Bases in the Philippines
See HyperWar for the campaigns in the Palaus and the Philippines.
Philippine Sea Frontier Headquarters, Leyte
Members of the 61st Seabees erect a quonset village at Tolosa. Photograph taken January 1945
Landings, on September 15, 1944, on Morotai Island by Southwest Pacific forces and in the Palau group by Pacific Ocean forces, were the last preparatory land offensives for the reoccupation of the Philippine Islands. The Morotai action was designed to isolate Japanese forces on Halmahera, which would otherwise have been in a position to flank any movement into the southern Philippines. The occupation of Peleliu and Angaur in the Palau group accomplished the same objective for the eastern flank of the Philippine campaign.
After providing support for the Palau landings, the Third Fleet carrier task force returned to the attack on the Philippines. From waters to the east, they conducted the first carrier attack of the war on Manila and Luzon, September 21 and 22, inflicting severe damage on the enemy and suffering only light losses.
Initial plans for re-entry into the Philippines called for the securing of Morotai as a stepping stone to landings by the Seventh Amphibious Force on Mindanao some time in November. The decision to accelerate the advance by making the initial landings on Leyte in the central Philippines was reached when the Third Fleet air strikes of September disclosed the relative weakness of enemy air opposition. It was decided to seize Leyte Island and the contiguous waters on October 20 and thus secure airfield sites and extensive harbor and naval base facilities.
The east coast of Leyte offered certain obvious advantages for amphibious landings. It had a free and undefended approach from the east, sufficient anchorage area; it provided good access to the remainder of the central islands in that it commanded the approaches to Surigao Strait. Moreover, the position by-passed and isolated large Japanese forces on Mindanao. The accelerated timing of the operation and the choice of the east coast for the landing required, however, the acceptance of one serious disadvantage -- the rainy season. Most of the islands in the Philippines are mountainous, and during the northeast monsoon, from October to March, land areas on the eastern sides of the mountains have torrential rains.
On October 19, two assault forces, the Third and Seventh Fleets, approached the east coast of Leyte with the Sixth Army aboard. The 10th and 24th Corps went ashore on schedule on october 20, after the Navy had paved the way with drum-fire bombardment. Assisting in the landing was a detachment of the 302nd Construction Battalion, which handled the pontoon barges and causeways. On October 24, elements of the 12th Construction Regiment were put ashore at Tacloban to start construction of naval facilities in the Leyte Gulf area.
Three days after the initial landing, General MacArthur directed the ground forces to secure their beach areas and await the outcome of the naval battle which was then impending between Admiral Halsey's task force and the Japanese Singapore fleet. The Japanese made the decision to commit their fleet, which comprised 60 percent of Japan's major naval units, in the battle to prevent America's return to the Philippines. By October 26, it was apparent that the Third and Seventh Fleets had virtually eliminated Japan as a sea power.
In the six days of the great naval action, the Japanese position in the Philippines had become extremely critical. General MacArthur's land wedge on Leyte was firmly implanted in the vulnerable flank of the enemy. The enemy no longer had an effective fleet to cover his forces in the Philippines or his communications to the empire of Malaysia, so easily conquered two and a half years before. If General MacArthur succeeded in establishing himself, nothing could prevent him from overrunning the Philippines.
The American advance continued. After winning the high ground overlooking Leyte Gulf, the 24th Army Corps penetrated inland to secure Dagami and Burauen. The 10th Corps swept across
San Juanico Strait to seize the south coast of Samar; they also landed troops in a short amphibious operation on the north coast of Leyte.
By November 5, American forces had reached Limon at the northern end of the valley road leading to Ormoc, on the western side of Leyte, the principal Japanese installation on the island. Bitter fighting for Leyte was now in progress, rendered all the more difficult by typhoons which inaugurated the rainy season.
While the Army was battling to free the island of the enemy, construction forces were struggling to construct airfields and facilities to support further operations. Monsoon rains and continuous heavy traffic churned the deep, clayey topsoil of Leyte into a sea of mud. Terrain features added to construction difficulties. Lack of space and unsatisfactory soil conditions forced the Navy to abandon the Tacloban area and move construction forces to the southern tip of Samar for the development of a naval base.
During the month of November, the 12th Regiment had been augmented by the arrival of two more battalions, bringing the total to five. In the succeeding months, battalions which had been engaged in the construction of naval facilities in the Hawaiian area were loaned to the Seventh Fleet service organization for work in the Leyte Gulf area. These battalions, plus several from rear areas in the Southwest Pacific, brought the number of battalions engaged in the construction of Leyte Gulf to 25. All naval construction forces, including several special battalions, detachments, and maintenance units, were organized into two brigades and placed under the Commander, Construction Troops, Leyte Gulf. This organization developed the area into a vast operating and repair base, capable of supporting the enormous sea forces that were soon to aid in the complete liberation of the Philippines and the ensuing invasion of Okinawa.
In the Ormoc Valley, the Japanese fought fiercely and delayed, but could not stop, the Sixth Army advance. By the end of November, American troops were closing on Limon and another column threatened Ormoc from the south. Violent rains and deep mud harassed the supply lines. Forward units were dependent on hand-carry methods. Casualties were evacuated by native bearers.
By December 1, seven divisions were well established ashore, five airfields were in operation, and the waters of the Visayas were under firm naval control.
The 77th Division landed south of Ormoc on December 7, and captured the town four days later. Toward the end of December, organized resistance on the island ceased.
While mopping-up continued on Leyte, a landing force of two regiments and a detachment of the 113th Construction Battalion was sent into southern Mindoro. Within 24 hours, American planes and PT boats were operating off the southern coast of Luzon.
In the first week of January, a new American assault force gathered east of Leyte, slipped through Surigao Strait, over the sunken wrecks of Japanese warships, and passed into the Mindanao and Sulu Seas.
After several feints, designed to confuse the enemy, the Sixth Army, now composed of the 1st and 14th Corps, hit the beaches in Lingayen Gulf on January 9. By nightfall, 68,000 troops were ashore and in control of a 15-mile beachhead. The Army immediately launched its advance toward Manila, troops meeting with little resistance until they approached Clark Field.
On January 29, troops of the 11th Corps landed on the west coast of Luzon near Subic Bay. They drove eastward to cut off the Bataan peninsula.
The 11th Airborne Division on January 31 made an unopposed amphibious landing at Nasugbu in Batangas Province, south of Manila. Three days later, the division's parachute regiment jumped to Tagaytay ridge, dominating the Cavite area. That night, troops of the First Cavalry Division raced through Novaliches and reached Grace Park in the northeastern portion of the city of Manila. On February 6, the airborne troops reached Nichols Field. As the troops of the Sixth Army closed on Manila from the north, northwest, and south, the situation of Japanese forces in the city was rendered hopeless, but they fought bitterly from house to house. Organized resistance ceased on February 23.
On the morning of February 16, paratroopers were dropped on Corregidor. Simultaneously, troops hit the shore in assault boats at San Jose South Dock. Fighting on the island continued for two weeks before the Japanese destroyed the extensive tunnel systems and themselves with explosives. Manila Bay was open in early march. In less
Seabees Build an Airstrip Through a Philippine Swamp
than two months, the Americans had accomplished what the Japanese had taken six months to do.
In late February, elements of the Eighth Army effected an unopposed landing at Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island. The force captured the town with its two airstrips and completely occupied Puerto Princesa peninsula. The airfields gave control of a wide area of the China Sea, greatly facilitating the severance of Japanese communication with Malaya and Burma.
On March 10, troops landed on the western tip of Mindanao, second largest island in the Philippine group. Initial resistance was light and the city of Zamboanga fell the next day, but heavy fighting in the foothills continued for weeks.
Landings were made during March on Panay, Cebu, and Negros. Reconnaissance parties went ashore on Jolo, Tawitawi, and other islands in the Sulu Archipelago, extending our holdings to within 40 miles of Borneo. In each instance, the landings were effected with a minimum of resistance. Stubborn and prolonged fighting, however, usually followed in the hills.
The objective of the Philippine campaign had been accomplished: The island were liberated. As fast as an island was invaded, construction forces, both Army Engineers and Naval Construction Battalions, started building landing fields and facilities for the support of the fleet. A large potion of the 1,800 ships that engaged in the invasion of the Ryukyus were staged in the Philippines.
On October 20, 1944, United States amphibious forces landed on the eastern shore of Leyte Island; the liberation of the Philippines had begun.
Leyte, the eighth largest of the Philippine group of island, is easily accessible from the Pacific Ocean, on the east, through the deep Leyte Gulf. Together with Samar Island, from which it is separated by San Juanico Strait, Leyte controls the Leyte Gulf and the eastern entrance to the Surigao Strait.
Because the area was beyond the range of fighter planes from any advance bases then held by the Allies, and because of the large number of enemy planes -- on D-Day the Japanese had 52 operational strips within a radius of 350 miles of Tacloban,
Samar and Leyte (Philippine Islands)
Receiving Station, Tubabao Island, Samar
which had been picked by the planners as the naval base area -- the first objective of the construction forces was to provide landing facilities for our fighting planes.
Locations selected for naval installations during the planning stage were on the east coast of Leyte, between Tacloban and Anibong Point. Headquarters for the Seventh Fleet was to be at Tolosa, 10 miles south of Tacloban.
A detachment of the 302nd Construction Battalion assisted the Army's landing on D-Day, handling pontoon causeways and barges on the beaches of Leyte. As beaching conditions were favorable, however, the need for the causeways was soon over, and the Seabees then reassembled the cells for use as barges and pontoon piers.
Units of the 12th Construction Regiment, detachments from the 75th and 105th Battalions and CBD 1024 then operating under the Third Naval Construction Brigade, disembarked from LST's at Tacloban, on October 24. Camp erection was started within the city boundaries; work was begun on the renovation of several warehouses for Navy use; and heavy-equipment crews commenced maintenance or roads.
The 61st Battalion went ashore near Dulag, 20 miles south of Tacloban. They were assigned the task of completing a fighter strip for the Army Air Corps.
The regiment was joined on October 30 by a detachment from the 88th, and on November 12, by the 93rd Battalion. Second echelons of these units arrived on November 12, and other battalions arrived at Leyte, and later at Samar, throughout most of the ensuing months. A total of 25 battalions, in addition to stevedore battalions, maintenance units, and detachments, saw service at Leyte Gulf. A maximum Seabee population of about 32,500 in the Leyte Gulf area was reached, including all of the Second and Seventh and about half of the Third Brigades.
In the advance planning for the Philippine campaign, it had been decided to develop the Leyte Gulf area as a naval operating base to support further operations. Facilities to be provided including a PT base, landplane and seaplane landing areas, supply depots, a hospital, and a ship repair base.
Study of available maps showed that although much of the island was mountainous, a broad valley facing Leyte Gulf for 35 miles and extending around the northern coast of the island, gave access to the inland waters of the archipelago. The beaches generally were sandy, though some stretches of mangrove swamps and marshlands existed, principally at the mouths of the many streams which drain the valley. Low hills intruded into the coastal plain at several points, in some places close to the shore. It seemed an excellent place for a naval base.
Military development of Leyte, however, was limited by the elements. It was found that during the northeast monsoon (October to January) severe storms lash the east coast of Leyte, making ground operations practically impossible; the south and west coast of the island are almost as hard hit during the southwest monsoon (June to September). During the monsoons, torrential rains and high winds wash out bridges and hold up shipping, frequently for weeks at a time.
The usefulness of airfields would, accordingly, be limited. The port of Tacloban could accommodate 12 to 15 vessels of 20-foot draft, but had to be kept dredged alongside the wharf to permit larger vessels to dock. There were no other major port facilities on Leyte Island, although numerous indentations along the west coast afforded anchorage except during the southwest monsoon. Ormoc Bay, on the west coast, had unlimited anchorage for a large number of vessels but was also open to the southwest monsoons.
Construction was started in these areas but, except at Tolosa, the nature of the ground proved impractical for construction. Low-lying rice paddies and swamp land were impossible to work and no rock, coral, or other surfacing material was available. Enemy action combined with the terrain and weather difficulties to make construction progress practically impossible.
The Army was having the same difficulties with its installations, particularly the airstrips under construction at Dulag and near Tacloban. Scarcity of usable area on the east Leyte coast led the Army to conclude that it would have to use the area that had been assigned to the Navy near Anibong Point.
To alleviate these conditions, an area was selected for the Navy base on the island of Samar, near the barrio of Basey, across San Juanico strait from Tacloban. Construction forces were moved to the area, but only a few days' work was necessary to show that this site also would not be practical. After a complete reconnaissance of Leyte Gulf area,
Wharf Area of the Naval Supply Depot, Calicoan
the southeastern tip of Samar was selected as best suited to the Navy's needs. The location, near the town of Guiuan, 45 miles from Tacloban, was not ideal. The nearest water for a fleet anchorage was 20 miles away, but it was an area that could be developed rapidly, with room for an airfield for the tactical support of the Luzon push, and there was an adequate amount of coral available for surfacing roads, camp areas, and storage areas. Accordingly, most of the naval construction forces in the Tacloban area were moved to Samar in December.
Tacloban. -- The naval station at Tacloban was reduced to include only the headquarters for the commandant of the operating base, a communication center, a fleet post office, living quarters and a dispensary for the operating personnel, and receiving barracks. Although some facilities were housed in renovated buildings, most of the activities were provided with quonset huts for offices and living quarters.
Tolosa. -- At Tolosa, the original plans were carried to completion. Quonset huts were provided for the quarters, offices, and communication facilities for the Seventh Fleet and the Philippine Sea Frontier headquarters.
Jinamoc Island. -- A seaplane base was built on the small island of Jinamoc, 5 miles east of Tacloban, in San Pedro Bay. Work was started in December on the grading for a ramp. When the subgrade was finished, a pontoon barge was floated into position and submerged. The ramp was first used on January 14, 1945, when a scout plane was hauled from the water. When it was decided that the base was to be the permanent one for operations in that area, it was thought that the pontoon ramp would be inadequate, and in May construction was started on a steel and pre-cast concrete ramp. The final installation was 220 feet long.
The water surrounding the island was deep enough to be used for runways without the necessity
Jungle Road on Calicoan Island
of dredging. Taxiways and hardstands were graded and surfaced.
Living facilities for both base and transient personnel were provided in 75 quonset huts. Construction included a mile and a half of access roads, a 200-bed dispensary, water supply, and utilities.
The principal naval development was at the southeastern tip of Samar. The naval base was located on a peninsula, 3 miles wide and 11 miles long, and on Calicoan Island, which is more than a mile wide and 7 miles long, and is separated from Samar by 800 feet of shallow water. Guiuan, site of the headquarters for this area, was in the middle of the peninsula on the eastern shore of Leyte Gulf.
There are no high mountains or ranges on Samar, but the terrain in general is rugged. Rainfall averages 12 to 15 inches per month, but the local geological structure makes rainfall relatively harmless. The underlying formation of the southeast peninsula and of Calicoan Island is porous coral; the higher ground carries an overburden of reddish clay mixed with coral and varying in depth from 2 to 40 feet. Leaching has produced many chimneys, underground caverns, and sinks. Porosity of the coral causes the static water table to rise only slightly above sea level, and inland wells tend to become brackish under sustained pumping.
Because rain and mud had stopped the 61st Battalion from repairing the Japanese strip at Dulag for the Army, it was necessary to build a field. As the Navy was to build two strips at Guiuan, it was agreed that the first strip was to be finished as soon as possible for the use primarily of Army's heavy bombers.
Guiuan. -- A survey party of 4 officers and 100 men arrived at Guiuan on November 30 to lay out the site for the bomber field. Detachments of the 61st and 93rd Battalions landed on the next day, and earth moving was started a week later. All work was maintained on a 24-hour basis; 780 operators and gradesmen were assigned to the strip and 184 to equipment maintenance. The first landings by heavy planes were made on December 22, just 14 days after the start of construction. The men produced 7,000 feet of 100-foot strip with 50-foot shoulders, five alert areas, 5,000 feet of taxiways, and 50 hardstands, requiring the movement of more than 344,000 yards of muck and coral.
On December 31, the first fighter squadron was ordered to the field. Surfacing of the strip with yellow coral was finished on January 15, 1945, and on the next day the first bomber squadron arrived. After its completion, the strip was used principally by Liberators of the 5th and 13th Air Forces.
Facilities were provided for overhaul and repair; gasoline storage (15,000 barrels) and administration buildings were included. Constructed for the aviation-supply depot and auxiliary repair and overhaul facilities were housing and messing facilities for 2,000 men. Construction on the air strip was carried on in the face of heavy rain and frequent night air alerts that delayed progress considerably.
Work on the second 7,000-foot strip was suspended after 2,000 feet had been completed, but was resumed in May. Excessive coral formations made excavation difficult and required a great deal of blasting. Equipment on this job required an abnormally amount of maintenance and repair. The major accomplishment on the project was excavation through a coral hill for 200 feet which required a maximum cut of approximately 26 feet. Practically every yard of the hill was solid coral, and shovels could remove only that which was blasted loose. Extensive hardstands, taxiways, and parking aprons completed the field installations.
Headquarters for the naval station was located within the boundaries of Guiuan. Office space was provided by renovating a schoolhouse and various other buildings and by erection of quonset huts and tents. The same type of structures provided quarters and messing facilities for 5,500 men.
Tubabao Island, a triangular shaped island in Leyte Gulf, lying west of Guiuan and separated from Samar by a narrow strait, was selected as the site for a receiving station.
A quonset city, including messhalls, recreation facilities, and utilities for 10,000 men, was erected. Tubabao was connected to Samar by a timbre bridge, 515 feet long and 22 feet wide, with a 58-foot clear span in the center of the channel.
A major destroyer repair base and a ship repair unit were built on Manicani Island, 8 miles west of Guiuan. This project included wharves, berths for several large floating drydocks, administration buildings, shops, water and steam lines, power system, and fire protection system.
Construction of a pier to accommodate vessels of 45-foot draft required 100 lineal feet of coral fill
Administration Building at the Samar Naval Air Base
and a timber approach, 40 feet wide. A 1,500-by-80-foot pier was built, using one floating and two skid rigs for driving 3,400 piles, up to 100 feet in length. Many of the piles were spliced.
Despite a delay of approximately six weeks due to lack of long piles, the project was completed in four and a half months. A pontoon pier and a jetty for LST's were constructed in the northwest cove.
Ship-repair facilities were housed in 80 quonset huts and 150,000 square feet of large timber trussed structures. When completed, the repair unit had facilities for the repair and maintenance of any ships of the fleet, from battleships to LCM's. Coincident with this work, 25,000 feet of lines were installed for a salt-water fire-protection system, sanitation, fresh water, and steam systems. Numerous power stations, each consisting of approximately two dozen 75-kw generators and all necessary distribution systems, were provided for the entire area. At least six floating drydocks, including the giant sectional ABSD's, were brought to Manicani Island.
Water for this activity was obtained from a water shed half a mile wide and three-fourths of a mile long. The water was pumped from the collection point to a water treatment plant having a capacity of 840,000 gallons per day.
Personnel housing and messing facilities for 10,000 men were constructed with tents and frame huts. Approximately 150 acres of swamp land were converted to hard ground to accommodate the construction, 150,000 cubic yards of the coral being excavated from the bay. Harbor improvement at this activity included the moving of approximately 5,000,000 yards of material by blasting and dredging.
One of the Navy's largest motor torpedo boat bases was located on the northern end of the peninsula, near the barrio of Salcedo. A small bay on Leyte Gulf provided a harbor for PT's, and auxiliary craft. This base had all the necessary facilities for the overhaul and repair of 25 boats, in addition to administration and operations buildings.
Drydocking for the PT boats was provided by three floating pontoon drydocks, moored to a pontoon pier. Other waterfront development consisted of a loading pier of two 4-by-18-pontoon strings, a
pier for handling torpedoes, and one catwalk pier capable of mooring 30 boats.
Large quonset-type buildings were used to house the torpedo overhaul department, ordnance department, and an engine repair unit. Water for this activity was obtained by damming a stream and storing the water in fifteen 5,000-gallon wood-stave tanks.
Housing was at first provided in tents, but quonset huts were erected to house 3,000 men. The camp contained supply, dispensary, dental, and recreational facilities.
A 3,000-bed fleet hospital was constructed about 5 miles north of Guiuan. Wards, built in an H-shape, consisted of 311 prefabricated buildings and 14 quonsets, with a floor area of 320,000 square feet. The main messhall, of frame construction, had a capacity of 3,000 men. Construction began in April, and 1,500 beds were ready for occupancy by July 2, 1945. By July 8, another 500 beds were available, and the entire unit was completed by September 15.
Northwest of the hospital a small ammunition depot was built. Personnel facilities and a barge pier were included in the work, also about 20 miles of roads leading to, and within, the site.
A tank farm was erected near Bulusao, on the southern coast of Samar, 35 miles northwest of Guiuan. Initial plans called for the erection of 55 one-thousand-barrel oil tanks, but change reduced the number to 31. The 105th Battalion started construction, which included earth moving, piping, erection of a fueling pier, and driving of dolphins, on May 12, 1945. By August, all earth work was finished, piping was 30 per cent complete, and 19 tanks had been erected. Rain and lack of heavy equipment caused considerable delay in the early work.
A ship-watering facility was built on the Bulusao River, near the tank farm. Installations consisted of a pumphouse, a mile of 6-inch supply pipelines, a 1,000-barrel storage tank, mooring dolphins and catwalk, a personnel camp, and a signal tower and shelter. This activity was placed in operation on February 10. Water could be supplied to two LST's and two LCI's daily.
One of the most necessary activities from a construction standpoint was the sawmill at Balangiga, east of Bulusao on the south coast of Samar. This mill, operated by 3 officers and 132 enlisted men of the 12th Regiment, aided by 145 civilians, supplied lumber used in the construction of the naval facilities at Leyte Gulf. Lack of heavy equipment and sufficient water transportation handicapped the operations. The first mill was opened in February, and the second in March. The amount of lumber cut increased from 126,000 board feet of rough lumber sawed in March to 325,000 board feet of lumber in May.
Calicoan. -- Wharves for cargo vessels were constructed on the Leyte Gulf side of Calicoan Island, rather than in the vicinity of Guiuan, where there
General View of the Supply Depot, Samar
were reefs and shallow water. Supply facilities on Calicoan Island were built as near the wharves as possible.
The naval supply depot on Calicoan Island was established to provide for storage and issue of general provisions. It was also to act as a spare parts distribution center for the fleet and the surrounding shore-based activities. Facilities for storage of ship's stores, dry provision, oxygen, acetylene, carbon dioxide, perishable goods, and cement were provided.
Quonset warehouses were built in groups of twelve, the ribs of adjacent buildings overlapping about one foot to make a warehouse 120 feet wide and 300 feet long. Because of the shortage of cement, it was necessary to finish all except five of the warehouses with coral floors, using concrete for foundations only. Three frame buildings were constructed for sorting and transit sheds, and twenty-four 6,800-cubic-foot refrigerators were set up.
Work on a 3,600-man camp, which included offices, a 14-bed sick bay, post office, and theater, was started on April 18. By June, the entire site was cleared of all temporary quarters, and 90 per cent of all grading was complete. By August, all the huts were completed. Two 126,000-gallon steel tanks, a pumping station, and gathering lines were constructed to collect rainwater.
To handle the cargo shipped into the supply depot, three 500-foot timber piers and one 500-foot pontoon pier for seven cargo ships, and one jetty for five LCT's were constructed.
The total area for the advance base construction depot on Calicoan Island covered 80 cares. Seventy acres of this area consisted of hard coral with very little top soil and with coral heads projecting 3 to 8 feet higher than general level. The entire plot was covered with thick brush and large trees. Work was started on this project March 5, 1945. The brush and smaller trees could be cleared with bulldozers, but the large trees had to be cut and the stumps dynamited. In order to dynamite the coral heads and to level them with bulldozers, it was necessary to maintain five drilling and shooting crews seven days a week. By the end of April, 30 acres had been cleared; the project was completed in June.
Sorting and transit sheds, warehouses, and administration buildings were erected. The warehouses consisted of approximately 40 quonset buildings; the sheds for sorting and transit were of frame construction. These buildings were erected on a platform raised to truck height. A retaining wall was erected to enclose a 4,000-yard fill on which the concrete floor was laid. The work also included construction of water-supply facilities, fuel storage and distribution facilities, quarters, roads, waterfront developments, floodlighting, and 4,500 feet of underground power distribution.
Other facilities constructed on Calicoan Island were an automotive and construction equipment parts depot which supplied parts to the entire Philippine area, a pontoon assembly depot, a radio sound pool, and medical and ordnance depots.
Construction of a water-supply system had high priority throughout the work. The Samar water distribution and pumping system was completed in 90 days. All right-of-way clearing for the 12,000 feet of 12-inch water main, running from the hospital area to the filter plant north of Guiuan, was completed in June. Approximately 8,000 feet of pipe were installed during this period. The entire line was placed in operation in July.
In addition, 20,000 feet of 12-inch line were laid north of the hospital area to Salcedo. The feeder lines (one 6 inches; the other 8 inches) were laid in the Mercedes area with the 8-inch line connected to the PT boat well and placed in operation. Access roads for the Salcedo pumping station and the Salcedo River pumping station were well underway by July. By August, the 12-inch main from Salcedo to Mercedes had been completed and tied into the water system which supplied the naval station and north Calicoan.
At the Tubabao receiving station, 15,000 feet of 12-inch welded-joint pipe were laid for the Guiuan filtration plant. Of this, 12,000 feet of pipe were welded together on the Samar shore and floated across the bay, to be eventually sunk and anchored to the bottom of the bay.
Water supply to the Samar boat pool was completed during September, sources being either deep wells or surface water. Erosion at one time so muddied the surface sources that filter facilities were heavily loaded.
Many primary and secondary highways and roads were necessary. Among the primary roads was the Mercedes highway, running north from Guiuan for 20 miles. Another main road was the Guiuan-Calicoan highway, which stretched from Guiuan, eastward past the airstrip, south across a
Multiple-Quonset Warehouses at the Supply Depot, Calicoan Island
causeway between Samar and Calicoan, and across Calicoan for 21/2 miles to the south end of the island.
This continuation of the Calicoan highway involved a considerable amount of blasting, as at least 75 per cent of it had to be blasted through solid coral. Sand excavated in the supply depot area was used by the 5th Battalion for rough grading; well-compacted rolled coral was used for surfacing.
Huge holes in the coral formations, some of them big enough to swallow a large tractor, hampered operations, damaged equipment, and made efficient dynamiting difficult. By August 31, when the project was completed, the 5th Battalion had used a total of 150 tons of dynamite for grading and quarry work.
Access roads for all activities were constructed. All roads were surfaced with coral which made an excellent all-weather road.
Mindoro Island, nearly 300 miles northwest of Leyte, was invaded by United States forces on December 15, 1944. The area along the southwestern coast, where the landings were made, was low, sandy, and covered with scrub growth. Beyond the beaches, a cultivated plain extended inland for 5 miles, rising gradually to the mountains of the interior. There was little jungle. High mountains form an impassable barrier between east and west coasts and have a direct effect on the rainfall, so that from October to May the southwest coast is virtually without rainfall. The island was invaded to secure a site where landing fields could be developed, free from the rain and mud of Leyte and Samar.
On D-Day, Detachment A of the 113th Battalion landed with Army forces at Caminawit Point. The detachment, consisting of 53 men and one officer, started work immediately on an advance PT base which they completed in February 1944. Tents were used for the housing and messing of 1,800 men; tents and native huts for offices; two quonset huts for a post office and radio communications; several large tents and a quonset warehouse for storage; a 70-by-100-foot frame building for repair shops, a dispensary and sick bay. A 230-foot timber pier was also built.
On December 15, 1944, Detachment B of the 113th, consisting of 100 men and three officers, were
enroute to Mindoro aboard an LST, which was badly damaged when an enemy plane, carrying bombs, crashed into it. Two men were killed, three missing, and seven wounded.
On January 14, Detachment C, with 150 officers and men, disembarked at Caminawit Point with orders to build an advance naval base in the areas. They were followed on February 7 by Detachment D, consisting of the remainder of the 113th Battalion, which went ashore at San Jose. Detachment A left the island early in March to install other advance PT bases. The remainder of the battalions worked at Mindoro until the Japanese surrendered.
During their stay at Mindoro, the 113th constructed headquarters for a section base, a port director's office in a quonset hut, three quonsets for communications offices and transmitters, a post office, a 40-by-60-foot frame building, three acres for open storage, four quonsets for a dispensary, a service apron at the Army airfield for Naval Air Transport Service planes, a tent camp for base personnel, and a 266-foot timber pier for small craft.
Street Scene at the Calicoan Supply Depot
Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands, with about the same area as the state of Virginia, is generally mountainous, but is cut by two large valleys. The central plain, extending from Lingayen Gulf to Manila Bay is 100 miles long and varies from 30 to 50 miles in width. It contains the capital city of Manila, the major concentration of the population and wealth, numerous airfields, and a network of roads and railroads.
Naval installations on Luzon were, as soon as was possible, placed under the command of naval headquarters at Manila. The facilities consisted, in addition to the naval base at Manila, of a section base at San Fernando on Lingayen Gulf, a naval base at Subic Bay, an airfield at Sangley Point, receiving barracks and hospital at Cavite, and a port director's office at Batangas.
San Fernando. -- A section base was established on the east side of Lingayen Gulf, to coordinate with the Army in the routing and convoying of ships, to provide service to forces afloat, to coordinate naval activities in the Lingayen area, and to furnish local defense of the area, including harbor entrance control.
Included in the facilities at San Fernando were radio and visual stations, a dispensary, a boat pool, a fleet post office, and 93 anchorages.
Quonset construction, used for all personnel structures and shops, was erected mainly by local labor under the supervision of a detachment of the 102nd Construction Battalion.
Subic Bay. -- Naval facilities were installed to provide a repair base for destroyers, submarines,
and small craft; major overhaul of PT engines; service and supply to fleet units, a hospital, an amphibious training center, and a receiving barracks.
Subic Bay, on the west coast of Luzon, about 30 miles north of Corregidor Island and 50 miles northwest of Manila, was used during the war to accommodate deep-draft vessels.
Olongapo, on the east side of the bay, was the site of pre-war naval installations and of the native settlement of Olongapo. The other large native settlement, Subic City, was at the extreme northern end of the Bay.
The semi-tropical climate with high temperature and humidity and rainfall of about 125 inches yearly, the heaviest being in July, August, and September, characterized the area.
Water, which had to be treated, was available in an unlimited amount from streams and wells. The soil was a rather fertile clay mixture. Several sources of clean well-graded gravel and of good rock for road building and concrete aggregate were available. Native timber could be utilized for construction purposes.
Before the Japanese invasion of 1941, Olongapo was the site of a small United States naval base. In Subic Bay, near Olongapo, the floating drydock "Dewey" was moored. The old coaling station had been placed in an inoperative status, but a freshwater supply was available through a 12-inch line. At the naval station were officers, shops, a naval radio station, and Marine barracks.
The 115th was the first construction battalion to debark at Subic Bay, arriving on February 8, 1945, from Lingayen Gulf.
It was immediately assigned to construction work in the area adjoining Olongapo. The first task was the construction of facilities, which included camps for port director, communications, ship repair, and base dispensary units as well as a base camp for housing 1,200 men in 32 two-story barracks.
The base water supply was put back in operation. A 10-inch line from the Ealaklan River to Olongapo was rehabilitated, and work was begun on repairs to the 12-inch line from Binictigan River to the ship watering point at the old coal pier. This work later was taken over by the 102nd Battalion. When completed, the line was capable of delivering half a million gallons daily. A filtration plant capable of treating 810,000 gallons per day was installed in the 10-inch line to Olongapo.
The 102nd Battalion arrived in Subic Bay on February 28, 1945, with the 24th Regiment and set up camp at the site of the submarine base. The regiment, after a brief stay at the old ammunition depot at Maritan Point, settled in the administrative area at Olongapo.
On March 7, 1945, the 24th Special Battalion reached Subic Bay. The first week was spent in discharging battalion cargo and setting up a temporary camp on the beach. On March 12, 1945, the battalion was divided into two sections. The first section remained at Subic Bay, and the second went to Manila. Stevedoring operations were begun on March 18, and continued until V-J Day.
On June 23 and 29, 1945, the 21st Special Battalion arrived to reinforce the 24th.
For the combined activities of a fleet post office, a chart depot, a port director, and a dental laboratory, a total of 29 quonsets were erected.
The establishment of a small-boat pool required, for housing, the construction of a 1,000-man frame building, six 2-story frame buildings, and five quonsets. Waterfront facilities for small-boat operation included five quonset warehouses to home the various shops and three regular quonsets for offices. Two 1,000-gallon storage tanks were installed, one for gasoline and the other for diesel oil. Two small, T-shaped pontoon boat piers were constructed.
The naval base dispensary was of the advance base, quonset-hut type. A total of 26 quonsets were erected for wards, storerooms, messhalls, galley, laundry, and offices.
Clearing and grading the site for an amphibious training center was started by the 102nd Battalion in April 1945. Quarters were provided by 24 quonsets, complete with latrines and other services such as water and electric power. A sick bay was set up in three quonset huts, with connecting covered walkways and facilities. Other buildings erected were a quonset warehouse for an enlisted men's messhall, a frame galley building, and a laundry with all necessary equipment.
Water was obtained from four 20-inch wells, and three 15,000-gallon wood-stave tanks provided storage. A water treatment plant, using four 5,000-gallon wood-stave tanks for filters and two pontoons for back-washing, was built and placed in operation during May 1945.
A site was cleared for warehouses, and on the nearby beach, a concrete apron, 80 feet by 400 feet, was poured. A 400-foot marine railway, using pontoons
to support its rails, was about 15 percent complete on May 9, 1945, when the 115th Battalion assumed supervision of the amphibious training center project.
Construction as carried on by the 115th included erection of 68 quonset huts for living quarters, 11 for classrooms, 7 large quonsets for lecture halls, shop buildings, and galleys.
The amphibious training center was finished by the 11th Battalion, which arrived June 27 and erected the last fifteen quonsets, a recreation building, and a 500-man latrine. The 11th also finished work on the 400-foot marine railway, complete with landing winch and platforms.
Meantime, the 102nd Battalion was assigned to the construction of a 50-man beach-party camp. A 500-man wood-frame messhall was erected first; then a 30-by-56-foot wood-frame galley, with a concrete deck and all necessary services, was placed at right angles to the messhall.
Living quarters were provided in 40 wood-frame tents, with screens and wood decks. The administration building and warehouses were of frame construction. On May 10, 1945, the 115th Battalion took over completion and maintenance at the camp. Work was completed by June 1, 1945, including installation of services and roadways.
Construction of a submarine base was the next assignment of the 102nd Battalion. Offices were set up in a 20-by-168-foot multiple-quonset hut, and quarters and mess facilities were also established in quonsets. Access roads throughout the area were gravel-surfaced, and sidewalks were built throughout the camp.
Radio facilities for the base were provided in two standard quonsets, placed end-to-end, with a third quonset connected to form a T-shaped building. The structure had a concrete deck. A wood-frame building with a concrete deck was erected to house the generating equipment.
Submarine repair facilities also were constructed by the 102nd, with the help of base personnel. Enlisted men were quartered in eight 24-by-176-foot double-deck wood-frame barracks. A wood-frame messhall and galley to accommodate 2,000 men was provided. Laundry and ship's store activities were located in two large quonset huts. A general stores warehouses, 100 by 135 feet, was of multiple-quonset construction, and a wood-frame structure was installed to protect six 650-cubic-foot refrigerators. Medical facilities for the base were provided in five quonset huts.
Multiple-quonset construction was used to make a torpedo workshop, 123 by 200 feet, and a shipfitter ship, 100 by 120 feet. The torpedo workshop was later equipped with an overhead crane, and a 20-by-100-foot frame addition was made to the shipfitter shop for use as a compressor shed. Two electrical shops, a photography shop, and a radio and radar shop were installed in quonset huts. A pontoon pier, complete with dolphins, was installed for cargo vessels. This was later supplemented by the construction of a timber pier.
Five miles of gravel-surfaced roadway and four timber highway bridges were constructed to provide access to the base.
To permit construction of the submarine supply center, a native village was relocated. Ten quonsets were built for quarters. A carpenter's shop, a packing building, and two 226-by-300-foot multiple quonsets were constructed as warehouses.
The base water-supply system was at first cared for in wood-stave water tanks erected by the Seabees. Later, three Japanese 160,000-gallon steel storage tanks, captured at the base, were erected for a permanent base water supply.
Work at the supply depot was done by several battalions. The bulk of the initial construction, including temporary and permanent camps for officers and men, six 160-by-200-foot steel warehouses, and four standard quonsets for administration buildings, was performed by the 115th Battalion.
At the naval supply depot, one steel warehouse, for which the deck had been poured and frame erected, was completed by the 11th. A block of twelve 1,800-cubic-foot refrigerators with shelters, a power system, and a water-supply system were constructed. At Rifle Range Beach the 11th Battalion constructed a 1,200-foot timber pier to serve the supply depot.
The 80th Battalion, which arrived at Subic Bay on June 18, 1945, assisted the battalion already at the base on the several jobs then in progress.
The 102nd Battalion constructed a degaussing station on Agustin Point. Piles were driven to support a small finger pier at the station. The 80th Battalion provided a 4,000-man receiving barracks and messhall with framed tents.
Access roads over rice paddies, including a 120-foot timber highway bridge over the Matain River, and 12 acres of open storage areas were built by the 11th Battalion.
A few miles northeast of Olongapo, the 115th
Manila Area (Philippine Islands
Battalion put into operation a Japanese sawmill, which they had transported from Botolan. However, the output of this mill was not sufficient to supply the area. Later, the 102nd Battalion set up another sawmill near the radio station at Agustin Point, and logging roads were built into the surrounding jungle.
In May 1945, CBMU 543 arrived at Subic Bay. During June they built a camp and began taking over some of the maintenance work in the area. By July 1, the unit was settled and fully occupied with its maintenance job.
When the Japanese surrendered, all Subic Bay facilities were operating at capacity. The 11th, 80th, 102nd and 115th Construction Battalions, plus the 21st Special Battalion and half of the 24th Battalion, as well as the CBMU 543 and CBD 1082, were still operating at this base.
Manila. -- In 1928, naval facilities at Manila were centered in the navy yard at Cavite. Several outlying activities in the vicinity, although set apart geographically from the yard, were loosely spoken of as divisions. Among them was the fuel depot at Sangley Point, a small peninsula extending into Manila Bay.
Other activities in the area were the naval hospital at Canacao, a radio station at Sangley Point, and a supply department in the city of Manila. Two small boat piers on the Manila waterfront were used for the landing of liberty parties from the many ships that anchored in the deep and extensive harbor at Manila.
Early in 1941, the United States government began planning a seaplane base for patrol activities in the Manila area. Sangley Point was selected as the location, and plans for the proposed station were approved by the Bureau of Yards and Docks, on April 10, 1941.
Field work started in May 1941 under a supplemental agreement to the contract providing Pacific air bases. Plans called for clearing of the site, dredging, bulkheading, filling, and grading; construction of a seaplane ramp and extension of the existing seaplane runways; erection of a seaplane hangar, a utility shop, an assembly and repair shop, an engine-test shop; construction of a power plant and distribution system, fuel storage facilities, magazines, barracks, messhalls, recreation facilities, roads, walks, and a fire protection system.
Under the same contract and agreement, the contractors also were ordered to develop an ammunition depot at Mariveles on the tip of Bataan Peninsula. This project called for 47 structures, including storage for mine and cartridge cases, ammunition overhaul shops, a general garage, a generating plant, distribution systems for electricity and water, telephone and fire-alarm service, quarters for military personnel and civilian workers, as well as walks, roads, and necessary drainage.
The contractors continued work on these projects until Christmas Eve of 1941, when Manila was declared undefended. Emergency defense work was continued by the civilian workers until April 8, when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.
In March 1945, shortly after the recovery of the Manila area from the Japanese, the 77th and 119th Seabees arrived at Manila to begin new construction and rehabilitate the existing facilities.
Filtration Plant with 810,000 Gallons-per-Day Capacity
Several projects were immediately undertaken, including construction of a communications system, the clearing for a receiving barracks at Cavite naval base, and the installation of facilities for a ship salvage unit at Manila.
On April 8, the 63rd Construction Battalion arrived at Manila to begin work on the Seventh Fleet headquarters, on a 409-acre site on the Manila waterfront formerly occupied by the Manila Polo Club. Quarters for personnel were quickly available in 33 quonset huts and 14 two-story frame units. Eleven prefabricated steel units were erected as office buildings. Eight 75-kw generators were set in a 40-by-128-foot prefabricated steel hut, which
included a laundry and drying unit. In addition, electrical, water, and sewerage facilities, a 10-quonset hospital, an open-air theater, and a chapel were constructed. The project also included all walks, roads, and necessary drainage.
Naval Supply Depot Area, Subic Bay
Shows units 1, 2, and 3, completed by the 115th Seabees
The communications center consisted of three units -- a transmitting station, a receiving station, and a traffic center. At the transmitting station, 12 quonset huts, for living quarters, galley, messhalls, and sick bay, were erected, and 3 quonsets over concrete decks served the power plant. One quonset housed the transmitter. Poles, transmission lines, walks, roads, water and sewerage facilities were installed. The receiving center consisted of 40 quonsets for quarters, offices, and utilities buildings; the traffic center had seven large quonset huts and two frame buildings. By June 22, 1945, the 119th Battalion had completed the work on these centers, including all facilities.
Sangley Point. -- The 77th Construction Battalion accomplished the major portion of the work at Sangley Point. A 5,000-foot runway was constructed, complete with taxiways and parking areas, all of them surfaced with pierced plank. A terminal building and appurtenant structures and facilities for Naval Air Transport Service were construct6ed adjacent to the strip. Two 1,000-barrel tanks and one 10,000-barrel tank, complete with a distribution and pumping system, were erected. Existing seaplane facilities were expanded to include a concrete ramp, temporary shops, and a pontoon slip to facilitate loading and unloading operations.
Cavite.-Construction consisted chiefly of erecting 12 quonset huts to serve as a receiving barracks. A base hospital was started, but was still uncompleted on V-J Day. Local labor was used extensively, under supervision of the 7th Battalion.
The 119th Battalion erected three large quonset huts over concrete floors, to be used as shops for the ship salvage unit. Two small personnel camps and a dispensary were also in process of construction when the Japanese surrendered.
A naval base at Palawan was set up to care for a fleet air wing, including three carrier aircraft service units and three patrol-bomber squadrons, plus base facilities for two seaplane squadrons.
Palawan Island, fifth largest of the Philippine group, is 265 miles long and varies from 5 to 25 miles in width. Puerto Princesa Bay, where the Seabees began operations, is near the mid-point on the east coast. The area around the bay, which was listed as a typhoon anchorage, is largely mountainous, except for [the] coastal plain lying along the east shore. The mountains consist of two ranges, extending northeast-southwest, each a confused system of rugged peaks, some as high as 5,000 feet. Several good airfield sites, however, were found on the coastal plain.
Twelve days after the Army had overcome enemy resistance, March 12, 1945, the 84th Seabees landed at Puerto Princesa. All Japanese facilities had been rendered useless by the attacking bombardment, but one runway was deemed suitable for enlargement, and a large looping taxiway was found to be repairable. The assignment was handled by Army Engineers, the 84th loaning heavy equipment and trucks.
Initial projects assigned to the 84th were the construction of facilities for landplanes and seaplanes, together with headquarters for a naval unit and for the port director.
Construction of a small landplane base was begun March 15, 1945. Facilities included 12 hardstands with connecting taxiways, personnel housing and messing for 2,500 men, nose hangars, and 6 miles of roads. The Seabees also were assigned the task of building a strip that would connect taxiways. The first hardstands were in use on March 28, and the remaining ones were completed and
placed in use on May 31. The connecting strip was completed at approximately the same time. A temporary camp for 2,100 men was set up in April; permanent structures were usable on May 15. For unloading tankers carrying aviation gas, a fuel jetty, consisting of 175 feet of catwalk and pipe supports, was constructed. After May, only maintenance work was done on the landplane base.
Construction of the naval headquarters unit and facilities for the port director was started on March 16. The two projects included administration buildings, housing, messing, sanitation, dispensary, and operational buildings. The two units were in operation on April 1, and facilities were completed on April 15.
Although work was started on the ramp and hardstands for the seaplane base on March 15, it was not until May 15 that the first plane came up the ramp. By July 10, temporary seaplane facilities were in operation. Construction of permanent facilities was started on August 1, the completion date was September 7. These included a 500-man camp, administration buildings, and operational facilities.
The base was enlarged beyond its original plan to include a ship-watering supply point and concrete paving on the ramps and hardstands. Water for ships was obtained from two wells and stored in a 126,000-gallon tank. Paving work on 120,000 square feet of ramps and hardstands was started on August 9; by September 1, it was practically complete.
In addition to this construction, Seabees were charged with maintenance of the station and stevedoring
Samar Camp of the 100th Seabees, November 1945
Naval Aviation Repair and Overhaul, Samar
on 22 ships as well as with the naval security of the island, which included handling the shore patrol and a stockade.
Zamboanga, on the southern tip of the Zamboango Peninsula in Mindanao, was the site of a naval section base. Ten miles across Basilan Strait, a major PT operating base was built on Basilan Island.
The 118th Construction Battalion arrived at Basilan Island on March 29, 1945 to erect facilities for repair, maintenance, and upkeep of 24 PT boats. These included a 1,450-man camp complete with mess and recreation facilities, one 370-foot pier for small craft, two 400-foot piers for mooring the large speed boats, a marine railway capable of handling three boats at a time, seven 1,000-barrel and one 2,000-barrel steel fuel tanks, with facilities for fueling which included a 90foot fuel pier.
While this construction was under way, a 120-man detachment from the 118th was sent to Zamboanga to construct buildings and other facilities for the headquarters of the naval section base. These included communications, supply, and a 10-bed dispensary.
Cebu, a long finger-like island west of Leyte, lies also within the perimeter of Negros and Bohol. The naval section base was established at Cebu City on the central east coast of the island, overlooking the small island of Mactan. It provided facilities for a small port director unit, a visual station, a radio station, a small boat pool, a small motor pool, a fleet post office, a dispensary, and a tent camp for 250 men.
The harbor afforded good anchorage, but the excellent deepwater piers at Cebu City had been badly damaged by military operations.
The 54th Construction Battalion developed the section base, which required grading and preparing the sites for tent erection and, later, replacement with quonset huts.
Mactan Island, a small island with an area of about 25 square miles, lies a mile across the
channel from Cebu, opposite Cebu City. It is flat, except for a 100-foot hill at the northern end, and is surrounded by coral reefs except for a 4-mile stretch facing Cebu, which accommodates one cargo ship.
The island was selected for a dual mission, to support both landplanes and seaplanes. Four airstrips were begun, but the Japanese surrendered before their completion.
Facilities were temporarily erected to provide overhaul, repairs, and maintenance service for all types of planes. Many of the personnel and shops were housed in tents, which were being replaced by quonset huts as fast as time and materials permitted, when the end of hostilities caused the work at the base to be stopped.
All work was accomplished by a detachment of the 54th Construction Battalion and Air Corps personnel.
Early in the sumer of 1945, facilities for a port director and for communications were established at the port of Iloilo on the southeast coast of the island of Panay and fronting on Iloilo Strait, which could give protected anchorage to a large number of ships. Facilities, constructed by a detachment of the 5th Battalion, included administration offices (in Army buildings), a visual signal tower, a motor pool, and a boat pool. Facilities for the maintenance, upkeep, and refueling of one PT-boat squadron that patrolled throughout the southern Philippine area were also constructed.
Seabees accompanied the Australians in the invasion of Borneo. At the initial landings, in May 1945 at Tarakan, 7 officers and 140 men of the 11th Battalion participated as ponton-causeway operating crews. On June 10, the same number of officers and men performed the same function at the Brunei Bay landings. Two officers and 35 men from CBMU 605 also participated in the D-Day operations at Brunei Bay, landing on Labuan Island, where they constructed port director facilities.
Less than a month later, July 1, 1945, men from three battalions participated in the landings at Balikpapan. The 111th furnished 14 officers and 280 men to operate three pontoon causeways established at Balikpapan, over which both supplies and personnel were landed. By nightfall of D-Day, the Tokyo radio admitted that more than 7,000 troops had been set ashore and had established a beachhead. The 111th also operated five strings of pontoons at the landing beach near the Sepinggang airfield, 5 miles from Balikpapan, and set up a ship-repair unit which serviced 16 LCT's in the first 11 days.
Facilities for servicing motor torpedo boats were installed by 55 men from the 113th Construction Battalion. A detachment from the 5th Battalion also participated. All the Borneo landings were made under fire.
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