Excerpts from the Statement of Lt. Commander Koichi Kayashima (operations staff officer, Manila Naval Defense Force), 10 December 1949

Negotiations between the Japanese Army and Navy 

 In the latter half of December 1944 (I do not remember exactly the date of negotiations, nor do I remember clearly whether I was the only participant from the Navy in the negotiations or was accompanied by a staff officer of the Southwest Area Fleet), I met with Col. Kobayashi, staff officer of the 14 Area Army and conducted operational liaison. At that time, based on the Manila Naval Defense Force’s own estimation that there may be an occasion when the unit will be ordered to withdraw from Manila to the hills east of the city, I asked Col Kobayashi of his plan of disposition of the Manila Naval Defense Force in this event. He replied that in such a case the 14 Area Army (or the Shimbu Group) had planned to dispose the Manila Naval Defense Force in the Antipolo area.

Early in January, the Manila Naval Defense Force, after compiling various reports of topographical reconnaissance of Antipolo and its vicinity, concluded that since that area was an open terrain with its southern part utterly defenseless, it was unsuitable for defense, and that by establishing positions in Manila they would be able to resist longer. After that, the Manila Naval Defense Force abandoned all consideration of Antipolo.

 There were surplus provisions in Manila. The Manila Naval Defense Force, based on its own estimation mentioned [above], after contacting the staff officer of the Shimbu Group, began to assemble the provisions in Wawa from early January.

 When the Southwest Area Fleet Headquarters left Manila on 5 January, Rear Adm. Hisagoro Shimamoto , assistant chief of staff of the Southwest Area Fleet, and several other staff officers were left behind in Manila, where they were charged with guidance of the Manila Naval Defense Force and liaison with the Shimbu Group.

The Navy’s liaison with the 14 Area Army and the Shimbu Group was conducted by the Southwest Area Fleet until 5 January, and even thereafter by its remaining staff officers. Therefore, I do not know the details of liaison and negotiations between the two.

Some of the staff officers remaining in Manila insisted on the possibility and necessity of stubborn defense of Manila, citing the combat experience of the naval landing units in the Shanghai battle. They were of the opinion that the Manila Naval Defense Force, a front-line unit, should devote itself to its immediate combat mission and should not consider such matters as future withdrawal from Manila. Such being the case, the shipment of provisions to Wawa was also carried out as an arbitrary measure of the Manila Naval Defense Force.

Before 15 February 1945 when the headquarters of the Manila Naval Defense Force was ordered by the Shimbu Group to move to Fort McKinley, I was never informed by the Shimbu Group to move to Fort McKinley. I was never informed, either officially or unofficially, of any plan or intention of the 14 Area Army, the Shimbu Group, or the Southwest Area Fleet to withdraw the Manila Naval Defense Force from Manila. Moreover at that time it was generally considered cowardly for a subordinate unit to question its superior headquarters on such a matter. Therefore, I had never confirmed the intention of the superior headquarters regarding this matter.

In this connection, there were signs of some understanding having been reached between Lt Gen Yokoyama, commander of the Shimbu Group, and Read Admiral Iwabuchi, commander of the Manila Naval Defense Force, concerning the plan to have the Manila Defense Force withdraw from Manila after its first engagement.

(Note: In mid-January, Read Adm. Iwabuchi had a personal talk with Lt Gen Yokoyama at Montalban. Moreover, a similar secret conference was held on 20 January when Lt Gen Yokoyama inspected Manila. Earlier, a decision was reached by the Shimbu Group, Rear Admiral Iwabuchi, and the Southwest Area Fleet staff officers at their secret tripartite conference, concerning the defense of Manila and the transfer of Army units there to the command of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi. Since the staff officers of the Special Base Unit did not participate in the conference, I do not know of its details. However, it is presumed that there was such an understanding from the fact that Rear Admiral Iwabuchi moved to Ft McKinley on 9 January [sic February] and the fact that he sent me to the Shimbu Group headquarters.) 

However, since Read Adm. Iwabuchi kept the matter a strict secret and did not disclose it even to his staff officers, I cannot state positively whether it was true or not.

The order handed to the Manila Naval Defense Force from the Shimbu Group is as I have recorded in a separate statement. In the order, the army term “Koshu” was used, but since I could not understand its meaning, I asked an unidentified captain in Manila concerning it. He explained that although “Koshu” meant stubborn defense, it also provided for an issuance of a withdrawal order at a certain time, and was different from “Shishu” (Note: Means to defend to the last man.) in meaning. Therefore, I interpreted the definition of “Koshu” as I have stated and had expected that with the progress of the battle, the Shimbu Group would order the Manila Naval Defense Force to withdraw from Manila when a certain time came. [Note that these were conflicting strategies – to stay and fight a stubborn defense, ensuring destruction of all facilities, on one hand, or fight until ordered to withdraw and move on the other. It was extremely difficult to prepare for both at the same time!]          

On 5 January, Commander-in-Chief of the Southwest Area Fleet, Vice Admiral Okochi, went to Baguio from Manila, and Read Admiral Iwabuchi was ordered to command the entire naval units in the Manila area. On the same day Read Admiral Iwabuchi received an order to the effect that, “the naval forces in and around Manila (including units in Corregidor and Cavite) will be placed under the command of the Shimbu Group Army Commander as regards land defense as of midnight of the sixth.” He also received an order on the 7th or 8th of January from the Commanding Officer of the Shimbu Group that, “the Manila Naval Defense Forces will remain in the present positions and defend Manila, its vicinity and the Sakura Barracks.”

           By this time, the Manila Army Force had withdrawn from Manila City to the mountains east of the city, and consequently, the naval units came to distribute their men throughout the city.  

On or about 6 January, the Commander in Chief of the Southwest Area Fleet ordered the destruction of the piers, unloading facilities, warehouses, dock repair facilities, etc. and the closing of the port in order to make the use of harbor facilities impossible. The Manila Naval Defense Force generally accomplished the order about the middle of January. Necessary facilities required by the Japanese until just prior to the arrival of the enemy were destroyed immediately after the invasion of the US Forces. Cavite naval port was destroyed on 1 February, and the units stationed there withdrew to Manila.           

On 21 January Noguchi Force, Abe Battalion and other army units in Manila were placed under the command of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi in matters regarding land combat and preparations for combat. Also, in accordance with instructions from the Shimbu Group, the Nishiyama Battalion was newly organized and was stationed northeast of Manila, around San Juan del Monte.

On 27 January, the operational plan of the Shimbu Group was made known at Montalban. This occasion was attended by the operations officer of the respective units under the command of the Shimbu Group, and I represented the Manila Naval Defense Force. Particulars of the operational plan which concerned the Manila Naval Defense Force were as follows:

A.      Outline of Guidance (main points)

The Group will concentrate its main force in a retrenchment position to the east of Manila, store as many munitions as possible in the encampment, and at the same time plan for self-support and sustenance in the future, and will strongly defend this position. It will also subdue the enemy attacks to the front of the position by taking advantage of the natural stronghold and fortification. At a favorable opportunity, counterattack by infiltration will be made and will offer strong opposition. On the other hand, Manila City and Fort McKinley will be firmly held in order to prevent the enemy from utilizing these positions. At the same time plans will be made to destroy the enemy’s combat strength, and from the main position as attack on the enemy from the rear will be made at a favorable opportunity.

 B.      Duty of the Manila Naval Defense Force

The Manila Naval Defense Force will remain in its present positions and will destroy the enemy forces.

 Battle in Manila

On receipt of the following information (I think it was information from the Shimbu Group) on 2 February, strict precautions were enforced. ‘On 1 February the enemy infiltrated into Bocaue in the north and into Aga [?] in the south.’ After that absolutely nothing was heard concerning the enemy situation, and in the evening of 3 February the enemy invaded the northern part of Manila. Furthermore, by order of the Shimbu Group issued at 2300 hours of the same day, the ground forces in Manila which were previously placed under the disposal of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi were under his complete command.

On the morning of 9 February Rear Admiral Iwabuchi moved from the city to Fort McKinley because it was judged that, under existing conditions, retreat from Manila would become very difficult if delayed. Therefore, for the time being, he moved to Fort McKinley where retreat was easier. In the evening of the same day, Read Admiral Iwabuchi called Staff Officer Kayashima from the city to Fort McKinley and ordered him to go to Shimbu Group Headquarters to report on the situation in Manila and also to report our views on withdrawal from Manila. I arrived at Shimbu Group Headquarters on the morning of the 10th and reported the situation. Thereupon, the Shimbu Group informed me that the Group would depart on the 13th, and in the early morning of the 16th would attack the rear of the United States Forces in the Manila area. The Group ordered that the Manila Naval Defense Force make plans to infiltrate through the enemy in cooperation with the Shimbu Group. (Note: No order was given at this time to withdraw from Manila).

Since the Shimbu Group indicated the plan for counterattack, I did not say anything concerning the desire of the Manila Naval Defense Force to withdraw from Manila at once. I tried to return to Manila in the night of the 10th, but as my car and guards had dispersed during the air raid that day, I could not get in touch with them. The order of the Shimbu Group was to be dispatched directly to the Manila Naval Defense Force by wireless from the Shimbu Group, but as it was an important problem, I went back to the naval communications station near the Shimbu Group Headquarters and sent to foregoing orders to Rear Admiral Iwabuchi. (to Manila City and to Fort McKinley). However, the wireless apparatus was out of order, and the order was not dispatched until the night of the 11th. I left the station on the night of the 12th and returned to Fort McKinley early on the morning of the 13th.

Before I returned to Fort McKinley, Read Admiral Iwabuchi returned to Manila City with his adjutant just before noon on the 11th.

 As for the reasons for Read Admiral Iwabuchi returning to Manila, it might not be right to try to guess what his feelings might have been since he was killed in action, but the following are what I presume to be the reasons in view of the circumstances at that time.

A.      As the tradition of the navy, an officer should fight the enemy ahead of his subordinates, he could not leave his main force in the city and withdraw only the Headquarters to Fort McKinley, and particularly, he could not stand by and see his subordinates being seized and killed.

B.      As a result of the investigation of Fort McKinley, it was judged that Fort McKinley would fall earlier than the positions in the city. (When Rear Admiral Iwabuchi asked me my views on this matter, I explained to him as above.)

C.      There was a request from Col Noguchi who had been ordered to command the army and naval forces in the city [in Iwabuchi’s absence?], to the effect that he was ‘in need of a competent staff officer who was well informed of the situation as the organization and equipment of the naval forces varied greatly, and the commanding of such forces was very difficult.

D.     Staff Officer Kayashima had not returned by the morning of 11 February and was presumed to have died in action, and there were no other reliable staff officers (according to the adjutant)

E.      In regards to the withdrawal on 8 February of the Nishiyama Battalion to the main position in the eastern mountains after abandoning their positions in San Juan del Monte, a telegram came from the Shimbu Group stating that, ‘naval forces numbering several thousands abandoned their positions without orders and withdrew to the mountainous regions in the east. This is very regrettable.’ Also, a navy officer who had gone to reconnoiter the vicinity of Antipolo made an impulsive report, after being abused by an army staff officer in the said district, to the effect that ‘Has the navy been defeated already? You cannot retreat into this sector.’ It seems that such incidents had left a strong psychological effect on Read Admiral Iwabuchi.

F.      The order of withdrawal was not yet given after all. Fort McKinley was on the borderline of the navy’s combat area, and according to circumstances, there was a great possibility of being charged with desertion from the front.

G.      In line with the traditional belief of Japanese warriors of olden times, that is, to choose one’s place of death and die bravely, it seems he, as Commanding Officer of the Manila Naval Defense Force, decided to meet his death in Manila.

On 15 February orders from the Shimbu Group were received by the Manila Naval Defense Force Headquarters to move to Fort McKinley and secure the said Fort.  However, the orders came too late, and as Manila was surrounded completely, retreat was not possible. On 17 February, the following order from the Shimbu Group was received:

1.      The Shimbu Group will rearrange the combat line near Manila and will prepare for combat in the key positions in the rear.

2.      The Manila Naval Defense Force (including the army Noguchi Unit) will cooperate with the said group in the attack, and from the night of the 17th will begin an all-out attack on the enemy and break through the enemy line. It will first organize its combat line along the Marikina River, thereby preventing the enemy from advancing east. At the same time, preparations will be made for retreat to the key position in the east. However, utmost efforts must be made to secure the positions of Abe Force and Sakura Barracks [Fort McKinley].

 The order to secure the above two sectors was probably made to maintain key positions for the retreat of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi. Rear Admiral Iwabuchi replied that retreat was impossible.


Withdrawal from Manila

 A.      The counterattack by the main force of the Shimbu Group on the rear of the United States Forces was unsuccessful. The situation in and around Manila on 167 February was as follows:

1.      Forces in the city were surrounded in the Intramuros sector and in Ermita. Forces in Fort McKinley occupied an air raid shelter. U.S. tanks occupied the top of the shelter, and only the entrance of the trench was passable.

2.      Leaving one company, a special attack unit, the main force at Sakura Barracks escaped during the night of the 17th and consolidated its forces at Antipolo. The forces in the city planned to escape on the night of the 18th but could not carry it out. On the 19th and the 20th, a small number of men attempted to escape, but almost all of them failed.

3.      From 24 February, the wireless of the 31 Naval Special Base Force in Manila City was disrupted.

4.      On 21 February the Shimbu Group issued an order to the effect that ‘The Manila Naval Defense Force, after leaving Manila, shall advance to Infanta sector and will make preparations to guard the said sector.” A non-commissioned officer who had escaped on 25 February reported on 26 February that Rear Admiral Iwabuchi had committed suicide.