JAPANESE DEFENSE OF CITIES
AS EXEMPLIFIED BY
THE BATTLE OF MANILA

 

A REPORT BY XIV CORPS

as formally delivered by H. O. EATON, JR.,

Colonel,  G. S. C.,

A. C. of S., G-2. 


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I. INTRODUCTORY

The following points are stressed in this report:  weapons used by the Japanese, obstacles encountered, the integration of weapons and obstacles in defensive organization, and tactics employed in small unit engagements by both Allied and Japanese troops. In order to make the report as comprehensive and as clear as possible, additional subjects, as listed in the Index, have been included. Illustrations, sketches and pictures are in the numbered Annexes.

II. GENERAL

The familiar fatalistic mental attitude on the part of the Japanese was as apparent in city fighting as in combat in any other type of terrain where this enemy has been encountered. He has been indoctrinated with the offensive spirit to such an extent that, when forced to the defensive, his only objective is to live as long as possible. His communications were faulty; positions, while sometimes mutually supporting, did not provide for continuous prepared areas behind which he might retire, nor a route of withdrawal over which he might conduct the bulk of his forces to an assembly area from which to launch an attack at an opportune time against an enemy with extended lines of supply and communication. Thus he could not be maneuvered out of his position, but had to be exterminated in place. For example-prior to our advance on Manila enemy leaders directed that supplies and equipment be buried near positions in which a last stand would be made. Throughout the campaign suicidal attacks were ordered and sick and wounded soldiers were directed to take their own lives. Nowhere are there indications of any plan or attempt to withdraw the Manila Naval Defense Force so that it might be preserved as a fighting unit in event of the fall of the city to American forces. Any deficiencies, however, in the plan adopted or tactics employed were not reflected in the combat qualities of individual soldiers and small groups. These fought tenaciously and skilfully, to the bitter end, using all available weapons and barriers, natural and artificial.

The main purpose of the enemy in defending Manila was threefold: first, to effect maximum attrition of American fighting power by utilizing the advantages of natural and man-made defenses within the city ; secondly, to delay the occupation and utilization of the Port of Manila as long as possible ; thirdly, to cripple the city as a base for future military operations and as a center for civilian production and governmental control. This third objective was covered in Manila Naval Defense Force (MNDF) Order No. 43, dated 3 Feb., 1945, which reads in part as follows:

"1. The South, Central and North Forces must destroy the factories, warehouses, and other installations and materiel being used by Naval and Army forces, insofar as the combat and preparations of Naval forces in Manila and of Army forces in their vicinity will not be hindered thereby.

"2. The demolition of such installations within the city limits will be carried out secretly for the time being so that such actions will not disturb the tranquility of the civil population nor be used by the enemy for counter-propaganda. Neither large scale demolition nor burning by incendiaries will be committed.

"3. A special order will be issued concerning the demolition of the water system and the electrical installations."

Prior to the arrival of U. S. Army units in Manila, the enemy situation was obscure. These things were apparent: the enemy in Manila and its environs was not organized into any large combat unit; his activities were of a passive nature, or indicated a withdrawal to the east; his communications had been badly crippled; he had no reserve and no mobile combat force to employ against American units driving aggressively and swiftly into Manila. The situation was further complicated by the threats of three separate American Divisions, the 1st Cavalry, the 37th Infantry and the 11th Airborne, attacking the city from different directions. Approximately 18,400 troops, including a large proportion of miscellaneous personnel, hospital patients, and freshly inducted civilians, were assembled and organized into provisional units of company and battalion size for the defense of Greater Manila. About three-fourths of the assemblage were of naval origin and one-fourth Army. Basic infantry weapons were insufficient in number to arm all troops. Weapons were salvaged from destroyed airplanes on Manila fields and from sunken ships in the harbor. These provided a large proportion of the weapons utilized by the Japanese.

The overall defenses of Greater Manila were entrusted to Rear Admiral Iwabuchi, Mitsuji. The forces north of the Pasig River were commanded by Col. Noguchi, former adjutant of the Fourteenth Army, who had under his control two provisional Army battalions and one provisional Navy battalion. Those south of the river were under the 'direct control of Iwabuchi. The organization of the MNDF is shown in detail in Section III, Part One.

The evidence seems conclusive that the original defenses of Manila were prepared to meet attack from the seaward or from the south. There is no evidence of any attempted re-organization of these defenses on the part of the enemy until the 23rd of January, 1945. An order issued on that date, later captured by our troops, indicated a concern for our approaching thrust from the north. The order provided for a screening force north of the Pasig. The southern portions of the city, especially the Paco, Ermita, Port and Malate Districts, were covered by a great number of prepared positions of all types. Road blocks and street barricades were constructed at all important street intersections ; and disposed along Manila Bay were over three hundred and fifty antiaircraft and dual purpose gun positions.

As our forces approached the city the Japanese adopted a plan of defense which was based on the Walled City as the inner stronghold. This core was surrounded by a rough semi-circular formation of public buildings, garrisoned and prepared for defense. Slightly to the rear of these buildings were other strong points. These positions consisted of a series of well-constructed pill boxes so placed as to utilize the protection afforded by existing obstacles, machine gun, anti-tank and rifle-fire. While the defenders utilized prepared positions, the defense itself was largely one of small units which were imperfectly coordinated. As the enemy areas became further compressed the lack of integration became more apparent. Groups of defenders became isolated in the large fortified public buildings. This, however, did not entirely preclude the shifting of some personnel from one building to another and some measure of mutual support.

A map of the city proper showing principal installations discussed herein is set forth in Annex 1.

III. PERSONNEL AND ORGANIZATION

The enemy forces defending Manila were predominantly naval with a small number of army troops cooperating. These forces were assigned operational sectors as shown in Annex 2.

The naval force was a combination of many base defense, service and miscellaneous units, and included, in addition to the normal Naval Guard forces assigned to a large Naval Base establishment, elements of naval flying units, crew members of both naval and merchant ships sunk or disabled in Manila Bay, and some civilian employees of the Naval Base. These diverse units and individuals were successfully organized into the Manila Naval Defense Force under the command of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi, Mitsuji, as shown in Annex 3. With a total strength of approximately 14,000, the force was disposed (less one battalion) south of the Pasig River in defense sectors. The remaining battalion was located in the southern portion of the Eastern Sector, north of the river.

Annex 3 ORGANIZATION CHART, MANILA DEFENSE FORCE
as of late January 1945

The army units were two: The Manila Detachment of the Kobayashi Group (Heidan) and the South Flank Detachment of the same organization. Both units were composed of heterogeneous personnel: remnants of the units which had passed through Manila, men drawn from a Field Replacement Depot, and recently inducted civilians. As in the case of the naval force the army strength included various base and service units converted to infantry. The organization of these units is shown in Annex 4. Both detachments, although a part of the Kobayashi Group, came under the tactical control of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi, and may be considered elements of his command.

Annex 4 - THE ARMY FORCES DETACHED FROM YAMASHITA'S MAIN STRENGTH were the first of the Japanese forces to set fire to the city and begin the systematic killing of all Filipinos, assisted by the Makapili. There was no strategic element in this conduct for, according to multiple sources, the American forces were nowhere yet to be seen. 

The Manila Detachment, estimated strength 2,900, was originally deployed north of the Pasig, in the Northern Sector, but ultimately concentrated the bulk of its strength in the Intramuros and the Port District for the final phase of the Manila operation. The South Flank Detachment, estimated strength 1,500, was disposed in the area of Nichols Field, in the Isthmus Sector, where they were contacted and finally destroyed.

 

IV. DEFENSIVE INSTALLATIONS

1. Buildings and Streets

a. General:

Japanese defenses within the city were characterized by improvisation. Mines, barricades, and weapons of all types were used; these and the tactics employed were adapted to the situation at hand. No reliance seems to have been placed on any particular doctrine or training except the usual Japanese tendency to accept death rather than withdrawal. Grenades, mortars, small arms and some artillery were used in much the same way as in any other type of combat, the chief difference being that ranges were reduced to a minimum.

b. Buildings:

Instructions concerning the use of buildings in defense are outlined in the following extract from the Noguchi Force order of 23 Jan. (The directive pertains chiefly to defense against air attack but positions constructed pursuant thereto were used for ground defense as well.)

"a. Counter-measures to be taken against furious enemy air and artillery bombardment before the attack of ground forces, etc. It is necessary for each unit to take the following measures, as the enemy attempts to destroy completely our key points by fierce bombardment prior to attack by his ground forces.

"1. It is necessary to strengthen the buildings at each key point as much as possible but because of the fact that no buildings can stand against bombs of 100 kg and above, men must not gather in one building but will deploy and take cover or construct many individual foxholes (in the shape of an octopus-pot) and shelter trenches.

"In case of enemy bombing prior to the attack by enemy ground forces, it is necessary to reduce losses as much as possible by having men temporarily take cover, etc. It is preferable to reuse buildings destroyed by bombing."

 

 

 

 

THE INSULAR ICE PLANT

 

 The Insular Ice Plant Building (built 1910)  - A pre-war Manila landmark because of its distinctive chimney stack, the chimney had a whistle which used to sound out the hours. Img via JT

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashback to 27 December 1941 when, despite Manila having been declared an Open City, the Japanese set out to cower the Filipinos by bombing Intramuros, which was of no military value. This image, probably taken from City Hallís tower, shows San Juan de Dios Chapel is clearly visible; in the background is the ruined facade of Santo Domingo Church.

1945 View looking south down Quezon Avenue, across the Pasig River. The cartwheel-like group of buildings near to camera is Bilibid Prison. Although Gen. MacArthur forbade bombing of the city proper during the Battle, the docks, port area and shipping had always been a target.

 The result of extensive fires north of the Pasig can be seen.

The remnants of Iwaguchi's northern force undertook extensive destruction of military supplies and facilities in the north port area and the neighboring San Nicholas and Binondo districts, then withdrew across the Pasig and destroyed the bridges across the river.  Unfortunately a strong wind had fanned the flames of the burning port facilities in a northerly direction, and the conflagration spread into the flimsy dwellings of the heavily populated lower-class Tondo district.  (D. Clayton James.)

 

 

 

 

THE GENERAL POST OFFICE

The General Post Office prior to the crossing of the Pasig River.

The fight for the General Post Office, conducted simultaneously with that for the City Hall, was especially difficult because of the construction of the building and the nature of the interior defenses. A large, five-story structure of earthquake-proof, heavily reinforced concrete, the Post Office was practically impervious to direct artillery, tank, and tank destroyer fire. The interior was so compartmented by strong partitions that even a 155-mm. shell going directly through a window did relatively little damage inside.
 

 

The Japanese had heavily barricaded all rooms and corridors, had protected their machine gunners and riflemen with fortifications seven feet high and ten sandbags thick, had strung barbed wire throughout, and even had hauled a 105-mm. artillery piece up to the second floor. The building was practically impregnable to anything except prolonged, heavy air and artillery bombardment, and why the Japanese made no greater effort to hold the structure is a mystery, especially since it blocked the northeastern approaches to Intramuros and was connected to the Walled City by a trench and tunnel system. Despite these connections, the original garrison of the Post Office received few reinforcements during the fighting and, manifestly under orders to hold out to the death, was gradually whittled away by American artillery bombardment and infantry assaults.

 

For three days XIV Corps and 37th Division Artillery pounded the Post Office, but each time troops of the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry, attempted to enter the Japanese drove them out. Finally, on the morning of 22 February, elements of the 1st Battalion gained a secure foothold, entering through a second story window.

 

The Japanese who were still alive soon retreated into the large, dark basement, where the 145th Infantry's troops finished off organized resistance on the 23d. Nothing spectacular occurred--the action was just another dirty job of gradually overcoming fanatic resistance, a process with which the infantry of the 37th Division was by now all too thoroughly accustomed.