. . . AND A FEW MARINES: Marines in the Liberation of the Philippines
by Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret)
The Philippine campaign truly marked a turning point
in two different ways. First, in strategic results: the severance of
Japan's vital supply lines; the elimination of 400,000 enemy troops and
enormous numbers of their planes and pilots; the freeing of the Filipino
people from a brutal tyranny; and the American acquisition of multiple
bases to carry the war toward the Japanese homeland.
Secondly, the campaign was a watershed for Marine
aviation. After the Solomons campaign it had been relegated to milk runs
in the backwaters of the Solomons and the by-passed areas of the Central
Pacific. Then it had been shoe-horned in by happenstance with a few
planes six weeks after the original landing in the Philippines. However,
the Marine aerial effort grew and grew until there were 18 squadrons in
constant action at the end of the Philippine campaign. Thus, it came to
constitute a major element in an operation which was, nevertheless,
primarily an Army show.
Warren E. Sweetser, Jr., left, commanded MAG-24 in June 1945. His
executive officer, LtCol John H. Earle, Jr., is on the right.
Col Warren E.
Sweetser, Jr., Collection
Beyond the quantitative aspects, there lay more
significant qualitative results for Marine aviation. A previously
sketchy doctrine of close air support had been fleshed out, refined, and
honed in combat. The infrequent examples of it in the past had been
superseded by precision missions running in the end into the thousands.
Cooperation with another service the Army had begun on a
small scale in an atmosphere of skepticism and evolved into wide-spread
intimate interdependence, with MAG-12, as just one example, supporting
26 Army landings.
And so the accolades eventually came in the form of
more than 30 letters of commendation and appreciation from every Army
command level. Whether Corsairs or SBDs, the Marine doctrine of close
air support had been validated.
Marine Aircraft in the Philippines
Explanation of squadron designations:
|F4U1D1, FG-12 Fighter
||850 Nautical miles (without Auxiliary tanks)
||6-50 cal. (2400 rounds of ammunition)
2100 lb. bombs
||1,326 Nautical miles (without Auxiliary gas tanks)
||Maximum load: 2800 lbs. of bombs and Rockets
||1,100 Nautical miles
||250 cal. (360 rounds of ammunition)
230 cal. (2000 rounds)
||1,197 Nautical miles with 1,600 lbs. of bombs and 2 Auxiliary tanks
||220mm (400 rounds of ammunition)
230 cal. (2000 rounds)
11600 lb. bomb
2500 lb. bombs
||1,100 Nautical miles with 1150 gal. Auxiliary tank
||650 cal. (2400 rounds of ammunition)
||1,555 Nautical miles
||None (will carry 27 troops with combat gear)
Preceded by letters V (Heavier-than-Air) and M (Marine); the letters
alone or in combination indicate type squadrons using the planes:
FFighter. SScout. BBomber. RTransport.
Example: VMF115; Marine Fighting Squadron No. 115.
1FSU1D: FFighter, 4Fourth model of this fighter,
UManufactured by Chance-Vought, 1-DModification of this
2FG1: Goodyear version of the Corsair.
3Night fighter version.
Acknowledgement of this came in a final evaluation by
Eichelberger. He commented that the "superb" accomplishments of Marine
air stemmed in part from the Marine liaison officers [who] were "always
in front lines" with the infantry commanders. They were as familiar with
the forward positions as was the infantry. By radio they guided in the
planes, and often the target of the strike was no more than 300 yards
ahead of the "huddled doughboys."
The official Marine Corps history of World War II
made this observation:
. . . A radical departure from orthodox methods was
the adoption of direct communications between pilots and ground-based
air liaison parties. The performance of Marine aviators on Luzon Island
and in the Southern Philippines was to become an outstanding chapter in
a long history of excellent achievements, combining raw courage with
skill and flexibility. The activities of Marine air in the Philippines
constituted one of the few opportunities that Marine air groups had to
show their skill in close air support . . . .
The record is clear, and there can be no doubt that
Marine close air support contributed to the U.S. victory in the