1st CAVALRY DIVISION'S COMMANDING GENERAL Verne D. Mudge, confers with Brigadier General William C. Chase who led the "flying column" into Manila on the night of 3 February 1945.


The 1st Cavalry Division's drive toward Manila had begun just after 1900 on 31 January, when a small force from the division started toward Cabanatuan from the assembly area west of that town. In the lead were elements of the 1st Cavalry Brigade.

The World War II brigade structure of Maj. Gen. Verne D. Mudge's dismounted 1st Cavalry Division differed greatly from that of the triangular infantry division of the period.12 Instead of three infantry regiments the 1st Cavalry Division had four cavalry regiments--the 5th and 12th in the 1st Cavalry Brigade, the 7th and 8th in the 2d Cavalry Brigade. Each regiment had two cavalry squadrons, each smaller than an infantry battalion, as opposed to the three battalions of an infantry regiment. Each cavalry regiment contained a weapons troop armed with 81-mm. mortars, .30-caliber and .50-caliber machine guns, and bazookas, but there was no heavy weapons troop within each squadron. The cavalry regiments lacked the antitank and cannon companies of an infantry regiment. 1st Cavalry Division Artillery was composed of one 75-mm. howitzer battalion, three 105-mm. howitzer battalions, and, for obvious reasons, an attached 155-mm. howitzer battalion. Reinforcing combat and service attachments brought the division's strength up to nearly 15,000 men, somewhat less than the strength of the reinforced 37th Division at the same time. On paper, each of the four cavalry regiments numbered 1,750 men--in contrast to the 3,000-odd of an infantry regiment--but none of the 1st Cavalry Division's regiments was up to strength. The division had received few replacements since entering combat on Leyte in October, and it had come to Luzon after very little rest from its arduous campaign through Leyte's mountains.

For the drive to Manila, General Mudge organized two reinforced motorized squadrons that soon became known as Flying Columns. Each included a cavalry squadron, a medium tank company, a 105-mm. howitzer battery, other supporting elements, and sufficient vehicles to lift all troops. Mudge placed the two Flying Columns under Brig. Gen. William C. Chase, commander of the 1st Cavalry Brigade. Chase's groupment also included the Provisional Reconnaissance Squadron, which contained the division's own 302d Reconnaissance Troop and the headquarters and light tank companies of the attached 44th Tank Battalion.13

On the morning of 1 February the 2d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, nucleus of one of the Flying Columns, forded the broad Pampanga north of Cabanatuan and by 1300 had established firm contact with a force of some 250 Japanese infantrymen supported by two or three 75-mm. artillery pieces.14 The Japanese group held up the 2d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, until the 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry (not part of a Flying Column), forded the Pampanga south of Cabanatuan and fought its way into town against the Japanese rear. (See Map - The Approach to Manila) By dusk the two units had cleared most of Cabanatuan, and other elements of the 5th Cavalry finished mopping up the next day. On 3 February the 12th Cavalry, responsible for protecting the division's long line of communications down Route 5, took over in the Cabanatuan region as all troops of the 5th and 8th Cavalry Regiments moved south behind the Flying Columns.

About the same time that 2d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, started into Cabanatuan from the north, the Provisional Reconnaissance Squadron forded the Pampanga about five miles south of town and by 1330 on 1 February was at Gapan, where, thirteen miles below Cabanatuan, Route 5 crosses the Peņaranda River. So far, the provisional unit had encountered no opposition as it sped south across hot, baked farm land, but Japanese rifle fire from the south bank of the Peņaranda killed Lt. Col. Tom H. Ross, commander of the Provisional Reconnaissance Squadron and the 44th Tank Battalion, as he led a patrol onto the Route 5 bridge at Gapan. Capt. Don H. Walton, commanding the 302d Reconnaissance Troop, immediately assumed control of the men at the Gapan bridge and, leading a dash across the span, probably forestalled its destruction. Walton's force, together with Troop G, 8th Cavalry, which arrived from the vicinity of Cabanatuan before dark, set up defensive perimeters to hold the Gapan bridge for the Flying Columns.

The main body of the leading Flying Column, built around the 2d Squadron, 8th Cavalry, passed through Gapan during the night of 1-2 February and by 0900 on the 2d was moving into Sabang, on the Angat River thirty-five miles south of Gapan and seven miles northeast of Plaridel.15 The column, after establishing contact with the 37th Division, made no attempt to cross the Angat at Plaridel--the bridges were down and the area south of the Angat in the Plaridel region was in the 37th Division's zone. Accordingly, the Flying Column forded the Angat about five miles north of Plaridel in the vicinity of Baliuag, where, three years earlier, elements of MacArthur's withdrawing forces had delayed Japanese forces attempting to reach the Calumpit bridges along the Angat River bank roads through Plaridel.16 The Flying Column's somewhat ticklish fording job--the river was wide, although not too deep at Baliuag--was accomplished as crowds of Filipinos cheered the cavalrymen on. To neither the 37th nor 1st Cavalry Divisions had the Japanese offered serious resistance along the natural defense line of the unbridged Angat.

While the 2d Squadron, 8th Cavalry, was busy near Baliuag, the other Flying Column had reached Sabang and, fording the Angat there, struck east through gently rising farm land along Route 65 toward Norzagaray, thirteen miles distant. The aim of this maneuver was to ascertain if Shimbu Group units believed to be holding high ground east and southeast of Norzagaray had any intentions of sallying forth to fall on the left flank of the 1st Cavalry Division. If the Flying Column met strong opposition, or if the Japanese attacked it, the 1st Cavalry Division might have to halt its advance toward Manila until it could bring up additional strength. If no serious threat developed, the 5th Cavalry's group would swing back southeast from Norzagaray and follow the 8th Cavalry's Flying Column across the Santa Maria River at Santa Maria, ten miles southeast of Baliuag. At dusk on 2 February patrols of the 8th Cavalry were approaching Santa Maria, having followed circuitous, third-class roads from Baliuag in order to keep out of the 37th Division's zone.