Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Invasion of Lingayen Gulf & The Battle of Luzon, 1945

The Liberation of the Philippines began on October 20, 1944, with the landing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's troops on the beaches at Leyte. Next was Mindoro, a major steppingstone to a successful land invasion of Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands. But to take its objective the U.S. 6th Army needed to land in Lingayen Gulf, the same area where 3 years before the Japanese successfully invaded and defeated the American and Filipino forces.

The goal was to take this area from which the Americans could then strike at the heart of the enemy defenses in the Philippines. A successful invasion at Lingayen would provide bases to support further operations against the Japanese, as well as deny them shipping lanes in the South China Sea. The U.S. landing force was scheduled to be put ashore on Luzon on S-Day, January 9th.

Source: The Stamford Historical Society
As a prelude to the scheduled landing on this date in 1945, ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet began a devastating ship and air bombardment of suspected Japanese defenses at Lingayen as well as the invasion sites on Luzon. But the fleet paid a heavy price for the role it played. By January 12th, a total of 24 ships were sunk and another 67 were damaged by Japanese kamikazes.

As planned, on the 9th, about 68,000 soldiers of MacArthur's army under Gen. Walter Krueger landed on the Luzon coast without opposition. Over the next few days, upwards of 203,000 troops were brought ashore, securing a 20-mile beachhead, capturing the coastal towns, as well as penetrating up to 5 miles inland.

The successful invasion at Lingayen Gulf allowed for a vast supply depot for supporting other major landingsin the Battle of Luzon. By March, the Americans controlled all strategically and economically important locations on the island,2  although small groups of Japanese held out in the mountains until Japan’s surrender in August. In all, 10 U.S. divisions and 5 independent regiments fought on Luzon, making it the largest campaign of the Pacific war.

1Two more major landings followed: One to cut off the Bataan Peninsula (captured February 16th) and another that included paratroopers and amphibious units to capture Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay on March 2nd. Fighting in Manila was harsh, and it took until March 3rd to clear the capital city of Japanese troops.
2In February, the U.S. Navy began shifting its mobile service force, Service Squadron Ten, from Ulithi in the Western Carolines, to Leyte Gulf in order to provide closer support to the fleet in the naval operations against the Japanese. My father's repair ship, USS Hector, arrived in Leyte Gulf on February 19th, and remained there until the end of March.

Sources: The Two-Ocean War, Samuel Eliot Morrison; Naval Operations in the Pacific from March 1944 to October 1945

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