Early in January, Japan’s General Yamashita pulled his Fourteenth Army (260,000 men) back off of Luzon’s beach to conserve them. He was aware of the forthcoming invasions of American troops.
27 January, the 11th airborne set sail for the island aboard the transport ships under the command of Admiral Fechteler. The LCIs were crowded and the men ate “10-1” rations (50 pounds of food, enough for ten men) during the cruise. The 188th landed at Lucena and secured the beachhead. Immediately following, the 187th Glider Regimental Combat Team landed to protect the south flank by making certain the enemy could make no approach from the Balayan Bay-Santiago Peninsula area and the 511th would jump on Tagatay Ridge. This was labeled Operation Mike VI; devised by generals Eichelberger and Swing and would be considered quite unusual by most traditional military planners.
All the troopers had been so well briefed on the terrain from aerial photographs and mock-up reliefs that upon their landing the area gave a feeling of deja vu. Once they were on land, they started down Highway 17 toward Tagatay. That journey would consist of approximately 30 miles of valleys, flat terrain of rice and cane fields, mountains and careful traversing along crests of ridges. The distance between Tagatay and Manila was about 37 miles, traveling passed Nichols Field before reaching Manila proper. (the main supply area for the Japanese troops) Manila was a crucial stop-off for the enemy on Guadalcanal, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
27-31 January, General Eichelberger wrote to his wife of the beauty in watching the large naval convoy and how much he marveled at their expertise. He also commented, “General Swing is a grand to deal with …” (Frankly, I do not know of one person to ever say something contrary about Swing). He also noted the navy’s ability to keep their sense of humor, that while aboard ship before the landing, he heard over the speaker system. “Sick call — all sick, lame and lazy report to the sick bay.”
31 January was known as X-Ray Day for those bombing Japan. In Luzon, the Japanese forces were basically divided into three groups. The Shobu Group, under the command of General Yamashita, totaled 152,000 men and in control of the northern part of the island. The Kembu Group under Major General Tsukada had 30,000 men and dominated the Clark’s field and Bataan peninsula area. The Shimbu Group was 80,000 strong and ruled over the southern half of the island under Lt. General Yokoyama. The Fuji Forces, named for Colonel Matsatoshi Fujishige, would be created later on. They numbered 8,500 men, but they were working with 5,000 troops of the Surface Raiding Base Force, a unit that consisted of 100 suicide boats, called Maru-ni and operated by another 100 men.
The US Sixth Army, under General Krueger, had landed on Luzon north of Manila before the 11th airborne division went ashore to the south. MacArthur became upset with the slow progress the 6th was making to retake control of the capital and told Gen. Eichelberger, “speed up your ‘palsey-walsey,’ Krueger doesn’t even radiate courage.” Ergo – a rivalry was born and a race between the Sixth and Eight Armies was underway.
The problem was, the 11th airborne had been given more than one priority to handle.
Posted on December 16, 2012, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged 11th airborne, Army, family history, History, Luzon, Military, Military History, Navy, Pacific War, Philippines, WWII. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.