To the Outskirts of Manila

Luckily for the 511th Infantry, the area where the bulk of its men hit the ground was not too impossible, although many of the 'troopers had landed in or among banana trees. The regiment suffered about 50 jump casualties--a low rate of less than 3 percent--of whom all but two were listed as "slightly injured." One man was killed and another was carried on the casualty lists as seriously injured.45 Despite the organizational problems the scattered jump created, Col. Orin D. Haugen, commanding the 511th Infantry, had all his troops under his control by 1400. He dispatched patrols westward to establish contact with the 188th Infantry, and his men, encountering no opposition, secured the eastern end of Tagaytay Ridge where Route 17 turned sharply north and downhill toward Manila. Haugen also sent patrols out along roads and trails leading north and south from the ridge crest and at evening reported to division headquarters that he had found no signs of Japanese.

Generals Eichelberger and Swing now intended to have the reinforced 188th Infantry hold Tagaytay Ridge and reduce the Japanese pocket on the western nose while the 511th Infantry pushed north toward Manila with all possible speed. Swing sent all of his available motor transportation forward to Tagaytay Ridge to move the 511th Infantry northward in battalion-sized shuttles and directed the 188th Infantry to follow when ready.

This plan constituted a change in mission for the 11th Airborne Division. MacArthur's original instructions to Eichelberger had envisaged that the division's primary duties would be to contain Japanese forces in southern Luzon and patrol to ascertain Japanese dispositions and intentions in its area of responsibility.

Manifestly, the division could not carry out these duties if it drove north to Manila. Eichelberger's authority to change the mission apparently derived from personal contact with MacArthur, who had given the Eighth Army commander considerable discretion on the handling of the 11th Airborne Division.46

Eichelberger's hopes that the 11th Airborne Division could start its dash to Manila on 3 February did not come to fruition. It was after daylight on the 4th before the 2d Battalion, 511th Infantry, already over twelve hours behind Sixth Army elements coming into the city from the north, set out from Tagaytay Ridge. Moving as fast as the elementary requirements of caution permitted, the battalion sped rapidly northward along two-lane, concrete-paved Route 17. At every town and barrio through the open country crowds of cheering Filipinos greeted the column and, once or twice, practically halted the movement in their enthusiasm.

About 1130 forward elements detrucked at Imus, a small town almost twenty-five miles north of Tagaytay Ridge. The Route 17 bridge over the Imus River just south of the town was out, and about fifty Japanese, holed up in an old stone building dating back to the early days of the Spanish occupation, blocked an alternate bridge within Imus. Most of the infantry walked across the river along the top of a small dam south of town, while Company D, 511th Infantry, supported by some 75-mm. howitzers of the 674th Field Artillery, undertook to reduce the Japanese strongpoint so that the trucks could continue up Route 17. The 5-foot-thick walls of the old building proved impervious to the light artillery shells, so T. Sgt. Robert C. Steele climbed to the building's roof, knocked a hole through the roofing, poured in gasoline, and started a fine flash fire inside with a white phosphorus hand grenade. As the Japanese came dashing out, they were summarily cut down by the men of Company D. Steele personally dispatched two Japanese who remained inside the building.47

With the Imus bridge secure, the parachute battalion drove on another three miles to Zapote. Here, Route 17 ended at a junction with Route 25, which led another half mile northeast across the Zapote River to a junction with Route 1 a mile south of a bridge over the Las Piñas River at Las Piñas. The Japanese had prepared the Las Piñas bridge for demolitions and were to defend it from positions on the north bank, but the men of the 511th Infantry caught the Japanese by surprise and secured the span intact after a short, sharp fire fight. The 2d Battalion held at Las Piñas while the 1st Battalion, coming north on a second truck shuttle from Tagaytay Ridge, passed through and continued toward Manila.

PARAÑAQUE, four miles south of Manila, where on 4 February the Japanese stopped the 511th Infantry.

Driving through a densely populated area and following Route 1 up the shore of Manila Bay, the 1st Battalion left Las Piñas behind at 1800. The battalion ran into increasingly heavy harassing fire from Japanese riflemen and machine gunners. At Parañaque, two miles beyond Las Piñas, the unit found a bridge across the Parañaque River badly damaged, defended by Japanese on the north bank, and covered by Japanese mortar and artillery fire originating from Nichols Field, a mile and a half to the northeast. Here, only four miles south of the Manila city limits,48 the Japanese stopped the 511th Infantry.

On 4 February the 511th Infantry, in various clashes, lost 8 men killed and 19 wounded. The entire 11th Airborne Division, since its landing, had lost approximately 35 men killed and 150 wounded, plus 50 injured in the Tagaytay Ridge jump. The division now faced the principal Japanese defenses south of Manila.