|Battle of Davao|
|Part of World War II, Pacific theatre, Allied liberation of Philippine archipelago|
|Commanders and leaders|
Robert L. Eichelberger
Clarence A. Martin
Wendell W. Fertig
Basilio J. Valdes
~300-400 shore batteries and artillery
|Casualties and losses|
American troops |
350 dead and 1,615 wounded in Davao sector
~8,000 casualties in other sectors
Filipino troops and guerrillas
2,800 killed and 7,455 wounded in Davao sector
90,000+ casualties in other sectors
Japanese troops |
4,500 casualties in Davao sector
100,000+ casualties in other sectors
The Battle of Davao was fought by Allied forces containing United States and Philippine Commonwealth troops including local recognized guerrillas against the Japanese from May 3 to 18, 1945 at the city of Davao and its vicinities in Mindanao in the Philippine Archipelago. It is part of Operation VICTOR V, an offensive operation against Japanese forces in Mindanao, and part of the campaign for the liberation of the Philippines during World War II. The battle was the decisive and the most bloodiest engagement during Allied liberation of the Philippines.
Davao was among the first cities in the Philippines to be occupied by Japanese troops in 1942. There were organized guerrilla resistance in Mindanao afterwards, the most prominent one commanded by Wendell W. Fertig, and were largely successful in tying down Japanese units in the island long before the liberation of Philippines began in 1944.
With its navy decisively crushed at the battle of Leyte Gulf six months earlier, the Japanese in Mindanao were now cut off from their main bases in Luzon. The Allies have begun their Mindanao assault in 10 March and was decisively successful afterwards, despite the problems posed by the island itself, such as its inhospitable terrain, irregular coastline, few roads which complicated supply chains, and the thick defense of the Japanese forces.
The Allies have already took much of Central Mindanao, having destroyed several Japanese units in Malaybalay and Kabacan sectors. Now the Allies are preparing for the assault in Davao City. The strongest of the Japanese defenses were concentrated around the Davao Gulf area, which was heavily mined to counter an amphibious landing, and in Davao City, the island's largest and most important city. Artillery and anti-aircraft batteries extensively ringed the coastal shoreline defenses. Believing that the Americans would ultimately attack from Davao Gulf and also anticipating that they would be eventually driven from the city, the Japanese also prepared defensive bunkers inland behind its perimeter where they could retire and regroup, with the intention of prolonging the campaign as much as possible.
More than 230,000 Filipino troops under the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary arrived from the other Philippine islands to join the Americans liberating Mindanao. After they took much of the island from the Japanese soldiers, they soon turned their attention to the Province of Davao. More than 50,000 American troops are yet to land from their ships steaming in the Davao Gulf heading towards Davao City, and the Filipinos are already fighting their way through the forests of southern Mindanao. But the Japanese this time were surrounded by the Filipinos at land and by the Americans at sea. Realizing the situation as hopeless, Lt. Gen. Morozumi of Japan's 100th Division ordered shore batteries to be placed to the shores of Davao, facing westward stretching from Tagum to Digos.
The battle began on 27 April when the first Americans units of Gen. Woodruff's 24th Division reached Digos, then part of Sta. Cruz. The division moved across Mindanao so rapidly that the Americans and Filipinos were almost on top of the Japanese around Davao before Gen. Morozumi learned too late that the western landing was, in fact, not diversionary. By the time the division reached Digos, the Americans quickly overrun the Japanese defenses who were prepared only to repel an assault from the sea westward, not from their rear to the east. The 24th Division immediately turned north and headed toward Davao City.
Combat inside Davao City
On 3 May 1945, the first combat elements of the 24th Division entered Davao City against less opposition than had been expected. The Japanese had contented themselves with destroying the city as best they could before withdrawing inland. While it took just 15 days, despite severe heat and humidity and constant rain, with an entire division travelling 115 mi (185 km) and seizing the last major Philippine city under Japanese control, the real battle for Mindanao had begun. Up to a point, X Corps had deliberately bypassed the main Japanese defenses, which they planned to turn to eliminate them.
Some of all stronghold Filipino soldiers under the Philippine Commonwealth Army and 10th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary became the clearing military operations around in Davao City and Province of Davao to helping local recognized guerrillas and American liberation force against the Imperial Japanese ground force in the south.
A chronicler for the 24th Division wrote:
The soldiers of the 24th Infantry, considered the post-Davao operations to be the hardest, bitterest and, most exhausting battle of the ten island campaigns. In addition to the tenacious defense put up by the Japanese, another punishing aspect of the subsequent combat was the proliferous fields of abaca. To the foot soldiers fighting in the Davao province, the word abaca was synonymous with hell...Countless acres around Davao are covered with these thick-stemmed plants, fifteen to twenty feet high; the plants grow as closely together as sugar cane, and their long, lush, green leaves are in a welter of green so dense that a strong man must fight with the whole weight of his body for each foot of progress...In the abaca fields, visibility was rarely more than ten feet. No breeze ever reached through the gloomy expanse of green, and more men - American, Filipino and Japanese - fell prostrate from the overpowering heat than bullets. The common way for scouts to locate an enemy position in abaca fighting was to advance until they received machinegun fire at a range of three to five yards. For the next two months, in such an environment, the 24th Division fought the Japanese. While the infantry sought out the Japanese defenses, platoons and squads worked through the abaca and surrounding jungle to seek out enemy bunkers and spider holes.
In this way, fighting progressed slowly, but the Americans and Filipinos were making headway. At Libby Airdrome and the village of Mintal, some 5 mi (8.0 km) west of Davao City, the 21st Infantry Regiment got assailed from three sides by a numerically stronger enemy. Individual acts of heroism often spelled the difference between victory and defeat in the desperate fighting. On 14 May, posthumous Medal of Honor awardee, Pfc. James Diamond of D Company fell mortally wounded as he was leading a patrol to evacuate more casualties when came under heavy attack. He drew enemy fire while sprinting to an abandoned machine gun and was caught in a hail of bullets, but he allowed his patrol to reach safety.
By 17 May, exhausted and bloodied, the 24th Division renewed its offensive, and this time, the 19th Infantry Regiment, supported by local ground force of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary units and Fertig's guerrillas, blew open the Japanese eastern flanks before capturing the Villages of Tacunan, Ulas, Matina Biao, Magtuod and Mandug on 29 May. The Japanese 100th Division collapsed and retreated. But soon the fighting erupted into pursuit and mopping up operations against bypassed Japanese pockets, which later claimed the life of the 19th Infantry's commander, Col. Mang Thomas "Jock" Chupainguine.
Battle of Ising
The Allied soldiers arrived from Agusan Valley and Bukidnon heading south towards Davao City, bypassing the heavily ravaged town of Tagum then towards Ising in what is now the town of Carmen. Here, they were intercepted by 3,000 well-fed, well-armed and well-entrenched Japanese Imperial Army soldiers. 1,500 famished, disheveled yet determined soldiers of the USAFFE 10th Military District managed to drive back the Japanese unit that was double their size. The rest of the Allied units also helped drive the enemy unit towards the forests, divided and almost destroyed. Then they continued their assault towards Davao City.
With most of Davao City now under Allied control, most Japanese units there are now isolated, and Allied troops are now commencing mop-up operations in several sectors in the city and the province. Piecemeal resistance in the west of the city were among the last in the Philippine islands during the liberation campaign before all of them were eventually quelled by the Allies.
The fighting around the fringes of Davao City cost the 24th Infantry Division some 350 dead and 1,615 wounded and the troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary units some 2,800 killed and 7,455 wounded, while the Japanese 100th Division suffered about 4,500 casualties.
- Ibiblio.Org: U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II, Southern Philippines
- U.S. Army Center of Military History, World War II Medal of Honor Recipients A-F
- The Central and Southern Philippines Campaign
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