were several instances in which the 



GEN. ARCHIBALD V. ARNOLD at 

American attacking force felt out the Japa 
nese position and then sat back to wait it 
out. In one area no progress was made for 
four days. On several occasions strong 
combat patrols of platoon or company 
strength were sent to feel out enemy posi 
tions, but as soon. as they made contact with 
the Japanese the patrols withdrew. They 
accomplished nothing except to determine 
the presence of an unknown number of 
enemy soldiers. 

If more than minor resistance was en 
countered, the troops frequently fell back 
and called for fire from supporting weapons. 
On one occasion a company called for 
artillery fire upon a roadblock and then 
withdrew 350 yards while the concentration 
was delivered. After the lifting of the artil- 



246 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



lery fire, it was very difficult to reorganize 
the company and get it back to the objective. 
Meanwhile the Japanese had again covered 
the roadblock and the whole process had to 
be repeated. 

The American soldiers were too road- 
bound. Sometimes resistance along the road 
stopped the advance of an entire division. 
This opposition could have been eliminated 
quickly by the employment of simple envel 
opments and flanking attacks. Although the 
presence of swamps, jungle, and rice paddies 
tended to channelize the attack, the Japa 
nese had displayed superior adeptness, and 
willingness to go into the swamps and stay 
there until rooted out. 

The standard employment of artillery in 
close support of the infantry again proved 
to be very effective and was used extensively. 
However, since the artillery fire enabled the 
infantry to secure many heavily fortified 
positions with few casualties, the infantry 
men tended to become too dependent upon 
the artillerymen and expected them to do 
the work of the infantry. General Krueger 
insisted that the infantry must be prepared 
to close in immediately after the cessation of 
the artillery fire. 

The Americans had developed a strong 
tendency to telegraph their punches. In the 
morning, before an assault by the infantry, 
the artillery pounded the Japanese positions, 
after which the mortars opened up. The 
mortar fire nearly always lasted for a half 
hour, and then the infantry moved out. 
Upon occasion, the infantry did not attack 
immediately after the preparation by the 
supporting weapons. This delay gave the 
Japanese time and opportunity to regroup 
and consolidate their forces, and thus nulli 
fied the effects of the preparatory fires. 

Parenthetically, it may be remarked that 
although the actual casualties per artillery 



shell were few, the cumulative effect of the 
heavy and prolonged fire of the artillery and 
mortars was very great. Col. Junkichi Oka- 
fa ay ashi., chief of staff of the Japanese 1st 
Division, estimated that the losses sustained 
by the division were distributed as follows: 
by artillery, 60 percent; by mortars, 25 per 
cent; by infantry fire, 14 percent; and by 
aircraft, 1 percent. 2 

The employment of tanks singly, or in 
small groups, materially aided the infantry 
men, since the tanks could be used effec 
tively to reduce enemy pillboxes and to 
flush out bamboo thickets. Although light 
tanks were more mobile it was found that 
the mediums were more efficient in reduc 
ing pillboxes. For successful employment, it 
was necessary that the tanks have^.close in 
fantry and engineer support. In* some in 
stances the tanks secured objectives when 
no infantrymen were present to consolidate 
and hold the positions. For example, a regi 
ment supported by a tank battalion received 
orders to attack and secure an objective. The 
tanks quickly moved out and secured the 
objective with little resistance. Since the 
infantrymen did not arrive during the day, 
the tanks withdrew at nightfall. During the 
night the Japanese mined the area and four 
of the tanks were lost when they returned- 
next morning. 

Likewise, tanks were often disabled be 
cause the engineers had failed to remove 
mines and give support in the crossing of 
streams. In one case, the engineers failed to 
repair a bridge, which collapsed after three 
tanks had crossed over it. The Japanese com 
pletely destroyed one of the tanks and dis 
abled the other two. It was necessary for the 
Americans to destroy Jthe disabled tanks 



2 10th I&HS Eighth Army, Stf Study of Japanese 
35th Army on Leyte, Interrog Col Okabayashi, pp. 
5-6. 



MEASURE OF THE FIGHTING 



247 



with their own gunfire in order to prevent 
their use as stationary pillboxes by the 
enemy. 

It was found advantageous to establish a 
night perimeter before dusk. An early estab 
lishment of the perimeter enabled the troops 
to take effective countermeasures against 
Japanese infiltrations and night assaults. 3 
The soldiers also had an opportunity to be 
come familiar with their surroundings and 
were less likely to fire indiscrimiaately dur 
ing the night. In spite of this precaution, 
there was considerable promiscuous firing 
during the night and at dawn. One corps 
commander effectively stopped this prac 
tice in his command post area by the adop 
tion of two simple measures. First, he em 
ployed a reserve battalion to cover an area 
extending outward for one mile and when 
no Japanese were found the fact was an 
nounced over the loudspeaker. Second, any 
man caught firing before dawn was immedi 
ately court-martialed and fined fifty dollars. 
"There was very little promiscuous firing 
thereafter." 4 

Although there were three war-dog pla 
toons available for the Leyte operation, 
their combat value was practically nil. 
The unit commanders to whom they were 
attached knew little of their capabilities or 
limitations. Some expected the dogs to spot 
a Japanese position exactly at a distance of 
200 or more yards. One unit took the dogs 
on a four-day patrol without sufficient dog 
rations. Another unit attempted to use dogs 
in a populated area; the presence of so many 
civilians thoroughly confused the dogs. 

In general, the troops found that their 
training had been sound and that the meth 
ods which in the past had been employed hi 



overcoming the Japanese were also useful 
on Leyte. It was felt, however, that greater 
emphasis in training should be placed on 
night patrols and night movements near the 
enemy lines, as well as on closer co-ordina 
tion between the infantry and the support 
ing weapons. Finally, it was believed that 
the service troops should be given training 
in basic infantry tactics and prepared to 
maintain their own defenses. 5 

All units were in agreement that there 
could be "no substitute for aggressive leader 
ship." 6 An infantry unit could be no better 
than its leaders. General Krueger said in 
this connection: 

Infantry is the arm of close combat. It is 
the arm of final combat. The Jap is usually 
most tenacious particularly when in en 
trenched and concealed positions. Individual 
enemy soldiers will remain in their holes until 
eliminated. Although the supporting arms are 
of great assistance, it ultimately becomes the 
task of the small infantry units to dig them 
out. The American soldier has demonstrated 
on many battlefields that he can and will do 
it, but he must be aggressively led. There can 
be no hesitating on the part of his leaders. 7 

Welfare of the Men 

At the same time, in order to obtain the 
best results from the troops, the unit com 
manders must concern themselves with the 
well-being and comfort of their men. Many 
commanders were indifferent to such mat 
ters. One corps, for example, had sufficient 
rations of all types available, but the meals 
served the men were poorly prepared and 
monotonous. Another corps, at the time it 
landed, was prepared to live indefinitely on 



* 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Tactics, n. p. 
4 Krueger's Critique, Sixth Army Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 205. 



8 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Incl 1 to Annex 3, 
n.p. 



T Krueger's Critique, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 205. Italics are Krueger's. 



248 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



field rations. As late as ten days after the 
landing, no unit not even any of the fixed 
installations, including higher headquar 
ters operated a mess or served hot meals. 
Some units did serve hot coffee after the 
first few days. 

Although there was considerable rain and 
mud, few units made a genuine effort to get 
their men under shelter even when the 
tactical situation permitted. Night after 
night, officers and men slept in wet foxholes 
even when no enemy troops were within 
shooting distance. "It must never be for 
gotten," said General Krueger 3 "that the 
individual soldier is the most important 
single factor in this war. . . . He is ex 
pected to do a lot including risking his life. 
But to get the most out of him he must have 
the feeling that everything possible under 
existing circumstances is being done for his 
well being and comfort. This is a prime re 
sponsibility of command. . . ." 8 

Weapons and Vehicles 

The basic weapons the U.S. .30-caliber 
rifle Model 1903, the U.S. .30-caliber rifle 
Ml, the BAR, bayonets, and grenades 
with which the rifle squads and the indi 
vidual soldiers of the heavy weapons com 
pany were equipped were generally satis 
factory and notably superior to comparable 
weapons of the Japanese. 

The troops used a variety of hand gre 
nades. The white smoke grenade was con 
sidered to be defective and was frequently 
discarded. The white phosphorus grenade 
was extensively used, mainly as an antiper 
sonnel weapon. It was thrown with telling 
effect into foxholes, caves, and heavy under- 



brush. An Australian grenade was intro 
duced, but because the troops were un 
familiar with its use, it was not too successful. 
Incendiary hand grenades were effectively 
used against enemy weapons, ammunition 
dumps, and supplies. Colored grenades were 
employed to mark strips for the air dropping 
of supplies. 9 The fragmentation grenade 
was most favored by the troops, and after 
that the phosphorus grenade. 10 

The Browning automatic rifle was very 
popular, the best results being obtained 
when two were allotted to a squad. The in 
creased fire power thus obtained was very 
effective in night defense. 

The 81 -mm. mortar continued to be 
highly esteemed as a close support infantry 
weapon. The 4.2-inch chemical mortars of 
the attached chemical mortar battalions 
were extensively employed, affording excel 
lent results when emplaced on firm ground. 
On marshy or swampy ground, however, 
their base plates would sink and cause inac 
curate firing or put the weapons out of com 
mission. The most popular mortar was the 
60-mm., which was very mobile and espe 
cially suitable for use in close terrain. This 
mortar fired an illuminating shell which was 
used constantly for night defense, but its 
base plate also tended to sink into the 
ground. 

Flame throwers were employed with very 
good effect in reducing strongly fortified po 
sitions. The M2-2 flame thrower was an 
excellent incendiary weapon against bam 
boo thickets and shacks. The cartridge type 
was considered to be more satisfactory, since 
the spark-ignited flame thrower was not de 
pendable in rainy weather. The flame 



9 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 113-14. 
M 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Effectiveness 
of Weapons, n. p. 



MEASURE OF THE FIGHTING 



249 



thrower was considered "a very important 
factor in overcoming the enemy's inherent 
'will to resist. 3 " n 

The .50-caliber machine gun again 
proved its value in defense, being highly 
effective not only against ground targets but 
also against aircraft. The 96th Division 
found the Thompson submachine gun ex 
cellent for use by patrolling units but "some 
difficulty . . . has been encountered with 
the M3 machine gun in its failure to feed 
properly." 12 

The 7th Division found the 75-mm. self- 
propelled howitzer, because of its superior 
mobility, to be the most effective infantry 
weapon for reduction of Japanese pillboxes. 
The 105-mm. howitzers of the field artillery 
battalions again proved their worth by the 
speed, accuracy, and effectiveness of their 
fire. The greater striking range of the 155- 
mm, howitzer had special value for general 
support missions. 

Demolition charges were used effectively 
by patrols for the destruction of enemy am 
munition dumps in inaccessible locations 
and not salvageable because of the tactical 
situation. Except for this purpose, demoli 
tions were not extensively used. 13 

The 37-mm. gun was an antitank weapon 
only occasionally employed by the 7th Divi 
sion because there were few Japanese 
armored vehicles against which to use it. 
The excessive difficulty of manhandling it 
into a position from which fire could be de 
livered against Japanese pillboxes and ma 
chine guns rendered it ineffective for that 
purpose. The 90-mm. guns of the antiair 
craft artillery had a considerable number of 



11 96th DIv Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 85. 

12 Ibid., p. 83. Presumably the .45-caliber sub 
machine gun M3 is intended by the term "M3 
machine gun." 

13 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Effectiveness 
of Weapons, n. p. 



erratic bursts because of corroded fuzes and 
worn fuze setting lugs. 

The tanks and tank destroyers could have 
been used more frequently and with greater 
versatility. Situations often arose in which 
an infantry platoon was held up by enemy 
machine gun and mortar fire, but "the use 
of indirect artillery fire was impracticable 
either because of overhead cover for the en 
emy weapons or because of undue risk to our 
enveloping infantry." General Krueger 
recommended that the infantry employ di 
rect fire by the tanks or tank destroyers. He 
felt that "the tank destroyer commanders 
lacked aggressiveness and skilled direc 
tion.' 3 14 The tank destroyer commanders 
admitted that they were idle but added that 
the infantry had not called for them. The 
tanks and tank destroyers were ideal weap 
ons for the destruction of machine guns, 
mortars, and other heavy infantry weapons, 
but the infantry commanders seemed to be 
unaware of their capabilities. Many com 
manders employed their armored vehicles 
down the middle of the road when they 
could have used them more effectively on 
the flanks and for envelopments. 

The 96th Division found the Cannon 
Company's self-propelled 105-mm. howitzer 
extremely mobile in swamps and mountain 
ous terrain. It was able to go several miles 
farther up the mountains than any other 
vehicle and gave excellent support in cover 
ing the mountain passes. 15 

The cargo carrier M29 (weasel) 
proved to be a most useful supply vehicle. 
The commanders used it for reconnaissance 
and visits to units in isolated areas and over 
roads that were impassable to wheeled ve 
hicles. It also was employed to carry sup- 



"Krueger's Critique, Sixth Army Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 208. 
15 96th DIv Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 82. 



250 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



plies and to evacuate the wounded from in 
accessible areas. The weasel was much less 
destructive of roads than any of the other 
tracked vehicles, but the tendency to use it 
on dry roads resulted in worn-out tracks and 
excessive maintenance requirements. 

The 96th Division found the DUKW to 
be an excellent vehicle when waterborne 
but on land, regardless of the condition of 
the roads and terrain, it was not half as 
effective as the 2^2-ton cargo truck. On 
roads the DUKW was a traffic hazard and 
an obstacle to other cargo traffic. 16 

The 7th Division landed with seventeen 
one-ton trailers. They were found to be of 
little value and the division recommended 
that they should not be used in any future 
operation unless a hard-surfaced, all- 
weather road net existed at the anticipated 
target. 17 

Intelligence 

General Krueger pointed out that 
prompt, aggressive reconnaissance should 
have been instituted immediately upon the 
landing of the troops. The fact that knowl 
edge of the terrain was very limited before 
the assault inaccuracies in the distances on 
existing maps were as high as 50 percent 
gave urgency to the need for immediate 
reconnaissance. 

The sources of information on the Japa 
nese were as follows: ground and aerial 
reconnaissance,, Filipino civilians, guerrillas, 
captured documents, and prisoners. Air 
observation was of limited value because of 
the Japanese ability at camouflage and be 
cause the inclement weather prevented 
aerial observation of many areas. The tend- 



17 7th IHv Opus Rpt Leyte, Annex, Deficiencies 
in Equipment, n. p. 



ency of the Filipinos to say "yes" to every 
thing was also a handicap. In general, the 
guerrilla reports were more accurate than 
those of civilians. Considerable information 
was obtained from patrols, which were 
especially valuable for on-the-spot intelli 
gence. 

In interrogating prisoners the best results 
were obtained by employing Nisei, who ob 
tained more information from prisoners 
when the latter were not subjected to ques 
tioning by an officer through an interpreter. 
Since most of the prisoners had been sepa 
rated from their units for a considerable 
time and were seriously wounded, their 
information was sparse and generally out 
of date. 

Captured documents were the most fruit 
ful source of intelligence. Although the 
Japanese made a few attempts to destroy 
dog tags and other means of identification 
before going into battle, they were not too 
successful. The fact that General Krueger 
obtained information on the proposed 
ground offensive of the Japanese for the 
middle of November from papers found on 
the body of a Japanese officer was not an 
isolated incident. Many officers carried on 
their persons sets of orders and maps. 

The Japanese received much of their in 
formation on the American order of battle 
from broadcasts emanating from San Fran 
cisco. At first, the Japanese on the island 
were unable to find out the American order 
of battle for Leyte but within a few days the 
Americans gratuitously furnished them the 
information/ Said General Tomochika: 

At the time of the landing, 35th Army 
Headquarters did not know the number or 
name of the American units which had landed 
, . . but within a day headquarters learned. 
. . . We found out ... by tuning in on the 
San Francisco broadcasts; Japanese troops 
in the combat area were unable to determine 



MEASURE OF THE FIGHTING 



251 



their identity. From the same source, we later 
obtained information which was of consider 
able help in planning. In fact, that was the 
only way we could get information. . . . 
Information was always received through the 
San Francisco broadcast before reports from 
our front line units reached headquarters. 
. . . Since the information came much sooner 
from the American broadcast than from the 
Japanese communications, the Army Head 
quarters depended on the American broad 
casts for much intelligence. 18 

Japanese Warfare 

The 24th Division found the Japanese 
troops on Leyte to be better trained in com 
bat and more skillful than those the division 
had encountered during the Hollandia- 
Tanahmerah Bay operation. 19 In general 
the Japanese fought a delaying action, and 
when forced to yield ground they would fall 
back to previously prepared positions. Dur 
ing a bombardment by American heavy 
weapons, the enemy troops would withdraw 
but when the fire lifted they would quickly 
reoccupy the vacated positions. 20 

The 2 1st Infantry was impressed with the 
Japanese "excellence in battle' 3 on Break 
neck Ridge. There were few instances of 
"reckless charges, needless sacrifices or fail 
ure to observe known tactical principles." 
The most notable characteristics exhibited 
were the excellent fire discipline and the 
effective control of all arms. Without excep 
tion individual soldiers withheld their fire 
until it would have the greatest possible 
effect. The heaviest firing would generally 
start about 1530 and increase in intensity 

* 10th I&HS Eighth Army, Stf Study of Japanese 
35th Army on Leyte, Interrog Gen Tomochika, pp. 
2-3. 

19 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 86. 

20 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p, 88. 



until about dark, the fire being accompanied 
by counterattacks from the front and on the 
flanks. These assaults usually came when 
the Americans 5 energy and ammunition 
were at their lowest point during the day 
and when they would prevent proper con 
solidation of the front lines before dark. 21 

The Japanese employed reverse slope de 
fense tactics with much skill and were suc 
cessful in utilizing terrain for their defensive 
positions. Caves and other natural forma 
tions were exploited to the limit and posi 
tions were dug in deeply and expertly cam 
ouflaged. The Japanese frequently sacri 
ficed fields of fire for cover and concealment, 
a fact which made it very difficult for the 
Americans to locate hostile positions. 

Captured documents indicated that the 
Japanese attacks were generally well con 
ceived but that there were not enough troops 
at the time of the assault. The documents 
also gave repeated indications that units 
either did not receive their orders or did not 
reach the appointed place on time. The 
Japanese employed two main types of at 
tack. The first, which was similar to that 
employed by the Americans, utilized a base 
of fire from supporting weapons, followed 
by infantry fire and movement. This type of 
attack was not usually accompanied by 
artillery or mortar support. The other 
method consisted of a localized charge in 
which the Japanese by sheer force of num 
bers tried to crack the American lines. The 
heavy weapons fire of the Americans was 
nearly always able to break up both types 
of attack. Enemy forces, generally in small 
numbers, tried repeatedly to infiltrate 
through the American lines. The objectives 



21 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Enemy Tac 
tics on Breakneck Ridge, n. p. 



252 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



were artillery pieces, supply dumps, and key 
installations. Rarely did they accomplish 
even minor damage. 

Artillery weapons were seldom used by 
the Japanese to maximum effect. The 
gunnery techniques were "remarkably un 
developed" and inefficient, the pieces being 
used singly or in pairs and only rarely as 
batteries. Their fire was never massed. The 
gun positions generally were well con 
structed but they were frequently selected 
with such high regard for concealment that 
the fields of fire were limited. The use of 
mines and demolition charges was poor, the 
mine fields being hastily and obviously laid. 

The troops were well trained and led by 
officers imbued with a sense of duty. Conse 



quently, "as long as any officers remain alive, 
the remnants of a ... force are capable 
of determined action." ^ 

The Japanese view of American methods 
was summed up by General Tomochika as 
follows: "The strong points of the Ameri 
can strategy in the Leyte Operation were 
numerous but the two outstanding points 
were ( 1 ) the overwhelming striking power 
of the American Army, and (2 ) the Ameri 
can operations were planned in minute de 
tail and on the whole were carried out 
scrupulously." 28 

22 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Japanese 
Opns, n. p. 

23 10th I&HS, Eighth Army, Stf Study of Opns of 
Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Interrog Gen Tomo- 
chilca, p. 26. 



CHAPTER XV 



Battle of the Ridges 



American Plans and Preparations 

With the securing of the beachhead areas 
in the last week of October and the first days 
of November, General Kraeger was ready 
to launch that part of his plan that con 
cerned a drive north along the west coast of 
Leyte. Since a preliminary reconnaissance 
indicated that there were not a great many 
Japanese troops in the southern half of the 
island, elements of the 32d Infantry had 
already started to push west through the 
mountains to the west coast along the road 
from Abuyog to Baybay. After the attention 
of the Japanese had been diverted to the 
struggle in the northern mountains, the X 
Corps could launch a drive against Ormoc, 
proceeding north from Baybay on High 
way 2 along the shores of the Camotes Sea 
and of Ormoc Bay. At the same time ele 
ments of the X Corps the 24th Division 
and later the 32d Division could drive 
down the Ormoc corridor to Ormoc. The 
enemy forces would then be caught between 
the jaws of a trap, with their freedom of 
maneuver limited and most of their strength 
employed in defensive action. But the need 
for blocking the exits from the central moun 
tain range and the scarcity of combat troops 
made it necessary for General Krueger to 
postpone sending a strong force to the shores 
of the Camotes Sea until additional rein 
forcements arrived on Leyte in the middle 
of November. General Hodge was to be pre 



pared, however, to send strong elements of 
the XXIV Corps over the mountains. 

American Plans 

On 30 October General Hodge directed 
the 7th Division to move elements, not to 
exceed one battalion, over the mountain 
road from Abuyog to Baybay, the western 
terminus of the road. He also ordered the 
7th Division to be prepared to move to the 
west coast when relieved in the Burauen 
area. 1 In anticipation of this plan, the 2d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, had moved to 
Abuyog on 29 October to occupy and de 
fend that area. Company G had spear 
headed the advance to Baybay. On 2 No 
vember General Arnold alerted the main 
body of the 32d Infantry, under Colonel 
Firm, for a move to Abuyog. 



1 XXIV Corps FO 12, 30 Oct 44. The operations 
of the 7th Division on the western coast of Leyte 
were more adequately covered than any other ac 
tion in the Leyte campaign. Capt. Tucker Dean and 
1st Lt. Russell A. Gugeler, two combat historians, 
prepared very complete manuscripts on the battle 
of Shoestring Ridge. Gugeler's Battle of the Ridge- 
lines and Dean's King II : the Liberation of Leyte, 
on file in the Office of the Chief of Military History, 
have much information that is not given in the 
official reports. In addition Col. John M. Finn, who 
commanded the 32d Infantry which bore the brunt 
of the Shoestring Ridge battle, wrote an account of 
the engagement that appeared in the September 
and October 1945 issues of the Infantry Journal. 
(Unless otherwise stated, this chapter is based upon 
these accounts and the 32d Infantry Operations 
Report Leyte, pp. 10-26.) 



254 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



As soon as word was received that the 
Americans were on the west coast. General 
Suzuki, believing these forces to be a small 
unit of American and Philippine troops, 
sent a company from the 364th Battalion 
south from Ormoc to hold Albuera until 
the 26th Division could arrive. 2 Albuera was 
important tactically, since from it ran a 
mountain trail that the Japanese had tried 
unsuccessfully to develop into a road to the 
Burauen airfield in Leyte Valley. 

On 9 November the 26th Division landed 
at Ormoc after a rough voyage from Ma 
nila. The transport vessels had been repeat 
edly attacked by Allied aircraft, which dam 
aged many of the landing barges and ship 
hatches. These damaging attacks hindered 
the unloading of equipment, which did not 
proceed as planned. Many of the landing 
barges were run aground and destroyed by 
Allied aircraft, and the transports were 
forced to sail away before being completely 
emptied. They carried most of the ordnance, 
provisions, and munitions of the division 
with them. On their return trip, all the ves 
sels were sunk by aircraft. The division con 
sequently came ashore underequipped. The 
strength of the 26th Division consisted of 
Division Headquarters, one battalion of the 
llth Independent Infantry Regiment^ three 
battalions of the 13th Independent Infantry 
Regiment, and the 2d Battalion of the 12th 
Infantry Regiment. These units had only 
light, portable weapons, and none was 
equipped with machine guns except a bat- 



2 The Japanese historians make the following 
ambiguous statement: "The Army had doubts as to 
the authenticity of this broadcast, but from past ex 
perience with IT. S. broadcasts, the Army estimated 
it to be a small unit of U. S. and Philippine troops 
which had landed there." 35th Army Opns, p. 51. 
Unless otherwise stated the part of this section 
dealing with Japanese plans is based upon th study, 
pp. 51-84. 



talion of the 13th Independent Infantry 
Regiment. 

General Suzuki had intended to use the 
26th Division in the Carigara area but the 
arrival of American forces in the Baybay 
area forced him to change his plans. On 13 
November he received word from Manila 
that the 26th Division was to be used in the 
Burauen area and consequently the main 
force of the 26th Division was directed to 
Albuera. General Suzuki first sent the 13th 
Independent Infantry Regiment, under Col. 
Jiro Saito, 3 but eventually the entire 26th 
Division, including the division headquar 
ters, was committed to the Albuera area. 

As the troops of the 2d Battalion, 32d In 
fantry, moved over the mountains to Bay- 
bay, guerrillas informed them that about 
three hundred Japanese soldiers were push 
ing south toward the Abuyog-Baybay road. 
These enemy troops were "six marauding 
units" of the company which had been sent 
south to make contact with the American 
forces and contain them until the 26th Divi 
sion could arrive. 4 Company E set up an 
ambush, killed many of the Japanese, and 
forced the others to disperse. 

By this time the appearance of Japanese 
reinforcements going north from Ormoc 
caused General Krueger to shift the weight 
of the Sixth Army to the north to meet the 
new threat, and to order General Hodge 
to hold up on the relief of the 7th Division 
in the Burauen area. It was not until after 
the arrival of the llth Airborne Division 
that the 7th Division, on 22 November, was 
able to move in force to the west coast. 6 

At 1025 on 14 November General Arnold 
ordered Colonel Finn to start moving the 
32d Infantry north to the Damulaan-Cari- 



* Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 24. 

*IHJ.,pp. 51-52. 

'XXTV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 11-12. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



255 



SHOESTRING RIDGE 

23-25 November 1944 

*** FRONT LINE , EVENING 23 Nov 
iiiiin FRONT LINE .NIGHT 24-25 Nov 
Axis OF JAPANESE ATTACK 

Form lines only 
o 



5 A Y 




MAP 15 

dad area and to be prepared to advance 
upon Ormoc on further orders. 6 The units 
of the 32d Infantry moved to their assigned 
areas near the Palanas River, and both the 
Japanese and Americans made ready their 
positions for the clash. (Map 15 ) The battle 
that was about to be fought over the ridge 
lines along the Palanas River was later 
called the "Battle of Shoestring Ridge" by 
troops of the 32d Infantry. This name ap 
plied to the supply technique rather than 
to any terrain features of the ridge, since 
the supply of the 32d Infantry throughout 

* Fragmentary Order, GG 7th Div to GO 32d Inf, 
14 Nov 44, 7th Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Nov 44. 

260317 O 54 18 



H Damon 

the battle was precarious. Said Colonel 
Finn: "The old slogan *Too little and too 
late' became 'Just enough and just in time' 
for us." 7 

The Palanas River runs in a southwesterly 
direction between two ridges that end 
abruptly on reaching the road. The ridges 
slope sharply toward the river and are sepa 
rated by a narrow valley. Colonel Finn chose 
to stand on Shoestring Ridge, the southern 
most of the two, which rises steeply from 
the fields. Its northerly face drops precipi 
tately for more than 1 25 feet to the valley, 

7 Col. John M. Finn, "Shoestring Ridge," In 
fantry Journal, LVII, 3 (September, 1945), 47. 



256 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



where dense bamboo thickets cover the river 
banks. The main body of the ridge is covered 
with cogon grass, interspersed with palms 
and bamboo, growth being especially heavy 
in the gullies. Between the western tip of the 
ridge and the sea are rice paddies and 
clusters of palm trees, while at a point 3,000 
yards northeast of the road the ridge falls 
into a saddle and then rises to join Hill 918. 

Offensive Preparations 

While the 26th Division was building up 
positions on the opposite bank of the Palanas 
River, Colonel Finn had to solve problems 
that existed to the rear. Since enemy barges 
still operated freely a few thousand yards 
offshore and two Japanese destroyers had 
cruised by, General Arnold thought that the 
enemy might try to land forces and seize 
Baybay in order to separate the American 
units and sever their line of communica 
tions. There were only three infantry bat 
talions on the west coast. The mud and 
floods on the narrow route that connected 
this force with the source of supplies at 
Dulag, on the east coast, made the road so 
undependable that the 7th Division could 
not rely on a quick transfer of reinforce 
ments to the west. 

Lt. Col. Charles A. Whitcomb's 3d Bat 
talion, 32d Infantry, had moved from Bay- 
bay to a position just south of the 2d Bat 
talion on 21 November 8 and established de 
fensive positions in depth. To have increased 
the defensive strength on Shoestring Ridge 
would have placed the bulk of the forces in 
a position where they would be surrounded 
if the Japanese breached their line. General 
Arnold, to prevent such an envelopment, 

8 7th Inf Div G-3 Periodic Rpt, 2 1 Nov 44. 



directed that the 2d Battalion, 184th In 
fantry, should not be used to reinforce the 
front lines without his permission. 9 This or 
der left only Lt. Col. Glenn A. Nelson's 2d 
Battalion, 32d Infantry, to hold the front. 
The 1st Battalion had been sent to the vicin 
ity of Panaon Strait to relieve the 21st In 
fantry. In addition to the infantry there was 
a concentration of artillery at Damulaan for 
support. Batteries A and B of the 49th Field 
Artillery Battalion (105-mm. howitzer) had 
moved up and registered fire by 2 1 Novem 
ber, 10 and on the morning of 23 November 
Battery B of the 1 1th 155-mm. Marine Gun 
Battalion arrived at Damulaan. 11 The regi 
mental Cannon Company brought two more 
pieces, which boosted the total to fourteen. 
All the artillery pieces were only about 1 ,500 
yards behind the front lines, concentrated 
in a small area in the vicinity of Damulaan. 
The light weapons were situated so that their 
fire could be placed as far forward as pos 
sible, and the 155-mm. guns were in posi 
tions from which they could shell Ormoc. 12 
The defenses of the infantry and the artillery 
were consolidated on ground that afforded 
the best protection. 

A platoon from the 7th Reconnaissance 
Troop patrolled the road between Baybay 
and Damulaan, and a platoon of light tanks 
from the 767th Tank Battalion at Damu 
laan was the only armor on the west coast. 13 



9 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Nov 44. 

10 7th Inf Dlv G-3 Periodic Rpt, 2 1 Nov 44. 

11 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 23 Nov 44. The llth 
155-mm. Gun Battalion and the 5th 155-mm. 
Howitzer Battalion were Marine artillery units and 
part of the V Amphibious Corps artillery which had 
been designated for Yap. With the cancellation of 
that operation, these two battalions had been as 
signed to the XXIV Corps as part of the corps 
artillery for Leyte. 

u Msg, XXIV Corps to 7th Inf Div, 21 Nov 44. 
tt 32d Inf Regt S-3 Periodic Rpt, 23-24 Nov 44. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



257 



For several days preceding the 23d of No 
vember, Filipinos moving to the south 
through the lines reported that large enemy 
forces were massing on the opposite side of 
the Palanas River and emplacing field guns. 
Artillery observers on Shoestring Ridge 
could see the Japanese constructing trenches, 
machine gun pits, and other installations on 
the opposite ridge. The Japanese forces con 
sisted of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 13th In 
dependent Infantry Regiment, and two bat 
talions from the llth and 12th Independ 
ent Infantry Regiments?* Colonel Saito 
was ordered to hold back the American ad 
vance, which threatened to cut off a trail 
the Japanese had been building at Albuera 
over the mountains to Burauen. 

On 23 November the defenses of the 32d 
Infantry were stretched very thin. Because 
of the great distance involved it was not 
possible to have a continuous front line ex 
tending from the sea to the mountains, and 
therefore some passages of approach had 
to be left open to the enemy. Only the 
longest and most difficult were unde 
fended. 15 The main defensive sector of the 
32d Infantry, just south of the Palanas 
River, was astride the highway and on that 
part of the ridge which overlooked the regi 
ment's artillery and command post installa 
tions. The defensive sector of Companies F 
and G was 1,500 yards in width. Company 
F occupied the flat, marshy land between 
the sea and the hills to the east. The men 
built barricades of dirt and sandbags at 
intervals of seventy-five yards and mined 
the area in front of them. Company E and 
guerrillas of Companies F and G, 94th Phil 
ippine Infantry, which were attached to the 
2d Battalion, were on a ridge that extended 
to Hill 918. Some guerrillas were also out- 



posted between Companies G and E. Regi 
mental headquarters was at Baybay. 16 "The 
main strength of the line was American guts 
and fighting spirit." 17 During the night, 
Battery B of the llth 155-mm. Gun Bat 
talion had moved in and was in position at 
0800 to start firing. The battery was so well 
camouflaged that during the ensuing en 
gagement it was never discovered by the 
enemy. The regiment now had in support 
two batteries of 105-mm. howitzers and one 
of 155-mm. guns. 

Battle of Shoestring Ridge 
The Battle Begins 

At about 1830 on 23 November, the 26th 
Division opened up the long-expected at 
tack. 18 The signal for the commencement of 
hostilities was an artillery concentration, the 
first rounds of which fell in the area of Bat 
tery A, 49th Field Artillery Battalion. The 
next rounds were scattered. Enemy mortars 
joined the artillery and concentrated their 
fire on the front lines of the 32d Infantry. 
Counterbattery fire of the 105-mm. howitz 
ers from Battery B of the 49th Field Artillery 
temporarily silenced the Japanese fire. At 
2000 the enemy artillery and mortars again 
opened up against the front lines of the 32d 
Infantry and cut all communications be 
tween the 2d Battalion and the regimental 
headquarters at Baybay. Communications 
were later re-established by relay from the 
3d Battalion at Caridad. 



4 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 22. 



16 That evening General Arnold, acting on in 
structions from the Sixth Army that "guerrillas not 
be given missions beyond their capabilities," ordered 
Colonel Finn to use guerrillas only as outposts and 
not as part of the main line of resistance. 7th Inf 
Div G-3 Jnl, 23 Nov 44. 

17 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 17. 

18 35th Army Opns, p. 74. 



258 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



At 2100 the Japanese infantry launched a 
well-planned attack, supported by artillery, 
mortars, and machine guns, against the 
lines of Company E. Although the company 
retaliated with all weapons at its command, 
the Japanese continued to come on, despite 
heavy casualties, through the covered draws, 
high cogon grass, and bamboo thickets. The 
guerrilla outpost between Companies G and 
E withdrew when the Japanese attacked 
Company E. The enemy force, which con 
sisted of two reinforced rifle companies from 
the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment, 
seized portions of the ridge and dug in. 

Colonel Nelson, the commander of the 2d 
Battalion, ordered Capt. John J. Young, 
commanding officer of Company E, to with 
draw his troops. Since the Japanese had 
penetrated the lines and were digging in, 
the withdrawal was difficult. At about 2200, 
when Capt. Roy F. Dixon, commanding 
officer of Company G, received word that 
Company E was to withdraw to a position 
behind Company L and thus leave the right 
flank of Company G exposed, he ordered 
the right platoon leader to move his right 
from a position in front of the ridge to one 
on the ridge facing east, refusing this flank. 19 
The two right squads moved back and se 
cured the right of Company G. 

At dawn on 24 November Colonel Nelson 
re-formed the 2d Battalion. A patrol from 
Company F went to the Palanas River and 
found no enemy troops. At 0800 three com 
panies moved to the east toward Hill 918. 
The troops succeeded in pushing back a 
Japanese force that had penetrated south of 
the Palanas River and east of Hill 918. 
Colonel Finn ordered Company K to move 
up from Caridad, and he attached it to the 
2d Battalion. 



Battery C of the 57th 105-mm, Howitzer 
Battalion, which had just arrived, was 
placed on the left, south of the Bucan 
River. 20 By 1800 the troops had regained 
some of the ground lost the previous night 
and occupied a perimeter approximately 
2,000 yards long and less than 1,500 yards 
deep. 

During the day, as far as their limited am 
munition would allow, the artillery units 
fired at enemy troop concentrations and pos 
sible observation posts. The service troops 
worked feverishly to move badly needed am 
munition to the front lines. The two most 
critical items were 105-mm. and 81 -mm. 
ammunition, and by nightfall the front lines 
had received 1,400 rounds of the first item 
and 1,600 rounds of the second. General 
Arnold attached the 1st Battalion, 184th 
Infantry, to the 32d Infantry but Colonel 
Finn was forbidden to commit it to action 
without permission from the 7th Division. 

Japanese. Counterattack 

The enemy forces did not wait. That 
night, under a full moon, they attacked 
American positions with great ferocity, 
opening the engagement with the heaviest 
artillery barrage the 32d Infantry had yet 
experienced. 21 The first rounds fell on the 
front-line troops, but the fire then shifted 
and centered on Battery A, 49th Field Ar 
tillery Battalion, and the infantry and artil 
lery command posts in the rear at Damu- 
laan. At the same time the enemy pounded 
the front lines of Companies G, L, E, and K 
with heavy mortar fire. Additional mortars 
joined the battle and shifted the greater 



19 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 18. 



20 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 10. 

21 Msg, CO 32d Inf to GG 7th Div, 25 Nov 44, 
32d Inf Unit Jnl, 25 Nov 44. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



259 



part of their fire against Battery B. The can 
noneers held fast and returned the fire. 

After this thirty-minute artillery and 
mortar preparation, the Japanese 13th In 
dependent Infantry Regiment attacked the 
front lines of the Americans, concentrating 
the assault against three main positions: 
the right flank of Company G, the draw 
between Companies L and K, and the 
center of Company K. At the same time, 
combat patrols moved from the north 
against Companies F and G. The companies 
easily threw back these patrols. 

Colonel Nelson ordered all supporting 
weapons of the 2d Battalion to fire. All three 
artillery batteries fired at the maximum rate 
for seven minutes, while the mortars placed 
their fire directly on the assault force in 
order to chop it up or drive it back into the 
artillery fire. Colonel Nelson then put the 
Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon of the 
2d Battalion and a squad from Company B, 
13th Engineer Battalion, in previously pre 
pared positions between Companies G and 
E. Company G was thus able. to strengthen 
its lines at the heaviest point of pressure and 
repel the frequently repeated assaults. 

At about 1 900 a strong force of the enemy 
gathered on the ridge in front of the right 
flank of Company L. The American mortars 
fired on the ridge but the American machine 
guns kept silent in order to conceal their 
locations. A group of about fifty Japanese 
came to within thirty yards of the right 
platoon of Company L and showered it 
with grenades. Mortar fire also fell on this 
platoon, and at the same time the platoon 
of Company K in the draw came under 
heavy fire. At least twelve emplaced ma 
chine guns, in addition to those carried up 
by the assaulting troops, raked the positions 
of Companies K and L with intense fire. 
Company L employed all weapons and 



threw back the assault with heavy casualties 
to the Japanese. 

Company K did not fare so well, since it 
was operating at little more than half 
strength and there were only nineteen men 
in the platoon that guarded the draw on the 
company's left flank. Under the protection 
of machine gun and mortar fire, the Japa 
nese moved against the platoon, which was 
ringed by machine gun fire that cut off any 
avenue of withdrawal. The platoon seemed 
to be faced with imminent extermination. 
A Marine machine gunner from the llth 
155-mm. Gun Battalion, who was stationed 
on the high ground just south of the draw 
of the besieged platoon, opened fire and 
knocked out the enemy machine guns which 
had cut off the line of withdrawal. He then 
directed his fire against the Japanese 
weapons on the ridge across the draw and 
raked the ridge from one end to the other. 
After the enemy guns had been silenced the 
platoon made an orderly withdrawal to the 
foot of the ridge to positions on its right 
rear, from which it could cover the draw. 22 
Many enemy dead were left in the vacated 
positions. 

The Japanese then attempted to break 
through the center of Company K's line, but 
were driven off by the use of artillery, to 
gether with the mortars, machine guns, gre 
nades, and rifles of the company. For the 
rest of the night the Japanese kept probing 
the left flank of the company and placing 
machine gun and mortar fire along the en 
tire line. At one time about twenty-five of 



22 "The platoon leader, a technical sergeant, in 
sisted that the Marine gunner either transfer to the 
Army or he would have to transfer to the Marines, 
as he couldn't get along without him." (Finn, 
op. cit. f p. 52.) A check of Marine Corps records, 
and interviews with Marine Corps historians and 
Colonel Finn failed to disclose the name and rank 
of the Marine gunner. 



260 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the enemy pushed past the outer perimeter 
to within fifty* yards of the perimeter of the 
command post and set up two machine 
guns. Headquarters personnel, medical men, 
and engineers who were manning the perim 
eter drove the group off. 

Meanwhile, the Japanese forces in front 
of Company L withdrew and were regroup 
ing, preparatory to launching a new attack. 
Since there was no artillery observer with 
the company, 1st Lt. William C. Bentley, of 
the Cannon Company, with two men went 
to a vantage point from which they could 
observe the draw and the ridge where the 
enemy force was assembling. Lieutenant 
Bentley directed an artillery concentration 
on the draw. Three times the Japanese tried 
to pierce the right flank of Company L and 
three times the artillery drove them back 
with heavy casualties. The enemy then tried 
unsuccessfully to get through the left flank 
of the company. The front line of Company 
L had comparative quiet for the rest of the 
night, except for a few infiltrators. 

Having failed to pierce the front lines, the 
26th Division troops tried desperately to 
knock out the artillery supporting the 32d 
Infantry Batteries A and B of the 49th 
Field Artillery Battalion receiving the heav 
iest blows. Battery B had all four of its guns 
knocked out, but by "cannibalizing 33 the 
damaged guns the battery had one of them 
back in operation by dawn. The enemy shell 
ing gradually slackened in intensity, and by 
0400, except for occasional outbursts of fire, 
all was quiet. 

At dawn of 25 November each company 
sent scouting patrols 2,000 yards to its front 
in order to forestall any Japanese attempts 
to move in. The patrols remained out all day. 
The front lines were reinforced by Com 
pany I, which moved into the draw between 
Companies K and L. The troops prepared 



positions but occupied them only at night, 
since they were located in a swampy rice 
paddy. Headquarters and B Battery of the 
57th Field Artillery Battalion moved into the 
Damulaan area to provide additional artil 
lery support. Four 105-mm. howitzer bat 
teries and one 155-mm. gun battery were 
then available. The troops of the 3d Bat 
talion reverted to the control of the 3d Bat 
talion commander, Colonel Whitcomb. Be 
cause of the intense firing during the night, 
the ammunition in the front lines had been 
nearly exhausted, but a sufficient supply was 
brought forward to the guns by the next 
evening. 

At 2200 the enemy, using the same tactics 
as on the previous night, again assaulted the 
eastern positions of the 32d Infantry with 
approximately one battalion, after an artil 
lery preparation. Although apparently well 
led and well organized, they were in less 
strength than before and were driven back, 
but not without a grenade battle and some 
hand-to-hand fighting. 

While the infantry troops were thus en 
gaged, eight Japanese led by an officer 
moved unnoticed along the Bucan River 
about one and a half miles south of the Pa- 
lanas River. Coming up on the right of B 
Battery, 49th Field Artillery Battalion, these 
enemy troops threw a shower of grenades at 
the gun crews and tried to clamber over the 
river bank and get at the guns. One man 
made it, and by placing a satchel charge 
behind the breechblock of a howitzer he put 
it permanently out of commission. All of the 
Japanese were killed. 

The troops of the 32d Infantry spent the 
26th of November improving their positions, 
moving automatic weapons, restocking am 
munition, and securing much-needed rest. 
The only important change in the lines was 
the moving of B Company, 184th Infantry, 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



261 



SHOESTRING RIDGE 

26-27 November 1944 
FRONT LINE, EVENING 26 NOV 
____, FRONT LINE VACATED BY G Co, 

NIGHT 26-27 NOVEMBER 
C^> Axis OF JAPANESE ATTACK 

Form lines only 
aooo o 1000 



YARDS 



o R y o c 




MAP 16 

less one platoon, into the position of B Bat 
tery, which was made part of A Battery. 23 
(Map 16) 

Bloody Bamboo Thicket 

At 2100 Colonel Saito renewed the as 
sault against the American position, follow 
ing the pattern set by the previous night 
actions. The Japanese first laid down mor 
tar and machine gun fire, 2 * and then heavy- 



23 Msg, 32d Inf to 7th Div, 1520, 26 Nov 44, 32d 
InfUnit Jnl, 26Nov44. 

24 Msg, 32d Inf to 7th Div, 2213, 26 Nov 44, 32d 
Inf Unit Jnl, 26 Nov 44. 



// Bcanon 

weapons fire of the 13th Infantry Regiment 
hit the right platoons of Company G, shift 
ing to the east in about fifteen minutes. Im 
mediately afterward, about a battalion of 
Japanese infantry attacked Company G, 
while twelve machine guns started to fire 
from a ridge 1,200 yards to the east. The 
Japanese moved into the fere of their own 
heavy weapons. The 32d Infantry, using all 
of its artillery batteries, mortars, machine 
guns, and rifles, started throwing lead 
against the enemy force as fast as its men 
could load and fire. The Japanese, employ 
ing an estimated fifty machine guns, con- 



262 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



tinued to come on. "All hell broke loose" M 
as the enemy shot off flares to guide their 
own artillery fire. The sharp declivity in 
front of the American lines did not allow 
for a close concentration of friendly artillery 
fire. Just as it appeared that the lines were 
to be overrun, some more enemy flares went 
up, and the Japanese withdrew, covered by 
heavy machine gun and mortar fire. Colonel 
Finn, taking advantage of this fortunate cir- 
cumstance 3 hastily rearranged riflemen to 
fill gaps caused by casualties and replenished 
his ammunition supplies. The mortars of the 
regiment continued to fire into the draw. 

After a short lull Colonel Saito renewed 
the attack. There was no preparatory artil 
lery fire, but the mortars and machine guns 
introduced the assault. The attack did not 
seem as determined as the previous one, 
though the number of troops was apparently 
about the same. The 32 d Infantry again 
called down all types of fire upon the enemy. 
Elements of the 13th Infantry Regiment 
continued to advance, although "the car 
nage was terriffic," 26 and attempted to pass 
through the American lines. A strong enemy 
group moved into a bamboo grove on a 
nose in front of the center platoon of G 
Company. From this position the enemy 
launched an attack which the company 
resisted with grenades and bayonets. As 
Colonel Finn later reported: "The battle 
continued to flare up and die down as the 
valiant soldiers fought like devils to hold 
our lines." 27 The 81 -mm. mortars from the 
mortar platoon of H Company fired 650 
rounds in five minutes, and fire from the 



35 The Japanese give the number of enemy troops 
as two and a half battalions while the 32d Infantry 
estimated it as three battalions. 35th Army Opns, 
p. 78 ; 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 22. 

M 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 22. 



60-mm. mortars was "practically auto 
matic." 2S After an hour's intense fighting, 
the enemy force withdrew. 

The Japanese had not attacked the left 
flank of G Company. These troops heard 
the battle raging to the right and the sounds 
of the Japanese forming below them. A non 
commissioned officer in charge of a listening 
post sent a man to get permission for his 
three-man group to withdraw. After re 
ceiving permission he shouted the order from 
a distance of fifty yards. As the men from 
the listening post started back, they were 
joined by the left platoon and two squads 
from the center platoon. Within forty-five 
minutes the two platoons, less one squad, 
plus the section of heavy machine guns, were 
moving south on the highway. "There was 
no thought in their minds that the with 
drawal was not authorized." 29 After pro 
ceeding down the road 250 yards they met 
the executive officer of Company H who 
ordered them back. It was too late, the 
damage was done. Though the left platoon 
was able to regain its position without 
trouble, the two squads from the center 
platoon found the enemy well dug-in in the 
bamboo thicket where the squads had been. 
It was later learned that there were about 
two hundred hostile troops with twenty 
machine guns in the thicket. 

The Japanese were within the American 
lines and in a position from which they could 
fire on A Battery and the flanks of Com 
panies E, L, I, and K. 30 Colonel Finn imme 
diately took steps to contain the penetrators. 
The reserve platoon from I Company 
moved behind E Company to face north in 
order to stop any enemy troops moving south 



"Ibid. 

80 Msg, CO 32d Inf to CG 7th Div, 0220, 27 Nov 
44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 27 Nov 44. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



263 



along the high ground. The squad of the 
center platoon of Company G that had re 
mained in position was faced to the west in 
order to forestall any attempt to roll up the 
line of G Company. That part of G Com 
pany which had withdrawn was moved 
along the high ground behind E Company 
where it established contact with the rest of 
G Company that faced the bamboo thicket. 
The right of F Company was turned south 
along the highway. Although the enemy 
could not be denied access to the flat, open 
ground leading to Damulaan, the rear of E 
and G Companies w r as protected and the 
flat ground could be covered by fire. The 
Japanese apparently did not realize the pre 
dicament of the Americans, since they made 
no attempt to exploit it. 

At the same time that G Company was 
fighting, the other companies, E, L, and I, 
w r ere also hit, though the assault was not so 
heavy as the one against G Company. The 
commanding officer of E Company, next to 
G Company, felt that the situation left him 
"in a hell of a spot," n but he held his posi 
tion. The Japanese steadily persisted in their 
pressure against the lines of the companies 
and the fighting continued throughout the 
night. The defenders yielded no ground and 
effectively used many supporting fires to dis 
rupt the attack of the 26th Division. The 
Americans counted 400 Japanese dead the 
next morning, but casualties of the 32d In 
fantry, despite the heavy fighting, had been 
surprisingly light. For the twenty-four hour 
period ending at 1430 on 27 November, 
four officers and fifteen enlisted men had 
been wounded and one enlisted man killed. 32 



31 Msg, CO 32d Inf to S-3 2d Bn, 0305, 27 Nov 
44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 27 Nov 44. 

32 Msg, 32d Inf to 7th Div, 1443, 27 Nov 44, 32d 
Inf Unit Jnl, 27 Nov 44. 



Colonel Finn made plans for the recap 
ture of the ground lost by G Company, and 
General Arnold made available to him part 
of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, which 
was at Caridad. The 1st Battalion, less B 
Company and two platoons from C Com 
pany, left Caridad at 0415 on 27 November, 
and by 0515 it was in Damulaan in readi 
ness for the assault. Company G, 2d Bat 
talion, 32d Infantry 7 , was also available. 

At the same time, the enemy was in the 
midst of preparing new plans. The Japanese 
felt that if they could recapture the Burauen 
airfields, all the American forces on Leyte 
would be in jeopardy. General Suzuki 
therefore ordered his troops to prepare for 
an operation at Burauen. In order to con 
centrate the 26th Division for his daring 
move across the mountains to strike at the 
Americans in the vicinity of the Burauen 
airfields, General Suzuki risked his right 
flank, leaving only a detachment consisting 
of the 12th Independent Infantry Regiment, 
one and one-half battalions of the 13th In 
dependent Infantry Regiment 3 and one 
battery of the 26th Artillery Battalion with 
two mobile guns to prevent the Americans 
from reaching Albuera and cutting off the 
base of his attack. At the same time, staff 
members of the 26th Division moved south 
to direct operations against the 7th Divi 
sion. 33 

These Japanese measures were taken just 
as General Krueger was able to reinforce the 
attack toward Ormoc. The commanding 
officer of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, 
at dawn on 27 November got his troops 
ready for the drive toward Albuera. He 
moved his battalion behind L and E Com 
panies, 32d Infantry. Because of the limited 



1 35th Army Opns, p. 84. 



264 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



area involved, the battalion commander de 
cided that only A Company would make the 
attack. The artillery, mortars, and machine 
guns placed heavy fire on the bamboo 
thicket. At 0855 the troops moved out but 
were stopped by heavy machine gun fire 
after they had advanced about 200 yards. 
They then withdrew about fifty yards while 
the artillery and mortars again covered the 
area. 34 A second attack was also halted, and 
A Company again pulled back. At 1430 a 
very heavy artillery concentration was 
placed on the thicket. 35 Immediately there 
after C Company moved in swiftly and 
cleared out and secured the area by 1600. 
A total of 109 enemy dead was counted and 
twenty-nine machine guns were removed. 

The defensive perimeters of the 32d In 
fantry were set up. With the addition of the 
1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, the lines were 
much stronger. During the night of 27 No 
vember elements of the 13th Independent 
Infantry Regiment made minor attempts to 
infiltrate through the lines but were easily 
repulsed. 

By now the Sixth Army had received sub 
stantial reinforcements. General Hodge 
therefore ordered the 7th Division to assem 
ble all forces in the Baybay area as rapidly 
as the logistical situation would permit. 36 By 
27 November sufficient troops had assem 
bled to enable him to order General Arnold 
to make "an early and vigorous attack" to 
destroy the Japanese in the area and then 
capture Ormoc. 37 On 28 November all the 
assault elements of the 7th Division, with the 
exception of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, 

84 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 24; Msg, 2d Bn to 
32d Inf, 27 Nov 44, and Msgs, Exec Off 32d Inf to 
CO 32d Inf, 1005, 1 120, and 1210, 27 Nov 44, 32d 
Inf Unit Jnl, 2 7 Nov 44. 

85 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 24. 
88 XXIV Corps FO 28, 22 Nov 44. 
* XXIV Corps FO 30, 27 Nov 44. 



which was patrolling in the vicinity of Pa- 
naon Strait, were either on the eastern shore 
of the Camotes Sea or on the way there. The 
1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, and the 2d 
and 3d Battalions, 32d Infantry, were still 
engaging the enemy at a bamboo thicket on 
Shoestring Ridge south of the Palanas River 
and east of Damulaan. 38 

The troops of Colonel Finn's 32d Infan 
try were weary. They had prevented the 
Japanese 26th Division from going south 
along the eastern shore of the Camotes Sea 
and had held back the best the enemy had 
to offer. General Arnold desired that the 7th 
Division push through the enemy lines with 
two regiments abreast toward Ormoc. The 
tired 32d Infantry was to be drawn back 
and replaced by the 184th and 17th Infan 
try Regiments. 

On 28 November, after receiving orders 
from General Arnold, the commanding offi 
cer of the 184th Infantry, Col. Curtis D. 
O'Sullivan, outlined to his battalion com 
manders the new roles they were to play. 
The 184th Infantry was to relieve the 32d 
Infantry and then attack to the front and 
cover the division's left sector. The 1st Bat 
talion of the regiment was to relieve Com 
pany F, 3 2d Infantry, from the beach inland 
to a clump of trees held by the enemy 600 
yards inland. Parts of Companies A and C 
were already at the edge of the grove. The 
2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, with the 57th 
Field Artillery Battalion in direct support, 
was to relieve Companies G and E of the 
32d Infantry, tie in with Company L of the 
32d Infantry, and attack in the direction of 
Hill 918. The 3d Battalion, in regimental 
reserve, was to take a position in San Agus- 
tin. The 32d Infantry was to fall back to 
Tinagan. 59 At 1700 the 2d Battalion, 184th 

88 7th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 40, 28 Nov 44. 

89 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 1200, 28 Nov 44. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



265 



Infantry, relieved the 2d Battalion, 32d 
Infantry, at Damulaan. 40 

At 1945 on 28 November elements of the 
26th Division attacked from the southeast 
and northeast the right flank of Company 
A, 184th Infantry, at the bamboo thicket 
and pushed it back fifty yards. Battery B, 
57th Field Artillery Battalion, fired at the 
southern point of the enemy infiltration and 
also 100 yards to the west. 41 The Japanese 
attack was stopped, and the 1st Battalion 
held fast and dug in. 42 

Company E, 2d Battalion, hurriedly 
moved into a position from which, if re 
quested, it could support the 1st Battalion. 
The 81 -mm. mortar section of the 2d Bat 
talion was prepared to place fire in front of 
the zone of Company A, and two platoons 
from Company G were in position to fill a 
gap existing between the 1st and 2d Bat 
talions. 43 By 2045 the 3d Battalion, 32d In 
fantry, and the 2d and 1st Battalions, 184th 
Infantry, were on a line from right to left. 44 
The night was quiet except for sounds of 
enemy activity in front of the 2d Battalion. 45 

At 0900 on 29 November Company A 
of the 1st Battalion and Company F of the 
2d Battalion, after a mortar barrage, at 
tacked to retake the lost ground and to over 
run the Japanese position in the bamboo 
thicket. They regained the ground without 
opposition, but as the troops approached 
the thicket they met strong resistance. For 
the rest of the day the battle seesawed back 
and forth as elements of the 184th Infantry 



184th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. Unless other 
wise stated the material on the 184th Infantry is 
based on this operations report of the regiment. 

41 1 84th Inf Unit Jnl, 2005, 28 Nov 44. 

* 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 2045, 28 Nov 44. 

43 Msg, S-3 2d Bn to 184th Inf, 2010, 28 Nov 44, 
184th Inf Unit Jnl, 28 Nov 44. 

44 Msg, GO 184th Inf to CG 7th Div, 2045, 28 
Nov 44, 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 28 Nov 44. 

45 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 0125, 29 Nov 44. 



and the 26th Division contested for control 
of "Bloody Bamboo Thicket, 33 as it came to 
be called. Between 1820 and 1920, Com 
pany A repulsed three heavy enemy attacks 
and killed an estimated fifty to eighty 
Japanese. 46 At 1800 Companies A and F 
made a co-ordinated but unsuccessful attack 
against the Japanese. They dug in for the 
night in positions from which they success 
fully withstood enemy attacks. 47 

The following morning both battalions 
sent patrols to scout out the strength and 
installations of the enemy. At 1045 Com 
pany A, which had been in action for several 
days, was relieved by Company C and 
moved to the old position of the latter. 48 
At 1400, after a ten-minute artillery prepa 
ration, Company C and two platoons from 
Company F on its right were to move out 
toward a ridge 150 yards north in order to 
strengthen the lines and secure positions on 
the commanding terrain part of which was 
the bamboo thicket over which Company A 
and the enemy had fought. 

The companies moved out on time and 
met little resistance until they had pene 
trated twenty to thirty yards into the thicket, 
when the enemy strongly opposed any fur 
ther advance. The troops of the 184th In 
fantry, however, steadily pushed on, and by 
1603 Company C, with the platoons from 
Company F just behind it, had cleared the 
bamboo thicket. Since the line of Company 
G extended over a wide front, it was tight 
ened and shortened and tied into Company 
B. By 1730 the troops of Companies C and 
F had consolidated their positions and 
formed a night perimeter on the forward 
slope of the ridge. 49 Shoestring Ridge was 
firmly in American hands. 

46 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 2020, 29 Nov 44. 

47 184th Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt 42, 30 Nov 44. 
48 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 30 Nov 44. 



266 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Battles of the Hills 

The attempts of the 26th Division to drive 
the Americans back had been checked, but 
the front lines remained practically the same 
as they had been at the outset of the battle 
for Shoestring Ridge. It had become appar 
ent that the most one regiment could do was 
to conduct a holding action and that if the 
7th Division was to continue the advance it 
would be necessary to commit a stronger 
force against the Japanese. Elements of the 
26th Division were by now firmly ensconced 
in the hills that overlooked Highway 2 and 
were in a position to contest bitterly any for 
ward movement of the 7th Division. 

A series of sharply edged ridges with many 
spurs, heavily overgrown with bamboo 
thickets and high cogon grass, rose from the 
coastal plain to the central mountain range. 
(Map 17} One of these, Hill 918, was espe 
cially important tactically, since from it 
one could observe the entire coast to the 
south, and as far as Ormoc to the north. 
About four fifths of a mile northeast of Hill 
918 was the barrio of Kang Dagit, and about 
one and a half miles north of the hill was 
Kang Cainto. 50 Other important high points 
were Hill 380, between the Palanas and 
Tabgas Rivers and about one and a third 
miles east of Balogo on Highway 2, and Hill 
606, between the Tabgas River and Calin- 
gatngan Creek and approximately one and 
a third miles east of Calingatngan on High 
way 2. 

General Arnold wished to attack north 
with two regiments abreast. He therefore 
ordered Colonel O'Sullivan to send out a 
strong patrol to the front of the 184th In 
fantry but not to attempt any advance until 
the 17th Infantry could arrive from the east 

50 Cainto is also known as Caintic, The Army 
spelling, Cainto, \viU be followed here. 



coast. On 3 December, when most of the 
17th Infantry had reached the west coast. 
General Arnold called a meeting of his regi 
mental commanders. He told them that the 
7th Division was to renew the attack north 
at 0800 on 5 December with regiments 
abreast, the 1 7th Infantry on the right and 
the 184th Infantry on the left, and secure 
the Talisayan River about three and a half 
miles north, together with the intervening 
enemy positions on Hills 918, 380, and 606. 
The boundary between the regiments was to 
be roughly 2,000 yards from the beach. 51 
At this time the front-line units of the 26th 
Division, which had been occupying a hill 
about two miles northwest of Damulaan, 
withdrew to the Palanas River and a hill 
northeast of the river. A battalion of the 26th 
Division was on the western slope of a hill 
north of the river. 52 

On 4 December the 184th Infantry pre 
pared for the attack and sent patrols from 
the 1st and 2d Battalions to the front. These 
patrols penetrated as far north as Balogo. 
The 1 7th Infantry spent the day in moving 
forward the various elements of the regi 
ment. 53 By nightfall the units of the 7th 
Division were in readiness for the offensive 
which was to start the following morning. 

Hill 918 

On 4 December General Arnold ordered 
Lt. Col. O'Neill K. Kane to move the tanks 
of the 776th Amphibian Tank Battalion by 
water under cover of darkness to a position 
1 ,000 yards at sea to the west of Balogo, the 
next coastal town, about a mile to the north 

51 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 3 Dec 44. 

52 35th Army Opus, p. 91. 

TO 17th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex B, The Battle 
of the Ridgelines, p. 1. Unless otherwise stated, the 
part played by the 17th Infantry during this en 
gagement is based upon the above report, pp. 1-9. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 

of the front lines. The tanks at dawn on the 
5th were to assault the beaches in that vicin 
ity and fire on the town and on the north 
slopes of hills and ravines in the area. These 
movements of the tank battalion were to be 
closely co-ordinated with the 184th and 17th 
Infantry Regiments, into whose areas the 
attack was to be made. 

At 0635 on the 5th, the tank battalion in 
a column formation started to move north 
over water. The tanks ^advanced toward Ba- 
logo until they were 'at a point offshore 
about 200 yards from the town. They then 
continued north in a column formation and 
fired into the town of Tabgas. At the mouth 
of the Tabgas River, just short of Tabgas, 
the tanks attacked in line formation. Moving 
ashore at 0700, they sent approximately 
2,550 rounds of 7 5 -mm. ammunition in 
direct fire against the northern slopes of the 
hills that confronted the 7th Division. 

The tanks completed their mission, took 
to the water again, and headed north for a 
mile to reconnoiter the area around Cali- 
ngatngan. They then turned south and start 
ed for the bivouac area. On the return, 
Colonel Kane, elated over the success of 
their previous landing and wishing to use up 
the remaining ammunition, ordered the 
tanks to land 500 yards south of the Tabgas 
River. From here the tanks fired and then 
withdrew unhindered by enemy fire. At 
1045 they were back in their bivouac area. 54 

At 0800 on 5 December the 184th and 
1 7th Infantry Regiments moved out with the 
184th Infantry on the left. The 1st Bat 
talion, 184th Infantry, on the extreme left, 
reached the Palanas River without incident 
and without having to fire a single shot. 55 

. w Armor on Leyte, a research rpt prepared by 
Committee 16, Officers Advanced Course, The Ar 
mored School, 1948-49, Ft. Knox, Ky. } May 1949, 
pp. 89-91, copy in OCMH. 

55 184th Inf. Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7. 



267 

The Japanese historians, however, claimed 
that one of the amphibian tanks was set on 
fire and that the 2d Battalion, 12th Inde 
pendent Infantry Regiment, repulsed the 
advance of the 184th Infantry. 56 

There were numerous finger ridges inland 
\vhich were cut by deep ravines and gorges 
that came to within a few hundred yards 
of the coast line. The entrenched Japanese, 
using reverse slope tactics, were able to de 
liver deadly fire on the advancing infantry. 
In many cases the reverse slopes were so 
steep that effective artillery fire could not 
be placed upon them. 57 The 2d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, moved forward slowly to 
ward a small hill which faced the Palanas 
River, and at 0858 it encountered enemy 
small arms fire from the western slope of the 
hill. Using grenades, the battalion pushed 
forward, but at 0938 the Japanese opened 
up with three light machine guns. The sup 
porting weapons of the 2d Battalion fired 
on the enemy positions to the front. At 1 037, 
as the battalion reached the military crest 
of the hill, the Japanese launched a small 
counterattack on the left flank of Company 
E. This attack was repulsed, but the com 
panies continued to receive small arms and 
machine gun fire. 

At 1325 the 1st Battalion renewed its ad 
vance and proceeded without incident, find 
ing the situation "very quiet" to its front. 
At 1435 the battalion dug in for the night 
approximately 300 yards south of Balogo. 5S 
The 3d Battalion moved through the gap be 
tween the 1st and 2d Battalions and across 
the front of the 2d Battalion on the right 
toward Hill 380, which consisted of a series 
of ridges. As the 3d Battalion advanced to 
ward the hill, it came under machine gun 



' 35th Army Opns, p. 93. 

1 Armor on Leyte, p. 89. 

1 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 5 Dec 44. 



268 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



fire on each flank. With artillery support, 
the troops reached the top of the second 
ridge of Hill 380 and dug in, nine of the men 
having been wounded. 59 At 1635 the bat 
talions of the 184th Infantry received or 
ders to set up night defense positions in 
depth and to hold the "positions at all 
costs." 60 Colonel O'Sullivan decided that 
the 3d Battalion was to bear the brunt of the 
advance of the 184th Infantry on 6 Decem 
ber and push on to Hill 380. 61 

On the right of the 184th the 17th In 
fantry had had a busy day in working 
toward its objective, Hill 918. At 0800 on 
5 December the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 
17th Infantry, with the 1st Battalion on the 
left, had moved through the 32d Infantry. 
At 0906 the advance elements of the 1st 
Battalion secured a ridge south of the main 
ridge leading from Hill 918, and at 1000 
the entire battalion closed on this ridge. In 
the face of sporadic rifle and machine gun 
fire, the leading platoons pushed forward to 
secure a ridge that led west from Hill 918. 
As the advance platoons neared the crest of 
this ridge, they received intense rifle, ma 
chine gun, and mortar fire to the front and 
on both flanks from the 2d Battalion, 12th 
Independent Infantry Regiment. At the 
same time the rest of the battalion, in at 
tempting to reach a forward ridge and sup 
port the leading platoons, also encountered 
cross fire that came down the intervening 
draw. As enemy gunfire pinned down the 
troops, the 1st Battalion lost contact with 
Company G, 2d Battalion, and a gap de 
veloped between the 1st and 2d Battalions. 

The 12th Independent Infantry Regi 
ment, quickly alert to exploit this opportu 
nity to drive a wedge between the two 

"Ibid. 
*Ibid. 

"Ibid. 



forces, threw approximately a company 
armed with machine guns and mortars into 
the gap. Although they did not penetrate 
completely, the enemy troops were able to 
secure a position which would make any 
forward movement of the 1st Battalion very 
costly. The 1st Platoon of Company B and 
the 3d Platoon of Company A were still out 
on the forward ridge and cut off from the 
rest of the battalion. The reserve platoon of 
Company A tried an envelopment around 
the right flank of the 1st Battalion but was 
stopped by the enemy in the gap. Company 
C moved up to protect the rear of Company 
A. Eventually the forward platoons with 
drew to the battalion lines and preparations 
were made for the night. Under cover of 
darkness the 1st Battalion reorganized and 
moved into positions on top of the first 
ridge. 62 

Earlier that day the 2d Battalion had 
driven forward with Company E on the 
right and Company G on the left. Company 
E went east along the Bucan River for ap 
proximately 1,000 yards and then turned 
northeast to ascend Hill 918. At first, how 
ever, the company had to secure a small 
ridge southwest of Hill 918 on which was 
a small but dense banana grove. Company 
E encountered and destroyed a small enemy 
force on this ridge, after which the company 
reorganized and at approximately 1300 be 
gan to ascend Hill 918 itself. When Com 
pany E reached the military crest of the hill, 
the Japanese began heavy firing with gre 
nade launchers and at least three machine 
guns. The enemy fire swept the crest of the 
hill and prevented any movement over the 
lip of the ridge. 

Meanwhile., Company G went to the left 
of Company E and secured a small ridge 
about 1,200 yards from the line of departure 

1 7th Inf Unit Jnl, 5 Dec 44. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



269 



and west of Hill 918. The advance platoon 
of Company G then received fire from auto 
matic weapons that were emplaced in a 
draw to the left front of the platoon. The 
rest of the company attempted to move 
around to the right of the ridge but also en 
countered automatic weapons fire coming 
from another draw 7 . Since high cogon grass 
covered the area, observation was limited 
to a matter of inches. At about 1300, ele 
ments of the 13th Independent Infantry 
Regiment counterattacked through a gap 
between Company G and Company A of the 
1st Battalion. A machine gun platoon, 
which was thrown in to plug the gap, suc 
ceeded in stopping the attempted Japanese 
advance. 

Company G, however, continued to be 
pinned down by the enemy fire directed at 
its front. Company F, the reserve company, 
was then committed to take a position be 
tween G and E Companies. Its mission was 
to come abreast of Company E, take Hill 
918, and then turn west and wipe out the 
resistance in front of Company G. At 1415 
Company F moved up Hill 9 1 8 and reached 
Company E without opposition. 

Three spurs led down from Hill 918. The 
one occupied by Company E ran southwest, 
that occupied by Company F ran west, and 
the third ran northwest. As the two com 
manders started to launch a co-ordinated 
assault from their respective spurs, their 
companies received a concentration of about 
fifty rounds of rnortar fire but pushed 
through this fire and secured the crests of 
both spurs. They immediately came under 
automatic weapons and rifle fire from the 
northwest ridge. 

Since the left flank of Company F was in 
the tall cogon grass, it was practically im 
possible for the company to observe the 
enemy. On the other hand, Company E 



w*as on bare and open ground which ex 
posed it to machine gun and mortar fire 
from Hill 918. Both companies also came 
under long-range machine gun fire from the 
vicinity of Kang Dagit, northeast of Hill 
918. It was impractical to attempt an en 
velopment to the right, since the flank of 
Company E rested on a deep ravine which 
ran to the bed of the Bagan River. An en 
velopment to the left would have necessi 
tated going down the hill, circling behind 
Company G, and attacking east from the 
positions of the 1st Battalion. Because of 
these unfavorable conditions, Companies E 
and F with their wounded withdrew to 
make a line with Company G. 63 

In support of the advance of the 17th 
Infantry, the 49th Field Artillery Battalion 
fired 577 rounds of ammunition during the 
day. The fires "varied from knocking out 
machine guns to fire on mortars and on 
troops in the open." ** The 17th Infantry 
had forced the 1st Battalion, 12th Inde 
pendent Infantry Regiment, to start with 
drawal to a hill farther north. At the same 
time, Japanese engineer and artillery units 
at Albuera "were erecting anti-landing 
obstacles along the beach and putting up 
antitank defenses." ** 

At the end of 5 December the 17th In 
fantry had secured the ridge west of Hill 918 
and the 184th Infantry had secured a line 
extending from the beach 300 yards south 
of Balogo east to the high ground southeast 
of the Palanas River. Company K, 32d In 
fantry, had filled a gap that had existed 
between the 17th and 184th Infantry Regi 
ments, while the 3d Battalion, 184th In 
fantry, had crossed the Palanas River and, 
advancing up the southwest slope of Hill 



9 Ibid. 

* 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 13. 

5 35th Army Opns, p. 93. 



270 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



380, reached the top of the first ridge. There 
were no enemy attacks during the night, 

Hill 380 

General Arnold ordered the regiments to 
capture all of Hill 9 1 8 3 the northern slope of 
Hill 380, and the Palanas River valley. The 
1st and 2d Battalions, 17th Infantry, aided 
by the 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, were to 
move northeast until their front lines were 
on an east-west line south of the Palanas 
River. They were then to launch an attack 
to the north and capture the slope of Hill 
380 in their zone of action. The 3d Battalion, 
1 7th Infantry, was to attack to the north on 
the eastern slope of Hill 918 and capture the 
slope of Hill 380 in its-zone of action. The 
184th Infantry was to capture the northern 
slope of Hill 380 and assist the 17th In 
fantry in its movement north. 66 

The 184th Infantry started out at 0800 
on 6 December with the 1st Battalion on 
the left and the 3d Battalion on the right. 
Supported by eight tanks, the 1st Battalion 
pushed through rifle fire, moved into Ba 
logo, and cleared the town. The battalion 
commander then ordered Company B to 
seize a ridge just east of Balogo. Though the 
company temporarily secured the ridge, at 
1155 the Japanese drove the men off. At 
1210 artillery and mortar fire was placed 
against the Japanese positions on the ridge. 
As soon as the supporting fire lifted, at 1305, 
Company B sent a platoon through Com 
pany K to hit the ridge from the right flank. 57 
Company B secured the ridge at 1510 but 
fifty yards farther north on the southern 
slope of the next ridge strong elements of the 
26th Division had dug in, making it impos 
sible for the troops to move forward. Before 



the jump-off of the 3d Battalion, 184th In 
fantry, a platoon from Company K secured 
the first ridge north of the battalion position. 
At 1000 the rest of the battalion reached 
the top of Hill 380 and secured an enemy 
field artillery observation post from which 
it could see enemy activity in a deep valley 
north of Hill 380. Elements of the 26th Divi 
sion set up machine guns and delivered mor 
tar and artillery fire on Hill 380 throughout 
the afternoon. 68 The 1st and 3d Battalions, 
1 84th Infantry, covered by mortar and ar 
tillery fire, set up night perimeters, the latter 
on Hill 380 and the former on the ridge east 
of Balogo. The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, 
remained in the Palanas River valley 
throughout the day. 

The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 17th In 
fantry jumped off abreast. The 1st Battalion 
reached the ridge which led west from Hill 
918 and overlooked the Palanas River, 
where it found strong enemy positions that 
had been abandoned. While the 1st Bat 
talion reorganized, advance platoons, one 
each from Companies B and C, went across 
the Palanas River to the next ridge, which 
overlooked the Tabgas River. The 1st Bat 
talion, in conjunction with the 2d Battalion, 
184th Infantry, followed the platoons at a 
distance of about 500 yards. Company B 
moved behind a "protective nose" which led 
south from the main ridge and Company C 
pushed "a knife edge east of Company B." 69 
As Company C reached a point just short 
of the main ridge, the men moved in single 
file and were pinned down by heavy ma 
chine gun cross fire from both flanks and to 
their front. Company B, attempting to en 
velop the entrenched enemy from the west, 



' 1 84th Inf FOB, 5 Dec 44. 
1 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 



68 184th Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt 48, 6 Dec 44; 7th 
Div G-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 

* 17th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex B 3 The Battle 
of the Ridgelines, p. 4. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 

encountered heavy fire on its left front, 
which made any envelopment in that direc 
tion impossible. At 1500 a strong column of 
the enemy counterattacked the left flank of 
Company C, but six machine guns from 
Company D broke up the enemy attack. 
The 1st Battalion dug in for the night half 
way up Hill 380. 70 

Meanwhile, at 0800, the 2d Battalion, 
1 7th Infantry, had started for Hill 918. The 
49th Field Artillery Battalion established a 
smoke screen on the hill to cover the ad 
vance of the infantry, 71 and at 1100 Com 
pany E reached the crest of the hill, A patrol 
located a trail that led down to the Palanas 
River. As Company E moved down this 
trail. Company G, though under machine 
gun fire, pushed straight ahead through the 
saddle to its front. 72 By 1715 all elements 
of the 2d Battalion had reached the Palanas 
River and were moving left to establish con 
tact with the 1st Battalion. From dug-in po 
sitions in the dense bamboo thickets on the 
northern bank of the river, the Japanese 
opened fire upon the 2d Battalion. Nothing 
serious developed, however, and the troops 
formed their night perimeters. The elements 
of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 17th Infantry, 
were now in contact on a line along the 
Palanas River. 73 

The 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, swung 
to the extreme right towards Kang Dagit 
and Kang Cainto in order to hit Hill 380 
from the east, but it was hampered by 
ravines two to three hundred feet deep. 
Though the advance was very slow, the 3d 
Battalion in a column of companies with 

70 1 7th Inf Unit Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 
71 49th FA Bn Opus Rpt Leyte, p. 13. 
ra 32d Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt, no number, 6 Dec 
44 ; 7th Div G-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 
13 1 7th Inf Unit Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 

260317 O 54 19 



271 

Company L in the lead was able to reach 
Kang Dagit where it closed for the night. 74 

At the end of the day the 7th Division 
had secured the barrio of Balogo, had over 
run Hill 918 and occupied Kang Dagit, and 
had established elements of the division on 
the banks of the Palanas River and on part 
of Hill 380. 

The night of 6-7 December was quiet. 
General Arnold ordered the 7th Division 
to attack north at 0800 on 7 December and 
secure Hills 380 and 606. The 184th In 
fantry was to capture the high ground south 
of the Tabgas River. 75 Colonel Pachler 
ordered the 17th Infantry, with its 1st Bat 
talion on the left and its 2d Battalion on the 
right, to attack north to secure the portion 
of Hills 380 and 606 in its sector. The 3d 
Battalion, 1 7th Infantry, was to secure Kang 
Cainto and to be prepared to attack Hill 
380 from the east or to continue north. At 
0630 patrols went out to make reconnais 
sance and determine the enemy strength and 
dispositions to their front. 76 

At 0913 the 184th Infantry moved out. 
It met little opposition, and at 1 643 the regi 
ment reached the high ground overlooking 
the Tabgas River and dug in for the night. 77 

At dawn the 17th Infantry sent out pa 
trols. The one from the 1st Battalion located 
an enemy heavy machine gun, two light ma 
chine guns, and a mortar, emplaced 150 
yards from the battalion's lines. When the 
patrol returned, mortar fire was placed on 
the position and it was wiped out. The 1st 
Battalion moved out at approximately 0900. 
Though long-range fire fell on the troops 
and small arms fire hit the left flank of Com- 



"Ibid. 

75 184th Inf FO C, 6 Dec 44. 

76 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 

'"Ibid. 



272 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



pany C, the men continued to push forward. 
The battalion found several ridges leading 
up Hill 380 a knifelike ridge in front of 
Company C and a double ridge in the form 
of a horseshoe, with its closed end toward 
the hill, in front of Company B. 

Company B moved across the double 
ridge while Company C forced its passage 
through machine gun and rifle fire across the 
closed part of the horseshoe. At 1600 the 
two companies re-established contact on the 
northernmost ridge leading to Hill 380. At 
1630 the Japanese with machine guns 
launched a counterattack against the right 
flank of the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, 
and the left flank of the 1st Battalion, 17th 
Infantry. The 3d Battalion, 184th, was 
pinned down but did not yield any ground. 
The troops on the front lines of the 1st Bat 
talion, 17th Infantry, at first were forced 
back slightly but in a few minutes regained 
the lost ground. They dug in for the night 
on the crest of the ridge/ 8 

After its dawn patrols had reported on 7 
December, the 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, 
jumped off to the attack. Company E 
secured the first of the three spurs leading 
from Hill 380, and continued forward to the 
middle spur in the face of light fire that 
came from in front of the company in the 
area the 17th Infantry wished to secure. 
Presently the fire grew to considerable in 
tensity and the company's section of light 
machine guns and two platoons of heavy 
machine guns moved onto the middle spur, 
where they neutralized the enemy position. 

While this action was going on. Com 
panies G and F moved to the first spur. 
Company G received orders from the bat 
talion commander to make a wide envelop- 

78 1 7th Inf Unit Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 



ment of Hill 380 and then assault the hill 
from the east. At 0930 the company 
dropped below the military crest of the 
southern slope of Hill 380 unobserved and 
made its way very 7 slowly over the steep ter 
rain and through the thick cogon grass. At 
1200 the 49th Field Artillery Battalion laid 
a five-minute preparatory fire in front of 
the battalion. 79 The American troops then 
routed the surprised Japanese defenders and 
killed the majority of them as the others fled 
into the mountains northeast of the hill. 

Apparently realizing that Hill 380 was 
the key to defense of the Tabgas River valley 
and Hill 606, troops of the 26th Division 
poured long-range machine gun fire from 
Hill 606 into Company G and at the same 
time halted the company with small arms 
fire from the immediate left along the ridge. 
At 1355, after a heavy mortar barrage, 
about fifty men from the 26th Division 
counterattacked the positions of Company 
G, but the company held firm and mowed 
down the attackers with fire from its rifles 
and automatic weapons. The position on the 
hill was maintained. 

Although Company G occupied the top 
of Hill 380, it was not in a position to aid 
the advance of Company E. The Japanese 
troops were dug in on the reverse slopes and 
could only be rooted out by close-in fighting. 
The commanding officer of the 2d Battalion 
committed Company F down the main spur 
from the east, supported by Companies E 
and G and the machine guns from Com 
pany H. As soon as Company F started 
down the ridge, the enemy concentrated 
fire upon it both from the north and the 
west. In a matter of minutes Company F 
was reduced to a point where the number 



re 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 13. 



BATTLE OF THE RIDGES 



273 



of its riflemen hardly equaled one platoon. 
The company commander secured an addi 
tional platoon from Company G and re 
newed the assault behind a concentration of 
100 rounds of 60-mm. mortar fire and 80 
rounds of 81 -mm. mortar fire. The attack 
succeeded, and the enemy force was over 
run and annihilated. Company E thereupon 
moved to the main ridge and helped mop 
up the area. 80 

At 0700 the 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, 
moved out, reaching the source of the 
Palanas River at 1400. An enemy force of 
about fifty men was observed in a natural 
bowl to its immediate front. The battalion 
placed long-range rifle and machine gun fire 
on the group as two platoons from Com 
pany K attacked from the flank. They 
destroyed the entire Japanese force without 
any casualties to the American troops. The 
3d Battalion then crossed the Palanas River 
and went into night perimeter at Kang 
Cainto. At 1907 eight rounds of artillery 
fire fell into the area, killing seven men and 
wounding eighteen others. 81 

At the end of the day the 184th Infantry 
was on the banks of the Tabgas River and 



1 7th Inf Unit Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 



the 17th Infantry had secured Hill 380, 
which commanded the Tabgas River valley. 

Although several days of hard going still 
lay ahead before the 7th Division was to 
reach its objective, the Talisayan River, the 
backbone of the Japanese resistance had 
been broken and the Battle of the Ridges 
was virtually won. The division had 
achieved what the Japanese had considered 
impossible. It had pushed through Leyte 
over the tortuous mountain road between 
Abuyog and Baybay, it had held the enemy 
back at Shoestring Ridge, and it had then 
pushed north along the shores of Ormoc 
Bay toward Ormoc, decimating the right 
flank detachment of the 26th Division in the 
process. General Suzuki had been forced to 
send south much of his tactical strength, 
which was to have been used for the defense 
of Ormoc. The 7th Division had assisted in 
no small way in tightening the ever-shorten 
ing noose about the Japanese who remained 
on the island. 

On this day, 7 December, the 77th Di 
vision landed at Deposito just below Ormoc. 
The 26th Division was caught between two 
strong American divisions. It was doomed. 
At this point the action of the 7th Division 
merged with that of the 77th Division in the 
drive of the XXIV Corps against Ormoc. 




SITUATION ON LEYTE 

7 December 1944 

iiiiiiinii FRONT LIME 

JAPANESE ATTACK 
JAPANESE UNITS 



\ j 



(O MILES 



5 5 10 KILOMETERS 



fiDamon 



MAP 18 



CHAPTER XVI 



The Fall of Ormoc 



It was a time for decision. By the first of 
December the two adversaries had taken the 
measure of each other, but neither felt satis 
fied with the progress of the campaign. 

The tide of battle was slowly turning 
against the Japanese. They had wagered 
major stakes that the battle of Leyte should 
be the decisive one of the Philippines. Some 
way, somehow, the Japanese felt, they must 
regain the initiative or Leyte, for which so 
much had been sacrificed, would be lost to 
them. The days had dwindled to a precious 
few. 

Imperial General Headquarters was loath 
to write off the Leyte Campaign. A daring 
plan was conceived whereby the ground and 
air forces, working in close co-ordination, 
would attempt to wrest the initiative from 
General Krueger's forces. Before the main 
effort, suicide aircraft carrying demolition 
teams were to crash-land on the Dulag and 
Tacloban airstrips and render them unfit 
for use. Thereafter, the 2d Raiding Group of 
the 4th Air Army would transport two para- 
troop companies to the Burauen airfields. 
The paratroops in conjunction with ele 
ments of the 35th Army, including the 26th 
Division, would then seize the Burauen air 
fields. The time was to be the evening of 5 
December. With the loss of the airfields, the 
U. S. Sixth Army, it was hoped, would be 
in a perilous situation. 1 



'Japanese Studies in World War II, 7, 14th 
Area Army Opns Leyte, pp. 10-13, OCMH. 



General Krueger was also making plans. 
By the middle of November strong elements 
of the Sixth Army were trying to force their 
way into the Ormoc Valley and others were 
on the eastern shore of Ormoc Bay. The 
plan of General Krueger was simple. He 
wanted to secure control of the valley and 
the port of Ormoc and thus force the Japa 
nese into the mountains near the western 
coast, from which they could escape only by 
sea. 

At this time the XXIV Corps was with 
difficulty driving west and north from the 
center of the island. The 96th Division was 
engaged in mopping up in the mountains 
overlooking Leyte Valley. Units of the 7th 
Division, far to the south, were moving west 
ward toward Baybay on the shore of the 
Camotes Sea. The 1st Cavalry Division and 
the 24th and 32d Infantry Divisions of the 
X Corps were making slow progress in driv 
ing down the Ormoc corridor from the 
Limon-Pinamopoan Carigara area. 

Several courses of action were now open 
to General Krueger. He could concentrate 
on the drive of the 32d Infantry Division 
and the 1st Cavalry Division south down 
the Ormoc corridor, or on the advance of 
the 7th Division north along the coast of 
Ormoc Bay from Baybay to Ormoc. A third 
course also presented itself. An amphibious 
overwater movement might be attempted by 
landing troops just below Ormoc in the 
midst of the enemy force, thus dividing the 



276 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Japanese strength. After landing, the troops 
could push north, seize Ormoc, and then 
drive up the Ormoc corridor and effect a 
juncture with elements of the X Corps. This 
move, though highly hazardous, would con 
siderably shorten the Leyte Campaign if suc 
cessfully carried out. 

In mid-November, therefore, General 
Knieger proposed that an amphibious 
movement and a landing at a point just be 
low Ormoc be made. At that time, however, 
the naval forces did not have the necessary 
assault and resupply shipping on hand to 
mount and maintain such an operation and 
to execute as well the Mindoro operation 
scheduled for 5 December. Since there was 
insufficient air support, the local naval com 
mander felt that a convoy entering Ormoc 
Bay might be in jeopardy and that Japanese 
suicide bombing tactics could cause heavy 
losses. Unable to secure the necessary assault 
shipping,, General Krueger temporarily set 
aside his plan. 2 

Plan for Amphibious Movement 

On 30 November General MacArthur 
postponed for ten days the Mindoro opera 
tion. 3 The postponement would make avail 
able the amphibious shipping and naval sup 
port that were necessary for a landing in the 
Ormoc area. From a naval point of view, 
however, the operation was very precarious, 
since the Japanese were still making aerial 
attacks that could seriously damage the ship 
ping needed for the forthcoming Mindoro 
and Luzon operations. After careful consid 
eration of the risks involved. Admiral Kin- 
kaid decided to make available to General 
Krueger the shipping required for an am- 

2 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 62. 
* Rad, CINGSWPA to AGWAR. CM-IN 2966, 
30 Nov 44. 



phibious movement to a point below 
Ormoc. 4 

After issuing a warning order on 1 De 
cember, General Krueger on 4 December 
ordered the two corps to make their "main 
effort," starting 5 December, toward the 
defeat of the enemy forces in the Ormoc 
area. The X Corps was to advance "vigor 
ously south astride Highway 2 so as to sup 
port the effort made by the ... XXIV 
Corps." The commanding general of the 
XXIV Corps was to arrange with the com 
mander of the naval task group for the 
shipping and naval gunfire support neces 
sary to transport and land a division just 
below Ormoc. General Hodge, also, was to 
arrange with the commanding general of the 
Fifth Air Force for close air support for the 
landing and subsequent operations ashore. 5 
The 77th Division was selected to make the 
amphibious movement to the Ormoc area. 

In planning for the Leyte operation the 
Sixth Army had designated Maj. Gen. 
Andrew D. Brace's 77th Infantry Division, 
then on Guam, as the second of its two re 
serve divisions. As a result of the successes 
in the first days of the campaign, however, 
General MacArthur thought it would not 
be necessary to use the division on Leyte. 
On 29 October, without General Krueger's 
concurrence, General MacArthur trans 
ferred control of the division from General 
Krueger to Admiral Nimitz, Commander 
in Chief, Pacific Ocean Area. 6 Shortly 
afterward the Japanese began their rein 
forcements of Leyte and a captured Japa- 



* Sixth Army Opns Rpt, pp. 69-70. 
5 Sixth Army FO 36, 4 Dec 44. 

* Rad, MacArthur to Halsey, Nimitz, and Krueger, 
GM-IN 29353, 29 Oct 44. General Krueger later 
wrote: "The 77th Division was actually taken away 
from me without my knowledge and I complained 
about it" Ltr, Gen Krueger to Gen Ward, 1 3 Aug 
51, OCMH. 



THE FALL OF ORMOC 



277 



nese field order revealed that an all-out 
offensive would be launched against the 
Americans in the middle of November. 
These developments led General MacArthur 
to request Admiral Nimitz to divert the 77th 
Division, which was on its way to New 
Caledonia, to the Tacoloban area on Leyte. 7 
Admiral Nimitz acquiesced and told Gen 
eral MacArthur that the division was being 
sent to Manus. After its arrival there, opera 
tional control over it would pass to General 
MacArthur. 8 

Upon arrival of the 77th Division at 
Seeadler Harbor on Manus at 1330, 15 No 
vember, General MacArthur ordered it to 
go to Leyte and come under the control of 
General Krueger. 9 After the ships 3 stores had 
been replenished, the convoy sailed out of 
the anchorage at 1700, 17 November, and 
made the voyage to Leyte without inci 
dent. 10 The units commenced landing on the 
eastern shores of Leyte in the vicinity of 
Tarragona and Dulag about 1800, 23 No 
vember, and came under the control of Gen 
eral Krueger who assigned the division to 
General Hodge. From 23 to 25 November 
it was engaged in unloading the transports 
and establishing bivouac areas. 

On 19 November, while it was still at sea, 
General Krueger had ordered the 77th Di 
vision to furnish immediately after landing 
a ship-unloading detail of about 1,200 men 
for the projected operation at Mindoro. 11 
At 1600 on 27 November the detail, a bat- 



7 Rad, MacArthur to Nimitz, CM-IN 10478, 10 
Nov 44. 

8 Rad, Nimitz to MacArthur, CM-IN 10683" 10 
Nov 44. 

9 Rad, GHQ to Gorndr Allied Naval Forces, GX 
52239, 16 Nov 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 17 Nov 44. 

19 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. 

21 Memo, CofS XXIV Corps for G-3 XXIV 
Corps, 19 Nov 44, XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 23 Nov 
44. 



talion of the 306th Infantry, boarded LCI's 
at Tarragona Beach and departed for the 
staging area for the Mindoro operation. 

In conformity with General Krueger's 
plans. General Hodge ordered the 77th Divi 
sion to make preparations for the amphib 
ious operation below Ormoc. (Map 19} 
It was to be assisted by the 7th Division, 
which was to attack and capture the high 
ground south of the Panilahan River. Gen 
eral Bruce., once ashore, was to direct and 
co-ordinate the attack of the 7th Division 
with that of the 77th Division. 12 General 
Krueger informed General Hodge that he 
did not approve of this arrangement and 
added that such co-ordination as was neces 
sary should be exercised by Hodge as corps 
commander. 13 

At a point about three and a half miles 
southeast of Ormoc was the barrio of 
Deposito where the 77th Division was to 
land. Along the eastern shore of Ormoc 
Bay, south from Ormoc, there were many 
areas which offered suitable landing 
beaches. These were crossed by numerous 
rivers and streams which discharged into 
Ormoc Bay. None of these would be a 
handicap, since all could be forded except 
during the monsoon season. The beach area 
selected, though narrow, was suitable for 
landing, having a surface of hard sand and 
gravel that could be used as a road by 
vehicles. 



32 XXIV Corps FO 33, 4 Dec 44. In a lecture 
delivered before the Command and General Staff 
College on 19 January 1951, General Bruce indi 
cated that his previous study of the Civil War was 
helpful in planning for the 77th Division's part in 
the operation: "May I suggest that you do not sell 
short the study of history. One does not parallel 
history, but the previous study of Jackson's Valley 
Campaign in friendly territory influenced the mind 
OCMH. 

B Ltr, Gen Krueger to Gen Ward, 13 Aug 51, 
of the Division Commander in this campaign. 33 



TO f VALENClA^J jt-TO DCfL&RES 

' ( \ I )( ' V 



SECURING 

THE SOUTHERN ENTRANCE 
TO ORMOC VALLEY 

7-15 December 1944 



AXIS OF ADVANCE 
FRONT LINE 




OfftfOC BAY 



R Jo 



MAP 19 



THE FALL OF ORMOG 



279 



The terrain was level for about a mile and 
a half inland from the beach, and then rose 
gradually to a height of twenty 1 to thirty 
feet. Half a mile farther inland, the moun 
tain slopes began. Highway 2, which was 
ten feet wide and composed of sand and 
gravel, ran along the entire length of the 
east coast of Ormoc Bay. Several roads ran 
from Highway 2 to the beach: one was 
about a hundred yards south of the Baod 
River and skirted the rice paddies in the 
middle of the landing beach area; another., 
just south of the rice paddies, extended 
inland about two miles from the beach. 14 

Naval Plans 

When the naval forces were informed 
that the overwater movement to Ormoc 
would take place and that the Mindoro 
operation was postponed, the shipping re 
served for the Mindoro operation was 
turned over to the Ormoc force. Rear Adm. 
Arthur D. Struble was given command of 
Task Group 78.3, which was to transport 
and land the 77th Division, together with its 
supplies and equipment, in the Ormoc Bay 
area and support the landing by naval 
gunfire. 15 

Admiral Struble divided his task group 
into six units, in addition to the destroyer 
which was his flagship. These consisted of: 
a Fast Transport Unit of eight transports; 
a Light Transport Unit of twenty-seven 
landing craft and twelve LSM's (medium 
landing ships) ; a Heavy Transport Unit of 

14 77th Div FO 13, App. 4 to Annex Baker; Allied 
Geographical Sec, GHQ SWPA, Terrain Study 84, 
Leyte Province, 1 7 Aug 44 ; Allied Geographical Sec, 
GHQ SWPA, Special Rpt 55, Airfields, Landing 
Beaches and Roads Samar, Leyte, and Dinagat 
Group, 10 Jul 44. 

15 Opn Plan Comdr Task Group 78.3, Attack 
Order Comphib Grp NINE, 5-44, 1 Dec 44. 



four LST's (tank landing ships) ; an Escort 
Unit of twelve destroyers; a Mine-Sweep 
ing Unit of nine mine sweepers and a 
transport; and a Control and Inshore Sup 
port Unit made up of four LCI(R)'s (in 
fantry rocket landing craft ) , two submarine 
chasers, and one tug. The landing was to be 
made between the Baod and Bagonbon 
Rivers but clear of the Bagonbon River 
delta. The northern half of the beach was 
called White I and the southern half White 
II. Six destroyers would bombard the land 
ing beaches. 

The line of departure was fixed at 2,000 
yards from the beach, but if the shore fire 
became heavy the line of departure would 
be moved back 1,000 yards. There would be 
five assault waves with two LCI ( R ) 5 s flank 
ing the first wave to the beach. Each craft 
would fire so as to cover the sector of the 
beach in its area to a depth of 600 yards. 
After completion of the bombardment the 
LCI(R)'s would reload and remain on the 
flanks to engage targets of opportunity. 

Air Support Plans 16 

The Fifth Air Force would provide both 
day and night air cover for the journey of 
the assault convoy to the target, for the land 
ings, and for the return convoy. It was esti 
mated that on 5 December, for the journey 
to the target, seventeen night fighter sorties 
and seventy-two day fighter sorties would be 
required. Protection would also be furnished 
by the bombers, and forty-six aircraft would 
be available on call for strikes against enemy 
installations and targets of opportunity, as 
well as for special missions. 

On the day of the landings, the tempo 
would be accelerated. There would be nine- 



16 Fifth Air Force Fighter Cover Plan for Ormoc 
Bay Opn, 731.326, AAF Hist Archives. 



280 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



teen night fighter sorties and ninety-six day 
fighter sorties; ten flights of forty bombers 
to cover the beachhead ; six flights of twenty- 
four bombers to cover the return of the 
assault convoy; and eleven night fighters to 
cover the LST and main assault convoys, 
the beachhead, and the return convoy. 
There would also be available sixteen bomb 
ers for interception or additional cover for 
the beachhead and convoy; twenty-four P- 
47 's for interception, ground support, and 
attacks against enemy shipping or targets of 
opportunity; sixteen P-40's for ground 
strikes; and thirty-four F4U's for cover or 
interception. 

The 77th Division continued to assemble 
its troops on Tarragona Beach, on the east 
coast of Leyte, and during the night of 5 
December the loading of supplies and 
equipment on the landing ships began. The 
loading was slowed by frequent air alerts. 
The division had previously been told that 
the convoy would be unable to stay in the 
landing area more than two hours and con 
sequently there was no attempt to bulk load 
supplies, since they would take too long to 
unload. All supplies and equipment to sup 
port the initial assault had to be mobile- 
loaded, that is, loaded on the vehicles taken 
with the division so that the supplies could 
be brought ashore in the vehicles upon de 
barkation. There were only 289 vehicles in 
the initial convoy, including tanks, M8's, 
and MIO's that could not carry supplies. 
TheLVT's {tracked landing vehicles) were 
filled with supplies rather than troops in 
order that they could be discharged from 
the landing ships into the water and go 
ashore fully loaded. Furthermore, since the 
supplies were mobile they could be moved 
either by water or inland by motor. 17 The 



77th Division gave the highest priority to 
ammunition, water, and rations. 

About 0700 on 6 December the assault 
shipping rendezvoused off Tarragona and 
Rizal Beaches, and one hour later the assault 
troops began to board the vessels. The load 
ing was completed at 1 200 and the convoy 
assembled offshore from Dulag to await the 
arrival of the twelve escorting destroyers. 

The Movement Overwater 
The Convoy Sails 

Two mine sweepers swept the Canigao 
Channel between Leyte and Bohol on 27 
November and again on 4 and 6 December, 
but they encountered no mines of any sort. 18 
At 1 200 on 6 December the convoy's escort- 
ing destroyers departed from San Pedro Bay 
and moved to the point of rendezvous off 
shore, near the Tarragona-Rizal area. The 
principal convoy was formed and got under 
way at 1330, having been preceded by four 
slower-moving LST's escorted by two de 
stroyers. The commander of the destroyer 
unit gave additional protection to the trans 
ports with four destroyers until 2300, when 
the destroyers departed for a prelanding raid 
on Ormoc Bay. They were also to intercept 
any Japanese surface vessels that might be 
attempting to bring reinforcements into 
Ormoc harbor. 

The journey through Leyte Gulf, Surigao 
Strait, and the Gamotes Sea was uneventful. 
Several unidentified planes flew over the 
convoy but did not launch an attack. The 
only alert during the voyage was about 
twilight on the 6th of December, when an 
unidentified group of eighteen bombers 
flew over the formation in the direction of 



i7 Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OCMH. 



u Opns Rpt, CTU 78.3.6 to COMINCH, Ser 
0017, 22 Dec 44, Off Nav Reds and Library. 



THE FALL OF ORMOC 



281 







TROOPS OF THE 77TH DIVISION BOARD LCI'S AT TARRAGONA 



Tacloban. The convoy encountered numer 
ous small native craft en route and checked 
several of these but found no Japanese. 19 

Throughout the night the vessels steamed 
toward the target. Silently they took their 
stations in Ormoc Bay, off the coast of De~ 
positoj before dawn. At 0634 on 7 December 
an enemy shore battery opened fire, which 
was answered at 0640 as the destroyers com 
menced firing upon their assigned targets. 
Behind Ipil, in the vicinity of the northern 
fire support group, a number of enemy 
3-inch gun positions were observed. The de 
stroyers took the positions under fire and 
quickly silenced them. At 0655 a large num 
ber of Japanese were observed in the town 



19 0pns Rpt, GTU 78.3.5 to COMINGH, 056- 
60/A163, Ser 0016, 22 Dec 44, Off Mav Reds and 
Library. 



of Albuera and these also were taken under 
fire. The destroyers covered the landing 
beaches until ordered to lift fire just as the 
first wave of the landing party was ap 
proaching the beach. 20 

As the American convoy steamed into po 
sition, it received word that an enemy con 
voy was on the way to Ormoc with reinforce 
ments. Aircraft of the V Fighter Command 
flew to intercept the Japanese vessels, which 
comprised six transports and seven escort 
vessels. During the morning occurred one of 
the most intense aerial battles of the Leyte 
Campaign. Fifty-six P-47's of the 341st and 
347th Fighter Squadrons dropped ninety- 
four 1,000-pound and six 500-pound bombs 
on the enemy shipping and strafed the ves 
sels. The Army and Marine land-based air- 



9 Ibid, 




CONVOY CARRYING 77TH DIVISION APPROACHES DEPOSITO (above). 
Bombardment of enemy positions at Ipil (below), with stack of sugar mill visible. Village is near 
center of picture. 







THE FALL OF ORMOC 



283 



craft destroyed two cargo vessels and two 
passenger transports. 21 Nearly all the avail 
able American aircraft were engaged in the 
attack. General Mac Arthur in his daily com 
munique estimated that the entire convoy 
was wiped out and that 4,000 enemy troops 
lost their lives. 22 

"Land the Landing Party" 

The landing of the first wave, scheduled 
for 0630, was delayed until 0707 to take 
advantage of better light for the naval bom 
bardment. There were to be five waves for 
each regiment. 23 At 0701 the first wave of 
small landing craft left the line of departure 
and raced for the shore. The first wave was 
landed at 0707, co-ordinating its spacing 
and timing with that of the LCI (R ) *s sup 
porting the landing. There was no opposi 
tion, and the troops moved inland. 

The dispatch and landing of the fourth 
wave of LCI(R) 's was delayed because the 
third wave had been unable to disembark 
the troops and retract according to sched 
ule. The fifth wave of LSM's was delayed 
for the same reason. Since the tide was rap 
idly falling and the sand bar was exposed, a 
tug was used in several instances to pull the 
craft off. At 1 100 the commander of the task 
group pulled out, leaving behind one LCI 

51 The Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee, 
Japanese Naval and Merchants Shipping Losses 
During World War II by all Causes (Washington, 
1947), p. 77. 

22 Hist of V Fighter Command, Ch. 4, pp. 62-63, 
AAF Hist Archives. 

23 77th Div FO 13, 4 Bee 44, Annexes 5 and 6. 
In each small landing craft there were thirty-six 
men a platoon leader or sergeant, messenger, aid 
man, flame thrower and bazooka operators, a rifle 
squad, and a machine gun or mortar crew. The com 
position of the second wave was about the same. 
The third wave, consisting of LCI's, included engi 
neer and heavy weapons personnel, artillery units, 
and other troops and vehicles. The fourth wave 
consisted of LCFs and the fifth wave of LSM's. 



and four LSM's stranded on the beach. The 
tug left at the same time, and Admiral 
Struble ordered the grounded craft to re 
tract at high tide and proceed back to San 
Pedro Bay under cover of darkness. 24 

With the departure of the landing waves 
for the shore, the destroyers turned their 
fire upon targets adjacent to the landing 
beaches. The Laffey at 0830 opened fire 
against some enemy troops approaching the 
barrio of Ipil from the north and turned 
them back. At 0930 the Conyngham fired 
upon a possible concentration south of Ipil 
and at 1000 this destroyer's shore fire control 
party requested additional support against 
enemy troops that were moving into Ipil. 25 

At 0820 the Japanese launched a strong 
aerial offensive against the American vessels 
in Ormoc Bay. The enemy air attacks con 
tinued for nearly nine and a half hours. 
The Fifth Air Force, beginning at 0700, 
gave air cover throughout the day and "did 
an excellent job." 26 Upon a number of oc 
casions, however, the enemy airplanes 
slipped through the antiaircraft fire and the 
air protection and hit the shipping. Japanese 
suicide aircraft struck and badly damaged 
five vessels. At 0945 the destroyer Mahan 
and the high-speed transport Ward received 
such damaging blows that they later had to 
be sunk by gunfire. 27 The Japanese made 

34 Opns Rpt, GTU 78.3.7 to COMINCH, no 
serial, 17 Dec 44, Off Nav Reds and Library. 

55 Opns Rpt, GTU 78.3.5 to COMINCH, Ser 
0016, Off Nav Reds and Library. 

36 Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 

27 "By a coincidence, Commander W. W. Outer- 
bridge, USN, the commanding officer of the O'Brien, 
which sank the Ward by gunfire, had been the com 
manding officer of the Ward at Pearl Harbor on 
7 December 1941, when that vessel fired the first 
shot of the war in sinking a Japanese submarine 
attempting to enter Pearl Harbor, just three years 
previously to the day." CINCPAC-CINCPOA 
Opns in the Pacific Ocean Areas During the Month 
of December 1944, Ser 002910, 25 Jun 45, p. 41, 
Off Nav Reds and Library. 



284 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



sixteen different raids on the shipping, dur 
ing which an estimated forty-five to fifty 
enemy aircraft attacked the formation. 
Thirty-six of these were believed to have 
been shot down. 28 

The landing waves arrived ashore with 
out incident and without casualties. Within 
thirty-five minutes the advance echelon of 
division headquarters, including the assist 
ant division commander and the general 
staff sections, were ashore. 29 Approximately 
2,000 men were placed on a 1,000-yard 
beach every five minutes. Mobile-loading of 
supplies had made this speed possible. 
"Logistically it was a difficult operation to 
push that mass of troops and equipment on 
a beach in so short a time and had there 
been any considerable unexpected enemy 
mortar or artillery fire at any time during 
the period, great casualties might have re 
sulted." * At 0930 General Bruce assumed 
command ashore. 

Japanese Plans 

Until the middle of November, the com 
mander of the Japanese 35th Army had 
failed to put any beach obstacles along the 
shores of Ormoc Bay, 31 since he believed 
that there was little likelihood of an Ameri 
can thrust up the bay. General Suzuki 
thought that the Americans would be de 
terred by the presence of a Japanese naval 
base on Gebu in front of Bohol Strait. As 
American naval activity increased along the 

38 Opns Rpts, CTU 78.3.5, Ser 0016, 22 Dec 44; 
CTU 78.3.3, Ser 082, 22 Dec 44. Both in Off 
Nav Reds and Library. 

* 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 11. 

80 Study, Hq Army Ground Forces, 319.1/3 
(POA), 16 May 45, in OPD 319.1 Sec. XII. 

21 The material in this subsection on Japanese 
planning is based on Japanese Studies in World 
War II, No. 11, 35th Army Opns, 1944-45, pp. 
94-98, OCMH. 



coast in the last part of November, how 
ever, the Japanese finally conceded that 
there was "a great possibility" of an Ameri 
can landing at Ormoc Bay. By the middle 
of the month the Ormoc Defense Headquar 
ters was organized under the command of 
Colonel Mitsui, the commanding officer of 
the Shipping Unit. The main force of the 
Defense Headquarters was the Shipping 
Unit y but the Antitank zndAntiaircraft Gun 
Units,, the Automatic Gun Company, and 
other units were added. In addition, all 
units then in Ormoc were temporarily 
placed under Colonel Mitsui. The enemy 
plan of defense was simple. At the town of 
Ormoc the Japanese, from their main de 
fensive positions, were to stop the advance 
and then, gathering as much strength as 
possible, they were to counterattack. 

The Japanese defenses, however, were 
not completed at the time of the American 
landings. Only individual trenches had been 
dug along the coast, and the field positions 
in the northern part of Ipil were elementary. 
Upon being alerted that the Americans had 
landed, the Shipping Unit of Colonel Mitsui 
took up its main defensive positions in the 
Ipil area. At the same time, troops of the 
Nonaka Battalion of the 30th Division, con 
sisting of an infantry company and a ma 
chine gun company, were placed under the 
command of Colonel Mitsui. The major 
part of the 30 1 h Division remained on Min 
danao. The American strength was esti 
mated to be one regiment. 



Drive Toward Ormoc 



Ipil 



The assault elements of the 77th Division 
advanced inland immediately after landing. 
The 1st Battalion of Col. Vincent J. Tan- 
zola's 305th Infantry, with two companies 



THE FALL OF ORMOC 



285 



abreast, was to seize the crossings over the 
Bagonbon River in the vicinity of Highway 
2. 3 ~ The 307th Infantry was to move rapidly 
inland and establish an initial beachhead 
line about 1,300 yards east near a bridge 
over the Baod River. The 305th Infantry 
landed in a column of battalions with the 
1st, 3d, and 2d Battalions going ashore in 
that order. The 1st and 3d Battalions moved 
rapidly inland to the objective while the 2d 
Battalion remained in regimental reserve. 
The 307th Infantry also reached the bridge 
without difficulty. In the town of Deposito, 
enemy foxholes had been dug in the tall grass 
and apparently were to be used only as a 
protection against Allied air attacks, since 
they had no field of fire. Immediately upon 
landing, a reconnaissance patrol went to lo 
cate a trail leading from the beach to High 
way 2. About 300 yards north of the Bagon 
bon River, the patrol found a small access 
road which was put to immediate use. 33 The 
initial beachhead line was achieved within 
forty-five minutes after landing. Most of the 
Japanese 26th Division which had been hi 
the area were either moving over the moun 
tains to participate hi a battle for the Bu- 
rauen airfields or were engaging the 7th 
Division south of Deposito. Little besides 
service troops remained to oppose the 77th 
Division. 

General Bruce originally had planned to 
hold the beachhead line, establish a defen 
sive position, and await the arrival of addi 
tional supplies and reinforcements on the 
following day. But because of the lack of or 
ganized resistance, the speed with which the 
troops moved inland, and his desire to fully 
exploit the situation before the Japanese 
could counterattack, he very early decided 



to continue the attack northward astride the 
highway and extend the division's beach 
head to Ipil. 3 * 

The 307th Infantry (less the 2d Battalion 
which was on Samar), under Col. Stephen 
S. Hamilton, together with the 2d Battalion 
of Col. Aubrey D. Smith's 306th Infantry, 
which was attached to the regiment after the 
landing, was ordered by General Bruce to 
move northward and take Ipil. 35 At about 
1045, with the 1st Battalion in the lead, the 
regiment moved out northward astride 
Highway 2 toward Ipil. At the same time the 
division artillery was in position to support 
the advance. The 306th Field Artillery Bat 
talion had been previously placed in the 7th 
Division area at a position from which it 
could fire as far north as Ipil and 6,000 yards 
inland. 36 At first there was little enemy oppo 
sition, but the troops observed many well- 
camouflaged foxholes under the houses, and 
many stores of Japanese food and ammuni 
tion. 

Within ten minutes after starting, the 1st 
Battalion, 307th Infantry, was 300 yards 
north of Deposito and by 1215 had ad 
vanced 500 yards farther north. Japanese 
resistance became heavier as the troops 
neared Ipil. The remaining troops of the 
Nonaka Battalion of the 30th Division, con 
sisting of an infantry company and a ma 
chine gun company, had landed at Ormoc 
from junks and "fought bravely" under the 
command of the Shipping Unit. 37 The 
enemy had emplaced machine guns, and in 
one instance a cannon, in dugouts under the 



w 305th Inf FO 1, 5 Dec 44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 
8 Dec 44. 

33 77th Div S~2 Recon Rpt for Leyte, p. 1. 



84 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 12; 305th Inf 
Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1 ; 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 3. 

85 Msg, 307th Inf to GG 77th Div, 7 Dec 44, 77th 
Div G-3 Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 

M Msg, Lt Col Douglas C. Davis, Div Arty, to CG 
77th Div, 7 Dec 44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 
* 35th Army Opns, p. 97. 



286 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



houses. 38 By 1455 the 307th Infantry was on 
the outskirts of Ipil, but Its advance was tem 
porarily held up when the Japanese ex 
ploded one of their ammunition dumps. 39 
By 1740 the 1st Battalion had cleared the 
barrio and set up a night perimeter on its 
northern outskirts. The regiment had killed 
an estimated sixty-six Japanese and had 
captured one prisoner of war, a medical 
supply dump, a bivouac area, and numerous 
documents. 40 

The 305th Infantry during the day moved 
south to the Bagonbon River without seri 
ous opposition. Patrols of platoon strength 
were sent to scout out enemy positions and, 
if possible, establish contact with the 7th 
Division which was fighting north along the 
coast from Baybay. These patrols went as 
far south as the Panalihan River, destroying 
three food dumps and knocking out an 
enemy pillbox. 41 

During the afternoon enemy aircraft that 
were molesting the shipping dropped some 
bombs ashore but no appreciable damage 
resulted. The division artillery established a 
command post approximately 200 yards in 
land on the southern banks of the Baod 
River. As the beachhead line extended, the 
artillery moved to the northern banks of the 
river. This position afforded better cover 
and concealment. The artillery fired on 
enemy machine guns, mortars, and troops. 42 

At 1640 General Bruce issued orders for 
the regiments to consolidate their positions 
and form night perimeters. The 77th Di- 

38 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3; Msg, S-2 
307th Inf to 77th Div, 7 Dec 44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 
7 Dec 44. 

M Msgs, 307th Inf to G-3 77th Div, 1055, 1215, 
1445, 7 Dec 44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 

411 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3 ; Msg, 307th 
Inf to G-2 77th Div, 7 Dec 44, 77th Div G-2 Jnl, 
7 Dec 44. 

42 305th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1. 

42 77th Div Arty Opns Rpt, pp. 2-3. 



vision had established a two-mile beachhead 
extending from Ipil in the north to the 
Bagonbon River on the south and had 
penetrated inland nearly a mile. 

General Brace's plan at this time was to 
push forward vigorously and capture 
Ormoc, after which he would drive north, 
take Valencia, and make contact with ele 
ments of the X Corps. Each day he would 
"roll up his rear" to form a defensive perim 
eter at night. Patrols would be sent east to 
locate enemy concentrations and destroy 
them by artillery fire, and at the same time 
other patrols would move to the east to 
search out routes and Japanese dispositions 
with a view to taking Valencia from the 
east. 43 

In planning for the amphibious landing, 
the Fifth Air Force had ordered the 308th 
Bombardment Wing to conduct bombing 
and strafing missions, in addition to provid 
ing cover for the movement. 44 The plans for 
8 December caUed for the 308th Bombard 
ment Wing to be prepared on request to 
bomb Camp Downes a prewar military 
post south of Ormoc maintain a close vig 
ilance over Ormoc, and continue the over 
head air patrols. 45 The 307th Infantry was 
to move north at 0800 astride Highway 2 
and seize Camp Downes. The 305th In 
fantry was to withdraw from the south and 
move north in support of the attack of the 
307th Infantry and at the same time protect 
the southern and southeastern flanks of the 
division. The 902d Field Artillery Battalion 
and Company A of the 776th Amphibian 
Tank Battalion would support the attack. At 

43 Observers Rpt, 20 Dec 44, Col Paul L. Free 
man, Operation in the Ormoc area, OPD 319.1 
SWPA (20 Dec 44) Sec X. 

44 308th Bombardment Wing Fragmentary FO 
341-C, 6 Dec 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 9 Dec 44. 

45 Msg, XXIV Corps to Sixth Army, 8 Dec 44, 
Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 8 Dec 44. 



THE FALL OF ORMOC 



287 



least two patrols of the 305th Infantry would 
be sent south to disrupt enemy communica 
tions. All other units of the division were to 
be prepared to move north on division 
order. 46 

Camp Dowries 

Immediately north of Ipil, Colonel Mitsui 
had constructed a few small strong points, 
each of which consisted of two coconut log 
pillboxes, several trenches, and foxhole em 
placements for machine guns. Between these 
positions and Camp Downes were .groups of 
enemy riflemen and machine gunners on the 
banks of the streams and at the ends of 
wooded ridges that extended from the north 
east toward the highway. They had dug in 
at the bases of the trees and on the edges of 
the bamboo clumps. In the sector between 
Ipil and Camp Downes the highway was 
nine feet wide, with three-foot shoulders, 
and surfaced with coral or gravel. Fields of 
sugar cane or grassy hills lay east of the road, 
which was fringed with clumps of acacia or 
coconut trees. At least one reinforced enemy 
company had taken up its last defensive 
stand at Camp Downes. Less than a mile 
from Ormoc, Camp Downes had been an 
important Philippine Army and Constabu 
lary camp before the war. The plateau on 
which it was situated lay east of the highway 
and commanded all approaches, most of 
which were open and without cover. A 
ravine ran along the southern side of the 
barrio. At Camp Downes the Japanese had 
placed thirteen machine guns, two 40-mm. 
antiaircraft guns, and three 75-mm. field 
pieces under the porches and in the foun 
dations of buildings. These were well camou- 



77th Div FO 14, 8 Dec 44. 
260317 O 54 20 



flaged and mutually supporting and were 
protected by concealed riflemen. 47 

As the 77th Division consolidated its posi 
tions in Ipil, the Japanese started to use rein 
forcements to check any further advance 
toward Ormoc. The 12th Independent In 
fantry Regiment had been assembling at 
Dolores, northeast of Orrnoc. On the night 
of 7 December its commander. Colonel Ima- 
hori, ordered the newly arrived Kamijo 
Battalion, which consisted of two com 
panies, to co-operate with the Shipping Unit 
under Colonel Mitsui in delaying the ad 
vance of the American forces until the ar 
rival of the main body of the 12th Inde 
pendent Injantry.^ By the morning of 8 
December it became evident to the 77th Di 
vision that it had surprised the enemy. 

At 0615 enemy planes flew over the com 
mand post area, and ten minutes later one 
of these was shot down by antiaircraft fire. 49 
At 0800 Colonel Hamilton's 307th Infantry 
moved out. 50 By 1000 the regiment was 200 
yards north of Ipil, but it encountered more 
determined resistance when it reached the 
Panalian River at 1200. General Bruce or 
dered the attacking force to continue north 
with the objective of reaching the ravine 
just south of the Camp Downes plateau. 
The 307th Infantry was to make the assault 
and employ if necessary all reserves, while 
the 2d Battalion of the 306th Infantry con 
tinued to be attached to the regiment in 
support. The 902d Field Artillery Battalion, 

47 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, G-2 Sum 3, App. 2 ; 
Allied Geographical Sec, GHQ SWPA, Terrain 
Study 84, Leyte Province, 17 Aug 44, pp. 57, 60, 
65. 

"35th Army Opns, p. 98. 

49 Msg, G-2 Observer to G-2 77th Div, 8 Dec 44, 
77th Div G-2 Jnl, 8 Dec 44. 

00 Msg, 307th Inf to 77th Div, 8 Dec 44, 77th Div 
G-2 Jnl, 8 Dec 44. 



288 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 















A PATROL OF THE 307TH INFANTRY warily approaches a river crossing near Camp 
Downes. 



Company A of the 776th Amphibian Tank 
Battalion, and Company A of the 88th 
Chemical Weapons Battalion were also to 
continue their support. Farther south, the 
305th Infantry would move north to defend 
the bridgehead at the Baod River and the 
77th Reconnaissance Troop would move at 
1 330 to an area 500 yards north of the Pani- 
lahan River to clear out a position for the 
division command post. 51 

Upon receiving its mission, a platoon 
from Company A of the 776th Amphibian 
Tank Battalion moved over water toward 
Camp Downes to secure information on the 
dispositions of the Japanese. The platoon 
proceeded north 500 yards offshore to the 
vicinity of Panalian Point where it received 
heavy enemy artillery fire from Gamp 



Downes. The platoon returned and re 
ported the location of the enemy artillery. 52 
The 902d Field Artillery Battalion there 
upon shelled the Japanese artillery posi 
tions. 53 

The assault units of the 307th Infantry 
steadily pushed out against determined 
opposition in which the enemy used rifles, 
mortars., and small artillery from dug-in 
positions along finger ridges and streams. 
The Japanese had a prepared position 1 ,000 
yards in depth from which they swept the 
rice fields which the troops had to traverse, 
but fire from the American automatic weap 
ons and mortars forced the Japanese to fall 
back. 54 An enemy company counterattacked 



1 77th Div FO 15, 8 Bee 44. 



52 776th Amphib Tank Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 18. 

53 77th Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3. 

54 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 3-4. 



THE FALL OF ORMOG 

and hit Company A of the 88th Chemical 
Battalion. The Japanese were repulsed on 
tvvo separate occasions the first time at 
1320 and the second at 1520, when in com 
pany strength they charged the Americans. 
The chemical company stopped both 
charges with high explosive and white 
phosphorus shells. 55 The 307th Infantry 
pressed forward, capturing considerable 
quantities of small arms and artillery ammu 
nition, and by nightfall had advanced some 
2,000 yards. 'The 1st Battalion, 306th In 
fantry, was to relieve the regiment's 2d 
Battalion, which had been attached to the 
307th Infantry as an assault battalion. 56 

Colonel Tanzola's 305th Infantry during 
the day protected the southern and south 
eastern flanks of the 77th Division in its ad 
vance northward. At night the regiment's 
defensive perimeter centered around Ipil but 
extended as far south as the Baod River. 57 

The Japanese forces suffered greatly in 
the course of the day. The commander of 
the Kami jo Battalion was severely wounded 
and the battalion itself had many casualties. 
Consequently, the Tateishi and Maeda Bat 
talions of the 12th Independent Infantry 
Regiment, which had been alerted to join 
the Kamijo Battalion, were ordered to take 
positions north of Ormoc, on the night of 
9 December. 58 The Japanese troops in the 
sector opposing the 77th Division were two 
companies totaling 100 men of the 1st Bat- 
talion, 12th Independent Infantry, with 
three machine guns and two battalion guns; 
three companies totaling 250 men of the 3d 
Battalion of the same regiment with nine 
machine guns, two battalion guns., and four 
antitank guns; sixty men with three ma- 

85 Company A, 88th Chemical Bn, Jnl, 8 Dec 44. 
99 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 3-4. 
67 305th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 1-2. 
** 35 1 h Army Opns, p. 98. 



289 

chine guns from the 30th Division; a para- 
troop unit of eighty men; a ship engineer 
unit of 500 men; and 750 personnel from 
the Navy. The total effective military 
strength was 1,740 men. 59 

At 0400 on 9 December the first resupply 
convoy arrived carrying with it the rest of 
the 306th Infantry. The 3d Battalion, 306th 
Infantry, was placed on the eastern flank 
which connected the 305th Infantry on the 
south with the 307th Infantry on the north. 
Its mission was to protect the east and center 
of the beachhead. At 0530 the batteries of 
the 902d Field Artillery Battalion fired 110 
rounds on a harassing mission and at 0820 
they fired 192 rounds in preparation for the 
attack by the infantry against Camp 
Downes.^The 1st Battalion, 306th Infantry, 
was to pass through the 2d Battalion, 306th 
Infantry, and continue the attack with the 
3d Battalion, 307th Infantry, on the left. 
The 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, would 
protect the regimental right flank. 61 After 
the artillery concentration the 307th In 
fantry at 0830 moved out toward Camp 
Dowries. 

The 307th Infantry inched slowly for 
ward. It became evident that the Japanese 
had regrouped and emplaced the forces on 
ridges and high ground which overlooked 
all possible approaches to Camp Downes 
and Ormoc. In selecting his defensive posi 
tions the enemy used "excellent judg 
ment" 62 and defended the area with at least 
two companies heavily reinforced with 
automatic weapons. The assaulting forces 
received intense small arms and artillery 
fire. 63 



89 Ibid., p. 106. 

* 902d FA $n Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3. 
w 307th Inf Unit Jnl, 8 Dec 44. 

** 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 

* Msg, GG 77th Div to GG XXIV Corps, 9 Bee 
44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 9 Dec 44. 



290 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



The 902d Field Artillery Battalion sup 
ported the attack from positions north of the 
Baod River. The 305th Field Artillery Bat 
talion, which had just arrived, was sent for 
ward to support the attack. 6 * At one of the 
Japanese strong points that had been over 
run were found eleven heavy machine guns, 
two 40-mm. antiaircraft guns, and three 
75-mm. guns. At 1700, Japanese aircraft 
strafed the regiment and inflicted several 
casualties. At 1750, however, the 307th In 
fantry entered Camp Downes, secured the 
area, and established a night perimeter. Its 
total advance for the day was about one 
thousand yards. 65 

At 1245 the 305th Infantry, which had 
been protecting the southern flank of the 
division, received a new assignment from 
General Bruce. The 2d Battalion of the 
305th Infantry was to protect the division's 
rear by taking a position just south of Ipil. 
The 1st and 3d Battalions were to move 
north of the Panilahan River and 1,000 
yards to the east in order to complete an all- 
around defense of Camp Downes. 66 At 1345 
the battalions moved north. As soon as the 
307th Infantry entered Camp Downes, Gen 
eral Bruce ordered his forward command 
post into that area, and the advance echelon 
of his headquarters moved out. Upon its 
arrival at the selected camp site, a coconut 
grove on a hill just south of Camp Downes, 
the advance echelon became involved in a 
fire fight between the 307th Infantry and 
the enemy forces on the hill. It dug in under 
fire in the new area. The Japanese defenders 
were driven out of the coconut grove as the 
rest of the command post moved in. 67 

w 77th Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 3. 
85 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 
Msg, G-3 77th Div to S-3 305th Inf, 9 Bee 44, 
77th Div G-3 Jnl, 9 Dec 44. 

w 77th Biv Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 14-15. 



During the day the 307th Infantry had 
advanced about 1,000 yards and captured 
Camp Downes. The 305th Infantry had se 
cured the area northeast of Camp Downes 
and protected the northeastern flank of the 
77th Division. The 306th Infantry had 
moved into an assembly area 600 yards 
north of Ipil. 68 

Two Sevens are Rolled in Ormoc 

At 1830 General Bruce issued verbal 
orders for the attack on 10 December. 
Ormoc was the target. The 307th and 306th 
Infantry Regiments were to move out 
abreast. The 307th Infantry would attack 
along the highway to its front while the 
306th Infantry would move to the north 
east and attempt to envelop the opposing 
enemy force. The 305th Infantry initially 
was to remain in position and defend its 
part of the line. 69 

Ormoc, the largest and most important 
commercial center in western Leyte, pos 
sessed a concrete and pile pier at which a 
vessel with a sixteen-foot draft, and two 
smaller vessels, could anchor at the same 
time. 70 On the route to Ormoc and in the 
town itself, the Japanese dug strong defen 
sive positions. The favored sites were in bam 
boo thickets, on reverse slopes, along creek 
beds, and under buildings. Individual spider 
holes about six feet deep were covered with 
logs and earth and "beautifully camou 
flaged." Against such positions, artillery and 
mortar fire did little more than daze the de- 



68 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 

* 77th Div Plan of Action for 10 Dec 44, 77th 
Div G-3 Jnl, 9 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, 
pp. 15-16. 

70 Allied Geographical Sec, GHQ SWPA, Terrain 
Study 84, Leyte Province, 17 Aug 44, pp. 10, 22, 
60, 69. 



THE FALL OF ORMOG 



291 



fenders. Each position had to be searched 
out and destroyed. 71 

On 9 December the commander of .the 
Japanese 35th Army ordered the four com 
panies of the 12th Independent Infantry 
Regiment to return to their regiment from 
positions north of Ipil and to be prepared to 
help defend the Ormoc area. 72 

In preparation for the assault against 
Ormoc, the 902d Field Artillery Battalion 
at 0830 established an observation post at 
Camp Downes. At 0920 the battalion fired 
100 rounds of ammunition during a ten- 
minute period in front of the area which the 
attacking forces were to traverse. At 0930 
the artillery fire was directed at enemy posi 
tions observed in Ormoc. 73 General Krueger 
made arrangements with Admiral Kinkaid 
for LCM's, LCV's, and LVT's to operate 
along the coast at dawn and nightfall for 
an indefinite period, 74 

At 0900, Company A of the 776th Am 
phibian" Tank Battalion with its 75-mm. 
howitzers moved into Ormoc the first 
American troops to enter the city. The 2d 
and 3d Platoons of the company moved 
through the streets and sent high explosives 
and smoke shells into the buildings occupied 
by the Japanese. 75 The enemy defenders 
were also hit from the bay. LCM ( R ) 3 s from 
the Navy came overwater, moved near the 
Ormoc pier, and fired their rockets into the 
center of the town. As the rockets were being 
fired, the crews of the LGM's engaged the 
enemy defenders on the pier in a small arms 
fight, the antiaircraft machine guns on the 



71 Observers Rpt, 20 Dec 44, Col Freeman, Oper 
ation in the Ormoc Area, OPD 319.1, SWPA (20 
Dec 44) Sec X. 

^ 35th Army Opus, p. 97. 

13 902d FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 

74 Rad, GG Sixth Army to CTF 77, 9 Dec 44, 
Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 9 Dec 44. 

75 776th Amphib Tank Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 19. 



LGM's exchanging fire with the Japanese 
rifles and machine guns. After the last of the 
rockets were launched the LCM's withdrew, 
still under small arms fire. 76 

Colonel Smith's 306th Infantry was to 
move to the northeast with the 1st and 3d 
Battalions abreast and forestall any attempt 
to reinforce the Ormoc garrison. At 0945 
the commanding officer of the 306th In 
fantry announced that both battalions had 
moved out on time. 77 The 1st Battalion on 
the left encountered only light opposition 
during the day. The 3d Battalion met light 
resistance in two deep ravines but was able 
to push through without difficulty. Through 
out the day, however, the regiment received 
harassing fire from well-concealed riflemen, 
each of whom generally worked alone. By 
1600 the 1st Battalion was at a bridge on 
Highway 2 north of Ormoc and the 3d 
Battalion was within 500 yards of the 1st 
but was slowed by the necessity for maintain 
ing contact with the regiment's 2d Battalion. 
This unit had been committed on the right 
in order to secure contact with the 305th 
Infantry. 7 

At 0930 the troops of the 307th Infantry 
moved out. 79 They encountered little resist 
ance until they neared the outskirts of 
Ormoc, where a deep ravine lay between the 
southern edge of the town and the front lines 
of the advancing troops. An enemy force, 
which had dug in on both sides and along 
the top of this ravine, had to be rooted out 
with bayonets, grenades, and mortars. In 
spite of the detennined enemy resistance, 
American casualties were very light. Enter 
ing the western part of the city, the 307th 

W 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 16; Msgs, 307th 
Inf to 77th Div, 1110, 1130, 10 Dec 44, 77th Div 
G-2 Jnl, 10 Dec 44. 

n 306th Inf Unit Jnl, 10 Dec 44. 

78 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 

78 307th Inf Opns Rpt, p. 4. 



292 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




AERIAL VIEW OF ORMOC after the bombardment In the middle background is the 
Antilao River, with the mountains of western Ormoc Valley in the distance. 



Infantry hit the front line of the Mitsui Unit 
on the left flank of the 12th Independent 
Infantry Regiment - 

Ormoc "was a blazing inferno of burst 
ing white phosphorus shells, burning houses, 
and exploding ammunition dumps, and over 
it all hung a pall of heavy smoke from burn 
ing dumps mixed with the gray dust of de 
stroyed concrete buildings, blasted by ... 
artillery, mortar, and rocket fire." a 

The 306th and 307th Infantry Regi 
ments squeezed the enemy like a tube of 
toothpaste. The 306th Infantry enveloped 

* 35th Army Opns, p, 107. 

81 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 16. 



the northeast flank, while the drive of the 
77th Division up the shore of Ormoc Bay 
banished any hopes that the Japanese might 
have entertained of escaping southeast by 
Highway 2. The Japanese were squeezed 
through Ormoc to the north. 

Left behind, however, were some defend 
ers who heroically but hopelessly fought to 
delay the American advance. Situated in 
spider holes beneath the buildings, they 
stubbornly fought back until overcome. 
Street by street, house by house, the 307th 
Infantry cleared Ormoc, which was a scene 
of gutted buildings and rubble. Many am 
munition and signal supply dumps were 
captured, including a church that had been 



THE FALL OF ORMOC 



293 



filled with artillery and small arms ammu 
nition. 82 

As his troops were reducing Ormoc, Gen 
eral Bruce made a report to the commanding 
general of the XXIV Corps on the status of 
the attack and referred to a promise that had 
been made by the commanding general of 
the Fifth Air Force : "Where is the case of 
Scotch that was promised by General White- 
head for the capture of Ormoc. I don't drink 
but I have an assistant division commander 
and regimental commanders who do, . . ." * 

At the same time that the 77th Division 
was entering Ormoc, the 32d Division was 
pushing southward toward Orrnoc Valley, 
the llth Airborne Division was working 
westward over the mountains toward the 
town, and the 7th Division was pushing 
northward along the eastern coast of Ormoc 
Bay in an attempt to make a juncture with 
the 77th Division. General Bruce advised 
General Hodge : "Have rolled two sevens in 
Ormoc. Come seven come eleven." M 

The 307th Infantry pushed through the 
town and at 1 730 established a night perime 
ter on the banks of the Antilao River on the 
western edge of Ormoc where it tied in with 
the front line of the 306th Infantry. At long 
last, Oimoc was in American hands. 

In its drive north the 77th Division killed 
an estimated 1,506 Japanese and took 7 
prisoners. 85 Its own casualties were 123 men 
killed, 329 wounded, and 13 missing in 
action. 86 



** 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4. 

"Msg, CG 77th Div to CG XXIV Corps, 1400, 
10 Dec 44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 10 Dec 44. 

w Msg, CG 77th Div to CG XXIV Corps, 1645, 
10 Dec 44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 10 Dec 44. 

85 77th Div G-2 Summary Leyte Opns. 

M 77th Div G-l Daily Strength Rpts 3 7-10 Dec 
44. 



On 7 December, the 7th Division moved 
north from its position about seven miles 
south of Deposito to join the 77th Division, 
which had landed that day at Deposito. It 
advanced with two regiments abreast the 
1 84th Infantry on the left and the 17th In 
fantry on the right. The regiments made 
slow progress as they pushed over a series of 
hills and river valleys. On the night of 9-10 
December the Japanese who were caught 
between the 7th and 77th Divisions with 
drew into the mountains. At 1000 on 11 
December an advance element, the 2d Bat 
talion, 184th Infantry, reached Ipil and es 
tablished contact with the 77th Division. 

The XXIV Corps was now in undisputed 
control of the eastern shore of Ormoc Bay 
and the town of Ormoc. The capture of 
Ormoc had very important effects. It di 
vided the Japanese forces and isolated the 
remaining elements of the enemy 26th Divi 
sion. It drew off and destroyed heretofore 
uncommitted enemy reserves, thus relieving 
the situation on all other fronts, and it has 
tened the juncture of the X Corps with the 
forces of the XXIV Corps. It denied to the 
Japanese the use of Ormoc as a port, 
through which so many reinforcements and 
supplies had been poured into the campaign. 
Finally, the Japanese were unable to use 
Highway 2 south of Ormoc and were driven 
north up Ormoc Valley. 87 General Krueger 
had realized an important part of his plan 
for the seizure of Ormoc Valley, since seal 
ing off the port of Ormoc would enable the 
Sixth Army to devote its major effort toward 
completion of that plan. 

** 77th Div G-2 Summary Leyte, No. 3. 



CHAPTER XVII 



Battle of the Airstrips 



Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Ameri 
can submarines began to attack Japanese 
shipping to the Netherlands Indies. From 
the beginning they were successful. In Sep 
tember 1943 the submarines accelerated 
the tempo of their attack. The Japanese lost 
to the submarines "tremendous tonnages of 
shipping ... all over the ocean. No route 
was secure from their attack; no ship was 
safe south of Honshu." 1 By the early fall 
of 1944 the Japanese line of communica 
tions to the Netherlands Indies was virtually 
cut. 

With American land-based air strength 
on Leyte increasing steadily, a strong possi 
bility existed that the line of communica 
tions between the Japanese homeland and 
the South Pacific area would be completely 
severed, especially if the main American 
air force should move up from New Guinea 
to Leyte. Imperial General Headquarters 
felt, therefore, that the Dulag and Tacloban 
airfields must be neutralized, and the 
Burauen airfields in southern Leyte Valley 
seized before the American air force could 
establish itself in strength on the island. 
Japanese control of the airfields would also 
facilitate the movement of Japanese sup 
plies to the island and greatly assist the 
ground operations of the 35th Army. 2 



In the latter part of November, Gen. 
Tomoyuki Yamashita, commanding gen 
eral of the 14th Area Army, sent a liaison 
officer from his headquarters in Manila 
with orders to Lt. Gen. Sosaku Suzuki, the 
35th Army commander, at Ormoc. General 
Yamashita is quoted as saying: "If the con 
struction of air bases on Leyte is permitted to 
continue, the communications between the 
Southern areas and the homeland will be 
cut and this would be a serious situation. 
Therefore, we must occupy Burauen airfield 
as soon as possible and at the same time 
neutralize Tacloban and Dulag airfields. 
Moreover, we must annihilate the enemy's 
air power." 3 

Therefore, in a desperate attempt to gain 
the initiative, the Japanese embarked on a 
rash scheme to seize the airfields of Leyte. 
Their plan entailed a co-ordinated effort by 
both the ground and air forces. Beginning 
on 23 November and continuing through 
27 November, the army air force was to 
launch a campaign to eliminate American 
air resistance. On the night of 26 November, 
aircraft carrying specially trained demoli- 
tionists were to crash-land on the Dulag and 
Tacloban airstrips and put them out of 
commission. 4 



1 USSBS, The War Against Japanese Transporta 
tion, 1941-1942 (Washington, 1947), p. 48. 

2 Japanese Studies, 11, 35th Army Operations 
1944-45, p. 74, OGMH. 



8 Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 23. 

4 Japanese Studies in World War II, 7, 14th 
Area Army Operations on Leyte, p. 11 ; 10th I&HS, 
Eighth Army, Stf Study of Japanese 35th Army on 
Leyte, Part III, The Part Played by the Japanese 
Air Force , . . p. 5. 



BATTLE OF THE AIRSTRIPS 



295 



JAPANESE ATTACK 
ON BURAUEN AIRFIELDS 

6 December 1944 

Axis OF JAPANESE OVERLAND ATTACK 



JAPANESE AIRBORNE LANDINGS 



ROUTE OF U. S. REINFORCEMENTS 



U.S. dtsposrtions,less service troops ; 

as of night 5-6 December. 
i o i MIJ.E 



SAN PABLO AFLD 

& 

* 




MAP 20 



Plans were made for the 3d and 4th 
Airborne Raiding Regiments to descend 
from Luzon on the Burauen airfields. The 
26th Division, together with the 16th Di 
vision, which had fought the Americans in 
Leyte Valley, and the 68th Independent 
Mixed Brigade of the 35th Army were to 
infiltrate through the mountains and attack 
and capture the Burauen airfields. The 16th 
Division was to move from its position in the 
mountains west of Dagami toward Buri, 
the northernmost of the Burauen airfields. 
Elements of the 26th Division which were 
engaging the 7th Division on the shores of 
Ormoc Bay were to break off the fight, 
move over the mountains, and attack Bayug 
and San Pablo, the southernmost of the 
Burauen fields. (Map 20) If all went well 



they were to proceed east and capture the 
Dulag airfield, on the shores of Leyte Gulf. 
The airborne assault was to be made on the 
night of 5 December. The ground troops 
were to arrive early on the morning of 6 De 
cember and assist in the attack. 

Because he felt that he had not made 
sufficient preparation. General Suzuki re 
quested that the attack be postponed until 
7 December. General Yamashita disap 
proved this request, but since bad weather 
was forecast for 5 December, he sent a mes 
sage to General Suzuki changing the date 
of attack to the night of 6 December. This 
information was immediately transmitted 
to the 26th Division. At the same time, ef 
forts were made by General Suzuki's head 
quarters to relay the information to the 16th 



296 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Division, but because of radio difficulties 
General Makino never received the 
message. 

General Makino, after receiving the order 
for the airborne attack on the night of 5 
December to be followed with an attack by 
his forces on the following morning, con 
centrated the remaining strength of the 16th 
Division into one battalion. General Suzuki 
personally took command of the Burauen 
operation, and on 1 December he and a part 
of his staff moved east into the mountains 
near Burauen. General Tomochika was left 
in command of the Ormoc forces. 5 

Unwittingly, the Japanese were flogging 
a dead horse. General Krueger had stopped 
all work on these airfields on 25 November. 

The American Dispositions 

The Sixth Army planners for the Leyte 
operation had not envisaged the employ 
ment of the 1 1th Airborne Division during 
the campaign. This division, commanded 
by Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Swing, was to have 
staged on Leyte for subsequent operations. 6 

On 22 November, however, General 
Hodge ordered the relief of the 7th Division, 
minus the 17th Infantry, by the llth Air 
borne Division in order to free the 7th Divi 
sion for the drive up the eastern shore of 
Orrnoc Bay. On the same day the 1 1th Air 
borne Division, along with the 17th Infan 
try, less the 2d Battalion, was ordered to 
seize and secure all exits from the mountains 
into Leyte Valley in its area. The division 
was then to advance through the central 
mountain range, and secure the western 
exits from the mountains hi order to assist 
the attack of the 7th Infantry Division in its 

5 35 1 h Army Opus, pp. 80-84. 

* Sixth Army Opus Rpt Leyte, p. 62. 



drive north toward Ormoc. 7 Upon receipt 
of this order, General Swing assigned to the 
units of the 1 1th Airborne Division the mis 
sion of securing the mountain exits. 

General Swing immediately started to re 
lieve elements of the 7th Division and by 28 
November the relief w r as completed. For 
several days the 1 1th Airborne Division sent 
patrols to the west and maintained small 
security guards at the Buri and Bayug air 
fields. ' 

There were three airstrips San Pablo, 
Bayug, and Buri north of the Dulag- 
Burauen road in the area between San Pablo 
and Burauen. Both the Bayug and San 
Pablo airfields were on the Dulag-Burauen 
road. The Buri airstrip was almost directly 
north of the Bayug airstrip. The land be 
tween the Bayug and Buri airstrips was flat 
for a distance of about 800 yards. The 
northern half of this flat land was a swamp, 
sometimes five feet in depth. At the north 
ern end of the swamp was a narrow stream, 
about fifteen feet wide, which ran along the 
base of a plateau. This plateau, which was 
directly north of the Buri airfield, was for 
ested with palm trees and jungle growth. 
Buri airfield lay between the swamp and the 
plateau. 8 

By 27 November information from cap 
tured documents and prisoners interrogated 
by units of the Sixth Army indicated that 
the enemy was planning a co-ordinated 
ground and airborne attack to seize the air 
fields in the Burauen area. The intelligence 
officers of the XXIV Corps, however, 
thought that the Japanese were not capable 
of putting this assault plan into effect. The 
American patrols operating west of Burauen 
had found no new trails being constructed 



7 XXIV Corps FO 28, 22 Nov 44. 

s 149th Para-Glider Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. I. 



BATTLE OF THE AIRSTRIPS 



297 



nor any old ones being extensively used. 
Furthermore, the American forces had 
blocked all known trails leading east over the 
mountains into the area. Although the 
enemy might be able to make an airborne at 
tack, "he is not at this time capable of 
launching a co-ordinated ground airborne 
attack of major proportions in the Burauen 
area." 9 

Despite the trail blocks, however, elements 
of the 16th Division were able to descend 
upon the Buri airstrip from the mountains 
southwest of Dagami. Only one battalion of 
the 26th Division, which was to have at 
tacked the airfields in the Burauen area on 
7 December, ever reached the area. The 
movement over the mountains was difficult, 
and it was not until the night of 101 1 De 
cember that the unit arrived west of Bura 
uen. It made a half-hearted attack, which 
was repulsed by elements of the llth Air 
borne Division. 10 

Although the intelligence officers of the 
XXIV Corps believed there was no possi 
bility of a co-ordinated ground and aerial 
assault, General Hodge alerted the XXIV 
Corps to a possible enemy paratroop land 
ing. All units were directed to strengthen 
local defenses and establish in each sector a 
twenty-four-hour watching post. All men 
were to be armed and wear helmets, or to 
have arms and helmets within reach at all 
times. In the event of any unusual enemy 
activity, the headquarters of the XXIV 
Corps was to be notified immediately. 11 

In order to protect the airfields more ade 
quately, a company of the 77th Division 



was furnished to the 1 1th Airborne Division 
to defend the Dulag airfield, while the lat 
ter division held one battalion alerted at 
Burauen in readiness to move against hostile 
forces at any of the three airfields in the 
area. 12 One battalion of the 306th Infantry 
Regiment and a platoon each from Com 
panies A and B of the 767th Tank Battalion 
were stationed north of Burauen; the regi 
ment was to be prepared to assemble two 
companies near the headquarters of the Fifth 
Air Force for motor movement in defense 
against airborne attack, and to maintain 
security detachments at the Bayug and Buri 
airstrips. 13 

First Japanese Effort 

In the meantime the first phase of the 
Japanese plan to regain the initiative had 
begun. At 0245 on 27 November, three 
enemy air transports with lights on flew 
over Leyte Gulf at an altitude of about fifty 
feet. Ten minutes later one of these aircraft 
crash-landed in the water about twenty-five 
yards offshore in the area of the 728th 
Amphibian Tractor Battalion, which was 
about two miles south of Rizal and about 
three miles north of Tarragona. 

A guard from the battalion, assuming the 
plane to be friendly, approached it and 
climbed on the wing to offer assistance. The 
Japanese emerged from the plane and threw 
grenades at the guard. The men of the 
tractor battalion, hearing the noise, came on 
and killed two Japanese with small arms 
fire. Three others, however, escaped and 
reached a swamp west of the landing point. 



9 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt 39, 27 Nov 44. 

18 llth Airborne Div After Action Rpt, 18 Nov- 
1 1 Dec 44. 

11 Msg, CG XXIV Corps to CG 7th Div et al., 
27 Nov 44, XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 27 Nov 44. 



12 Msg, G-3 XXIV Corps to CG llth AB Div, 
28 Nov 44, XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 28 Nov 44, and 
Sixth Army G-3 Periodic Rpt 528, 28 Nov 44. 

12 llth Airborne Div FO 3, 29 Nov 44. 



298 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Ten or twelve more of the enemy moved 
south along the beach in the surf and also 
disappeared into the swamp. 14 

One of the other two planes crash-landed 
on the Buri airstrip and all its occupants 
were killed. The remaining plane crashed on 
the beach near the Bito River, north of 
Abuyog. Opposite, across the river, elements 
of the llth Airborne Division were en 
camped. 15 With the exception of one soldier, 
who was killed at dawn, all of the Japanese 
in this plane escaped. The 728th Amphibian 
Tractor Battalion found many demolition 
charges abandoned in the plane. In view of 
this discovery, and the fact that the enemy 
made no attempt to follow up the landing 
by an airborne attack in force, the Ameri 
cans concluded that the Japanese were on 
a suicide mission of demolition and destruc 
tion in the Dulag and Burauen airfield areas. 
Although the operation caused no damage, 
Radio Tokyo informed the Japanese people 
that it was "most successful." If the enemy 
believed that his attempt had been sucess- 
ful, however, the possibility existed that 
other airborne troops would be landed, 
either as raiding parties or in force. 16 



14 728th Amph Tractor Bn Unit Rpt 30, 27 Nov 
44, and 20th Armored Gp Unit Rpt 5, in 20th 
Armored Gp Opns Rpt Leyte. 

15 The history of the 1 1 th Airborne Division tells 
the following story about the landing of the third 
plane. "An antiaircraft machine gun crew, which 
outfit is forgotten now, was in position on the alert 
for enemy aircraft. When the plane landed and 
came to a halt, they called across the small river: 

.'Need any help?* *No, everything OK, S someone 
yelled back, and the machine gun crew went back 
to watching the skies for enemy aircraft." Maj. 
Edward M. Flanagan, Jr., The Angels, a History 
of the llth Airborne Division, 1943-1946 (Wash 
ington, 1948), p. 34. 

M XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt 43, 1 Dec 44, 
XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 2 Dec 44; XXIV Corps G-2 
Periodic Rpt 45, 3 Dec 44, XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 
4 Dec 44. 



By 5. December the XXIV Corps was 
lulled into a sense of false security. The 
2d Battalion, 511th Parachute Infantry, 
which had been in the Burauen area, had 
rejoined its regiment, which was fighting for 
the mountain passes on the trail to Albuera. 
The 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry, on the 
northwestern approaches to the airfields, re 
verted on 5 December to the control of the 
77th Infantry Division, which was embark 
ing for the Ormoc operation. The only in 
fantry unit in the Burauen area at the time 
of the Japanese attack was the 1st Battalion, 
187th Glider Infantry (less one company), 
which was on San Pablo airfield. The G-2 
periodic report on 5 December at 2000 
stated with regard to the general situation 
in the Burauen-Dagami-Mount Alto area : 
"An examination of reports of action in this 
area since 1 Nov may well warrant the as 
sumption that organized resistance has 
about ceased." 17 But before morning, the 
remnants of the Japanese 16th Division hit 
the Buri airfield. 

Battle of Buri Airstrip 

On or about 2 December General 
Makino, commanding general of the 16th 
Division, had assembled from the hills south 
west of Dagami the remaining elements of 
the division. The total strength thus massed 
was only about 500 men. The men rested, 
and then marched on toward the Buri air 
strip. On the way, American artillery and 
tank fire killed approximately 200 of them. 
The remaining force moved to a new lo 
cation a deep gorge about 6,500 yards 
southwest of Dagami. On 5 December, this 
force was to move out of the gorge, join the 
paratroopers, and launch a combined assault 
against the Buri airstrip. 

17 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt 47, 5 Dec 44. 



BATTLE OF THE AIRSTRIPS 



299 




BURI AIRSTRIP 

The Americans later learned from inter 
rogated prisoners that the morale of the men 
of the 16th Division was very low at that 
time. They were living on coconuts and 
bananas, since the officers had taken the few 
remaining rations. Wounded men in the 
force had been abandoned. 18 

The 16th Division was still unaware that 
the target date for the Burauen operation 
had been postponed to the night of 6 Decem 
ber, and consequently proceeded with its 
plans to attack the Buri airstrip on 6 Decem 
ber at 0630 over fourteen hours before 
the paratroopers were scheduled to land. 
On the night of 5-6 December, approxi 
mately 150 Japanese made their way 
quietly toward the Buri airstrip. 

X8 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt 50, 8 Dec 44, 
XXIV Corps G-3 Jni, 9 Dec 44. 



as it appeared in 1946. 

At 0600, the 287th Field Artillery Ob 
servation Battalion, northwest of Burauen, 
saw elements of the Japanese 16th Divi 
sion crossing the main road south of the 
battalion's position and heading east toward 
the Buri field. The battalion immediately 
relayed this information to the XXIV Corps 
headquarters. 19 After crossing the road, the 
enemy moved into the swamp near the air 
field. One Japanese unit of about 15 men^ 
armed with a machine gun, stationed itself 
at a Filipino shack 300 yards west of the 
highway in order to cover the road. 20 

At the Buri strip were about 47 men from 
the 287th Field Artillery Observation Bat- 



M Msg, Corps Arty to G-2 XXIV Corps, 0710, 
6 Dec 44, XXIV Corps G-3 JnL 6 Dec 44. 

^Msg, 96th DIv to CG XXIV Corps, 1350, 6 
Dec 44, XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 



300 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



talion and 157 miscellaneous troops. 21 
Small units of engineering troops and a 
signal company were at the foot of the bluff, 
on the northern edge of the strip, 

At 0630, the 16th Division launched its 
surprise attack. Led by a Filipino, 22 the Jap 
anese broke into the American bivouac area 
while the men were still asleep. Some were 
bayoneted while in their blankets, or before 
they could seize their weapons. Others held 
the Japanese off until they could retreat, 
shoeless and in their shorts and undershirts, 
either up the bluff to the headquarters of the 
V Bomber Command, or to the road, where 
an infantry company had come up in sup 
port. 23 The service troops were "firing at 
everything that moves and . . . probably 
inflicting casualties among our troops." 24 
The Japanese from the 16th Division en 
trenched themselves in the woods north of 
the airstrip. 

Meanwhile, General Hodge ordered that 
the 1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, be released 
from the 96th Division and placed under the 
operational control of General Swing of the 
llth Airborne Division. The battalion was 
to proceed immediately to the aid of the two 
companies of the 1 1th Airborne Division in 
the Buri airfield area. General Hodge em 
phasized that the area was "critical" and 
"must be kept closed." It would be "danger 
ous" to let the enemy "get into the service 
.troops along the road and around air 
fields." 25 One reinforced company of the 

21 Msg, 287th FA Obsn Bn to XXIV Corps, 1350, 
6 Dec 44, XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 

22 This man was later caught and turned over to 
the Filipino guerrillas. 

33 Combat History, 5th Bomber Command, 8 June 
44-May 45, pp. 5-6, AAF Archives. 

* Msg, llth Airborne Div to XXIV Corps, 1220, 
6 Dec 44, XXIV Corps G~-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 

25 Msg, CG XXIV Corps to CG 96th Div, 1400, 
6 Dec 44, XXTV Corps G-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44. 



1st Battalion was already in the area and the 
rest of the battalion made ready to follow. 26 
Small patrols of combat troops held the 
enemy forces in check. At 1030 one patrol 
killed seventeen Japanese north of the Buri 
airfield, and another killed three of the 
enemy west of the airstrip. The 1st Battalion 
of the 187th Glider Infantry was moved 
from the San Pablo airfield to the Buri area 
and went into position near the airfield. 27 By 
1 800 on 6 December, the enemy had been 
driven off the Buri airfield, though pockets 
of resistance still remained on the edges of 
the airstrip. The battalion encountered a 
portion of the 16th Division east of the strip 
and destroyed it. 28 Forty of the enemy were 
known to be dead, and it was believed that 
as many more had also been killed. 

Attack From the Sky 

San Pablo Airstrip 

The Japanese air transports were sched 
uled to be over the airfields at 1840 on 6 
December, with an escort of fighter aircraft. 
Fighters were to neutralize the airstrips and, 
just before the paratroopers jumped, medi 
um bombers were to strafe the Buri, San 
Pablo, and Bayug airstrips. At the same time 
light bombers were to hit antiaircraft posi 
tions between San Pablo and Dulag and 
points west. Fifty-one aircraft in all (trans 
ports, bombers, and fighters) were assigned 
to the operation. The transports were al 
lotted as follows : twenty to the Buri airstrip, 
nine to San Pablo airstrip, six to Bayug air 
strip, and two each to the Tacloban and 



46 96th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 47, 6 J3ec 44. 

27 XXIV Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt 48, 6 Dec 44, 
XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 7 Dec 44. 

28 Flanagan, The Angels, p. 49. 



BATTLE OF THE AIRSTRIPS 



301 




SAN PABLO AIRSTRIP as it appeared in 1946. 



Dulag airstrips. Each transport carried fif 
teen to twenty men. 29 

The Japanese parachutists were well 
drilled as to their mission. The operation 
was to be divided into five phases. The first 
phase was to begin with the jump-off. The 
men, immediately after landing^ were to at 
tack and destroy aircraft on the ground, and 
one element was to attack the barracks and 
communications. This phase was to end 
when the moon rose. In the second phase, 
ending about 2230, the troops would destroy 
materiel, ammunition dumps, bridges, and 
remaining barracks. During the third phase, 
from 2330 to 0300, the paratroopers were 
to destroy the remaining aircraft and instal 
lations, In the fourth phase, lasting from 
0300 to 0600, they were to build defensive 

23 Air Evaluation Board, SWPA, Leyte Campaign, 

p. 174, AAF Archives. 



positions. In the fifth phase 3 from 0600 on, 
preparations were to be made for future 
operations. 

There were to be three assault waves. The 
first wave would consist of the headquarters 
unit with approximately 25 men; the signal 
unit with 7; the 1st Company with 100; the 
2d Companywith 86; the construction com 
pany with 97; and a platoon with 50 men. 
The second would be composed of 9 men 
from the headquarters unit; the 3d Com 
pany; the Heavy Weapons Company; and 
the signal unit. The final wave would con 
sist of the remaining troops about 80 
men. 30 



M Msg,.CG XXIV Corps to CG Sixth Army, 1440, 
9 Dec 44, XXIV G-3 Jnl, 9 Dec 44; XXIV Corps 
G-2 Periodic Rpt 50, Incl 1, 8 Dec 44, XXIV Corps 
G-3 Jnl, 9 Dec 44. Both are translations of Japanese 
documents giving plans for the airborne attack. 



302 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Just before dark, thirty-nine Japanese 
transports with supporting bombers and 
fighters roared over the Burauen airfields. 
Several incendiary bombs fell on the San 
Pablo strip, setting a gasoline dump afire 
and burning a liaison plane. Approximately 
eighteen enemy aircraft were shot down. 
Parachutists began to descend from the 
transports. The commander of the 3d Regi 
ment with about 60 of his men dropped on 
the Buri strip, while between 250 and 300 
parachutists landed near the San Pablo 
strip. 31 

The parachutists, immediately after land 
ing, ran up the north and south sides of the 
San Pablo strip. They talked in loud tones 
and allegedly called out in English, "Hello 
where are your machine guns?" Most 
of the enemy forces assembled on the north 
side of the airstrip. They burned three or 
four more liaison planes, a jeep, several 
tents, and another gasoline dump, throwing 
ammunition on the latter. 

The only American troops in the area, a 
small detachment of the 1 1th Airborne Di 
vision, consisted of elements of the 127th 
Airborne Engineer Battalion, the signal 
company, Headquarters Battery of the divi 
sion artillery, special troops as well as Air 
Corps service troops. During the night of 
67 December, confusion reigned on the 
airstrip. There was uncontrolled and dis 
organized firing and much difficulty arose in 
establishing a co-ordinated command. 32 

At dawn, after most of the paratroopers 
had assembled on the San Pablo airfield, 
they moved north and west to the northern 

81 Davidson et aL 3 The Deadeyes, pp. 67-68; 
Flanagan, The Angels, pp. 40-50; 408th Airborne 
QM Co, Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 10-11; GG llth AB 
Div to GG XXIV Corps, 2205, 6 Dec 44, XXIV 
CorpsG-3Jnl,7Dec44. 

32 Rpt, Capt Charles Bellows to G-3 XXIV Corps, 
8 Dec 44, Investigation of Enemy Paratroopers, 
XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 8 Dec 44. 



edge of the Buri airstrip and joined elements 
of the 16th Division. 

At the San Pablo airstrip, Lt. Col. Doug 
las C. Davis, the commanding officer of the 
127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, organ 
ized the miscellaneous service troops into an 
infantry unit to protect the San Pablo air 
strip. The 674th Parachute Field Artillery 
Battalion, which was at the mouth of the 
Bito River, north of Abuyog, was to leave its 
guns at that place and come to the assistance 
of Colonel Davis' force. At daylight, the 
troops of the 127th Airborne Engineer Bat 
talion moved out toward the airstrip and 
met the 674th Field Artillery Battalion, un 
der Col. Lukas E. Hoska. The artillery bat 
talion swung into line and the two units 
moved out as a provisional infantry regi 
ment under Colonel Davis the airborne 
engineers on the left and the artillery bat 
talion on the right. 

They encountered strong resistance to the 
west of the San Pablo airstrip. After advanc 
ing north of the strip, the engineers ran out 
of ammunition. The field artillery battalion 
went forward to a coconut grove, also to the 
north of the airstrip. The gap between the 
two units was closed by a strong patrol. Since 
the food and ammunition situation remained 
uncertain, the composite force went into a 
perimeter in defense of San Pablo strip, 
where it remained for the next few days. 33 

Buri Airstrip 

On the night of 67 December, the Air 
Corps service personnel had abruptly quitted 
the Buri airfield, leaving behind carbines, 
rifles, grenades, small arms ammunition, 
and machine guns. 2d Lt. Rudolph Mamula 
of the 767th Tank Battalion had been or- 



83 127th AB Engr Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 1-2; 
Flanagan, The Angels, p. 51. 



BATTLE OF THE AIRSTRIPS 



303 



dered to take charge of the situation, co-ordi 
nate the action of forces on the airstrip, and 
recover abandoned armament and ammu 
nition. Apparently he was unsuccessful, be 
cause later in the day the Japanese made 
"the best use" of the same arms and am 
munition. By the middle of the morning, on 
7 December, the enemy had completely oc 
cupied the Buri airstrip. 

In anticipation of the landing of Jap 
anese -paratroopers, General Krueger had 
requested General Mac Arthur to release ele 
ments of the 38th Division for employment 
against the enemy airborne troops. The 38th 
Division had arrived on Leyte to stage for 
future operations. General Headquarters as 
signed the 149th Infantry to the control of 
the commanding general of the Sixth Army; 
two battalions of the 149th Infantry were 
in turn released on 6 December to the con 
trol of General Hodge, the commanding 
general of XXIV Corps, who put them un 
der the operational control of the llth 
Airborne Division for employment against 
parachutists in the Burauen area. The re 
maining battalion of the 149th Infantry was 
alerted for the movement in the Burauen 
area on twenty-four hours 3 notice. 34 

The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 149th 
Infantry, 38th Division, were alerted at 
0200 on 7 December for movement to the 
San Pablo airstrip. The advance elements 
of the 1st Battalion were greeted at the San 
Pablo airstrip by General Swing, who is re 
ported to have said : "Glad to see you. I am 
General Swing of the llth Airborne Divi 
sion. We've been having a hell of a time 
here. Last night approximately seventy-five 
Jap paratroopers dropped on us of which 
we have accounted for about fifty. Fifteen 
hundred yards from here on an azimuth of 



273 is another airstrip just like this one. 
Between here and there are about twenty- 
five Jap troopers. It is now 1400. I want 
that strip secure by nightfall. 53 ^ 

The commanding officer of the 1st Bat 
talion decided to attack with Companies 
A and C abreast, Company A on the right, 
with approximately a 200-yard frontage for 
each company. A section of heavy machine 
guns was attached to each unit, and a pla 
toon of 81 -mm. mortars from Company D 
was to support the attack from positions on 
the San Pablo airstrip. 

Moving out at 1430, the troops covered 
the first 400 yards without incident but were 
stopped by a rain-swollen swamp. Since at 
tempts to bypass the swamp were fruitless, 
the men were forced to go through it. The 
water was shoulder-high in places, and the 
companies lost contact during the crossing. 
Company A proceeded to the Buri airstrip, 
arriving there about 1630. Company C, 
which had been delayed by a slight skirmish 
with the enemy, did not arrive until about 
1 800. Because of the lateness of the hour and 
the fact that observation had shown there 
were "many more Japanese" on the north of 
the airstrip than had been estimated by 
General Swing, it was decided to establish 
perimeters for the night. 36 

By the end of 7 December the 1st Bat 
talion, 1 49th Inf antry, had established a toe 
hold on the southwestern fringe of the Buri 
strip. During the day the 1st Battalion, 
187th Infantry, northwest of the Bayug air 
strip, had received machine gun fire from 
an estimated enemy platoon just west of the 
Burauen-Dagami road. This enemy force 
was contained throughout the day as ad- 



1 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 72. 
260317 O 54 21 



85 Maj Martin C. Grigg, The Operations of the 
1st Battalion, 149th Infantry ... in the Battle 
for the Buri Airstrip . . ., pp. 6-7, OCMH. 

36 Ibid. 



304 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



vances were made southeast toward the Buri 
airstrip. At 1630 the 1st Battalion, 187th 
Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 149th In 
fantry, established contact at the western 
end of the Buri airstrip. The 1st Battalion, 
382d Infant^, 96th Division, had been 
placed under the control of the llth Air 
borne Division. At dusk of 7 December, it 
took a position near the 1st Battalion, 149th 
Infantry. 37 At 2000 the sector was reported 
quiet. It was impossible to estimate the total 
number of American and Japanese casual 
ties for the day, but it was believed to be 
large. 38 

During the night of 7-8 December, the 
Japanese brought forward two machine 
guns and emplaced them directly in front of 
Company A of the 1st Battalion, 382d In 
fantry. At dawn the machine guns opened 
up. Their low, grazing fire pinned down the 
company, but Pfc. Warren G. Perkins, in 
the face of enemy bullets, located the guns 
and called mortar fire upon the site. The 
mortar concentration, falling within fifty 
yards of Perkins, silenced the machine guns 
and startled the Japanese. Pvt. Ova A. Kel- 
ley took advantage of the confusion and 
charged with his Ml rifle and a carbine. 
Kelley killed eight of the enemy before he 
himself was slain. 39 The rest of Company A 
followed Kelley and secured the edge of the 
airstrip where it set up a perimeter. During 
8 December the Americans consolidated 
their positions. 

At 1045 on 9 December the 1st Battalion, 
149th Infantry, attacked north with Com 
panies A, B, and C on a line. The companies 
got across the airstrip but then came under 



47 Davidson et al, The Deadeyes, p. 67. 

88 Rpt, Capt Charles Bellows to G-2 XXIV Corps, 
8 Dec 44, Investigation of Enemy Paratroopers, 
XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 8 Dec 44. 

39 Private Kelley was posthumously awarded the 
Medal of Honor. 



fire from Japanese weapons emplaced on 
high ground to the north. The 1st Battalion 
therefore withdrew to the southern edge of 
the strip. During the day it had killed fifty 
of an enemy force estimated to consist of two 
hundred men. The 2d Battalion remained 
in position throughout the day. 40 

At twilight the assault companies of the 
1st Battalion, 382d Infantry, were sent out 
in various directions to locate enemy patrols 
said to be converging upon the airfield. Only 
a few mortar men and headquarters person 
nel were left behind to guard the perimeters. 
At midnight approximately 150 Japanese 
attacked. The headquarters and service 
troops with rifle fire, together with the mor 
tar men, stopped the charge. They killed 
fifty of the enemy and suffered seven 
casualties. 41 

On 10 December, after a half -hour artil 
lery concentration, the 1st Battalion, 149th 
Infantry, attacked with Companies A and C 
abreast, and Company B in the rear. After 
the 1st Battalion had pushed north 300 yards 
across the airstrip, Companies A and C 
moved northwest while Company B went to 
the northeast. The companies cleared the 
airfield area of individual riflemen and de 
stroyed small pockets of enemy resistance. 
The 1st Battalion went into perimeter at 
1700 on the Buri airstrip. The 2d Battalion 
remained in position throughout the day. 42 

At 1 930 the Japanese launched their final 
concentrated attack against the airfields. 
They began to fire at the administration 
buildings of the Fifth Air Force, and some of 
the bullets went through the plywood walls 
of the house of Maj. Gen. Ennis C. White- 
head. "The General ducked a bullet, ordered 



40 149th Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt, 9 Dec 44, 149th 
Inf Opns Rpt Leyte. 

41 Davidson e t aL, The Deadeyes, p. 69. 

a 149th Infantry S-3 Periodic Rpt, 1800, 10 Dec 
44, 149th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte. 



BATTLE OF THE AIRSTRIPS 



305 



someone to find out who the blankety-blank 
was responsible and that he'd blankety- 
blank better stop or think up a blankety- 
blank good reason." 43 

A staff officer immediately started to in 
vestigate the situation. He got Lt. Col. Paul 
V. Kaessner of the 8th Aviation Signal Bat 
talion on the telephone. The following con 
versation is reported to have ensued: 

"Colonel," he said sternly, "you've got to 
stop that promiscuous firing down there im 
mediately!" 

"Like to, sir, 33 answered the colonel, "but 
the Japs . . ."' 

"Japs," shouted the staff officer, "that can't 
be Japs. That fire is coming from our fifties." 

"That's right . . . and the Japs are doing 
the shooting! 53 

"Where in the hell did the Japs get our ma 
chine guns?" 

"How in hell should I know, sir?" 

"The bullets are coming right through the 
general's quarters." 

"Tell the general to get down on the floor. 
Incidentally,, that yelling you hear is a Banzai 
raid on our mess hall." ** 

The air force personnel were pushed 
back until they reached the hospital, where 
they halted and held. They then counter 
attacked and drove the enemy away from 
the area. The Japanese left thirty of their 
dead behind them. 

This action was the last major effort of 
the Japanese against the Burauen airfields. 
Only a little more than a battalion of the 
26 1 h Division, which was to have assisted 
the 16th Division, managed to reach the air 
strips, and it had arrived in a very disor 
ganized condition. Immediately afterward, 
General Suzuki, the commanding general 
of the 35th Army, learned that the 77th 
Division had landed just below Ormoc on 
the eastern coast of Ormoc Bay. Since 

48 Maj Herbert O. Johansen, "Banzai at Burauen," 
Air Force, Vol. 28, No. 3, March 1945, p. 7. 
"Ibid. 



Ormoc was the southern entrance to Ormoc 
Valley, it was highly important that the 
town be defended at all costs. General 
Suzuki therefore ordered that the operations 
against the Burauen airfields be discontinued 
and that all troops repair to Ormoc Valley. 
The return through the mountains was diffi 
cult. Nearly all organization was lost, and 
the Japanese made their way back through 
the mountains as scattered individuals. 45 

The air transports allotted to Tacloban 
were destroyed by antiaircraft fire, while 
those destined for Dulag crash-landed, kill 
ing all their occupants. 46 

The Japanese had failed to achieve any 
major objective. Though they had destroyed 
minor fuel and supply dumps and a few 
American aircraft, delayed airfield con 
struction, and isolated Fifth Air Force head 
quarters for five days, they had not appre 
ciably delayed the Leyte operation. 41 

The Japanese attempt to take the initia 
tive away from the Americans had failed. 
The Sixth Army was at the northern and 
southern entrances to Ormoc Valley. Ele 
ments of the X Corps had been battering 
for a long time at the northern portal. With 
the capture of Ormoc, the XXIV Corps 
had sprung the lock on the southern door 
way and was in a position to drive north 
and thus relieve some of the pressure being 
exerted against the X Corps. 

The arrival of the XXIV Corps at the 
entrance to Ormoc Valley brought the 
critical logistical situation on the island of 
Leyte to the fore. The tenuous supply line 
already had been stretched very thin, and, 
with the 77th Division extending its lines, 
a strong possibility existed that it might snap 
altogether. 

45 Japanese Studies, 1 1, p. 86, OGMH. 

46 Air Evaluation Board, SWPA, Leyte Campaign, 
p. 174, AAF Archives. 

47 Ibid. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



Logistics 



The conquest of Leyte was taking longer 
than had been anticipated. The decision of 
the Japanese to make Leyte the decisive bat 
tleground of the Philippines had forced the 
Americans to commit not only the reserve 
32d and 77th Infantry 7 Divisions but also the 
112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team, 
the llth Airborne Division, and elements 
of the 38th Infantry Division. The inability 
of the Americans to establish considerable 
land-based air forces on Leyte, as well as 
the unexpected Japanese reinforcement pro 
gram, had retarded the campaign. Not only 
was the timetable of future operations in the 
Pacific upset, but a strong possibility existed 
that it would not be feasible to establish a 
major logistical and air base on the island 
the primary purpose of the operation. 

The construction program on Leyte was 
hampered by conflicting priorities and, as 
had been foreseen, very poor terrain, bad 
weather conditions, and a shortage of service 
personnel. 

Construction 

Retelling the disagreements and describ 
ing the conflicts that arose over the ever- 
changing needs of the Army, Navy, and Air 
Forces would be involved, tedious, and un 
profitable. But the progress of the construc 
tion program must be recounted, since it had 
direct bearing not only on the Leyte Cam 



paign but also on the Mindoro and Luzon 
operations. 

Airfields 

The importance of the development of 
the airfields cannot be overemphasized. The 
inability of the Sixth Army to meet its con 
struction dates on the airstrips, because of 
poor soil conditions and heavy rains, pre 
vented the U. S. forces from stopping the 
flow of Japanese reinforcements and made 
it impossible for the Allied Air Forces to 
give sufficient land-based air support to the 
ground troops. It also forced a postpone 
ment of the Mindoro operation. It is well, 
therefore, to summarize just what had been 
accomplished in airfield construction. 

Work on the Tacloban airstrip had been 
handicapped at first by the heavy concentra 
tion of troops, supplies, and equipment in 
the area during the early stages of the opera 
tion. Thereafter, work was further ham 
pered by the insufficient supply of coral for 
surfacing the runway and by the very heavy 
traffic concentrated on the haul road be 
cause of the necessity for unloading cargo 
over White Beach. By 25 December, 1 run 
way, 50 dispersal areas, 536,000 square feet 
of alert apron, 1 diagonal taxiway, 1 paral 
lel dispersal taxiway, and 8,943 feet of addi 
tional dispersal taxiways had been con 
structed. 



LOGISTICS 



307 




OPERATIONAL LOSSES AT THE BURAUEN AIRFIELDS forced their abandon 



ment and the construction of the field at Tanauan. 

The Dulag airfield was located on the flat 
flood plain of the Marabang River. .The 
difficulties encountered were numerous: 
time lost because of excessive rains that 
amounted to thirty-five inches in forty days; 
air alerts; very poor drainage, which re 
quired the construction of a system of drag 
line trenches to the river; and very poor 
access roads. The access roads required an 
excessive expenditure of time, labor, and 
material in order to maintain traffic to the 
airfield. One runway, 2 alert areas with 
gravel surface and 2 with mat surface, 1 
matted transport parking area, 133 dispersal 
areas, and 24,200 feet of dispersal taxiways 
were constructed by 25 December. 

In the latter part of November all con 
struction work was stopped on the three air 



fields in the Burauen area, but not before 
considerable time and effort had been ex 
pended in futile attempts to make the air 
fields usable. 1 Since these airfields could not 
be made serviceable. General Krueger re 
ceived permission from General MacArthur 
to construct an airfield in the Tanauan area, 
and moved his headquarters from Tanauan 
to Tologosa on 28 November in order that 
construction might be started. The new site 
had a good sandy surface, its drainage was 
satisfactory, and it proved to be an excellent 
location for an airfield. By 16 December the 
field became operational, and by the 25th 
there had been completed 1 runway with 
mat surfacing, 1 overrun, 90,000 square 
feet of warm-up area, 120,000 square feet of 



1 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 233. 



308 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



alert apron, 1 parallel taxiway, and 26 large 
dispersal areas. 2 

Roads 

The rehabilitation of roads presented 
problems as vexatious as those in airfield 
construction. In southern Leyte Valley, the 
road that ran from Dulag through Burauen 
to Dagami soon became impassable for 
about two miles on each side of Burauen. 
This section of the road was completely re 
built by dumping approximately three feet 
of gravel over it. The remainder of the road 
was kept open most of the time by permitting 
only one-way traffic. The other roads were 
just as bad. After heavy rains the road in 
the Army Service Command area was fre 
quently under at least two feet of water. The 
streets in Tacloban disintegrated so rapidly 
that much engineer effort was required to 
keep them open. Such maintenance was 
necessary to assure continued operation of 
the many supply and administrative facili 
ties located in the city. 3 The roads on the 
west coast were, if possible, even worse. 
Upkeep of the roads in general required a 
"profligate expenditure of engineer troops." 
It was found that a battalion could accom 
plish no more in a month than a platoon 
could have carried out in a week under good 
weather conditions. The roads required a 
rock or gravel foundation one to three feet 
thick, whereas a road-metal surface of three 
to four inches on an earth base was nor 
mally adequate. Since priority was given to 
work on lie principal roads and airfields, 
the construction of access roads, as well as 
hardstands for hospitals, depots, and other 
needed installations was greatly delayed. In 

*Ibid., pp. 69, 233. 
11 Ibid., p. 233. 



this connection General Krueger stated: 
"This, in turn, greatly affected the supply 
situation, including construction materials, 
by lack of access to the depots, lack of stor 
age space into which to discharge ships, and 
lack of facilities and spare parts to permit 
repair and servicing of engineer heavy 
equipment as well as other critical trans 
portation and combat vehicles. 35 d 

On 21 December General Krueger esti 
mated that after the elimination of certain 
projects on which informal agreements had 
been reached, the extent of completion by 
5 January of the other projects would be as 
follows: main supply roads, 50 percent; 
access roads, 20 percent; Air Forces instal 
lations ( exclusive of air depot and assembly 
plants), 44 percent; hospitals, 40 percent; 
base supply and services, 25 percent; oil and 
aviation gasoline storage (exclusive of naval 
oil storage which had not been started) , 50 
percent; Navy installations, 20 percent; and 
headquarters construction, 40 percent. 5 The 
gloomy prognostications of Sixth Army en 
gineers had proven all too true. 

Supplies 
Inland Movement of Supplies 

As the roads on Leyte became more and 
more unserviceable, greater reliance was 
placed on the use of naval vessels to trans 
port supplies and personnel to various parts 
of the island. The Transportation Section, 
Sixth Army, maintained a small-boat pool 
that was used extensively to transport light 
cargo and personnel between Tacloban, San 
Ricardo, Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Dulag, and 

4 Ltr, GG Sixth Army to CINCSWPA, sub: Con 
struction Program, 21 Dec 44, Sixth Army G-4 
Jnl,24Dec41. 

6 Ibid. 




APPROACH ROAD TO QUARTERMASTER SERVICE CENTER at Tadoban 
after a heavy rain (above). The 7th Cavalry motor pool on 17 December 1944 (below). 




310 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



TABLE 2 SHIPPING TONNAGE DISCHARGED IN LEYTE-SAMAR. AREA, 28 OcroBER-25 

DECEMBER 1944 



Period 


Tonnage 
Discharge 


Average Daily 
Rate of 
Discharge 


Lighterage on Hand 


LCFs 


LCM's 


DUKW's 


Barges 


Total 


571, 350 












28 Oct-3 \ov- 








! 


33,901 
32, 421 
141, 238 
110,494 
47,744 
56, 786 
53, 387 
68,677 
26, 702 


4,843 
4,632 
20, 177 
15, 785 
6,821 
8,112 
7,627 
9,811 
8,900 


11 

35 
26 
18 
28 
24 
21 
39 
39 


54 
63 
69 
59 
71 
53 
53 
68 
69 


107 
315 
219 
253 
289 
297 
294 
300 
287 


18 
33 
33 
39 
38 
43 
42 
49 
49 


4 Nov-10 NOT 


11 Xov-17 \ov 


18 \ov-24 Nov 


25 \ov-l Dec. 


2 Dec-8 Dec. _ ___ 


9 Dec-15 Dec 


16 Dec-22 Dec- 


23 Dec-25 Deo. 





Source: G-t Report, Sixth Army Operations Report Leyte, p. 218. 

Catmon Hill. 6 LCM's were widely employed 
on the northern and eastern coasts of the 
island and LSM's operated on the west 
coast. 7 (Table 2} 

The troops that were fighting in the 
mountains were frequently supplied by air 
drops by the llth Air Cargo Resupply 
Squadron from supplies that were available 
in the Leyte area. From about the middle of 
November until the latter part of December, 
1,167,818 pounds of supplies were either 
dropped or delivered by air. (Table 3 ) Two 
hundred and eighty-two plane loads of sup 
plies were dropped, a total of 2,776 para 
chutes being used. Because of the nature of 
the terrain and the proximity of the Japa 
nese, the proportion of airdropped supplies 
that could be recovered varied from 65 to 
90 percent. Approximately 60 percent of the 
parachutes were recovered and returned to 
the 1 1th Air Cargo Resupply Squadron. 8 



Supplying the West Coast 

The landing of the 77th Division on the 
west coast of Leyte brought into sharper 
focus the difficult job of giving adequate 
logistical support to the tactical units. The 
Sixth Army supply lines were tenuous. There 
was a shortage of shipping, and furnishing 
supplies to the troops fighting in the moun 
tains was especially difficult. 

In planning for the amphibious move 
ment of the 77th Division, the resupply ship 
ping set up for the division was as follows: 
on 9 December, two days after the division's 
landing at Deposito, 12 LSM's and 4 LCI's 
would bring in supplies ; on 1 1 December, 
1 2 LSM's and 5 LCI's would bring in addi 
tional supplies; and on 13 December 12 
LSM's and 4 LCFs would carry further 
supplies to the division. Thereafter, 3 LSM's 
would be assigned the task of supplying the 
77th Division. 9 



8 Rpt of Transportation Off, Sixth Army Opns 
Rpt Leyte, p. 270. 
7 Ibid. 
* G~4 Rpt, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2 18. 



8 Msg, G-3 XXIV Corps to G-4 XXIV Corps, 
n. d. (probably 4 Dec 44), XXIV Corps GMr Jnl, 
Annex, Vol. III. 



LOGISTICS 



311 



TABLE 3 AIRDROPS BY lira AIR CARGO RESUPPLY SQUADRON, 11 NovEMBER-25 DECEMBER 

1944 



Branch 



Supplies 



Weight in 
Pounds 



Percent of 
Total 



Total 1,167,818 

Quartermaster Rations 445,916 

Miscellaneous 357,061 

Ordnance Ammunition 337, 761 

Medical Supply and Equipment 21, 308 

Signal Supply and Equipment | 4, 546 

Chemical Chemical Warfare Supplies j 1,226 

I f 

Units Supplied Weight 

Total 1,167,818 

llth Airborne Division 388, 570 

1st Cavalry Division 301,058 

32d Infantry Division 167,859 

24th Infantry Division 126,004 

Guerrillas 91,054 

96th Infantry Division 52,973 

77th Infantry Division 14, 800 

112th Cavalry Regiment 10,300 

7th Infantry Division 4, 200 

Others 11,000 



100.0 



38.3 

30.4 

28.9 

1.8 

0.4 

0.2 



Percent of 
Total 



100.0 



33.3 

25.8 

14.3 

10.7 

8.7 

4.2 

1.1 

0.8 

0.3 

0.8 



Source: Report of Transportation Officer, Sixth Army Operations Report Leyte, p. 271. 



The Japanese had sunk two LSM's near 
Baybay on 4 December and damaged sev 
eral other vessels during the Deposito land 
ing. 10 Because of the extreme shortage of 
shipping that resulted, General Hodge sug 
gested to General Bruce on 8 December that 
thirty trucks, which had been scheduled for 
delivery on the first two convoys of resupply 
shipping, be sent overland along the 
Abuyog-Baybay mountain road and used 
to shuttle supplies of the division between 
the two towns. These supplies could be sent 
forward to the 77th Division when its beach- 



* Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 79. 



head merged with that of the 7th Division. 11 
On the following day the first resupply for 
the 77th division left Abuyog in a convoy of 
trucks which went over the mountains to 
Baybay, where LCM's took the cargo and 
moved it to the area of the 77th Division. 12 
At 2100 on 10 December, General Hodge 
notified General Bruce that the second eche 
lon of resupply was to arrive at 2359 on the 
following day at any beach that General 
Bruce desired. The supplies consisted of 

11 Msg, CG XXIV Corps to CG 77th Div, 8 Dec 
44, XXIV Corps G-4 Jnl, Annex, Vol. III. 

12 Msg, CG XXIV Corps to Col Gillette, 9 Dec 
44, XXIV Corps G-4 Jnl, Annex, Vol. III. 



312 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



40,000 rations, 1,000 gallons of 80-octane 
gasoline, 500 gallons of diesel oil, 100 tons 
of ammunition, and 10 tons of medical sup 
plies. Certain tactical and service units were 
also to be sent forward. The third echelon, 
which was scheduled to arrive on the west 
coast on the night of 14-15 December, was 
to consist of the remaining units of the 77th 
Division and "considerable resupply." 13 

As the tide of battle swept the 77th Divi 
sion farther northward, its line of supply and 
that of the 7th Division became very thin. 
About 15 December the supply officer of the 
XXIV Corps summarized the situation to 
the corps chief of staff. Between 19 and 25 
December three resupply echelons, consist 
ing of twenty-four LSM's and five LCI's 
carrying 3,250 tons of supplies, were to ar 
rive on the west coast. He believed this 
amount was insufficient. According to his 
calculations, the daily requirements for two 
divisions in heavy fighting were 500 tons of 
supplies. He estimated that the supplies of 
the 77th Division could not last beyond 18 
December. By 19 December the division 
would be in short supply unless 100 truck 
loads of supplies could be sent over the 
mountains before that time. The convoy that 
was to go forward on the 19th would carry 
only two days' supplies and there would be a 
three-day interval before the arrival of the 
next convoy. The XXIV Corps, therefore, 
was faced with the problem of moving 200 
truck loads of supplies during those three 
days merely to keep even. After 25 Decem 
ber, one and a half days' supply would be 
sent overwater every three days. Since the 
supply officer of the XXTV Corps had strong 

* Msg, GG XXIV Corps to CG 77th Div, 10 Dec 
44, XXIV Corps G-4 Jnl, Annex, Vol. III. 



doubts that the road would stand "a move 
ment involving 300 trucks every three days" 
it was believed that the supply situation 
would steadily worsen. 14 

On 15 December General Kruegersent a 
radio message to Admiral Kinkaid reviewing 
the critical supply situation and requesting 
that sufficient amphibious shipping be made 
available immediately to carry supplies to 
the forces on the west coast. Admiral Kin 
kaid acquiesced, and on 22 December a 
resupply convoy arrived at Ormoc with 
"sufficient supplies and equipment to alle 
viate the critical situation." ^ 

By 26 December a general level of five to 
ten days' supply of all classes had been built 
up, a level that was maintained throughout 
the rest of the operation. The XXIV Corps 
utilized to the maximum the available space 
on the LSM convoys, and units on the west 
coast employed all available motor trans 
portation to supplement the tonnage on the 
convoys. Finally, the supplies were pooled 
in dumps at Ipil and Ormoc and then al 
lotted to the units. 

On 25 December General Hodge received 
a Christmas message from his supply officer : 
"Best wishes for Merry Xmas and a New 
Year filled with supplies, resupplies, more 
supplies and no supply worries." 16 

The serious logistical situation was to 
affect definitely the progress of the Sixth 
Army as it fought its way into Ormoc Val 
ley the last important enemy stronghold 
on the island. 



14 Memo, G-4 XXIV Corps to CofS XXIV Corps, 
n.d. (probably 15 Dec 44), XXIV Corps G-4 Jnl, 
Annex, Vol. IV. 

15 Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 80. 
M XXIV Corps G-4 Jnl, 25 Dec 44, 



CHAPTER XIX 



The Entrances to Ormoc Valley 



General Bnice's quick exploitation of the 
surprise landing of the 77th Division just 
below Ormoc had resulted in the capture of 
Ormoc on 10 December. With each suc 
cessive advance, he had displaced his entire 
division forward. General Bruce, as he 
phrased it, preferred to "drag his tail up the 
beach." l 

With the seizure of Ormoc, General 
Krueger's Sixth Army had driven the main 
elements of the Japanese 35th Army into 
Ormoc Valley. The Japanese were caught in 
the jaws of a trap the 1st Cavalry Division 
and the 32d Infantry Division were closing 
in from the north and the 77th Infantry 
Division from the south. General Krueger 
ordered the X and XXIV Corps to close 
this trap upon the Japanese. 

Southern Entrance to Ormoc Valley 
Japanese Plans 

When General Suzuki, the commander of 
the Japanese 35th Army, ordered the action 
against the Burauen airfields, his anticipa 
tions had been high. Accompanied by his 
chief of staff and six other staff officers, he 
had gone to the headquarters of the 26th 
Division, in the mountains near Lubi, in 



1 Maj Charles V. McLaughlin, Operations of the 
XXIV Corps in the Invasion of Leyte Island, pp. 
29-30. Advanced Infantry Officers' Course, 1947- 
48, Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Ga. 



order to supervise the operation personally. 
General Tornochika, the deputy chief of 
staff, remained at Ormoc because of the ad 
vance of the Americans up the west coast, 
and took command of operations in the 
area. 

A mixed battalion, consisting of four com 
panies, reinforced the 12th Independent In 
fantry Regiment. This regiment, under 
Colonel Imahori, was to be prepared at a 
moment's notice for action in the Ormoc 
sector. 2 The 1 6th and 26th Divisions re 
ceived orders to retreat westward and estab 
lish defensive positions in the Ormoc Valley. 
The 16th Division, which had less than 200 
men, had ceased to exist as a fighting unit. 
The Japanese decided that henceforward 
their operations would be strictly defensive. 
The 26th Division started to withdraw 
through the mountains, but its orders to re 
treat were very hard to carry out. The Amer 
icans had blocked the road, and the llth 
Airborne Division units, which had ad 
vanced west from Burauen, were attacking 
in the vicinity of Lubi. As a result, the staff 
officers of General Suzuki's 35th Army "dis 
banded and scattered." General Suzuki 
passed through the American lines and 
reached the command post at Huaton, four 
miles north of Ormoc, on 13 December; his 
chief of staff arrived there the following day. 
As for the 26th Division, "all contact with 



1 35th Army Opns, p. 86. 



314 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



the Division was lost by Army Headquarters 
until the early part of March." 3 

In the meantime General Tomochika had 
prepared new plans. On 6 December he 
was told by a staff officer of the 1st Division, 
which was fighting the 32d Division in the 
north, that the 1st Division had "reached 
the stage of collapse." 4 The mission of the 
1st Division was then changed to one of 
defense. Colonel Imahori by the night of 
7 December had sent two companies south. 5 
These companies, known as the Kamijo 
Battalion, were destroyed at Ipil by the 
77th Division in its march to Ormoc. 
Colonel Imahori, fearful that the rest of his 
detachment would suffer the same fate, 
ordered his main force, the Tateishi and 
Maeda Battalions, to construct positions 
north of Ormoc. The remnants of the 
Kamijo Battalion established a position 
northeast of Ormoc. In his plan for the 
parachute attack on the Burauen airfields, 
General Suzuki had decided to use as a part 
of his attacking force the 4th Air Raiding 
Landing Unit. In view of the unfavorable 
situation that had developed, the 14th Area 
Army commander, General Yamashita, de 
cided that after the 4th Air Raiding Land- 
ing Unit landed at the Valencia airfield it 
was to be kept in the Ormoc area. From 8 
to 13 December approximately 500 men 
from the unit arrived in the Ormoc area, 

'Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 25; 
14th Area Army Opns Leyte, p. 13. 

4 Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 25. 

* General Tomochika was unqualified in his praise 
of ^ the commander of the Imahori Detachment. He 
said, "Colonel Imahori had good personality and 
was a good leader. His subordinates were willing 
to join the suicide squads when the American forces 
increased in number. We did not have any worries 
about the attacking Americans on this detachment's 
front because the suicide squads brought good re 
sults . . . Ibid., pp. 19-20. 



and were attached to the Imahori Detach 
ment. They had traveled only at dawn or 
dusk to avoid detection. 

At the same time, "in order to ease the 
difficult Leyte Island Operation," General 
Yamashita dispatched from Luzon to assist 
the troops in the Ormoc sector the Taka- 
hashi Detachment, composed of the 5th In 
fantry Regiment of the 8th Division, an 
artillery battalion, a company of engineers 
a transportation company, and a Special 
Naval Landing Force of 400 men with four 
light tanks and sixteen trench mortars. In 
order to suppress the guerrillas, who were 
active in the Camotes Islands off the west 
coast of Leyte and who were guarding the 
entrance to Ormoc Bay, the area army com 
mander ordered a detachment, known as 
the Camotes Detachment, to those islands. 
This detachment was composed of one bat 
talion (less two companies) of the 58th In 
dependent Mixed Brigade, an artillery bat 
tery, and an engineering platoon. 

The transports carrying the troops to the 
Ormoc area underwent a severe aerial bom 
bardment from American aircraft. As a con 
sequence, only the Special Naval Landing 
Force arrived at its target. On the same day 
the transports carrying the Takahashi and 
Camotes Detachments were forced to put in 
at Palompon on the west coast. The subse 
quent advance of these detachments toward 
Ormoc was greatly delayed. 

On 9 December the 77 1 h Infantry Regi 
ment, the last of the Japanese reinforce 
ments for Leyte, landed at Palompon and 
moved to Matagob. General Suzuki in 
tended to assemble and integrate these units 
and to launch a counteroffensive against 
Ormoc starting on 17 December. 6 

6 35t h Army Opns, pp. 87-89. 



THE ENTRANCES TO ORMOC VALLEY 



315 




HEAVY MACHINE GUNS COVER CROSSING of the Antilao River bj men of the 
77th Division at Ormoc. 



Cogon Defenses 

On 10 December General Bruce devised 
a new scheme of maneuver: the 77th Divi 
sion was to break loose from its base and use 
Indian warfare or blockhouse tactics. At 
night each "fort 53 was to establish an all- 
round defense from any Japanese night at 
tacks. In the daytime, an armed convoy was 
to go "from fort to fort. 33 The Filipino guer 
rillas were to guard the bridges and furnish 
intelligence. 7 

By nightfall of 10 December the 77th 
Division had cleared Ormoc. (See Map 19. ) 
The front lines of the 307th Infantry were 
on the western outskirts of the town along 
the bank of the Antilao River, a stream 



7 Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OCMH. 



which flows past the entire western side of 
Ormoc. At the city's northern edge the river 
is crossed by Highway 2, which then pro 
ceeds directly north about 300 yards west 
of the river and parallel to it for a distance 
of about 1,000 yards. The 306th Infantry 
on the right of the 307th Infantry had come 
abreast of that regiment at twilight. 

General Brace's plan for 11 December 
provided for a limited attack north to en 
able the division to straighten out its lines. 
The 305th Infantry in the afternoon would 
come between the 306th Infantry on the 
right and the 307th Infantry on the left. 
The 305th Infantry was to be prepared to 
attack on the morning of 1 2 December with 
battalions abreast, one on each side of the 
highway. 8 

8 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 1 1 Dec 44. 



316 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



At 0930 on 11 December the 306th and 
307th Infantry Regiments jumped off with 
the 307th Infantry on the left. The assault 
battalions of the 307th Infantry and the 1st 
Battalion, 306th Infantry, attempted to cross 
the Antilao River but came under heavy fire 
and were pinned down. 

The fire came from a well-fortified posi 
tion of the 12th Independent Infantry Regi 
ment on the north bank of the river at 
Cogon, a small barrio on Highway 2 just 
north of Ormoc. The enemy position was on 
a small elevated plateau, adjacent to High 
way 2, overlooking the river to the south and 
rice paddies to the east and west. Innumer 
able spider holes had been constructed 
throughout the area. The principal defensive 
position, slightly east of Cogon, was in the 
vicinity of a three-story reinforced concrete 
building that had been converted into a 
blockhouse. The well-camouflaged posi 
tions, with the exception of the f ortress, were 
so situated in the underbrush and the 
waist-high cogon grass that it was impossible 
to detect them at a distance of more than 
ten feet. From these positions the Japanese 
could command the bridge over the Antilao 
River and deny the U. S. troops the use of 
Highway 2 to the north. An estimated rein 
forced battalion with machine guns, anti 
tank guns, and field pieces, together with 
small arms, defended the area. 

The artillery fired on the enemy front 
lines, which were only twenty-five yards in 
front of the American assault troops, but 
failed to dislodge the Japanese. The assault 
battalions of the 307th Infantry and the 1st 
Battalion, 306th Infantry, thereupon deliv 
ered point-blank fire from their tank de 
stroyer guns, amphibian tank guns, light 
and medium machine guns, and infantry 
weapons on the Japanese position but still 
could not overcome it. The lack of shipping 



had prevented the division from taking its 
medium tanks with it. Unable to move for 
ward, the battalions established their front 
lines and perimeters for the night along a 
line just north of Ormoc. 

On the division's right, the 3d Battalion, 
306th Infantry, moved forward against in 
creasingly strong resistance from the 12th 
Independent Infantry Regiment. After ad 
vancing about 1,000 yards the 3d Battalion 
encountered a well-entrenched position. Ele 
ments of the 12th Independent Infantry 
Regiment had dug in on a steep ridge in 
front of which was a deep ravine. Eight hun 
dred yards of rice paddies lay between this 
position and the one opposing the other 
battalions, though both positions were part 
of the same defensive system. The artillery 
placed fire upon the ridge. Although able to 
utilize only a company and a half against 
the enemy position, the 3d Battalion, under 
cover of the artillery fire, attacked and suc 
ceeded in gaining a foothold on the ridge. 
The 12th Independent Infantry Regiment 
at the same time directed two unsuccessful 
counterattacks against the right flank and 
rear of the 3d Battalion. Since the forward 
elements on the ridge were vulnerable and 
any further advance would have exposed 
both flanks of the 3d Battalion, the com 
manding officer of the 306th Infantry at 
1600 ordered the 3d Battalion to withdraw 
the forward units on the enemy-held ridge 
and consolidate its position. 9 

At 1600 the 2d and 3d Battalions, 305th 
Infantry, moved north of Ormoc and took 
up the position held by the 1st Battalion, 
306th Infantry, between the 307th Infantry 



* 77th Div G-2 Periodic Rpt 15, 11 Dec 44 ; Com 
pany A, 88th Chemical Bn, Jnl, 10 Dec 44; 306th 
Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 8 ; 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 18; 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5; 77th Div 
G-3 Jnl, 11 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 17, 
12 Dec 44. 



THE ENTRANCES TO ORMOC VALLEY 



317 



on the left and the 3d Battalion, 306th In 
fantry, on the right. The relieved battalion 
was ordered to take a position to reinforce 
the 2d and 3d Battalions, 306th Infantry. 
The 1st Battalion, 305th Infantry, remained 
just south of Camp Downes as the extreme 
right flank of the 77th Division. 10 

In his plan for the drive of the XXIV 
Corps up Ormoc Valley, General Hodge 
ordered the 7th Division to "continue the 
attack as directed and coordinated" by 
General Bruce. 11 To strengthen the Ormoc 
defenses, elements of the 7th Division were 
scheduled to be brought forward. General 
Bruce planned to attack daily towards Va 
lencia, which was about six and a half miles 
north of Ormoc. The 77th Division would 
eventually cut loose from the Ormoc de 
fenses and take up each night an all-round 
defense. The supply convoy, protected by 
strong guards, would move along High W T ay 
2 and measure its advance by that of the 
assault units. The 305th Infantry was to 
proceed along Highway 2 and the 306th 
Infantry, while protecting the division right 
flank, was to be prepared to proceed 2,000 
to 3,000 yards east of Highway 2 3 move 
north through the hills to a point due east 
of Valencia, and then turn west across High 
way 2 and capture that town. The 307th 
Infantry, while protecting the division left 
flank, was to be prepared to relieve the 
305th Infantry. The artillery of the division 
at the outset was to support the advance 
from Ormoc and eventually move with the 
forward element of the 77th Division when 
the latter cut loose from the Ormoc sector. 12 



10 305th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2; 306th Inf 
Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 8; 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, 
p. 18; 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 17, 12 Dec 44. 

11 XXIV Corps FO 33, 4 Dec 44. 

*Ltr, GG 77th Div to CG XXIV Corps, sub: 
Future Plans, 11 Dec 44, 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 12 
Dec 44. 



Enemy Night Landings 

At 2330 on 11 December the 77th Divi 
sion beach defense units observed a Japanese 
convoy, which was transporting the Special 
Naval Landing Force, steaming into Ormoc 
Bay with the apparent intention of landing 
at Ormoc. The Japanese evidently thought 
that Ormoc was still in their hands. The first 
craft noticed by the U.S. forces was a land 
ing barge with about fifty men, heading 
directly for the Ormoc pier. By the time the 
barge came within range of the shore weap 
ons, all shore units were alert and waited 
with guns trained upon it. They withheld 
their fire until the barge was within fifty 
yards of the pier and then all weapons con 
verged their fires upon the craft. The first 
rounds squarely hit the barge, which imme 
diately burst into flames. The Japanese 
clambered atop the gunwales and are re 
ported to have screamed, "Don't shoot," 
under the mistaken notion that their forces 
still occupied Ormoc. 

The harbor was lit up by the burning 
barge and 60-mm. illuminating shells. Dur 
ing the night the Americans discovered that 
another enemy vessel, about the size of an 
LST, had pulled into shore northwest of the 
town under cover of darkness and was busily 
engaged in discharging troops and equip 
ment. The tank destroyer guns of the 307th 
Infantry, emplaced along the beach within 
1,000 yards of the vessel, opened fire on it 
while forward observers from the 902d Field 
Artillery Battalion directed artillery fire 
upon the landing area and inland. The 
enemy vessel attempted to pull out to sea, 
but after proceeding less than fifty yards it 
burst into flames and sank. About 150 men, 
two tanks, a number of rifles, mortars, and 
machine guns, and a quantity of ammuni 
tion had been unloaded before the vessel 



318 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



sank, but most of the supplies, including 
four ammunition trucks, had been destroyed 
by American fire while the vessel was un 
loading. 

The early dawn of 12 December revealed 
another ship of the same type farther west 
near Linao. The artillery, mortars, and tank 
destroyer guns opened up against this vessel 
as it fled along the shores of Ormoc Bay, and 
their fire followed until it was out of range. 
Before the fire ceased, heavy clouds of smoke 
billowed from the vessel as it moved at a 
snail's pace. During the night the American 
fire had to be closely co-ordinated, since 
American vessels, including a resupply con 
voy, were in the bay. Not a single U. S. craft 
was damaged. 

Troops of the Special Naval Landing 
Force who had disembarked got in touch 
with Colonel Imahori, who immediately or 
dered them to go to Highway 2 as the re 
serve unit of the 12th Independent Infantry 
Regiment. It was impossible for them to 
carry out the order, since the 77th Division 
had advanced north from Ormoc. They 
thereupon decided to join a naval airfield 
construction unit at Valencia, but again they 
failed. In the latter part of December, the 
men of the Special Naval Landing Force 
were in the eastern part of the Palompon 
area without having taken part in the battle 
for the Ormoc corridor. 13 

Battle of the Blockhouse 

Because the fighting on the previous day 
had been extremely intense, General Bruce 
on 12 December consolidated his positions 
and brought forward supplies and support 
ing artillery. The front-line units sent out 
strong combat and reconnaissance patrols to 

13 77th Div Opus Rpt Leyte, pp. 18-19; 305th 
Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5; 35th Army Opns, p 8. 



the front and flanks to secure information 
on the dispositions of the Japanese. 14 
Throughout the day and night the artillery 
battalions of the division placed harassing 
and interdiction fires on the enemy positions 
across the Antilao River. 15 

The 902d and 305th Field Artillery Bat 
talions, two batteries of the 304th Field Ar 
tillery Battalion, and one battery of 155-mm. 
howitzers from the 306th Field Artillery 
Battalion fired continuously for five minutes 
on the morning of 13 December at the 
enemy position in front of the 305th Infan 
try. So intense was the fire that the enemy 
soldiers were bewildered and streamed to 
ward the front lines of the division where 
they were cut down in great numbers by 
machine gun and small arms fire. The Japa 
nese in and around the concrete building, 
however, lay low and weathered the bar 
rage. 

General Bruce attached Col. Paul L. 
Freeman, an observer from the War Depart 
ment General Staff, to the 305th Infantry. 
Colonel Freeman was made the commander 
of a special attack force, consisting of Com 
panies E and L, which was to storm the 
blockhouse. The 305th Infantry, which was 
to make the main effort, had the 3d Bat 
talion on the right of Highway 2 and the 2d 
and 1st Battalions on the left of the road. 
The 3d Battalion in a column of companies 
moved out at 0830. In support of the 305th 
Infantry, the 2d Platoon, Company A, 88th 
Chemical Battalion, fired on and silenced 
two enemy machine guns. The Japanese 
held their fire until the infantrymen were 
upon them, making it necessary for the artil 
lery to fire at very close range. The fire from 
the 305th Field Artillery Battalion came to 



1 77th Div G-2 Jnl, 13 Dec 44. 
1 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 20. 



THE ENTRANCES TO ORMOC VALLEY 



319 



within fifty yards of the American front 
lines. 

After Company I, the lead company, 
reached the ridge at 0925, K Company 
moved up and attempted to consolidate the 
3d Battalion's position by making an oblique 
turn to the right flank of Company I. It was 
hit at 1 155 by the first of five counterattacks 
by the 12th Independent Infantry Regi 
ment. The enemy preceded the infantry as 
sault by artillery, mortar, and automatic 
weapons fire. The 3d Battalion estimated 
the enemy force to be a reinforced battalion. 
All of the counterattacks were driven off 
with heavy casualties on both sides. 

The 2d'Battalion, 305th Infantry, on the 
left of the highway, jumped off at 0830 in a 
column of companies, Company F leading. 
At 0845 the troops ran into concentrated 
automatic weapons fire, which pinned them 
down. Company G moved around the left 
flank of Company F and also came under 
heavy fire. A Japanese force estimated as 
two reinforced companies opposed Com 
panies F and G. With the right flank of 
Company F on the blockhouse, the 2d Bat 
talion pivoted on this point until the line ran 
in a generally northern direction from the 
blockhouse and faced toward the east. The 
1st Battalion faced north and tied in with 
the 307th Infantry on its left. Colonel Free 
man's special attack force was unable to 
move forward. The 3d Battalion held the 
commanding ground east of Highway 2. 
The battalions of the 305th Infantry ar 
ranged co-ordinating fires that covered all 
open spaces. 16 

The 307th Infantry moved westward 
along the Ormoc-Linao road to forestall 
any enemy reinforcements and counterat- 

w 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 3-4; Company 
A, 88th Chem Bn, Jnl, 0900, 13 Dec 44; 77th Div 
Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 20-21; 77th Div Arty Opns 
Rpt Leyte, p. 5; 77th Div G-2 Jnl, 13 Dec 44. 

260317 O 51 22 



tacks from that direction. The troops en 
countered few Japanese. The 307th Infan 
try hi its advance of 1,000 yards took the 
barrio of Linao and captured three artillery 
pieces and two antiaircraft guns, as well as 
ammunition for those weapons. 17 

The 306th Infantry, protecting the right 
flank of the 305th, received no opposition 
during the day but assisted the attack of the 
305th Infantry by fire. Patrols of the 306th 
Infantry explored the area in the vicinity of 
Donghol, about two miles northeast of Or- 
moc, but made no contact with the enemy. 18 

Although the 77th Division had extended 
its western boundary during the day by 
about 1,000 yards, the front lines in the 
center remained generally where they had 
been in the morning. The 1st and 2d Pla 
toons of Company A, 88th Chemical Bat 
talion, laid a continuous smoke screen in 
front of the troops from 0930 to 1630, en 
abling the aid men to remove the wounded 
from the front lines and carry them to the 
rear. 19 

During the night of 13-14 December the 
artillery of the 77th Division delivered ha 
rassing and interdiction fires to the front, 
the principal target being the concrete house 
that had withstood the onslaught of the pre 
vious two days. The 1st Battalion, 305th 
Infantry, received enemy mortar fire during 
the night, and both it and the 2d Battalion 
received light machine gun fire in the early 
morning hours. The 2d Battalion destroyed 
one machine gun with mortar fire. 

At 0930 on 14 December Colonel Free 
man prepared his special assault force to 

31 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5; 77th Div 
Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 21 ; 77th Div G-2 Jnl, 0850, 
13 Dec 44. 

18 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 8 ; 77th Div Opns 
Rpt Leyte, p. 21. 

w Company A, 88th Chem Bn, Jnl, 0930, 1000, 
1 3 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2 1. 



320 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



renew the attack. Before the jump-off, artil 
lery and mortars laid their fire on the block 
house and beyond. Under cover of artillery 
fire the troops cautiously moved out at 1030 
with Company L on the right and by 1 105 
they had advanced 1 00 yards. Company L 
knocked out two pillboxes with flame 
throwers and a tank destroyer gun. Com 
pany E found every- step of the way con 
tested. The troops used hand grenades and 
bayonets and literally forced the enemy out 
of the foxholes in tough hand-to-hand 
fighting. 20 Capt. Robert B. Nett, the com 
manding officer of Company E, although 
seriously wounded, refused to relinquish his 
command. He led his company forward and 
killed seven Japanese with his rifle and 
bayonet. Captain Nett was aw r arded the 
Medal of Honor. 

While Company E was so engaged, Com 
pany L on its right advanced through dense 
foliage and burnt the Japanese out of their 
foxholes and the bamboo thicket with flame 
throwers. The company was assisted by 
armored bulldozers from the 302d En 
gineers. For a hundred yards on all sides of 
the blockhouse, the enemy had dug many 
deep foxholes only a few yards apart. All 
the foxholes were covered, some with coco 
nut logs and earth, and others with impro 
vised lids of metal and earth. One was 
protected by an upturned bathtub. The 
armored bulldozer drove over the positions, 
its blades cutting off the tops of the foxholes, 
after which small arms fire into the holes 
killed the occupants. The crews of the tank 
destroyers not only fired point-blank at 
targets but opened the escape hatches and 
dropped grenades into the foxholes. 21 At 
1240 the blockhouse, or what remained of 
it, was secured. 

* 305th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5. 
n Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OGMH. 



In the meantime the 1st Battalion, 305th 
Infantry, flanked the blockhouse at 1225 
and wheeled 1,000 yards to the east, cutting 
off the enemy line of communications on 
Highway 2. The 3d Battalion, 305th In 
fantry, remained on the high ground. By 
1510 the crossroad north of Ormoc was 
taken. At the end of the day, the front lines 
of the 305th Infantry ran south to north 
along Highway 2 with Company L in the 
blockhouse sector. A large pocket of the en 
emy, which had been bypassed by the 1st 
Battalion, was centered generally in front 
of the 2d Battalion. The 307th Infantry was 
on the left flank of the 305th, while the 1st 
Battalion, 184th Infantry, which had re 
lieved the 306th Infantry, was on the right 
flank in Ormoc. 22 

During the day the 307th Infantry con 
tinued its mission of protecting the left flank 
of the 77th Division in its northward ad 
vance and sent patrols and a strong recon 
naissance force, consisting of two reinforced 
rifle companies, one dismounted cannon 
platoon, and four tanks, west to the banks 
of an unnamed river near Jalubon. The re 
connaissance force killed twenty-one of the 
enemy, also capturing and destroying great 
quantities of Japanese materiel and sup 
plies. By the time the perimeter of the 307th 
Infantry was established in the late after 
noon of 14 December, as reported by Gen 
eral Bruce, "the coast line from Ormoc to 
Jalubon was dotted with fires and the ex 
plosions of burning Japanese ammunition 
dumps." 

22 305th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 20, 15 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 22; 77th Div G-2 Summary Leyte Opn, 
p. 2 ; 77th Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5. 

28 "This force succeeded in destroying 6 amphib 
ious tanks, 7 landing barges, 1 eighty-foot two- 
masted schooner, 50 tons of ammunition, approx 
imately twenty-five tons of miscellaneous supplies, 
4 40-mm. A A guns, 4 20-mm. A A guns, 1 7 7 -mm. 



THE ENTRANCES TO ORMOG VALLEY 



321 



Two other patrols, composed of volun 
teers from the 1 306th and 307th Infantry- 
Regiments, reconnoitered approximately 
3,000 yards to the west of the 307th Infan 
try for possible trails for a wide envelop 
ment. 24 These patrols met only scattered 
groups of the enemy and advanced within 
2,000 yards of Valencia, returning with the 
information that an envelopment was 
feasible. 25 During the day the 184th In 
fantry relieved the 306th Infantry of its 
mission of holding the coastal defenses, 
freeing the latter unit for an enveloping 
movement to the north. 

On 15 December the 77th Division con 
solidated its lines and sent out small patrols. 
The enemy continued to be very active in the 
sector of the 305th Infantry. During the 
night the artillery operating in the 1st Bat 
talion sector knocked out four 2*4 -ton 
trucks and killed seventeen of the enemy, 
while the 2d Battalion beat off two Japa 
nese counterattacks. In the 3d Battalion 
sector all was quiet. 

By 15 December the port of Ormoc had 
been sealed off. It was through this port that 
the Japanese had sent in a profusion of men, 
supplies, and equipment, thus prolonging 
the battle for the island beyond the time an 
ticipated in the original American plans for 
the operation. The 77th Division estimated 

dual purpose gun [probably a 75-mm. gun], several 
machine guns, a radio transmitter and generator, 1 
seacoast range finder and had burnt about half the 
town of Linao in order to destroy Japanese positions 
dug in that vicinity. . . . 

Although the force was unable to carry back 
much of the equipment it captured owing to its 
small size and the necessity of mobility, it managed 
to return 1 seacoast range finder, 1 large radio trans 
mitter and 2 20-mm. AA guns." 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 23. 

M 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 22. 

*Ibid. 9 pp. 22-23; 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 
20, 15 Dec 44; 305th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9; 
307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 



that for the period from 1 1 through 15 De 
cember it had taken 9 prisoners and killed 
3,046 of the enemy. 26 Its own casualties 
were 2 officers and 101 enlisted men killed, 
22 officers and 296 enlisted men wounded, 
and 26 enlisted men missing in action. 27 

The Mountain Passage 

As a result of General Suzuki's abortive 
attempt to seize the Burauen airfields, a 
number of Japanese soldiers remained in the 
mountains west of Burauen. Most of these 
were from the 26th Division and they were 
trying to rejoin the main part of the 35th 
Army in Ormoc Valley. Earlier, the llth 
Airborne Division had started out over the 
mountains from Burauen hi order to relieve 
enemy pressure on the eastern flank of the 
XXIV Corps in its drive toward Ormoc. 
(Map 21) 

Mahonag 

Just west of Burauen the central moun 
tain range rises abruptly from Leyte Valley 
to peaks that are 4,000 feet or more in height. 
Many of the deep, precipitous gorges were 
impassable even for foot soldiers. No roads 
went through the mountains but there were 
short footpaths from one locality to another. 
Some of these trails led over boulder-strewn, 
swiftly running streams and frequently 
bridged deep gorges with a single log where 
a slip meant a drop of thirty to forty feet. 
The paths were often so steep that footholds 
had to be cut into the hillsides, and soldiers 
were forced to use their hands to avoid fall 
ing as much as forty to a hundred feet. 28 

36 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpts Nos. 17-21, 13-16 
Dec 44. 

37 77th Div G-l Daily Strength Rpts, 11-15 

Dec 44. 

28 188th Prcht Regt Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1 . 



322 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



MOUNTAH^ PASSAGE 

November- E2 December 1944 
1012 MILES 




MAP 21 

On 25 November the 511th Parachute 
Infantry Regiment moved west from Bu- 
rauen for Mahonag, ten miles away. The 
almost impassable terrain, heavy rainfall, 
and pockets of lurking Japanese made pas 
sage very difficult. It was impossible for the 
regiment to move as a unit. In small parties, 
sometimes even less than a squad, the 51 1th 
moved forward. "The journey to Mahonag 
defies description. Sucking mud, jungle 
vines, and vertical inclines exhausted men 
before they had marched an hour. Though 
it rained often during any one trip, still there 
was no drinking water available throughout 
the journey." 29 The 3d Battalion, 511th 
Parachute Infantry Regiment, after consid 
erable hardship entered Mahonag on 6 De 
cember. 30 

On 9 December the 2d Battalion, though 
encountering heavy fire from enemy ma 
chine guns, mortars, and rifles, pushed 
steadily forward and established contact 
with the other units of the 5 1 1th Parachute 
Infantry Regiment at Mahonag. For several 
days thereafter, this regiment was busily en 
gaged in sending out patrols. Company G, 
patrolling in force for two miles to the front, 
was cut off from the rest of the regiment, 



which was held down because of strong 
enemy action. On 13 December the 32d In 
fantry pushed northeast from Ormoc Bay 
in an effort to make juncture with the 1 1th 
Airborne Division and assist it in moving 
out of the mountains. 

Drive of 32 d Infantry 

The 32d Infantry also encountered very 
precipitous hills and its advance was bitterly 
contested by the Japanese. By the evening of 
14 December the regiment had considerably 
reduced the distance between itself and the 
5 1 1th Parachute Infantry. 

At 0700 on 15 December, as the 3d Bat 
talion was moving out, a patrol of six men 
from Company G, 511th Parachute Infan 
try, entered the battalion's lines. The rest of 
Company G was only 700 yards east of the 
ridge. The patrol reported that Company G 
had been cut off from the rest of the regi 
ment for four days and was without food. 



29 5 llth Prcht Inf Regt Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6; 
llth Airborne Div Special Study Leyte, p. 5. 

80 During the movement Pvt. Elmer E. Fryar of 
Company E was killed on 7 December when he vol 
untarily got in the way of enemy fire in order to 
shield his platoon leader. Private Fryar posthum 
ously received the Medal of Honor. 



THE ENTRANCES TO ORMOC VALLEY 



323 



The 3d Battalion encountered only slight 
resistance and at 0950 was on top of the 
ridge. A platoon moved out to make contact 
with Company G of the 511th Parachute 
Infantry. The platoon reached the com 
pany, and at 1855 Company G entered the 
lines of the 3d Battalion, which fed and 
sheltered its men for the night. 

In the meantime the 1st Battalion had 
moved out at 0800 and encountered scat 
tered resistance. To the east and south of 
the 32d Infantry was an impassable canyon, 
several hundred feet deep. In order to reach 
the 511th Parachute Infantry, it would be 
necessary for the regiment to go either north 
for an undetermined distance or down the 
ridge toward the coast and then up again. 
A third possibility involved crossing the 
Talisayan River in the foothills several miles 
to the west. With these facts in mind Colonel 
Finn asked his executive officer, "Are we to 
actually contact the 511th personally[?] 
What is the purpose of the contact and are 
we to lead them out by hand[?]" * 

At the same time, General Arnold advised 
the 511th Parachute Infantry of the situa 
tion and that "present orders" from General 
Hodge required the displacement of the 32d 
Infantry from its positions in order to wipe 
out pockets of resistance that remained near 
Ormoc. The 511th Parachute Infantry was 
to make every effort to drive toward the 
position of the 32d Infantry, since the latter 
would soon be withdrawn. The 5 1 1th would 
then have to fight it out alone. General Arn 
old finally decided that the 1st and 3d Bat 
talions, 32d Infantry, would be withdrawn 
and that the 2d Battalion, which was fresher, 
would move up and attempt to establish 
contact with the 5 1 1th Parachute Infantry. 32 



w 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 15 Dec 44. 
n 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 29-30; 32d Inf 
S-3 Periodic Rpt ? no number, 15 Dec 44; 32d Inf 



At 0700 on 16 December the 2d Bat 
talion started eastward along the south bank 
of the Talisayan River. For the next few 
days the battalion made slow progress, meet 
ing and destroying small groups of the 
enemy pushing west. As the troops advanced 
they were confronted with steep and heav 
ily wooded ridges which were separated by 
gorges several hundred feet deep. The Japa 
nese, well concealed by the heavy foliage 
and entrenched in caves, were most difficult 
to dislodge, but the distance between the 2d 
Battalion and the 511th Parachute Infan 
try daily diminished. On 20 December the 
2d Battalion was held up by the terrain and 
strong enemy opposition on two ridges to its 
front. For the next two days the battalion 
pounded at the Japanese force in attempts 
to dislodge it. At this time the distance be 
tween the 2d Battalion and the 51 1th Para 
chute Infantry had narrowed down. Enemy 
resistance was overcome on the morning of 
22 December. In the meantime the 187th 
Glider Infantry Regiment passed through 
the 5 1 1th Parachute Infantry Regiment and 
continued the attack. At 1330 on 22 Decem 
ber the 2d Battalion of the 187th Glider In 
fantry Regiment passed through the 2d Bat 
talion, 32 d Infantry, and pushed on to the 
coast. The difficult mountain passes had 
been overcome. 33 

The Drive South 
Regrouping of Japanese Forces 

When the Americans took Limon, the 
key point of entrance on Highway 2 into 
Ormoc Valley from the north, the Japanese 

S-2 Periodic Rpt, no number, 15 Dec 44; 32d Inf 
Unit Jnl, 15 Dec 44. 

M 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 30-31; 32d Inf 
Unit Jnl, 16 to 22 Dec 44 - 1 1th Airborne Div Opns 
Rpt Leyte, p. 10. 



324 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



forces were thrown into confusion. The 
Americans, unknown to themselves, had suc 
cessfully divided the Japanese 1st and 102d 
Divisions that had been charged with the de 
fense of northern Leyte. The Japanese were 
forced to regroup their various units in an 
attempt to correct the rapidly deteriorating 
situation along their front lines. The strong 
American infantry 7 assaults, which had been 
co-ordinated with heavy mortar and artil 
lery fire, induced General Kataoka, the 
commanding general of the 1st Division, 
to redistribute his forces along Highway 2.^ 

The onslaught of the X Corps had forced 
General Suzuki to abandon the earlier plan 
of advancing the 35 th Army north along 
three widely separated routes. Instead he 
had to concentrate the main strength of the 
1st Division along the highway to check the 
American advance. The plan to use the 1st 
Division as a strong offensive force had to be 
discarded in favor of using it in a strictly 
defensive role. 

The 1st Division had suffered much: as 
of 2 December, 3,000 of its men had been 
killed or wounded. Furthermore, one third 
of the infantry weapons of the 1st Infantry 
Regiment and two thirds of those belonging 
to the 57th Infantry Regiment had been 
rendered inoperable. The infantry 7 was short 
of grenades and ammunition for the 50-mm. 
grenade dischargers. "The men were suffer 
ing from the effect of continuous fighting, 
from lack of provisions, overwork, and espe 
cially from the lack of vitamins." 35 

By this time communications between the 
1st Division and other units had broken 
down. Telephonic and telegraphic commu- 

34 The part of this section dealing with Japanese 
plans and maneuvers is based upon the following 
documents : Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn ; 
35th Army Opns; 10th I&HS, Eighth Army Stf 
Study, Opns of Japanese 35th Army on Leyte. 

* 35th Army Opns, p. 91. 



nications between the division and 35th 
Army headquarters were out for long 
periods of time, and liaison between the 
division headquarters and front-line units 
was carried out by messengers moving on 
foot. The supply lines had also broken down. 
The 1st Division Transport Regiment found 
it virtually impossible to supply food and 
ammunition to the 1st and 57th Infantry 
Regiments and the 1st Artillery Regiment. 
General Kataoka grouped his forces along 
Highway 2 in the Limon Pinamopoan area 
in order to concentrate the maximum 
strength along Highway 2. The 1st Recon 
naissance Regiment was to attack the left 
flank of the 32d Division, 36 which was al 
ready opposed by the 57th Infantry in the 
Limon sector; the 1st Battalion, less Com 
pany 3, and the 2d Battalion, plus Company 
11, of the 49 th Infantry were to occupy the 
1,900-yard sector two miles southeast of 
Limon in order to hold back American 
forces in that area; and the 1st Artillery 
Regiment was to defend its prepared posi 
tions south of Limon. The troops of the 1st 
Engineer Regiment and other noncombat 
units were issued small arms and ordered to 
take part in the defense of Highway 2. 37 

36 The 1st Reconnaissance Regiment could not 
carry out this assignment, since it had been attacked 
by a larger American force. 

87 General Tomochika made the following com 
ments on the 1st Division: 

The personnel were brave but the officers lacked 
sufficient training in modern warfare and it finally 
did not live up to the expectations of its leaders. 
The division commander, Lt. Gen. Kataoka worried 
about the loss of his troops, lacked brave command 
ability and did not establish any set battle policy. 
[He refused to commit one of his important units to 
the defense of Highway 2.] ... therefore the Chief 
of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff and senior staff offi 
cers were dispatched from Army to Division on three 
different occasions to urge General Kataoka to sub 
mit to these orders. . . . Regardless of how much 
we urged General Kataoka to change his views he 
would not budge. Colonel Ikeda, the Chief of Staff 



THE ENTRANCES TO ORMOC VALLEY 



325 



Drive of the 32d Division 

In order to support the amphibious land 
ing of the 77th Division at Deposito and its 
subsequent movement northward,, General 
Krueger had ordered the X Corps to make 
its main effort, beginning on 5 December, 
by advancing vigorously south astride High 
way 2 from the vicinity of Limon. 28 Acting 
on Corps orders. General Gill prepared to 
move out with two regiments abreast. The 
32d Division consolidated its positions on 5 
December, and readied itself for a strong 
assault south down Highway 2.^ (See Map 
14.) 

The 127th Infantry had pushed past the 
3d Battalion, 128th Infantry, which was 
south of the Leyte River and west of Limon. 
The 1 27th encountered very determined re 
sistance from the Japanese entrenched on 
the high ground 1,000 yards south of the 
Leyte River bridge. The well-camouflaged 
enemy defenses consisted of numerous fox 
holes and ten-foot-deep spider holes, many 
of which were connected by interlacing 
communication trenches. 



of the 1st Division [until 13 December] was partially 
deaf and further because of a former lung ailment, 
he was unsuited to hold his important position. 
(Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn p. 18.) 

General Tomochika was less than fair to the 1st 
Division. From its positions in the mountains of 
nothern Leyte, the division contested every foot of 
advance of the X Corps. General Krueger said of 
the 1st Division: "This unit more than any other 
hostile unit on Leyte was responsible for the exten 
sion of the Leyte Operation." (Sixth Army Opns 
Rpt Leyte, p. 41.) 

" Sixth Army FO 36, 4 Dec 44. 

89 During the action of 5 December, He. William 
A. McWhorter sacrificed his life that a companion 
might live. He deliberately held next to his body and 
away from his comrade a Japanese grenade which, 
had been thrown into his position. The charge ex 
ploded and killed him instantly but did not harm 
his companion. He was awarded posthumously the 
Medal of Honor. 



The terrain that the troops traversed was 
adapted to defensive fighting, and the 1st 
Division took full advantage of this fact. 
There were deep ravines and steep hills 
where the enemy had dug in on both the 
forward and reverse slopes. The entire area 
was covered by heavy rain forest with dense 
underbrush. The nearly constant rainfall 
made observation difficult and the maps for 
the area were very inaccurate. 

By 12 December the 32d Division had 
"detoured" around the 1st and 57th In 
fantry Regiments of the 1st Division and was 
assaulting the Japanese artillery positions 
south of Limon. On this date the division 
straightened out its lines, established phys 
ical contact between the assault battalions, 
resupplied the assault units, and sent out 
patrols. The sector in which the greatest Jap 
anese resistance was encountered continued 
to be that of the 2d Battalion, 126th In 
fantry. Employing mortars and four tanks, 
this battalion was able to make only limited 
gains. 40 

During the night of 12-13 December the 
artillery battalions of the 32d Division fired 
harassing missions near the perimeters of the 
126th and 127th Infantry Regiments and 
southward on Highway 2 as far as the vicin 
ity of Lonoy. 

The 14th Area Army had planned to land 
the 39th Infantry Regiment and an artillery 
company from the 10th Division near Cari- 
gara on 16 December, but in view of the 
American 77th Division's advance to Ormoc 
the plan was canceled on 1 1 December. On 
13 December General Suzuki attached an 

* "However for a patrol from Company I [127th 
Infantry] it was a red letter day in that the patrol 
found a bottle of U.S. Golden Wedding Wiskey 
[sic] at an evacuated Jap hospital. It was consumed." 
127th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Dec 44. See also 127th Inf 
Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9; 126th Inf Unit Jnl, 12 Dec 
44; 32d Div G-3 Jnl, 12 Dec 44; 32d Div Leyte Opn 
Diary, pp. 21-22^ 



326 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINE^ 



infantry company of about 100 men from 
the 102d Division to the 1st Division in or 
der to strengthen the latter's lines. 

On the morning of 13 December the 2d 
Battalion, 126th Infantry, with the assist 
ance of its tanks and heavy mortars, pushed 
past the Japanese who had held up its ad 
vance. In the face of most determined 
opposition the battalion moved south, de 
stroying the pockets of resistance which had 
been bypassed. At the end of the day the 2d 
Battalion had advanced 400 yards to a posi 
tion 200 yards north of a roadblock set up 
by the 3d Battalion, 126th Infantry. The 3d 
Battalion, less Company L, which was to re 
main on the high ground overlooking the 
road, was to attack south on the east side of 
Highway 2 and come abreast of the 1st 
Battalion, 126th Infantry. 

At 1521 the 3d Battalion reported that six 
enemy tanks were coming up the highway. 
After heavy fighting, the Japanese tanks 
withdrew at nightfall and returned to the 
south. The 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, 
the southernmost unit of the division, made 
plans to dislodge the enemy force between 
it and the 3d Battalion. The contested 
ground consisted of an open space 600 to 
700 yards long and 200 to 300 yards wide, at 
the southern end of which were two knolls. 
The 1st Battalion had men on both knolls 
but did not control the northern end of the 
sector where the Japanese had dug in and 
were using machine guns, mortars, and 
rifles. The 1st Battalion charged against the 
Japanese and rooted them out with grenades 
and mortar fire. Except for this action, only 
slight gains were registered during the day. 
The men of the battalion were hungry, hav 
ing been without food since the previous 
afternoon. The commanding officer of the 
battalion renewed a request for additional 
rations and ammunition, since the one-third 



ration that had been received the day before 
was insufficient. 

The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 127th 
Infantry received orders from the reg"- 
mental commander to advance south win 
the 1st Battalion on the left, pinch out the 
3d Battalion, 126th Infantry, and link up 
with the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry. The 
1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, moved out 
in a column of companies and had ad 
vanced 400 yards when it encountered forty 
to fifty Japanese on a ridge to its front, 
about 150 yards west of the road. The 
enemy threw blocks of TNT and grenades 
against the battalion, effectively pinning 
down the troops. A night perimeter was 
established. 

The 2d Battalion, 1 26th Infantry, moved 
abreast of the regiment's 1st Battalion 
throughout the day. Its advance was bitterly 
contested by the Japanese, who employed 
machine guns, mortars, and rifles against 
the battalion, which dug in for the night 
under fire. 41 At 1630 the 1 1th Field Artillery 
Battalion fired upon fifteen Japanese who 
were walking along the road south of Lonoy 
and killed twelve of them. 42 

The night of 13-14 December was not 
quiet. At 2300 an enemy force from the 1st 
Infantry Regiment broke into the command 
post of the 126th Infantry. The Japanese set 
up a machine gun hi the area and attacked 
with grenades and rifles. Bitter hand-to- 
hand fighting ensued but by 0325 the enemy 
force was evicted and the area had quieted 
down. At 0630, with the coming of dawn, 
the Headquarters Company got things in 
order and everyone was "happy to hear 
sound of comrade's voices." Six Japanese 



41 32d Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 27, 13 Dec 44; 32d 
Div Opns Diary Leyte, pp. 23-24; 126th Inf TTnit 
Jnl, 13 Dec 44. 

42 32d Div Arty Daily Rpt, 14 Dec 44. 




U.S. AND JAPANESE TANKS. Camouflaged U.S. tanks are shown (above) on Highway 
2, between Limon and Lonoy. Burning Japanese tanks (be low) are checked by 127th Infantry 
troops north ofLonoy. 




328 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



were killed and two Americans and two Fili 
pinos wounded. 43 

On 14 December nearly all battalions of 
the 127th and 126th Infantry Regiments 
were engaged in moving slowly forward and 
maintaining . physical contact with each 
other. At 1045 the air observer of the 1 1th 
Field Artillery Battalion located what ap 
peared to be a camouflaged four-gun posi 
tion at a point 300 yards northeast of Lonoy. 
The battalion fired upon the site and the 
Japanese fled from the position. The llth 
Field Artillery Battalion again fired into the 
same general area at 1315 and set a supply 
and ammunition dump and three buildings 
on fire. At 1530 the battalion and the corps 
artillery massed their fires in order to cover 
all of Lonoy. 44 At 1730, the 127th Infantry 
destroyed two enemy tanks going north. 

The 126th Infantry, on the same day, 
moved forward in a column of battalions. 
The 1st Battalion made a limited advance, 
since it was very short of ammunition and 
completely out of food. It did establish a 
roadblock, however, and made contact with 
the 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry. The 2d 
Battalion, the northernmost unit of the 
126th Infantry, moved slowly behind the 
3d Battalion of the regiment An interval of 

43 126th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Dec 44. 

44 32d Div Arty Daily Rpt, 14 Dec 44. 



about 250 yards existed between the two bat 
talions. The Japanese in front of the 32d 
Division, especially in the sector of the 3d 
Battalion, had strongly entrenched them 
selves and resisted the 3d Battalion from 
both sides of the highway. 

Every bend of the road was lined with . . . 
foxholes dug into the banks of the road and 
spider holes dug underneath the roots of trees 
and under logs on the hillsides. It was bitter, 
close hand to hand fighting and because of the 
steepness of the terrain,, the denseness of the 
tree growth, the inaccuracy of maps and near 
ness of adjoining units, artillery and mortar 
fire could not be used to its full advantage in 
reducing these positions. 45 

The main Japanese defensive line had 
been reached. By 14 December the 32d Di 
vision had advanced more than two miles 
south of Limon. The 77th Division had 
crushed the Cogon defenses and was in a po 
sition to drive north and make juncture with 
elements of the X Corps. The northern and 
southern entrances to Ormoc Valley were 
denied to the Japanese. The jaws of the 
Sixth Army trap were starting to close. 

45 32d Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 12; X Corps G-3 
Jnl, 14 Dec 44; X Corps G-3 Periodic Rpt, X 
Corps G~3 Jnl, 14 Dec 44; 32d Div G-2 Jnl, 14 
Dec 44; 126th Inf Unit Jnl, 14 Dec 44; 127th Inf 
Unit Jnl, 14 Dec 44; 32d Div Opns Diary Leyte, 
p. 24; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 



CHAPTER XX 



Seizure of Ormoc Valley 



General Krueger wished the two corps 
to attack aggressively through Ormoc Val 
ley toward Valencia, about six and a half 
miles north of Ormoc. The X Corps, push 
ing south along Highway 2 3 was to seize the 
high ground north of Valencia and the 
XXIV Corps w r as to continue its drive north, 
capture Valencia, and establish contact 
with the X Corps. (Map 22) Driving north 
along Highway 2, the 77th Division was to 
seize Valencia and its airfield and effect a 
juncture with the X Corps to separate the 
enemy forces in the mountains east of its 
zone of action from those on the west coast 
in the Palompon area. General Bruce was 
to co-ordinate all artillery fires and air sup 
port missions in the Ormoc-Valencia area. 1 

After the seizure of Ormoc, although the 
35th Army still controlled Ormoc Valley, 
the Sixth Army had closed the northern and 
southern entrances. There remained avail 
able to the Japanese as a principal port only 
Palompon, A road from this town through 
the mountains joined Highway 2 in the 
vicinity of Libongao and constituted the 
only main route from the west coast of Leyte 
to Ormoc Valley, The Americans noticed 
that the Japanese were moving supplies, 
men, ammunition, and artillery to the 
Valencia area and concluded that the Japa 
nese would make a defensive stand in 
Valencia. 2 



By the end of 15 December the forces of 
General Bruce had cleared the Japanese de 
fenders from the Ormoc area and were 
ready for the next phase of the drive north 
up the Ormoc corridor. Reports made the 
previous day by the reconnaissance patrols 
from the 306th and 307th Infantry Regi 
ments indicated that there was little enemy 
resistance to the west of Highway 2. These 
led General Bruce to decide in favor of a 
plan for enveloping the enemy from the 
west. The 306th and 307th Infantry were 
to strike the flanks and rear of the Japanese 
defending the highway and thus permit a 
more rapid advance along this road by the 
305th Infantry. 3 

General Hodge had informed General 
Bruce that the commanding general of the 
Sixth Army desired to have the attack 
pushed "with all possible vigor." The oper 
ations of the 77th Division were to depend 
upon the situation and conditions then 
existing. 4 On 14 December General Hodge 
visited General Bruce, who explained his 
plans. General Hodge thought they were 
"sound 53 5 and later told General Bruce to 
keep his plans flexible in order to take ad 
vantage of every break to speed the advance 
north. It was imperative that the XXIV 



1 XXIV Corps FO 37, 1 8 Dec 44. 

3 Sixth Army G-2 Wkly Rpt 68, 13 Dec 44, p. 14, 



8 Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OGMH. 

4 Msg, CG XXIV Corps to CG 77th Div, 13 Dec 
44, XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 13 Dec 44. 

5 Msg, CG XXIV Corps to G-3 Sixth Army, 14 
Dec 44, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 14 Dec 44. 



330 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Corps secure control of the roads north be 
fore the Japanese could establish positions. 

Drive From the South to the Libongao Area 
Seizure of the Road Junction 

According to its plan of attack for 16 
December the 305th Infantry, from the 
vicinity of Cogon, was to continue its assault 
north on Highway 2, liquidate the remain 
ing enemy forces in Cogon, and finally se 
cure a large defensive position centered 
around the road junction north of Cogon. 
All three battalions of the regiment were to 
consolidate around the point while the 306th 
and 307th Infantry Regiments were to drive 
toward Valencia. 

The Cannon and Antitank Companies 
and the heavy weapons units of the other 
two regiments were attached to the 305th 
Infantry for movement only and were to be 
used solely in case of emergency. These units 
were to be sent to the 306th and 307th 
Infantry Regiments upon call by those 
regiments. 

At 0930 on 1 6 December the assault units 
of the 305th Infantry moved out. The 1st 
Battalion, on the left of Highway 2, was to 
attack north, and the 3d Battalion, on the 
right of Highway 2, was to attack north and 
then northeast to effect a juncture with the 
1st and 2d Battalions at the road junction 
north of Gogon. The 2d Battalion was to 
attack east to flank the enemy positions 
along the highway. The operation was to be 
assisted by artillery. 

During the morning the artillery in sup 
port of the 1st Battalion knocked out two 
antitank guns, a heavy machine gun, and 
an enemy dugout position. At 1035 the 1st 
Battalion had advanced several hundred 
yards. As the 3d Battalion came forward. 



Company L moved in on the right flank of 
the 1st Battalion. At 1100 the 2d Battalion 
had reached the enemy positions along the 
highway and by 1215 had cleared out the 
enemy pocket and the road in its sector. A 
light tank platoon from the 706th Tank Bat 
talion was attached to the 1st Battalion at 
1 255 in order to assist the battalion in clear 
ing the Japanese from their foxholes. Al 
though progress was slow, it was thorough. 
The localized envelopments of the enemy's 
right (west) flank resulted in the capture of 
Cogon at the end of the day. The 305th In 
fantry advanced 400 yards north of the 
road junction and established night posi 
tions around it. 6 

Envelopment of Valencia 

In the meantime, the 306th and 307th 
Infantry Regiments had been ordered to 
make a series of sweeping envelopments on 
the Japanese right (west) flank toward 
Valencia. The 307th Infantry was to move 
northwest about six and a quarter miles 
through the barrios of Jalubon, Liloan, and 
Bao to Catayom on the Bao River, then 
swing northeast to the barrio of San Jose and 
continue northeast to the Valencia airstrip. 
The 306th Infantry was to foUow the 307th 
Infantry northwest and then drive east and 
cut Highway 2. 7 

The 306th Field Artillery Battalion, 
though in general support, was to give 
priority to the 307th Infantry. The 902d 
and 305th Field Artillery Battalions were to 
support elements of the reconnaissance 

6 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 24-25; 305th Inf 
Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 5; 305th Inf Unit Rpt 11, 16 
Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 22, 16 Dec 44; 
77th Div G-3 Jnl, 16 Dec 44. 

T XXIV Corps FO 37 (Confirmatory of Oral and 
Fragmentary Orders), 18 Dec 44; 77th Div FO 17, 
15 Dec 44. 



SEIZURE OF ORMOC VALLEY 



331 



troops operating on each flank of the divi 
sion. The artillery battalions would fire in 
the regimental zones of action only on call 
from or with the approval of the regiments. 8 

On 16 December the 307th Infantry 
crossed the line of departure on time. Since 
there were no roads and the route was across 
rice paddies, through waist-deep rivers, and 
over terrain impassable for vehicles, the 
troops hand-carried their supplies. Arrange 
ments were also made for Filipinos to carry 
supplies, and, as the advance progressed, 
more and more Filipinos joined the column 
of the 307th Infantry for this purpose. 9 The 
regiment met only scattered resistance. 
Some Japanese troops encountered in the 
vicinity of Liloan were dispersed. At 1525 
leading elements of the 307th Infantry 
passed through Bao and moved on toward 
San Jose. On the outskirts of that barrio, the 
troops met and destroyed two platoons of 
the enemy. At 1645 the 307th Infantry dug 
in for the night in San Jose. The regiment 
had covered eight miles, a rapid rate of ad 
vance considering the nature of the terrain 
and the load carried. At 2340 General Bruce 
told the 307th Infantry that an incendiary 
air strike would be made on Valencia before 
0900 the following day and that the regi 
ment was to hold its present position until 
further orders. 10 

At 0900 on 16 December the 306th In 
fantry moved past the initial point of depar 
ture on the northwestern edge of Ormoc. 
At 1035 the regiment was 1,000 yards west 
of the starting point and close "on the tail" 
of the 307th Infantry. The 306th waited 
until the 307th cleared and then moved 



8 77th Div FO 17, 15 Dec 44. - 

B Ltr ? Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OCMH. 

*77th Div G-3 Jnl, 16 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 22, 16 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte a p. 25; 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. 



north. Although it did not encounter any 
Japanese its progress was very slow because 
the route of advance ran through deep rice 
paddies. At 1730 the regiment established 
its night perimeter about 700 yards south- 
southwest of Tipic. 11 During the day the 
305th Infantry had cleared Cogon and oc 
cupied defensive positions around the road 
junction north of the town. 

The Japanese had constructed defensive 
positions along Highway 2 in the southern 
part of Ormoc Valley. At the road junction 
of Highway 2 with the road to Liloan were 
many trenches three to four feet deep and 
parallel to the highway. Trenches had also 
been dug along the sides of a machine gun 
emplacement that occupied a slight eleva 
tion commanding Highway 2 both to the 
north and to the south. On both sides of the 
road from Cogon to Gatayom foxholes lined 
Highway 2 5 in the ditches and under the 
shacks. Some of these positions were dug on 
a slant and were six to seven feet deep. At 
Tambuco the foxholes extended along the 
highway for 400 yards, with machine gun 
emplacements on the sides of the foxholes. 
Other positions along Highway 2 consisted 
of poorly integrated foxholes and machine 
guns that covered the road. The field artil 
lery pieces between Tambuco and Gatayom 
were placed along the highway, with the 
exception of a 75-mm. gun that guarded 
a bridge and was well concealed inside a 
roadside shack. 35 

The 14th Area Army had planned to re 
inforce the 35th Army by dispatching the 
Takahashi Detachment, which consisted of 
the 5th Infantry Regiment,, one artillery 

^ 306th Inf Unit Jnl, 16 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 22, 16 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, pp. 24-25; 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9. 

12 MI Div, War Dept, "Leyte Field Fortifications," 
Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 57 (April, 
1945), pp. 108-10. 



332 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




JAPANESE DUG-IN POSITIONS ALONG HIGHWAY BANKS delayed the ad 
vance of the 77th Division north of Ormoc. 



battalion, and one engineer company and 
one transport company each from the 8th 
Division, together with the I to Naval Land 
ing Force of 400 troops from Luzon. 

The 77th Infantry Regiment had landed 
at Palompon on or about 9 December from 
Cebu and moved to Matagob where, after 
assembling its troops, it began to move 
southeast toward Huaton, the new head 
quarters of the 35th Army. Huaton was a 
small barrio on Highway 2 about three and 
a half miles north of Cogon. On 13 Decem 
ber General Suzuki, the commander of the 
35th Army, arrived at Huaton from the 
Burauen area. After the 12th Independent 
Infantry Regiment, the 4th Airborne Raid 
ing Regiment, the Mitsui Shipping Unit, 
the Ito Naval Landing Force, and the 77th 
Infantry Regiment were assembled, General 



Suzuki on 15 December ordered an attack, 
which was to start 17 December, against the 
American forces in the Ormoc area. 13 

The fall of Gogon and the envelopment 
to the west forced General Suzuki to change 
his plans again. The 305th Infantry had 
captured the positions of the Tateishi Bat- 
talion of the 12th Independent Infantry 
Regiment, and the position of the 77th In 
fantry Regiment was greatly weakened. As 
the attack against Ormoc could not be suc 
cessfully completed, the 12th and 77th In 
fantry Regiments were to carry out a de 
laying action. 14 

Since the fall of Valencia might break the 
organized resistance of the Japanese in Or 
moc Valley, General Bruce decided to push 

31 35th Army Opns, pp. 99-401. 
14 Ibid., p. 101. 



SEIZURE OF ORMOC VALLEY 



333 



forward rapidly and take the barrio before 
the enemy could regroup. 15 General Krueger 
asked General Whitehead for air strikes 
against Valencia. If the weather permitted, 
a strike would be made at 0900 and another 
would be delivered on call. In addition, 
nearly all available artillery of the division 
that could arrive within firing distance, as 
weU as the 226th Field Artillery Battalion 
from positions east of the mountains near 
Daro, would shell the town until ordered to 
lift the fire. 

The 305th Infantry was to drive rapidly 
north on Highway 2 and clear out the Jap 
anese for a distance of 200 to 300 yards on 
each side of the road, even though it might 
mean bypassing groups of the enemy on the 
flanks. A patrol from the regiment was to 
operate east of its sector to locate enemy 
forces. The 306th Infantry was to drive 
rapidly east toward Highway 2 and then 
advance north up the highway, clearing a 
lane 200 to 300 yards wide. At a point 500 
to 600 yards north of Gabulihan, it was to 
await further orders. The regiment was to be 
prepared to send a battalion south to assist 
the 305th Infantry in its advance. 

General Bruce organized an armored col 
umn to carry rations and ammunition to the 
306th and 307th Infantry Regiments. This 
column, which was to move north on High 
way 2, consisted of five light tanks from the 
7th Division, the Cannon and Tank De 
stroyer Companies of the 306th and 307th 
Infantry Regiments, part of Company C, 
302d Engineer Battalion, a platoon from the 
305th Infantry, and sufficient LVTs to 
carry men and supplies. An artillery observer 
accompanied the column. 

Elements of the 302d Engineer Battalion 
were to repair immediately the highway be 
tween Ormoc and Valencia and at night re 



tire within the nearest infantry defensive 
perimeter. The order was summed up as 
follows: "The action will be pressed with 
the utmost vigor by careful planning but 
every effort will be made to save cas 
ualties." 16 

At 0830 on 17 December the 305th In 
fantry moved out along Highway 2. At 1000 
the 1st Battalion reported that it was ad 
vancing at the rate of 100 yards every ten 
minutes against light opposition. By 1145 
the 305th Infantry was fighting through 
Tambuco. At a road junction just north of 
Tambuco, it eliminated some enemy resist 
ance and the advance slowed down. The 
regiment moved forward to a point about 
300 yards north of the road junction and 
established its night perimeter, which ex 
tended 300 yards to the northeast along the 
Tambuco-Dolores road in order to forestall 
any Japanese counterattacks from that 
direction. 17 

On the same day the 306th Infantry 
pushed its attack northeast at 0800. The 
advancing troops almost immediately en 
countered Japanese who, apparently taken 
by surprise, were unable to offer organized 
resistance. At 1040, when the forward ele 
ments were 1,000 yards southwest of Cabuli- 
han, the opposition stiffened and the regi 
mental commander therefore committed 
the 3d Battalion on the left of the 2d Bat 
talion. The advance continued. As the regi 
ment neared Highway 2, resistance became 
more intense. The 306th Infantry encoun 
tered the Japanese who were fleeing north 
west from the assault of the 305th Infantry 



1 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 26, 27. 



M 77th Div FO 18, 17 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns 
Rpt Leyte, pp. 25-26. 

17 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 17 Dec 44; 77th Div G-2 
Jnl, 17 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 27; 
305th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 23, 1 7 Dec 44. 



334 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



and the heavy artillery that accompanied it. 
(Unknown to the Americans., General 
Suzuki and his staff were among the retreat 
ing Japanese. Suzuki succeeded in escaping 
to Libongao, where he established a new 
headquarters for the 35th Army.) At 1440 
the 306th Infantry reached Highway 2 
between Catayom and Cabulihan and 
proceeded north toward Cabulihan, its 
objective. Advance elements of the 3d Bat 
talion reached the outskirts of the town but 
withdrew three or four hundred yards to 
take advantage of more commanding ter 
rain. After combat patrols had cleared the 
area, the 306th Infantry established its night 
perimeter five hundred yards south of 
Cabulihan at 1600. 18 

General Bruce had ordered the 307th In 
fantry to remain in San Jose until further 
notice. Since the guerrilla forces had re 
ported a large number of Japanese in the 
area, General Bruce had made arrangements 
to soften the sector with an aerial bombard 
ment and artillery fire before the infantry 
attack. In response to Bruce's request, fifteen 
P-40's from the V Fighter Command had 
been made available by General Whitehead 
for an air strike against the Valencia area. 

The 155-mm. guns of the 226th Field 
Artillery Battalion at Daro began firing on 
Valencia and the airstrip on the morning of 
17 December and hit a Japanese ammuni 
tion dump. At 1245 the artillery fire was 
halted for the air strike, and for fifty minutes 
the area was bombed and strafed. With the 
conclusion of the air attack, at 1335, the 
artillery began anew to pound the area. 
"The medium artillery . . . reached out 
from Ormoc and the 'Long Toms' . . . 

18 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 17 Dec 44; 306th Inf Unit 
Jnl, 17 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 23, 17 
Dec 44; 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 9; 35th 
Army Opns, pp. 101-103. 



from Daro joined in the fighting." 19 In the 
meantime the 902d Field Artillery Battalion 
moved forward to a point from which it 
could support the advance of the 307th In 
fantry. At 1415 the artillery fire stopped 
and the 307th Infantry moved out astride 
the San Jose-Valencia road toward Valen 
cia. Though the artillery fire and aerial bom 
bardment had driven some of the Japanese 
from the area, a strong well-equipped force, 
including a number of paratroopers, re 
mained to oppose the 307th Infantry. The 
regiment pushed forward, however, and at 
1640 its leading elements were on the south 
western edge of the airstrip and within 1,000 
yards of Valencia. The 307th Infantry 
formed its night perimeter on the edge of 
the airfield and made preparations to con 
tinue the attack on 18 December. 20 

During 17 December, despite the disor 
ganization of the Japanese forces, Colonel 
Imahori of the 12th Independent Infantry 
Regiment tried to reach Ormoc, but he was 
unsuccessful. 21 A few enemy artillery shells 
landed in the Ormoc area but that was all. 
General Bruce wrote later: "The men got 
a laugh because the General's latrine, un 
occupied, was struck. He wished about that 
time that he had remained up front which 
he had reached by landing in a cub plane 
on an unimproved jungle road." 22 

On the morning of 18 December, since 
supplies and ammunition for the 306th and 
307th Infantry Regiments were becoming 
dangerously low, General Bruce pushed the 
armored column vigorously forward through 

u Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OCMH. 

20 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7; 77th Div 
Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 5-6; 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 
17 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 27; 77th 
Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 23, 17 Dec 44. 

^35th Army Opns, p. 101. 

^Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OCMKL 



SEIZURE OF ORMOG VALLEY 



335 




JAPANESE LIGHT TANK destroyed during the fighting along Highway 2. Note dugouts 
in the sides of banks behind the tank. 



the 305th Infantry. The column swept past 
enemy strong points and succeeded in bring 
ing supplies to both regiments. 

The attack of the 305th Infantry was con 
sequently delayed. The 3d Battalion of the 
regiment, however, jumped off in a north 
east direction on the Dolores road in order 
to cut off any Japanese reinforcements from 
that area. At 0945 the rest of the 305th 
Infantry started out along Highway 2 and 
encountered little resistance. By 1400 the 
battalions had passed through the barrios 
of Dayhagan and Huaton (the former 
and short-lived headquarters of General 
Suzuki), and knocked out fifteen enemy 
trucks and three tanks. The 3d Battalion 
proceeded northeast from the road junction 
along the road to Dolores, and crushed all 
resistance. The battalion then moved west 



toward Highway 2, leaving a platoon behind 
to seal off the Dolores road from High 
way 2.^ 

At 0830 on 18 December the 306th In 
fantry renewed its attack. At first the 2d 
Battalion moved south astride Highway 2 
in order to make contact with the 305th 
Infantry, which was pushing north along the 
highway, but since there was little resistance 
the battalion withdrew and rejoined the 
regiment. As the rest of the regiment con 
tinued north it met moderate opposition but 
pushed ahead steadily. The troops encoun 
tered many strong points along the road but 
no organized main line of resistance. 

22 305th Inf Unit Rpt 15, 18 Dec 44; 77th Div 
O~2 Jn! s 18 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 18 Dec 44; 
77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 24, 18 Dec 44; 305th 
Inf Opns Rpt Lcyte, p. 6; 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 28. 



260317 \ 



336 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



The 306th Infantry proceeded astride the 
highway against moderate to strong opposi 
tion. An enemy force estimated as two bat 
talions had dug in under the houses and in 
foxholes along the sides of the road. The 
Japanese tried to halt the advance with 
heavy machine guns and a few mortars, but 
without avail. Patrok from the 306th In 
fantry made contact with the 305th Infantry 
at 1500. The 306th Infantry reached the 
southern edge of Valencia at 1630 and tied 
in with the 307th Infantry. Night perimeters 
were established. 24 

At 0830 on 18 December the 307th In 
fantry from the southwestern edge of the 
Valencia airstrip renewed the attack. There 
was no opposition and at 0905 the airfield 
and the town of Valencia were in the hands 
of the regiment. General Bruce considered 
the heavy artillery and aerial assaults of the 
previous day "most effective." The airfield 
was in "fair" condition; it was safe for light 
aircraft and with minor repairs could be 
made suitable for other aircraft. The 307th 
Infantry spent the rest of 18 December con 
solidating its positions and conducting ex 
tensive patrols to the north and east. At 1630 
it established physical contact with the 
306th Infantry. 25 

In three days of relatively fast fighting 
and maneuvering the 77th Division had 
shaken the Japanese forces badly and dis 
rupted the plans of General Suzuki. The 
307th Infantry, by making a wide envelop 
ment of the west flank, had captured Val 
encia and its airfield, and the 306th Infan- 

* 306th Inf Unit Jnl, 18 Dec 44; 77th Div G-2 
Jnl, 18 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 18 Dec 44; 306th 
Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 9-10; 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 28; 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 24 18 
Dec 44. ' 

* 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 18 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 24, 18 Dec 44; 307th Inf Opns Rpt 

e, p. 7; 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 28. 



try, making a smaller envelopment, had 
bisected Highway 2 at Cabulihan while the 
305th Infantry moved up the highway from 
Cogon. All of southern Ormoc Valley from 
Ormoc to Valencia, a distance of about six 
and a half miles as the crow flies, was se 
curely in American hands. All units were in 
contact and ready for the next phase of their 
mission. 

Drive to Palompon Road Junction 

Since elements of the XXIV Corps had 
been able to make more rapid progress 
through Ormoc Valley than the X Corps 
units, General Krueger on 19 December 
enlarged the zone of action of the XXIV 
Corps to include Libongao, the barrio just 
below the juncture of Highway 2 with the 
Palompon road. 26 General Hodge thereupon 
ordered the 77th Division to continue north 
and seize Libongao and then to secure the 
Palompon road and establish contact with 
the X Corps. 27 

General Bruce ordered the 305th Infan 
try to assume responsibility for the defense 
of Valencia and its airfield, and thus free 
the 306th and 307th Infantry Regiments 
for new assignments. The 307th was to move 
north astride Highway 2 to Libongao and 
then continue to the junction with the 
Palompon road. The 306th was to move 
across country and strike northwest toward 
the Palompon road. Although its advance 
would parallel that of the 307th, the 306th 
was to be about 2,300 yards west of the other 
regiment. After reaching the Palompon road 
in the vicinity of the Togbong River the 
306th Infantry would strike west for the 
crossing and then move east to the road 

36 Sixth Army FO 39, 19 Dec 44. 
* XXIV Corps FO 38 (Confirmatory of Oral and 
Fragmentary orders) , 2 1 Dec 44. 



SEIZURE OF ORMOC VALLEY 



337 



junction. The 304th, 305th, and 902d Field 
Artillery Battalions were to remain in the 
Valencia area while the 306th Field Artil 
lery 7 Battalion was to be prepared to move 
forward on call. 28 

At Libongao, General Suzuki prepared 
his defense. In the area he had his head 
quarters guard and a part of the 4th Air 
borne Redding Regiment, in addition to a 
field artillery battalion, an engineering com 
pany, and a transportation company. An 
advance battalion of the Takahashi Detach 
ment arrived in the sector from Palompon 
on the night of 17 December. General Su 
zuki ordered it to proceed south from Li- 
bongao and destroy the American forces in 
the Valencia area. 29 

As the 307th Infantry advanced north at 
0900 on 19 December, it became apparent 
that General Suzuki had organized a defense 
of the highway. Many machine gun and 
light artillery emplacements were dug in 
along the road, and the enemy resistance 
became more determined as the troops 
moved north. A force estimated to be of bat 
talion strength was dug in in depth along 
streams and ridges. With the use of grenades 
the 307th routed the defenders, the battalion 
from the Takahashi Detachment. The 307th 
Infantry pushed steadily north and at 1800 
established a night perimeter; it had ad 
vanced nearly three miles and captured 
much enemy equipment during the day. 30 

The 306th Infantry moved out at 1100 
and proceeded rapidly, without meeting re 
sistance, to a point about 500 yards south 
of the Palompon road where it encountered 
elements of the 5th Infantry Regiment. At 
1530 a battery of artillery and infantry 



28 77th Div FO 1 9, 19 Dec 44. 

29 35th Army Opns, p. 103. 

38 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 19 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 25, 19 Dec 44; 307th Inf Unit Jnl, 
19 Dec 44; 307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7. 



mortars and machine guns fired upon the 
Japanese. In co-ordination with fire from 
these weapons, the 306th Infantry was then 
able to push forward. At 1800, though pa 
trols from the regiment had reached the 
Palompon road, the regiment itself dug in 
for the night at a point 300 yards south of 
the Palompon road. 31 

On 20 December, after a five-minute 
artillery preparation to its front, the 307th 
Infantry moved out at 0830 and encoun 
tered the "strongest fortified positions 53 
since it had left Gamp Downes. The Japa 
nese 5th Infantry Regiment and other ele 
ments of the 1st Division resisted any for 
ward advance. By 1000 the 307th Infantry 
had "mowed down" and annihilated two 
suicide counterattacks of fifty men each on 
its right flank. An additional force, esti 
mated at 2,000 men, well equipped with 
machine guns, mortars, and a limited 
amount of artillery, opposed the 307th In 
fantry from hastily constructed defensive 
positions. The attack of the enemy forces was 
not well co-ordinated; consequently the 
regiment, though slowed down, was able to 
continue forward. At 1549 the leading ele 
ments of the 307th Infantry were at 
Libongao. The enemy defensive fire in 
creased in intensity on the northern out 
skirts of the village. At 1710, about 200 
yards north of Libongao, the regiment re 
pulsed a force estimated to consist of 200 
Japanese armed with machine guns and 
mortars. The 307th Infantry established its 
night perimeter about 1 ,000 yards south of 
the road junction. During the day the regi 
ment had captured many tons of ammuni 
tion and materiel in supply dumps, to- 

81 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 10; 306th Inf 
Unit Jnl, 19 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 19 Dec 44; 
77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 29; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 25, 19 Dec 44. 



338 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



gather with more than thirty enemy trucks. 
The 307th Infantry put many of the latter 
into serviceable condition and made im 
mediate use of them. 32 

For the same day, 20 December, the 
306th Infantry, on the left of the 307th, was 
assigned the mission of advancing to the 
Palompon road. Upon reaching the road, 
the 1st Battalion on the left would turn west 
along it to seize a bridge crossing the 
Togbong River and the 3d Battalion would 
turn east to seize the junction of the road 
and Highway 2. 33 During the night the 
enemy artillery heavily shelled the sector of 
the regiment. After a ten-minute artillery 
preparation the assault battalions moved out 
at 0830, and by 0925 they had reached the 
Palompon road. Each of the battalions 
thereupon started to execute its part of the 
mission. 

The 1st Battalion pushed steadily forward 
and reached the eastern banks of the Tog- 
bong River at the bridge crossing, the bridge 
itself having been destroyed by the enemy. 
From a commanding ridge upon the western 
banks of the river, just north of the bridge 
site, a Japanese force estimated to be a bat 
talion in strength opposed any further ad 
vance. The company on the left forced a 
passage across the river south of the bridge 
site, but the company on the right, despite 
repeated attempts, was unable to cross the 
river. At 1630 the 1st Battalion received 
orders to take up a night defensive position 
on the eastern banks of the river. During the 
night the enemy unsuccessfully launched 
three counterattacks against the 1st Bat 
talion. In the morning the battalion counted 

82 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 26, 20 Dec 44 ; 77th 
Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 31 ; 77th Div G-2 Jnl, 20 
Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Dec 44; 307th Inf 
Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 7-8; 307th Inf Unit Jnl, 
20 Dec 44. 

33 306th Inf FO 1 1, 19 Dec 44. 



more than 400 Japanese dead around its 
position. 

The 3d Battalion, 306th Infantry, upon 
reaching the Palompon road turned east 
and encountered steadily increasing enemy 
opposition. By 1500, however, Company K 
reached the road junction. At the same time 
the 3d Battalion received orders to with 
draw west 300 yards so that the 307th In 
fantry could register unrestricted fire to its 
front. This withdrawal was carried out and 
the 3d and 2d Battalions of the 306th In 
fantry established night positions 300 yards 
west of the road junction. 

At 1900 General Bruce ordered the 306th 
Infantry to deliver harassing fire on the en 
emy forces to the west during the night of 
20-21 December and the 307th Infantry to 
fire 500 yards to its front up Highway 2 and 
east of the highway. 34 

The Japanese 5th Infantry Regiment had 
assembled in the Libongao sector with orders 
to proceed to the Valencia sector, but the 
77th Division had advanced so rapidly that 
it was attacking the 35th Army Headquar 
ters. The Takahashi Detachment suffered 
heavy casualties and withdrew to Matagob, 
on the Palompon road between Palompon 
and Libongao. The field artillery battalion 
and the engineering and transportation com 
panies that had been left at Matagob were 
absorbed by the Takahashi Detachment. On 
21 December General Suzuki ordered the 
regiment to make a defensive stand, so that 
the main force of the 35th Army could with 
draw to the Palompon sector on the shore of 
the Camotes Sea. 35 



84 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 30-31 ; 77th Div 
G-3 Jnl, 20 Dec 44; 77th Div G-2 Jnl, 20 Dec 44; 
306th Inf Unit Jnl, 20 Dec 44; 306th Inf Opns Rpt 
Leyte, pp. 10-11; 77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 26, 
20 Dec 44. 

K 35th Army Opns, pp. 103-104. 



SEIZURE OF ORMOG VALLEY 



339 



During the night of 20-21 December the 
77th Division artillery expended half a unit 
of fire, intermittently bombarding enemy po 
sitions west of the 77th Division and to the 
east of Highway 2. The bombardment was 
the most intensive made by the 77th Division 
during the campaign. Just before renewal 
of the attack on 21 December, the artillery 
delivered a concentrated thirty-minute prep 
aration. General Bruce ordered the 306th 
Infantry to move out at 0630. Since the 1st 
Battalion was short of ammunition, it was 
to await the arrival of Company E, which 
had been attached to the battalion, with ad 
ditional ammunition. At 1250, having re 
ceived the ammunition, the battalion moved 
out and at 1330 secured the ridge (over 
looking the bridge site) , which had blocked 
its advance the previous day. 

Immediately afterward General Bruce 
ordered the battalion to proceed west along 
the Palompon road and secure the bridge 
over the Pagsangahan River. The ridge was 
thereupon outposted as the 1st Battalion 
withdrew to prepare for continuation of the 
assault, but elements of the 5th Infantry 
Regiment drove the outposts off the ridge 
and immediately occupied it. At 1500 the 
1st Battalion attacked unsuccessfully in an 
effort to retake the position. It formed a 
night perimeter at the river crossing at 1 600, 
and at 0750 concentrated a ten-minute 
artillery preparation on the enemy positions 
on the ridge. The 1st Battalion then moved 
out toward the high ground and secured the 
ridge within twenty minutes, the Japanese 
offering only slight resistance. 35 

36 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 11-12; 306th 
Inf Unit Jnl, 21 Dec 44. During this action Pfc. 
George Benjamin, Jr., a radio operator from Com 
pany A, killed the crew of a machine gun nest at 
the cost of his life. He was posthumously awarded 
the Medal of Honor. 



The 77th Division had reached the 
Palompon road. In its drive north the di 
vision had destroyed the major elements of 
the 5th and 77th Infantry Regiments and 
the 4th Airborne Regiment. 

The 32d Division Resumes the Offensive 

Elements of the X Corps were slowly 
moving south in an attempt to effect a 
juncture with the XXIV Corps. On 14 
December the 126th and 127th Infantry 
Regiments of the 32d Division had pushed 
south down Highway 2 against very deter 
mined resistance and through mountainous 
terrain to the main defense line of the 1st 
Division. The Japanese were well en 
trenched on a series of ridges overlooking 
Highway 2. A heavy rain forest covered the 
ridges and the deep ravines in between. The 
enemy had carefully selected his defensive 
positions and camouflaged his machine 
guns, which were flanked by hidden rifle 
men. Targets could not be spotted beyond 
a range of about seventy-five feet. The em 
ployment of mortars was very limited be 
cause of the lack of visibility, and the haz 
ards of tree burst were equally dangerous 
to both the Japanese and the Americans. 
The troops had to "approach within spitting 
distance of the [Japanese machine] guns" 
before they could locate the weapons. 37 

For the next few days the regiments of the 
32d Division fought valiantly against a foe 
that limited the division's advance to a few 
score yards a day. Of the many acts of in 
dividual bravery, those of Pfc. Dick J. Vlug 
and Sgt. Leroy Johnson were outstanding. 
Private Vlug single-handedly destroyed five 
enemy tanks that were moving north along 
the highway. Sergeant Johnson threw him 
self upon an enemy grenade that killed him 

87 32d Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 30, 16 Dec 44. 



340 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



but did not hurt those comrades near him. 
Both men were awarded the Medal of 
Honor. 

On the morning of 1 7 December advance 
elements of the 1 26th Infantry were about 
4,000 yards south of Lirnon. After a prepara 
tion of heavy mortar fire the 1st Battalion 
moved out at 0730, encountering about a 
platoon of the enemy on a knoll 300 yards 
east of the road. A bitter fire fight broke out 
and continued throughout the day. The 
battalion was unable to advance farther and 
set up a night perimeter. During the fight 
the 1st Battalion captured four enemy ma 
chine guns. 

In the zone of the 2d Battalion, east of 
the highway, all the battalion's mortars, 
machine guns, and 3 7 -mm. guns, together 
with four medium tanks, massed their com 
bined fires on the enemy positions to the 
front. These positions consisted of numerous 
foxholes, pillboxes of coconut logs, and 
L-shaped fortifications dug into the moun 
tain sides. A rain of steel descended upon the 
Japanese on the high ground directly east 
of the battalion. This preparatory fire had 
excellent results and the 2d Battalion, after 
moving out at 1100, quickly secured the 
ridge and consolidated its position. It cap 
tured three 47-mm. antitank guns, three 
75-mm. mountain guns, and two 70-mm. 
battalion guns. About 1 50 of the enemy were 
killed by the preparatory fire and the bat 
talion attack. 

Company I, 3d Battalion, quickly se 
cured and destroyed a roadblock that the 
enemy had constructed the previous day. 
Accompanied by the four tanks, the com 
pany then advanced down the highway just 
behind the 2d Battalion without encounter 
ing opposition. For the rest of the day the 3d 
Battalion protected the road and patrolled 
five or six hundred yards to the rear. The 



127th Infantry to the south remained in 
position awaiting the 126th Infantry. 38 

By the following morning, 18 December, 
the 126th Infantry was on a line that ex 
tended east of Highway 2. To the front of 
the regiment, elements of the 1st Division 
occupied three positions on an east-west line 
approximately 800 yards in length and ex 
tending across Highway 2. There were ac 
tually three ridges along this line. The first 
ran north and south beside the road, and 
on it was located the western position of the 
enemy. From this site the Japanese were able 
to roll hand grenades down on the road. 
About 200 yards to the east was another 
strongly fortified north-south ridge, east of 
which was a small valley with a banana 
grove. Still farther east was a small knoll 
upon which was located a strong enemy 
defensive position. An estimated two rein 
forced enemy companies, well supported by 
automatic weapons and well dug in, occu 
pied this position. The whole area was cov 
ered with a dense rain forest, and it was 
impossible to spot any Japanese fortified 
position more than thirty yards away. 

Before the troops moved out, the mortars 
and tanks placed heavy fire on the Japanese 
positions for twenty minutes. At 1010 on 18 
December the 126th Infantry attacked with 
the 1st Battalion on the right and the 2d 
Battalion on the left. In advancing to the 
ridge nearest the road, the American troops 
received considerable small arms fire just 
east of the road. The 1st Battalion moved 
ahead up the ridge east of the road and by 
1230 it had advanced 200 yards to the top 
of the ridge. The Japanese resisted strongly 
and heavy fighting occurred in which both 
sides used machine guns, grenades, and 

88 32d Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 31, 17 Dec 44; 32d 
Div G-3 Jnl, 17 Dec 44; 126th Inf Unit Jnl, 17 
Dec 44; 32d Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 31, 17 Dec 44. 



SEIZURE OF ORMOG VALLEY 



341 



bayonets. By 1800 the 1st Battalion was in 
firm possession of the ridge. The 2d Bat 
talion, supported by machine guns and mor 
tars, was able to creep up through the for 
ested ravine to within thirty yards of the 
enemy position on the knoll before it was 
fired upon. A bitter engagement then en 
sued. After five hours of intense fighting the 
battalion drove the Japanese defenders off 
the knoll. The 1st and 2d Battalions formed 
their night perimeters within fifty yards of 
the enemy front lines. The 3d Battalion of 
the 1 26th Infantry moved south along the 
road and closed the gap between the 126th 
and 127th Infantry Regiments. 89 The artil 
lery fired upon several buildings about 800 
to 1,500 yards southwest of the forward ele 
ments of the 3 2d Division. Lucrative artil 
lery targets were practically nonexistent. 40 

On the morning of 19 December the 
1 26th Infantry followed the same procedure 
that had been used the previous day. A 
heavy machine gun and mortar concentra 
tion was placed upon the Japanese positions 
on the crest of a ridge fifty yards to the front. 
At 1 1 00 the 1 26th Infantry moved out with 
battalions abreast, the 1st Battalion on the 
right and the 2d on the left. Six heavy ma 
chine guns immediately fired on the left 
flank of the 1st Battalion. The battalion 
withdrew and placed a concentration of 
more than 200 rounds of mortar fire on the 
position while its machine guns raked the 
Japanese force "fore and aft." The troops 
then renewed the assault but the Japanese 
continued to resist. Elements of the 1st Di 
vision had dug hi on the top and both sides 
of a ridge and had utilized caves to con 
struct a defensive position in which there 
were more than 100 foxholes with com- 

30 32d Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 32, 18 Dec 44; 32d 
Div G-3 Jnl, 18 Dec 44; 126th Inf Unit Jnl, 18 
Dec 44. 

48 32d Div Arty Daily Rpt, 1 8 Dec 44. 



municating trenches. Heavy fighting con 
tinued throughout the day. The 1st Bat 
talion used mortars, flame throwers, white 
phosphorus grenades, hand grenades, rifles, 
and supporting flanking fire from its heavy 
and light machine guns, but was able to 
advance only seventy-five yards. Although 
the battalion overran many emplacements, 
a determined Japanese force remained to be 
overcome when the battalion established its 
night perimeter on the eastern slope of the 
ridge. 

The 2d Battalion, 126th Infantry, en 
countered only scattered rifle fire that came 
principally from the enemy position on its 
right flank. During its advance the battalion 
delivered flanking machine gun and rifle 
fire in support of the 1st Battalion on its 
right. By 1200 the 2d Battalion had ad 
vanced 200 yards and secured the area in its 
zone of action. At 1530 the 1st Squadron, 
1 1 2th Cavalry, which had been protecting 
the eastern flank of the 32d Division, re 
lieved the 2d Battalion, which withdrew to 
an assembly area in the rear. 

During the night of 1 9-20 December, the 
commanding officer of Company B, 1 26th 
Infantry, which had borne the brunt of the 
enemy resistance, placed one platoon of the 
company along the eastern side of the ridge 
and another platoon on the western side. At 
the same time he continued the pressure 
from the south. Throughout the night the 
company kept firing at known enemy posi 
tions and the sector in general. The company 
commander also required each of his men 
to throw hand grenades periodically. At first 
light and without any breakfast the troops 
rushed the enemy position. The Japanese 
had lost the power to resist and by 1 000 the 
company had taken the last of the three en 
emy positions. Two hundred Japanese dead 
were counted in the area. 



342 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



At 1245 on 20 December the 127th In 
fantry took over the conquered sector and 
the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, withdrew 
to an assembly area in the rear. 41 

Debouchment From the Mountains 

Since the 32d Division had borne the 
brunt of the assault, General Sibert ordered 
the 1st Cavalry Division to make the main 
attack south. It was to assist the advance of 
the 32d Division to a bridge 1,000 yards 
north of Lonoy and then move south and 
make contact with the 77th Division. 42 The 
1st Cavalry 1 Division had been operating in 
the central mountain chain on the eastern 
flank of the 32d Division and had been op 
posed by the 102d Division. The latter, after 
its arrival at Ormoc, had gone directly into 
the mountains in the vicinity of Mt. Pina. 43 
The 102d Division did not play a significant 
role in the Leyte campaign. 

The 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat 
Team had moved south on the eastern flank 
of the 32d Division. The 1st Squadron of 
the 112th Cavalry had been able to keep 
pace with the 32d Division, but the 2d 
Squadron had encountered a very strong 
enemy force on a ridge overlooking the 
Leyte River south of Limon. The Japanese 
resisted all the squadron's efforts to dis 
lodge them. The 2d Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 
relieved the 2d Squadron, 112th Cavalry, 
and on 14 December it had succeeded in 
overcoming the Japanese and had seized the 
ridge. 



* 32d Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 33 3 19 Dec 44; 32d 
Div O-3 Jnl, 19 Dec 44; 126th Inf Unit Jnl, 20 
Dec 44; 32d Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Dec 44. 

* X Corps FO 22, 20 Dec 44. 

48 10th I&HS, Eighth Army Stf Study of Opns of 
Japanese I02d Division on Leyte and Gebu, Inter- 
rog of Maj Ghuji Kaneko, p. 3. 



Spearhead of the Assault 

While the 112th and 7th Cavalry Regi 
ments were busily engaged in defending the 
east flank of the 32d Division in its push 
south along Highway 2, the 12th Cavalry 
was mopping up enemy groups entrenched 
in the mountains farther to the east. Par 
ticularly strong enemy resistance had been 
encountered in the Mt. Badian and Hill 
2348 sector., which was about five miles 
northeast of Kananga, a barrio on Highway 
2. 44 In the process of reducing the Japanese- 
held area, it was estimated that an enemy 
force of 500 to 600 men had been wiped out. 
From 28 November to 9 December, the 12th 
Cavalry remained in the Mt. Badian and 
Hill 2348 sector, sent out westward patrols, 
and slowly moved westward. 

On 10 December, General Sibert decided 
to have elements of the 1st Cavalry Division 
debouch from the mountains onto Highway 
2 south of the 32d Division and in the Lonoy 
area. This move was to be concurrent with 
the expected advance of the 32d Division 
down the highway. 45 The 1st Squadron, 
12th Cavalry, was in the vicinity of Mt. 
Cabungaan, and the 2d Squadron, on Hill 
2348, was 2,000 yards northeast of the 1st 
Squadron. An enemy strong point existed 
to the north of the perimeter of the 1st 
Squadron. The 12th Cavalry spent 10 De 
cember in making preparations for a two- 
squadron assault against this enemy force. 
The plan was for the 1st Squadron to at 
tack at 0830 while the 2d Squadron from 
Hill 2348 supported the attack by envelop 
ing the left flank of the enemy. In further- 

44 Unless otherwise stated the part of this sub 
section dealing with the 12th Cavalry is based on: 
12th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 20-30, 76-85; 1st 
Cav Div G^3 Periodic Rpts 51-63, 10-22 Dec 44; 
and 12th Gav Unit Rpts 54-65, 11-22 Dec 44. 

45 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 52; 1st Cav 
DivFO17 5 10Dec44. 



SEIZURE OF ORMOC VALLEY 



343 



ance of this plan Troop E of the 2d Squad 
ron moved off Hill 2348 at 0800 toward the 
southwest and dug in for the night just 
north of Mt. Cabungaan. 46 

On the morning of 1 1 December, an in 
tense mortar and artillery concentration was 
placed upon the enemy position in front of 
the 1st Squadron. The fire was so close that 
fragments frequently fell on the waiting as 
sault troops. After this fire, the 1st Squadron 
with Troop A in the lead moved out at 07 15. 
At the same time Troop E attacked from 
the northeast. The enemy defenses consisted 
of seven or eight pillboxes and many caves 
dug into the very rugged terrain. The men 
of Troop A, closely followed by Troop B, 
charged up the hill "throwing grenades and 
firing from the hip." * 7 The hill fell to the 
1st Squadron at 1003 after very heavy hand- 
to-hand fighting. Troop E had been held 
up by the terrain and was unable to assist 
the 1st Squadron. After the capture of the 
Japanese position, patrols established con 
tact with Troop E at 1 200. The regimental 
reconnaissance platoon returned from the 
vicinity of Lonoy with the information that 
the Japanese had prepared strong defensive 
positions in that area. The platoon had 
gained a good observation point 900 yards 
east of Lonoy .** The next several days were 
spent in sending out patrols and moving the 
2d Squadron to the position of the 1st 
Squadron. 

On 14 December, the 12th Cavalry was 
ordered to continue west to Highway 2 and 
assist the advance of the 32d Division, to 

* 12th Cav Unit Rpt 53, 10 Dec 44; 1st Cav 
Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 52, 11 Dec 44. The spelling 
of Mt. Cabungaan used here follows that of the 
maps employed by the combat troops. The Board 
of Geographic Names gives the spelling as Mt. 
Cabungangan. 

47 12th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 24. 

48 12th Cav Unit Rpt 54, 11 Dec 44; 1st Cav 
Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 53, 12 Dec 44. 



establish a roadblock on the highway, and 
to attack the hostile forces to the north be 
tween it and the 32d Division/ 9 In further 
ance of this order, the 1st Squadron, less 
A and G Troops, moved west on 15 Decem 
ber toward a previously reconnoitered area 
that was about 1,800 yards east of the 
barrio of Lonoy. This site, a banana plan 
tation, was chosen for its observation facili 
ties to the west and as an excellent dropping 
ground for supplies. The 1st Squadron, hav 
ing encountered little opposition, closed on 
the area before dusk. Thereupon the rest 
of the regiment was ordered to close in on 
the area before nightfall on 17 December. 

Lonoy 

The 12th Cavalry on 18 December sent 
out patrols to Lonoy, Kananga, and to the 
northwest to make contact with the nearest 
friendly troops. The patrols to Lonoy and 
Kananga, although they ran into scattered 
groups of the enemy, were able to locate 
suitable approaches to Lonoy for their 
squadrons. 50 

At 2235, on 18 December, the 12th 
Cavalry received orders to move out the 
following morning, seize Lonoy, and be pre 
pared to seize Kananga. The commanding 
officer of the regiment decided to have the 
1st and 2d Squadrons move out abreast with 
the 2d Squadron on the left. During the en 
tire night the artillery was to deliver harass 
ing fire on the highway north of Lonoy and 
on the area between the routes of approach 
of the two squadrons. 

After a preparation on 19 December, the 
1st and 2d Squadrons moved out at 0800. 
The 1st Squadron met only light, sporadic 
resistance. The troops observed many Jap- 

48 1st Cav FO 18, 14 Dec 44. 

w 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 60, 19 Dec 44. 



344 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



anese proceeding north along the highway 
and had mortar and artillery' fires placed 
upon them. At 1 200, the 1st Squadron seized 
Lonoy, captured much enemy equipment, 
and destroyed many supply dumps. The 1st 
Squadron moved to assist the 2d Squadron 
in the capture of a knoll southeast of the 
barrio. The 1st Squadron closed on the knoll 
about 1400, and aided the assault of the 2d 
Squadron by fire and by sending a troop 
east to assist it. 

The 2d Squadron jumped off on schedule 
but at 0930, when it was 800 yards short of 
its objective, the squadron came under 
heavy rifle and machine gun fire from the 
thick woods. The 271st Field Artillery Bat 
talion placed fire on the area and a great 
many of the enemy were killed, the remain 
der fleeing south. The squadron received 
additional machine gun fire from the north 
but a patrol quickly silenced it. In the mean 
time the mortar platoon from Troop D, in 
support of the 1st Squadron, fired upon 
Lonoy. The Japanese immediately re 
sponded with fire from a 105-mm. gun, 
which they had cleverly concealed in the 
gap between the two squadrons and about 
600 yards from the regimental observation 
post at which the gun directed its fire. The 
enemy gun killed one man and wounded 
fifteen others of the command-post group. 
The heavy machine guns from the Weapons 
troop and the artillery from the 271st Field 
Artillery Battalion began concentrating their 
fires upon the enemy gun. The Antitank 
Platoon was sent out to destroy the gun and 
its crew. Following the machine gun and 
artillery fire, the enemy gun was silent for 
about half an hour. It then suddenly opened 
up against the 2d Squadron at a range of 
about 300 yards. The enemy fire resulted in 
tree bursts which killed five men and 
wounded fifteen others. Troop G, which suf 



fered the most casualties, and the Antitank 
Platoon immediately turned and attacked to 
the north to destroy the gun. The 2d Squad 
ron, less Troop G, renewed the attack to 
wards Lonoy, receiving scattered rifle fire. 
At 1 730 it reached Lonoy and was in contact 
with the 1st Squadron. 

Meanwhile, Troop G sideslipped to the 
west and with the Antitank Platoon attacked 
and destroyed the enemy gun and four of 
its crew. A patrol located another enemy 
105-mm. gun but, because of darkness and 
point-blank fire from the weapon at a range 
of about twenty-five feet, it was unable to 
knock out the gun. At 2200 Troops G and 
H, the medical group, and the Antitank 
Platoon formed a joint night perimeter. 51 

Late that night the regimental com 
mander ordered the 2d and 1st Squadrons 
of the 12th Cavalry to move south on the 
morning of 20 December along Highway 2 
in a column of squadrons, with the 2d 
Squadron in the lead. During the night, in 
preparation for this advance, the 27 1st Field 
Artillery Battalion fired 1,096 rounds on 
Kananga, on the road north of Lonoy, and 
on sectors occupied by the enemy artillery. 
This fire destroyed the enemy 1 05-mm. gun. 

At 0715 on the morning of 20 December 
the 2d Squadron, less Troop G, moved out 
and immediately came under heavy fire 
from enemy forces that had dug in under 
neath houses and behind small pieces of 
cover along the road. The squadron elimi 
nated these pockets of resistance by direct 
fire and by flanking movements on both 
sides of the highway. At 1 200 the 2d Squad 
ron forced the Japanese off a ridge which 
was just east of the highway and about 500 
yards north of Kananga. The squadron then 

51 1st Cav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 61, 20 Dec 44; 
X Corps G-2 Periodic Rpt 59, 19 Dec 44; 1st Cav 
Div G-3, Jnl, 19 Dec 44. 



SEIZURE OF ORMOC VALLEY 



345 



encountered heavy rifle and machine gun 
fire that came from a coconut grove and 
some houses about 200 yards south of the 
ridge. 

In the meantime, the 1st Squadron, at 
0830, moved south to support the attack of 
the 2d Squadron. At about 1230, the 1st 
Squadron arrived behind the ridge occupied 
by the 2d Squadron and then continued 
south, at 1500, seizing and completely domi 
nating a ridge about fifty yards east of Ka- 
nanga. The 2d Squadron and a platoon 
from the 1st Squadron attacked north, par 
allel to the highway, and by nightfall 
cleaned out the coconut grove and set up a 
night perimeter. 

General Mudge, commanding general of 
the 1st Cavalry Division, said of the 12th 
Cavalry: 

As a result of the stout-hearted efforts of 
the 12th Cavalry Regiment, elements of the 
Division are within 2 3 500 yards of making 
contact with forward elements of the 77th 
Division. Considering the fact that the regi 
ment has been reduced to 50% strength by 
the rigors and deprivations of 40 days in the 
mountains, the display of courage., stamina,, 
and drive on the part of the 12th Cavalry is 
a credit to the best traditions of the United 
States Cavalry. 52 

During the night General Mudge ordered 
the 12th Cavalry to move out at 0800 21 
December, seize Kananga, and then make 
physical contact with the 77th Division, 
which was pushing north from Libongao. 
He attached the 1st Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 
to the 12th Cavalry. 

Juncture of Forces 

On the morning of 21 December the 1st 
and 2d Squadrons of the 12th Cavalry, sup 
ported by the 27 1st Field Artillery Battalion, 

53 1st Gav Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 62, 2 1 Dec 44. 



moved out in a co-ordinated assault against 
Kananga. The 1st Squadron attacked from 
the north while the 2d Squadron drove in 
from the ridge on the east. Tfre first elements 
of the regiment reached Kananga at 1157 
and by 1425 the 12th Cavalry was in the 
town. The regiment methodically cleared 
out every hut, ferreted out each Japanese, 
and destroyed every installation. While the 
mopping up was going on, patrols from the 
12th Cavalry pushed to the south to make 
contact with the 77th Division. 

The regimental commander ordered the 
commander of the 3d Battalion, 306th In 
fantry, to push east at 0730 on 2 1 December 
along the Palompon road to the juncture of 
the road with Highway 2 and then turn 
north for 1,000 yards and attempt to estab 
lish contact with the 1st Cavalry Division. 
The 3d Battalion moved out on time, and 
within fifteen minutes reached the road 
junction and turned north. The battalion 
had gone only 200 yards north when its 
left-flank company came under intense fire 
from a ridge overlooking the road. The 2d 
Battalion complied with orders from the 
regimental commander to "put out some 
thing" on the 3d Battalion's left flank and 
sent out one rifle company to envelop the 
enemy position. This move relieved the pres 
sure to some extent but the advance was 
still slow and costly. 

In the meantime, the 307th Infantry 
reached the road junction at 0800, having 
advanced without incident. With the slow 
ing up of the 306th Infantry, General Bruce 
ordered the commander of the 307th In 
fantry Regiment to send forward additional 
troops. The 2d Battalion, 307th Infantry, 
and the Cannon and Antitank Companies 
of the regiment were sent to the front to re 
inforce the 306th Infantry. This maneuver 



346 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



was successful and the attacking forces 
pushed forward. 

At 1645, the 306th Infantry and Troop 
A of the 12th .Cavalry made physical con 
tact. At 1 1 15 on 22 December, Col. John H. 
Stadler, the commanding officer of the 1 2th 
Cavalry, representing General Mudge, met 
General Bruce at a bridge south of Ka- 
nanga. The X and XXIV Corps had joined 
hands. Highway 2 was at long last open 
for its entire distance from Ormoc to 
Pinamopoan. 53 

53 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 21 Dec 44; 77th Div G-3 
Periodic Rpt 27, 21 Dec 44; 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, pp. 31-32; 307th Inf Unit Jnl, 21 Dec 44; 
307th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 8; 306th Inf Unit 



The Ormoc Valley, in which the Japa 
nese had so tenaciously resisted the Ameri 
can advance, was now securely in the hands 
of the Sixth Army. The northern and south 
ern prongs of the trap had closed. There 
remained only Palompon as an exit for the 
Japanese forces. To the securing of that 
port, the X and XXIV Corps, acting in 
concert, could concentrate their main ef 
forts. Plans had been readied. The Sixth 
Army was poised in a position from which 
it could drive westward to the sea and bring 
the Leyte campaign to a successful con 
clusion. 



Jnl, 21 Dec 44; 306th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 
11-12. 



CHAPTER XXI 



Westward to the Sea 



The co-ordinated pressure exerted from 
the north and south on the Japanese forces 
in the Ormoc area had compelled the com 
mander of the 35 1 h Army to make successive 
changes in his plans. General Suzuki had 
abandoned the aerial and ground assault 
against the Burauen airfields^ transferred 
the field base of the 35th Army from Ormoc 
to Palompon and, finally, had found it 
necessary to order the remaining Japanese 
units on Leyte to retreat to the hills behind 
Ormoc Valley. General Tomochika said 
afterward, "The best that the 35th Army 
could do from then on was to hold out as 
long as possible." 1 

The northwestern mountains of Leyte 
west of Ormoc Bay provided a difficult 
barrier to any movement toward the north 
west coast. The area was the last one avail 
able to the Japanese either for escaping from 
Leyte or for staging defensive actions. In 
general, the terrain was rough, increasing 
in altitude from broken ground and low 
hills in the north to steep rocky ridges and 
high hills in the south. The northern part 
was either under cultivation or covered with 
cogon grass. Toward the south, the culti 
vated fields and grasslands were gradually 
supplanted by dense forests. 

Palompon had been extensively used by 

1 10th I&HS, Eighth Army Stf Study of 35 tk 
Army on Leyte, Part 1, p. 24, Interrog of Maj Gen 
Yoshiharu Tomochika, 



the Japanese as an auxiliary port of entry to 
Leyte. The town was the western terminus 
of the road that ran north and eastward 
across the northwestern hills to join High 
way 2 near Libongao. (Map 23) It was 
this road junction that the X and XXIV 
Corps had seized. The Palompon road, as 
it was called, followed the lower slopes of 
the hills until the flat interior valley floor 
was reached. The confining hills were steep- 
sided with many knife-edged crests. 2 Such 
was the area into which the forces of the 
Sixth Army had driven remnants of the 
Japanese 35th Army. 

When the 77th Infantry Division and the 
1st Cavalry Division joined forces on 21 
December just south of Kananga, Highway 
2 between Ormoc and Pinamopoan was 
opened to the Americans. The Sixth Army, 
anxious to deliver the coup de grace, ar 
ranged its troops for a four-division thrust 
to the west coast on a long front. In the south 
the 77th Division was to drive west along 
the Palompon road. To its right (north) 
there would be, from left to right, the 1st 
Cavalry Division and the 32d and 24th In 
fantry Divisions. The Sixth Army had 
started the Leyte Campaign with two corps 
on a four-division front and was ending its 
part in the campaign with two corps on a 
four-division front. 



2 Sixth Army G-2 Wkly Rpt 69, 20 Dec 44, pp. 
14-18. 



348 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



OPENING 
THE PALOMPON ROAD 

22-31 December 1944 

AXIS OF ADVANCE 

Form lines only 

1 ! 3 MILES 




AMP 23 



77fA Division Goes West 



Overwater to Pdompon * 

Guerrillas had informed General Bruce 
that the bridges on the road that wound 

1 Unless otherwise Indicated, this subsection deal 
ing with the 77th Division is based upon the fol 
lowing: 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 32-35; 
77th Div Supp Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 1-8, 28-29; 
77th Div G-3 Periodic Rpts 33-37, 27-31 Dec 44; 
77th Div G-2 Summary Leyte Campaign; 305th 
Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 7-8; 305th Inf Hist Rpt 
1944 5 pp. 5-7; 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 23-30 Dec 44; 
77th Div Admin O 7, 24 Dec 44; 77th Div FO 20, 
19 Dec 44; 77th Div FO 22, 24 Dec 44; 1st Bn, 
305th Inf, FO 3, 23 Dec 44; 305th Inf Unit Jnl, 
25 Dec 44-2 Jan 45. 



through the mountains from the vicinity of 
Libongao to Palompon either were intact 
or could be quickly repaired. General Bruce 
decided to verify this by having an engineer 
patrol work with the guerrillas and by hav 
ing a reconnaissance made over the area in a 
cub plane. On 19 December General Bruce 
directed that a fast-moving force be organ 
ized to operate along the road to Palompon. 
The engineers later informed him that be 
cause of the condition of many of the bridges 
it would be impossible to send an advance 
column along the road. 4 

*Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OGMH. 



WESTWARD TO THE SEA 

On 2 1 December General Hodge, antici 
pating the juncture of the X and XXIV 
Corps, ordered the 77th Division to be pre 
pared after that event to move rapidly west 
and seize the Palompon area. 5 On 22 De 
cember General Krueger, acting on a recom 
mendation that had been made by General 
Bruce through General Hodge, 6 informed 
Admiral Kinkaid that it might be possible to 
expedite the capture of Palompon by having 
an infantry battalion, utilizing amphibian 
vehicles and LCM's, make an amphibious 
movement from Ormoc to the vicinity of 
Palompon. He therefore asked Admiral 
Kinkaid if naval support to escort and guide 
this movement could be furnished for either 
the night of 23-24 or that of 24-25 Decem 
ber. If possible, the amphibious force should 
have a destroyer escort. 7 Admiral Kinkaid 
stated, in reply, that because of preparations 
for other operations it would be "most diffi 
cult" to provide a destroyer escort but that 
he could furnish a PT escort which he be 
lieved would be sufficient protection. 8 This 
was satisfactory to General Krueger and he 
ordered the XXIV Corps to make plans for 
the amphibious movement. 9 In turn Gen 
eral Hodge told General Bruce to prepare 
for the operation. 

On 22 December, General Bruce put his 
plan into operation. The 1st Battalion, 305th 
Infantry, was to make the amphibious land 
ing in the vicinity of Palompon while the 
2d and 3d Battalions were to proceed west 
along the Palompon road, after moving in 

a XXIV Corps FO 38 3 21 Dec 44. 

Ltr, Gen Bnice to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OCMH. 

T Rad, GG Sixth Army to CTF 77, 22 Dec 44, 
Sixth Army G^-3 Jnl, 22 Dec 44. 

8 Msg, CTF 77 to CG Sixth Army, 23 Dec 44, 
Sixth Army G-3 Jnl, 23 Dec 44. 

9 Memo for Col Guerard, unsigned, 23 Dec 44 3 
XXIV Corps G-3 Jnl, 23 Dec 44. 



349 

trucks from Valencia to the Palompon road 
near the Togbong River. Previously, on 21 
December, Battery A of the 531st Field 
Artillery Battalion ( 155 -mm. gun) was 
brought with a great deal of effort to a posi 
tion near San Jose from which it could fire 
on Palompon, which the guerrillas and civil 
ians had received instructions to evacuate. 10 

The 1st Battalion was to commence load 
ing at 1400 on 23 December at Ormoc. 
The convoy was to be protected en route by 
patrol torpedo boats and close air support. 
Upon arriving at Palompon at 0500 on 25 
December, the mortar-firing LCM's were to 
bombard the shore before the assault forces 
moved in. Beginning 23 December, the ar 
tillery of the 77th Division was to bombard 
Palompon and to continue as long as Lt, 
Col. James E. Landnim, the task force com 
mander, desired it. 11 

The 1st Battalion was to move ashore on 
the beach about 1,500 yards north of Pa 
lompon with Companies C and B in assault, 
Company C on the left. Its mission was to 
destroy the enemy force in Palompon and 
then turn north. 15 

In support of the proposed landing, air 
craft from the Fifth Air Force bombed Pa 
lompon on 23 December. The results were 
"hot stuff," an overenthusiastic observer re 
ported, claiming that "only half of two 
houses were left standing in the whole 
town." 13 

On 23 December, the reinforced 1st Bat 
talion moved to Ormoc to prepare for the 
amphibious landing and at 1930 on 24 

M Ltr, Gen Bruce to Gen Ward, 16 Aug 51, 
OCMH. 

11 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 25 Dec 44. 

32 77th Div FO's 20 and 21, 19 Dec 44; 1st Bn, 
305thInf,F03,23Dec44. 

13 Rad, 9th Air Liaison Party to Fifth Air Force, 
X Corp G-3 Jnl, 24 Dec 44. 



350 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 




PALOMPON AFTER ALLIED BOMBINGS. Note bomb craters in foreground. 



December the troops embarked. 14 The con 
voy departed at 2000. The vessels included, 
in addition to the mechanized landing craft, 
the LVTs of the 718th and 536th Am 
phibian Tractor Battalions. They made the 
tedious ten-hour trip without incident as 
far as enemy action was concerned, al- 



34 In addition to the 1st Battalion, 305th. In 
fantry, the Special Task Force included: the Am 
phibian Tractor Company; Company A, 776th 
Amphibian Tank Battalion; one platoon of Com 
pany D, 706th Tank Battalion; three guns from the 
regimental Cannon Company; the 2d Platoon of 
Company A, 302d Engineer Battalion; a detach 
ment from Company A, 302d Medical Battalion; 
the 292d JASCO detachment; the 305th Field 
Artillery Battalion; a detachment of the 306th Field 
Artillery Battalion; a detachment from Battery A, 
531st Field Artillery Battalion. 77th Div Opns Rpt 
Leyte, p. 33. 



though three of the LVT's "sank owing to 
mechanical failure." 

The vessels took position off the landing 
beaches on the morning of 25 December. 
After the 155-mm. guns of the 531st Field 
Artillery Battalion had fired from positions 
near San Jose, twelve and a half miles east 
of Palompon, the mortar boats of the 2d 
Engineer Special Brigade softened up the 
beaches. The landing waves then started for 
the shore, the first wave landing at 0720 and 
the last one at 0755. They received no hostile 
fire. 

"Meanwhile," wrote General Bruce, 
"the Division Commander could stand it 
no longer and called for a plane, flew soon 
after daylight across the mountains and sea 
ward, located the amphibious forces still at 



WESTWARD TO THE SEA 



351 



sea, . . . witnessed the preparatory fires by 
the 1 55-mm. guns and that from the mortar 
boats . . . saw them going in ... and 
advance to the beach. (He obeyed a rather 
boyish impulse and flew from 25 to 50 feet 
above the heads of the troops in the assault 
boats and leaned out, giving a boxer's 
victory sign with both hands. ) " 15 

The troops quickly organized on the 
beach. A light. fast armored column moved 
north to clear the road and to forestall any 
Japanese counterattack from that direction 
as the rest of the task force went rapidly 
south through the barrio of Look to Palom 
pon, which fell at 1 206. This closed the last 
main port of entrance on the island to the 
Japanese. Within four hours after hitting 
the beaches the battalion had secured the 
barrios of Buaya and Look as well as Palom 
pon, and had strong patrols operating to the 
northeast and south. The troops met no 
opposition at any point. It was doubtless 
with great satisfaction that General Bruce 
sent the following message to the Com 
manding General, XXIV Corps : "The 77th 
Infantry Division's Christmas contribution 
to the Leyte Campaign is the capture of 
Palompon, the last main port of the enemy. 
We are all grateful to the Almighty on this 
birthday of the Son and on the Season of 
the Feast of Lights." le The 1st Battalion 
received "warm congratulations and 
thanks 35 from General Krueger. 17 

13 Maj Gen A. D. Bruce, The Operations of the 
77th Division in Leyte, 19 January 1951, pp. 27 3 28, 
MS in OCMH. 

18 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 25 Dec 44. 
1T 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 26 Dec 44. It Is possible that 
the weary soldiers were more interested in the fol 
lowing administrative order of General Bruce : 
1. Supply 
a. Rations 

( 1 ) Turkey ration distribution from Va 
lencia ration dump at 0900, 25 Dec 1944. Ration 
and mess personnel will exercise great care and 
260317 



The 1st Battalion occupied a defensive 
position hi the vicinity of Look on 25 De 
cember, and rested on 26 December, which 
was Christmas Day back home. It spent the 
next five days sending out patrols and await 
ing the arrival through the mountains of the 
rest of the 305th Infantry. On 30 December, 
Company C made a reconnaissance in force 
and an amphibious landing at Abijao, about 
seven miles north of Palompon. The com 
pany overcame some Japanese resistance 
and burned down the town to prevent its 
reoccupation. It then pushed 1,300 yards 
north and established radio contact with ele 
ments of the 1st Cavalry Division, which 
had pushed through the mountains to the 
vicinity of Villaba. 18 

The Palompon Road 

The Palompon road wound through the 
mountains and crossed many rivers, over 
which some forty bridges would have to be 
built or repaired. It ran northwest two and 
a half miles from the Togbong River to the 
barrio of Humaybunay and then cut sharply 
to the southwest for about four miles to 
Matagob, at which point it went into the 
hills almost directly south for about 2,000 
yards, and then turned south-southwest for 
1,000 yards. At this point it turned and 
twisted to the southwest for approximately 
five and a half miles to the vicinity of San 

speed in handling turkey and keep covered at all 
times. 

(2) Organization commanders will serve 
turkey to every man in this command on 26 Dec 
1944. The Division commander has made arrange 
ments for air drop to troops located in areas not 
accessible by road. 

General Bruce wished the troops to have turkey 
on the same day that Christmas is observed in the 
States. 77th Div Admin Order 7 S 24 Dec 44. 

18 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 32-35 and 
Supplemental Opns Rpt, pp. 1-8, 305th Inf Opns 
Rpt Leyte; 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 26-30 D*c 44. 



352 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



Miguel, from where it arched 3,500 yards 
to Look, on the Camotes Sea. 

The Japanese had pockmarked Matagob 
and the area surrounding it with foxholes 
and emplacements and had dug spider holes 
under the houses. South of Matagob, where 
the road climbed into the hills, the enemy 
had utilized natural caves, gullies, and 
ridges on both sides of the road and dug 
many deep defensive positions. Some of 
these were eight feet deep, two feet in diame 
ter at the top, and widened to six feet at the 
bottom. The Japanese had emplaced ma 
chine guns in culverts and had constructed 
several well-camouflaged coconut log pill 
boxes on the forward slopes of the ridges. 
An excellent, almost invisible installation, 
which served as an observation post, was dug 
in on the forward slope of a ridge about 
three miles north of San Miguel. It had a 
concealed entrance on the reverse slope. 
From this post eight miles of the road to 
the north and east could be observed. 

The Japanese 5th Infantry Regiment was 
the principal enemy unit in the sector, al 
though remnants of other units retreating 
west from Highway 2 were in the area. The 
following Japanese units were identified: 
1st, 3d, and 6th Batteries of the 8th Field 
Artillery Regiment; elements of the 8th Di 
vision Signal Unit; the 8th Transport Regi 
ment; and the 8th Engineer Regiment. 
Although intelligence officers estimated that 
there were between 2,000 and 3,000 enemy 
troops in the sector, only a force of about 
battalion strength opposed the 305th In 
fantry. The rest had scattered into the hills 
to the northwest. 

At 0700, on 22 December, the 2d Bat 
talion, 305th Infantry, left Valencia fol 
lowed at 1035 by the 3d Battalion. The 2d 
Battalion crossed the Togbong River, moved 
through the 1st Battalion, 306th Infantry, 



and at 1030 attacked along the Palompon 
road. The battalion had advanced 1,600 
yards northwest by 1230 and secured the 
Pagsangahan River crossing. The assault 
continued with the 3d Battalion coming up 
on the right flank of the 2d. The battalions 
moved through rice paddies and through 
Humaybunay and established a night 
perimeter about one mile southwest of the 
barrio. 

The 302d Engineer Battalion, which fol 
lowed behind the assault battalions, fought 
the "battle of bridges. 55 19 The engineers 
worked around the clock, frequently without 
any infantry protection, to restore the 
bridges as soon as possible. The bridges were 
to be sufficiently strengthened initially to 
support 2 / 2 -ton truck traffic for infantry 
supply, then they were to be reinforced to 
carry 20 tons in order to bring M8 3 s forward, 
and eventually to 36-ton capacity to carry 
the M10 5 s. General Bruce had hoped that 
sufficient Bailey bridges could be made 
available for important crossings to carry 
traffic while engineers built wooden bridges 
under the Bailey bridges. Only a limited 
number of Bailey bridges were furnished, 
however, and engineer progress to the west 
was slowed down. 20 

The assault battalions of the 305th In 
fantry that were astride the Palompon 
road spent a quiet night. They had before 
them the enemy's strongly fortified positions 
at Matagob. At 0830 on 23 December, the 
2d Battalion moved out, followed at 1130 
by the 3d Battalion. The 2d Battalion moved 
forward west of the road while the 3d ad 
vanced east of the road. Intermittent enemy 
rifle fire fell upon the 2d Battalion but it 
pushed ahead steadily. At 1500, the 2d Bat- 

M 77th Biv Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 35. 
30 77th Div and 305th Inf Opns Rpts Leyte; 77th 
Div 0-3 1x11,22 Dec 44. 



WESTWARD TO THE SEA 

talion was 500 yards beyond Matagob and 
the 3d was 300 yards behind the 2d. The 
troops came under heavy fire from two en 
emy 75-mm. guns on the hills west of Mata 
gob and suffered several casualties. The mor 
tars and artillery with the 305th Infantry 
silenced the Japanese guns. The regimental 
commander issued orders for the battalions 
to move out for the assault at 1000 on the 
following day against the regimental objec 
tive, a road bend that was 2,000 yards to 
its front. The 2d Battalion set up its night 
perimeter in place while the 3d Battalion 
withdrew to a point 1,000 yards east of Ma 
tagob. The regimental command post 
moved from Humaybunay to the 3d Bat 
talion perimeter. 21 

During the night the Japanese made sev 
eral attempts to penetrate the American 
lines. The 3d Battalion destroyed a demo 
lition squad that entered its position, while 
the 2d Battalion beat back one attack at 
0245 and another one, which was accom 
panied by mortar fire, at 0630. The 305th 
Infantry killed an estimated 100 Japanese 
with no casualties to the regiment." 

At 1000 on 24 December the assault 
troops jumped off. The Japanese resistance 
was light and intermittent, but American 
progress was slow because of the rough, 
irregular hills in which the enemy had 
established positions in foxholes, spider 
holes, and caves. Since it was not possible 
to bypass these positions, the regiment had 
to clear each one before the advance could 
continue. The force received some artillery 
fire but a mortar platoon from Company A, 
88th Chemical Weapons Battalion, silenced 
the enemy guns. At 1500 the battalions set 
up their night perimeter 500 yards short of 

21 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 35; 77th Div G-3 
Jnl, 23 Dec 44; 305th Inf Opns Rpt, p. 7. 
* 77th Div G-3 Jnl, 24 Dec 44. 



353 

the road bend. During the night a Japanese 
force of twenty men, which tried to pene 
trate the defenses of the 3d Battalion, was 
killed. 23 

At 0800 on 25 December the attack was 
renewed, but made very slow progress. The 
enemy, dug in in small pockets along the 
road, resisted stubbornly. The 3d Battalion 
advanced 200 yards and was pinned down 
by machine gun ? mountain gun, and rifle 
fire. The 2d Battalion attempted to envelop 
the enemy strong point on the Japanese 
right (south) flank but was repulsed. 24 

On 26 December the regiment limited its 
activity to patrolling. Since it was Christmas 
Day in the States, "All guns of the Division 
Artillery fired ... at ... 1200 as a sa 
lute to the nation on Christmas Day. This 
was followed by one minute of silent prayer 
for the dead and wounded of the 77th Divi 
sion. 35 ^ That night General Bruce ordered 
the troops to build bonfires and sing, and 
employ other ruses in the hope that the 
Japanese might believe that the troops were 
celebrating Christmas and might therefore 
try to enter the defensive perimeters. These 
ruses were unsuccessful in the sectors of the 
assault battalions, but a similar one em 
ployed in the area of the regimental com 
mand post attracted some Japanese patrols, 
which were either destroyed or driven off. 

At dawn on 27 December the 3d Bat 
talion moved around the Japanese left flank 
toward the high ground six hundred yards 
from the line of departure. Despite enemy 
artillery and machine gun fire and the diffi 
cult terrain, the battalion reached the objec 
tive, killing 160 Japanese. The remainder 
fled to the hills. 



58 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 36. 
34 77th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 37; 77th G-3 Jnl, 
25 Dec 44; 305th Inf Unit Rpt No. 19, 25 Dec 44. 
25 77th Div Supplemental Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2. 



354 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



When it became apparent that the Japa 
nese resistance was strong and determined 
and might unduly delay the progress of the 
305th Infantry, General Bruce decided to 
move the 2d Battalion of the regiment over- 
water to the vicinity of Palompon at the 
western terminus of the road. The 2d Bat 
talion could then attack east along the road 
while the 3d Battalion continued the attack 
west. The Japanese defenders would thus be 
under fire on their front and rear. This east 
ern attack force, which was called the Pro 
visional Mountain Force, moved to Ormoc 
and thence, after arrangements had been 
made with the naval representatives of 
^Krueger's staff, overwater by LCM's to Pa 
lompon. It arrived at the latter without inci 
dent at 1500 on 28 December. On the same 
day the 3d Battalion, reinforced, continued 
the attack westward. The Japanese resisted 
strongly with small arms fire from pillboxes 
and with artillery. The 3d Battalion ad 
vanced approximately 1,000 yards during 
the day. 26 

At 0800 on 29 December, the 3d Bat 
talion moved out. The battalion had ad 
vanced 650 yards at 1000 when it en 
countered very determined resistance from 
an enemy force in very well camouflaged, 
dug-in positions. The troops were pinned 
down for the rest of the day. The Pro 
visional Mountain Force moved out of Look 
at 1200 to a position from which it could 
launch its assault eastward along the road. 

At 0930 on 30 December the 305th In 
fantry struck along the Palompon road, 
the 3d Battalion driving west, and the Pro 
visional Mountain Force attacking east. 
The Mountain Force encountered only scat 
tered resistance until 0930, when the Japa 
nese, from well-entrenched positions in the 

*Ibid., p. 4; 305th Inf Supplemental Opns Rpt, 
p. 2. 



precipitous sides of the road at a point about 
four miles east of Palompon, directed strong 
machine gun fire along the road. The 
Mountain Force dug in for the night on high 
ground overlooking the point at which its 
advance had been halted. The 3d Battalion 
succeeded in overcoming the opposition 
which had halted it the previous day, and 
pushed forward to a point about 1 ,000 yards 
southwest of Tipolo. The Japanese had em- 
.placed artillery on curves in the road and 
could fire directly on the advancing Ameri 
can troops. Although the 305th Infantry 
lost one tank to enemy artillery fire, it was 
able to destroy three 75-mm. guns and 
capture two others intact. 27 

During the night, the Japanese force with 
drew; only scattered troops were left to 
delay the advance. At 0800 on 31 Decem 
ber, the assault forces of the 305th Infantry 
resumed the attack, and encountered only 
sporadic rifle fire. At 1225 at a point two 
miles northeast of San Miguel the 3d Bat 
talion and the Provisional Mountain Force 
met. This ended all organized resistance 
along the Palompon road and secured an 
overland route from Highway 2 in the 
Ormoc Valley to Palompon on the west 
coast. 28 The 77th Division made the as 
tounding estimate that for the period from 
21 through 31 December 1944, it had 
killed 5,779 Japanese, taken 29 prisoners, 
and had lost 1 7 men killed, 116 wounded, 
and 6 missing in action. 29 

X Corps Goes West 

Meanwhile, to the north of the 77th Divi 
sion, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division 
and the 32d Infantry Division had turned 



B 77th Div G-l Casualty Rpts; 77th Div Sup 
plemental Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 2-7. 



WESTWARD TO THE SEA 



355 



off Highway 2 and were pushing over the 
mountains to the west coast. 30 

The 1st Cavalry Division 

With the clearing of Highway 2 and the 
junction of the X and XXIV Corps at a 
point just south of Kananga, the 1st Cavalry 
Division was in readiness to push toward 
the w r est coast in conjunction with assaults 
by the 77th Dhision on its left and the 32d 
Division on its right. The troops were on a 
2,5 00-yard front along Highway 2 between 
Kananga and Lonoy. 

On the morning of 23 December the as 
sault units of the 1st Cavalry Division moved 
out from the highway and started west. 
None encountered any resistance. The 1st 
Squadron, 1 2th Cavalry, established a night 
perimeter on a ridge about 1,400 yards 
slightly northwest of Kananga. The 1st 
Squadron, 5th Cavalry, set up a night 
perimeter 1,000 yards north of that of the 
1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry, while the 1st 
Squadron, 7th Cavalry, dug in for the night 
on a line with the other two squadrons. 

This first day's march set the pattern for 
the next several days. The regiments pushed 
steadily forward, meeting only scattered re 
sistance. The chief obstacles were waist-deep 
swamps in the zone of the 12th Cavalry. 
These were waded on 24 December. The 
tangled vegetation and sharp, precipitous 

30 The subsection dealing with the elements of 
the 1st Cavalry Division is based upon the follow 
ing: 1st Cav Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 59-69; 1st 
Cav Div Supplementary Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 1-7 ; 
1 Cav Div FO No. 21, 24 Dec 44; 1st Cav Div G-3 
Periodic Rpts Nos. 65-84, 23 Dec 44-11 Jan 45; 
1st Cav Div G-2 Periodic Rpts Nos. 64-75, 23 Dec 
44-3 Jan 45; 5th Cav Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 28-29 ; 
1st Cav Div Arty Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 21-22; 1st 
Cav Div Brig Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 6-7; 12th Cav 
Unit Rpts Nos. 66-68, 23-25 Dec 44; 5th Cav S-3 
Periodic Rpt 72, 2 Jan 45; 1st Cav Div G-3 Jnl, 
26-31 Dec 44. Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte and 8th 
Army Opns Rpt Leyte. 



ridges that were henceforward encountered 
also made the passage slow and difficult. 

On 28 December, the foremost elements 
of the 5th and 12th Cavalry Regiments 
broke out of the mountains and reached the 
barrio of Tibur on the west coast, about 
2,800 yards north of Abijao. (See Map 2.) 
By nightfall on the following day, the 7th 
Cavalry 7 was also on the west coast but 
farther north. In its advance it had encoun 
tered and destroyed many small, scattered 
groups of the enemy, most of whom showed 
little desire to fight. The regiment arrived at 
Villaba, two and one -half miles north of 
Tibur, at dusk, and in securing the town 
killed thirty-five Japanese. 

During the early morning hours of 3 1 De 
cember, the Japanese launched four coun 
terattacks against the forces at Villaba. 
Each started with a bugle call, the first at 
tack beginning at 0230 and the final one at 
dawn. An estimated 500 of the enemy, 
armed with mortars, machine guns, and 
rifles, participated in the assaults, but the 
American artillery stopped the Japanese and 
their forces scattered. On 31 December, the 
77th Division began to relieve the elements 
of the 1st Cavalry Division, which moved 
back to Kananga. 

On the morning of the 30th of December, 
the 7th Cavalry had made physical contact 
northeast of Villaba with the 127th Infan 
try, 32d Division, which had been driving 
to the west coast north of the 1st Cavalry 
Division. 

The 32d Division 

On 22 December the 127th Infantry had 
reached Lonoy and made contact with the 
7th Cavalry. On the following day the 
troops rested. 31 The 1 28th Infantry had been 

K 127th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 13. 



356 



LEYTE: THE RETURN TO THE PHILIPPINES 



engaged in sending out patrols throughout 
the Limon area from 11 to 18 December. 
These patrols were successful in wiping out 
pockets of resistance that had been bypassed 
by the advance forces of the 32d Division in 
the division's drive along Highway 2 to the 
south. On 20 December, the 128th received 
orders from General Gill to prepare for a 
move to the west coast. 32 

Both the- 127th and 128th Infantry Regi 
ments sent out patrols on 23 December to 
reconnoiter the terrain. At 0800 on 24 De 
cember the two regiments started for the 
west coast. Throughout the march to the 
sea, they encountered only small parties of 
the enemy, who put up no effective resist 
ance, but heavy rains, dense, almost im 
passable f orests, and steep craggy hills slowed 
the advance. 

The commanding officer of the 127th 
Infantry said of the hills encountered on 24 
December: 

The morning was spent in climbing to the 
top of a mountain ridge. The climbing was 
difficult but as we later found