Blog Archives

June to July on Luzon 1945

“Mopping-up”

General MacArthur relieved the headquarters of Sixth Army and I Corps of further operational responsibility on Luzon in order that the two could begin preparations for the invasion of Japan. The headquarters of Eighth Army and of XIV Corps assumed responsibility for the further conduct of operations throughout Luzon, where the only Japanese force still capable of effective, well-organized resistance was the Shobu Group.

For Sixth Army and I Corps, the meeting of the 37th Division and 11th Airborne Division units south of Aparri on 26 June had marked the strategic end of the campaign in northern Luzon. This conclusion attained considerable logic. The juncture had divided the Shobu Group’s remaining forces and had occurred while Yamashita was desperately trying to withdraw all available units into his last-stand area.

Moreover, Sixth Army estimated upon relinquishing control to Eighth Army that no more than 23,000 Japanese were left alive in northern Luzon and that these troops were disorganized and incapable of effective defensive operations. The 6th Army further estimated that only 12,000 of the 23,000 Japanese were located in the Cordillera Central between Routes 4 and 11, the rest in the Sierra Madre east of the Cagayan Valley.

XIV Corps would have under its control the USAFIP(NL), now a seasoned and reasonably well-armed force of 21,000 men supported by two U.S. Army field artillery battalions. Also under XIV Corps was the experienced Buena Vista Regiment, equivalent in size to a U.S. Army infantry regiment less supporting arms and services. All in all, it appeared that XIV Corps would become involved only in relatively easy mopping-up and patrolling operations.

The 6th Army had greatly underestimated the Japanese strength left in northern Luzon, and the 8th Army’s estimates, made upon its assumption of command, were but little closer to fact. Actually, at the end of June, close to 65,000 Japanese remained alive in northern Luzon, 13,000 of them in the Sierra Madre and 52,000 in the last-stand area between Routes 4 and 11.

Caring for injured Filipinos

Although organization, control, and morale were deteriorating, and although most of the troops were ill armed and poorly supplied, the Japanese in the last-stand area were still capable of effective resistance when the occasion demanded. The task confronting the U.S. Army and guerrilla units in northern Luzon was of far greater magnitude than any headquarters estimated at the end of June.  XIV Corps plan for operations against the remainder of the Shobu Group differed only in detail from those I Corps had previously employed.  Reduced to their simplest terms, both sets of plans called for the exertion of unremitting pressure against the Shobu Group wherever Shobu Group troops were to be found.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Donald Anderson – Mackay, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/187th/11th Airborne Division

Francis Beecher – Norristown, PA; US Air Force, radioman

Greater love hath no man

Roy Custer Jr. – Miami, FL; US Air Force, Korea

Joseph Ferraro – Queens, NY; US Navy, WWII

Vincent Johnson – Minneapolis, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO

Al Kuschner – Great Neck, NY; US Navy, WWII

Carlo Lattinelli – Brooklyn, NY; US Army, Korea

Charles Merritt – San Diego, CA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman, USS Panamint

Allan Redmond – Chicago, IL; US Merchant Marines, WWII, engineer

James Thayer – Carlton, OR; US Army, WWII, ETO, General, Bronze Star, Silver Star

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78th National Airborne Day

“Airborne All The Way”

Author Unknown

These men with silver wings

Troopers from the sky above

In whom devotion springs

What spirit so unites them?

In brotherhood they say

Their answer loud and clear.

“Airborne All the Way.”

These are the men of danger

As in open door they stand

With static line above them

And ripcord in their hand.

While earthbound they are falling

A silent prayer they say

“Lord be with us forever,

Airborne All the Way.”

Saint Mike

One day they’ll make their final jump

Saint Mike will tap them out

The good Lord will be waiting

He knows what they’re about

And answering in unison

He’ll hear the troopers say

“We’re glad to be aboard, Sir,

Airborne All the Way!”

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Airborne Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Barber – Toledo, OH; US Army, Vietnam, Captain, 101st Airborne Division

Billy Enzor – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; US Army, 187th RCT

Warren Evans – Clarksville, TN; US Army Korea & Vietnam, Colonel, 187th RCT, 2 bronze Stars

Edward Fallon Jr. – Boston, MA; US Army, Korea, 101st Airborne Division, pathfinder

Francis ‘Red’ Grandy – Russell, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII / Star & Stripes photographer

Henry Kalb Jr. – Atlanta, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Larry Noll – Sheldon, WA; US Army, 82nd Airborne Division

Anothony Patti – Bronx, NY; US Army, 82nd Airborne Division, medic

William Shank – Harrisburg, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 1st Lt., 338th Fighter Squadron/8th Air Force, Purple Heart, KIA

Reymund Transfiguracion – Waikoloa, HI; US Army, Afghanistan,  3/1st Special Forces Group, Sgt. 1st Class, KIA

Charles Watson – Vero Beach, FL; US Army, Artillery/11th Airborne Division

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SHOUT OUT !!!

Personal Note – I know I promised a post for the women on the home front for today, but the calendar has changed my schedule.  That post will appear Monday, 20 August 2018.

Thank you.

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June – 187th/11th Airborne Division

Jump at Aparri, Luzon

With his thoughts still focused on his R&R in Australia, Everett “Smitty” Smith landed back at Lipa City, P.I. only to discover that a mission was scheduled. The last remaining organized Japanese group, the Shabu Forces, were hold up in the northeast corner of Luzon and General Swing had organized the Gypsy Task Force to take them out. On his orders, the unit would include “all Camp MacKall veterans.”

This unique unit would include men from the 187th Infantry, the 511th, the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, a platoon from the 127th Engineers and two platoons from B Company. Despite Gen. Krueger’s disapproval, Lt. Col. Henry Burgess, now 26 years old, would be the commanding officer. (Smitty was at the ancient age of 30, one of the oldest paratroopers besides one other soldier and a few of the officers.) Col. Lahti (31) would be CO for the reserve unit.

Task Force Gypsy, Aparri, Luzon

Col. John Lackey, CO of the 317th Troop Carrier Group, with very little notice, began loading 54 C-47s and 13 C-46s at 0430 hours, 23 June 1945. His plane was the first to leave Lipa airstrip and the constant rumbling of the planes soon became “Vs” in the open skies. Within the transports, every man appeared as a clone to the next. Individuality was lost among the uniforms, bundled parachutes and rucksacks filled to capacity with ammunition, first-aid, water and C-rations.

C-47 Skytrain “Gooney Bird”

Each man stood and checked the chute of the man beside him when the “Gooney Birds” lurched at 0900 hours; the smoke flares from the forward Pathfinders were spotted and green lights flashed for the paratroopers. The stick of men hooked up to the static lines and proceeded to jump into vertical development. With mandatory, disciplined silence, the traditional battle cry, “Geronimo,” is only heard within the imaginative faculty of 1,030 men. All these diverse personalities would react separately to the same experience.

Task Force Gypsy

Each man, for his own reasons, volunteered for the perilous duty that might end his life. Each man went through various stages of development and arrived at the same destination. Each man had been chosen for their good health, general toughness and honor. A jump into combat is reality in its most crystalline form.

As the ground races up to meet the troopers, they see the tall, thick fields of the sharp kunai grass, flooded rice paddies, caribou ruts and bomb craters – all would prove dangerous. The Task Force would lose 7%, two men killed and 70 wounded as they landed in 25 mph winds. The battle-hardened paratroopers collected their flame throwers, howitzers and rifles from the gliders and reassembled with “Espirit de Corps.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – Tomorrow, 7 August 2018 is Purple Heart Day

purple-heart-day-us-holidays1-640x427.jpg

Over 1.8 million awarded to date.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Hugh Adams – Portland, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Trevor Anstey – Chesterfield, ENG; RAF, WWII

Angel Flight

Gary Bohanick – Virginia Beach, VA; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

Michael Gagliardi – Boca Raton, FL; US Army, 127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Freeman Hepburn – brn: Bahamas/Port St. Lucie, FL; US Army

Richard B. “Rick” Long Sr. – Seven Lakes, NC; US Army, Lt. Colonel (Ret.)

Samuel McAllister – Mt. Vernon, NY; US Army, 75th Ranger Regiment, Sgt. Major, (2) Bronze Stars, KIA

Christopher Nelms – Oklahoma City, OK; US Army (28 y.), Delta Force, Sgt. Major, (2) Silver Stars, KIA

Billy Sapp – Reno, NV; USMC, WWII, PTO, 1st Marine Division

Kenneth Walser – Mesa, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, B-26 pilot

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187th/11th Airborne Division – Luzon, April 1945

This excerpt is from “The 11th Airborne Brick” by: Marvin Miller

[Filipino scouts had just killed 2 Makapili ( enemy sympathizers), and parts of the 187th/11th Airborne were near.]

The men in the company walked right by the bodies of the two slain men, the captain refused to even look in that direction as if he didn’t have the slightest idea of what just went on.  He would never tell a soul of what happened there that day.

A hard, driving rain began to fall on what Wayne thought was a Tuesday and 3 days later, it was still raining.  He kept his little New Testament Bible and his latest letter from Roxie dry by using a rubber bag he had taken off a dead enemy soldier.

Luzon, 1945

On that Saturday, the sun was shining brightly as they prepared to continue their trek through the muddy jungle trail.  They moved out within the hour and had made a couple of miles by noon.  The heat was stifling and the humidity made it unbearable.  It was difficult to breathe.

In an instant, a land mine and some snipers took the Filipino scouts out.  Shots were being fired from all directions as the troops found themselves in the crossfire of an ambush that had been carefully planned by the Japanese.  The rest of the company hit the ground in the thick vegetation for cover.

As usual, Fikes was shouting out orders to his men on how to fight the enemy, but the gunfire was too loud for him to be heard.  Besides, nobody ever listened to him anyway and he knew that in situations like this, it was every man for himself.  It was simply kill or be killed.  He grabbed a hand grenade, pulled the pin and quickly lopped it into the direction where he heard a Jap machine-gun.

The grenade exploded bu the machine-gun fire continued.  He tried again and missed.  When he jumped up the third time, the machine-gunner was waiting for him….

Plante got to his knees and then stood up shooting his flamethrower into one direction and then another.  He dove for cover after the third blast, waited a minute or two and then did it again.  He repeated this process over and over again for what seemed to be hours…

soldiers in the tall grass of Luzon

Wayne and Branson were firing their weapons too at every chance they had.  In fact, they had fired so many times that Wayne’s BAR malfunctioned.  He left his position close by his best buddies and crawled through the tall grass in search of another weapon.  He found an M1 just a few yards away where Pfc Hanson was laying dead.

The firefight seemed to be lasting for an eternity…  Both sides were running low on ammunition.  The Japanese were so low that they were now ready for  the second phase of their attack, the banzai charge.  They stood up, those without ammunition used the bayonets on their rifles or used their sabers.

Philippines, 1945

There were 53 in the banzai charge.  Over half were shot dead before they reached the Americans, but what few did reach the soldiers were either killed in hand-to-hand combat or shot.  It was over in less than a minute.

Branson was field promoted that day and took over Fikes’ platoon.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – SNAFU in “Outpost”

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kenneth Anderson – Red Wing, MN; US Army, Korea

James Blevins – Ash County, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, mechanic

Daniel Diana – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, Lt.Comdr.

David Garcia – St. Louis, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, (MLB Mgr.)

Michael Healy – Chicago, IL; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, 4th Rangers w/ 187th RCT / US Army Special Forces, MGeneral (Ret. 36 y.)

Gorge Keagy – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; US Coast Guard, gunner’s mate, USCG cutter Vigilant

Thomas Nix – Boulder, CO; US Navy, WWII, USS Lexington

Frank Osmer – Hudson, NH; US navy, WWII, gunner’s mate, USS Astoria

Virgil Smith – Haines City, FL; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Chuck Stevens Jr. – Van Houten, NM; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, (MLB 1st baseman)

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End of March 1945 for the 11th Airborne Division

 

Luzon, 1945

22 March – The 187th Reg., the 674th and 675th Field Artillery units had completed their move from Tanauan to Cuenca, Luzon; taking over positions left by the 158th.

23 March – the Japanese stormed A Company’e outpost on San Jose Hill.    The outpost forced the enemy back but had lost Captain Hanna who had not remained in the safety zone with the rest of his unit.  The artillery forward observer was able to  call in artillery fire on the enemy locations and the following morning.

Col. Pearson dispatched G and F Companies to clean out the area.  Tanks battered down houses and the engineers deactivated land mines, but NW of the village, the enemy fired from concealed caves and stopped the attack.

117th Engineering Batt. searching for mines

24 March – the Japanese reentered the village of Dita during the night.  Four battalions of artillery and a squadron of P-47’s made several strikes and the F and G Companies followed up with house-to-house fighting through the streets.  The intensity of the Japanese machine-gun and mortar fire halted the attack.

27 March – following a mortar barrage from the 85th Chemical Battalion and airstrikes using napalm, the 1st Battalion dug in at Bukel Hill and the 2nd Battalion held position near Dita.  Thus began the bloodiest and toughest battle for the 187th to date. (The 187th still exists today.)

Banzai

28 March – in a perimeter south of the Dita schoolhouse, G Company had repulsed another banzai attack.  At 0500 hours, about 50 Japanese soldiers had attacked F Company and its guerrillas.

B-24s and fighter-bombers of the 5th Air Force hit Balete Pass tracts and ridges, installations at Santa Fe, and ground support targets N of Laguna de Bay and in Cavite and Batangas Provinces and B-25s and A-20s attack troop concentrations at Baguio and Ilagan. Bombers hit the Cebu City area and pound airfields on Negros.  B-24s bomb Likanan Airfield. The 39th Troop Carrier Squadron, 317th Troop Carrier Group, moves from Leyte to Clark Field, Luzon with C-47s.

In spite of the shelling and air strikes, the enemy had been able to continue nightly banzai attacks.

Luzon, WWII

The 187th Regiment historian reported: “the Nips took a much heavier toll of the attached guerrillas who had the old-fashioned idea that tropical nights were made for sleeping.”  [11 were killed and 10 others wounded).

On Luzon, fighters from the 5th Air Force attack targets in the Cagayan Valley and north of Laguna de Bay, blasting bridges and gun positions over wide stretches.  B-25s, A-20s, and fighter-bombers hit Cebu targets, several of the strikes being flown in support of ground forces.

By 1 April 1945, the 187th had encircled the landward sides of Mount Macalod – it had not been easy.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Armstrong – Tyler, TX; US Army WWII

Franklin Bissett – Morgantown, WV; US Army, Korea, 187th/11th Airborne Division

One of the cemeteries at Tarawa.

Anthony Cooper – Jamaica, NY; US Army, WWII, 1st Inf/British 8th Army / Korea, 101st Airborne (Ret. 23 y.)

Elroy Dragsten – Bookings, SD; US Navy, WWII, 2nd Lt.

Lyle Gray Regina, SK, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO

Richard Hall – Portland, ME; US Army, WWII, ETO, 36th Division

Jeffrey McDougall – W.AUS; RA Air Force # 82473

Edgel Oldroyd – Springville, UT; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Tossie Parker – Tuscaloosa, AL; US Army, WWII

Albert Yamolovich – MA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Cpl., Arisan maru (POW ship), KIA

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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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Hunter’s ROTC

Hunters-ROTC Guerrillas, “The Unsurrendered”

The Hunters ROTC was a Filipino guerrilla unit active during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, and was the main anti-Japanese guerrilla group active in the area near the Philippine capital of Manila It was created upon the dissolution of the Philippine Military Academy.

Cadet Terry Adevoso and others, refused to simply go home as cadets were ordered to do, and began recruiting fighters willing to undertake guerrilla action against the Japanese.

When war broke out in the Philippines, some 300 Philippine Military Academy(the Philippine West Point) and ROTC cadets, unable to join the USAFFE units because of their youth, banded together in a common desire to contribute to the war effort throughout the Bataan campaign. They worked to protect civilians and to assist the USAFFE forces by way of intelligence and propaganda.

Philippine cadets

After the surrender of American and Filipino forces on Bataan The Hunters ROTC relocated to the Antipolo mountains.
The Hunters originally conducted operations with another guerrilla group called Marking’s Guerrillas, with whom they went about liquidating Japanese spies. Led by Miguel Ver, a PMA cadet, the Hunters raided the enemy-occupied Union College in Manila and seized 130 Enfield rifles.

They were among the most aggressive guerrillas in the war and made the only guerrilla raid on a Japanese prison, Muntinglupa (New Bilibid), to free their captured members and to obtain arms.

Philippine guerrillas

During the Battle of Manila (1945), the Hunters ROTC, under the command of Lt. Col. Emmanuel V. de Ocampo, fought with the U.S. Army from Nasugbu, Batangas to the Manila General Post Office. The Hunters also jointly operated with the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary and the American soldiers and military officers of the United States Army in many operations in Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Tayabas (now. Quezon), including the area of Tagatay Ridge for the 11th Airborne troopers to jump on.

Jay Vanderpool

This force provided intelligence to the liberating forces and took an active role in numerous battles, such as the raid at Los Banos where Jay Vanderpool coordinated with the guerrillas to get the ground forces to the camp.

According to Major Henry Burgess, Comdr. of the 1st Battalion/511th Reg./11th Airborne, “… the guerrillas’ greatest contribution was furnishing the intelligence information about the camp, locating guard posts and guiding Lt. Skau’s reconnaissance platoon into position…”

Children of the original Hunters ROTC

On the other hand, Col. Francisco “Kit” Quesada, a member of Hunters-ROTC, said, “this daring rescue was staged by the well-known Hunters-ROTC Guerrillas, in coordination with the 11th Airborne Division.”

The operation was performed byway of land, sea and air, so therefore, in my personal opinion, it depended on where you were during this mission as to the extent of each unit’s contribution. They ALL deserve to be proud of their accomplishment.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Barden Sr. – Citrus Heights, CA; US Navy, WWII, PTO USS Alabama

William Carlton – Foam Lake, SK, CAN; RC Army, CWO (Ret.), 1st Can. Para Batt.,Queen’s Own Rifles & PPCLI

Rueben Dockter – CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, aircraft mechanic

Vincent Foley – Sydney, AUS; RA Army, WWII

Henry Gutkoski – Worchester, MA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, gunner’s mate, USS Roamer

Walter Harrell – Lake Wales, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, (Ret. 24 y.)

George LePore – Rochester, NY; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Jack Moore – Dayton, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 pilot / Korea

Wilbert Ranta – Virginia, MN; US Army, WWII

Eugene ‘Mike’ Vecchi – Des Moines, IA; US Navy, WWII, Korea, USS Radford

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Los Banos (1)

Generals Eichelberger and Swing discussing plans of operation on Luzon

“I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid.  It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies.”

____ General Colin Powell, US Army, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 25 February 1993

By this time, Everett “Smitty” Smith was an NCO and when I’d asked him many years ago if he was part of the Los Baños Raid, he said, “No, I was occupied somewhere else.” As best as I can find in my research, he was busy with the rest of the 187th near the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion that was commanded by Captain Flanagan. (The captain would later become Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, author of many WWII historical books.) Although Smitty wasn’t at this dramatic feat of the 11th Airborne Division, it deserves any and all the attention it gets.  It is an operation that anyone associated with the division remains proud of to this day.

Lt.General E.M. Flanagan

G-2 Henry Muller was required to collect any and all intelligence that he could, from anywhere he could find it – that was his job.  A grower from Mindanao who had recently traveled south from Manila told him how awful the prisoners of Los Baños were doing.  This was the first Muller had heard of the camp.  It turned out Gen. Swing, commander of the 11th Airborne Division also had not been told about it.  They presumed that being it was outside the area of their orders from MacArthur to be the reason of this lack of info.  But Muller could not forget what the grower had said, “They are in pitiful shape.  They’re dying.”  He had to find out all he could about that camp.

BGen. Henry Muller, Jr., G-2, 11th A/B Div.

During the attack toward Manila, Swing’s staff had been gathering intelligence and drawing up plans for the raid on Los Baños, located 40 miles (other resources say 26 miles), behind Japanese lines. As envisioned, Swing wanted his planners to use both an airborne and amphibious attack. Swing wanted his paratroopers to land near the prison compound and destroy the Japanese garrison while his amphibious force swept across Laguna de Bay equipped with vehicles for transporting the internees to safety. Additionally, Swing felt that a diversionary attack was crucial to draw the Japanese troops away from the camp.

The raid would entail of a four-pronged attack. The 511th PIR Provisional Reconnaissance Platoon under Lieutenant George E. Skau, aided by local guerrillas, would move into an area opposite the camp prior to the strike. Then, simultaneous with a parachute drop of Lieutenant John M. Ringler’s Company B of the 511th PIR and an amphibious landing by Major Henry A. Burgess’s 1st Battalion, minus the airdropped company but reinforced with a platoon from C Company, 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion and two howitzers from Battery D, 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, the recon platoon and guerrillas would eliminate the sentries along the wire.

Jerry Sams at Los Banos. pic taken w/ his hidden camera

While the amphibious force amtracs of the 672nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion rolled up onto the beach from Laguna de Bay and continued toward the camp, the company of paratroopers would link up with the recon platoon and guerrillas and wipe out the rest of the garrison. When the amphibious force reached the camp, it would deploy to the south and west to block any reaction by the Japanese.

Margaret Whitaker helping her mother wash her hair at Los Banos

The fourth force would form a flying column composed of the 1st Battalion, 188th Glider Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Ernie LaFlamme, the 675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 472nd Glider Field Artillery Battalion, and Company B of the 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion and move by road around the southwest end of Laguna de Bay up to the gates of the camp. This force, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert H. Soule and designated “Los Baños Force,” would bring enough trucks with it to carry out all the internees and paratroopers. If the fourth group could not reach the camp, the internees could be ferried out in the amtracs across Laguna de Bay while the paratroopers fought their way out. The raid was scheduled for dawn on February 23, 1945, a moonless night.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Samuel Baney – Houma, LA; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Robert Conway – Lubbock, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 43rd Infantry

Edward Duncan – Clyde, MI; US Army, WWII

Jill Farquharson(102) – NOR; Air Transport Aux. “ATA Girl”, WWII, ETO, pilot

Charles Jonason – Howard Beach, NY; US Navy, WWII

Albert Kirlin – Lincoln, NE; US Air Force, PTO Occupation

Elenor Peat – Dargaville, NZ; RNZ Air Force # W4377, WWII

Wallace Stack – Levittown, PA; US Army, SSgt., 82nd Airborne Division

Paul Tomas SR. Ambry, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Steven Zozaya – Kingman, AZ; US Army, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

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February 1945 (4)

US Army soldiers on Luzon

The battles for Manila, Bataan, and Corregidor were only the beginning of the Luzon Campaign. Both Shobu Group, securing northern Luzon, and the bulk of Shimbu Group, defending the south, remained intact. With about 50,000 men at his disposal, the Shimbu Group commander, General Yokoyama, had deployed some 30,000 of them immediately east and south of Manila, with the remainder arrayed along the narrow Bicol Peninsula to the southwest.

Japanese groups on Luzon

The main Japanese defenses near the capital were built around the 8th and 105th divisions, with the rest of the manpower drawn from a jumble of other units and provisional organizations. East of Manila, their positions were organized in considerable depth but lacked good lines of supply and reinforcement. Shimbu Group’s eastern defenses obviously presented the most immediate threat to American control of the Manila area and would have to be dealt with first.

As soon as Manila was secured, he wanted the 11th Airborne Division to clear the area south of the capital, assisted by the independent 158th Infantry.

A reminder of what these soldiers were up against …
The stretch of blockhouses and pillboxes and tunnels, known as the Genko Line were filled with every imaginable weapon available from the Japanese arsenal. Along mountains, under fields and connecting the rolling hills lay the traps of heinous sorts silently in wait for any or all of the troopers.

The 1,200 two and three-story blockhouses entrenched with at least 6,000 enemy soldiers that lined the southern edge of Manila. A massive feat of ingenuity.

The size of some of these tunnels is amazing.  They could be large enough for a boat or plane and then some appear too small for a human to hide in.

18 February 1945, an unusual situation was discovered in Manila when three soldiers were returning to their headquarters in a mansion set on Dewey Boulevard South. A few blocks away, the troopers entered a house only to discover three Japanese men in robes and talking while they drank their tea. Somehow, they had been operating out of that house without realizing that the American HQ and General Swing were so close. It seemed incredible they were not discovered before. The three men were killed trying to escape the building.

Going door-to-door on Luzon

The commander of the 188th regiment turned his unit over to Gen. Pearson, now commander of the 187th, and they were incorporated into the Task Force and set out to attack Mabato Point. This zone sat two thousand yards south of Fort McKinley and held the Japanese Southern Forces Abe Battalion on the northwest shore of Laguna de Bay. This position gave the enemy an excellent vantage point of observation and fields that could be set on fire. As with the rest of the Genko Line, this area had been prepared by Japanese and Filipino workers since 1942 and had fortified tunnels. G-2 estimated about 800 of the enemy were hold up on Mabato.

Pearson put the 187th traveling along the railroad tracks and other regiments and battalions to other areas. When each unit was set, mid-morning on this date, Company B of the 187th launched the attack. The 457 Parachute Field Artillery was there to support with their pack 75s. Later that afternoon, air strikes were called in because the enemy was so well defended. When napalm was used, the fires used up so much oxygen that the enemy soldiers in the tunnels began to suffocate.

 

19 February, the Task Force struck again, but were having difficulty due to Japanese mortar fire. Finally, the mortar observers were located where they hid in the trees and sharp shooters took them out. A Japanese medical officer surrendered and through a Nisei interpreter informed Pearson that there were about 400 more Japanese in the area. A Filipino volunteer went to the enemy with a message of truce, giving one half hour of cease fire time for anyone to surrender. The end result has conflicting stories, but the fighting did continue. The surviving 15 officers of Abe Battalion were marched by their commander to the Point and committed hara-kiri. By 21 February, all resistance on Mabato Point had ended, but the Japanese were far from defeated in the Philippines.

Photos and data with the assistance of Rakkasans by Gen. Flanagan; The U.S. Army; ibiblio.org; Wikipedia,  Manila Hub & “Luzon” by the U.S. Army Center of Military History by Dale Andrade

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Myriam Alley – Tacoma, WA; US Army WAC, WWII

Lancer Carlson – McKinley, WI; US Navy, WWII, ATO

George Dane – Iowa City, IA; US Army, WWII

James Elia – Gilbert, AZ; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Ed Ficarra – Williamson, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, 119th Armored Engineer Battalion

Annna Guzlas (102) – Connellsville, PA; US Army WAC, WWII

James Hansen – Duluth, MN; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Otis ‘Nudge’ Norris – St. Petersburg, FL; USMC, WWII, PTO

F.Stewart Stover – North Haven, CT; US Army, WWII, Pfc., Purple Heart

Dan Wescott – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, WWII, 17th Airborne Division

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Corregidor

“On The Rock” by James Dietz

On 16 February 1945, 51 C-47s of the 317th TCG, nicknames “The Jungle Skippers”, dropped 2000 men of the 503rd PIR/11th Airborne Division on the fortress island of Corregidor.  Due to the modest size of the drop zones, only one battalion could be dropped at at a time, with a 5-hours turn around between drops. Each C-47 had to make repeated passes over the DZs and only a handful of paratroopers could jump each time.

The commanding officers, Lt.Col. John Lackey and Co. George Jones circled the island directing the choreography of the mission.  At 08:33 hours, barely 3 minutes late, against 16-18 knot winds, the troopers began to descend on the remnants of MGen. Tsukada’s Kembu Group.

503rd/11th Airborne Division

Paratroopers and infantrymen waged a tenacious battle ‘Topside’ while the 3rd Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division waded ashore on the eastern end of the island known as ‘Black Beach’ encountering the enemy and land mines.  Yet they did manage to secure the road and both the north and south entrances to Malinta Hill.  They intended to keep the Japanese troops inside the tunnel as other units arrived with tanks and flamethrowers.

layout of Corregidor

18 February – The most ferocious battle on Corregidor developed at Wheeler Point.  Companies D & F/2nd batt./503rd while in defense positions near Battery Hearn and Cheney Trail on that moonless night had 500 Japanese Special landing Force Marines come charging out of Battery Smith armory.  This was the night when Pvt. Lloyd G. McCarter won his Medal of Honor.

Aside from flares fired throughout the night by offshore warships, this 3-hour battle was decided by 50 men and their weapons.  Official historians of the 503rd refer to Wheeler Point as “Banzai Point.”

a Malinta Tunnel exit

21 February – Malinta Hill reacted like a volcano when several detonations tore it apart.  The Japanese that had been trapped inside caused the explosions and ensuing rock falls.  Two nights later, a similar event occurred and the American engineers sealed the tunnel’s entrances.  The suicides caused many such instances for days afterward.

Up until 26 February, there were isolated small cases of resistance from the remaining enemy soldiers, but they were silenced and Corregidor was declared secure.

Corregidor

By 1 March, Manila Harbor, the finest in the East, was open to Allied shipping.  7 March, MacArthur returned to the fortress he had been forced to leave and immediately noticed the old flagpole was still standing. He said, “Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever again haul it down.”

Flag raising on Corregidor

References: “C-47/R4D Skytrain Units of the Pacific and CBI” by David Isby; “Voice of the Angel” newspaper of the 11th Airborne Division, edited by Matt Underwood.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Clifford Abram – UK; Royal Navy, WWII / RAF

Clarence Beavers – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII, Sgt., 55th Battalion “Triple Nickels”

John Canty – Winsted, CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Sgt., 555/386/9th Bomber Command, KIA

Marlene Errico – Sunrise, FL; Women’s USMC

Carl Fisherkeller – Springfield, IL; US Navy, WWII, pilot

John Gavin – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, Ambassador to Mexico, (beloved actor)

Hoyt Hamor – Bar Harbor, ME; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Ralph Hartgraves – Clarksdale, MS; US Army, WWII, ETO, KIA

Earl Peterson – Bristol, NH; US Navy, WWII, USS Noble

Robert Watz – Westerly, RI; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

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