Battle of Bataan (1945)

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Battle for the Recapture of Bataan
Part of World War II, Pacific theater
Date 31 January8 February 1945
Location Bataan Peninsula, Philippines
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
44px 44px
United States and Philippines
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Japan
Commanders
Charles P. Hall
Henry L.C. Jones
Aubrey S. Newman
Rikichi Tsukada
Nagayoshi Sanenobu
Strength
35,000 U.S. troops 2,800 Japanese troops
Casualties and losses
338 killed
688 wounded
2,400 killed
75 wounded
25 prisoners

The Battle for the Recapture of Bataan from 31 January to 8 February 1945 by U.S. Forces and allied Filipino guerrillas from the Japanese, part of the campaign for the liberation of the Philippines was waged to secure the western shore of Manila Bay to enable the use of its harbor and open new supply lines for American troops engaged in the crucial battle for the liberation of Manila.

The Bataan peninsula's recapture also avenged the surrender of the defunct USAFFE or United States Forces in the Far East to invading Japanese forces in 9 April]] 1942. (See also the Battle of Bataan).

Contents

Pushing Supply Lines South

The rapid advance of U.S. forces heading towards Manila had strained the capability of their supply lines at Lingayen Gulf, which had so ably supplemented their push south on the capital, almost to the breaking point.

While the capture of Manila was significant for both military and psychological reasons, the seizure of Manila Bay was specially crucial from a logistical point of view. Its harbor was in American hands but would remain unused unless the Bataan peninsula in the west was secured.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur bestowed on Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger's Sixth Army, the task to seize Bataan, and later Corregidor. The U.S. XI Corps, fresh from the Leyte Campaign, under Maj. Gen. Charles P. Hall, augmented Sixth Army. Comprising of the 38th Infantry Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Henry L.L. Jones and Col. Aubrey "Red" S. Newman's 34th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division, the XI Corps was to land on the Zambales coast some twenty-five miles northwest of Bataan and drive rapidly east across the base of the peninsula, and then sweep south, clearing Bataan including its eastern coast.

But American intelligence had badly overestimated the enemy strength on Bataan, thinking that the Japanese had a full division on the peninsula. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, the commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines had decided that defending Manila Bay was well beyond the capabilities of his forces, thus only some 4,000 Japanese troops of Maj. Gen. Rikichi Tsukada's Kembu Group, which had been dispersed to now captured Mindoro, Corregidor and Southern Luzon was left to oppose the Americans. The principal unit was the Nagayoshi Detachment under Col. Nagayoshi Sanonebu.

March To The Peninsula

On 29 January 1945, the 38th Division landed in the San Narciso area of the southern province of Zambales, Luzon, without opposition. They promptly dashed to the San Marcelino airstrip, but found out that Filipino guerrillas under the command of Capt. Ramon Magsaysay, later president of the Republic of the Philippines had already secured the field three days earlier. The port facilities at Olongapo were captured by the 34th Regiment Combat Team on 30 January as well as Grande Island in Subic Bay after an amphibious landing. Elsewhere, surprise was complete, all except with one US casualty, an enlisted man gored by an angry bull. By the end of January, Zambales province was liberated.

The 38th Division's 151st Infantry Regiment secured the entrance to Subic Bay from the south, and was ordered into XI Corps reserve. Meanwhile, the 152nd Infantry Regiment was given the mission to pass through positions held by the 34th and drive eastward along an irregular and unimproved Route 7 about twenty miles to Dinalupihan while the 149th Infantry Regiment was ordered to move eastward, north of and parallel to the 152nd, link up with XIV Corps, then turn south and west along Route 7 to meet up with the 152nd. Gen. Hall of XI Corps believed that Route 7 could be taken in less than a week.

Struggle on Zig Zag Pass

Nagayoshi had decided to make a stand in the rugged Zambales mountains at the northern base of the Bataan peninsula, which the Americans named Zig Zag Pass. Abundance in supplies and ammunition had him prepared for a long battle, but his main defensive lines were stretched thin, at 2,000 yards, which left his position vulnerable to flanking maneuvers. Nonetheless, Nagayoshi and his 39th Infantry Regiment intended to hold out indefinitely. Zig Zag Pass was described as few pieces of ground combined to the same degree to roughness and dense jungle. The main road, Route 7 twists violently through the pass, following a line of least terrain resistance that wild pigs must originally have established. The jungle flora in the region is so thick that one can step five yards off the highway and not be able to see the road. The Japanese had honey-combed every hill and knoll at the Zig Zag with foxholes linked by tunnels or trenches; at particularly advantageous Points they had constructed strong points centered on log or dirt pillboxes. All the defenses were well camouflaged, for rich, jungle foliage covered most positions, indicating that many had been prepared with great care and had been constructed well. In effect, a small force could hold off an entire army from this position indefinitely.

On 31 January 1945, driving west of Olongapo, the 38th Division advanced east on the intricate maze of enemy fortifications in Zig-Zag Pass, at the same time seeking out both Japanese flanks. But on the morning of 1 February, after about three miles of steady progress, the 152nd Regiment ran into Japanese strongpoints at Horseshoe Bend, the first known major Zig Zag Pass obstacles. In two days of heavy fighting, resulting in high casualties for the regiment, all eastward progress had stopped. The unfavorable, twisting terrain, communications difficulties in the thick jungle, and relocation of battalions to try to find the main line of resistance, along with the determined resistance of the Japanese, all contributed to difficulty in correctly identifying all units of the 152d at all times with respect to their exact locations. The northwest to southeast line of Japanese defenses, definitively unknown at the time, also contributed to the confusion. With his offensive effectively stalled, Gen. Jones relieved the 152nd's regimental commander.

The 34th Regimental Combat Team was then ordered to resume the unsuccessful eastward offensive of the 152nd on Zig-Zag Pass. However, after six days of severe fighting, despite heavy supporting artillery barrages and napalm bombing runs by the Army Air Force, the 34th RCT sustained heavy casualties and its offensive bogged down, barring any further progress. Gen. Jones then directed the 152d to resume the attack on the Japanese right to the north of Route 7, while on 6 February, the 151st Regiment rejoined the battle to relieve the disengaging 34th RCT. But further confusion and frustration on the pass reigned and on day's end, Gen. Hall relieved Gen. Jones of command and temporarily replaced by Brig. Gen. William C. Chase.

On the day Gen. Chase assumed command, the 149th Infantry Regiment completed its eastward march north of Route 7 and linked up with XIV Corps. It then turned westward astride Route 7 to link up with the rest of the 38th Division. In tandem, the 151st and 152nd Regiments now began making progress eastward through the pass. Gradually, the Japanese were pushed back and eventually overrun on 8 February. Three days later, 11 February the 151st was withdrawn for another mission, while the 152nd continued the offensive, and by 14 February 1945, the 149th and 152nd Regiments finally linked up.

After mopping up operations against scattered small pockets of resistance, Zig Zag Pass was now securely in the hands of the 38th Division. As a testament to the ferocity of the struggle, XI Corps killed about 2,400 of the 2,800-man Japanese force while taking only 25 prisoners.

Landings at Southern Bataan

By 15 February, two 38th Division task forces under XI Corps were employed for the southern Bataan amphibious landings. One, the South Force commanded personally by Gen. Chase consisted of the 151st Infantry Regiment reinforced by a battalion of the 34th RCT, the 139th Field Artillery Battalion, and other attached elements. The other, the East Force consisted of the reinforced 1st Infantry Regiment of the 6th Infantry Division was attached to the 38th Division for the mission. Brigadier General William Spence, the 38th Division Artillery commander led the force.

On 11 February, the South Force sailed south off the west coast north of Bataan, spent the night of the 14th and 15th February at sea, and went ashore at 1000 hours on the 15th at Mariveles Harbor. Bullet-pierced American World War I type steel helmets were found that had been there for three years, along with whitened remains of American soldiers the Japanese had refused to bury. From Mariveles the force split, part moving up the west coast toward Bagac, and the other part moving up the east coast toward Pilar.

Meanwhile, the East Force moved on 12 February from Dinalupihan south toward Pilar. It was soon augmented by elements of the 149th Infantry Regiment. At Pilar the force split, part continuing south past the town, and part turning west astride Route 111. On 18 February the two forces linked up near Bagac. A final major engagement occurred during the night of 15 to 16 February, and mopping up operations continued throughout the peninsula for about another week. Finally, on 21 February, after three years, Bataan was again secure in American and Filipino hands.

Outcome and Historical Significance

The Japanese lost heavily on the defense of ZigZag Pass, with more than 2,400 killed and 75 wounded. Col. Nagayoshi escaped with about 300 men and joined other defenders farther south of the peninsula, holding out until mid-February. The 38th Infantry Division lost 270 men and had 420 wounded, while the 34th Regiment suffered 68 dead and 268 wounded.

Except for the 38th Division's brutal struggle at ZigZag Pass, the swift and easy recapture of the province of Zambales and the Bataan peninsula, enabled the Americans full use of Manila Bay and its world-class deepwater port. This development subsequently allowed the easy resupply of U.S. forces retaking Manila.

See also

  • Military History of the Philippines during World War II
  • Military history of the United States
  • Military history of Japan
  • History of the Philippines

References

  • World War II in the Pacific: An Encyclopedia (Military History of the United States) by S. Sandler (2000) Routledge ISBN 0-8153-1883-9

External links

Original Source

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