1. Street fighting

Tactics recommended in FM 31-50 for combat in towns were used to great advantage by U. S. Forces in the street fighting in Manila. In the ordinary street fighting most principles used were orthodox.

Streets were used as boundaries and units advanced through the interior of the city block by means of alleys or breaches made in walls. Platoon leaders assigned definite houses and buildings for squads to search. It was found that whenever a street is used as a boundary it should be made inclusive to one unit .

Small units worked from building to building, endeavored to secure the top floor of a building first and then work down through the lower floors. When a squad was used to search an isolated building half the squad remained outside covering the grounds and entrances while the other half entered and searched the building. On larger buildings where platoons were used, the support squad covered the advance of the assault squads which moved in by rushes. Once entrance was gained, one squad would immediately attempt to gain possession of the top floor leaving the other squad to secure the ground floor ; however, the stairway leading to the top floor was protected in order to insure a line of supply and evacuation until the intervening floors were secured. Whenever a unit could advance from the top of one building to the top of another this was done and the new building cleaned out by the top to bottom process. In fighting from room to room explosives were freely used to make holes in walls through which grenades or flame throwers could be used against the enemy in adjacent rooms .

Automatic weapons were constantly used in giving support and covering fires, and usually machine gun sections were split to attach one light and one heavy MG to each assault platoon. Mortars were used mostly to provide smoke screens, and to place fire on enemy in the open.

In all aspects of street fighting it was proved highly important not to use too many troops to search or attack a building, but once entered, to reinforce immediately those forces which had executed entrance. As the attack moves on, a small containing force should be left in the building to prevent enemy infiltrators from reoccupying positions just reduced.

Communications : In city fighting, sound power telephones and runners were found to be the only reliable means of communication between company and platoons. Between higher units the SCR 300 proved the best, however it was usually necessary to operate the set from the upper level of a building.

2. Assault teams

Squads were organized into small assault teams with bazookas and demolitions. Heavier assault weapons such as flame throwers were kept with the platoon Hq. group available on call. In lightly held buildings most enemy were widely scattered trying to cover entrances, but as the more strongly fortified buildings were encountered it was found that enemy positions commanding the inside of a building were just as formidable as those directed to the outside. This necessitated the increased use of special assault teams which were employed to reduce enemy bunkers both inside and outside of buildings. In general the assault teams employed normal technique of automatic riflemen achieving fire superiority by firing into embrasures while flame thrower or demolitions teams approached and destroyed the enemy position. Prior to the Luzon operation the 37th Infantry Division had undergone an extensive training program whereby each rifle company had a team of platoon size well versed in the technique of assaulting fortified positions. These assault teams proved invaluable in capturing the fortified buildings just outside Intramuros.

3. Reduction of Fortified Buildings

a. General

The enemy defenses of Manila included several heavily fortified buildings which stood in the open ground and guarded the approaches to the Intramuros, and which were of the strongest type of construction, being built to resist the earthquakes common in the Islands. These buildings, strongly fortified inside and out, were mutually supporting in fire, and the assault made on them by elements of the XIV Corps incorporated most of the priciples advanced by FM 31-50, Part 1, "Attack on a Fortified Position." While the main line of Japanese resistance was based on these bastions, nevertheless enemy riflemen occupied every conceivable place of vantage and were often so cleverly concealed that the effect upon attacking troops was the same as if a wide al'ea were being defended. It is true that this line was breached with the capture of the Post Office Building and the assault on Intramuros then took place, but the later capture of three buildings to the South, the Legislative Building, Finance Building, and City Hall proved to be the heaviest fighting in Manila.

b. Development of Technique

The modern buildings in Manila were strongly built, earthquake proof, of heavily reinforced concrete. Many of them were surrounded by parks and wide streets which precluded anything except direct assault across open ground. Bwildings were laborously converted into individual fortresses of the most formidable type with sandbagged gun emplacements and barricades in the doors and windows covering all approaches to the building, and emplacements within the building itself covering the corridors and rooms. The reduction of each building was actually a series of battles in itself. The problem of assaulting such a fortified building, constructed to be earthquake resistant, required a specialized solution. The first such buildings to be encountered was the Police Station. Indirect artillery fire was placed upon it and fire from 4.2" mortars and infantry supporting weapons. The building was assaulted by riflemen-unsuccessfully. Tanks were then brought in, and although two of them were put out of action by mines and enemy fire, they succeeded in placing sufficient direct fire upon all sides of the building to permit the final assault. Even then the Japanese did not withdraw and the last of them were destroyed in sandbagged emplacements dug deep in the floor of the basement. The same methods were used against other well constructed buildings, until the large public buildings South of the Pasig River were encountered ; namely, the City Hall, the Metropolitan Water District Building, the General Post Office, and the Agricultural, Finance and Legislative Buildings. Here it was necessary to bring in 155mm howitzers for direct fire, from ranges of less than 600 yards. As building after building was captured, the techniques improved until the final assault upon the Finance Building, which incorporated all the techniques developed by experience up to that time. In that action 155mm howitzers, tank destroyers, and tanks fired against two sides of the building. Because the rest of the city was in friendly hands, the direct fire was confined to the ground and first floors in order to prevent the danger of shells going through open windows. As the lower portions of the outer walls disintegrated, the walls and roof settled ; but the concrete was so strongly reinforced that the structure bent rather than collapsed. The guns were then moved and fired at the other two walls, and the procedure continued. Just prior to the assault, tanks and M-7's fired HE and WP into the upper stories, thereby driving the Japs into the basement ; and immediately upon cessation of this fire, the infantry assault teams attacked, effected an entrance through breaches in the walls, and succeeded in eliminating the last of the enemy garrison in about four hours.

Annex 21 - Street and Building Organization









A charming Art Deco building with Filipino nuances, the  Metropolitan Theater was one of the most beautiful buildings of Manila in any era.





La Salle University and Rizal Memorial Sports Stadium in the distance with Taft Avenue on the left looking south east. Manila, Philippines, Feb. 15, 1945

The Japanese perpetrated one of the worst massacres in the Battle of Manila in La Salle, where civilians and the Christian Brothers who sought shelter in the chapel were systematically killed. A tank and flamethrower battle took place in Rizal Memorial. 

This photo is dated February 15, 1945.


Across the Pasig