THE CAPTURE OF MANILA: THE DRIVE TOWARD INTRAMUROS
13 - 22 February, 1945

 

 

 

 

 

THE CAPTURE OF MANILA: ELIMINATING THE LAST RESISTANCE
23 February - 3 March, 1945

 

From 20 to 22 February, the 145th Infantry Regiment repeated this exercise a block to the east at the City Hall and General Post Office.  At the City Hall, the regiment employed the usual method of having artillery pound the exterior walls and then assaulting into the structure that remained.  As at the New Police Station, the process of bombardment and assault had to be repeated several times.  Americans in the assault made generous use of ďsubmachine guns, bazookas, flame throwers, demolitions, and hand grenades.Ē  At one point when Japanese resistors in a first floor room refused to surrender, the Americans blew holes in the ceiling, put flamethrowers through them, and annihilated all of the defenders.  Americans sometimes had to fight their way into prepared positions in the darkened basements of these buildings.  By the evening of 22 February, the 145th Infantry Regiment had fought its way through the worst of the strongpoints to the walls of Intramuros. [xxx]

Meanwhile, the 148th Infantry Regiment was fighting its way through the Philippine General Hospital and the University of the Philippines, operating parallel to and just south of the 129th Infantry Regiment and its follow-on 145th Infantry Regiment (see Map - The Drive Toward Manila.) The tactical battle here was similar to that elsewhere, but complicated by the fact that there were still civilian patients in the hospital.  When the 148th Infantry Regiment discovered this on the afternoon of 16 February, it tried to limit its artillery fires to Japanese positions in the foundations of the hospital buildings.  During the day of 17 February, the 148th escorted 2,000 patients out of the hospital, and 5,000 more that night. [xxxi]

On the morning of 19 February, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, having been assigned to the 37th Infantry Division from the 1st Cavalry Division, relieved the battle-worn 148th Infantry Regiment.  The 5th Cavalry Regiment continued attacks in this sector on the University of the Philippines strongpoint.  The Japanese here not only had established the usual defenses of sandbagged machine gun nests, but also had cut firing slits through the foundations just above the ground and put machine gun nests on the flat roof.  After assaults on Rizal Hall, the 75 Japanese survivors of the original complement of 250 committed suicide on the night of 23 February.  The next morning, the 5th Cavalry Regiment made the final assaults into University Hall, so concluding the strongpoint fighting for the 148th Infantry Regiment and the follow-on 5th Cavalry Regiment.  For these units, as for the northerly 129th and follow-on 145th Infantry Regiments, the hardest strongpoint fighting was now over, and U.S. forces had secured Manila south of Intramuros. [xxxii]

While the battle of the strongpoints raged, 7 to 24 February, the 1st Cavalry Division was sweeping wide east, south, and west, around the city to Manila Bay (see Map - The Encirclement and Map - The Drive Toward Manila).  When the 37th Infantry Division crossed the Pasig at Malacanan Gardens, the 129th Infantry Regiment pivoted sharply west, campaigning toward the east wall of Intramuros.  The 148th Infantry Regiment swung more broadly south, west, and north, bringing it up against the south wall of Intramuros.  The 1st Cavalry Division swung on an axis parallel to these, but flung further out, around the whole city.  Thus, the 1st Cavalry Division implemented a standard element of siege doctrine: isolate the defenders. 

On 8 February, as the 37th Infantry Division was crossing the Pasig at Malacanan Gardens, the 5th and 8th Cavalry Regiments began a sweep around the east and south sides of Manila (see Map - The Encirclement).  The 8th Cavalry Regiment swung close and the 5th Cavalry Regiment swung wide.  The 8th Cavalry Regiment crossed the Pasig at the Philippine Racing Club against little opposition; the 5th Cavalry Regiment crossed at the suburb of Makati against intermittent machine gun fire.  On 10 February, the 5th Cavalry Regiment secured the Makati electrical power substation, following Kruegerís policy of sparing as much city infrastructure as possible.  By 12 February, both the 12th Cavalry Regiment, relieving the 8th Cavalry Regiment, and the 5th Cavalry Regiment had reached the waterfront, completing the encirclement of the city.  They both had contact with the 37th Infantry Division on their right. [xxxiii]

Once they reached the waterfront, the 12th Cavalry Regiment and the 5th Cavalry Regiment immediately turned northward, to move up the shore and join their forces to those of the 37th Infantry Division as it closed in on Intramuros (see Map - The Drive Toward Manila).    Moving abreast, the two regiments encountered a developed Japanese strongpoint in the Harrison Park area, which contained Rizal Stadium, La Salle University, and other structures.  The 1st Cavalry Division fought pitched battles there, as the 37th Infantry Division had at the Paco Railroad Station and elsewhere.  Japanese defenders had constructed heavy bunkers all over the baseball diamond at Rizal Stadium, which the 1st Cavalry finally overcame with the use of flamethrowers, demolitions, and three tanks. [xxxiv]

On 16 February, the 1st Cavalry Brigade (5th and 12th Regiments) passed from the 1st Cavalry Divisionís operational control to that of the 37th Infantry Division for the assault on the central city.  At this point, the 5th Cavalry Regiment relieved the 148th Infantry Regiment, and the 12th Cavalry Regiment continued advancing northward and on 20-22 February cleared the High Commissionerís Residence, Burnham Green, and the Manila Hotel.  There was a hard fight, floor by floor, for the Manila Hotel, and MacArthur himself appeared on the scene, since he had resided in a penthouse apartment of the Manila Hotel during his former stay in the Philippines. [xxxv]

By 23 February, the 37th Infantry Division had fought its way to the eastern wall of the Japanese stronghold of Intramuros and was prepared to assault it.  Intermittent bombardment of the fortress began on 17 February.  There was then a focused bombardment from 0730 to 0830 on 23 February, the day of the assault.  This preparation employed an abundance of 105mm and 155mm howitzers, 75mm tank guns, 4.2-inch mortars, a few 8-inch howitzers, and other pieces; in other words, it was almost all of the 37th Infantry Divisionís artillery assets.  The 8-inch howitzers proved most effective against the thick walls of Intramuros.  Thirty machine guns were used for the artillery preparations, of which 26 were trained on Japanese machine gun positions and four were reserved for targets of opportunity before and during the assault.  Overall,  7,487 high explosive shells were dropped on Intramuros. [xxxvi]

At 0830, a red smoke signal was fired to mark the end of the artillery preparation and the beginning of the assault.  Ten minutes later, a second bombardment began placing a smokescreen east to west across the central section of Intramuros to obscure the north-lying assaults from Japanese gunners in the south-lying Legislative, Finance and Agriculture Buildings (see Map - Eliminating the Resistance).  The 129th Infantry Regiment assaulted southward across the Pasig in engineer boats at 0830, the first troops disembarking at 0836.  Simultaneously the 145th Infantry Regiment assaulted the east wall.  Japanese fires within Intramuros evidently were less intense than in earlier encounters because the heavy bombardment had destroyed or disorganized them.  Both the 129th  Infantry and the 145th Infantry Regiments therefore moved easily through the breached walls and then through the streets of Intramuros.  The 145th Infantry Regimentís progress was soon blocked, however, by the flow of 2,000 refugees, women and children, from Del Monico Church on General Luna Street where the Japanese had been holding them.  Many would be evacuated from the west gate of Intramuros by a truck convoy of the 37th Quartermaster Company.  Male civilians had evidently been separated by the Japanese, detained in the Intramurosí old citadel, Ft. Santiago, and executed there en masse.  By nightfall of 23 February, the 129th and 145th Infantry Regiments held nearly all of Intramuros and would secure the rest the next day. [xxxvii]