World War Two: Fall of Philippines; Bataan (4-18B); Fight for the Pockets

In western Bataan, as in the east, the Japanese had followed closely on the heels of MacArthur’s retreating troops. General Homma’s orders on 26 January had directed Kimura, as well as Nara, to push ahead rapidly without giving the enemy an opportunity to dig in. Nara, it will be recalled, had been ordered to drive toward Limay, where, according to the captured map, the new American line was located.

Homma’s orders to Kimura called for an advance as far as the Binuangan River, along which Homma believed Wainwright had established his main line as an extension of the Limay line to the east. To make the attack General Kimura had the 122nd Infantry (less two companies) of the 65th Brigade and Colonel Yorimasa Yoshioka’s 20th Infantry, 16th Division. Actually, all Yoshioka had for the fight to follow was the regimental headquarters, service elements, and the 3rd Battalion (less one company) -altogether about 1,000 men. The rest of the regiment was already committed or stationed elsewhere.

Even before he issued orders for the attack, General Homma had made arrangements on 25 January to increase the size of the force arrayed against I Corps. Hoping to take advantage of Kimura’s easy victory on the Mauban line, he had directed General Morioka in Manila to hasten to Olongapo and assume command of operations in western Bataan. Morioka, 16th Division commander, was to take with him two battalions of infantry-one of which was the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, later lost in the Battle of the Points-and the 21st Independent Engineer Regiment headquarters. This move, Homma directed, was to be completed on 27 January. Thus, in the attack against I Corps that followed, command quickly passed from Kimura, who initiated the fight, to General Morioka.

Wainwright’s main line of resistance, it will be recalled, was organized into two sectors, a Right Sector under General Brougher and a Left Sector commanded by General Jones. Brougher’s line extended from the Pantingan River to Trail 7, which led southward from the Pilar-Bagac road through the American positions to join the intricate network of trails to the rear. Responsible for both the river and the trail on his flanks, Brougher placed the Constabulary on the right to guard the approach by way of the river and to tie in with the left flank of II Corps. Next to it was the 13th Infantry (PA) of the 11th Division and on the left of Brougher’s sector, defending Trail 7, was the 11th Infantry led by Colonel Glen R. Townsend.

Responsibility for the area west of Trail 7 rested with General Jones. On the left he placed General Stevens’ 91st Division. The eastern portion of the sector, from the Camilew River to but not including Trail 7, was initially assigned to the 45th Infantry (PS), but when that regiment was withdrawn on 26 January, on orders from USAFFE, Wainwright assigned the area to General Segundo’s 1st Division (PA) . Although two hastily organized battalions of the 1st Infantry and one of the 3rd Infantry moved into the line vacated by the 45th, a gap still remained in the center. The next afternoon, 27 January, the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, was withdrawn from its position on beach defense near Bagac and sent in to fill the gap.

Wainwright’s new main line of resistance ran through a thick jungle where it was extremely difficult for units to establish physical contact. Flowing in every direction through this area was a confusing network of streams. The Gogo River flowed into the Bagac River to form one continuous stream along the Left Sector main line of resistance.

South of this east-west water line were three tributaries of the Gogo-the Tuol, Cotar, and Camilew Rivers. Behind the line was an equally confusing network of trails, intersecting each other as well as the main trails running south from the Pilar-Bagac road. New Trail 5 paralleled the main line of resistance and connected the West Road with Trail 7. Below it and generally parallel to it was another trail, called Old Trail 5. So bewildering was the river and trail system, especially in the 1st Division area, that few of the troops knew precisely where they were at any given moment. It was in this area that the Japanese penetration came.

Establishment of the Pockets

The Japanese opened the offensive against I Corps on 26 January. Anxious to capitalize on his successful drive down the west coast, General Kimura sent his troops along the West Road against the 91 st Division, on the extreme left of the line in the vicinity of Bagac. For two days, on the 26th and 27th, the Japanese sought to break through the new main line of resistance along the coast but the 91st held ground firmly. Repelled on the west, the Japanese, as they had done at Abucay, then began to probe the line in search of a soft spot. On the night of 28-29 January they found one in the 1st Division area.

The 1st Division had been badly disorganized and had lost much of its equipment in the first battle of Bataan and during the withdrawal along the beach. First sent to the rear for reorganization and a much needed rest, the division had then been hurriedly sent to the front on 26 and 27 January to replace the 45th Infantry. Since then the men had worked frantically to make ready for an attack. They dug trenches and cleared fields of fire but the work progressed slowly. Lacking entrenching tools and axes, many of the men had been forced to dig holes with their mess kits and clear the underbrush with their bayonets.

Before the men of the 1st Division could complete their preparations and while they were still stringing wire, they were hit by Colonel Yoshioka’s 20th Infantry troops. The 1,000 men of the 20th Infantry first seized the high ground before the still unwired 1st Infantry sector. From this vantage point they pushed in the outpost line late on the 28th, drove back one company on the main line of resistance, and during the night moved rapidly through the gap up the valleys of the Cotar and Tuol Rivers, throwing out patrols as they advanced.

It is hard to imagine heavier, more nearly impenetrable or bewildering jungle than that in which Colonel Yoshioka’s men found themselves. It is covered with tall, dense cane and bamboo. On hummocks and knolls are huge hardwood trees, sixty to seventy feet in height, from which trail luxuriant tropical vines and creepers. Visibility throughout the area is limited, often to ten or fifteen yards. There were no reliable maps for this region and none of the sketches then in existence or made later agreed. Major terrain features were so hazily identified that General Jones asserts that to this day no one knows which was the Tuol and which the Cotar River.

Under such conditions it was virtually impossible for either side to maintain contact or to know exactly where they were. The Japanese moved freely, if blindly, in the rear of the 1st Division line, cutting wire communications and establishing strong points from which to harass the Filipinos. Segundo’s men were almost as confused as the Japanese. They believed that only small enemy patrols had penetrated the line and sought blindly to find these patrols, sometimes mistaking friend for foe.

Before long, Colonel Yoshioka found his force split in two groups. One of these, less than a company, was discovered by 1st Division patrols in a defensive position atop a hill just southeast of the junction of the Cotar and Gogo Rivers in the middle of the 1 st Division area. This position, which became known as the Little Pocket, was about 400 yards below the main line of resistance and about 1,000 yards west of Trail 7.

The bulk of Yoshioka’s force continued to move east and soon was established along Trail 7 in the area held by Colonel Townsend’s 11th Infantry. Its presence there was discovered on the morning of the 29th when the Provisional Battalion of the 51st Division led by Captain Gordon R. Myers, moving north along Trail 7 to the aid of the 1st Division, met a Japanese force moving south. After a brief exchange of fire followed by a bayonet fight the Japanese broke off the action and withdrew. Not long after, 11th Infantry troops moving south from the front line along the same trail were fired on and killed. An American sergeant, sent forward from Colonel Townsend’s 11th Infantry headquarters to investigate, met the same fate and his body was discovered about 200 yards north of the junction of Trails 5 and 7. It was clear now that an enemy force had established itself across the trail and the junction, nearly a mile behind the main line of resistance. From this position, which later came to be called the Big Pocket, the Japanese could block north-south traffic along Trail 7 and hinder the movement of troops westward along Trail 5.

There was as yet no indication of the size of the Japanese force in the pocket. Under the impression that only a strong patrol was blocking the trail, Colonel Townsend, on the afternoon of the 29th, ordered two reserve companies of the 11th Infantry to clear the area. The reaction of the Japanese to the attack quickly corrected Townsend’s impression and a hasty call was put in for additional troops. USAFFE made available to corps the 1st Battalion of the 45th Infantry (PS) and by 2000 that night advance elements of the Scout battalion had reached the trail junction, ready to join in the fight the next day.

Attacks against the Big Pocket during the next few days by the Scouts on the South and the 11th Infantry troops on the north made little progress and only confirmed the fact that the enemy was strong and well entrenched. Yoshioka’s troops had by now dug their foxholes and trenches and connected them with tunnels so that they could move freely without fear of observation. They had skillfully emplaced their machine guns behind fallen trees and had taken every advantage of the jungle to strengthen and conceal their defenses. They had even taken the precaution to dispose of the earth from the foxhole so as to leave no telltale signs of their position.

Artillery availed the Americans as little here as it had in the Battle of the Points. Poor visibility, inadequate maps, and the lack of high trajectory weapons resulted in shorts, overs, and tree bursts, some of which caused casualties among friendly troops. So dense was the jungle that one 75-mm. gun, originally emplaced to provide antitank defense at the trail junction, was unable to achieve any observable results though it poured direct fire on the enemy at a range of 200 yards. The value of the mortars was limited by the high percentage of duds as well as the thick jungle. Again, as on the beaches, the fight was to be a rifleman’s fight backed up by BAR’s and machine guns whenever they could be used.

The location of the Big Pocket created difficulties of an administrative nature. Although the pocket blocked the trail in the 11th Infantry area, on the internal flank of Brougher’s Right Sector, it extended over into Jones’s Left Sector, where the 1st Division was having difficulties of its own with the Japanese in the Little Pocket. Moreover, the pockets were not entirely surrounded and Yoshioka’s men moved at will from one to the other. Just where the Big Pocket ended and the Little Pocket began was not yet clear and the 1st Division was as much engaged against the former as was the 11th Infantry. To clarify this situation, General Wainwright, who was present almost daily at the scene of the fighting, placed General Brougher, Right Sector commander, in charge of all troops operating against the Big Pocket. Colonel Townsend was given command of the forces immediately engaged.

The position of the Japanese in the two pockets was not an enviable one. Since 31 January, when 1st Division troops had shut the gate behind them, Colonel Yoshioka’s men had been cut off from their source of supply. Though they had successfully resisted every effort thus far to drive them out, and had even expanded the original Big Pocket westward, their plight was serious. Without food and ammunition they were doomed. General Morioka attempted to drop supplies to them,· but, as had happened during the Battle of the Points, most of the parachute packs fell into the hands of the Filipinos and Americans, who were grateful for the unexpected addition to their slim rations.

Only one course remained to Morioka if he was to save the remnants of Yoshioka’s regiment. He must break through the main line of resistance again and open the way for a retreat-or further advance. All efforts by the 122nd Infantry, which had been pushing against the 1st and 11th Divisions since the start of the attack, had thus far proved unavailing. But by 6 February Morioka had received reinforcements. One of the two battalions he had brought with him from Manila, the 2nd Battalion of his own division’s 33rd Infantry, was now in position before the I Corps line, and the remnants of Colonel Takechi’s 9th Infantry (less 3rd Battalion) had reached western Bataan, after its fight on the east with Nara’s brigade, to join its parent unit, the 16th Division, for the first time in the campaign.

With these forces Morioka launched a determined effort to relieve and reinforce the men in the pockets. The 2nd Battalion, 33rd Infantry, he sent down Trail 7. The 122nd Infantry he strengthened by attaching two battalions of the 9th Infantry so that it could increase its pressure against the two Philippine divisions in the center of the line.

The attack began late on the 6th, and shortly after midnight those Japanese advancing down Trail 7 overran a platoon of Company F, 11th Infantry, which was holding the critical sector across the trail. Eighteen of the twenty-nine men in the platoon were killed in their foxholes. For the moment it seemed as though the Japanese would be able to advance unhindered down Trail 7 to take the Filipinos on the north side of the Big Pocket in the rear. Only the quick action of Major Helmert J. Duisterhof, commanding the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry, prevented this catastrophe.

Organizing a containing force from the men in headquarters and from stragglers, he kept the Japanese to a gain of 600 yards, 800 short of the Big Pocket. The troops on each side of the penetration held firm so that what had promised to be another break-through became a fingerlike salient, referred to as the Upper Pocket. Morioka had failed to reach Yoshioka but he had broken the main line of resistance at still another point and attained a position which posed a real threat to the security of Wainwright’s I Corps. The formation of the pockets-one of them actually a salient, for the main line of resistance was not restored-was now complete.

Reduction of the Pockets

While Morioka had been making preparations for the attack which gained for him the Upper Pocket, Wainwright had been laying his own plans to reduce the pockets. Thus far all attacks against them had failed. Though General Segundo had sent in all the troops he could spare to destroy the Little Pocket in the middle of the 1st Division area, he had been unable to wipe out the small force of Japanese entrenched there. Against the larger force in the Big Pocket Brougher had pressed more vigorously but with as little success. On the north and northeast he had placed two companies, G and C, of the 11th Infantry; on the south the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry. Guarding Trail 5, south and west of the pocket, was the Provisional Battalion, 51st Division, which had made the initial contact with Yoshioka’s men on Trail 7.

On 2 February Brougher had tried to reduce the pocket with tanks. After a reconnaissance had revealed that the jungle would not permit an unsupported armored attack, a coordinated infantry-tank attack was made with a platoon of four tanks from Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion, closely supported by a platoon from the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry. The armored platoon ran the enemy gantlet along Trail 7 and emerged on the north side of the pocket after losing one tank. The infantry, however, made only slight gains. An attack the next day brought similar results and the loss of another tank.

It was during that day’s action that Lieutenant Willibald C. Bianchi won the Medal of Honor. Though assigned to another unit he had volunteered to accompany the supporting platoon sent out to destroy two machine gun positions. Leading part of the platoon forward he was wounded in the left hand. Refusing to halt for first aid he continued on, firing with his pistol. One of the enemy machine guns he knocked out with grenades.

Meanwhile the tank, unable to lower the muzzle of its 37-mm. gun sufficiently, had been having difficulty reducing the other machine gun near by. Bianchi, who now had two more bullets in his chest, clambered to the top of the tank and fired its antiaircraft gun into the enemy position until the impact of a third bullet fired at close range knocked him off the tank. He was evacuated successfully and after a month in the hospital was back with his unit.

By 4 February three of the four tanks of the Company A platoon had been destroyed and it was necessary to assign to Brougher’s force another platoon from Company B of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The attack was continued that day with as little success as before, and on the night of the 4th the Japanese were still in firm possession of the pockets. It was evident that a co-ordinated and stronger offensive than any yet made would be required for victory and General Wainwright called a meeting of the major commanders concerned to discuss plans for such an offensive.

The conference opened at about 1000 of the 5th at the command post of the 1st Division. Present were Generals Jones, Brougher, and Segundo, Colonel William F. Maher, Wainright’s chief of staff, and Colonel Stuart C. MacDonald, Jones’s chief of staff. First Wainwright made the point that though the pockets overlapped sector boundaries the forces engaged would have to be placed under one commander and be treated as a single operation. All available forces, including the reserves, he asserted, would have to be thrown into the fight. Brougher was to be relieved and Jones would take command of all troops already engaged against the pockets. This decision gave the new commander the following force: 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry; the Provisional Battalion, 51st Division; Companies C and G, 11th Infantry; the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 92nd Infantry; the 1st Division; and the remaining tanks.

General Jones had a plan ready. First he would isolate the pockets and then throw a cordon of troops around each. The main attack against the Little Pocket would follow, and after it had been reduced he would throw all his troops against the Big Pocket. The entire operation would be a co-ordinated one with the main attacks against each pocket delivered along a single axis of advance. Wainwright approved the plan and directed that it be put into effect not later than 7 February.

Jones immediately made preparations for the reduction of the two pockets. All 1st Division troops who could be released from their posts along the main line of resistance were given to Colonel Berry, commander of the 1st Infantry, who was directed to make his own plans to take the Little Pocket. Lieutenant Colonel Leslie T. Lathrop, commander of the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry, was given tactical command of the troops for the assault against the Big Pocket. Jones himself worked out the plan for that attack. The main effort was to be made by the 1st Battalion, 92nd Infantry, from the west. To its south would be the Provisional Battalion, 51st Division; to its north Company G, 11th Infantry. Company C, 11th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry, were to remain northeast and east of the pocket to prevent a breakout in that direction. The offensive against the two pockets would begin at 0900, 7 February.

The night before the attack Morioka opened his own offensive which by morning of the 7th had resulted in the salient called the Upper Pocket. Brougher, fearing a Japanese break-through at the salient, took from the forces jones had gathered for the attack Company A, 92nd Infantry, the reserve company of the battalion which was to make the main effort against the Big Pocket, and the tank platoon. At 0730, when Jones learned of the unauthorized transfer of his troops, he was forced to delay the hour of the attack against the Big Pocket to bring in more troops. It was not until 1500 that the replacement, Major Judson B. Crow’s 2nd Battalion, 92nd Infantry, arrived.

The attack against the Big Pocket began as soon as Major Crow’s battalion was in place. By that time only a few hours of daylight remained and few gains were made. Moreover it was discovered late in the day that the 92nd Infantry troops on the west had failed to establish contact with Company G, 11th Infantry, to its left (north) and that the pocket was not surrounded. Next morning the cordon around the Big Pocket was completed when these units tied in their flanks. Jones now waited for the completion of the action against the Little Pocket before beginning his final assault against Yoshioka’s men on Trail 7.

The attack against the Little Pocket had begun on schedule at 0900 of the 7th. Colonel Berry organized his 1st Division troops so that they approached the pocket from all sides, and then began to draw the noose tight. Evening of the first day found the Little Pocket only partially surrounded and it was not until nightfall of the 8th that Berry was ready to make the final attack from the southeast. Even then the pocket was not entirely enclosed, for a small gap remained on the east. The attack next morning was anticlimactic. When Berry reached the area that the Japanese had so stoutly defended for ten days he found only the bodies of the slain and discarded equipment. The enemy had escaped during the night by way of the one opening in the otherwise tight cordon of Filipino troops.

The Little Pocket had been reduced but now there were Japanese loose somewhere behind the 1st Division line. The small Japanese force which had escaped from the pocket was soon discovered near the main line of resistance on the west of Trail 7, evidently seeking to make its way back into the Japanese line. By accident it had stumbled into a trap, for in holding firm the west shoulder of the salient created by the Japanese attack of the 7th, the troops had so sharply refused their flank that the line resembled a horseshoe with the opening facing west. It was into this horseshoe that the Japanese from the Little Pocket stumbled on the morning of the 9th. Offered an opportunity to surrender, they replied with gunfire and in the brief fight which followed were entirely annihilated.

With the reduction of the Little Pocket and the destruction of the escaping Japanese on the morning of the 9th, General Jones was free to concentrate his entire force on the Big Pocket. But the situation had changed radically for earlier that morning General Morioka had received orders to pull back his troops to the heights north of Bagac. Immediately he directed Colonel Yoshioka to discontinue his efforts to hold the pocket and to fight his way back through the American lines. To cover the retreat, the 2nd Battalion, 33rd Infantry, in the Upper Pocket was to redouble its efforts to break through the holding force and join Yoshioka’s men. Thus, as General Jones was making ready for the final attack against the Big Pocket, Yoshioka was hurriedly making his own preparations for a withdrawal.

On the American side the 9th and 10th were busy days. Colonel Berry, who now commanded the 1st Division, brought· his force from the Little Pocket into the fight against the Big Pocket. On Jones’s orders he placed his men in position to prevent a juncture between the enemy in the Upper Pocket and Yoshioka’s troops. The rest of the 1st Division spent these days selecting and preparing a more favorable line along the south bank of the Gogo River. Meanwhile units surrounding the Big Pocket kept pressing in until they were so close that fire from one side of the pocket became dangerous to friendly units on the other side. Pushing in from the west were the two battalions of the 92nd Infantry; on the opposite side of the pocket were the Scouts and Company C of the 11th Infantry. The Provisional Battalion, 51st Division, was pressing northward along Trail 7, while Company G, 11th Infantry, pushed south down the trail.

The weakest link in the chain encircling the pocket was on the north and northeast where the almost impenetrable jungle prevented close contact between the two 11th Infantry companies and the adjoining flank of the 45th Infantry. It was against this link, where a break was already evident, that Yoshioka’s men would have to push if they hoped to escape.

Yoshioka’s position was critical. A withdrawal in the face of these converging attacks would be a difficult and dangerous maneuver under the most favorable circumstances. With his exhausted troops the task would be even more hazardous. His men, who had been living on a diet of horse flesh and tree sap for days, were half starved, sick, and utterly worn out by two weeks of continuous fighting in the jungle. Until the 10th Yoshioka had been able to draw a plentiful supply of water from the Tuol River, but the advance of the 92nd Infantry had closed off this source to him and he was feeling the effects of the shortage. Over one hundred of his men were wounded and would have to be carried or helped out during the withdrawal. Many of his officers had been killed and the maintenance of march discipline in the thick jungle promised to be a difficult task.

On 11 February the Filipinos were remarkably successful in pushing in the pocket. By 1000 that day all of Trail 7 had fallen to the Scouts. On the south the Provisional Battalion made excellent progress during the day while the two battalions of the 92nd continued to push eastward against light opposition. By evening, wrote Jones’s chief of staff, “it was quite obvious that the end was in sight.” The attackers, unaware that Yoshioka had begun his weary trek northward, attributed their success to the enemy’s lack of water and to the steady pressure exerted by the troops.

Only on the north had the Filipinos failed to register any great successes on the 11th. Here the two companies of the 11th Infantry and the northernmost element of the 45th Infantry, converging toward Trail 7, had failed to establish physical contact and one of them had lost its bearings and become dispersed. It was through these units that Yoshioka took his men.

Command of the forces engaged in the Big Pocket fight changed again on 11 February. General Jones had come down with acute dysentery on the afternoon of the 11th and had been evacuated to the rear on a stretcher. Colonel MacDonald, his chief of staff, assumed command temporarily until General Wainwright placed Brougher in command the next day, 12 February. By this time the fight for the pocket was almost over. On the afternoon of the 12th the unopposed Filipinos reached the junction of Trails 5 and 7 and on the following day moved through the entire area systematically to mop up whatever opposition they could find. There was none. The only living beings in the pocket were a number of horses and mules which the Japanese had captured earlier in the campaign. Three hundred of the enemy’s dead and 150 graves were counted, and a large quantity of equipment, weapons, and ammunition some of it buried-found. The Japanese made good their escape but they were traveling light.

[The sources do not agree on the number of enemy dead and the figure given is an estimate by the author. The estimates of the number of Americans and Filipinos killed and wounded vary so widely that it is impossible to arrive at any reasonable number]

The exhausted remnants of the 20th Infantry worked their way north slowly, pausing frequently to rest and to bring up the wounded. In the dense foliage and heavy bamboo thickets, the withdrawing elements often lost contact and were forced to halt until the column was formed again. Passing “many enemy positions” in their march north through the American lines, the Japanese on the morning of 15 February finally sighted a friendly patrol. About noon Colonel Yoshioka with 377 of his men, all that remained of the 1,000 who had broken through the American line on 29 January, reached the 9th Infantry lines and safety, after a march of four days.

Colonel Yoshioka’s 20th Infantry had now ceased to exist as an effective fighting force. Landing in southern Luzon with 2,881 men, the regiment had entered the Bataan campaign with a strength of 2,690. Comparatively few casualties had been suffered in the fighting along the Mauban line.

The amphibious operations that followed on 23 January, however, had proved disastrous for Yoshioka. First his 2nd Battalion had been “lost without a trace” at Longoskawayan and Quinauan, then the 1st Battalion, sent to its rescue, had been almost entirely destroyed at Anyasan and Silaiim Points. The pocket fights had completed the destruction of the regiment. It is doubtful if the ill-fated 20th Infantry by the middle of February numbered more than 650 men, the majority of whom were sick or
wounded.

With the fight for the Big Pocket at an end, General Brougher turned his attention to the Upper Pocket, the enemy salient at the western extremity of the 11th Division line. All efforts to pinch out the Japanese and restore the main line of resistance had failed. Since its formation on 7 February the salient had been contained by a miscellaneous assortment of troops. On the west were three companies of the 3rd Infantry, one from the 1st Infantry, and the remnants of the platoon from Company F, 11th Infantry, which had been overrun in the initial attack. Holding the east side of the penetration was Company A, 92nd Infantry, which Brougher had taken from Jones on the morning of the 7th, and five platoons from the disorganized 12th Infantry. The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Constabulary, was south of thesalient. Not only had this conglomerate force held the Japanese in check, but it had pushed them back about fifty yards before the fight for the Big Pocket ended.

On 13 February Brougher sent forward a portion of the force that had participated in the fight against Yoshioka to join the troops holding back the Japanese in the salient. The 1st Battalion, 45th Infantry, took up a position to the south while the Provisional Battalion, 51 st Division, and troops from the 92nd Infantry attacked on its left in a northeasterly direction. At the same time, 11th Infantry units and the Constabulary pushed in from the east. By evening of the 14th, despite stubborn resistance and the difficulties presented by the jungle, the salient had been reduced by half and was only 350 yards long and 200 yards wide. An attack from the South the next day cut that area in half.

The infantry was aided here, as in the Big Pocket fight, by tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion. Hampered by the dense undergrowth and lost in the confusing maze of bamboo thickets, vines, and creepers, the tankers would have been impotent had it not been for the aid of the Igorot troops of Major Duisterhof’s 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry.

Hoisted to the top of the tanks where they were exposed to the fire of the enemy, these courageous tribesmen from north Luzon chopped away the entangling foliage with their bolos and served as eyes for the American tankers. From their position atop the tanks they fired at the enemy with pistols while guiding the drivers with sticks.

As a result of these tactics combined with steady pressure from the troops to the southwest and west, the Japanese were slowly pushed back. At least that was what the Americans and Filipinos believed. Actually, it is more likely that the Japanese in the salient were withdrawing to their own lines now that the necessity of providing a diversion for Yoshioka’s retreat from the Big Pocket had ended. Once the 20th Infantry survivors had escaped it was no longer necessary for the men in the salient to hold their position. They had accomplished their mission and could now fall back, in accordance with Morioka’s orders of the 9th. By the 16th the salient measured only 75 by 100 yards. An unopposed attack the next morning restored the main line of resistance and ended the fight which had begun on 26 January. The fight for the pockets was over.

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

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