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Mount Macolod, part 2

Reduction of Mount Macolod

Reduction of Mount Macolod

2 April, the 187th attacked and cleared the area to the base of the mountain, but were unable to hold the ridges. One pocket of the enemy were dug in between the two southern ridges and small Japanese patrols were strewn along the highway near Talisay, indicating to Colonel Pearson that the enemy held that sector. His feelings were confirmed when his CP was hit with Japanese 155mm artillery shells. The quick reactions of the 674th Glider Field Artillery Battalion to counterattack saved the 2d 187th.

8 April, General MacArthur released a communiqué to state that because of the 11th Airborne’s actions, “…all organized enemy resistance in the southern part of the island was destroyed and liberation was at hand.” As usual, his assessment of the situation was premature, but it was just the type of enthusiasm that endeared him to the Filipino people. His optimism gave them the strength to persevere through some gruesome events; such as when the 2d moved through Sulac, the men found one hundred Filipinos brutally massacred and discarded in a ravine.

7-17 April, the battles around Macolod continued making this one of the bloodiest battles the 187th ever fought. The regiment received massive downpours of artillery, but when the troopers discovered that the guns were all grouped together, they were eradicated. The 187th was exhausted by this point and diminished even further by casualties and wounded, but rest was not on the schedule.

FDR's death announced

FDR’s death announced

President is dead telegram

President is dead telegram


12 April 1945, while sitting for a portrait, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, collapsed and died. The unsuccessful haberdasher, Harry S. Truman, would take over the reins of the country.
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I recently learned of the passing of Beate Sirota Gordon. At the age of 22, she was on General MacArthur’s staff to shape the civil rights portion of the new Japanese constitution formulated after their defeat. Further information on this woman will be included when we reach Japan on this blog.
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Guess what! Judy Guion invited me back to write another guest post on her blog, greatestgenerationlessons.wordpress.com. I hope you will all stop in next Tuesday, February 12th and tell us how I did with the Technical units.

Mount Macolod, part I

Mount Macolod, Luzon, P.I.

Mount Macolod, Luzon, P.I.


The 11th Airborne, by 4 March 1945, had captured Ternate and the following day, some of the troopers were put into a new light. There were no airdrops and no amphibious landings. They used native outrigger canoes to land themselves on Saipang Island where the enemy was using machine-gun fire on the troopers. It was mandatory for that machinery to be eliminated. Therefore, at dawn, the canoes moved out. The paratroopers behaved like natives, but fought like soldiers and the small island outpost was cleared of Japanese.

On 8 March, the Australian newspapers reported that the 11th A/B captured Calatagan and Balayan and then advanced thirteen miles east to seize Lemery.

When General Swing moved into the stripped-down Manila Hotel Annex, General Krueger began to visit him every other day. His competitive nature tried to get Swing to back-off from pushing into Manila first by saying, “don’t stick your neck out,” but Swing replied, “It’s been sticking out a mile since we landed.”
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Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. This following story carried by The Army News in March 1945 is a prime example:
Three enlisted men and an officer near Manila say this happened:
Sergeant Thomas Thompson saw a shadowy figure approaching his foxhole in the 11th A/B Division on Luzon. He shouted a challenge and in a reply drew a wild shot from a Japanese rifle.
Thompson aimed, pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
Private Donal Otten aimed and pulled the trigger of his rifle. Another dud.
At that point the Jap hurled a grenade into the foxhole where the Americans crouched.
The grenade failed to explode.
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Mount Macolod area map

Mount Macolod area map

Mount Macolod was not some minor hill to be taken, this was a major battle for the 11th Airborne and the recovery of Luzon. It stands nearly 3,107 feet, nearly vertical. On two sides, after a 1,200 foot drop, has three ridges descending gradually. The north to south nose was known as Brownie Ridge, the east as Bashore and the third, a heavily wooded area that connected Mt. Macolod with Bukel Hill. Brownie Ridge was the most heavily fortified section encompassing those infamous caves and tunnels previously built by enslaved Filipinos. G-2 (Intelligence), informed the soldiers that they would be up against the Japanese 17th Infantry Regiment and the 115th Fishing Battalion (Suicide Boat Unit), under the command of Colonel Masatoshi Fujishige (Fuji Force).

For the attack, the 187th, the 760th & 756th Field Artillery Battalions, the 472d, the 675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 44th Tank Battalion and Company B of the 127th Airborne Engineers were used. (To help avoid what could become very confusing here, I will concentrate on the 187th.) They were equipped with 155mm howitzers, 105mm howitzers, sawed-off 105mm howitzers, Sherman tanks, chemical mortars and flame-throwers. Air attacks were brought in to assist. An entire squadron of P-47s made numerous runs with bombs and then proceeded to strafe the enemy sectors.

F and G Companies of the 187th began house-to-house fighting, but were met by massive machine-gun fire. The enemy was dug in too far underground. Napalm strikes were brought in which enabled the 1st of the 187th to go around to the north of Dita and the 2d held its position near the town. This was 27 March 1945. Both units made a frontal assault into the Macolod area the following day. The flamethrowers were used on the enemy bunkers and E and G Companies made it to the top of the crest. Their M-1 fire took out snipers and more advancement was made, but the Japanese returned with mortar fire and a withdrawal was necessary. The enemy came at them throughout the night and following morning with banzai attacks. This was a fierce and bloody battle, especially for men who have never been sent into reserve.

door-to-door fighting

door-to-door fighting

Machine gun hideout Machine gun hideout[/caption
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Please remember – click on to any photo to enlarge. Thank you for stopping to read.

11th Airborne Division – May 1945 (2)

187th HQ Company, from 11th Airborne Yearbook 1943

After the fall of Mount Macolod, the one remaining Japanese stronghold in the 11th A/B’s area of operation on Luzon was Mount Malepunyo, a welter of conical hills covered with tangled rainforest and bamboo thickets surrounded by slopes and interlaced with sharp ridges.  There were no roads within the 30-square-mile area of the mountain.

Gen. Griswold felt that Malepunyo was such a formidable Japanese bastion that he planned to give Gen. Swing the 1st Cavalry to use along with Swing’s 11th A/B.  But – just before the operation was to take place, Griswold would only attach the 8th Calvary Regiment .

The 187th Regiment of the 11th A/B, shorthanded and weary after fighting for Mt. Macolod, was sent to Tiaong, to prevent enemy escape on the east.  This would put them around the north shore of Lake Taal.  The 188th was moved to Alaminos on the south and kept the 8th Calvary at the “Grand Canyon” at the northeast and the 511th on their right flank.

Gen. Farrell gathered 7 battalions of artillery and spread them out around the foot of the mountain.  When the operation went into affect, fighter-bombers pounded the Japanese strongholds.  The American paratroopers could actually see the enemy race underground and to their positions when they hear the aircraft overhead.

Major Davy Carnahan of the 187th said, “We had ambushes up and down the river for a distance of about 10 miles, endeavoring to cover every possible crossing.  In those ambushes we accounted for some 4 hundred Japanese captured or killed.

About 2400 hrs. one night, movement across the bridges was noticed.  …  The surprise was complete and deadly, some 100 enemy being killed and wounded, including some high-ranking officers.  The strange looking objects seen on the bridge turned out to be sedan chairs that all the Japanese officers were being carried in.”  [The troopers would later discover that Gen. Fujishige’s auto had broken down back in March.  But the general was not being carried, he walked out leading 200 men and was not captured here.]

Carrying out the wounded, 11th Airborne Div.

At the end of May, the 187th was sent to Manila to relieve the 20th infantry.  The city was in dire straits.  Vast areas had been destroyed, industry was non-existent, they had very little in the way of utilities, there was no police force and dance halls were springing up on every corner.

Smitty was not here, but as part of Gen. Swing’s service staff, he would have been with his general.  Plans were heavily into talks about the invasion of Japan.

According to the 11th A/B’s G-4 officer, Major John Conable, “We were to be the lead division of XVIII Airborne Corps under Gen. Ridgeway.  Our division and the 13th Airborne Division were to parachute onto the peninsula forming the east side of Tokyo Bay and establish a beachhead for a couple of armored divisions…. I can remember poring over aerial photographs of the area, trying to find some decent jump fields.  We didn’t find any.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Bond Jr. – Bradford, PA; US Navy, WWII

Richard Brunk – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511/11th Airborne Division, Chaplain

Stanley Chambers – Ipswich, ENG; Royal Air Force, WWII / British Navy, pilot (Ret. 44 y.)

Peter Firmin – Harwich, ENG; British Navy, (artist)

James Furcinito – Syracuse, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Joe Gondarilla – Oxnard, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Kenneth Herrell – Manchester, TN; US Army

Clarence Mayotte – Webster, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 5th Armored Division

Ronald Spetalnick – Far Rockaway, NY; US Air Force, SSgt., Flight Instructor

Arnold Tolbert – Williston, SC; US Air Force

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Back on Luzon

Mount Macolod, Luzon

Back on Luzon in the Philippine islands, we return to the US Army still fighting Yamashita’s formidable soldiers…

When General Swing, Commander of the 11th Airborne Division, moved into the stripped-down Manila Hotel Annex, General Krueger began to visit him every other day. His competitive nature tried to get Swing to back-off from pushing into Manila first by saying, “don’t stick your neck out,” but Swing replied, “It’s been sticking out a mile since we landed.”

Mount Macolod was not some minor hill to be taken, this was a major battle for the 11th Airborne. It stands almost 3,107 feet, nearly vertical. On two sides, after a 1,200 foot drop, it has three ridges descending gradually. The north to south nose was known as Brownie Ridge, the east as Bashore and the third, a heavily wooded area that connected Mt. Macolod with Bukel Hill.

Brownie Ridge was the most heavily fortified section encompassing those infamous caves and tunnels previously built by enslaved Filipinos. G-2 (Intelligence), informed the soldiers that they would be up against the Japanese 17th Infantry Regiment and the 115th Fishing Battalion (Suicide Boat Unit), under the command of Colonel Masatoshi Fujishige (Fuji Force).

Mount Macolod

For the attack, the 187th, the 760th & 756th Field Artillery Battalions, the 472nd, the 675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 44th Tank Battalion and Company B of the 127th Airborne Engineers were used. (To help avoid what could become very confusing here, I will concentrate on the 187th.) They were equipped with 155mm howitzers, 105mm howitzers, sawed-off 105mm howitzers, Sherman tanks, chemical mortars and flame-throwers. Air attacks were brought in to assist. An entire squadron of P-47s made numerous runs with bombs and then proceeded to strafe the enemy sectors.

F and G Companies of the 187th began house-to-house fighting, but were met by massive machine-gun fire. The enemy was dug in too far underground. Napalm strikes were brought in which enabled the 1st of the 187th to go around to the north of Dita and the 2nd held its position near the town. This was 27 March 1945.

Both units made a frontal assault into the Macolod area the following day. The flamethrowers were used on the enemy bunkers and E and G Companies made it to the top of the crest. Their M-1 fire took out snipers and more advancement was made, but the Japanese returned with mortar fire and a withdrawal was necessary. The enemy came at them throughout the night and following morning with banzai attacks. This was a fierce and bloody battle, especially for men who have never been sent into reserve for rest.

The small islands that XI Corps had to secure were Caballo, a mile south of Corregidor; Carabao, hugging the Ternate shore; and El Fraile, about midway between the other two. The Japanese on those islands posed no threat to Allied shipping–their ordnance was too light–but, like other bypassed Japanese garrisons, they had to be taken sometime. Although the islands had little or no military significance, the operations to secure them offer interesting examples of military ingenuity and unorthodox tactics.

Some of the 11th A/B troopers were put into a new light. There were no airdrops and no amphibious landings. They used native outrigger canoes to land themselves on Saipang Island where the enemy was using machine-gun fire on the troopers. It was mandatory that machinery to be eliminated. Therefore, at dawn, the canoes moved out. The paratroopers behaved like natives, but fought like soldiers and the small island outpost was cleared of Japanese.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Daniel Kahikina Akaka – Hoolulu, HI; US Army, WWII, ETO, 442nd Regiment, Purple Heart / Senator & Representative

Franck Bauer – FRA; WWII, ETO, underground radio broadcaster, WWII 

Warren Baum – Miami, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, aircraft mechanic

Arthur Eberly Jr. – Charleston, WV; US Army, Korea

Norman Goldstein – Brooklyn, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Carel Jan van Oss – Netherlands; RAF/Dutch Air Force & resistance, WWII

George Lawley – Bessemer, AL; US Army, WWII

Sherwood Maxwell – Henderson, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, A Co./675 Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Norman Silvira – Union City, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Medical Co./187th/11th Airborne Division

Ted Young – Poole, UK; Royal Engineers, WWII, ETO

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March/April 1945

Kamikaze near-miss

Kamikaze near-miss


During March, Japan’s city of Osaka and Kobe were devastated and enemy resistance collapsed on Iwo Jima. The U.S. began its bombardment of Okinawa and kamikaze aircraft became a persistent threat to the Navy.

“Operation Iceberg” (Okinawa) began in 1 April with the U.S. Tenth Army (6th Marine Division and 1st Marine Division) making their landings. Their objective was to advance west and then north on the island. The U.S. Army XXIV Corps (7th Infantry Div. and 96th Infantry) was ordered to clear the southern region. The units encounter very little resistance at their initial targets, but 130,000 Japanese soldiers were prepared for battle in the interior area and rougher region of the island.
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General Masatoshi Fujishige

General Masatoshi Fujishige


18 April, Col. Pearson brought in tanks and 155mm howitzers to coordinate with the 187th and their fighting would continue for two more days. The 11th Airborne had pushed the Japanese back to Malepunyo. On the 19th, any cave found near the 1st battalion was sealed. Those hideouts discovered near Cuenca Ravine had gasoline drums rolled into them and were ignited by grenades. This not only killed a number of enemy soldiers, but also eliminated the vegetation that would normally provide cover and possible infiltration routes by the enemy. When the battle for Macolod was over on the 20th, the regiment had 13 casualties and 11 wounded.

General Fjishige gave an interview on 27 May 1946 at the Luzon POW Camp No. 1. He said, in reference to the plans for Macolod, that he took one month of planning and organizing the defense himself. He had their positions so well camouflaged that they could not be detected by land or air and were stocked with some of the best troops he had. The general stated that whoever attacked Macolod deserved the highest U.S. Army honors.

The next operation was Malepunyo. The exhausted men of the 187th were sent to Tiaong to relieve the 188th and allow them to join up the 511th regiment and the 8th Cavalry while they (the 187th) would remain to cut off any Japanese fleeing the high ground. The 187th laid ambushes for 10 miles and confirmed some 400 enemy killed or captured. During three simultaneous banzai attacks coming across the bridges, the 187th were told by a prisoner that they had nearly caught Gen. Fujishige.

Swing received orders to “go it alone, capture Mount Malepunyo and destroy all the Japanese thereon.” This was an area of thirty square miles of hills with a mangled rain forest and bamboo thickets. It had no roadways and was surrounded by wet slopes intermingled with sharp ridges. At one ridge, the troopers spotted fifty to sixty Japanese about 300 feet below them bathing in a stream as if they were oblivious to a war shattering the world around them. The men of the 11th A/B were certain that there was nothing luckier than to literally catch the enemy with his pants down!

after one fray, a patrol of the 187th found a Japanese diary attesting to the starving conditions the enemy were facing. The book read that they were without any communication to or from their headquarters. They were praying for help from Manila and hoped they would die bravely in their fight with the Americans. (Any papers found on the enemy were immediately handed over to a Nisei G.I. for translation).
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Indian Parachute Regiment insignia

Indian Parachute Regiment insignia

Between December 1944 and the end of April 1945, the British and Indian troops liberated Burma. The Japanese Army evacuated Rangoon on 29 April 1945. I should have included the campaigns of these men here as well, my apologies.
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All throughout April, the U.S. Marines land on the smaller islands surrounding Okinawa.

On 17 April, President Truman extended the lend-lease act, thereby giving a grand total of $39 billion for Europe’s war effort. The U.S. only received $5.5 billion in return.

29 April, Mussolini and his mistress Signorina Petracci were executed and hung by their heels in front of a filling station nd Italy surrenders. (I have a photo of this, but feel it is not suitable for all viewers.)
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Remember – click onto any photo to enlarge.

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Other Pacific events

Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima and landing craft

Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima and landing craft


As the 11th Airborne Division worked its way to Mount Macolod, other events were transpiring around the Pacific. As stated in the Los Banos post, 23 February 1945 was also the date on which Ole’ Glory was raised on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. This event was portrayed in the newspapers as the day the Americans won the island, but the Marines would actually face another month of fighting.
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Tokyo received heavy bombing from the aircraft carriers on the 25th and later that night, 172 Boeing B-29 bombers dropped 500 tons of incendiary bombs on the city. (You will find that this action is constantly repeated.)
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The Army’s 41st Division landed on Palawan Island, P.I. to secure the excellent port facilities for the Navy on 28 February. All through the month of March, U.S. forces invaded the numerous islands of the southern Philippines to ensure the safety of the entire country.
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On 3 March, Manila was considered to be in American hands. Japanese resistance within the city limits appeared to be eradicated.
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B-29 in flight

B-29 in flight

During a night raid on Tokyo, 279 B-29 Superfortress aircraft dropped nearly 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs over the capital. The resulting firestorm killed between 80,000 and 130,000 people and destroyed approximately 300,000 buildings. Two nights later, 285 B-29’s did the same to Nagoya. After that, 274 bombers erased Osaka from the map. These bombing runs were becoming a daily event. (With all this damage being inflicted during the start of March, were we still required to drop the A-bomb five months later?)
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The USS Randolph aircraft carrier was badly damaged by the suicide aircraft in the Caroline Islands on 11 March. I mention this because the practice of kamikaze warfare will emerge more and more after this attack. I will be having a separate post to discuss this subject further.
USS Randolph  getting repairs on forward deck

USS Randolph getting repairs on forward deck


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Other weapons were being developed by the Japanese as the last year of the war unfolded such as the “Cherry Blossom,” the Ohka rocket-powered bomb with a 2,646 pound warhead. To be certain the pilot delivered his package to the target, he was sealed into his cockpit for a one-way journey. Clearly this was an act of desperation – not one of strategy.
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Current news – The U.S. Submarine Veteran’s Pelican Harbor base wants to hear from the men that served aboard a submarine – irregardless of which era: ussvi.org/base/PelicanHarbor.asp. During the war in the Pacific, submarines were responsible for sinking 55% of the enemy ships lost. (or 1,314). Out of the 16,000 submariners in WWII, 3,500 died on the 52 U.S. subs destroyed.

Manila – Lake Taal – Laguna de Bay

Pasig River before the war

Pasig River before the war

Japanese in Manila

Japanese in Manila

The importance of Manila can not be stressed enough. The natural harbour has served as a strategically situated port for commerce and trade for centuries. Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay are connected by the Pasig River, where I believe we left off in the last post

Fighting within the city

Fighting within the city

Americans in Manila

Americans in Manila

As the 11th airborne was switched back to the Sixth Army, General Swing received orders to destroy all forces in Southern Luzon, specifically at Macolod and Lipa, along with clearing Route 19. The division had not received many replacements so they were even smaller in size than before; the 158th Regimental Combat Team was attached to partially compensate. The Manila-Batangas highway ran north to south and was essential to secure the port of Batangas for future landings. On top of all this, Swing was ordered to destroy enemy forces in Ternate. (Southern shore of Manila Bay) None of his men had the privilege of being in reserve, but the general had the utmost confidence in his men to succeed. His plan – Put the 187th on the right, going through the neck between Lake Taal and Laguna de Bay. The 158th on two other routes and the 1st of the 188th to Ternate.

22 February 1945, the Cairns Post reported that the 11th Airborne had been seen south-east of Laguna de Bay and surrounded an enemy unit at Mabato Point and compressed them into an area of 1200×800 yards. From there, they traveled through Alabang to Muntinupa where the Japanese were attempting to evacuate their troops. The 11th was relaying back reports of finding natives hacked to death by bayonet or burned alive by the enemy.

The 187th, with the675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion attached bivouacked near Mount Sungay and sent out daily patrols to the east. G-2 (Intelligence) knew the Japanese Fuji Force was out there and needed to picture the enemy locations. While the troopers fought ground battles, the engineers were carving out the mountain. The sheer cliff was almost vertical, but the roads being built was imperative.

Lake Taal, from Everett's scrapbook

Lake Taal, from Everett’s scrapbook

Japanese gun from a super-battleship in Manila

Japanese gun from a super-battleship in Manila

Assistance with this article came from Rakkasans by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; the VFW; 2eyeswatching.com (pix only); The Angels: History of the 11th Airborne Division by Gen. Flanagan; Pacific War On-line encyclopedia & WW2 Database – all I wish to thank for their diligence in recording history.
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Current news – The Purple Hearts Reunited organization will return Cpl. George Hemphill’s medal, which he had sent home during WWII for safe keeping and never saw again. A man in Fla. had somehow purchased the award in 2000 and it wound up in Vermont with yet another man. Hemphill, now 90, was hit with shrapnel Sept. 11, 1944 from an enemy sniper.

Also – From today’s wars – Gabe, the mine sniffing War Dog has returned here to South Fla. after 13 months of service in Iraq. Gabe,a golden lab retriever who was originally a stray rescue, received a medal for his 210 combat missions. In all – 40 awards and coins for his service. He and his handler, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Shuck will now spend a year doing public appearances.

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