Intramuros-The Walled City

After the Japanese garrison was urged by General Griswold, XIV Corps Commander, to surrender or at least release the civilian hostages and had refused, he and General Beightler, CG, 37th Infantry Division, appealed to General MacArthur to be allowed to use aircraft to reduce the massive defenses in and within the Wall and the known network of tunnels throughout. General Krueger, Sixth Army Commander, agreed with the need for air support and so informed MacArthur that it would be approved unless MacArthur objected. General MacArthur did indeed object. Smith cites a radio message from MacArthur to Krueger, 16 Feb 45, which Smith quotes:

"The use of air on a part of a city occupied by a friendly and allied population is unthinkable. The inaccuracy of this type of bombardment would result beyond question in the death of thousands of innocent civilians. It is not believed moreover that this would appreciably lower our own casualty rate although it would unquestionably hasten the conclusion of the operations. For these reasons I do not approve the use of air bombardment on the Intramuros district."

Smith adds in his footnote: “It is interesting to note that this radio implies that General MacArthur did not know that both land-based and carrier-based aircraft had previously hit parts of Manila.” (S. p. 294)

21-23 Feb 45 - After reporting to McClelland, regarding the Manila Hotel situation, Butler was directed to return with his OP party to the Co. C CP to support 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, in its upcoming amphibious assault against the northeast corner of Intramuros. The 3rd Battalion was then in position on the north bank of the Pasig.

Both the 1st and 2nd platoons, whose mortars were dug in next to each other on the Palace grounds, were committed to supporting the infantrymen who would cross the river and assault the Walled City and Fort Santiago on its northwest corner at the mouth of the Pasig. Platoon leaders Foster and Butler, each with an OP party, reported to the commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, and were briefed on their joint mission: Starting at 0800 on the 23rd, place a smoke screen along the south bank of the Pasig to screen 3rd Battalion troops crossing in assault boats from the north shore opposite the Government Mint, maintain that screen until told to lift it, and be prepared to fire HE as requested by the infantry liaison officer who would be with us and who would be in radio contact with the assault-troops commander.

22 Feb 45 - Butler and Foster, with OP parties, went by jeep west on Rizal Avenue through the debris of the shattered business district to the Great Eastern Hotel, the highest point dominating the Pasig and Manila Bay from the north bank of the river. Again, a burned out but sturdy hulk, access to the roof of this nine-story structure was via fire escapes. Registration with WP rounds along the south bank was done during the late afternoon hours and tentative arrangements were decided upon for the initial screen to be fired the following morning. Depending on the wind, either the 1st or 2nd platoon would start, from upstream by the 1st or from the mouth of the river by the 2nd. The other platoon would reinforce and extend the screen as needed.

22-23 Feb 45 - Twelve 105 howitzers and six 155s were marshaled on the north and east of Intramuros for close-in pounding during the night. The 155s were placed opposite the gap in the north wall and north gate of the east wall. Intermingled were M7s, tank destroyers, 75mm and 105mm tank guns. In darkness the 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion, shooting from the north bank of the Pasig River, crumbled portions of the south embankment of the river for footing by the assault troops – see photo at right. (F. 37th, p. 288)

At 0730 on the 23d, all supporting weapons, sparked by Corps and Division artillery, which had been nettling the Japs intermittently throughout the night, belched out volley after volley, and spit out magazine after magazine. The bombardment lasted for an hour, saturating the points of assault and accelerating the destruction of obstacles, mines and barricades in the immediate path of the leading elements. At 0830, with the last rounds of the shelling still in flight, the 2nd Battalion, 145th Infantry, (south of the Pasig), swarmed across the open space from the Post Office toward the north gate of the east wall and the Market Place covering the wall. At the same time, from a small estuary extending north from the river, engineer assault boats eased out carrying the 3d Battalion, 129th Infantry. Smoke shells, plunked in by the 4.2 mortars, blanketed the Legislative and Finance Buildings (this smoke by Co. A, 82nd CMB, mortars supporting 145th Infantry) and covered a bulge on the south bank of the Pasig near its mouth (by the 1st and 2nd platoons, Co. C, 82nd CMB), blinding enemy observations and stymieing Nip reinforcements. (Ibid)

Smith reports on the final major action in Manila, the capture of Intramuros (see map “The Capture of Manila” on the website of the U.S. Army Center of Military History) in which the 129th Infantry, supported by Co. D, 82nd CMB, and 145th Infantry, with Co. A, 82nd CMB, attached took part in a massive bombardment that lasted from 17 to 23 February in preparation for the assault that commenced at 0830 on the 23d. On 1 March the 145th Infantry, having suffered more heavily than the 129th at Intramuros from 23 February to that date, passed to the control of the Provost Marshal General, United States Army Forces in the Far East, for police duties in Manila. (S. p.300)


Intramuros ammunition expenditure

Not considering tank, cannon, infantry mortars, machine gun, small arms, and all other projectiles, according to Smith “The total weight of the artillery fire was 185 tons, to which the 4.2-inch mortars of Companies A and D, 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, added about 45 tons-over 3,750 rounds of smoke and high explosives.” (S. p. 296) That tonnage represents only the firing against the many strongpoints and their interconnecting tunnels within Intramuros and its 20' thick walls. It does not include the additional tons of artillery and mortar shells expended on all the strongpoints in north and south Manila leading to the Walled City. Furthermore, it does not include expenditures by Company C, 82nd CMB, in attacking numerous strongpoints leading to Intramuros and in screening the Pasig River crossing assault by 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry. Support of 148th Infantry actions outside the Wall by Co. C continued during the period when Intramuros was being reduced.

 Lt. Joel Foster, commanding 1st platoon, "C" Co., 82nd CMB, 23 February, 1945.

Following the successful crossing of the Pasig River by the 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, screened by WP smoke from these two platoons from Co. C, the platoons were on standby for any HE missions as needed. With the infantrymen inside the Walled City and the Japs resisting from cellars and tunnels, there was no call for indirect (high-angle) fire. The direct fire from tanks, SPs, tank destroyers and bazookas was preferred.


Manila – the final days

21 Feb-3 Mar 45 - While the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 145th Infantry, and the 3rd Battalion, 129th Infantry, were completing the reduction of Intramuros, stubborn resistance was continuing in the strongpoints remaining outside the Walled City. See map “The Capture of Manila” on the website of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Following Smith's account of “...4.2 inch and 81mm. mortars plastered the roof and upper floors,” Company I (145th Infantry, supported by Co. A, 82nd CMB) re-entered City Hall about 0900 on the 22nd. Using submachine guns, bazookas, flame throwers, demolitions and hand grenades, the company fought its way through the sound part of the structure room by room and overcame most of the resistance by 1500, but 20-odd Japanese held out in a first-floor room. Company I blew holes through the ceiling from above and stuck the business end of flamethrowers through the holes, summarily ending the fight. Removing 206 Japanese bodies from the City Hall, the 145th Infantry quickly cleared the rubble from the west wing, where it set up machine gun positions in windows to support the assault on Intramuros. (Ibid)

The fight for the General Post Office, conducted simultaneously with that for City Hall, was especially difficult because of the construction of the building and the nature of the interior defenses. For three days XIV Corps and 37th Division artillery (and 4.2-inch mortars) 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 the 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 basement, where the 145th Infantry troops finished off organized resistance on the 23rd. (Ibid)

24 Feb 45 - By the end of the day, the shattered remnants of the Manila defensive garrison were hemmed in in the Wallace Field sector, but they maintained a suicidal defense with automatic weapons in the three concrete and stone government centers: the Legislative, the Finance, and the Agriculture Buildings. (F. 37th, p. 292)

The last phase of the Battle of Manila, excluding mopping-up operations, which, according to official communiqués, had been taking place since February 5, was conducted by the 148th Infantry from February 25 to March 2. After the seizure of Intramuros on February 23-24, the remaining Japanese held out in the Legislative, the Finance and the Agricultural Buildings. These three structures were among the finest public works in the Commonwealth's capital. They stood detached from all other constructions in an open park, displaying their monumental, four-story facades from every side across the lawns. The Legislative Building was just south of the intersection of P(adre) Burgos (street) and Taft Avenue. To the north, the golf links, the old Spanish moat having been filled, stretched the short distance to the walls of Intramuros. The Finance Building was a few yards to the south of that with the symmetrically designed Agricultural Building farther south, both along the east side of Gral Luna. These were not left until last by accident. The Japanese were conducting a true battle for the city and Rear Admiral Iwabuchi, the overall commander in Manila was cornered in the Agricultural Building during the fighting. There he made his last stand, husbanding his surviving troops about him until he was finally killed. (F. 37th, p. 293)

The reduction of these buildings was effected by the combination of many elements of XIV Corps: the 1st Cavalry Brigade, 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 82nd Chemical Battalion and the 37th Infantry Division. Along with the artillery, tanks, tank destroyers and M7s, the 4.2 mortars added their bit to the fire on March 2. Before the assault, the big mortars dropped in white phosphorous shells. (F. 37th, p. 295)

The last Japs died in the Finance Building on the morning of the 3d. Seventy-four dead were counted in that building and scores were still buried in the vast masses of debris. Three hundred and twenty corpses in the Wallace Field-Burnham Green area stunk with the sickly sweet odor of death. The battle for Manila was over. (Ibid)


Kings of the Solomons also Liberators of Manila

At the conclusion of the Northern Solomons Campaign, XIV U.S. Army Corps was accorded the title Kings of the Solomons. To that distinction XIV Corps now proudly added Liberators of Manila. While divisions were added to and subtracted from the Corps, the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion continued as XIV Corps troops from Guadalcanal through Manila.

Included in Carlisle's Lines From Luzon is a copy of a letter from General Griswold, dated 13 March 1945, on the departure of 82nd CMB from his command after a long and successful relationship.

Obviously, the recapture of Manila was a major accomplishment. By no means, however, was it the end of the battle for Luzon. The original and major defense by the Japanese was yet to be tackled   the Shimbu Line in the Sierra Madres east and northeast of Manila.

Some writers have written adversely about the fact that Manila, the Pearl of the Orient, was devastated, and have even found fault that the Japanese had not been allowed an escape route from Manila. They had been accorded several opportunities to surrender and chose death and destruction for themselves, the civilian hostage population, and all that they could destroy. To allow them to escape would have played into their hands they would have escaped to further strengthen the Shimbu Line.




The Drive Towards Intramuros

The Capture of Manila - The Drive Toward Intramuros, 12 - 22 February, 1945









































The Capture of Manila - Eliminating the Last Resistance - 23 February - 3 MArch, 1945