The formal end to hostilities in the Pacific came while fighting was still under way in the Philippines. On 15 August 1945 almost 115,000 Japanese--including noncombatant civilians--were still at large on Luzon and the central and southern islands. One Japanese force, the Shobu Group in northern Luzon, was still occupying the energies of major portions of three U.S. Army infantry divisions and the USAFIP(NL) as well. Indeed, on 15 August the equivalent of three and two-thirds Army divisions were engaged in active combat against Japanese forces on Luzon, while the equivalent of another reinforced division was in contact with Japanese forces on the central and southern islands. On Luzon the 21,000 guerrillas of the USAFIP(NL) were still in action, and some 22,000 other Luzon guerrillas were engaged in patrolling and mopping-up activities. At least another 75,000 guerrillas were mopping up on the central and southern islands.

Tactically, then, the campaign for the reconquest of Luzon and the Southern Philippines was not quite finished as of 15 August 1945. On the other hand, the Sixth and Eighth Armies, together with supporting air and naval forces, had smashed the 14th Area Army, the organized remnants of which, slowly starving to death, were incapable of significant offensive action. The bulk of the American forces in the Philippines were already preparing for the awesome task of assaulting the Japanese home islands, and many guerrilla units were being transformed into regular formations under Philippine Army Tables of Organization and Equipment.

Strategically, the issues in the Philippines had long since been decided. The principal strategic prize of the Philippines--the Central Plains-Manila Bay area of Luzon--had been secure since early March, five and a half months before the war ended. Before mid-April American forces had possession of the most important secondary strategic prizes--air base sites from which to help sever the Japanese lines of communication to the Indies and from which to support projected ground operations in the Indies. The end of April found American forces holding virtually all the base areas in the Philippines required to mount the scheduled invasion of Japan. By 15 August base development was well along throughout the archipelago, and the first troops of a planned mass redeployment from Europe had reached the Philippines. Finally, by mid-August, few Filipinos were still under the Japanese yoke--the Allies had freed millions and had re-established lawful civilian government on most of the islands.

On Luzon and the central and southern islands, forces of the Southwest Pacific Area had contained or taken out of the war over 380,000 Japanese, rendering


them unavailable for the defense of the homeland.1 The Japanese had already expended another 70,000 lives, more or less, in the defense of Leyte, where the Allies had also eliminated Japan's vaunted naval power as a significant factor in the Pacific war. The Allies had destroyed nine of Japan's very best, first-line divisions in the Philippines and had also knocked out six other divisions or their equivalent in separate brigades and regiments. Losses stemming directly or indirectly from the defense of the Philippines had reduced Japanese air power to the desperate expedient of kamikaze operations. If no other campaign or operation of the war in the Pacific had done so, then Japan's inability to hold the Philippines had made her ultimate defeat clear and certain.

The cost had not been light. Excluding the earlier campaign for the seizure of Leyte and Samar, the ground combat forces of the Sixth and Eighth Armies had suffered almost 47,000 battle casualties--10,380 killed and 36,550 wounded--during their operations on Luzon and in the Southern Philippines. Nonbattle casualties had been even heavier. From 9 January through 30 June 1945 Sixth Army on Luzon suffered over 93,400 nonbattle casualties, losses that included 86,950 men hospitalized for various types of sickness, 6,200 men injured in various ways, and 260 troops dead of sickness of injury. The bulk of the battle casualties occurred, of course, on Luzon, where the heaviest fighting took place and where the opposing forces had their greatest concentration of strength. The operations to recapture the central and southern islands cost approximately 9,060--2,070 men killed and 6,990 wounded.2 But these personnel losses cannot reflect the total cost of the campaign--the huge losses of military supplies and equipment of all kinds, together with the money and time they represented.

As usual, the Queen of Battles took the brunt of the losses. The Infantry incurred roughly 90 percent of all Sixth Army casualties on Luzon and 90 percent of all troops killed in action on Luzon from 9 January through 15 August.

The battle casualty rate was higher in other campaigns of World War II--for example, that of Third Army in Lorraine and Tenth Army on Okinawa--than for Sixth Army on Luzon, but it is doubtful that any other campaign of the war had a higher nonbattle casualty rate among American forces. For this there were many contributing factors. Men from the more temperate United States found the climate of the Philippines enervating--it was impossible for them to expend their energies at the rate they could at home, yet the demands of battle required just such an expenditure. The troops encountered new diseases, too, in the Philippines, while the contrasting hot, dry days and cold, wet nights of the mountains created obvious health problems.

Moreover, many of the units that fought in the Philippines were tired. With one exception, all the divisions committed under Sixth Army on Luzon had participated in at least one previous


operation, and the majority of them had been through two. As much as a third of the officers and men of six divisions had been overseas three years; almost all the divisions and separate regimental combat teams had been in the Pacific two years. Under such conditions debilitation increased in geometric progression as Sixth Army, with the limited forces available to it, had to leave units in the line for month after month with little or no time for rest and rehabilitation.

The replacement problem also had a great deal to do with the high nonbattle casualty rate. Almost all of Sixth Army's combat units reached Luzon understrength; none received significant numbers of replacements until April was well along. The Infantry replacements Sixth Army received from 9 January to 30 June were barely sufficient to cover the army's battle losses--they could not cope with the problem of filling the gaps left by nonbattle casualties.

Actually, the bulk of the so-called nonbattle casualties were directly attributable to combat operations although not classed as battle casualties under the U.S. Army's personnel accounting system. For example, an infantryman hospitalized for pneumonia contracted in the mountains of northern Luzon was as much a loss as an infantryman who was hospitalized with a wound inflicted by a Japanese rifle bullet. Combat fatigue casualties, permanent or temporary, fit into the same category.

In the sense of lessons learned, there was little new for the American units that fought on Luzon and in the Southern Philippines. As noted, all but one of the divisions had had previous experience in fighting Japanese on ground of Japanese choosing. In the reconquest of the Philippines, therefore, units applied lessons learned both in earlier combat and in training. The only really "new" type of action experienced was the city fighting in Manila, where the troops perforce made quick and thorough adjustment to different conditions of combat. Generally, American arms and armament proved quantitatively and qualitatively superior to those of the Japanese. The only significant innovations on the American side--helicopters, recoilless weapons, and television observation of the battlefield--came on the scene too late in the campaign for complete and objective evaluation. All, however, gave promise of great things to come.

On the Japanese side, there were a few items that the American forces especially noted. Among these were the huge rockets the Shimbu Group employed in the mountains northeast of Manila. Although the rockets were generally ineffective and caused few casualties, the experience with Japanese rockets on Luzon, together with similar experiences of Tenth Army on Okinawa, portended a possibly messy situation during the planned assault on the home islands. Noteworthy also was the abundance of automatic weapons the Japanese employed. For example, to the men of the 32d Infantry Division it must have appeared that at least every third Japanese defending the Villa Verde Trail was armed with a machine gun. Also notable, if not downright surprising, was the fact that some Japanese units on Luzon proved themselves capable of employing artillery effectively. Allied forces had developed scant respect for Japanese artillery during previous campaigns in


the Pacific, but those U.S. Army units that fought against the 58th IMB and the 10th Division on Luzon had a different point of view.

On Luzon, and to a lesser extent in the Southern Philippines, the Japanese proved themselves remarkably adaptable, quick to make the best of an adverse situation, possessed of an excellent feel for terrain, tenacious to the point of fanaticism on the defense, and, contrary to general opinion, sufficiently flexible to change plans and dispositions at a moment's notice. The tactical flexibility of Yamashita's plans and maneuvers throughout northern Luzon, considered within the framework of his defensive concepts, is certainly notable. It is, indeed, possible to raise questions concerning the Sixth and Eighth Armies' flexibility as compared to that of 14th Area Army and, in some instances, to that of Filipino guerrilla forces. The record suggests that in many respects the Japanese and the guerrillas may have adapted themselves more effectively than the Sixth and Eighth Armies to the conditions of ground warfare obtaining throughout most of the Philippine archipelago.

Such a comparison raises questions that do not necessarily concern leadership or command, but rather involve the training and generally ponderous organization of the mechanized forces that the United States put into the field. In previous campaigns throughout the Southwest Pacific Area, American ground forces had proved themselves equal or superior to the Japanese in flexibility and adaptability. In those campaigns, the U.S. armies had employed comparatively light forces to seize island perimeters or to clear small islands. But in the Philippines, and on Luzon especially, American forces were faced with the necessity of seizing and clearing relatively large land masses. In these operations, therefore, the Sixth and Eighth Armies had to bring into play mass and maneuver, and had to apply other concepts and methods, including those entailing logistical operations, that the U.S. Army had developed for waging continental land warfare. The application of these concepts had an inevitable effect upon flexibility. On the other hand, the record of the campaigns for the reconquest of the Philippine archipelago raises the question whether the Sixth and Eighth Armies, confronted with the more obvious requirements of ground operations in the Philippines, may not have moved too far toward the adoption of the methods and concepts of continental ground warfare. It also seems legitimate to suggest that the two armies might have employed these concepts and methods, as well as the power under their control, more resourcefully had their previous experience in the Southwest Pacific Area prepared them for the type of warfare required on the land masses of the Philippines.

For American forces, departures from the norm of combat (if such a thing ever existed) involved the development and employment of field expedients to meet special situations. Noteworthy in this category was extensive and effective employment of antiaircraft artillery--both 90-mm. guns and automatic weapons--against ground targets in the mountainous Kembu, Shimbu, and Shobu strongholds and on northern Negros as well. It should also be noted that a few antiaircraft units that were not needed in their


normal role came to serve creditably as Infantry.

Another notable departure from normal operating procedure was the varied use to which the artillery liaison plane was put. This versatile light aircraft served not only as the eyes of the artillery but also was employed in a general intelligence role. It evacuated casualties from remote mountain airstrips and was often even pressed into service for supply drops.

Other field expedients are worthy of mention. LVT's and Dukws were employed for long, overland supply hauls, a task for which these vehicles were not designed; flanged wheels were mounted on jeeps to haul supplies over the railroads of Luzon until conventional engines could be found and placed in service; Carabaos were used to haul supplies over muddy trails that wheeled or tracked vehicles could not negotiate and over which infantrymen could barely slog carrying rifles; and, finally, Army engineer LCM's, as well as Navy craft of various types, were employed on the rivers of Mindanao. None of these field expedients originated in the Philippines, nor were some of them original with U.S. forces. However, in the Philippines American combat and service units developed these and other field expedients to such a degree that they became, in effect, part of the Army's standing operating procedure.

The road to triumph in the Philippines was not, of course, solely the story of the Infantry. The contributions of the air forces, the naval forces, the artillery, other supporting arms, and the service echelons were indispensable.

An evaluation of air support operations is difficult. Generally, long-range bombing attacks, by whatever air element, were executed with dispatch, accuracy, and good effect. The story of close ground support operations presents a different picture. Ground combat units that at one time or another had close support from both U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps aviation were virtually unanimous in preferring the latter, at least during the earlier months of the campaigns. Later, when Fifth Air Force units became more experienced in close ground support activity and began to work more closely with the ground combat forces, confidence in the Army's air arm grew. Nevertheless, the campaign ended with almost all ground units still hoping for an improved, more effective air-ground liaison system insofar as Army air echelons were concerned, and also seeking methods by which to establish a closer, more effective working relationship between the Army's ground and air units.

Any evaluation of the effectiveness of close air support as opposed to artillery support is difficult. Each type of support had capabilities not possessed by the other, and it was normal practice if both were available to employ whichever could best do the job. The Japanese are not of much help in making a determination. Interrogated after the surrender by a ground forces officer, a Japanese might say that artillery was the more effective; interrogated by an air officer the same Japanese might say that air bombardment was more effective. On the other hand, the Japanese pointed out that aircraft could conduct strikes against positions that artillery bombardment could not reach. Moreover, Allied air superiority in the Philippines severely


inhibited Japanese movements, forcing them to undertake marches under cover of darkness or to make long, exhausting detours through woods and forests. The sight of an artillery liaison plane in the sky normally prompted every Japanese for miles around to seek cover.

There can be no denying the effectiveness of artillery in the battle for Manila. Whether the air arm could have done the job more effectively and more rapidly is, of course, an unanswerable question--General MacArthur denied it the chance. One of the major air successes, probably, came in the support provided the 43d Infantry Division during that unit's drive to capture Ipo Dam. Aerial bombardment and close support certainly contributed in large measure to the success of the 503d Parachute RCT's risky undertaking at Corregidor, and it is not possible to dismiss the air arm's contribution without mentioning once again the fact that the 1st Cavalry Division's exposed left flank was protected during the dash to Manila only by aircraft. Finally, one of the most effective weapons throughout the entire campaign to recapture Luzon and the Southern Philippines was the napalm all air elements dropped.

The campaign produced no insoluble logistical problems, and there were no persistent, critical shortages of supplies of any type. As might be expected, there were many logistical difficulties, beginning with the adverse surf conditions at Lingayen Gulf that upset supply operations during the first week on Luzon and brought to light weaknesses in the planning and execution of the amphibious undertaking. Most of the supply problems the Sixth and Eighth Armies encountered during the campaign, however, grew out of transportation difficulties. These in turn resulted from destruction of rail and highway bridges, lack of railroad rolling stock, problems inherent in moving supplies over the rugged, trackless terrain where much of the fighting took place, the poor condition of many roads, and the fact that limitations on shipping space made it impossible for most units to bring forward all their organic transportation during the early stages of the operation. Field expedients already mentioned solved some of the transportation problems. Other solutions, on Luzon, included the leapfrogging of bridging equipment, and, throughout the islands, the extensive employment of Filipino hand-carrying parties.

A theaterwide shortage of artillery ammunition (and of some types of mortar ammunition) compelled Sixth Army on Luzon to impose a rather strict rationing system. The rationing, in a larger sense, did not affect the ultimate outcome of the campaign, although some units may have lacked the artillery support they desired for a specific attack. But it must be remembered that it is almost a principle of warfare that no infantry commander ever gets the artillery support he wants or thinks he needs.

Shortages of other types of supplies were invariably temporary and usually stemmed from transportation problems. Whatever their causes, solution of the multitude of major and minor logistical problems involved in a campaign of the magnitude of the Luzon-Southern Philippines operations demanded round the clock work. It is doubtful that the service forces put in longer hours on any American



battleground of World War II than they did on Luzon and in the Southern Philippines.

One phenomenon of the reconquest of the Philippines was certainly far different from any other experience of the war in the Pacific. That was the presence of a large, organized guerrilla force backed by a generally loyal population waiting only for the chance to make its contribution to the defeat of Japan. It is debatable whether American headquarters were adequately prepared to make the most effective use of the guerrilla forces that existed on Luzon and in the Southern Philippines; it is also questionable whether American forces made the best possible use of the guerrillas after the campaign began. From GHQ SWPA on down through infantry divisions in the field, the orders and plans concerning the guerrillas, as well as the machinery set up at various echelons to control and supply the guerrillas, indicate that before the invasion of Luzon U.S. forces expected little more of the guerrillas than the acquisition of tactical intelligence and certain types of service support. It appears that in many instances American commanders were reluctant to assign guerrilla units specific combat missions of even the most innocuous sort. Sometimes guerrilla units acquired a combat mission only after they had launched an operation themselves; sometimes, as seems to have been the case with Sixth Army vis-à-vis USAFIP(NL), the combat mission came only after American headquarters realized that they did not have sufficient regular forces to undertake assigned tasks. In any case, it is certain that both the Sixth and the Eighth Army ultimately made more extensive use of guerrillas than was originally contemplated.

It is unfortunately impossible to measure in concrete terms the contribution of guerrilla forces to the outcome of the campaigns. Some units were good; some were not. An occasional guerrilla force, with political aims or under a leader with delusions of grandeur, caused more trouble than it was worth. In the end, however, almost all served in one way or another to the limits of their capabilities. Beyond the shadow of a doubt the guerrillas saved many thousands of American lives.

The story of the Filipino contribution to the final triumph in the Philippines does not end with mention of guerrillas,


for thousands of other Filipinos aided the U.S. Army in many capacities. Filipinos contributed services of all types, as railroad men, truck drivers, engineers, clerks, government officials and employees, guides, spies, and carriers who often risked their lives hand-carrying supplies to the front lines. There is no doubt that the guerrillas and the other Filipinos made the task of the U.S. Army infinitely less difficult. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine how the Southwest Pacific Area could have undertaken the reconquest of the Philippines in the time and manner it did without the predominately loyal and willing Filipino population.

Though the end of the war came before the Philippines (and the Filipinos) could fulfill the roles planned for them in Japan's inevitable defeat, the fact of Japan's sudden collapse in no way detracts from the significance of the triumph in the Philippines. Hindsight arguments about the desirability and necessity of tying up strong American forces--sixteen divisions, or equivalent, in ground combat troops alone--in the reconquest of Luzon and the Southern Philippines may rage for decades to come, with justice and logic undoubtedly to be found on both sides of the argument. The fact remains that it was the consensus of military planners in the fall of 1944, when they decided to seize Luzon and bypass Formosa in favor of a jump to Okinawa, that the successful prosecution of the war against Japan demanded the reoccupation of Luzon. In the military-political milieu of October 1944, it is hard to imagine that the planners could have reached any other decision.


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1. See app. H-2.

2. See app. H-1.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation