The Philippines: The Southern Islands

On the morning of 28 February 1945 with an assault on the long, narrow, westernmost Philippine island of Palawan, Eighth Army began a campaign to capture the bypassed islands south of Luzon and Leyte. MacArthur wanted air bases on Palawan, on the Zamboanga Peninsula of Mindanao, and on the Sulu Archipelago to support a reoccupation of North Borneo. The rest of the islands—the central group of Panay, Negros, Cebu and Bohol, and southernmost Mindanao—he wanted for political considerations, to complete his return to the Philippines.

This series of successive operations was to be known as the VICTOR operations. The first four—VICTOR III and IV (the earliest) against Palawan and Zamboanga and VICTOR I and II against the central islands—were to be on a fairly small scale, reminiscent of the New Guinea landings. They were to be accomplished by a reinforced division or less, VICTOR III and IV by the 41st Division, sent up from Biak via Mindoro; VICTOR I by the 40th, brought down from Luzon; VICTOR II by the Americal, coming from Leyte. VICTOR V against Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines and reported to be strongly held by the Japanese, was to be a much larger operation. Here the principal combat units were to be the 24th Division from Mindoro and the 31st Division, brought up from Sansapor and Morotai, both under X Corps.1

The major landings on these southern islands were to be made at the rate of one a week—a speed that would have seemed fantastic to the planners on New Guinea in early 1944. The VICTOR operations were evidence of how far the art of amphibious warfare had advanced in the short space of a year. The Eighth Army Ordnance planners could now estimate with a degree of certainty the amount and kind of Ordnance troops, equipment, and supplies that would be needed and when they would be needed. They had learned a great deal about such matters as loading and unloading, waterproofing and dewaterproofing, bomb disposal, and other techniques. Early in the VICTOR program, the Eighth Army Ordnance officer, Col. Ward E. Becker, issued a folder of general instructions along these lines, prepared by his operations officer, Col. Thurman W. Morris, based on the combined experience of various Ordnance officers who had participated in the New Guinea, Leyte, and Luzon operations, and distributed it to all corps and division Ordnance officers under Eighth Army control, and also to all Eighth Army Ordnance unit commanders.2


One subject treated at some length in Becker's instructions was the old problem of truck drivers' neglect of their vehicles. In the Luzon Campaign, failure to perform first and second echelon maintenance had not only increased the requirement for third and fourth echelon work, but had resulted in a seriously high deadline of badly needed trucks. Many commanders had insisted that first and second echelon maintenance was impossible during the early stages of an operation when the trucks had to be operated practically around the clock. Becker argued that experience had shown that this was not the case; that a few trucks at a time could be pulled out for weekly second echelon and that daily first echelon was imperative. What was needed was stricter maintenance discipline; and to prove this point he cited experience in the MIKE VII operation. There the XI Corps Ordnance officer, Col. Robert K. Haskell, had achieved excellent results by persuading his commanding general to station two inspection teams, each composed of an officer (not an Ordnance officer), two Ordnance mechanics, and an MP, along the main supply route to make spot checks two days after the landing. The inspection took only five minutes and no commander objected to having his vehicles stopped. When the teams found evidence of maintenance neglect, command letters went out signed by the XI Corps commanding general. Becker strongly recommended that inspection teams be used in all future Eighth Army operations.3

An inspection team was to be provided the VICTOR operations, not by corps and division commanders, but by the Eighth Army Ordnance Section. This was the team (composed of men taken from the 207th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company) organized in the Admiralties the preceding fall. Using a system worked out by the Eighth Army Ordnance Section, the team inspected a sample of each unit's Ordnance materiel. If the rating on the sample was less than "excellent" a complete inspection of the unit's materiel was undertaken. After this was done, the rating for the division as a whole was sent to the division's commanding general in a personal letter from General Eichelberger along with information on the relative standing of the division among all the divisions under Eighth Army. The same method was applied to corps. Eichelberger's personal interest and his personal letters to the commanding generals "worked wonders."4

In regard to supply, the VICTOR invasion forces were different from previous SWPA forces. They were going to travel light. Realizing that resupply would be easier than it had been in past operations because seas around the Philippines were now free of large Japanese warships, the submarine danger had lessened, and the Allies had control of the skies (although there was still the threat of kamikazes), Eichelberger's G-4, Col. Henry C. Burgess, decided that the VICTOR operations would be conducted on a basis of only 15 days of Class II and IV supply instead of the customary 30 or


60. This seemed to General Eichelberger a common-sense approach to the problem of supply. In preceding campaigns the difficulty in unloading ships had demonstrated that there was such a thing as over-supply. If an emergency arose in the coming operations, supplies could be quickly dispatched from Base K on Leyte or the Eighth Army supply point on Mindoro by FS boats.5

Palawan and Zamboanga

The main element of the Palawan Task Force in the VICTOR III operation was the 186th Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Division. Since the rest of the division was to conduct the VICTOR IV operation against Zamboanga, the 41st's supporting Ordnance companies—the 741st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, the backup 119th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, the 623d Ordnance Ammunition Company, and a detachment of the 267th Maintenance (AA) —were divided fairly evenly between VICTOR III and VICTOR IV. The VICTOR III force also had a bomb disposal squad, which was not necessary for VICTOR IV because the 623d Ammunition Company had an organic bomb disposal squad—the only ammunition company in the Southwest Pacific so organized. All staged from San Jose, Mindoro, for it was at Mindoro that the 41st had been stopped on its way to Luzon and diverted to Eighth Army and VICTOR. These two earliest VICTOR operations were of considerable interest to Becker and his staff. Maj. Ray D. Vane of the Eighth Army Ordnance Operations Division was sent on VICTOR III as task force Ordnance officer; and to VICTOR IV Becker sent an observer, Maj. H. V. Flett of the Canadian Army.6

Splitting the Ordnance companies between the two operations posed problems. Because it was impractical to split the third echelon tool sets of the 119th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, nearly all the tools of the automotive third echelon sets and about 75 percent of the automotive men went to VICTOR III, leaving only a small percentage for VICTOR IV. As it turned out, most of the repair work on Palawan was on vehicles. Weapons were no problem, for there was little or no resistance: the few Japanese on the island fled to the hills.7 The landing at Puerto Princesa was accomplished without opposition. Here the men of the 41st Division (who called themselves the "Jungleers") saw the first town they had seen in three years, with macadam streets, churches, schools, and "real houses" in a setting of brilliant bougainvillea; and, enjoying the luxury of once again sleeping under a roof, got "great delight" (according to their historian) from "such simple, everyday operations as turning on and off water faucets and opening and closing doors and windows."8

The VICTOR IV landing on Zamboanga on 10 March 1945 (here called J-day) was


not so easy. From the hills behind the coastal plain the Japanese directed mortar and artillery fire on the beaches and might have done a great deal of damage if they had had better aim and better ammunition. All the Ordnance troops except for part of the light maintenance company and the bulk of the 119th's detachment, which came in a week later, got ashore on J-day, including a small detachment of the 3608th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) obtained from Sixth Army. By nightfall the men were unloading ammunition in their dump area, which was on the reverse slope of a small hill, screened from enemy observation. However, the top of the hill had a POL dump, easily observable by the Japanese, who next morning hit the dump and started a fire. Under the direction of the division Ordnance officer, Lt. Col. Ward C. Howard, the Ordnance men quickly moved their trucks to a safer area and then returned with flame throwers to burn off a firebreak and tractors to build revetments. For his "quick thinking and heroic action" during the emergency, Colonel Howard was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star.9

Naval and air bombardment soon silenced the enemy guns. The combat troops moved inland and after a few days of heavy fighting in the hills, by the end of March had cleared the peninsula and were moving down into the Sulu Archipelago. During the operations on the Archipelago, a 17-man contact party of the 741st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, accompanying the 163d Regimental Combat Team, set up a shop near the old Moro City of Jolo, once beautiful but now in ruins.10

The Central Visayan Islands

The islands south of Mindoro and west of Leyte—Panay, Negros, Cebu, and Bohol—were the richest part of the Philippines except for the area around Manila. Cebu City was the second largest city in the Philippines and Iloilo (capital of Panay) the third. Along the coastal plains were sugar plantations and sugar centrals; in the interior were jungle-covered mountains to which the Japanese, if they followed their usual policy, might be expected to retire. As it turned out, Panay and Negros were already largely in the hands of the guerrillas. When the 40th Division landed on the southern coast of Panay in the VICTOR I operation on 18 March, the amphibious forces were greeted by guerrillas on the beach; and two days later when the spearheading tankers reached Iloilo, they found themselves surrounded by laughing, cheering Filipinos throwing flowers. The Japanese had departed, after setting fires that, along with American bombing, left the city gutted; the ruins were still blazing.11

The 40th Division was staged by Sixth Army (in a reversal of the usual procedure in which Eighth staged for Sixth). It brought down from Luzon in addition to its own organic Ordnance company (the 740th) the 259th Ordnance Medium


Maintenance, detachments from the 558th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance (Tank), the 6nth Ordnance Ammunition, and the 3073d Ordnance Composite (AA) Companies, and a bomb disposal squad, the 184th. They encountered no special Ordnance problems. Arriving in Iloilo on 22 March, the maintenance men set up an Ordnance service center and were able to find competent civilian mechanics to assist them. The 259th also operated a civilian garage, using Filipino mechanics, to repair civilian vehicles that were found on the island and that could be leased by Eighth Army to relieve its transportation shortage. For once, there was no shortage of automotive spare parts. The Panay operation was highly successful; within eleven days one battalion of the division was able to handle the remaining Japanese forces. The rest of the division was then free to undertake the second part of VICTOR I, the liberation of the westernmost part of the neighboring island of Negros (Negros Occidental), making the short crossing on 29 March. In this operation the division took only Ordnance contact teams to perform emergency repairs. Disabled equipment was evacuated by LCM's and other small craft to the Iloilo Ordnance Service Center.12

The Ordnance support for VICTOR II against Cebu and neighboring eastern Negros (Negros Oriental) and Bohol was similar to that for VICTOR I. Here the principal combat unit was the Americal Division, coming from Leyte and depending on Base K for its supplies. It was supported by its organic maintenance company (the 721st), the 106th Ordnance Medium Maintenance, the bulk of the 578th Ordnance Ammunition Company, and a bomb disposal squad, the 183d. In addition it had half of the antiaircraft maintenance team that had gone in on VICTOR 1 and a detachment of the same tank maintenance company, the 558th, that had a detachment on Panay.13

Within five minutes after the landing on the east coast of Cebu at Talisay on 26 March (E-day), it was plain that the bomb disposal and tank maintenance men were going to have their work cut out for them. The first assault wave had hardly hit the beach when eight LVT's were knocked out by land mines. These were not conventional land mines, but shells and bombs, varying in size from 60-mm. mortar shells to 250-pound aerial bombs, buried upright at 10- to 15-foot intervals with the fuzes protruding through the loamy, vine-covered surface. The mine field, about thirty yards from the water's edge, stalled the advance for about an hour and a half on the narrow beach, the assault troops crowded shoulder to shoulder, two and three deep, until the Engineers could clear a path through it.14

Nowhere in the Philippines had such beach defenses been encountered. Nor was this all. Roads leading inland and into Cebu City were heavily mined, and mines were found scattered throughout the


hills to which the Japanese had retreated.15 And when on 1 April a small force crossed Cebu Harbor and landed on Mactan Island, four LVT's were lost to mines. It was at Mactan that the great navigator Ferdinand Magellan had met his death in an amphibious operation on 28 April 1521.16

The bomb disposal squad, split into two teams, was faced with a big task, but with the help of disposal officers of the 57th Engineer Combat Battalion it performed a real service in disarming the buried shells and bombs and in removing American parafrag and antipersonnel bombs, especially those that hung on trees and buildings and endangered artillery going into position. The tank recovery teams were exceedingly busy evacuating the LVT's from the beaches at Talisay and Mactan Island and bringing back damaged tanks. The men had no tank transporters and had discovered that the 10-ton wrecker was inadequate for handling armored vehicles, but they managed by combining the wrecker with a tank or tractor.17 It was dangerous work. On 13 April a recovery crew composed of men from the 106th Medium Maintenance Company and the 558th's tank maintenance detachment came under heavy enemy mortar, machine gun and sniper fire when they went after a tank hit by a mine on top of a hill near Go Chan Hill. After retiring and taking cover, they saw that two infantrymen were lying on the hill seriously wounded. Sgt. Thorban H. Murray, Technician 5 James E. Newland, and Technician 5 John E. Noud returned to the hilltop and rescued the infantrymen under continuous enemy fire. All received the Silver Star.18

Gebu City, sometimes called "Little Manila," was almost as battered as its namesake. Heavy billows of smoke could be seen for miles. An Eighth Army G-4 officer looking for warehouse space found the city a wreck, its roofs pitted with holes, so that it was a problem to get supplies and equipment out of the weather.19 The 578th Ordnance Ammunition Company found an ingenious solution to this problem. Having landed early on E-day and set up dumps, first on Talisay Beach and then at Mabolo north of the city (until infiltrating Japanese caused uneasiness about the possibility of fires being started), the company moved the ammunition to the railroad depot in Cebu City and put the ammunition in boxcars. This not only protected it from rain but contributed to safety, because the cars could be dispersed throughout the railroad yards.20

As no depot company was included in the operation, the 106th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company had to set up the army supply point. The company's advance supply platoon (reinforced) was in Cebu City on E plus 2, but before the rest of the company got there two resupply


ships came in, one from Leyte, the other from the United States, and the Ordnance men were swamped at the outset. In order to get the supply point operating, the platoon had to borrow men from the company's advance automotive and armament platoons to bring the ships' cargoes to the supply point from the docks, where they had been unloaded by men from the 721st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company. When the bulk of the 106th arrived on 3 April, it built shelters for its stocks and shops with the help of fifty Filipino laborers.21

On 10 May USASOS Floating Depot 9 arrived in the harbor from Leyte, but it turned out to be not much help on the supply problem. The 106th's supply platoon, having been notified by Eighth Army that all requisitions submitted to Base K at Leyte after 10 April would be processed by the barge, had canceled all unfilled requisitions then on hand. The barge, however, could not fill any of these requisitions and did not have enough stock to bring the army supply point to the established level. Then began the weary process of re-requisitioning from Base K. On 15 June, Base S was established at Cebu.22

Between 11 April and 20 June Eighth Army completed its central Visayan campaign by sending out combat teams to clear Bohol and southeastern Negros (Negros Oriental). They were supplied from Cebu and were accompanied by ammunition detachments and maintenance contact teams. The teams, the Americal Division Ordnance officer reported, had benefited from lessons learned at Leyte and Samar and were more effective in this operation than any in the past.23


The last landings in the Philippines took place on Mindanao, where MacArthur had originally intended to begin his Philippines campaign before optimism in September 1944 had brought about the decision to make the long jump to Leyte.24 Mindanao was huge, mountainous, primitive, and thinly populated, with a large percentage of its population the Moros that had given the U.S. Army so much trouble a generation before. It had only one city worthy of the name—Davao, at the head of Davao Gulf, which indents the southern coast. Eichelberger had wanted to make a direct amphibious landing in Davao Gulf as the quickest way of ending the campaign, for here were located large concentrations of Japanese. But by early spring of 1945 when the assault was planned, the Okinawa campaign was in progress and the Navy did not feel it could provide adequate protection for such an ambitious expedition. Therefore Army planners decided to land on the western coast at Illana Bay and march overland to Davao, putting the 24th Division ashore at Malabang on 17 April (R-day), and the 31st in the same area on 22 April.25


The Landing on Illana Bay

The Mindanao landing differed in two respects from any other amphibious operation in the Philippines. One was the greater use of small landing craft: no large Navy transports were involved. The beach at Malabang was suitable only for small craft. A shore-to-shore operation from Zamboanga, on the other side of Moro Gulf, was planned. Though Zamboanga was a peninsula of Mindanao, for purposes of military planning it was not considered a part of Mindanao but rather an island, for the mountains between the peninsula and the mainland were so steep that the principal contact had always been by boat.26

The 533d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, in charge of the landing, swung its LCVP's from the davits of LST's and made the daring (and as it developed later, very fortunate) decision to bring down from Lingayen and Mindoro to Zamboanga a huge fleet of little LCM's, under their own power. Ninety-nine of them, some carrying a DUKW or a truck, made the 338-mile voyage nonstop, each boat carrying enough fuel drums to keep it going. Luckily the trip was blessed with good weather and glassy seas, and all the boats arrived at "Zambo" in time for the men aboard to spend several days preparing for the invasion, resting up and getting acquainted with the Moros. While they were at Zamboanga they received a message from the flagship of the naval convoy that the landing would not be made at Malabang but at Parang, twenty miles down the west coast of Mindanao.27

The last-minute change in the assault plan was the second circumstance that distinguished VICTOR V. Planners had always considered that an amphibious operation, once launched, could no more be redirected than an arrow once the bowstring was released. For the decision to do so there were compelling reasons. While at sea, the task force commanders received word from Col. Wendell W. Fertig, head of the guerrilla forces on Mindanao, that Malabang was already in the hands of the guerrillas. The task force therefore decided to send only a battalion to Malabang and to make the main landing at Parang. Recognizing that the risk in the change in plans would affect the Engineer boat and shore regiment most of all, the commander of the 24th Division preceded the announcement of the decision with the words, "We will now have one minute of silent prayer for the 533d."28 Miraculously, all of the assault waves landed on schedule on the right beach on the morning of R-day, 17 April, and met no opposition except for a small sniper party.29

A 68-man detachment of the 578th Ordnance Ammunition Company was aboard an LST in the bay on R-day, watching the bombing and naval bombardment. The men got ashore next day, but had hardly started to build bays for the Parang dump and to segregate ammunition on a round-the-clock basis (setting up a generator to provide light, so they could work at night), when they were sent forward. First a small detachment went to Cotabato to set up a dump in support of fast-moving X Corps troops and a few days later the rest


of the men went up the Mindanao River in LCM's on an 11-hour trip to Fort Pikit in the interior.30

Inland Support by Water and Air

The river expedition into the interior was one of the most interesting features of the Mindanao campaign—an operation suggesting to many the Federal gunboats operating on the Mississippi in the Civil War. Immediately on landing at Parang, a regimental combat team of the 24th Division had started overland on Highway 1 for Fort Pikit, and soon discovered that the highway was little more than an overgrown trail and that the Japanese had blown nearly all the bridges. There was also a water route into the interior. Parallel to the highway as far as Fort Pikit (thirty-five miles by land, about eighty-six by water) meandered the muddy Mindanao River. Little was known about it, but the Engineers believed they could navigate it with their shallow-draft landing craft. Some of their LCM's already had rockets, others were now converted to gunboats with light and medium artillery and designated LCMG's. The little flotilla, which included a number of LCM's and LCVP's carrying troops of the 21st Infantry, started upriver on R plus 1, attacking river towns, from most of which the Japanese appeared to have recently fled, and being met along the way by canoes filled with cheering guerrillas or curious Moros.31

At first the voyage seemed to the Engineers "a pleasant novelty—fascinating scenery, cheery greetings from each barrio, and dead calm, but a little went a long way. The heat was the most oppressive the men had experienced overseas, night runs were a terrific strain on the helmsmen, and snags and flotsam caused much damage."32 By 21 April when the river force was at Peidu Pulangi, where the Mindanao River becomes the Pulangi, it was some twenty miles in advance of the overland force moving up Highway 1 and had been reinforced by two battalions of the 34th Infantry and three Navy PGM's (patrol gunboats, medium), which were converted submarine chasers. The unit commanders of the river force sent part of the infantry overland to Fort Pikit and proceeded with the rest by water around a wide bend in the river. The landing craft got there first. The gunboats had to fall back because they could not get past the wreckage of a bridge (formerly carrying Highway 1 over the river); therefore the glory of taking Fort Pikit belonged to the crews of the LCMG's. They overran the fort that gave the place its name—an old Filipino constabulary fort—and when the infantrymen arrived they saw atop its square stone tower the American flag flying from a boathook. Between 20 and 28 April the amphibian engineers managed to ferry three regimental combat teams to Pikit. Later the river became the main supply route into the interior.33


The substitution of water transportation for motor transport was a blessing to the Ordnance maintenance men because it relieved them for the first two or three weeks of the usual heavy burden of truck repair. At Parang, on the coast, X Corps' 194th Ordnance Battalion, landing on 22 April with the 310th Ordnance Depot Company, the 642d Ordnance Ammunition Company, and detachments of the 291st Ordnance Medium Maintenance and 3608th Heavy Maintenance (Tank) Companies, could devote its attention to setting up the Parang Ordnance Service Center on a hillside near the remains of Fort Mago, which was built in 1900. The service center was on the site of old Camp Luna, whose concrete sidewalks and barracks floors, found in cornfields and potato fields, were useful to the maintenance and depot men. The 642d took over the dump left by the 578th and soon had its hands full dealing with the ammunition that came in with the 31st Division, which also landed on 22 April.34

By the end of the first week in May the Ordnance battalion at Parang had been bolstered by the arrival of the 509th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company (FA), the 108th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, and the rest of the 291st. By then it had become necessary to send medium maintenance men forward to support the 24th and 31st Divisions.35 The 24th Division, having seized the important road junction at Kabacan about nine miles north of Pikit where Highway 1 joins Sayre Highway (which runs northward almost 150 miles to Macajalar Bay on Mindanao's north coast), then turned south on Highway 1, captured Digos on Davao Gulf, pushed north via Talomo and, entering Davao on 3 May, attacked the concentration of Japanese in the hills north of the city. The 31st Division, sent forward to Kabacan, was advancing up Sayre Highway—a highway in name only, the men discovered, for at times it disappeared in quagmires and toward the north became hardly more than a mountain trail. The trail here was cut by gorges that were not only deep but bridgeless, for the Japanese had destroyed the ramshackle wooden bridges that formerly spanned them.

In the 24th Division's sector the 108th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company was sent to the Davao area to back up the 724th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company. The 108th made the trip by water on LST's around the southern coast of Mindanao, landing at Talomo on 7 May, and remaining in the Davao area until the end of the campaign. Trucks were sent back to Parang for parts and supplies until the rainy season set in and the overland route became impassable; thereafter the supplies came by water or by air.

Ordnance bomb disposal men, urgently needed after the 24th Division reached Digos, arrived by air. At the beginning of the Mindanao campaign plans based on previous experience in the Pacific with un-exploded bombs and shells had allotted one squad to each division—the 181st to the 24th Division and the 182d to the 31st. But as the 24th Division approached Davao, it found that (as at Cebu) the Japanese were using buried bombs and artillery shells as mines. Mine clearance was an Engineer function, but the removal


Photo:  LCM carrying troops up Mindanao river to Fort Pikit


and disposal of bombs and shells belonged to Ordnance. The 181st, an excellent squad, did what it could, but had to have help. Three additional squads were brought in by air—one of them the unique squad belonging to the 623d Ordnance Ammunition Company.36

The 31st Division depended for Ordnance support in its arduous advance mainly on its 731st Ordnance Light Maintenance Company, which did not arrive at Parang until 3 May, though small contact teams had accompanied the division's regimental combat teams. When the light maintenance company did arrive, it was dispatched to a point twelve miles north of Kabacan, and stayed there two weeks, until the road beyond was made passable for trucks as well as jeeps. When the company moved on, division ordered to Kabacan, to help with the very heavy automotive repair job, a 33-man detachment from the 108th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company on Davao Gulf. In the


meantime, a 20-man maintenance team from the 291st Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company had been sent from Parang to serve corps troops at the small inland base set up at the end of the river supply route at Pikit, from which supplies were trucked nine miles forward to Kabacan.37

Because the condition of Sayre Highway did not permit truck haulage, the 31st Division had to be supplied by air. Ammunition was carried from Parang across Illana Bay by boat to Malabang, then trucked to Malabang airfield for airlift to the front. At first, until the capture of Maramag airstrip near Sayre Highway the second week in May, supplies had to be airdropped. For ammunition, parachutes were used whenever possible, but the parachute supply was soon exhausted and much of the ammunition was free-dropped—an extremely wasteful measure, for only about 30 percent was recoverable, and about half of that recovered was so damaged that it was unusable.38

The Move to Macajalar Bay

The problem of supplying the 31st Division as it advanced slowly and painfully up Sayre Highway was compounded by the heavy seasonal rains. The roads on the 150-mile overland route from Parang to the upper valley were washed out by torrential downpours; Sayre Highway broke down under the weight of army vehicles; at times supplies had to be carried forward by plodding carabao. General Eichelberger decided that the time had come to establish a new supply base on the north coast of Mindanao at Bugo on Macajalar Bay. From there supplies could be moved by a fairly good road sixteen miles inland to Del Monte airfield and flown to the various airfields along the highway.39

On the morning of 10 May 1945 (called Q-day), a task force composed mainly of the 40th Division's 108th Regimental Combat Team (to be reinforced 14 May by a battalion from the Americal Division) landed against light opposition near Bugo and five days later had secured Del Monte airfield.

Del Monte, really a complex of several fields, had haunting associations with the fall of the Philippines. Here, early in December 1941, a hasty attempt had been made to expand a landing strip into a heavy bomber base for some of the B-17's at Clark Field, on Luzon, a heroic effort to which two Ordnance aviation companies had made valiant contributions— the 701st Air Base and the 440th Bombardment, sent to Mindanao from Clark Field ahead of the bombers. One detachment, preparing to sail at the time of Pearl Harbor, was aboard ship in Manila Bay when Nichols Field was bombed, and had a hair-raising journey from Luzon through dangerous waters; another lost three men in the sinking of the Corregidor, which was struck by a floating mine. The men who did arrive safely at Del Monte found them-


selves living under conditions of extreme hardship and in danger from Japanese bombing attacks. Since there were no antiaircraft weapons on Mindanao, they built mounts for .50-caliber machine guns salvaged from wrecked aircraft, and ended by manning about half of them. In late December the B-17's took off for a safer base in Australia and thereafter Del Monte was used only as a base for an occasional bombing raid (and for General MacArthur's last stop on his way to Australia). With the arrival of Brig. Gen. William F. Sharp's Visayan-Mindanao Force, which was poorly equipped and had no Ordnance support, the aviation Ordnance men took on the task of repairing ground weapons and made antitank mines by filling pineapple juice cans with dynamite and improvising a firing mechanism. In May 1942 the Japanese came.40

Not far from the American landings on Macajalar Bay in May 1945 was the great Del Monte pineapple plantation—where millions of pineapples had lain rotting after the arrival of the Japanese. In the beach area the old canning plant was still partly usable for storing rations, and a concrete unloading dock built by the Del Monte Company was helpful in beach operations. Inland at Del Monte airfield the detachment of the 623d Ordnance Ammunition Company that had accompanied the task force began setting up a dump; and when detachments of the 106th Ordnance Medium Maintenance and 558th Ordnance Heavy Maintenance (Tank) Companies came in on Q plus 5, they established their shops in the same area. All had their troubles. The maintenance men were immediately busy with repair work caused by accidents on the narrow, winding, slippery roads and with maintaining engineer equipment for which no maintenance provision had been made. The ammunition men suffered from lack of dunnage and the scarcity of civilian labor. The operation had been hastily mounted. Supply figures had not been entirely accurate and airdrops had to be resorted to not only for ammunition but for automotive parts.41

In late May the base at Parang began its movement to the Bugo-Del Monte area on Macajalar Bay. Following the pattern of most Mindanao supply operations, the move was accomplished mainly by water. Part of the 291st Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, which had been carrying the maintenance load at Parang, made the two-day voyage around Zamboanga on three LSM's loaded with about half the company, 7 trucks, 21 trailers, and 90 tons of supplies. The rest of the men in the company with 21 vehicles made the trip by LST to Malabang and then traveled overland by wretched roads to the northern coast at Illigan, where LCM's ferried them to Bugo. The whole journey took about as long as the trip around Zamboanga. The greatest problem for Ordnance was moving the 310th Depot Company with its 1,500 tons of stock. The "Ordnance Navy" came to the rescue. Floating Depot 9, which had been brought from Cebu, was loaded with about 750


tons of parts and on its deck carried the depot's knocked-down prefabricated buildings. The rest of the stock was sandwiched in on Libertys, LST's, LSM's, and any other available shipping. Most of the men went overland in company and replacement vehicles, following the same route taken by the maintenance company. In mid-June the new Ordnance service center was being set up on a grassy plateau about two miles from the beach near Bugo.42

By that time the campaign in Mindanao was virtually over. The 108th Infantry, in a rapid advance down Sayre Highway slowed only by supply problems, made contact with the 31st Division on the afternoon of 23 May. After a period of mop-up and pursuit, including a landing on the northeastern coast at the Agusan River, General Eichelberger declared the Mindanao operation closed on 30 June 1945. Some encounters with the enemy continued in minor operations such as a landing to clear the Sarangani Bay area on 4 July; but except in remote parts of Mindanao and in northern Luzon, organized resistance by the Japanese in the Philippines was at an end.

On 1 July 1945 in preparation for the invasion of Japan a drastic regrouping of forces took place, which affected Ordnance as well as combat units. Except on Mindanao, almost all of the Ordnance units on the southern islands and all on Luzon, except the minimum required to operate USASOS(now redesignated AFWESPAC) bases, went to Sixth Army, which was to spearhead the coming invasion in Operation OLYMPIC. In order to allow Sixth Army time to get ready for OLYMPIC, Eighth Army was to take over in northern Luzon. After OLYMPIC, Eighth was to combine with Tenth Army in a massive assault on Japan called CORONET.43 These ambitious plans were made possible by the success of a bloody campaign waged by Tenth Army throughout the spring of 1945 to conquer Okinawa, the big island in the Ryukyu chain that lay far to the north of Luzon, at the threshold of Japan.


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