Tactical lessons relevant to current military operations

Because of a resurgence of interest in urban operations within the U.S. military, the Commander, Training and Doctrine Command, in 2001 tasked the Combat Studies Institute (CSI) to research and write several in-depth case studies aimed at providing historical perspective on the subject.  The result is an anthology of studies covering a wide range of urban operations conducted by various countries from World War II to the present.  This analysis of the Battle of Manila forms part of that study.


The Battle of Manila, 3 February 1945 to 3 March 1945, was the only struggle by the United States to capture a defended major city in the Pacific War.  Manila was one of few major battles waged by the United States on urban terrain in World War II.  It is arguably one of the most recent major urban battles conducted by U.S. forces.  The case of Manila offers many lessons large and small that may be instructive for planning future urban operations.  Basically, Manila was an instance of modern combined arms warfare practiced in restrictive urban terrain in the presence of large numbers of civilian inhabitants.  Manila provides many lessons relevant both to the combined arms aspect of the struggle and to the civilian affairs aspect of the struggle. 


The road to Manila was a long one.  After the Japanese navyís attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the U.S. mobilized for an extended struggle.  U.S. forces in the Philippines had resisted Japanese invasion doggedly but unsuccessfully from December 1941 to May 1942.  Late in 1942, however, U.S. forces under General Douglas MacArthurís Southwest Pacific Area theater command fought their way back through the Solomons and New Guinea.  Beginning in November 1943, forces under Admiral Chester Nimitzís Pacific Ocean Areas theater command seized Tarawa, the Marshalls, and the Marianas.  By October 1944, MacArthur was prepared once again to contest the Philippines and landed major forces at Leyte Gulf.  Leyte was secured after hard fighting so that by January 1945, MacArthur was ready to land forces on the shores of Luzon (the main island in the northern Philippines) and drive toward the Philippine capital city itself, Manila. 


Dr. Thomas M. Huber wrote this article for the US Army Command and General Staff College, Combat Studies Institute, Command & General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS..