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History of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion

Chapter 4

Manila (city and surrounding area, 4 February - 3 March 1945)

Preliminary positioning of the 37th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions

At the start of the march south from Lingayen Gulf, the 37th Infantry Division had Companies A and D of the 82nd CMB attached. The 129th Infantry of the 37th had moved south to the left of the 160th Infantry of the 40th Division. Butler's 2nd platoon, Co. C, initially was attached to 160th. The 129th Infantry Regiment of the 37th Division had maintained contact with the balance of 37th and, thereby, with I Corps on the east and northeast. Rubin's 1st platoon of Co. D supported the 129th as it merged with the 160th along Route 3 back at Camiling, where Rubin and Butler found themselves back-to-back, firing from the same graveyard. Now Butler's 2nd platoon of Co. C and Rubin's 1st of D would be cast in competing roles for the honor of "First 4-Deuces in Manila" as they supported the 148th and 129th Infantry Regiments of the 37th Division, respectively.

26 Jan 45 - Co. A, 1st Bn., 145th Inf., 37th Div., secured Mabalacat and Mabalacat East Airfield and the railroad juncture with Route 3 four miles south of Bamban. This is the western part of the RR running east to west from Magalang to Ft. Stotsenburg. (S. pp 179-80)

27 Jan 45 - 145th Inf. advanced along Route 3 another three miles to Culayo and Dau, while Co. F, 2nd Bn., 148th Inf., 37th Div., secured Magalang five miles east of Dau. (Ibid) (With the aid of 2nd platoon, Co, C, 82nd CMB vehicles.) 28 Jan 45 - 1st Cavalry Division, attached to XIV Corps, moved south on Route 5 and assembled west of Cabanatuan for the drive on Manila (S. p. 184.)

Rubin's 4.2s had participated in the preparatory fires supporting the 129th in its action, as part of the 37th Division, to secure the entire Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg area “... by dark on 30 January, simultaneously broadening its front to the right.”" (Ibid) At the same time, Carlisle tells us, Lt. Cotton's 2nd platoon of Co. D was watching and firing while the American flag was being raised for the first time, after three years, at Fort Stotsenburg on 31 January.

The 37th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division started their race for Manila on 31 January using parallel Routes: 3 (infantry) in the west and 5 (cavalry) in the east of Pampanga Province in the Central Plain.

Rangers and guerrillas to the rescue

30-31 Jan 45 - The race for Manila was on. General MacArthur's priority was to rescue the many prisoners, military and civilian, held by the Japanese at Cabanatuan, Santa Tomas and Bilibid, the latter two prisons within the Manila City limits.

Cabanatuan lies 23 miles east of Bamban in the I Corps sector. General Kruger, Sixth Army commander, had been planning a daring rescue of the Cabanatuan (Pangatian) internees and was able to pull it off. For a stirring account of this highly successful operation behind enemy lines, see Appendix D, Rescue at Cabanatuan.

Major General Verne D. Mudge, CG, 1st Cav. Div., organized two reinforced motorized squadrons that soon became known as Flying Columns. Each included a cavalry squadron (comparable to an infantry battalion,) a medium tank company, a 105-mm howitzer battery, other supporting elements, and sufficient vehicles to lift all troops. Under Brig. Gen. William C. Chase, commander of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, the groupment also included the Provisional Reconnaissance Squadron (Ibid)

1-2 Feb 45 - The lead Flying Column, 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, established contact with the 37th Division on the Angat River. The bridges were down and the area to the south of the river was in the 37th's zone. Accordingly, this Flying Column forded the Angat at Baliuag about five miles north as crowds of Filipinos cheered the cavalrymen across the wide but not too deep river. Meanwhile, the 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, Flying Column, having been held up most of February 1 by 250 Japanese infantrymen with artillery, were racing to catch up. Little time was "wasted" sleeping the night of 2-3 February. (S. p. 218)

3 Feb 45 - Moving at speeds up to fifty miles an hour, south along Route 52, 2nd/5th endeavored to catch up with 2nd/ 8th an hour ahead.

Cavalry executes classic naval maneuver on dry land

At a minor road junction on flat, open ground near Talipapa, four Japanese trucks loaded with troops and supplies nosed out into Route 52 from the east just as the 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, arrived from the north. Troops aboard the cavalry's leading vehicles waved the Japanese to a halt and, momentarily stupefied, the Japanese drivers complied. As each of the 5th Cavalry's vehicles came within range of the Japanese group, the cavalrymen fired with all the weapons they could bring to bear, and continued shooting until they had passed out of range. Within seconds the Flying Column's men had set afire four Japanese trucks and had killed at least 25 Japanese – the classic naval maneuver: Crossing the T. (Ibid)

Cavalry enters Manila and effects rescue

3 Feb 45 - The lead Flying Column, 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, evidently kept the lead and made the rescue at Santo Tomas University. That evening, as they moved into Manila, their immediate mission was to free the civilian internees held there for three years. Upon arrival, the advance elements of the 8th Cavalry, a medium tank of the 44th Tank Battalion serving as a battering ram, broke though the gates of the campus wall. Japanese Army guards, most of them Formosan (Chinese), put up little fight and 3,500 internees were liberated. In another building, an additional 275, mostly women and children, were held hostage by some sixty Japanese under Lt. Col. Toshio Hayashi, camp commander. Hayashi demanded a guarantee for safe conduct from the grounds for himself and his men before he would release the internees. General Chase had to accept the conditions.

While the release of the Santo Tomas University internees was under way, Troop G of the 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, raced south on Quezon Boulevard toward the Pasig River in an attempt to seize the Quezon Bridge. About six blocks south of Santo Tomas, where the great stone bulk of Old Bilibid Prison loomed on their right, they came under intense machine gun and some 47mm gun fire from the modern, three-story concrete buildings of Far Eastern University on the left and were stopped by a roadblock on Quezon Boulevard and Azcarraga Street. Vehicles began to pile up at the roadblock. Guided by guerrillas, the column was able to return safely to Santo Tomas. (S. p. 252) The cavalry had been at the southeast corner of Bilibid Prison.

By 2330 on the 3d, the 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, (less Troop F), and 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, had assembled at Santo Tomas. Troop F of the 8th had moved by side streets and secured Malacanyan Palace, on the Pasig a mile southeast of the university.

4 Feb 45 - Late in the afternoon, 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, attempted to seize Quezon Bridge, believed to be the only remaining bridge over the Pasig. The Japanese roadblock included a line of truck bodies wired together, steel rails driven into the pavement, and a minefield. Within the roadblock were four machine gun emplacements. The whole was further defended by machine guns from Far Eastern University and from another intersection to the east. During the attempt by the cavalry elements, the Japanese were successful in blowing the bridge. (S. pp. 252-53)

Infantry enters Manila and effects rescue

4 Feb 45 - By the time the cavalry had returned to Santo Tomas, the 37th Infantry Division's van units had entered the city and established contact with the cavalrymen. Marching into Manila, the 148th Infantry, with Co. C, 82nd CMB, attached, advanced southward through the Tondo and Santa Cruz districts west of Santo Tomas. About 2000 on 4 February, the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, supported by 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, reached the northwest corner of Old Bilibid Prison, only three short blocks from the 5th Cavalry, which was just beginning its fight near the Quezon-Azcarraga intersection off the prison's southeastern corner. Busy with their fights at Far Eastern University, neither 2nd Squadron of the 8th or 2nd of the 5th Cavalry Regiments had attempted to enter the prison, but 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, broke in from the opposite (northwest) corner and discovered approximately 800 Allied and American prisoners of war and 530 civilian internees. (S. p. 254)

Frankel was regimental adjutant of the 148th Infantry and relates very interesting details of this rescue in Chapter 13, “The Rescue of Bilibid Prison” on his website Frankel-y Speaking

Discrepancy: Chapter 13, The Rescue of Bilibid Prison, of Frankel's report states: “...the 148th Infantry Regiment crossed the Tulihan River, the last water barrier before Manila, at dusk on the fifth of February 1945. The first foot troops entered the city as Captain Sidney Goodkin and Captain Lawrence H. Homer led their Companies F and E, respectively, down Rizal Avenue.” Smith's report (S. p. 254), referenced above, describes the action of 2nd Bn., 148th Inf. “About 2000 on 4 February...”

5 Feb 45 - Discrepancy: Carlisle, in Lines From Luzon, states: “The battalion (82nd Chemical Mortar) was represented by Co. D, the 1st platoon of which entered the city in the early hours of 5 February, just a few hours after the infantry.” Co. D had been and still was attached to the 129th Infantry; Co. A, ditto with the 145th Infantry. Co. C had recently been attached to the 148th Infantry, which was the van unit of the 37th Division entering Manila. The "battalion" was represented earlier by Co. C, the 2nd platoon of which entered the city with the 2nd Bn., 148th Infantry, on the evening of the 4th (see “Infantry enters Manila and effects rescue,” above). While at it, the 2nd platoon, Co. C, mortarmen also had green beer by the helmet-ful from Balintawak Brewery, and it wasn't flowing because “Some high-minded individual had pulled the tap...” (Carlisle) It was, rather, several "low-minded" Japs who gashed the vats with axes and destroyed the brewery to the best of their abilities at the time (Frankel.)

Limitations on firing

No precise dates can be placed on the restrictions against artillery and mortar fire and on aerial bombardment. It appears to have been a somewhat elastic rule. In reality, who was to say what caused a particular building to blow up, explode, implode, etc. The distinct memory is that we were on the receiving end of mortar and cannon fire for at least two days, maybe more, and someone forgot to tell the Japs – small stuff, only. Several commentaries on the one-sided situation indicate the restriction was not observed in full.

Despite the limitations placed on it, artillery fire, supplemented by tank and mortar fire, caused the vast bulk of Japanese casualties (perhaps 1,500) north of the river. That infantry assault operations accounted for relatively few Japanese is at least partially attested to by the fact that American casualties were not more than 50 men killed and 150 wounded. (Ibid)

The artillery, mortar, tank and tank destroyer fire that had destroyed the Provisor Island power plant and turned the Paco Station, Paco School, and Concordia College into a shambles represented a striking departure from the limitations placed upon support fires during the clearing of northern Manila and the eastern suburbs. (S. pp. 263-64)

In addition, the operations south of the river had forced the XIV Corps and the 37th Division to the reluctant decision that all pretense at saving Manila's buildings would have to be given up. Casualties were mounting at a much too alarming rate among the infantry units. The 148th Infantry was now nearly 600 men understrength, the 129th nearly 700. If the city were to be secured without the destruction of the 37th and the 1st Cavalry Divisions, no further effort could be made to save the buildings; everything holding up progress would be pounded, although artillery would not be directed against churches and hospitals that were known to contain civilians. Even this last restriction would not always be effective, for often it could not be learned until too late that a specific building held civilians. Restrictions on aerial bombardment, on the other hand, would remain in effect (Ibid) (The Japanese mounted antiaircraft and other heavy weapons in the Philippine General Hospital, regardless of the civilian patients, and contested the assaulting 37th Division troops floor by floor and room by room.)

5-6 Feb 45 - During this "no fire" for artillery, tanks and mortars period, General Douglas MacArthur lost points with the troops. The feeling expressed was that he was only interested in protecting his personal real estate. The 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, attached to 2nd Battalion, 148th, was called on several times to take out some Jap strongpoint, while still north of the Pasig. The mortars were emplaced in a schoolyard and firing at targets north of the river, mostly at short ranges (650-1500 yards). The Company CP, with Lt. McClelland commanding, was set up in a big shed on the same grounds. On 6 February, Butler and Phillips (with jeep and SCR 300 radio) as an OP party, had set up on the second floor of a burned out factory in an industrial area. The observation post was on a stairwell landing without windows and had a wide-open view of other factories.

Tommy gun vs. sniper

6 Feb 45 - Keeping well back in the shadows and searching with binoculars for "targets of opportunity," Butler noted a loading dock on a factory only 50 yards to his right front. The huge loading door was open and there was a timber, about 2"x8" across the opening at its base. Watching for several minutes, a movement was detected in the darkened factory, on the floor directly behind the 2x8 at its right edge (looking out.) Guessing it to be a sniper, who may have detected a slight movement in the stairwell OP, Butler dropped to one knee with Tommy gun, took careful aim at the suspect location, and squeezed off about one half magazine (10 rounds, .45 Cal,) ricocheting off the concrete loading platform and blowing the 2x8 to toothpicks. Kill not confirmed – just hope it wasn't some curious civilian.

Expecting that return fire would be directed to the OP, Butler and Phillips departed to the street, across it and behind a high wooden gate leading to another factory's loading dock. McClelland was contacted and given our situation. He informed us that 2nd Bn., 148th Inf., was bedding down for the night in preparation for crossing the river the next day and we should come on back. Butler replied that it was early yet and he'd like to go back "across the street" and have another look. With that OKd, the OP party returned to the stairwell across the street. No retaliatory fire had been generated by the Tommy gun burst, so a more careful examination of the surrounding area was undertaken. As the sun was setting on and slanting from Manila Bay on our right, directly ahead and about 500 yards away was a loft-type building among lower houses, something of a mixed zoning mess. The interesting feature of the loft building was the camouflage paint. It may have helped against aerial observation, but drew attention from the ground.

Adjusting with two WP rounds at 2200 yards and quickly switching to "HE, volley 1 round, fire for effect," the four rounds hit the building, which blew sky high and burned very brightly (a fireworks factory?). McClelland could see the flames from about a mile behind the OP and promptly suggested it was time to get some much-needed rest.

First 4.2-inch shell fired in Manila

6 Feb 45 - Carlisle, in Lines From Luzon, tells us that Rubin's 1st platoon, Co. D, which was attached to the 129th Infantry, 37th Division, had the honor of firing the first 4.2 mortar shells in Manila. “The date was 6 February, the time 1630, the target the beautiful General Post Office.”"

6 Feb 45 - Discrepancy: The General Post Office was located along the south shore of the Pasig River, which indicates that Rubin fired no 4.2-inch mortar shells at targets north of the river in support of 129th Infantry. Butler's 2nd platoon, Co. C, attacked the "fireworks factory" north of the Pasig, which was destroyed near dusk on the 5th, and had fired several missions throughout the day supporting 2nd Bn., 148th Infantry.

Comment: The sequence of events in crossing the Pasig River by 37th Division units raises questions about Carlisle's reported date when Rubin fired on the GPO. The following describes elements of the attack into the area of Manila south of the Pasig and shows that the 129th Infantry, in its protracted amphibious assault on Provisor Island and the Generator plant, may have received Japanese artillery and/or mortar fire from the GPO 1,300 yards northwest of and downstream from the island. The GPO, however, was not taken under assault until 17 February and then by the 145th Infantry, which had relieved the devastated 129th. Company A, 82nd CMB, was supporting the 145th Infantry. However, it was normal for a 4.2-inch mortar unit to stay in place when its supported infantry unit went into reserve.

The 37th Division and the 1st Cavalry Division had accomplished much during the week ending 10 February. They had cleared all Manila and its suburbs north of the Pasig, and pushed Colonel Noguchi's Northern Force either south across the Pasig or east across the Marikina. Noguchi had executed his assigned demolitions and then withdrawn most of his troops south across the Pasig, destroying the bridges behind him. (S. p. 257) Note: At this time, the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion was disposed as follows:

The approach to the city was uneventful in comparison to the resistance encountered once the American forces entered Manila. Fire missions for the mortars picked up immediately. The weapon screened regimental crossings of the Pasig River, which bisects the city, and fired support, incendiary, and neutralization missions, mostly in conjunction with infantry mortars and artillery. (K&B, p. 506)

6 Feb 45 - General Krueger, Sixth Army commander, had directed XIV Corps to seize the Provisor Island generating plant (in the Pasig River) forthwith. (S. 258)

7 Feb 45 - Gen Griswold, accordingly, ordered the 37th Division across the Pasig and assigned it most of the city south of the river. The 1st Cavalry Division, when it finished its job in the northern suburbs, would also cross the river and then swing westward toward Manila Bay on the 37th Division's left. (Ibid)

General Beightler, the 37th Division commander, ordered the 148th Infantry to make the assault across the Pasig. The 129th Infantry would follow the 148th and be followed in turn by the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry, division reserve. The remainder of the 145th was to protect the division's line of communications north of Manila. Beightler directed the 148th Infantry to cross just east of Malacanyan Palace and land on the south side at Malacanyan Garden. The 148th would first clear the Paco and Pandacan (industrial) Districts and then wheel southwest and west toward Intramuros (Walled City) and Manila Bay. The 129th Infantry, once on the south bank, would immediately swing west along the river to secure Provisor Island and the steam power plant. (S. pp. 258-60)

1515 Hours 7 Feb 45 Behind a 105-mm. artillery barrage, 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry, began crossing in assault boats. The first wave encountered no opposition but, as the second crossed, intense machine gun, mortar and artillery fire began to hit the river, the landing site, and the Malacanyan Palace area. However, the 148th found only a few Japs at the Malacanyan Gardens and established its bridgehead with little difficulty. By 2000, two battalions were across the Pasig, holding an area about 300 yards deep and 1,000 yards along the river. The crossing had cost the regiment about 15 men killed and 100 wounded, almost all as the result of machine gun and mortar fire. Many of the casualties had actually occurred on the palace grounds where the 148th Infantry had its command post and where General Beightler had set up an advanced headquarters. (Ibid) Also, see Frankel's report regarding the 148th CP at the Palace, in Chapter 14 of his website Frankel-y Speaking.

Discrepancy: In describing events at Malacanyan Palace, Frankel states: “It was to be our final drive against the 25,000 Japanese crammed in the lower half of Manila backed up against the Pacific Ocean.” The Pasig River flows west into Manila Bay, which is a bay on the South China Sea southwest of Manila. The Pacific Ocean is far to the east of Luzon beyond the Philippine Sea and the Northern Mariana Islands.

During our stay north of the Pasig, the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, had its vehicles: one ¼-ton truck (jeep) with trailer and four 2½-ton trucks with trailers for the four gun crews. When the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, was preparing to cross to the south of the Pasig, the 2nd platoon mortarmen displaced to a new firing position on the Malacanyan Palace grounds. From that location on the north bank of the Pasig it was possible to reach directly west along the river to Manila Bay and southwest to the Bay well within the 148th Infantry's zone of advance.

The Japs had cut all bridges and it was not feasible to get wire across the river. Reliance would have to be on the SCR-300 for communication and Phillips would backpack it through the streets of South Manila. A beefed-up OP party crossed with the 2nd Bn., 148th Infantry, about 2000 hours on the 7th and had no fire mission until early on the 8th when the clearing of the Paco and Pandacan Districts started.

The OP party consisted of Butler, with his Tommy gun in hand, .45 Cal. pistol in shoulder holster, a 7-round magazine in the pistol, two 7-round magazines in the belt pouch, a map case, binoculars, and bag of four 20-round magazines for the Tommy gun, in addition to the one in the gun, giving a total of 121 rounds of heavy Cal. .45 ammunition; Phillips backpacking the SCR-300 radio and his carbine; a bazooka team made up of Ward carrying the bazooka with one round loaded and his own carbine, and Shaeffer backpacking two 3.5 rockets for the bazooka, plus a carbine.

Map 6 - click to enlargeMap 6 at right (click to enlarge), from Smith's Triumph in the Philippines (S. p. 276), has been color-coded to more graphically display the progress of the battle and the disposition of friendly forces. Blue, the infantry color, and yellow for cavalry, show how the 148th Infantry of the 37th Division assaulted south across the Pasig to clear the industrial districts, then wheeled west toward Intramuros and southwest toward Manila Bay. Also displayed is the advance of the 1st Cavalry Division which, as directed, had crossed the river and swung westward toward Manila Bay on the 37th Division's left.

9 Feb 45 - In the evening, one troop of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, crossed the Pasig about two miles upstream (east) of the 148th Infantry's crossing at Malacanyan Palace. The crossing was at the Philippine Racing Club just east of the city limits (not shown on Map 6). The rest of the regiment was across at the same point by 0950 on the 10th. The cavalry encountered practically no opposition in the crossing area, but progressed slowly because the Japanese had thoroughly mined many of the streets south and west of the club. By dusk on the 10th the 8th Cavalry had secured a beachhead about 1000 yards deep. Its right flank crossed the city limit and extended into the Santa Ana District where patrols established contact with the 37th Division (148th Infantry) troops along the division boundary near (east of) Paco Station; on its left (east), other patrols met men of the 5th Cavalry. (S. pp.264-65)

10 Feb 45 - By 1500, the 5th Cavalry Regiment had gotten one squadron across at Makati, a mile east of the Philippine Racing Club, and had secured the Makati electrical power station. Considerable machine gun and mortar fire from the Fort McKinley area, about 2500 yards southeast of Makati, harassed the cavalrymen throughout the day. (Ibid)

As stated earlier, the observation post (OP) party of the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, crossed with the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, about four to five hours after the initial assault by 3rd Bn./148th Infantry. Both battalions had crossed by 2000.

Note: Neither Carlisle, Frankel or Smith, in the works heretofore cited, gives details of the specific battalions of the 148th Infantry engaged south of the Pasig River, other than Smith's statements: “...3rd Battalion, 148th Infantry began crossing in assault boats at 1515 on 7 February...” and “By 2000 two battalions were across the Pasig, ...” (S. p. 260) The 3rd, 2nd and 1st platoons of Co. C, 82nd CMB, initially in that order, took part in the battles south of the Pasig River, each attached to the three respectively numbered infantry battalions. However, the disposition of the 148th Infantry's elements south of the Pasig is established in another work by Frankel: Stanley A. Frankel 37th Infantry Division in World War II, Infantry Journal Press, Washington, D.C., 1948. This is the official history of the division compiled by Frankel under the direction of General Beightler and his staff, who were required by the general to remain in Manila for three months after the end of the war for that purpose, as related by Frankel in his previously cited Frankel-y Speaking. This official history of the 37th Division does contain references to the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion and to 4.2-inch mortars. Future citations from that source will be designated (F37th and page number(s)).

8-10 Feb 45 - Heavy damage was done to Paco Station, Paco School, and Concordia College as the 148th Infantry went about its assigned task of clearing the Pandacan and Paco industrial districts between 8 and 10 February. The regiment cleared Pandacan District with little trouble, but in the eastern section of Paco District had very great trouble reducing the Japanese strongpoint at Paco Railroad Station and the nearby buildings of Concordia College and Paco School. Supporting artillery and mortar fires nearly demolished the station and the school but, as of evening on 9 February, the Japanese, originally over 250 strong, were still holding out and the 148th made plans for a final assault on the 10th. Happily, most of the surviving Japanese withdrew from the three buildings during the night. (Ibid)

Moving through city streets had some similarities to moving through jungle, but very significant differences were to be demonstrated. A similarity was, in clearing the area as they advanced, infantrymen always sought to gain the "high ground." In the jungle, that didn't mean climbing the trees, but in the city it translated to reaching roofs of buildings, factories, houses, whatever in attempting to clear from the top down. Once one rooftop was gained, getting access to a top floor was a simple matter of chopping or blasting holes, throwing down grenades and repeating the process through walls and floors for clearing lower floors and accessing adjacent buildings.

Map 6 - click to enlarge10-12 Feb 45 - Map 6, at right (click to enlarge), shows the U.S. front line as of evening 12 February, at which time the 129th Infantry had crossed behind the 148th and attacked west along the south bank to become heavily involved in a costly operation to secure Provisor Island and its generating plant. After the 129th-148th boundary was set, the 145th Infantry passed through 129th to take positions alongside 148th facing west to the heavily fortified complex of government, university, hospital, hotel, club and other buildings, all sturdily built to withstand earthquakes and now serving as perimeter defenses for the ultimate strongpoint: Intramuros, the Walled City.

12 Feb 45 - The Philippine General Hospital complex, all its buildings of reinforced concrete, extended west along the north side of Herran Street about 550 yards to Dakota Avenue. North, across Padre Faura Street lay equally sturdy buildings of Philippine University. All hospital buildings were clearly marked by large red crosses and contained many Filipino patients now held hostage by the Japanese. XIV Corps had initially prohibited artillery fire on the buildings, but lifted the restriction on 12 February when the 148th Infantry discovered that the hospital was defended. The presence of the civilian patients did not become known for another two or three days. (S. p. 286)

13 Feb 45 - The 148th Infantry, having fought every step of the way from the Estero de Paco, began to reach Taft Avenue and get into position for an attack on the hospital. Its left flank extended along Taft Ave from Herran south four blocks to Harrison Boulevard, the 148th Infantry-12th Cavalry boundary. The infantry's extreme right was held up about three blocks short of Taft, unable to advance until the 129th and 145 Infantry overran the New Police Station strongpoint. The Japanese had all the east-west streets east of Taft Avenue covered by automatic weapons emplaced in the hospital and university buildings. The 148th could not employ those streets as approaches to the objectives. Accordingly, the regiment prepared to assault via buildings and back yards on the east side of Taft. (Ibid)

14 Feb 45 - The 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, (with 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, attached) at the cost of 22 killed and 29 wounded, could make only negligible gains in trying to push west across Taft Avenue. The Japanese stopped the American battalion with mortar, machine gun and rifle fire from the Science Building and adjacent structures at the northwest corner of Taft and Herran, from the main hospital buildings on the west side of Taft between California and Oregon, and from the Nurses Dormitory at the northwest corner of Taft and Isaac Peral. (Ibid)

4.2 OP party rings bell on sniper

Still east of Taft Avenue and moving south with the 2nd Bn., 148th Infantry, through a residential area on a narrow street parallel to and one or two blocks east of Taft, the 2nd platoon, Co. C's OP party was hugging walls and darting from cover to cover of any wrecked vehicle or debris available. The members were strung out attempting to keep 10 yards apart. One would stay put until the one ahead had dashed to new cover and all movements were running erratically, bobbing and weaving. The equipment visible (not as easy to hide as in the jungle) made all of the party targets: Butler's Tommy gun, Phillips' SCR-300 radio, Ward's bazooka, and Shaeffer's 3.5-in. Rocket backpack.

At an intersection with another narrow street was a church on the southeast corner – the steeple made it a suspicious, scary sight. Darting around the corner of a wall that bordered the narrow sidewalk, diagonally opposite the church and with lots of noise from rifles, machine guns, and 60-mm. mortars, Butler jabbed his left hand vigorously pointing toward the steeple and fired a short burst at it, alerting the rest of the party to the potential hazard. Then, WHAM! Butler sensed, rather than heard, the thud of the Jap's bullet as it struck the wall above his head. Without thinking, he dove head first off the sidewalk into the street. A very narrow gutter (drainage space along the curb, called a jube in Iran and where Indonesian women, their teeth stained red from the beetle nut and their flowing skirts held high, squatted to urinate in Noumea, New Caledonia) offered the lowest depression for cover against the sniper. With only his left kneecap in the gutter, the rest of him struggling to get into it off the sidewalk and the inability to get his head lower and still keep the "steel pot" on it, Butler was no longer a moving target (fortunately, the gutter was dry.) He was "dead meat" for the sniper.

No church bell ever sounded sweeter than the bell from that belfry, as it and the belfry's other occupant(s) were blown to Hell by Ward's bazooka. The bell banged and clanged on the pavement below to herald a fanatical Nip enroute to Shinto Heaven.

Forward, or die, the OP party cautiously moved in broken-field mode toward Manila Bay behind the slowly advancing infantry. Maybe 100 yards short of Taft Avenue was a bunker on a corner, covered with earth, from which grew grass. Thinking it might provide welcome cover, Butler darted for it, only to find it was packed tight with wooden boxes of ammunition.

During the night, a tremendous explosion rocked the area. Next morning that bunker loaded with Jap ammunition was gone. In its place was a water-filled crater with one Filipino corpse on the lip of the crater. There may have been more and they may have attempted to remove some boxes, which probably were booby-trapped. The corpse most likely was one of two or more in the party and he was far enough away to be killed by concussion without disappearing in the blast.

The progress made by the 148th Infantry during the 14th had depended largely upon heavy artillery and mortar support. The 140th Field Artillery fired 2,091 rounds of high-explosive 105-mm. ammunition, and 4.2-inch mortars of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion expended 1,101 rounds (almost 14 tons in one day) of high explosive and 264 rounds of white phosphorous. The white phosphorous, setting some fires in a residential district south of the hospital, helped the advance of the 3rd Battalion on the left (south), but neither this or the high-explosive shells appreciably decreased the scale of Japanese fire from the hospital and university against the 2nd Battalion. (S. pp. 286-87)

Map 6 - click to enlarge16 Feb 45 - In the midst of the fighting in the stadium area, south of Harrison Blvd. in the 1st Cavalry Division area – see Map 6 at right (click to enlarge) – the 1st Cavalry Brigade, less the 2nd Squadron, 12th Cavalry, passed to the control of the 37th Division. General Beightler directed the brigade to secure all the ground still in Japanese hands from Harrison Park north to Isaac Peral Street – fifteen blocks and 2,000 yards north of Harrison Boulevard – and between the bay shore and Taft Avenue. The 5th Cavalry, under this program, was to relieve the 148th Infantry, 37th Division, at another strongpoint while the 12th Cavalry, less the 2nd Squadron, was to make the attack north along the bay front. The 12th's first objective was the prewar office and residence of the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines on the bay at the western end of Padre Faura Street, three blocks short of Isaac Peral. (S. p. 279)

Also on the 16th, the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry, relieved the 3rd Battalion which had made the large wide sweep to the beach (see Map 6 above) and would now hold that beach while the 12th Cavalry took over its sector to the north.

Company C, 82nd CMB, would continue 4.2-inch mortar support to the 148th Infantry elements in contact and would furnish that support to the 5th Cavalry and 12th Cavalry units as they replaced the infantry.

17 Feb 45 - With the aid of support fires, the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, smashed its way into the two most easterly of the hospital's four wings and overran the last resistance in the Nurses' Dormitory and the Science Building. (Ibid)

Frankel reports: “Before noon the 2nd Battalion had entered both the Hospital and the Nurses' Home (Dormitory)... Shortly after 1300, the battalion reported occupation of the Science Building, Administrative Building, the Nurses' Home (Dormitory), and the forward part of the Hospital.” (F. 37th, p. 281)

An estimated seven thousand civilians were rescued in the (hospital) area, two thousand of them being removed that afternoon while battle casualties were hustled across the open area on litters. These civilians were of American, European, and Oriental extractions and were frightened and bewildered. The Japanese had held them so that Americans would not use large-caliber guns. When the Yanks finally forced their way into the Hospital, some of the Japs became crazed and belatedly attempted a wholesale slaughter of the noncombatants. (F. 37th, p. 282)

Shortly after a C-ration lunch, the 2nd Battalion, in the face of point-blank machine-gun fire, rushed down corridors of the Hospital and by 1430 held two wings as well as the Dispensary. The Japanese still clung to the cellar. Through the middle of the day, fighting at close quarters ripped the sector. Later in the afternoon the battalion pulled up to the middle wing of the hospital and established a forward observation post (OP) in the Nurses' Home (Dormitory). (Ibid)

18 Feb 45 - Map 6 shows the OP of the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, in the Nurses' Dormitory at the northwest corner of Taft and Isaac Peral, the northeast point of the Philippine General Hospital complex, which point passed to 1st Cavalry Division control on 23 February. This was the first "elevated" observation post used by the 2nd platoon during a month of scurrying, like the rats we were seeking to destroy, through city streets and yards, and firing on the many strongpoints encountered by the infantry and the cavalry. All previous OPs were on the street, wherever the assault infantry company or cavalry troop commander chose to control the advance of his troops and designate targets for the 4.2s.

By this time vehicles were coming across the Pasig on pontoon bridges and McClelland sent the 2nd platoon jeep with two men of the company communication section, the jeep-mounted reel of wire and two field telephones, with the ¼-ton trailer. In the trailer were two 5-gallon cans of water, a case of C rations and a case K rations. Fortunately the trailer tarp was tied down to hide that loot. The OP could remain in the Dormitory and maintain contact with the supported company or troop commander. Once one phone was hooked to the wire reel and strapped to a concrete support pillar in the dorm, the two men with jeep, one phone, and the wire reel were sent to join the commander; the trailer stayed at the foot of the fire escape. It also helped that Butler could talk to the troop commander and advise him of the situation as seen from a stationary position 30-40 feet above street level.

There was still no wire across the Pasig from gun position to OP, so Phillips with the SCR-300 remained on the 3d floor of the dorm, but stayed well to the rear where he could extend the antenna out a rear window space. Ward and Shaeffer were stationed, with bazooka and carbines as guards for the OP and the trailer, at the foot of the fire escape. From our Bougainville days, we all knew not to expect more than two hours sleep at a time. Easy to remember: 2 on, 2 off. Not that any target for a bazooka was anticipated but, if there should be one, it was less likely to appear on the 3rd floor than at the foot of the fire escape.

The Dormitory was a very sturdily built, reinforced concrete structure with high ceilings (about 15' high) and huge openings where windows used to be. All stairwells and interior walls were gone and access was only by fire escapes on the side away from the street. Concrete pillars, about twenty inches wide on each of the four sides, were spaced uniformly about every ten feet in each direction. They may have marked the arrangement of rooms at one time, but no rooms existed when the OP was established. The Japs may have removed all walls and other debris and tossed it out into the courtyard, perhaps in preparation for fortifying the Dormitory as a strongpoint guarding the approaches to Intramuros.

Also occupying the 3rd floor OP, which had been established during the afternoon of the 17th by 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, was an artillery sergeant directing 105mm. artillery fire. Others, mostly officers, occasionally climbed the fire escape for a view of the Bay and surrounding features. One morning a Lt. Col. came up about dawn, stood in a window space looking south with his binoculars, and was promptly shot through the head. End of story, never learned who he was or where from. Frankel mentions a Lt. Col. Richard D. Crooks, who had been commander of 1st Battalion, 129th Infantry, and “...had been killed by enemy rifle fire while making a forward reconnaissance on February 14.” (F. 37th, p. 284) The 148th Infantry had not secured the Nurses' Dormitory until the 17th.

19 Feb 45 - At 1100, the 12th Cavalry, having relieved the 148th Infantry troops along the bay, launched its attack north by the 1st Squadron, opposed by considerable rifle, machine gun and 20-mm. machine cannon fire from the High Commissioner's residence and from private clubs and apartment buildings north and northeast thereof. (S. p. 279)

20 Feb 45 - Behind close artillery support, the cavalry squadron attacked early and by 0815 had overrun the last resistance in the High Commissioner's residence and on the surrounding grounds. The impetus of the attack carried the squadron on through the Army-Navy and Elks Clubs and up to San Luis Street and also through most of the apartments, hotels, and private homes on the east side of Dewey Boulevard from Padre Faura north to San Luis. Only 30 Japanese had been killed in this once-important Manila Naval Defense Force command post area; the rest had fled into Intramuros or been used as reinforcements elsewhere. The 1st Squadron, 12th Cavalry, lost 3 men killed and 19 wounded during the day. (S. pp. 279-80)

Discrepancy: In the above account, Smith describes the cavalry's action at the High Commissioner's residence as “Behind close artillery support...” Kleber and Birdsell quote the 37th Division assistant chief of staff, G-3, after witnessing the chemical mortars in action before the High Commissioner's residence, as saying that “direct support infantry weapons, particularly 4.2-inch mortars, falling close to our own lines, were found to neutralize the enemy where penetration took place.” This report by Kleber and Birdsell is in the context of their summation of the actions by the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion in support of the XIV Corps from Lingayen Gulf to Manila. (K&B. p. 506)

Note: The above by Kleber and Birdsell is followed immediately by a summation of actions on Luzon by the 85th Chemical Mortar Battalion, which had landed near San Fabian in the Lingayen Gulf on 28 January with the 1st Cavalry Division. (Ibid)

4.2s rake Manila Hotel and MacArthur's penthouse

19 Feb 45 - During daylight, Butler had registered his platoon's battery of four 4.2-inch mortars, still firing from Malacanyan Palace, on several potential targets beyond the friendly front lines as shown on the 18th (Map 6). This usually consisted of firing a few WP rounds on intersections or buildings clearly in Japanese hands. The five-story Manila Hotel, with its visible penthouse, was a prime suspect. Registration was done only with the number 1 mortar-all others would fire parallel to it, unless directed to "close sheaf," in which case they would adjust onto number 1's impact, or "open sheaf by X yards," whereby they would spread the fire X yards left from each other. The registration on the Manila Hotel was limited to the area between a concrete wall and the hotel buildings. The penthouse was an ideal observation post for the Japanese, although there were no enemy guns visible from the Dormitory.

20 Feb 45 - The 148th Infantry had been relieved by the 12th Cavalry along Manila Bay, while the OP of the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, remained in place. The OP came under fire from 20mm. or 40mm. Japanese guns firing from the grounds of the Manila Hotel west of Dewey Boulevard (Map 6). After dark, shells impacted on the outer wall of the Nurses' Dormitory, fortunately not entering through the wide window spaces. The location of the OP may have been disclosed by the fatally unfortunate action of the Lt. Col. who was killed on the 18th. As the Jap guns fired, their flashes illuminated the yellow wall of the Manila Hotel just behind. Apparently, the Jap gunners were in the process of registering on the Dormitory.

Sergeant Mills was given the order to start firing HE on the registered data, "volley 1 round and walk it out at 10-yard increments." Advised that the target was the guns firing at the OP from between the wall and the building, plus the 5-story hotel and its penthouse, he calculated charges and elevations to keep a steady stream of four HE shells moving from the wall, across the courtyard, and up the building at about 10-yard intervals. Butler's observations satisfied him that the first two volleys were effective against the Jap guns. He was then able to "fine tune" subsequent volleys to keep them moving up the new west wing and onto the penthouse. By the fifteenth volley (60 rounds of HE) the penthouse and any OP it housed were destroyed. No more fire from that source.

 Having had the Manila Hotel under observation from late afternoon on the 17th throughout the night of the 20th, with no fire directed against it prior to the rolling barrage of 4.2s from 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, it is surprising to read from Smith:

The South Port area lay just northwest of the Manila Hotel, the next objective. In preparation for the attack on the hotel, the 82nd Field Artillery Battalion intermittently shelled the building and surrounding grounds throughout the night. A patrol of Troop B dug in along the northern edge of Burnham Green to prevent the Japanese from breaking out to reoccupy abandoned bunkers in the open park area.

With artillery support and the aid of two 105-mm. self-propelled mounts and a platoon of medium tanks, the 1st Squadron dashed into the hotel on the morning of 21 February. ... Nevertheless, the hotel's eastern, or old, wing was secured practically intact by midafternoon. Some Japanese still defended the basement and the new (west) wing, but the cavalrymen cleaned them out the next day. The new wing, including a penthouse where General MacArthur had made his home, was gutted and the general's penthouse was demolished. (S. p. 280)

Comment: The 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion did not operate through corps or division artillery fire direction centers; the 4.2s had been found to be more responsive to the infantry/cavalry by dealing directly with the "client." In that the above-described action by the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, was against a "target of opportunity" in the face of hostile fire against its OP, there was no need to notify the artillery any more than with any mission in support of infantry or cavalry units. Smith's writing, published in 1963, would have relied in large part on after-action reports, the filing of which was pretty much a matter for commanders to decide. As noted, Carlisle's Lines From Luzon has shortcomings. As 82nd CMB S-3 (Operations), he would be the one most likely to know what the firing units were doing. On the morning of the 21st, following the 4.2-inch mortar fire on the Manila Hotel the previous evening, Butler left Phillips in the Dormitory OP with the SCR-300 radio and the OP field phone. He would receive and relay communication between Butler and the mortar position north of the river at Malacanyan Palace. The 2nd platoon jeep and wire team was called in from the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, which had been relieved in that sector by 5th Cavalry troops.

Butler went with the jeep and telephone team west toward the bay and north until he located a 12th Cavalry troop commander and his command post (CP) about 500 yards south of the Manila Hotel, which his troop was then assaulting. The captain was sitting on a sidewalk with his back to a garden wall, a field phone and runners keeping him in touch with his platoons and the squadron CP. His patrols had reported earlier that the west wing of the hotel (closest to the beach) had no windows and Jap resistance was concentrated in the basement. There seemed to be no immediate need for further 4.2 support, so the 2nd platoon OP party returned to the Dormitory and reported to McClelland at his CP, co-located with all three firing platoons of Company C, 82nd CMB, on the Palace grounds.

Note: On 22 February, General MacArthur watched the battle and was horrified to see his home (the penthouse) set afire. He entered the hotel, escorted by machine-gunners and found the penthouse and its contents had been reduced to ashes (Richard Connaughton, et al, The Battle For Manila, Presidio Press, Novato, CA, 1995, p. 156).

Kleber and Birdsell have nothing more to say about 82nd CMB in Manila after the quotation they attribute to the AC of S, G-3, 37th Division, regarding the effectiveness of 4.2-inch mortars at the High Commissioner's residence (see 20 Feb 45, above). Smith, however, includes action by Company I, 145th Infantry, (on 22 Feb 45) in which “...4.2-inch mortars (of Co. A, 82nd CMB) and 81mm. mortars (infantry) plastered the roof and upper floors (of the City Hall) with indirect fire.” (S. p. 284)

Intramuros-The Walled City

After the Japanese garrison was urged by General Griswold, XIV Corps Commander, to surrender or at least release the civilian hostages and had refused, he and General Beightler, CG, 37th Infantry Division, appealed to General MacArthur to be allowed to use aircraft to reduce the massive defenses in and within the Wall and the known network of tunnels throughout. General Krueger, Sixth Army Commander, agreed with the need for air support and so informed MacArthur that it would be approved unless MacArthur objected. General MacArthur did indeed object. Smith cites a radio message from MacArthur to Krueger, 16 Feb 45, which Smith quotes:

The use of air on a part of a city occupied by a friendly and allied population is unthinkable. The inaccuracy of this type of bombardment would result beyond question in the death of thousands of innocent civilians. It is not believed moreover that this would appreciably lower our own casualty rate although it would unquestionably hasten the conclusion of the operations. For these reasons I do not approve the use of air bombardment on the Intramuros district.

Smith adds in his footnote: “It is interesting to note that this radio implies that General MacArthur did not know that both land-based and carrier-based aircraft had previously hit parts of Manila.” (S. p. 294)

21-23 Feb 45 - After reporting to McClelland, regarding the Manila Hotel situation, Butler was directed to return with his OP party to the Co. C CP to support 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, in its upcoming amphibious assault against the northeast corner of Intramuros. The 3rd Battalion was then in position on the north bank of the Pasig.

Both the 1st and 2nd platoons, whose mortars were dug in next to each other on the Palace grounds, were committed to supporting the infantrymen who would cross the river and assault the Walled City and Fort Santiago on its northwest corner at the mouth of the Pasig. Platoon leaders Foster and Butler, each with an OP party, reported to the commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, and were briefed on their joint mission: Starting at 0800 on the 23rd, place a smoke screen along the south bank of the Pasig to screen 3rd Battalion troops crossing in assault boats from the north shore opposite the Government Mint, maintain that screen until told to lift it, and be prepared to fire HE as requested by the infantry liaison officer who would be with us and who would be in radio contact with the assault-troops commander.

22 Feb 45 - Butler and Foster, with OP parties, went by jeep west on Rizal Avenue through the debris of the shattered business district to the Great Eastern Hotel, the highest point dominating the Pasig and Manila Bay from the north bank of the river. Again, a burned out but sturdy hulk, access to the roof of this nine-story structure was via fire escapes. Registration with WP rounds along the south bank was done during the late afternoon hours and tentative arrangements were decided upon for the initial screen to be fired the following morning. Depending on the wind, either the 1st or 2nd platoon would start, from upstream by the 1st or from the mouth of the river by the 2nd. The other platoon would reinforce and extend the screen as needed.

Crossing the Pasig River - click to enlarge 22-23 Feb 54 - Twelve 105 howitzers and six 155s were marshaled on the north and east of Intramuros for close-in pounding during the night. The 155s were placed opposite the gap in the north wall and north gate of the east wall. Intermingled were M7s, tank destroyers, 75mm and 105mm tank guns. In darkness the 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion, shooting from the north bank of the Pasig River, crumbled portions of the south embankment of the river for footing by the assault troops – see photo at right. (F. 37th, p. 288)

At 0730 on the 23d, all supporting weapons, sparked by Corps and Division artillery, which had been nettling the Japs intermittently throughout the night, belched out volley after volley, and spit out magazine after magazine. The bombardment lasted for an hour, saturating the points of assault and accelerating the destruction of obstacles, mines and barricades in the immediate path of the leading elements. At 0830, with the last rounds of the shelling still in flight, the 2nd Battalion, 145th Infantry, (south of the Pasig), swarmed across the open space from the Post Office toward the north gate of the east wall and the Market Place covering the wall. At the same time, from a small estuary extending north from the river, engineer assault boats eased out carrying the 3d Battalion, 129th Infantry. Smoke shells, plunked in by the 4.2 mortars, blanketed the Legislative and Finance Buildings (this smoke by Co. A, 82nd CMB, mortars supporting 145th Infantry) and covered a bulge on the south bank of the Pasig near its mouth (by the 1st and 2nd platoons, Co. C, 82nd CMB), blinding enemy observations and stymieing Nip reinforcements. (Ibid)

Smith reports on the final major action in Manila, the capture of Intramuros (see map “The Capture of Manila” on the website of the U.S. Army Center of Military History) in which the 129th Infantry, supported by Co. D, 82nd CMB, and 145th Infantry, with Co. A, 82nd CMB, attached took part in a massive bombardment that lasted from 17 to 23 February in preparation for the assault that commenced at 0830 on the 23d. On 1 March the 145th Infantry, having suffered more heavily than the 129th at Intramuros from 23 February to that date, passed to the control of the Provost Marshal General, United States Army Forces in the Far East, for police duties in Manila. (S. p.300)

Intramuros ammunition expenditure

Not considering tank, cannon, infantry mortars, machine gun, small arms, and all other projectiles, according to Smith “The total weight of the artillery fire was 185 tons, to which the 4.2-inch mortars of Companies A and D, 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, added about 45 tons-over 3,750 rounds of smoke and high explosives.” (S. p. 296) That tonnage represents only the firing against the many strongpoints and their interconnecting tunnels within Intramuros and its 20' thick walls. It does not include the additional tons of artillery and mortar shells expended on all the strongpoints in north and south Manila leading to the Walled City. Furthermore, it does not include expenditures by Company C, 82nd CMB, in attacking numerous strongpoints leading to Intramuros and in screening the Pasig River crossing assault by 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry. Support of 148th Infantry actions outside the Wall by Co. C continued during the period when Intramuros was being reduced.

At right are photos (click to enlarge) of two platoon leaders in Co. C, 82nd CMB, on the OP atop the nine-story Great Eastern Hotel, Rizal Avenue, Manila, 23 February 1945. The first one is of Lt. Jack Butler, platoon leader, 2nd platoon; and the second is of Lt. Joel Foster, platoon leader, 1st platoon. Jack Butler - click to enlarge Joel Foster - click to enlarge

Following the successful crossing of the Pasig River by the 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, screened by WP smoke from these two platoons from Co. C, the platoons were on standby for any HE missions as needed. With the infantrymen inside the Walled City and the Japs resisting from cellars and tunnels, there was no call for indirect (high-angle) fire. The direct fire from tanks, SPs, tank destroyers and bazookas was preferred.

Manila – the final days

21 Feb-3 Mar 45 - While the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 145th Infantry, and the 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, were completing the reduction of Intramuros, stubborn resistance was continuing in the strongpoints remaining outside the Walled City. See map “The Capture of Manila” on the website of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Following Smith's account of “...4.2 inch and 81mm. mortars plastered the roof and upper floors,” Company I (145th Infantry, supported by Co. A, 82nd CMB) re-entered City Hall about 0900 on the 22nd. Using submachine guns, bazookas, flame throwers, demolitions and hand grenades, the company fought its way through the sound part of the structure room by room and overcame most of the resistance by 1500, but 20-odd Japanese held out in a first-floor room. Company I blew holes through the ceiling from above and stuck the business end of flamethrowers through the holes, summarily ending the fight. Removing 206 Japanese bodies from the City Hall, the 145th Infantry quickly cleared the rubble from the west wing, where it set up machine gun positions in windows to support the assault on Intramuros. (Ibid)

The fight for the General Post Office, conducted simultaneously with that for City Hall, was especially difficult because of the construction of the building and the nature of the interior defenses. For three days XIV Corps and 37th Division artillery (and 4.2-inch mortars) pounded the Post Office. But each time troops of the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry, attempted to enter, the Japanese drove them out. Finally, on the morning of the 22 February, elements of the 1st Battalion gained a secure foothold, entering through a second story window. The Japanese who were still alive soon retreated into the basement, where the 145th Infantry troops finished off organized resistance on the 23rd. (Ibid)

24 Feb 45 - By the end of the day, the shattered remnants of the Manila defensive garrison were hemmed in in the Wallace Field sector, but they maintained a suicidal defense with automatic weapons in the three concrete and stone government centers: the Legislative, the Finance, and the Agriculture Buildings. (F. 37th, p. 292)

The last phase of the Battle of Manila, excluding mopping-up operations, which, according to official communiqués, had been taking place since February 5, was conducted by the 148th Infantry from February 25 to March 2. After the seizure of Intramuros on February 23-24, the remaining Japanese held out in the Legislative, the Finance and the Agricultural Buildings. These three structures were among the finest public works in the Commonwealth's capital. They stood detached from all other constructions in an open park, displaying their monumental, four-story facades from every side across the lawns. The Legislative Building was just south of the intersection of P(adre) Burgos (street) and Taft Avenue. To the north, the golf links, the old Spanish moat having been filled, stretched the short distance to the walls of Intramuros. The Finance Building was a few yards to the south of that with the symmetrically designed Agricultural Building farther south, both along the east side of Gral Luna. These were not left until last by accident. The Japanese were conducting a true battle for the city and Rear Admiral Iwabuchi, the overall commander in Manila was cornered in the Agricultural Building during the fighting. There he made his last stand, husbanding his surviving troops about him until he was finally killed. (F. 37th, p. 293)

The reduction of these buildings was effected by the combination of many elements of XIV Corps: the 1st Cavalry Brigade, 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 82nd Chemical Battalion and the 37th Infantry Division. Along with the artillery, tanks, tank destroyers and M7s, the 4.2 mortars added their bit to the fire on March 2. Before the assault, the big mortars dropped in white phosphorous shells. (F. 37th, p. 295)

The last Japs died in the Finance Building on the morning of the 3d. Seventy-four dead were counted in that building and scores were still buried in the vast masses of debris. Three hundred and twenty corpses in the Wallace Field-Burnham Green area stunk with the sickly sweet odor of death. The battle for Manila was over. (Ibid)

Kings of the Solomons also Liberators of Manila

At the conclusion of the Northern Solomons Campaign, XIV U.S. Army Corps was accorded the title Kings of the Solomons. To that distinction XIV Corps now proudly added Liberators of Manila. While divisions were added to and subtracted from the Corps, the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion continued as XIV Corps troops from Guadalcanal through Manila.

Included in Carlisle's Lines From Luzon is a copy of a letter from General Griswold, dated 13 March 1945, on the departure of 82nd CMB from his command after a long and successful relationship.

Obviously, the recapture of Manila was a major accomplishment. By no means, however, was it the end of the battle for Luzon. The original and major defense by the Japanese was yet to be tackled   the Shimbu Line in the Sierra Madres east and northeast of Manila.

Some writers have written adversely about the fact that Manila, the Pearl of the Orient, was devastated, and have even found fault that the Japanese had not been allowed an escape route from Manila. They had been accorded several opportunities to surrender and chose death and destruction for themselves, the civilian hostage population, and all that they could destroy. To allow them to escape would have played into their hands   they would have escaped to further strengthen the Shimbu Line.

For excellent photo coverage of some of the major battle sites in Manila, visit the website “Battle of Manila”. Picture number 3 therein shows the ruins of the formerly sturdy concrete-reinforced Legislative Building and makes mention of the 4.2-inch mortars that contributed to the awesome damage. From the bottom of that page, click on GHQ and scroll way down to “Picture Library.” Gallery 2 contains before and after (1941 and 1945) pictures of Manila Hotel. The hotel faced west on Manila Bay. The 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB OP was southeast of the hotel in the Nurses' Dormitory of the Philippinr General Hospital. From that position the south and east (back) sides of the hotel, including MacArthur's penthouse, were clearly visible. Also see a single photo on a family genealogy website.

Chapter 5

The battles after Manila

The title of Chapter 3 above is based on the Department of the Army official History of the Eighty Second Chemical Battalion (MTZ) during the 9 January to 20 June 1945 Luzon Campaign. In the list of battles included in that official history, the end of the Manila (City and surrounding area) battle is officially established as 3 March 1945. The remaining battles shown, rearranged in chronological order, were:

Unfortunately, Carlisle's Lines From Luzon was the third in a series, but the only surviving installment. The other two, as he states in that third writing, were based on the 82nd CMB in New Georgia and Bougainville. In closing Lines From Luzon, Carlisle states: “The next chapter is waiting to be written. Look for it soon.” That chapter has not been found. However, the follow-on article, “Breaking the Shimbu Line,” expected to have been Carlisle's “next chapter” has been located. It was written anonymously – Special to the Bulletin – apparently the result of an interview with Capt. Joe Van Yush and other officers and men of Co. B, 82nd CMB. The article presents a detailed account of Company B with the 6th Infantry Division, particularly of an “eight-gun shoot in support of the 63rd Infantry.” The full text of that article is reproduced later.

Note: The DA, AGO History of the Eighty Second Chemical Battalion (MTZ) lists the four battles shown above, in addition to Central Plain, Bamban, and Manila battles, as parts of the Luzon campaign. No details of any battles are included. Brooks and Kleber in their work, which has been cited numerous times in the preceding pages of this history, make no mention of 82nd CMB beyond the actions of Company B on the Shimbu Line. Manila Bay (Carabao Island) has no mention. Their only coverage of Ipo Dam is in the context of mechanized flamethrowers and aerial use of napalm. Wawa Dam is not mentioned in any regard.

Flashback – sealing off the Bataan Peninsula

29 Jan 45 - Against a Japanese detachment of 4,000 troops, XI Corps of Eighth Army landed nearly 40,000, including 5,500 Allied Air Forces personnel who were to prepare a fighter base at San Marcelino. The landing was on the Zambales (west) coast of Luzon and positioned across the base of Bataan Peninsula to deny it to withdrawing Japanese. The landing was unopposed and the pre-assault beach bombardment was canceled when Filipino guerrillas sailed out in small craft to greet the Americans and advise that there were no enemy in their landing area. (S. pp. 312-13)

30 Jan 45 - Major General Charles P. Hall assumed command ashore and XI Corps passed from Eighth Army to Sixth Army. The entire XI Corps, consisting of the 38th Infantry Division and the 24th Infantry Division's 34th RCT, was ashore. (Ibid)

Flashback – concurrent with Manila Battle

During the last part of February and before resistance had ended in Manila, XIV Corps gave the 1st Cavalry Division, less one brigade (there were only two brigades in the division), and the 6th Infantry Division, until recently a part of I Corps, the mission of clearing the Manila watershed and attacking Japanese forces in the Sierra Madre Mountains about ten miles east of the city. These enemy troops, comprising the major enemy concentration in central Luzon, had not taken part in the Manila fighting but had withdrawn to the east with the approach of the American troops. Ensconced in the so-called Shimbu Line, Japanese forces put up fanatic resistance in the rugged and rocky foothills of the Sierra Madres. (K&B, p. 507)

The 82nd and 85th Chemical Mortar Battalions fired in support of these operations. Company A, 85th Battalion, saw a good deal of action with the 7th and 8th Cavalry regiments west of Antipolo, about 20 miles northeast of Manila in the Marikina Valley. Early in March a squadron (battalion) commander refused to have one of the mortar platoons engage a target because it was within 500 yards of his troops. Instead, he gave the mission to his 81-mm. mortars, despite the fact that these weapons had a greater dispersion than did the 4.2s. This show of hesitancy regarding mortar support by the 85th Battalion was not the first to come from supported troops. A succession of battalion commanders – there were three incumbents during the first six weeks of 1945 – provides another clue to the fact that not all was right with the unit. As of 16 March, the firing companies of the 85th reverted to battalion control and underwent an intensive 2-week training period under the new commander, Maj. Maurice G. Green, recently operations officer of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion. (Ibid)

Discrepancy: Back on Bougainville, Lt. Col. Shimonek moved up to become Col. Shimonek, XIV Corps Chemical Officer. His “horseholder” (executive officer), Major John Toland, became battalion commander and Lt. Col. Toland. Capt. Howard Carlisle moved from commander of Co. C to become Major Carlisle, Bn. S-3 (operations officer), and his horseholder, Lt Walter McClelland, became commanding officer, Company C. Green would have been 82nd Bn. ExO before taking over the 85th Battalion. Carlisle had been operations officer of the battalion since about August of 1944.

The 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion supported the Shimbu operations from 25 February until 30 April. In mid-March, the XIV Corps relinquished control of this fighting to XI Corps, and the 82nd utilized this transfer of command to reorganize under the latest table of organization. (K&B, pp. 507-08)

Note: As of 25 February, Companies A, C, and D were deeply engaged in the battle for Manila and not available for employment on the Shimbu Line until after 3 March. Only Co. B, in a move from the Zambales above Clark Field to the Sierra Madres overlooking Manila, was free for the Shimbu operation between 25 February and 4 March. No record has been found of Company D after the 3 March conclusion of the fighting in Manila. Company C definitely took part in the Battles of the Shimbu Line, Manila Bay and Ipo Dam, plus the Battle for Wawa Dam (27 March - 28 May 1945), not listed as a battle in the DA Official History of the82nd CMB. The aforementioned mid-March 1945 reorganization triangularized the 82nd and eliminated Company A.

Shimbu Line-Sierra Madre Mountains (26 February to 20 June 1945)

Following is the full account of Company B in “Breaking The Shimbu Line” from the August 1945 Chemical Warfare Bulletin (Anonymous, Special to the Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 3, June-August 1945).

With the SIXTH ARMY ON LUZON (Special to the BULLETIN) – The Japs had dug their Shimbu line in the Sierra Madre Mountains that rise to the clouds back of Manila. There they awaited the Sixth Army advance, but not for long.

Mt. Mataba stood majestically, its sides reflecting that peculiar light green color of the central Luzon mountains in April. Here the Japs had their underground maze of fortifications, their big guns mounted in the caves, their machine guns and mortar emplacements dug in the precipitous cliffs.

The infantry, elements of the 6th Division, “The Sight-Seeing Sixth”, was going up to dig them out. Our artillery and air power had hammered the area, yet on Mt. Mataba the fanatical Japs were defiant, throwing back projectiles from their big guns. For four days the closeup infantry was pinned down by mortar, machine gun and small arms fire, but with bulldog tenacity they edged nearer, taking their mauling like the veterans they were.

But what B Company of 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion likes to remember best in this tough mountain fighting is the “Day of the Big Shoot,” the day they broke the world's record for pumping our rock-crushing 4.2-inch mortar shells. For ten long hours the company toiled in the tropical sun, and at night they went into their holes to watch into the impenetrable darkness for the expected counterattack.

All day these mortar men had covered the attack of the infantry, using white-hot phosphorus that set the Japs on fire and sent them screaming into the open where the infantry picked them off with machine guns and rifles. At the same time the dense white smoke billowed up in a 600-yard long screen that prevented the Jap gunners from clearly seeing the advancing dogfaces.

When the Japs were forced out of their caves by the white phosphorus and went scurrying for cover, forward observers called for HE and seconds later the devastating concussion of these shells landing amid the Japs sped them on their journey to the shrines of the next world.

Capt Joseph Van Yush, Jr., of Lansford, Pa., is the 26-year-old commanding officer of the mortar company. A veteran of the Munda and Bougainville campaigns, his mortarmen are experts. Quiet-spoken Capt Van Yush tells of the day they broke the record.

“It was an eight-gun shoot,” he says, “we were in support of the 63rd Infantry which was attacking hills A, B, and X in the Shimbu line. The Japs had heavy counter-battery on us with their own mortar, l50mm, and some of my men were wounded. But the counter-battery didn't deter us much, and by the end of the day our lighter 4.2 had demonstrated itself to my satisfaction that it is a better mortar than the heavier piece of the enemy. Theirs does not have a rifled barrel, our does. Our piece is more accurate, less cumbersome. Their mortar weighs 1000 pounds, ours 300 pounds; their shell 50 pounds, ours 25. They apparently have no white phosphorus for their mortar. But let the boys tell you about the shoot.”

Lt Thomas R. Blackburn, 26, of Las Animas, Colorado, who commands a platoon, was forward observer. His OP was 250 yards from the Japs. “When our white phosphorus hit into their well-fortified positions, I could hear the Japs screaming, then see some of them running out of their holes. I called for high explosive and where a group would be running before, they would disintegrate with the burst.

We cut them down as they ran. I went over there afterwards and their clothes were burned off. Some bodies were incinerated. I picked up a Japanese carbine and pulled back the bolt-a thin wisp of pungent white phosphorus smoke drifted out. It had permeated everything. In the area were 212 Jap bodies- we couldn't count some. Bodies were hanging in trees, and splattered on rocks. In some caves Japs were huddled in a sitting position, their hands to their ears, no marks on them. I guess they died of concussion.

It was a day's work-in fact it is a Herculean task to fire 6000 rounds from eight guns in one day. This means 600 rounds an hour, 60 a minute [questionable arithmetic?], or each gun averaging seven shells a minute. Every so often the base plates had to be dug out and placed in a new position. Sometimes the continual recoil would drive the plates almost out of sight, but we had new ones ready before we changed them. At times a gun would fire 31 rounds a minute; a shell in and out each two seconds!”

Lt Len Morrow, of Great Falls, Montana, the executive officer of the company, also a veteran of Munda and Bougainville, said: “It was just hard work, that's all, back-breaking work for the men and officers alike. I think the smoke screen was held for the longest time to date in the Pacific war. It was the most ammo ever fired in one day for any division.

If you have never been present when the 4.2 mortars are firing, you will have no idea the punishing effect it has on the crews. We were in a ravine that made it worse. That night when the men went to their holes on the perimeter everyone was shaky. No one could hear and there was so much you couldn't see. The Japs could have stumbled in on top of us and we wouldn't have heard them.”

Sgt John Wagener, of Indiana, Pa., whose gun fired the most rounds, 812, gave all the credit to his men.

“This George Pettit, my gunner from Fort Laun, S. C., is a little guy of about 125 pounds but he sure can take it,” said the sergeant. “We all had headaches from the noise, and I didn't get my hearing back until the next morning. I kept one ear glued to the telephone from the forward OP, and had cotton stuffed in the other. We all had cotton stuffed in our ears but it didn't do much good. Part of the time we were firing at 1800 yards and it takes a lot of propellant for that range. Naturally we at the guns couldn't see the Nips, but the observers would give us pep talks every few minutes, telling us to hurry as the Japs were running out of the holes, and we sure did pump the shells in the barrels.”

Pettit, the gunner Sgt Wagener referred to, had lifted more than 10 tons of ammunition and dropped it down the muzzle of his mortar during the day. Figuring it at $25 a round, he burned $20,300 worth of ammo that day. A slender little fellow, he said: “I was working too fast to worry about dollars and cents.”

Cpl Alfred J. Kolan, of Chester, Pa., assistant squad leader, whose duty it is to take care of the ammunition, estimated 300 two-and-a-half ton truck loads were expended, a total of 6000 rounds, or one and a quarter million dollars' worth.

“We had a few fizzles,”" he said, explaining that the gun barrels were so hot they set the propellant charges off on misfires.

S/Sgt. Frank Velar, Maple Heights (Cleveland), Ohio, also had a busy day. “Smoke is tricky,” he said, “you never know when the wind will change, and so you never know what gun will need the most ammo. You have to keep shifting your ammo back and forth. On an 800-yard battery front, like we had, this is a lot of carrying.”

This sergeant also helped Lt Blackburn at the OP and, while there, went out with an infantryman to bring back a wounded man. The infantry was pretty well beaten up by the Jap fire, and a barrage of mortar shells had to be dropped behind the wounded man to keep the Japs down while the rescuers crawled out to him. But Sgt Volkar, who can be as stubborn as a mule when he wants to, wouldn't talk about his part in the rescue. “I don't know anything to say about it,” he insisted. “The wounded man was out there and all we did was bring him back.”

However, from his vantage point up front, Volkar could observe the shells from his company dropping in on the Japs. “We heard screaming from the Japs getting burned by the phosphorus, and then we saw them scurrying out of there. One ran right through a clearing about two hundred yards away   the son of a gun ran right through 50 and 30 caliber machine gun fire and an 81mm mortar that was popping at him, but he disappeared over the ridge. I don't know whether he was even hit. Shortly after that, groups of three or four would run out over the ridge, some were burning, they didn't have their rifles, their only concern was to get the hell out of there. Most of them were picked off and didn't get very far.”

PFC Alvin Schulz, of Long Island, N.Y., and No. 2 man in the mortar section who handles the sighting, was having a good time yelling out instructions to the Japs, which of course they couldn't hear. When a Jap shell would land over, he would yell, “down 1000,” and when one landed short, he would yell, “up 2000.” But when one landed close enough to the 4.2's position to wound several men, he quit it. He's been the brunt of some jokes since.

During the day, PFC Lido J. Martinelli, of Chicago, Ill., whose gun hurled out 750 rounds, complained the reason he couldn't cram more down the mouth was because so much “time out” had to be taken to change the base plate. “We were in a muddy spot,” he explained.

PFC. Hyman Boriskin, Tujunda, California, messenger for the company, also had a busy day. “Every man in the platoon chipped in,” he said, “and we didn't handle the ammo like the books teach. The books say to take it easy, but we pitched it. There wasn't an accident either. What we liked best about the whole thing was when the major of the 1st Battalion, 63rd Infantry, said, ’ and when the infantry says they like it, that's when our morale goes up,” concluded Boriskin.

“The boys call these shells war bonds   they cost $25 apiece,” Capt Van Yush said. “And I might add that my boys did a fair country job on their war bond drive.”"

Comment from Admiral Mitscher:

“To get victory in the Pacific we'll have to burn up the Japs-and I mean burn. They're like a lot of moles. Give them a hill of any size and they'll dig a cave and hole up. We can plaster them with bombs and with shells from surface vessels, leveling everything on earth, but they will still be underground. So there is only one course left: burn 'em up!”   Vice Admiral Mitscher.

NOTE: Kleber and Birdsell, reporting on the battalion actions, including those of Company B, state: “Battalion support in the vicinity of Mount Mataba, one of the bastions of the Shimbu Line, resulted in some of the heaviest 4.2-inch mortar fire in the Pacific War. During the 2-week period between 23 March and 5 April the 82nd fired nearly 190 missions with an expenditure of over 22,000 rounds. On 6 April two platoons of Company B and one from Company C, in support of an attack by the 63d Infantry, laid a 6,000-yard smoke screen southeast of Mount Mataba and maintained it for eight hours.”" (K&B, p. 508)

On 21 April Company B, less the 3d platoon, while in support of the 145th Infantry, (145th of 37th Div., had been attached to 38th Div.), participated in one of the heaviest preparations fired on Luzon. In order to cover an infantry advance on the slopes of Mount Pacawagan, another of the keys to the Shimbu positions, the mortar company fired 2,525 rounds of white phosphorous to set up a 7-hour screen, supplemented by two B-25 aircraft laying an 8,000-yard FS screen. (Ibid)

The 6 April smoke screen was laid by B Company and the 2nd platoon of C. The 2nd platoon of Co. C, on 14 April, was dispatched to Corregidor to support the 151st Infantry of the 38th Division, which had remained there to clear the smaller islands in Manila Bay. The platoon returned from the Manila Bay operation to rejoin 1st platoon on 17 April in time for the 21 April shoot.

Flashback – 82nd CMB supporting 6th Infantry Division

The 6th Division had been given the mission of securing both Ipo and Wawa Dams and, accordingly, all the components necessary to insure the water supply to Manila (S. pp. 366-67). At the time, General Kruger was unaware that Wawa Dam had been abandoned years earlier with the construction of Ipo Dam ten miles to the north and the Novaliches Reservoir, ten miles northeast of Manila. Wawa had been reduced to the secondary role of irrigation for surrounding farms. The Japanese, however, were just as intent on denying access to Wawa Dam as to Ipo. The situation as it developed between 20 February and 26 March 1945 is depicted on Smith's map 8, below right (click to enlarge). The map, “Turning The Shimbu Left,” reveals that Mt. Pacawagan and Mt. Mataba, along with Wawa Dam and Ipo Dam to the north (off the map), were still in Japanese control as of the end of that period, 26 March 1945.

Map 8 - click to enlarge20 Feb 45 - The lower left (southwest) corner of the map shows the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division crossing the line of departure (LOD), the Marikina River above Pasig, where the Marikina flows into the Pasig River, which flows west into Laguna de Bay and continues, bisecting Manila on its course to Manila Bay.

22 Feb 45 - The 63d and 20th Infantry Regiments of the 6th Infantry Divisions attacked east across the LOD; the 63rd passing through Montalban, where the Marikina changes course from slightly northwest on leaving Wawa Dam to sharply southwest, while the 20th, on the division right flank, crossed at the town of Marikina.

25 Feb 45 - The last of 6th Division's regiments, the 1st Infantry, had been reinforced and dispatched to assist 38th Division's 151st RTC in clearing the Bataan Peninsula and had rejoined 6th Div. on this date. The 1st Infantry attacked between the 63rd and 20th in the direction of the Mango River as it flows between the two strongpoints: Mt. Pacawagan to the north, Mt. Mataba on the south.

4 Mar 45 - Following soon on the end of the Battle for Manila, Co. C, 82nd CMB, had moved to join Co. B in the Battle of the Shimbu Line east and northeast of Manila. The 2nd platoon/C emplaced its mortars in an abandoned barrio within range of the fight for Woodpecker Ridge. There was no terrain feature to provide defilade for the guns, only a bit of concealment from Japs on the ridge.

The continuous “comb-toothed” blue line left of center on Smith's map 8 (see above) marks the XIV Corps front as of 4 Mar 45. Penetrations of Shimbu positions had been made by the 63d to the base of Mt. Pacawagan and by the 1st and 20th north of center and bulging toward the south of Mt. Mataba. At that point, the 1st Infantry troops were above the 1250-foot contour on Smith's Map VIII. Mount Pacawagan was around 1500 feet high and Mataba some 1300. The straight red line running northeast marks the boundary between the Kobayashi and Noguchi Forces. These enemy forces comprised the Shimbu Group and their boundary lay along Mt. Baytangan, rising to a height of over 1500 feet. (S. pp.373-74)

In the south, the cavalry had broken the enemy line in two places: west and south of Antipolo. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade made only those two minor gains between 20 February and 4 March, while the Battle for Manila raged on until 3 March.

By 4 March right flank elements of the 63rd Infantry, from Montalban at the top of the map, had gained a precarious foothold on the northern crest of Mt. Pacawagan, but the 1st Infantry on their right had not been able to clear its portion of that mountain and had also been unsuccessful in its attacks against Mt. Mataba. XIV Corps had been attacking across a front almost fifteen miles wide, north to south. Lacking the mass to succeed, the attack was doomed from the beginning in the face of the concentrated defenses of the Noguchi and Kobayashi Forces. General Griswold decided to concentrate against the Noguchi Force and the left of the Kobayashi Force. (S. p. 375)

Guerrilla assistance

Among Butler's earliest memories of the Battle for the Shimbu Line is the voluntary attachment of two Filipino guerrillas to the 2nd platoon. Ricardo Gimotea and his cousin, Jose (last name not remembered,) had been soldiers of the Philippine Constabulary before the 1942 Japanese invasion. For more than three years they had fought from the hills to harass and kill Japanese at every opportunity. Ric and Jose were trained linesmen and physically adept at stringing and maintaining telephone lines, across difficult terrain, between the mortar Jack Butler and Ric - click to enlarge position and the OP and to assist the company in maintaining its line to the 2nd platoon. They served willingly and with courage and skill all through the remainder of the battle. Later, when the Philippine Constabulary was reconstituted and Jose had been wounded, they Joel Foster and Ric with wife and baby - click to enlarge rejoined their old unit. At the time he and the 2nd platoon first met, Ric lived with his wife and new baby in the barrio, Santa Ana, where other family members had remained while Ric and Jose were with the guerrillas in the Manila area. The author has a picture of himself with Ric and another of Lt. Joel Foster holding Ric's baby and standing with Ric and his wife. Both pictures, taken sometime soon after the Shimbu Line had been broken, are shown at the right (click to enlarge).

The 1st Infantry, in clearing Woodpecker Ridge, had established a very precarious route to the top of the ridge and was slowly clearing it from south to north. This “road” to the ridgeline was so treacherous that the only vehicles capable of ascending and descending were jeeps, which traveled in low gear in both directions.

Litter jeeps had the right of way and they were busy carrying the dead and wounded down off the ridge. At the base of the long, steep, twisting road, the dead were laid out in the shelter of the hill, covered with shelter halves, ponchos or blankets, to await graves registration troops. The wounded were transferred to ambulances, which could not negotiate the climbing road.

Initially, the 2nd platoon, Co. C, established its OP on the ridge. As the situation developed and trees obscured visibility, it became preferable to observe from the road in front of the barrio where the guns were concealed by coconut trees and Nippa huts on stilts. The mortars were facing northeast, while the infantry was slowly advancing north.

Incoming stuff

It was in this barrio with a river behind it, that Jose, one of the guerrillas, was wounded. McClelland, the company commander, tried to get a daily hot meal to the firing platoons. This worked so long as the ¾-ton weapons carrier (aka kitchen truck) approached the firing position along the depressed riverbank and entered the barrio under cover of the trees. Then Murphy's Law kicked in. A new guy, probably on KP duty, was to deliver the daily chow about 1600. Barreling up the dry dirt road in a cloud of dust, he drew an arrow for all on the ridge to see. Before long, Jap artillery began to probe the barrio. We all sought shelter in the slit trenches we had dug. Butler had hung the case for his binoculars and his carbine on a protruding pole that was part of the elevated floor of a hut.

A supply of 4.2-inch shells, still in their wood shipping boxes, was stacked at the right of the firing line. After three or four Jap artillery shells had impacted, someone yelled; “The ammo's burning!” Butler jumped out of his hole at the same time as Jose, who had lain on the ground, dove into that hole. His flight was hastened by a piece of shrapnel that hit him in the butt. Butler's carbine was hit, as was the binocular case, both of which had to be replaced. Jose, who was evacuated, was no longer available for duty with his chosen platoon. One of the wood ammo boxes had caught fire, but was doused with no further problem. Jose's butt saved Butler's – a very small fragment lodged in Butler's left hand at the thumb joint. No blood was flowing, so all was well.

Friendly tanks, lined up about 100 yards apart and parallel to the ridge, silenced the Jap artillery. At least for that time.

With the enemy artillery silenced for a while, the 2nd platoon loaded onto trucks and fell back across the river to report to the infantry battalion CP located in a patch of woods. After spending the night as guests of the infantry, and that location being beyond range of the 4.2s to the ridge, the platoon recrossed the river and established a firing position under cover of the riverbank.

Bartering security for food

The riverbank behind the barrio provided concealment and limited cover from enemy fire. A thorough reconnaissance was taken, out of curiosity, but also hoping to find a relatively safe firing position closer to the target area than was the riverbank. This was not to be. However, the expedition resulted in finding a shrine in a sturdily built large hut that was at ground level. Urns filled with ashes, assumed to be cremated Japanese, were emptied and some kept as souvenirs.

The major find, however, was a huge wicker basket, about 15' in diameter and 4-5' tall, that occupied most of the floor space. Filled with rice, it was close to worth its weight in gold. Empty gunnysacks, normally used as sandbags, were filled and loaded into the ¼-ton trailer attached to the jeep.

Between the firing position and Santa Ana, a suburb of Manila and Ric's home barrio, was a military police checkpoint. Ric and Butler came up with a plan to provide guerrilla security for this isolated MP post, which normally was manned by two MPs. With that in mind, Butler, Phillips and Ric headed for Santa Ana. There was no attempt to hide our loot. The MPs were told of Ric and Jose's service and of Jose having being wounded, of the families of the two guerrillas in Santa Ana with little or no food, the location of the remaining load of rice, and asked if they would like to have some guerrilla protection against infiltration at night.

The deal was struck. The MPs promised to feed two or more guerrillas that Ric would recruit, in exchange for their armed presence during the hours of darkness. On the return trip, Ric had four of his guerrilla buddies, two of them riding in the trailer. GI food was all the inducement needed. If they were later to rejoin the reconstituted Philippine Constabulary or seek employment with another police force, they had been instructed to request letters of reference from the military police.

The last six rounds

As the infantry advanced north along Woodpecker Ridge, the 2nd platoon would be left behind, out of range, unless a new firing position with some security could be found. Ideally, that position would be on the ridge behind the infantry so as to fire in the same direction they were moving.

The ridge could only be reached by crossing at least 1,000 yards of dry rice paddies between the river and the ridge. Finally, the advancing infantry sufficiently cleared Woodpecker to a point where a saddle permitted access and the platoon was moved up to a suitable position high on the west slope. Within a hundred yards, the east slope afforded excellent observation of the 1st Infantry's right flank and the terrain to the east.

All the while, ammunition was being expended with no replenishment. At a certain point, having bitched daily to McClelland, Carlisle, the 82nd CMB S-3 who had established a liaison position at the 6th Division CP, called Butler direct. When told the platoon was down to six rounds of HE, Butler was directed to not fire without approval from the XI Corps chemical officer. Butler had no idea how to contact that person, and no desire to find out – Ce le guerre et comme je trouve. Registration had been completed on numerous checkpoints to the east of the ridge, although the infantry was advancing north. From Butler's vantage point, only their open right flank was visible and there was no point in attempting to follow that advance with a lousy six rounds of HE.

Among those checkpoints registered with WP was a trail crossing due east 2500 yards from the OP. It was designated Checkpoint 12, being at 1200 (12:00 o'clock) from the OP. Closer in at 0800 (8:00 o'clock) was a sharp bend in a mountain stream hidden by trees. However, a cliff, around which the stream flowed, was visible. The sharp bend had been registered as Checkpoint 8. The registration had been done previous to the day of this significant event, when seven or more rounds of HE were available.

This was a fortunate circumstance, in which the 2nd platoon had its OP on a high point with an infantry company and its 4-deuces just below the crest of the same ridge. The infantry had captured a Japanese BC scope, a high-powered instrument that sat on a short tripod and into which the user looked down, somewhat like a periscope in reverse.

Observing for targets of opportunity through the BC scope early in the day, Butler saw a horse wander out from trees on the right of Checkpoint 12. This was, in a true sense, a Japanese “prime mover”, similar to a truck and, unfortunately, to be destroyed. Having registered with No.1 mortar, it was called on to fire 1 round, HE on Checkpoint 12. Just as the horse entered the trail intersection, the shell fell beneath his hind end and threw him heels over head. That horse was a much more difficult target to defend than the 17 Japs fired on later in the morning.

The call from Carlisle had come after the 2nd platoon expended that one round on the horse. Perhaps two hours later, mid-morning, focusing with the BC scope, a body of Japanese was observed on a trail parallel to the stream which would lead them into Checkpoint 8 and the infantry's right flank. Two clumps of trees were between the stream and the trail. As they approached the first clump, the command was given: “No. 1, Checkpoint 8, 6 rounds HE, prepare to fire.” Seventeen Japs, in single file, were counted moving on the trail where it went behind the first clump of trees, whereupon Butler borrowed an M1 rifle from the nearest infantryman. With no expectation of hitting anything at that range, when the first of the file entered the opening between the two clumps, a shot was fired. Watching through the Japanese BC scope, the leader was clearly seen to halt, face toward the source of the shot and shake his fist, whereupon the command was given: “Fire!” When they heard the mortar firing, the entire file ran for the bend in the trail, Checkpoint 8. The last six rounds were in flight before the first one struck and the Japs were history.

The infantry company commander sent a patrol down the very steep, wooded slope. A few shots were heard. About an hour later the patrol returned to report 15 Japs KIA, 2 wounded and playing possum. By this time in the war, no infantryman would hesitate to give a coup de grace to any Jap remotely capable of treachery.

Carlisle was informed. HE ammunition suddenly was available from the XI Corps chemical officer.

Map 8 - click to enlarge14 Mar 45 - Returning to Smith's map 8 (at right, click to enlarge), definite progress had been made in turning the Shimbu Line. The dotted blue line depicts XIV Corps gains between 4 and 14 March. The red dotted line, correspondingly, shows how the Japs had died and/or given way in the same 10-day period. Interesting is the “nose-to-nose” alignment of the 1st Infantry, above the short blue boundary line, and the 20th Infantry, to the south, in the salients opposing the enemy. Apparently, the Noguchi force had given way, while the Kobayashi force, with its back to the key terrain features protecting Wawa Dam was offering stronger resistance.

14 Mar 45 - About mid-morning on the 14th, a burst of Japanese machine gun fire from a hidden position caught a group of officers who were incautiously bunched in the open at the regiment's forward command post. General Edwin D. Patrick, 6th Div. CG, was mortally wounded and Col. James E. Rees, the 1st Infantry's commander, was killed outright. Brig. Gen. Charles E. Hurdis, division artillery officer, replaced General Patrick; Lt. Col. Francis J. Corbin, previously commander of the 1st Battalion, took over the regimental reins. (S. pp. 382-83)

14 Mar 45 - The division forward command post where General Patrick was mortally wounded also served as a forward observation post for the 1st platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB. The following excerpt is from General Orders Number 39, Headquarters XI Corps, 3 June 1945, EXTRACT, Section II, Bronze Star Medal (Oak-Leaf Cluster) - Award:

FIRST LIEUTENANT JOEL L. FOSTER, 01036525, Chemical Warfare Service, United States Army. For heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy at Luzon, Philippine Islands, on 14 March 1945. Lieutenant Foster was attached to an Infantry Battalion acting as Platton (sic) Leader for a 4.2 Chemical Mortar platoon. When the forward observation post where Lieutenant Foster and several other officers and enlisted men were stationed was fired on by an enemy heavy machine gun, the Commanding General, * * * Infantry Division, fell mortally wounded. Without hesitation and with utter disregard for his own personal safety, Lieutenant Foster dashed from his position of security to the wounded General where he administered first aid and assisted in moving him to safety. Lieutenant Foster's daring, spontaneous and courageous action in the face of enemy fire exemplifies the highest traditions of the military service...



Brigadier General
Chief of Staff

Colonel, AGD
Adjutant General

At the time General Patrick was mortally wounded, Butler's 2nd platoon had been working in concert with Foster's 1st platoon and was aligned a short distance to the left. Both platoons had laid a smoke screen on Mt. Mataba, following the pattern established between Butler and Foster in screening the Pasig River crossing against Intramuros in Manila. Depending on wind direction, the 1st or 2nd platoon would start the screen from the left or right flank. Those marking rounds would serve to establish the upwind end of the screen as a guide for the B25 aircraft to lay the initial screen and the 4.2s would maintain it through the day. Later in the day Foster visited Butler, related his experience, and displayed his trophy, General Patrick's carbine, which had been modified to fire as fully automatic.

The 1st Cavalry Division was slated for redeployment to southern Luzon, as General MacArthur was willing to reduce his forces in the Manila area in order to clean up the many bypassed enemy pockets to the south and develop greater port facilities for the impending assault on the Japanese homeland. What followed was a considerable reshuffling of Sixth Army units. The 43d Division, after replacing the 40th Division west of Clark Field, would relieve the 1st Cavalry Division. (S. pp. 376-77) This placed the 43rd Division to the right of the 6th Division, both oriented to the east.

Late on 14 March, General Hall, commanding XI Corps, took over responsibility for the conduct of operations against the Shimbu Group. It was up to him to determine how best to employ the 6th and 43rd Divisions so as to exploit the gains made by XIV Corps and to speed the capture of Wawa and Ipo Dams. (S. p. 384)

Map 8 - click to enlarge26 Mar 45 - While the enemy's left had been turned, it had been turned uphill and the fight was becoming increasingly more difficult. As of 26 March, the 1st Infantry had been unable to secure Mount Mataba and the 63rd Infantry had not advanced from its 4 March positions in front of and with a small toehold on, Mount Pacawagan. On map 8 (at right, click to enlarge), the farthest east blue “saw-toothed” line represents General Hall's XI Corps advances between 14 and 26 March.

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