Defensive Dispositions and Plans

Iwabuchi's mainland area of responsibility extended inland from a point on Manila Bay about two and a half miles north of the city northeast to Novaliches, east to the Marikina River, south to Laguna de Bay's western shores, and then west across the Hagonoy Isthmus to the base of Cavite Peninsula.11 The whole area covered an area of approximately 250 square miles. To defend this zone Iwabuchi had under his command nearly 17,000 troops--about 12,500 Navy personnel and 4,500 Army troops. The remaining 3,500 naval troops included in Iwabuchi's total of 16,000-odd naval personnel the admiral had either left on islands in Manila Bay or had sent into the mountains east of Manila to join the main body of the Shimbu Group. Iwabuchi assigned some 14,000 of the troops he controlled in and around Manila to three combat organizations for defensive operations. A fourth command contained forces nominally afloat but actually based either on the city's waterfront or on the bay islands; a fifth command was composed of engineers, supply troops, medical units, and so forth. Iwabuchi gave this fifth group the blanket title "attached units."12

Iwabuchi retained approximately 10,000 troops within the Manila city limits, 8,000 of them members of the three combat commands. The northernmost combat command, labeled Northern Force, was commanded by Colonel Noguchi, whom Iwabuchi made responsible for the defense of the entire city north of the Pasig, Intramuros south of the river, and the suburbs north, northeast, and east of Manila to the boundaries of the Manila Naval Defense Force. In addition to the 2d and 3d Provisional Infantry Battalions and supporting Army troops of his ownNoguchi Detachment,Noguchi had under his command the 1st Independent Naval Battalion. His force totaled about 4,500 men in all.

Posting small Army detachments along the northern approaches to Manila, Noguchi stationed the 1st Independent Naval Battalion in the San Juan del Monte suburb, east of the city. One of his Army battalions held the Pasig River bridges; the other, with miscellaneous service units attached, set up defenses in Intramuros. General Yokoyama transferred various Army shipping units, previously forming part of the 3d Maritime Transport Command, to Noguchi's control; the colonel left these troops in the port areas north and south of the Pasig's mouth.

The Central Force, commanded directly by Admiral Iwabuchi and comprising about 5,000 naval troops, held the remainder of Manila. Central Force's 1st and 2d Naval Battalions were in defensive positions throughout the southern part of the city. Headquarters Sector Unit13 and the 5th Naval Battalion (the latter withdrew from Cavite on 2 February after completing demolitions there) concentrated in the government building, park, and private club area of Ermita District, east and south of Intramuros. Here Iwabuchi had his headquarters, protected by aHeadquarters Battalion of 750 men. The Central Force was also responsible for holding Nielson Field and Makati, a suburb just southeast of the city, but had few troops stationed at those places.

The Southern Force, over 5,000 men under Capt. Takusue Furuse, IJN, defended Nichols Field, Fort McKinley to the northeast of the airfield, and the Hagonoy Isthmus. Furuse stationed the3d and 4th Naval Battalions at Nichols Field and Fort McKinley and made the Army's Abe Battalion responsible for holding the Hagonoy Isthmus. Captain Abe's mission was to defend along Route 1 and Route 59, the latter lying along the western shore of Laguna de Bay. With minor detachments to the south and a company at Parañaque, the bulk of the Abe Battalion was dug in at and near Mabato Point, on the Laguna de Bay shore across the isthmus from Parañaque. So disposed, the unit was hardly in position to execute all of its missions.

Generally, the defenses on the south were stronger than those on the north, for two reasons. When General Kobayashi's Manila Defense Force withdrew from the northern area it had left behind only the Noguchi Detachment to fill the void created by the evacuation. True, Kobayashi, his command now redesignated the Kobayashi Force, retained control of the 3d Surface Raiding Base Force--another group of boat squadrons and base battalions like those stationed in the 11th Airborne Division's area--but the 3,000-odd men of this unit were disposed about five miles northwest of Manila and had been cut off by the 37th Division.

Second, Japanese naval headquarters on Luzon had believed that the principal Allied invasions would come from the south and had therefore long devoted its energies to preparing defenses on that side of Manila. It was, indeed, not until the last week in January that Iwabuchi seems to have learned of XIV Corps' progress, or at least until he attached any significance to that corps' drive down the Central Plains. By then, of course, it was too late for him to redeploy his forces.

For the rest, Iwabuchi's plan for the defense of Manila was rather vague, promising only a suicidal fight to the death in place. By such a static defense he hoped to inflict heavy casualties upon Sixth Army and deny to the Allies for some time the facilities of Manila and Manila Bay. To help realize the latter objective, he planned extensive demolitions that ostensibly called for the destruction of purely military installations and whatever supplies were left in the city. "Military installations" or "military facilities" are loose terms at best, and for Iwabuchi they included the port area, bridges, transportation facilities, the water supply system, and electric power installations.

While the admiral apparently did not plan wholesale, wanton demolitions, even the destruction of the purely military installations would have its effect upon the civil population. Once started by a body of half-trained troops hastily organized into provisional units and whose only future is death in combat, demolitions are impossible to control. Leaving aside this problem, it is obvious that a fire resulting from demolitions set off in a supply dump will not necessarily obey "orders" to confine itself to the dump. Intent is one thing--the results of the performance another.