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Battle of Manila
Part of World War II, the 1944-1945 Philippine Campaign and Pacific War
Manila Walled City Destruction May 1945.jpg
Aerial view of the devastated Manila in May 1945
DateFebruary 3 – March 3, 1945
LocationManila, Philippines
14°35′N 120°58′E / 14.583°N 120.967°E / 14.583; 120.967Coordinates: 14°35′N 120°58′E / 14.583°N 120.967°E / 14.583; 120.967
Result United States and Philippine Commonwealth victory

 United States

  •  Commonwealth of the Philippines

 Empire of Japan

  •  Second Philippine Republic
Commanders and leaders
United States Douglas MacArthur
United States Oscar Griswold
United States Robert S. Beightler
United States Verne D. Mudge
United States Joseph M. Swing
Commonwealth of the Philippines Alfredo M. Santos
Empire of Japan Iwabuchi Sanji
35,000 US troops
3,000 Filipino guerrillas
10,000 Sailors and Marines
4,000 Soldiers
Casualties and losses
1,010 killed
5,565 wounded
16,000+ killed
100,000 Filipino civilians killed

The Battle of Manila (Tagalog: Laban ng Maynila ng 1945), also known as the Liberation of Manila, fought from 3 February to 3 March 1945 by American, Filipino, and Japanese forces, was part of the 1945 Philippine campaign. The one-month battle, which culminated in a terrible bloodbath and total devastation of the city, was the scene of the worst urban fighting in the Pacific theater, and ended almost three years of Japanese military occupation in the Philippines (1942–1945). The city's capture was marked as General Douglas MacArthur's key to victory in the campaign of reconquest.


On 9 January 1945, the Sixth U.S. Army under Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger waded ashore on Lingayen Gulf and began a rapid drive south.

Three weeks later on 31 January, the Eighth United States Army of Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, consisting of the 187th and 188th Glider Infantry Regiments of Col. Robert H. Soule, components of the U.S. 11th Airborne Division under Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Swing landed unopposed at Nasugbu in southern Luzon and began moving north toward Manila. Meanwhile, the 11th A/B Division's 511th Regimental Combat Team of Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen parachuted into Tagaytay Ridge on 4 February and spearheaded the southern advance.[1] [2]

By 4 February, the rapid drive to Manila by U.S. forces began. Using intelligence provided by Filipino guerrillas, American units were able to find intact bridges and shallow rivers everywhere they went.

Japanese defense

As the Americans converged on Manila from different directions, the bulk of the defending Japanese troops had earlier engaged on a tactical move to the outskirts on orders of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, commander in chief of Japanese forces in the Philippines. Yamashita had withdrawn his main forces to Baguio City, where he planned to hold back the Filipino and U.S. forces in northern Luzon, poised for the invasion of Japan.

In 1941, General Douglas MacArthur had declared Manila an open city before its capture.[3] Although Yamashita had not done so in 1945, he had not intended to defend Manila; he did not think that he could feed the one million city residents and defend a large area with vast tracts of flammable wooden buildings. Gen. Yamashita had originally ordered the commander of Shimbu Group, Gen. Yokoyama Shizuo, to evacuate the city and destroy all bridges and other vital installations as soon as any large American forces made their appearance.

However, Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji was entrusted with the holding of the city, and he was committed to defending it to the last man. Prior to being promoted to admiral, Sanji had commanded the battleship Kirishima in 1942 when it was sunk by a US Navy task force off Guadalcanal. Feeling shamed at having lost a warship, he felt the need to redeem himself and so he ordered his Manila Naval Defense Forces, a motley assembly of sailors, marines and Army troops, into the city. They discovered several good defensive positions, including Intramuros and other nearby buildings. After blowing up every outlying facility of even marginal value, like bridges and footpaths, Iwabuchi had set up minefields, barbed wire, interlocking trenches, and hulks of trucks and trolleys, to create bottlenecks and traps. He then ordered his ragtag troops into the defensive zone. Before the battle began, he issued an address to his men which went:

"We are very glad and grateful for the opportunity of being able to serve our country in this epic battle. Now, with what strength remains, we will daringly engage the enemy. Banzai to the Emperor! We are determined to fight to the last man."[4]


Santo Tomas internees liberated

Map of the capture of Manila

On 3 February, elements of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division under Maj. Gen. Verne D. Mudge pushed into the northern outskirts of Manila and seized a vital bridge across the Tullahan River, which separated them from the city proper. A squadron of Brig. Gen. William C. Chase's 8th Cavalry, the first unit to arrive in the city, began a drive towards the sprawling campus of the University of Santo Tomas which had been turned into an internment camp for civilians and the US Army and Navy nurses sometimes known as the "Angels of Bataan".

Since 4 January 1942, a total of thirty-seven months, the university’s main building had been used to hold civilians. Out of 4,255 prisoners, 466 died in captivity, three were killed while attempting to escape on 15 February 1942, and one made a successful breakout in early January 1945.

At 21:00, a lead jeep crashed into the main gate, triggering a firefight, and its driver, Capt. Manuel Colayco, a USAFFE guerrilla officer, became the first known Allied casualty of the city's liberation. He and his companion Lt. Diosdado Guytingco guided the American First Cavalry. Both were unarmed. Colayco died seven days later in Legarda Elementary School, which became a field hospital. Simultaneously, a single tank of the 44th Tank Battalion, named "Battlin' Basic," rammed through the university walls, Sgt Austin E. Aulds from Texas, a combat medic was the second US Soldier to enter, while four others entered through the Calle España entrance. American troops and Filipino guerrillas immediately followed and, after a brief skirmish, freed many of the internees.

The Japanese, commanded by Lt. Col. Toshio Hayashi, gathered the remaining internees together in the Education Building as hostages, and exchanged pot shots with the Americans and Filipinos. The next day, 4 February, they negotiated with the Americans to allow them to rejoin Japanese troops to the south of the city. The Filipinos and Americans agreed but only allowed them to carry their rifles, pistols and swords. That same day, a patrol from the 37th Infantry Division and 31st Infantry Division came upon more than 1,000 prisoners of war, mostly former defenders of Bataan and Corregidor held at Bilibid Prison, which had been abandoned by the Japanese.

On the morning of 5 February, forty-seven Japanese were escorted out of the university to the spot they requested. Each group saluted each other and departed. The Japanese were unaware the area they requested was near the American-occupied Malacañan Palace and soon afterwards were fired upon and several were killed including Hayashi. Later in the afternoon, the survivors returned to the university and were captured.

In total, 5,785 prisoners were freed: 3,000 Filipinos, 2,870 Americans, 745 British, 100 Australians, 61 Canadians, 50 Dutch, 25 Poles, 7 French, 2 Egyptians, 2 Spanish, one Swiss, one German, and one Slovak.[citation needed]

Encirclement and massacres

Earlier on 4 February, General MacArthur had announced the imminent recapture of the capital while his staff planned a victory parade. But the battle for Manila had barely begun. Almost at once the 1st Cavalry Division in the north and the 11th Airborne Division in the south reported stiffening Japanese resistance to further advances into the city.

Following the initial American breakthrough on 4 February, fighting raged throughout the city for almost a month. The battle quickly came down to a series of bitter street-to-street and house-to-house struggles. In the north, General Griswold continued to push elements of the XIV Corps south from Santo Tomas University toward the Pasig River . Late on the afternoon of 4 February, he ordered the 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, to seize Quezon Bridge, the only crossing over the Pasig that the Japanese had not destroyed. As the squadron approached the bridge, Japanese heavy machine guns opened fire from a formidable roadblock thrown up across Quezon Boulevard, forcing the cavalry to stop its advance and withdraw until nightfall. As the Americans and Filipinos pulled back, the Japanese blew up the bridge.

On 5 February, the 37th Infantry Division began to move into Manila, and Griswold divided the northern section of the city into two sectors, with the 37th responsible for the western half and the 1st Cavalry Division responsible for the eastern sector. By the afternoon of 8 February, 37th Division units had cleared most of the Japanese from their sector, although the damage done to the residential districts was extensive. The Japanese added to the destruction by demolishing buildings and military installations as they withdrew.

The bitterest fighting for Manila—which proved costliest to the 37th—occurred on Provisor Island, a small industrial center on the Pasig River. The Japanese garrison, probably less than a battalion, managed to hold off Beightler's infantrymen until 11 February.

Mudge's 1st Cavalry Division had an easier time, encountering little opposition in the suburbs east of Manila. Although the division's 7th and 8th Cavalry Regiments fought pitched battles near two water supply installations north of the city, by 10 February, the cavalrymen had extended their control south of the river. That night, the XIV Corps established for the first time separate bridgeheads on both banks of the Pasig River.

The final attack on the outer Japanese defenses came from the 11th Airborne Division, under XIV Corps control since 10 February. The division had been halted at Nichols Field on 4 February and since then had been battling firmly entrenched Japanese naval troops, backed up by heavy fire from concealed artillery. The airfield finally fell to the paratroopers the next day, and the acquisition allowed Maj. Gen. Swing's division to complete the U.S. encirclement of Manila on the night of 12 February.

In an attempt to protect the city and its civilians, MacArthur had placed stringent restrictions on U.S. artillery and air support. But massive devastation to the urban area was not avoided. Iwabuchi's sailors, marines and Army reinforcements, having initially successfully resisted American infantrymen armed with flamethrowers, grenades and bazookas, faced direct fire from tanks, tank destroyers, and howitzers, who attacked one building after another and killed the Japanese—and often the trapped civilians—inside, without differentiation.[5]

Subjected to incessant pounding and facing certain death or capture, the beleaguered Japanese troops took out their anger and frustration on the civilians caught in the crossfire, committing multiple acts of severe brutality, which later would be known as the Manila Massacre. Violent mutilations, rapes, and massacres on the populace accompanied the battle for control of the city, which lay practically in ruins. General Yamashita was subsequently blamed for the massacres and hanged for war crimes in 1946 even though he had no responsibility for the battle itself.

Intramuros devastated

File:Sherman intramuros.jpg

M4 Sherman tank at the ruins of the Fort Santiago gate, Intramuros, February 28, 1945

The fighting for Intramuros, where Iwabuchi held around 4,000 civilian hostages, continued from 23 February to 28 February. Already having decimated the Japanese forces by bombing, American forces used artillery to try to root out the Japanese defenders. However, the centuries-old stone ramparts, underground edifices, the Sta. Lucia Barracks, Fort Santiago, and villages within the city walls all provided excellent cover. Less than 3,000 civilians escaped the assault, mostly women and children who were released on 23 February afternoon.[6] Colonel Noguchi's soldiers and sailors killed 1,000 men and women, while the other hostages died during the American shelling.[7]

The last pocket of Japanese resistance at the Finance Building, which was already reduced to rubble, was flushed out by heavy artillery on 3 March. Iwabachi was said to have committed seppuku (ritual suicide) on February 25, but his body was never found.

Army Historian Robert R. Smith wrote: "Griswold and Beightler were not willing to attempt the assault with infantry alone. Not expressly enjoined from employing artillery, they now planned a massive artillery preparation that would last from 17 to 23 February and would include indirect fire at ranges up to 8,000 yards as well as direct, point-blank fire from ranges as short as 250 yards. They would employ all available corps and division artillery, from 240mm howitzers down. (...) Just how civilian lives could be saved by this type of preparation, as opposed to aerial bombardment, is unknown. The net result would be the same: Intramuros would be practically razed." [8] "That the artillery had almost razed the ancient Walled City could not be helped. To the XIV Corps and the 37th Division at this state of the battle for Manila, American lives were understandably far more valuable than historic landmarks. The destruction stemmed from the American decision to save lives in a battle against Japanese troops who had decided to sacrifice their lives as dearly as possible".[9]

Before the fighting ended, MacArthur summoned a provisional assembly of prominent Filipinos to Malacañan Palace and in their presence declared the Commonwealth of the Philippines to be permanently reestablished. "My country kept the faith," he told the gathered assembly. "Your capital city, cruelly punished though it be, has regained its rightful place—citadel of democracy in the East."[10]


For the rest of the month the Americans and Filipino guerrillas mopped up resistance throughout the city. With Intramuros secured on 4 March, Manila was officially liberated, but large areas of the city had been leveled. The battle left 1,010 U.S. soldiers dead and 5,565 wounded. An estimated 100,000 Filipinos civilians were killed, both deliberately by the Japanese and from artillery and aerial bombardment by the U.S. military force. 16,665 Japanese dead were counted within Intramuros alone.[11]

In the month-long battle, the Americans and Japanese inflicted worse destruction on Manila than the German Luftwaffe had exacted upon London,[12] which resulted in the destruction of the city and in a death toll comparable to that of the Tokyo firebombing or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Destruction of the city

The battle for Manila was the first and fiercest urban fighting in the entire Pacific War, from the time MacArthur started his leapfrogging campaign from New Guinea in 1942, leading to the invasion of Japan in 1945. Few battles in the closing months of World War II exceeded the destruction and the brutality of the massacres and savagery of the fighting in Manila.[citation needed]

A steel flagpole stands at the entrance to the old U.S. Embassy building in Intramuros, which was pockmarked by numerous bullet and shrapnel hits, and still stands today, a testament to the intense, bitter fighting for the walled city. In this category, Manila joined Stalingrad as being the host to some of the fiercest urban fighting during the war.

Filipinos lost an irreplaceable cultural and historical treasure in the resulting carnage and devastation of Manila, remembered today as a national tragedy. Countless government buildings, universities and colleges, convents, monasteries and churches, and their accompanying treasures dating to the founding of the city, were ruined. The cultural patrimony (including art, literature, and especially architecture) of the Orient's first truly international melting pot - the confluence of Spanish, American and Asian cultures - was eviscerated. Manila, once touted as the "Pearl of the Orient" and famed as a living monument to the meeting of Asian and European cultures, was virtually wiped out.

Most of the buildings damaged during the war were demolished in the name of "Progress" after the Liberation, as part of rebuilding Manila, replacing European style architecture during the Spanish and early American era with modern American style architecture. Only a few old buildings remain intact.

Historical commemoration

File:Memorare manila monument.jpg

The Memorare Manila Monument at Intramuros, Manila.

On 18 February 1995, the Shrine of Freedom also known as Memorare Manila Monument was erected in dedication and memory to the war victims. This monument is located at the Plaza de Santa Isabel, also known as the Plaza Sinampalukan, located at the corner of General Luna and Anda Streets in Intramuros, Manila. The inscription reads:

"This memorial is dedicated to all those innocent victims of war, many of whom went nameless and unknown to a common grave, or even never knew a grave at all, their bodies having been consumed by fire or crushed to dust beneath the rubble of ruins."

"Let this monument be the gravestone for each and every one of the over 100,000 men, women, children and infants killed in Manila during its battle of liberation, February 3 - March 3, 1945. We have not forgotten them, nor shall we ever forget."

"May they rest in peace as part now of the sacred ground of this city: the Manila of our affections."

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen
  2. History of the 511th Airborne Regiment
  3. Ephraim, Frank (2003). Escape to Manila: from Nazi tyranny to Japanese terror. University of Illinois Press. pp. 87. ISBN 978-0-252-02845-8. 
  5. Echevarria de Gonzalez, Purita. Manila - A Memoir of Love and Loss, Hale & Iremonger, 2000. ISBN 0-86806-698-2.
  6. Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, United States Army in World War II, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1961, p.299
  7. Raphael Steinberg, Return to the Philippines, Time-Life, p.143;
    ^ Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, p.294, 299.
  8. Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines,United States Army in World War II, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1961, p.294
  9. Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines,United States Army in World War II, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1961
  10. Morison 2002, p. 198
  11. Russell Wilcox Ramsey; Russell Archibald Ramsey (February 1993). On Law and Country: The Biography and Speeches of Russell Archibald Ramsey. Branden Books. pp. 41. ISBN 978-0-8283-1970-6. 
  12. Russell Wilcox Ramsey; Russell Archibald Ramsey (1993). On Law and Country: The Biography and Speeches of Russell Archibald Ramsey. 7. Branden Books. pp. 41. ISBN 978-0-8283-1970-6. 


Further reading

External links

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