Chapter XIV
Measure of the Fighting

By the latter part of November, the fighting on the island had entered a crucial stage. The additional troops received from General MacArthur had enabled General Krueger to put into effect his squeeze play against the Japanese. While the X Corps continued to apply unremitting pressure on the 1st and 102d Divisions in the northern mountains of Ormoc Valley near Limon, elements of the XXIV Corps would drive north against the 26th Division along the shores of Ormoc Bay toward Ormoc.

General MacArthur had full confidence in the ability of General Krueger to carry out this plan and thus bring the Leyte Campaign to a successful conclusion. Once having given the Sixth Army commander the assignment for the operation, General MacArthur did not interfere with General Krueger's prosecution of the battle. But from his headquarters on Leyte, he closely followed the progress of the campaign, frequently visited the command posts of the Sixth Army units, and made available to General Krueger additional troops upon request.

Similarly, General Krueger allowed his corps commanders to exercise their independence of judgment and kept his orders to the minimum. He, too, made frequent visits to the front lines, observed the progress of the fighting, inspected the living conditions of the men, and noted the status of the construction program. General Krueger's concern is made evident by a critique issued on 25 November in which he analyzed the performance of the Sixth Army on Leyte.1

The Americans had had time to test their experience on Leyte against past operations, as well as to determine the good and bad features of their training and tactics and the performance of their weapons and to contrast them with those employed by the Japanese. An evaluation of American methods at this point serves to explain in concrete terms the nature of the fighting that had occurred and of that which would occur in the critical days ahead.

The American Ground Forces


Following the customary procedure, the divisions went ashore with two regiments abreast. Within the regiments there were variations, some going ashore with the battalions abreast and others with the battalions in column. The size of the landing beach and the nature of the expected opposition determined the type of landing formation that was employed. Once ashore, the nature of the tactical situation resulted in numerous



independent actions by subordinate units. The formation most frequently used was the normal one of two units in the assault and one in reserve.

Frontal assaults were usually employed against enemy positions, and not enough use was made of envelopments. When envelopments were tried they were nearly always successful. It was sometimes advantageous to bypass isolated enemy strong points, leaving them to be mopped up by the follow-up units.

Although the primary mission of the infantry is to close with the enemy and destroy or capture him, the natural reluctance of American infantrymen to engage the enemy in close quarters had to be overcome. There were several instances in which the American attacking force felt out the Japanese position and then sat back to wait it out. In one area no progress was made for four days. On several occasions strong combat patrols of platoon or company strength were sent to feel out enemy positions, but as soon as they made contact with the Japanese the patrols withdrew. They accomplished nothing except to determine the presence of an unknown number of enemy soldiers.

If more than minor resistance was encountered, the troops frequently fell back and called for fire from supporting weapons. On one occasion a company called for artillery fire upon a roadblock and then withdrew 350 yards while the concentration was delivered. After the lifting of the artillery


fire, it was very difficult to reorganize the company and get it back to the objective. Meanwhile the Japanese had again covered the roadblock and the whole process had to be repeated.

The American soldiers were too road-bound. Sometimes resistance along the road stopped the advance of an entire division. This opposition could have been eliminated quickly by the employment of simple envelopments and flanking attacks. Although the presence of swamps, jungle, and rice paddies tended to channelize the attack, the Japanese had displayed superior adeptness, and willingness to go into the swamps and stay there until rooted out.

The standard employment of artillery in close support of the infantry again proved to be very effective and was used extensively. However, since the artillery fire enabled the infantry to secure many heavily fortified positions with few casualties, the infantrymen tended to become too dependent upon the artillerymen and expected them to do the work of the infantry. General Krueger insisted that the infantry must be prepared to close in immediately after the cessation of the artillery fire.

The Americans had developed a strong tendency to telegraph their punches. In the morning, before an assault by the infantry, the artillery pounded the Japanese positions, after which the mortars opened up. The mortar fire nearly always lasted for a half hour, and then the infantry moved out. Upon occasion, the infantry did not attack immediately after the preparation by the supporting weapons. This delay gave the Japanese time and opportunity to regroup and consolidate their forces, and thus nullified the effects of the preparatory fires.

Parenthetically, it may be remarked that although the actual casualties per artillery shell were few, the cumulative effect of the heavy and prolonged fire of the artillery and mortars was very great. Col. Junkichi Okabayashi, chief of staff of the Japanese 1st Division, estimated that the losses sustained by the division were distributed as follows: by artillery, 60 percent; by mortars, 25 percent; by infantry fire, 14 percent; and by aircraft, 1 percent.2

The employment of tanks singly, or in small groups, materially aided the infantrymen, since the tanks could be used effectively to reduce enemy pillboxes and to flush out bamboo thickets. Although light tanks were more mobile it was found that the mediums were more efficient in reducing pillboxes. For successful employment, it was necessary that the tanks have close infantry and engineer support. In some instances the tanks secured objectives when no infantrymen were present to consolidate and hold the positions. For example, a regiment supported by a tank battalion received orders to attack and secure an objective. The tanks quickly moved out and secured the objective with little resistance. Since the infantrymen did not arrive during the day, the tanks withdrew at nightfall. During the night the Japanese mined the area and four of the tanks were lost when they returned next morning.

Likewise, tanks were often disabled because the engineers had failed to remove mines and give support in the crossing of streams. In one case, the engineers failed to repair a bridge, which collapsed after three tanks had crossed over it. The Japanese completely destroyed one of the tanks and disabled the other two. It was necessary for the Americans to destroy the disabled tanks


with their own gunfire in order to prevent their use as stationary pillboxes by the enemy.

It was found advantageous to establish a night perimeter before dusk. An early establishment of the perimeter enabled the troops to take effective countermeasures against Japanese infiltrations and night assaults.3 The soldiers also had an opportunity to become familiar with their surroundings and were less likely to fire indiscriminately during the night. In spite of this precaution, there was considerable promiscuous firing during the night and at dawn. One corps commander effectively stopped this practice in his command post area by the adoption of two simple measures. First, he employed a reserve battalion to cover an area extending outward for one mile and when no Japanese were found the fact was announced over the loudspeaker. Second, any man caught firing before dawn was immediately court-martialed and fined fifty dollars. "There was very little promiscuous firing thereafter."4

Although there were three war-dog platoons available for the Leyte operation, their combat value was practically nil. The unit commanders to whom they were attached knew little of their capabilities or limitations. Some expected the dogs to spot a Japanese position exactly at a distance of 200 or more yards. One unit took the dogs on a four-day patrol without sufficient dog rations. Another unit attempted to use dogs in a populated area; the presence of so many civilians thoroughly confused the dogs.

In general, the troops found that their training had been sound and that the methods which in the past had been employed in overcoming the Japanese were also useful on Leyte. It was felt, however, that greater emphasis in training should be placed on night patrols and night movements near the enemy lines, as well as on closer co-ordination between the infantry and the supporting weapons. Finally, it was believed that the service troops should be given training in basic infantry tactics and prepared to maintain their own defenses.5

All units were in agreement that there could be "no substitute for aggressive leadership."6 An infantry unit could be no better than its leaders. General Krueger said in this connection:

Infantry is the arm of close combat. It is the arm of final combat. The Jap is usually most tenacious particularly when in entrenched and concealed positions. Individual enemy soldiers will remain in their holes until eliminated. Although the supporting arms are of great assistance, it ultimately becomes the task of the small infantry units to dig them out. The American soldier has demonstrated on many battlefields that he can and will do it, but he must be aggressively led. There can be no hesitating on the part of his leaders.7

Welfare of the Men

At the same time, in order to obtain the best results from the troops, the unit commanders must concern themselves with the well-being and comfort of their men. Many commanders were indifferent to such matters. One corps, for example, had sufficient rations of all types available, but the meals served the men were poorly prepared and monotonous. Another corps, at the time it landed, was prepared to live indefinitely on


field rations. As late as ten days after the landing, no unit--not even any of the fixed installations, including higher headquarters--operated a mess or served hot meals. Some units did serve hot coffee after the first few days.

Although there was considerable rain and mud, few units made a genuine effort to get their men under shelter even when the tactical situation permitted. Night after night, officers and men slept in wet foxholes even when no enemy troops were within shooting distance. "It must never be forgotten," said General Krueger, "that the individual soldier is the most important single factor in this war. . . . He is expected to do a lot including risking his life. But to get the most out of him he must have the feeling that everything possible under existing circumstances is being done for his well being and comfort. This is a prime responsibility of command. . . ."8

Weapons and Vehicles

The basic weapons--the U.S. .30-caliber rifle Model 1903, the U.S. .30-caliber rifle M1, the BAR, bayonets, and grenades--with which the rifle squads and the individual soldiers of the heavy weapons company were equipped were generally satisfactory and notably superior to comparable weapons of the Japanese.

The troops used a variety of hand grenades. The white smoke grenade was considered to be defective and was frequently discarded. The white phosphorus grenade was extensively used, mainly as an antipersonnel weapon. It was thrown with telling effect into foxholes, caves, and heavy underbrush. An Australian grenade was introduced, but because the troops were unfamiliar with its use, it was not too successful. Incendiary hand grenades were effectively used against enemy weapons, ammunition dumps, and supplies. Colored grenades were employed to mark strips for the air dropping of supplies.9 The fragmentation grenade was most favored by the troops, and after that the phosphorus grenade.10

The Browning automatic rifle was very popular, the best results being obtained when two were allotted to a squad. The increased fire power thus obtained was very effective in night defense.

The 81-mm. mortar continued to be highly esteemed as a close support infantry weapon. The 4.2-inch chemical mortars of the attached chemical mortar battalions were extensively employed, affording excellent results when emplaced on firm ground. On marshy or swampy ground, however, their base plates would sink and cause inaccurate firing or put the weapons out of commission. The most popular mortar was the 60-mm., which was very mobile and especially suitable for use in close terrain. This mortar fired an illuminating shell which was used constantly for night defense, but its base plate also tended to sink into the ground.

Flame throwers were employed with very good effect in reducing strongly fortified positions. The M2-2 flame thrower was an excellent incendiary weapon against bamboo thickets and shacks. The cartridge type was considered to be more satisfactory, since the spark-ignited flame thrower was not dependable in rainy weather. The flame


thrower was considered "a very important factor in overcoming the enemy's inherent 'will to resist.' "11

The .50-caliber machine gun again proved its value in defense, being highly effective not only against ground targets but also against aircraft. The 96th Division found the Thompson submachine gun excellent for use by patrolling units but "some difficulty . . . has been encountered with the M3 machine gun in its failure to feed properly."12

The 7th Division found the 75-mm. self-propelled howitzer, because of its superior mobility, to be the most effective infantry weapon for reduction of Japanese pillboxes. The 105-mm. howitzers of the field artillery battalions again proved their worth by the speed, accuracy, and effectiveness of their fire. The greater striking range of the 155-mm. howitzer had special value for general support missions.

Demolition charges were used effectively by patrols for the destruction of enemy ammunition dumps in inaccessible locations and not salvageable because of the tactical situation. Except for this purpose, demolitions were not extensively used.13

The 37-mm. gun was an antitank weapon only occasionally employed by the 7th Division because there were few Japanese armored vehicles against which to use it. The excessive difficulty of manhandling it into a position from which fire could be delivered against Japanese pillboxes and machine guns rendered it ineffective for that purpose. The 90-mm. guns of the antiaircraft artillery had a considerable number of erratic bursts because of corroded fuzes and worn fuze setting lugs.

The tanks and tank destroyers could have been used more frequently and with greater versatility. Situations often arose in which an infantry platoon was held up by enemy machine gun and mortar fire, but "the use of indirect artillery fire was impracticable either because of overhead cover for the enemy weapons or because of undue risk to our enveloping infantry." General Krueger recommended that the infantry employ direct fire by the tanks or tank destroyers. He felt that "the tank destroyer commanders lacked aggressiveness and skilled direction."14 The tank destroyer commanders admitted that they were idle but added that the infantry had not called for them. The tanks and tank destroyers were ideal weapons for the destruction of machine guns, mortars, and other heavy infantry weapons, but the infantry commanders seemed to be unaware of their capabilities. Many commanders employed their armored vehicles down the middle of the road when they could have used them more effectively on the flanks and for envelopments.

The 96th Division found the Cannon Company's self-propelled 105-mm. howitzer extremely mobile in swamps and mountainous terrain. It was able to go several miles farther up the mountains than any other vehicle and gave excellent support in covering the mountain passes.15

The cargo carrier M29 (weasel) proved to be a most useful supply vehicle. The commanders used it for reconnaissance and visits to units in isolated areas and over roads that were impassable to wheeled vehicles. It also was employed to carry supplies


and to evacuate the wounded from inaccessible areas. The weasel was much less destructive of roads than any of the other tracked vehicles, but the tendency to use it on dry roads resulted in worn-out tracks and excessive maintenance requirements.

The 96th Division found the DUKW to be an excellent vehicle when waterborne but on land, regardless of the condition of the roads and terrain, it was not half as effective as the 2½-ton cargo truck. On roads the DUKW was a traffic hazard and an obstacle to other cargo traffic.16

The 7th Division landed with seventeen one-ton trailers. They were found to be of little value and the division recommended that they should not be used in any future operation unless a hard-surfaced, all-weather road net existed at the anticipated target.17


General Krueger pointed out that prompt, aggressive reconnaissance should have been instituted immediately upon the landing of the troops. The fact that knowledge of the terrain was very limited before the assault--inaccuracies in the distances on existing maps were as high as 50 percent--gave urgency to the need for immediate reconnaissance.

The sources of information on the Japanese were as follows: ground and aerial reconnaissance, Filipino civilians, guerrillas, captured documents, and prisoners. Air observation was of limited value because of the Japanese ability at camouflage and because the inclement weather prevented aerial observation of many areas. The tendency of the Filipinos to say "yes" to everything was also a handicap. In general, the guerrilla reports were more accurate than those of civilians. Considerable information was obtained from patrols, which were especially valuable for on-the-spot intelligence.

In interrogating prisoners the best results were obtained by employing Nisei, who obtained more information from prisoners when the latter were not subjected to questioning by an officer through an interpreter. Since most of the prisoners had been separated from their units for a considerable time and were seriously wounded, their information was sparse and generally out of date.

Captured documents were the most fruitful source of intelligence. Although the Japanese made a few attempts to destroy dog tags and other means of identification before going into battle, they were not too successful. The fact that General Krueger obtained information on the proposed ground offensive of the Japanese for the middle of November from papers found on the body of a Japanese officer was not an isolated incident. Many officers carried on their persons sets of orders and maps.

The Japanese received much of their information on the American order of battle from broadcasts emanating from San Francisco. At first, the Japanese on the island were unable to find out the American order of battle for Leyte but within a few days the Americans gratuitously furnished them the information. Said General Tomochika:

At the time of the landing, 35th Army Headquarters did not know the number or name of the American units which had landed . . . but within a day headquarters learned. . . . We found out . . . by tuning in on the San Francisco broadcasts; Japanese troops in the combat area were unable to determine


their identity. From the same source, we later obtained information which was of considerable help in planning. In fact, that was the only way we could get information. . . . Information was always received through the San Francisco broadcast before reports from our front line units reached headquarters. . . . Since the information came much sooner from the American broadcast than from the Japanese communications, the Army Headquarters depended on the American broadcasts for much intelligence.18

Japanese Warfare

The 24th Division found the Japanese troops on Leyte to be better trained in combat and more skillful than those the division had encountered during the Hollandia-Tanahmerah Bay operation.19 In general the Japanese fought a delaying action, and when forced to yield ground they would fall back to previously prepared positions. During a bombardment by American heavy weapons, the enemy troops would withdraw but when the fire lifted they would quickly reoccupy the vacated positions.20

The 21st Infantry was impressed with the Japanese "excellence in battle" on Breakneck Ridge. There were few instances of "reckless charges, needless sacrifices or failure to observe known tactical principles." The most notable characteristics exhibited were the excellent fire discipline and the effective control of all arms. Without exception individual soldiers withheld their fire until it would have the greatest possible effect. The heaviest firing would generally start about 1530 and increase in intensity until about dark, the fire being accompanied by counterattacks from the front and on the flanks. These assaults usually came when the Americans' energy and ammunition were at their lowest point during the day and when they would prevent proper consolidation of the front lines before dark.21

The Japanese employed reverse slope defense tactics with much skill and were successful in utilizing terrain for their defensive positions. Caves and other natural formations were exploited to the limit and positions were dug in deeply and expertly camouflaged. The Japanese frequently sacrificed fields of fire for cover and concealment, a fact which made it very difficult for the Americans to locate hostile positions.

Captured documents indicated that the Japanese attacks were generally well conceived but that there were not enough troops at the time of the assault. The documents also gave repeated indications that units either did not receive their orders or did not reach the appointed place on time. The Japanese employed two main types of attack. The first, which was similar to that employed by the Americans, utilized a base of fire from supporting weapons, followed by infantry fire and movement. This type of attack was not usually accompanied by artillery or mortar support. The other method consisted of a localized charge in which the Japanese by sheer force of numbers tried to crack the American lines. The heavy weapons fire of the Americans was nearly always able to break up both types of attack. Enemy forces, generally in small numbers, tried repeatedly to infiltrate through the American lines. The objectives


were artillery pieces, supply dumps, and key installations. Rarely did they accomplish even minor damage.

Artillery weapons were seldom used by the Japanese to maximum effect. The gunnery techniques were "remarkably undeveloped" and inefficient, the pieces being used singly or in pairs and only rarely as batteries. Their fire was never massed. The gun positions generally were well constructed but they were frequently selected with such high regard for concealment that the fields of fire were limited. The use of mines and demolition charges was poor, the mine fields being hastily and obviously laid.

The troops were well trained and led by officers imbued with a sense of duty. Consequently, "as long as any officers remain alive, the remnants of a . . . force are capable of determined action."22

The Japanese view of American methods was summed up by General Tomochika as follows: "The strong points of the American strategy in the Leyte Operation were numerous but the two outstanding points were (1) the overwhelming striking power of the American Army, and (2) the American operations were planned in minute detail and on the whole were carried out scrupulously."23


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (13) * Next Chapter (15)


1. Ltr, CG Sixth Army to CG X Corps et al., sub: Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned in K-2 Operation, 25 Nov 44, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 204-212. Unless otherwise stated this chapter is based upon General Krueger's critique.

2. 10th I&HS Eighth Army, Stf Study of Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Interrog Col Okabayashi, pp. 5-6.

3. 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Tactics, n. p.

4. Krueger's Critique, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 205.

5. 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Incl 1 to Annex 3, n. p.

6. Ibid.

7. Krueger's Critique, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 205. Italics are Krueger's.

8. Ibid., p. 206.

9. 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 113-14.

10. 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Effectiveness of Weapons, n. p.

11. 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 85.

12. Ibid. p. 83. Presumably the .45-caliber submachine gun M3 is intended by the term "M3 machine gun."

13. 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Effectiveness of Weapons, n. p.

14. Krueger's Critique, Sixth Army Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 208.

15. 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 82.

16. Ibid., p. 95.

17. 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Deficiencies in Equipment, n. p.

18. 10th I&HS Eighth Army, Stf Study of Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Interreg Gen Tomochika, pp. 2-3.

19. 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 86.

20. 96th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 88.

21. 24th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Enemy Tactics on Breakneck Ridge, n. p.

22. 7th Div Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex, Japanese Opns, n. p.

23. 10th I&HS, Eighth Army, Stf Study of Opns of Japanese 35th Army on Leyte, Interrog Gen Tomochika, p. 26.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation