General MacArthur wades ashore in the 24th Infantry Division sector, 20
October 1944. (National Archives)
1st Cavalry Division troops advance inland through swampy terrain.
Infantrymen cautiously move toward an enemy machine gun position.
Japanese transport under attack. (National Archives)
Filipino volunteers carry supplies into the mountains to reach 1st Cavalry
Division troops. (National Archives)
"Liberation Ceremony" by Paul Sample (Army Art Collection)
from outside sources by our seizure of adjacent islands, the Japanese
forces were limited in supplies particularly food. Sufficient weapons
and ammunition to effect a limited offensive or a stubborn defense,
however, were on hand. Also available to the enemy were machine guns
mounted on numerous wrecked planes dotting the island airfields. The
food problem had been partially alleviated by commandeering all
available civilian stocks.
reports indicated that the Japanese commander, following the now
familiar pattern established in the Philippines, intended to make his
stand in the central mountains and that such preparations were already
assigned the 40th Division was to:
and secure a beachhead in the Pandan Point-Hinigaran area of Negros
rapidly to the north, seize and secure Bacolod town and airfield.
securing Bacolod town and airfield, advance and seize and secure Silay
town and airfield.
securing the Bacolod-Silay area, and accomplishing the destruction of
hostile forces in proximity thereto, conduct operations to the north and
east to destroy the enemy.
hostile forces remaining in Negros Occidental.
set for March 29th, H-Hour for 0800. The landing was to be made by RCT
185 in LVT’s, followed by RCT 160 (less 2nd Battalion and Cannon
Company). After seizing and securing the beachhead, the troops were to
push rapidly northward to secure the towns of Bacolod, Talisay and Silay,
as well as the adjacent airfields. The 503rd Parachute Combat Team, then
on Mindoro, was to be prepared to make an air landing at a time and
place to be designated by the Division Commander, at which time it would
come under Division control.
Elements of the 40th Reconnaissance Troop were to land shortly after
H-Hour and push reconnaissance immediately along the roads north and
east to Cancilayan, Murcia, and Concepcion to locate any enemy forces or
enemy movement on that flank, with a secondary mission of intercepting
and delaying the
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of enemy forces toward the mountains. At the same time, one platoon of
the troop was to perform similar missions in the Maao Sugar Central-La
Carlota-San Enrique-Valladolid area south and east of the beachhead.
considerable concern was the wide unfordable Bago River, across which
our forces would have to move to reach their objective. The 600-foot
steel and concrete bridge spanning the river near its mouth was known to
be prepared for demolition. Pill-boxes at the north end of the bridge
housed controls for electrical detonation. If the bridge were destroyed,
which seemed inevitable, our advance to the north would be seriously
delayed and the shock of our attack mitigated. If the crossing was to be
seized intact, the bridge guard and control operators would have to be
completely surprised and quickly overcome. A plan to land a reinforced
platoon under cover of darkness three hours prior to the assault landing
to secure the crossing was therefore adopted. The mission was assigned
to Company F, 185th Infantry.
SEIZURE OF THE WEST COAST
Division embarked from Panay on March 28th, and the operation proceeded
as planned. The reinforced platoon, totaling one officer and 64 men
including three heavy weapons squads, a demolition squad, and radio
team, landed as scheduled at Pulupandan by LCM’s. Its landing was
inland it observed nine Japs driving carabao carts north along the
highway from the town toward the bridge. To avoid disclosing their
presence by firing at the Jap party, the platoon raced silently parallel
to the highway and reached the bridge first. Had the platoon opened fire
before reaching the objective, the bridge guards would have been
forewarned, the element of surprise lost, and the mission a failure.
Upon reaching the bank of the river, the platoon opened fire on the
nine, as-well as the startled bridge guard, while the demolition squad
cut the control wires. All Japs were killed in the brief fight. The
bridge was secured at the cost of one American life.
electrically controlled aerial bombs, ranging in size from ten
110-pounders to two of 1000 pounds, were found lashed to the bridge
trusses or buried at the abutments.
The main lending three hours later was unopposed. RCT 185, landing
battalions in column moved immediately across the secured bridge, passed
through Bago town against minor opposition, and moved rapidly to the
north. Slight contacts
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several small bridges which had also been mined, but all crossings were
secured intact. The first serious enemy resistance was not met until the
Magsungay River, 1500 yards south of Bacolod, was reached at 1500. There
intense small arms and some 90mm mortar fire was received before the
enemy was routed from pillboxes and the crossing secured. It was
subsequently determined that the Brigade Headquarters at Bacolod had no
knowledge of our landing until our advance elements had reached that
point. By dark on Y-Day, the Lupit River bridge at the south edge of
Bacolod had also been crossed after flanking the defending enemy pocket.
the enemy attempted the first of a series of infiltration attacks on the
principal bridges under our control. The Bago bridge guard was fired on
by a small party in an unsuccessful attempt to recapture or destroy the
crossing. Similar attacks made by small demolition parties continued
during the first few weeks at various points on our line of
communication, but were repulsed with most of the enemy involved killed.
forces at the outskirts of Bacolod prepared to launch an attack in the
morning, the hostile garrison evacuated under cover of darkness, leaving
only a token force to make our entry as costly as possible. Before
leaving, the principal business district was set afire and several
ammunition dumps destroyed. The town was secured by noon the following
day after eliminating the snipers who had been left behind. Seventy-five
enemy dead were counted. Forward elements continued advancing north
beyond the town, and by the end of the day had reached within 500 yards
of Talisay without further contact.
south, the Reconnaissance troop was carrying out its mission. No
contacts developed along the roads in the San Enrique-La Carlota-Pontevedra
sector, but civilians reported enemy groups totaling about 200-300 were
making their way cross-country through swamps toward the northeast. On
T-plus-1, other elements of the Troop, operating in the Alimodian area
northwest of Maao Sugar Central, intercepted approximately 125 of that
number concealed in a bamboo thicket. Deploying armored cars on three
sides of the thicket, the Troop opened fire. A heavy fire fight ensued,
until with air support the Troop all but annihilated the enemy force.
One hundred fourteen enemy dead were counted, and five Filipino
collaborators were captured.
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following day a platoon from the Reconnaissance Troop reached Murcia and
found it recently evacuated, while approximately 6000 yards east of
Bacolod the I & R Platoon of the 185th Infantry observed an estimated
100 enemy moving east along the road toward Granada. The group was
believed to be the tail end of a larger force moving to Concepcion.A
platoon from the Reconnaissance Troop, moving down the same road the
following day, met resistance from entrenched enemy at Concepcion.
Contact was maintained until the end of the day, when the decision was
reached to send one battalion of the 160th Infantry to that area the
following morning. During the night the enemy withdrew farther east, and
only small contacts were made by the battalion.
been anticipated was now evident. The main enemy force did not intend to
defend the coastal area, but rather was accelerating the movement of
supplies and personnel to the hills surrounding Negritos. Accordingly,
the 185th Infantry moved as rapidly as possible to overtake the
retreating units. Moving inland from the Bacolod-Talisay area, it
quickly secured the Silay airfield area, and the Imbang River bridge,
thus reducing the enemy's evacuation routes to those farther north, of
which three were most notable. The first and most important was the road
leading generally from northeast of Silay along the south bank of the
Malago River to Negritos, thence southeast to the Patog area. The Japs
had expended considerable labor on the mountain terminus of this road,
extending and improving it to their purpose. The second route was
southeast from Victorias and north of the Malaga Valley. The third, used
by troops evacuating from the Fabrica and northeast coast areas, ran
south from Manapla through the barrios of Santa Isabela and San Isidro.
Both these latter routes also led into the Negritos area.
At the same
time it was occupying the Silay airfield-area, the 185th moved against
the town of Talisay. The practically isolated garrison defended bitterly
against our attacks from the south and east, and put up heavy fire from
all types of weapons up to and including mm mortars. However, the town
was taken on April 2nd and on April 3rd, the sixth day of the campaign,
lightly defended Silay fell to our possession.
Thus, before a week had passed, all primary objectives on the west coast
were secured. The Division stood in control of the most important
section of the west coast, Silay to Pulupandan, and the area south of
Pulupandan was in the hands of the guerrillas. Inland, guerrillas were
in control of the plains area south of Murcia. The only enemy remaining
in these occupied areas were small groups of stragglers attempting to
reach the main force. Although portions of the capital city, Bacolod,
had been burned, its principal utilities had been
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saved and were
being put into operation by our service troops. The towns of Talisay and
Silay had been secured with a minimum of damage to civilian life and
property. Known enemy casualties for the first six days were 382 killed
and eight captured.
RECONNAISSANCE OF THE NORTH AND EAST COASTS
the securing of Silay airfield, the 40th Reconnaissance Troop initiated
reconnaissance east toward the enemy base at Guimbalaon. Upon completion
of that mission the reconnaissance of the north coast was undertaken.
Following a route through Saravia and the airfields of Alicante and
Malago, they found the area completely evacuated by the enemy. Fording
the Malago River near the destroyed bridge, the troop moved on to
Fabrica through Manapla, finding several bridges mined but only one
destroyed. Guerrillas and civilians stated the Japs had been hurriedly
moving southwest for the past week or more, skirting the Mount Silay
foothills to rendezvous with Bacolod forces in the Patog area. The Troop
reached the Insular sawmill just west of Fabrica on the 6th of April. As
the bridge over the Himugaan River was destroyed and there was no ford,
they were unable to continue westward until the attached engineers could
construct a ferry crossing. Meanwhile, the Troop contacted one of the
mill superintendents and made a hasty survey of the sawmill area.
Approximately eighty percent of the mill had been destroyed by burning,
but much machinery and cut lumber were found undamaged. Engineers set to
work to salvage as much of the equipment and materials as possible and
to place the mill in operating condition.
command poet to the sawmill area, the troop continued patrols to the
west and provided security for the engineer detachment working at the
mill. Reports were frequently received from guerrillas and civilians
that some Jape were still evacuating toward the mountains, but no
contacts were made. These same sources also stated that occasional
groups of enemy stragglers from Cebu were landing on Negros and on the
small islands just off the north east and east coasts.
12th, the necessary materials arrived and a ferry was established across
the Himugaan. The troop immediately extended its reconnaissance on
around the coast finding some bridges destroyed, but crossing the
streams by various expedients. San Carlos, on the east coast, was
reached on the 13th, and the Escalante area to the north was thoroughly
searched but no contact was made.
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16th, one platoon reconnoitered east to west over the trans-island road
running from Pinckawan to Pontevedra, finding it maintained in good
condition by civilians and guerrillas. The following day other elements
reached Tanjay, twelve miles north of the Negros Oriental capital,
Dumaguete. Neither of these patrols made any enemy contact.
next mission was to obtain information regarding the enemy garrison at
Dumaguete, which would be of value to the elements of the Americal
Division, scheduled to make a landing at that point on April 26th. The
troop's movement southward, limited by Eighth Army order to barrio Looc,
there contacted guerrilla leaders and secured the information, which was
relayed to the Americal Division. Remaining in position until the
landing, which was unopposed, the patrol contacted the commander of the
assault force and placed itself at his disposal for such reconnaissance
missions as he might desire. Its mission complete, the patrol returned
to Fabrica. During the remainder of the Negros operation the troop
maintained patrols along the north coast and conducted several
dismounted reconnaissance missions on the flanks of the enemy defensive
positions near Patog.
ROAD TO BANANA RIDGE
mentioned previously, the original plan had called for an air landing by
the 503rd Parachute Combat Team on order from the Commanding General.
Alicante airfield had been tentatively selected as the target, with the
mission of seizing the airfields, clearing the enemy from the northwest
part of Negros, and protecting the left flank of the 185th. When the
enemy's evacuation of this area had been confirmed the plan was changed.
The regiment, less one battalion, landed by water at Pandan Point on
April 8th, and moved into line on the division left flank astride the
Silay-Manzanares road in position to advance abreast of the 185th
The road along which the regiment was to fight its way in the succeeding
weeks followed the crest of a long, narrow steep-sided ridge. As the
advance progressed the road was found to be extensively mined. Aerial
bombs obviously buried in haste were found at frequent intervals.
Fortunately, the inexpert installation made detection simple and they
were easily removed. Enemy defensive positions along the crest,
consisting of pillboxes connected to personnel caves deep in the
adjacent ravines, were difficult to destroy until the road had been
widened and improved to permit tanks to move forward. Tank traps,
constructed by cutting about a ten-foot section of the
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road to a
depth of eight feet were encountered at several points. Roofed with
saplings and covered with a layer of earth to give the appearance of a
continuous road, they were immediately discovered when crossed by foot
patrols. They presented no problem other than the inconvenience of
moving material forward to bridge the narrow gap. The rugged terrain on
either side of the road, with its precipitous slopes, enemy-infested,
jungle-filled draws, and numerous fingerlike, divergent ridges, was
combed by patrols as the advance progressed.
seemed well equipped with small arms including both light and heavy
machine guns, grenade dischargers, and mortars, plus some 20mm and 40mm
guns. Characteristically, he conserved his none too plentiful ammunition
supply by holding his fire until our troops were at point-blank range.
From the beginning, night attacks, generally of small size, were a
regular feature of the enemy's operations.
advance against such a defense in such a terrain could only be made at
considerable cost. Nevertheless, the regiment succeeded in inflicting
considerably more casualties than it suffered, and took a heavy toll of
enemy arms and equipment. During the period April 17th to May 1st
inclusive, 307 enemy dead were counted. Besides uncounted individual
arms, numerous ma chine guns were captured and/or destroyed, and several
large supply dumps including food, a critical item with the enemy, were
Battalion of the 503rd, which had been held at Mindoro in Army reserve,
landed on Negros and rejoined the regiment on April 24th.
enemy's main positions were approached and his major supply points
threatened, his resistance stiffened. By May 2nd the main force of the
503rd had pushed eastward to a point approximately 3500 yards southeast
of Manzanares and onto Banana Ridge, perpendicular to the axis of the
advance, and last remaining high ground west of the deep gorge cut by
the Malago River. Numerous minor contacts but no serious threat had
developed on the left flank. On the right, contact was being maintained
with the 185th Infantry. At this time, plans were laid for a coordinated
attack on Patog by the 503rd, and 185th RCT's. The scheme called for the
503rd RCT to move south on Banana Ridge into the Patog area. At the same
time, the 185th RCT, then at Lantawan, would advance on Patog from the
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The 4th and
5th of May were devoted to patrolling and to artillery fire in
preparation for the attack. Heavy rains hindered air strikes and delayed
construction of the supply roads necessary for the bringing forward of
heavy equipment. The troops jumped off on the 6th of May. Heavy
resistance was expected immediately on Banana Ridge. Many of the enemy
were thought to have escaped destruction by the preparatory bombardment
simply by holing up in the deep caves and stout dugouts they had
prepared well down on the reverse slopes of the ridges. The defilade and
the method of construction rendered them all but impervious to our
bombing and shelling.
attacking Patog from the east, met bitter resistance. As this opposition
was overcome the defenders of Banana Ridge, alarmed at the prospect of
being attacked simultaneously from front and flank, suddenly abandoned
their well prepared positions and fled eastward across the Malago River.
Patrols working in all directions from Banana Ridge made only minor
contacts with isolated groups during the succeeding days. The Patog area
had been freed of enemy. On May 13th, leaving the 3rd Battalion in
position attached to the 185th Infantry, the regiment moved to Murcia on
the right flank of the 160th Infantry.
CAPTURE OF GUIMBALAON AND LANTAWAN
months prior to our landing the enemy had begun transporting huge
quantities of supplies from the coastal towns to the Negritos-Patog
defensive area. When the threat of our landing became a reality, every
effort was made to hasten the incompleted task. Trucks, carrying parties
and carabao carts were feverishly moving along roads from Guimbalaon to
Patog. Such a lucrative target did not pass unattended. Day and night
concentrations of fighters and dive bombers attacked the columns from
March 31st until Guimbalaon was taken. Daily they destroyed trucks,
installations and dumps, and inflicted uncounted casualties on
personnel. Covering the routes of evacuation to Negritos and Patog, they
forced the enemy to limit his movements to the hours of darkness.
of Guimbalaon was known to be the rendezvous and supply point for the
fleeing troops and became the first objective of the 185th Infantry as
it paralleled the 503rd's advance to the hills. Indications were that
the enemy planned originally to make an initial stand along the line
Guimbalaon-Concepcion, but by April 1st it became apparent that he was
forced to alter his intentions due to the unexpected swiftness of our
advance which he had not been able to hinder.