Crossing the Pasig River


The hardest fighting in Intramuros was the 129thís effort to capture Ft. Santiago in the northwest corner of the old walls.  They fought room to room, and then through subterranean dungeons and tunnels, using flamethrowers, phosphorus grenades, demolitions and bazookas.  In some cases, they poured gasoline or oil through holes in the floor then ignited it to flush out the die-in-place defenders.  The regiment did not secure the last of the fortís tunnels until 1200 on 25 February. [xxxviii]

During the fighting in Intramuros, some Japanese troops attempted to exfiltrate wearing U.S. uniforms and carrying M1 rifles.  Others showed a white flag in the belfry of Del Monico church only to follow up with rifle fire.  None of this helped them.  Only twenty-five Japanese surrendered in the Intramuros fighting, all of them Formosans of the Imperial Japanese Labor Force.  At dawn on 26 February, seeing that the Intramuros stronghold had fallen, Rear Admiral Iwabuchi and his staff committed suicide at their headquarters in the Agriculture Building. [xxxix]

Despite the loss of Intramuros, the Japanese still held three strong positions, the Legislative, Finance and Agriculture Buildings, which lay just southeast of the old fortress.  Since Rear Adm. Iwabuchi had expected U.S. attacks to come from the south, he had fortified these buildings more thoroughly than the more northerly strongpoints.  It is probably also for this reason that Iwabuchi had put his headquarters in the Agriculture Building.  The Legislative, Finance and Agriculture Buildings were of reinforced concrete.  Window-sited machine guns covered exterior approaches.  Sandbags and barricades blocked all ground-level doors and windows.  Interiors were also fortified as in other strongpoints. 

The U.S. artillery preparation on the buildings began on 25 February.  However, the 1st Cavalry Division, then deployed along the bay shore west of Intramuros, reported shells falling on its positions.  These were 37th Infantry Division rounds that had overshot the government buildings to fall on the 1st Cavalry Division.  Major General Robert S. Beightler, commander of the 37th Infantry Division, immediately ordered a ceasefire at 1050 to resolve this problem by shifting troops out of the fire zone.  Fires resumed at 1245. [xl]

On 26 February, the148th Infantry Regiment assaulted the Legislative Building and secured it by 28 February.  The regimentís troops were harassed by Japanese firing up through holes in the floor and had to withdraw after their first assault to allow more shelling of the still vigorously resisting defenders.  On 26 February, the 5th Cavalry Regiment assaulted the Agriculture Building after an artillery preparation, but troops had to withdraw because of withering Japanese covering fire from the nearby San Luis Terrace Apartments.  The 5th Cavalry Regiment had to spend 27 February clearing out the apartments.  On 28 February, the regiment returned to the Agriculture Building with a three-hour artillery preparation.  Point-blank 155mm howitzer fires alternated with point-blank tank and tank-destroyer fires, with all of these fires aimed no higher than the first floor of the Agriculture Building so as to avoid endangering friendly troops.  Much of the Agriculture Building thus pancaked on its own first floor, and the 5th Cavalry Regiment assaulted into what was left.  A flamethrower tank reduced a pillbox on the southeast corner, and other tanks swarmed around the building to provide point-blank 75mm fire.  The 5th Cavalry Regiment otherwise used flamethrowers, bazookas and small arms. 

On 1 March, the 5th Cavalry Regiment made a surrender appeal to Japanese survivors.  When there was no response, the regiment employed demolitions and burning gasoline and oil against remaining defenders.  An artillery preparation was applied against the sole remaining Japanese position, the Finance Building, on 28 February and 1 March.  A surrender appeal this time garnered twenty-five Japanese responses.  After more artillery preparation on 2 March, the 148th Infantry Regiment assaulted the building.  They cleared the last of the Japanese defenders from the elevator shaft on top of the building on the morning of 3 March. [xli]

On the afternoon of 3 March Lieutenant General Oscar W. Griswold, commander of 14th Corps, reported to Gen. Krueger of 6th Army that all resistance had ceased.  The struggle to capture Manila was over. [xlii] The struggle to administer the battle-torn city, however, was just beginning.   U.S. military assets on the scene would play a major part in reviving and running Manila for several weeks after the battle.  The task of administering the city was complicated by the enormous toll the battle had taken.  U.S. casualties in the battle were 1,010 killed in action (KIA) and 5,565 wounded in action (WIA), for a total of 6,575.  Japanese counted dead were 16,665.  In addition, there were an estimated 100,000 civilian casualties, of varying degrees of seriousness and of diverse causes; most were probably generated by Japanese executions and atrocities toward Philippine civilians, by friendly fire from American artillery, and by mishap or exposure associated with dislocation.  Much of Manila itself was in ruins.  The water system within the city needed extensive repairs.  Sewage and garbage collection systems were not functioning.  The electrical system was out.  Most streets were ruined and public transportation no longer existed.  The major government buildings, the Philippine General Hospital, and the University of Philippines were destroyed, along with many residential districts.  The port installations were severely damaged.  Besides all this, numerous homeless civilians were milling about seeking food, shelter, and medical care. [xliii]

U.S. forces in Manila were immediately enlisted for occupation duty.  After the battle, the 37th Infantry Division bivouacked  near Grace Park, in the northern suburbs.  On 5 March, the division was removed from 14th Corps, placed directly under 6th Army, and given the mission of providing security for the city.  Troops from the division were distributed to Filipino police stations, and so they had to deal with collaborators brought in by civilians until the Counterintelligence Corps could investigate.  Looting was a major problem for the divisionís security troops.  Large-scale looting was conducted during the battle by organized bands of Filipinos who moved just behind the American advance.  The looters placed a point man in the American front lines to identify where the spoils were richest, allowing those behind to carry off the goods without delay.  American security troops did not try to reverse the looting done during the battle.  They stopped further looting when the battle was over, however, by mounting guard and patrol duty throughout the city, 24 hours a day. [xliv]

Security forces faced the problem of the city being strewn with numerous mines, unexploded shells, and booby traps.  Areas where fighting had been heaviest were roped off from the public by military police until the 37th Infantry Divisionís engineer companies could clear them.  On 8 March, the track was blown off a U.S. bulldozer on Dewey Boulevard.  There were occasional casualties from mines throughout March.  The 117th Engineer Battalion piled fifty tons of cleared mines and shells in Burnham Green Park, where on 16 March these exploded from causes unknown.  There were no casualties.  The 117th Engineers were also busy repairing warehouses, plumbing and electrical facilities, and building an airstrip and Red Cross recreation center. [xlv]