Battle of Bessang Pass

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Battle of Bessang Pass
Date 1-15 June 1945
Location Ilocos Sur, Luzon, Philippines
Result Allied Victory
Belligerents
 United States
 Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
United StatesWalter Krueger
United StatesInnis P. Swift
United StatesRussell W. Volckmann
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svgTomoyuki Yamashita
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svgYoshiharu Ozaki
Strength
15th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Commonwealth Army (USAFIP-NL)
66th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Commonwealth Army (USAFIP-NL)
121st Infantry Regiment, Philippine Commonwealth Army (USAFIP-NL)
~ 9,000 Filipino troops
73rd and 76th Infantry, Japanese 14th Area Army
~ 2,250 Japanese troops
Casualties and losses
119 killed
220 wounded[1]:556
2,600 killed[1]:550

The Battle of Bessang Pass was fought in Cervantes, a municipality in the province of Ilocos Sur, more than 260 km north of Manila. The area serves as a gateway to the Cordillera mountains and the city of Baguio. Bessang Pass was a stronghold of the Japanese imperial forces under Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, known as the “Tiger of Malaya” and conqueror of Singapore. It was part of the triangular defense of General Yamashita in the north, namely the Balete Pass, Villaverde Trail and Bessang Pass, guarding the Ifugao-Benguet-Vizcaya borders. Its fall on the hands of the U.S. Army Forces in the Philippines, Northern Luzon, (USAFP-NL) on June 14, 1945 paved the way to the entrapment of Yamashita’s forces in the Cordillera until the general’s surrender in September 1945.

Campaign[edit]

The USAFP(NL) was composed of five infantry regiments and a field artillery battalion of about 20,000 men, all Filipinos except for five American officers, and commanded by Col. Russell Volckman.[1]:466 The troops bore the brunt of the fighting, sustaining over 3,375 casualties, including over 900 men killed, from 9 Jan. through 15 June 1945.[1]:556

The units of the USAFP(NL) that fought at the battle were the 121st, 15th, 66th, the Provisional Battalion, the 122nd Field Artillery.[1]:553 They faced the 73rd Infantry, and the 76th Infantry,[1]:554 part of the 19th Division was led by Lt. General Yoshiharu Ozaki.[1]:100 The Japanese forces fortified the hills and the ridges to stop any American offensive on their way to Cervantes, and the Cordillera stronghold of Yamashita.[1]:551

The initial fighting started in February 1945 with an advance inland to the town of Cervantes, with the 121st Infantry.[1]:548 After liberating San Fernando, La Union, on 23 March, the USAFP-NL forces started the all-out assault for Bessang Pass.[1]:548-549 However, on 17 May, the 73rd Infantry, 19th Division, made a strong counterattack, pushing back the 121st.[1]:551

On 1 June, Volckmann started his renewed attack with three regiments abreast.[1]:553 They cleared the Lamagan and Lower Cadsu Ridges by 5 June.[1]:555 Magun Hill was captured by 10 June, and the Upper Cadsu Ridge was taken by 12 June.[1]:553 On 10 June, the units of 121st launched a final assault and by 14 June, the "last opposition melted away".[1]:555 Cervantes was secured by 15 June.[1]:555

Aftermath[edit]

The USAFP(NL), according to Smith, "made a substantial contribution toward the Sixth Army's campaign in northern Luzon...the USAFIP (NL) had kept the 19th Division pinned to the triangle formed by Bontoc, KP 90, and Bessang Pass...seizing San Fernando and clearing Route 3 up the west coast, the USAFIP(NL) had permitted the Sixth Army to forget about plans to use a 'regular' division along the coast."[1]:556 Additionally, Smith said, "the USAFIP(NL) accomplished far more than GHQ SWPA, Sixth Army, or I Corps had apparently expected or hoped."[1]:556-557

According to Robert Lapham, "so generally hated was...Capt. Emilio Escobar and his guerrilla band...most of his men were killed by other guerrillas rather than by the Japanese", due to their having "committed numberless horrifying personal crimes, ...thought to have murdered some three thousand to four thousand civilians."[2]:106

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Smith, R.R., 2005, Triumph in the Philippines, Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, ISBN 1410224953
  2. ^ Lapham, R., and Norling, B., 1996, Lapham's Raiders, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 0813119499

External links[edit]