Chapter IV
The Return

For more than two years the high command of the Southwest Pacific had anticipated the promised return to the Philippines. That objective had governed nearly all of the planning and most of the earlier invasions. Now the day had arrived. Plans had been made and troops and cargo were aboard ships. The fleets of the Pacific Ocean Areas and the Southwest Pacific Area were about to join forces in a mighty assault against the Philippines.

The Convoy Forms

That part of the VII Amphibious Force which carried the 24th Infantry Division and the Sixth Army Service Command assembled at the harbor of Hollandia, Netherlands New Guinea. In this force were over 470 ships, ranging in size from small rocket-launching craft to 5,000-man troopships, loaded and now waiting for the message to weigh anchor and head for the Far Shore, as Leyte was designated. They were scheduled to pick up that part of the force which was carrying the 1st Cavalry Division from Manus Island and then rendezvous with the III Amphibious Force.

At 1600 on Friday, the thirteenth of October, the word was given and the great fleet at Hollandia got under way for the target--Leyte--1,300 miles distant.1 Minesweeping task groups had preceded it on 11 and 12 October.2 By sundown the convoy was formed and the ships were darkened. On 14 October the ships of the convoy crossed the equator without ceremony. General quarters (battle drill) and abandon ship drills were held. The part of the force carrying the 1st Cavalry Division was sighted during the day. On the following day the two units joined and the convoy proceeded. On 17 October the convoy made visual contact with the tractor groups of the III Amphibious Force. This force had come from Hawaii with the XXIV Corps to help in the liberation of Leyte.3

XXIV Corps Afloat

In the early morning hours of 13 September the headquarters of XXIV Corps at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, Hawaii, was awake and active. Breakfast was served at 0330, and all men who had been informed the day before that they were to embark for an unknown shore shouldered their barracks bags and carried them to waiting trucks. By 0700 the men had been loaded on the trucks, which took them to the narrow-gauge Oahu railroad. In flat cars they traveled some twenty miles to Honolulu Harbor. The


usual seeming delays followed, but eventually the hot, tired, and perspiring headquarters men boarded the George F. Clymer and were assigned bunks. The Clymer was but one unit of a large convoy that stretched toward the horizon in every direction. At 1115 on 15 September the convoy got under way for a destination believed to be Yap. As the ships departed, word was received that the Yap operation had been canceled and that Leyte was to be their destination. For the men on board, life fell into the monotonous routine common to all transports. Reading, card and dice games, eating, sleeping, and interminable "bull sessions" helped to pass the time.

On the 25th of the month the Clymer anchored at Eniwetok Island, an anchorage already crowded with hundreds of transports, warships, and cargo vessels. The men were allowed to go ashore, where they were given beer and other refreshments. The XXIV Corps was notified that it would leave for Manus, in the Admiralty Islands, where further orders would be received and the staging completed. The LST flotilla left on 26 September and two days later the transports followed. Maps, terrain studies, and aerial photographs were distributed and studied en route.4 At the same time the XXIV Corps issued a tentative field order which was distributed to lower unit commanders, who then held conferences and issued tentative verbal field orders.5

Early in October the convoy crossed the equator. On many of the ships ceremonies were held transforming pollywogs into shellbacks, with the result that some of the men preferred standing to sitting for a few days. On 3 October the convoy arrived at Manus.6 The assault troops of the XXIV Corps were transferred from AKA's to LST's. The 96th Division on 9 October issued a final field order for the Leyte operation. This order allowed the regimental headquarters less than forty-eight hours to complete final orders, plans, and maps, and distribute them to the headquarters of the assault battalions.7

On 11 October the LST transports carrying the assault battalions filed out of the Manus anchorage, and on 14 October the rest of the convoy again formed and started on the last stretch of the journey.8 Its progress was satisfactory, and on 15 October the President of the United States sent his best wishes for the success of the operation to President Sergio Osmeña of the Philippine Commonwealth, who was at sea with the expedition.9 When the III Amphibious Force rendezvoused with the Seventh Fleet, the largest convoy ever seen in the Pacific up to that time was formed.10

Composition of the Convoy

Thirty-four months had been spent in building and preparing these combatant and amphibious vessels. Practically none of them were in existence at the time Corregidor was besieged. Most of the 183 vessels of Task Force 77 were warships, while Task Forces 78 and 79, the amphibious forces, consisted mainly of transports, cargo ships, and a wide variety of landing ships and craft. Fully 518 ocean-going vessels were included in Task Forces 78 and 79.11

Of the vessels assigned to participate in the operation, 157 were combatant ships: 6 old battleships, 5 heavy cruisers, 6 light


cruisers, 18 escort carriers, 86 destroyers, 25 destroyer escorts, and 11 frigates. There were 420 transport vessels, including 5 command ships, 40 attack transports, 10 LSD's, 151 LST's, 79 LCI's, 21 LCT's, and 18 high-speed transports. The remainder included patrol, mine-sweeping, hydrographic, and service ships.12

The convoy did not include the combatant ships of Admiral Halsey's Third Fleet. The main striking force of the Third Fleet was Task Force 38, composed of four powerful carrier task groups, under Admiral Mitscher. Each group contained fast carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and the newest American battleships.13

After forming, the convoy proceeded toward the target. At this time a disquieting report was received from the meteorologists on board the ships: a typhoon was headed toward the Leyte Gulf area. Such a disturbance could be fatal to the expedition. A severe storm did in fact lash the gulf area from 14 through 17 October, but it gradually abated and the morning of A Day, 20 October, was clear. This favorable weather augured well for a successful landing.

Softening the Target

Early Strikes

Allied aircraft had already visited the Philippine Archipelago. The first aerial strikes since 1942 were made in the early fall of 1944. On 1 September B-24's from New Guinea bases initiated their first large-scale air attack against airdromes in the Davao area, though bad weather prevented the protective fighter escort from attacking the target. The airborne defense encountered was surprisingly light--only three intercepting fighters opposed the strike. The bombers dropped 100 tons of bombs, destroying 34 planes on the ground and killing about 100 men.14 Two American bombers were shot down and six received minor damages.15 General MacArthur believed that the Japanese were conserving their air strength in order to concentrate it against anticipated Allied landings.16

On 4 September the first aerial reconnaissance flights were made over Leyte. During the period 9-14 September, Admiral Mitscher launched a large-scale, carrier-based air assault against the Japanese air defenses in the Philippine Islands in order to protect the Palau and Morotai landings. On 9 September aircraft from the carriers attacked airdromes and installations in the Mindanao area, destroying 60 aircraft on the ground and 8 in the air. On 12 September the attack was directed against the Visayan Islands. Of an estimated air strength of 225 aircraft in the sector, 125 were destroyed on the ground and 75 in the air. During the night of 12 September the Japanese flew in reinforcements from Luzon. A Third Fleet strike on 13 September against the reinforced air strength destroyed an estimated 135 aircraft on the ground and 81 in the air. On the 14th, the Third Fleet planes encountered no enemy air opposition but destroyed from 10 to 15 aircraft on the ground. The air strength which the enemy had conserved for an


anticipated American invasion was thus decimated. About 500, or approximately 57 percent of the 884 aircraft believed to be in the Philippines, were rendered nonoperational or destroyed. This successful knocking out of the Japanese air strength in the Philippine Islands was an important factor in the decision to speed up the landing at Leyte by two months.

On 21 September Central Pacific carrier-based aircraft directed their attention to the Luzon area. In spite of their vigorous defense of the Luzon airfields, the Japanese lost an estimated 110 aircraft in the air and 95 on the ground. These included not only combat aircraft but also reconnaissance, transport, and training planes. The remaining air strength in the area was estimated to be 350 aircraft, of which 10 percent were in Mindanao, 20 percent in the Visayan Islands, and 70 percent in Luzon.

At the same time, the carrier-based aircraft made strong strikes against enemy shipping in the central and southern Philippines. It was estimated that from 1 September to 15 September 105 merchant vessels were sunk in those waters by carrier planes, destroyers, cruisers, and submarines. Although exact information was lacking on the number of enemy vessels present in the Visayan and Mindanao areas, it was thought that 50 percent of the Japanese merchant marine in those areas was eliminated. A successful attrition of the Japanese air and naval strength in the Philippines had been accomplished.17

The Third Fleet's carriers then started to neutralize the approaches to the Philippine Islands. The carrier-based aircraft launched strikes against enemy aircraft staging areas in the Ryukyus, of which Okinawa is the largest and most important. As a result of attacks on 10 October, they destroyed an estimated 23 enemy planes in the air and 88 on the ground or in the water. Admiral Halsey reported that his flyers sank 1 subtender, 1 mine sweeper, 1 destroyer escort, 2 minecraft, 4 midget submarines, 20 cargo ships, and 45 other craft. In addition, nearly as many ships, mostly of small size, were damaged.18 On 11 October the flyers struck at Luzon.

Air and Naval Action in the Formosa Area

The plans of the Third Fleet called for strong carrier-based strikes against Formosa on 12 and 13 October. The four task groups of Task Force 38 were assigned targets in the southern Formosa, northern Formosa, central Formosa, and the Takao areas, respectively. (Takao is a port city on the southwest coast of Formosa.) After a fast run on the night of 11-12 October the carriers of Task Force 38 arrived in position off Formosa in the early morning. Although the Japanese were aware of the approach of the task force, they made no attacks against it before dawn. As the first fighters started sweeps over their respective areas, heavy opposition developed, but it dropped markedly during the day. From 12 to 14 October the Japanese lost some 280 aircraft,19 while the Americans lost 76. As a result of the operation, the Japanese lost half of their naval air strength. This loss gave assurance that


the U.S. forces would have air superiority over the Leyte area on A Day.20

On the evening of 13 October the American heavy cruiser Canberra was torpedoed eighty-five miles off Formosa. Admiral Halsey kept his forces in the area another day in order to afford protection to the Canberra. Attacks, therefore, continued against enemy aircraft, airfields, and installations. By this time, Japanese reinforcements had arrived. On the evening of 14 October an aerial torpedo hit the heavy cruiser Houston.

Admiral Halsey decided to capitalize on the damage inflicted on the two cruisers. He ordered two task groups, which included the battleships, to retire eastward out of sight; he sent another of the task groups to conduct intermittent air raids against northern Luzon; and he assigned the remaining task group to protect the crippled Canberra and Houston. Halsey instructed this last task group to send out messages in the clear begging piteously for assistance. He hoped that by this ruse, which he called the "Lure of the Streamlined Bait," the Japanese fleet would be led to believe that this task group was all that remained of the task force and would therefore sweep down for the kill. The two task groups which had retired eastward would then appear and engage the enemy. The Japanese swallowed the bait and dispatched destroyers and cruisers toward the "crippled" American force. Unfortunately, their search planes uncovered the two task forces off Formosa, and the Japanese surface ships hastily withdrew.

The enemy pilots made such greatly exaggerated claims of success that Imperial General Headquarters decided to order out the 2d Diversion Attack Force against the Americans. The flying units of Carrier Divisions 3 and 4 were transferred to the 2d Air Fleet. These air units proceeded to Formosa on the 12th of October. Carrier Divisions 3 and 4, however, remained in the Inland Sea until they sortied forth for the Battle of Leyte Gulf.21 The exaggerated claims of the Japanese air force were accepted jubilantly on the home islands. The people felt that the American Navy had indeed been given a death blow, and the Finance Ministry distributed "celebration sake" to all households in the country to commemorate the event. The Tokyo radio made the unfounded claim that "a total of 57 enemy warships including 19 aircraft carriers and four battleships were sunk or heavily damaged by the Japanese forces . . . the enemy task forces lost the majority of their strength and were put to rout. . . ."22 It also predicted that the Allied losses would delay the invasion of the Philippine Islands by two months.23

Admiral Halsey's reaction was to report that "all 3d Fleet Ships reported by radio Tokyo as sunk have now been salvaged and are retiring towards the enemy."24

The convoy, as it steamed toward Leyte, received the news of the United States success with considerable satisfaction. At this time, however, Admiral Halsey announced that the Third Fleet was being deployed for action, since he was expecting the Japanese to rise to his bait. Consequently the Third Fleet, except for the current strike at Luzon, could not furnish any more carrier support for the operation.25 The Third Fleet task


group which went to the Luzon area successfully struck at enemy airfields and shipping. From 17 to 19 October it destroyed an estimated ninety-nine enemy aircraft on the ground and ninety-five in the air.26

Realignment of Air Support

On the heels of Admiral Halsey's announcement that no assistance in connection with the Leyte landings could be expected from the Third Fleet, Far East Air Forces stated that the Fifth Air Force would support the Leyte operation as a "priority mission."27 At the same time the Seventh Fleet requested intensive reconnaissance of San Bernardino and Surigao Straits in the Leyte area. This mission was assigned to the Fifth Air Force, which was also charged with neutralizing the Visayan airfields. The Thirteenth Air Force was to expedite the basing on Morotai of heavy bombers which could be called forward in support when requested by the Fifth Air Force. From 18 to 19 October the carrier aircraft of the Seventh Fleet protected the convoy and struck at small vessels and airfields in northern Mindanao as well as defense and communications installations and airfields on Leyte.28

Although the missions Admiral Halsey had assigned his carriers apparently prevented any aircraft of the Third Fleet from participating in direct support of the landings, Halsey nevertheless ordered one of the task groups to strike at the Leyte, Samar, Cebu, and Negros areas on 18-19 October and to provide direct air support for the Leyte operation on 20 October.29 Moreover, by 18 October news was received that the Japanese had discovered the ruse and withdrawn their warships from the Formosa area, thus leaving Admiral Halsey's forces free to protect the operation by covering San Bernardino and Surigao Straits.30

The carrier force of the Seventh Fleet was to bear the brunt of the tactical air support. By the afternoon and night of 17 October the weather had cleared, and flying conditions were perfect as the carriers moved into their operation areas the following morning. The force was divided into three units: one unit operated in the southern part of Leyte Gulf to protect the landings at Panaon Strait; another operated near the entrance to the gulf in order to support the landings of the Southern Attack Force at Dulag; and the last operated southeast of Samar Island to support the landings of the Northern Attack Force at Tacloban.

During 18 and 19 October, aircraft from the carriers struck at enemy airfields on Cebu, Negros, and Panay Islands. There was very little enemy activity from the Japanese airfields in the Leyte area, since they were still sodden from the recent storms. In the two days' strikes, the Seventh Fleet aircraft destroyed an estimated thirty-six enemy planes and damaged twenty-eight more.31

Japanese Plan of Defense

The air blows on the Philippines served as a warning that the Americans were ready to return to the Islands--an event long expected


by the Japanese. By the end of June 1944, the Japanese military situation had considerably worsened. The outer circle of Japan's perimeter had been pierced and the impetus of the American drive showed no signs of slackening. (Map 2)

The Allied nations had hit the Japanese from east and west and seriously interfered with their seaborne commerce. Japan was in grave danger of being separated from her stolen southern area--the source of her raw materials. Units within this area were also being forcibly isolated from each other. The fall of Saipan had brought about a "most serious crisis." Premier Tojo was removed and Kuniaki Koiso formed a new cabinet.32

In the summer of 1944 Imperial General Headquarters had started to strengthen the Philippines, the Ryukyus, the Kurile Islands, and Japan itself--the "first line of sea defense." If the Allies landed forces in any of these areas, the Japanese would concentrate their land, air, and sea forces and attempt to repel the landing force. These operations were known as the S (Victory) Operations. Defense of the Philippines was S I.33

The Japanese strategy was simple. Japan wished to remain in the war, and to do so she must at all costs keep open the lines of communication to the sources of her raw materials in the Netherlands Indies.

In the first part of August 1944, the headquarters of the 14th Area Army, which was to be charged with the defense of the Philippine Archipelago, was organized under the command of the Southern Army, while the 35th Army, which was to defend the Visayan Islands, was established under the command of the 14th Area Army.34

The Philippine Islands were under the jurisdiction of the Southern Army, whose command organization was extremely complex. (Chart 3) The supreme commander was Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchi. There were four area armies in the Southern Army: the 2d Area Army occupied Netherlands New Guinea, thence west to Timor; the 7th Area Army was at Singapore; the Burma Area Army was at Rangoon; and the 14th Area Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Shigenori Kuroda, was in the Philippines with its headquarters at Manila. The Southern Army also had two air armies and three garrison armies: the 3d Air Army in Singapore; the 4th Air Army, consisting of two air divisions in the Philippines and one air division in western New Guinea; and a garrison army stationed in Thailand, another in French Indochina, and a third in Borneo. The commander of the 14th Area Army maintained a staff liaison with the 4th Air Army but otherwise had no control over it.

The 1st Air Fleet, under the command of the Southwest Area Fleet, was stationed in the Philippines, with headquarters at Manila. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, commander in chief of the Combined Fleet with headquarters at Tokyo, controlled the entire naval forces, including the Southwest Area Fleet.35


Map 2
Situation in the Pacific
Mid-October 1944


Chart 3
Japanese Army Organization of Major Units for the Leyte Operation


Plans for the 14th Area Army

The Japanese during the summer of 1944 anticipated that the United States forces would return to the Philippine Islands, but when and where were two questions for which not even Tokyo Rose, the Japanese radio propagandist, had the answers. Consequently, the Japanese wished to keep their troops sufficiently mobile that reinforcements might be rushed to the point of contact. The original plan called for the main defensive effort of the ground forces to be made on Luzon, since there were too few Japanese troops in the archipelago to defend all of the Philippines. The Japanese Navy and Air Forces, however, were to carry out "decisive" actions in the central and southern Philippines.36

To General Kuroda fell the task of making and executing plans for the defense of the Philippines by the 14th Area Army. General Kuroda was essentially a realist. Restated in June 1947 that in October 1944 he had told Maj. Gen. Seizo Arisue, Chief of Army Intelligence, Imperial General Headquarters, that "it would be best for Japan to negotiate an immediate peace before the Americans could destroy our nation by air power."37 Kuroda thought that all available land forces should be concentrated in the Luzon area in order to counterattack any American landing within the Luzon perimeter. However, because of their predominant aerial strength, the Americans in their next attempt could unless they made "some terrible mistake . . . land in force and once ashore, could take the Philippines."38 General Kuroda's plan was never considered. Imperial General Headquarters' plan for the defense of the Philippines called for the employment of ten divisions and five brigades: five divisions and two brigades in Luzon, four divisions and two brigades in the southern Philippines, and one division and one brigade in China and Formosa. The two units last mentioned would be rushed to the Philippines as soon as the American landing became imminent.39 When the Americans landed, all of these units, acting in concert, were to participate in fighting a decisive battle against the American troops. This plan was never carried out in its entirety.

The Japanese occupation troops of the Philippine Islands had grown soft and had "no particular will to fight." In the spring of 1944, there were only minor units available to set up an organized defense.

Imperial General Headquarters and the Southern Army thought that because of the many islands in the archipelago emphasis should be placed on air power. Air attacks could destroy the American forces before they arrived at the landing areas or at least before they could make appreciable gains. The way could then be opened to turn a defense into an offensive.40 General Kuroda threw cold water on this plan by bluntly stating:

That concept is good, but you cannot fight with concept alone. Words alone will not sink American ships and that becomes clear when you compare our airplanes with theirs. That is why the major battles have been occurring on land. We can say that the power of our air force is negligible at this time. No matter


how much the Fourteenth Army devotes their efforts toward air power, in actuality, should there be a decisive fight, they must fight on land. The preparation and conduct of an operation, and the responsibilities thereof cannot be conducted by airplanes and air units. The land army should initiate its own preparations. For example, for what purpose were the group of air bases constructed at Davao and Tacloban? Even though they are built, they aren't used. It amounts to construction for the use of the enemy.41

During the month of August, the Japanese devoted their main efforts toward strengthening the air force. After the first of September more emphasis was placed on building up the ground troops while the air preparations continued to some extent. The Southern Army in late August ordered about one half of a division to Sarangani and one division to Davao against the wishes of the 14th Area Army. This meant a reshuffling of the troops that had been moving and repairing defenses since the first part of August. "The order was carried out begrudgingly."42

Lt. Gen. Sosaku Suzuki, the commander of the 35th Army, thinking that the American Army would land on 1 October, said: "Contrary to what has been announced by General Headquarters our air force cannot be prepared and equipped in time, nor can the Combined Fleet be depended upon. The situation grows worse and for this reason the land force preparations must be hastened. Yet, in spite of that, we must not discourage the air forces and should do as much as possible to prepare aggressive aerial opposition."43

In the middle of September, Imperial General Headquarters decided to replace General Kuroda with General Tomoyuki Yamashita. Not only did General Kuroda have a concept of the Philippine operations that differed from that of his superiors, but he was charged with neglecting his duty as field army commander.44 Lt. Col. Seiichi Yoshie of the Personnel Bureau of the War Ministry, who had been sent to the Philippines to investigate personnel matters in the Southern Army, said of the incident:

Stories reached the War Ministry that Lt. Gen. Kuroda was devoting more time to his golf, reading and personal matters than to the execution of his official duties. It appeared that his control over staff officers and troops was not sufficiently strong and that there was a good deal of unfavorable criticism of his conduct among the troops. There were also indications that discipline was becoming very lax.

On 4 September 1944, I left Tokyo under orders . . . to investigate. As a result I obtained many statements substantiating the unfavorable stories in regard to Lt. Gen. Kuroda. The recommendations of all the staff was that Lt. Gen. Kuroda be relieved as soon as possible, and be replaced by Gen. Yamashita . . . who was a superb tactician and excellent leader.45

General Yamashita, who was in Manchuria, received notification of his appointment on 23 September, and on the 9th of October he assumed command of the 14th Area Army.46 On his arrival in the Philippines, he found conditions were "unsatisfactory." Of the eleven members of the old staff only five were left and the new staff




officers were unfamiliar with conditions in the Philippine Islands.47 The state of affairs was well exemplified by a remark of his new chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Akira Muto, who arrived in the Philippines on 20 October from Sumatra, where he had been in command of the 2d Imperial Guards Division.48 Upon being told that the Americans had landed on Leyte, Muto is said to have replied, "Very interesting, but where is Leyte?"49

Maj. Gen. Toshio Nishimura, one of three assistants to Yamashita, states that the planning for the Leyte campaign was "very bad." The supply situation, however, was favorable. Since Manila was the main depot not only for the Philippines but also for other places in the south such as Borneo and Singapore, a sufficient amount of everything needed was at hand.50

There were two tactical concepts of defense of the islands in July and August 1944. One was termed the policy of "annihilation at the beachhead" and the other the policy of "resistance in depth." The respective merits of the two concepts were bitterly debated by their partisans. The proponents of resistance in depth thought that the beach defenses, which had been constructed with a great deal of labor, were useless, since it was believed they could not withstand naval bombardment. On the other hand, the friends of annihilation at the beachhead felt that semipermanent beach fortifications could withstand bombardment. Imperial


General Headquarters, after studying the battle lessons of the Pacific Campaign and the actual effect of naval bombardment, decided to adopt the resistance in depth tactics and instructed the entire army forces to comply. Consequently, the various group commanders abandoned their beach defenses with regret and began to build strong fortifications in selected areas of the interior.51

The control of the Visayan Islands and Mindanao was vested in the 35th Army, which was the equivalent of an American army corps. General Suzuki, its commander, compromised between the two concepts of defense. At a meeting of the 35th Army unit commanders in the middle of August 1944, he stated that although the main battle was to be fought away from the beaches some troops should remain to resist the American landings and "therefore part of the troops must suffer premature losses."52

The 16th, 102d, 30th, and the 100th Divisions, which were in Leyte, Panay, and Mindanao, were placed under the 35th Army, whose headquarters was at Cebu.53

The Suzu Plan

On 17 August General Suzuki issued the Suzu orders for the defense of the Visayan Islands and Mindanao by the 35th Army. The 100th Division was to protect the Davao area on Mindanao while the 16th Division would defend Leyte. Most of the 30th Division and two infantry battalions were made mobile units which could be rushed to annihilate the American force wherever it landed. However, if the Americans landed simultaneously on Davao and Leyte, the main force of the 30th Division was to be sent to Davao and the other mobile units would go to Leyte.

In late August, Suzuki received orders to dispose his troops as follows: a reinforced division in the Davao area, three battalions in the Sarangani Bay area, three battalions in the vicinity of Zamboanga, two battalions in the Jolo Islands, a "strong unit" in the vicinity of Surigao, and one division in the Leyte Gulf area. The 55th Independent Mixed Brigade was to be assigned to the 35th Army. Units of the 16th Division which were in Luzon were sent to the 16th Division on Leyte. These elements, which consisted of one engineer company, an independent transportation unit, and a medical unit, were placed under the commander of the 33d Infantry Regiment.54

Lt. Gen. Shiro Makino, commanding the 16th Division, which was the major force on Leyte, had directed his efforts since April 1944 toward the construction of defensive positions on the island. The first line of defense, which was on the east coast in the Dulag area, was practically completed by the middle of October. The third defensive line was in the middle of Leyte Valley in the vicinity of Dagami. The second line of defense was between the two others, while the bulk of supplies was assembled in the central mountain range at Jaro.

The distribution of the other troops at the time of the American landings was as follows: one battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment in the Catmon Hill and Tanauan district, and the main strength of the 33d Infantry Regiment in the Palo and Tacloban area. The larger part of the 33d Infantry Regiment, which was less adequately trained


than the other regiments, had arrived on Leyte in mid-September from Luzon. Its officers were unfamiliar with the terrain and did not fortify their positions.55

On 17 October General Makino, having heard that American warships had approached Leyte Gulf, alerted the 16th Division for the impending battle and ordered all units to "shatter the enemy landing attempts."56 On 18 October the 14th Area Army received a report from the 16th Division which indicated that the latter was not certain the vessels sighted off Leyte were an enemy attacking force. They might be ships seeking safety from the storms, or vessels damaged in the naval battle off Formosa. Consequently, 14th Area Army was not sure that an attack was imminent at Leyte.57

Plans for the 4th Air Army

The principal assignment of the 4th Air Army was to attack American transports and interdict American shipping and, if given the opportunity, to attack the American combatant vessels. The 4th Air Army was also to give aerial support to the movement of reinforcements.58

In October the 4th Air Army issued a plan for anticipated operations. In co-operation with the Army and the Navy, the 4th Air Army would attempt to destroy the American forces when they struck the Philippines. The Army air force in concert with the naval air units would try to destroy carrier-based planes and air bases. In operations against the American fleet, the Army and Navy air units were to have "a unified and tactful commitment." If the naval air units could not co-operate the Army air force was to venture a surprise attack with a few planes. Dusk, night, and dawn attacks were to be made against Allied air bases and all means exerted to foil Allied attempts to establish advance bases in the Philippines. The main strength of the fighter units was to move into the central and southern Philippines in order to destroy the principal American landing force. The mission of the Japanese 4th Air Army, operating from Mindanao, Celebes, and northern Borneo, would be restricted to checking the current attempts on the part of the Americans to establish bases on Halmahera and western New Guinea and the destruction of the planes there. For this purpose the Japanese air force would use bases in the southern Philippines.

When the American convoy was sighted moving toward the Philippines, the heavy bombers were to deploy to the central and southern Philippines and make preparations for an immediate attack on the convoy after it had arrived in the harbor. The fighter units were to attack Allied aircraft and, if the circumstances were propitious, were also to attack the convoy. If the Americans should attempt simultaneous landings at various points, the Japanese Army air forces would "try to annihilate the landing parties one by one,"59 acting in concert with the Japanese Navy.

Capt. Toshikazu Ohmae, the chief of staff to the commander in chief of the Japanese Third Fleet, was highly critical of the liaison


between the Army and Navy air forces. "The Army and Navy always quarreled with each other. In theory they were supposed to cooperate and on the higher levels it would work, but personalities were the trouble."60

Japanese Navy Plans

On 21 July 1944 Admiral Toyoda received a directive which laid down the basic policies for subsequent "urgent operations." A great deal of the contracting empire was abandoned. The Southwest Area, which embraced the region from Manila to Singapore, was ordered to "maintain security of resources areas, hold vital sectors for their defense, and place emphasis on protection for fleet anchorages." Thus the Japanese planned to restrict battle "to the homeland and to the island chain which protected the last links" of the empire with the south. The forces in the Japanese home islands, the Ryukyu chain, Formosa, and the Philippine Islands were told to take "all measures to expedite the establishment of conditions to cope with decisive battle. In event of enemy attack, summon all strength which can be concentrated and hold vital sectors, in general intercepting and destroying the enemy within the operational sphere of planes of our base air force."61

The success of Admiral Halsey's carrier strikes against Formosa had considerably weakened the strength of Japanese carrier-based planes, and less than one half of the Army planes remained. The necessity of sending reinforcements to Formosa also weakened considerably the Japanese aerial defense of the Philippines. The enemy became almost completely dependent upon the remaining land-based planes.62 Within their capabilities the Japanese had made their plans and readied their forces, as the American convoy steamed towards Leyte to do battle.

Securing the Channel Approaches

Landings of the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion

The forward part of the convoy, which was carrying the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Henry A. Mucci, had experienced stormy weather since leaving Hollandia, but by dawn of the 17th the storm had slackened, though the ocean was still choppy. The transports carrying the reinforced 6th Ranger Battalion, preceded by three mine sweepers, entered Leyte Gulf.63

The USS Crosby, carrying Company D, arrived on schedule off Suluan Island, the outermost of the islands guarding Leyte Gulf. For twenty minutes the cruiser Denver shelled the island. Under lowering skies and in a driving rain which rendered impossible the anticipated air support,64 Company D, under 1st Lt. Leslie M. Gray, disembarked from the transport and headed for the island in landing craft. The mission of the unit was to secure mine charts which were believed to be located in a lighthouse


on the island. At 0805 the boats touched shore.

The landing was unopposed. The men immediately filed south 500 yards on a trail along the coast and then headed east toward the lighthouse. On the way, four buildings, one of which contained a Japanese radio, were found and set ablaze. The company then continued along the trail. Suddenly the enemy fired from a concealed position, killing one man and wounding another. When Company D went into attack formation, the enemy force disappeared into the heavy jungle bordering the trail. The march was resumed and the company reached its objective without further incident. The lighthouse, which had been damaged by naval bombardment, and adjoining buildings were deserted.65

In searching the documents found in the lighthouse, the company failed to turn up the hoped-for enemy mine charts.66 It returned to the beachhead area and, finding that the landing boats had been hopelessly battered and broken up by the surf, formed a perimeter for the night.

As Company D was moving along the coast of Suluan Island, naval fire blasted away at the extreme northwest coast of Dinagat Island. At 0900 the first assault waves of the 6th Rangers, minus Companies D and B, started for the beach. Although coral reefs approximately one hundred yards offshore grounded the boats so that the men had to wade the remainder of the distance, the companies were all ashore by 1230. No Japanese were on the island and the troops accomplished their mission, the erection of a navigation light at Desolation Point to guide the movement of the main portion of the convoy.

Company B of the 6th Rangers was to have landed on Homonhon Island at the same time landings were made on Suluan and Dinagat. Its mission, too, was the emplacement of a navigation light, but bad weather and choppy seas kept the troops confined to the ship throughout the 17th.67 On the morning of the 18th, the ship's address system clanged out general quarters. The men went below, put on their gear, and checked their weapons. At 0900 the troops were told to prepare to disembark. They bolted up the ladders and spilled out over the deck to the davits.68 The boats were lowered and the first wave started for the beach. At the same time the guns from the destroyer and frigate which had escorted the transport concentrated fire against the shore line for twelve minutes. Three minutes later, the boats grounded on a coral reef forty yards from the beach, and the men waded the remaining distance to shore. They encountered no resistance and at 1038 the company commander, Capt. Arthur D. Simons, notified the battalion commander, "Beachhead secured, supplies ashore. No resistance. No casualties."69 The company set up a channel light.

By 18 October, steady white lights were beaming from Dinagat and Homonhon Islands to guide the convoy in to Leyte Island. The one on Dinagat had a visibility of twelve miles and that on Homonhon a visibility of ten.70


PATROL OF COMPANY F, 6TH RANGERS, at Desolation Point (above), and investigating a native village on Dinagat Island (below).


Mine Sweeping

The mine-sweeping plans contemplated that the mine-sweeping group would arrive on 17 October simultaneously with the troops that were to storm Suluan, Dinagat, and Homonhon Islands. On 11 October the slow-moving mine sweepers lifted anchor at Manus and departed for the objective area. They rendezvoused near the Palaus with the Dinagat force, which had left Hollandia on 12 October. On 15 October they were joined by the carriers and the beach demolition and bombardment and fire support groups which had sortied from Manus on 12 October. On 14 October information was received from guerrilla sources that there were no underwater obstacles off the beaches between Abuyog and Tacloban. Although the northern Surigao Strait was mined, it was considered doubtful whether the same condition existed at the southern entrances of Leyte Gulf.71 The mine-sweeping groups that had left Hollandia on 11 October arrived in Leyte Gulf during the storm of the evening of 16 October. Some of the mine sweepers had been delayed by the storm but were able to arrive in time to begin sweeping the channels.72

In the early dawn of 17 October the mine sweepers began their work on the channel approaches to Suluan Island.73 By 0630 they had accomplished their task and then began to sweep the waters of the landing areas in Leyte Gulf until the storm forced them to suspend operations. At 1259 they resumed sweeping with great difficulty. Until A Day, intensive area and tactical mine sweeping continued. The sweepers started at dawn each day and worked continuously until nightfall. By 19 October it was known that the Japanese had heavily mined the approaches to Leyte Gulf but that there were no mines within the gulf itself. The northern part of the main channel into the gulf, however, was not considered safe.74 By the same date sweeping had been completed in the southern half, 186 mines having been destroyed. At about 0135 on 19 October, the destroyer supporting the mine-sweeping units which were in the gulf struck a floating mine and while maneuvering away from the area struck another. The ship was disabled and retired from action. By A Day, a total of 227 mines had been destroyed and a passage approximately six miles wide had been cleared just north of Dinagat Island. All ships were therefore directed to enter Leyte Gulf through that portion of the strait.75

As the mine sweepers came close to the land, boats containing Filipinos moved out to welcome the advance party of liberators. The reception they met was not enthusiastic. Admiral Oldendorf, the commanding officer of the bombardment and fire support group, "suspected that some might have come seeking information so detained them aboard their respective ships. . . . Directed no further patriots be taken aboard ship."76

Underwater Demolition Teams

The naval plans for the amphibious phase of the operation contemplated the use of seven underwater demolition teams--three to cover the northern coast beaches and


four to cover the southern beaches. The teams, starting A minus 2 (18 October), were to locate underwater obstructions and detonate mines. On 18 and 19 October the underwater demolition teams made a reconnaissance of the landing areas, accompanied by destroyers which bombarded the shores. The two days' reconnaissance disclosed no underwater obstacles or mines in the vicinity of the proposed landing beaches.

The Convoy Enters Leyte Gulf

By the evening of 19 October the preliminary operations were almost completed. The beaches had been surveyed and found suitable for landing; mines had been cleared from most of the main approach channel; and the entrances to Leyte Gulf had been secured.77

All ships were to be prepared to attach paravanes (mine-cable cutting devices) on signal at any time after noon on 19 October.78 Since the mine sweepers had not sufficiently cleared the gulf, paravanes were attached preparatory to entering it. The mine sweepers were to have escorted the convoy into the area, but since they would not be ready for about two hours, the entry was ordered to be made without them. The convoy hugged the Dinagat shore line so closely that the distance from the center of the formation to the shore was only 3,800 yards.79 Some of the ships did not see the signal light which had been placed on Dinagat Island by the 6th Rangers and were delayed on that account.

The convoy advanced without incident toward the target area. On the 18th Admiral Kinkaid radioed General MacArthur that the operations were going well, though the storm had somewhat delayed matters, and the General was made "welcome to our city."80 MacArthur in reply said that he was "glad indeed to be in your domicile and under your flag. It gives me not only confidence but a sense of inspiration," and, probably thinking of the many arduous months of planning and amphibious operations, he added, "As Ripley says believe it or not we are almost there."81

As the convoy came ever closer to the target, the atmosphere aboard the vessels became more and more tense. By 1800 on 19 October most of the vessels had arrived outside the gulf. The Far Shore was now near and could be seen vaguely in the distance. On board one of the vessels Protestant and Catholic evening prayers were broadcast over the address system. Some of the men felt that it gave them a lift, but many felt that they were being administered the last rites of their church.82

All vessels arrived on schedule. Because the mine barrier in the entrance had not been completely cleared, the ships entered the gulf somewhat to the south of the center of the entrance, avoiding the main channel and keeping close to the northern point of Dinagat Island. Fears that strong ebb tides might impede progress of the slower vessels through the entrance proved groundless. Paravanes were retained until arrival in the transport areas, but no mines were encountered.83


Naval plans called for bombardment of the enemy-held shores on A minus 2 (18 October), but because the water areas had not been completely swept for mines by that time, ships could not reach the bombardment area. On A minus 1, bombardment was chiefly for the purpose of providing effective support and coverage for the underwater demolition teams. However, many of the defenses and installations of the enemy on or near the landing beaches, including buildings and supply dumps, were neutralized or destroyed.

By the afternoon of 19 October, when it had become apparent to the Japanese that the Americans had returned to the Philippine Islands, General Suzuki put his defense plan into effect. He ordered the 16th Division to annihilate the American force, and, failing that, to interfere as much as possible with the use of Leyte airfields by the American Army. The mobile units, including two battalions from the 30th Division, were to speed to Leyte as fast as possible. Finally, the headquarters of the 35th Army was to move to Ormoc on the west coast of Leyte on the 23d or 24th of October.84

Through the night of 19-20 October, destroyers near the shore continued to shell the Japanese forces on land. The American forces were safely within Leyte Gulf--A Day had arrived.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (3) * Next Chapter (5)


1. Opns Rpt CTF 78 to COMINCH, Ser 00911, 10 Nov 44.

2. Rpt, Capt Ray Tarbuck, USN, 3 Nov 44, GHQ SWPA G-3 Jnl, 30 Oct 44. (Hereafter cited as Tarbuck Rpt.)

3. Opns Rpt CTF 78 to COMINCH, Ser 00911, 10 Nov 44.

4. 96th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 20.

5. 7th Inf Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 2.

6. XXIV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 4.

7. 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 25.

8. XXIV Corps Hist Rpt for 1944, Sec Histories, History of the Adjutant Generals Section from 8 April to 31 December 1944, pp. 10-11.

9. Tarbuck Rpt.

10. Ibid.

11. CTF 77 Opns Rpt, Ser 00302-C, 31 Jan 45.

12. CINCPAC and CINCPOA Rpt Opns in POA in Oct 44, Ser 002397, 31 May 45.

13. USSBS, Employment of Forces Under the Southwest Pacific Command, p. 40.

14. Japanese Studies in World War II, 14, Naval Air Operations in the Philippine Area, 1942-45, p. 18. (Monograph numbers cited in this volume are file designations used by OCMH.)

15. GHQ SWPA Sum of Enemy Sit 894, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 2 Sep 44.

16. Ibid.

17. GHQ SWPA, Philippine Islands, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit 16, 3-9 Sep 44; 905, 13-14 Sep 44; 914, 22-23 Sep 44; 916, 24-25 Sep 44; and 907, 15-16 Sep 44; GHQ G-3 Jnl, 9-25 Sep 44.

18. CINCPAC and CINCPOA Rpt on Opns in POA in Oct 44, Ser 002397, 31 May 45.

19. Japanese Studies in WW II, 102, Philippine Area Naval Operations, Oct-Dec 44, Part II, The Battle of Leyte Gulf, pp. 4-11. (Hereafter cited as Philippine Naval Opns.)

20. USSBS, Naval Analysis Div, The Campaigns of the Pacific War (Washington, 1946), p. 283.

21. Philippine Naval Opns, pp. 5, 85-86.

22. AAF SWPA Intel Sum, Ser 247, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 29 Oct 44.

23. AAF SWPA Intel Sum, Ser 246, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 22 Oct 44.

24. Rad, Com3rdFlt to CINCPAC-CINCSWPA, 170352 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 17 Oct 44.

25. Rad, Com3rdFlt to CINCPAC and var., H 2692, 0321, 15 Oct 44, AAF Hist Archives.

26. Air Evaluation Bd SWPA Rpt, Leyte Campaign--Philippines, 1944, p. 16.

27. Hist of FEAF, pp. 261-63, AAF Hist Archives.

28. Air Evaluation Bd SWPA Rpt, p. 16.

29. Rad, Com3rd Flt to CTG 38.1, 160216, 16 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 17 Oct 44.

30. Tarbuck Rpt.

31. CTG 77.4 Opns Rpt, Ser 00120, 15 Nov 44.

32. Japanese Studies in WW II, 72, Hist of Army Section, Imperial General Headquarters, 1941-45, p. 131. (Hereafter cited as Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ.)

33. Ibid., pp. 131-32.

34. Japanese Studies in WW II, 6, 14th Area Army Plans, 1944. (Hereafter cited as 14th Area Army Plans.)

35. The organization of Japanese forces is discussed in detail in Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ.

36. Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, pp. 140-41.

37. Interv, 2d Lt Stanley L. Falk with General Kuroda, at Sugamo Prison, Tokyo, 13 Jun 47, copy in OCMH.

38. Ibid.

39. Hist of Army Sec, Imperial GHQ, pp. 132-33, 135, 140, and errata sheet to above.

40. Maj Gen Yoshiharu Tomochika, The True Facts of the Leyte Operation, p. 8, typescript of translation in OCMH.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid., p. 9.

43. Ibid., p. 8.

44. Ibid.

45. Statement of Lt Col Seiichi Yoshie, Circumstances Leading to the Relief of General Kuroda, 1 Oct 51, copy in OCMH.

46. United States vs Tomoyuki Yamashita, Testimony of Yamashita, XXVIII, 3518-19, DRB AGO.

47. Ibid., XXVIII, 3519-20.

48. Ibid., Testimony of Muto, XXII, 2998.

49. A. Frank Reel, The Case of General Yamashita (Chicago, 1949), pp. 18-19.

50. USSBS Interrog 418, Interrog of Maj Gen Toshio Nishimura, 19-22 Nov 45, MS, OCMH.

51. Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 6.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. Japanese Studies in WW II, 11, 35th Army Operations 1944-45, pp. 14-20. (Hereafter cited as 35th Army Opns.)

55. Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 6.

56. 16th Division Order 821, Tacloban, 17 October 1944, translation in App. C to Annex Y, 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, DRB AGO.

57. Japanese Studies in WW II, 7, 14th Area Army Operations on Leyte, p. 4 (Hereafter cited as 14th Area Army Opns Leyte.)

58. USSBS Interrog 506, Interrog of Maj. Gen. Yoshiharu Tomochika, Oct-Dec 44, p. 2, typescript copy in OCMH.

59. Japanese Studies in WW II, 5, 4th Air Army Operations, 1944-45, pp. 1-50. (Hereafter cited as 4th Air Army Opns.)

60. USSBS, Interrogations, I, 160.

61. James A. Field, Jr., The Japanese at Leyte Gulf: The S Operation (Princeton, N. J., 1947), p. 8.

62. USSBS, Interrogations, I, 219; II, 500-504.

63. Unless otherwise noted the account of the activities of the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion is taken from the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion Operations Report Leyte.

64. Rad, CTG 77.2 to CTF 78, 17 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 17 Oct 44.

65. Co D, 6th Ranger Inf Bn, Opns Rpt Leyte.

66. Msg, CTG 78.4 to Tancier, 18 Oct 44, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 18 Oct 44.

67. Rad, GHQ to CofS, 17 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 18 Oct 44.

68. Co B, 6th Ranger Inf Bn, Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 1.

69. Ibid.

70. Rad, CTG 78.5 to CTF 77, 19 Oct 44, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 19 Oct 44.

71. Rad, Parsons to CTF 77, 78, and 79, 14 Oct 44, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 14 Oct 44.

72. CTF 77 to COMINCH, Opns Rpt Leyte, Ser 00302-C, 31 Jan 45, p. 8.

73. Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 31.

74. Rad, CTG 77.5 to CTF 77, 19 Oct 44, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 19 Oct 44.

75. Rpt, COMINCH, Amph Opns--Invasion of the Philippines, COMINCH P-008, pp. 1-3.

76. CTG 77.2 to CTF 77, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 19 Oct 44.

77. Rpt, CTF 77 to COMINCH, Amph Opn P-008, pp. 1-3.

78. CTG 79.1 Movement Order, A173-44, 9 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 16 Oct 44.

79. Opns Rpt CTG 79.1 to CTF 79, Ser 00454, 26 Oct 44, GHQ G-3 Jnl, 15 Nov 44.

80. Msg, CTF 77 to CINCSWPA, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 18 Oct 44.

81. Msg, CINCSWPA to CTF 77, Sixth Army G-3 Wasatch Jnl, 18 Oct 44.

82. Tarbuck Rpt.

83. Opns Rpt CTF 79 to Com7thFlt, Ser 00323, 13 Nov 44, p. 71.

84. Japanese Studies 11, 35th Army Opns, p. 24.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation