The Bambang Front--I
The Villa Verde Trail
The Situation and the Plans
At the beginning of the last week in February the 25th and 32d Divisions had established contact with Japanese outpost lines of resistance on the Bambang front. The 32d Division had undertaken a battalion-sized reconnaissance-in-force about two miles north from Santa Maria along the Villa Verde Trail, and the 25th Division had discovered Japanese delaying positions nearly seven miles up Route 5 from San Jose. Patrols of the 32d Division were probing up the Ambayabang, Agno, and Arboredo River valleys, west of the Villa Verde Trail, and had found defensive outposts in the first- and last-named valleys. Other reconnaissance units of the 32d had explored across a spur of the Caraballo Mountains between the Villa Verde Trail and Route 5, reporting intense activity on the highway and reinforcing movements along the trail. Units of the 25th Division had established contact with a Japanese outpost on Route 100, running north through the mountains between Route 5 and Luzon's east coast. It was obvious that the Japanese were prepared to defend all approaches to the first vital objective on the Bambang front--the Santa Fe-Balete Pass area--and it appeared that they would place defensive emphasis along Route 5.
Having established firm contact with Japanese forces on the Bambang front, the 25th and 32d Divisions had completed their current assignments. They were ready to initiate a concerted drive northward as soon as General Krueger determined that the success of operations in the Manila Bay area was assured and that there was no longer any possibility troops might have to be withdrawn from northern Luzon to reinforce the divisions in the south. Before the beginning of the last week of February, able to foresee the successful outcome of operations at Manila, Krueger decided that there was no further need to restrain the 25th and 32d Divisions.1 On the contrary, he had very cogent reasons for starting the two divisions northward before the Japanese on the Bambang front could further develop their defenses. Accordingly, on 19 February, Krueger directed I Corps to begin advancing its right toward Bambang.
I Corps ordered the 32d Division to move up to a secure line running eastward
Advance Toward Santa Fe
21 February-10 March 1945
for 20 miles from the 32d-33d Division boundary at Sapit to the junction of the Villa Verde Trail and Route 5 at Santa Fe. The 32d Division would also clear the Ambayabang Valley--west of the Villa Verde Trail--north about 10 miles to the vicinity of Lawican, thereby opening a possible route of advance toward Baguio.2 With its right, the 32d Division was to clear Route 5 from Santa Fe south to the 25th-32d Division boundary at Digdig, a Route 5 barrio lying 13 miles north of San Jose, and would also secure the terrain from Route 5 east about 6 miles to the Old Spanish Trail in the region north of a line drawn between Digdig and Carranglan, at the junction of Route 100 and the Old Spanish Trail. I Corps directed the 25th Division to clear Route 5 north to Digdig, Route 100 from Rizal (10 miles southeast of San Jose) north to Carranglan, and the 6-mile stretch of Route 100 between Carranglan and Digdig. Both divisions would patrol northward in their respective zones to a reconnaissance line that lay about 15 miles north of the secure line.
I Corps manifestly expected the 32d Division to make the decisive effort on the Bambang front, anticipating that that division, in a quick drive up the Villa Verde Trail, would seize Santa Fe and then fall upon the rear of strong Japanese defenses that the 25th Division would undoubtedly encounter along Route 5. Whatever General Swift's initial concept of the drive toward Bambang, it was clear that the first division to reach Santa Fe would achieve the decisive breakthrough. It was equally obvious that neither division could achieve success without the help of the other, for if all I Corps' right flank forces concentrated on one axis of advance the Japanese, in turn, would be able to concentrate their full defensive potential. A converging attack toward Sante Fe by two divisions was necessary from the beginning--in the end it would be the Japanese who would decide, in effect, which attack would prove the more decisive.
Prologue to Stalemate
The Villa Verde Trail, 21 February-5 March
The 32d Division's plans to execute I Corps' orders called for the 126th Infantry to probe up the river valleys on the division's left and for the 127th Infantry to initiate the drive up the Villa Verde Trail.3 The 128th Infantry would protect the division's rear and would continue patrolling over the Caraballo spur toward Route 5, completing a reconnaissance program initiated before 21 February.
On 25 February a battalion of the 126th Infantry started up the Ambayabang Valley and, in a series of company-sized envelopments, overran two Japanese delaying positions and reached Lawican on the secure line during the afternoon of 5 March. (Map XI) Patrols in the Agno Valley, six miles further west, found no signs of Japanese. Instead, in
this section of the Agno Valley they found the terrain so inhospitable and the Agno lying in such a deep canyon that even two- or three-man patrols could scarcely push northward. In the Arboredo Valley, another few miles to the west, 32d Division troops encountered strong 23d Division outposts, which blocked that flanking approach to Baguio, and by 5 March patrols in the Arboredo Valley were still ten miles short of the division's secure line. With additional strength, the 126th Infantry could undoubtedly have accomplished more in the river valleys, but the 32d Division could spare no more troops for these secondary operations. The attack along the Villa Verde Trail was placing increasingly heavy demands upon the division's resources.
On 22 February the 127th Infantry began a concerted attack against the Japanese outpost line of resistance that the regiment had uncovered across the Villa Verde Trail two weeks earlier. Along this southern section of its length, the Villa Verde Trail twists erratically up the eastern slopes of a ridge lying between the Cabalisiaan River, on the east, and the Ambayabang River, to the west. A mile wide at the start of the Villa Verde Trail at Santa Maria, this ridge broadens to roughly three miles where, some five miles north-northeast of Santa Maria, the trail bears east and crosses the Cabalisiaan. The straight-line distance of five miles between Santa Maria and the Cabalisiaan crossing presents a deceiving figure, for the Villa Verde Trail twists along the ridge to such an extent that the actual trail distance is approximately nine miles.
On its way to the Cabalisiaan the Villa Verde Trail climbs rapidly, rising from a point about 400 feet above sea level near Santa Maria to one 3,500 feet high close to the crossing. Dipping to about 2,500 feet at the crossing, the trail then hangs along terrain varying from 3,500 to 4,500 feet in height most of the way to Santa Fe, itself sitting in a river valley almost 2,500 feet up in the mountains. Along the ridge to the Cabalisiaan the terrain is wide open, and the steep slopes of the ridge are grass covered. Across the river the ground over which the trail passes becomes steadily more heavily wooded until, about two miles east-northeast of the crossing the trail begins to run through dense tropical forest. The trail then continues eastward through heavy forest for another six miles--straight-line distance--and breaks out into more open country again some two miles west of Santa Fe.
From many points of vantage along the ridge to the Cabalisiaan crossing, the Villa Verde Trail affords a magnificent view of the Central Plains, opening in broad vista from the foot of the Caraballo Mountains. To the west, there is an occasional glimpse of the narrowing Ambayabang Valley; to the east rise the imposing heights of the Caraballo spur that forms such a rugged barrier between the southern reaches of the Villa Verde Trail and Route 5. And constantly, off to the northeast as one ascends the trail from Santa Maria, loom the forested mountains through which the trail passes after it crosses the Cabalisiaan. On 22 February 1945 it was this view, ominously interesting, that captured the attention of the 127th Infantry. That regiment's troops had no particular liking for the view of the Central Plains they obtained along the Villa Verde
Trail, for they knew all too well that the Japanese, with the same view higher up the trail, could watch every move the regiment made as it struggled up the bare ridge from Santa Maria.
Assaulting the Japanese outpost line, one battalion of the 127th drove straight up the Villa Verde Trail. Elements of another battalion, coming in from the Ambayabang Valley, took the Japanese on the west flank. Still other troops, working up the Cabalisiaan River, bypassed the Japanese and established a block on the trail north of the main Japanese defenses. With these maneuvers, and with the help of artillery emplaced near Santa Maria, the 127th Infantry broke through the Japanese outpost line late on 24 February.
The outpost line had been held by the 10th Division's 10th Reconnaissance Regiment, a unit with an authorized strength less than that of a standard infantry battalion.4 By evening on 24 February the 10th Reconnaissance, with a remnant force of no more than 250 effectives, was bypassing the roadblock the 127th Infantry had established on the Villa Verde Trail. The unit intended to make another stand at the Cabalisiaan River crossing but scarcely had time to get into position before, on 1 March, the 127th Infantry was again upon it. As the 10th Reconnaissance withdrew once more, the 127th Infantry left one battalion to mop up at the crossing area and, pressing on with another battalion, regained contact with the Japanese on 3 March at a strong position about a mile and a half beyond the stream.
General Konuma, commanding the Bambang Branch, 14th Area Army, had not been greatly perturbed when the 10th Reconnaissance withdrew as far as the Cabalisiaan, for he had expected the unit to hold for some time in the good defensive terrain at the crossing.5 But on 2 March, when he learned of the regiment's serious losses to that date and of its retreat beyond the Cabalisiaan, Konuma became thoroughly alarmed. Only three miles northeast of the crossing lay the western edge of the Salacsac Pass area, which provided three miles of the best defensive terrain along the Villa Verde Trail. If the battered 10th Reconnaissance Regiment could not hold the western entrance to the pass, the 32d Division might slip through to Santa Fe and cut off the 10th Division on Route 5. Obviously, the 10th Reconnaissance could not hold--Konuma had to do something and do it quickly.
Konuma's first step was to reinforce the 10th Reconnaissance with troops already in the Salacsac Pass vicinity. In mid-February he had dispatched to the pass as a reserve force a two-company infantry battalion and an understrength artillery battalion (three 150-mm. howitzers and a medium mortar company). Two other two-company infantry battalions, on their way to the Ambayabang Valley, were also on the Villa Verde Trail. On 3 March, he placed all four units under the 10th Reconnaissance, bringing that regiment up to a strength of about 550 infantry effectives. On the
Clearing the Salacsac Passes
32d Infantry Division
7 March-28 May 1945
same day he directed the 10th Division to dispatch four rifle companies from Route 5 to Salacsac Pass.
When all these units arrived the 10th Reconnaissance would have roughly 1,100 troops, hardly sufficient, Konuma knew, to hold the 32d Division if the latter, which had so far been able to deploy less than a regiment on the Villa Verde Trail, could reach terrain where it could commit its full strength. Konuma therefore ordered the 2d Tank Division, still reorganizing and retraining at Dupax, to move to Salacsac Pass immediately. General Iwanaka, the division commander, was to assume control of all troops on the Villa Verde Trail.
The 2d Tank Division started out of Dupax on 4 March with a strength of roughly 4,350 men. The major components were four infantry battalions of three companies apiece, each battalion averaging 425 men; an 8-gun artillery battalion; and about 1,000 service troops. The attachment of the recently reinforced 10th Reconnaissance Regiment brought General Iwanaka's strength to nearly 5,000, and within the next week or two another 1,000 infantrymen, including the four companies dispatched from Route 5 by the 10th Division, would arrive in the Salacsac area.
While the 2d Tank Division was moving up, the 127th Infantry was devoting part of its energies to overrunning the outpost position that it had encountered on 3 March. Since the Japanese defenses were mainly on high ground along both sides of the trail, one battalion of the American regiment contained the Japanese while another pushed on along the trail. On 5 March the latter unit stopped at the western entrance to Salacsac Pass in front of troops of the 2d Tank Division, just arriving from Dupax. The hastily reinforced and reorganized 10th Reconnaissance Regiment, fighting from hastily prepared positions, had managed to delay the 127th Infantry just long enough for the 2d Tank Division to come up. By the time the tank division arrived, the 10th Reconnaissance had about 80 men left of the 750-odd with which it had begun operations on Luzon in January.
For the Japanese, the commitment of the 2d Tank Division at Salacsac Pass was unfortunately premature, for Konuma had expected that the unit would have at least another month to retrain and flesh out its depleted ranks. Events had moved faster than anticipated. The threat posed by the 32d Division's drive up the Villa Verde Trail, which he had considered an impracticable route of advance toward Santa Fe, left him no choice. The division, however, would justify the faith he placed in it when, on 4 March, he ordered it to hold the Salacsac Pass at all costs.
The Situation and the Terrain,
Coming into Salacsac Pass from the west, the Villa Verde Trail twists up the wooded western slopes of a steep-sided height known to the 32d Division as Hill 502. (Map XII) Another peak, bare crested, forming part of the same hill mass and named Hill 503, centers 250 yards northeast of the crest of Hill 502, while a like distance to the southeast is Hill 504. Winding along the southern slopes of Hills 502 and 504, the trail continues eastward through a low saddle about 500 yards long, climbing again up the forested northwestern side of
SALACSAC PASS NO. 2
Hill 505. After crossing that hill, the trail follows a twisting course 600 yards--as the crow flies--eastward, hugging the densely wooded northern slopes of Hills 506A and 506B. Off the northeast corner of Hill 506B the trail turns south for 1,000 yards--again a straight-line distance--and traverses the east side of the noses of Hill 507, designated from north to south A, B, C, and D. Turning sharply east again near Hill 507D, the trail continues east another 700 yards and then enters a deep, wooded saddle between Hill 508, on the south, and Hill 515, to the north. After passing through this saddle, which is about 250 yards long east to west, the trail goes on eastward, dominated on the north by Hills 516 and 525. Roughly 1,250 yards beyond the saddle the trail twists across the northern slopes of Hill 526, which lying about 500 yards southeast of Hill 525, marks the eastern limits of the Salacsac Pass area. A mile and a quarter of less rugged but still forested and difficult terrain lies between Hill 526 and barrio Imugan, in turn two and a quarter miles west of Santa Fe.
The Japanese and the 32d Division each divided the Salacsac Pass area into two sections. Salacsac Pass No. 2 was the name at first narrowly applied to the saddle between Hills 504 and 505, but in a larger sense it came to mean the entire forested area between Hills 502 and 507D. By the same token the name Salacsac Pass No. 1 was at first given to the saddle between Hills 508 and 515, but was eventually assigned to that stretch of the trail running from the west side of the saddle east to Hill 526.
Although the extremely rough, precipitous mountain country of the Salacsac Pass area, averaging 4,500 feet above sea level, was covered by dense rain forest, from Hill 506B to Hill 526, there was sufficient open ground throughout to provide the defender with excellent observation. It was not too difficult for the Japanese to find positions whence they could cover with fire every square foot of the Villa Verde Trail through the pass area. The twisting of the trail also provided defense opportunities, for in a given 1,000 yards of straight-line distance through the pass, the trail might actually cover a ground distance of 3,000 yards.
Whatever its shortcomings in other fields, the Japanese Army always had a feel for terrain, exploiting to the full every advantage the ground offered. Thus, as it moved up, the 2d Tank Division set to work to establish a system of mutually supporting defensive positions in order to control every twist of the Villa Verde Trail and every fold in the ground throughout the pass area. Every knoll and hillock on or near the trail was the site of at least one machine gun emplacement; every wooded draw providing a route for outflanking a position was zeroed in for artillery or mortars. The cave, natural or man-made, came to characterize the defenses. Artillery was employed in quantity and quality not often encountered in engagements against the Japanese, who, as usual, made excellent use of their light and medium mortars. Finally, the 2d Tank Division was overstocked in automatic weapons, evidently having available many more than the 32d Division could bring to bear.
Against such defenses the 32d Division's difficult operations in the Salacsac Pass area could hardly avoid taking on a monotonous pattern. First, there would be unsuccessful frontal attacks against hillside strongholds. Failing, the troops would wait for air and artillery support to soften up the opposition and try again. Then there would be company and battalion outflanking maneuvers, some successful, some ending in near disaster, and all, as the result of Japanese defensive dispositions, inevitably winding up as frontal assaults. Every type of action would be repeated day after dreary day, either in heat enervating to the extreme on clear days, or in cloudbursts, fog, and mud. The nights were cold and, as the rainy season approached, increasingly damp and wet.
To reduce Japanese cave positions, the 32d Division would necessarily have to attack at least two mutually supporting caves simultaneously, at the same time endeavoring to keep flanking defensive installations neutralized by machine gun and mortar fire. Advances would depend upon a series of closely co-ordinated platoon actions, with platoons providing fire support for each other while each attacked its own objectives. Each cave, once neutralized,
would have to be sealed; each position of other types would have to be occupied or the job would have to be done over and over again. Day after day units would have to patrol in order to locate routes to outflank known Japanese positions, ascertain Japanese flanks and pinpoint Japanese defenses for air and artillery bombardments.
In brief, the battle for the Villa Verde Trail became a knock-down, drag-out slug fest. The spectacular could hardly happen--there wasn't room enough. Troops would become tired and dispirited; nonbattle casualties would exceed those injured in combat. Supply would be very difficult, the evacuation of the sick and wounded an even greater problem. This was combined mountain and tropical warfare at its worst. The 32d Division had already had plenty of both, from the jungles of New Guinea to the mountains of western Leyte.6
The Battle for Salacsac Pass No. 2
The First Attempt
By 7 March the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, had secured the crest of Hill 502, but was then unable to make any appreciable progress eastward.7 Such an eventuality had been anticipated, for the division and regimental staffs had plans to outflank the Salacsac Pass defenses from the south. First, the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, struggled north through Valdez, in the Caraballo spur, to hit the Salacsac Pass No. 2 defenses from the southeast. The unit reached positions about 1,000 yards south of Hill 507D and Hill 508 by 9 March but was then unable to make any further progress toward the Villa Verde Trail and could not establish contact with the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, at Salacsac Pass No. 2.
On 15 March the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, attached to the 127th Infantry, also started up the trail from Valdez. After it reached a point a mile southwest of Imugan and two miles east of the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, the 2d Battalion, 128th, was stopped cold--the Japanese were prepared for just such maneuvers.
Further west, meanwhile, the rest of the 127th Infantry fought its way from Hill 502 to Hill 504 but did not reach the crest of Hill 504 until 23 March, and even then left the northern slopes in Japanese hands. The 3d Battalion managed to get one company to the D nose of Hill 507, and the 2d, simultaneously, pushed a company from Hill 504 to 505.8 With only three-quarters of a mile separating the forward elements
of the two battalions, there seemed an excellent chance of putting the squeeze on the Japanese at Salacsac No. 2.
However, with its forces spread thin and its strength dwindling, the 127th Infantry was in no state to exploit its apparently advantageous position. The Japanese, on the other hand, could still move reinforcements to the Salacsac Pass No. 2 area at will, and they were well aware of the threat presented by the 3d Battalion's penetration to Hill 507D. During the night of 20-21 March the Japanese concentrated almost all their available artillery and mortar fire against the 3d Battalion's forward elements, forcing them off Hill 507D with a loss of about 10 men killed and 30 wounded. The Japanese also seemed to be preparing a counterattack against the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, and were already threatening that unit's line of communications back through Valdez.
The outflanking efforts began to look less and less promising. Supply for the two battalions operating out of Valdez was becoming increasingly difficult--it took three days for carrying parties to make a trip through the Caraballo spur. Nor did the picture at Salacsac Pass No. 2 look much brighter. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 127th Infantry, had taken over two weeks to get troops from Hill 502 to Hill 505, a distance of 1,000 yards. Any further move eastward would be fraught with danger, for the Japanese maintained strong forces on high ground north of the area between Hills 502 and 505, presenting a constant threat to the 127th Infantry's left. Then, too, Japanese strength in the Salacsac Pass area was proving far greater than anticipated, making it ever more obvious that success demanded a concentration of forces across a relatively narrow front in lieu of the three widely separated battalion-sized attacks that had been going on so far.
Another factor prompting reconsideration of plans was the number of casualties suffered by the 127th Infantry. By 23 March the unit had lost approximately 110 men killed and 225 wounded; an additional 500 men had been evacuated for sickness, a large proportion of them classed in the combat fatigue category. Almost all the battalion and company commanders the regiment had when it reached Luzon had been killed, wounded, or hospitalized for other reasons; many of the rifle platoons were now led by privates. The regiment was almost 1,100 men understrength, and barely 1,500 troops of the approximately 2,150 available to it could still be counted combat effectives.9 Immediate relief was an obvious necessity.
Preparing Another Effort
Beginning on 23 March the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry, and the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, withdrew from their dangerous positions south of the Villa Verde Trail. On the same day the 128th Infantry started relieving the 127th at Salacsac Pass No. 2, the change-over being completed by the 25th.10 Plans now called for the 128th Infantry to mount an attack east with two battalions abreast. The 126th Infantry would
HILL 504 AFTER JAPANESE COUNTERATTACK, 1 APRIL
continue its probing operations in the river valleys to the west; the 127th Infantry, rehabilitating, would guard the division's rear areas.11
Since the 32d Division had moved more slowly than anticipated, and since the 25th Division was making better progress than hoped along Route 5, General Swift decreased the 32d Division's area of responsibility, thereby permitting the unit to better concentrate its forces. He set the division's objective as Santa Fe, and reduced the unit's responsibility along Route 5 to the area halfway from Santa Fe to Balete Pass.12
While these changes made it appear that the 32d Division might be able to advance faster over the Villa Verde Trail, Swift, on 25 March, issued additional orders that inhibited the division's build-up along the trail. On that date the I Corps commander directed the 32d Division to prepare to attack up the Ambayabang and Arboredo River valleys toward Baguio in conjunction with a 33d Division advance toward the same city. The idea that the 32d Division might play a major part in the capture of Baguio had not yet been quite laid to rest.13
By 25 March the 32d Division's 126th Infantry was little further up the valleys than it had been over two weeks earlier, and had actually lost some ground in the Ambayabang Valley.14 To the 32d Division,
at least, the river valley operations were already proving unprofitable. Worse still, they were becoming more and more of a drain upon the division's resources at the very time the division desperately needed additional strength on the Villa Verde Trail. There, the 128th Infantry was running into as much trouble as had the 127th before it.
From 23 March through 4 April the 128th Infantry drove bloodily eastward. The regiment cleared Hill 503, which the 127th had bypassed; secured most of Hill 504; and expanded the hold on Hill 505, south of the trail. The Japanese soon challenged these gains. During the night of 31 March-1 April they laid down a heavy artillery barrage on Hill 504, following it with a banzai attack launched by over 150 troops. The single company of the 128th Infantry on Hill 504 was soon forced off, and only a dawn counterattack by a full battalion prevented the loss of all ground east of Hill 502. As it was, on 1 April the Japanese again held the northern and northeastern slopes of Hill 504, so laboriously cleaned off during the preceding week.15
By 4 April the 128th Infantry bid fair soon to be even more depleted than the 127th Infantry. In the two weeks the 128th had been on the trail it lost about 85 men killed and 250 wounded, approximately the same number the 127th had lost in three weeks. And like the 127th, the 128th Infantry was now more than 1,000 troops understrength.16 For I Corps, expecting the Japanese to continue their fanatic resistance at Salacsac Pass No. 2, no further proof was needed that the 32d Division had to have more troops on the Villa Verde Trail. The only way the corps could supply the necessary reinforcements was to have the 33d Division relieve the 126th Infantry in the river valleys, an action that forced postponement of the attack on Baguio. Having made this decision, the corps went on to direct the 32d Division to move its 126th Infantry to the Villa Verde Trail and mount a two-regiment attack toward Santa Fe.17
The 32d Division, having failed in attempts to outflank the Salacsac defenses from the south, decided to try a flanking maneuver north of the trail with the 126th Infantry, while the 128th continued the frontal attack at Salacsac Pass No. 2. The 126th Infantry was to strike off the Villa Verde Trail from a point about a mile and a half west of Hill 502 and push northeast along the Miliwit River valley. Its first objectives were Hills 518 and 519, lying roughly 1,500 yards north (and slightly east) of Hill 504. The strongest regiment of the 32d Division on 5 April, when its drive began, the 126th Infantry was almost 900 men understrength.18
By the time the new, two-pronged offensive began, the 32d Division had actually accomplished more than it thought in the Salacsac Pass No. 2 area.19 General Iwanaka, commanding the 2d Tank Division, had by now decided that his positions in Salacsac Pass No. 2 were practically untenable and had started making plans to redeploy forces for the defense of Salacsac Pass No. 1. His casualties at the western pass were mounting rapidly--he estimated that in the month ending 4 April he had lost over 1,000 troops killed.20 Moreover, Allied air and artillery bombardments were making it virtually impossible for the 2d Tank Division to move supplies to Salacsac Pass No. 2 except by infiltrating small amounts through woods on either side of the trail under cover of darkness.
Iwanaka did not propose, however, to abandon the Salacsac Pass No. 2 defenses. Instead, he directed the troops there to remain in place and hold out to the death and he also committed some reserves to a counterattack designed to gain time for preparations at Salacsac Pass No. 1. When the counterattack--executed during the night of 31 March-1 April--failed to be as effective as hoped, Iwanaka decided to make no further attempts to reinforce Salacsac Pass No. 2. Nevertheless, the troops left there, the 32d Division soon learned, were willing to carry out to the letter Iwanaka's orders to die in place.
Breakthrough at Salacsac Pass No. 2
By 7 April the 126th Infantry had secured Hills 518 and 519 against surprisingly light opposition.21 The regiment also cut a Japanese trail leading north from Hill 504 across the eastern slopes of Hill 519 and thence up Mt. Imugan, the 5,700-foot crest of which arose approximately two and a half miles north of Salacsac Pass No. 1. This trail, a secondary route of Japanese reinforcement and supply, connected near Hill 519 with the valley of the Cataludonan River, running east to join the Imugan River a mile and a half north of Imugan. The 126th Infantry could thus either maneuver eastward to execute a wide envelopment of the entire Salacsac Pass through Imugan, or strike south against both Salacsac Passes.
Quick to see the threats, Iwanaka started to deploy new reinforcements (which had begun reaching the Villa Verde Trail in early April) across the path of the U.S. regiment. He also dispatched troops to Mt. Imugan, probably to present a counterthreat on the 126th Infantry's left and rear. These measures were reasonably effective, for it took the 126th Infantry from 7 April through 13 April to secure Hill 511, only 750 yards beyond Hill 519, and to take Hill 512, 300 yards beyond Hill 511. By the 13th, the regiment had improved its position for a strike eastward or a drive southward against the flanks and rear of the
Japanese still holding the 128th Infantry at Salacsac Pass No. 2.
After the Japanese counterattack of 31 March, the 128th had had its hands full reorganizing, regaining lost ground, and beating off a number of minor night raids. Moreover, throughout the first week of April unseasonably heavy rains and dense fog severely curtailed operations. On 7 April the 128th Infantry launched an attack to clear the high ground south of the Villa Verde Trail from Hill 505 east to Hill 506B, where the trail turned sharply south. By 10 April the regiment had secured the saddle between Hills 505 and 504--technically Salacsac Pass No. 2. The Japanese, however, still held Hill 506 (southwest of Hill 506B) and Hill 507 as well as all of its four noses. From 11 through 17 April the 128th Infantry struggled determinedly to secure this high ground but attained only limited success. Establishing blocks along the north-south stretch of the trail from Hill 506B to the D nose of Hill 507, the regiment denied the Japanese the use of that section of the trail. The Japanese, holding out in isolated strongpoints along the Hill 507 complex, in turn prevented the 128th Infantry from employing the same part of the trail. Nevertheless, except for these isolated strongpoints, the 128th Infantry, by 17 April, had cleared almost the entire Salacsac Pass No. 2 area.
But the 128th Infantry could do no more and, at least temporarily, was finished as a fighting unit. During the period 5 through 17 April the regiment had suffered an additional 275 battle casualties, 60 men killed and 215 wounded. Its total battle casualties since moving into action along the Villa Verde Trail now amounted to 710 men killed or wounded. Evacuations for sickness and combat fatigue had taken an additional toll until, by 17 April, the regiment was reduced to few more than 1,500 effectives, about the same number remaining to the 127th Infantry when it pulled off the trail on 25 March. The 126th Infantry, in the period 5-17 April, had lost approximately 70 men killed and 145 wounded. It could now muster no more than 2,100 effectives.
During the second week of April observers from Sixth Army headquarters reported to General Krueger that the 32d Division had a major morale problem, a report that reinforced an opinion Krueger had formed from earlier, personal observation. The troops of the 126th and 128th Infantry Regiments were approaching complete mental and physical exhaustion; front-line men with considerable time overseas were becoming supercautious; rotation back to the United States had become the principal topic of conversation at all echelons of the division; the combat troops' aggressive spirit was diminishing rapidly and markedly. With its low strength and its personnel problems, the division was going to find it impossible to make spectacular gains, but if it could not speed the pace of its advance along the Villa Verde Trail it had no hope of reaching Santa Fe even by 1 June. If the division were so delayed, it might be caught on the trail by the heavy downpours of the rainy season--beginning in late May--and would find it extremely difficult to extricate itself and its equipment from the mountains.
Meanwhile, the Japanese still held terrain advantages that enabled them to use their forces economically and reinforce their front lines almost at will. Conversely, the terrain drastically limited the 32d Division's freedom of maneuver, forcing the division to employ its diminishing strength in costly frontal assault time and time again. Terrain and the weather were undoubtedly the major problems the division faced, but the personnel problem promised to loom increasingly important as a factor limiting the division's progress.22
The 32d Division's personnel problem had come about honestly and honorably. The division had reached Luzon tired and understrength after an arduous two-month campaign in the mountains of western Leyte.23 As a whole the division had had less than three weeks rest--some components scarcely two--before reaching Luzon, where it arrived with barely 11,000 officers and men, almost 4,000 understrength. Roughly 30 percent of the division's troops had been overseas for nearly three years and had participated in three to five other operations before Luzon. Even as the division started up the Villa Verde Trail it was scraping the bottom of its personnel barrel to find qualified noncommissioned officers, and it could ill afford the officer and noncommissioned officer losses it had incurred to mid-April. The deteriorating quality of leadership, combined with increased interest in and desire for rotation, added to morale problems. Moreover, replacements were scarce and slow to arrive, and Sixth Army's lack of strength made it necessary to leave 32d Division regiments in the line long after they should have been relieved for rest and rehabilitation.
By mid-April the only way Sixth Army could have markedly improved the situation on the Villa Verde Trail would have been to insert a fresh division there. No such division was available; Sixth Army could not even provide I Corps with sufficient forces to relieve the 126th and 128th Infantry Regiments simultaneously. The best thing I Corps and the 32d Division could arrange was to relieve each regiment in sequence. First, the 127th Infantry, which had had three weeks' rest and had been built back up to 2,650 men--still 500 under authorized strength--would relieve the 128th Infantry. The 128th would then rest for ten days to two weeks, after which it would return to the front to relieve the 126th Infantry.24
Despite its grim personnel picture, the 32d Division had actually accomplished a good deal between 4 and 18 April. The 128th Infantry had broken through the Japanese defenses at Salacsac Pass No. 2; the 126th had cut the 2d Tank Division's secondary route to and from the pass and had taken some of the pressure off the 128th. It appeared that the 127th Infantry would have little trouble mopping up at Hill 507 and, in conjunction with a drive south by the
126th Infantry, would soon be able to launch a strong attack against Japanese defenses at Salacsac Pass No. 1.
It would probably have been of little consolation to the 32d Division to know that as of mid-April the 2d Tank Division's personnel problem had also reached a critical stage. Since 5 April the Japanese unit had lost another 1,125 men killed,25 while all the reinforcements General Konuma, commander of Bambang Branch, 14th Area Army, felt he could spare were already either in place along the Villa Verde Trail or were on their way there. In all, the 2d Tank Division had received some 1,600 fresh troops during the first half of April--far more that the 32d Division received in the same period. By the 17th the Japanese had committed a total of 8,750 men to the defense of the Villa Verde Trail. The 32d Division had killed approximately 2,500 of these.26 Only 250 Japanese remained at the isolated strongpoints in the Salacsac Pass No. 2 area, and Iwanaka had long since dismissed them from his mind. He was making his final preparations to hold Salacsac Pass No. 1, knowing that an assault against its defenses was imminent.
Salacsac Pass No. 1 to Imugan
The Isolation of Salacsac Pass No. 1
General Iwanaka intended to hold a north-south line extending from Mt. Imugan two and a half miles to Hill 508, south of the trail.27 This line, already bent by the 126th Infantry's advance to Hills 511 and 512, blocked the Cataludonan Valley, the most obvious outflanking route north of the Villa Verde Trail. Iwanaka also defended trails leading north from Valdez by stationing a 500-man force on high ground lying a mile or so southwest of Imugan. Reserves, 300-500 men in all, were held along ridges immediately west of Imugan.
As it prepared to attack toward Salacsac Pass No. 1, the 32d Division's ultimate objective was still the Santa Fe area. Maj. Gen. William H. Gill, the division commander, set a first intermediate objective as the pass and a second as the high ground where Iwanaka's reserves were located. Apparently feeling that a wide enveloping maneuver through the Cataludonan Valley would be too dangerous and too hard to support logistically, Gill chose to send the 126th Infantry south against Salacsac Pass No. 1 and the 127th Infantry east. Patrols would mount a diversionary effort by moving north from Valdez, the patrolling to be conducted by the 1st Battalion of the Buena Vista Regiment, a guerrilla unit that the 32d Division had outfitted and trained.28
The 127th Infantry began moving up to relieve the 128th on 17 April and immediately instituted operations to clear the last Japanese from the Hill 507 area
and nearby terrain.29 The 127th found the mission considerably more difficult than anticipated, and not until 3 May was the north-south stretch of the Villa Verde Trail between Hills 506B and 507D safe for 32d Division traffic. Nevertheless, sufficient ground in the area was clear by 26 April for the 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry, to start a drive east along and south of the trail, striking toward Hill 508 at the south side of Salacsac Pass No. 1.
The Japanese reacted violently to this new drive and during the next two days launched a series of counterattacks from the east and north, at least one of which was executed by a group of over 150. The Japanese, losing 75-100 men killed, at best caused a day's delay in the 127th Infantry's progress, and the 2d Battalion pressed on to reach the crest of Hill 508 late on 29 April. That night over 200 Japanese, supported by machine gun and mortar fire, undertook another counterattack, coming up the north slopes of the hill. When the initial impetus of the attack died, the Japanese continued with small-scale raids until dawn on the 30th. This time the Japanese lost some 100 men killed; the 127th Infantry's casualties were approximately 5 killed and 10 wounded. The Japanese continued small-scale attacks against the foothold on Hill 508 through 4 May, but to no avail.
While beating off these Japanese attacks, the 2d Battalion, 127th Infantry, expanded its hold on Hill 508 and established a block on the Villa Verde Trail to the north. Some troops of the battalion sought to clear the area between Hill 508 and Hill 509, which, lying 500 yards to the southwest, fell to the 3d Battalion on 3 May. Next, Japanese cut off west of Hill 508 began to harass the 3d Battalion, but that unit had little difficulty consolidating its hold.
North of the Villa Verde Trail the 126th Infantry had also attained some measure of success, though its operations were as laboriously slow as those of the 127th. Striking south from Hill 511 on 18 April, the 2d Battalion, 126th Infantry, on 24 April reached the crest of Hill 515, which marked the north side of Salacsac Pass No. 1. This drive, covering perhaps three-quarters of a mile, was especially noteworthy in that its success depended in large part upon fire support provided by troops of the 127th Infantry on Hill 506B.
Meanwhile, elements of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, had struck east from Hills 511 and 512 to Hills 513 and 514, respectively 750 and 1,000 yards east of Hill 512. The battalion then pressed south to Hill 516, 750 yards east of Hill 515, and by 27 April had advanced another 500 yards southeast to the crest of Hill 525. The next day the unit set up a block on the Villa Verde Trail immediately south of Hill 516, effectively cutting the Japanese main line of communications to Salacsac Pass No. 1. For all practical purposes the
32d Division had isolated the pass--the only route of withdrawal or reinforcement now left to the Japanese led through broken, heavily wooded terrain immediately south of the trail and east of Hill 508.
The isolation of Salacsac Pass No. 1, like earlier operations in the Villa Verde Trail section, caused the 32d Division's casualties to mount at a rapid rate. In the period 17 April-4 May the 126th and 127th Infantry Regiments together had incurred another 700 battle and 500 nonbattle casualties, broken down as follows:30
Total Killed 56 128 184 Wounded 173 353 526 Nonbattle 233 270 503 Total 462 751 1,213
By early May the 126th Infantry could muster but 1,875 front-line effectives; the 127th Infantry approximately 2,175. Morale problems were still pressing and many of the nonbattle casualties were again listed as combat fatigue and psychoneurotic cases. In the 127th Infantry 10 of the nonbattle casualties involved self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
It was manifestly time to get the 128th Infantry back into the line to relieve the 126th and, insofar as possible, lighten the burden upon the 127th Infantry.31 The relief began on 3 May, when troops of the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, took over from 126th Infantry elements at Hill 525. The 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, then struck southeast across the Villa Verde Trail and seized Hill 526, 500 yards distant, on 7 May. The battalion's left drove east on the north side of the trail toward Hill 527, which was about three-quarters of a mile beyond Hill 525 and formed part of the high ground just before Imugan. Iwanaka's reserves held up the 128th Infantry's men along the northwestern slopes of Hill 527 on 7 May.
In the meantime, the 126th Infantry had continued efforts to clean out the terrain from Hills 515 and 516 south to the Villa Verde Trail, and the 127th Infantry mopped up along the slopes of Hills 508 and 509. On 6 May the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, took up positions on the trail west of Hill 508, and the 3d Battalion prepared to follow the 1st into the line. There were now enough relatively fresh troops available for the 32d Division to complete the relief of the 126th Infantry and make plans for a new attack.
To execute the new plan the 128th Infantry would have to send one battalion east through Salacsac Pass No. 1 to join the troops on and near Hill 526. The 2d Battalion was to continue its advance at Hill 527, simultaneously endeavoring to reverse its right flank and send it back west through the pass. The 127th Infantry would hold and mop up all rear areas, relieving the 126th Infantry's units north of the trail and at Hills 515 and 516. Until that relief could be completed, the 126th Infantry would
continue its efforts to clear the ground from those two hills south to the trail. General Gill scheduled the new attack to start on 8 May.
By the 8th the Japanese situation was deteriorating rapidly, since the 32d Division had breached Iwanaka's Mt. Imugan-Hill 508 defensive line.32 North of the Villa Verde Trail the 2d Tank Division's right flank units were pivoting eastward on the Mt. Imugan anchor; its left flank troops were virtually cut off. Iwanaka realized that Salacsac Pass No. 1 was lost, but he had no choice except to hang on. He had apparently wanted to use the troops posted at Mt. Imugan to mount a counterattack against the 32d Division's left, but, if he was to hold out any longer, he had to use them to reinforce positions east of Salacsac Pass No. 1. In doing so he hoped to establish yet another defensive line along the high ground just west of Imugan.
It seems probable that Iwanaka felt that he would have no chance to set up a new line unless he either destroyed or pushed west the elements of the 128th Infantry already on the slopes of Hill 527. At any rate, beginning on 8 May, he started dispatching troops to cut the supply line to the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry. This route ran through rugged, forested country southeast from Hill 511 to Hills 515 and 516 and continued east across Hill 525 toward Hills 526 and 527. On 10 May Japanese forces cut the track between Hills 525 and 516, forcing much of the 128th Infantry and one battalion of the 127th to devote a considerable portion of their efforts to eliminating the Japanese pocket. If delay had been Iwanaka's purpose, he succeeded admirably, for it was 19 May before the supply line was once again secure and the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, could return to its drive east from Hill 525.
Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 128th, had grabbed a bear by the tail at Salacsac Pass No. 1 and during the two weeks following 8 May was able to make less than 500 yards east from Hill 508. Troops of the 2d Battalion, moving west from Hill 526, gained even less ground, and when, on 16 May, the 3d Battalion started to drive south and southeast from Hill 516, it found that strong Japanese forces had reoccupied many positions that the 126th Infantry had once overrun. Not until 24 May did the 128th Infantry clear the last Japanese from the trapezium formed by Hills 515, 516, 526, and 508 and report to General Gill that it had secured Salacsac Pass No. 1.
Meanwhile, the 2d Battalion, 128th Infantry, had seized Hill 527, and the 1st Battalion, Buena Vista Regiment, had started a drive northward from Valdez that culminated on 28 May with the capture of Hill 528, lying on the south side of the Villa Verde Trail opposite Hill 527. The two battalions had cleared the high ground immediately west of Imugan, now the 32d Division's final objective.
Until 23 May the division had been aiming for Santa Fe, but on that day I Corps--realizing that the 32d Division had no chance of reaching Santa Fe before the 25th Division, which was driving north along Route 5--once again
moved the 25-32d Division boundary westward. For all practical purposes the capture of Hill 528 by the 1st Battalion, Buena Vista Regiment, marked the completion of the 32d Division's share in the drive toward Santa Fe, and on 28 May, entering the remnants of barrio Imugan against no opposition, the guerrilla unit put the finishing touches on the 32d Division's campaign. For the first time since 21 February the division had successfully carried out to the letter the provisions of an I Corps directive.
In achieving its final success, the 32d Division had received indirect assistance from the 2d Tank Division. On 24 May Iwanaka started withdrawing the remains of his battered forces north up the valley of the Imugan River. The 25th Division was threatening his main supply route, for the 10th Division's last defenses on Route 5 had collapsed. Iwanaka therefore realized that there was no longer any tactical purpose to be served by continuing his efforts to hold the Villa Verde Trail, and he acted accordingly.
The last act of the drama along the trail came to a swift end. On 29 May the 1st Battalion, Buena Vista Regiment, made contact with elements of the 126th Infantry northeast of Imugan. Operating under 25th Division control, the 126th had trucked up Route 5 and had struck toward Imugan from the east and southeast. By the 29th, encountering only scattered groups of Japanese, the regiment had gained control over the Villa Verde Trail from Santa Fe to Imugan. Except for the 126th Infantry, all elements of the 32d Division began to withdraw from the trail on 30 May. Still under the control of the 25th Division, the 126th Infantry continued patrolling west from Santa Fe and up the Imugan River valley for another two weeks.
The final phase of operations along the Villa Verde Trail--from 5 through 31 May--had again cost the 32d Division dearly. The 128th Infantry, which had borne the brunt of the fighting at Salacsac Pass No. 1, had suffered especially heavy casualties:33
Unit Killed Wounded Nonbattle Totals 126th Infantry 15 40 75 130 127th Infantry 55 75 350 480 128th Infantry 120 390 . . . . . 510 Total 190 505 425 1,120
The three infantry regiments of the 32d Division had suffered the following battle casualties during their operations to clear the Villa Verde Trail and adjacent terrain:34
Unit Killed Wounded Total 126th Infantry 195 460 655 127th Infantry 350 750 1,100 128th Infantry 280 950 1,230 Total 825 2,160 2,985
In addition, another 6,000 or so of the 32d Division were evacuated from the
VILLA VERDE APPROACH TO IMUGAN
front lines either permanently or for varying periods of time because of sickness and disease of all types, mainly respiratory infections, skin troubles, intestinal afflictions, and combat fatigue and associated psychoneurotic upsets.
During the final phase of operations along the Villa Verde Trail the 2d Tank Division lost 2,300 men killed,35 and by the end of May at least 5,750 of the 8,750 troops the Japanese had committed to the defense of the trail were dead.36 The 2d Tank Division was finished as an effective infantry combat unit, just as it had been destroyed as an armored force during the defense of the approaches to San Jose in January and early February.
The 32d Division had not accomplished
its original missions--to clear the Villa Verde Trail, seize Santa Fe, and secure Route 5 from Santa Fe south to Digdig--but this is not to detract from the division's very real and important accomplishments. Initially, Sixth Army and I Corps had expected too much of the 32d Division, especially in the light of the unit's personnel problems. When I Corps finally reduced the 32d's mission to one within reach of its capabilities, the division succeeded in executing its orders. Moreover, Sixth Army and I Corps, in assigning the division its original missions, had underestimated terrain difficulties along the Villa Verde Trail as well as Japanese capabilities and intentions with regard to the defense of that approach to Santa Fe.
Assessing the 32d Division's accomplishments, it is hardly necessary to look further than the fact that the unit pinned down the 2d Tank Division and its attachments to the defense of the Villa Verde Trail. Destroying the 2d Tank Division and making sure that almost 6,000 Japanese were no longer alive to fight again, the 32d Division had undoubtedly made possible the relatively more decisive operations of the 25th Division along the Route 5 approach to Santa Fe. Even with the help provided by the 32d Division's operations, the 25th Division had reached Santa Fe only one day before the 32d overran the last organized Japanese defenses west of Imugan, less than three miles west of the Villa Verde Trail-Route 5 junction at Santa Fe.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (25) * Next Chapter (27)
1. The remainder of this section is based largely upon: Sixth Army Rpt Luzon, I, 45-47, 81; Sixth Army FO's 53-55, dated 18, 25, and 28 Feb 45, in ibid., I, 155-56; I Corps Rpt Luzon, pp. 60-62; I Corps FO 12, 21 Feb 45, and 12-1, 2 Mar 45.
2. See above, Chapter XXIV, for the background of the plan to advance the 32d Division's left toward Baguio.
3. Information on 32d Division operations in this subsection is from: 32d Div FO 15, 22 Feb 45; 32d Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 10-14, 20; 32d Div G-3 Opns Rpts, 21 Feb-6 Mar 45; 126th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 3-6; 127th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 8-12; 127th Inf Daily Unit Rpts, 22 Feb-6 Mar 45, 127th Inf Regtl Jnl Files, 23 Feb-6 Mar 45; 128th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 7-8.
4. Japanese information in this section and its subsections is from: SWPA Hist Series, II, 478-80; Konuma Statement, States, II, 309-14; 14 Area Army Opns on Luzon, pp. 99-110; Kawai Statement, States, II, 148-49; Kawai Interrog, Interrogs, I, 323-25.
5. Note, as at Baguio, Yamashita had a major general commanding the forces with three lieutenant generals under him, the commanders of the 10th and 105th Divisions and the 2d Tank Division.
6. See other volumes in this series: Smith, Approach to the Philippines; Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1957); Cannon, Leyte; John Miller, jr., CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1959).
7. This subsection is based primarily upon: 32d Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 21-27; 32d Div G-3 Opns Rpts, 5-25 Mar 45, 32d Div G-3 Jnl Files for the same period; 127th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 10-19; 127th Inf Daily Unit Rpts and Overlays, 4-25 Mar 45; 127th Inf Unit Jnl, 5-25 Mar 45; 128 Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 8-11.
On 10 March, during one of the many attempts by the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, to advance beyond the crest of Hill 502, Pfc. Thomas E. Atkins of Company A earned the Medal of Honor when, although severely wounded, he played the major role in repelling a local Japanese counterattack.
8. On 20 March, during the attack from Hill 502 to Hill 505, S. Sgt. Ysmael R. Villegas of Company F, 126th Infantry, was mortally wounded while leading his squad against a series of Japanese foxholes. For his heroic leadership, Sergeant Villegas was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
9. The casualty figures are principally from the 127th Infantry Unit Reports cited previously; see also Rad, G-3 I Corps to G-3 Sixth Army, 22 Mar 45, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl File Luzon, 21-23 Mar 45.
10. Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 26-27; 128th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 11-12.
11. Ibid.; 32d Div FO 16, 22 Mar 45.
12. I Corps FO's 3-12 and 4-12, 11 and 13 Mar 45. This was actually the third time since 21 February that Swift had reduced the 32d Division's area of responsibility. See also below, ch. XXVII.
13. I Corps FO 13, 25 Mar 45.
14. 32d Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 14-18; 126th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 6-11.
15. 32d Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 27-33; 128th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 11-13; 128th Inf Daily Unit Rpts, 23 Mar-5 Apr 45.
During the Japanese attack on Hill 504, Pfc. William R. Shockley of Company L heroically covered the withdrawal of his squad at the cost of his own life. For this action, Private Shockley was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
16. Ibid.; Rpt, Asst G-3 Sixth Army to G-3 Sixth Army, sub: Rpts of Obsr Visit to 32d Div, 1 Apr 45, Sixth Army G-3 Jnl File Luzon, 1-3 Apr 45.
17. Ibid.; 32d Div Rpt Luzon, p. 32; I Corps Rpt Luzon, pp. 71-73; I Corp FO 13-1, 3 Apr 45; 32d Div FO 17, 4 Apr 45. See above, Chapter XXV, for the effect of these orders on 33d Division operations.
18. 32d Div FO 17, 4 Apr 45; 32d Div G-3 Opns Rpts, 4-6 Apr 45; 126th Inf Unit Rpt, 6 Apr 45 (the only available copies of the 126th Infantry's unit reports are to be found in the 32d Division G-3 Journal Files).
19. Japanese information here and in the following subsection is from: SWPA Hist Series, II, 478-79; Kawai Interrog, Interrogs, I, 323-27, 330; Kawai Statement, States, II, 148; 14th Area Army Opns on Luzon, pp. 121-22, 124.
20. The 32d Division estimated it had killed 2,100 Japanese in the area.
21. U.S. sources for this and the subsequent subsections include: 32d Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 32-40; 32d Div G-3 Opns Rpts, 4-18 Apr 45; 126th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 12-15; 126th Inf Unit Rpts, 6-18 Apr 45; 128th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 13-15; 128th Inf Unit Rpts, 5-18 Apr 45.
22. Memo, Asst ACofS G-3 Sixth Army for ACofS G-3 Sixth Army, 13 Apr 45, sub: Rpt of Visit to 32d Div, 10-11 Apr 45, and Memo, Asst ACofS G-3 Sixth Army for ACofS G-3 Sixth Army, 14 Apr 45, sub: Rpt on Visit to 128th Inf, 13 Apr 45, both in Sixth Army G-3 Jnl File Luzon, 11-13 Apr 45: Krueger Comments, 18 Dec 56.
23. See Cannon, Leyte.
24. Asst ACofS G-3 Sixth Army Rpt on visit to 128th Inf, 13 Apr 45; 32d Div FO 19, 18 Apr 45.
25. This estimate is based upon Japanese sources. For the period 5-17 April, the 32d Division claimed only 850 Japanese killed.
26. 32d Division claims for the period 1 March-17 April account for 2,950 Japanese killed, while from Japanese sources a figure of 2,250 killed can be derived.
27. Japanese information in this subsection comes from: Kawai Interrog, Interrogs, I, 323-24, 330-31; 32d Div Rpt Luzon, an. 2, G-2 Rpt, pp. 15-16.
28. 32d Div Rpt Luzon, p. 38; 32d Div FO's 18 and 19, 12 and 18 Apr 45, respectively.
29. The principal sources for the rest of this subsection are: 32d Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 38-47; 32d Div G-3 Opns Rpts, 18 Apr-5 May 45; 127th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 21-35; 127th Inf Unit Rpts, 18 Apr-5 May 45; 126th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 15-19; 126th Inf Unit Rpts, 16 Apr-4 May 45.
On 25 April, during the course of the 127th Infantry's action described in the following paragraphs, Pfc. David M. Gonzales of Company A was killed as, exposed to enemy fire, he helped dig out a number of his fellow men who had been buried as the result of a landslide caused by a bomb that had gone astray from supporting aircraft. For his heroic action, Private Gonzales was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
30. The table is based on the 126th and 127th unit reports cited in the previous subsection.
31. The remainder of this subsection is based generally on: 32d Div Rpt Luzon, pp. 42-43, 45-46, 48-54; 32d Div G-3 Opns Rpts, 4-30 May 45; 126th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 19-20; 127th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 35-53; 127th Inf Unit Rpts, 5 May-2 Jun 45; 128th Inf Rpt Luzon, pp. 16-23; 128th Inf Unit Rpts, 4-30 May 45.
32. Additional information on the Japanese is derived from: Kawai Interrog, Interrogs, I, 325-27, 331-32; Kawai Statement, States, II, 149; SWPA Hist Series, II, 480-82; 14th Area Army Opns on Luzon, pp. 157-61; 32d Div Rpt Luzon, an. 2, G-2 Rpt, p. 16.
33. The table is derived from the regimental unit reports cited previously. The 126th Infantry was out of action from 9 to 24 May; its totals do not include the casualties for the period 24-31 May, when it operated under 25th Division control. The 127th was engaged primarily in mopping up during the period. No nonbattle casualty figures can be found for the 128th.
34. The figures in the table are approximations derived from all available pertinent data. As usual, the various sources employed provide irreconcilable information. The figures for the 126th Infantry do not include the regiment's battle casualties for the period 24-31 May, when the regiment operated under 25th Division control; the figures do, however, include the regiment's casualties--approximately 55 killed and 110 wounded--for the period 21 February-5 April, when most of the unit operated in the river valleys west of the Villa Verde Trail.
35. American and Japanese estimates of Japanese killed during May coincide remarkably well.
36. The figure 5,750 is derived principally from the Japanese sources. The claims of the 32d Division's three infantry regiments provided a total of 8,750 Japanese killed--equal to the total Japanese commitment on the trail. The 32d Division's G-2 and G-3 Sections estimated that approximately 7,675 Japanese were killed along the trail.