Battle of Luzon

The Battle of Luzon was a World War II battle which was fought on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines, between the US forces and the Japanese Imperial Army from January 9 to August 15, 1945. It was part of the Philippines campaign in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

Background to the Battle of Luzon

The Philippines were strategically important for Japan, not only because the natural resources they held but also because these big islands were the springboard from which Japan could launch offensives against South East Asia and Pacific islands in its search for petroleum. Consequently Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941. During the Japanese campaign to capture the Philippines (December 8, 1941 – May 8, 1942), General MacArthur was in charge of the defense. As the Japanese victory was inevitable, MacArthur was ordered to leave the Philippines and fly to Australia.

The US forces launched the counter-offensive against the Japanese in August 1942, but on Guadalcanal island in the Solomons, from which they began to leapfrog from one Japanese-infested island to the next, recapturing them as they went. So, MacArthur had to wait two years to come back to the Philippines. The island of Leyte was the first target of the American campaign to recapture the Philippines. On December 31, 1944, the last pockets of Japanese resistance on Leyte had been snuffed out. This was followed by the Allied assault on Mindoro, and later, Luzon.

Summary of the Battle of Luzon

After a pre-landing bombardment of Japanese positions, the Battle of Luzon began at 08:00 hours on January 9, 1945. The attack on Luzon was Codenamed S-day and was carried out by the US 6th Army, commanded by General Walter Krueger. Around 170,000 troops landed along a twenty-mile wide beachhead at the Lingayen Gulf during the first four days, while the I Corps protected their flanks. Having consolidated their beachhead, the XIV Corps, commanded by General Oscar Griswold, advanced southwards in the direction of Manila. The US troops did not meet much resistance until they reached the Clark Air Base on January 23. The fighting there was fierce and lasted until the end of January. Having captured the base, XIV Corps moved towards Manila.

On January 15, a second amphibious landing was conducted by American forces 45 miles southwest of Manila. On January 31, two regiments of the 11th Airborne Division made an airborne assault and seized a bridge, then made their way towards Manila, too. The 1st Cavalry Division captured the bridge across Tuliahan River and proceeded to the city on February 3. They advanced into the city that evening, and the Battle of Manila was initiated.

Ferocious fighting against the Japanese continued throughout the island of Luzon in the following weeks as more US troops landed on the island. Filipino resistance guerrilla soldiers also launched attacks on Japanese positions, securing several locations. By March the American forces had taken control of all strategically and economically important locations of Luzon. Scattered and disorganized Japanese troops fell back into the mountains, where they were besieged by US forces. Pockets of Japanese resistance held out in the mountains until the unconditional surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. 

Map of Luzon

 

Attack on Hill 2380 during the Battle of Luzon

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