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The Suicide Stand at San Manuel
How the Infantry Rubbed Out a Jap Garrison in the First
Tank Studded Perimeter of the Luzon Campaign
By - Lieutenant Colonel Walter M. Harrison,
Sixth Army Public Relations Office
Luzon has been an infantryman's campaign.
From the day of the landings in Lingayen Gulf, 9
January 1945, Sixth Army's I Corps had been pushing south
and east along the main road net of the northern central
plain area. The Jap faded back, defending lightly. En-
emy tanks blocking main road intersections, hit and ran.
General Walter Krueger's tactics committed I Corps
to the securing of the American left flank as the main
thrust slugged its way south down the axis toward Manila.
After the conquest of Binalonan in a stiff tank
fight, the Veteran 25th Division proceeded eastwart along
the road to San Manuel. The 16lst Infl , less one battalion,
plus a reenforced tank company and a chemical ~ o r t r
battalion was astride this highway.
Our intelligence knew that San Manuel was the head-
quarters of the Nip's 3rd Tank Brigade. Tank strength
was estimated a s at least 100. A Major General commanded
the defensive task force of 800 to 1000 men. He had six
105 mm. howitzers with prime movers, seven 75 mm. cannon,
two 4? mm. anti-tank guns and plenty of MG' a and mortars.
Photos showed heavy defensive works in and around the town.
San Manuel is a typical Philippine town, better
situated for defense than most. A steep banked stream protects
the east approach. Drainage ditches lined the north and south
sides. A spur ridge dominates the northwest corner. There are
flat, open approaches on all sides. From positions in the
southwest corner the enemy had a complete field of observation.
There was thick vegetation around the quadrangle, studded
with thick clumps of bamboo from 20 to 30 feet in diameter
at the base. These natural strong points were tough indeed.
Initially, the mission of the defense force must have
been to deny us the town to protect the road net leading
into the Villa Verde Trail, the evacuation route up the
mountains, and to prevent the outflanking of elements
farther south . Either the enemy choose to abandon this
primary purpose, or was forced to do so by the determination
of our advancing doughboys. We had the vital three
days after mixing with an outpost 1000 yards west 23 Jan.
Captured documents proved the Jap General got orders to
defend the town to the death. This he did.
The Jap only one bet. He failed to occupy
and defend the ridge just northwest of San Manuel. Other-
wise the tactical defense was planned well. The perimeter
was hard shelled and it was tough inside. Bulk of the
r ~ m e n t was in the west and south sections. Weapons
were disposed in depth for an all around defense. One
third of the tanks were kept in a defiladed reserve. The
fluid foot troops moved according to attack indications
and holed up in well timbered dugouts during harassing
artillery fire. The whole hedgehog had been prepared
for many weeks.
At San Manuel we ran into defiladed, dug-in tanks for
the first time. These implacements were dug with vertical
sides, two feet wider than a medium tank, revetted 30
inches, with one end angled and open for entrance or exit.
The turrets were well camouflaged. Only the gun barrel
could be . seen. A 360 degree traverse was possible. Each
pit was protected by a machine gun emplacement and standard
Jap masked rifle pits. There were ?5 of these positions.
Spider holes with horizontal drifts minimized effects of
our time fire. You had to hit men and material to get a
Fire discipline was excellent. Except for sk1llful
sniping, defensive fires were held to a range of 50 to
100 yal?ds, and not wasted. During the day-light hours
no movement could be observed within the defense shell.
Initial advances from the southwest and north were
halted, when our troops were 50 years within the town, by
intense sniper and machine gun cross fire. There followed
a tank le& counter-attack which drove our forces from the
town. Footholds were secured on the second day. For
four successive days the battle raged hammer and tongs,
point by point, house to house and block by block thru
to the souti;ih. Suicide infiltration attacks harassed our
troops and knocked out several pieces of our armor.
Tanks growled and threatened, the nights were endless and
hideous. Every hour was a threat.
During the night of 27-28 Jan. the Japs launched an all
out attack with their remaining 13 tanks. These came in
waves of three, foot troops behind. Some of our men were
crushed in their fox holes, but none retreated. We rea cted
with artillery, Anti - tank guns, bazookas and 50 calibre
machine guns, destroying 10 tanks and forcing the remnant
to withdraw.
It cost the enemy 800 men, a truck regiment, the
bulk of an artillery battalion and an infantry battalion.
A captured report said only 200 men of the task force
escaped. These may have been the 200 wounded reported
by civilians as dragging out of San Manuel on the night
' (
of 27 January.
The Jape accomplished very little except to prove
that the American combat infantryman, with his magnificent
support weapons, could lick the Nip at his own game on
ground of his own careful choosing.
There is nothing pretty about this type of extermination.
It takes guts at both ends of the bayonet to carry thru such
operations. Our soldiers stayed at it for more than 70 hours
without a breather. Scant rations were crawled up to foxholes.
During the day swarms of vicious flies pestered the men laying
in their dirty foxholes. Outside bloated enemy dead with
their nauseating s t e n c ~ Dawn 28 January found a row of
burned and shapeless tanks, surrounded by scores of sprawling
dead in the grotesque pantomines of sudden death, marking the
climax of the banzai attack thru the middle of the town.
Behind our lines, exhausted platoons sprawled on their
backs in the bamboo shade, sleeping like dead men, ind.ifferent
to the forward clatter of the clean-up, a man sized job done,
mission accomplished. Citations and decorations were generously
spread among the regiment. Several officers were advanced in
grade and the colonel* of the regiment that cracked San Manuel
today is a Brigadier General and one of the youngest assistant
division commanders in the Sixth Army.
* Editor- West Pointer Brig. Gen Jack Dalton.