23 February - 3 March, 1945





The Assault

Troops of the 3d Battalion, 129th Infantry, had begun loading aboard assault boats manned by the 117th Engineers about 0820 on 23 February, their line of departure the mouth of the Estero de Binondo, opposite the Government Mint.14 (Map 7) The first boats reached the south shore unopposed between 0835 and 0840, and the infantry quickly dashed through and by the Mint into Intramuros. Putting its left on Beaterio Street, which ran northeast to southwest, the 3d Battalion swung its right toward Fort Santiago, at the northwest corner of Intramuros. The battalion established contact with the 145th Infantry about 0850 at Letran University, at the northeast corner.

As the American troops drove further into Intramuros, the Japanese began to recover from the shock of the artillery bombardment and to offer scattered resistance from isolated machine gun and rifle positions. Company I, 129th Infantry, on the left, and Company L, in the center, reached the west wall shortly after 1200, having suffered no casualties and having killed only 10 Japanese on the way. The battalion soon isolated resistance in its sector to Fort Santiago, toward which Company L, attacking along the west wall and through adjacent buildings, turned. Company K had some difficulty reaching the west wall in the area south of Fort Santiago but got its right on the wall to make contact with Companies I and L late in the day. In concert, the three rifle companies cleared the west wall north from Beaterio Street. About 1830 Company K made contact with elements of the 1st Cavalry Brigade in the South Port Area, beyond the west wall.

Company L had a nasty fight on its hands at Fort Santiago. The preassault artillery bombardment had demolished the outlying defenses of this ancient Spanish citadel and had also battered the walls of the fort proper. The Japanese inside had retired into inner recesses, a few undamaged outbuildings, some subterranean dungeons, tunnels, and holes. One by one, the 129th Infantry reduced the separate strongpoints--no co-ordinated defense existed--with fragmentation and white phosphorus grenades, demolitions, bazookas, and flame throwers. In a few instances engineers poured gasoline or oil into holes and dungeons and then ignited it. Company L had actually surrounded and entered the fort quickly, but faced a bitter battle throughout the afternoon and had to leave mopping up for the morrow.

The 145th Infantry's experiences during the day were not dissimilar. Clambering across the breach south of Quezon Gate and then through the gate itself, the two leading platoons of the 2d Battalion, 145th, were within Intramuros at 0833 without a casualty. Following troops walked through Quezon and Parian Gates unopposed, and by 1030 the battalion had secured the first two blocks southwest of Quezon Gate and had cleared the damaged building of Letran University. Fifteen minutes later the 1st Battalion came through Parian Gate. The two units then started southward with the 2d Battalion's right on Beaterio Street, in contact with the 129th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion's left along the east wall.

Progress slowed as troops sought cover from automatic weapons and rifle fire originating in the southern section of Intramuros. At 1300 the two battalions were four blocks southwest of Quezon Gate and had established a line stretching from Beaterio almost to the east wall. At this juncture the advance stopped as the Japanese began letting nearly 3,000 civilian hostages dribble out of San Augustin and Del Monico Churches, farther south. The refugees were women, children, and some Roman Catholic nuns and priests. There were very few male civilians in the group--the 129th Infantry had discovered most of the men dead in Fort Santiago's dungeons, where the Japanese had murdered them.15

After the civilian evacuation was complete, American tanks and self-propelled mounts fired on Japanese positions within the two churches and at other strongpoints in the southwestern section of Intramuros, including a few pillboxes. Against stubborn opposition, troops of the 145th Infantry were unable to reach the south or west walls before dark, and the two battalions halted for the night generally two blocks short of the west wall and four short of the southwest corner of Intramuros.

The casualties of the 145th Infantry's two battalions for 23 February numbered about 15 men killed and 45 wounded; the regiment had killed some 190 Japanese and captured 20 Formosan labor troops.16