January 1945 was a crucial time in the Allied effort to reclaim the Philippines from Japanese control. Forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur had seized a foothold in Leyte in October of the previous year and by December had already started building bases in southern Mindoro.
January was for the invasion of Luzon, where the Japanese had a much heavier presence than anywhere in the Visayas or Mindanao. On the 9th of this month, the United States Sixth Army was due to hit the sands of Lingayen Beach in Pangasinan. On the last day of the same month, it was the turn of the Eighth Army to land on the beaches of Nasugbu.
|U.S. Marine air operations in Batangas were mostly using the Vought F4U "Corsair" Aircraft shown above. Image credit: United States National Archives.|
To pave the way for and subsequently support these operations, aircraft of the United States Army, Navy and Marines flew sorties into Luzon, including Batangas. The war diary1 of the United States Marine Aircraft Group 12, First Marine Aircraft Wing, with its command located at Tanauan, Leyte, provides colorful details about these operations.
In all, aircraft of the command flew a total 306 missions during the month of January 1945. Of these, 118 were strikes or attacks on Japanese targets; 110 were as protection for ship convoys; 58 were escort missions; and 20 were to conduct reconnaissance patrols.
Excerpts of the diary containing information on missions conducted in Batangas are presented verbatim below:
“Eight corsairs of VMF-218 were off the deck at 0645 to attack the Batangas area, each plane carrying one quarter tonner. One bomb destroyed the water reservoir at Batangas2, and a large camouflaged building east of the radio station was strafed with unobserved results. One bomb overshot the railroad station by twenty-five yards, one bomb was twenty yards short of the railroad intersection, two bombs overshot the railroad bridge east of the town by fifty yards, one bomb just missed the pier west of the town by fifty yards and landing in the water with negative results, one bomb landed in the Jap camp with unobserved results, and one bomb was a dud. One plane strafed and punctured the water tower at the railroad station. All planes strafed the radios station with unobserved results. Several trucks were seen moving toward town from the east and eight unidentified unserviceable fighters were seen on the strip3. The strip appeared serviceable. No railroad rolling stock and no personnel were seen in the area. They received some meager, accurate 20 mm from the vicinity of the railroad station.
“Eight planes of VMF-313 circled the Mendez area but could not find the refinery. They then hit the railroad at Lipa and turned south. They strafed the water tower and bombed out one bridge near San Jose. They scored two near misses on a second railroad bridge and two near misses on the radio tower at Batangas. They strafed and stopped two small power barges loaded with boxes of supplies near Batangas pier, and strafed two trucks on the road north of Batangas. Eight 500 pounders were dropped; three were duds.”
“Staging from Mindoro, one of seven planes and the other of nine, went on fighter sweeps over the area from Malolos, just north of Manila, to Laguna de Bay... On the return trip, they destroyed another Japanese passenger car on Highway 19 near Lipa.”
“Four Corsairs escorted an Army F5A photographic plane to Batangas. They found the area completely closed in so they returned to base without completing the mission.
“Two Corsairs escorted an F5A photographic plane to Batangas Peninsula in a negative flight, which completed the missions for the day.”
“Four planes escorted three F5A’s to Nasugbu just being south of the entrance to Manila Bay. The flight was negative.”
“Carrying two 260 pound frag clusters each, four planes bombed and strafed targets of opportunity between Cavite and Legaspi. Their bombs were dropped with excellent coverage on the barracks area at Calingatan airdrome4.”
Notes and references:1 “War Diary, January 1, 1945 to January 31, 1945,” by the Marine Aircraft Group Twelve, First Marine Aircraft Wing, online at the United States National Archives.
2 Meaning Batangas Town, presently Batangas City.
3 The “strip” referred to was probably Batangas Airfield.
4 The Calingatan Airdrome was likely the second airstrip in Lipa at the time that was operated by the Japanese, and documentation referred to it as Lipa East Airfield. Calingatan is actually a barrio of Mataasnakahoy which is adjacent to what is now Basilio Fernando Air Base, which was built from what was then called the Lipa West Airstrip.