. . . AND A FEW MARINES: Marines in the Liberation of the Philippines
by Captain John C. Chapin, USMCR (Ret)
The dash to Manila led to four events. The Army
started slowly to clear the city of dug-in Japanese die-hard soldiers;
the next objective would become the 50,000 Japanese deeply entrenched
and fortified in the Shimbu Line outside the city; Jerome and his
staff went calling on a variety of Army division commanders to try to
explain to them the help that Marine dive bombers could give to their
infantry; and the 308th Bombardment Wing directed the Marines to assist
the guerrillas on Luzon.
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When the Army came up against the Shimbu Line,
it soon became more receptive to the use of the SBDs. The 1st Cavalry
Division was already a convert, of course, and it had an opportunity to
give a practical demonstration to the skeptical commander of the 6th
Infantry Division, who was visiting it on 8 February. Faced with very
heavy enemy fire from a key hill, the 1st Cavalry commander called in
the dive bombers. When they had finished their precision work, patrols
moved up the hill unopposed and found the shattered remains of eight
machine gun and 15 mortar emplacements, with 300 Japanese dead nearby.
In addition, 11 unmanned heavy machine guns were found. Now the 6th
Division was convinced.
Plans for the Southern Islands
A major planning conference took place on 11 February
to make decisions on future ground and air operations. Mitchell and
Jerome were able to get agreement that three more Marine squadrons,
Marine Bomber Squadron (VMB) 611 and Air Warning Squadrons (AWS) 3 and
4, would be moved up from the Solomons to participate in the next major
phase of the Philippines campaign: the invasion of the main southern
island, Mindanao. These squadrons represented two new and different
resources for Marine aviation. VMB-611 was equipped with the PBJ North
American medium bomber, called by the AAF the Mitchell B-25. It had a
range of over 1,300 nautical miles and could carry 2,800 pounds of bombs
and rockets. The AWSs were equipped with extensive radar and radio
communications capabilities for warning of enemy air attacks.
Enemy antiaircraft artillery fire could tear big holes
in a dive bomber, as this SBD shows after a mission over Manila. The
pilot, 1stLt Frank H. McFadden of VMSB-236, made it back to his base on
this one of the 113 missions he flew in the Philippines. Marine Corps Historical
Also, in preparation for the Mindanao operation,
there was a 15 February shuffling of Marine squadrons already on hand:
VMSBs-236 and -341 transferred to MAG-32, and VMSB-244 went to MAG-24.
This was a prelude to the new plan to redeploy MAG-32's dive bombers
from Luzon and MAG-12's fighters from Leyte to Mindanao. Mitchell had
wanted a full-scale role for Marine aviation in the upcoming invasion
and he got it.