Japanese infiltrate US lines during Manila battle

An American soldier in Manila  rescuing an injured Filipino girl (February 1945).

An American soldier in Manila rescuing an injured Filipino girl (February 1945). Defying orders from General Yamashita, Japanese Marines in Manila went on a barbaric killing spree. MacArthur refused to bomb the city. The Japanese who refused to surrender had to be rooted out building by building. Civilians were not just caught in the crossfire. The Japanese actually sought out civilians to kill. An estimated 100,000 civilians perished, most were killed by the Japanese on purpose.

Citizens of Manila run for safety from suburbs burned by Japanese soldiers, 10 February 1945

Citizens of Manila run for safety from suburbs burned by Japanese soldiers, 10 February 1945

A week earlier Japanese officer Fuzuko Obara had led his platoon on an infiltration patrol to gather intelligence. They had snatched a Filipino guerrilla who had been fighting alongside the invading US forces. He does not record what information they obtained from this man, nor how it was obtained. Then in the afternoon of 9th February he was ordered to make a night attack on the positions he had earlier reconnoitred:

The reaction of my men is simply this: they begin to check and recheck their arms and equipment. Scanning their faces, I find them calm and unruffled, scarcely changed except for a look of anticipation The captured guerrilla has been killed.

Sunset is near. Without conscious will or interest, I find scenes of the distant past flashing through my mind like so many lantern slides. ‘Still attached to worldly desires,’ I scold myself, but the more I try to shake off these memories, the more they crowd in on me, memories of childhood, of my mother, of my wife ‘What is this,’ I say to myself. ‘I am a living, breathing man, who should be directing his thoughts towards a clear view of present realities.’

By 2400 hours we have safely penetrated the enemy’s security perimeter without being detected From here on, each squad is to proceed on its own. The 3rd Squad, which I attach myself to, has proceeded about 50m when we discover an enemy infiltration warning trip-wire and communication line, which we promptly cut.

As we resume our advance, I hear what appear to be four bursts of static from an infiltration warning device speaker, followed by four violent blasts, probably the explosions of landmines buried in the area. Now there can be no delay. I blow the whistle for the assault.

The results achieved are the destruction of 12 or 13 men, three medium field shelters and two 45mm mobile guns with their vehicles. We continue the advance, still seeking the enemy. Recovering from their shock, enemy soldiers oné by one commence firing from the ridge line extending in front of us. Undeterred, we continue to advance.

At this time we begin to receive intense fire from a variety of weapons Before me, about Sm away is a machine-gun, and there is another about 30m to my right. Good I take a hand- grenade and throw it. In the violent explosion that follows, one machine-gun and seven or eight men are destroyed at a blow.

Meanwhile the enemy is receiving fierce fire frontally. However bullets from all directions are beginning to fall like raindrops around us. The concentration of fire produces a surprisingly beautiful effect with its tracers. Ricochets arch into the sky. The danger of encirclement is increasing, so I order a withdrawal to the first assembly point, during which we are subjected to enemy pursuit fire. At the assembly point, I find that three men are missing.

They do not return. At the time we were under enemy fire, it seemed to me that no one was hit. Still, were they, after all, killed by those enemy bullets, or wounded, or fallen victim to guerrillas? Such are the unpleasant thoughts that float unbidden through my mind.

Eventually the missing three men managed to return independently to their hidden camp in the jungle. Obara records his emotional reaction. Although by this stage the US forces were engaged in heavy fighting within Manila and were successfully pushing the Japanese back, he apparently has no idea what the wider situation is at all and is pleased with his successful attack:

then there is a warm lump constricting the throat and suddenly hot tears begin to flow.

This was our baptism of fire under American bullets. It has been good experience, and serves to reinforce our determination that they shall be destroyed without loss to ourselves.

The diary of Fuzuko Obara was found on his body later during the battle and translated by US Intelligence. These and more extracts appear in Nigel Cawthorne (ed) : Reaping the Whirlwind: The German and Japanese Experience of World War II.

The following US Army documentary begins in a very dated way but contains much graphic battle footage from the Battle of Manila.

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