Philippines Campaign, Phase 2

12 Dec 1944 - 2 Sep 1945

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

12-28 Dec 1944

Before American forces could consider assaulting Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines and home to the capital city Manila, advance airbases must be established so that the troops could move under the protection of friendly aircraft. On 12 Dec, Brigadier General William Dunkel and his troops sailed for Mindoro under the protection of the Seventh Fleet by way of Surigao Strait. The landing took place on 15 Dec. Completely surprising the Japanese, who thought Negros or Panay would be the next American target, the landing was unopposed. Carrier-born aircraft circled above also nearly unchallenged, but many Kamikaze aircraft slipped through and caused considerable damage to American shipping including sinking two landing craft, though in the grand scheme of the invasion the sacrifices achieved little. By 28 Dec, two fighter bases were ready for the Luzon invasion scheduled for 9 Jan. With Mindoro lost, Japan also lost the use Manila as a central transfer station of naval transports.

"What you have done on Leyte and are doing on Mindoro are masterpieces", George Marshall complimented Douglas MacArthur.

9 Jan-27 Feb 1945

With Mindoro secured, American forces were now just south of Luzon. While MacArthur's intention was to make his main landing assault at Lingayen in northern Luzon, elaborate attempts at deception were made in the south. He had his aircraft unceasingly make reconnaissance flights and bombing missions in southern Luzon. Transport aircraft made many paradrops with dummies, while minesweepers cleared Balagan, Batangas, and Tayabas Bays. Filipino resistance fighters in southern Luzon, too, were called to conduct major sabotage operations. All the effort was to provide a false notion that the American landing was to take place in southern Luzon instead of Lingayen. General Tomoyuki Yamashita, commander of the Japanese ground forces in the Philippines, must had at least made slightly unsure, for that he did not move his headquarters to northern Luzon until after the landing had already taken place at Lingayen. The opening amphibious operation at Luzon landed more men than the first wave of the Normandy landing, and 175,000 were ashore within the first few days, securing a beachhead twenty miles wide. Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome noted after the war that he "had no advance information of [American] movement against Lingayen until the fleet actually [departed]." Even by then, the Japanese believed the landing would be attempted around Manila Bay, and they "were taken by surprise when [Americans] appeared in Lingayen and started landing there." When all of MacArthur's first-phase landers set foot on Luzon, he had 280,000 men at his disposal; that was more than the number Eisenhower had in the campaigns for North Africa, Italy, or southern France.

Special Attack units, again, posed a threat for the landing forces. USS Ommaney Bay, an escort carrier, was lost when a Kamikaze aircraft dove through its wooden flight deck. Two dozen other warships were damaged by similar suicide attacks, with one destroyer sunk. As the campaign stretched on, Rear Admiral Oldendorf would lose more than twenty vessels from Kamikaze before the Japanese defenders ran out of aircraft.

Yamashita led the defending Japanese troops in fighting valiantly against the advancing US army. Though wielding a larger force, he could do little to stop the American advance without air power. He decided to take part of his troops into the island's interior and attempted to draw the campaign as long as possible; this strategy was approved by the Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ) at Tokyo on 18 Jan. Yamashita split his forces in two major groups, one fortifying Luzon's mountains and the other to defend Manila. Clark Field was captured by XIV Corps on 23 Jan, reclaiming the airfield that saw the destruction of part of the US air force helplessly on the ground. The 11th Airborne Division under the command of Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger and the First Cavalry Division each raced toward Manila as the 37th Division marched toward the same target from the north. The three-horse race was won by the First Cavalry, reaching the heart of the capital city on 3 Feb, starting the phase of the campaign that saw house-to-house clearing of Japanese who fought stubbornly in Manila.

Before Yamashita had left Manila for his new headquarters in Banguio, he left Vice Admiral Denshichi Okochi instructions to destroy the port facilities and declare Manila an open city. However, Okochi defied his orders. With a division-equivalent of mostly naval personnel, Okochi and his men engaged in a horrendous pillaging act. Hospitals were set afire with patients tied to their beds. Women of all ages raped and murdered. Babies' eyeballs were gouged out and smeared on walls. 100,000 Filipinos would be murdered mercilessly in Manila and all around Luzon in the last days of Japanese control.

While the tactics were in the hands of MacArthur's field commanders, the general grew bored and decided to visit prisoners recently liberated from the Santo Tomás prisons. The prisoners there were his Bataan troops. He was surrounded by thousands of his former soldiers, he recalled,

"[T]hey remained silent, as though at inspection. I looked down the lines of men bearded and soiled..., with ripped and soiled shirts and trousers, with toes sticking out such shoes as remained, with suffering and torture written on their gaunt faces. Here was all that was left of my men of Bataan and Corregidor.... As I passed slowly down the scrawny, suffering column, ... a whisper said 'You're back,' or 'you made it'.... I could only reply, 'I'm a little late, but we finally came.'"

After the First Cavalry reached the city, the house-to-house fighting phase began, and it lasted for a whole month. The overuse of tank and artillery fire took 1,000 civilian lives along with the Japanese troops hidden in the houses. On 25 Feb, MacArthur marched into his former residence, where his wife Jean and his son Arthur witnessed 132 Japanese aircraft ravaging the American base at Cavite from the balcony over three years ago. The city was finally declared secure on 3 Mar 1945. By this time, Manila was only nearly a pile of rubble; in WW2, only Warsaw experienced greater damage than Manila. 70% of the utilities, 75% of the factories, 80% of the southern residential district, and the entire business district were destroyed.

When MacArthur, en route to Manila, sailed by Corregidor, he stood on the deck of the ship and stared in deep thought. He later commented.

"Intrinsically it is but a barren, war-worn rock, hallowed, as so many places [are], by death and disaster. Yet it symbolizes within itself that priceless, deathless thing, the honor of a nation. Until we lift our flag from its dust, we stand unredeemed before mankind. Until we claim again the ghastly remnants of its last gaunt garrison, we can but stand humble supplicants before Almighty God. There lies our Holy Grail."

Jean MacArthur's comment after seeing Corregidor once again, under the protection of American fighters up above, was more of the casual nature:

"The last time I was here, they were all Japs, and instead of watching them we were running for cover. But George [Kenney], what have you done to Corregidor? I could hardly recognize it when we passed it! It looks as though you had lowered it at least forty feet."

Jean's comments were not unfounded. George Kenney, MacArthur's air chief, did indeed drop four thousand tons of various bombs on the island before it was recaptured by MacArthur's troops.

On 27 Feb 1945, Manila was considered safe for the return of the Philippines government. At Malacanan Palace, a formal ceremony restored Sergio Osmeña as the head of all of Philippines.

10 Mar 1945

Eichelberger and the US 8th Army landed on Mindanao on 10 March following the capture of Manila. Japanese troops at Mindanao would fight a guerilla war in the mountains of Mindanao until the last days of the war.

Conclusion of the Campaign

The Philippines were finally declared secure on 30 Jun 1945, and on 5 Jul MacArthur announced that "[t]he entire Philippine Islands are now liberated". In the end, as 17 divisions of American forces moved against the defenders, nearly all 23 divisions of Japanese troops were annihilated. At the end of the Luzon campaign, MacArthur received the report at his desk that the Philippines campaign at that point only cost 820 American lives, while over 12,000 Japanese were killed; such was the result of the superior firepower employed by the Americans by air, land, and sea.

After Manila was secured, MacArthur engaged in a bitter campaign to clear Japanese soldiers from every inch of Filipino soil. This campaign was highly criticized, for many viewed it as a campaign that wasted American lives for objectives that were inconsequential. The campaign was considered by many as MacArthur's selfish venture that fulfilled the obsession of clearing every corner of Philippines of the Japanese.

Across all the islands, efforts of local resistance groups against the Japanese should not go unmentioned, as they rivaled the effectiveness of the French resistance. By 1944, 180,000 Filipinos had served in the resistance in some way, with one in six of them serving in Luis Tarluc's Hukbalahaps. The Huks, as they were referred to by Americans, were a band of Marxists that were consisted mostly of the middle class whose devotion were attributed to their faith in MacArthur. The Huks and other resistance groups, after Hollandia, sent Australia nearly 4,000 radio messages every month, detailing from military maneuvers to the guest list at the Manila Hotel. MacArthur, in return, sneaked equipment, transmitters, and even commando teams to the guerillas by submarines. The Japanese secret police put price on resistance leaders and publicly beheaded those caught, but the Filipinos only fought on with greater determination. One such leader was Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Nakar, a former member of the 14th Infantry of the Philippine Army. After being caught sending intelligence info to MacArthur's forces, he was tortured and beheaded. Instead of shutting down his cell's operations out of fear, however, "a new leader rose to carry on the fight", recalled MacArthur. As American troops advanced in Luzon, guerilla forces cut telephone wires to disrupt Japanese communications, while key bridges behind Japanese lines were dynamited. MacArthur commented that these irregulars in Luzon "accomplished the purpose of practically a front-line division." He noted that

"Whole divisions of Japanese troops that the Emperor badly needed elsewhere were deployed against phantom enemy units.... A strong and ruthless force, at times using barbaric methods, was never able to completely conquer this simple, brave people armed with very little more than courage and faith in the promise that [MacArthur] would return."

Beginning in Dec 1944, after the American occupation of Mindoro, the flow of oil into Japan was cut to nearly zero. In Sep 1944 700,000 tons of tankers ferried oil and rubber from various ports in the South Pacific to the home islands; by the end of the year that number would be cut down to 2,000. With control of Philippines, the United States and the Allies added another instrument to blockade Japan.

Sources: American Caesar, Interrogation of Japanese Officials, the Pacific Campaign, Reminiscences.


Gun crew of cruiser Phoenix tried to identify an aircraft above, off Mindoro, Philippine Islands, 15 Dec 1944Pennsylvania, Colorado, Louisville, Portland, and Columbia in Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, Jan 1945Japanese Zero kamikaze fighter, already burning from anti-aircraft fire, dove on American cruiser Columbia during the Lingayen Gulf operation, 6 Jan 1945Louisville hit by special attack aircraft, Lingayen Gulf, Philippine Islands, 6 Jan 1945
See all 12 photographs of Philippines Campaign, Phase 2

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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Serge Nabatar, Jr. says:
    6 Mar 2006 09:47:18 PM

    would you have information on the japanese troops that were defending mindanao in 1945
  2. Anonymous says:
    9 Mar 2006 04:47:28 PM

    Hello, My grandfather was with AB 11, 7th tng bn in the philippines approx 1941-43 Im looking for info on that units mission, failures and successes. Thank you in advance for any help you may provide.
  3. Anonymous says:
    11 Nov 2006 04:31:00 PM

    Wanting information of anyone who knew Joe Marino who died on Jan22 1945 in Luzon ? He was in the army heavy gunner. He was 21 yrs old, killed by a shell hitting close to his bis gun he was getting ready.
  4. Anonymous says:
    21 Jan 2007 12:55:15 AM

    you seem to have beliitled the Battle ( Liberation ) of Manila where not only a thousand but over 10,000 civilians were killed as a result of the wanton use of artillery by US forces, not to mention the brabarity the defending Japanese forces did to the civilians in that city. most reports or articles of that battle focus only on military casualties but tend to ingore the civilian losses and its impact on the survivors. Good reading on this is THE BATTLE OF MANILA by John Pimlott ( at least, this Westerner tried to show that aspect) and BY SWORD AND FIRE by Alfonso Aluit. This gives a human face on the battle- and not purely statistics and military objectives.
  5. Matthew says:
    19 Mar 2007 04:44:14 AM

    My Father served in the 32d Division, 128th Regiment, (C)annon Co. - Villa Verder Trail, New Guinea, Driniumor River. He is now 81 years old and in good health.
  6. Anonymous says:
    2 Jun 2007 09:29:45 AM

    Anyone with Info about my Uncle John Ellis Asher served as a Staff Sergeant, 128th Infantry, 32nd Red Arrow Division during World War II. Killed in action on Luzon Island Aug. 15, 1945, the day the war ended.
  7. Kathryn Bailey says:
    2 Jul 2007 05:15:56 AM

    I am looking for information on the battles on Luzon during WWII. Anyone with information on my father Wylie Edmond King,who spent 165 days on Luzon,please let me know. Even though my father has passed away his heroism has not been forgotten by his family. He served in the Philipines and in Japan. I am hoping there is information andor pictures out there somewhere. Thanks
  8. Kathryn Bailey says:
    2 Jul 2007 05:19:42 AM

    Previously, I forgot to mention that my father was in the 25th Infantry Division throughout the Pacific campaign.
  9. Anonymous says:
    17 Oct 2007 08:14:59 AM

    My father, Harold K. Hinkelman served on an LCC, nicknamed the Little Sara. He sat in the Gulf of Leyte and watched the Japanese Imperial Navy approach. He was a Fireman 2nd Class. This little LCC is not mentioned anywhere, although the heroic actions displayed by an 18 year old from Connecticut, and his comrades, left in the Gulf of Leyte, is every bit as heroic as John Kennedy on his PT 109. My dad is 81 now, in the hospital waiting for more surgery. I am one of three sisters listening to war stories about his days in the Philippines. Does anyone out there have any information on this specific LCC?
  10. Anonymous says:
    31 Jan 2008 12:38:35 PM

    my father was also killed in action during the world war 2 and until now we haven't got any information about his days. His name is Rufino Abagat. Does anyone out there have any info.
  11. Tish says:
    19 Apr 2008 12:30:47 AM

    My Daddy was Robert E. Cox. He served in the Phillipines and New Guinea from 1943-1945.I believe he was with the Army air corps/312th AG engineering or the 583rd. If anyone has info. please contact me at
  12. tim says:
    9 May 2008 09:00:23 PM

    The wanton destruction of Manila was clearly completely unnecessary and McArthur should be condemned for this - the Japanese were going to loose anyway. There was no need for it in my view.
    Surrounding and getting the **** to surrender would have been better
    What would Singapore be like now if the British had fought to the bitter end ?
  13. 14 year old war geek says:
    15 Nov 2008 01:57:12 PM

    Not much different... it was almost uninhabited when the **** attacked
    Also it was not HE who gave the order it was simply poor judgement on the part of his junior officers

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Gun crew of cruiser Phoenix tried to identify an aircraft above, off Mindoro, Philippine Islands, 15 Dec 1944
See all 12 photographs of Philippines Campaign, Phase 2

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