Chapter XV
Battle of the Ridges

American Plans and Preparations

With the securing of the beachhead areas in the last week of October and the first days of November, General Krueger was ready to launch that part of his plan that concerned a drive north along the west coast of Leyte. Since a preliminary reconnaissance indicated that there were not a great many Japanese troops in the southern half of the island, elements of the 32d Infantry had already started to push west through the mountains to the west coast along the road from Abuyog to Baybay. After the attention of the Japanese had been diverted to the struggle in the northern mountains, the X Corps could launch a drive against Ormoc, proceeding north from Baybay on Highway 2 along the shores of the Camotes Sea and of Ormoc Bay. At the same time elements of the X Corps--the 24th Division and later the 32d Division--could drive down the Ormoc corridor to Ormoc. The enemy forces would then be caught between the jaws of a trap, with their freedom of maneuver limited and most of their strength employed in defensive action. But the need for blocking the exits from the central mountain range and the scarcity of combat troops made it necessary for General Krueger to postpone sending a strong force to the shores of the Camotes Sea until additional reinforcements arrived on Leyte in the middle of November. General Hodge was to be prepared, however, to send strong elements of the XXIV Corps over the mountains.

American Plans

On 30 October General Hodge directed the 7th Division to move elements, not to exceed one battalion, over the mountain road from Abuyog to Baybay, the western terminus of the road. He also ordered the 7th Division to be prepared to move to the west coast when relieved in the Burauen area.1 In anticipation of this plan, the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, had moved to Abuyog on 29 October to occupy and defend that area. Company G had spearheaded the advance to Baybay. On 2 November General Arnold alerted the main body of the 32d Infantry, under Colonel Finn, for a move to Abuyog.


As soon as word was received that the Americans were on the west coast, General Suzuki, believing these forces to be a small unit of American and Philippine troops, sent a company from the 364th Battalion south from Ormoc to hold Albuera until the 26th Division could arrive.2 Albuera was important tactically, since from it ran a mountain trail that the Japanese had tried unsuccessfully to develop into a road to the Burauen airfield in Leyte Valley.

On 9 November the 26th Division landed at Ormoc after a rough voyage from Manila. The transport vessels had been repeatedly attacked by Allied aircraft, which damaged many of the landing barges and ship hatches. These damaging attacks hindered the unloading of equipment, which did not proceed as planned. Many of the landing barges were run aground and destroyed by Allied aircraft, and the transports were forced to sail away before being completely emptied. They carried most of the ordnance, provisions, and munitions of the division with them. On their return trip, all the vessels were sunk by aircraft. The division consequently came ashore underequipped. The strength of the 26th Division consisted of Division Headquarters, one battalion of the 11th Independent Infantry Regiment, three battalions of the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment, and the 2d Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment. These units had only light, portable weapons, and none was equipped with machine guns except a battalion of the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment.

General Suzuki had intended to use the 26th Division in the Carigara area but the arrival of American forces in the Baybay area forced him to change his plans. On 13 November he received word from Manila that the 26th Division was to be used in the Burauen area and consequently the main force of the 26th Division was directed to Albuera. General Suzuki first sent the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment, under Col. Jiro Saito,3 but eventually the entire 26th Division, including the division headquarters, was committed to the Albuera area.

As the troops of the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, moved over the mountains to Baybay, guerrillas informed them that about three hundred Japanese soldiers were pushing south toward the Abuyog-Baybay road. These enemy troops were "six marauding units" of the company which had been sent south to make contact with the American forces and contain them until the 26th Division could arrive.4 Company E set up an ambush, killed many of the Japanese, and forced the others to disperse.

By this time the appearance of Japanese reinforcements going north from Ormoc caused General Krueger to shift the weight of the Sixth Army to the north to meet the new threat, and to order General Hodge to hold up on the relief of the 7th Division in the Burauen area. It was not until after the arrival of the 11th Airborne Division that the 7th Division, on 22 November, was able to move in force to the west coast.5

At 1025 on 14 November General Arnold ordered Colonel Finn to start moving the 32d Infantry north to the Damulaan-Caridad


Map 13
Shoestring Ridge
23-25 November 1944

area and to be prepared to advance upon Ormoc on further orders.6 The units of the 32d Infantry moved to their assigned areas near the Palanas River, and both the Japanese and Americans made ready their positions for the clash. (Map 13) The battle that was about to be fought over the ridge lines along the Palanas River was later called the "Battle of Shoestring Ridge" by troops of the 32d Infantry. This name applied to the supply technique rather than to any terrain features of the ridge, since the supply of the 32d Infantry throughout the battle was precarious. Said Colonel Finn: "The old slogan 'Too little and too late' became 'Just enough and just in time' for us."7

The Palanas River runs in a southwesterly direction between two ridges that end abruptly on reaching the road. The ridges slope sharply toward the river and are separated by a narrow valley. Colonel Finn chose to stand on Shoestring Ridge, the southernmost of the two, which rises steeply from the fields. Its northerly face drops precipitately for more than 125 feet to the valley,


where dense bamboo thickets cover the river banks. The main body of the ridge is covered with cogon grass, interspersed with palms and bamboo, growth being especially heavy in the gullies. Between the western tip of the ridge and the sea are rice paddies and clusters of palm trees, while at a point 3,000 yards northeast of the road the ridge falls into a saddle and then rises to join Hill 918.

Offensive Preparations

While the 26th Division was building up positions on the opposite bank of the Palanas River, Colonel Finn had to solve problems that existed to the rear. Since enemy barges still operated freely a few thousand yards offshore and two Japanese destroyers had cruised by, General Arnold thought that the enemy might try to land forces and seize Baybay in order to separate the American units and sever their line of communications. There were only three infantry battalions on the west coast. The mud and floods on the narrow route that connected this force with the source of supplies at Dulag, on the east coast, made the road so undependable that the 7th Division could not rely on a quick transfer of reinforcements to the west.

Lt. Col. Charles A. Whitcomb's 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry, had moved from Baybay to a position just south of the 2d Battalion on 21 November8 and established defensive positions in depth. To have increased the defensive strength on Shoestring Ridge would have placed the bulk of the forces in a position where they would be surrounded if the Japanese breached their line. General Arnold, to prevent such an envelopment, directed that the 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, should not be used to reinforce the front lines without his permission.9 This order left only Lt. Col. Glenn A. Nelson's 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, to hold the front. The 1st Battalion had been sent to the vicinity of Panaon Strait to relieve the 21st Infantry. In addition to the infantry there was a concentration of artillery at Damulaan for support. Batteries A and B of the 49th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. howitzer) had moved up and registered fire by 21 November,10 and on the morning of 23 November Battery B of the 11th 155-mm. Marine Gun Battalion arrived at Damulaan.11 The regimental Cannon Company brought two more pieces, which boosted the total to fourteen. All the artillery pieces were only about 1,500 yards behind the front lines, concentrated in a small area in the vicinity of Damulaan. The light weapons were situated so that their fire could be placed as far forward as possible, and the 155-mm. guns were in positions from which they could shell Ormoc.12 The defenses of the infantry and the artillery were consolidated on ground that afforded the best protection.

A platoon from the 7th Reconnaissance Troop patrolled the road between Baybay and Damulaan, and a platoon of light tanks from the 767th Tank Battalion at Damulaan was the only armor on the west coast.13


For several days preceding the 23d of November, Filipinos moving to the south through the lines reported that large enemy forces were massing on the opposite side of the Palanas River and emplacing field guns. Artillery observers on Shoestring Ridge could see the Japanese constructing trenches, machine gun pits, and other installations on the opposite ridge. The Japanese forces consisted of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 13th Independent Infantry Regiment, and two battalions from the 11th and 12th Independent Infantry Regiments.14 Colonel Saito was ordered to hold back the American advance, which threatened to cut off a trail the Japanese had been building at Albuera over the mountains to Burauen.

On 23 November the defenses of the 32d Infantry were stretched very thin. Because of the great distance involved it was not possible to have a continuous front line extending from the sea to the mountains, and therefore some passages of approach had to be left open to the enemy. Only the longest and most difficult were undefended.15 The main defensive sector of the 32d Infantry, just south of the Palanas River, was astride the highway and on that part of the ridge which overlooked the regiment's artillery and command post installations. The defensive sector of Companies F and G was 1,500 yards in width. Company F occupied the flat, marshy land between the sea and the hills to the east. The men built barricades of dirt and sandbags at intervals of seventy-five yards and mined the area in front of them. Company E and guerrillas of Companies F and G, 94th Philippine Infantry, which were attached to the 2d Battalion, were on a ridge that extended to Hill 918. Some guerrillas were also outposted between Companies G and E. Regimental headquarters was at Baybay.16 "The main strength of the line was American guts and fighting spirit."17 During the night, Battery B of the 11th 155-mm. Gun Battalion had moved in and was in position at 0800 to start firing. The battery was so well camouflaged that during the ensuing engagement it was never discovered by the enemy. The regiment now had in support two batteries of 105-mm. howitzers and one of 155-mm. guns.

Battle of Shoestring Ridge

The Battle Begins

At about 1830 on 23 November, the 26th Division opened up the long-expected attack.18 The signal for the commencement of hostilities was an artillery concentration, the first rounds of which fell in the area of Battery A, 49th Field Artillery Battalion. The next rounds were scattered. Enemy mortars joined the artillery and concentrated their fire on the front lines of the 32d Infantry. Counterbattery fire of the 105-mm. howitzers from Battery B of the 49th Field Artillery temporarily silenced the Japanese fire. At 2000 the enemy artillery and mortars again opened up against the front lines of the 32d Infantry and cut all communications between the 2d Battalion and the regimental headquarters at Baybay. Communications were later re-established by relay from the 3d Battalion at Caridad.


At 2100 the Japanese infantry launched a well-planned attack, supported by artillery, mortars, and machine guns, against the lines of Company E. Although the company retaliated with all weapons at its command, the Japanese continued to come on, despite heavy casualties, through the covered draws, high cogon grass, and bamboo thickets. The guerrilla outpost between Companies G and E withdrew when the Japanese attacked Company E. The enemy force, which consisted of two reinforced rifle companies from the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment, seized portions of the ridge and dug in.

Colonel Nelson, the commander of the 2d Battalion, ordered Capt. John J. Young, commanding officer of Company E, to withdraw his troops. Since the Japanese had penetrated the lines and were digging in, the withdrawal was difficult. At about 2200, when Capt. Roy F. Dixon, commanding officer of Company G, received word that Company E was to withdraw to a position behind Company L and thus leave the right flank of Company G exposed, he ordered the right platoon leader to move his right from a position in front of the ridge to one on the ridge facing east, refusing this flank.19 The two right squads moved back and secured the right of Company G.

At dawn on 24 November Colonel Nelson re-formed the 2d Battalion. A patrol from Company F went to the Palanas River and found no enemy troops. At 0800 three companies moved to the east toward Hill 918. The troops succeeded in pushing back a Japanese force that had penetrated south of the Palanas River and east of Hill 918. Colonel Finn ordered Company K to move up from Caridad, and he attached it to the 2d Battalion.

Battery C of the 57th 105-mm. Howitzer Battalion, which had just arrived, was placed on the left, south of the Bucan River.20 By 1800 the troops had regained some of the ground lost the previous night and occupied a perimeter approximately 2,000 yards long and less than 1,500 yards deep.

During the day, as far as their limited ammunition would allow, the artillery units fired at enemy troop concentrations and possible observation posts. The service troops worked feverishly to move badly needed ammunition to the front lines. The two most critical items were 105-mm. and 81-mm. ammunition, and by nightfall the front lines had received 1,400 rounds of the first item and 1,600 rounds of the second. General Arnold attached the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, to the 32d Infantry but Colonel Finn was forbidden to commit it to action without permission from the 7th Division.

Japanese Counterattack

The enemy forces did not wait. That night, under a full moon, they attacked American positions with great ferocity, opening the engagement with the heaviest artillery barrage the 32d Infantry had yet experienced.21 The first rounds fell on the front-line troops, but the fire then shifted and centered on Battery A, 49th Field Artillery Battalion, and the infantry and artillery command posts in the rear at Damulaan. At the same time the enemy pounded the front lines of Companies G, L, E, and K with heavy mortar fire. Additional mortars joined the battle and shifted the greater


part of their fire against Battery B. The cannoneers held fast and returned the fire.

After this thirty-minute artillery and mortar preparation, the Japanese 13th Independent Infantry Regiment attacked the front lines of the Americans, concentrating the assault against three main positions: the right flank of Company G, the draw between Companies L and K, and the center of Company K. At the same time, combat patrols moved from the north against Companies F and G. The companies easily threw back these patrols.

Colonel Nelson ordered all supporting weapons of the 2d Battalion to fire. All three artillery batteries fired at the maximum rate for seven minutes, while the mortars placed their fire directly on the assault force in order to chop it up or drive it back into the artillery fire. Colonel Nelson then put the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon of the 2d Battalion and a squad from Company B, 13th Engineer Battalion, in previously prepared positions between Companies G and E. Company G was thus able to strengthen its lines at the heaviest point of pressure and repel the frequently repeated assaults.

At about 1900 a strong force of the enemy gathered on the ridge in front of the right flank of Company L. The American mortars fired on the ridge but the American machine guns kept silent in order to conceal their locations. A group of about fifty Japanese came to within thirty yards of the right platoon of Company L and showered it with grenades. Mortar fire also fell on this platoon, and at the same time the platoon of Company K in the draw came under heavy fire. At least twelve emplaced machine guns, in addition to those carried up by the assaulting troops, raked the positions of Companies K and L with intense fire. Company L employed all weapons and threw back the assault with heavy casualties to the Japanese.

Company K did not fare so well, since it was operating at little more than half strength and there were only nineteen men in the platoon that guarded the draw on the company's left flank. Under the protection of machine gun and mortar fire, the Japanese moved against the platoon, which was ringed by machine gun fire that cut off any avenue of withdrawal. The platoon seemed to be faced with imminent extermination. A Marine machine gunner from the 11th 155-mm. Gun Battalion, who was stationed on the high ground just south of the draw of the besieged platoon, opened fire and knocked out the enemy machine guns which had cut off the line of withdrawal. He then directed his fire against the Japanese weapons on the ridge across the draw and raked the ridge from one end to the other. After the enemy guns had been silenced the platoon made an orderly withdrawal to the foot of the ridge to positions on its right rear, from which it could cover the draw.22 Many enemy dead were left in the vacated positions.

The Japanese then attempted to break through the center of Company K's line, but were driven off by the use of artillery, together with the mortars, machine guns, grenades, and rifles of the company. For the rest of the night the Japanese kept probing the left flank of the company and placing machine gun and mortar fire along the entire line. At one time about twenty-five of


the enemy pushed past the outer perimeter to within fifty yards of the perimeter of the command post and set up two machine guns. Headquarters personnel, medical men, and engineers who were manning the perimeter drove the group off.

Meanwhile, the Japanese forces in front of Company L withdrew and were regrouping, preparatory to launching a new attack. Since there was no artillery observer with the company, 1st Lt. William C. Bentley, of the Cannon Company, with two men went to a vantage point from which they could observe the draw and the ridge where the enemy force was assembling. Lieutenant Bentley directed an artillery concentration on the draw. Three times the Japanese tried to pierce the right flank of Company L and three times the artillery drove them back with heavy casualties. The enemy then tried unsuccessfully to get through the left flank of the company. The front line of Company L had comparative quiet for the rest of the night, except for a few infiltrators.

Having failed to pierce the front lines, the 26th Division troops tried desperately to knock out the artillery supporting the 32d Infantry--Batteries A and B of the 49th Field Artillery Battalion receiving the heaviest blows. Battery B had all four of its guns knocked out, but by "cannibalizing" the damaged guns the battery had one of them back in operation by dawn. The enemy shelling gradually slackened in intensity, and by 0400, except for occasional outbursts of fire, all was quiet.

At dawn of 25 November each company sent scouting patrols 2,000 yards to its front in order to forestall any Japanese attempts to move in. The patrols remained out all day. The front lines were reinforced by Company I, which moved into the draw between Companies K and L. The troops prepared positions but occupied them only at night, since they were located in a swampy rice paddy. Headquarters and B Battery of the 57th Field Artillery Battalion moved into the Damulaan area to provide additional artillery support. Four 105-mm. howitzer batteries and one 155-mm. gun battery were then available. The troops of the 3d Battalion reverted to the control of the 3d Battalion commander, Colonel Whitcomb. Because of the intense firing during the night, the ammunition in the front lines had been nearly exhausted, but a sufficient supply was brought forward to the guns by the next evening.

At 2200 the enemy, using the same tactics as on the previous night, again assaulted the eastern positions of the 32d Infantry with approximately one battalion, after an artillery preparation. Although apparently well led and well organized, they were in less strength than before and were driven back, but not without a grenade battle and some hand-to-hand fighting.

While the infantry troops were thus engaged, eight Japanese led by an officer moved unnoticed along the Bucan River about one and a half miles south of the Palanas River. Coming up on the right of B Battery, 49th Field Artillery Battalion, these enemy troops threw a shower of grenades at the gun crews and tried to clamber over the river bank and get at the guns. One man made it, and by placing a satchel charge behind the breechblock of a howitzer he put it permanently out of commission. All of the Japanese were killed.

The troops of the 32d Infantry spent the 26th of November improving their positions, moving automatic weapons, restocking ammunition, and securing much-needed rest. The only important change in the lines was the moving of B Company, 184th Infantry,


Map 14
Shoestring Ridge
26-27 November 1944

less one platoon, into the position of B Battery, which was made part of A Battery.23 (Map 14)

Bloody Bamboo Thicket

At 2100 Colonel Saito renewed the assault against the American position, following the pattern set by the previous night actions. The Japanese first laid down mortar and machine gun fire,24 and then heavy-weapons fire of the 13th Infantry Regiment hit the right platoons of Company G, shifting to the east in about fifteen minutes. Immediately afterward, about a battalion of Japanese infantry attacked Company G, while twelve machine guns started to fire from a ridge 1,200 yards to the east. The Japanese moved into the fire of their own heavy weapons. The 32d Infantry, using all of its artillery batteries, mortars, machine guns, and rifles, started throwing lead against the enemy force as fast as its men could load and fire. The Japanese, employing an estimated fifty machine guns, continued


to come on. "All hell broke loose"25 as the enemy shot off flares to guide their own artillery fire. The sharp declivity in front of the American lines did not allow for a close concentration of friendly artillery fire. Just as it appeared that the lines were to be overrun, some more enemy flares went up, and the Japanese withdrew, covered by heavy machine gun and mortar fire. Colonel Finn, taking advantage of this fortunate circumstance, hastily rearranged riflemen to fill gaps caused by casualties and replenished his ammunition supplies. The mortars of the regiment continued to fire into the draw.

After a short lull Colonel Saito renewed the attack. There was no preparatory artillery fire, but the mortars and machine guns introduced the assault. The attack did not seem as determined as the previous one, though the number of troops was apparently about the same. The 32d Infantry again called down all types of fire upon the enemy. Elements of the 13th Infantry Regiment continued to advance, although "the carnage was terriffic,"26 and attempted to pass through the American lines. A strong enemy group moved into a bamboo grove on a nose in front of the center platoon of G Company. From this position the enemy launched an attack which the company resisted with grenades and bayonets. As Colonel Finn later reported: "The battle continued to flare up and die down as the valiant soldiers fought like devils to hold our lines."27 The 81-mm. mortars from the mortar platoon of H Company fired 650 rounds in five minutes, and fire from the 60-mm. mortars was "practically automatic."28 After an hour's intense fighting, the enemy force withdrew.

The Japanese had not attacked the left flank of G Company. These troops heard the battle raging to the right and the sounds of the Japanese forming below them. A non-commissioned officer in charge of a listening post sent a man to get permission for his three-man group to withdraw. After receiving permission he shouted the order from a distance of fifty yards. As the men from the listening post started back, they were joined by the left platoon and two squads from the center platoon. Within forty-five minutes the two platoons, less one squad, plus the section of heavy machine guns, were moving south on the highway. "There was no thought in their minds that the withdrawal was not authorized."29 After proceeding down the road 250 yards they met the executive officer of Company H who ordered them back. It was too late, the damage was done. Though the left platoon was able to regain its position without trouble, the two squads from the center platoon found the enemy well dug-in in the bamboo thicket where the squads had been. It was later learned that there were about two hundred hostile troops with twenty machine guns in the thicket.

The Japanese were within the American lines and in a position from which they could fire on A Battery and the flanks of Companies E, L, I, and K.30 Colonel Finn immediately took steps to contain the penetrators. The reserve platoon from I Company moved behind E Company to face north in order to stop any enemy troops moving south


along the high ground. The squad of the center platoon of Company G that had remained in position was faced to the west in order to forestall any attempt to roll up the line of G Company. That part of G Company which had withdrawn was moved along the high ground behind E Company where it established contact with the rest of G Company that faced the bamboo thicket. The right of F Company was turned south along the highway. Although the enemy could not be denied access to the flat, open ground leading to Damulaan, the rear of E and G Companies was protected and the flat ground could be covered by fire. The Japanese apparently did not realize the predicament of the Americans, since they made no attempt to exploit it.

At the same time that G Company was fighting, the other companies, E, L, and I, were also hit, though the assault was not so heavy as the one against G Company. The commanding officer of E Company, next to G Company, felt that the situation left him "in a hell of a spot,"31 but he held his position. The Japanese steadily persisted in their pressure against the lines of the companies and the fighting continued throughout the night. The defenders yielded no ground and effectively used many supporting fires to disrupt the attack of the 26th Division. The Americans counted 400 Japanese dead the next morning, but casualties of the 32d Infantry, despite the heavy fighting, had been surprisingly light. For the twenty-four hour period ending at 1430 on 27 November, four officers and fifteen enlisted men had been wounded and one enlisted man killed.32

Colonel Finn made plans for the recapture of the ground lost by G Company, and General Arnold made available to him part of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, which was at Caridad. The 1st Battalion, less B Company and two platoons from C Company, left Caridad at 0415 on 27 November, and by 0515 it was in Damulaan in readiness for the assault. Company G, 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, was also available.

At the same time, the enemy was in the midst of preparing new plans. The Japanese felt that if they could recapture the Burauen airfields, all the American forces on Leyte would be in jeopardy. General Suzuki therefore ordered his troops to prepare for an operation at Burauen. In order to concentrate the 26th Division for his daring move across the mountains to strike at the Americans in the vicinity of the Burauen airfields, General Suzuki risked his right flank, leaving only a detachment consisting of the 12th Independent Infantry Regiment, one and one-half battalions of the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment, and one battery of the 26th Artillery Battalion with two mobile guns to prevent the Americans from reaching Albuera and cutting off the base of his attack. At the same time, staff members of the 26th Division moved south to direct operations against the 7th Division.33

These Japanese measures were taken just as General Krueger was able to reinforce the attack toward Ormoc. The commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, at dawn on 27 November got his troops ready for the drive toward Albuera. He moved his battalion behind L and E Companies, 32d Infantry. Because of the limited


area involved, the battalion commander decided that only A Company would make the attack. The artillery, mortars, and machine guns placed heavy fire on the bamboo thicket. At 0855 the troops moved out but were stopped by heavy machine gun fire after they had advanced about 200 yards. They then withdrew about fifty yards while the artillery and mortars again covered the area.34 A second attack was also halted, and A Company again pulled back. At 1430 a very heavy artillery concentration was placed on the thicket.35 Immediately thereafter C Company moved in swiftly and cleared out and secured the area by 1600. A total of 109 enemy dead was counted and twenty-nine machine guns were removed.

The defensive perimeters of the 32d Infantry were set up. With the addition of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, the lines were much stronger. During the night of 27 November elements of the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment made minor attempts to infiltrate through the lines but were easily repulsed.

By now the Sixth Army had received substantial reinforcements. General Hodge therefore ordered the 7th Division to assemble all forces in the Baybay area as rapidly as the logistical situation would permit.36 By 27 November sufficient troops had assembled to enable him to order General Arnold to make "an early and vigorous attack" to destroy the Japanese in the area and then capture Ormoc.37 On 28 November all the assault elements of the 7th Division, with the exception of the 1st Battalion, 32d Infantry, which was patrolling in the vicinity of Panaon Strait, were either on the eastern shore of the Camotes Sea or on the way there. The 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, and the 2d and 3d Battalions, 32d Infantry, were still engaging the enemy at a bamboo thicket on Shoestring Ridge south of the Palanas River and east of Damulaan.38

The troops of Colonel Finn's 32d Infantry were weary. They had prevented the Japanese 26th Division from going south along the eastern shore of the Camotes Sea and had held back the best the enemy had to offer. General Arnold desired that the 7th Division push through the enemy lines with two regiments abreast toward Ormoc. The tired 32d Infantry was to be drawn back and replaced by the 184th and 17th Infantry Regiments.

On 28 November, after receiving orders from General Arnold, the commanding officer of the 184th Infantry, Col. Curtis D. O'Sullivan, outlined to his battalion commanders the new roles they were to play. The 184th Infantry was to relieve the 32d Infantry and then attack to the front and cover the division's left sector. The 1st Battalion of the regiment was to relieve Company F, 32d Infantry, from the beach inland to a clump of trees held by the enemy 600 yards inland. Parts of Companies A and C were already at the edge of the grove. The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, with the 57th Field Artillery Battalion in direct support, was to relieve Companies G and E of the 32d Infantry, tie in with Company L of the 32d Infantry, and attack in the direction of Hill 918. The 3d Battalion, in regimental reserve, was to take a position in San Agustin. The 32d Infantry was to fall back to Tinagan.39 At 1700 the 2d Battalion, 184th


Infantry, relieved the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry, at Damulaan.40

At 1945 on 28 November elements of the 26th Division attacked from the southeast and northeast the right flank of Company A, 184th Infantry, at the bamboo thicket and pushed it back fifty yards. Battery B, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, fired at the southern point of the enemy infiltration and also 100 yards to the west.41 The Japanese attack was stopped, and the 1st Battalion held fast and dug in.42

Company E, 2d Battalion, hurriedly moved into a position from which, if requested, it could support the 1st Battalion. The 81-mm. mortar section of the 2d Battalion was prepared to place fire in front of the zone of Company A, and two platoons from Company C were in position to fill a gap existing between the 1st and 2d Battalions.43 By 2045 the 3d Battalion, 32d Infantry, and the 2d and 1st Battalions, 184th Infantry, were on a line from right to left.44 The night was quiet except for sounds of enemy activity in front of the 2d Battalion.45

At 0900 on 29 November Company A of the 1st Battalion and Company F of the 2d Battalion, after a mortar barrage, attacked to retake the lost ground and to overrun the Japanese position in the bamboo thicket. They regained the ground without opposition, but as the troops approached the thicket they met strong resistance. For the rest of the day the battle seesawed back and forth as elements of the 184th Infantry and the 26th Division contested for control of "Bloody Bamboo Thicket," as it came to be called. Between 1820 and 1920, Company A repulsed three heavy enemy attacks and killed an estimated fifty to eighty Japanese.46 At 1800 Companies A and F made a co-ordinated but unsuccessful attack against the Japanese. They dug in for the night in positions from which they successfully withstood enemy attacks.47

The following morning both battalions sent patrols to scout out the strength and installations of the enemy. At 1045 Company A, which had been in action for several days, was relieved by Company C and moved to the old position of the latter.48 At 1400, after a ten-minute artillery preparation, Company C and two platoons from Company F on its right were to move out toward a ridge 150 yards north in order to strengthen the lines and secure positions on the commanding terrain--part of which was the bamboo thicket over which Company A and the enemy had fought.

The companies moved out on time and met little resistance until they had penetrated twenty to thirty yards into the thicket, when the enemy strongly opposed any further advance. The troops of the 184th Infantry, however, steadily pushed on, and by 1603 Company C, with the platoons from Company F just behind it, had cleared the bamboo thicket. Since the line of Company C extended over a wide front, it was tightened and shortened and tied into Company B. By 1730 the troops of Companies C and F had consolidated their positions and formed a night perimeter on the forward slope of the ridge.49 Shoestring Ridge was firmly in American hands.


Map 15
Battle of the Ridges
5-12 December 1944

Battles of the Hills

The attempts of the 26th Division to drive the Americans back had been checked, but the front lines remained practically the same as they had been at the outset of the battle for Shoestring Ridge. It had become apparent that the most one regiment could do was to conduct a holding action and that if the 7th Division was to continue the advance it would be necessary to commit a stronger force against the Japanese. Elements of the 26th Division were by now firmly ensconced in the hills that overlooked Highway 2 and were in a position to contest bitterly any forward movement of the 7th Division.

A series of sharply edged ridges with many spurs, heavily overgrown with bamboo thickets and high cogon grass, rose from the coastal plain to the central mountain range. (Map 15) One of these, Hill 918, was especially important tactically, since from it one could observe the entire coast to the south, and as far as Ormoc to the north. About four fifths of a mile northeast of Hill 918 was the barrio of Kang Dagit, and about one and a half miles north of the hill was Kang Cainto.50 Other important high points were Hill 380, between the Palanas and Tabgas Rivers and about one and a third miles east of Balogo on Highway 2, and Hill 606, between the Tabgas River and Calingatngan Creek and approximately one and a third miles east of Calingatngan on Highway 2.

General Arnold wished to attack north with two regiments abreast. He therefore ordered Colonel O'Sullivan to send out a strong patrol to the front of the 184th Infantry but not to attempt any advance until the 17th Infantry could arrive from the east coast. On 3 December, when most of the 17th Infantry had reached the west coast, General Arnold called a meeting of his regimental commanders. He told them that the 7th Division was to renew the attack north at 0800 on 5 December with regiments abreast, the 17th Infantry on the right and the 184th Infantry on the left, and secure the Talisayan River about three and a half miles north, together with the intervening enemy positions on Hills 918, 380, and 606. The boundary between the regiments was to be roughly 2,000 yards from the beach.51 At this time the front-line units of the 26th Division, which had been occupying a hill about two miles northwest of Damulaan, withdrew to the Palanas River and a hill northeast of the river. A battalion of the 26th Division was on the western slope of a hill north of the river.52

On 4 December the 184th Infantry prepared for the attack and sent patrols from the 1st and 2d Battalions to the front. These patrols penetrated as far north as Balogo. The 17th Infantry spent the day in moving forward the various elements of the regiment.53 By nightfall the units of the 7th Division were in readiness for the offensive which was to start the following morning.

Hill 918

On 4 December General Arnold ordered Lt. Col. O'Neill K. Kane to move the tanks of the 776th Amphibian Tank Battalion by water under cover of darkness to a position 1,000 yards at sea to the west of Balogo, the next coastal town, about a mile to the north


of the front lines. The tanks at dawn on the 5th were to assault the beaches in that vicinity and fire on the town and on the north slopes of hills and ravines in the area. These movements of the tank battalion were to be closely co-ordinated with the 184th and 17th Infantry Regiments, into whose areas the attack was to be made.

At 0635 on the 5th, the tank battalion in a column formation started to move north over water. The tanks advanced toward Balogo until they were at a point offshore about 200 yards from the town. They then continued north in a column formation and fired into the town of Tabgas. At the mouth of the Tabgas River, just short of Tabgas, the tanks attacked in line formation. Moving ashore at 0700, they sent approximately 2,550 rounds of 75-mm. ammunition in direct fire against the northern slopes of the hills that confronted the 7th Division.

The tanks completed their mission, took to the water again, and headed north for a mile to reconnoiter the area around Calingatngan. They then turned south and started for the bivouac area. On the return, Colonel Kane, elated over the success of their previous landing and wishing to use up the remaining ammunition, ordered the tanks to land 500 yards south of the Tabgas River. From here the tanks fired and then withdrew unhindered by enemy fire. At 1045 they were back in their bivouac area.54

At 0800 on 5 December the 184th and 17th Infantry Regiments moved out with the 184th Infantry on the left. The 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, on the extreme left, reached the Palanas River without incident and without having to fire a single shot.55 The Japanese historians, however, claimed that one of the amphibian tanks was set on fire and that the 2d Battalion, 12th Independent Infantry Regiment, repulsed the advance of the 184th Infantry.56

There were numerous finger ridges inland which were cut by deep ravines and gorges that came to within a few hundred yards of the coast line. The entrenched Japanese, using reverse slope tactics, were able to deliver deadly fire on the advancing infantry. In many cases the reverse slopes were so steep that effective artillery fire could not be placed upon them.57 The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, moved forward slowly toward a small hill which faced the Palanas River, and at 0858 it encountered enemy small arms fire from the western slope of the hill. Using grenades, the battalion pushed forward, but at 0938 the Japanese opened up with three light machine guns. The supporting weapons of the 2d Battalion fired on the enemy positions to the front. At 1037, as the battalion reached the military crest of the hill, the Japanese launched a small counterattack on the left flank of Company E. This attack was repulsed, but the companies continued to receive small arms and machine gun fire.

At 1325 the 1st Battalion renewed its advance and proceeded without incident, finding the situation "very quiet" to its front. At 1435 the battalion dug in for the night approximately 300 yards south of Balogo.58 The 3d Battalion moved through the gap between the 1st and 2d Battalions and across the front of the 2d Battalion on the right toward Hill 380, which consisted of a series of ridges. As the 3d Battalion advanced toward the hill, it came under machine gun


fire on each flank. With artillery support, the troops reached the top of the second ridge of Hill 380 and dug in, nine of the men having been wounded.59 At 1635 the battalions of the 184th Infantry received orders to set up night defense positions in depth and to hold the "positions at all costs."60 Colonel O'Sullivan decided that the 3d Battalion was to bear the brunt of the advance of the 184th Infantry on 6 December and push on to Hill 380.61

On the right of the 184th the 17th Infantry had had a busy day in working toward its objective, Hill 918. At 0800 on 5 December the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 17th Infantry, with the 1st Battalion on the left, had moved through the 32d Infantry. At 0906 the advance elements of the 1st Battalion secured a ridge south of the main ridge leading from Hill 918, and at 1000 the entire battalion closed on this ridge. In the face of sporadic rifle and machine gun fire, the leading platoons pushed forward to secure a ridge that led west from Hill 918. As the advance platoons neared the crest of this ridge, they received intense rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire to the front and on both flanks from the 2d Battalion, 12th Independent Infantry Regiment. At the same time the rest of the battalion, in attempting to reach a forward ridge and support the leading platoons, also encountered cross fire that came down the intervening draw. As enemy gunfire pinned down the troops, the 1st Battalion lost contact with Company G, 2d Battalion, and a gap developed between the 1st and 2d Battalions.

The 12th Independent Infantry Regiment, quickly alert to exploit this opportunity to drive a wedge between the two forces, threw approximately a company armed with machine guns and mortars into the gap. Although they did not penetrate completely, the enemy troops were able to secure a position which would make any forward movement of the 1st Battalion very costly. The 1st Platoon of Company B and the 3d Platoon of Company A were still out on the forward ridge and cut off from the rest of the battalion. The reserve platoon of Company A tried an envelopment around the right flank of the 1st Battalion but was stopped by the enemy in the gap. Company C moved up to protect the rear of Company A. Eventually the forward platoons withdrew to the battalion lines and preparations were made for the night. Under cover of darkness the 1st Battalion reorganized and moved into positions on top of the first ridge.62

Earlier that day the 2d Battalion had driven forward with Company E on the right and Company G on the left. Company E went east along the Bucan River for approximately 1,000 yards and then turned northeast to ascend Hill 918. At first, however, the company had to secure a small ridge southwest of Hill 918 on which was a small but dense banana grove. Company E encountered and destroyed a small enemy force on this ridge, after which the company reorganized and at approximately 1300 began to ascend Hill 918 itself. When Company E reached the military crest of the hill, the Japanese began heavy firing with grenade launchers and at least three machine guns. The enemy fire swept the crest of the hill and prevented any movement over the lip of the ridge.

Meanwhile, Company G went to the left of Company E and secured a small ridge about 1,200 yards from the line of departure


and west of Hill 918. The advance platoon of Company G then received fire from automatic weapons that were emplaced in a draw to the left front of the platoon. The rest of the company attempted to move around to the right of the ridge but also encountered automatic weapons fire coming from another draw. Since high cogon grass covered the area, observation was limited to a matter of inches. At about 1300, elements of the 13th Independent Infantry Regiment counterattacked through a gap between Company G and Company A of the 1st Battalion. A machine gun platoon, which was thrown in to plug the gap, succeeded in stopping the attempted Japanese advance.

Company G, however, continued to be pinned down by the enemy fire directed at its front. Company F, the reserve company, was then committed to take a position between G and E Companies. Its mission was to come abreast of Company E, take Hill 918, and then turn west and wipe out the resistance in front of Company G. At 1415 Company F moved up Hill 918 and reached Company E without opposition.

Three spurs led down from Hill 918. The one occupied by Company E ran southwest, that occupied by Company F ran west, and the third ran northwest. As the two commanders started to launch a co-ordinated assault from their respective spurs, their companies received a concentration of about fifty rounds of mortar fire but pushed through this fire and secured the crests of both spurs. They immediately came under automatic weapons and rifle fire from the northwest ridge.

Since the left flank of Company F was in the tall cogon grass, it was practically impossible for the company to observe the enemy. On the other hand, Company E was on bare and open ground which exposed it to machine gun and mortar fire from Hill 918. Both companies also came under long-range machine gun fire from the vicinity of Kang Dagit, northeast of Hill 918. It was impractical to attempt an envelopment to the right, since the flank of Company E rested on a deep ravine which ran to the bed of the Bagan River. An envelopment to the left would have necessitated going down the hill, circling behind Company G, and attacking east from the positions of the 1st Battalion. Because of these unfavorable conditions, Companies E and F with their wounded withdrew to make a line with Company G.63

In support of the advance of the 17th Infantry, the 49th Field Artillery Battalion fired 577 rounds of ammunition during the day. The fires "varied from knocking out machine guns to fire on mortars and on troops in the open."64 The 17th Infantry had forced the 1st Battalion, 12th Independent Infantry Regiment, to start withdrawal to a hill farther north. At the same time, Japanese engineer and artillery units at Albuera "were erecting anti-landing obstacles along the beach and putting up antitank defenses."65

At the end of 5 December the 17th Infantry had secured the ridge west of Hill 918 and the 184th Infantry had secured a line extending from the beach 300 yards south of Balogo east to the high ground southeast of the Palanas River. Company K, 32d Infantry, had filled a gap that had existed between the 17th and 184th Infantry Regiments, while the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, had crossed the Palanas River and, advancing up the southwest slope of Hill


380, reached the top of the first ridge. There were no enemy attacks during the night.

Hill 380

General Arnold ordered the regiments to capture all of Hill 918, the northern slope of Hill 380, and the Palanas River valley. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 17th Infantry, aided by the 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, were to move northeast until their front lines were on an east-west line south of the Palanas River. They were then to launch an attack to the north and capture the slope of Hill 380 in their zone of action. The 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, was to attack to the north on the eastern slope of Hill 918 and capture the slope of Hill 380 in its zone of action. The 184th Infantry was to capture the northern slope of Hill 380 and assist the 17th Infantry in its movement north.66

The 184th Infantry started out at 0800 on 6 December with the 1st Battalion on the left and the 3d Battalion on the right. Supported by eight tanks, the 1st Battalion pushed through rifle fire, moved into Balogo, and cleared the town. The battalion commander then ordered Company B to seize a ridge just east of Balogo. Though the company temporarily secured the ridge, at 1155 the Japanese drove the men off. At 1210 artillery and mortar fire was placed against the Japanese positions on the ridge. As soon as the supporting fire lifted, at 1305, Company B sent a platoon through Company K to hit the ridge from the right flank.67 Company B secured the ridge at 1510 but fifty yards farther north on the southern slope of the next ridge strong elements of the 26th Division had dug in, making it impossible for the troops to move forward. Before the jump-off of the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, a platoon from Company K secured the first ridge north of the battalion position. At 1000 the rest of the battalion reached the top of Hill 380 and secured an enemy field artillery observation post from which it could see enemy activity in a deep valley north of Hill 380. Elements of the 26th Division set up machine guns and delivered mortar and artillery fire on Hill 380 throughout the afternoon.68 The 1st and 3d Battalions, 184th Infantry, covered by mortar and artillery fire, set up night perimeters, the latter on Hill 380 and the former on the ridge east of Balogo. The 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, remained in the Palanas River valley throughout the day.

The 1st and 2d Battalions of the 17th Infantry jumped off abreast. The 1st Battalion reached the ridge which led west from Hill 918 and overlooked the Palanas River, where it found strong enemy positions that had been abandoned. While the 1st Battalion reorganized, advance platoons, one each from Companies B and C, went across the Palanas River to the next ridge, which overlooked the Tabgas River. The 1st Battalion, in conjunction with the 2d Battalion, 184th Infantry, followed the platoons at a distance of about 500 yards. Company B moved behind a "protective nose" which led south from the main ridge and Company C pushed "a knife edge east of Company B."69 As Company C reached a point just short of the main ridge, the men moved in single file and were pinned down by heavy machine gun cross fire from both flanks and to their front. Company B, attempting to envelop the entrenched enemy from the west,


encountered heavy fire on its left front, which made any envelopment in that direction impossible. At 1500 a strong column of the enemy counterattacked the left flank of Company C, but six machine guns from Company D broke up the enemy attack. The 1st Battalion dug in for the night halfway up Hill 380.70

Meanwhile, at 0800, the 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, had started for Hill 918. The 49th Field Artillery Battalion established a smoke screen on the hill to cover the advance of the infantry,71 and at 1100 Company E reached the crest of the hill. A patrol located a trail that led down to the Palanas River. As Company E moved down this trail, Company G, though under machine gun fire, pushed straight ahead through the saddle to its front.72 By 1715 all elements of the 2d Battalion had reached the Palanas River and were moving left to establish contact with the 1st Battalion. From dug-in positions in the dense bamboo thickets on the northern bank of the river, the Japanese opened fire upon the 2d Battalion. Nothing serious developed, however, and the troops formed their night perimeters. The elements of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 17th Infantry, were now in contact on a line along the Palanas River.73

The 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, swung to the extreme right towards Kang Dagit and Kang Cainto in order to hit Hill 380 from the east, but it was hampered by ravines two to three hundred feet deep. Though the advance was very slow, the 3d Battalion in a column of companies with Company L in the lead was able to reach Kang Dagit where it closed for the night.74

At the end of the day the 7th Division had secured the barrio of Balogo, had overrun Hill 918 and occupied Kang Dagit, and had established elements of the division on the banks of the Palanas River and on part of Hill 380.

The night of 6-7 December was quiet. General Arnold ordered the 7th Division to attack north at 0800 on 7 December and secure Hills 380 and 606. The 184th Infantry was to capture the high ground south of the Tabgas River.75 Colonel Pachler ordered the 17th Infantry, with its 1st Battalion on the left and its 2d Battalion on the right, to attack north to secure the portion of Hills 380 and 606 in its sector. The 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, was to secure Kang Cainto and to be prepared to attack Hill 380 from the east or to continue north. At 0630 patrols went out to make reconnaissance and determine the enemy strength and dispositions to their front.76

At 0913 the 184th Infantry moved out. It met little opposition, and at 1643 the regiment reached the high ground overlooking the Tabgas River and dug in for the night.77

At dawn the 17th Infantry sent out patrols. The one from the 1st Battalion located an enemy heavy machine gun, two light machine guns, and a mortar, emplaced 150 yards from the battalion's lines. When the patrol returned, mortar fire was placed on the position and it was wiped out. The 1st Battalion moved out at approximately 0900. Though long-range fire fell on the troops and small arms fire hit the left flank of Company C,


the men continued to push forward. The battalion found several ridges leading up Hill 380--a knifelike ridge in front of Company C and a double ridge in the form of a horseshoe, with its closed end toward the hill, in front of Company B.

Company B moved across the double ridge while Company C forced its passage through machine gun and rifle fire across the closed part of the horseshoe. At 1600 the two companies re-established contact on the northernmost ridge leading to Hill 380. At 1630 the Japanese with machine guns launched a counterattack against the right flank of the 3d Battalion, 184th Infantry, and the left flank of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry. The 3d Battalion, 184th, was pinned down but did not yield any ground. The troops on the front lines of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry, at first were forced back slightly but in a few minutes regained the lost ground. They dug in for the night on the crest of the ridge.78

After its dawn patrols had reported on 7 December, the 2d Battalion, 17th Infantry, jumped off to the attack. Company E secured the first of the three spurs leading from Hill 380, and continued forward to the middle spur in the face of light fire that came from in front of the company in the area the 17th Infantry wished to secure. Presently the fire grew to considerable intensity and the company's section of light machine guns and two platoons of heavy machine guns moved onto the middle spur, where they neutralized the enemy position.

While this action was going on, Companies G and F moved to the first spur. Company G received orders from the battalion commander to make a wide envelopment of Hill 380 and then assault the hill from the east. At 0930 the company dropped below the military crest of the southern slope of Hill 380 unobserved and made its way very slowly over the steep terrain and through the thick cogon grass. At 1200 the 49th Field Artillery Battalion laid a five-minute preparatory fire in front of the battalion.79 The American troops then routed the surprised Japanese defenders and killed the majority of them as the others fled into the mountains northeast of the hill.

Apparently realizing that Hill 380 was the key to defense of the Tabgas River valley and Hill 606, troops of the 26th Division poured long-range machine gun fire from Hill 606 into Company G and at the same time halted the company with small arms fire from the immediate left along the ridge. At 1355, after a heavy mortar barrage, about fifty men from the 26th Division counterattacked the positions of Company G, but the company held firm and mowed down the attackers with fire from its rifles and automatic weapons. The position on the hill was maintained.

Although Company G occupied the top of Hill 380, it was not in a position to aid the advance of Company E. The Japanese troops were dug in on the reverse slopes and could only be rooted out by close-in fighting. The commanding officer of the 2d Battalion committed Company F down the main spur from the east, supported by Companies E and G and the machine guns from Company H. As soon as Company F started down the ridge, the enemy concentrated fire upon it both from the north and the west. In a matter of minutes Company F was reduced to a point where the number


of its riflemen hardly equaled one platoon. The company commander secured an additional platoon from Company G and renewed the assault behind a concentration of 100 rounds of 60-mm. mortar fire and 80 rounds of 81-mm. mortar fire. The attack succeeded, and the enemy force was overrun and annihilated. Company E thereupon moved to the main ridge and helped mop up the area.80

At 0700 the 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, moved out, reaching the source of the Palanas River at 1400. An enemy force of about fifty men was observed in a natural bowl to its immediate front. The battalion placed long-range rifle and machine gun fire on the group as two platoons from Company K attacked from the flank. They destroyed the entire Japanese force without any casualties to the American troops. The 3d Battalion then crossed the Palanas River and went into night perimeter at Kang Cainto. At 1907 eight rounds of artillery fire fell into the area, killing seven men and wounding eighteen others.81

At the end of the day the 184th Infantry was on the banks of the Tabgas River and the 17th Infantry had secured Hill 380, which commanded the Tabgas River valley.

Although several days of hard going still lay ahead before the 7th Division was to reach its objective, the Talisayan River, the backbone of the Japanese resistance had been broken and the Battle of the Ridges was virtually won. The division had achieved what the Japanese had considered impossible. It had pushed through Leyte over the tortuous mountain road between Abuyog and Baybay, it had held the enemy back at Shoestring Ridge, and it had then pushed north along the shores of Ormoc Bay toward Ormoc, decimating the right flank detachment of the 26th Division in the process. General Suzuki had been forced to send south much of his tactical strength, which was to have been used for the defense of Ormoc. The 7th Division had assisted in no small way in tightening the ever-shortening noose about the Japanese who remained on the island.

On this day, 7 December, the 77th Division landed at Deposito just below Ormoc. The 26th Division was caught between two strong American divisions. It was doomed. At this point the action of the 7th Division merged with that of the 77th Division in the drive of the XXIV Corps against Ormoc.


Map 16
Situation on Leyte
7 December 1944


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (14) * Next Chapter (16)


1. XXIV Corps FO 12, 30 Oct 44. The operations of the 7th Division on the western coast of Leyte were more adequately covered than any other action in the Leyte campaign. Capt. Tucker Dean and 1st Lt. Russell A. Gugeler, two combat historians, prepared very complete manuscripts on the battle of Shoestring Ridge. Gugeler's Battle of the Ridgelines and Dean's King II: the Liberation of Leyte, on file in the Office of the Chief of Military History, have much information that is not given in the official reports. In addition Col. John M. Finn, who commanded the 32d Infantry which bore the brunt of the Shoestring Ridge battle, wrote an account of the engagement that appeared in the September and October 1945 issues of the Infantry Journal. (Unless otherwise stated, this chapter is based upon these accounts and the 32d Infantry Operations Report Leyte, pp. 10-26.)

2. The Japanese historians make the following ambiguous statement: "The Army had doubts as to the authenticity of this broadcast, but from past experience with U.S. broadcasts, the Army estimated it to be a small unit of U.S. and Philippine troops which had landed there." 35th Army Opns, p. 51. Unless otherwise stated the part of this section dealing with Japanese plans is based upon this study, pp. 51-84.

3. Tomochika, True Facts of Leyte Opn, p. 24.

4. Ibid., pp. 51-52.

5. XXIV Corps Opns Rpt Leyte, pp. 11-12.

6. Fragmentary Order, CG 7th Div to CO 32d Inf, 14 Nov 44, 7th Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Nov 44.

7. Col. John M. Finn, "Shoestring Ridge," Infantry Journal, LVII, 3 (September, 1945), 47.

8. 7th Inf Div G-3 Periodic Rpt, 21 Nov 44.

9. 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 20 Nov 44.

10. 7th Inf Div G-3 Periodic Rpt, 21 Nov 44.

11. 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 23 Nov 44. The 11th 155-mm. Gun Battalion and the 5th 155-mm. Howitzer Battalion were Marine artillery units and part of the V Amphibious Corps artillery which had been designated for Yap. With the cancellation of that operation, these two battalions had been assigned to the XXIV Corps as part of the corps artillery for Leyte.

12. Msg, XXIV Corps to 7th Inf Div, 21 Nov 44.

13. 32d Inf Regt S-3 Periodic Rpt, 23-24 Nov 44.

14. 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 22.

15. Ibid., p. 17.

16. That evening General Arnold, acting on instructions from the Sixth Army that "guerrillas not be given missions beyond their capabilities," ordered Colonel Finn to use guerrillas only as outposts and not as part of the main line of resistance. 7th Inf Div G-3 Jnl, 23 Nov 44.

17. 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 17.

18. 35th Army Opns, p. 74.

19. 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 18.

20. 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 10.

21. Msg, CO 32d Inf to CG 7th Div, 25 Nov 44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 25 Nov 44.

22. "The platoon leader, a technical sergeant, insisted that the Marine gunner either transfer to the Army or he would have to transfer to the Marines, as he couldn't get along without him." (Finn, op. cit., p. 52.) A check of Marine Corps records, and interviews with Marine Corps historians and Colonel Finn failed to disclose the name and rank of the Marine gunner.

23. Msg, 32d Inf to 7th Div, 1520, 26 Nov 44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 26 Nov 44.

24. Msg, 32d Inf to 7th Div, 2213, 26 Nov 44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 26 Nov 44.

25. The Japanese give the number of enemy troops as two and a half battalions while the 32d Infantry estimated it as three battalions. 35th Army Opns, p. 78; 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 22.

26. 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 22.

27. Ibid., p. 23.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid.

30. Msg, CO 32d Inf to CG 7th Div, 0220, 27 Nov 44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 27 Nov 44.

31. Msg, CO 32d Inf to S-3 2d Bn, 0305, 27 Nov 44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 27 Nov 44.

32. Msg, 32d Inf to 7th Div, 1443, 27 Nov 44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 27 Nov 44.

33. 35th Army Opns, p. 84.

34. 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 24; Msg, 2d Bn to 32d Inf, 27 Nov 44, and Msgs, Exec Off 32d Inf to CO 32d Inf, 1005, 1120, and 1210, 27 Nov 44, 32d Inf Unit Jnl, 27 Nov 44.

35. 32d Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 24.

36. XXIV Corps FO 28, 22 Nov 44.

37. XXIV Corps FO 30, 27 Nov 44.

38. 7th Div G-3 Periodic Rpt 40, 28 Nov 44.

39. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 1200, 28 Nov 44.

40. 184th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 6. Unless otherwise stated the material on the 184th Infantry is based on this operations report of the regiment.

41. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 2005, 28 Nov 44.

42. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 2045, 28 Nov 44.

43. Msg, S-3 2d Bn to 184th Inf, 2010, 28 Nov 44, 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 28 Nov 44.

44. Msg, CO 184th Inf to CG 7th Div, 2045, 28 Nov 44, 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 28 Nov 44.

45. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 0125, 29 Nov 44.

46. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 2020, 29 Nov 44.

47. 184th Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt 42, 30 Nov 44.

48. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 30 Nov 44.

49. Ibid.

50. Cainto is also known as Caintic. The Army spelling, Cainto, will be followed here.

51. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 3 Dec 44.

52. 35th Army Opns, p. 91.

53. 17th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex B, The Battle of the Ridgelines, p. 1. Unless otherwise stated, the part played by the 17th Infantry during this engagement is based upon the above report, pp. 1-9.

54. Armor on Leyte, a research rpt prepared by Committee 16, Officers Advanced Course, The Armored School, 1948-49, Ft. Knox, Ky., May 1949, pp. 89-91, copy in OCMH.

55. 184th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 7.

56. 35th Army Opns, p. 93.

57. Armor on Leyte, p. 89.

58. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 5 Dec 44.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid.

62. 17th Inf Unit Jnl, 5 Dec 44.

63. Ibid.

64. 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 13.

65. 35th Army Opns, p. 93.

66. 184th Inf FO B, 5 Dec 44.

67. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 6 Dec 44.

68. 184th Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt 48, 6 Dec 44; 7th Div G-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44.

69. 17th Inf Opns Rpt Leyte, Annex B, The Battle of the Ridgelines, p. 4.

70. 17th Inf Unit Jnl, 6 Dec 44.

71. 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 13.

72. 32d Inf S-3 Periodic Rpt, no number, 6 Dec 44; 7th Div G-3 Jnl, 6 Dec 44.

73. 17th Inf Unit Jnl, 6 Dec 44.

74. Ibid.

75. 184th Inf FO C, 6 Dec 44.

76. 184th Inf Unit Jnl, 7 Dec 44.

77. Ibid.

78. 17th Inf Unit Jnl, 7 Dec 44.

79. 49th FA Bn Opns Rpt Leyte, p. 13.

80. 17th Inf Unit Jnl, 7 Dec 44.

81. Ibid.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation