Capturing the Water Supply Facilities

Meanwhile, far to the north, the 7th Cavalry captured one of the important water supply installations, Novaliches Dam.17 On 5 February, when troopers first reached the dam, they found no prepared demolitions, but they did intercept three Japanese who were carrying explosives toward the installation. The next day, against little resistance, the regiment secured the Balara Water Filters, which were found undamaged but wired for demolitions.

On 7 and 8 February the troopers patrolled southwest along the main water pipeline from the filters four miles to San Juan Reservoir, which they captured intact about 1530 on the 8th. Forty-five minutes later a Japanese artillery shell fired from high ground across the Marikina River hit the reservoir's main outlet valve. Fortunately, damage was not so severe that the valve could not be worked by hand. For most of the rest of the period that it remained in the Manila area, the 7th Cavalry (the only major element of the 1st Cavalry Division not to fight within the city limits) continued to protect Novaliches Dam, the Balara Filters, and the pipelines connecting the two installations.

The 8th Cavalry secured a water facility still closer to Manila, but not before the regiment fought a pitched battle against the strongest resistance any troops of the 1st Cavalry Division encountered in the area north of the Pasig. Moving east across the San Juan River on 7 February, the 8th Cavalry pushed up to the northwest corner of New Manila Subdivision, where fire from the 1st Independent Naval Battalion and a supporting heavy weapons detachment stopped the advance. The subdivision extended northeast to southwest three blocks (about 850 yards) and twelve blocks (roughly 1,500 yards) southeast to the northern edge of San Juan del Monte Subdivision. The Japanese had heavily mined the streets within New Manila; pierced rock walls along the streets with slits through which 20-mm. machine cannon could fire; turned many homes into machine gun nests; and, at the southern edge of the subdivision, emplaced three dual-purpose naval guns so as to cover much of the suburb with point-blank, flat-trajectory fire.

On 8 February the 8th Cavalry attacked again, supported by a company of mediums from the 44th Tank Battalion and by the 61st (105-mm. howitzers) and 947th (155-mm. howitzers) Field Artillery Battalions. The 105's fired 1,360 rounds of high explosive into New Manila and San Juan del Monte suburbs and the 155's added another 350 rounds of the same type of ammunition. While this support succeeded in knocking out many Japanese strongpoints--and destroying many homes--it was inadequate to overcome all the opposition. The mine fields limited the effectiveness of tank support. The 8th Cavalry had to make short infantry rushes from one strongpoint to another to gain ground, but by the end of the day had substantially completed the reduction of the area. The task cost the 8th Cavalry 41 men wounded; the 44th Tank Battalion 11 men killed and 12 wounded. Three tanks were knocked out; one of them was completely demolished by a huge Japanese land mine. The 8th Cavalry and division artillery each claimed credit for all Japanese losses of men and matériel: the cavalry regiment averred it killed 350 Japanese and captured or destroyed 22 20-mm. machine cannon, 3 6-inch naval guns, and 5 13.2-mm. machine guns; the artillery's claims were the same 350 Japanese killed, and 23 20-mm. machine cannon, a 105-mm. howitzer, and a 6-inch naval gun destroyed.18 Be that as it may, the cavalry cleared the rest of the suburban area northeast and east of the city during the next few days with little trouble. The 1st Independent Naval Battalion, apparently deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, started withdrawing eastward with its 800 remaining troops on 10 February. The unit left behind about 500 dead and all its heavy weapons.19

On 9 February the 8th Cavalry moved on from New Manila to San Juan del Monte and secured El Deposito, an underground reservoir fed by artesian wells and located about a mile southwest of San Juan Reservoir. Following the seizure of El Deposito, the last of the close-in water installations, the 8th Cavalry continued south until it reached the north bank of the Pasig River at a point just east of the city limits. The 5th Cavalry, which had been relieved in the center of the city by the 37th Division on 7 February, went south on the 8th's left and, encountering only scattered opposition, reached the Pasig a mile east of the 8th Cavalry on the morning of 10 February.

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; pushed Colonel Noguchi's Northern Force either south across the Pasig or east across the Marikina; captured or destroyed almost all the Northern Force's heavy support weapons; and secured intact the close-in water supply installations. The Northern Force, as a matter of fact, had made no concerted effort to hold northern Manila. Noguchi had executed his assigned demolitions and then withdrawn most of his troops south over the Pasig, destroying the bridges behind him. His 1st Independent Naval Battalion had escaped to the east. The two American divisions had killed perhaps 1,500 Japanese in the region north of the Pasig, but it appears that less than half of these were members of Noguchi's combat units--the majority were ill-armed service troops and stragglers. Despite the limitations placed on it, artillery fire, supplemented by tank and mortar fire, caused the vast bulk of the Japanese casualties 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.

Except for the fires that had raged out of control along the north bank of the Pasig, burning down or gutting many buildings, damage to the city had so far been limited largely to Japanese bridge destruction and to destruction resulting from American artillery and tank fire in the Tondo District and the New Manila and San Juan suburbs. The Americans had discovered few evidences of atrocities against the Filipino population north of the Pasig. It appeared that the rest of the battle might be fought according to the rules and that the city might yet escape with only superficial damage.

To date operations had served principally as a "get acquainted session" for both the Japanese and Americans. Admiral Iwabuchi had learned that XIV Corps was in Manila to stay; General Griswold had learned that the task of securing the city and environs was not going to be as easy as anticipated. Finally, in clearing the northern portion of the metropolitan area, the troops of the 37th Division and the 1st Cavalry Division had gained invaluable experience in city fighting that would serve them in good stead in operations south of the Pasig. Even as the 1st Cavalry Division was securing the water supply system, the 37th Division was putting this experience to the test.