Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Japanese Attack on the Philippines (12/10/1941) - Jul. 29th, 2004
Posted on 07/28/2004 10:52:03 PM PDT by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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Air Raid on Cavite
The morning of December 10, 1941, would be to the Americans on Luzon what December 7 had been for those in Hawaii -- but without the element of surprise.
The Japanese aerial armada droned into view on December 10, 1941. In each bomber, seven-man crews tensed behind four 7.7mm machine guns and a single 20mm tail gun. Everyone scanned the skies for defending fighters.
Americans in Manila shook their heads in disbelief. Despite the disasters of December 8, the defenders of the Philippines were still confident in their own strength and still amazed at the audacity of the Japanese. "We were Americans," Sergeant Sidney Stewart later wrote, "proud and sure and free. We had nothing but contempt for the stupid fools blackening the sky. The Japanese must be crazy to attack a city held by Americans."
Bombed Clark Field, south of Manilla, The Philippines">
Japanese destroyed half of the aircrafts of Clark Field Navy Base, south of Manila on the Philippines, 25 B17's-bombers and their fighters were destroyed. A substantial part of the defending American air force on the ground was destroyed.
Monday, December 8, in the Philippines had been terrible. The main American bomber base at Clark Field had been bombed to rubble. Japanese attacks had reduced Lt. Gen. Douglas MacArthur's bomber fleet by 50 percent and his modern fighters by 37 percent. Japanese pilots flew triumphantly back to Formosa, having lost only seven fighters.
Bad weather on Tuesday, December 9, had given the Americans a respite, but December 10 would be another very grim day. On Japanese-occupied Formosa, the weather threatened the morning's air operations. At 0300 hours a drizzling rain had begun, but the weather officer told his dubious colleagues that it would clear by 0830 and that flying conditions would be good.
High winds and storms had scattered Japanese aircraft across Formosa that Tuesday night. This ill wind had done some good for Japanese pilots. They took advantage of local inns, soaked in hot tubs and got a good night's sleep. When they awoke on December 10, the weather remained bad but within tolerances if the Japanese were willing to accept some risk to pilots and planes. Because they had been so badly scattered, Japanese fighter aircraft spent early Wednesday morning reassembling at their proper bases, refueling and rearming. Pilots received new orders, new targets and briefings as to remaining American strength on Luzon.
Aircraft of the Tainan-based 1st and Tainan Kokutais (naval air groups) and the Takao-based Takao and 3rd Kokutais finally got airborne about 0900. Their targets for Wednesday were American airfields at Del Carmen in central Luzon (18 Mitsubishi A6M2 Zeros of the 3rd Kokutai), Nichols and Nielson adjacent to Manila (34 Zeros of the 3rd Kokutai and 27 twin-engine Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betty" bombers of the Takao Kokutai), shipping in Manila Bay (27 of the Takao Kokutai's G4M1s, switched from their original target of Del Carmen) and the Manila Bay naval base at Cavite (27 Mitsubishi G3M2 twin-engine "Nell" bombers of the 1st Kokutai, escorted by 22 Zeros of the Tainan Kokutai). Another 27 fighters of the Tainan Kokutai took off to cover minor amphibious landings against north Luzon.
As the bombers and fighters assembled over Formosa, American radio-intercept personnel snatched Japanese ground-air radio calls from the air. These intercept specialists had identified possible bomber-fighter radio nets the day before. When the intercept people heard radio calls on the bomber net in the morning, they alerted the Air Warning Service that 100 bombers were headed for Luzon.
Aircraft in the Philippines, December 1941: Douglas B-18A ">
"Very interesting," came the reply from an unimpressed Air Warning Service. Few people yet believed that important information could come from radio intercepts.
Time passed. Then the Japanese fighter net came on the air. The radio intercept detachment called again. Based on the radio signal strength, Japanese planes were 15 minutes out, they warned. The Air Warning Service said that ground observers had not yet spotted anything, so no alert would be sounded.
About 1115, roughly the same time as the American 20th Pursuit Squadron was returning to Clark Field from attacks against Japanese landings, ground observers told Interceptor Command headquarters at Nielson Field that a big formation of fighters and bombers was north of Clark, heading toward Manila and Nichols.
Cavite Naval Yard
Clark's air-raid siren sounded when Japanese planes neared the field. Doctors, nurses and patients at the adjacent Fort Stotsenburg base hospital scrambled for the air raid shelter. Patients whom no one thought were ambulatory ripped the transfusion needles out of their arms and legs, jumped from their beds, and ran. Frightened litter bearers carried those who could not move.
Pilots from different squadrons raced each other to claim the Curtiss P-40B Tomahawks and P-40E Kittyhawks remaining, then sortied without regard to each another's proximity. Lieutenant William E. Dyess was at lunch when he heard that Japanese bombers were due overhead in two minutes. He jumped into the luggage carrier of a passing motorcycle and hightailed it for his plane. In his haste, he forgot his goggles, helmet and parachute. He taxied his plane past bomb craters, took off blind through a dust storm raised by previous planes, and nearly collided with another P-40. Overhead, Clark's aircraft assembled above the field. Then the 17th Pursuit headed for Manila Bay, and the 21st Pursuit for Manila's port area. Not all the P-40s that got into the air necessarily threatened Japanese aircraft. When Dyess got to Manila, he found his guns were jammed and would not fire.
Some Nichols Field pilots were already airborne, but they were about to come home from standing patrol shift. They were tired, and their fuel tanks were low, but they climbed after the bombers. The Americans from Nichols and Clark fought as best they could, but inoperable or jammed guns put plane after plane out of commission. Japanese bombers droned stolidly toward Nichols, Cavite and the shipping in Manila Bay.
Pearl Harbor wasn't the only place that was attacked on December 7th. Across the International Date Line - making it officially December 8th - lay Clark Field, which was pounded by Japanese "Betty" Bombers, then strafed by Zeroes.
Some American pilots managed to counterattack, two such heroes, LT. General USAF (Ret.) Joseph Moore and Colonel USAF (Ret.) Sam Grashio,are pictured in "Too Little Too Late".
A shortage of fuel forced the American pursuit planes to break away. One plane landed with only three gallons remaining. Three P-40s fell during the intercept attempt without inflicting any loss on the enemy. Japanese pilots reported that they were outnumbered two to one by the Americans, yet had shot down more than 43 P-40s and Seversky P-35s.
The field hit hardest was Del Carmen, where five P-35s of the 34th Pursuit had just returned from their successful attacks against enemy landing forces. Another seven P-35s, scheduled for the anti-invasion mission, were on the ground because of mechanical failure.
Blind luck was with the Japanese. The Americans had been on the ground about 10 minutes, and ground crews were refueling and rearming the planes. "Look," an airman called, "P-35s coming in for a landing." But the airman's aircraft identification expertise was poor. Ten Zeros arrived and caught the immobile P-35s. No revetments had yet been constructed to protect the planes, and the P-35s were lined up side by side. The field's only defense came from six Lewis .30-caliber machine guns. The men manning the guns were poorly trained, and all but one gun jammed after firing just a few rounds.
The Japanese destroyed or damaged 10 of the P-35s, yet failed to injure a single man. When strafing set a gasoline tank truck on fire, the driver disconnected his tractor from the flaming trailer and saved his vehicle. The Japanese also concentrated on two tanker trucks filled with molasses, used to dampen dust on the runway. Del Carmen radioed for help. A P-40 flown by Lieutenant Carl P. Gies jumped the last Zero as it pulled out of a strafing run, and shot it down. Gies' victim may have been Seaman 1st Class Masaharu Higa, the only member of the Tainan Kokutai killed that day.
Farther south at Nichols, airmen scrambled for shelter. Ground crews dived for holes and ditches. More men were hurt piling atop one another than by enemy fire. The Americans had not been enthusiastic about digging shelters, but now they tried to get as deep as they could in the shallow holes they had dug. Enemy fire reversed the normal desire to strive for the top of the heap. Now the object was to get as low as possible.
Aircraft in the Philippines, December 1941: Curtiss P-40E
Nichols Field had sent up all the P-40s that could fly and had scrambled everything else and sent them to hide. One old twin-engine Douglas B-18 that was being prepared for a bombing mission could not take off and remained in a revetment on the ground. The airmen at Nichols watched as 27 Japanese twin-engine bombers opened their bomb bay doors and released their loads.
The bombs blew up a tent city and burned the field's main hangar and the Philippine Air Depot. Bombs hit the field's big fuel tanks and set them on fire. Men lying on open ground bounced into the air with each concussion. Explosions buried one airman in dirt and nearly smothered him before his friends could dig him out. Some men huddled in a bomb shelter reinforced by railroad irons. Bombs rocked the shelter and dropped concrete onto the irons but not onto the men.
As the P-40s engaged the incoming fighters, one American broke away and headed for Nichols. Lieutenant Forrest M. Hobrecht needed to land and have ground crewmen unjam his guns. A Zero followed him, fired at point-blank range and destroyed the P-40E. Hobrecht bailed out, hit the plane's stabilizer, and fell to the ground without his parachute opening. Another P-40 was on the tail of the Zero and shot it down.
In the momentary quiet in the wake of the departing bombers, the incongruous sound of a San Francisco radio station playing popular jazz came over a radio set. The lull was brief. Enemy fighters now rolled in to complete the destruction. The lone B-18 drew the attention of Zeros, which strafed it and exploded some of its bombs. H Battery of the 515th Coast Artillery (anti-aircraft) let loose with its automatic 37mms. Air-cooled .30-calibers and water-cooled .50-calibers from a platoon of M Battery, 60th Coast Artillery (anti-aircraft), rattled away at the planes. Local air corps machine guns also engaged the Japanese. The combined fire brought down two Zeros.
A hapless P-35 flying low to the ground drew the fire of hundreds of trigger-happy Americans. Rifles, pistols and machine guns set up a terrible din. Next, an American observation plane came into sight. Although the pilot waggled his wings, flashed his running lights and did everything he could to show he was friendly, his reward was to have every armed man on the ground fire at him as furiously as possible. As the stricken plane sank lower, the observer bailed out. The roar of small-arms fire increased as the men on the ground concentrated on the parachute and sent 12 bullets into the observer.
Single-engine floatplanes and larger flying boats raced in every direction across the bay in a rush to get airborne. Submarines hastily abandoned their mooring places at buoys and tenders, sprinted outside the harbor's breakwater and submerged.
Americans around Manila watched the Japanese arrive. One of the observers was Admiral Thomas C. Hart, commander of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet, who would have a clear view of the destruction of his fleet base. He was disgusted at the absence of Army fighter protection, the very protection he had assumed MacArthur's air force would provide.
Marine Corps anti-aircraft gunners outside the yard received word to man their nine 3-inch guns at 1100. The Japanese came into sight at about 1210. The air raid siren atop the yard's powerhouse began wailing to warn those in the yard and to prevent workers who had left for lunch from returning.
Gun crews fired when the planes came into range. Private Scott passed the 25-pound shells to the first loader, who never looked back. He just moved his hands back, received the projectile, swung it forward, dropped it into the breech and pushed it home with his right arm. The sharp crack of 3-inch guns followed, one after the other. The sustained rate of fire for a 3-inch gun was 12 rounds per minute, one every five seconds. The crew of Scott's gun managed a rate of one round every three seconds for a solid hour, just short of the gun's maximum rate of fire.
| By the close of December 10, the Americans had conceded control of both the skies and the seas. Many had considered the successful bombing of Clark on December 8 a fluke, the result of a surprise attack. But the December 10 razing of Del Carmen, Nichols and Cavite confirmed some hard facts: P-40s with poorly trained pilots could not successfully engage in dogfights with Zeros; and their anti-aircraft guns were too short-ranged to reach enemy bombers. Especially discouraging was the growing fear that neither American commanders nor soldiers were ready, psychologically or professionally, to match the Japanese.
December 10 was the second of many disheartening days to come. All too soon, a Japanese army would land on Luzon, driving the defenders to Bataan and Corregidor. In an astonishing series of aerial engagements that began on December 8, Japanese air forces had created the conditions that would lead to the most humiliating American defeat of World War II.
I think I'll snag a couple of cold ones and lose myself in my memories of the Philippines .... Subic Bay, Olongapo City, Subic City, Clark AB and environs (had a buddy in the AF from my hometown who was stationed there during the same time period), Manila .... ah, memories .... :)
Morning Neil. Thanks again for your service.
Never made it to the Philippines. My brother-in-law was stationed there in the 60's with the Air Force.
Good Night Snippy.
Good night Sam.
Hey, I've been there!
LOL. Have you sailed all the seven seas?
Nope, never been in the Atlantic, Med or Carribean. Been all over the place in the Pacific and IO though.
Good morning, Snippy and everyone at the Foxhole.
Read: Read: 2 Timothy 1:6-12
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
Bible In One Year: Psalms 49-50; Romans 1
The silence awakened me at 5:30 one morning. There was no gentle whir of fan blades, no reassuring hum from the refrigerator downstairs. A glance out the window confirmed that a power outage had left everyone in our neighborhood without electricity just as they would be preparing for work.
I realized that alarm clocks would not sound, and there would be no TV news. Coffee makers, toasters, hair dryers, and many telephones would be useless. Beginning a day without power was simply an inconvenience and a disruption of routinebut it felt like a disaster.
Then I thought of how often I rush into the day without spiritual power. I spend more time reading the newspaper than the Bible. Talk radio replaces listening to the Spirit. I react to difficult people and circumstances in a spirit of fear rather than the spirit ofpower and of love and of a sound mindthat God has given us (2 Timothy 1:7). I must appear as spiritually unkempt as a person who dressed and groomed in the dark.
Our power outage was short-lived, but the lesson remains of my need to begin each day by seeking the Lord. His strength is not for my success or well-being, but so that I will glorify Christ by living in His power. David McCasland
Last day of vacation buimp for the Foxhole, dangnabit!!!!
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