"TRIUMPH IN THE
PHILIPPINES"

(The Role of the 503d PRCT
in Northern Negros)

_________________
Robert Ross Smith
 

 

1 | 2 | CORREGIDOR

Map 30
Clearing the Central Visayan Islands

 

Chet Targonski gets a haircut whilst
 the Filipino barber's wife looks on.

 

An LCM comes alongside. Mt. Silay is in the background.

 

Bell, Eisenbraun, Norelli, Dennis, Spofford and Duda take a break in a banana grove. 

 

The bridge over the Himagaan River at Fabrica, Negros Occidental.

 

 

After the completion of the Corregidor operation, the 503d PRCT returned to its former camp on Mindoro.  The explosion at Monkey Point had effectively rendered the first battalion unable to function as a fighting outfit, and it needed time to be rebuilt from the influx of new replacements. So too the other battalions and companies also carried the battle scars of the losses of experienced officers, leaders, and 'troopers.

Those who had survived Corregidor physically unscathed, were photographed in a series of States of Enlistment images. 

With implications perhaps unnoticed at the time, the control of the 503d PRCT now passed from under the control of Gen. Kruger's Sixth Army to the Gen. Eichelberger's Eighth Army.  The latter had not been thought of highly by many in the 503d, but orders were orders.

Negros lay ahead, and it would be every bit as bad, and probably worse than Corregidor - the 503d PRCT were lightly armed, and on Negros, poorly supported and at the far end of the 40th Division's supply chain. 

 

The Central Visayan Islands

Northern Negros

On 24 March General Eichelberger, the Eighth Army's commander, decided that operations on Panay had proceeded to the point where the 40th Division could move against northern Negros and set 29 March as the date for the new attack.5 The 185th RCT would make the assault; the 160th RCT (less the 2d Battalion, 160th Infantry) would follow on 30 March.6 The 503d Parachute RCT, staging at Mindoro, would jump to reinforce the 40th Division upon orders from Eighth Army. Eighth Army reserve for the operation was the 164th RCT, Americal Division, on Leyte. The 40th Division could expect help from Negros guerrillas under Colonel Abcede since, with about 14,000 troops, over half of them armed, Abcede controlled two-thirds of the island.

Lt. Gen. Takeshi Kono, commander of the 77th Infantry Brigade, 102d Division, had around 13,500 men in northern Negros.7 Another 1,300 Japanese were concentrated at the southeast corner of the island but, tactically unrelated to Kono's force, reported to a headquarters on Cebu. Kono commanded about 5,500 men of the102d Division,7,500 troops of the 4th Air Army's 2d Air Division, and 500 naval personnel. The trained combat effectives, about 4,000 in all, were from the 102d Division.8

Kono's troops lacked many essential items of supply. For example, less than two-thirds of his men were armed--he had only 8,000 rifles. Small arms ammunition was far from adequate; food, assuming no losses, could last for little more than two months. On the other hand, in some respects the Japanese were very well armed. Home of the 2d Air Division, northern Negros had bristled with antiaircraft weapons, which Kono could use for ground operations. Kono's troops had also remounted numerous automatic weapons taken from 2d Air Division planes destroyed or damaged on the northern Negros fields.

Like Japanese commanders elsewhere in the Philippines, Kono did not plan to defend the most important ground under his control, the airfield area of the northwestern Negros coastal plain. He intended to withdraw into the mountains of north-central Negros for a long stand, leaving only token forces behind in the coastal plain to delay American penetrations and to destroy bridges and supplies. In late March, accordingly, the bulk of his forces were on their way to inland positions, but unfortunately for Kono he was unable to take many of the larger antiaircraft guns with him.9Kono's first defense, an outpost line of resistance, extended along the foothills of the mountains generally seven miles inland (east) from Bacolod, twenty-five miles east across Guimaras Strait from Iloilo. His main defenses lay five to six miles deeper into the mountains.

The 40th Division's first landing on Negros took place about 0500 on 29 March when a reinforced platoon of Company F, 185th Infantry, went ashore unopposed in the vicinity of Pulupandan, fifteen miles south of Bacolod. The platoon moved directly inland about three miles to secure a bridge over the Bago River, a bridge that provided the best and closest means of egress from the Pulupandan area to the Bacolod region. Clashing sharply with Japanese bridge guards, the platoon seized the Bago span before the guards, caught by surprise, could set off prepared demolitions. The platoon then held the bridge against minor counterattacks until relieved about 0930 by the main body of the 185th Infantry. The 185th had begun landing at Pulupandan about 0900. There was no preliminary naval bombardment and there was no Japanese resistance.

Spreading northward and eastward the 185th Infantry, which the 160th followed, secured almost the entire coastal plain of northwestern Negros by noon on 2 April at the cost of approximately 5 men killed and 10 wounded. By evening on the 8th the two regiments had overrun the Japanese OPLR and were readying an attack toward Kono's inner fortress. Meanwhile, no need for the 503d Parachute Infantry to jump on Negros having developed, the regiment had flown from Mindoro to Panay and moved to Negros aboard small craft. Assembling to the left of the 185th Infantry (the 160th was now on the 185th's right), the parachute regiment prepared to participate in the attack against Kono's main defenses.

  

 

 

 

 

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Footnotes

Triumph in the Philippines is the third part of the series of the series dealing with the re-conquest of the Philippine Archipelago.  The Official History of the U.S. Army in WWII, was published 1993 by the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army.  Its author is Robert Ross Smith.

5. Principal sources for American operations in northern Negros are: 10th I&H, Opnl Monograph on the Panay-Negros Occidental Opn, pp. 14, 67-115, 127-30; Eighth Army Rpt Panay-Negros and Cebu Opns, pp. 16, 27-44, 125, 137-38; 40th Div G-3 Per Rpts, 29 Mar-1 Jun 45.

6. Additional planning information is from: Eighth Army FO 27, 24 Mar 45, and 40th Div FO 15, 24 Mar 45, both in Eighth Army G-3 Jnl File VICTOR I, 22-31 Mar 45.

7. Japanese information in this section is from: Narratives and Interrogs of Lt Col Shigekatsu Aritomi (Staff 102d Div and 77th Inf Brig) and Lt Col Kiyoshi Suzuki (Staff 2d Air Div), 10th I&H, Staff Study of Japanese Operations on Negros; Suzuki Statement, States, III, 357-61.

8. The major combat components were: 172d IIB, less one company; 354th IIB, less one company; and 355th IIB, less three companies. All were brought up to strength by absorbing other units.

9. Kono's armament, apparently after the withdrawal from the coast, included:

Light machine guns   20
Heavy machine guns   8
Dismounted aircraft machine guns   30
75-mm antiaircraft guns   7
Antiaircraft machine guns   12
77-mm. guns   1
57-mm. guns   4

his information is from a review of the MS of this volume prepared by former Japanese Army and Navy officers under the auspices of the Foreign Histories Division, Office of the Military History Officer, Headquarters, U.S. Army in Japan (hereinafter cited as Japanese Review, 30 Sep 57).