Robert Ross Smith



The Concept of the Attack

When XIV Corps reached Manila on 3 February, no definite Allied plan existed for operations in the metropolitan area other than the division of the northern part of the city into offensive zones. Every command in the theater, from MacArthur's headquarters on down, hoped--if it did not actually anticipate--that the city could be cleared quickly and without much damage. GHQ SWPA had even laid plans for a great victory parade, à la Champs Elysées, that the theater commander in person was to lead through the city.1

Intelligence concerning Manila and its environs had been pretty meager, and it was not until the last week or so of January that GHQ SWPA and Sixth Army began to receive definite reports that the Japanese planned to hold the city, although General Krueger had felt as early as the middle of the month that the capital would be strongly defended.2 The late January reports, often contradicting previous information that had been supplied principally by guerrillas, were usually so contradictory within themselves as to be useless as a basis for tactical planning. Thus, much of the initial fighting was shadowboxing, with American troops expecting to come upon the main body of the Japanese around each street corner. Only when the troops actually closed with the principal strongpoints did they discover where the main defenses were. When XIV Corps began to learn of the extent and nature of the defenses, the plans for a big victory parade were quietly laid aside--the parade never came off. The corps and its divisions thereupon began developing tactical plans on the spot as the situation dictated.

In an effort to protect the city and its civilians, GHQ SWPA and Sixth Army at first placed stringent restrictions upon artillery support fires and even tighter restrictions upon air support operations. The Allied Air Forces flew only a very few strikes against targets within the city limits before General MacArthur forbade such attacks, while artillery support was confined to observed fire upon pinpointed targets such as Japanese gun emplacements.

These two limitations were the only departures from orthodox tactics of city fighting. No new doctrines were used or developed--in the sense of "lessons learned," the troops again illustrated that established U.S. Army doctrine was sound. Most troops engaged had had some training in city fighting, and for combat in Manila the main problem was to adapt the mind accustomed to jungle warfare to the special conditions of city operations. The adjustment was made rapidly and completely at the sound of the first shot fired from a building within the city.

The necessity for quickly securing the city's water supply facilities and electrical power installations had considerable influence on tactical planning.3 Considering the sanitation problems posed by the presence of nearly a million civilians in the metropolitan area, General Krueger had good reason to be especially concerned about Manila's water supply. Some eighty artesian or deep wells in the city and its suburbs could provide some water, but, even assuming that these wells were not contaminated and that pumping equipment would be found intact, they could meet requirements for only two weeks. Therefore, Krueger directed General Griswold to seize the principal close-in features of the city's modern pressure system as rapidly as possible.

Establishing priorities for the capture of individual installations, Sixth Army ordered XIV Corps to secure first Novaliches Dam, at the southern end of a large, man-made lake in rising, open ground about two and a half miles east of the town of Novaliches. (See Map "The Approach to Manila") Second came the Balara Water Filters, about five miles northeast of Manila's easternmost limits and almost seven miles east of Grace Park. (See Map "The Encirclement") Third was the San Juan Reservoir, on high ground nearly two miles northeast of the city limits. Fourth were the pipelines connecting these installations and leading from them into Manila. Ultimately, Sixth Army would secure other water supply facilities such as a dam on the Marikina River northeast of Manila, but not until it could release men for the job from Manila or other battlegrounds on Luzon.

XIV Corps would secure portions of the electrical power system at the same time its troops were capturing the water supply facilities. During the Japanese occupation much of the power for Manila's lights and transportation had come from hydroelectric plants far to the south and southeast in Laguna Province, for the Japanese had been unable to import sufficient coal to keep running a steam generator plant located within the city limits. It appeared that Laguna Province might be under Japanese control for some time to come, and it could be assumed that the hydroelectric plants and the transmission lines would be damaged. Therefore, Sixth Army directed XIV Corps to secure the steam power plant, which was situated near the center of the city on Provisor Island in the Pasig.

XIV Corps was also to take two transmission substations as soon as possible. One was located in Makati suburb, on the south bank of the Pasig about a mile southeast of the city limits; the other was presumed to be on the north bank of the river in the extreme eastern section of the city. It is interesting commentary on the state of mapping, considering the number of years that the United States had been in the Philippines, that the second substation turned out to be a bill collecting office of the Manila Electric Company.