The Philippines: Luzon

To most Americans Leyte was only a name on a map. Luzon was far more: it was Manila and Corregidor and Bataan and the Spanish-American War. To the Army, especially the older men in Sixth and Eighth Armies who had served in the Philippines in peacetime, Luzon and the southern islands had long and deep associations: legends of the Moro Insurrection; Zamboanga in Mindanao, immortalized by the barracks-room song about the tail-less monkeys; cool Baguio, the summer capital in the mountains of Luzon; lovely tropical evenings in Manila, one of the beautiful cities of the world.1

To the men in the huge task force convoys that began passing through Leyte Gulf 4 January 1945, Luzon meant a return to civilization. Many of them had not seen a city in two years or more; all were weary of thatched huts, the steaming jungle, the lonely beaches. Of the four divisions selected for the assault on Luzon the 43d was picked up at Aitape, the 6th at Sansapor. Both were under I Corps, the earliest corps headquarters to arrive in the Southwest Pacific Area. The other two divisions, under XIV Corps, came from the Solomons and New Britain—the 37th embarked at Bougainville and the 40th at Cape Gloucester. The plan was for both corps to land on the southern beaches of Lingayen Gulf, the I Corps on the left near San Fabian, ultimately to contain and attack the Japanese concentrations in northern Luzon. The XIV Corps, landing on the right near Lingayen, was to head for Manila. Offshore in ready reserve Krueger had the 25th Division from Noumea as well as an airborne division, a regimental combat team, an armored group, and a Ranger battalion.2

Ordnance units down at Hollandia, Finschhafen, Milne Bay, and other bases from Sansapor to Bougainville had more time to prepare for this landing than for any other in memory. Back in October they had begun cleaning and overhauling weapons and vehicles, issuing new ones when they could; binning parts, stocking vans, and crating ammunition. Maintenance units destined to operate close to the front lines, like the 6th Division's 48th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company at Sansapor, mounted their shop equipment on trucks and trailers and built kitchen trucks. The last job for all, usually done on the loading beaches, was supervising the waterproofing of all vehicles.


By early December at the more remote bases like Bougainville, long lines of vehicles, their drivers dozing in the hot sun, were waiting their turn to be loaded in the LST's, Liberty ships, and Navy transports that crowded the harbors; and huge stacks of supplies on the shores were being reduced to the tune of screaming winches.3

Well before Christmas the Ordnance troops at Bougainville were aboard ship and sailing out of the harbor toward Luzon. There was a stop at Huon Gulf off Lae, where the 37th Division rendezvoused with the 40th Division and the Navy conducted a landing rehearsal; another stop at Manus in the Admiralties where the men had a chance to go ashore and spend Christmas, enjoying the Navy's ample supply of beer. For many of them it was the third Christmas away from home. Two days after Christmas the slow LST's got under way and by the night of New Year's Eve the whole XIV Corps convoy was swinging north of the equator, headed for the control point southwest of the Palaus where it was to rendezvous on 3 January with the I Corps convoy coming up from New Guinea.4

Like other Ordnance companies in this S-day armada, the 37th Division's 737th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company was dispersed—part traveling on a transport, part on an LST, and part on a Liberty ship. Dispersal was the general policy, to insure against the loss of any entire unit in a ship sinking; it was also, in the case of the Ordnance men, to provide detachments on each ship for de waterproofing on arrival. During the long monotonous voyage, each detachment naturally thought it had the worst of it. The men aboard the Australian transports complained of the eternal mutton served at every meal and the eternal tea which, according to the 37th Division historian, almost brought on another Boston Tea Party. The Navy transports were abominably crowded. The LST's bobbed like corks and the bunks in their bottom decks were almost unbearably hot. The Liberty ships had no bunks at all, for they were not equipped to carry troops. The men of the 737th's detachment brought cots aboard the Liberty Kathryn L. Bates and proceeded to astonish the merchant crewmen by their ability to make themselves at home. On the deck crowded with vehicles and cargo, they put down their cots and built a kitchen, showers, and latrines, tying shelter halves and canvases to anything available. Some of the men, reported their historian, "built their homes between ration boxes"; and toward the end of the voyage as the kitchen took away the rations, complained of being eaten out of house and home.5

Ordnance Plans for Luzon

At Leyte General Blackmore, preparing for his own departure for Luzon, was easier in his mind about MIKE I than he had been about any operation in the Southwest


Pacific up to then. He was especially happy because he had been able to talk General MacArthur's G-4 into allowing Sixth Army three more ammunition ships than GHQ had proposed. On the question of manpower, he thought he was going to have enough men, for the first time, to take care of maintenance and supply. He would have liked to have more ammunition companies, but he knew he could depend to some extent on civilian labor. Also, there were some comforting reflections on terrain and the nature of the campaign. For the first time in his two years of island-hopping, he was going to be able to furnish Ordnance service to Sixth Army with some degree of orthodoxy. There would be extensive overland operations that would enable him to use an army Ordnance service center and the army ammunition supply points procedures outlined in Ordnance field manuals.6

To operate the service center the 189th Ordnance Battalion was attached to army, with two medium maintenance companies, an antiaircraft maintenance company, and a heavy field army maintenance company. For ammunition supply army had the 259th Ordnance Battalion with seven companies to operate the ammunition supply points. Blackmore was also able to augment his staff section with the headquarters of the 12th Ordnance Battalion. These troops, together with three bomb disposal squads, totaled more than two thousand men, a striking contrast to the 7-man bomb disposal squad that was all that the Sixth Army Ordnance officer had attached at Leyte.7 Another striking contrast to Leyte was the amount of time for planning. A representative of Sixth Army Ordnance Section had been at Hollandia working with the Luzon planning group since August and during the fall Blackmore was able to call to Leyte for consultation the commanders of his army battalions as well as the Ordnance officers of I and XIV Corps.8

Each division in addition to its own organic light maintenance company would land with a backup medium maintenance company attached, plus an ammunition company (to revert to army later) and a bomb disposal squad. In I Corps, the 6th and 43d Divisions were each taking along also a detachment of the 3608th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) (which had been doing excellent work at Pie Beach, Hollandia) to provide immediate Ordnance service on the beaches to tanks and other tracked vehicles. When I and XIV Corps took over on S plus 2, the maintenance battalion of each corps was to assume control of the medium maintenance companies from divisions and bring in heavy maintenance support—tank and field army, and a depot company.9

As far as Army Service Command was concerned, Blackmore's coordination was easy because the Ordnance Section of Base M—ASCOM's operating group for Luzon —had been at Tacloban since 12 November, working with Sixth Army Ordnance Section and Base K. Base M's Ordnance


Section, like that of Base K, was operated by one of the Ordnance group headquarters that began arriving in the Southwest Pacific in the summer of 1944—the 229th Base Group, whose commander, Lt. Col. John H. Henderson, became the Ordnance officer of Base M. On 10 December the group was reorganized under TOE 9-312 of 13 September 1944 and redesignated the 226th Ordnance Base Depot. In keeping with ASCOM's mission of relieving army from logistic responsibility in the base area (target date, S plus 20), Henderson's staff planned base service centers, to be operated by the 9th Ordnance Battalion with two depot companies, four automotive maintenance companies (two of them of the heavy type), a heavy field army maintenance company, and an antiaircraft maintenance company. ASCOM ammunition dumps were to be operated by ammunition companies independent of the battalion.10

The supply planning was easier than for Leyte. All units were directed to bring to the far shore in the assault period (S-day to S plus 12) 30 days of supply and 5 units of fire for the combat troops. This had also been the requirement for the Leyte invasion, but the advance in date for the KING II operation had made it impossible to meet. For Luzon, the 30-day supply requirement was generally met in I and XIV Corps, but because of theater shortages and the scarcity of interisland shipping all combat units did not have their 5 units of fire for all weapons before embarkation. For most weapons, however, the ammunition requirement was met by both corps, an achievement attributed by XIV Corps to its earlier alert for KING II and by I Corps to the "magnificent cooperation" of Col. John H. Woodberry, Chief Ordnance Officer, USASOS, who arranged to have a considerable amount of ammunition brought up from other bases by FS (fast supply) boats and by C-47, C-46, and B-17 aircraft. With regard to all types of supply, the scales in favor of success were considerably weighted by the postponement of the MIKE I operation for twenty days, from 20 December 1944 to 9 January 1945.11

Not the least advantage of the delay was the further opportunity to study maps and books on Luzon that provided valuable advance information on suitable sites for ammunition dumps and bivouacs for Ordnance units. Corps planners had time to make their selections and to coordinate them with shore party commanders, divisions, and army. At Sixth Army headquarters, planners made tentative assignments to the various services of areas where their installations would be located; they had seen with their own eyes the confusion after the Leyte landing, when representatives of the services rushed around selecting sites "like men staking out claims in a gold rush." At Luzon the area assigned for the


army Ordnance service center was near Lingayen Gulf, at Calasiao, and the Sixth Army Ordnance planners had the further advantage of enlarged aerial photographs of the area to assist them in laying out the center.12

By New Year's Day 1945, the long and arduous staff work was over. The Luzon Attack Force began steaming out of Leyte Gulf on 2 January, headed by a group of mine sweepers and a gallant old fleet of battleships and cruisers (some of them survivors of Pearl Harbor) to bombard the invasion beaches. A few days later, General MacArthur went aboard the light cruiser Boise and General Krueger and key members of his staff boarded the command ship Wasatch. On the afternoon of 4 January the convoys coming up from below the equator began to pass through Leyte Gulf, to head south down Surigao Strait, then west through the Mindanao Sea, then north through the Sulu Sea and then north up the west coast of Luzon toward the last major landing in the Southwest Pacific.

Supporting the Lingayen Landings

Before sunrise on S-day the invasion convoys were safely in their transport areas in Lingayen Gulf. In the dim light of early morning the men on the decks could see all around them hundreds of ships riding a gentle ground swell. Beyond on either side were mountain ranges covered by low-lying clouds. Ahead, the 20-mile stretch of flat landing beaches was hidden in a haze thickened by a pall of smoke pierced here and there by bursts of orange. The old battleships and cruisers were shelling the beaches. They had been battered by kamikaze attacks in the gulf on 6 January and were still being sporadically attacked,, but their guns were still firing, the shriek and distant rumble of the bombardment echoing over the water.13

As the first rays of the sun broke over the Caraballo mountains, the ships in the transport area began discharging their landing craft. The assault troops scrambled down the cargo nets of their transports and into the waiting LVT's, which then headed for the beaches, preceded by LCI gunboats and amphibious tanks. All of this followed a pattern that was by now familiar. The men who had planned the landings were veterans of many amphibious operations with the benefit of the large-scale experience at Leyte. As at Leyte, the LST's were grounded some distance from shore, but this time they had their ponton causeways, which splashed down around 1100. Also, at Lingayen Gulf there was a more liberal use of LVT's, invaluable in the terrain behind the beaches—a region of rice paddies, fish ponds, and swamps, through which meandered many streams and several good-sized rivers.14

This region had one thing in its favor. It was such poor defensive terrain that the Japanese had concluded that it would be


futile to attempt to hold it; instead, they had concentrated their forces in the mountainous area east and northeast of Lingayen Gulf. In the first week after the invasion enemy artillery shelled the extreme left of the landing forces in the I Corps area, but elsewhere little or no opposition was encountered. At the XIV Corps beachhead on the right flank, the landings were virtually unopposed except for a few air raids.

The XIV Corps Beachhead

From right to left, the 40th Division landing was made on the extreme right over Orange and Green Beaches near the town of Lingayen and, next left, the 37th Division on Yellow and Crimson Beaches near Binmaley.

A few Ordnance officers attached to combat units got ashore in the early waves on the 40th Division beaches and three sergeants with a wrecker came in on an LSM around noon. Later in the afternoon a sizable detachment of the Division's own 740th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company (accompanied by nine men of the backup 2636. Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company) landed from a Navy transport. By evening it had set up its bivouac area in the town of Lingayen, which boasted a much-battered but still recognizable capitol building in the Grecian style. These men were joined by a bomb disposal squad, which had been given the job of clearing the bombs and duds from the quickly captured Lingayen airstrip. Next day Japanese air raids occurred at sunrise and after sunset, but no damage was done. The division's regimental combat teams were moving south at such a fast clip, ferried over the rivers in the indispensable LVT's, that the maintenance company's first effort had to be devoted to sending out contact parties to perform maintenance on the run.15

On the 37th Division's beaches, only a small detachment of the 737th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company landed on S-day. Moving to their assembly area about two miles inland between the towns of Binmaley and Dagupan, the men saw their first signs of civilization—billboards advertising Texaco gas and Pepsodent toothpaste, and, according to the 37th Division's historian, "real houses, roads, people dressed in Western clothes, and pretty girls who spoke English. After three years of virgin jungle and unattractive headhunters, this was something!"16

On S-day forward elements of the 37th pushed inland ten miles to San Carlos but it was several days before the 737th could catch up with them because a delay in unloading its equipment had deprived the company of the men and trucks it needed to make the move. It was 16 January when the men pulled their shop trucks into a coconut grove near the town, hung out their sign, and were ready for business. It was here that they made a significant contribution to the drive on Manila. At a railroad siding in San Carlos the infantrymen had discovered six flatcars but no locomotive. The Ordnance men converted two jeeps to locomotives by flanging


the rims on their wheels, and by 19 January the jeep-hauled Manila Railroad from San Carlos to Bayambang, twelve miles to the south, was in operation. Later extended to Tarlac, the railroad helped to make up for the shortage of trucks, a shortage created by the lack of ship space to bring them to Luzon.17

Corps took over command on S plus 2. By then advance echelons of the goth Ordnance Heavy Maintenance (Tank), the 120th Ordnance Medium Maintenance, the 314gth Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance, and the 3007th Ordnance Depot Companies were landing, but they could not get into operation for some time because they did not have high enough priority to get their equipment unloaded from the ships. For example, the men of the 3149th (who called themselves the "Forty-Niners") expected their equipment on S plus 12 but were not able to get fully into operation until almost a month after S-day. All of these companies (plus the 263d Ordnance Medium Maintenance) came under the XIV Corps Ordnance Battalion, the 1st, when it landed on 15 January. The battalion had to wait five days before it could get enough vehicles unloaded to move inland to San Carlos. There it set up a salvage yard in order to obtain parts from wrecked vehicles.18

Ammunition presented no particular problem in XIV Corps in the assault phase. The 55th and 614th Ordnance Ammunition Companies landed on S-day, attached to the 40th and 37th Divisions, respectively, and remained attached to the divisions until taken over by army. Unloading was slowed somewhat by the high surf in Lingayen Gulf, and the usual confusion existed at the initial dumps, where all types of ammunition were thrown down without adequate segregation; but ASP's operated by small detachments of the ammunition companies were quickly leapfrogged forward in close support of the combat troops. At the beginning, firing was light in the XIV Corps area and remained so for some time. When Sixth Army assumed control of ammunition supply ashore on 24 January, army's main concern was meeting the demands of I Corps.19

The I Corps Landings

The I Corps' two Blue Beaches, to the left of XIV Corps' Crimson and separated from it by the Dagupan River, were much like the XIV Corps beaches—flat and subject to "wet landings," especially after the six- to ten-foot surf that began to break on 10 January. Here too there was no ground opposition: the 6th Infantry Division's landings went off on schedule. The assault troops continued in LVT's for 2,000 yards before debarking, and then advanced across sand dunes, muddy rice paddies, and fish ponds until by nightfall they had taken all objectives and made


Photo:  Lined up to pass ammunition ashore, Lingayen Gulf, Luzon


contact with XIV Corps.20

In addition to its own 706th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, the 622d Ordnance Ammunition Company, most of the 48th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, and the 108th Bomb Disposal Squad, 6th Division had for Ordnance support in the landing phase a 14-man detachment of the 3608th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Tank), which was fortunate because a good part of the maintenance work in the first few days was caused by LVT track trouble, as well as by the rough surf that broke the transfer cases in trucks. As the division was short of transportation, maintenance men moving inland on the heels of the combat units, first to Santa Barbara, then to Villasis, and on 29 January to Guimba, continued to give first priority to truck maintenance. They were better off for supplies than the Ordnance men in XIV Corps, for their equipment was landed earlier, but they still had to resort to cannibalization to get needed parts. On 5 February the 48th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, with the tank maintenance men, was relieved of attachment to the 6th Division and came under corps' 243d Ordnance Service Battalion.21


On the left of all the landing beaches were the three White Beaches allotted to the 43d Infantry Division. White Beach 3—separated from the Blue Beaches by the mouth of the Bued River—was worse than any other and was soon abandoned, for the LST's grounded so far out that they could be unloaded only with the greatest difficulty, and the smaller craft were stopped by an offshore sandbar. To the extreme left, White Beaches 1 and 2 (soon consolidated and called White Beach) were better than any other beach as far as terrain was concerned, for they were higher and therefore suitable for "dry landings/' This turned out to be a mixed blessing because when the arose on 10 January, skippers began diverting their ships to this beach, with or without orders, and the congestion mounted. White Beach was closer to the Japanese concentrations than any other beach, and the landing parties were soon made uncomfortably aware of this fact. Mortar and artillery fire began during the landings on S-day, was intensified next day, and then dwindled.22

The beach was under artillery fire when the 743d Ordnance Light Maintenance Company started coming ashore on the morning of S-day. The commanding officer, Lt. Col. Leon P. Sutton, and two men of the company, Sgt. Stanley V. Fisher and Pfc. Robert W. Walter, were wounded by shell fragments, as was the 43d Division's Ordnance officer. During the barrage, Technician 4 Percy H. Kief saw some vehicles that had bogged down in deep water in the line of fire. Grabbing a tractor that belonged to some other unit, he hauled the vehicles to safety under fire, a gallant action for which he received the Silver Star. The company's automotive and armament contact teams early got to work on dewaterproofing and maintenance. By early afternoon all the men were ashore and most had reported to the bivouac area in San Fabian.23

Luckily the division ammunition dumps set up by the 578th Ordnance Ammunition Company escaped the Japanese shelling, as did the backup medium maintenance company, the 288th, which spent the first two days at the beach helping to unload gas and ammunition. But the 288th had a bad scare after it moved down to San Fabian on 13 January. Late that evening, just as it had set up its command post in an abandoned storeroom near a battery of field artillery, it found itself on the receiving end of a barrage of 970-pound shells.24

They came from "Pistol Pete," a Japanese 305-mm. howitzer hidden in a ravine


about eight miles inland between the towns of Damortis and Rosario. Pistol Pete had "introduced himself with appropriate gusto," according to an Engineer historian, at San Fabian shortly after midnight on S-day. After the first "awe-inspiring" burst, "the society for the improvement of foxholes sprang full-blown into life." The men of the 288th dived into their foxholes and, though several casualties were reported in the area during the 5-hour barrage, escaped damage except to their nerves. They had their revenge on 4 February when a detail consisting of Technician 3 Primo Degli-Uomini and Technician 3 Earl V. Larsen was sent forward to strip one of the howitzers which had just been captured. For doing so under enemy sniper fire, both men received Bronze Stars. Pistol Pete had been hard to locate, for the Japanese were adept at hiding the few big howitzers they had. During the Luzon campaign one was found cleverly camouflaged by a house on rails that could be rolled back when the howitzer was fired, and to add to the effect a small grove of banana trees had been planted around the emplacement.25

Heavy artillery fire on the evening of S-day slightly damaged some of the vehicles of the 12-man 3608th tank maintenance detachment, which had landed early on the White beaches attached to a company of the 716th Tank Battalion and had moved that evening to Palapad. On 12 January the detachment made a night march with the tank battalion to San Jacinto, where it found an advance party of its parent organization preparing to set up shop. The main body of the company, landing on the White beaches on S plus 2, had its hands full in the first few days repairing LVT's. After the 43d Division began probing toward the Japanese concentrations in the Damortis-Rosario area, the mechanics had to repair crippled tanks, though this was relatively a minor problem. In their counterattacks the Japanese were using their medium tank 97. Armed with a high-velocity 47-mm. gun, it did some damage to American Shermans, but was nothing like as formidable as the German tanks encountered in Europe. Examining Japanese tanks destroyed by the Shermans, General Blackmore could not believe they had been very effective.26

On S plus 2, reinforcements arrived that were to help I Corps in its tough sector. The 158th Regimental Combat Team was landed on the extreme left on Red Beach —actually an extension of White Beach 1 —with the mission of advancing north up the coast and protecting the corps' left flank; in a few days it was attached to the 43d Division. With the regimental combat team came the 4gth Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, whose advance detachment on the first night ashore received a visit from Pistol Pete— eight of the twenty rounds that fell that night landed within a 100-yard radius of the Ordnance men's bivouac area. Next day they moved to a new area protected


by a range of hills, and when the rest of the company (who had been employed in unloading ships in the harbor) arrived, the men were sent out on contact parties to support the rapidly advancing combat team. One party of mechanics came under mortar and small arms fire when it had to go up to the front lines to repair an My gun motor carriage. On 20 January the company was attached to the Corps' 243d Ordnance Service Battalion at San Jacinto.27

When opposition developed near the White Beaches on S plus 2 Krueger decided to land his reserve, the 25th Division (less one regimental combat team still in reserve), the 13th Armored Group, and the 6th Ranger Battalion. The Rangers landed in the Dagupan area, while the tankers and the division, which brought with it the 725th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, went in on White Beach 3. The division indeed had the distinction of landing on the narrowest beachhead the Engineers had ever seen —a strip of land that was not over fifty yards wide at the mouth of the Bued River; but the landing was accomplished most efficiently, especially considering the amount of impedimenta involved. The 25th Division was rich. It had brought from the South Pacific a generous supply of stores, supplies, and equipment—including sixty days' supply of post exchange items, beer and cigarettes. Headquarters I Corps saw to it that the wealth was shared.28

The Advance Inland

In view of the enemy resistance in the I Corps area, General Krueger wanted to postpone the big XIV Corps push down the Central Plains toward Manila until the end of January, when the arrival of reinforcements—the 32d Infantry and 1st Cavalry Divisions and the 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team would enable I Corps to aid actively in the drive, at the same time staving off the threat of counterattacks in the northeast. But MacArthur was anxious to capture Clark Field as quickly as possible. The airstrips in the Lingayen area were inadequate for the heavy bomber facilities needed immediately; moreover, they would very likely be washed out when Luzon's rainy season began in April. Intelligence reports indicated that there would not be too much opposition in the Central Plains. If there was strong resistance in the Clark Field area, MacArthur pointed out, the planned landing in February by XI Corps just north of Bataan would overcome it. At the outset, I Corps could be echeloned to protect XIV Corps' left rear, while at the same time containing the main concentrations of Japanese in its own sector. Krueger was only half persuaded but he had to comply. He ordered XIV Corps to begin its advance south on the Central Plains on 19 January.

At that date the two corps still had logistical responsibility—four days beyond the S plus 6 date on which Col. William N. Leaf, the Sixth Army G-4, had planned for ASCOM to take over responsibility for unloading at the beaches and delivery to corps dumps. Colonel Leaf had planned for ASCOM to take over full responsibility


on 29 January—a safe date, he felt, since the two corps, bringing with them 30 days of Class I to IV supplies and 5 units of fire, would theoretically not require resupply from ASCOM dumps until well into February. In the planning phase General Blackmore had been disturbed about these assumptions as applied to ammunition. He regarded the setting of a fixed date for Army Service Command to take over as "not too close to the realities." He knew all too well the risks involved in an amphibious landing—the uncertainty of weather, the possibility of being unable to get the ammunition ashore in time. At Manus Island, for example, the Ordnance men had been obliged to arrange for airdrops of ammunition because the ships in the harbor could not be unloaded. Ships had to be unloaded from the top down, to keep them from turning over, and artillery ammunition was usually at the bottom; also, ships with ammunition aboard had to stay at some distance from other ships and from the shore for reasons of safety. Unloading nearly always took longer than expected; and after the stocks were deposited at the beach, there might not be enough trucks to carry them forward. Blackmore had reminded Leaf that at Leyte the corps had to control the issue of ammunition for several days beyond the date set for ASCOM to take over. The same thing might happen at Luzon.29

In the case of Luzon, the high surf, the lack of bridges inland, and the extreme shortage of trucks were largely to blame for delays. The ASCOM Ordnance units got ashore very early. Base M's operating battalion, the 9th, landed on 10 January with the 212th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company. An advance party hiked six miles inland the same day. Mangaldan (near San Jacinto), twelve miles inland, was the site for the Base M Ordnance Service Center, and in a few days the mechanics were busy with the help of Filipino laborers constructing warehouses, offices, and bivouac areas, using bamboo poles with tarps for covering. On 12 January the ammunition officer arrived in the area with the 629th Ordnance Ammunition Company, which had just spent a night under artillery fire on White Beach where one of its sergeants was killed in his foxhole. Badly shaken by this experience, the men nevertheless began setting up that day the first of the three bays of the Mangaldan Ordnance Ammunition Depot. The 615th and 577th Ammunition Companies arrived on 21—22 January. But no ammunition was received until 26 January.30

Getting the Ammunition Forward

By the time Sixth Army assumed control of ammunition ashore on 24 January, it had become apparent—to Colonel Leaf as well as General Blackmore—that centralized unloading of ammunition ought to have taken place much earlier, so that army, which was, in Colonel Leaf's words, "the best judge of overall requirements," could have put the weight of effort where it was most needed. At that time, XIV


Corps was meeting little resistance in its drive on Clark Field and Manila and therefore its expenditures were light. I Corps, on the other hand, was heavily engaged on the left flank and its expenditures were so great that by 19 January the total 155-mm. howitzer and 81-mm. mortar ammunition ashore amounted to only 2.6 units of fire. The first task was to supply I Corps, and the quickest way to do it was to divert to it some of XIV Corps' initial supply. The next task was to get the ammunition unloaded from the Liberty ships that were still waiting out in the gulf because the light expenditures by XIV Corps had created the unfortunate impression that early unloading of resupply ships was not necessary. By 24 January unloading had begun on one of them at Port Sual, on the extreme right flank, where Base M had planned Sual Ordnance Ammunition Depot. But Port Sual was too far away to do I Corps much good; indeed, it was so difficult to get transportation to move the ammunition forward to XIV Corps that the depot was soon closed out. It was 27 January before the first resupply ship in reach of I Corps could be unloaded.31

It was now plain that the truck shortage was limiting the usefulness of Base M's Mangaldan Ordnance Depot, which was too far from the beach and too far from I Corps. Therefore the 577th Ordnance Ammunition Company was sent to Rabon, up the coast behind I Corps, to set up the Rabon Ordnance Ammunition Depot and receive ammunition from the waiting Liberty ships. The terrain was bad. Also, few Filipinos were available to help operate the depot. Most of the natives were hungry, however, so by rounding up supplies of rice and fish and providing sleeping quarters, the company managed to attract more than two hundred laborers. The 615th Ordnance Ammunition Company was moved up to Damortis, but this spot turned out to be dangerously close to enemy artillery fire. On 3 February the company was moved to an area south of Rabon to set up the Davis Ordnance Ammunition Depot, which became the main Base M ammunition depot. With the help of 850 Filipino laborers it was in operation by 11 February. In April when Mangaldan was closed out, Davis received the 629th Ordnance Ammunition Company, which had been split between Mangaldan and Sual.32

The three Base M ammunition companies made a remarkable record. Between 17 and 26 February, they came close to meeting Sixth Army's quota of 2,000 tons to be unloaded daily from ships in the harbor and 1,200 tons to be sent forward daily to the combat troops. In order to do this they had to work around the clock and take the risks incurred in night operations. These risks were painfully demonstrated at Davis near midnight on 22 March when, as usual, lights were on in the depot office and the company area, and the headlights of trucks and amphibians receiving and discharging ammunition were being used to illuminate the


storage bays. A Japanese plane came over and bombed and strafed the depot, destroying about 3,200 tons of ammunition. The bombs killed two men, Pfc. Marvin H. Helms, who was working in the small arms bay, and Pfc. Agapito Castillo of the Philippine Guerrilla Force, who was doing guard duty, and seriously injured Pfc. John F. Hamilton. Flying fragments wounded many others and destroyed most of the property and equipment in the bivouac area. There were many acts of simple heroism: 2d Lt. James R. Lewis saved all the ammunition in one bay by picking up a burning 155-mm. round and carrying it to a safe distance; and 1st Lt. Walter J. Miners, Pfc. John Anderson, and Pfc. Leo Sullivan risked their lives by going to the aid of the wounded.33

Beginning early in February, the strenuous and even heroic efforts of the ASCOM units were devoted to supplying the drive on Manila. By the end of January expenditures were mounting in XIV Corps. West of Clark Field in the 40th Division's sector, the Japanese, entrenched in hills and caves, were putting up a hard fight. Quantities of artillery ammunition were needed to blast them out of their positions. The 37th Division was racing toward Manila. On the extreme left flank, I Corps' 1st Cavalry Division and 6th Infantry Division had encountered considerable resistance in the San Jose region in their attempt to break the Japanese line of communications from the north. In the battle of Manila, beginning 3 February and lasting a month, tremendous quantities of artillery ammunition were expended. General MacArthur had vetoed the use of bombing; therefore the conquest of the city depended on the use of artillery to blast the Japanese out of buildings, culminating in the furious barrages, including those of a battalion of big 240-mm. howitzers, against the thick-walled buildings in the Intramuros sector—the old Walled City.34

By 31 January, Sixth Army had established an ammunition supply point at San Miguel (near Tarlac) which, though some forty miles from the operations at Manila, was in reasonable distance of the operations west of Clark Field. But it was something else again to stock it adequately. Rail shipments had been disappointingly small; combined rail and truck shipments from Port Sual and Base M amounted to only about 400 tons a day. The ASP's supporting I Corps were even worse off— remaining base trucks could supply only about 150 tons a day. This was not too serious in the case of I Corps, because its units could more readily get back to the Lingayen Gulf depots. But XIV Corps had to send ammunition trains from 90 to 150 miles back to the beaches.35

The XIV Corps, hardest hit, charged that army had not moved the ASP's close enough behind the combat troops. Both XIV and I Corps blamed army for not adequately stocking the ASP's, for not providing a margin of safety; indeed XIV Corps made the accusation that a deliberate policy existed of withholding ship-


ment of ammunition to forward ASP's until a combat shortage occurred.36 The Sixth Army Ordnance Section acknowledged the fact of the artillery ammunition shortage, but placed the blame not only on a shortage of trucks but, going further back, on the fact that it took the experience at Leyte to convince GHQ that more artillery ammunition would be needed than had been planned. Therefore, requisitions were submitted too late to allow prompt resupply; the loading of the ships in the United States was dangerously delayed. Also, of the few resupply ships that did arrive in the theater from the United States, two had had to be diverted to Leyte for the initial supply of the XI Corps, which landed on the west coast of Bataan 29 January in the MIKE VII operation, and the nth Airborne Division, which landed south of Manila two days later in the MIKE VI operation.37

In mid-February when USASOS took over logistic responsibility from Sixth Army, including the reassignment of ammunition companies and the reorganization of Army Service Command headquarters as Luzon Base Section, USASOS, the artillery ammunition situation was so serious that Blackmore suggested limiting the rate of expenditure in XIV Corps—always a measure dreaded by commanders. Maj. Gen. George H. Decker, Sixth Army chief of staff, refused to go along with the recommendation, relying on the accelerated unloading of the resupply ships. But the shortage was never really eased. Manila's port facilities could not be used to any great extent until well into April because the once beautiful city had become such a shambles that extensive clearing and repair work had to be done. In the meantime, ammunition already ashore in Luzon had to be diverted to Eighth Army's operations in the Southern Islands. In the last phase of the campaign, when the main effort was directed toward blasting the Japanese out of the mountains of northern Luzon, rigid restrictions on artillery and 81-mm. mortar ammunition had to be imposed, limiting artillery to one-tenth of a unit of fire per day and mortars to one-eighth.38

Problems of Maintenance and Supply

The expectation that the Luzon Campaign would be adequately supplied with maintenance companies was soon dispelled. In the far-flung operations the medium maintenance companies were spread thin. Fortunately, with the exception of 105-mm. M2A1 howitzers, on whose tubes there was a consistent stripping of lands (the surface of the bore between the grooves), there were no unexpected maintenance problems on weapons. On supply, I Corps was handicapped in the early stages of the campaign by its inability to supply weapons to


guerrillas. Before the invasion, Sixth Army had set up an operational project to bring 15,000 hand and shoulder automatic weapons for reissue to guerrillas, with I Corps delegated to bring in 25 percent of these weapons with an Ordnance maintenance company by S plus 4. At the last moment, USASOS informed Sixth Army that it could not supply the project. In the later stages of the campaign, when the system for collecting Japanese weapons improved, several hundred Japanese small arms, automatic weapons, and even some artillery pieces were processed through Ordnance shops in I Corps for reissue to guerrillas.39

Vehicles accounted for most of the maintenance troubles—tanks as well as trucks. The Japanese tanks on Luzon with their 47-mm. high-velocity gun were capable of inflicting far more damage than the Japanese tanks on Leyte with the 37-mm. Operation of the Shermans over steep mountain trails caused propeller shafts to fail; and the synthetic rubber of the tracks would not stand up during long-distance driving over hard-surface roads. Tank parts were often unavailable because Sixth Army Ordnance had had no experience on which to base requisitions. Parts lists in Ordnance catalogues were unrealistic. Perhaps because of the limited experience with tanks on Leyte, only two tank maintenance companies were sent to Luzon— the 3608th, attached to I Corps, and the 90th, attached to XIV Corps. Neither company was experienced in field repair. There were no tank repair men at Base M, the army service center, or the USASOS base at Manila. The two tank maintenance companies served seven divisions, three tank battalions, three tank destroyer battalions, and two amphibious tractor battalions. One very serious problem was that of bringing the tanks back from the battlefield to the shops. Luzon had no tank transporters until 14 February, when two M25's were received by the 3608th. One of these was sent down to XIV Corps to do recovery work on 6 March. By that time disabled tanks were scattered all over the area.40

Above all, trucks were the big problem. Constant operation over long distances took its toll; the neglect of preventive maintenance seriously affected operations, a lesson that the truck drivers never seemed to learn. Replacement vehicles went out of the Ordnance shops as fast as they came in. Certain parts, as well as tires and tubes, soon became critically short. By the end of the first month of the Luzon operation, the number of trucks on deadline was mounting.41

At a time when Sixth Army was already short of trucks, the arrival of the 32d Division on 27 January was the last straw. Brought up from Leyte, it landed minus 164 of its table of equipment vehicles, and of the few cargo trucks left to it, 70 were in such bad condition that they had to be towed off the LST's. Unlike the 6th, 25th, 37th, and 43d Divisions, which had


Photo:  Sherman tank passing a burning Japanese medium tank, Luzon


received many new vehicles before arriving in Luzon and besides had had a long training period before departure to get their old ones into shape, the 32d had received few new ones (only 25 cargo trucks), and had been actively engaged until Christmas 1944 on the west coast of Leyte under conditions that were a maintenance man's nightmare —mountain roads, rain every day, mud so bad that one of the men swore at the time, "it flows uphill." It had been virtually impossible for the division's own 732d Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, knee-deep in mud, and often under enemy fire, to set up adequate second or third echelon facilities or even to get up to the front in time to bring back damaged vehicles—before they could reach them, the wrecks were stripped of their parts by passing troops until they were beyond repair. Leyte had been the hardest operation in the 32d Division's history in SWPA, going back to the Papua Campaign.42

As soon as Maj. John E. Harbert, commanding officer of the 732d Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, got ashore near San Fabian, he went to General Blackmore with the story on the vehicles, describing the wretched conditions at Leyte,


pointing out that the 32d had participated in five successive operations within the past ten months—Saidor, Aitape, Morotai, Leyte, and Luzon—and warning that if maintenance and parts were not soon forthcoming, 40 percent of the remaining vehicles would be on deadline. Harbert (soon to be promoted to lieutenant colonel) was a man whose words carried weight, for he had a long and highly creditable record in the Southwest Pacific, having been with the division since Buna, and (as a lieutenant) having received the Distinguished Service Cross for his service at Cape Sudest in November 1942.43

Blackmore had a high opinion of Harbert, but undoubtedly he had heard hard-luck stories before. While acknowledging the bad effects of the mud on Leyte, he was inclined to blame primarily the 32d Division's poorly instructed or careless drivers for the condition of the trucks. He also blamed the division for not providing good second echelon maintenance, particularly for not following Sixth Army instructions on brake maintenance. He inclined to the theory that the table of equipment provided too many trucks per division, and felt that truck companies should be given priority on trucks. Pressure on army by the division G-4, artillery officer, and Ordnance officer was necessary in order to obtain the release of eighteen cargo trucks to the 32d Division from ASCOM. For maintenance and parts supply the 32d had to depend solely, for the time being, on the I Corps 243d Ordnance Battalion, located at Balungao, whose two medium maintenance companies and one depot company were unable to keep up with the heavy work load.44

By 13 February Maj. Gen. Innis P. Swift, commanding general of I Corps, was so thoroughly alarmed by the condition of the cargo trucks in the 32d Division (111 were then on deadline) that he appealed to the Sixth Army G—4 for help. Colonel Leaf could only promise that priority would be given to unloading a resupply ship then in the harbor, that air shipment of critical parts would be arranged for; and that thirty-five replacement trucks would be furnished by army's 318th Ordnance Depot Company—when the trucks became available.45 In the meantime, the 32d Division, advancing slowly and painfully up the Villa Verde Trail in northern Luzon against strong Japanese opposition, continued to suffer from a severe shortage of trucks. And it had more bad luck on 24 April when its 732d Ordnance Light Maintenance Company was bombed. The company's supply platoon, established in a building on the town square in Tayug, suffered a direct hit from a Japanese bomb that killed eight men—Technician 3 William F. Tyree, Jr., Technician 4 George E. Seekell, Technician 5 Clarence H. Carlson, Technician 5 Oliver T. Romine, Pfc. Charles P. Sternburgh, Pfc. Donald A. Gabriel, Pfc. L'Phillip Lighther, and Pvt. James G. Vorhauer. Thirteen men were wounded, some of them in attempting to rescue their comrades from the furiously burning building. All of the platoon's


maintenance stocks, including quantities of machine guns, rifles, and carbines were destroyed.46

Though not as badly off as the 32d, the other I Corps divisions participating in the conquest of northern Luzon also felt the pinch on replacement vehicles and automotive parts. One Ordnance unit felt that the terrain features had been "sadly neglected" in computing the automotive supply logistics for this operation in difficult mountainous country, and the Sixth Army Ordnance officer agreed.47 For all types of maintenance, in the early stages of the operation, I Corps had to depend on its own 243d Ordnance Battalion, located down at Balungao—a 95-mile round trip from Damortis.48 And in the rapid advance north after 19 April, when I Corps broke through the Balete Pass, almost all Ordnance maintenance had to be evacuated to Base M because there were not enough maintenance companies in I Corps or army to provide the close support needed. Early in April Base M had moved most of its shops up the west coast to San Fernando, La Union, leaving two companies at Mangaldan to provide support for units in the area.49

Little or no evacuation from I, XIV, or XI Corps to Sixth Army was possible because army for most of the Luzon Campaign had no heavier Ordnance facilities than corps. Two heavy maintenance companies had been planned for the Sixth Army Ordnance Service Center, the 511th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Field Army) to arrive on 13 January and the 959th Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company to arrive on 18 February, both to be attached to the center's operating battalion, the 189th; but the 511th did not land until 10 February, and by the time the 959th arrived on 1 March, it was sent first to help out at Base M and later sent to the Luzon Base Section in Manila.50 During the time the Sixth Army center operated at Calasiao near the Lingayen Gulf, its maintenance work was mainly contact party work and refitting the 43d Division, with the help of the I Corps' own 243d Ordnance Battalion. On 10 March the center was moved down to San Fernando, Pampanga (about forty miles north of Manila) and remained there until the close of the campaign. After 1 April, when the 189th Battalion went to Philippine Base Section, the center was operated by the 12th Ordnance Battalion. By that time, XI and XIV Corps were evacuating unserviceable material to the USASOS base in Manila.51

The XI Corps, employed for most of the spring in a campaign designed to protect Manila from Japanese forces dug in in the mountains north and northeast of the city, and to increase Manila's water supply by capturing the dams in the region, had received on 15 March XIV Corps' Ordnance battalion, the 1st. This battalion, set up in the Kim Bee Foundry Building in Grace


Park on the outskirts of Manila, had a field army heavy maintenance company, the 99th, which sent out contact parties to the men fighting in the mountains, and did an immense amount of rebuild work in its shops.52

After mid-March, XIV Corps had no Ordnance battalion. During the rest of the Luzon Campaign, it was to operate over a wide area south of Manila, with the object of securing the southern coast of Luzon, thus helping to clear the Visayan Passages—the shipping route through the central Philippines.

Clearing the Visayan Passages

Early in February General MacArthur had decided that a shorter, safer shipping route from the United States through the San Bernardino Strait (between Luzon and Samar) and then through the Sibuyan Sea and the Verde Island Passage (between Mindoro and Luzon) to Manila, was essential. This route would save some 500 nautical miles over the route taken by the Lingayen Gulf convoys and would be much less hazardous for small ships. He therefore gave General Krueger the job of clearing the southern coast of Luzon, including the far-flung southeastern Bicol Peninsula, delegating to Eighth Army the task of making safe the islands to the south of the route. Another valuable objective in Krueger's task was the early opening of Batangas Bay on the south-central coast of Luzon, for there MacArthur wanted to develop an extensive base and staging area for the invasion of Japan. For the operation, Krueger took the 11th Airborne Division (plus the 158th Regimental Combat Team), which was already in southern Luzon, having landed at Nasugbu in the MIKE VI operation; and the 1st Cavalry Division, sent down from the operations northeast of Manila. The nth Airborne was ready to move on 7 March; the 1st Cavalry Division a week later.

It was to be a shoestring operation. Few Ordnance units were available to support it. Corps troops had only the goth Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) sent from Grace Park fifty miles south to Cablubany, Laguna, where it remained throughout the campaign, performing maintenance for all service troops as well as the tankers. Supply requisitions were submitted to the 3007th Ordnance Base Depot Company, which had been detached from XIV Corps and attached to Base X at Manila. The nth Airborne Division already had a 10-man detachment of the 643d Ordnance Ammunition Company, attached to its own 711th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company; it was now given the 3498th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. The 1st Cavalry Division had the 120th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company to back up its organic 27th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. The 27th, already the proud possessor of a Gold Star awarded by the commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division for its contribution to the Leyte Campaign, had just covered itself with glory in the street fighting in Manila when a contact party from the company, cut off by the enemy in a flame-lit street, had armed itself with rifles and machine guns and accounted for


four truckloads of Japanese. For individual heroism in this action the leader of the contact party. Staff Sgt. Charles Stearns, was awarded the Silver Star and a battlefield promotion to second lieutenant.53

The southern Luzon campaign was characterized by hard fighting in the mountains and hills to which the defenders had withdrawn, notably at Mt. Macolod, where the Japanese had emplaced the one 305-mm. howitzer they had in the region. The stiffest opposition was found at the Mt. Malepunyo concentration. Tanks, bulldozers and flame throwers were used to blast the Japanese out of their caves, together with heavy air and artillery bombardments. The last phase of the campaign was a shore-to-shore operation by the 158th Regimental Combat Team to secure the Bicol Peninsula. The 158th embarked at Lemery and landed at Legaspi on 1 April. To support it, a hand-picked detachment of seventy men from the nth Airborne Division's backup 3498th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company was attached to the 158th Regimental Combat Team. The detachment was landed from LST's during the first week, accompanied the regimental combat team on its march inland, and during May also supported the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division which was engaged in the neighborhood. At first, weapons required considerable repair, an effort to which the welders and machinists of the service section—"the unsung heroes of an Ordnance maintenance unit," according to the company historian —made an invaluable contribution by manufacturing parts. Later occurred the old problem of truck maintenance after the long hauls over rough roads. The meeting of the 158th Regimental Combat Team with the 5th Cavalry on 2 May signaled the end of Sixth Army's task of clearing the northern shores of the Visayan Passages.54

Sometime before the end of the southern Luzon campaign, the port of Batangas, captured 11-12 March by the 158th Regimental Combat Team and under development before the end of March by engineers of the 592d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, was receiving Ordnance supplies. These went to a 36-man detachment of the versatile 90th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank), which set up a provisional XIV Corps Ordnance Depot, receiving 383,350 pounds of Ordnance matériel, consisting of vehicles, cleaning and preserving materials, and automotive parts, which were issued to the maintenance companies. It operated for about thirty days, at which time USASOS Base R took over.55

On the southern side of the San Bernardino Strait—across the strait from the Bicol Peninsula—lay the northern coast of the island of Samar. The task of clearing this coast and adjacent islands was given by Eichelberger to the Americal Division. Samar and offshore islands were secured in


about two weeks, beginning 19 February, by a reinforced battalion of the 182d Infantry and on 3 March elements of a reinforced battalion of the 132d Infantry landed with little or no opposition on larger islands to the west, Ticao and Burias. In both cases Ordnance support was provided by small contact teams of the division's organic 721st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company. Matériel damaged beyond the capability of the teams was evacuated to Leyte and resupply came from Base K on Leyte.56

Clearance of the rest of the islands athwart the shipping lanes in the Visayan Passages was the responsibility of the 24th Division, based on Mindoro. Northeastern Mindoro and Marinduque (except for one small pocket) had been secured by the Western Visayan Task Force's diversionary operations in January. The first job for the 24th Division was to invade the islands to the extreme west in order to control the Verde Island Passage; the second, to clear the central islands in the Sibuyan Sea east of Mindoro. Both tasks were accomplished between 23 February and 5 April, mainly by reinforced companies or battalions of the 19th and 20th Infantry, aided by guerrillas who later took on garrison duties. As was the case in the Americal Division's sector, the 24th Division elements drew ammunition from their division dumps and were supported by contact parties from their organic light maintenance company, the 724th. Damaged matériel was evacuated to Mindoro.57

Soon after the completion of their tasks in clearing the Visayan Passages, the Americal and 24th Divisions were to be involved in a much more ambitious operation— Eighth Army's campaign to clear the southern Philippines.



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