CGC SPENCER AT PALAWAN
The operation against Palawan was staged from Mindoro, the Attack Force departing there on 26 February, 1945, CGC Spencer, with Brigadier General Harold H. Haney, Commanding General, 41st Infantry Division on board, acted as flagship and fleet guide for Task Group 78.2. The amphibious landing to seize the Puerto Princessa area was made on 28 February. This port possesses a good harbor, suitable for a seaplane base. The Airdrome, about one mile east of the town, included two runways of 4,300 and 4,500 feet, respectively. There were estimated to be 3,500 enemy troops on Palawan of which 2,000 were thought to be in the Puerto Princessa area. Only 600 of these however, were combat troops. Beaching conditions were generally undesirable due to fringing reefs, coral heads, and mangrove swamps backing some beaches. The plane was to land the first waves in LVT's and LCM's, later finding suitable places for beaching LST's and LSM's. We landed 5,322 combat troops and 2,094 service troops. Extensive bombing and straffing by the 5th and 13th Air Forces was effected for two days before the landing. No return fire was received when Covering and Support Group delivered scheduled bombardment fire for one and one-half hours before the landing. The initial landings, starting at 0845, were completed with no opposition encountered by the troops, who advanced rapidly inland, securing both of the nearby airfields by 1300. During the afternoon, one infantry company was transported in LVT's and LCM's to the mouth of the Iwahig River, where they were landed with only a few rounds of small-arms fire in opposition. At 1849 the Spencer was underway patrolling off Puerto Princessa in company with combatant units of Task Group 78.2. Occupation of Puerto Princessa harbor area assured practical control of Palawan Island and extended our domination of the sea approaches to Southeastern Asia and Netherlands East Indies, along a 500 mile stretch of the western Philippines from Lingayen Gulf to Puerto Princessa. The successful operation not only assured safe passage of our shipping throughout the Sulu Sea but rendered hazardous that of the enemy along his lifeline from the south which passes through the narrowest part of the South China Sea just opposite Palawan. The cremated remains of more than 150 American Soldiers and Marines were discovered at Puerto Princessa. They had been captured and been held prisoners of war until the invasion was about to begin. The Japanese then marched the prisoners into dugout air raid shelters, and after barricading
HIT BY JAP FIRE AT THE HEIGHT OF IWO JIMA'S D-DAY, AN AMERICAN AMMUNITION DUMP BLOWS SKYWARD, AS COAST GUARD-MANNED AND NAVY LST'S MOVE IN
the entrances, poured gasoline in on helpless victims. They then set fire to the gasoline. Several managed to escape into the jungle and remained there until the American troops landed.
ENEMY WITHDRAWS TO HILLS AT ZAMBOANGA
Guerrilla forces already occupied most of Zamboanga Peninsula, on the island of Mindanao except for a defensive area established by the Japanese north of Zamboanga City and at the airfield nearby. Here about 4,000 enemy troops were believed to be present. These had established very extensive positions for defense, including strong machine gun nests and pillboxes near Zamboanga City. Most of these were found unmanned. The Japanese were caught off guard and fled to the hills which rise fairly steeply from the narrow coastal plain on which Zamboanga is located. The first wave of LVT's beached on schedule at 0915 on 10 March, 1945, at the village of San Mateo, just west of Zamboanga. There was moderate enemy machine gun, artillery, and mortar fire, which was not entirely suppressed by naval gunfire and air strikes. These commenced about one-half hour after the first wave landed. Assault LVT's could not mount the steep bank of loose rubble near the water's edge and moved off toward the flanks. Waves of LSM's and LCI's, which followed, brought in bulldozers, which cut exits through the bank to allow vehicles to pass. After the beach had been cleared, LST's beached in previously selected slots. Offshore coral heads and obstructions limited the number of landing slots these could use. Within the first hour, despite these difficulties, about 6,200 troops and one company of medium tanks were landed. There were but 99 casualties for the Army and Navy combined.
COAST GUARD MANNED LST-66 PARTICIPATES
The Coast Guard manned LST-66, in her 14th Amphibious Assault operation, was under command of Lt. Wendell J. Holbert, USCGR. Over her side two small landing craft were put into the water. These had been designated to guide the first assault waves from the Line of Departure to the invasion beach. At 0800 they approached the rendezvous area. Alligator tanks, which would blaze the way inland, were moving on station. Two cruisers had been pounding away at the beach since dawn. They were followed by destroyers who closed the beach to bombardment. The assault waves were reported in position. They went in. LCI's moved to within 400 yards of the beach and while maintaining their way unleashed a rocket and artillery barrage. Beside them were the new LCS's,-invasion gunboats. From over Basilan Island flights of Liberators swung over the beachhead. Our ships and landing craft were only 200 yards offshore but the bombardiers were exactly on target. The job of the Coast Guard manned LVT's was to make certain that the first three waves of alligators hit their mark. Great palls of smoke shrouded the beach. The first wave was on line and the guides swung back to pick up the second, then the third. The three waves landed with slight opposition.
EQUIPMENT FROM LCT's AND LSM's PUSHED ASHORE
The beach was now ready for the LCI's and LSM's laden with troops and equipment which had to be pushed ashore immediately behind the initial attack elements. Now from
U.S. PROGRESS ASHORE
VISAYAN AREA AND MINDANAO
31 MARCH 1945
the dark green hills of Zamboanga came mortar and artillery fire. The Japanese were after these landing craft. Onto the beach the ships jarred as spouts of water continued to kick up on all sides. The unloading began and as soon as a ship had retracted another had filled its slot on the beach.
LST's COME INTO THE BEACH
Toward noon the first LST's were called into the beach as the mortar fire increased. One of them was hit on the way in. They were big targets with big invasion pay loads. On the LST that was hit casualties were light. However, a fire had to be brought under control in the steering engine room. The Coast Guard manned LST-66 had her top deck loaded with bombs and there were plenty of "eggs" on her tank deck. She also carried drums of hi-octane gas and hundreds of boxes of 50 caliber ammunition. This was a load which must wait until the last to go in. It was not until noon of the 11th that they were ordered in. As they got underway an ominous spout of water shot up off their port bow. Shells continued to crack the water to port and starboard. There was no turning back. They must hit their slot on the nose since there was danger of coral. The ship was finally on the beach with bow doors open and ramp down. Then the first truck was rolling off followed by another and another. A third of the tank deck was bulk cargo, ammunition, and gas. Hour after hour the crew heaved the ammunition boxes, each of which weighed 95 pounds. Truck after truck was backed through the bow doors, loaded by hand and sent on its way. Finally word came that they would have an hour and a half to catch their convoy. All hands responded to the race against time. Progress reports were flashed to the skipper. Three more truckloads. Now two. The last truck was loaded and moving toward the bow. The LST moved off the beach. The convoy was already underway on the horizon as the LST swung into a turn that put her parallel to the shore. Again the Japs spotted her. A shell "whooshed" over the conning tower and our men flattened out on deck. Another shell burst less than 50 yards off the stern. The mortars and shells continued to hit the water around them, but were falling wider and wider off target as the ship moved off at flank speed to join the convoy. The Japs had had their last crack at the LST-66. There had not been a single casualty.
NO OPPOSITION ON BASILAN
On 16 March, 1945, a reinforced company of infantry, transported from Zamboanga in 20 LSM's and one SC landed on Malamaui Island just off the coast of the Island of Basilan and opposite Isabela on the northwest coast. A regimental combat team landed at Lamitan, on the northeast coast of Basilan, on the 17th and in two days drove across the island virtually unopposed to capture Isabela in coordination with the amphibious attack from Malamaui. There were 500 enemy troops on Basilan Island but no opposition was made to the landings. It was not until the 22nd that a small number of the enemy were encountered by guerrillas. The island had been used as a base by small enemy submarines. U.S. casualties in both Zamboanga and Basilan were 130 U.S. Army killed, 527 wounded and 2 missing, as compared with 2,015 enemy killed and 71 captured.
ALLIED AND ENEMY HELD TERRITORY IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
13 MARCH 1945
CGC INGHAM AT ILOILO
The island of Panay had been practically cleared of the enemy by guerrilla forces except for a concentration in and near the city of Iloilo on the southeast coast. This is the third largest city in the Philippines with a population of more than 90,000. The city is built on a low sandy flat at the mouth of the Iloilo River and has a very good harbor with extensive wharfage facilities. Many of the modern buildings had been destroyed at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1942. The beaches selected for the landing were near Tigbauan, about 14 miles west of Iloilo. Only token opposition to the landing was made and extensive naval gunfire was withheld. The Assault Group (Task Group 78.3) was commanded by Rear Admiral A. D. Struble in the USS Ingham (CGC) and was staged from Lingayen Gulf. The Ingham stood into the transport at 0600 on 18 March, 1945 and DD's commenced firing at preselected shore targets. The Ingham hove to and maintained a position near the Line of Departure for Red Beach* Many natives were observed on the beach. A boat was dispatched and returned with one of them, a guerrilla. He reported that all Japanese in the immediate vicinity were in the church at Tigbauan, surrounded by guerrilla forces. The landing was commenced according to plan except that the preliminary rocket bombardment by LCI(R)'s was omitted. The first wave of 16 LVT's landed at 0906. No opposition was encountered on the beach. Due to a sand bar off Red Beach the subsequent landings were shifted to Blue Beach immediately west of the Sibalon River. Here LST's made dry ramp landings, the beachhead was established and unloading operations continued during daylight. The LST's, LSM's, and LCI's retracted at twilight and the Ingham stood to seaward as flag and guide of the group. While unloading continued during the next two days, the 14,000 troops of the 40th Division ashore advanced rapidly against only scattered resistance. Iloilo City was secured on 20 March and found about 70% destroyed from the 1942 invasion, although the docks were undamaged and the harbor area was clear. By 22 March organized resistance was considered to have ceased with 238 enemy dead and 5 captured. On 21 March patrols landing on Guimaras Island, across Iloilo Strait, found it clear of the enemy, and on 22 March, another patrol landed on Inampuluguan Island in Guimaras Strait and destroyed an enemy mine control station, eliminating the small garrison.
NO OPPOSITION ON NEGROS ISLAND LANDING
Between 21 and 26 March the Ingham was anchored off Iloilo City to facilitate communications with the 40th Division Headquarters. Returning to Blue Beach area on the 26th of March, the Coast Guard cutter supervised and coordinated the loading of ships for carrying out a shore-to-shore movement to Pulupandan Point on northern Negros Island. Proceeding across Panay Gulf as flag and guide of the Attack Group, the Ingham arrived off Green Beach, Pulupandan at 0800 on 29 March, 1945. The first wave landed at 0859 with no opposition on the beach and the Ingham anchored off Green Beach directing operations throughout the day. Bacolod Town and airstrip were captured on the 30th and Talisay airfield
COAST GUARD COMBAT CUTTER INGHAM READY FOR BATTLE
secured on the 31st. Our casualties for March during the whole operation on Panay and Negros were lb killed and 84 wounded as compared with 872 enemy killed and 66 captured.
ENEMY FLEES TO HILLS BEHIND CEBU
About 14,000 combat and service troops of the Americal Division, attached to the Eighth Army, which were staged from Leyte, landed at Talisay Beach, 472 miles southwest of Cebu City, on 26 March, 1945. The assault followed a bombardment of the beaches by cruisers and destroyers (Task Group 74.3) and after nearly two weeks of heavy aerial attacks which had severely damaged enemy defenses and other installations. Except for numerous land mines, and mortar fire on the left flank, no opposition was met at the beaches. Underwater log obstructions hampered unloading of the larger landing craft. Pontoon causeways were used to overcome the low beach gradient. Several midget submarines were attacked south of the city during the afternoon. Cebu City was occupied on the day after the landing and the docks were found essentially undamaged. The rest of the city, however, was largely in ruins, Japanese demolition squads beginning a systematic destruction of all major installations almost simultaneously with our landings at Talisay. Extensive land mines, booby traps, and demolitions fired by electric contact, impeded the progress from the beaches to the city. Enemy forces which had escaped being trapped in the city, entrenched themselves in a very elaborate defensive system in the hills behind it. 73 U.S. Army men were killed, 393 wounded and 28 missing as against 576 enemy killed and 55 captured.
CGC SPENCER AT CEBU INVASION
On 21 March, Major General Wm H. Arnold, Commanding General, of the Americal Division, U.S. 8th Army and staff had reported aboard the CGC Spencer then anchored off Tolosa Beach, Leyte. On the 23rd the Spencer participated in a rehearsal for a V-2 operation with other units of Task Group 78.2. Standing out of Hinuangan Bay on the 24th the Spencer proceeded as flagship and Fleet guide of Task Group 78.2 under Captain Albert T. Sprague, Jr., USN who was aboard. On the 26th at 0752, the Spencer anchored in Bohol Strait off Talisay, Cebu, and directed the V-2 operation against the enemy occupied territory. At 1555 Major General Arnold departed the Spencer to take command of operations ashore and the Spencer got underway patrolling in Bohol Strait, On the 27th at 1931 there was an air alert and a single Japanese plane, probably a Val, dropped two or three bombs harmlessly on the beachhead and in the water off Talisay. At 1800 on the 28th, the Spencer departed Talisay, anchoring in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on the evening of the 29th.
CEBU CITY, CEBU--PHILIPPINES
COAST GUARD DIVERS SALVAGE NAVY TUG
While carrying out her mission of retracting LST's that had become stuck on the beach, a Navy salvage tug fouled her propeller on the anchor cable of one of the LST's. No salvage men being on the tug who were familiar with shallow-water diving equipment, the tug sent out a general dispatch to CTG 78.2 requesting volunteer divers who would try to
LST BEACHED IN THE MIDST OF A LITTLE FISHING VILLAGE ON CEBU
clear her screw. Commander J. R. Hinnant, Commanding Officer of the Spencer, along with Lieut. Comdr. J. L. Lathrop (then Lieutenant), CBM George M. Boutilier (then BM1c), and Lowell P. "Tiny" Sather BM1c, a 240-pounder and formerly a guard at Wisconsin, personally
answered the call. The two officers and two men went down in shifts, experiencing some difficulty in taking the multiple turns of stiff half-inch cable from around the propeller and propeller shaft. A few minutes after sunset a Jap air raid dropped several sticks of bombs on the beachhead and among the LST's, one of the bombs exploding in shallow water near the tug. Boutilier, who was down at the time, was blown to the surface by the concussion. In a few minutes he had recovered his breath and went down again. About an hour after sunset the volunteer team of Coast Guard divers finally by cutting the turns of cable with a hammer and chisel succeeded in clearing the propeller of the tug, which was then able to continue its mission.
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