MANILA: ISOLATING THE BATTLEFIELD

___________________________________

       

By
ROBERT ROSS SMITH

The Concept of the Attack

When XIV Corps reached Manila on 3 February, no definite Allied plan existed for operations in the metropolitan area other than the division of the northern part of the city into offensive zones. Every command in the theater, from MacArthur's headquarters on down, hoped--if it did not actually anticipate--that the city could be cleared quickly and without much damage. GHQ SWPA had even laid plans for a great victory parade, à la Champs Elysées, that the theater commander in person was to lead through the city.1

Intelligence concerning Manila and its environs had been pretty meager, and it was not until the last week or so of January that GHQ SWPA and Sixth Army began to receive definite reports that the Japanese planned to hold the city, although General Krueger had felt as early as the middle of the month that the capital would be strongly defended.2 The late January reports, often contradicting previous information that had been supplied

 

principally by guerrillas, were usually so contradictory within themselves as to be useless as a basis for tactical planning. Thus, much of the initial fighting was shadowboxing, with American troops expecting to come upon the main body of the Japanese around each street corner. Only when the troops actually closed with the principal strongpoints did they discover where the main defenses were. When XIV Corps began to learn of the extent and nature of the defenses, the plans for a big victory parade were quietly laid aside--the parade never came off. The corps and its divisions thereupon began developing tactical plans on the spot as the situation dictated.

In an effort to protect the city and its civilians, GHQ SWPA and Sixth Army at first placed stringent restrictions upon artillery support fires and even tighter restrictions upon air support operations. The Allied Air Forces flew only a very few strikes against targets within the city limits before General MacArthur forbade such attacks, while artillery support was confined to observed fire upon pinpointed targets such as Japanese gun emplacements.

These two limitations were the only departures from orthodox tactics of city fighting. No new doctrines were used or developed--in the sense of "lessons learned," the troops again