World War Two: Fall of Philippines; Bataan (4-17B); Battle of the Points; Anyasan and Silaiim

General Kimura’s success against Wainwright’s Mauban line between 20 and 23 January had led 14th Army headquarters to revise its estimate of the situation and to prepare new plans for the occupation of Bataan. Originally, the main effort had been made against II Corps on the east. In view of Kimura’s success, General Homma now decided to place additional forces on the west and increase pressure against I Corps in the hope that he might yet score a speedy victory. On the 25th, therefore, he directed Lieutenant General Susumu Morioka, 16th Division commander, who had come up from southern Luzon and was now in Manila with a portion of his division, to proceed to western Bataan with two battalions of infantry and the headquarters of the 21st Independent Engineer Regiment and there assume command of the operations against I Corps.

[Morioka’s 16th Division was scattered at this time. The 9th Infantry was under General Nata’s control on the east coast of Bataan; two battalions of the 20th Infantry were already in Bataan and operating under General Kimura, infantry group commander of the division. The third regiment of the division, the 33rd Infantry, was split: one battalion was in Manila, one in southern Luzon, and the third was on Mindanao. 14th Army Opns, I,]

The First Landing

Homma’s order of the 25th, though made two days after the landings at Longoskawayan and Quinauan, contained no reference to this effort to outflank I Corps by sea. Homma was not yet convinced that this amphibious venture should have the full support of 14th Army. The decision to reinforce Tsunehiro’s 2nd Battalion at Quinauan, the only landing of which the Japanese had knowledge, was made by General Morioka, Kimura’s immediate superior. To him, as to Kimura, the landing held out the promise of large results. Even before he left Manila, he ordered one company of the small force at his disposal to go to the aid of the 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry. The companyselected was from the same regiment’s 1st Battalion. It was to move with all speed from Manila to Olongapo and there pick up supplies for the trapped and hungry men “fighting a heroic battle” against a “superior enemy” on Quinauan Point.

The reinforcing company reached Olongapo at the head of Subic Bay on the night of 26 January. At midnight it embarked in landing craft loaded with ammunition, rations, and supplies, and set sail for Quinauan. Once more poor seamanship and the lack of navigation charts and large-scale maps led the Japanese astray. This time they landed about 2,000 yards short of the objective, between the Anyasan and Silaiim Rivers, in the sector guarded by the 1st Battalion, 1st Philippine Constabulary.

The beach on which the Japanese craft ran aground was little different from that at Longoskawayan and Quinauan. The coast line here presented the same irregular appearance as that to the south. Dense tropical forest and thick undergrowth extended almost to the shore line, and the foot-hills of the Mariveles Mountains formed steep cliffs about 100 feet high just in front of the beach. The two rivers, Silaiim on the north and Anyasan about 1,000 yards to the south, emptied into shallow bays, each bearing the name of the river. Separating the two bays was Silaiim Point, a narrow headland which formed the upper shore of the southern bay. The lower coast of the bay received its name from the southernmost of the two rivers. Thus, from north to south, presenting a confusion of identically named geographic features, were: Silaiim Bay, Silaiim River; Silaiim Point, Anyasan Bay, Anyasan River, and Anyasan Point. This confusion of points, when combined with those to the north and south, was as bewildering to the troops as it is, probably, to the reader. Their plight was most aptly expressed by one member of a wire crew, perched atop a telephone pole who, when asked where he was, replied, “For Christ’s sake, sir, I don’t know. I am somewhere between asinine and quinine points.”

Inland, the ground was even more difficult than at Longoskawayan and Quinauan. Small streams branched off from the two rivers, dry at this time of the year, to create additional hazards to troop movements and to provide cover for the enemy. With only one access trail from the West Road to the beach, the task of maintaining communications and supplying troops to the front would be a difficult one. The absence of roads would also limit the effective use of tanks in formation and require their employment singly or in small numbers at isolated points. Similarly, the dense forest, by restricting observation and increasing the hazards of tree bursts, would limit the use of artillery and mortars. Like the fights then in progress at Longoskawayan and Quinauan, the struggle to drive off the Japanese between the Anyasan and Silaiim Rivers would be a job for the rifleman.

In MacArthur’s headquarters, the new landing was regarded as the prelude to a major enemy offensive. Should this hostile force, thought to be of “considerable size,” establish contact with the Japanese on Quinauan Point to the south or advance as far as the West Road, only 2,700 yards away, it would present “a threat of no mean importance.”

Coming ashore at about 0300 of the 27th, the confused and lost Japanese of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, numbering about two hundred men, met no more resistance than had their fellows in the 2nd Battalion. The Constabulary troops on beach defense promptly took flight at the first approach of the enemy and the entire Constabulary battalion was soon dispersed. At dawn, when General Pierce received news of the landing, he immediately dispatched the 17th Pursuit Squadron, then in sector reserve, to meet the invaders.

The grounded airmen moved out shortly after dawn. At the abandoned Constabulary command post, where breakfast still simmered in the pots, they discovered a smashed switchboard and an aid station complete with stretchers. After breakfasting on the food and reporting the situation to sector headquarters, the airmen set off jauntily for the coast. As they did so, some men were heard inquiring how to fire their rifles.

More than a mile inland from the beach and about 400 yards distant from the vital West Road, the 17th Pursuit Squadron met the enemy’s advance patrols. The Japanese pulled back without offering serious resistance and the squadron was able to advance along the path between the two rivers until it was about 1,000 yards from the shore line. The Japanese had apparently established their front line positions here and the Americans easy march came to an abrupt halt. Joined at this point by the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Philippine Constabulary, which had just been in the fight against the Japanese roadblock to the north, the Americans dug in for the night. This was to be the easiest advance by the troops in the Anyasan-Silaiim sector.

The next day, 28 January, the airmen and Constabulary attacked during the morning. Either because the Japanese had pulled back or shifted position during the night, the Constabulary battalion was able to advance almost to the coast at Anyasan Bay. That night, when the Japanese appeared ready to counterattack, the Constabulary pulled back leaving the 17th Pursuit to fend for itself. The threat to the West Road now seemed serious, for there was every indication that the Japanese force, whose size and precise location were still not known, might burst out of the beachhead and create havoc behind the American lines.

The situation was saved the next day when the Scouts of the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry, arrived on the scene, led by their executive officer, Captain Arthur C. Biedenstein. General Pierce placed Biedenstein in charge of the operation and gave him the 1st Battalion, 1st Philippine Constabulary, and the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry (PA) -both of which had just been relieved at Quinauan Point-to clear out the Japanese. To guard the West Road and insure the safety of the line of communication, he placed Company A, 57th Infantry (PS), on patrol to the rear.

On 30 January, after a personal reconnaissance to locate the Japanese, Captain Biedenstein opened the attack. Calling for support from the 75-mm. guns of the 88th Field Artillery, whose Battery D was in position to assist the men in both the Quinauan and Anyasan-SiIaiim sectors, he sent his Scouts out to regain the beach near the mouth of the SiIaiim River. Either the battalion’s front line had been incorrectly reported to the artillery or plotted inaccurately, for the result of the preparation was almost disastrous. Without adequate communication between infantry and artillery and with high trees limiting observation and causing tree bursts, the Scouts soon found themselves under fire from their own guns. Before the artillery command post could be reached, four Scouts had been killed and sixteen more wounded. The offensive of the 30th came to an end even before it had fairly begun.

That night the 57th Infantry (less detachments) was moved to South Sector headquarters on the West Road with orders to prepare for operations in the Anyasan-Silaiim sector. Hardly had the regiment arrived when General Pierce called for a volunteer-a lieutenant colonel or major to co-ordinate the activities of the troops already engaged on that front. Major Harold K. Johnson, who had been relieved as S-3 of the regiment a week earlier and had “nothing else specific to do,” volunteered for the job. “When I reported to General Pierce at 7: 30 P. M.,” he wrote in his diary, “I found about as complete a lack of knowledge of conditions on the coast along which the Japanese had landed as could be imagined.”

A personal reconnaissance on the night of the 30th did not greatly increase his knowledge of the enemy but it did give him a clearer picture of the disposition of the units now under his control. On the north, between the Silaiim River and Canas Point, was the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry (PA), facing almost due north and with its right flank on the sea. Facing west and holding a line from the Silaiim River to the trail leading from Silaiim Point to the West Road, was the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry. Below it, to the left of the trail and extending the line south as far as the Anyasan River, was the 1st Battalion, 1st Constabulary. To the rear, along the trail, was the 17th Pursuit.

Since there were no troops south of the Anyasan River, Johnson asked for and received permission to relieve Company A of the 57th Infantry from its patrolling mission along the West Road and send it to Anyasan Point, the promontory south of the river bearing the same name. Its new mission was to establish contact with the enemy on the point in an effort to determine his strength and locate his positions.

Johnson’s efforts on the 31st were directed primarily toward securing information about the strength and disposition of the enemy. While Company A of the 57th Infantry reconnoitered Anyasan Point to the south, the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, pivoted on its right (west) flank and swept in on the beaches of Silaiim Bay. At the same time the Scouts and Constabulary between the Anyasan and Silaiim Rivers pushed westward toward the sea. The 17th Pursuit remained in place, keeping open the line of supply and communications. Unopposed, the Scout and Philippine Army battalions cleared the area north of the Silaiim River during the morning, thus reducing the beachhead by about one third. The Constabulary troops, however, were stopped cold after an advance of about 100 yards. The Scout company moving out toward Anyasan Point failed to make any contact that day. Johnson now knew where the Japanese were dug in. But he still had no knowledge of their strength or defenses.

With this scanty information, Major Johnson concluded that there was no hope of clearing the area with the force he had. His 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry, was in poor shape. It had reached the Anyasan-Silaiim sector after a grueling march from Abucay where it had been badly mauled. One of its companies had been hard hit and disorganized by fire from friendly artillery and casualties throughout the battalion had been heavy. The unopposed Scout company to the south could not be expected to make rapid progress through the jungle and it was too weak to attack alone if it should meet an enemy force. Of the rest of his troops Johnson had no high opinion. He did not believe that the 17th Pursuit would be “particularly helpful in an assault,” or that the Constabulary would contribute much in an offensive. On the evening of the 31st, therefore, he asked General Pierce for more troops, and asserted that in his opinion only his own regiment, the 57th Infantry, then at sector headquarters, would be able to clear the Japanese out of the area. “No other troops,” he declared, “would make the necessary attacks.” That night the 57th Infantry was released to General Pierce, who immediately ordered it into the Anyasan-Silaiim area. Next morning Lieutenant Colonel Edmund J. Lilly, Jr., commander of the 57th Infantry, assumed control of operations there and Major Johnson resumed his former post as S-3.

By the end of January the enemy had been isolated and contained. A strong force was assembling for a determined effort to root out the Japanese hiding in the canebrakes, thickets, and creek bottoms of the Anyasan and Silaiim Rivers. The Japanese at Longoskawayan Point had been killed or driven into the sea. At Quinauan Point the slow costly process of attrition was under way. To General Pierce the situation everywhere in the South Sector seemed generally favorable. But appearances were deceptive, for already the Japanese had launched a desperate and final effort to reinforce their beachheads on the west coast.

The Second Landing

At the time it was made, USAFFE’s estimate that the first landing in the Anyasan-Silaiim sector presaged a major enemy effort to cut the West Road was incorrect. Events soon proved it prophetic, however, for on the evening of 27 January General Homma had for the first time lent his support to the landings. That day, in an order to General Morioka, he had directed that the beachhead at Quinauan Point be reinforced and that the augmented force drive inland to seize the heights of Mariveles and then the town itself.

Morioka’s first efforts to comply with Homma’s orders were limited to attempts to drop rations, medicine, and supplies from the air to his beleaguered forces on the beaches. But the Japanese aircraft were unable to locate their own troops in the jungle. Supplies fell as often to the Americans and Filipinos as they did on the starved Japanese. The Scouts of the 45th Infantry one day picked up twelve parachute packages containing food, medicine, ammunition, and maps. The rations consisted of a soluble pressed rice cake, sugar, a soy bean cake, a pink tablet with a strong salty taste, and “other ingredients which I could not be determined.”

 While these efforts to supply the troops by air were in progress, Morioka assembled the troops he would require to reinforce the beachhead and push on to Mariveles. On 31 January he ordered the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, one company of which was already in the Anyasan-Silaiim area, to undertake this dangerous mission. Major Mitsuo Kimura, battalion commander, immediately made his preparations to sail the next night. By this time Morioka had tipped his hand. First warning of the impending Japanese move had reached the Americans on the 28th when a Filipino patrol on the opposite side of Bataan had found a mimeographed order on the body of a slain Japanese officer.

When translated, it revealed the Japanese intention to reinforce the beachheads and drive toward Mariveles. Thus warned, USAFFE took measures to counter the expected landings. Observers on the west coast were alerted and General Weaver, the tank commander, was directed to send one of his two tank battalions (less one company) to the threatened area. The few remaining P-40’s were gassed, loaded with 100-pound antipersonnel bombs and .50-caliber ammunition, and ordered to stand by for a take-off at any time.

The night of 1-2 February was clear, with a full moon. As the enemy flotilla sailed south it was spotted by American observers and a warning was flashed to MacArthur’s headquarters. The land, sea, and air forces so carefully prepared for just this moment, were immediately directed to meet and annihilate the enemy. The result was the first large coordinated joint attack of the campaign. While the motor torpedo boats sought targets offshore, the 26th Cavalry moved out from I Corps reserve to Caibobo Point to forestall a landing there. The four P-40’s, all that remained of the Far East Air Force, took off from the strip near Cabcaben, cleared the Mariveles Mountains, and headed for the enemy flotilla of twelve or more barges. Sighting the target, they swooped low to release their 100-pound antipersonnel bombs, then turned for a strafing run over the landing boats.

By now the Japanese were nearing Quinauan Point. Their reception from the men on shore, themselves under fire from a Japanese vessel thought to be a cruiser or destroyer, was a warm one. Artillery shell fragments churned the sea around the landing boats as Battery D of the 88th Field Artillery and Battery E of the 301st let go with their 75’s and 155’s. Together, the two batteries fired a total of 1,000 rounds that night. Fire from the heavy machine guns and small arms of the Scout battalion on the point peppered the sma1l boats and caused numerous casualties among the luckless men on board.

While the landing boats were being attacked by air, artillery, and infantry weapons, PT 32 moved in to attack the Japanese warship, actually a minelayer, stationed off Quinauan Point to cover the landing of Major Kimura’s battalion. The enemy vessel turned her searchlight full on the patrol boat and let go with four or five salvos from two guns, thought to be of 6-inch caliber. The PT Boat sought unsuccessfully to knock out the searchlight with machine gun fire, and then loosed two torpedoes. As she retired the men on board observed explosions on the enemy vessel, which later reported only slight damage from shore batteries.

For the Americans and Filipinos who witnessed the battle in the clear light of the full moon, it was a beautiful and heartening sight to see the remnants of the enemy flotilla, crippled and badly beaten, turn away and sail north shortly after midnight. Homma’s plan to reinforce his troops on Quinauan Point had failed and in the first flush of victory the Americans believed the surviving Japanese had returned to Moron. But Major Kimura either had no intention of admitting defeat or was unable to make the return journey in his battered boats. With about half his original force he landed instead in the Anyasan-Silaiim area where he was joined by his battalion’s advance company. Once more, against an alerted and prepared foe, the Japanese had landed behind Wainwright’s line. All hope for an early end to the fight for Anyasan and Silaiim Points was now gone.

Colonel Lilly, who had assumed command of operations in the Anyasan-Silaiim sector on 1 February, spent the day in a thorough reconnaissance of the area. On the evening of the 1st he still had no knowledge of the strength of the Japanese, but he had concluded that he would be more likely to encounter the enemy in the jungle than along the river beds. The arrival of Japanese reinforcements apparently led to no change in plans formed the previous night, and on the morning of the 2nd he launched an attack with three Scout battalions abreast. On the north, its right flank resting on the dry bed of the Silaiim River, was the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry, now led by its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ross B. Smith. To its south; (left) was the 3rd Battalion, 57th, and next to it the 1st Battalion (less Company B, at Quinauan) of the same regiment. The mission of the northernmost battalion was to seize the mouth of the river and the north side of Silaiim Point. The center unit, between the two rivers, would take the point itself while the 1st Battalion on the south was directed to take Anyasan Point. Guarding the north flank of the advance was the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, assigned to beach defense above Silaiim River. The 17th Pursuit Squadron remained astride the trail to the West Road to secure the line of communication. In reserve was the 2nd Battalion of Colonel Lilly’s 57th Infantry, recently arrived from Longoskawayan Point, and the Constabulary battalion.

The attack jumped off at daybreak, as the first rays of light filtered through the leafy branches of the high hardwood trees. Advancing cautiously through the luxuriant undergrowth, the two right (northern) battalions met resistance almost immediately. The southernmost battalion, however, met no opposition that day or during the four days that followed. But its progress was slow for the ground before it was exceedingly rough and difficuLieutenant The battalions to the north, after small gains, concluded that the force opposing them was a strong one and spent the rest of the day developing the hostile position.

On the 3rd tanks joined in the action. In answer to a request of the day before, Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion (less one platoon at Quinauan) , consisting of nine tanks, had been sent forward from sector headquarters. Colonel Lilly placed them between the two rivers, the only area even remotely suitable for tank operations. Restricted to the narrow trail and hampered by heavy jungle, the tanks were forced to advance in column and were utilized essentially as moving pillboxes.

At the outset tank-infantry co-ordination was poor, the foot soldiers having been directed to remain 100 to 150 yards behind the tanks. With their limited fields of fire and in column formation, the tanks were particularly vulnerable to enemy mine and grenade attack. It is not surprising, therefore, that on the first day the armor was used the results obtained were disappointing. In at least one case the result was tragic. The enemy, unimpeded by the Scouts who were well behind the tanks, disabled one of the tanks, set it on fire, then filled it with dirt.

The crew never had a chance and was first cremated, then buried. After this experience the riflemen were instructed to work closely with the armor and four infantrymen were assigned to follow each tank. When the Japanese dropped down into their foxholes now to allow the tanks to pass, the foot soldiers picked them off before they could get back on their feet.

The greatest threat to the tanks came from enemy mines. The Japanese would dash from cover, fix a magnetic mine against the front of the tank and scurry for the trees. Or they would attach a mine to a string and drag it across the trail in front of an advancing tank. Had not the infantry provided close support, the tanks would not have lasted long in the Anyasan-Silaiim fight.

The employment of artillery also presented a difficult problem, as Colonel Lilly quickly discovered. The ground sloped up from the beach and there were no commanding heights along which to emplace the guns so that they could support the first line troops. Tree bursts from the 75-mm. shells represented a real danger to friendly troops. The one battery of 155-mm. howitzers that was available had no fire direction equipment of any kind and could not be used for infantry support. In the absence of artillery forward observers, infantry rifle company commanders observed fire in front of their own lines and sent corrections to the artillery command post which had established communications directly with the assault companies.

The 2nd Battalion, 88th Field Artillery ( PS ), which was assigned the task of providing support for all the troops in Pierce’s South Sector, had to emplace its two fourgun batteries in pairs. To co-ordinate its fire the battalion had to lay thirty-eight miles of wire, in addition to utilizing the infantry communications net. The problem of firing from an altitude of 800 feet, through trees averaging 60 to 80 feet in height, at an enemy on an elevation of 100 feet or less and at a distance of about 4,000 yards, without hitting friendly front-line troops was a difficult one, and one that was never entirely solved. In the fight for Quinauan and Anyasan-Silaiim, the artillery battalion expended about 5,000 rounds, without appreciably affecting the course of the action.

Machine guns, though available, were not employed widely in the fight for Anyasan and Silaiim Points, first, because the undergrowth limited the field of fire, and second, because of the difficulty of ammunition resupply. There was no way of bringing up ammunition except by hand and it was hard enough to keep the riflemen supplied. Machine gunners, therefore, were employed as ammunition carriers for the riflemen. Their use thus, observed Major Johnson, “outweighed the advantages of their supporting fire.”

Although the Scout units had both 60-and 81-mm. mortars, they had little or no ammunition for these weapons. They did use the 3-inch Stokes mortar ammunition in the 81-mm. weapon, but, in addition to the limitations imposed by the terrain, the efficiency of this weapon was severely curtailed by the abnormally high percentage of duds. To the end, the fight for Anyasan and Silaiim Points remained primarily a rifleman’s fight.

While infantry-tank and infantry-artillery co-ordination were worked out during the 3rd and 4th of February, the advance of the two right battalions-the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry, and the 3rd Battalion, 57th Infantry-proceeded slowly. Until the southern battalion fought its way through the jungle and established contact with the enemy on Anyasan Point, thus securing the left flank, the rest of the line had to proceed cautiously. Finally, on the 7th, this battalion reached the Japanese positions, but was roughly repulsed. American Air Corps troops and the Constabulary battalion were then sent in to join the fight. The Constabulary was placed on the right (north) of the 1st Battalion, 57th, with orders to maintain contact with the 3rd Battalion to the north.

The Air Corps troops went in on the left and established contact with the Scouts on Quinauan Point, thus completing a continuous line from the northern edge of Silaiim Bay to the southern extremity of Quinauan Point, a distance of about 4,000 yards.

The troops all along the front now began to advance more rapidly. Progress was facilitated when, on the 8th, a platoon of 37-mm. guns was released from Quinauan, where the fight ended that day. The guns were emplaced on a promontory overlooking Anyasan Point from where they would take the Japanese supply dumps under fire. The end of resistance at Quinauan also made possible the return of Company B, 57th Infantry, to the heavily engaged 1st Battalion on Anyasan Point.

By this time the debilitating effects of the half ration instituted a month earlier were becoming apparent. Some of the men grew listless and less eager to fight. Each day it became more difficult to push the front-line troops into aggressive action, and after the first five days it became necessary to rotate the assault battalions. Even the procurement of additional rations by the 57th Infantry, a Scout unit of high esprit de corps did not improve matters much.

The necessity of feeding the troops during the daylight hours imposed further restrictions on combat efficiency by shortening the fighting day. The two meals were served shortly after daybreak and just before dark so that the action was usually broken off in time to set up defensive positions against night attacks and eat the last meal of the day. Even when operations were proceeding favorably, it was necessary to follow this procedure for, with the meager ration, it was essential that every man get his full share to maintain his efficiency in combat.

Fortunately, even with the half ration, the morale of the Scouts did not deteriorate. They understood, as many did not, that they were receiving all the food that a determined commander could get for them, and there was little looting or stealing from the kitchens. But the effect of the ration on the performance of troops in combat was undeniable. “A prolonged period of reduced rations,” concluded Major Johnson,“destroys the will to fight almost entirely, and . . . may even destroy the will to survive.”

On 9 February, the 3rd Battalion, 57th Infantry, in the center of the line, was replaced by the rested and refreshed 2nd Battalion, with the result that the attack that day was pushed more aggressively. One enemy strongpoint which had held up the 3rd Battalion was taken during the afternoon, but the Japanese counterattacked that night to recapture the position. The following day, 10 February, the 2nd Battalion resumed its march, retook the strongpoint, and then continued to move forward steadily. By evening of the next day it had reached the mouth of the Anyasan River, squeezing out the Japanese and forcing them on to Silaiim Point, between the two rivers, and in front of the 45th Infantry Scouts who were advancing more slowly. The situation of Major Kimura’s remaining troops was desperate and their defeat a certainty.

As early as the 7th the Japanese had apparently realized that their forces on the west coast beachheads were doomed. From Major Kimura, commander of the troops at Silaiim, General Morioka received word that a “bitter battle” was in progress and that the enemy was attacking with tanks and artillery. “The battalion,” wrote Kimura, “is about to die gloriously.” General Morioka responded to this message by ordering the 21st Engineer Regiment to rescue the trapped men. On the night of the 7th the engineers, in thirty boats of varying sizes, left Olongapo for the beachheads. As they came in to shore to search for their stranded fellows they were met by artillery and machine-gun fire, as well as bombs from two P-40’s. In the face of this strong opposition they returned empty-handed to Olongapo. The next night they tried again and this time succeeded in evacuating thirty-four of their wounded comrades. This was their last trip.

Unable to evacuate his men, Morioka finally decided to relieve them from their assignment so that they could make a last desperate effort to save themselves. In orders sealed in bamboo tubes and dropped from the air, he instructed Major Kimura to bring his decimated battalion out by sea, on rafts or floats, and get them to Moron. If no other means were available the men would have to swim. Included in the orders was detailed information on tides, currents, the time of the rising and setting of the sun and moon, and directions for the construction of rafts. Unhappily for Kimura, copies of the orders fell into American hands, were quickly translated, and circulated to the troops on the front line. Thus alerted, riflemen along the beaches north of Silaiim got valuable target practice firing at Japanese swimmers and machine gunners were on the watch for rafts and floats. Only a few of the enemy were able to escape by sea. Most of those who were not shot or captured probably drowned.

But before his final annihilation Major Kimura made one last effort to break out of the cordon which held him tight on Silaiim Point. At dawn, 12 February, with about two hundred men, he launched a counterattack against the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry. A gap about 100 yards wide had opened in that battalion’s line, between Companies E and F, on the 9th, but this fact had never been reported to Colonel Lilly. An effort had been made to close it but when the Japanese counterattacked it was covered only by patrol. Driving in through the two companies, the Japanese met only scattered resistance in their pell-mell rush to escape. The weight of the attack was met by a machine gun section which fought heroically but unavailingly to stop the Japanese. One gun crew made good its escape after all its ammunition was gone, but the other, except for one man who had left to get more ammunition, was killed. The two gun crews together accounted for thirty Japanese.

Once they broke through the line the Japanese turned north toward the Silaiim River. At the mouth of the river were the command posts of the 17th Pursuit, which was patrolling the beach along Silaiim Bay, and of Company F, 45th Infantry. The Japanese attacked both command posts, wounding Captain Raymond Sloan, commander of the 17th Pursuit, who died later.

A hurried call for aid was sent to Colonel Lilly, and at about 1000, just as the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry, command post came under heavy machine gun fire, the 3rd Battalion, 57th Infantry, reached the threatened area. Two of its companies formed a skirmish line to fill in the gap left by the routed 17th Pursuit and finally tied in with the north company of the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry. About noon the Scouts attacked the Japanese and during the afternoon advanced steadily against stiff but disorganized resistance. The next morning the attack was resumed and by 1500 all units reached the beach, now littered with the equipment and clothing of those Japanese who had taken to the water to escape. The only enemy left were dead ones, and the beach was befouled with bloated and rotting bodies.

Few of the Japanese had been taken prisoner. As at Longoskawayan and Quinauan they showed a reluctance to surrender though their cause was hopeless. MacArthur’s headquarters, in its first effort to use psychological warfare, made available a sound truck and two nisei and urged Colonel Lilly to broadcast appeals to the Japanese to give themselves up. But the higher headquarters failed to provide a script for the nisei and placed on the regiment responsibility for the truck and the interpreters.

To the regiment’s reluctance to accept this responsibility was added its disinclination to take prisoners. The Scouts had found the bodies of their comrades behind Japanese lines so mutilated as to discourage any generous impulse toward those Japanese unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. Some of the bodies had been bayoneted in the back while the men had had their arms wired behind them. One rotting body had been found strung up by the thumbs with the toes just touching the ground, mute evidence of a slow and tortured end. Nor did the Japanese show any signs of gratitude when their lives were spared. When one of them was brought to a battalion headquarters he had promptly attempted to destroy both himself and the headquarters with a hand grenade. It is not surprising, therefore, that “a passive resistance to the use of the sound truck developed and there were sufficient delays so that it was not used.”

About eighty of the enemy had made good their escape from the beachhead during the counterattack of the 12th. Hiding out in the daytime and traveling only at night, they made their way northward by easy stages. Four days later they were discovered about seven miles from Silaiim Point and only one mile from the I Corps main line of resistance. Their undetected four-day march through the congested area behind I Corps can be attributed to the wildness of the country and to their skill in jungle warfare. Only the defensive barbed wire and cleared fields of fire along the front had prevented them from reaching their own lines. A squadron of the 26th Cavalry was sent from corps reserve on the 16th to root them out. It took two days and the help of troops from the 72nd and 92nd Infantry to do the job.

The three-week-Iong struggle to destroy the Japanese who had landed by accident at Anyasan and Silaiim Points was over. The cost on the American side was about 70 killed and 100 wounded. The 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry, which had been in action continuously since 29 January and had borne the brunt of the final counterattack, lost 68 men: 26 killed and 42 wounded. The 57th Infantry’s 2nd Battalion suffered fewer casualties; the remaining units even less.

As at Longoskawayan and Quinauan Points the Americans and Filipinos had wiped out an entire enemy battalion, about 900 men. A large percentage of these had been lost on the night of 1 February when they had tried to reinforce their fellows at Quinauan; almost 400 had been killed on the beachhead, 80 had been caught by the 26th Cavalry, and an undetermined number had been drowned at sea trying to escape. Only 34 Japanese had been evacuated.

Since 23 January, when General Kimura had launched his amphibious attack to cut the West Road and take I Corps from the rear, the 20th Infantry had lost two infantry battalions. Committed piecemeal, inadequately prepared, attacked during the approach and disorganized before the landing, the Japanese who finally came ashore had presented a real threat to the American positions on Bataan. Had it not been for the prompt action of all units involved, the Japanese, weak as they were, might well have succeeded in their design. Fortunately, they were contained at each threatened point, and by the time the beachheads had been consolidated USAFFE had concentrated enough troops to hold them in place, and finally to destroy them. By the middle of February the danger along the west coast was over.

[It is extremely difficult to establish the exact number of Japanese in the 1st Battalion, 20th infantry, or to account precisely for their fate. Various estimates are given in all the sources cited. The author has estimated the strength on the basis of all known factors plus the fact that the battalion had seen little action and had suffered few casualties.]

SOURCE: The Fall Of The Philippines by Louis Morton (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Fall of Philippines (4-18A); Orion-Bagac Line / Trail 2

GOTO: World War Two: Fall of Philippines (4-17A): Battle of the Points; Longoskawayan and Quinauan


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