163 Infantry On Jolo II: Winning Mounts Magusing, Datu

By Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

 

 On 11 April 1945, two days after 163 landed, the real Battle of Jolo began. We had won Jolo City, but hard fighting remained. Some 2-3 miles north of Jolo City on Daingapic Point, we contained bypassed Japs in their defense system. But main battle would occur on the low mounts 4-5 miles south of the City. On 10 April, K Company had easily climbed Mounts Bangkal and Awak, but lurking Japs of 365 Infantry Battalion exploded a sharp little fight on those mounts supposedly won. This skirmish and the presence of other bands of Japs nearby so menaced L Company that we deferred attacking Mount Magusing until next morning.

 On this morning of 11 April, Japs still manned a nearly solid defense line-from giant Mount Tumatangas on our right, east through Mounts Datu, Agad, Pula, and Magusing, with other mounts behind them. And 3,000 miles east of Magusing, formidable Mount Daho blocked the horizon. South and east of these mounts and others, our guerilla units with some American advisers kept close guard and later helped fight "Jap Marines" at Mount Daho.

 On 11 April, strategy of 163 was for a 2-pronged attack. On our left, 3rd Battalion with L Company leading would strike south over Magusing and Pula to isolate Mount Daho. On our right, 1st Battalion with C Company leading down Route 1 would drive a wedge between Mounts Datu and Tumatangas. We would then turn left to take Datu in the rear. Thus 163 planned to crush the core of Jap defense and separate widely Japs on Daho from Japs on Tumatangas. But on this first thrust of 11 April, both attacks met heavy opposition and failed.

 Before L Company pushed, other 3rd Battalion men must fight off Jap attacks on our rear. Perhaps these Japs tried to rejoin their main body after "K" forced them off Mounts Bangkal-Awak yesterday. About dawn, 25-30 Japs attacked down our new tank-bulldozed supply road from the direction of Jolo City. At 0830, they still fought; M's 1st Lieutenant Arnold heard their fire and shouts outside perimeter. Arriving from bivouac near the City, A Company 716 Tank Battalion's 2nd Platoon patrolled 200 yards north and 200 yards south from 3rd Battalion's Command Post. By 0900, they had killed 12 Japs. A tank Commanding Officer even shot one with his automatic pistol.

 Before "C" marched against Mount Datu on the west, "L" moved on Mount Magusing (874 feet) to the east. At 0830, we left 3rd Battalion's perimeter with five tanks supporting. At 0920, we went south 200 yards on the new road to the base of Magusing. Fourteen minutes later, L's 2nd Platoon with 2 Weapons Platoon machine guns began climbing. Eleven minutes later, we were half-way up Magusing and drawing fire. At 0950, we spotted pillboxes; Japs threw grenades down on us. Tanks worked on the pillboxes, evidently killed them. We slew 10 Japs, had two men wounded.

 By 1000, 2nd Platoon was on the summit of round-topped Magusing, with probably a squad in advance and scouting down the south side where a saddle in the ridge led to a lower summit. (Exact action and location of lead. squad is obscure.)

 Then heavy enfilade fire burst from the brushy lower ridge behind Magusing. It came from well-concealed trenches and pillboxes on that lower spur ridge running off the summit southeast to the lower summit. An estimated 40 Japs with at least three heavy machine guns and two mortars blasted us. Later, we observed fire from some six automatic weapons, one perhaps a captured Yank heavy machine gun.

 Jap position was adroitly chosen. If we tried to rise up or even creep forward, grazing fire would strike on crest of Magusing among us. We cowered under the storm of mortars and heavy machine guns.

 And 146 Field Artillery observer Lieutenant Jacobson, Sergeant Nims, and helpers could not call for shellfire to aid 2nd Platoon. For summit of Magusing was on our 105 howitzers' target line. If Jacobson depressed the 105s' muzzles, they would wipe out "L" men. If he lifted muzzles, they would overshoot the Japs.

 Jap fire put our two light machine guns out of action, and 2nd Platoon left the Mount at 1122. Six men were wounded retreating; a squad was still cut off.

 At 1213, we still tried to save our squad. Since the lower ridge curved a little to the side of Magusing, we had room to lob in mortars and tank 75s on the Japs.

 At 1243, L's 1st Platoon climbed Magusing to rescue the squad. In climbing, we did not draw Jap fire. But 65 minutes later, we still could not contact the lost squad-feared them all casualties. At 1407, we recovered those two light machine guns that were put out of action. And 7 minutes later, the squad doubled back to rejoin us. "L" abandoned the hill, with six Japs known as dead.

 L Company lost 12 wounded to hospital in this fight - one officer, 11 men. 2nd Lieutenant Rumph took a bullet in his thigh; the types of wounds of the 11 men are unknown, although Alvino's, Landman's, and Staff Sergeant Simicek's were called "serious." Lightly wounded but also in hospital were Beall, Hardaker, Peter Martinez, Ernest Miller, Peugh, Torres, Dan White.

While "L" was repulsed from Magusing on 11 April, "C" to the west also had a deadly fight against Mount Datu (800 feet). At first, our attack seemed easy. Six planes bombed and strafed the western slope, and C Company advanced 1/2 mile down Route 1 to Datu - past empty pillboxes. At base of Datu, we decided to follow a trail leading partly up it. Half an hour later, we still climbed. We executed some 14 Japs on the way.

We had rounded the south slope of Datu and were now working around the east side towards the crest. Starting upwards, we found a Jap .75 cannon and 300 cases of ammo. (Perhaps this was the gun that 146 Field Artillery silenced during the night of 10 April when Jolo Dock was shelled.)

By 1210, we were half-way up Datu on the east side across from Route 1. Here were deserted positions, 15 packs loaded with .25 caliber ammo, two cases of mortar ammo, and clothing. In 15 minutes, we were two-thirds of the way up our 800 feet.

Here we found a road consisting of a rock shelf curving around Datu, and an old truck. Suddenly we killed two Japs, one setting up a knee mortar. From higher up, a knee mortar shot a 'few rounds was evidently silenced.

Our road led up towards the crest through a deep ravine slashing the rim half way around that eastern slope. Despite earlier shells from a knee-mortar, we pressed on up the road, perhaps because of the light opposition and the signs of de- moralization from debris of the retreat everywhere.

Our lead platoon reached a point where the stone shelf turned sharply towards the crest while the other "C" men followed a short distance behind. Our Commanding Officer - probably 1st Lieutenant O'Donovan with two squads and a field artillery observer team remained below on the road before the sharp turn.

One 146 Field Artillery man noted several cave defenses 40 yards across the ravine, called it to "C" men's attention. We sent a patrol to check out those caves.

Pointblank automatic fire flailed this patrol. Fire slashed the road into the main body of C Company, killed Pfc. Charles F. Farr, Lieutenants James E. Worthley and Jamesn P. Moore, wounded some nine men. With dead and wounded, the forward platoon was pinned down on the rock between cliffs. Kleine, for example, fell into a safe space, but no one could rise up to pull him to the rear. Commanding Officer O'Donovan and Field Artillery observer Ludeke were also down among their men.

For about two hours, we flattened on that stone shelf beneath blazing sun. Trying to get up or even to move drew a bullet from Japs we could not rise up to shoot back at. Field Artillery's Lieutenant Ludeke passed out from heat and shock. At 1500, "C" still took intense fire.

Major Armstrong, 1st Battalions Commanding Officer, led in organizing the rescue. He reconnoitered around the road-bend to observe our platoon pinned down in that sun on the narrow shelf between cliffs. He steeled the morale of C Company.

Climbing up Mount Datu above the ravine, Armstrong and others found the one position on the crest from which we could fire into the caves. We lofted a D Company heavy machine gun up where D Company's Pinkley could get the cave-mouths into his ringed sights.

Pinkley began plunging fire to save what had been a doomed C Company. He exhausted all of C Company's ammo, all of his "D" Company ammo, then 6,000 rounds from 1st Battalion Headquarters Company. And "C" with their wounded made a run for it and escaped. (We had to abandon two field artillery Radios and one infantry radio.)

Besides Farr and 1st Lieutenants Moore and 1st Lieutenant Worthley killed and Kleine wounded, "C" had four more known wounded - Gould, Mahl, Tech Sergeant Rogney, Sergeant Tony Martinez. Wounded also 12 April was Ernest Miller, company formation unknown.

That moonlight night of 11 April, C Company dug perimeter on the southwest crest of Datu. Since field artillery could not strike the dead space behind Datu where Japs held the ravine, Major Armstrong and field artillery's Lieutenant Ludeke impacted mortars on the area - tried to destroy the three abandoned radios.

It was a clear moonlight night over the grasslands and brush of the Jolo mounts. About midnight, "C" fought off a Jap attack. There in a 3-man hole died D Company's Pfc. William T. Pinkley whose heavy machine gun had saved "C" in the ravine ambush. He was shot in the chest with an American 1906 model rifle. Beley pushed Pinkley's body from the hole, helped stop the Jap attack, kill Other Japs attacked 1st Battalion Headquarters dug in near the base of Datu. Three times, they struck 1st Battalion command post with rifle-fire, bayonets, grenades, and a light machine gun. We repelled them, counted 21 Jap corpses at dawn, saw signs that other Japs were wounded.

Besides Pinkley on Mount Datu, D Company lost Staff Sergeant Joseph C. Markland down on the flats in our moonlit perimeter straddling Route 1 behind Datu. Seeming in a panicky attempt to escape, Japs got behind our heavy machine gun positions. They crossed to the far edge of the perimeter where the heavy machine guns were, yet did not attempt to slip out between those positions or attack them. They recoiled back towards black-topped Route 1. For some unknown reason contrary to 163 practice, Staff Sergeant Markland slept alone in a hole in the road. Next morning, "D" men found him dead, looking intently towards the outside of the perimeter, as if he had seen Japs; His unfired M-1 lay beside him. A bullet had holed him between the eyes. In return, "D" claimed eight dead Japs that night.

On 12 April, I Company attacked Mount Magusing, where "L" had suffered from cleverly hidden Japs on the reverse slope. Marine planes hit Magusing, but we called the strike "lousy." And 146 Field Artillery fired, with tanks of 716 Tank Battalion's 3rd Platoon, and 163's mortars and 81s. "L" fired cover for I Company - had Metonen or Metoxen wounded.

At 1055, "I" prepared to climb the north slope of Magusing while M's 81s pounded the tangled reverse slope. ("L" now saw dead Japs on Magusing.) When about 1200, I's lead platoon took rifle and grenade fire, another platoon moved up to assist. By 1245, an "I" platoon topped Magusing - but under heavy machine gun fire. On that reverse slope, we dug Japs from formidable positions, often a Jap at a time. By 1300, we held all Magusing but for the ridge southwest to Mount Pula. We took one heavy machine gun, two mortars, counted 45 dead Japs. Supporting tank platoon claimed a kill of 200.

By day's end, "I" reported two dead, eight wounded. Probably killed early was 2nd Lieutenant James W. Thompson. By 1542, 1st Lieutenant Robert L. Amans died, shot by a pretended corpse. I Company's James Marek, Dillon Newton were wounded. Other wounded of 12 April were probably "I" men, Raleigh Cooper, Oscar Essepian, Robert Joppe, Paul Koza, Sergeant James C. Tanner, Staff Sergeant Alfred Nelson, and Medic T/5 J. O. Sheid. Medic T/5 Mandell Newmark died of injuries.

While 163 seized the mounts, meagerly reported actions happened near Daingapic Point, 2-3 miles north of Jolo City. On 10 April, "I" slew seven more Japs on Mount Patikul, drove others northwest to be contained by I & R with tanks. E Company then fought these Japs 200 yards north of the beach village of Gandasuli. Ambushed by small arms and grenades, we killed five Japs, lost Gayloard Badberg killed. On 12 April, we recovered Badberg's body; Pfc. Archibald Cullen was killed. Presumably, "E" annihilated the Japs of Daingapic Point. (I Company meanwhile went south to storm Mount Magusing.)

Such were the first two days of 163's real Battle of Jolo, April 11-12. I Company had Mount Magusing the second day. Although checked on Mount Datu on 12 April, next day "C" readily overran the nearly deserted Jap positions on 13 April, found 15 cave defenses. Bosik was wounded.

Actually, remnants of the Jap 365 Infantry Battalion left the mounts at dawn 13 April to reinforce unbroken 363 Battalion on Mount Tumatangas. After "I" took Mount Magusing, our tanks threatened to penetrate past Magusing and kill reinforcements from Tumatangas to the great Mount Daho strongpoint on 163's far left.

In return for 500 dead Japs, we had only 11 dead, 29 wounded to hospital. But we admire those brave Japs. They lacked Navy, planes, tanks, heavy guns, yet gallantly fought on reverse slopes of Magusing and Datu. Fighting late in a losing war, they were members of a composite brigade of garrison units, replacements, and miscellanies from everywhere. They should have been demoralized. They should have surrendered in masses. But they were Japanese soldiers, and sold their lives hard.

 

CREDIT: Basic to this narrative are 9 pages of 163 Infantry Journal on Jolo, and 146 Field Artillery's "Return to Jolo" by Captain Robert M. Allen. Ward Beley's letter 16 July 1975 and George Groshan's undated report tell about D Company's two dead. Other important sources are RR Smith's Triumph in the Philippines, 716 Tank Battalion's A Company on Zamboanga·Jolo, Operational Monograph No. 10 containing "Return to Jolo," with Japanese Major Tokichi Tenmyo's "55th Independent Mixed Brigade/Outline of the Jolo Operation," Terrain Handbook No. 57 on Jolo, 163 Morning Reports for May, and some payroll rosters. (But Morning Reports seem incomplete, and fire disorganization or destruction of payroll rosters at St. Louis Personnel Bureau, has made identification impossible of many men's outfits.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.