The New Police Station

Just as one Japanese strongpoint was located on the left (west) of the American forces fighting in Manila, so there was another blocking the road to Intramuros on the American right, in the sector of the 129th Infantry, which had completed the reduction of Provisor Island on 12 February. The 129th's particular bÍte noire was a block of buildings bounded on the north by an unnamed east-west extension of the Estero Provisor, on the east by Marques de Comillas Street, on the south by Isaac Peral Street (here the boundary between the 129th and 148th Infantry Regiments), and on the west by San Marcelino Street--the whole area being about 200 yards wide east to west and 400 yards long. The focal point of Japanese resistance in this area was the New Police Station, located on the northwest corner of San Marcelino and Isaac Peral Streets. At the northeast corner was a three-story concrete shoe factory, north of which, covering the block between San Marcelino and Marques de Comillas, was the Manila Club. North of the club were the buildings of Santa Teresita College, and west of the college, across San Marcelino, lay San Pablo Church and attached convent. All approaches to these buildings lay across open ground and were covered by grazing machine gun fire. The Japanese had strong defenses both inside and outside each building and covered each with mutually supporting fire. The New Police Station, two stories of reinforced concrete and a large basement, featured inside and outside bunkers, in both of which machine gunners and riflemen holed up. The 129th Infantry, which had previously seen action at Bougainville and against the Kembu Group, and which subsequently had a rough time against the Shobu Group in northern Luzon, later characterized the combined collection of obstacles in the New Police Station area as the most formidable the regiment encountered during the war.13 The realization that the strongpoint was well defended was no comfort to the 129th Infantry, since until the regiment cleared the area neither its left nor the 148th Infantry's right could make any progress. The 37th Division, moreover, could not simply contain and bypass the strongpoint, for to do so would produce a deep and dangerous salient in the division lines as the drive toward Intramuros progressed.

While the 129th Infantry's right--the 2d Battalion--had been completing the reduction of Japanese defenses on Provisor Island, the left and center, on 10 and 11 February, had moved westward in the area between Isaac Peral Street and Provisor Island generally up to the line of Marques de Comillas Street. During the 12th the 2d Battalion crossed to the mainland from the west shore of Provisor Island but despite close and plentiful artillery support could make scarcely 150 yards westward along the south bank of the Pasig. On the same day the rest of the regiment did little more than straighten out its lines along Marques de Comillas. Attacks on the New Police Station and the Manila Club on 13 February were unsuccessful. Shells of supporting 155-mm. howitzers had little effect on the two buildings, and even point-blank fire from a tank destroyer's high-velocity 76-mm. gun and 105-mm. high-explosive shells from Cannon Company's self-propelled mounts did little to reduce the volume of Japanese fire.

On the morning of the 14th, Company A, 754th Tank Battalion, came up to reinforce the 129th Infantry.14 Behind close support from the tanks, Company B, 129th Infantry, gained access to the Manila Club; Company A, 129th Infantry, entered windows on the first floor of the New Police Station; and a platoon of Company C made its way into the police station's basement. Having attacked at first light, Company A had surprised the Japanese before they had reoccupied positions vacated during the American preassault artillery and tank bombardment, but the Japanese soon recovered and put up a strong fight through the corridors and rooms of the police station's first floor. Some extent of the strength and nature of the defenses is indicated by the fact that the 129th Infantry destroyed three sandbagged machine gun positions in one room alone.

Progress through the basement and first floor was slow but satisfactory until the Japanese started dropping hand grenades through holes chopped in the second story's floor. With stairways destroyed or too well defended to permit infantry assault, Company A found no way to counter the Japanese tactics--a good example of why the troops usually tried to secure the top story of a defended building first. Evacuation proved necessary, and by dusk the Company A and C elements were back along Marques de Comillas Street, Company B holding within the Manila Club.

On 15 and 16 February only probing attacks were made at the New Police Station, the shoe factory, and Santa Teresita College, while tanks, TD's, M7 SPM's, and 105-mm. artillery kept up a steady fire against all buildings still in Japanese hands. Even these probing actions cost the 1st Battalion, 129th Infantry, 16 men killed and 58 wounded. During the morning of the 17th the battalion secured the shattered shoe factory and entered Santa Teresita College, but its hold at the college, tenuous from the beginning, was given up as the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry, moved into the area to relieve the 129th. The New Police Station, still the major stronghold, was still firmly in Japanese hands when the 129th Infantry left.

The 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry, took up the attack about 1015 on the 18th behind hundreds of rounds of preparatory fire from tanks and M7's.15 The battalion cleared the shoe factory and Santa Teresita College for good, and once more gained a foothold inside the New Police Station. Nevertheless, opposition remained strong all through the interior of the police station, while every movement of men past holes blown in the northwest walls by supporting artillery brought down Japanese machine gun and rifle fire from San Pablo Church, two blocks to the north. The 145th Infantry, like the 129th before it, found its grip on the New Police Station untenable and withdrew during the afternoon.

Throughout the morning of 19 February the police station and the church were bombarded by the 75-mm. guns of a platoon of Sherman M3 tanks, a platoon of M4 tanks mounting 105-mm. howitzers, a platoon of 105-mm. SPM's, and most of a 105-mm. field artillery battalion. During the afternoon Company B, 145th Infantry, fought its way into the east wing of the police station, while other troops cleaned out San Pablo Church and the adjoining convent against suddenly diminished opposition. The hold on the New Police Station--the Japanese still defended the west wing--again proved untenable and again the troops had to withdraw. Finally, after more artillery and tank fire had almost demolished the building, Company C, 145th Infantry, secured the ruins on 20 February.

The reduction of the New Police Station strongpoint and the nearby defended buildings had consumed eight full days of heavy fighting. The seizure of the police station building alone had cost the 37th Division approximately 25 men killed and 80 wounded, while the 754th Tank Battalion lost three mediums in front of the structure. The 37th Division could make no accurate estimate of Japanese casualties since the Japanese, who still controlled the ground to the west, had been able to reinforce and evacuate at will. During the fight the 37th Division and its supporting units had demolished the New Police Station, virtually destroyed the shoe factory, and damaged severely San Pablo Church and the Manila Club. Having reduced the strongpoint, the 37th Division's center was now able to resume its advance toward Intramuros. Meanwhile, its right and its left had been engaged at other centers of resistance blocking the approaches to the final objective.