#1…The US Invasion of Leyte – October 20, 1944…

The Battle of Leyte took place as part of the Pacific War during the Second World Warbetween the Americans, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, and the armed forces are imperial japan, placed under the command of generating Tomoyuki Yamashita, for possession the island of Leyte in the Philippines, from 17 October 1944 to 31 December 1944. TheBattle of the Philippines is part of the campaign carried out by the Allies to retake the islands, occupied by Japanese troops during a long campaign between December 22, 1941 and May 6, 1942.

Background…

The Philippines has been an important source of supply, especially for the rubber and control of maritime oil between Japan, Borneo and Sumatra. For the United States, the taking of the Philippines has been a key strategic step to isolate the empire by the Japanese occupation zones in China and the rest of the Pacific. It was also a personal matter for MacArthur: Two years before this they had left the Philippines with the promise to return and also insisted on the fact that it was a moral obligation for the United States as soon as possible to free up the archipelago.

From September to early October 1944, the pilots of the U.S. 3rd Fleet under Admiral William F. They carried Halsey successful actions in the Marianas and Morotai, destroying about 500 enemy aircraft and 180 vessels. These successes in the sea of the Philippines, Okinawa and Formosa showed that the invasion of the Philippine archipelago was feasible.

Leyte is one of the largest islands of the Philippines, there are numerous areas with deep waters and sandy beaches offering the perfect country for amphibious landings and supplies fast. The streets and plains that stretch inland offer the possibility of a rapid advance to the infantry and armored divisions, the plains give the possibility to build airfields from which the U.S. Air Force can strike enemy bases and airports in all the Philippines.

A mountain range of volcanic origin covered by a dense forest divides the island from north to south into two zones. The wider area of the island, said Leyte Valley, stretching from the northern coast along the east coast and there is the greater part of the towns and roads. The western area, called Ormoc Valley, is connected to the other side of the island by a single road (Highway 2) that starts from the city of Palo on the east coast, arrives at the port of Ormoc on the west coast, continue south towards the city of Baybay, and then conginuge to Abuyog to Highway 1, ending on the Strait of San Juanico. The peaks of the mountains are not very high, but thanks to the jagged shapes, the caves and the gorges offer an excellent defensive position to the Japanese troops.

The population of Leyte was over 900,000 people, mostly farmers and fishermen, many of the residents had joined the guerrilla war against the Japanese to oppose the harsh repression that the civilian population was subjected to. The U.S. Secret Service esteemed the number of Japanese troops on Leyte to about 20,000, most of which form part of the 16th Division under the command of Lt. Gen. Shiro Makino.

Lineups – Allies…

The invasion of Leyte was the largest amphibious landing carried out by the U.S. and its allies in the Pacific theater. Gen. MacArthur was put in charge of all the forces of air, land and naval Pacific Central and South America. The air and naval forces in support of landing troops lay mainly in the U.S. 7th Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid composed of 701 ships, including 127 warships. Kinkaid’s fleet would have the task of carrying and to land troops on the beaches. Seconded to the Royal Australian Navy’s Seventh Fleet possessed five warships, three ships from landing and five auxiliary vessels. The 6th Army United States Army under the command of Lieutenant General Walter Krueger was the main fighting force consisted of two corps of two divisions each. The 10th body of Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert included the 1stCavalry Division and 24th Infantry Division except the 21st infantry regiment that acted as a RCT. The 14 º body at the helm of Maj. Gen. John R. Hodge included the 7th Infantry Division and some regiments of the 96th Infantry Division. The 32nd, the 77th Infantry and the 381 th Regiment of the 96th Infantry Division were arranged as reserve forces. Additional units such as the 6th Ranger Battalion, had the task of ensuring the control of outlying islands and guide the landing forces and fire support of warships to the landing beaches. The new Army Service Command of the 6th head of the Major General Hugh J. Casey was responsible for the organization of the bridgehead, supplying units on the ground, building or improving roads and airports. In all, Gen. Krueger had under his command 202,500 troops on the ground. On Leyte, about 3,000 Filipino guerrillas under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Kangleon were ready to assist landing forces attacking the Japanese rear.

The mission of the 6th Army was to occupy Leyte in three phases. The first would start on 17 October, three days before at about 80 km east of the landing beaches, with the occupation of the three islands which control the landings on the eastern side of Leyte Gulf. The second part, called A-Day, was to take place on October 20th, the 10th and the 14th Corps would land at separate beaches on the east coast of Leyte, the first to the north, the second 24 km to the south. The 10th Corps would take Tacloban City and its airfield north of the bridgehead to secure the strait between Leyte and Samar Islands, then you would be directed through Leyte Valley to the north coast. The task of the 14th Corps was to secure the southern part of Leyte Valley to build an airfield and create a base for logistic support. Meanwhile, the RCT formed by the 21 Regiment would guarantee the control of the strait between Leyte and Panaon Islands. In the third phase, the two corps would take separate routes through the mountains to eliminate the enemy from Ormoc Valley and the west coast of the island, and at the same time, occupy the outpost on the ‘island of Samar 60 km north Tacloban.

Japanese…

The Japanese Imperial Army estimated by the U.S. Secret Service could count on 20,000 men, serving in the 16th Infantry Division, Japanese troops in continuing the battle grow to reach 55,000 units.

The Battle – The Landings…

The preparations for the invasion of Leyte began at dawn on 17 October with demining operations and the movement of the 6th Rangers accompanied by a detachment of the 21st Infantry Regiment to the three small islands of Leyte Gulf. Although late due to a storm, the Rangers took control of the islands Suluan and Dinagat 12:30. On Suluan, the Rangers dispersed a small group of Japanese and destroyed a radio station, while on Dinagat they met resistance. On both, the Rangers proceeded with the installation of navigation lights for landing ships that would arrive three days later. The next day, the third largest island Homonhon, was occupied without opposition. Meanwhile, some teams reconnaissance revealed that the landing beaches were free for the assault troops.

After four hours of heavy naval gunfire on 20 October, the A-Day, the 6th Army Army landed on assigned beaches at 10:00. The 10th Corps of 6 km stretch of beach between Tacloban airfield and the Palo River. While 24 km to the south, the 14th Corps landed on a 5 km stretch of the river between San José and Daguitan. The troops had many difficulties due to the marshland and the barrage Japanese. Within an hour of landing in many areas, the units were insured bridgeheads firm enough to receive heavy vehicles and large amounts of supporting materials. Only in the 24th Division of the Japanese forces blocked the soldiers destroying several landing craft. But even this area at 13:30 was pretty sure to allow General MacArthur to make his triumphant entry from an amphibious landing to the Filipino people and announcing the beginning of their liberation: “People of the Philippines, I’m back! by the grace of Almighty God, our forces are again on Philippine soil. ”

By the end of the day, the 6th Army Army had penetrated 3 km on the island and controlled the Strait Panaon south of Leyte. In the area of the 10th Army Corps, the 1st Cavalry Division had taken control of the airfield in Tacloban City, and the 24th Infantry Division had occupied the top of the highest hill in the area of the landing. In the area of the 14th Corps, the 96th Infantry Division had launched the attack on the Catmon Hill. The 7th Infantry Division had taken the town of Dulag, and had forced the General Makino to move his command post of 16 km in the city of Dagami. The initial battle was a victory for the U.S. at a cost of 49 dead, 192 wounded and 6 missing.

Country of Southern Leyte Valley

In the days following the 6th Army made significant progress due to the lack of organization of the Japanese defenses. The 1st Cavalry Division of the Mag. Gen. Verne D. Mudge secured control of the capital of the region, Tacoblan, October 21. On October 23, General MacArthur with a ceremony formally restored the Philippine government. The same day the 1st and the 2ndBrigade of cavalry started a preventive step to prevent Japanese counterattack from the central areas of the island. At the end of these operations, the 1st Brigade was moved to the rear to catch his breath after long battles of the previous days.

The 24th Infantry Division, of Maj. Gen. Frederick A. Irving, encountered a strong enemy resistance. After several days and nights of hard fighting the 19th and the 34th Infantry Regiment expanded its bridgehead, killing about 800 Japanese, and took control of the rise overlooking the north entrance of the Valley of Leyte. In the following days two regiments of infantry and several armored vehicles supported by artillery fire, penetrated into Leyte Valley, by 1 November came in sight of the north coast and the port of Carigara. The following day, the 2nd Brigade of cavalry occupied Carigara. In its way through the Leyte Valley the 24th Division had inflicted nearly 3,000 casualties on the enemy. These advances left only to the Japanese island of Leyte Ormoc City.

The 14th Corps of General Hodge sent two divisions in southern Leyte Valley, as were four airfields and a large supply center. Major General James L. Bradley in command of the 96th Infantry Division was to occupy Catmon Hill, a promontory 430 m, the highest point in between the two bridgeheads, and was used by the Japanese as an observation point to direct artillery fire on the means by landing as they approached the beach. Under the incessant coverage of artillery and naval guns, Bradley and his troops made their way through the marshes to the south and west of the heights to Labiranan Head. After a long battle of three days, October 28 the 382 Infantry Regiment took the key base of the Japanese defenses, Tabontabon about 8 km inland, and killed about 350 Japanese. At the same time two battalions of 381 º and 383 º Infantry Regiment slowly advanced on opposite sides of Catmon Hill and met with fierce Japanese resistance. When the top of Catmon Hill was captured on 31 October, the Americans had exceeded 53 casemates, 17 caves, and different positions of heavy artillery.

On the left side of the 14th Corps the 7th Infantry Division under the command of Major-General Archibald V. Arnold moved inland to occupy the four Japanese airfields between the towns of Dulag and Burauen. On October 21, the 184th Infantry occupied the airfield Dulag, while 32 º Infantry Regiment liberated both banks of the river Calbasag. The bloody struggle for the capture of airports and the village was decided by the presence of the American M4 Shermantanks that paved the way for the infantry. A Burauen, the 17th Infantry Regiment defeated a fanatical resistance, but useless by enemy suicide attacks tried to stop the American tanks attacking the explosive armored hulls. About 2 km to the north, 32nd Infantry Regiment killed more than 400 Japanese at Buri airfield. While two infantry battalions of 184 ° patrolling the left flank, the 17th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion of the 184 °, with an operation to the north, tried to occupy Dagami, 10 km north Burauen. Using flamethrowers to drive the Japanese out of their pillboxes and a cemetery, U.S. troops captured Dagami October 30, forcing Gen. Makino to evacuate his command post several kilometers to the west. Meanwhile, on October 29, the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the 32nd, preceded by the 7th regiment of cavalry reconnaissance, moved 24 km south along the east coast to Abuyog to probe the area, over the next four days patrolled west through the mountains to look at Ormoc Bay, during these operations met with no resistance.

Japanese Counterattack…

As soon as the 6th Army pushed deeper on Leyte, the Japanese counterattacked by sea and by air. On October 24, about 150-200 enemy aircraft attacked the American beachheads from the north, but fifty American fighters took off to intercept the enemy. It is estimated that aviation Japanese lost between 66 and 84 aircraft in this action. For the next four days they continued the Japanese air raids, which severely damaged the deposits of food and ammunition, thereby threatening the success of the American. The Americans responded by bombing Japanese airfields on Leyte and the neighboring islands, by 28 October, the threat of air strikes conventional enemies had ceased. The imperial aviation was in a situation of shortage of means and drivers, as well resorted for the first time the use of suicide bombers, a group of suicide pilots who used their planes, loaded with fuel and bombs, as real bullets jumping against Allied ships. The targets were the transport ships and the fleet of escort who were in the Leyte Gulf to protect operations on the island. The Japanese were able to sink an aircraft carrier escort and severely damage many other ships.

The greatest danger to U.S. forces is represented by the Japanese fleet. The High Command of the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to send all the ships at his disposal to destroy the forces of the U.S. Navy in support of the 6th Army, thus creating the conditions for a pitched battle of considerable importance for the continuation of the war in the Pacific. The plan was to attack the Imperial Navy fleet into three groups in the Leyte Gulf. The first group, which included four carriers but no aircraft on board, had to act as a decoy, attracting the 3rd U.S. Fleet north away from Leyte Gulf. If the bait was successful, the other two groups, consisting mainly of heavy surface fleet, including the superbattleship Yamato, would enter the Leyte Gulf from the west destroying support vessels now remained completely isolated and at the mercy of the Japanese guns .

On October 23, the U.S. Navy took over the presence of the first group consists of the Japaneseaircraft carrier bait. The units of the U.S. Navy immediately began maneuvering to face the enemy, so began the largest naval battle of the war in the Pacific and one of the largest of the entire history of mankind: the Battle of Leyte Gulf. They fought for three long days from 23 October to 26 October, but in the end the battle ended with a decisive defeat for the Japanese that will significantly decrease their ability to stop the Allied advance. However, from December 11, the Japanese were able to send in Leyte more than 34,000 soldiers and more than 10,000 tons of material, mainly through the port of Ormoc on the west coast of the island, despite the heavy losses inflicted on convoys from continuous missions of interception the United States Air Force, which led to the two battles in the Bay of Ormoc.

Advanced in Northern Leyte Valley…

Supplies Japanese created serious problems to both commanders Krueger and MacArthur. Instead of passing the mopping up operations in the eastern part of Leyte, the 6th Army faced heavy fighting in the mountains on the western side of the island, and in these clashes were also utilizing the three reserve divisions that were on Leyte. All this has led to significant delays in the operations of General MacArthur for the campaign in the Philippines and in the war plans of the Ministry of War in the Pacific.

The 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th Infantry Division stationed in Carigara November 2 managed to break through enemy lines, giving new impetus to the Allied campaign. After 17 days of fighting, the 6th Army had achieved all its goals in the first and second stage, and also one of the objectives of the third phase, Abuyog. In addition, some elements of the 7th Division had gone to the southern end of the island in the 14th Army Corps and had taken control of the town of Baybay on the west coast. Only one key area, Ormoc on the west coast of the island, remained in Japanese hands.

To occupy the Ormoc Valley, General Krueger had in anticipation of using a giant pincer movement, with the forces of the 10th Corps moving south through the mountains and the units of the 14th Corps moving north along the western shore of the island . To overcome the resistance of the enemy, and especially in the mountain barrier to the north, Krueger mobilized its reserve forces, the 32nd and the 77th Infantry Division, while MacArthur activated the 11th Airborne Division and the 21st Regiment recalled from the area of Panaon to rejoin the rest of the 24th Division, was replaced by an infantry battalion of the 32nd. On 3 November, the 34th Infantry Regiment was moved west of Carigara to rake the rest of the northern coast before moving to the south of the mountains. The 1st Battalion was soon attacked by a ridge along the highway. Supported by the 63 Battalion of Artillery, eliminated the Japanese unit on the crest, and the 34th Infantry continued unopposed to the city of Pinamopoan all night, managed to recover many heavy weapons abandoned by the enemy, and stopped at the point where the Highway2, head south towards the mountains.

Battles of Breakneck and Kilay Ridges…

AMH-517

On 7 November the 21st Infantry Regiment held his baptism of fire in Leyte when it moved into the mountains along the Highway 2, near the Bay of Carigara. The 21st, with the help of the 3rd Battalion of the 19th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division faced the Japanese Imperial, also just arrived on the island, which was trincerando along the road that ran from east to west of the island. The Japanese were erecting an extended network along a ridge formed by tunnels, bunkers, trenches, bunkers, machine-gun, mortar and artillery and countless booby traps and was where Japanese soldiers were hiding and then launch a sudden attack against banzai Allied troops. This ridge became known as “Breakneck Ridge”.

The typhoon began on November 8, and the heavy rains that followed in the days following further hindered the American advance. The storm worsened the situation significantly adding to the enemy defenses also fallen trees and mud slides while also creating significant delays in the transportation of supplies, the 21st Infantry continued its attack slow and difficult, even with the problem of having to often withdraw and recover hills that had been taken earlier. After long fighting the Americans launched the attack on the hill “1525″, strategically important, located 3 km east, enabling Gen. Irving to engage the enemy defenses on a front of 6 km along Highway 2.

Five days of fighting positions on the hill, seemingly impregnable, and past two nights to repel enemy counterattacks forced Gen. Irving to launch an attack on two fronts on defenders. The 2nd Battalion of the 19th Infantry passed around the hill from the east in 1525 behind the enemy’s right flank, cutting Highway 2 5 km south of Breakneck Ridge. To take the left side to the west, Irving Carigara sent by the 1st Battalion of the 34th Infantry, under Lieutenant ColonelThomas E. Clifford, to a point located 3 kilometers west of Highway 2. After crossing a ridge and the river Leyte, American troops attacked the enemy on the left side to 270 m from Kilay Ridge, the higher ground behind the main battle area. On 13 November both battalions reached positions only 900 m from Highway 2, despite strong opposition from enemy and heavy rains. But a counterattack against the Japanese Kilay Ridge battalion of Clifford and from a hill east of the 2nd Battalion forced the Americans to withdraw. Neither of the two battalions completed the objectives assigned to it.

It took two weeks of hard struggle in the mud and the rain to bring the men of Clifford to break through enemy lines on the ascent to Kilay Ridge. On December 2, finally, Clifford’s battalion occupied the top of the hill, and immediately the 32nd Division took over the remaining Japanese defenses in Kilay Ridge. Clifford’s battalion suffered 26 dead, 101 wounded and 2 missing, and killed more than 900 Japanese. For their arduous efforts to Kilay Ridge and adjacent areas, the two battalions were awarded the Presidential Unit Citations and Clifford received the Presidential Distinguished Service Cross the equivalent of the award received by individual battalions. Only 14 December, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 32nd Division took total control of the area-Kilay Breakneck Ridge, putting the defense portions of Highway 2 between Carigara Bay and the Ormoc Valley, under the control of the 10th Corps.

Throughout this phase, American efforts were increasingly hampered by logistical problems. Land and mountain roads impassable forced the unit dedicated to the transport of the 6th Army Army to improvise columns of supplies with Navy landing craft, landing craft excavators, air drops, artillery tractors, trucks, and even hundreds of Carabaos Filipino volunteers bearers barefoot. Understandably these difficulties in supply led to slow down the advance, particularly in the mountains north and east of Ormoc Valley and subsequently in along the ridges of Ormoc Bay…

 

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