Crossing the Pasig River

Across the River and Into the Buildings

By the morning of 7 February two factors were prompting Griswold to head his troops across the Pasig. First, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 37th Division had cleared the city proper north of the river except for the pocket in Tondo District, and Griswold foresaw that the cavalrymen were going to have little difficulty clearing the eastern suburbs and securing the water facilities. Second, late on the 6th, Krueger had directed XIV Corps to seize the Provisor Island generating plant forthwith. Accordingly, on the morning of the 7th, Griswold ordered the 37th Division across the Pasig and assigned it most of the city proper south of the river. The 1st Cavalry Division, when it finished its job in the northern suburbs, would also cross the river and then swing westward toward Manila Bay on the 37th Division's left.20


The 37th Division Crosses

General Beightler, the 37th Division commander, ordered the 148th Infantry to make the assault across the Pasig. The 129th Infantry would follow the 148th and be followed in turn by the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry, division reserve. The remainder of the 145th was to protect the division's line of communications north of Manila. Beightler turned the northern section of the city over to a provisional organization designated the Special Security Force, which contained the 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 37th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, and Company A of the 754th Tank Battalion.21

Beightler directed the 148th Infantry to cross just east of Malacaņan Palace and land on the south shore at Malacaņan Gardens, a partially developed botanical park opposite the residency. Except at the gardens and at the mouths of esteros (small, canallike streams), sea walls--impassable to LVT's and unscalable from the assault boats in which the crossing was to be made--edged both river banks. The 37th Division had sufficient information to indicate that the gardens lay east of the principal Japanese concentrations in southern Manila and that most of the industrial Paco and Pandacan Districts in the eastern section of the city, south of the Pasig, might be lightly defended. The 148th Infantry would first clear the Paco and Pandacan Districts and then wheel southwest and west toward Intramuros and Manila Bay. The 129th Infantry, once on the south bank, would immediately swing west along the river to secure Provisor Island and the steam power plant.22

The 37th Division was to strike into a sector held by the Central Force's 1st Naval Battalion, some 800 riflemen and machine gunners supported by various provisional heavy weapons units. The battalion was concentrated in the western section of Paco District south from Provisor Island--half a mile west of Malacaņan Gardens--generally along the line of the Estero de Paco, which extended south-southeast a little over a mile. One group from the battalion held a strongpoint east of the Estero de Paco at Paco Railroad Station, almost a mile south of the 148th Infantry's landing point and on the 37th-1st Cavalry Division boundary, here marked by the tracks of the Manila Railroad.

In preparation for the assault the 672d Amphibian Tractor Battalion, which had accompanied the 37th Division south from Lingayen Gulf, assembled its LVT's behind the protection of an indentation in the north bank near the palace. The 117th Engineers, who had scrounged all the engineer assault boats they could from Manila back to San Fernando, gathered its craft at the same point, ready to co-operate with the LVT's in shuttling the 37th Division across the river.

Behind a 105-mm. artillery barrage the 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry, began crossing in assault boats at 1515 on 7 February. The first wave encountered no opposition, but, as the second crossed, intense machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire began to hit the river, the landing site, and the Malacaņan Palace area. However, the 148th Infantry found only a few Japanese at the Malacaņan Gardens and established its bridgehead with little difficulty. By 2000 two battalions were across the Pasig, holding an area stretching south from the river about 300 yards along Cristobal Street to a bridge over the Estero de Concordia, northeast approximately 1,000 yards, and then back to the river along the west bank of an inlet. The crossing had cost the regiment about 15 men killed and 100 wounded, almost all as the result of machine gun and mortar fire. Many of the casualties had actually occurred on the palace grounds, where the 148th Infantry had its command post and where General Beightler had set up an advanced headquarters.23

Between 8 and 10 February the 148th Infantry cleared Pandacan District with little trouble, but in the eastern section of Paco District had very great trouble reducing the Japanese strongpoint at Paco Railroad Station and the nearby buildings of Concordia College and Paco School. Support fires of the 136th and 140th Field Artillery Battalions nearly demolished the station and the school, but as of evening on 9 February the Japanese, originally over 250 strong, were still holding out, and the 148th Infantry made plans for a final assault on the 10th. Happily, most of the surviving Japanese withdrew from the three buildings during the night of 9-10 February, and the final attack was less bloody than had been anticipated.24

By late afternoon on 10 February the 148th Infantry's left had moved a half mile beyond Paco Railroad Station and had gained the east bank of the Estero de Paco. The right flank elements had initially been held up by Japanese fire from Provisor Island, while in the center troops had had to fight their way through a lesser Japanese strongpoint at the Manila Gas Works, about a quarter of a mile south of the Pasig River,25 but by afternoon on the 10th the right and center were also up to the Estero de Paco. The last troops of the 1st Naval Battalion east of the estero had either been killed or had withdrawn across the stream. As the 148th drew up along the estero, the volume of Japanese fire from the west increased sharply. Hard fighting seemed certain before the regiment could cross the water obstacle, and the regiment's operations south of the Pasig had already cost nearly 50 men killed and 450 wounded.