As planned, the 129th Infantry crossed the Pasig on the
afternoon of 8 February and swung west toward Provisor Island.26 One
company attempted to cross the unbridged Estero de Tonque to the east end of
the island that evening, but Japanese rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire
pinned the troops in place. The effort was called off in favor of an assault
behind artillery support the next morning.
Provisor Island, about 400 yards east to west and 125
yards north to south, was bordered on the north by the Pasig River, on the
east by the Estero de Tonque, and on the south and west by the Estero
Provisor. Five large buildings and many smaller shed-like structures covered
almost every foot of the island's surface. Three of the large buildings were
of concrete, the rest were frame structures sided and roofed with sheet
metal. The Japanese garrison, probably members of the 1st
Naval Battalion, fluctuated
in strength, being reinforced as the need arose by means of a bridge across
the Estero Provisor on the west side of the island. Japanese fortifications
were of a hasty nature, most of them sandbagged machine gun emplacements
within buildings or at entrances. From positions to the west, southwest, and
south other Japanese forces could blanket the island with all types of
Following the scheduled artillery preparation, Company G,
129th Infantry, moved up to the mouth of the Estero de Tonque at 0800 on 9
February. The company planned to shuttle across theestero in
two engineer assault boats to seize first a boiler plant at the northeast
corner of the island. The first boat, eight men aboard, got across safely,
but the second was hit and two men were killed; the survivors swam and waded
to the island. By 0830 fifteen men of Company G had entered the boiler
plant, only to be thrown out almost immediately by a Japanese counterattack.
They then took refuge behind a coal pile lying between the boiler house and
the west bank of Estero de Tonque.
Rifle and machine gun fire from the boiler plant and from
the main powerhouse just to the south pinned the fifteen down. The 129th
Infantry was unable to reinforce them, for the Japanese had the Esteros
Provisor and de Tonque covered with rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire.
Immediate withdrawal proved equally impossible--two other men had already
been killed in an attempt to swim back across the Estero de Tonque.
With close support--so close that the fifteen survivors
had to keep prone--from the 2d Battalion's mortars, Company G's isolated
group hung on for the rest of the day while the battalion made plans to
evacuate them so that artillery could again strike the island. After dark
Company G's commander, Capt, George West, swam across the Estero de Tonque
dragging an engineer assault boat behind him. Although wounded, he shuttled
his troops back to the east bank in the dim light of flames from burning
buildings on and south of the island. When a count was taken about midnight,
Company G totaled 17 casualties--6 men killed, 5 wounded, and 6
missing--among the 18 men, including Captain West, who had reached Provisor
Island during the previous eighteen hours.
For the next hour or so the 37th Division's artillery and
mortar fire blanketed the island as Company E prepared to send ninety men
over the Estero de Tonque in six engineer assault boats. The fires had died
down by the time the craft started across the stream at 0230, but the moon
chose to come out from behind a cloud just as the first two boats reached
shore safely. A hail of Japanese machine cannon and mortar fire sunk the
next three boats while on the island a small fuel tank flared up to expose
the men already ashore. Hugging the coal pile, Company E's troops remained
pinned down until almost 0500, when the moon disappeared and the fuel fire
burnt itself out.
PROVISOR ISLAND, lower left
Quickly, the men dashed into the boiler plant. A macabre
game of hide and seek went on around the machinery inside until dawn, by
which time Company E had gained possession of the eastern half of the
building. The Japanese still held the western half.
On the 10th, Company E slowly cleaned out the rest of the
boiler house, but every attempt to move outside brought down the fire of
every Japanese weapon within range of Provisor Island--or so it seemed to
the troops isolated in their industrial fortress. Therefore, Company E held
what it had while division artillery and mortars pounded the western part of
the island, as did tanks and tank destroyers from positions on the north
bank of the Pasig. In the afternoon TD fire accidentally killed 2 men and
wounded 5 others of Company E, which, through the day, also suffered 7 men
wounded from Japanese fire. During the night Company E sent another 10-man
squad across the Estero de Tonque to reinforce the troops already on the
island. Artillery, tanks, tank destroyers, and 81-mm. mortars kept up a
steady fire in preparation for still another attack the next morning.
After dawn on the 11th, Company E found that resistance
had largely collapsed on the island and that as division artillery continued
to pound known or suspected Japanese mortar and artillery positions to the
south and west, the volume of Japanese fire previously sent against the
island had greatly diminished. Searching cautiously and thoroughly through
the rubble of the now nearly demolished buildings of the power plant,
Company E cleared all Provisor Island by midafternoon and secured a foothold
on the mainland, west across Estero Provisor.
The task of securing the island had cost the 2d
Battalion, 129th Infantry, approximately 25 men killed and 75 wounded. From
one point of view the losses had been in vain. The Americans had hoped to
secure the power plant intact, but even before troops had reached the island
the Japanese had damaged some equipment, and what was left the Japanese and
American artillery and mortars ruined. There was no chance that the plant
would soon deliver electric power to Manila.
The 1st Battalion, 129th Infantry, on the 2d Battalion's
left, had been stalled until the 10th both by the Japanese fire supporting
the Provisor Island garrison and by lesser Japanese strongpoints in an
industrial area west of Cristobal Street. But by evening on the 10th, the
1st Battalion had moved its left up to the Estero de Paco, abreast of the
148th Infantry, while its right had pushed on to the Estero de Tonque. These
gains cost the 129th Infantry another 5 men killed and nearly 20 wounded.