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)

Problems on Leyte

Other events on Leyte after the landing brought an unexpected change in plans for the air war. The foul weather of heavy tropical storms, with 35 inches of rain in 40 days, had badly impeded both the advance of the Army infantry and the construction of adequate air fields for American use.

Japanese bombing continued in spite of preemptive strikes by planes from Halsey's fast carriers. Most serious of all, waves of enemy troop reinforcements were continuously being landed at Ormoc on Leyte's west coast. The numbers were distressingly large; some official estimates were as high as 47,900. In any event, it was clear that enemy strength on Leyte had more than doubled. There was also a special problem in the air war. The Japanese night fighter-bombers, the Nakajima Ki 43 Hayabusa called "Oscars" by the Americans, were too fast for the Army Air Force P-61 Northrop Black Widow night fighters.

Late in November, MacArthur acted decisively. He arranged for a switch in which the AAF squadron would go to Peleliu and the Marine night fighter squadron there, VMF(N)-541, with its F6Fs and their 313-knot top speed, would come to muddy Tacloban Field on Leyte

Simultaneously, came one of those flukes that change forever the course of events. Halsey was anxious to leave Philippine waters for a strike at Tokyo, and Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, was very concerned about Japanese kamikaze attacks on his ships. (Kamikaze was the Japanese term for bomb-laden suicide planes whose pilots would crash on purpose into U.S. ships.) So, Halsey recommended a substantial participation of Marine aviation. He later wrote:

I had under my command in the South Pacific a Marine Air[craft] Group [12] which had proved its versatility in everything from [air combat] to blasting enemy vessels. I knew that this group was now under MacArthur's command, and I knew too, without understanding why, that when Kenney was not keeping it idle, he was assigning it to missions far below its capacity.

Kinkaid's complaint of insufficient air cover prompted me to take a step which was more than a liberty; to a man of meaner spirit than MacArthur's it would have seemed an impertinence. I called these Marines to his attention. He ordered them forward, and within twenty four hours of their arrival, they had justified my recommendation.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division