Battle of Davao

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Battle of Davao
Part of Allied liberation of the Philippines, World War II
US 24th ID march towards Davao.png
US 24th Infantry Division march towards Davao
Date April 27 to 18 May 1945
Location Davao City, Davao Province, Philippines
Result Allied victory
Territorial
changes
Davao City and Davao Province retaken by the Allies
Belligerents
 Philippine Commonwealth

 United States

 Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States Douglas MacArthur
United States Robert L. Eichelberger
United States Clarence A. Martin
United States Roscoe B. Woodruff
Commonwealth of the Philippines Wendell W. Fertig
Commonwealth of the Philippines Basilio J. Valdes
Commonwealth of the Philippines Armando Generoso
Commonwealth of the Philippines Saturnino Silva
Empire of Japan Gyosaku Morozumi
Empire of Japan Jiro Harada
Empire of Japan Muraji Kawazoe
Units involved
United States 8th Army
United States X Corps

Commonwealth of the Philippines Philippine Commonwealth Army
Commonwealth of the Philippines Philippine Constabulary
Commonwealth of the Philippines Local guerrilla units

Empire of Japan 14th Army
  • Empire of Japan 100th Division
Strength
108,000 total
United States 38,000 men
Commonwealth of the Philippines 70,000 men
Empire of Japan 14,000 men, shore batteries and artillery
Casualties and losses
US: 350 dead, 1,615 wounded[1]:635
Philippine Commonwealth: 2,800 killed, 7,455 wounded
4,500 in Davao City,[1]:635 ~3,000 in Ising

The Battle of Davao was fought by Allied forces containing United States and Philippine Commonwealth troops including local recognized guerrillas against the Japanese from May 3 to 18, 1945 at the city of Davao and its vicinities in Mindanao in the Philippine Archipelago. It is part of Operation VICTOR V, an offensive operation against Japanese forces in Mindanao, and part of the campaign for the liberation of the Philippines during World War II. The battle was a decisive engagement in the Mindanao Campaign.[1]:629

Background[edit]

Davao was among the first cities in the Philippines to be occupied by Japanese troops in 1942. There were organized guerrilla resistance in Mindanao afterwards, the most prominent one commanded by Wendell W. Fertig, and were largely successful in tying down Japanese units in the island long before the liberation of Philippines began in 1944.

With its navy decisively crushed at the battle of Leyte Gulf six months earlier, the Japanese in Mindanao were now cut off from their main bases in Luzon. The Allies have begun their Mindanao assault in 10 March[1]:594 and was spectacularly successful afterwards, despite the problems posed by the island itself, such as its inhospitable terrain, irregular coastline, few roads which complicated supply chains, and the thick defense of the Japanese forces.

Prelude[edit]

The Allies have already took much of Central Mindanao, having destroyed several Japanese units in Malaybalay and Cabacan sectors beginning 17 April.[1]:624 Now the Allies are preparing for the assault in Davao City. The strongest of the Japanese defenses in the island were concentrated around the Davao Gulf area, which was heavily mined to counter an amphibious landing, and in Davao City,[1]:628 the island's largest and most important city. Artillery and anti-aircraft batteries extensively ringed the coastal shoreline defenses. Believing that the Americans would ultimately attack from Davao Gulf and also anticipating that they would be eventually driven from the city, the Japanese also prepared defensive bunkers inland behind its perimeter where they could retire and regroup, with the intention of prolonging the campaign as much as possible.

Filipino troops under the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary arrived from the other Philippine islands to join the Americans liberating Mindanao. After they took much of the island from the Japanese soldiers, they soon turned their attention to the Province of Davao. American units from the 8th Army are yet to land from their ships steaming in the Davao Gulf heading towards Davao City, while separate large Filipino units are already fighting their way through the forests of southern Mindanao. The Japanese 100th Division, under Gen. Harada, anchored its defenses at Catigan, thirteen miles southwest of Davao, The Right Sector Unit of five infantry battalions, and in the hills twelve miles north of Davao, The Left Sector Unit of four infantry battalions.[1]:629-630 The center, overlooking Libby Airdrome, was manned by three battalions.[1]:630

Battle[edit]

The battle began on 27 April when the first Americans units of Gen. Woodruff's 24th Division reached Digos, then part of Sta. Cruz town.[1]:628 The division moved westward across Mindanao so rapidly that the Americans and Filipinos were almost on top of the Japanese around Davao before Gen. Morozumi learned too late that the western landing was, in fact, not diversionary. By the time the division reached Digos, the Americans quickly overrun the Japanese defenses who were prepared only to repel an assault from the sea westward, not from their rear to the east. The 24th Division immediately turned north and headed toward Davao City.[1]:624,628

Combat inside Davao City[edit]

On 3 May 1945, the first combat elements of the 24th Division entered Davao City against less opposition than had been expected.[1]:628 The city was "long since bombed into shambles by Allied land-based and carrier-based aircraft."[1]:628-629 While it took just 15 days, despite severe heat and humidity and constant rain, with an entire division travelling 115 mi (185 km) and seizing the last major Philippine city under Japanese control, the real battle for Mindanao had begun. Up to a point, X Corps had bypassed the main Japanese defenses of the 100th Division, which was inland on higher ground, and where they would now need to be eliminated.[1]:629

Filipino soldiers under the Philippine Commonwealth Army, the guerrilla 108th Division, and 10th Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Constabulary, cleared the Davao Gulf coast for fifteen miles south of Digas.[1]:628 On 30 April, the 21st Infantry attacked toward Mintal.[1]:630

A chronicler for the 24th Division wrote:

The soldiers of the 24th Infantry, considered the post-Davao operations to be the hardest, bitterest and, most exhausting battle of the ten island campaigns. In addition to the tenacious defense put up by the Japanese, another punishing aspect of the subsequent combat was the proliferous fields of abaca. To the foot soldiers fighting in the Davao province, the word abaca was synonymous with hell...Countless acres around Davao are covered with these thick-stemmed plants, fifteen to twenty feet high; the plants grow as closely together as sugar cane, and their long, lush, green leaves are in a welter of green so dense that a strong man must fight with the whole weight of his body for each foot of progress...In the abaca fields, visibility was rarely more than ten feet. No breeze ever reached through the gloomy expanse of green, and more men - American, Filipino and Japanese - fell prostrate from the overpowering heat than bullets. The common way for scouts to locate an enemy position in abaca fighting was to advance until they received machinegun fire at a range of three to five yards. For the next two months, in such an environment, the 24th Division fought the Japanese. While the infantry sought out the Japanese defenses, platoons and squads worked through the abaca and surrounding jungle to seek out enemy bunkers and spider holes.

In this way, fighting progressed slowly, but the Americans and Filipinos were making headway. At Libby Airdrome and the village of Mintal, some 5 mi (8.0 km) west of Davao City, the 21st Infantry Regiment got assailed from three sides in a concentrated attack by a numerically stronger enemy.[1]:630

Individual acts of heroism often spelled the difference between victory and defeat in the desperate fighting. On 14 May, posthumous Medal of Honor awardee, Pfc. James Diamond of D Company fell mortally wounded as he was leading a patrol to evacuate more casualties when came under heavy attack. He drew enemy fire while sprinting to an abandoned machine gun and was caught in a hail of bullets, but he allowed his patrol to reach safety. The regiment then have to withdraw and regroup with the 24th Division near Toril to prepare for a renewed assault.

On 17 May, after being exhausted and bloodied during the fighting in Mintal village, the 24th Division, with fresh reinforcements, renewed its offensive, with the 21st and 34th Infantry Regiments attacking against the Japanese center, the 34th east of the Talomo river and the 21st west.[1]:632 At the same time, the 19th Infantry Regiment, supported by the guerrilla 107th Division, attacked north from Davao.[1]:633 On 28 May, the 34th Infantry contacted the 21st Infantry east of Tugbok.[1]:634

On 29 May, the 19th Infantry started from the coast north of Davao, with the Philippine Commonwealth Army, Philippine Constabulary units and Wendell Fertig's guerrilla units, blew open the Japanese eastern flanks, capturing the villages of Tacunan, Ula, Matina Biao, Magtuod, and attacking toward Mandog.[1]:634 The fighting later claimed the life of the 19th Infantry's commander, Col. Thomas "Jack" Clifford.[2][3] The 34th Infantry attacked Harada's second line of defense on 30 May, and the capture of Mandog on 9 June, marked the collapse of the 100th Division.[1]:635 The 21 Infantry took Wangan on the same day.[1]:635 On the 10 June, the beaten Japanese 100th Division withdrew into the mountains of Bukidnon.[1]:635

Battle of Ising[edit]

The Allied soldiers arrived from Agusan Valley and Bukidnon heading south towards Davao City, bypassing the heavily ravaged town of Magugpo towards Ising in what is now the town of Carmen, situated northeast of the city. Here, they were intercepted by 3,000 well-fed, well-armed and well-entrenched Japanese Imperial Army soldiers. 1,500 famished, disheveled yet determined soldiers of the USAFFE 10th Military District led by Lt. Col. Saturnino Silva managed to directly charge to the enemy lines that was double their size. Elements of the 130th Infantry Regiment of the US 107th Division which later came as reinforcements also helped drive the enemy unit towards the forests who are now divided and almost destroyed. The engagement lasted from 3 to 10 May. Then they continued their assault towards Davao City.

Endgame[edit]

Massive Filipino numbers and devastating American firepower proved crucial during the battle. With the Allied navy controlling Davao Gulf and the Filipinos at the city's surroundings, the rest of Davao City is now encircled at all sides by the Allies. With most of the city including the whole of the city proper now under Allied control, most Japanese units west of the city are now isolated, and Allied troops are now commencing mop-up operations in several sectors in the city and the province. Piecemeal resistance in the west of the city were among the last in the Philippine islands during the liberation campaign before all of them were eventually quelled by the Allies at the end of the war.

Conclusion[edit]

The fighting around the fringes of Davao City from late April to mid-June, cost the 24th Infantry Division some 350 dead and 1,615 wounded[1]:635 and the troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary units some 2,800 killed and 7,455 wounded, while the Japanese 100th Division suffered about 4,500 killed and 30 captured.[1]:635 Many more from both sides suffered horrendous losses during the vicious fighting elsewhere in the province.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Smith, R.R., 2005, Triumph in the Philippines, Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, ISBN 1410224953
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Col. Mang Thomas Edgar "Jack" Clifford

External links[edit]