Battle of Leyte
Overview
 
The Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 of World War II was the invasion and conquest of the island of Leyte in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 by American
Military history of the United States during World War II
The military history of the United States during World War II covers the involvement of the United States during World War II. The Empire of Japan declared war on the United States of America on 7 December 1941, immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor on the same day. On 11 December 1941,...

 and Filipino
Military history of the Philippines during World War II
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was invaded by the Empire of Japan in December 1941 shortly after Japan's declaration of war upon the United States of America, which controlled the Philippines at the time and possessed important military bases there. The combined American-Filipino army was...

 guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

, who fought against the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 in the Philippines led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita
Tomoyuki Yamashita
General was a general of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. He was most famous for conquering the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, earning the nickname "The Tiger of Malaya".- Biography :...

 from 17 October-31 December 1944. The battle launched the Philippines campaign of 1944–45 for the recapture and liberation of the entire Philippine Archipelago and to end almost three years of Japanese occupation
Second Philippine Republic
The Second Philippine Republic, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , was a state in the Philippines established on October 14, 1943 under Japanese occupation....

.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 of World War II was the invasion and conquest of the island of Leyte in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 by American
Military history of the United States during World War II
The military history of the United States during World War II covers the involvement of the United States during World War II. The Empire of Japan declared war on the United States of America on 7 December 1941, immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor on the same day. On 11 December 1941,...

 and Filipino
Military history of the Philippines during World War II
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was invaded by the Empire of Japan in December 1941 shortly after Japan's declaration of war upon the United States of America, which controlled the Philippines at the time and possessed important military bases there. The combined American-Filipino army was...

 guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

, who fought against the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 in the Philippines led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita
Tomoyuki Yamashita
General was a general of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. He was most famous for conquering the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, earning the nickname "The Tiger of Malaya".- Biography :...

 from 17 October-31 December 1944. The battle launched the Philippines campaign of 1944–45 for the recapture and liberation of the entire Philippine Archipelago and to end almost three years of Japanese occupation
Second Philippine Republic
The Second Philippine Republic, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , was a state in the Philippines established on October 14, 1943 under Japanese occupation....

. This was also the first battle in which the Japanese used kamikaze pilots.

Background

The Philippines were an important source of supplies, especially rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

, to Japan and also commanded the sea routes to Borneo
Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 and Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

 by which petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 was brought to Japan: holding on to the Philippines was vital. For the U.S., capturing the Philippines was a key strategic step in isolating Imperial Japan's military holdings in China and the Pacific theater. It was also a personal matter for MacArthur: two years previously he had left the Philippines vowing to return, and he insisted that it was a moral obligation of the U.S. to liberate it as soon as possible.

From September to early October 1944, the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s of the U.S. 3rd Fleet under Admiral William F. Halsey carried out successful missions. During the Palau
Mariana and Palau Islands campaign
The Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, also known as Operation Forager, was an offensive launched by United States forces against Imperial Japanese forces in the Mariana Islands and Palau in the Pacific Ocean between June and November, 1944 during the Pacific War...

 and Morotai
Battle of Morotai
The Battle of Morotai, part of the Pacific War, began on September 15, 1944, and continued until the war ended in August 1945. The fighting began when United States and Australian forces landed on the south-west corner of Morotai, a small island in the Netherlands East Indies , which the Allies...

 campaigns, they destroyed some 500 enemy aircraft and 180 seagoing merchant ships. These successful actions in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Formosa
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 indicated that an invasion of the Philippines itself was now feasible.

Leyte, one of the larger Philippine islands, has numerous deep-water approaches and sandy beaches which offered opportunities for amphibious assaults and fast resupply. The roads and lowlands extending inland from Highway 1, that ran for 40 mi (64.4 km) along the east coast between the Abuyog town up north to San Juanico Strait
San Juanico Strait
San Juanico Strait is a narrow strait in the Philippines. It separates the islands of Samar and Leyte. At its narrowest point, the strait is only wide, said to be the narrowest strait in the world. It is crossed by the San Juanico Bridge....

 between Leyte and Samar
Samar
Samar, formerly and also known as Western Samar, is a province in the Philippines located in the Eastern Visayas region. Its capital is Catbalogan City and covers the western portion of Samar as well as several islands in the Samar Sea located to the west of the mainland...

 Islands, provided avenues for tank-infantry operations, as well as a basis for airfield construction. American air forces based on Leyte could strike on enemy bases and airfields anywhere in the archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

.
A heavily-forested north-south mountain range dominates the interior and separates two sizable valleys, or coastal plains. The larger Leyte Valley extends from the northern coast to the long eastern shore and contains most of the towns and roadways on the island. The other, Ormoc Valley, situated on the west side, was connected to Leyte Valley by a roundabout and winding road, Highway 2, which ran from Palo
Palo, Leyte
Palo is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 47,982 people in 9,272 households.-Barangays:Palo is politically subdivided into 33 barangays.* Anahaway* Arado* Baras...

 town on the east coast, then west and northwest through Leyte Valley to the north coast, then turned south and wound through a mountainous neck to enter northern Ormoc Valley. This continued south to the port of Ormoc City
Ormoc City
The City of Ormoc is a 1st class city in the province of Leyte, Philippines. The city's name is derived from ogmok, an old Visayan term for lowland or depressed plain. It is the first non-provincial city of the Philippines. According to the 2007 census, it has a population of 177,524 people...

, then along the western shore to Baybay
Baybay, Leyte
The City of Baybay, is a component city located in the Province of Leyte, Philippines. It is situated on the western coast of the province of Leyte...

 town. The road then turned east to cross the mountainous waist of the island and connected with Highway 1 on the east coast at Abuyog. Below these towns, the mountainous southern third of Leyte was mostly undeveloped. High mountain peaks over 4400 ft (1,341.1 m), as well as the jagged outcroppings, ravines, and caves typical of volcanic islands offered formidable defensive opportunities. The timing late in the year of the assault would force combat troops and supporting pilots, as well as logistical units, to contend with monsoon
Monsoon
Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea...

 rains.
Leyte's population of over 900,000 people—mostly farmers and fishermen—could be expected to assist an American invasion, since many residents already supported the guerrilla struggle against the Japanese in the face of harsh repression. Japanese troop strength on Leyte was estimated by U.S. intelligence at 20,000, mostly of the 16th Division
16th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)
The was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the .-History:The 16th Division was one of four divisions raised in the closing stages of the Russo-Japanese War , and was raised from men in the Kyoto area...

 under Lt. Gen. Shiro Makino.

Landings

Preliminary operations for the Leyte invasion began at dawn on 17 October with minesweeping operations and the movement of the 6th Rangers accompanied by one company from the 21st Infantry Regiment
21st Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 21st Infantry Regiment is a United States Army infantry regiment.-Lineage:*Constituted 3 May 1861 in the Regular Army as the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry*Organized 20 May 1862 at Fort Hamilton, New York...

 toward three small islands in Leyte Gulf. Although delayed by a storm, the Rangers were on Suluan and Dinagat islands by 12:30. On Suluan, they dispersed a small group of Japanese defenders and destroyed a radio station, while they found Dinagat unoccupied. On both, the Rangers proceeded to erect navigation lights for the amphibious transports
Amphibious warfare ship
Amphibious warfare ship, often shortened to amphibs or phibs and popularly known as gator freighters, denotes a range of classes of warship employed to land and support ground forces, such as marines, on enemy territory during an amphibious assault...

 to follow three days later. The next day, the third island Homonhon, was taken without opposition. Meanwhile reconnaissance by underwater demolition teams revealed clear landing beaches for assault troops on Leyte.
Following four hours of heavy naval gunfire on A-day, 20 October, Sixth Army forces landed on assigned beaches at 10:00. The X Corps pushed across a 4 mi (6.4 km) stretch of beach between Tacloban airfield and the Palo River. 15 mi (24.1 km) to the south, XXIV Corps units came ashore across a 3 mi (4.8 km) strand between San José and the Daguitan River. Troops found as much resistance from swampy terrain as from Japanese fire. Within an hour of landing, units in most sectors had secured beachheads deep enough to receive heavy vehicles and large amounts of supplies. Only in the 24th Division sector did enemy fire force a diversion of follow-up landing craft. But even that sector was secure enough by 13:30 to allow Gen. MacArthur to make a dramatic entrance through the surf and announce to the populace the beginning of their liberation: "People of the Philippines, I have returned! By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil."

By the end of A-day, the Sixth Army had moved 2 mi (3.2 km) inland and controlled Panaon Strait at the southern end of Leyte. In the X Corps sector, the 1st Cavalry Division held Tacloban airfield, and the 24th Infantry Division had taken the high ground on Hill 522 commanding its beachheads. In the XXIV Corps sector, the 96th Infantry Division held the approaches to Catmon Hill. The 7th Infantry Division took the town of Dulag
Dulag, Leyte
Dulag is a third-class municipality in the province of Leyte in Eastern Visayas in the Philippines. This coastal town covering 11,007 hectares of land is home to 44,143 residents...

, which forced Gen. Makino to move his command post 10 mi (16.1 km) inland to the town of Dagami. The initial fighting was won at a cost of 49 killed, 192 wounded, and six missing.

Campaign in Southern Leyte Valley

The Sixth Army made steady progress inland against sporadic and uncoordinated enemy resistance on Leyte in the next few days. The 1st Cavalry Division of Maj. Gen. Verne D. Mudge secured the provincial capital, Tacloban, on 21 October. On 23 October, Gen. MacArthur presided over a ceremony to restore civil government to Leyte. 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades initiated a holding action to prevent a Japanese counterattack from the mountainous interior, after which the 1st Cavalry was allowed to move out.
On the X Corps left, the 24th Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. Frederick A. Irving, drove inland into heavy enemy resistance. After days and nights of hard fighting and killing some 800 Japanese the 19th
19th Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 19th Infantry Regiment is a United States Army infantry regiment which is assigned to the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, with the assignment of conducting Basic and Advanced Infantry Training.-Civil War:...

 and 34th Infantry Regiments
34th Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 34th Infantry Regiment is a Regular Army infantry regiment of the United States Army. It saw combat in World War I, in the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II, and was the first full American regiment deployed in combat in the Korean War...

 expanded their beachhead and took control of high ground commanding the entrance to the northern Leyte Valley. By 1 November, after a seven-day tank-infantry advance supported by artillery fire, both regiments had pushed through Leyte Valley and were within sight of the north coast and the port of Carigara
Carigara, Leyte
Carigara is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 43,455 people in 8,571 households.-Barangays:Carigara is politically subdivided into 49 barangays.-History:...

. The next day, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade captured Carigara. In its drive through Leyte Valley, the 24th Division inflicted nearly 3,000 enemy casualties
Casualty (person)
A casualty is a person who is the victim of an accident, injury, or trauma. The word casualties is most often used by the news media to describe deaths and injuries resulting from wars or disasters...

. These advances left only one major port on Leyte—Ormoc City on the west coast—under Japanese control.
From the XXIV Corps beachhead Gen. Hodge had sent his two divisions into the southern Leyte Valley, which already contained four airfields and a large supply center. Maj. Gen. James L. Bradley's 96th Infantry Division was to clear Catmon Hill, a 1400 ft (426.7 m) promontory, the highest point in both corps beachheads, and used by the Japanese as an observation and firing post to fire on landing craft approaching the beach on A-day. Under cover of incessant artillery and naval gunfire Bradley's troops made their way through the swamps south and west of the high ground at Labiranan Head. After a three-day fight, the 382nd Infantry
382nd Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 382nd Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment in the United States Army. The unit served as a reserve regiment until it was called to active duty during World War II, whereupon it saw action in the Pacific theater as part of the 96th Infantry Division...

 took a key Japanese supply base at Tabontabon, 5 mi (8 km) inland, and killed some 350 Japanese on 28 October. Simultaneously two battalions each from the 381st and 383rd Infantry Regiments slowly advanced up opposite sides of Catmon Hill and battled the fierce Japanese resistance. When the mop-up of Catmon Hill was completed on 31 October, the Americans had cleared 53 pillboxes, 17 caves, and several heavy artillery positions.
On the left of XXIV Corps, the 7th Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. Archibald V. Arnold
Archibald V. Arnold
Archibald Vincent Arnold was an American major general during World War II.-Biography:He was the second in command of the 7th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Aleutian Islands...

 moved inland against four Japanese airfields between the small towns of Dulag and Burauen. On 21 October, the 184th Infantry took Dulag airfield, while the 32nd Infantry Regiment cleared both sides of the Calbasag River. The bloody fight for the airfields and village was decided by flying wedges of American tanks which cleared the way for the infantrymen. At Burauen
Burauen, Leyte
Burauen is a 1st class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2007 census, it has a population of 48,606 people in 9,213 households....

, the 17th Infantry
17th Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 17th Infantry Regiment is a United States Army infantry regiment. While the 17th Infantry Regiment was organized on January 11, 1812, it was consolidated with the 3rd Infantry due to extremely heavy losses at Frenchtown, and lost its identity two years later until May 3, 1861, when it was...

 overcame fanatical but futile resistance from enemy spider hole
Spider hole
A spider hole is U.S. military parlance for a camouflaged one-man foxhole, used for observation. A spider hole is typically a shoulder-deep, protective, round hole, often covered by a camouflaged lid, in which a soldier can stand and fire a weapon...

s and suicidal attacks to stop the American tanks by holding explosives against their armored hulls. A mile north, 32nd Infantry soldiers killed more than 400 Japanese at Buri airfield. While two battalions of the 184th Infantry patrolled the corps' left flank, the 17th Infantry, with the 184th's 2nd Battalion attached, turned north toward Dagami
Dagami, Leyte
Dagami is a municipality in the Province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the August 2007 census of population in the Philippines, the town has a population of 30,451 inhabitants with a density of 188 persons per square kilometer...

, 6 mi (9.7 km) above Burauen. Using flamethrower
Flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

s to root their enemy out of pillboxes and a cemetery, U.S. troops captured Dagami on 30 October, which forced Gen. Makino to evacuate his command post further westward. Meanwhile, on 29 October, the 32nd Infantry's 2nd Battalion, preceded by the 7th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, moved 15 mi (24.1 km) south along the east coast to Abuyog for a probe of the area, and then over the next four days patrolled west through the mountains to bring Ormoc Bay under observation, all without opposition.

Japanese counterattacks

As the Sixth Army pushed deeper into Leyte, the Japanese struck back in the air and at sea. On 24 October, some 150 to 200 enemy aircraft approached American beachheads and shipping from the north. Fifty American land-based aircraft rose to intercept, and claimed to have shot down between 66 and 84 of the attackers. Day and night air raids continued over the next four days, damaging supply dumps ashore and threatening American shipping. But by 28 October, counterattacks by U.S. aircraft on Japanese airfields and shipping on other islands so reduced enemy air strength that conventional air raids ceased to be a major threat. As their air strength diminished, the Japanese resorted to the deadly kamikaze
Kamikaze
The were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible....

s
, a corps of suicide pilots who crashed their bomb-laden planes directly into U.S. ships. They chose the large American transport and escort fleet that had gathered in Leyte Gulf on A-day as their first target and sank one escort carrier and heavily damaged many other vessels.
A more serious danger to the U.S. forces developed at sea. The Imperial Japanese Navy's high command decided to destroy U.S. Navy forces supporting the Sixth Army by committing its entire remaining surface fleet to a decisive battle with the Americans. The Imperial Navy's plan was to attack in three major task groups. One, which included four aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s with no aircraft aboard, was to act as a decoy, luring the U.S 3rd Fleet north away from Leyte Gulf. If the decoy was successful, the other two groups, consisting primarily of heavy surface combatants, would enter the gulf from the west and attack the American transports.
On 23 October, the approach of the enemy surface vessels was detected. U.S. naval units moved out to intercept, and the air and naval Battle of Leyte Gulf
Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.It was fought in waters...

—the largest naval battle in the Pacific and also one of the largest naval battles in history
Largest naval battle in history
The title of "largest naval battle in history" is disputed between adherents of criteria which include the numbers of personnel and/or vessels involved in the battle, and the total tonnage of the vessels involved...

—was fought from 23-26 October—the Japanese suffered a decisive defeat. Nonetheless by 11 December the Japanese had succeeded in moving to Leyte more than 34,000 troops and over 10000 ST (9,071.8 t) of materiel, most through the port of Ormoc on the west coast, despite heavy losses to reinforcement convoys, including engagements at Ormoc Bay
Battle of Ormoc Bay
The Battle of Ormoc Bay was a series of air-sea battles between Imperial Japan and the United States in the Camotes Sea in the Philippines between 11 November and 21 December 1944, part of the Battle of Leyte in the Pacific campaign of World War II. The battles resulted from Japanese operations to...

, because of relentless air interdiction missions by U.S. aircraft.

Advance into northern Leyte Valley

The Japanese reinforcement presented severe problems for both Krueger and MacArthur. Instead of projected mopping up operations after clearing the east side of Leyte, the Sixth Army had to prepare for extended combat in the mountains on its western side, which included landing three reserve divisions on Leyte, which pushed back Gen. MacArthur's operations schedule for the Philippine campaign and the War Department's deployment plans in the Pacific.

The 1st Cavalry and 24th Infantry Divisions linked up at Carigara on 2 November highlighted the successful opening drive of the campaign. After 17 days of combat operations, the Sixth Army had all of its first and second phase objectives under control, as well as one third-phase objective, Abuyog. In addition, elements of the 7th Division had pushed across the island from the southern end of the XXIV Corps sector and controlled approaches to the town of Baybay on the west coast. Only one key area, Ormoc Valley on the west side of the island, remained to be taken.

To clear Ormoc Valley, Gen. Krueger planned a giant pincer operation
Pincer movement
The pincer movement or double envelopment is a military maneuver. The flanks of the opponent are attacked simultaneously in a pinching motion after the opponent has advanced towards the center of an army which is responding by moving its outside forces to the enemy's flanks, in order to surround it...

, with X Corps forces moving south through the mountains and XXIV Corps units pushing north along the western shore. To overcome the expected increased resistance, especially in the mountain barrier to the north, Krueger mobilized his reserve forces, the 32nd and 77th Infantry Divisions, while MacArthur activated the 11th Airborne Division
U.S. 11th Airborne Division
-Knollwood Maneuver:The 11th Airborne, as the attacking force, was assigned the objective of capturing Knollwood Army Auxiliary Airfield near Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The force defending the airfield and its environs was a combat team composed of elements of the 17th Airborne Division and a...

. The 21st RCT pulled out from the Panaon area to rejoin the 24th Division and replaced by a battalion of the 32nd Infantry. On 3 November, the 34th Infantry Regiment moved out from west of Carigara to sweep the rest of the northern coast before turning south into the mountains. The 1st Battalion soon came under attack from a ridge along the highway. Supported by the 63rd Field Artillery Battalion, the unit cleared the ridge, and the 34th Infantry continued unopposed that night through the town of Pinamopoan, recovered numerous heavy weapons abandoned by the enemy, then halted at the point where Highway 2 turns south into the mountains.

Battles of Breakneck and Kilay Ridges

On 7 November the 21st Infantry went into its first sustained combat on Leyte when it moved into the mountains along Highway 2, near Carigara Bay. The fresh regiment, with the 19th Infantry's 3rd Battalion attached, immediately ran into strong defenses of the newly arrived Japanese 1st Division
1st Division (Imperial Japanese Army)
The ' was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the .-History:The 1st Infantry Division was formed in Tokyo in January 1871 as the , one of six regional commands created in the fledgling Imperial Japanese Army. The Tokyo Garrison had responsibility for the eastern...

, aligned from east to west across the road and anchored on a network of fighting positions built of heavy logs and interconnecting trench lines and countless spider holes, which became known as "Breakneck Ridge".

A typhoon began on 8 November, and heavy rains that followed for several days further impeded American progress. Despite the storm and high winds, which added falling trees and mud slides to enemy defenses and delayed supply trains, the 21st Infantry continued its slow and halting attack, with companies often having to withdraw and recapture hills that had been taken earlier. The Americans seized the approaches to Hill 1525 2 mi (3.2 km) to the east, enabling Gen. Irving to stretch out the enemy defenses further across a 4 mi (6.4 km) front along Highway 2.

Five days of battling against seemingly impregnable hill positions and two nights of repulsing enemy counterattacks proved fruitless, so Gen. Irving decided on a double envelopment of the enemy defenders. The 19th Infantry's 2nd Battalion swung east around Hill 1525 behind the enemy right flank, cutting back to Highway 2, 3 mi (4.8 km) south of Breakneck Ridge. To take the left flank to the west, Irving sent the 34th Infantry's 1st Battalion under Lt. Col. Thomas E. Clifford, over water from the Carigara area to a point 2 mi (3.2 km) west of the southward turn of Highway 2 and moved it inland. After crossing a ridge line and the Leyte River, they approached the enemy left flank at 900 ft (274.3 m) Kilay Ridge, the highest terrain behind the main battle area. Both battalions reached positions only about 1000 yd (914.4 m) apart on opposite sides of the highway by 13 November despite strong opposition and heavy rains. Clifford's battalion promptly attacked Kilay Ridge on the west, while the 2nd Battalion assaulted a hill on the east side. Neither unit achieved their objectives.
It took Clifford's men two weeks of struggle through mud and rain—often dangerously close to friendly mortar and artillery fire—to root the enemy out of fighting positions on the way up Kilay Ridge. On 2 December Clifford's battalion finally cleared the heights overlooking the road, and 32nd Division units quickly took over. Clifford's outfit suffered 26 killed, 101 wounded and two missing, in contrast to 900 enemy dead. For their arduous efforts against Kilay Ridge and adjacent areas, both flanking battalions received Presidential Unit Citations. Clifford received the Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

 for the action. It was not until 14 December that the 1st Cavalry Division and the 32nd Division finally cleared the Breakneck–Kilay Ridge area, placing the most heavily defended portions of Highway 2 between Carigara Bay and the Ormoc Valley under X Corps control.

Throughout this phase, American efforts had become increasingly hampered by logistical problems. Mountainous terrain and impassable roads forced Sixth Army transportation units to improvise resupply trains of Navy landing craft, tracked landing vehicles, airdrops, artillery tractors, trucks, even carabaos and hundreds of barefoot Filipino bearers. Not surprisingly, the complex scheduling slowed resupply as well as the pace of assaults, particularly in the mountains north and east of Ormoc Valley and subsequently in the ridgelines along Ormoc Bay.

Drive through Ormoc Valley

With the X Corps making headway through the northern mountains, the XXIV Corps struggled to muster forces around Baybay for the northern drive up the western Ormoc Valley coast. By mid-November the XXIV Corps still had only the 32nd Infantry Regiment in western Leyte, with 7th Division remnants still securing Burauen. Only the arrival of the 11th Airborne Division in strength around 22 November finally made Gen. Hodge allow the entire 7th Division to the west. On the night of 23 November, the 32nd Infantry suddenly came under attack by the Japanese 26th Division
26th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)
was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the .-History:The 26th Division was raised in September 1937 out of the three independent infantry regiments from the original 11th Independent Mixed Brigade and reserve components various divisions based in Manchukuo. It...

. The regiment's 2nd Battalion was pushed back, but they regained lost ground the next day. Gen. Arnold ordered his units to dig in and attached the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, to the 32nd Infantry, including reinforcements from the 767th Tank Battalion, the 49th Field Artillery Battalion, and a Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 155 mm (6.1 in) battery from the cancelled Yap
Yap
Yap, also known as Wa'ab by locals, is an island in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It is a state of the Federated States of Micronesia. Yap's indigenous cultures and traditions are still strong compared to other neighboring islands. The island of Yap actually consists of four...

 operation. Pummeled by heavy fire from these artillery units, the Japanese concentrated on them on the night of 24 November, and put four 105 mm (4.1 in) pieces out of action. The 57th Field Artillery Battalion reinforced them the next day, giving the 7th Division five additional batteries to support what had become a major defensive effort. The battle for Shoestring Ridge continued, as the Japanese mounted two more attacks on consecutive nights despite heavy casualties. Not until 27 November were U.S. troops able to take the offensive, with some 500 enemy dead and 29 abandoned machine guns outside and within the defensive perimeter discovered during their northern advance.

Gen. Arnold finally began his advance toward Ormoc with a novel tactic. On the night of 4 December, vehicles of the 776th Amphibian Tank Battalion put to sea and leapfrogged north along the coast 1000 yd (914.4 m) ahead of the ground units. The next morning, the tanks moved to within 200 yd (182.9 m) of the shore and fired into the hills in front of the advancing 17th and 184th Infantry. This tactic proved effective, greatly disorganizing the defenders, except where ground troops encountered enemy pockets on reverse slopes inland, shielded from the offshore tank fire. The 7th Division pushed north with two regiments which encountered heavy enemy fire coming from Hill 918, from which the entire coast to Ormoc City could be observed. Two days of intense fighting against enemy units enabled the 17th and 184th regiments to clear the strongpoint, after which the advance accelerated. By 12 December, Gen. Arnold's lead battalion was less than 10 mi (16.1 km) south of Ormoc City.

Fall of Ormoc

While Gen. Arnold moved closer to Ormoc, the Japanese made a surprise attack on the Burauen airfields with the 16th
16th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)
The was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the .-History:The 16th Division was one of four divisions raised in the closing stages of the Russo-Japanese War , and was raised from men in the Kyoto area...

 and 26th Divisions
26th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)
was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the .-History:The 26th Division was raised in September 1937 out of the three independent infantry regiments from the original 11th Independent Mixed Brigade and reserve components various divisions based in Manchukuo. It...

 in the central mountains, combined with the 3rd and 4th Airborne Raiding Regiments from Luzon. Some 350 Japanese paratroopers dropped at dusk on 6 December, mostly near the San Pablo airstrip. Although poorly coordinated, the enemy attack yielded the seizure of some abandoned weapons which they managed to use against the Americans over the next four days. Hastily mustered groups of support and service troops of the 7th Division held off the Japanese until reinforcements from the 11th Airborne and 38th Infantry Division, concentrated enough strength to contain and defeat the enemy paratroopers by nightfall of 11 December. With a few American supply dumps and aircraft on the ground destroyed and construction projects delayed, the enemy attacks on the airfields failed to have any effect on the overall Leyte Campaign.
Meanwhile, on the west side of Leyte, the XXIV Corps received reinforcements on 7 December with the landing of the 77th Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. Andrew D. Bruce south of Ormoc City. The 77th Division's 305th, 306th, and 307th Infantry Regiments came ashore unopposed although naval shipping was subjected to kamikaze air attacks. The arrival of the 77th Division proved decisive. This enabled the 7th Division to resume its march north, and the enemy defenders were quickly squeezed between the two forces. Gen. Suzuki ordered the Burauen task force to disengage and cross the mountains to help hold Ormoc Valley. Only small groups of these exhausted and malnourished troops reached the west coast in time to be of any great use.

The 77th Division faced strong opposition at Camp Downes, a prewar Philippine constabulary post. Supported by the 305th and 902d Field Artillery Battalions, Gen. Bruce's troops pushed through and beyond Camp Downes to enter Ormoc City
Ormoc City
The City of Ormoc is a 1st class city in the province of Leyte, Philippines. The city's name is derived from ogmok, an old Visayan term for lowland or depressed plain. It is the first non-provincial city of the Philippines. According to the 2007 census, it has a population of 177,524 people...

 on 10 December, and in its final drive, U.S. troops killed some 1,506 enemy and took seven prisoners while losing 123 killed or wounded and 13 missing. With Ormoc City captured, the XXIV Corps and X Corps were only 16 mi (25.7 km) apart. In between, the last enemy salient with its defenses anchored on a blockhouse, north of Ormoc, and held by the 12th Independent Infantry Regiment, resisted the Americans for two days. On 14 December, the 305th Infantry closed on the stronghold, aided by heavy artillery barrages and employing flamethrowers and armored bulldozers. Hand-to-hand combat and the inspiring leadership of Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 awardee Capt. Robert B. Nett
Robert B. Nett
Robert B. Nett was a United States Army officer and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the campaign to recapture the Philippines in World War II.-Early life:...

 cleared the enemy from the blockhouse area, while leading Company E, 2nd Battalion, 305th Infantry forward through intense fire and killing several Japanese soldiers.

Westward march to the coast

After breaking out of Ormoc, the 77th Division took Valencia airfield, 7 mi (11.3 km) north, on 18 December, and continued north to establish contact with X Corps units. That same day, Gen. Sibert ordered the 1st Cavalry Division to complete the drive south. The 12th Cavalry Regiment pushed out of the mountains on a southwest track to Highway 2, then followed fire from the 271st Field Artillery Battalion to clear a 3 mi (4.8 km) stretch of the road. North of Ormoc Valley, the 32nd Division had met continued determined opposition from the defending Japanese 1st Division along Highway 2, after moving south past Kilay Ridge and entering a heavy rain forest, which limited visibility and concealed the enemy. Using flamethrowers, hand grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

s, rifles, and bayonets, troops valiantly scratched out daily advances measured in yards, and in five days of hard fighting, the 126th and 127th Infantry
127th Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry Regiment traces its origins to the 4th Infantry Battalion, Wisconsin National Guard.-Organization:The 4th Infantry Battalion, Wisconsin National Guard, was organized on 25 April 1884 from Milwaukee companies, expanded and redesignated in 1890 as the 4th Infantry...

 advanced less than 1 mi (1.6 km). Contact between patrols of the 12th Cavalry and the 77th Division's 306th Infantry on 21 December marked the juncture of the U.S. X and XXIV Corps and the closing of the Sixth Army's pincer maneuver against Ormoc Valley.

While the 77th and 32nd Divisions converged on the valley, Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Swing
Joseph M. Swing
Joseph May Swing was a Lieutenant General in the United States Army, who commanded the 11th Airborne Division during the campaign to liberate the Philippines in World War II.-Biography:...

's 11th Airborne Division had moved into the central mountain passes from the east. With blocking positions established south of Leyte Valley on 22–24 November, the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment
511th Parachute Infantry Regiment (United States)
The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment was a Parachute Infantry unit of the United States Army first activated during World War II. It formed the parachute infantry element of the 11th Airborne Division....

 pushed farther west into the mountains on the 25 November. After an arduous advance, the 511th reached Mahonag, 10 mi (16.1 km) west of Burauen, on 6 December, the same day Japanese paratroops landed at the Buri and San Pablo airfields. On 16 December, the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, made slow but steady progress into the mountains from the Ormoc Bay area to meet the airborne regiment and assist its passage westward. On 23 December, after battling scattered Japanese defenders on ridges and in caves, the 7th Division infantrymen met troops from the 2nd Battalion, 187th Glider Infantry Regiment, which had passed through the 511th, to complete the cross-island move.

Gen. Bruce opened the drive on Palompon
Palompon, Leyte
Palompon is a 2nd class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 50,754 people in 10,790 households.Lat 11°03’N Long 124°23’E W coast of Leyte Island SE of Canagayan Point, Palompon, Leyte....

 by sending the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 305th Infantry, with armor support, west along the road on the morning of 22 December. The 302d Engineer Battalion followed repairing and strengthening bridges for armor, artillery, and supply vehicles. Assault units progressed rapidly through sporadic enemy fire until they hit strong positions about 8 mi (12.9 km) short of Palompon. To restore momentum, Gen. Bruce put the 1st Battalion, 305th Infantry, on Navy landing craft
Landing craft
Landing craft are boats and seagoing vessels used to convey a landing force from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Most renowned are those used to storm the beaches of Normandy, the Mediterranean, and many Pacific islands during WWII...

 and dispatched it from the port of Ormoc to Palompon. Supported by fire from mortar boats of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade and from the 155 mm (6.1 in) guns of the 531st Field Artillery Battalion, the infantrymen landed at 07:20 on 25 December and secured the small coastal town within four hours.

Learning of the seizure of the last port open to the Japanese, Gen. MacArthur announced the end of organized resistance on Leyte. As these sweeps continued, Gen. MacArthur transferred control of operations on Leyte and Samar to the Eighth Army on 26 December. Farther north, other U.S. forces made faster progress against more disorganized and dispirited enemy troops. 1st Cavalry Division troops reached the coast on 28 December as 24th Division units cleared the last enemy positions from the northwest corner of Leyte on the same day and two days later met patrols of the 32nd Division. But Japanese defenders continued to fight as units until 31 December, and the ensuing mop-up of stragglers continued until 8 May 1945.

Aftermath

The campaign for Leyte proved the first and most decisive operation in the American reconquest of the Philippines, and it cost American forces a total of 15,584 casualties, of which 3,504 were killed in action. Australian casualties include 30 dead and 64 wounded when a Japanese kamikaze plane crashed into the heavy cruiser during the gulf battle
Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.It was fought in waters...

.

The Japanese lost an estimated 49,000 combat troops in their failed defense of Leyte. Their losses at Leyte were heavy, with the army losing four divisions and several separate combat units, while the navy lost 26 major warships and 46 large transports and hundreds of merchantmen in the campaign. The struggle also reduced Japanese land-based air capability in the Philippines by more than 50%, forcing them to depend on kamikaze pilots. Some 250,000 troops still remained on Luzon
Luzon
Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. It is located in the northernmost region of the archipelago, and is also the name for one of the three primary island groups in the country centered on the Island of Luzon...

, but the loss of air and naval support at Leyte so narrowed Gen. Yamashita's options that he now had to fight a defensive, almost passive, battle of attrition on Luzon, the largest and most important island in the Philippines. In effect, once the decisive battle of Leyte was lost, the Japanese gave up hope of retaining the Philippines, conceding to the Allies in the process a critical bastion from which Japan could be easily cut off from outside resources, and from which the final assaults on the Japanese home islands could be launched.

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