Padre Burgos

The Means of Defense

Tactically, Iwabuchi's defensive preparations left much to be desired. One line of defensive positions, while usually (but not always) containing mutually supporting strongpoints, did not necessarily give way to a second line of prepared positions; seldom were any two lines mutually supporting. Little provision seems to have been made for routes of withdrawal from one line to another. The core of the defenses, if any existed, was Intramuros, the approaches to which were protected by a semicircle of fortified government buildings and schools extending from the General Post Office, on the south bank of the Pasig about three blocks off the northeast corner of Intramuros, around to the Army-Navy Club, on the bay front a few hundred yards south of the walled city,

A prime characteristic of the defenses within the city was improvisation based upon the ready, man-made defenses of heavily reinforced concrete buildings. The Japanese fortified building entrances with sandbags; they set up barricades along corridors and stairways; they chopped firing slits for rifles and machine guns through outside walls; they dug tunnels that connected the basements of various buildings or led to outside pillboxes and bunkers. While the defenders constructed many bunkers and pillboxes throughout the city, they depended principally on the buildings, and most of the standard military defensive installations were located in the Southern Force's area of responsibility.

The Manila Naval Defense Force barricaded streets and intersections throughout the city with all types of obstacles: barbed-wire entanglements; oil drums filled with dirt or cement; rails set into the pavement; hastily dug ditches; trolley cars, trucks, and automobiles; even heavy factory machinery wrenched from interior mountings. The defenders employed mines of every conceivable type and improvisation, including Japanese Navy beach mines and depth charges, artillery shells, aerial bombs, mortar shells, and standard Japanese Army antipersonnel and antitank mines. Most mine fields were poorly camouflaged and although the Japanese covered some with fire from prepared positions, they had established no pattern that tied one mine field into another or related a field to major defenses.

Another outstanding characteristic of the Japanese defense preparations was the great number of automatic weapons, a number all out of proportion to the troop strength. The basic infantry weapon, the rifle, played a very secondary role, being used mainly for the protection of the automatic weapons and for last-ditch personnel defense. The much publicized--but seldom encountered--Japanese sniper played no significant part. Indeed, after the battle XIV Corps reported:

Despite frequent mention by our troops of "snipers," the sniper as a carefully placed individual rifleman specializing in long-range selective firing seldom made an appearance (hardly any telescopic rifle sights were found in Manila).14

On the other hand, the Japanese used various types of grenades with great abandon, especially in defense of buildings.

In preparing for extensive employment of automatic weapons, the Manila Naval Defense Force had removed many such arms from ships sunk in the bay and from aircraft lying destroyed or damaged on the numerous outlying airfields.15 Ordnance troops adapted these for ground use, and also set up for employment against ground targets many of the antiaircraft weapons with which Manila and environs bristled before the Allies entered the city. The principal automatic weapons upon which the defenders set great store were the aircraft and antiaircraft 20-mm. and 25-mm. machine cannon. They had also a few 40-mm. antiaircraft weapons, as well as innumerable infantry and antiaircraft machine guns of lesser caliber. Mortars played a large part in the defense; literally hundreds of these weapons, varying from 50-mm. to 150-mm in caliber, were available to Iwabuchi's men.

The basic heavy artillery weapon was the Japanese Navy's dual-purpose 120-mm. gun. The Manila Naval Defense Force emplaced over fifty of these weapons in and around the city, most of them in the Nichols Field-Fort McKinley area. In addition, the Japanese had some 76.2-mm. dual-purpose guns, a few Army 75-mm. antiaircraft weapons adapted for ground fire, a scattering of 75-mm. Army field artillery pieces, and some Army 47-mm. antitank guns. Finally, for the first time during the war in the Pacific, the Japanese employed rockets to an appreciable extent. Most of those available to the Manila Naval Defensive Force were 200-mm. Navy rockets, but the force also possessed some 200-mm. Army rockets and a few Navy 450-mm. giants.

Practically none of Iwabuchi's troops had any unit training in ground combat operations and many had very little individual infantry training. The proficiency of men assigned to crew-served weapons usually left much to be desired. Perhaps the best units were the Army provisional infantry battalions, many members of which were infantry or other ground force replacements stranded in Manila. But few of these men were first line, and the vast majority of even the Army personnel were members of the service branches.

Naval units were in even worse state. The only troops among them having any semblance of ground combat training were the few members of the ground defense sections of the 31st Naval Special Base Force. For the rest, the naval troops were aircraft maintenance men, airfield engineers, crews from ships sunk in the bay, casuals, other service personnel of all types, and even some Japanese civilians pressed into uniform.

Admiral Iwabuchi had time neither to train his troops nor to complete defensive preparations. Even so, his defenses were strong and, although held by inferior troops, could prove formidable when manned by men with little thought of escape. He defended Manila with what he had, and what he had was sufficient to cause XIV Corps great trouble.