US troops approaching Japanese positions near Baguio.
The Philippines were considered to be of great strategic importance because their capture by Japan would pose a significant threat to the United States. As a result, 135,000 troops and 227 aircraft were stationed in the Philippines by October 1941. However, Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, was captured by Imperial Japanese forces in 1942 during their campaign to capture the Philippines. General Douglas MacArthur, who was in charge of the defense of the Philippines at the time, was ordered to Australia, and the remaining US forces retreated to the Bataan Peninsula.
A few months after this, MacArthur expressed his belief that an attempt to recapture the Philippines was necessary. US Pacific Commander Admiral Chester Nimitz and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest King, opposed this idea, arguing that it must wait until victory was certain. MacArthur had to wait two years for his wish—it was 1944 by the time a campaign to recapture the Philippines was launched. The island of Leyte was the first objective of the campaign, which was captured by the end of December 1944. This was followed by the attack on Mindoro, and later, Luzon.
The battleships Pennsylvania and Colorado lead three heavy cruisers into the Lingayen Gulf for the pre-assault bombardment of Japanese shore positions.
U.S. aircraft constantly made reconnaissance and bombing flights over southern Luzon, intending to deceive the Japanese forces into believing that the attack on Luzon would come from the south. In addition, transport aircraft were used to make parachute drops with dummies. Minesweepers were used to clear the bays of Balagan, Batangas, and Tayabas, located to the south of Luzon, and Filipino resistance fighters conducted sabotage operations in southern Luzon. These deception operations had the desired effect—the Japanese forces were convinced that the assault force would land from the south. The Japanese commanders, expecting the landings to take place around Manila bay, were taken by surprise when US forces started attacking Lingayen.
The first wave of troops approaching the beaches of Luzon
The landings at the Lingayen Gulf on 9 January were carried out by the US Sixth Army under the command of General Walter Krueger. Approximately 175,000 troops from the Sixth Army landed along the twenty-mile beachhead within a few days, while the I Corps protected their flanks. XIV Corps under General Oscar Griswold then advanced south towards Manila, despite Krueger's concerns that his eastern flank was unprotected and vulnerable if the Japanese forces attacked. However, no such attack occurred, and the US forces did not meet much resistance until they reached the Clark Air Base on 23 January. The battle there lasted until the end of January, and after capturing the base, XIV Corps advanced towards Manila.
A second amphibious landing took place on 15 January, 45 miles southwest of Manila. On 31 January, two regiments of the 11th Airborne Division made an airborne assault, capturing a bridge, and later advanced towards Manila. On 3 February, the 1st Cavalry Division captured the bridge across Tuliahan River leading to the city. They advanced into the city that evening, and the battle for the capture of Manila began. On 4 February the paratroopers of the 11th Airborne, approaching the city from the south, came to the main Japanese defences south of the city of Manila where their advance was halted by heavy resistance. General Yamashota had ordered his troops to destroy all bridges and other vital installations as soon as the US forces entered the city, and Japanese forces entrenched throughout the city continued to resist US forces. General MacArthur announced the imminent recapture of Manila on the same day. On 11 February, the 11th Airborne Division captured the last Japanese outer defences, thus encircling the whole city. US and Filipino forces carried out clearing operations in the city in the following weeks.
Battles continued throughout the island of Luzon in the following weeks, with more US troops having landed on the island. Filipino resistance fighters also attacked Japanese positions and secured several locations. The Allies had taken control of all strategically and economically important locations of Luzon by March. Small groups of the remaining Japanese forces retreated to the mountainous areas of the island, where they were besieged. Pockets of Japanese soldiers held out in the mountains - most ceasing resistance with the unconditional surrender of Japan, but a scattered few holding out for many years afterwards.