Tommy gun vs. sniper

6 Feb 45 - Keeping well back in the shadows and searching with binoculars for "targets of opportunity," Butler noted a loading dock on a factory only 50 yards to his right front. The huge loading door was open and there was a timber, about 2"x8" across the opening at its base. Watching for several minutes, a movement was detected in the darkened factory, on the floor directly behind the 2x8 at its right edge (looking out.) Guessing it to be a sniper, who may have detected a slight movement in the stairwell OP, Butler dropped to one knee with Tommy gun, took careful aim at the suspect location, and squeezed off about one half magazine (10 rounds, .45 Cal,) ricocheting off the concrete loading platform and blowing the 2x8 to toothpicks. Kill not confirmed – just hope it wasn't some curious civilian.

Expecting that return fire would be directed to the OP, Butler and Phillips departed to the street, across it and behind a high wooden gate leading to another factory's loading dock. McClelland was contacted and given our situation. He informed us that 2nd Bn., 148th Inf., was bedding down for the night in preparation for crossing the river the next day and we should come on back. Butler replied that it was early yet and he'd like to go back "across the street" and have another look. With that OKd, the OP party returned to the stairwell across the street. No retaliatory fire had been generated by the Tommy gun burst, so a more careful examination of the surrounding area was undertaken. As the sun was setting on and slanting from Manila Bay on our right, directly ahead and about 500 yards away was a loft-type building among lower houses, something of a mixed zoning mess. The interesting feature of the loft building was the camouflage paint. It may have helped against aerial observation, but drew attention from the ground.

Adjusting with two WP rounds at 2200 yards and quickly switching to "HE, volley 1 round, fire for effect," the four rounds hit the building, which blew sky high and burned very brightly (a fireworks factory?). McClelland could see the flames from about a mile behind the OP and promptly suggested it was time to get some much-needed rest.

First 4.2-inch shell fired in Manila

6 Feb 45 - Carlisle, in Lines From Luzon, tells us that Rubin's 1st platoon, Co. D, which was attached to the 129th Infantry, 37th Division, had the honor of firing the first 4.2 mortar shells in Manila. “The date was 6 February, the time 1630, the target the beautiful General Post Office.”"

6 Feb 45 - Discrepancy: The General Post Office was located along the south shore of the Pasig River, which indicates that Rubin fired no 4.2-inch mortar shells at targets north of the river in support of 129th Infantry. Butler's 2nd platoon, Co. C, attacked the "fireworks factory" north of the Pasig, which was destroyed near dusk on the 5th, and had fired several missions throughout the day supporting 2nd Bn., 148th Infantry.

Comment: The sequence of events in crossing the Pasig River by 37th Division units raises questions about Carlisle's reported date when Rubin fired on the GPO. The following describes elements of the attack into the area of Manila south of the Pasig and shows that the 129th Infantry, in its protracted amphibious assault on Provisor Island and the Generator plant, may have received Japanese artillery and/or mortar fire from the GPO 1,300 yards northwest of and downstream from the island. The GPO, however, was not taken under assault until 17 February and then by the 145th Infantry, which had relieved the devastated 129th. Company A, 82nd CMB, was supporting the 145th Infantry. However, it was normal for a 4.2-inch mortar unit to stay in place when its supported infantry unit went into reserve.

The 37th Division and the 1st Cavalry Division had accomplished much during the week ending 10 February. They had cleared all Manila and its suburbs north of the Pasig, and pushed Colonel Noguchi's Northern Force either south across the Pasig or east across the Marikina. Noguchi had executed his assigned demolitions and then withdrawn most of his troops south across the Pasig, destroying the bridges behind him. (S. p. 257) Note: At this time, the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion was disposed as follows:

Co. C attached to 148th Infantry
Co. D attached to 129th Infantry
Co. A attached to 145th Infantry
Co. B attached to 40th Division still back in the Zambales Mountains

The approach to the city was uneventful in comparison to the resistance encountered once the American forces entered Manila. Fire missions for the mortars picked up immediately. The weapon screened regimental crossings of the Pasig River, which bisects the city, and fired support, incendiary, and neutralization missions, mostly in conjunction with infantry mortars and artillery. (K&B, p. 506)

6 Feb 45 - General Krueger, Sixth Army commander, had directed XIV Corps to seize the Provisor Island generating plant (in the Pasig River) forthwith. (S. 258)

7 Feb 45 - Gen Griswold, accordingly, ordered the 37th Division across the Pasig and assigned it most of the city south of the river. The 1st Cavalry Division, when it finished its job in the northern suburbs, would also cross the river and then swing westward toward Manila Bay on the 37th Division's left. (Ibid)

General Beightler, the 37th Division commander, ordered the 148th Infantry to make the assault across the Pasig. The 129th Infantry would follow the 148th and be followed in turn by the 1st Battalion, 145th Infantry, division reserve. The remainder of the 145th was to protect the division's line of communications north of Manila. Beightler directed the 148th Infantry to cross just east of Malacanyan Palace and land on the south side at Malacanyan Garden. The 148th would first clear the Paco and Pandacan (industrial) Districts and then wheel southwest and west toward Intramuros (Walled City) and Manila Bay. The 129th Infantry, once on the south bank, would immediately swing west along the river to secure Provisor Island and the steam power plant. (S. pp. 258-60)

1515 Hours 7 Feb 45 Behind a 105-mm. artillery barrage, 3d Battalion, 148th Infantry, began crossing in assault boats. The first wave encountered no opposition but, as the second crossed, intense machine gun, mortar and artillery fire began to hit the river, the landing site, and the Malacanyan Palace area. However, the 148th found only a few Japs at the Malacanyan Gardens and established its bridgehead with little difficulty. By 2000, two battalions were across the Pasig, holding an area about 300 yards deep and 1,000 yards along the river. The crossing had cost the regiment about 15 men killed and 100 wounded, almost all as the result of machine gun and mortar fire. Many of the casualties had actually occurred on the palace grounds where the 148th Infantry had its command post and where General Beightler had set up an advanced headquarters. (Ibid) Also, see Frankel's report regarding the 148th CP at the Palace, in Chapter 14 of his website Frankel-y Speaking.

Discrepancy: In describing events at Malacanyan Palace, Frankel states: “It was to be our final drive against the 25,000 Japanese crammed in the lower half of Manila backed up against the Pacific Ocean.” The Pasig River flows west into Manila Bay, which is a bay on the South China Sea southwest of Manila. The Pacific Ocean is far to the east of Luzon beyond the Philippine Sea and the Northern Mariana Islands.

During our stay north of the Pasig, the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, had its vehicles: one Ό-ton truck (jeep) with trailer and four 2½-ton trucks with trailers for the four gun crews. When the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, was preparing to cross to the south of the Pasig, the 2nd platoon mortarmen displaced to a new firing position on the Malacanyan Palace grounds. From that location on the north bank of the Pasig it was possible to reach directly west along the river to Manila Bay and southwest to the Bay well within the 148th Infantry's zone of advance.

The Japs had cut all bridges and it was not feasible to get wire across the river. Reliance would have to be on the SCR-300 for communication and Phillips would backpack it through the streets of South Manila. A beefed-up OP party crossed with the 2nd Bn., 148th Infantry, about 2000 hours on the 7th and had no fire mission until early on the 8th when the clearing of the Paco and Pandacan Districts started.

The OP party consisted of Butler, with his Tommy gun in hand, .45 Cal. pistol in shoulder holster, a 7-round magazine in the pistol, two 7-round magazines in the belt pouch, a map case, binoculars, and bag of four 20-round magazines for the Tommy gun, in addition to the one in the gun, giving a total of 121 rounds of heavy Cal. .45 ammunition; Phillips backpacking the SCR-300 radio and his carbine; a bazooka team made up of Ward carrying the bazooka with one round loaded and his own carbine, and Shaeffer backpacking two 3.5 rockets for the bazooka, plus a carbine.


Map 6 (above), from Smith's Triumph in the Philippines (S. p. 276), has been color-coded to more graphically display the progress of the battle and the disposition of friendly forces. Blue, the infantry color, and yellow for cavalry, show how the 148th Infantry of the 37th Division assaulted south across the Pasig to clear the industrial districts, then wheeled west toward Intramuros and southwest toward Manila Bay. Also displayed is the advance of the 1st Cavalry Division which, as directed, had crossed the river and swung westward toward Manila Bay on the 37th Division's left.

9 Feb 45 - In the evening, one troop of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, crossed the Pasig about two miles upstream (east) of the 148th Infantry's crossing at Malacanyan Palace. The crossing was at the Philippine Racing Club just east of the city limits (not shown on Map 6). The rest of the regiment was across at the same point by 0950 on the 10th. The cavalry encountered practically no opposition in the crossing area, but progressed slowly because the Japanese had thoroughly mined many of the streets south and west of the club. By dusk on the 10th the 8th Cavalry had secured a beachhead about 1000 yards deep. Its right flank crossed the city limit and extended into the Santa Ana District where patrols established contact with the 37th Division (148th Infantry) troops along the division boundary near (east of) Paco Station; on its left (east), other patrols met men of the 5th Cavalry. (S. pp.264-65)

10 Feb 45 - By 1500, the 5th Cavalry Regiment had gotten one squadron across at Makati, a mile east of the Philippine Racing Club, and had secured the Makati electrical power station. Considerable machine gun and mortar fire from the Fort McKinley area, about 2500 yards southeast of Makati, harassed the cavalrymen throughout the day. (Ibid)

As stated earlier, the observation post (OP) party of the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, crossed with the 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, about four to five hours after the initial assault by 3rd Bn./148th Infantry. Both battalions had crossed by 2000.

Note: Neither Carlisle, Frankel or Smith, in the works heretofore cited, gives details of the specific battalions of the 148th Infantry engaged south of the Pasig River, other than Smith's statements: “...3rd Battalion, 148th Infantry began crossing in assault boats at 1515 on 7 February...” and “By 2000 two battalions were across the Pasig, ...” (S. p. 260) The 3rd, 2nd and 1st platoons of Co. C, 82nd CMB, initially in that order, took part in the battles south of the Pasig River, each attached to the three respectively numbered infantry battalions. However, the disposition of the 148th Infantry's elements south of the Pasig is established in another work by Frankel: Stanley A. Frankel 37th Infantry Division in World War II, Infantry Journal Press, Washington, D.C., 1948. This is the official history of the division compiled by Frankel under the direction of General Beightler and his staff, who were required by the general to remain in Manila for three months after the end of the war for that purpose, as related by Frankel in his previously cited Frankel-y Speaking. This official history of the 37th Division does contain references to the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion and to 4.2-inch mortars. Future citations from that source will be designated (F37th and page number(s)).

8-10 Feb 45 - Heavy damage was done to Paco Station, Paco School, and Concordia College as the 148th Infantry went about its assigned task of clearing the Pandacan and Paco industrial districts between 8 and 10 February. The regiment cleared Pandacan District with little trouble, but in the eastern section of Paco District had very great trouble reducing the Japanese strongpoint at Paco Railroad Station and the nearby buildings of Concordia College and Paco School. Supporting artillery and mortar fires nearly demolished the station and the school but, as of evening on 9 February, the Japanese, originally over 250 strong, were still holding out and the 148th made plans for a final assault on the 10th. Happily, most of the surviving Japanese withdrew from the three buildings during the night. (Ibid)

Moving through city streets had some similarities to moving through jungle, but very significant differences were to be demonstrated. A similarity was, in clearing the area as they advanced, infantrymen always sought to gain the "high ground." In the jungle, that didn't mean climbing the trees, but in the city it translated to reaching roofs of buildings, factories, houses, whatever in attempting to clear from the top down. Once one rooftop was gained, getting access to a top floor was a simple matter of chopping or blasting holes, throwing down grenades and repeating the process through walls and floors for clearing lower floors and accessing adjacent buildings.

10-12 Feb 45 - Map 6, at right (click to enlarge), shows the U.S. front line as of evening 12 February, at which time the 129th Infantry had crossed behind the 148th and attacked west along the south bank to become heavily involved in a costly operation to secure Provisor Island and its generating plant. After the 129th-148th boundary was set, the 145th Infantry passed through 129th to take positions alongside 148th facing west to the heavily fortified complex of government, university, hospital, hotel, club and other buildings, all sturdily built to withstand earthquakes and now serving as perimeter defenses for the ultimate strongpoint: Intramuros, the Walled City.






























A Filipino and American soldier running for cover as a Japanese machine gun, located in one of the upper floors of the Far Eastern University fires on them. Moments before, they killed the Japanese soldier seen on the ground as he made a charge from the corner pillbox. (National Archives image via Tewell)















Pfc. Basil Harvey of MacClenny, Fl looks at the damage his grenades did while Filipino Guerilla Jose Crrudo of Cavite checks the dead Japanese in the bed of the truck. The action occurred as the Japanese were trying to escape along Avenida Escarraga. (National Archives image via Tewell)