The Philippines: Leyte

By midsummer of 1944 "the clans were gathering at Hollandia," observed General Eichelberger, "A sure sign always that a major campaign is ahead."1 Late in June Headquarters, Sixth Army (the designation ALAMO Force had been dropped in May), arrived from Cape Cretin and by August the Engineers' two sawmills were whirring to turn out lumber for buildings to house also the headquarters of the Southwest Pacific Area; United States Army Forces in the Far East; United States Army Services of Supply; Base G; Far East Air Force; and General Eichelberger's Eighth Army (activated on 7 September 1944). For a time the entire output of one mill was reserved for General MacArthur's headquarters, located inland on beautiful Lake Sentani against the backdrop of the towering Cyclops Mountains.2 General MacArthur intended to lead in person the return to the Philippines. The primary objective was Luzon—the MIKE I operation. But first, airfields and bases for the ultimate assault had to be established. That was the purpose of the landing on the Leyte coastal plain—the KING II operation. Planning for MIKE I and KING II went on simultaneously at Hollandia.3

Close to the coast near Humboldt Bay the shelters for Base G depots were being built with prefabricated materials shipped from Australia. Base G, however, never became the major supply base in New Guinea. Base F at Finschhafen, which had a deeper harbor, continued to be first. But the Hollandia base was developed on a very large scale and is inseparably associated with the Philippines operations.4 Among the earliest Ordnance efforts was the enlargement, chiefly by building huts in the native fashion, of the Hollandia Ordnance Service Center that had been set up by the maintenance and depot companies of the 194th Ordnance Battalion, which had participated in reckless. An effort was also made to get the ammunition in Nichols Ammunition Depot off the ground and on coconut dunnage, and under shelter as much as possible. On Pie Beach a detachment of the 3608th Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) put up a shop building to repair tracked vehicles and a vehicle assembly plant was being considered for the dock area.5


Lt. Col. Frederick G. Waite helped plan for the support of the Leyte operation, first as Ordnance officer of Base G, and later as assistant executive officer at Base G headquarters. He was an old hand in the Southwest Pacific, having arrived in Australia in May 1942. His experiences in New Guinea, beginning at Milne Bay, had left him with few illusions about the effect of the tropics on Ordnance matériel and Ordnance men. He knew the damaging effect of heat and moisture on ammunition, optical equipment, weapons, and trucks, and the demoralizing effect of jungle warfare on men.6

Waite also knew well the supply problems involved in supporting assault landings on beaches where there were no roads, docks, hardstands, or buildings. It took time, sometimes several months, to construct the necessary facilities. He knew there was what he called a "dead" period of supply between the time the organic load was consumed and the time when base issues could be efficiently made, and a similar "dead" maintenance period before shops could be set up. In the Leyte operation he hoped that for the first time these dangerous gaps in maintenance and supply could be eliminated. Waite had for several months been working on the "floating shops" and "floating depot" that were going to be employed for the first time in the Philippines operations.7

The Ordnance Navy: The Shop and Depot Barges

In January 1944 a ship to carry spare parts was proposed by General Campbell in a memorandum for General Somervell, commanding general of Army Service Forces:

I have an idea floating around in my head on which I would like to give you my thinking. When you and I were boys down South the huckster used to come around with all sorts of things in his wagon and the housewives would buy whatever they wanted. This was a very convenient way of replenishing the larder.

Why should we not have an ASF spare parts ship stocked with miscellaneous assortments of fast moving spare parts of all the Services. Experts from each of the Services would man this floating depot, and parts would be those shipped to the various Theaters of call. . . .8

At the time, there was a definite shortage of shipping; no vessel of the size contemplated could be spared. In the Normandy invasion the use of commodity-loaded ships as floating depots or floating warehouses, although convenient and often necessary, was sharply criticized because it immobilized urgently needed ships. Such use was finally prohibited by the Joint Chiefs in December 1944. In the Pacific the floating depot or offshore LST was extremely vulnerable to enemy air attack, as had been demonstrated by the lone enemy bomber at Hollandia.9

Not until April 1945 did General Somervell act on General Campbell's suggestion. Three multiple-deck cargo vessels were selected for use by Ordnance. The Nevadan was to be stocked mainly with weapons parts; the Susan Luckenbach with


transport vehicle parts, and the Marymar with parts for tanks and other tracked vehicles. A similar type of vessel was selected for the Engineers; two C1-M-AVI vessels were designated for the Transportation Corps and one for the combined use of Signal, Chemical Warfare, and Medical services. To get the ships allocated, prepare plans for conversion, and do the job took many months. Significantly, the last delay was caused by the V-J Day celebrations in the shipyards. It was September 1945 before the three Ordnance ships, loaded with 420 carloads of spare parts, sailed. While they were on the way, it was decided that they would not be needed by the occupational forces in Japan, and they were returned to be discharged at U.S. ports.10

The inspiration for preparing in the United States floating maintenance shops for Pacific island bases came from a member of the ASF Maintenance Division in the spring of 1944. The ship contemplated was the small shallow-draft Baltic coaster; but as none was available the Transportation Corps suggested that concrete ships or barges be considered. The concrete barge was decided upon and by 3 May 1944 plans were well enough along to be presented in some detail, with a blueprint, to the commanders of the Southwest Pacific and Pacific Ocean Areas. The barge, approximately 265 feet long and 48 feet wide, was to house on its main deck technical repair shops to do maintenance up to fifth echelon for all types of army equipment, and in its lower holds and 'tween-deck holds storage for spare parts and assemblies. The boat deck was to carry a 50-ton landing barge plus a 30-ton crane to lift it into the water, and was to be equipped with 40-mm. antiaircraft guns and machine guns. The maintenance men would have comfortable quarters on the boat deck.11

Only two of these barges were planned, one for the Southwest Pacific and one for the Pacific Ocean Areas. Each was an ambitious, million-dollar project, completely equipped with machinery and tools, and possessing such features as air conditioning for the instrument shops and dehydrated compartments to provide rustproof storage. Planning went on for months, including consultations with theater commanders and conferences between members of the technical services. As Ordnance service was considered predominant, a TOE of 103 Ordnance men was agreed upon, with four Medical, one Engineer, nine Signal, and six Transportation men (as boat crew) attached, and essential equipment for all. The Ordnance men were given special training on Chesapeake Bay in boat drill and landing operations. Not until late 1944 did construction of the barges get under way and the first was not expected


to become available in the United States until February 1945.12

In the meantime, the USASOS Ordnance officers in the Southwest Pacific had taken matters into their own hands, as men in the theaters all over the world had learned to do, without waiting for the lengthy planning processes in the United States to bear fruit. Since the fall of 1942 they had been aware of the need for floating depots and shops to solve the serious problem of what Waite termed "supply strangulation" on assault beaches—the 60-day to go-day period that elapsed between the time an advance base was first occupied and the time its subdepots were set up and operating. By the spring of 1943 Colonel Holman had in operation a fleet of small ships to deliver parts, replacement weapons, and cleaning and preserving materials to Ordnance maintenance companies in forward areas and to evacuate unserviceable equipment and captured enemy matériel. The ships carried small shops aboard to repair the small arms being evacuated.13 During the leapfrogging operations up the New Guinea coast the value of this fleet became even more apparent and planning was directed toward somewhat larger ships and more emphasis on shop work. The main obstacle was finding the ships. The ideal vessel for the purpose was the LST, which could move under its own power, but LST's were too scarce to be even considered. The best available substitute was the 265-foot BCL (barge, concrete, large) constructed by the Maritime Commission for the Navy in National City, California, and towed across the Pacific behind Liberty ships.14

By June of 1944, the most pressing Ordnance need in this respect was for fifth echelon shop barges. ALAMO Force had made its way up the New Guinea coast as far as Biak, and distances were becoming too great to make it practicable to ship unserviceable unit assemblies back to base shops at Milne Bay. About the time the first concrete barges arrived at Milne Bay in September 1944, the tools and equipment to outfit them were also available, since a base shop at Milne was closing down and the entire plant of a shop at Sydney, Australia, was being shipped to Base F at Finschhafen. The Ordnance men at USASOS were planning four barges, each with a capacity of rebuilding ten engines a day plus five each of the other vehicle unit assemblies such as axles, and also with some facilities for repairing weapons and accessories. The job of outfitting and operating the barges was given to the 141st Ordnance Base Automotive Maintenance Battalion at Finschhafen.15

As soon as the barges arrived, Capt. Elroy C. Leoppard and 2d Lt. Dwight E. Wheeler of the 141st Battalion went down to Milne Bay, loaded fifth echelon equipment on BCL 3056 and started back to Finschhafen, arriving 27 September to begin the job of outfitting Ordnance's first floating shop. With the help of Waite and


Lt. Col. Walter A. Brown, Maintenance officer, USASOS, and under the direction of Captain Leoppard, who was to become the first Ordnance barge commander, a detail of a hundred men of the 141st worked three shifts a day on this pioneer operation. The barge was ready on 18 November. It had a wooden superstructure, with two hold levels below the main deck and eight hatches to each deck. The superstructure supported an electrically operated monorail hoisting system; at each of the four main deck doors a cargo boom could be lowered, which permitted use of the monorail lift over small craft or amphibians. On the top deck were quarters for the 3 officers and 121 men who were to operate the shop (Detachment A, 141st Ordnance Base Automotive Maintenance Battalion), but the quarters were to be occupied only during operation at a base. When the barge was being towed, the men had to be moved by some other means of transportation. The mission of the detachment, activated 1 January 1945, was to rebuild worn-out engines, assemblies, and power train units, and to operate a small but complete service section, in which almost any kind of tool and special equipment could be made. The barge, now designated USASOS Floating Shop 4, departed for Leyte in February 1945. She turned out to be an unlucky little vessel, for she suffered two explosions that cost lives; in the second, occurring late in August, an explosion in No. 4 Starboard Hold killed four men and seriously wounded seventeen. But she did fine work at Leyte.16

A second concrete barge, BCL 3058, arrived in Finschhafen in October, was similarly fitted out, and was functioning before the end of December as Floating Shop 6. Her mission was to clean up much of the New Guinea backlog before moving on to the Philippines. In March 1945 she was sent to Hollandia, where there was a tremendous backlog. The barge was anchored offshore at Pirn Jetty (with her maintenance men located at the Hollandia Ordnance Service Center) and furnished with two 80-foot barges and an LCM to facilitate offshore operations. The Ordnance officers at Base G had estimated that there were enough reclaimable engines and assemblies on hand to keep the floating shop busy for three months; but the need in the Philippines was greater, and after only ten days of operation at Hollandia the barge departed in April for Manila.17

A third shop barge was designed for a very special use—as a floating tire repair shop. The tire problem was as hard to solve in the Pacific as it was in other theaters, and the arrival of one of the new and scarce tire repair companies, the 166th, at Finschhafen in April 1944 was welcomed in the Southwest Pacific as such companies had been welcomed in Europe. As in Europe, the company was broken down into detachments, one operating as part of the 141st Battalion in Finschhafen and the other running a tire shop at Milne Bay. The company's equipment was long delayed. When it was unloaded at Finsch-


hafen on 2 December 1944 plans were drawn up for installing it in a barge, and the work got under way under the direction of Colonel Brown as soon as BCL 3064 arrived on 20 December. This barge also had some bad luck when a harbor tug towing a steel crane rammed her side on 20 January 1945 and punched a hole in Starboard Hold No. 3; but repairs were quickly made and the shop installation was completed on 28 January. Floating Tire Repair Shop 11, as she was called, arrived at Manila on 10 June and a few days later was tied up in the Pasig River alongside Floating Shop 6.18

While the work on the shop barges was going forward at Finschhafen, another vessel in the Ordnance fleet was being readied at Milne Bay—a depot barge, made possible when BCL 3060 was turned over to Ordnance on 20 November 1944. With a dead-weight capacity of 2,500 tons, the depot barge was intended to supplement maintenance facilities and to effect prompt resupply of parts in forward areas where there were no USASOS depots. The work of installing bins for the storage and issue of parts was begun immediately by a detail from the 318th Ordnance Depot Company, supervised by Colonel Brown until Colonel Waite arrived to take over late in November. There was a very short deadline of 15 December, but it was met. For their contribution in hard work and initiative, Sgts. Edwin S. Coe, William R. Willson, and Orville L. Shields, and Pvt. George H. Bucholtz received handsome commendations from Waite. The barge, designated USASOS Floating Depot 9, and operated by a detachment of two officers and thirty-one enlisted men from the 172d Ordnance Depot Company (mostly transferred from the 318th), was supplied as much as possible from stocks in Milne Bay (thus helping in "rolling up the rear"), then moved up to Finschhafen and Hollandia to complete its stocks. Certain automotive parts were in short supply everywhere and stocking took longer than had been expected. The depot barge did not arrive at Leyte until April 1945.19

Planning for Leyte

Because D-day now meant to everybody the Normandy landing on 6 June 1944, General MacArthur designated the Leyte date of 20 October 1944 as A-day. This was by far the largest operation yet undertaken in the Pacific. For the first time, there would be two armies, Sixth Army to go in first, Eighth Army to follow up. And for the first time there would be an organization to provide logistical support in advance of USASOS, an organization comparable to the Advance Section, Communications Zone, which had been attached to First Army in the Normandy invasion.20



The USASOS advance organization was designated Army Service Command (ASCOM). With the invasion of the Philippines in mind United States Army Services of Supply had established ASCOM in Brisbane on 23 July 1944 and given it two missions: first, to set up the new bases that would be needed in the Philippines (later to be turned over to USASOS); second, to provide logistical support for Sixth Army immediately after the landings. The base mission dictated that it be largely an Engineer outfit, and the commander was Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Casey, MacArthur's chief engineer. ASCOM arrived at Hollandia from Brisbane on 5 September. General Casey set up headquarters adjacent to Sixth Army headquarters and by 14 September his planning for KING I (the Mindanao landing) scheduled for 15 October and KING II (Leyte), scheduled for 20 December, was nearly complete. On 15 September, the day ASCOM was attached to Sixth Army, the KING I operation was canceled and the date of KING II was advanced to 20 October. Next day the ASCOM men who were going to run the base at Leyte were organized into Headquarters, Base K.21

The Ordnance officer of Base K was Col. Otto M. Low, the commanding officer of the 230th Ordnance Base Group. Lately arrived from the United States, this was the second Ordnance group headquarters in the Southwest Pacific. It was to act as headquarters of the Base K Ordnance Section and at Leyte was to control two Ordnance battalions with some nine companies, several of the "heavy" type. Colonel Low and two members of his staff were to go ashore at Leyte on A plus 2, the rest of the men on A plus 6. On 6 October group headquarters moved into the KING II staging area at Hollandia, which the men considered "a hole of the first water," with a mess run by an Australian mobile kitchen unit "that put out small quantities of almost inedible food when it felt like it."22

Theoretically, Army Service Command would relieve the Sixth Army Ordnance staff of considerable work and provide an immediate base of supply and evacuation in support of the Ordnance troops behind the combat units. It was also expected to provide an easy means of transition into USASOS operations. There were, however, some disturbing reflections. ASCOM headquarters had had little time to organize and train; and the delay in moving from Brisbane to Hollandia had made impossible the close coordination with the Sixth Army Ordnance Section that was so desirable during the planning period. Another handicap, which could not be foreseen, but which was to be a real drawback to smooth Ordnance operations, was a change in ASCOM Ordnance officers several times during the early stages of the Leyte campaign.23


Blackmore's Problems: Time and Distance

For D-day in Europe the First Army Ordnance planners had had months of preparation. For A-day in the Pacific, the planning of the Sixth Army Ordnance Section was measured in weeks rather than months. The Leyte planning was made even more difficult by major changes in the troop lists only five weeks before A-day. Conferences at Brisbane during the summer had contemplated landings by X Corps with the 1st Cavalry and 40th Infantry Divisions in the area of Tacloban, Leyte's capital, and the XIV Corps with the 24th and 37th Infantry Divisions about twenty miles south of Tacloban in the Dulag area. When on 15 September A-day was changed from 20 December to 20 October, the 40th and 37th Divisions had to be ruled out because they could not be brought forward in time from western New Britain and the Solomons. Instead of the 40th Division, X Corps took over the 24th Division, which had made a good record in reckless at Tanahmerah Bay; and instead of XIV Corps, a corps from the Pacific Ocean Areas, the XXIV (7th and 96th Infantry Divisions) was substituted. The XXIV Corps could be diverted to the Southwest Pacific because its operation against Yap Island had just been canceled.24

During the planning period the assault units were widely scattered. The XXIV Corps was still loading out of Hawaii when the change in plan was announced on 15 September. The corps commander, Maj. Gen. John R. Hodge, flew to Hollandia with his G-4 to participate in the Leyte planning, but the big convoy itself, after reassembling at Eniwetok on 25 September, arrived at Manus in the Admiralties on 3 October and it was there that the final plans were made and orders issued. The troops had been aboard ship since 27 August. The 1st Cavalry Division, which had been the main force in the capture of these islands earlier in the year, was still in the Admiralties. The only combat elements at Hollandia were the 24th Infantry Division and the Rangers of the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion who had been given the job of securing the approaches to Leyte Gulf before A-day.25

In calculating the Ordnance units that would be needed to support the Leyte operation, the Sixth Army Ordnance Section planners once more (as in the earlier SWPA operations) fervently wished that MacArthur had had an Ordnance officer on his staff to give him some expert advice. They felt that the Ordnance units assigned by GHQ for Leyte were entirely inadequate, both in numbers and types. In this opinion they were not alone, for all of the Sixth Army special staff officers, as well as the commanding general of ASCOM, felt that they had themselves been shortchanged by GHQ. The Engineers especially had put in a strong bid for more troops because they knew that a landing in the fall or winter—the rainy season on Leyte— would require a herculean effort in building airfields and a base to support future operations. The Engineers were turned down; GHQ had become accustomed to operating on a shoestring, and had become so confident that it was even holding back for the Luzon operation some of the scarce


service units that might have been used for Leyte—a bad decision, according to the Sixth Army G-4, who felt that the units might have been employed in KING II and picked up on Leyte for use in the Luzon operations. The shortage was further aggravated by the limited shipping space available for the invasion: units needed early in the operations were to arrive late because they had been assigned to movement on later echelons.26

At Leyte the job of the Sixth Army Ordnance officer, Brig. Gen. Philip G. Blackmore (recently promoted from colonel), was twofold: to exercise technical supervision and control over all Ordnance service; and to coordinate with USASOS to insure that the right supplies came forward at the right time. In the Tacloban landing in the north, all Ordnance companies, divisional and nondivisional, were to be attached to either the 24th Division or the 1st Cavalry until A plus 4, when X Corps' 246th Ordnance Battalion would take over the ammunition companies and the nondivisional maintenance companies. The maintenance and depot companies were to carry with them thirty days of supply and the ammunition companies, five units of fire. Supply planning for the XXIV Corps, which was to land at Dulag in the south, had already been done, for better or worse, when the corps loaded at Hawaii. Aboard ship were twenty days of Ordnance Class II supply and five units of fire. After the landing the XXIV Corps Ordnance battalion headquarters was to be attached to ASCOM, along with all Ordnance non-divisional companies except an ammunition company behind each division (along with a bomb disposal squad and an antiaircraft detachment each) and one heavy tank maintenance company, which would furnish all corps maintenance support.27

So much for planning. As it turned out, time and distance made intelligent supply planning all but impossible. Constantly alert to changes in the troop list, Blackmore's staff lost no time in placing requisitions with USASOS; but the truth was, there were not enough Ordnance supplies in the theater and not enough time for requisitions to be filled from San Francisco, which took a minimum of 120 days. The advance of two months in the invasion date was even worse than it first appeared, for Leyte is 1,250 miles from Hollandia, and the slow LST's carrying part of the troop list had to start on 4 October to get there on time. Moreover, it was impossible to make the best use of the supplies that were available in the Southwest Pacific because the USASOS bases were strung out from Brisbane to Biak, and supplies could not be transshipped in time since there were not enough ships. This lack of shipping affected not only resupply requisitions, but, more alarmingly, even the immediate am-


munition requirements and the basic loads of maintenance and depot companies.28

In the case of one maintenance company, there was an element of bad luck. This was the 207th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company at Finschhafen, ordered to the Admiralties on 18 September to support the 1st Cavalry Division in the Leyte landing. Glad to leave New Guinea's mud and rain, the men loaded all their equipment aboard the Liberty ship Don Marquis and sailed for the Admiralties on the evening of 25 September. The next evening as the ship was approaching Manus she was rammed by a tanker, the Missionary Ridge, and began listing heavily. Fire broke out and spread and many were injured. Because the ship's crew pre-empted the lifeboats, the Army men and Navy gun crews had to lower the injured over the side on rafts improvised from hatch covers and then jump overboard. One Ordnance man was lost, Pvt. Harry K. Rhodes, who was last seen swimming near some burning oil; and twelve were injured. The company lost most of its equipment and after being rescued and carried to the naval base on Manus Island even had to be outfitted with Navy clothing. Thus the 1st Cavalry Division lost the company that had been counted on to back up its own organic Ordnance company in the assault on Leyte. The 292d Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company at Oro Bay was substituted for the 207th, but in the three days between the time it was alerted, 22 October, and the sailing date of 25 October sufficient supplies and equipment could not be made available and the unit did not arrive at Tacloban until 13 November.29

A-Day and After

On Friday afternoon, 13 October 1944, the convoy got under way at Hollandia, five hundred ships carrying X Corps headquarters and the 24th Infantry Division to Leyte. As they started out, Humboldt Bay was choppy, a bad sign of the coming typhoon season; also the fact that the day was Friday the thirteenth probably did not pass unnoticed. But it was to be an uneventful voyage in clear weather over calm seas. On the 15th they were joined by the convoy from the Admiralties with XXIV Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division. The plan was for XXIV Corps (the Southern Attack Force) to proceed to the anchorage at Dulag early on the morning of A-day and for X Corps (the Northern Attack Force) to steam toward the Tacloban area. Two beaches had been designated for the X Corps landing: White on the north, nearest Tacloban, was assigned to the 1st Cavalry; Red on the south near the village of Palo was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division.

Just before the huge fleet—the largest naval attack force ever to sail the Pacific— entered Leyte Gulf, there were two pieces of good news: the Rangers had secured the


islands at the mouth of the gulf (an operation called by Samuel Eliot Morison "Clipping the Cat's Whiskers"); and a hurricane previously reported near Manila was said to be moving northward. By dawn of A-day, when the ships eased into the transport area, there had been no sign of the enemy except a lone plane that circled high overhead and disappeared into the mist; and the first rays of the sun that broke out of a bank of clouds over Samar fell on a glassy sea. The 24th Division historian reported, "So far the gods were with us."30

And in general the gods continued to favor KING II. The Leyte assault beginning at 1000 was less difficult than many other amphibious landings in the Pacific. The Japanese had withdrawn from the beachhead areas, a fortunate circumstance since the usual preliminary bombardment by U.S. Navy ships had accomplished little beyond cutting the tops from trees.31 By the end of the day successful landings had been made along the east coast and on Panaon Island at a comparatively low cost in Sixth Army casualties—49 killed, 192 wounded, 6 missing. Landings at Red Beach met resistance. From well-camouflaged concrete pillboxes and coconut log bunkers behind the beach the Japanese directed machine gun, mortar, and 75-mm. artillery fire at the 24th Division's landing craft; and at Hill 522 near Palo, commanding not only the beaches but the entrance to Leyte Valley, they had a strong-point interlaced with tunnels, trenches, and pillboxes. The division Ordnance officer when he went ashore shortly before noon was pinned down on the beach for forty-five minutes by mortar and machine gun fire. The beach itself aided the enemy, for it was too shallow to permit the LST's, which had no pontons for a causeway, to get close enough to unload. Standing offshore, the big craft presented easy targets to Japanese mortars: four were hit and one was set afire.32

At the southern end of Red Beach, two LST's carrying the 636th Ordnance Ammunition Company were more fortunate: they were not hit, although some of the men on board were injured by shell fragments. The two LST's were forced to withdraw to the transport area and were not able to unload until next day, when ponton units were brought up from Dulag.33 When the men of the 636th did get ashore, so much Japanese fire was still directed on the beach that the ammunition had to be thrown down with no thought of dunnage and little effort at segregation. Construction of the Red Beach dump could not start until 22 October, when the division's own 724th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company reported in to help with men and equipment. By that time the division G-4 and ammunition officer had taken four truckloads of critical machine gun, rifle, and mortar ammunition forward. Up on White Beach, things were better. The 1st Cavalry Division met little


Photo:  Unloading supplies on a Leyte beach


enemy resistance, and the 595th Ordnance Ammunition Company was able to put down dunnage, most of it lumber salvaged from the landings, and to segregate its stocks by types.34

In XXIV Corps' landing at Dulag, where the 96th Division came ashore on Blue and Orange Beaches and the 7th Division landed on Violet and Yellow Beaches, the only ammunition men ashore on A-day were those supporting the 96th Division—the 632d Ammunition Company, divided into two detachments, one to establish an ammunition supply point, the other to establish the division water, ration, and miscellaneous dump. On the 7th Division's beaches, 11-man teams of the 707th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, coming ashore with only their hand kits, their arms filled with spare parts and their pockets stuffed with all the wrenches and hardware they could carry, had the additional task of setting up the small beach ammunition dumps. They were immediately busy repairing shot-up LVT's, and the division acutely felt the need of an


ammunition company on A-day.35

Sixth Army Ordnance Section had helped to plan many SWPA landings, but had never participated in a landing until Leyte. An advance detachment landed on A plus 2, and by A plus 11 the whole section was ashore. The men soon discovered that their worst problem was getting the ammunition to the combat troops who had already begun to advance inland, X Corps headed northwest through the Leyte Valley toward Carigara on Leyte's northern coast, XXIV Corps southwest toward Baybay on the western coast at the narrow waist of the island.36

To begin with, the process of getting the ammunition from the ship to the beach was painfully slow because it had to be lightered ashore. The distance from ship to shore might be considerable, for the Navy did not want the dangerous ammunition ships too close to the beach. And when the time came for unloading, it was hard to get at the most wanted types of ammunition. The trouble was greatest in the X Corps area, for ships arriving from SWPA bases had not been loaded with this problem in mind. When the Ordnance men at White Beach, for example, looked into the holds of two Liberty ships offshore they were dismayed to find that they could not dig out the critical items without moving an immense tonnage of cargo. The only solution was to unload everything— thus increasing the congestion on the beach. Considerable confusion on the beach already existed because the Navy shore party, which called the ships in, was in radio communication with Navy transports only. Steel airfield matting was laid on the beach to get the ammunition trucks down to the water but it curled up and cut out hydraulic brake lining. At White Beach the soil was well drained, but in many places the ground was swampy or covered with rice paddies and could not be used without more help from the Engineers than was available. In short, there had not been time for careful planning for dump sites or for proper coordination.37

At Dulag in the XXIV Corps landing area, the terrain and the arrangements for unloading were better. In the 7th Division area on Beach Violet I, for example, two LST's combat-loaded with bulk ammunition served as floating supply points for emergency requirements until A plus 3. But ironically enough, on this beach Ammunition Supply Point 2 had hardly been set up when Japanese air attacks during the battle for Leyte Gulf wiped out these advantages. On the night of 25 October, a Japanese bomb set fire to the ASP, blowing up the entire dump and destroying not only all of the division's ammunition but 80 percent of the Class II supplies and 20 percent of the vehicles of the 707th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, located nearby. General Blackmore had to direct X Corps ammunition ships down to Dulag, for about one third of all the XXIV Corps ammunition was gone.38


This catastrophe, occurring on the evening when the transfer of responsibility from division to corps was to take place, added to the burdens of the corps Ordnance officer, Lt. Col. William Menoher, which were already heavy enough. Instead of a battalion for normal corps support, he had been allotted in corps shipping one company only. He had selected the 284th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) as the best tooled and equipped company available, and had ordered it to bring all the supplies it could carry. The 284th, especially trained on amphibious vehicles such as the LVT's (with which XXIV Corps was liberally supplied), was awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Plaque for its service at Leyte. But there was a limit to what one company could do. Not until almost two months after A-day did Menoher receive his other corps Ordnance units and when they did arrive, they were promptly assigned to ASCOM. In the meantime, Menoher's ammunition section had to maintain and supply ASP's and, pending the arrival of a depot company, his supply section had to function as a depot company when the first XXIV Corps resupply ship arrived. These resupply ships, long ago requisitioned by POA (before the corps' departure from Oahu) for direct shipment from the United States to Leyte, arrived early and saved the day on Ordnance Class II supply. They were to be a godsend not only to XXIV Corps but to X Corps as well.39

The Ordnance Officer of X Corps, Col. Duncan G. McGregor, had a battalion headquarters, the 246th. When corps took over from the divisions on 25 October, the battalion was built up with the two ammunition companies on Red and White Beaches, the 636th and 595th, and a medium maintenance company, the 3498th. The maintenance men, landing on 24 October in support of the 24th Division's own light maintenance company, had had their hands full, issuing small arms and working on antiaircraft guns during their first three days ashore. They worked out of their shop trucks until 29 October, when they found a suitable dump area near Marasbaras on the Palo-Tacloban road. One of the biggest jobs of the 3498th was to keep the artillery firing. The X Corps had two battalions of 155-mm. guns and a battalion each of 8-in. and 155-mm. howitzers and all were undergoing hard service in the attack on the town of Carigara, on the northern coast of Leyte. Lacking parts for these guns, mechanics worked around the clock to manufacture them. Many of the men were constantly on the road doing contact work at the firing batteries. Things improved when the company was moved up to Tunga (five miles south of Carigara) in mid-November, but the men were always overworked. For most of the campaign, the 34g8th was the only maintenance company in the corps Ordnance battalion.40

Whatever the troubles of the maintenance men in both X and XXIV Corps,


the big Ordnance problem at Leyte throughout the campaign was ammunition supply. Before the end of October it was apparent that the Japanese were making a strong fight for Leyte. Japanese reinforcements poured into Ormoc on the west coast; bombing and strafing attacks began to increase by 25 October. In defense of U.S. ships in the harbors and supply installations on the beaches, the 40-mm. and 90-mm. antiaircraft batteries fired enormous quantities of ammunition; and as the combat troops raced across the island to the west coast they met stiffening resistance that required heavy concentrations of fire from the artillery battalions.41

At times certain types of artillery ammunition were so low at the gun positions that they had to be rushed from the ship to the waiting gunner. Sometimes the types needed were not available and restrictions on expenditures had to be imposed. The Sixth Army Ordnance historian attributed the serious ammunition situation to lack of the required types in the theater, delay in unloading ships, and the dearth of suitable storage areas.42 The dumps on the crowded beaches were dangerously vulnerable to enemy action. On 1 November a bomb explosion at X Corps' White Beach ammunition dump, operated by the 595th Ordnance Ammunition Company, killed one man of the company and wounded six so badly that they had to be evacuated.43

These troubles were compounded by bad weather beginning in early November. When the 636th Ordnance Ammunition Company established on 4 November the X Corps forward ASP 6 near Tunga, the men were able to stack the ammunition without dunnage on well-drained slopes camouflaged by the shadows cast by groves of palm trees. Three days later a typhoon struck Leyte with howling winds that bent the palms low and blew heavy rain into almost horizontal sheets. The rainy season had begun. Torrents of rain fell throughout November and December. The ammunition bogged down and it took strenuous efforts by the men, aided by Filipino laborers, to provide dunnage of palm logs, ammunition containers, and stones. Ammunition trucks coming in from the 30-mile trip back to White Beach (the round trip took six to eight hours) had to be worked around the area by bulldozer and tractor-crane.44

The crisis in ammunition supply occurred the second week in November in the X Corps sector during the attack on the mountains barring the entrance to the Ormoc Valley. The important 15-mile-wide corridor ran south from Carigara Bay on the northern coast to Ormoc on the northwestern coast, where the Japanese had landed. A detachment of the 595th Ordnance Ammunition Company had established Ammunition Supply Point 7 at Pinamopoan, a village on Carigara Bay at the head of the corridor, within sound of the big guns supporting the battle of


Breakneck Ridge. For weeks the men were harassed by enemy sniping, artillery fire, and bombing. This ASP was supplied by amphibious operations like those of an initial landing. All ammunition came in by LVT—either direct from White Beach up the water route around the northeastern tip of the island and into Carigara Bay, or from the town of Carigara on the bay where it had been brought up by truck from Tunga. After the middle of December the ammunition supply problem eased considerably.45

By that time the fighting was almost over. The two XXIV Corps divisions had crossed to the west coast by the Abuyog-Baybay road, and the 7th Division had pushed north through mountain ridges in a difficult and expensive advance that resembled the campaign in Sicily in 1943. On 7 December the 77th Division made an amphibious landing south of Ormoc and four days later captured Ormoc, the enemy's main supply base on Leyte. On the X Corps front, the 32d Division (which had relieved the 24th) and the 1st Cavalry Division had advanced south as far as Valencia by 16 December. A desperate effort by the Japanese to reinforce their troops on 11 December had been defeated by the Fifth Air Force. On 25 December the 77th Division captured Palompon—the only harbor of any importance that remained in Japanese hands—and General MacArthur declared organized Japanese resistance on the island at an end. Only mopping-up operations remained.

The Costly Base at Leyte

In the attempt to build a base at Leyte, the Engineers' gloomy predictions about bad weather were more than fulfilled; and in the all-important task of airfield construction were other unhappy circumstances that stemmed directly from the decision to advance the date of the Leyte landing and to eliminate the steppingstone operation on Mindanao. At Leyte the SWPA forces were 800 miles from the nearest fighter base and 1,000 miles from the nearest bomber base. Therefore it was vital to improve the best Japanese airfield, located on the Tacloban peninsula, but it was impossible to do so immediately. Lack of adequate maps of the beaches during the planning phase, mainly because Leyte had been beyond range of land-based photographic aircraft, had led to the LST debacle at Red Beach, resulting in the diversion of LST's to the Tacloban airfield site. There thousands of tons of ammunition, supplies, and equipment had been unloaded and had to be hauled out over one narrow access road before construction could even begin.46

By 27 October the Tacloban strip could receive some of Morotai's P-38 fighters, but the field was still a long way from being fully operational when the Japanese stepped up their air attacks on the beaches and shipping in Leyte Gulf at the beginning of November, and by that time some of the scarce P-38's had to be sent to Ormoc. The Navy's aircraft carriers, which were to serve until such time as the airfields were ready, were beginning to feel the effects of hard fighting in the battle of Leyte Gulf, as well as kamikaze and submarine attacks, and for days at a time in November were pulled off to strike at Luzon. The Japanese had begun effective night air opera-


Photo:  Colonel Becker


tions and for a good part of November they had air supremacy over Leyte Gulf after sundown.47

This air warfare had tragic consequences for two Ordnance ASCOM companies aboard the troopship Jeremiah M. Daily, the 3483d Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Company and the 168th Ordnance Depot Company. On the afternoon of 12 November, anchored off Leyte awaiting debarkation,48 the Daily was strafed and bombed by Japanese aircraft. An enemy plane crashed into the bridge, burst into flames, and fell into a forward hatch, spewing burning gasoline on ten drums of range fuel on the deck that exploded and burned furiously. The deck became an inferno of blazing gasoline and scalding steam from shattered pipes; and in the forward hold a bomb explosion killed or severely wounded many of the men. Twenty-eight men of the Ordnance maintenance company were killed, the total casualties of the company amounting to 75 percent of its strength. The depot company had 6 men killed, 5 wounded, and 22 missing. Some of the Ordnance equipment and supplies were saved, but a good deal of the maintenance company's equipment Was damaged by water or the salt used to put out the fires.49

Eighth Army Ordnance Arrives

A month after the landing at Leyte, General Eichelberger and members of his Eighth Army staff, including his Ordnance officer, Col. Ward E. Becker, arrived at the Tacloban airstrip. Eichelberger's mission was to take control at Leyte as soon as the first phase of the campaign was over in order to free Sixth Army for the final planning for Luzon. For the past month, since 22 September, Eighth Army headquarters had had a similar job in New Guinea and had been training, staging, and mounting Sixth Army units for both Leyte and Luzon.50


Colonel Becker was new to the theater, having arrived from the United States in midsummer, but he was not new to overseas operations, for he had had long service as Ordnance officer of Eastern Base Section in North Africa. His first action in New Guinea was to send the members of his Ordnance Section out to get firsthand information on the equipment of the combat troops and Ordnance units at staging areas along the coast from Morotai to Oro Bay and over to Gloucester in New Britain. They reported that one of the most serious problems was the scarcity of waterproofing kits. As there would not be enough time before the Luzon landing to receive the needed amounts from San Francisco, the only answer was improvisation in the theater. Another cause for worry, an old story everywhere by now, was the bad condition of trucks and other equipment, caused by poor driving, overloading, and neglect of first and second echelon maintenance. For help on this problem, Becker authorized Maj. John Foreman of his Maintenance Division to organize and supervise an inspection team, using men of the 207th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company who had little to do otherwise, since they had lost all their equipment in the sinking of the Don Marquis off Manus Island in the Admiralties. The team, to be transported around New Guinea in two C-47's, was being organized in the Admiralties at the time Becker left for Leyte.51

Eighth Army's new headquarters was twenty miles down the coast from Tacloban at Telegrafo, a place characterized by General Eichelberger as "a swamp and a mudhole and nothing more."52 Rain, mud, and the rough fighting X Corps had encountered in the west around Breakneck Ridge made it necessary for GHQ to postpone the Eighth Army takeover from 5 to 26 December. In the interval, Becker sent some members of his office to work closely with their opposite numbers at Sixth Army, and others, unofficially, to visit the Ordnance units on Leyte. After 26 December all Ordnance units on the island hitherto assigned or attached to Sixth Army went either to Base K, USASOS, established on the same date, or to Eighth Army, which assumed control of X and XXIV Corps.53

The Ordnance units who were going to take part in the invasion of Luzon were coming up from the south, from other Southwest or South Pacific bases. And at the time Eighth Army took over on the island, 299 of the Sixth Army Ordnance men—the 292d Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, half of the 643d Ordnance Ammunition Company, small detachments of the 267th Ordnance Antiaircraft Maintenance and 724th Ordnance Light Maintenance Companies, and the 100th Bomb Disposal Squad—were not on Leyte, but far to the north, supporting the beachhead at Mindoro.

Success on Mindoro

Nothing demonstrates more clearly the dizzying stop-and-start of operations in the


Philippines than the story of the 292d Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company. Landing at Tacloban from Oro Bay on the night of 13 November 1944, the company was rushed by truck up to Tunga and worked there a little less than two weeks, when it was attached to the Western Visayan Task Force, destined to invade Mindoro, the large island lying on the southern flank of Luzon and separated from it by the 8-mile-wide Verde Island passage. MacArthur had decided that air bases on Mindoro were essential to the protection of convoys moving toward Lingayen Gulf as well as to assist with air strikes at Luzon and elsewhere. Since the island was known to be lightly held, a small force composed mainly of two regimental combat teams (one a "clipped-wings" parachute outfit) was all that was needed. The invasion date for the Mindoro operation (called LOVE III) was set for 1 December, and on 28 November the advance 119-man echelon of the 292d began boarding its LST in San Pedro Bay. The men remained aboard in the bay for almost two weeks. Bad weather slowed the development of the Leyte airfields counted on to provide air coverage for the operation and the invasion date was postponed to 15 December.54

Moving out into the. dangerous northern waters on the afternoon of 12 December, the convoy was attacked the following afternoon by Japanese aircraft. The flagship Nashville was severely damaged by a kamikaze crash-dive; but the LST's were not hurt and landed safely on the morning of 15 December, designated as U-day. In many respects, U-day at Mindoro was unique in the history of Pacific island-hopping. The weather was good; the beaches, located in the southwestern corner of the island, were hard sand that could carry the heaviest vehicles; the invaders were met not by Japanese but by friendly Filipinos, some waving American flags; and the unloading, under the thoroughly experienced 532d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, proceeded in record time, because the Engineers had brought with them a 1,200-man labor detail taken from X and XXIV Corps units on Leyte. All the Ordnance men were ashore early on U-day and soon had their dumps and shops in operation near the town of San Jose. On Christmas Day the ammunition men invited twenty-five Filipino guests to share their turkey dinner.55

At the same time, there were many evidences that in approaching so close to Luzon the invaders were entering an extremely sensitive area. Bombing by Japanese aircraft was a daily occurrence, and on the day after Christmas the beachhead had the very unusual experience of being attacked by the Japanese Navy. Shortly before midnight an enemy task force approached so close to the breaches that the men on the shore could see the white glare of its antiaircraft fire as it attempted to repel Allied aircraft. Proceeding slowly down the coast, the ships kept up a run-


ning bombardment. Shells fell on airfields four miles inland, and on the Ordnance installations. But no great damage was done, and after about forty-five minutes the ships retired under constant attack by Allied bombers and PT boats.56

The air raids continued on land and sea. The resupply convoy arrived on 30 December crippled by Japanese attacks. On the whole, the small LOVE III operation cost more in sunk and damaged transport shipping than any other operation in SWPA.57 But by 1 January 1945 Mindoro was firmly in Allied hands. On that date control passed to Eighth Army. By then Sixth Army's assault forces for Luzon were steaming north from New Guinea, New Britain, the Admiralties, and bases as far away as the Solomons and New Caledonia, heading for the greatest operation yet attempted in the Pacific—the massive landing on Lingayen Gulf scheduled for 9 January 1945.


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