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The Macajalar Bay Landing

Tomorrow we commemorate the 79th Anniversary of the Macajalar Bay Landing of the US Army’s 108th Regimental Combat Team in Tin-ao, Bgy. Agusan.

In late April 1945, Lt. Gen. Richard L. Eichelberger, commanding general of the US 8th Army, was tasked by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to liberate Southern Philippines from the Imperial Japanese Army, recommended that a new supply base be established on the north coast of Mindanao at or near the terminus of Sayre Highway, when it became apparent that the 31st Division progress up the only highway linking the north and south coasts of Mindanao was delayed not only by stiffening Japanese resistance, but also by the appalling road conditions and bridges destroyed by both the Japanese and the guerrillas.

May-12-1945-T/4-Howard-Oakes(left)-and-S/Sgt.-Marvin-Johnson-of-the-108th-Regiment,115th-Medical-Detachment,40th-Division, dig-in-for-the-night-near-Macajalar-Bay-Mindanao-P.I.(NARA)

May-12-1945-S/Sgt.-Ennis-Davis-left-and-Pvt.-Glann-Kaylor-of-the-108th-Regiment,40th-Division,place-a-new-sign-at-post-of-a-new-location-near-Del-Monte-airstrip-Mindanao (NARA)

May 11, 1945 -William Rutt & T-5 Elijah Mills of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade, 108th Regimental Combat Team, disarm an unexploded rocket near Macajalar Bay (NARA)

The rainy season was imminent and there was every likelihood that road conditions would de­teriorate further in spite of the best engineer efforts.

Troops would be sent southward along the highway to link up with the 31st Division in Central Min­danao, splitting the defending Japanese into two separate and isolated forces.

The Sayre Highway

Inaugurated on 2 Sept. 1940 by President Manuel L. Quezon, Phil. High Commissioner Francis Sayre and Bukidnon Gov. Manolo Fortich, theP1.1-million, 155-kilometer Cotabato-Bukidnon highway (later known as the Sayre Highway) this single lane, all-weather gravel road bisected Bukidnon plateau and was “the principal line of land communication between the northern and southern parts of Mindanao,”

The Macajalar Bay landing force rounding Camiguin Island on 10 May 1945 (US Army Photo 174-5)

Operation Victor V-A

108th Infantry Regiment Crest

General MacArthur approved the plan on 29 April and ordered the 108th RCT (Regimental Combat Team) of the 40th “Sunburst” Division to land in the Macajalar Bay in northern Min­danao as soon as soon as practicable after 6 May, the landing to be known as the Victor-V-A Operation in accordance with General Eichelberger’s plan for the clearance of the Sayre Highway in Bukidnon.

40th Infantry Division’s combat service identification badge (Steven Williamson)

The landing date was designated Q Day and was set for 10 May in an area to be known as Brown Beach at Tin-ao, Barrio Agusan, near the town of Cagayan, with H Hour at 0730.

Visayan Attack Group Task Force 78.4

The Visayan Attack Group Task Force 78.3 was a 40 ship-strong flotilla under Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble with the USCGC Ingham (Cmdr. K.O.A. Zittel) as flag and guide. On 09 May 1945, the Macajalar Bay Attack Unit (Task Unit 78.3.4) was formed and departed for Mindanao.

It consisted of five warships including Ingham, three destroyers (USS Frazier, Meade, Abbot) and one destroyer escort (USS Brazier), 7 LSTs, 10 LCMs, 7 LCIs, and USS LCI (L) 612 (Lt. Kaufman) as Control Unit. Inshore fire support was provided by 4 LCS (L)s under Lt. Sendree, with four minesweepers (YMS) and 2 Navy PT Boats.

An augmentation force of 27 US Army (AUS) ships consisting of 1 PCE E (R), 7 FS, 18 LCMs, and 1 picket boat accompanied the USN flotilla.

The mission assigned to the 108th RCT was to (1) defeat and destroy all enemy encountered in the zone of advance; 2) conduct operations west and south along the Sayre Highway and effect a junction with friendly forces advancing from the south; and 3) seize the Del Monte Airfield.

The regiment was under control of the 8th AAC until completion of landing, whereupon control passed to the Commanding General, 8th Army.

The 108th, without rest after successfully terminating its operations on Leyte and Masbate, was completely assembled and combat loaded at Ormoc on 08 May, the day that Nazi Germany had surrendered unconditionally to Allied forces.

Guerrillas Clear the Way

The Americans found the beachhead at Tin-ao, northeast of Agusan near Bugo in the Macajalar Bay Area already secured by the guerrillas.

The close coordination between the guerrillas and the invasion force is further illustrated by the visit of guerrilla officers aboard the Ingham at 0928 on 10 May to discuss the situation ashore, departing at 0942.

LVT-4 in the Philippines, US Army, early 1945.

Landing at Tin-ao, Agusan

The combined force arrived off Tin-ao, Barrio Agusan, Macajalar Bay, at dawn on 10 May 1945 (Q-Day). A line of departure was established 3,000 yards off Brown Beach, the designated beach head.

Planes bombed the flanks, while destroyers laid a barrage of 5-inch shells directly upon the beach at 0730 with Ingham directing operations.

Following the naval shelling, the 78.3.46 Inshore Support Unit consisting of LCS (L) 30, 42, 79 and 80 under Lt. Sendree lay down a close covering fire on the beaches starting at 0810, followed by a rocket barrage at 0825, before receiving orders to lift gunfire by 0827 to allow the first wave of the LVTs to land.

H-Hour was set back one hour when a torpedo was fired ineffectively by an enemy submarine, but at 0830, Landing Ships, Tanks (LSTs) began discharging the 1st Battalion of the 108th RCT aboard Tracked Landing Vehicles (LVT Buffaloes) for the first and second waves, the first wave hitting the beach with no opposition at 0830 and the second landing four minutes later.

The 108th History reports the Battalion Landing Team (BLT) consisted of the First Battalion (Reinforced), with Companies A & B in the assault. The landing, made in three waves of 10 vehicles each, was surprisingly unopposed and a perimeter was soon set up around a beachhead 500 yards in depth.

The Second Battalion, reinforced, landed as the second BLT directly from landing craft at 0915, with Company E leading. The Second Battalion passed through the beachhead perimeter, set up a road block at the junction of Sayre Highway (Highway No. 3) and the coastal road (Highway No. 1), and advanced up the Sayre Highway approximately 3,000 yards against light opposition.

The first of LCMs landed in the fourth wave fifteen minutes later. Two LCM’s of Company B, 542d EBSR, went ashore in wave 4 at 0845, landing 2 bulldozers of the shore bat­talion. Shore party headquarters personnel landed from LSM’s of the same wave.

It marked the first time American forces landed in Cagayan at exactly the same date three years earlier when the USAFFE Vis-Min Forces under Maj. Gen. William F. Sharp surrendered to the Japanese in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

At 1200 Col. Stratta assumed command from the Naval Task Force Commander Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble.

Many defensive positions were found along the Sayre Highway, but at the end of Q-Day none had been occupied. Twenty Japanese were killed scattered through the valley, mostly service troops. Many more enemy troops and motor transports were reported withdrawing north of Alae, and the column was bombed and strafed by supporting planes. Enemy troops were also sighted in the vicinity of Mangima Canyon. Eight mines were extracted by engineers from the highway, about two miles southeast of Bugo.

Securing the Beach Head

With the precision of long practice the amphibian engineers devel­oped the beachhead in routine fashion, establish­ing dumps near a lateral road inland and setting up beach defenses, their own combat equipment supplemented by LVT’s armed with machine guns and posted at strategic points along the perimeter.

The Japanese had retired into the hill country several days prior to the operation. Troops moved inland rapidly, secured high ground near the village of Agusan and began pushing down Sayre Highway.

Two days after the Macajalar Bay landing, guerrillas liberated Cagayan on 12 May 1945, as the 108th Regt went straight up the Sayre Highway for its link-up with the 31st Division.

The 108th Regimental Combat Team and the 155th Regimental Combat Team of the 31st Division linked up just outside Impalutao, Bukidnon on 23 May 1945. The juncture of the two forces marked the end of Japanese resistance along the Sayre Highway.(Compiled by Mike Baños)

The Liberation of Cagayan de Oro during World War II will be commemorated by the “War of our Fathers” World War II Exhibit starting May 12, 2024 at the 2nd Floor of SM CDO Uptown. This is brought to you by the Philippine Veterans Bank, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), City of Cagayan de Oro, Province of Misamis Oriental, SM CDO Uptown and the Cagayan de Oro World War II & Veterans Studies Committee. Exhibit is open during mall hours. Admission is free.

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