6th Infantry Division (Charlie-63) – Mount Mataba – Luzon – April 6-17 1945

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The Sixth Army (6-A) landed on the southeastern shores of Lingayen Gulf, Luzon Island, on Jan 9 1945 against relatively light enemy opposition. A beachhead was established and all units continued to push the attack in a southernly direction through the central plains. On Mar 3 the city of Manila fell to elements of the XIV Corps. Through subsequent landings the southern tip of Bataan and the Island of Corregidor were taken. The 6-A maintained the initiative with attacks toward the southern half of the island and toward the Sierra Madre Mountains to the east. The final mission assigned to the 6-A, to gain control of the entire island of Luzon, was well underway.

Mount-Mataba-1945

The 6th Infantry Division, less the 63rd Infantry Regiment, landed with the assault echelon of 1 Corps and participated in the drive for Manila by furnishing protection for the left flank of the 6-A. The 63-IR, was initially in Corps reserve. The Division destroyed enemy resistance encountered in the Cabaruan Hills; defeated elements of the Japanese 2nd Armored Division at Munoz; seized and secured the high ground south of San Jose; cut the island of Luzon in half by seizure of Baler Bay and Dingalan Bay on the east coast. During the period Feb 24 1945 – Apr 19 1945, the 6-ID was engaged in operations against the Shimbu Line, east of Manila.


The General Situation

On March 15, the XI Corps relieved the the XIV Corps in operations against the Shimbu Line. At this time the VI Corps was composed of the 6th Infantry Division, the 43rd Infantry Division and the 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team. The 6-ID, in the center of the Corps zone, was ordered to attack against the Montalban sector of the Shimbu Line. The 6-ID’s plan of attack was simple. The 1-IR and the 20-IR were used to spearhead the advance and attack on Mount Mataba and Mount Baytangan from the southeast, while the 63-IR protected the left flank of the Division. The Shimbu Line, located east of Manila in the Sierra Mountains, extended from Ipo Dam in the north to Antipolo in the south. The enemy had his forces generally concentrated in five sectors :

– Antipolo
– Marikina
– Central (Mount Baytangan)
– Montalban
– Ipo Dam

An estimated 17,000 troops occupied the Shimbu Line. The Montalban sector, located generally in the center, consisted of Mount Oro (1,000 feet), Mount Pacawagan (1500 feet), and Mount Mataba (1,400 feet). Mount Mataba dominated the Marikina River Valley. Its main ridge ran generally north and south with three prominent peaks, Knob 1 on the southern tip, Red Top in the center and Knob 2 on the northern tip. The western approaches to Mount Mataba consisted of steep hog back ridges with deep ravines covered by a dense growth of vegetation and trees. Elements of the Japanese 8th and 105th Divisions, 26th Independent Mixed Brigade and miscellaneous service units were located in this area. They had spent months in preparing positions in this sector, consisting of an elaborate network of mutually supporting caves with connecting underground tunnels covering all avenues of approach leading to Mount Mataba.

The men of the 6th Division were considered in the category of seasoned troops. In addition to their operations on Luzon, they had experienced considerable combat in New Guinea. Replacements were quick to acquire the fighting spirit of the unit because of its high esprit de corps. Morale was excellent. At this time logistical support was adequate. On the other hand, the enemy had suffered reverses and was occupying defensive positions, nevertheless, his morale was assumed to be excellent. Captured documents indicated that his supplies were sufficient, in that he had placed a six months stockpile of supplies in this area. Taking everything into consideration the combat efficiency of the opposing forces was considered equal.

Disposition and Plans of the 63rd Infantry Regiment

From Mar 15 to Apr 5 the 63rd Infantry had protected the left flank of the Division extending from the vicinity of Ipo Dam in the north to San Mateo in the south. During the period of Apr 6-9, the 63rd Infantry attacked Mount Mataba with two battalions, the 2nd and 3rd, to seize objectives A, B and X from the southwest but was repulsed with heavy losses.

American soldiers of the 33-ID and Filipino resistance fighters carry supplies along a trail during the fight to regain the Philippines. Baguio, Luzon, Philippines, April 1945, (Carl Mydans)

On Apr 10, the regiment planned to attack with all three battalions to seize objectives A, B, X and 0. The 1st Bn was to make a surprise attack from the west, under concealment of darkness, to seize and hold objective G (Mount Mataba). The 2nd Bn was to seize objective X from the south while the 3rd Bn was directed to capture objectives A and B.

Disposition and Plans of 1st Bn, 63-IR

The battalion planned to attack Mount Mataba from the west at 0400, Apr 10, with two companies abreast, A Co and C Co. C on the right; would attack up Ridge R while A would attack up Ridge S. B Co, in reserve, would protect the routes of supply and evacuation. Each assault company was reinforced with one section of machine guns from D Co. The 81 MM mortars were to be placed in general support from positions west of San Mateo. For this operation one platoon of tanks and one platoon of 4.2 mortars were attached to the battalion.

The Company Situation

G Co had occupied a portion of the battalion defensive position, southwest from Novaliches Water Shed, along the pipe line which supplied the water for Manila. Daily patrols had been dispatched to the east to reconnoiter the area around Ho Name Gorge and other ravines in the vicinity of Mount Mataba in an effort to determine routes of advance, enemy strength and dispositions. These patrols reported that all ravines were thickly wooded and covered with a dense growth of underbrush providing excellent concealment for enemy installations. They further reported that the area was void of any trails except for a few narrow foot paths. It was known that the enemy had constructed an elaborate system of mutually supporting caves and foxholes, connected by underground tunnels. These positions were located on the commanding ground covering all approaches to Mount Mataba. These approaches crossed flat rice paddies in the Mariquina River Valley and were subject to constant hostile observation.

American soldiers of the 33-ID carry supplies along a trail during the fight to regain the Philippines, Baguio, Luzon, Philippines, April 1945, (Carl Mydans)

The strength of C Co just prior to the jump off was 90 enlisted men and 2 officers, (the company commander and the 1st platoon leader) of this strength approximately one fifth were replacements who had been received in the past month. They had been given as complete an orientation and indoctrination into combat as possible by being utilized to the fullest on combat and reconnaissance patrols and in setting up ambushes. The composition of all patrols was carefully supervised to ensure that each patrol had a proportionate share of combat veterans and was commanded by a reliable non-commissioned officer. While the company had been guarding the pipe line they received a well earned rest, which, in conjunction with three hot meals daily, had raised morale to a new high. The combat efficiency of the company was considered to be excellent.

Captured documents indicated that the enemy was determined to make the seizure of Mount Mataba a costly as well as a timely operation. The Japs were prepared to defend each position at all costs which might easily tend to dissipate the strength of the main attack to several separate individual operations in the reduction of these defensive positions. Throughout this period the weather was hot and humid with excellent visibility during the day. With the exception of a shower on Apr 14 the weather was clear.

The Company Plan of Attack

The company planned to attack in a column of platoons, the men in single file. The 1st Platoon, with D Co’s machine gun section attached, would lead the attack up the razor back ridge to seize and hold Mount Mataba. The forward command group was to follow behind this platoon. The 2nd Platoon, with the company’s light machine guns attached, would be in support. This platoon would furnish flank protection by fire and would follow behind – the forward command group. The remainder of the command group followed the 2nd Platoon. The 3rd Platoon, also in support, following the rear command group, was to protect the rear of the company and assist in the evacuation of casualties. The artillery forward observer and his party was placed with the forward command group, while the 81 MM mortar observer accompanied the 1st Platoon. No 60 MM mortar observers were to be used from the mortar section, but would be employed to carry extra ammunition as a resupply problem was anticipated. Platoon leaders and key non commissioned officers were to adjust their own 60 MM mortar fire. Communication would consist of SCR 526 radios within the company command net and one SCR 300 radio in the battalion command net. The company was instructed that the battalion communication officer would lay wire from battalion to the company area of departure. At this point the company would be responsible for continuing this line as the unit advanced.

Ipo Dam on the Angat River, Luzon, Philippines, 1945

No line of departure was to be used but rather an area of departure. The platoon leaders were informed that trucks would be spotted in the vicinity of the rear assembly area at 2330, Apr 9, to move the company to the area of departure. The company would remain in the latter area only long enough to detruck, assume the designated formation and move out. The attack was scheduled for 0400 Apr 10, approximately one hour before daylight. The element of surprise was stressed; supporting fires were planned, but would not be delivered except on call of the company.

Final Preparations for the Attack and Movement to the Area of Departure

Since a minimum amount of time would be spent in the area of departure, platoon leaders were instructed that blankets and extra equipment would be stacked in platoon piles in the rear assembly area. One bandoleer of ammunition and two combat type K rations were issued to each man. Squad leaders were ordered to make last minute checks to ensure that each man had his poncho, extra pair of socks, and two full canteens of water. All men were briefed on the necessity of maintaining strict light discipline and in keeping noise to the minimum. Coffee and hot sandwiches were served at 2300/0000. The company departed from the rear assembly area at 0100, Apr 10, and arrived at the area of departure at 0200. The men detrucked, formed quickly, and moved out promptly at 0215.

Narration : Attack on the Shimbu Line – (Mount Mataba)
C Co left the area of departure in single file at 0215 Apr 10, in a column of platoons, according to plan. A four man patrol preceded the company by one hundred yards with the mission of furnishing early warning of any enemy activity to the front. This patrol had communications with the company by means of an SCR 536 radio. The men selected for this patrol had previously been over this ground on reconnaissance missions looking for the best route of approach to Mataba. The movement from the area of departure to the base of Mount Mataba was made over a well defined trail and presented no particular problem of control.

At 0330, the company reached the base of Mataba, and continued in a northerly direction toward Ridge R, the company route of approach to the top of Mataba. Without warning, and sending chills down the spine of every man in the company, the silence of the night was broken by the ferocious barking of several dogs, terminating in a sharp whine and a brief order in a foreign tongue. The column halted but no further sound was heard. Several thoughts passed through the mind of the company commander at this time.

Had the element of surprise, as essential to the successful accomplishment of the mission, been lost ?
Was this an outpost of the, enemy, a series of listening posts, employing dogs ?
If it was an outpost, would it call for mortar and artillery fire ?
Did the enemy know the true size of the unit or possibly think that it was only a patrol ?

After several minutes had elapsed without further incident, the column continued in the direction of Ridge B. At 0245, the security patrol reported that enemy movement could be heard approaching from the north. The 1st Platoon was deployed to the left and right, while the security group was ordered to remain in their present position and to keep the company commander informed of the situation. From the excited reports that poured in from this group a force of considerable size was approaching. Meanwhile, the company commander had moved forward to join the 1st Platoon, where machine guns on each flank had been set up, ready to commence firing on order of the platoon leader. At 0355 the security group reported that the suspected enemy force was A Co.

The Pampanya River is the main source of irrigation for rice crops, shown here running in front and under the houses, Manila, Philippines, July 1946, (John Florea)

The two company commanders held a conference and decided that they had overshot their respective ridges. They felt they were located somewhere between Ridges R and 3. It was decided that the companies would reverse their respective routes and use the first ridges they came to as their routes to Mataba. While A Co was withdrawing, excited voices, jabbering in Japanese, could be heard a short distance away. The 1st Platoon Sergeant and four men were sent to investigate the noise. They encountered a large cave from which the noises were plainly audible. White Phosphorous hand grenades (M-15) thrown into this cave resulted in cries of pain. One Jap, who ran out of the entrance, was quickly killed by a rifleman. No further sounds could be heard. A squad was left in the vicinity of the cave to furnish security as the company passed this location.

At 0420, the 1st Platoon Leader reported that he was at the base of Ridge K and he was ordered to advance up the ridge. Due to the narrowness of this ridge, the column remained in single file. By daylight, all elements of the company, with the exception of the 60 MM Mortar Section, were advancing. At 0830, the company received sniper fire from Ridge Q, approximately four hundred yards to the south. The men were forced to hug the ground, taking advantage of any cover and concealment they could find. The fire was finally located coming from a cave on the forward slope of Ridge Q. Small arms and machine gun fire was directed into this cave, resulting in one Jap being flushed out. He ran over the ridge and disappeared from sight. A check of the company revealed that three men had been wounded, including the company commander’s messenger and radio operator. One of the casualties could not walk and four men from the 3rd Platoon were used to evacuate this man on a litter.

American artillery crews of 1st Cavalry Division firing on Japanese positions from the grounds of the recently liberated Santo Tomas University during the Battle for Manila. Manila, Luzon, Philippines, February 05, 1945, (Carl Mydans)

Meanwhile, smoke was placed along Ridge Q and denied the enemy farther observation from this direction. At 0945, the company had advanced approximately two hundred yards forward when the company commander noticed for the first time that the remaining elements of the company were not following. The company commander turned to retrace, his route, but in so doing, twisted his ankle, lost his balance, and went head over heels down the north aide of the ridge.
Approximately three quarters of the way down he stopped his descent in the midst of dense vegetation and amid the excited babbling of enemy voices. Without a lost motion he unhooked his cartridge belt and began scrambling up the aide of the ridge with tiny puffs of dust kicking up all about him. He succeeded in reaching the top only to look into the muzzle of an M-1 rifle held by one of his men. In fact, this was the same man who had failed to see the column move out and consequently held up the balance of the command.

A radio message was received at this time from the 1st Platoon Leader reporting their location at Point W, approximately one hundred and fifty yards from the top of the main ridge running north and south. From there he had observed thirty six Japs moving south along the ridge line. The company commander moved forward without delay and joined the platoon leader. At 1045, they observed small groups of Japs moving to the south. This area, approximately one hundred fifty yards northeast from Point W, appeared to be covered with foxholes. A ten minute artillery preparation of high explosive was placed on these positions. Since the wind was blowing from the north it was decided to end the concentration with smoke, which, drifting south, would obscure any enemy visibility from that direction. At 1100, just as the artillery preparation finished, the 1st Platoon jumped off and succeeded in reaching this area without opposition.

The 1st Platoon was ordered to hold this position and to protect the right (south) flank of the company as it turned left (north) and advanced to the north along the main ridge. The 1st Platoon was instructed that it would protect the rear of the company after all elements of the company had passed. The 2nd Platoon was directed to pass around the left flank of the 1st Platoon, turn north and advance along the main ridge. The command group followed the 3rd Platoon and the remainder of the formation remained unchanged. The 60 MM Mortar Section had joined the column and had gone into position to support the advance of the company. Meanwhile, the 1st Platoon had sent six men down the ridge to the south to secure the company’s right flank and rear. One of these men observed a patch of grass almost at his feet which seemed to rise out of the ground. He fired into it and was rewarded with a cry of pain. He discovered a very cleverly constructed foxhole. It appeared to be a normal foxhole, four feet deep and two feet in circumference, with a cover constructed for the top. This cover consisted of a network of interwoven branches covered with a topping of sod which blended in perfect harmony with the terrain, affording excellent concealment for the hole as well as the occupant. Apparently the enemy planned on hitting the rear of the column as it moved north along the main ridge. The mere fact that this particular Jap had become over anxious and was lifting his cover to observe the column led to his timely death. Two other similar holes, occupied by the enemy, were found and their occupants liquidated.

At 1200, the 2nd Platoon leader reported that he was maneuvering around a cave, east of the main ridge, where he had observed a Jap disappear. The company commander ordered him to send a security party forward along the ridge. By 1215, the resistance in the cave had been eliminated primarily by use of white phosphorous grenades which had killed an undetermined number of Japs. At 1245, the 2nd Platoon reported that they had reached a small knoll approximately two hundred yards south of Knob 1. The company commander joined the platoon leader at this point. A number of the enemy was observed moving westward in small groups. Artillery fire dispersed these groups and inflicted an unknown number of casualties. Part of A Co, on the left of C Co, was observed in a grenade battle with four enemy on Knob 1, which terminated when a white phosphorous grenade landed in the crater hole occupied by the Japs. Two of the enemy were killed by small arms fire when they left the crater hole in an effort to escape the effects of the grenade.

Meanwhile, C Co’s machine guns had gone into position and began firing on small groups of enemy attempting to infiltrate across open ground to Knob 1. These groups dispersed arid retreated toward the north. No further resistance was encountered and, at 1315, the battalion commander was informed by radio that Knob 1 was secured. He ordered C Co and A Co to form a perimeter defense around Knob 1 and to dispatch reconnaissance patrols towards the north. C Co organized the north portion of the perimeter.

Meanwhile, a patrol of seven men from the 3rd Platoon had approached Red Top from the south. Several Japs were seen by the patrol moving toward the north along the main ridge. No resistance was offered, with the exception of harassing sniper fire from the front and flanks, and the patrol succeeded in reaching Red Top at 1600. The remainder of the platoon was ordered to join the patrol immediately and instructed to form a perimeter for the night. Artillery and mortar fire was adjusted around Knob 1 and Red Top Hill for the inevitable counterattack was expected.

At 1730, the company, minus, occupied the northern portion of the perimeter on Knob 1, while the 3rd Platoon dug in on Red Top Hill. At 1800, the company was notified by phone that an attempt to resupply the company by carrying party had failed due to enemy artillery and mortar fire, but a liaison plane would drop supplies the following morning at 0900. The company should be prepared, on call, to mark the drop area with a smoke grenade. Fortunately, the men still carried two combat type K rations and sufficient rifle and machine gun ammunition. Shortages existed in hand grenades, especially white phosphorous, and water. At this time C Co had approximately fifty men on Mount Mataba. In addition to the men who were wounded and who had acted as litter bearers, a number of men suffered from heat exhaustion because of the strenuous climb up the slopes of Ridge R, and were forced to fall to the rear. Among these men were the 1st Sergeant and Communication Sergeant. A radio message informed the company commander that these stragglers had been collected at the base of Ridge R by the 1st Sergeant. They would occupy positions in B Co’s perimeter for the night and would lead the carrying party forward the following day.

Shortly after dark the wire line to battalion went out and arrangements were made to make reports, on the even hours, by SCR 500 radio. C Co’s radio would be off the air between reports to conserve batteries while the battalion set would remain open in case of an emergency message. Although artillery and mortar fire was received on the position, the expected enemy counterattack failed to materialize.

The Second Day on Mount Mataba

The second day on Mount Mataba was spent improving the company’s defensive positions on the northern portion of the perimeter. Reconnaissance patrols were sent north along the main ridge toward Knob 2, but withdrew after receiving small arms and mortar fire from this vicinity. At 0915, the liaison plane dropped supplies, including water, rations, ammunition and blood plasma. Late in the morning, the battalion commander directed the company to endeavor to locate the enemy mortars that were firing on the 4.2 mortar positions. At 1125, artillery and mortar fire was received on the company’s positions. All attempts to locate these positions met with negative results. Meanwhile, information was received that the battalion supply train was hit by 90 MM mortar fire and that one Filipino carrier was killed and five wounded. It was reported that the enemy mortars were firing from Mango Gorge. This supply train was carrying food, water, ammunition and blood plasma. It became quite evident that the Japs were endeavoring to atop carrying parties by artillery and mortar fire in an effort to reduce the efficiency of the troops on Mataba.

At 1800, three men were wounded on Knob 1 by enemy mortar fire from the vicinity of Mango Gorge. It became increasingly apparent that observation must be obtained on the Gorge in an effort to locate the source of this mortar fire. As darkness descended the company withdrew all security elements and all men occupied positions on the perimeter. This perimeter consisted of a number of mutually supporting positions around the entire Knob. Each position was manned by three men in individual foxholes. In this way one man would be on the alert, while the remaining two were able to rest. At 2100, the battalion commander notified C Co to continue the attack to the north to seize and hold Knob 2. The following day it was believed that this knob was being used by the Japs to place observed fire on the battalion supply train and the 4.2 mortar positions, as well as other battalion installations in the Mariquina River Valley.

Because of the narrow hog back ridge the approach to Knob 2 was canalized and limited the formation to a column in single file. The strength of the enemy on this knob was unknown but patrol reports indicated that he had automatic weapons positions on the dominating ground covering the only approach to his position. The dense vegetation afforded the enemy excellent concealment which, in conjunction with his ability to camouflage his positions, made it extremely difficult to locate them. The company planned to attack in single file with the 2nd Platoon in the assault closely followed by the command group and the 1st Platoon. As the distance from Red Top to Knob 2 was approximately four hundred yards the 3rd Platoon in support was ordered to remain in position and to take under fire any targets of opportunity that might arise. They were ordered specifically to observe for automatic weapons fire from Ridge T.

The company’s machine gun section was attached to the 2nd Platoon, while the 60 MM Mortar Section would support the attack from their primary position on Knob 1. They were to be prepared to displace forward to Knob 2 on order. A ten minute artillery and 4.2 mortar preparation was to be placed on the objective from H-10 to H hour. H hour was designated as 0800, 12 April.

The Third Day on Mount Mataba

The attack jumped off at 0800 as scheduled and the company advanced against relatively light sniper fire to point V at approximately two hundred yards north of Red Top. Point V consisted of a small rise along the ridge and as soon as the men crossed over it they immediately were exposed to enemy observation from Knob S. The scouts were immediately hit and the attack was stopped. Heavy mortar fire began to fall on the column and two men were seriously wounded as a result of a tree burst. Meanwhile, the 3rd Platoon leader reported that a light machine gun was firing from the vicinity of Ridge T, but due to the heavy vegetation he was unable to locate it. He further stated that he was searching this area with machine gun fire. At 1000, following another artillery preparation, the company attacked but was stopped again at Point V by enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. As a result the attack was called off and the company withdrew to its positions, on the perimeter.

Meanwhile, it was discovered that the 3d Platoon on Red Top had received some casualties as a result of the heavy mortar fire. One shell had scored a direct hit on a box of white phosphorous grenades, killing one man, and seriously burning two others. The former had been burned to a crisp when several of the grenades had fallen into his foxhole. The company was informed at this time that a supply road had been built from the southeast by the engineers and was approximately three hundred yards east of Knob 1. The casualties were to be evacuated by litter directly to the road and from there would be further evacuated by jeep ambulance. The company reorganized and the wounded were evacuated.

At 1535, the company commander of C Co was informed that A Co would make the attack the following morning to capture Knob 2. C Co would be prepared to assist A Co on the objective if needed. Meanwhile, four rounds of 150 MM mortar fell on the supply trail just in rear of the carrying party bringing rations, water and ammunition. The carrying party arrived on the position at 1600, and doughnuts and hot sandwiches were relished by the men. Because of the acute shortage, water was rationed to the platoons according to their strength.

At 1845, enemy artillery fell on C Co positions on Red Top, without effect. With the arrival of darkness the men went into their holes for the night. No patrolling wag done. Instead, everyone remained in his position on the perimeter.
At 2515, the phone line to battalion went out and shortly thereafter the company line to the platoon on Red Top failed. The company commander was unable to contact this platoon on the SCR 536 radio.

The Fourth and Fifth Days on Mount Mataba

On Apr 13, A Co attacked to the north following an artillery preparation, but was stopped at Point V and withdrew to the perimeter. B Co relieved A Co on the perimeter that afternoon and attacked Knob 2 the following morning, but was also repulsed at Point V and withdrew to the perimeter. During this period C Co continued patrol activities to the east and remained in position on the perimeter. During the night of Apr 13 to 14, the wire lines to the battalion were again cut by the enemy. Supplies were sent forward each day by vehicles over the road that had been completed to Knob 1 from the southeast.

C Co was ordered to attack Knob 2 at 1020, Apr 15. The artillery and 4.2 mortars would fire a preparation on the objective from H-15 to H hour and increase their range to fire smoke on Mount Pacawagan. A self propelled mount from Cannon Company would be attached to the company. The company plan was as follows :

The 3rd Platoon with the self propelled mount and light machine gun section attached would lead the assault followed by the command group and 1st Platoon in that order.
The 2nd Platoon would relieve the 3rd Platoon on Red Top at 0800, giving the latter sufficient time to assemble and prepare for the attack.
The company would again advance in single file.
D Co’s machine gun section remained in position on Red Top.
The mortars would support the attack from their position on Knob 1.

The attack jumped off as scheduled, but was again stopped at Point V. The self propelled mount drew fire as soon as it appeared and immediately withdrew when it was subjected to 150 MM mortar fire. The officer commanding the mount refused to go forward, stating that the mortar bursts were liable to wound his men since the top of his mount was open and afforded no protection to the occupants. He made no comment when informed that all the infantrymen of C Co had for protection was their skin.

At 1120, no progress had been made; however, only three casualties had been suffered by the company. The company commander ordered one squad to move around the left to attempt to flank the position and the balance of the platoon to build up a base of fire from the vicinity of Point V. The 2nd Squad of the lat Platoon disappeared on the west side of the ridge. After proceeding approximately fifty yards by rushes from one crater to another, the squad came under heavy machine gun fire. One man, endeavoring to continue to advance, was critically wounded. The squad was pinned down; not a man could expose himself without being subjected to accurate small arms and machine gun fire. Meanwhile, the balance of the platoon had been unable to build up a base of fire as the least movement forward resulted in a preponderance of enemy missiles being brought to bear on Point V. The inevitable heavy mortar fire began to fall in the area. At this time the squad leader of the 3rd Squad, on the left aide of the ridge, contacted the company commander by 536 radio reporting two men wounded, his position untenable, and that he could neither advance nor withdraw. A 4.2 smoke concentration was requested and delivered on Knob 2. The 81 MM Mortar Platoon of D Co fired smoke adjusted by the forward observer from that company on Ridge T. The 60 MM Mortar delivered high explosive that was adjusted by the squad leader of the 3rd Squad to his immediate front. This fire support enabled the 1st Squad to withdraw back to the main ridge. The squad leader informed the company commander that Knob 2 appeared to be alive with Japs. True, he had only seen a few but the entire knob appeared to be erupting with rifle fire. Further, he had observed one machine gun on Ridge T firing flanking fire on Point V and another machine gun appeared to be located in the center of Knob 2. The latter position caused him the most trouble. Although it was less than one hundred fifty yards away he had not been able to locate it definitely. This information was forwarded to the battalion commander, who directed that G Co withdraw to their positions on Knob 1. The company commander was informed that B Co would seize the objective the following morning.

At 2300, enemy could be heard digging to the front and artillery fire was placed on Knob 2 with unobserved results. The digging continued during the night and speculation arose whether the enemy had received reinforcements, way improving his positions, or burying his dead resulting from the mortar and artillery fire.

The Sixth Day on Mount Mataba

On Apr 16, B Co supported by mortar and artillery fire attempted to capture Knob 2 and was once again repulsed at Point V and withdrew to its position on the southern portion of the perimeter. Meanwhile, the regiment directed the engineers to extend the road around Red Top to Point V to enable a tank to get to the position. C Co was notified by the battalion commander that they would take Knob 2 the following day. One Sherman tank would be in support of the operation and would arrive at C Co’s position at 0800 the following morning. Information was also received at this time that a captured enemy document, dated Apr 14, had ordered the enemy to Intensify infiltration on Americans for next three days preceding general counterattack.

At 1330, the battalion commander notified G Co of the supporting fires to be furnished. Two medium artillery battalions and one 8 Inch battery would fire a fifteen minute preparation from H-15 to H hour. When the artillery fires lifted the 4.2 and 81 MM mortars would fire on the objective, to lift on call of C Co.

C Co’s attack order was given to the platoon leaders at 1500. The 1st platoon, with the tank attached, would lead the assault, followed by the command group and the 3rd Platoon, in that order. The 2nd Platoon would remain in position on Red Top Hill, prepared to displace on order to Knob 2 to assist in the reorganization of that position. The 2nd Platoon was ordered to secure the attack position, just behind Point V, at daylight. The line of departure would be Point V. At this time the company commander sensed, for the first time, a feeling among the men that the objective would be taken. The mere fact that a tank would support the attack had a tremendous psychological effect on the men. The men were also carrying extra grenades, especially white phosphorous (M-15 WP), which was indicative of a new determination.

The Capture of Knob 2

At 0620, Apr 17, the 2nd Platoon reported that the attack position was secured. No enemy resistance had been encountered. At 0815, the tank joined the company behind Red Top and at 0845, the artillery and mortar preparation commenced. Under cover of this noise the company moved out with the tank to a position one hundred yards in rear of the attack position. Upon completion of the artillery and mortar fires, the company moved quickly to the attack position and called for the mortar fires to lift.

March 16, 1945 : A US Marine approaches a Japanese soldier on Iwo Jima, Japan during World War II. The Japanese soldier was buried for 1 1/2 days in this shell hole playing dead and ready with a live grenade inches away from his hand. The Marines feared he might be further booby trapped underneath his body after knocking the grenade to the bottom of the shell hole. Promising no resistance, the prisoner is given a cigarette he asked for and was dragged free from the hole. (AP Photo)

The tank moved out over Point V with its 75 firing and machine guns spraying the area to its front. For the first time the men could see the enemy. The preparatory fires had left the hill practically void of any vegetation. Enemy riflemen, apparently demoralized by the sight of the tank, fired excitedly as well as wildly. As the main ridge widened the second squad was deployed around the left side of the tank. The light machine guns were set up on the flanks of Point V and began to spray Ridge T with bullets. Japs, their torsos torn practically in half, continued to resist. One Jap, his leg blown off at the knee, manned a heavy machine gun until struck by a .30 caliber bullet. It was a suicidal defense, but once the attack gained momentum it bowled over the opposition. No words can express the magnificent job accomplished by the tank. The enemy was completely surprised and stunned by its appearance.

At 1050, battalion wag notified that the objective had been taken. Meanwhile, the men who had been mopping up on Knob 2 received sniper fire from Mount Pacawagan. This fire ceased when the 4.2 mortars blinded the enemy with smoke. A large cave was discovered on the north side of the Knob. This cave had apparently been used by the Japs to escape the devastating effects of the artillery and mortar fires. The entire Knob was found to consist of a series of mutually supporting foxholes connected by underground tunnels. Tunnels in several of the holes appeared to lead toward the large cave on the reverse slope of the Knob. White phosphorous grenades were thrown into all such tunnels. It soon became quite apparent why the Japs had made a last ditch stand to hold this Knob. It afforded an excellent view of the Mango River Gorge and disclosed a number of trails leading up to Mount Pacawagan from this direction. A few Japs were seen occasionally moving to the east in the gorge and artillery was fired in these areas with unobserved results.

On the final assault of Knob 2 by G Co, two light machine guns, one heavy machine gun and a number of enemy rifles were captured. Approximately thirty-five dead Japs were counted on the Knob and an undetermined number were already buried. Several times the men, digging new fox holes, would dig into enemy graves. No time was lost in organizing a perimeter defense. Concertina wire and sand bags were used to strengthen the position. Booby traps were constructed and placed in critical areas to give early warning of any hostile approach. While the perimeter defense was being organized observation posts were established. At dark all security elements withdrew to the perimeter and prepared for an expected counterattack that failed to materialize. The enemy was content to harass the position with mortar and artillery fire. C Co’s casualties for the final assault on Knob 2 were much leas than expected, in that, only one man was killed and three men were wounded. On the other aide of the ledger, thirty-five enemy dead were counted. An undetermined number had been killed and sealed in the spider like net work of tunnels and in the large cave. In summary, C Co, 63rd Infantry, did accomplish its mission by assisting in the capture of Knob 1, by seizure and subsequent holding of Red Top and, in the final phase, the capture of Knob 2 in an all out assault. The seizure of this dominant and critical terrain feature in the heart of the Shimbu Line paved the way for the later capture of Mount Pacawagan and the ultimate destruction of the Shimbu Line. It denied to the enemy his most advantageous point of observation on the Marikina River Valley and the city of Manila, farther to the west. In turn it provided observation for the American forces down the Mango River Gorge, one of the main communication routes of the Japs and suspected location of many of his artillery and heavy mortar pieces.

C Co’s losses during this operation amounted to three men killed and sixteen men wounded. Although the actual enemy casualties are not known it far exceeded those of C Co. On Knob 2 alone, thirty-five enemy dead were counted while an undetermined number were destroyed in the numerous tunnels and caves. No prisoners of war were taken. C Co, by their participation in this action, shared in a unit citation awarded to the 1st Battalion, 63d Infantry, for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy in the Shimbu line, Mount Mataba area.

For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Francorchamps 4970
Belgium
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be





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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)

 

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