Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Planning for the Philippines
Marine Artillery Arrives
Problems on Leyte
Full-Scale Operations
Phase Two: Luzon Dive Bombers
After Manila
Plans for the Southern Islands
Close Support for Guerillas
Close Air Support for the Army
Corsair Action
Phase Three: Mindanao
Turning Point
Major General Ralph J. Mitchell
Colonel Clayton C. Jerome
Lieutenant Colonel Keith B. McCutcheon
Special Subjects
VMF(N)-541 Commended
MAG-12 Squadrons Commended
Marine Aircraft Group Twelve Commendation
Marine Aircraft Group Twenty-Four Commendation
Marine Aircraft Group Thirty-Two Commendation
Marine Aircraft Groups Zamboanga
Marine Aircraft in the Philippines

. . . AND A FEW MARINES: Marines in the Liberation of the Philippines
by Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret)

Turning Point

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.

Sweetser, Jr. Earle, Jr.
Col 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 The infrequent examples of it in the past had been superseded by precision missions running in the end into the thousands.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

Designation Manufacturer Maximum
Power at
sea level
Range Armament Crew Name
F4U—1D1, FG-12 Fighter Chance-Vought, Goodyear 365 knots 2250 850 Nautical miles (without Auxiliary tanks) 6-50 cal. (2400 rounds of ammunition)
2—100 lb. bombs
8—5" Rockets
Pilot Corsair
PBJ—1D Medium-bomber North American 238 knots 2—1700 1,326 Nautical miles (without Auxiliary gas tanks) Maximum load: 2800 lbs. of bombs and Rockets Pilot
3 gunners
SBD—6 Dive-bomber Douglas 284 knots 1300 1,100 Nautical miles 2—50 cal. (360 rounds of ammunition)
2—30 cal. (2000 rounds)
SB2C—4 Dive-bomber Curtis-Wright 256 knots 1750 1,197 Nautical miles with 1,600 lbs. of bombs and 2 Auxiliary tanks 2—20mm (400 rounds of ammunition)
2—30 cal. (2000 rounds)
1—1600 lb. bomb
2—500 lb. bombs
8—5" Rockets
F6F-3N3 Fighter Grumman 313 knots 2250 1,100 Nautical miles with 1—150 gal. Auxiliary tank 6—50 cal. (2400 rounds of ammunition) Pilot Hellcat
R4D—5 Transport Douglas 200 knots 2—1050 1,555 Nautical miles None (will carry 27 troops with combat gear) Pilot
Explanation of squadron designations:
Preceded by letters V (Heavier-than-Air) and M (Marine); the letters alone or in combination indicate type squadrons using the planes:
F—Fighter. S—Scout. B—Bomber. R—Transport. J—Utility.
Example: VMF—115; Marine Fighting Squadron No. 115.
1FSU—1D: F—Fighter, 4—Fourth model of this fighter, U—Manufactured by Chance-Vought, 1-D—Modification of this series.
2FG—1: 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 Philippines campaign.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division