The 37th Infantry Division completed its crossing of the Pasig on 8 February, and began deploying south and west out of its bridgehead. [xxii] The hardest fighting the 37th Infantry Division would face in Manila was in this district south of the river, between the crossing of the Pasig on 7 February and the assault on Intramuros on 23 February.  Japanese defenders had established a series of strongpoints in major buildings in this area and contested them fiercely.  On 8 February, the 129th Infantry Regiment moved westward along the Pasig shore and on 9 February crossed the Estero de Tonque by boat to assault Provisor Island where Manila’s steam electrical generation plant was located.  The Japanese defenders placed sandbagged machine gun emplacements in buildings and at entrances and were able to blanket the whole island with machine gun positions to west, southwest, and south.  The 129th Infantry Regiment approached the island in engineer assault boats, then conducted a cat and mouse struggle with Japanese for control of the buildings, fighting with machine guns and rifles among the structures and heavy machinery.  The 129th was able to secure the island on 10 February, but lost twenty-five troops killed in the process.  The vital electrical generation equipment, which Krueger in 6th Army’s plans had hoped to capture intact, was hopelessly damaged by both Japanese defenders and American fires. [xxiii]

While the 129th Infantry Regiment swept west out of the Malacanan bridgehead, in a close arc, the 148th Infantry Regiment swept in a broad arc, southeast, then back westward.  The two regiments moved in line through the Pandacan district to the southeast with relatively little resistance, but then found themselves in a pitched battle in the Paco district for control of the Paco Railroad Station, Paco School, and Concordia College.  On 9 February, both 129th Infantry Regiment and 148th Infantry Regiment advanced only 300 yards. [xxiv]

Given the new intensity of the fighting in the 37th Infantry Division’s sector, the division requested and received a lifting of  the restrictions previously imposed on artillery fires.  To that point, fires had been restricted to observed enemy positions, but had failed to force an enemy withdrawal.  Thereafter, fires would be allowed “in front of . . . advancing lines without regard to pinpointed targets.”  In other words, fires could blanket enemy positions U.S. troops were assaulting.  “Literal destruction of a building in advance of the area of friendly troops became essential,” as the 37th Infantry Division Report After Action put it. [xxv]

The Japanese defensive positions U.S. troops encountered in the Paco district were well developed, as they would be for the rest of the battle.  Japanese observers were present in almost every building.  At street intersections, machine gun pillboxes were dug into buildings and sandbagged so as to cover the intersection and its approaches.  Artillery and anti-aircraft weapons were placed in doorways or in upper story windows.  Most streets and borders of streets were mined, using artillery shells and depth charges buried with their fuses protruding an inch or so above the surface.  The streets were a fireswept zone forcing Americans to move between streets and within buildings.  Americans entered and searched each building and house, top to bottom, and neutralized whatever enemy they found. [xxvi]

Besides controlling the urban terrain with fires, the Japanese in the Paco district and points west had fortified particular sturdy public buildings as urban strongpoints.  In some cases, these buildings were mutually supporting.  The first of the urban strongpoints the 37th Infantry Division encountered was the Paco Railroad Station.  The Japanese had machine gun posts all around the station, and foxholes with riflemen surrounded each machine gun post.  Inside at each corner were sandbag forts with 20mm guns.  One large concrete pillbox in the building housed a 37mm gun.  About 300 Japanese troops held Paco station.  The Japanese placed observers in the Paco church steeple, and the station could not be approached until the Paco School and other neighboring positions had been cleared. [xxvii]

Americans inched forward to within 50 yards of the Paco station building, set up a bazooka or BAR, and pounded the building as riflemen rushed forward covered by fire.  The station was finally seized at 0845 on 10 February after 10 assaults.  Between the Provisor fighting and the Paco station fighting on 9 and 10 February, the 37th Infantry Division suffered 45 killed in action [KIA] and 307 wounded in action [WIA]. [xxviii]

American troops would have much more such fighting ahead.  Once the 129th Infantry Regiment and the 148th Infantry Regiment had secured Provisor Island and the Paco Railroad Station respectively, both swept westward toward Intramuros and the bay.  The 129th Infantry Regiment collided with the Japanese strongpoint at the New Police Station, and the 148th Infantry Regiment collided with the strongpoint of the Philippine General Hospital (see Map - The Drive Toward Manila).  The 129th Infantry Regiment began its assaults on the New Police Station on 12 February.  The strongpoint consisted of the police station itself, the shoe factory, the Manila Club, Santa Teresita College and San Pablo Church.  By nightfall, the 129th Infantry regiment had consolidated its lines on Marques de Camillas Street fronting the strongpoint.  Maintaining lines--keeping units that advanced faster than others from leaving hazardous gaps in the line--offered many challenges in the highly compartmented urban environment. 

The bitter fighting at the New Police Station went on for eight days, until 20 February.  On 17 February, the relatively fresh 145th Infantry Regiment replaced the battle-worn 129th Infantry Regiment.  The first tanks arrived on 14 February to assist the Americans.  Tanks were not present earlier in this part of the city because they could not cross the Pasig.  Once committed, they were used for direct-fire bombardment on the New Police Station and in later operations. 

The American method was to bombard the resisting structure with tanks and 105-mm guns and howitzers, then to conduct an assault.  Sometimes the Japanese defenders counterattacked, driving the Americans out, in which case the whole process was repeated.  The Japanese had trenches and foxholes outside the buildings and numerous sandbagged machine gun positions inside.  U.S. artillery reduced the exterior walls to rubble, but infantry still had to go into the buildings and clear them room by room and floor by floor.  The preferred American method was to fight from the roof down, but the troops were unable to do this at the New Police Station, probably because no structures were near enough to give roof access.  Thus, they had to work from the ground up.  Japanese defenders cut holes in the floors and dropped grenades through them.  They also destroyed the stairways to prevent access to upper stories.  Nevertheless, the145th Infantry Regiment managed to secure the New Police Station strongpoint by 20 February. [xxix]