Sunday, June 19, 2016

64) Background details- Late Dec. 1944 & Jan. 1945

Mindoro- Doorstep to Luzon -Link to Wiki Article summarized here:

Before the invasion of Luzon was to get underway, Gen. MacArthur needed a base of operations closer to the northern island than Leyte.  Mindoro became a logical choice for this strategy. Just south of Luzon, the island is covered by mountains, with a few narrow plains along its coast. Almost daily rains and high humidity, caused by clouds moving up from the south trapped by the high peaks made it a breeding ground for malaria and other tropical diseases. Furthermore, Japanese defenses on the island were minimal.

Taking Mindoro proved a daunting task. Amphibious landings on its northeastern part were best, but were vulnerable to what was left of Japanese air power on Luzon, so this was ruled out. The town of San Jose on its southwest corner, though nearer to Mangarin Bay, Mindoro’s best deepwater port, was the spot chosen by his planners.

The main threat for the amphibious assault vessels and supporting warships came from land-based Japanese kamikaze suicide planes. The Japanese had begun the deadly practice as a desperate measure during the final stages of the Leyte Campaign and perfected it by December 1944.

On Dec. 13th, 1944, two days before the scheduled assault on the island, kamikazes struck at the naval task force ferrying the invading troops. The light cruiser Nashville was hit by a kamikaze, killing over 130 men and wounding another 190.  Other kamikaze attacks damaged two landing ships, tank (LSTs) and disabled several other ships.

On Dec. 15th, the invasion of Mindoro began. The clear weather allowed the full use of American air and naval power, including six escort carriers, three battleships, six cruisers and many other support warships against light Japanese resistance. The paratroopers of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team came ashore in Mangarin Bay with the landing forces, being unable to make the jump due to inadequate airstrip facilities at Leyte. Destroyers provided fire support for the troop landings and anti-aircraft protection for the ships in the transport area. Two LSTs (Landing Ship-Tank) were struck by kamikazes, abandoned and sunk.

The defending Japanese forces on Mindoro suffered some 200 killed and 375 wounded. The 24th Infantry Division lost 18 men and had 81 wounded. By the end of the first day, Army engineers were at work preparing airfields for the invasion of Luzon. Two were completed in thirteen days. Together, the airfields allowed U.S. aircraft to provide closer direct support for the planned Luzon beachhead, striking kamikaze airfields, before the deadly enemy planes could take off, and enabled interdiction flights on Japanese shipping between northern and southern Luzon and Formosa. 

Click here for Wiki article about Kamikaze

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