Marine Aviation in the Philippines

Major Charles W. Boggs, Jr., USMC

Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps

COVER: DIVE BOMBER over Luzon. Marine airmen flew these SBD's (Douglas Dauntlesses) in over 20,000 individual sorties against the Japanese on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao and Sulu Archipelago. Primary mission: close air support of U.S. Sixth and Eighth Army ground troops. Marine air liaison parties directed many of these strikes against enemy positions as close as 100 yards to friendly troops.

Map 1
Philippine Islands


Chapter Page
1. Background 1
    Organization of Far East Air Forces 1
    High-Level Planning 4
    June Proposals of the JCS 5
    The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing on Bougainville 6
    Search for a Combat Mission 8
    The Timetable Moves Up 9
    Landings at Peleliu and Morotai 11
    Plans for the Leyte Assault 12
    Air Forces 12
         Third Fleet 12
         Seventh Fleet 12
         Assault Air Force 12
         Supporting Air Forces 12
    Ground Forces 13
    Seventh Fleet 14
    Situation of Japanese Forces--Fall 1944 14
    Japanese Plans for Defense of the Philippines 14
    Disposition of Japanese Forces 16
    U.S. Air Intelligence 16
2. Leyte and Samar Campaigns 19
    The Leyte Landings 19
    The Battle for Leyte Gulf (23-26 October) 20
    Tacloban Airdrome, Leyte 22
    Kenney Assumes Responsibility For Air Operations Over Leyte 23
    The November Stalemate 26
    MacArthur and Halsey Request Marine Squadrons 28
    Marine Night Fighters Ordered to Leyte from Peleliu 29
    Marine Aircraft Group 12 Moves to Leyte 30
    First Marine Air Action Over Leyte 31
    The Big Job: To Attack Japanese Reinforcements 33
    Convoy Strike--7 December 33
    Convoy Strikes--11-12 December 34
    Air Cover Over U.S. Shipping--11-12 December 37
    Operational Accidents 39
    Air Cover for Mindoro 40
    Ground Support Missions, Leyte 43
    Sixth Army Relieved 44
    Closing Marine Air Operations, 1944 44
    Marine Night Fighters Return to Palau 45
    Preparations For Landings on Luzon 46
    Luzon Attack Force Convoy: The Kamikaze Attacks 47
    Carrier-Based Marine Squadrons 48
    Assignment of Marine Aircraft Group 14 to the Philippines Campaign 48
    MAG-14 Begins Combat Operations 50
    Operational Difficulties and Accidents at Guiuan 51
    Work of MAG-14 Ground Crews 52
    Routine Operations 53
3. Luzon Campaign 56
    Assignment of a Mission 56
    A Study of Close Air Support 59
    Training for the Mission 61
    Luzon Landings to be Delayed 63
    Movement to Lingayen Gulf 63
    Lingayen Landings and Development of an Airbase 65
    Marine Aircraft Groups, Dagupan 67
    Arrival of Flight Echelons at Mangaldan 69
    Combat Operations Begin 70
    The Final Drive to Manila 73
    Plans Are Made to Use Marines on Mindanao 80
    Close Air Support Takes Hold 81
    Operational Difficulties and Innovations 91
    Departure of MAG-32 Ground Echelons from Luzon 94
    Enemy Air Raids on Mangaldan 95
    Close Support Along a Sprawling Front 96
    Supporting the Guerillas 98
    MAG-32 Airmen Leave for Zamboanga 102
    Luzon Finale for MAG-24 104
    Summary of Marines' Luzon Operations 106
4. Southern Philippines Operations 107
    Strategic Backgrounds for the VICTOR Operations 107
    Prelude to Zamboanga 109
    The Landings at Zamboanga--VICTOR IV 112
    Close Air Support--Magszam 114
    Marine Bombing Squadron 611 Joins Magszam 117
    The Southern Visayas--VICTOR I 118
    The Southern Visayas--VICTOR II 119
    Drive into the Sulu Archipelago Begins 121
    Close Air Support at Jolo 122
    Strategic Background of VICTOR V 123
    The Landings at Malabang--VICTOR V 125
    Air Support on Mindanao 128
    Closing Operations of the Philippines Campaign 131
I. Bibliography 136
II. Chronology 140
III. Casualties 142
IV. Command and Staff, Marine Aviation Units 143
V. Marine Ground Troops in Leyte Action 146
VI. Pilot Survival Reports 151
VII. Performance Data on Types of Aircraft Used by Marines in the Philippines 158
VIII. Navy Unit Commendations 159
IX. Index 161

Table of Distances from Manila
in Nautical Miles

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation