PrefaceChapter 21Chapter 23


That the enemy intended to fight to the end at the southwest gateway to the Philippines was evidenced by the type of defenses he had constructed in that sector. The situation on February 23 indicated that the Japanese firmly intended to defend their positions. Aerial reconnaissance had revealed that they were capable of considerable resistance to ground attack unless their positions were made untenable by a systematic reduction of their supplies, personnel, and fortifications by aerial bombing.

The reduction of Zamboanga and its satellite airfields got under way with an attack on AA gun emplacements and the Jap officers' barracks by heavies. Bad weather caused a few false starts for the Group, but on February 26th, the 69th, 75th, and 390th, under Major Harvey, Captain Smith, and Captain Robison, got through to hit Zettelfield Airdrome on Jolo.

From then on into March the pressure was applied steadily. Colonel Kegelman, Colonel Henson, Major Harvey, Major Hedlund, Major Short; Captains Burnett, Dana, Williams, Weston, Wolfendale, Robison; Lieutenants Sathern, Abbott, Cockrell, Mulhearn, Niederauer, Horne, Sawicki, Mahl, Vance, Knapp, Sherwood, Smith, Wier, Robinson, Stratton, Clampit, and Purnell were among the leaders.

Higher headquarters, intently watching the over-all operation, later published this comprehensive account:

"On 4 March our attention was directed toward the radio station, signal corps supplies, and personnel, and the aviators' headquarters for both Army and Navy. B-25s released from minimum altitude 238 x 100-lb. bombs with good coverage. Several barracks and unidentified buildings were destroyed. On the same day, seven P-38s bombed the town of Zamboanga from minimum altitude. All bombs fell in the target area and are credited with great destruction. One entire block of nine buildings was destroyed and three nearby buildings were damaged. Two warehouses and four Jap-occupied residential-type buildings were obliterated. Three unidentified buildings and three which had been previously damaged were demolished. An ice plant and three nearby buildings were also damaged. A recapitulation shows that 21 buildings were destroyed and seven were damaged.

"On the 5th and 6th of March, personnel and supply areas were hit by 36 fighter-bombers, 30 B-25s, and 30 B-24s, and several barracks were destroyed. One of these strikes by 18 P-38s destroyed two barracks, a warehouse, and two waterfront buildings.

"Zamboanga City was hit again on March 7th. More than 95 buildings were destroyed by 26 B-24s and 19 P-38s. This series of missions virtually obliterated Zamboanga City, and no further attacks were explicitly directed against that target. Inasmuch as 7 March was J-Day minus 3, attention was then directed toward Jap defenses and supplies: Five B-25s bombed and strafed the beach west of the city and caused one large fire.

"Coast defense positions, personnel and supply areas. and a trench system were bombed on 8 March by four waves aggregating 67 B-24s. Two hits were scored on a bridge in the first attempt at interdiction of Japanese traffic lines behind the beach. Four heavy guns were believed damaged and a fuel storage area was hit. Personnel areas were blanketed with 100-lb, and 1000-lb GP bomb patterns.

Again on 9 March (J-Day minus 1) machine gun positions, trench systems, and possible coast defense gun positions were covered with 100-lb and 1000-lb GP bomb patterns. This, coupled with the naval bombardment of the following day, disturbed the Jap's established beach fortifications and cleared large areas of vegetation in preparation for the assault.

"The bomb restriction line restrained 25 B-25s and 23 B-24s to rearward targets on 10 March (J-Day). Personnel and supply areas were blanketed with 100-lb GP bombs, and direct air support was furnished by Mitchells and Lightnings during the landing and subsequent operations.

"Adequate aerial reconnaissance photography of the Zamboanga-Sulu Archipelago area was furnished by 13th Air Force units during the entire period.

"Meanwhile enemy air facilities on Borneo and possible staging airdromes in the Sulu Archipelago were being taken care of by Morotai based Liberators, Mitchells of the 42nd Bomb Group and Lightnings of the 347th Group. Sandakan, Tarakan, Jesselton, Labuan, and Ballkpapan airfields were kept under constant surveillance and neutralized by heavy bombers in anticipation of the landings at Puerto Princessa and Zamboanga. Medium bombers rendered the Sanga Sanga, Zettel, and Jolo strips unusable."

Port Holland and Lamitan Town were among the targets which received attention from these support missions. Typical was one flown by Lieut. J. W. Dodd of the 390th: "Reported to the MTB's and immediately, at 1300I, was asked to make a strafing run, 290 degrees heading, on Lamitan Town. Port Holland was attacked at minimum altitude at 1500I, strafed, and four bombs dropped, starting two fires with black smoke to 300'."

Or another that did not produce a target: "Off Dulag at 0726I, arrived at Bancunjan Island and reported at 0940I. MTB's had no target ready so area was circled until 1140I, then departing for base." Almost the same words could be quoted from the reports of any squadron, with Lieutenant Sathern, Lieutenant Sherwood, Lieutenant Robinson, Lieutenant Florance, Lieutenant Park, or anyone of many others as the pilot.

Perhaps their highest praise came from a PT commander with whom a B-25 piloted by the 70th's Capt. Robert J. Weston, El Monte, Calif., was cooperating in reconnoitering the town of Isabella on Basilan Island shortly before the army went ashore there.

The PT skipper called Captain Weston by radio and informed him that the town seemed full of Japs and supplies, and that evidently the Nips were going to use the place as an enormous pill-box.

"How about stirring them up a bit so we can see how well they're fixed?" he requested.

The B-25 had a full load of ammunition and twelve 100-pound bombs. The pilot backed off a couple of miles, lined up longways on the town, chose for his retirement a route out to sea over the docks. Then he dropped to rooftop level and bent the throttles forward, opened bomb bays and guns, and went to town.

The results astounded everyone, including Captain Weston. One bomb caught an ammunition dump, a bomb or an incendiary bullet set a fuel dump on fire, another bomb hit a 100-Jap barracks, two destroyed the docks, the others ricocheted their way around in odd directions before their 11-second delay fuses went off.

"My good God," the awe-struck PT captain yelled into the microphone. "You've got the whole town on fire."

Any impression that the Dulag operations were uneventful is erroneous. Things went smoothly on the whole, but there were damage and losses. The 100th suffered another blow on March 10th. Taking off from Dulag in weather, Lieut. Gerald A. Bright and crew did not join their formation, could not be contacted, and were not heard from again.

There were additional bright sides to the picture on the ground however. While the planes were airborne, and sometimes at night crew chiefs and air crews not flying had time to make the acquaintance of their first Filipinos and the Philippine national sport of cock fighting. It turned out that some of the southern and western boys knew a thing or two about the scrapping chickens too, and not all the bets that changed hands in the Dulag "arenas" were beaded for the Banco de Leyte. Plenty of them ended in the crew chiefs' pockets. The boys also made the acquaintance of the local beverage "tuba", about which the less said the better. Some very sprightly headgear made its appearance following the return from Leyte, and, minus his greasy fatigue cap or jockey cap, many a husky crew chief seen with his new hat and minus his stripes looked like a hefty construction boss back home.

By the 19th the ground picture at Zamboanga had reached the point where our support was no longer needed, and on the 19th-20th the crews rejoined the Air Echelon in the Morotai mud to prepare for the welcome move out of the Indies and into the Philippines. During February and March, 109 missions, involving 695 sorties, were flown, all at minimum altitude with the exception of a few weather and photo missions.

Three commendations were received for our support during the recapture of Zamboanga Peninsula:


1. The Commanding General 8th U. S. Army sent this group three separate commendations for the direct air support furnished at Zamboanga during the recent assault.

2. You and the men and officers of your squadrons made this superior record possible.

3. It is my desire to add my commendation for a difficult job well done.

H. C. Harvey,
Major A. C.

Ground life on Morotai was considerably helped by some Intelligence reading and radio material. One of the more interesting bits of applied anthropology that came to hand was the following:

Is He Jap or Chinese?

"Is it really possible to tell a Japanese from a Chinese? In other words, can you tell your enemy from your ally? The answer is simple: Most of the time you probably won't be able to spot the Jap unless be's dressed in the Imperial Army uniform. . .

In many cases, trying to tell a Japanese from a Chinese by physical appearance alone is like trying to tell a German from an Englishman in a shower bath before you've heard either man speak. . .

The Chinese themselves are unable to identify many Japanese, as Japs by physical characteristics alone. . .

The important thing to remember is that the real difference with the Jap is his ideas. The Chinese know this and say that, "If you aren't sure enough to shoot, the best way to tell a Japanese from a Chinese is to ask him."

Death on Morotai
(Paragraph from Jap soldier's last letter to his father)

"I shall distinguish myself by killing many Yanks and will destroy myself at the end. I do not think that I shall ever set foot on the soil of my country again. If you want to see me, come to the Yasukuni Shrine. We will meet there. I have nothing more to say. I shall be praying for your good health and happiness from my grave on Morotai Island. If I come out of this alive, I shall have some interesting news for you. This is my last letter."

Long familiarity all but dulled our sense of surprise at new and strange manifestations of the deepest rooted of all factors of Japanese military psychology--the tendency towards self-immolation. The incomprehensible will of Japanese soldiers to destroy themselves resulted in the word "suicide" and all its synonyms being the most overworked in the language, so far as intelligence reports were concerned. Every battle account, every captured document, every diary was replete with such expressions as "suicidal counterattack", "combat seppuku", "suicide defense", and the like.

When we remember a phenomenon like the suicide defense of Manila, or the amazing spectacle of hundreds of Japanese soldiers blowing themselves up in the Corregidor tunnels in a mass suicide pact, we recall this strangest of all Japanese characteristics, which to the western mind will always be incomprehensible because of its negation of the basic instinct of self-preservation.

Our concern, however, is not with the broad subject of Japanese psychology, but with the manner in which this national trait was utilized by Japanese commanders for military ends, and specifically with the manner in which suicide tactics were employed in the Philippines campaign.

Many weapons developed by the enemy deliberately attempted to exploit the willingness of the individual Jap to commit suicide. First and most important, in the Japanese air services, there was the suicide crash diver, whose exploits are well known. The Jap at the controls of an airplane who is willing and anxious to die for his country proved to be a serious menace. On the sea, the Jap developed small craft to attack our shipping. Though disguised under a variety of names, this boat was a thinly veiled suicide attack vehicle; a successful attack meant dropping depth charges at such close range as to be certain to blow up the operator and his boat. But it was on land that we were confronted with the greatest array of plain and fancy suicide weapons and suicide tactics. The favored anti-tank weapon developed by the Japanese was a lunge mine whose successful employment demanded an approach to within two or three feet of the target; successful detonation of the mine resulted in the complete disintegration of the lunger.

There were numerous reported instances of Japs with explosives wrapped around their bodies hurling themselves into the path of tanks and even swimming out to attack vessels. The shoulder-pack mine was devised as a more convenient method for the Jap soldier to carry a heavier weight of explosives by which he might blow himself and the chosen target to kingdom come. Explosives were fastened to the end of short bamboo sticks; the Jap soldier wielding this weapon lay doggo in a foxhole until the American tank passed over him, and then inserted it into the treads.

The infiltration of suicide patrols into rear areas, already familiar to its in New Guinea, was stressed beyond all proportion. Literally hundreds of captured orders and documents, as well as actual ground contacts, confirmed that the enemy dignified the tactics of suicide penetration to a position of highest importance. The myth of the human torpedo was constantly held up for emulation and example. Death was accepted implicitly as the normal and expected result of such raids.

These tactics were the tactics of desperation. Realizing that fire power and armor plate were after all superior to "spiritual power" and knowing, moreover, that it was too late to develop the weapons to cope with ours, the enemy deliberately based many of his new weapons and tactics, and possibly his principal hope of staving off defeat, upon the strong willingness of the individual Jap to die for his strange ideology.

PrefaceChapter 21Chapter 23