Brigadier General Chase and men of his headquarters repelling Japanese forces in Manila on the evening of February 3, 1945.  Photoflash picture taken by Tom Shafer of Acme News-pictures who accompanied the troops.

The Dash Into Manila

By evening of 2 February, XIV Corps had progressed well beyond the Malolos-Plaridel line that General Krueger, on 30 January, had named as the corps objective. The 1st Cavalry Division, on the left, had found no more signs of significant resistance than had the 37th Infantry Division on the right, and the corps had found no indications that Shimbu Group intended to mount a counterattack. Opposition had been tactically unimportant, and for the most part the few organized groups of Japanese XIV Corps had found had appeared surprised and unprepared.

This favorable situation along the XIV Corps front and left, together with the progress made by I Corps through 2 February and the success of XI Corps and 11th Airborne Division landings on Luzon's west coast on 29 and 31 January, respectively, prompted Krueger, late on the 2d, to direct Griswold to drive on to Manila with all possible speed. In addition to securing the capital city, XIV Corps was to advance beyond the city to a line extending from the Cavite naval base area, on Manila Bay south of the city, northeast some twenty-five miles and then north another ten miles. This line was drawn so as to include almost the entire Manila metropolitan region within XIV Corps' zone of responsibility.17

On the basis of Krueger's new orders, Griswold established an intermediate corps objective line along the north bank of the Pasig River, which flows east to west through the center of Manila. At this time the XIV Corps commander expected the 37th Division to reach the city first and make the main effort to clear it. He so drew the boundary between the 37th Infantry and the 1st Cavalry Divisions that all Manila proper, as well as its most direct approaches from the north, lay well within the 37th's zone. The cavalry division would have to move on the city via secondary roads coming in from the northeast and, theoretically at least, would be barred from entering Manila even should its Flying Columns reach the city first.18

On 3 February the 37th Division's van unit, the 2d Battalion of the 148th Infantry, was delayed at a number of unbridged, unfordable, tidal streams, and also had to deploy three or four times to disperse small groups of Japanese. At 1930 on 3 February the main body of the battalion was less than two miles south of Marilao, which its patrols had reached the previous day.19 In a race for Manila, the 148th was at a decided disadvantage. With most of the bridges over unfordable streams along Route 3 down or severely damaged, the regiment had to ferry its supporting artillery and tanks across streams or wait until engineers could construct bridges across the rivers.20 Either course involved considerably more delay than that encountered by the 1st Cavalry Division, which had been able to seize intact some important bridges and had found relatively easy fords over unbridged streams.

Well aware that the 37th Division was moving on Manila, the 1st Cavalry Division's Flying Columns, determined to beat the infantry into the city "wasted" little time sleeping during the night of 2-3 February.21 A small Japanese defense force held up the 5th Cavalry's Flying Column along the Sabang-Norzagaray road before midnight on 2 February, but the column was under way again at 0430 on the 3d when, as the moon rose, vehicle drivers could at least locate the shoulders of the gravel road. By dawn the Flying Column had found Norzagaray in the hands of Filipino guerrillas, and had then swung back southwest toward Santa Maria, almost ten miles away. Slowed as it forded bridgeless streams, the 5th Cavalry's motorized column was not across the Santa Maria River until 1500. Once across that stream, the column raced east along rough, gravel-paved Route 64 and quickly reached the Routes 64-52 junction, eight miles from Santa Maria.22 Then the motorized squadron turned south along Route 52 and, moving at speeds up to fifty miles an hour,23 endeavored to catch up with the 8th Cavalry's Flying Column, an hour ahead and through Talipapa, ten miles south of the Routes 64-52 junction.

At a minor road junction on flat, open ground near Talipapa, four Japanese trucks loaded with troops and supplies nosed out into Route 52 from the east just as the 2d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, arrived from the north. Troops aboard the cavalry's leading vehicles waved the Japanese to a halt and, momentarily stupefied, the Japanese drivers complied. As each of the 5th Cavalry's vehicles came within range of the Japanese group, the cavalrymen fired with all the weapons they could bring to bear, and continued shooting until they had passed on southward out of range. Within seconds the Flying Column's men had set afire four Japanese trucks and had killed at least 25 Japanese. The remaining Japanese, recovering their wits sufficiently to flee, scattered in all directions. Five miles from the nearest water that would float even a PT, the 5th Cavalry had executed the classic naval maneuver of crossing the T.

A few moments later, the 5th Cavalry's force caught up with General Chase's command group. The 5th was now less than half an hour behind the 8th Cavalry's Flying Column.

Delayed at fords and slowed as it deployed to disperse a few small groups of Japanese, the 8th Cavalry's groupment had not crossed the Santa Maria River until noon on the 3d. East of the river, two Japanese outposts, attempting to block Route 64, again slowed the column. The column then broke through light opposition at the Routes 64-52 junction and started into Novaliches, seven miles to the south, about 1630. Just south of Novaliches the Japanese had prepared demolitions to blow a stone-arch bridge over the Tuliahan River, and they defended the bridge by fire from the south bank. Despite this fire, Lt. (jg) James P. Sutton (USNR), from a Seventh Fleet bomb disposal unit attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, dashed onto the bridge to cut a burning fuze leading to a large charge of dynamite. Sutton then proceeded to heave some mines over the side of the bridge into the gorge through which ran the Tuliahan.24

Without Lieutenant Sutton's quick action, the 1st Cavalry Division's Flying Columns would have been delayed at least twenty-four hours until engineers could have brought forward heavy equipment to build a ford across the steep-banked, deep Tuliahan gorge. As it was, the 8th Cavalry's motorized force pushed on against very light opposition and secured Talipapa about 1800. Half an hour later the Flying Column reached Grace Park, a suburban development about a mile north of the Manila city limits.

Now twelve hours ahead of the nearest 37th Division units, the 8th Cavalry's group had reached the western limits of the 1st Cavalry Division's zone. Griswold had known since noon that the cavalrymen were going to arrive at Manila before the infantry, and he gave the 1st Cavalry Division permission to enter the city. Later in the day, anticipating that if he did not take some further action the two divisions might inadvertently start shooting at each other, the corps commander moved the division boundary westward. The 37th Division got a narrow, thickly populated, partially industrialized strip along the bay front; the rest of Manila went to the 1st Cavalry Division.25

The 8th Cavalry's Flying Column met scattered resistance in the Grace Park area, but with tanks in the van firing on all positions suspected of harboring Japanese, the column continued forward and crossed the city limits about 1900.26 General Chase, in contact by radio, directed the Flying Column to speed on into Manila. Guided by guerrillas, the force followed city streets and swept past hidden Japanese riflemen who sniped away at the column and, about 1930, drew up at the gates of Santo Tomas University. Within the walls and held under close guard by the Japanese Army, were almost 4,000 American and Allied civilian internees who were running dangerously low on food and medical supplies.