The Four-Deucers' Battle of Manila

Lt. Col. Jack Butler



Preliminary positioning of the 37th Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions

At the start of the march south from Lingayen Gulf, the 37th Infantry Division had Companies A and D of the 82nd CMB attached. The 129th Infantry of the 37th had moved south to the left of the 160th Infantry of the 40th Division. Butler's 2nd platoon, Co. C, initially was attached to 160th. The 129th Infantry Regiment of the 37th Division had maintained contact with the balance of 37th and, thereby, with I Corps on the east and northeast. Rubin's 1st platoon of Co. D supported the 129th as it merged with the 160th along Route 3 back at Camiling, where Rubin and Butler found themselves back-to-back, firing from the same graveyard. Now Butler's 2nd platoon of Co. C and Rubin's 1st of D would be cast in competing roles for the honor of "First 4-Deuces in Manila" as they supported the 148th and 129th Infantry Regiments of the 37th Division, respectively.

26 Jan 45 - Co. A, 1st Bn., 145th Inf., 37th Div., secured Mabalacat and Mabalacat East Airfield and the railroad juncture with Route 3 four miles south of Bamban. This is the western part of the RR running east to west from Magalang to Ft. Stotsenburg. (S. pp 179-80)

27 Jan 45 - 145th Inf. advanced along Route 3 another three miles to Culayo and Dau, while Co. F, 2nd Bn., 148th Inf., 37th Div., secured Magalang five miles east of Dau. (Ibid) (With the aid of 2nd platoon, Co, C, 82nd CMB vehicles.) 28 Jan 45 - 1st Cavalry Division, attached to XIV Corps, moved south on Route 5 and assembled west of Cabanatuan for the drive on Manila (S. p. 184.)

Rubin's 4.2s had participated in the preparatory fires supporting the 129th in its action, as part of the 37th Division, to secure the entire Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg area “... by dark on 30 January, simultaneously broadening its front to the right.”" (Ibid) At the same time, Carlisle tells us, Lt. Cotton's 2nd platoon of Co. D was watching and firing while the American flag was being raised for the first time, after three years, at Fort Stotsenburg on 31 January.

The 37th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division started their race for Manila on 31 January using parallel Routes: 3 (infantry) in the west and 5 (cavalry) in the east of Pampanga Province in the Central Plain.


Rangers and guerrillas to the rescue

30-31 Jan 45 - The race for Manila was on. General MacArthur's priority was to rescue the many prisoners, military and civilian, held by the Japanese at Cabanatuan, Santa Tomas and Bilibid, the latter two prisons within the Manila City limits.

Cabanatuan lies 23 miles east of Bamban in the I Corps sector. General Kruger, Sixth Army commander, had been planning a daring rescue of the Cabanatuan (Pangatian) internees and was able to pull it off. For a stirring account of this highly successful operation behind enemy lines, see Appendix D, Rescue at Cabanatuan.

Major General Verne D. Mudge, CG, 1st Cav. Div., organized two reinforced motorized squadrons that soon became known as Flying Columns. Each included a cavalry squadron (comparable to an infantry battalion,) a medium tank company, a 105-mm howitzer battery, other supporting elements, and sufficient vehicles to lift all troops. Under Brig. Gen. William C. Chase, commander of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, the groupment also included the Provisional Reconnaissance Squadron (Ibid)

1-2 Feb 45 - The lead Flying Column, 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, established contact with the 37th Division on the Angat River. The bridges were down and the area to the south of the river was in the 37th's zone. Accordingly, this Flying Column forded the Angat at Baliuag about five miles north as crowds of Filipinos cheered the cavalrymen across the wide but not too deep river. Meanwhile, the 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, Flying Column, having been held up most of February 1 by 250 Japanese infantrymen with artillery, were racing to catch up. Little time was "wasted" sleeping the night of 2-3 February. (S. p. 218)

3 Feb 45 - Moving at speeds up to fifty miles an hour, south along Route 52, 2nd/5th endeavored to catch up with 2nd/ 8th an hour ahead.


Cavalry executes classic naval maneuver on dry land

At a minor road junction on flat, open ground near Talipapa, four Japanese trucks loaded with troops and supplies nosed out into Route 52 from the east just as the 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, arrived from the north. Troops aboard the cavalry's leading vehicles waved the Japanese to a halt and, momentarily stupefied, the Japanese drivers complied. As each of the 5th Cavalry's vehicles came within range of the Japanese group, the cavalrymen fired with all the weapons they could bring to bear, and continued shooting until they had passed out of range. Within seconds the Flying Column's men had set afire four Japanese trucks and had killed at least 25 Japanese – the classic naval maneuver: Crossing the T. (Ibid)


Cavalry enters Manila and effects rescue

3 Feb 45 - The lead Flying Column, 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, evidently kept the lead and made the rescue at Santo Tomas University. That evening, as they moved into Manila, their immediate mission was to free the civilian internees held there for three years. Upon arrival, the advance elements of the 8th Cavalry, a medium tank of the 44th Tank Battalion serving as a battering ram, broke though the gates of the campus wall. Japanese Army guards, most of them Formosan (Chinese), put up little fight and 3,500 internees were liberated. In another building, an additional 275, mostly women and children, were held hostage by some sixty Japanese under Lt. Col. Toshio Hayashi, camp commander. Hayashi demanded a guarantee for safe conduct from the grounds for himself and his men before he would release the internees. General Chase had to accept the conditions.

While the release of the Santo Tomas University internees was under way, Troop G of the 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, raced south on Quezon Boulevard toward the Pasig River in an attempt to seize the Quezon Bridge. About six blocks south of Santo Tomas, where the great stone bulk of Old Bilibid Prison loomed on their right, they came under intense machine gun and some 47mm gun fire from the modern, three-story concrete buildings of Far Eastern University on the left and were stopped by a roadblock on Quezon Boulevard and Azcarraga Street. Vehicles began to pile up at the roadblock. Guided by guerrillas, the column was able to return safely to Santo Tomas. (S. p. 252) The cavalry had been at the southeast corner of Bilibid Prison.

By 2330 on the 3d, the 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, (less Troop F), and 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, had assembled at Santo Tomas. Troop F of the 8th had moved by side streets and secured Malacanyan Palace, on the Pasig a mile southeast of the university.

4 Feb 45 - Late in the afternoon, 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, attempted to seize Quezon Bridge, believed to be the only remaining bridge over the Pasig. The Japanese roadblock included a line of truck bodies wired together, steel rails driven into the pavement, and a minefield. Within the roadblock were four machine gun emplacements. The whole was further defended by machine guns from Far Eastern University and from another intersection to the east. During the attempt by the cavalry elements, the Japanese were successful in blowing the bridge. (S. pp. 252-53)

Infantry enters Manila and effects rescue

4 Feb 45 - By the time the cavalry had returned to Santo Tomas, the 37th Infantry Division's van units had entered the city and established contact with the cavalrymen. Marching into Manila, the 148th Infantry, with Co. C, 82nd CMB, attached, advanced southward through the Tondo and Santa Cruz districts west of Santo Tomas. About 2000 on 4 February, the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, supported by 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, reached the northwest corner of Old Bilibid Prison, only three short blocks from the 5th Cavalry, which was just beginning its fight near the Quezon-Azcarraga intersection off the prison's southeastern corner. Busy with their fights at Far Eastern University, neither 2nd Squadron of the 8th or 2nd of the 5th Cavalry Regiments had attempted to enter the prison, but 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, broke in from the opposite (northwest) corner and discovered approximately 800 Allied and American prisoners of war and 530 civilian internees. (S. p. 254)

Frankel was regimental adjutant of the 148th Infantry and relates very interesting details of this rescue in Chapter 13, “The Rescue of Bilibid Prison” on his website Frankel-y Speaking

Discrepancy: Chapter 13, The Rescue of Bilibid Prison, of Frankel's report states: “...the 148th Infantry Regiment crossed the Tulihan River, the last water barrier before Manila, at dusk on the fifth of February 1945. The first foot troops entered the city as Captain Sidney Goodkin and Captain Lawrence H. Homer led their Companies F and E, respectively, down Rizal Avenue.” Smith's report (S. p. 254), referenced above, describes the action of 2nd Bn., 148th Inf. “About 2000 on 4 February...”

5 Feb 45Discrepancy: Carlisle, in Lines From Luzon, states: “The battalion (82nd Chemical Mortar) was represented by Co. D, the 1st platoon of which entered the city in the early hours of 5 February, just a few hours after the infantry.” Co. D had been and still was attached to the 129th Infantry; Co. A, ditto with the 145th Infantry. Co. C had recently been attached to the 148th Infantry, which was the van unit of the 37th Division entering Manila. The "battalion" was represented earlier by Co. C, the 2nd platoon of which entered the city with the 2nd Bn., 148th Infantry, on the evening of the 4th (see “Infantry enters Manila and effects rescue,” above). While at it, the 2nd platoon, Co. C, mortarmen also had green beer by the helmet-ful from Balintawak Brewery, and it wasn't flowing because “Some high-minded individual had pulled the tap...” (Carlisle) It was, rather, several "low-minded" Japs who gashed the vats with axes and destroyed the brewery to the best of their abilities at the time (Frankel.)


Limitations on firing

No precise dates can be placed on the restrictions against artillery and mortar fire and on aerial bombardment. It appears to have been a somewhat elastic rule. In reality, who was to say what caused a particular building to blow up, explode, implode, etc. The distinct memory is that we were on the receiving end of mortar and cannon fire for at least two days, maybe more, and someone forgot to tell the Japs – small stuff, only. Several commentaries on the one-sided situation indicate the restriction was not observed in full.

Despite the limitations placed on it, artillery fire, supplemented by tank and mortar fire, caused the vast bulk of Japanese casualties (perhaps 1,500) north of the river. That infantry assault operations accounted for relatively few Japanese is at least partially attested to by the fact that American casualties were not more than 50 men killed and 150 wounded. (Ibid)

The artillery, mortar, tank and tank destroyer fire that had destroyed the Provisor Island power plant and turned the Paco Station, Paco School, and Concordia College into a shambles represented a striking departure from the limitations placed upon support fires during the clearing of northern Manila and the eastern suburbs. (S. pp. 263-64)

In addition, the operations south of the river had forced the XIV Corps and the 37th Division to the reluctant decision that all pretense at saving Manila's buildings would have to be given up. Casualties were mounting at a much too alarming rate among the infantry units. The 148th Infantry was now nearly 600 men understrength, the 129th nearly 700. If the city were to be secured without the destruction of the 37th and the 1st Cavalry Divisions, no further effort could be made to save the buildings; everything holding up progress would be pounded, although artillery would not be directed against churches and hospitals that were known to contain civilians. Even this last restriction would not always be effective, for often it could not be learned until too late that a specific building held civilians. Restrictions on aerial bombardment, on the other hand, would remain in effect (Ibid) (The Japanese mounted antiaircraft and other heavy weapons in the Philippine General Hospital, regardless of the civilian patients, and contested the assaulting 37th Division troops floor by floor and room by room.)

5-6 Feb 45 - During this "no fire" for artillery, tanks and mortars period, General Douglas MacArthur lost points with the troops. The feeling expressed was that he was only interested in protecting his personal real estate. The 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, attached to 2nd Battalion, 148th, was called on several times to take out some Jap strongpoint, while still north of the Pasig. The mortars were emplaced in a schoolyard and firing at targets north of the river, mostly at short ranges (650-1500 yards). The Company CP, with Lt. McClelland commanding, was set up in a big shed on the same grounds. On 6 February, Butler and Phillips (with jeep and SCR 300 radio) as an OP party, had set up on the second floor of a burned out factory in an industrial area. The observation post was on a stairwell landing without windows and had a wide-open view of other factories.
















Manila City Hall
















             The south bank of the Pasig River.



Jack Butler joined the New York National Guard in 1938, and advanced through the enlisted ranks until, in 1942,when he was selected for Officer Candidate School. His initial assignment was with the newly formed 82d Chemical  Battalion at Ft. Bliss, Texas. He retired in 1964 as a Lt. Col. The Battle of Manila  is an extract of Chapter 4 of his memoir, History of the 82nd Chemical Battalion.

The 82nd Chemical Battalion was constituted on 12 March 1942, reorganized and redesignated on 16 August 1944 as the 82nd Chemical Battalion, Motorized; and on 16 March 1945 was redesignated the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion. 



This article appears courtesy of Jack Butler himself, and of the kind permission of the four-deucers Website known as United States Army Chemical Mortar Battalions at 4point2.Org under Webmaster Bruce Elliott. External links to the four-deucers site remain.