Battle for Leyte

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Battle for Leyte
General MacArthur wades onto Leyte Beach
General MacArthur wades onto Leyte Beach
date October 17, 1944 to December 31, 1944
place Leyte , Philippines
output Allied troops conquered Leyte
Parties to the conflict

United States 48United States United States Philippines
Philippines 1944Philippines 

Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire Japan


United States 48United States Douglas MacArthur Walter Krueger Franklin C. Sibert George Kenney John R. Hodge Ruperto C. Kangleon
United States 48United States
United States 48United States
United States 48United States
United States 48United States
Philippines 1944Philippines

Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire Tomoyuki Yamashita Sosaku Suzuki Shiro Makino
Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire
Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire

Troop strength
200,000 US troops
3,189 Filipino guerrillas
55,000 Japanese soldiers

Around 3,500 dead,
around 15,500 wounded

49,000 dead and wounded

The Battle of Leyte took place in World War II within the Pacific War . It was an operation by the United States Armed Forces supported by Philippine guerrilla forces. Their goal was to conquer the central Philippine island of Leyte . The battle was the beginning of the reconquest of the Philippines . The fighting lasted from October 17 to December 31, 1944. During the fighting, the Allied forces were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur , while the Imperial Japanese Army was led by General Yamashita Tomoyuki .


It was crucial for the Japanese to keep the Philippines, which they conquered in 1942, under their direct control. On the one hand, the island state was an important source of supplies, especially rubber and linen - essential materials for the Japanese economic industry. On the other hand, the archipelago represented a key point on the sea routes from Borneo and Sumatra , on which the indispensable oil and other important raw materials were transported to Japan . For the Americans, however, the capture of the Philippines meant a decisive strategic milestone in isolating the Japanese troops in China , Burma and Indochina : by conquering the archipelago, these troops could be separated from the imperial armed forces in the remaining locations in the Pacific, whereby the supply routes of the Japanese troops stationed in the Pacific were cut off. For General MacArthur himself, the retaking of the Philippines was also a personal matter, since two years earlier he had been forced to leave the Philippines by Japanese engagement while the American defenders of the archipelago were being wiped out in the Battle of the Philippines . At the time, MacArthur had sworn to return to the Philippines ("I shall return"), and now he has urged the US to have a moral obligation to liberate the Filipino people as soon as possible.

American attack planning

The Joint Chiefs of Staff had already drawn up an operational plan for an attack on the Philippines in July 1943. This envisaged first attacking the Japanese units in the south of the archipelago on the islands of Leyte and Samar and destroying the Japanese fleet with a series of air strikes against the most important Japanese naval bases. The planned destinations included Cam Ranh Bay , the Japanese port of Kure , Singapore , Brunei and Manila Bay , as almost all Japanese ships were moored in these developed port facilities. In MacArthur's plan, developed as early as 1942, the capture of Leyte was only intended after the destruction of all Japanese naval forces, as he feared that the Japanese units in the waters around Leyte could otherwise organize a new Tokyo Express and thus establish a permanent reinforcement and supply route to the island . On July 26, 1944, MacArthur presented his draft plan to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and some senior American officers, including Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, on the cruiser USS Baltimore anchored in Waikīkī . However, the plan left open on the one hand what should happen after the conquest of the southern islands of the Philippines and on the other hand whether the Japanese troops on the most important island of Luzon or the Japanese-controlled Formosa should be attacked first. MacArthur pushed for the recapture of Luzon, while Admiral Nimitz wanted to push directly against Formosa after taking Leyte. The discussion between MacArthur and Nimitz was interrupted a little later by Roosevelt, who tried to unite the officers' differing opinions by proposing a blockade of the main ports of Luzon and a direct attack against Formosa: This would make Luzon through the island hopping tactic "Skipped" as was done with some heavily fortified enemy islands in the Pacific. Although Nimitz rejected the President's proposal, he agreed to support an invasion of Luzon and not to attack Formosa. General MacArthur's plan was therefore cleared for implementation almost immediately after this strategic conference.

Operation plan

Leyte has countless deep water entrances and sandy beaches that made amphibious landings possible and a quick replenishment possible. The inland was criss-crossed by various roads and transport routes, such as Highway No. 1 , which ran 65 km along the eastern coastline between the town of Abuyog and the San Juanico Strait , a waterway that separates Leyte from the island of Samar . The vast plains surrounding this main traffic link provided sufficient space for tank and infantry operations and provided a good basis for the establishment of airfields. Numerous rivers such as the Amparo run in the interior of the island . The airfields on the island would become very important to the American Air Force, as Leyte-based aircraft could reach every enemy base and every Japanese-controlled airfield in the archipelago.

A heavily forested mountain range, which stretches across the entire island from north to south, dominates the inland and divides two sizeable coastal plains. The larger Leyte Valley stretches from the northern coast to the elongated eastern shore and includes most of the island's towns and roads. Most of the opposing formations were also stationed in this area. The other, the Ormoc Valley, was on the west side and connected to the Leyte Valley by a circular and winding road, Highway 2 . The road wound west from Palo on the east coast and then ran northwest through the Leyte Valley, finally ran to the north bank, turned there south and continued through a ridge to finally reach the northern part of the Ormoc Valley . From there the road went south to Ormoc Harbor and then along the western coast to Baybay . Then it turned to the east, crossed the mountainous waistline of the island and finally connected on the east coast at Abuyog with Highway 1. Below these two places stretched the mountainous, mainly undeveloped southern third of Leyte. Here the high mountain peaks with over 1340 m as well as a series of jagged rock tongues, gorges and caves, which are typical for islands made of volcanic rock, offered excellent defense possibilities. In addition, the time of the attack was late in the year and would force both the combat troops and the pilots of the supporting air forces as well as the logistical units to deal with heavy monsoon precipitation.

The invasion of Leyte was the largest amphibious assault carried out by American and Allied forces in the Pacific War to date. General MacArthur was appointed commander in chief of the naval, air and land forces for the Southwestern and Central Pacific theaters of war. Allied naval and air support consisted mainly of the US Seventh Fleet under Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid . With 701 ships including 157 warships, Kinkaid's fleet was supposed to carry the landing troops and ultimately land them on the beaches. The Royal Australian Navy contributed five warships, three landing craft and five supply boats to the seventh fleet as the second largest share of the fleet.

The Sixth Army's mission to capture and secure Leyte was divided into three phases: The first was to begin on October 17, three days before and about 80 km east of the beach sections intended for landing. It provided for the capture of three islands that ruled the eastern extension of the Gulf of Leyte . On A-Day (attack day), October 20, it was planned to land the X. and XXIV. Corps on different sections of the beach on the east coast of Leyte. The X Corps was assigned the right (northern) side, the XXIV the southern sector, 24 km away. In the second phase, the X. Corps had the task of taking Tacloban north of its landing sites together with its airfields, then to secure the roads between Leyte and Samar and subsequently to pull them through the Leyte Valley to the northern coast. The XXIV Corps had to bring the southern area of ​​the Leyte Valley under control in order to enable the construction of airfields and the development of logistical projects there. The purpose of the 21st RCT (Regimental Combat Team) was in the meantime to go ashore on the south coast and secure the road between Leyte and the island of Panaon. In the third phase, the two corps were to take separate routes through the mountainous regions and clear the Ormoc Valley and the west coast of the island of Japanese positions, while at the same time an outpost was to be installed on the island of Samar 35 miles north of Tacloban .

Intended troops

From September to late October 1944, the Allied naval units had been extremely successful during their campaigns on Palau and Morotai . The aircraft of the aircraft carriers of Task Force 38 under Admiral William F. Halsey destroyed around 500 Japanese fighter planes in the Philippines and on the Japanese-occupied islands of Okinawa and Formosa and sank around 180 enemy merchant ships and some warships at sea. This had weakened the enemy naval units in the Pacific, but MacArthur pushed for one last "blow in the neck"

The sixth US Army under Lieutenant General Walter Krueger formed the main combat unit of the invasion of Leyte, which consisted of two corps and two other divisions . Major General Franklin C. Sibert's X. Corps consisted of the 1st Cavalry Division , a tank division equipped with M4 Sherman tanks, and the 24th Infantry Division , minus the 21st RCT (Regimental Combat Teams). Major General John R. Hodges XXIV Corps consisted of the 7th Infantry Division and the inexperienced 96th Infantry Division . The 32nd and 77th Infantry Divisions and the 381st Regiment (separated from the 96th) were designated as reserve forces. The supply units included the 6th Ranger Battalion, which was entrusted with the task of securing the islands remote from Leyte, where only weak resistance was expected, and of escorting the naval forces to their landing sites. The new 6th Army Service Command under Major General Hugh J. Casey was in turn responsible for setting up the bridgeheads on the beaches, for supplying the units on the beach sections and for building and expanding the roads and airfields on the island. In all, General Krueger had 202,500 ground troops under his command.

Leyte had a population of over 900,000 people, most of whom were engaged in agriculture and fishing. The arrival of the landing forces on the island was also witnessed by around 3000 Filipino guerrillas under the leadership of Lt. Col. Ruperto Kangleon is expecting. Since many locals support the guerrilla war against them despite severe reprisals by the Japanese, they were trusted to support an American invasion. The Japanese defenders of the island were estimated at no more than 20,000 men, most of whom belonged to the 16th Division of the 14th Regional Army . These units were commanded by Lieutenant General Shiro Makino.

Landing and securing of the southern Leyte Valley

Landing operations

Landing craft during the invasion of Leyte, October 20, 1944

The preliminary operations for the invasion of Leyte began at dawn on October 17, 1944 with the clearing of the mines in front of the landing sections and the approach of the 6th Ranger Battalion on three small islands in the Gulf of Leyte . The American invasion fleet, which consisted of around 150 warships and around 550 transport ships , Liberty ships , LSDs , LSTs , LCIs , LCTs , LCVPs , LCM , LSM , LVTs, and landing support vessels , arrived in the Leyte Gulf on the afternoon of October 17th. MacArthur were assigned additional units of the Central Pacific Forces under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz . The command of the 3rd Fleet with the aircraft carrier groups of Task Force 38 was led by Admiral William Halsey. In the weeks before the landing, this fleet systematically decimated the Japanese air forces in the Philippines, including the airfields on Formosa, Okinawa and Indochina, and destroyed a total of around 1,200 aircraft, while American losses totaled 351 aircraft. The Japanese air strikes on the Allied fleet could only damage two American cruisers, but the Japanese air force command in Manila nevertheless reported the sinking of eleven aircraft carriers, two battleships and three cruisers. On October 18, the Allied Bombing Association, Task Group (TG) 77.2, which consisted of six older battleships, five cruisers and thirteen destroyers and was under the command of Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf , began bombing the stretches of coast. The Allied warships fired a total of 120 tons of grenades on the landing zones that day, with some enemy defenses being destroyed. American reconnaissance planes gave the ships the exact location of the Japanese positions, and the destroyers fired at these targets. That day, 20 tons of phosphorus shells were fired on the island, causing several palm trees to catch fire. The heavy smoke from the burning palm trees had an adverse effect on the accuracy of the American fire. Several Japanese positions on the coast therefore remained intact.

Although there were delays due to a storm, the rangers reached the two islands of Suluan and Dinagat around 12:30 on the morning of October 17 . On Suluan, the small group of Japanese soldiers defending the island was wiped out and an enemy radio station was destroyed by the rangers, while Dinagat was found vacant. On both islands, the rangers began to place navigation lights for the amphibious landing vehicles that followed three days later and were supposed to bring the soldiers to the beach. The next day, Homonhon Island, the third island, was taken without encountering any resistance. In the meantime, American underwater detonators carried out reconnaissance dives and cleared the beach sections intended for the attack on Leyte from the remaining mines and barriers.

Landing day, October 20, began with a four-hour barrage from the battleships of the invasion fleet, which hit the landing sections under heavy fire. At 10:00 a.m. troops of the 24th Infantry Division, Sixth Army, from 200 LCVPs landed on the coast of Leyte and stormed the beaches. The X Corps went ashore on a 6.5 km stretch of beach between the Tacloban airfield and the Palo River without encountering strong Japanese resistance. Twenty-four kilometers south the units of the XXIX landed. Corps along a 5 km wide riverside area between San José and the Daguitan River . These troops met strong Japanese resistance from the marshland, but within an hour the units managed to expand the sectors of their landing areas so that heavy vehicles, tanks and supply contingents could move up. The Japanese resistance was broken shortly afterwards by the use of flame-throwing tanks and grenade launchers, killing about 1,000 Japanese soldiers. Only in the sector of the 24th Division were the troops forced by Japanese fire to divert the advancing landing equipment. At 1.30 p.m., however, this sector was also secured to such an extent that General MacArthur could afford to wade through the surf with his entourage in a dramatic scene and step onto the shore, announcing the beginning of the liberation to the population with the following words :

An amphibious boat lands on Leyte Beach

“People of the Philippines, I have returned! By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil. "

“People of the Philippines, I have returned! By the grace of Almighty God, our forces are once again on Filipino soil. "

By the end of the first day, Sixth Army troops had penetrated three kilometers inland and controlled the road to Panaon Island in the southern part of Leyte. In the X Corps sector, the 1st Cavalry Division held the Tacloban airfield, while the 24th Infantry Division dominated Hill 522 at its landing head. In the XXIV Corps section, the 96th Infantry Division again controlled the access area to Catmon Hill. The 7th Infantry Division had taken Dulag, forcing General Makino to move his command post sixteen kilometers inland to Dagami . During the entire landing operation, a total of 49 men fell on the American side, with 192 wounded and 6 reported missing.

Campaign in the southern Leyte Valley

Situation on Leyte between October 20th and November 2nd 1944

In the further course of the battle, the 6th Army constantly advanced into the interior of the island and encountered sporadic and uncoordinated resistance in the following days. The 1st Cavalry Division under Major General Verne D. Mudge controlled the provincial capital Tacloban from October 21st, which had been attacked and captured by a tank unit on the morning of October 21st. An official ceremony was held in the city on October 23, chaired by General MacArthur, to celebrate the reinstatement of a civilian government on Leyte, while the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades expanded their positions in front of the city to accommodate a possible Japanese Counterattack by the 102nd Division from the mountainous inland could withstand, but still allowed the 1st Cavalry to leave the city. However, this counterattack did not occur.

To the left of X Corps, the 24th Infantry Division under Major General Frederick A. Irving fought inland, where they met fierce Japanese resistance. Several enemy lines of defense were destroyed by artillery fire, but Japanese resistance remained strong. After days and nights of heavy fighting, in which, according to American figures, around 800 Japanese were killed, the 19th and 34th Infantry Regiments expanded their bridgeheads and gained control of the heights that formed the entrance to the northern Leyte Valley. About 100 Americans were also killed in the fighting, but on November 1, after a seven-day advance supported by artillery fire by the M4 Sherman tanks of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, both regiments were able to advance into the Leyte Valley, with the 24th Division defeating each other inflicted considerable losses on retreating Japanese associations. After this advance, the port of Ormoc City on the west coast of the island remained the last main port still under the control of the Japanese occupation forces. General Suzuki, who had taken over the defense of the island on the orders of General Yamashita, concentrated part of his troops around the port of Ormoc, while several thousand soldiers of the Japanese 26th Infantry Division kept the two highways in the center of the island under control.

From the beach section of XXIV Corps, General Hodge sent his two divisions south of the Leyte Valley, which contained four enemy airfields and a large Japanese supply center. Major General James L. Bradley's 96th Infantry Division was then dispatched to clear Catmon Hill , a four hundred and fifty-foot rise that formed the highest point between the stretches of beach of both corps. It has served the Japanese so far as an observation post and as an important gun position, from where they had previously taken the landing units under fire. The Catmon Hill was held by about 4,000 Japanese soldiers of the 16th Infantry Division, and two mortar and defended an anti-tank battery. Bradley's forces moved through the swampy area south and west of the two ridges of Labiranan Head and Catmon Hill, under cover of permanent land artillery and sea gunfire . The two hills were captured on the afternoon of October 31st after four days of heavy fighting, with American losses, especially from enemy machine gun fire, very high. After a three-day battle against the Japanese troops of the 16th Division, the 382nd Infantry Regiment took the important Japanese supply base at Tabontabon , which was 8 km inland, on October 28 . According to American sources, around 350 Japanese soldiers died in the fight. At the same time, two battalions each of the 381st and 383rd American infantry regiments slowly advanced to the side opposite Catmon Hill in order to break the bitter Japanese resistance there. When the conquest of the Catmon Hills was completed on October 31, this elevation was also taken. The Americans had taken and secured thirty-five shelters, seventeen caves, and various heavy artillery positions on the ridge of the Catmon Hills .

Map of the invasion of Leyte on October 20, 1944

Meanwhile, on the left side of XXIV Corps, the 7th Infantry Division under Major General Archibald V. Arnold was advancing inland with the aim of taking the four Japanese airfields in the southern Leyte Valley. The supply warehouse was also to be conquered. On October 21, the 184th Infantry Regiment took control of the Dulag Airfield without encountering any enemy resistance, while the 32nd Infantry Regiment cleared both banks of the Calbasag River of Japanese snipers and defensive positions. The decisive factor in the bloody battle for the four airfields and villages was the use of American tanks, which advanced in a wedge formation and thus paved the way for the infantry. At the Burauen airfield , the 17th Infantry Regiment overcame the fanatical but unsuccessful resistance that struck them from enemy foxholes . In addition, the Japanese defenders tried to stop the American tanks with suicide attacks by laying down on the armor laden with detention mines. Twelve tanks were lost in these battles. 1.6 km north of the Burauen airfield , the units of the 32nd Infantry Regiment killed more than 400 Japanese defenders during the battle for the Buri airfield . While two battalions of the 184th Infantry Regiment were patrolling the left flank of the corps, the 17th Infantry Regiment joined the 2nd Battalion of the 184th Regiment and turned north towards Dagami , which was ten kilometers above the village of Burauen. Equipped with flamethrowers, the US troops managed to drive the Japanese troops of the 16th Division out of their shelters and a cemetery and to take Dagami on October 30th. This success forced General Suzuki and Lieutenant General Makino to give up the location of his command post and move it further west. At the same time, the 2nd Battalion of the 32nd Division, following the reconnaissance force of the 7th Cavalry, moved 24 km south along the east coast to Abuyog in order to probe the area there. For the next four days, they patrolled the western regions and pushed through the mountains to some elevated areas from where Ormoc Bay could be observed. They met no resistance whatsoever.

Japanese counter-offensive

At least four Japanese snipers lie shot dead in the muddy water of a bomb crater.

While the 6th Army penetrated deeper into Leyte, the Japanese fought back with attacks from the air and at sea. On October 24th, some 150 to 200 warplanes attacked the American beachheads and ships from the north, whereupon 50 land-based American planes rose to face the attack. According to American sources, between 66 and 84 Japanese fighters were shot down in the air battles that followed. Nevertheless, the Japanese continued their air strikes in daylight and at night for the next four days and thus developed into a threat to the American shipping units. On October 28, the Allies responded with counter-attacks by American fighters on Japanese airfields and on enemy ships anchored off other islands. Through these air strikes, in which a total of 300 enemy machines were destroyed, the Americans succeeded in reducing the strength of the enemy air forces and thus weakening one of the main threats to their campaign. Now that their aerial combat capabilities were further restricted, the Japanese changed their aerial tactics. General Suzuki decided on October 29th, during a staff meeting in Ormoc that General Makino also attended, to carry out kamikaze attacks . The pilots were expected to willingly rush to the American ships with their bomb-laden machines and sacrifice themselves in order to achieve the greatest possible level of destruction on the opposing side. Their primary target was the large American transport and escort fleet that had gathered in the Gulf of Leyte since the day of the attack. The Japanese attacks on October 29th sank an American escort freighter and caused severe damage to numerous other ships. The American air defense shot down some Japanese machines.

A far greater threat to the US armed forces, however, contracted at sea. In order to destroy the US Navy fleet, which was supporting the 6th Army on Leyte, the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to gather almost all of its fleet forces and send them into the Leyte campaign in three main combat groups. A group of four aircraft carriers, which however had no hunting machines on board, was chosen as bait and was supposed to lure the third US fleet north out of the Leytegolf. If the baiting were successful, the other two groups, consisting mostly of heavy combat ships, would enter the Gulf from the west and launch an attack on the American freighters. On October 23, 1944, however, the approach of the Japanese ships was discovered on the Allied side. When the US units finally left to intercept the enemy fleet, the sea ​​and air battle began in the Gulf of Leyte , which by October 26, 1944 developed into the largest naval battle in the entire Pacific War. Meanwhile, the Japanese armed forces on Leyte were reinforced by additional troop units. By December 11, the Japanese were able to transfer more than 34,000 men and 10,000 tons of material, including some Chi-Ha tanks from the 2nd Panzer Division, to Leyte, most of them via the port of Ormoc on the west coast. This succeeded in spite of the heavy losses inflicted on the Japanese supply convoys by the air raids by American machines and during the battle in Ormoc Bay.

Fight in the northern Leyte Valley

The arrival of Japanese supplies posed problems for both Krueger and MacArthur. Instead of planning further evacuation operations after the eastern side of Leyte had been cleared, the Sixth Army had to prepare for extensive fighting in the mountainous regions on the western section of the island. With the arrival of three reserve divisions on Leyte, General MacArthur's operational schedule for the Philippines campaign was further delayed and the development plan drawn up by the War Department for the entire Pacific was further set back.

US infantry men and heavy equipment in the Battle of Leyte

In the war zone, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th Infantry Division managed to unite at Carigara on November 2nd, highlighting the successful early phase of the campaign. After seventeen days of combat operations, the 6th Army had control of all the locations it had targeted in the first and second phases, as well as Abuyog, an object that was only intended for the third phase. In addition, elements of the 7th Division had managed to cross the island from the southern end of the sector of XXIV Corps and to bring the suburbs of the village of Baybay on the west coast under control. Only one key point on the western side of the island, the Ormoc Valley, remained to be occupied.

For the conquest of the Ormoc Valley, General Krueger planned to carry out a huge forceps operation by sending the troops of the X Corps south through the mountains, while the units of the XXIV Corps should penetrate north along the west coast. In order to counter the increasing resistance that was to be expected especially in the mountain barrier to the north, Krueger activated his reserve forces, the 32nd and 77th Infantry Divisions, while MacArthur mobilized the 11th US Airborne Division . The 21st Regimental Combat Group was also withdrawn from the island of Panaon so that it could unite with the 24th Division. On Panaon they were replaced by a battalion from the 32nd Infantry Regiment. On November 3, the 34th Infantry Regiment moved from the town of Carigara on the west side of the valley into the plains and cleared the remaining areas on the northern coast before turning to the mountains to the south. The 1st Battalion came under fire from a ridge along Highway 2 early on. Supported by the 63rd Field Artillery Battalion, the unit cleared the hill and prepared its way for the 34th Infantry Regiment to the village of Pinamopoan, a district of Capoocan , which it reached during the night without further resistance and where numerous heavy weapons were encountered by the opposing forces had been left behind. The troops had now reached the point where Highway 2 turned south toward the mountains.

Fight at Breakneck and Kilay Ridges

On November 7th, the 21st Infantry Regiment got into its first sustained engagement on Leyte when it advanced near the Bay of Carigara into the mountainous region along the highway. The fresh regiment, supported by the 3rd Battalion of the 19th Infantry Regiment, ran straight into the strong resistance of the newly arrived 1st Japanese Division. This had spread evenly from east to west across the street and set up a network of combat positions, which consisted of log houses, these connecting trenches and countless foxholes and later became known under the name "Breakneck Ridge" (neck breaking hill).

After a typhoon hit the area on November 8th , heavy rainfall set in, which hampered the American advance in the days that followed. Despite the storm and high winds, the 21st Infantry Regiment continued its constant and sustained attacks. The attackers benefited from the fact that the storm tore up trees and drove them together with mud into the defensive positions, but it also delayed the progress of the supplies. In the course of the fighting, the companies were often forced to withdraw from some hill positions and retake others that they had previously controlled. Taking Hill No. 1525, two miles to the east, became a primary objective for General Irving. His control would allow the Americans to pull apart the Japanese defense lines for a total of 6.5 km (4 miles) along Highway 2.

After five days of fighting, which were made particularly difficult by the elevated positions on the hills above the road, and despite two nights of constantly re-initiated counter-attacks, the situation remained unchanged, whereupon General Irving decided to encircle the opposing defensive positions. The 2nd Battalion of the 19th Infantry Regiment swiveled to the east around hill No. 1525 and was supposed to sit behind the right flank of the Japanese defenders. From there, about 5 km south of the "Breakneck Ridge", one pushed back to Highway 2. To be able to take the left flank in the west, Irving sent the 1st Battalion of the 34th Infantry Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas E. Clifford over the swamp - and river basins of the area around Carigara to a point 3 km west of the southward bend of Highway 2 and made them march inland from there. After crossing a contour line and the Leyte River, they moved towards the left Japanese flank, which was on the 270 m high Kilay Ridge, the highest terrain behind the main combat area. Both battalions reached their positions on November 13, despite strong resistance and heavy rainfall, which were only about 900 m apart and were located on the opposite sides of the highway. Clifford's battalion immediately began storming Kilay Ridge from its west side, while 2nd battalion attacked a hill on the east side. But none of the units reached their destination.

US infantrymen on Leyte

Clifford's men needed a full two weeks of tough fighting in mud and rain, often dangerously close to shell and artillery strikes from their own ranks, to drive the Japanese enemy out of their positions on the way up to Kilay Ridge. On December 2, Clifford's battalion had reached heights from which one could see the entire street, whereupon the units of the 32nd Division now quickly advanced. At the end of the fighting, the American attackers recorded 26 dead, 101 wounded and 2 missing in their ranks, 900 dead on the Japanese side. Both battalions were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their relentless efforts at Kilay Ridge and its surroundings , with Clifford himself being honored with the Distinguished Service Cross , an award for special merit. It was not until December 14th before the 1st Cavalry Division and the 32nd Division finally cleared the area of ​​Breakneck and Kilay Ridge completely and thus the most heavily defended parts of Highway 2 between Carigara Bay and the Ormoc Valley Control of the X Corps were brought.

Throughout the period, however, the logistical problems that hampered American efforts increased. The mountainous terrain and the impassable roads forced the transport units of the Sixth Army to improvise again and again. To transport supplies, they used landing vehicles of the navy, tracked vehicles, artillery tractors and trucks to transport the accessories, had aids dropped from the air and used the help of carabaos and hundreds of barefoot Filipino porters. Given these circumstances, it was not surprising that the new deliveries, which were carried out according to a complex schedule, as well as the speed of the attack project were delayed. Especially in the mountains north and east of the Ormoc Valley and the ridges following it along the Bay of Ormoc, progress was extremely difficult.

Advance into the Ormoc Valley

With the breakthrough of the X Corps through the northern mountains, the Japanese forces now contracted further. They gathered around Baybay, around the northern rise to the western coast of the Ormoc Valley, to oppose XXIV Corps here. By mid-November, only the 32nd Infantry Division of XXIV Corps had managed to establish itself in western Leyte, while the remnants of the 7th Division continued to secure the village of Burauen . It was not until the arrival of the 11th Airborne Division on November 22nd that General Hodges was able to send the entire 7th Division to the west. On the night of November 23rd, the 32nd Division was suddenly attacked by the 26th Japanese Division. The 2nd battalion was repulsed, but was able to recapture the loss of terrain the following day. General Arnold then ordered his units to dig in. He then withdrew the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment, reinforced by parts of the 767th Tank Battalion, the 49th Field Artillery Battalion and a 155 mm battery of the Marine Corps, which was intended for the canceled Yap operation, from their positions and gave orders them to join the 32nd Infantry Division. Under the pressure of the heavy fire of these artillery units, the Japanese concentrated their fire on these same sections on the night of November 24th, rendering four 105-mm cannons harmless. The 57th Field Artillery Battalion strengthened the units the next day and provided the 7th Division with five additional batteries for support, which was instrumental in the defense efforts. The battle for the Shoestring Ridge, on the territory of which the troops faced each other, continued when the Japanese troops organized two more attacks in the two following nights, despite heavy losses of their own. Until November 27, it was not possible for the US armed forces to go on the offensive themselves, although up to this point around 500 dead and 29 abandoned machine guns had been counted on the opposite side and despite the defensive perimeter that was set up during the advance in the north could uncover.

General Arnold began his advance on Ormoc with a novel tactic. On the night of December 4, the vehicles of the 776th Amphibious Tank Battalion were brought into the water and made to jump from beach to beach north along the coast almost 1000 m in front of the ground units. The next morning the tanks moved within 180 m inland and fired into the hills, supporting the attacks of the 17th and 184th regiments. The tactic turned out to be effective as it created a lot of disorder in the ranks of the defenders. Exceptions were the opposing positions on the rear hill sides, where the ground troops encountered increased resistance, as these were covered from the armored fire from the coast. The 7th Division advanced north with two regiments and encountered heavy Japanese resistance, which struck them from Hill 918, from which the entire coastal area of ​​Ormoc City could be seen. The 17th and 84th regiments needed two days of intense fighting against the Japanese units in order to be able to vacate the strong positions and to allow the further advance to be accelerated. On December 12th, the command battalions under General Arnold had moved less than ten miles south of Ormoc City.

The case of Ormoc

While General Arnold was approaching Ormoc, the Japanese launched a surprise attack with their 16th and 26th divisions on the Burauen airfield in the central mountain region of Leyte, which was supported by the 3rd and 4th Japanese Airborne Regiments from Luzon. The infantry operation was called Operation Wa (ワ 号 作 戦, Wa-gō sakusen), while the paratrooper operation was called Operation Te (テ 号 作 戦, Te-gō sakusen) (see Operation Te and Operation Wa ). At dusk on December 6, around 500 Japanese paratroopers landed mostly near the San Pablo airfield. Despite poor coordination, the attackers managed to take over a number of abandoned weapons that they used against the Americans over the next four days. Hastily assembled groups of support and supply troops from the 7th Division kept the Japanese in check until the 11th Airborne Division and the 38th Infantry Division, sent as reinforcements, arrived. The now concentrated forces were sufficient to contain the Japanese paratroopers until the twilight of December 11th and to put down their resistance. Through this action, the Japanese succeeded in destroying a small number of American supply stores and a few aircraft on the ground, as well as delaying the completion of various construction projects. The actual attack on the airfield failed, however, so that this company ultimately had no influence on the further course of the Leyte campaign.

Soldiers of the 1st U.S. Cavalry Division on Leyte in December 1944

In the meantime, XXIV Corps on the west side of Leyte received reinforcements on December 7th from the 77th Infantry Division under Major General Andrew D. Bruce, which had landed south of Ormoc City. The 305th, 306th and 307th Infantry Regiments of the 77th Infantry Division reached the bank without encountering resistance, although their boats were targeted by kamikaze attacks. The arrival of the 77th Division proved to be a determining factor. It enabled the 7th Division to continue their march northward and to wedge the Japanese defenders directly between two army units. General Suzuki then ordered his combat troops to withdraw from Burauen and march over the mountains. This is where they should help keep the Ormoc Valley. Of the exhausted and malnourished troops, however, only small groups reached their area of ​​operation on the west coast without having any decisive influence there.

The 77th Division, meanwhile, faced heavy resistance at Camp Downes, a former police station. Supported by the 305th and 902nd Field Artillery Battalions, General Bruce's forces advanced to Camp Downes, overran the post, and crossed the Ormoc City limits on December 10, 1944 . The final skirmishes on the Japanese side cost the lives of 1,056 soldiers, with seven surrendered, while on the American side 123 men were killed or wounded and 13 reported missing. With the capture of Ormoc City, XXIV Corps and X Corps were now only twenty-six kilometers apart. Between the two combat units, the last significant Japanese defense position was anchored in a blockhouse north of Ormoc, which was held by the 12th Independent Infantry Regiment. She resisted the Americans for two days. On December 14th, the 305th Infantry Regiment approached the bastion, supported by heavy artillery fire. Through the use of flamethrowers and armored bulldozers, the E Company of the 2nd Battalion, 305th Infantry Regiment, under the command of Captain Robert B. Nett, who received the Medal of Honor , finally managed to advance through the intense enemy fire and clear the area around the log cabin.

March to the west coast

After breaking out of Ormoc, the 77th Division captured the airfield of Valencia, 11 kilometers to the north, on December 18 and then moved further north to make contact with the X Corps. On the same day, General Sibert ordered the 1st Cavalry Division to continue their march south. The 12th Cavalry Regiment advanced out of the mountains on a south-westerly line to Highway 2, supported by fire from the 271st Field Artillery Battalion, to clear the road for 3 miles. North of the Ormoc Valley, the 32nd Division encountered constant resistance from the 1st Japanese Division along Highway 2. After dodging south and passing Kilay Ridge, the troops entered an extensive rainforest, which restricted visibility and thus helped camouflage the positions of the Japanese units. Using flamethrowers, hand grenades, and rifles with bayonets attached , the troops pushed forward continuously, with daily progress measured in meters. After five days of hard fighting, the 126th and 127th Infantry Regiments had advanced less than a mile. Contacts between patrols of the 12th Cavalry Regiment and the 306th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Division on December 21, however, now marked the rapprochement of X and XXIV American Corps and the imminent successful completion of the pincer maneuver that the 6th Army in the battle for the Ormoc Valley had performed.

Situation on Leyte, 7 November to 31 December 1944

While the 77th and 32nd Divisions were meeting in the Valley, Major General Joseph M. Swing's 11th Airborne Division had moved from the east into the Central Mountains. With blocking positions established between November 22 and November 24 south of the Leyte Valley, the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment penetrated further west, deeper into the mountains on November 25. After an arduous advance, the 511th regiment reached Mahonag, 16 km west of Burauen, on December 6th. On the same day, Japanese parachute troops landed at the airfields of Bari and San Pablo. On December 16, the 2nd Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Division advanced slowly but steadily from the Bay of Ormoc into the mountainous regions to join the 511th Paratrooper Regiment and accompany it on its passage westward. Seven days later, on December 23, the men of the 7th Division met troops of the 2nd Battalion of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment after fighting against scattered Japanese units on a mountain ridge and in some caves in the rugged area had previously met the 511th regiment and now completed the island crossing.

General Bruce opened the advance on the next target, the town of Palompon , by having the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 305th Infantry Regiment advance west along the road with tank support on the morning of December 22nd. The 302nd Engineer Battalion followed suit and began repairing and reinforcing bridges to prepare them adequately for the loads of tanks, artillery and support vehicles. Attack units meanwhile penetrated vigorously through the sporadic Japanese fire until they encountered strong defensive positions about 13 km from Palompon. In order to maintain the momentum of the attack, General Bruce had the 1st Battalion of the 305th Infantry Regiment loaded onto landing craft and sent it from the port of Ormoc to Palompon. Supported by fire from the mortar boats of the 2nd Special Pioneer Brigade and 155 mm cannons of the 531st Field Artillery Battalion, the infantrymen landed on the banks of their target area at 7:20 a.m. on December 25 and brought the small coastal town under their control within four hours.

After learning that the last open port of the Japanese had been taken, General MacArthur declared the organized resistance on Leyte to be over. On December 26, 1944, he gave the 8th Army responsibility for further operations on Leyte and Samar. Further north, the US armed forces advanced quickly against mostly disorganized and discouraged opposing troops. The men of the 1st Cavalry Division reached the west coast of the island on December 28 and encountered patrols of the 32nd Division two days later after units of the 24th Division had vacated the last Japanese positions on the northwest corner of Leyte. However, the Japanese defenders maintained their resistance until December 31, and the complete cleansing of dispersed units continued until May 8, 1945.


The campaign on Leyte was the first crucial operation in the American reconquest of the Philippines. It caused losses of 15,584 men on the American side, of which 3504 were killed in action. Australian troops recorded 30 dead and 64 wounded when a Japanese kamikaza machine hit the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia during the Battle of Leyte Gulf .

The tribute paid by the Japanese army on Leyte, on the other hand, was much higher. It is estimated that the Japanese combat troops lost about 49,000 men in the unsuccessful defense of Leyte. They lost a total of four divisions plus various other combat units, while the Japanese Navy lost 26 large warships and 46 large freighters and merchant ships in the campaign. The battle reduced the strength of the Japanese land-based air force in the Philippines by more than 50 percent and forced the leadership to base their strategy on further kamikaze operations. On Luzon the Japanese were left with a troop strength of 250,000 men, but the loss of air and sea support on Leyte reduced General Yamashita's options and now forced him on Luzon, the largest and most important island in the Philippine archipelago, to defensive and almost passive defensive measures and grueling attrition . Even the victory over the Japanese in the Battle of Leyte is considered to be decisive for the war. On the other hand, the Allies had succeeded in wresting an important bastion from the enemy, from where Japan could easily be cut off from resources outside their country.


  • Edward J. Drea: Leyte: Unanswered Questions . In: In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army . University of Nebraska Press, Nebraska 1998, ISBN 0-8032-1708-0 .
  • Samuel Eliot Morison : History of United States Naval Operations in World War II , Vol. 13 ( The Liberation of the Philippines - Luzon, Mindanao, the Visayas, 1944–1945 ). University of Illinois Press, Urbana-Champaign 2002, ISBN 0-252-07064-X .
  • Milan N. Vego: Battle for Leyte, 1944: Allied And Japanese Plans, Preparations, And Execution . Naval Institute Press, 2006, ISBN 1-55750-885-2 .
  • S. Sandler: World War II in the Pacific: An Encyclopedia . Routledge, London 2000, ISBN 0-8153-1883-9 . (Military History of the United States)

Web links

Commons : Battle for Leyte  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, pp. 526-530.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Leyte Campaign on .
  3. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 530.
  4. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p The Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, Chapter VIII .
  5. ^ A b John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, pp. 530-531.
  6. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 531.
  7. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Turkey Trots to Water" The Battle of Leyte Gulf - October, 1944 ( Memento from January 29, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Collection of Information from the US Army Center of Military History.
  8. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 535.
  9. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 572.
  10. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, pp. 578-597.
  11. ^ A b John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 578.
  12. ^ A b John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 594.
  13. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, pp. 593-595.
  14. ^ A b John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 595.
  15. a b c d e John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, pp. 572-594.
  16. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, pp. 573-578.
  17. ^ A b John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, pp. 573-594.
  18. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 574.
  19. John Toland: The Rising Sun. 2003, p. 586.