The Conquest of Eastern Mindanao
Plans, Preparations, and Penetration
The Concepts of Attack and Defense
Eighth Army assigned the task of destroying the Japanese holding that portion of Mindanao lying east of the Zamboanga Peninsula to Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert's X Corps, composed of the reinforced 24th and 31st Infantry Divisions.1 Army and corps plans called for the 24th Division, staging at Mindoro, to land on 17 April along the shores of Illana Bay, on the west-central coast of eastern Mindanao. The 31st Division would go ashore on 22 April over beaches the 24th Division had secured. The 31st's mounting areas were Morotai Island, between Mindanao and New Guinea, and Sansapor, on the northwest coast of New Guinea.
Illana Bay lies nearly a hundred miles northwest of the main objective in eastern Mindanao, the Davao area, and only a poor road connects its beaches to Davao. Still, Eighth Army had ample reason to select Illana Bay as the site of the initial assault. For one thing, the army knew that the Japanese had their main concentrations in the Davao region, where they seemed especially well prepared to repel an amphibious assault. It would be foolish to stick one's hand into a hornet's nest if there were no urgency for such action, and Eighth Army could not, of course, avoid the long view that the eastern Mindanao operation was in essence a mopping-up campaign rather than an action of great strategic importance. Second, the Illana Bay area was relatively weakly defended--the 24th Division would have a much better chance to achieve tactical surprise there. Finally, X Corps would have to seize and rehabilitate an airstrip quickly so that land-based aircraft could provide proper support for subsequent operations in eastern Mindanao, other air bases being too distant. A reasonably good strip existed at Malabang, on the northwestern shore of Illana Bay. Given the estimate that the Japanese maintained a weak garrison at Illana Bay, Malabang seemed the spot for the main assault.
After landing at Malabang, the 24th Division was to advance by land and water to secure Parang and Polloc Harbor, twenty miles southeast from Malabang. The division was then to strike south about fifteen miles to seize Cotabato and block the two mouths of the Mindanao River. X Corps made no detailed plans before the assault for operations after the occupation of the
Malabang-Cotabato region. However, it was generally understood that upon the arrival of the 31st Division the 24th would strike eastward across Mindanao via Route 1 to Davao. General Sibert anticipated that for the first forty miles or so inland the 24th Division would employ both Route 1 and the Mindanao River as axes of advance, repeating a pattern the Japanese had established three years earlier.2 About forty-five miles inland, at Kabacan, Route 1 joins Route 3. Route 3, known locally as the Sayre Highway, runs northward almost 150 miles from Kabacan to Macajalar Bay on Mindanao's north-central coast. Sibert anticipated that he would have to use the entire 31st Division in a drive north along the Sayre Highway in order to destroy strong Japanese forces known to be holding that road.
On 15 April, just two days before the 24th Division was to launch its assault, X Corps made sweeping changes in its attack plans. Since early March elements of the guerrilla 108th Division, part of Colonel Fertig's 10th Military District guerrilla force, had been moving against the Japanese garrison at Malabang.3 The guerrillas received some support from Marine Corps planes based on the new fields at Zamboanga and from Thirteenth Air Force planes from other bases, all controlled by a Thirteenth Air Force air support party that had recently reached Mindanao. By late March the guerrilla attack had progressed so well that L-5 liaison planes could use the Malabang strip, and on 5 April Marine Corps aircraft started operating from the field, which was in good condition. By the 11th of April the last Japanese had fled toward Parang and the guerrillas had completed the occupation of the entire Malabang region.4 On 13 April Colonel Fertig radioed Eighth Army that X Corps could land unopposed at Malabang and Parang and that the Japanese had probably evacuated the Cotabato area as well.
Receiving confirmation from Marine Corps aviators that guerrillas held Malabang, Eighth Army and X Corps changed landing plans. Rear Adm. Albert G. Noble's Task Group 78.2 would set only one battalion of the 24th Division ashore at Malabang; the rest of the division would land in the vicinity of Parang. Planners also canceled naval bombardment against Malabang, but despite subsequent messages from Fertig to the effect that no naval shelling would be required anywhere along Illana Bay's shores, did not cancel bombardment of the Parang and Cotabato areas.
American estimates of Japanese strength in eastern Mindanao ran from 34,000 (Eighth Army), to 40,000 (X Corps), to 42,600 (Fertig), with more agreement on the deployment of major units. Fertig's estimates were the closest, for there were over 43,000 members of the Japanese armed forces in eastern
Mindanao, and there were, in addition, nearly 12,850 Japanese noncombatant civilians in the area.5 Japanese Army ground combat and service troops (including about 7,350 civilians recently inducted into the armed forces) numbered roughly 28,600. There were some 8,000 Army Air Force troops, almost all of the service category, and around 6,450 Navy personnel. Of the total, almost 15,000, including 500 men of the Navy, could be classed as trained ground combat effectives. Most of the service troops were armed as auxiliary infantry.
The major units in eastern Mindanao were the 100th Division, commanded by Lt. Gen. Jiro Harada; the 30th Division, under Lt. Gen. Gyosaku Morozumi; the 32d Naval Special Base Force, headed by Rear Adm. Naoji Doi; and the Hosono Unit, an Air Force command of ill-armed service personnel. The 100th Division, with the 32d Naval Special Base Force attached for ground combat operations, held the Davao area and controlled the southeastern third of eastern Mindanao. The 30th Division was responsible for the defense of the rest of eastern Mindanao.6
Nominal command in eastern Mindanao rested with General Morozumi, who became de jure commander of the 35th Army after General Suzuki's death during the latter's voyage from Cebu.7 But Morozumi chose not to exercise his authority except insofar as to largely ignore advice from General Tomochika, 35th Army chief of staff, who reached Mindanao in late April. Beset with formidable communications difficulties, and realizing that most inhospitable terrain separated the main bodies of the 30th and 100th Divisions, Morozumi believed he could render his best service by staying with the 30th, leaving General Harada and Admiral Doi more or less to their own devices.
Neither Harada nor Morozumi had any offensive missions. Rather, in accordance with Yamashita's December 1944 plans, the Japanese on Mindanao were to direct their efforts to pinning down as many American units as possible in order to delay the progress of the war. Harada and Morozumi had little hope of conducting organized, major defensive operations for more than two months. Once American forces had overrun their prepared defenses, the two planned to retreat into largely unexplored mountains of east-central Mindanao, organizing a last-stand area like Yamashita's in the Asin Valley of northern Luzon.
The 30th and 100th Divisions were not in good shape to conduct a delaying, defensive operation. Hopelessly isolated, short of artillery, small arms ammunition, transportation, and communications equipment, they had no chance of obtaining supplies. They had some
stocks of food, but their transportation shortage, coupled with the poor condition of eastern Mindanao roads would make it most difficult for the Japanese to move their food from central depots to the mountains. Both divisions also faced serious personnel problems. Four of the 30th Division's nine infantry battalions had gone to Leyte and had been annihilated there. Garrison units, some of which had led an easy life on Mindanao since early 1942, formed the nucleus of each of the 100th Division's eight independent infantry battalions. Not more than ten officers of the 100th Division were regulars, and the quality of the division's junior officers and most of its noncommissioned officers approached the lamentable. Moreover, about a third of the division's men were Koreans, not noted for enthusiastic adherence to the Japanese cause. Finally, there can be little doubt that the commanders and staffs of both divisions had a defeatist attitude. They knew that once an invasion of eastern Mindanao began they would enter upon a battle they could not win, and they definitely had no relish for a defense to the death in place. It also appears that, pervaded by a feeling that the war had passed them by, the two divisions' defensive preparations were somewhat on the leisurely side. After Zamboanga fell to the 41st Division, Morozumi and Harada anticipated no additional Allied landings on Mindanao within the near future. When and if invasion did come, the two commanders thought, it would probably take place at Macajalar Bay or Davao Gulf and would probably be limited to the seizure of a small beachhead area from which the Allies could provide support to Fertig's guerrillas. The Malabang-Parang-Cotabato area ran a poor third in Japanese estimates of a likely site for an Allied landing, and not even the operations of the guerrillas there in March and early April caused them any concern.
The guerrillas had added greatly to the woes of Morozumi and Harada by April 1945. For example, the Japanese transportation problems were many times compounded by guerrilla demolitions, roadblocks, and bridge destruction. Guerrilla raids had destroyed communications equipment and supply dumps. It was impossible for the Japanese to send small truck convoys up and down the roads of eastern Mindanao, and small patrols had been out of the question for months.
Japanese in the Malabang-Cotabato area numbered 1,500 men--the reinforced 166th Independent Infantry Battalion, a 100th Division unit operating under 30th Division control. In the event of an American attack, the 166th IIB would conduct a fighting withdrawal to the Sayre Highway-Route 1 junction at Kabacan and would then help defend the southern section of the Sayre Highway, along which Morozumi had deployed the bulk of the 30th Division. There were no Japanese along Route 1 from Kabacan southwest for thirty miles, but the 100th Division was responsible for holding the highway for the next twenty miles to Davao Gulf.
Parang to Kabacan: Penetration
X Corps landing operations at Illana Bay began shortly after 0730 on 17 April when troops of the 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, 3d Engineer Special Brigade, went ashore on tiny Ibus
Clearing Eastern Mindanao
17 April-30 June 1945
LCM CARRIES TROOPS UP MINDANAO RIVER TO FORT PIKIT
Island, just off Malabang.8 At 0730 guerrillas greeted the 3d Battalion, 21st Infantry (minus Company K), on the beach near Malabang, and about 0745 Company K landed against no resistance on Bongo Island, fourteen miles off Parang. At 0900, following an unnecessary two-hour cruiser and destroyer bombardment, the 19th Infantry began moving ashore at Parang against no opposition; the main body of the 21st Infantry followed. (Map 32) During the afternoon the 19th Infantry secured the entire Parang area. The 24th Reconnaissance Troop, meanwhile, reconnoitered and found clear the shores of Police Harbor and, aboard LVT's, poked its nose into the northern mouth of the Mindanao River.
The units had moved so swiftly that X Corps, which had originally anticipated spending three or four days consolidating the beachhead area, decided to launch an immediate drive toward Kabacan. The intermediate objective was Fort Pikit, thirty-five miles inland, where Route 1 crosses the Mindanao River. The 19th Infantry would strike toward Fort Pikit along Route 1 while
the 21st Infantry, aboard LCM's of the 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, would employ the Mindanao River as its principal axis of advance.
The drive to Pikit began on 18 April and by dusk advance elements of the 21st Infantry were about twenty miles up the Mindanao River. The next day troops of the 21st, still aboard LCM's and now supported by naval and engineer gunboats, reached Paidu-Pulangi, nine miles short of Fort Pikit. Although the 21st Infantry had encountered no resistance worthy of note, Maj. Gen. Roscoe B. Woodruff, commanding the 24th Division, was worried that the regiment was getting too far east--the 19th Infantry had not kept pace along Route 1--and directed the regiment to pull back downstream about ten miles for the night. Crews of five engineer LCM's held Paidu-Pulangi that night and throughout 20 April. On the 21st a battalion of the 34th Infantry came up to Paidu-Pulangi and, moving both overland and along the river--here called the Pulangi--reached Fort Pikit late in the afternoon. The infantry found the old fort in the hands of troops from LCM gunboats of the 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment.
The 19th Infantry's advance along Route 1 had been slowed by the poor condition of the route, which was hardly more than a trail, and by elements of the 166th IIB. Heat and the necessity for hand-carrying all supplies had also helped delay the 19th Infantry, which did not reach Pikit until 23 April. The remnants of the 166th IIB, cut off by the seizure of Fort Pikit, melted away into rough hills north of Route 1.
Upon the capture of Pikit, the 24th Division turned its attention toward the Kabacan junction of Route 1 and Sayre Highway, only nine miles distant. Since the level of the Pulangi River had dropped, the division had to employ Route 1 as its main axis of advance, but happily found this section of the road in better shape than the Parang-Pikit stretch. Elements of the 34th Infantry reached the junction about noon on 22 April. During the ensuing night and early the next morning Japanese machine gun and rifle fire harassed both infantry and engineer troops in the Kabacan area, but by noon on the 23d all Japanese resistance had vanished.
The fire that the 34th Infantry encountered at Kabacan probably originated from elements of the 1st Battalion, 74th Infantry, which General Morozumi, upon hearing of the X Corps landing, had dispatched southward along Sayre Highway to reinforce the 166th IIB.9 When he learned that American troops had reached Fort Pikit, Morozumi immediately directed the 74th's battalion to halt lest it, too, be cut off south of Kabacan. Next, he ordered the unit to pull back up Sayre Highway a few miles and await developments.
Plans of Exploitation
To a large extent, the 24th Division's seizure of the Kabacan road junction was strategically, if not tactically, decisive in the eastern Mindanao campaign.10
Reaching the junction a week or so earlier than X Corps had anticipated, the 24th Division had projected U.S. Army strength into the very center of eastern Mindanao. Hopelessly separating the 30th and 100th Divisions, the 24th Division had opened two routes of further attack--the first north up Sayre Highway against the 30th Division's concentrations and the second southeast along Route 1 toward Davao Gulf and the main body of the 100th Division.
The course before General Sibert, X Corps' commander, was clear. To speed the reconquest of eastern Mindanao, exploiting the success already achieved, he would have to divide his forces. He directed the 31st Division, which began unloading on 22 April, to start one regimental combat team up the Sayre Highway from Kabacan. The RCT's initial objective was Kibawe, forty-five miles north of Kabacan. Sibert had information that a fairly good trail led southeast across unmapped and partially unexplored mountains from Kibawe to Talomo on the northwestern shore of Davao Gulf, and he had a tentative idea that elements of the 31st Division might be able to employ this trail in order to fall upon the rear of the 100th Division in the Davao area.11
While one RCT of the 31st Division drove to Kibawe, another would protect the X Corps lines of supply from Illana Bay to Kabacan. The division's third RCT would initially remain out of the fighting as a reserve.
Simultaneously, Sibert ordered the 24th Division (less the 21st Infantry, in X Corps Reserve) to mount an immediate drive southeast along Route 1 from Kabacan. The division's first objective was Digos, on the western shore of Davao Gulf approximately twenty miles southwest of Davao. After establishing a base at Digos, the division was to strike northeast to secure Davao and destroy the 100th Division. Sibert also made tentative plans to employ the 31st Division's reserve RCT in an amphibious landing at Davao Gulf in the event that the 24th Division encountered strong opposition at Digos or on its way to that town. Dive bombers of Marine Air Group 24, which reached the Malabang strip from Luzon on 22 April, were to provide close air support for the 24th and 31st Divisions, while other Marine Corps planes from the new field at Zamboanga would reinforce MAG 24 as necessary.12
The Destruction of the 100th Division
The Seizure of Davao
The 24th Division knew that speed was of the essence in its drive to Digos in order to prevent the Japanese from setting up strong defenses along Route 1 west of Digos or along the same highway between Digos and Davao. Accordingly, the 34th Infantry, spearheaded by the 24th Reconnaissance Troop, set out from Kabacan at a fast clip on the morning of 24 April.13 Slowed mainly by
ROUTE 1. 19th Infantry heads through hemp plantation toward Davao.
destroyed bridges and the poor condition of Route 1, the 34th reached the outskirts of Digos in midafternoon on 27 April.
Responsibility for the security of the Digos region was vested in the Digos District Unit, a combat force of about 3,350 troops who had nearly 600 Japanese civilians under their wing.14 Prepared to defend the western shores of Davao Gulf against amphibious assault, the Digos District Unit received no instructions to reorient its defenses against attack from the west until 22 April. Indeed, it was not until 22 April that General Harada, commanding the 100th Division, learned that American forces had landed on Mindanao.
The Digos District Unit made frantic preparations to meet the 24th Division's attack, but held out only until after dark on the night of 27-28 April, when it withdrew to the foothills of Mt. Apo, a volcanic peak cresting about seventeen miles north of Digos. On the 28th the 34th Infantry patrolled through formidable but abandoned beach defenses in the Digos area. During the period 29 April-12 May elements of the 34th Infantry and the Expeditionary Battalion of the guerrilla 108th Division cleared the Davao Gulf coast for fifteen miles south of Digos. Other troops of the 34th Infantry pursued the Digos District Unit, which held its ground in the Mt. Apo region until 9 May before withdrawing northward to join the rest of the 100th Division.
Meanwhile, the 19th Infantry had reached Digos from Kabacan and, passing through the 34th Infantry, had begun driving northward toward Davao. The 24th Division was now responsible for capturing Davao, preparing an attack against the main body of the 100th Division, and gaining contact with the guerrilla 107th Division, which held a line of outposts about twenty miles north of Davao.
Starting north on 28 April, the 19th Infantry found no strong defenses along Route 1 between Digos and Davao--it was plain that Harada had no intention of making a determined effort to hold the city. On the afternoon of 2 May the regiment overran the last resistance in front of the city and on the next day occupied Davao against negligible opposition, finding the city long since
bombed into a shambles by Allied land-based and carrier-based aircraft.
Into Contact With the 100th Division
To the 24th Division, the capture of Davao was as decisive as the seizure of the Kabacan road junction had been to X Corps as a whole.15 Clearing the shores of Davao Gulf from Digos to Davao, the division had secured for itself an excellent base area from which it could launch subsequent attacks against the 100th Division. The 24th Division had also learned that it had bypassed the Japanese unit's main defenses, which lay two to four miles inland along rising ground paralleling the northwestern shore of Davao Gulf. The 100th Division had obviously retired to position defenses; it had no offensive intent, and the 24th Division's task was going to be to root out the Japanese. From the theater point of view, the 24th's future operations would be mopping up, although tactically speaking the division was about to enter upon a frontal attack as rough as any the U.S. Army troops had engaged in the Philippines. In the end, though, the 24th Division's operations are important mainly as they serve to amplify and illustrate Eighth Army's share in the reconquest of the Philippines.
One of the first problems facing the 24th Division as it prepared to drive against the 100th Division's main defenses would be to concentrate sufficient strength to carry its attack through to a successful conclusion. General Sibert, commanding X Corps, faced essentially the same problem in regard to the 31st Division's proposed drive up Sayre Highway and tentative enveloping attack southeast toward Davao over the Kibawe-Talomo trail. With their extended lines of communication and supply, Sibert knew, neither the 24th nor the 31st Division would be able to make fast progress unless he could obtain additional troops. General Eichelberger, Eighth Army's commander, recognized the problem and gave X Corps the 41st Division's 162d RCT, which had completed its tasks at Zamboanga. One battalion combat team of the 162d came to Digos to protect the 24th Division's rear areas. The remainder took over the task of protecting the region from Illana Bay's shores inland to Kabacan, leaving the 31st Division free to employ additional strength on Sayre Highway. The arrival of the 162d RCT also permitted Sibert to release the 21st Infantry from X Corps Reserve and return it to the 24th Division in time to engage in the main attack against the 100th Division.
The 100th Division located the southern anchor of its defenses at Catigan, thirteen miles southwest of Davao, and the northern anchor in hills some twelve miles north of Davao.16 The Davao River, flowing generally south-southeast
into Davao Gulf at Davao, divided the defensive forces into two groupments. The Right Sector Unit, west of the river, was composed of five infantry battalions, three regular and two provisional. The territory east of the river was the responsibility of the Left Sector Unit--two regular infantry battalions, two provisional battalions, and the Air Force's Hosono Unit of ill-armed service personnel. The Right and Left Sector Units had a little artillery attached, for General Harada kept under his direct control most of the artillery as well as many engineer and service units. As a reserve Harada had about a battalion of regular infantry.17
The central and strongest portion of Harada's defenses rested its right on rising ground overlooking Libby Airdrome, two miles northwest of Talomo on the coast. From this point the central defenses, along which Harada initially deployed three battalions, extended eastward across the Talomo River and some rough hills to the west bank of the Davao River. The focal point of the central defenses was Mintal, four miles up Route 1-D from Talomo. Anticipating ultimate withdrawal into the mountains via Route 1-D, the southeastern section of the so-called Kibawe-Talomo trail, Harada had prepared defenses in depth along the highway and along ancillary roads paralleling it.
One phenomenon of flora that the 24th Division was about to face as it moved against the 100th Division deserves special mention. Much of the region west of the Davao River from Talomo northwest twelve miles to Calinan was covered with overgrown abaca, or hemp, plantations. Resembling banana plants, and growing to a height of about twenty feet, the abaca plants had originally been planted in rows ten feet apart, with ten feet between plants. With harvesting slack during the war, the plantations had become thick with shoots, and older plants had grown to a foot or so in diameter. Plants of various sizes were, in April 1945, scarcely a foot apart. Visibility was virtually nil, and the heat at the hemp plantations was like that of an oven.
On 30 April the 21st Infantry attacked to clear Libby Airdrome, Route 1-D between Mintal and Talomo, and Mintal itself. Bypassing Libby Airdrome to the west, one battalion came into Mintal from the southwest on 3 May. The rest of the regiment, reinforced by a battalion of the 34th Infantry, cleared the airdrome by 5 May, but could make little progress up Route 1-D toward Mintal. For a time, at least, there was a very real danger that the Japanese might surround and annihilate the battalion at Mintal.
Elements of the 34th Infantry next tried to drive north along high ground on the east bank of the Talomo River to bypass the Japanese Route 1-D defenses on the east. A battalion of the 21st Infantry, attempting to make a pincers movement out of the attack east of the Talomo River, crossed to the east side near Mintal on 8 May but, in the face of Japanese artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire, had to withdraw back to the west bank on the 10th. A two-battalion attack northward along the east bank of the Talomo started on 12 May, and by the 14th the troops had cleaned out so many positions from which the Japanese had directed fire on
Clearing the Davao Area
24th Infantry Division
30 April-26 June 1945
Route 1-D that the 21st Infantry was finally able to secure the highway all the way north to Mintal. The division thereby obtained a good supply route for subsequent advances northward and simultaneously secured its left rear.18 (Map 33)
Meanwhile, the 19th Infantry had been expanding its hold in the Davao area and on 10 May struck into high ground controlling the coast road immediately west of the Davao River. The 34th Infantry took over in this area on 15 May, before the 19th had completed its task. Other elements of the 19th, beginning 10 May, cleared scattered Japanese strongpoints on hills just north of Davao City, and one battalion combat team cleared Samal Island, in Davao Gulf just east of the city, in order to halt Japanese artillery fire that had been harassing troops in the city area.
Breakthrough in the Center
By 15 May the 24th Division, having established firm contact with the 100th Division all across its front, had evolved plans for future operations. The 21st and 34th Infantry Regiments would attack abreast north and northwest in a drive against the Japanese center, the 34th east of the Talomo River and the 21st west of that stream. For the time being, the 19th Infantry would hold in the Davao City area, but would prepare to strike north to clear the northeastern shores of Davao Gulf, link up with the guerrilla forces north of the gulf, and, ultimately, swing westward against the 100th Division's left flank forces, which were holding high ground overlooking the gulf's shores for some twelve miles north of Davao.19
General Harada, the 100th Division commander, had been surprised that the 24th Division had mounted no attacks against his flanks, and by the end of the first week of May had concluded that the American forces were going to neglect his flanks in favor of a frontal assault against his center.20 Anticipating a drive astride Route 1-D, he had shifted two battalions from his flanks to the highway sector, and committed the bulk of his reserve to the same area. In mid-May, however, Harada decided that these steps were insufficient to meet the threat to his center. Accordingly, he undertook a wholesale reorganization of his forces that involved transferring most of the Army ground combat forces stationed east of the Davao River to the area west of the river. Control east of the river was now vested in Admiral Doi as commander of the Left District Unit, the major components of which included the Air Force's Hosono Unit, three provisional infantry battalions of naval troops, and two reinforced Army infantry companies. Between the Davao River and a north-south line crossing Route 1-D near Mintal was the Left Front Line Unit, composed of about two and a half battalions of regular infantry,
an Army provisional infantry battalion, a Navy provisional infantry battalion, a reinforced battery of artillery, and various service units. The area west of Mintal was the responsibility of the Right Front Line Unit, which included the equivalent of three regular infantry battalions, about two batteries of artillery, miscellaneous service units, and, after 21 May, the remnants of the Digos District Unit.21
The Left District Unit dug in along rising ground overlooking Davao Gulf between Davao and Bunawan, twelve miles to the north, and held a series of outposts along Route 1 north of Davao. Admiral Doi's strongest--and last-stand--defenses were near Mandog, a hill barrio on the east bank of the Davao River seven miles north of the city. Doi's Hosono Unit took little part in subsequent operations, but hid out in hilly country ten miles northwest of Bunawan.
Harada's new Left and Right Front Line Units completed their deployment on 17 May, the very day that the 24th Division launched a renewed attack.22 On the 17th the 19th Infantry struck north from Davao to establish contact with the guerrilla 107th Division, which, about 1,300 strong, had been trying since 2 May to drive in Japanese outposts north of Davao. The guerrillas attained only limited success, but did deny the Japanese egress from the Davao coastal plains to the north.23 By 24 May the 107th Division and the 19th Infantry had established contact, while the 19th Infantry had secured Route 1 north of Davao and was ready to turn west against the Left District Unit main defenses.
The 21st Infantry had struck north from Mintal on 17 May along two roads, Route 1-D and a secondary road east of the Talomo River. Three days later the regiment drove into Tugbok, on Route 1-D two miles northwest of Mintal, against determined opposition. East of the Talomo, progress was even slower against artillery, machine gun, rocket, mortar, and rifle fire, and it was not until 27 May that the regiment's right flank had drawn abreast, seizing a road junction about a mile east of Tugbok. The 21st Infantry held in place until the 29th, when the 34th relieved it.
To almost the end of May the 34th Infantry had had three battalion-sized, separate offensives under way between the Talomo and Davao Rivers. The dirtiest job the regiment faced was clearing coastal hills between the two rivers, hills from which Japanese units were constantly launching harassing attacks. On 23 May the regiment largely finished its task, but it was 3 June before it completed mopping up. On 14 May the regiment's left had attacked north near the east bank of the Talomo. Costly, laborious, small unit actions, combined with extremely close and heavy air and artillery support, produced slow but constant progress as units often found
themselves hemmed in on three sides by veritable hornets' nests of Japanese. On 28 May the 34th Infantry made contact with the 21st Infantry at the road junction east of Tugbok.
Disappointing as the two weeks' gains had been in terms of terrain, the 21st and 34th Infantry Regiments had actually accomplished far more than the 24th Division thought at first glance. Penetrating as far as Tugbok, the two regiments had broken through the center of the 100th Division's strongest defenses. The 21st Infantry, moreover, had decimated one of the 100th Division's independent infantry battalions, while four other regular battalions and one provisional battalion had lost up to half their strength during the action to 28 May.
Taking a second glance at the situation at the end of May, General Woodruff realized that the Japanese center had begun to fall apart, and he ordered the attack continued across a much broader front than he had previously considered feasible. He directed the 21st Infantry to strike north along secondary roads lying west of Route 1-D, the 34th to continue the drive up Route 1-D and a secondary road east of that highway. The 19th Infantry's mission was now to overrun all Japanese defenses east of the Davao River and destroy Admiral Doi's concentration in the Mandog area.24
Overrunning the Second Line
Whether the 24th Division knew it or not, the division was going to attack toward a second line of 100th Division defenses.25 By the end of May Harada realized that he would have to take some drastic steps if he wanted to conduct an organized defense much longer. Accordingly, he established new defenses along an east-west line crossing Route 1-D in the vicinity of Ula, about three and a half miles north of Mintal. The right anchor was at Wangan, about four miles west of Ula, and the left flank extended northeast and east from Ula to tie in at the Davao River with the Left District Unit defenses at Mandog. The right (west) portion of this second defense line was manned by 25 May, the left by the end of the month. How long Harada expected to hold his new line is not certain, but it is known that as early as 25 May he began preparing detailed plans for the ultimate withdrawal of all forces into the inhospitable mountains northwest of Wangan.
Attacks against Harada's positions east of the Davao River began on 29 May when the 19th Infantry, starting from the coast north of Davao, struck westward toward Admiral Doi's Mandog defenses.26 The regiment began closing with Doi's main defenses on 31 May, and on 7 June the 19th Infantry, having overrun the outer defenses, was ready to drive into the main positions near Mandog. That day, attacking behind
close air support, the regiment pushed steadily forward and on the 9th overran the last major defenses. For all practical purposes the eastern section of the 100th Division's second line had fallen apart, although it was not until 15 June that the 19th Infantry reduced the last organized opposition on hills a mile or so north of Mandog. Since General Woodruff wanted to pull the regiment out for operations to the west, it set up no pursuit but rather mopped up in the Mandog area until 18 June, when guerrillas took over. The remnants of the Left District Unit retired northward into rugged hills where, like the Hosono Unit farther north, it sat out the war in relative security, losing few men in combat.
The 34th Infantry's attack against the center of Harada's second line began on 30 May. Ula, a mile east of Route 1-D on a secondary road, fell on 31 May, but then progress slowed in the face of fanatic resistance. The 3d Battalion of the 163d Infantry, 41st Division, which had recently reached Davao from Zamboanga, took over on the 34th Infantry's left, along Route 1-D, on 4 June. With these reinforcements, the 34th Infantry had by the 6th progressed a mile beyond Ula on the secondary road and had reached an opposite point along Route 1-D. Elements of the regiment then swung eastward in an attempt to cut off portions of Harada's Left Front Line Unit. The attempt was not entirely successful, for by the time the 34th Infantry reached the west bank of the Davao River in the vicinity of Mandog on 9 June most of the organized remnants of the Left Front Line Unit had escaped westward. Nevertheless, the 34th Infantry's swing to the Davao River, together with the 19th Infantry's capture of Mandog on the 9th, marked the collapse of all that section of the 100th Division's second line east of the secondary road upon which Ula lay.
The center, along Route 1-D and the Ula road, also began to collapse on 9 June. Two days later the 34th Infantry and the attached 3d Battalion, 163d Infantry, were almost three miles north of Ula along both roads and were finding few signs of organized Japanese resistance.
On the left (west) flank of the 24th Division, the 21st Infantry had struck north from Lamogan, four miles west of Talomo, on 31 May. Following secondary roads west of Route 1-D, the regiment seized Wangan, western anchor of the 100th Division's second line, on 9 June, and as of evening the next day all elements of Harada's Right Front Line Unit were in full retreat northward.
Thus, by dark on 10 June the 24th Division had overrun the 100th Division's second line all across the front from Wangan east to Mandog, a distance of over ten miles. A beaten force, the 100th Division sped its withdrawal into the mountains; the 24th Division's operations entered the mop-up and pursuit phase. The task of crashing through the 100th Division's organized defenses had cost the 24th Division approximately 350 men killed and 1,615 wounded; the 100th Division and attached units had lost roughly 4,500 men killed and 30 captured from late April to mid-June.27
The Collapse of 30th Division Resistance
31st Division and 30th Division Plans
While the 24th Division had been pushing the 100th Division into the mountains northwest of Davao, the 31st Division had been methodically proceeding with the destruction of the 30th Division. In accordance with X Corps plans, Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin, commanding the 31st Division, had upon arrival on Mindanao dispatched his 124th RCT to the Kabacan junction of Route 1 and Sayre Highway to prepare a drive north along the latter road. The 31st Division's initial objective was the junction of Sayre Highway and the trail that was presumed to lead southwest from Kibawe, forty-five miles north of Kabacan, to Talomo on Davao Gulf.28
General Morozumi, commanding the 30th Division, had about 17,500 troops under his control.29 His strength included 8,000-odd men of his own division, around 4,500 troops of attached combat and service elements, and nearly 5,000 Army Air Force personnel. Trained ground combat effectives numbered roughly 5,800. Considering the Air Force troops more of a hindrance than a help--he lacked arms to employ them profitably even in a defensive role--Morozumi kept in his lines only one battalion of Air Force engineers, which he turned into a provisional infantry outfit. Most of the rest of the air units early moved into the mountains east of the Sayre Highway to seek their own salvation.
Morozumi divided his combat strength among five defensive units. The 24th Division, in its drive from Illana Bay to Kabacan, had virtually destroyed the Western Sector Unit, built upon the 100th Division's 166th IIB. Responsibility for the defense of Sayre Highway from Kabacan north to Kibawe rested with the 2,500-man Southern Sector Unit, which included a battalion of regular infantry, the equivalent of a battalion of engineers, and miscellaneous groups. The next 85 miles of highway, from Kibawe north to Maluko, was held by the Central Sector Unit--5,500 troops including an infantry regiment less one battalion, a reinforced artillery battalion, and service units. Near Malabalay, over 40 air miles north of Kibawe, were headquarters and division troops of the 30th Division, another 1,000 men in all. The Northern Sector Unit defended the shores of Macajalar Bay, on Mindanao's north-central coast 30 air miles northwest of Malabalay, and Sayre Highway from the bay southeast 25 miles to Maluko. With around 4,500 men, the Northern Sector Unit included the 30th Division's reconnaissance regiment, a regular infantry battalion, miscellaneous combat and service units, and the provisional infantry battalion Morozumi had formed from Air Force engineers.30 From the deployment of his Central and Northern Sector Units--well over half his strength--it seems obvious that Morozumi was more concerned with the
possibility of an attack from Macajalar Bay than with an American drive north from Kibawe.
Far northeast, at Butuan Bay, was the 2,200-man Eastern Sector Unit, built around one regular infantry battalion. Morozumi had intended to bring the unit westward to Sayre Highway, but before the end of April he decided that the force could not reach central Mindanao in time to be of use in the defense of the highway--guerrillas had blocked the roads and destroyed all bridges the unit had to use. Having already laid plans for the 30th Division to retreat east from Sayre Highway, Morozumi directed the Eastern Sector Unit to move up the Agusan River from Butuan Bay to collect food and prepare the southern reaches of the river's broad valley as the last-stand area for the main body of the 30th Division.
As the battle for Sayre Highway began, Morozumi already had several counts against him, some of his own making. Preoccupied with the prospect of attack from Macajalar Bay, he had prepared few defenses along the southern third of the highway. His units were so scattered up and down the road that under ideal conditions Morozumi would have had difficulty redeploying or concentrating them. Conditions along Sayre Highway were far from ideal. Neglected by the Japanese, the road was in poor repair and in spots overgrown with grass. Guerrilla activity had seriously inhibited Japanese employment of the road; every time the Japanese rebuilt a bridge the guerrillas would destroy it again. Allied domination of the air made it nearly impossible for Morozumi to undertake daylight movements, while elements of the guerrilla 106th and 109th Divisions harassed Japanese movements day and night.31 Short of transportation before the campaign began in April, and shorter still of maintenance equipment, Morozumi would soon see almost all his vehicles either destroyed or deadlined for lack of spare parts and fuel. Finally, Morozumi apparently entered upon the battle for Sayre Highway with a defeatist attitude, evidently expecting to hold only long enough to permit the bulk of his forces to escape westward into the mountains through Malaybalay.
Kabacan to Kibawe
The 31st Division's 124th Infantry left Kabacan about 1800 on 27 April and advanced northward through gathering darkness until after 2200, when a meeting engagement suddenly opened with the 1st Battalion, 74th Infantry.32 Morozumi had earlier dispatched this unit southward to reinforce the 166th IIB but had pulled it back when, on 21 April, he had learned that the 24th Division had reached Fort Pikit. On the 26th, no American thrust up Sayre Highway having developed, Morozumi again started the battalion south, directing it to hold the crossing over the
Pulangi River just north of Kabacan.33
At a point about nine miles north of the Pulangi crossing the 1st Battalion, 74th Infantry, with a strength of 350 in the forward area, was caught by surprise as its point ran headlong into the fast-moving advance elements of the 124th Infantry. During the ensuing engagement Battery C, 149th Field Artillery, hurriedly unlimbered its 105-mm. howitzers and delivered accurate support fire, employing sound-ranging adjustment methods. Before the skirmish was over at dawn on 28 April, the 124th Infantry had lost about 10 men killed and 25 wounded, and had killed at least 50 Japanese. Its morale apparently shattered by the unexpected turn of events, the Japanese battalion broke and disappeared from the Sayre Highway.
After 28 April the 124th Infantry drove on northward against very scattered opposition, delayed mainly by the poor condition of the highway. Guerrilla demolitions, given the finishing touch by engineers of the Southern Sector Unit, had accounted for most of the bridges along the road north of Kabacan, and there were some seventy bridges, in varying states of ruin, from Kabacan north twenty-five miles to the Mulita River. Deep gorges and landslides induced by heavy rains added to the 31st Division's supply problems. At one pair of gorges the 124th Infantry and the 108th Engineer Battalion had to rig cables to get north jeeps, quarter-ton trailers, three-quarter-ton weapons carriers, and 105-mm. howitzers. It was not until 3 May, when engineer bulldozers completed fills, that the 124th could bring up heavier equipment. Obviously, the 31st Division would have to depend in large measure upon air supply to maintain its advance northward.
By 3 May leading elements of the 124th Infantry had reached Kibawe, set up roadblocks north of that barrio, and probed about a mile southeast along the trail that supposedly led to Talomo on Davao Gulf. Despite its supply problems the regiment had, within a week's time, secured the 31st Division's first objective. The advance from Kabacan to Kibawe had cost the 124th Infantry approximately 15 men killed and 50 wounded, while the Southern Sector Unit had lost over 175 men killed.
Until the first week of May the 31st Division had been able to employ only one RCT along Sayre Highway.34 Then the 41st Division's 162d Infantry reached eastern Mindanao from Zamboanga, took over responsibility for the protection of the X Corps rear areas from Parang to Fort Pikit, and permitted the 31st Division to bring its 155th RCT forward. The 167th RCT, 31st Division, aided by guerrilla units, protected the supply lines from Fort Pikit to Kibawe.
Since two RCT's were now available along Sayre Highway, General Sibert assigned additional tasks to the 31st Division. First, he directed the division to continue northward to clear the highway
CLEARING ENEMY FROM SAYRE HIGHWAY
and to establish contact with the 108th RCT, 40th Division. General Eichelberger, the Eighth Army's commander, had decided to put the 108th ashore at Macajalar Bay both to speed the conquest of Mindanao and to open a new supply route to the 31st Division, the supply problems of which increased with every step its troops took northward.
The 31st Division's second job was to strike southeast along the Kibawe-Talomo trail. General Sibert's preoccupation with this maneuver reflects the state of mapping and of weather information the Army had concerning Mindanao. Sibert soon learned from Colonel Fertig that much of the Kibawe-Talomo trail was a figment of the imagination. Wheeled vehicles could negotiate only the first five or six miles of the trail south from Kibawe even in dry weather, and as a recognizable trace the trail extended only thirteen miles southeast from Kibawe to the Pulangi River. In the Davao area the trail was fairly good from Calinan (terminus of Route 1-D from Talomo) northwest about six miles to the Tamogan River, but then disappeared. In the unmapped region between the Pulangi and Tamogan Rivers rainfall in April, May, and June sometimes reached a total of forty inches per month. During June and July 1945 Japanese troops hacked a fairly definite path through the jungles and rain forest across the forty-five miles of rugged terrain separating the Pulangi and Tamogan
TRANSPORTING HOWITZER OVER GORGE BY CABLE
Rivers, but never was this stretch such that large bodies of men could use it.
After making an aerial reconnaissance over the ground southeast from Kibawe, General Eichelberger put an end to plans to make a major effort southeast along the trail from Kibawe and about 10 May directed Sibert to limit operations on the trail to a battalion-sized reconnaissance-in-force. By this time, the 24th Division had the situation well in hand in the Davao area and the 31st Division could employ additional troops to good advantage along Sayre Highway. Sibert accordingly directed the 31st Division to push one battalion southeast from Kibawe as far as the Pulangi River and with the rest of its available strength to resume the drive up Sayre Highway.
General Morozumi was also making changes in his plans in early May.35 Appalled by the speed of the 31st Division's advance as far as Kibawe, Morozumi directed his units to start assembling at Malaybalay immediately in preparation for retreat eastward to the Agusan Valley. He ordered a battalion of infantry southward to delay the 31st Division in the vicinity of Maramag, fifteen miles north of Kibawe, until 10 May at least, by which date he hoped his main forces would have passed through Malaybalay. The Japanese battalion was hardly in position when the 124th Infantry, which had started north
from Kibawe on 6 May, reached the Maramag region.
Clearing Sayre Highway
The Japanese battalion at Maramag more than accomplished its mission, for it was not until 12 May that the 124th Infantry overcame the last organized resistance in the area.36 The fighting from 6 through 12 May cost the 124th Infantry about 60 men killed and 120 wounded, while the Japanese, in a tour de force of fanatic resistance, lost at least 130 men killed.
On 13 May the 155th Infantry passed through the 124th to continue the drive northward. Organized opposition along Sayre Highway south of Malaybalay had now melted away, and the 155th Infantry was delayed principally by supply problems and difficulties entailed in keeping supporting artillery within range of possible points of Japanese resistance. About noon on 20 May the 155th reached the outskirts of Malaybalay, where fire from remnants of the 30th Field Artillery Regiment halted the advance. Realizing that the regiment could not haul its weapons into the mountains east of Malaybalay, Morozumi had left the unit at Malaybalay to fight a rear-guard action, which was successful in keeping the 155th Infantry out of the town until late on 21 May.
On 22 and 23 May the 155th continued up Sayre Highway, encountering elements of Morozumi's Northern Sector Unit that had not learned that American troops had reached Malaybalay and were still withdrawing southward to join the 30th Division's main body. Pressed by troops of the 108th Infantry, 40th Division, which had already landed at Macajalar Bay, the retreating forces gave the 155th Infantry little trouble and, about 1400 on 23 May, the 155th made contact with the 108th Infantry near Impalutao, twelve miles northwest of Malaybalay.
The 108th Infantry had landed unopposed along the southeastern shore of Macajalar Bay on 10 May, making contact almost immediately with guerrilla units already operating in the region.37 Advancing inland, the 108th Infantry encountered no significant resistance until 13 May, when, eighteen miles inland, it came upon strong Japanese defenses where Sayre Highway zigzags up and down the steep slopes of the Magima River canyon. Here Morozumi had posted a delaying force of about 1,250 men who had the support of a few pieces of light artillery.38
Although Morozumi probably did not
know it, he had stationed his delaying groupment at the same point a Fil-American force had chosen to hold just three years earlier when a Japanese unit, foreshadowing the 108th RCT's operation, had landed at Macajalar Bay to drive south along Sayre Highway.39 In May 1942 the Fil-American force had held at the Magima Canyon area for four days, and now in May 1945 history repeated itself, for it took the 108th Infantry, 40th Division, from 15 through 18 May to clean out the region.
Following this action the 108th Infantry--its rear protected by the 3d Battalion of the Americal Division's 164th Infantry, which reached Macajalar Bay on 14 May--continued south to its rendezvous with the 31st Division on 23 May. Supply problems slowed the 108th Infantry's advance to some degree, but Sayre Highway was in so much better shape from Macajalar Bay south to Malaybalay than it was from Kabacan north that Eighth Army immediately changed the 31st Division's supply route to one originating at Macajalar Bay.
Its share in the task of clearing Sayre Highway cost the 31st Division approximately 90 men killed and 250 wounded, while the 108th Infantry, 40th Division, lost roughly 15 men killed and 100 wounded. Together, the two units killed almost 1,000 Japanese during their operations along the highway, and captured nearly 25 more.40
It takes little reflection to conclude that the 30th Division made a poor showing along Sayre Highway. Morozumi had employed effectively just two of the six regular infantry battalions available to him, while only at Malaybalay had his artillery become a factor with which X Corps troops had to reckon. From the start Morozumi had had no real intention of conducting an all-out defense of Sayre Highway, but rather had been busy withdrawing the bulk of his division through Malaybalay. Thus, except for brief stands, his forces had melted away in one of the sorriest showings made by any Japanese unit during the course of the war.
Mop-up and Pursuit in Eastern Mindanao
With Sayre Highway cleared of the 30th Division and with the collapse of the 100th Division second line of defense northwest of Davao, the campaign for eastern Mindanao had reached a tactical conclusion. However, as was the case on most of the other islands of the Philippines, the war was not over in eastern Mindanao. X Corps operations now entered the mop-up and pursuit phase.
Malaybalay to the Agusan Valley
General Morozumi planned to reassemble the 30th Division forces he had withdrawn from Sayre Highway at or near Silae, eleven miles east of Malaybalay, and hoped to hold in the Silae area for at least a month before retreating further across the mountains to the upper reaches of the Agusan Valley.41
Morozumi's intent had become obvious to X Corps before the end of May, and as early as the 22d elements of the 124th Infantry had begun probing into the mountains east from Sayre Highway.42 Rough terrain and poor trails slowed operations from the inception of the pursuit, and aerial supply was employed continuously. Small groups of Japanese constantly harassed lines of communication back to Sayre Highway; heavy rains inhibited aerial observation of Japanese activity; and, as American troops pushed deeper into the mountains, Japanese resistance stiffened markedly. In contrast with their defense of Sayre Highway, troops of the 30th Division made the most of their capabilities in the mountains, where they fought tenaciously and fanatically over every inch of ground. Nevertheless, elements of the 124th Infantry reached Silae on 9 June, and four days later troops of the 108th Infantry, brought into the drive east from the highway, reached the Bobonawan River seven miles south of Silae. Another six miles to the south men of the 155th Infantry arrived on the Pulangi River on 12 June, and elements of the 162d Infantry, 41st Division, struck twenty miles into the mountains east from Maramag during the period 13-26 June.
On 5 June Morozumi gave up his plan to hold in the Silae area for a month and started his best troops eastward toward Waloe, in the Agusan River valley some 35 miles east of Silae and 55 miles upstream from the Agusan's mouth on Butuan Bay. The new Japanese withdrawal was not long in gathering momentum, and American units soon found it difficult to locate any Japanese up to 15 miles east of the Sayre Highway. At the end of June troops of the guerrilla 109th and 110th Divisions took over in the territory east of the highway from Maramag north to Malaybalay.43
The 30th Division was not permitted to reassemble a significant force in the Agusan Valley. Ever since Morozumi's Eastern Sector Unit had started up the river in late April to prepare an ultimate refuge for the 30th Division, guerrillas of the 110th Division had been harassing Japanese up and down the valley.44 Thus the leading elements of the Eastern Sector Unit did not reach Waloe until late June, just in time to be chased out of the barrio by guerrillas and troops of the 155th Infantry, 31st Division.45
A battalion combat team of the 155th Infantry, making its way up the Agusan River aboard engineer LCM's, assembled near Waloe on 27 June, and the remnants of the Eastern Sector Unit withdrew east and south. Japanese troops from the Silae sector began to straggle into the Waloe area on 3 August, harassed by 31st Division artillery and Marine Corps aircraft. Morozumi gathered the troops he was able to keep organized about seven miles up the Agusan from Waloe, and at the end of the war was preparing to move on to Mindanao's inhospitable east coast.
The Kibawe-Talomo Trail
Pursuit operations along the so-called Kibawe-Talomo trail were shared by the 24th and 31st Divisions.46 After overrunning the 100th Division's second line of resistance on 10 June, the 24th Division struck toward Calinan, terminus of Route 1-D from Talomo. General Harada employed most of his best troops to defend the road junction town of Calinan and, managing to hold it until 19 June, extricated his organized remnants from possible entrapment east of Route 1-D. American units participating in the drive to Calinan included the 21st Infantry, 24th Division, and the 41st Division's 162d Infantry, less its 2d Battalion but with the 3d Battalion, 163d Infantry, attached.
Taking over at Calinan on 19 June, the 34th Infantry of the 24th Division reached the Tamogan River, six miles northwest, on 23 June. The next day elements of the 19th and 34th Infantry Regiments secured a crossing over the Tamogan and for a few days thereafter the 100th Division's retreat turned into a rout. By 26 June, following a portion of the Kibawe-Talomo trail that the Japanese had recently improved, troops of the 34th Infantry reached the mountain barrio of Kibangay, two miles beyond the Tamogan. Here the pursuit halted, and Harada was able to restore some semblance of order among his forces. The 100th Division held defenses in the Kibangay area until mid-July when, with food supplies running out, Harada directed his remaining units to disperse and forage for themselves in the mountains. Taking over from the 24th Division in late July, men of the guerrilla 107th Division continued to hunt down Japanese stragglers to the end of the war, gradually extending control over the southeastern section of the Kibawe-Talomo trail.47
Far to the northwest, units of the 31st Division had been probing southeast along the upper section of the Kibawe-Talomo trail ever since early May, and on the 11th of that month a battalion combat team of the 167th Infantry launched the reconnaissance-in-force
directed by General Sibert, the X Corps commander.48 Japanese along this section of the trail, about 1,000 men in all, comprised a conglomerate mass of service troops with a small leavening of infantry. Control was vested in General Tomochika, chief of staff of the 35th Army, who had set up a small headquarters groupment near barrio Pinamola, about twenty miles southeast of Kibawe.49
The Japanese force had a defensive potential far greater than its strength and nature would indicate, for the terrain gave the Japanese every conceivable advantage. Bounded on both sides by dense jungle and thick rain forest, the trail as far as Pinamola ran up and down steep ridges and was scarcely jeep-wide. Rains of late May soon rendered all sections of the trail completely impassable to wheeled vehicles, and supplies had to come in by airdrop, supplemented when possible by hand-carrying parties and laden Carabaos. The mud was so deep that often troops had to pull, push, or even jack the Carabaos out of gooey holes.
Delayed by the Japanese, the terrain, and the weather, the 167th Infantry's battalion did not reach the Pulangi River, thirteen miles southeast of Kibawe, until 29 May. Then, although the Japanese from the trail could no longer offer any threat to the 31st Division, the battalion continued south toward Pinamola, aided considerably by guerrillas.50 Troops of the 167th Infantry finally reached Pinamola on 30 June as the remaining Japanese were withdrawing southward another eight miles to the crossing of the Kuluman River. Progress as far as Pinamola had cost the 167th Infantry approximately 60 men killed and 180 wounded, while the Japanese had lost almost 400 killed along the same section of the trail.51
Elements of the 167th Infantry held along the northwestern section of the Kibawe-Talomo trail until the end of the war, and as of 15 August the regiment was preparing to send troops across the Kuluman River to continue the advance southeastward. On that date nearly 30 miles of Japanese-improved trail--only 19 air miles--still separated the 167th Infantry from guerrilla units operating in the vicinity of Kibangay. Organized remnants of Harada's 100th Division holed up until the end of the war in rugged terrain north of this 30-mile stretch of the trail.52
Sarangani Bay: Anticlimax to the Campaigns in the Philippines
From the beginning of his planning for the return to the Philippines, General MacArthur had intended to initiate his campaign with the seizure of airfield sites along the shores of Sarangani Bay, on the south-central coast of eastern Mindanao, about seventy-five miles southwest of Davao. With the decision of mid-September 1944 to launch the Philippine campaign with the invasion of Leyte, GHQ SWPA quietly laid aside its plans to land at Sarangani Bay with a two-division corps. Over nine months later planners of the Southwest Pacific Area again turned their attention to the bay. Thus, by a sharp turn in the march of events, Sarangani Bay became the site of the last attack against hitherto unmolested Japanese forces on the Philippine archipelago. However, instead of committing a corps of two reinforced divisions, the Sarangani Bay operation as ultimately executed involved a force scarcely equivalent to one regimental combat team.53
The Japanese at Sarangani Bay in July 1945, when operations to clear the area began, numbered approximately 2,000 troops, including roughly 1,500 infantry and artillery from various 30th and 100th Division units and some 450 miscellaneous naval personnel.54 In April and May the Japanese artillery at Sarangani Bay had attempted to escape northward, but finding its routes of withdrawal to Sayre Highway and Davao cut, had given up the attempt. Ultimately organized as the Sarangani District Unit, the force at the bay set up defenses about ten miles inland where, having at their disposal the resources of rich agricultural lands, the Japanese lived bountifully until July, only occasionally harassed by elements of the guerrilla 116th Infantry, 106th Division.55
If for no other reason, Fil-American operations to secure the Sarangani Bay region are interesting because of the varied and complicated nature of the maneuvers involved. The operations began on 4 July when a patrol of the 24th Reconnaissance Troop, 24th Division, coming from Davao Gulf aboard Allied Naval Forces PT boats, landed on the southeastern shore of the bay to establish contact with the 116th Infantry. By 11 July the guerrilla unit, to which 150 M1 rifles were delivered, and the reconnaissance patrol had cleared the bay's shores against negligible resistance. On 12 July a battalion combat team from the 24th Division's 21st Infantry landed on the northwest shore.
Meanwhile, X Corps had assembled a provisional infantry battalion of U.S. Army antiaircraft troops at Fort Pikit and had sent it south aboard engineer LCM's some thirty miles to Lake Buluan. Unloading on the lake's southern shores, the battalion picked up Battery B, 496th Antiaircraft Gun Battalion, and
the Combat Company of the guerrilla 118th Infantry, 106th Division, both of which had come overland from Pikit. The battalion started southeast toward Sarangani Bay from the Lake Buluan region on 9 July, led by Col. Robert V. Bowler, Fertig's second in command.
Still another force involved in the Sarangani Bay operation was the Expeditionary Battalion, 108th Division, which had been operating with the 24th Division ever since the landing at Malabang in April.56 Striking southwest from the shores of Davao Gulf on 8 July, the Expeditionary Battalion followed an old cattle drive trail through dense rain forest and by 12 July was within fifteen miles of Sarangani Bay.
With all elements of the Sarangani Bay Task Force (into which the varied echelons were finally organized) on the march by 12 July, events began to move rapidly. On the 13th the provisional infantry battalion from Pikit and the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, made contact at a point about sixteen miles northwest of the bay's northwestern corner. On the 15th the guerrilla 116th Infantry and the Expeditionary Battalion gained contact about ten miles northeast of the bay. A few days later the combined forces discovered the main body of Japanese hiding out along river valleys and hilly peaks about fifteen miles north of the bay. Organized Japanese resistance collapsed on 25 July, and operations entered the mop-up and pursuit stage. By 11 August, when most of the Sarangani Bay Task Force returned to Davao, the task of securing the bay region had cost the Fil-American units involved 13 men killed and 13 wounded, while the Japanese had lost 450 killed.57 The campaign on Mindanao was finished.
The End of the War in Eastern Mindanao
On 30 June General Eichelberger declared the eastern Mindanao operation closed, and reported to General MacArthur that organized opposition in the region had ceased. Actually, fighting against organized bodies of Japanese continued after that date, but there can be no doubt that by 30 June the main ends of the campaign had been realized.
U.S. Army casualties of the campaign to secure eastern Mindanao, through 15 August 1945, totaled approximately 3,700. (Table 9) Through 30 June U.S. Army units and attached guerrillas had killed almost 10,540 Japanese in eastern Mindanao, of which number the 24th Division had killed roughly 6,585. From 30 June through 15 August Fil-American units killed another 2,325 Japanese. Roughly 600 Japanese prisoners, over 250 of them civilians, were captured before 15 August, and after the war about 22,250 Japanese troops and 11,900 civilians turned themselves in. These figures account for a total of 47,615 Japanese. With approximately 55,850 Japanese in eastern Mindanao as of 17 April 1945, the total of 47,615 leaves 8,235 unaccounted for. It appears that this number of Japanese must have lost their lives from starvation and disease between April and the war's end.
U.S. ARMY CASUALTIES, EASTERN MINDANAO
THROUGH 15 AUGUST 1945
Unit Killed Wounded Total
24th Infantry Division 540 1,885 2,425 31st Infantry Division 185 485 670 162d RCT, 41st Infantry Division
(including 3d Battalion, 163d Infantry)
25 85 110 108th RCT, 40th Infantry Division
(including 3d BCT, 164th RCT, Americal Division)
15 105 120 X Corps troops 40 215 255 Bugo-Del Monte Area Command 15 105 120 Total 820 2,880 3,700
Source: Based on sources cited previously in the chapter. The 24th Division casualties include the U.S. Army casualties of the Sarangani Bay Task Force, and those of the 162d RCT (less 3d Battalion, 162d Infantry) and the 3d Battalion, 163d Infantry, while attached to the division. The Bugo-Del Monte Area Command, existing from 29 May to 23 June, included antiaircraft units, elements of engineer boat and shore regiments, and various service force units.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (31) * Next Chapter (33)
1. American plans are derived from: 10th I&H, Operational Monograph on the Mindanao Operation, pp. 9, 33-54; X Corps Rpt Mindanao, pp. 6-10; Boggs. Marine Aviation in the Philippines, pp. 124-25, and n. 26, p. 126; Eighth Army FO 26, 20 Mar 45; X Corps FO 27, 25 Mar 45.
2. See Morton, Fall of the Philippines, pp. 510-13.
3. In addition to U.S. Army sources cited, guerrilla information in this chapter comes from: Mindanao Guerrilla Record, passim; Fertig Interviews; Fertig Comments, 2 May 57. The 108th Division was commanded by Lt. Col. Charles W. Hedges, an unsurrendered American officer, while the forces at Malabang were under Maj. Rex Blow, an Australian officer who had escaped from Borneo. The Malabang guerrilla forces included the Expeditionary Battalion, 108th Division; part of the 105th Infantry of the same division; and the bulk of the separate Maranao Militia Force, a Moro organization that acted under the operational control of the 108th Division.
4. The operations cost the guerrillas 17 men killed and 21 wounded; the Japanese lost perhaps 250 men killed. Less than 100 Japanese escaped from the area.
5. Japanese information in this subsection is from: G-2 X Corps, Summary of the Defense of Mindanao Gained from Interrogs of Officers of 35th Army, 30th Div, and 32d Naval Base Force (hereinafter cited as X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao), pp. 5-14, 18-21; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao (based on info from Gen Morozumi, Gen Harada, and Maj Hiroshi Owada, Staff Off 100th Div), passim; Tomochika, True Facts of the Leyte Opn, pp. 36-40; Statement of Col Hyobunosuke Yamazu (CofS 30th Div), States, IV, 509-19; Statement of Col Mueichi Hattori (CofS 100th Div), States, I, 304-10; Kusumi Statement, States, II, 380-81; Statement of Comdr Shinji Saji (Staff Off 32d Naval Sp Base Force), States, III, 185-87; Japanese Review, 30 Sep 57, pp. 34-35.
6. See apps. G-1 and G-3.
7. See above, ch. XXX.
8. Principal sources for this subsection are: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 60-71; 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 2-11; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 1-2; 21st Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 3-4; 34th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 4-8.
9. Japanese information here is from: X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, pp. 12-14; Yamazu Statement, States, IV, 509-19; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao.
10. This subsection is mainly derived from: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 71-72, 75; X Corps FO 28, 21 Apr 45; X Corps FO 29, 24 Apr 45; X Corps Rpt Mindanao, pp. 21-22; 31st Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 20-21; Woodruff (CG 24th Div) Comments, 6 Jan 57.
11. For additional information on the Kibawe-Talomo Trail, see below, pp. 640, 644-45.
12. Boggs, Marine Aviation in the Philippines, p. 128.
13. This subsection is based largely upon: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 74-96; 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 11-21, 26-30; 34th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 8-18; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 2-5; X Corps Rpt Mindanao, pp. 22-25; Statement of Lt Gen Jiro Harada, States, I, 261-66; Statement of Col Rinzo Shizuru (CO 163d IIB and Digos District Unit), States, III, 300-305; Col Mueichi Hattori Statement, States, I, 304-10; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao.
14. Major combat elements included the bulk of the 163d IIB; half of the 3d Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment; and the 4th Naval Battalion, a provisional infantry unit. See app. G-1.
15. American planning and operational material in this subsection is mainly from: X Corps FO's 30, 31, and 32, dated 27 Apr, 29 Apr, and 3 May 45; 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 82-88, 96-101, 105-09; 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 21-22, 30-37, 54-62; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 5-11; 21st Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 5-7; 34th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 19-20; Woodruff Comments, 6 Jan 57; Fertig Comments, 2 May 57.
16. Japanese information in this subsection is from: Harada Statement, States, I, 261-66; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao, and atchd maps; X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, pp. 18-22; Comments by Japanese Study Group, p. 34.
17. For details of Harada's order of battle at this time, see app. G-1.
18. Pfc. James H. Diamond of Company D, 21st Infantry, was awarded the Medal of Honor for a series of unusually brave actions during the attacks toward Mintal, actions that culminated on 14 May with wounds that caused his death.
19. 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, p. 23; X Corps FO's 32 and 33, 3 and 11 May 45; 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, p. 149; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, p. 11; 21st Inf Rpt Mindanao, p. 7.
20. Japanese planning information is from: Harada Statement, States, I, 261-66; Shizuru Statement, States, III, 300-305; Col Mueichi Hattori Statement, States, I, 304-10; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao.
21. See app. G-2.
22. The remainder of this subsection is based mainly on: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 101-05, 109-30, 149-68; 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 35, 37-40, 62-66; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 11-15; 21st Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 7-8; 34th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 21-30; Mindanao Guerrilla Record; Fertig Interviews; Fertig Comments, 2 May 57.
23. Understrength, the 107th Division included only the 130th Infantry and the 111th Provisional Battalion. From 2 through 24 May the division, which was commanded by Col. Claro Laureta, PA, lost 17 men killed and 39 wounded in action north of Davao.
24. 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 116, 168-69; 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 40, 66; 34th Inf Rpt Mindanao, p. 31; 21st Inf Rpt Mindanao, p. 8; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, p. 15; X Corps Rpt Mindanao, pp. 33-34.
25. Japanese information in this subsection is from: Harada Statement, States, I, 261-66; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao, and atchd maps.
26. The remainder of this subsection comes from: 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 40-48; 66-71; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 15-23; 21st Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 8-9; 34th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 31-36; 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 116-30, 169-87.
27. X Corps G-2 Per Rpt 55, 10 Jun 45; X Corps G-3 Per Rpt 235, 11 Jun 45. The casualty figures listed above include both 24th Division and Japanese casualties from 17 April to 11 June in the 24th Division's zones of responsibility.
28. X Corps FO's 29, 30, and 31, dated 24, 27, and 29 Apr 45; 31st Div FO 14, 25 Apr 45. See also above, p. 626.
29. Japanese information in this subsection is from: X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, pp. 10-14; Statement of Maj Gen Gyosaku Morozumi, States, II, 594-603: Yamazu Statement, States, IV, 509-19; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao, Map VI.
30. For details of the 30th Division's Order of Battle, see Appendix G-3.
31. The 106th Division was commanded by Lt. Col. Frank D. McGee, a U.S. Army regular who had been retired for physical disability after World War I. He volunteered for active duty in December 1941 from his home on Mindanao and did not surrender in 1942. The 109th Division was commanded by Lt. Col. James R. Grinstead, a reservist and former member of the Philippine Constabulary, who also failed to surrender in 1942.
32. Information on 31st Division operations in this subsection is from: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 232-39; 31st Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 21-24; 124th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 4-14; 124th Inf S-3 Opns Rpts, 27 Apr-4 May 45.
33. Information on Japanese operations in this subsection is from: X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, p. 14; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao; Trans of captured 1st Bn 74th Inf documents, 124th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 5-10.
34. Subsequent material on American plans is from: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 72-73, 81-83, 231, 241, 260; X Corps Rpt Mindanao, pp. 26-27; 31st Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 20-21, 25-27; X Corps FO's 31, 32, and 33, dated 29 Apr, 3 and 11 May 45; 31st Div FO 15, 9 May 45; Fertig Interviews; Fertig Comments, 2 May 57.
35. Additional material on Japanese plans is from: X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, p. 14; Yamazu Statement, States, IV, 509-19; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao.
36. Information in this subsection derives mainly from: X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, pp. 14-16; Yamazu Statement, States, IV, 509-19; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao; Morozumi Statement, States, II, 594-603; 31st Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 25-28, 50-57, 62; 31st Div G-3 Per Rpts, 12-24 May 45; 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 244-63; 124th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 14-19; 124th Inf S-3 Opns Rpts, 6-13 May 45.
37. Additional information on 108th RCT operations is from: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 260-63; Fertig Interviews; Mindanao Guerrilla Record, passim. Guerrilla units involved in the Macajalar Bay area included the 120th Infantry, 108th Division; the 109th and 111th Infantry Regiments, 109th Division; and the 110th Infantry, 110th Division. The commander of the latter division was Lt. Col. Paul H. Marshall, who had escaped from a Japanese prison camp at Davao in April 1943 and had joined the guerrillas.
38. The Japanese force was composed of the headquarters and one company of the 30th Reconnaissance Regiment; the 6th Company of the 74th Infantry; the 103d Airfield Battalion, the only Air Force unit Morozumi had armed; a few 30th Division engineers; and a provisional, two-gun battery of artillery.
39. See Morton, Fall of the Philippines, pp. 516-19.
40. X Corps G-3 Per Rpts 216, 218, and 221, dated 23, 25, and 28 May 45; X Corps G-2 Per Rpts, 37 and 39, 23 and 25 May 45; 31st Div G-3 Rpt 243, 23 May 45.
41. Information on Japanese operations in this subsection is mainly from: X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, pp. 6, 14-17; Morozumi Statement, States, II, 594-603; 10th I&H Staff Study, Japanese Opns on Mindanao.
42. Material on American operations in this subsection is from: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 263-69, 274-75; 31st Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 29-31, 35: 31st Div G-3 Per Rpts, 22 May-30 Jun 45; 124th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 19-31; 124th Inf S-3 Opns Rpts, 22 May-30 Jun 45; X Corps G-3 Opns Rpts, 22 May-30 Jun 45.
On 5 June Cpl. Harry R. Harr of Company D, 124th Infantry, 31st Division, in action with a southern column of the 124th Infantry heading into the mountains south of the main trail from Malaybalay to Silae, was killed as he covered a Japanese hand grenade with his body, saving at least four fellow soldiers from serious wounds or possible death. For his courageous act, Corporal Harr was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
43. By the time this relief was effected, the 109th Division's commander, Colonel Grinstead, had gone back to the United States. His place was taken by Lt. Col. Cecil E. Walter, an American civilian resident of Mindanao who had joined the guerrillas in 1944.
44. The principal guerrilla force in the valley at this time was the 113th Infantry, 110th Division. The regiment was commanded by Maj. Khalil Khodr, a Syrian who had been a mining engineer on the island before the war.
45. Fertig's headquarters had been at Waloe from mid-May to early June.
46. Information on operations along the southeastern section of the trail is from: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 186-209; 24th Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 68-74; 19th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 23-27; 21st Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 9-10; 34th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 36-46; Fertig Interviews; Fertig Comments, 2 May 57; Harada Statement, States, I, 261-66; Hattori Statement, States, I, 304-10; 10th I&H Staff Study of Japanese Opns on Mindanao, and atchd maps.
47. By this time Colonel McGee, formerly commanding the 106th Division, had succeeded Colonel Laureta as commander of the 107th Division. McGee was also attached to the 24th Division as officer in charge of all guerrillas in the 24th's sector. McGee was killed by a Japanese sniper on 7 August.
48. Information on operations along the northwestern section of the trail is from: 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 269-74; 31st Div Rpt Mindanao, pp. 23, 25, 32-34, 52, 57-58, 63, 67; 31st Div G-3 Per Rpts, 3 May-30 Jun 45; 167th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pp. 1-2; 167th Inf S-3 Per Rpts, 10 May-30 Jun 45; Mindanao Guerrilla Record, passim; Fertig Interviews; Fertig Comments, 2 May 57; X Corps G-2 Per Rpts, 10 May-30 June 45; Tomochika, True Facts of the Leyte Opn, pp. 40-41, 44; X Corps G-2 Summary Mindanao, p. 5.
49. See app. G-4.
50. Elements of the 106th and 109th Divisions supported the 167th Infantry. The guerrilla combat commander was Maj. Pedro Aquino, especially selected by Fertig as a good "trouble shooter." Aquino's normal job was the commander of the 108th Infantry, 108th Division.
51. 167th Inf Rpt Mindanao, pt. VI, Battle Casualties, 18 Apr-30 Jun 45; 167th Inf S-2 Per Rpt 40, 30 Jun 45; 167th Inf S-3 Per Rpt 110, 30 Jun 45.
52. In June and July about 300 infantrymen of various 100th Division units moved northwest from Kibangay to reinforce the Japanese holding at the Kuluman River. With whatever means they had at hand, the Japanese worked until the end of the war to improve the Kibangay-Kuluman stretch of the Kibawe-Talomo trail.
53. Background information on the foregoing planning is to be found in ch. II, above. See also, Cannon, Leyte, ch. I; Smith, Approach to the Philippines, ch. I.
54. See app. G-1. The remainder of this subsection is based on: Statement of Maj Makoto Takasuka (CO 1st Bn 30th FA Regt and Comdr Saragani District Unit), States, IV, 48-51; 10th I&H Opnl Monograph Mindanao, pp. 290-301; Sarangani Task Force Rpt, 4 Jul-11 Aug 45, pp. 1-88; Fertig Comments, 2 May 57.
55. Colonel Grinstead, previously the commander of the 109th Division, succeeded to the command of the 106th Division on 25 June 1945 just before he left for the United States. The commander of the 116th Infantry was Maj. Herbert Page, a 68-year-old retired Army officer.
56. It was the 24th Division's opinion that the Expeditionary Battalion was an excellent unit and that it was the only battalion-sized guerrilla unit with which the 24th Division came in contact that was capable of cohesive offensive action. Woodruff Comments, 6 Jan 57.
57. U.S. Army casualties were 4 killed and 7 wounded.