MANILA: THE APPROACH MARCH

Setting the scene for the largest campaign of the Pacific War.
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Whatever the political considerations involved  (they would be left for armchair Generals to debate about for decades), the Joint Chiefs had decided that the Formosa versus Luzon question was not an issue of MacArthur vs. King, or Army vs. Navy - it  was an issue of military merit. By the end of September 1944, almost all the military considerations -- especially the closely interrelated logistical problems -- had weighed the scales heavily in favor of retaking the Philippines. Bypassing Mindanao, the choice became practically inevitable - forces larger than had been committed by the US to North Africa, Italy or southern France - larger even than the entire Allied commitment to Sicily, were to be committed to Luzon. With Manila being planned as the logistical hub for the anticipated invasion of Japan,  it had to be cleared, and promptly. This was to be no Buna.

        By
ROBERT ROSS SMITH

. By the last week of January, Sixth Army had completed the first phase of the Luzon Campaign. I Corps controlled the Routes 3-11 junction and positions from which to attack toward San Jose; XIV Corps was pushing the Kembu Group back from Clark Field. (See Map - Sixth Army's Advance.) The army had secured its base area, carefully provided against the threat of counterattack from the north and east, and projected strength into position to protect XIV Corps' rear and lines of communication. General Krueger thus felt free to devote more attention to the capture of the Manila-Manila Bay area, the most important single strategic objective of the campaign. On 26 January he had tackled the very practical problem of actually getting troops into the city of Manila. On that date he had directed XIV Corps to send forces south as far as the Pampanga River, twenty-five miles below Clark Field and about an

  equal distance north of Manila.

XIV Corps' Drive South - Moving Out

XIV Corps' objective along the Pampanga River was the Route 3 and Manila Railroad crossing at Calumpit, a flat land defile through which passed the only highway and rail connections providing direct access to Manila from the western side of the Central Plains. To the northeast of Calumpit lies the formidable Candaba Swamp, passable only to light vehicles even in dry weather; to the south and west are virtually impassable swamplands, fish ponds, and marshy river deltas forming the northern shore of Manila Bay. Although the Japanese had destroyed the bridges at Calumpit,2 XIV Corps had to secure the crossing sites before the Japanese took advantage of the natural defense opportunities afforded by the deep, unfordable Pampanga to block the western approach to Manila. XIV Corps intelligence on 26 January estimated that the