A Company 716 Tank Battalion for the 41st: Mindanao

by Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

(Continued from Zamboanga and Jolo)

 

Ill. Southern Mindanao

Not until 5 June 1945, did A-716's tanks fight again for the 41st Division. This was in south-central Mindanao, in the Southern Philippine Campaign. In our first fight, we teamed with L-163 who had fought beside us in taking Zambo City. We fought near Via Village in abaca jungle. (Abaca is a Filipino hemp that had run wild in deserted fields. It made a continuous dark jungle 20 feet high. Jap riflemen, machine gun nests, and suicide bombers were invisible.)

Our tanks and L-163 pushed down an abaca tunneled road. From a spider hole, a suiciding Jap leaped hugging a box mine. L-163 men behind the tank could not see him to shoot.

Explosion lifted the tank bed, killed the bow gunner.

Tankman Sergeant Danciu yanked live men from the destroyed tank. Eight "L" men were wounded. The road was deserted the next day.

On 11 June, two 3rd Platoon tanks spearheaded a 4,000 yard drive to help "L" advance on the road to Riverside Village. Tanks destroyed many pillboxes and machine gun nests - lost just one crew member slightly wounded.

  On 15 June, 3rd Platoon sent two tanks again to help L Company's advance to Riverside. Tank fire flamed three houses sheltering Nips and destroyed three machine gun nests. But Riverside still held out.

            Next day, four tanks with infantry drove for Riverside once more. Now these medium tanks had help from the guns 716 Headquarters Battalion's heavier guns -105 mm cannon. After medium tanks smashed 20 pillboxes holding machine guns and mortars, assault guns charged.        Despite stubborn resistance, these 105 mm gun tanks drove 700 yards more and killed four pillboxes on the flank. Because rain sheets swamped the road, all tanks had to retreat to dryer fixed positions and shoot up the Jap right flank until dark. But they had helped L-163 to capture Riverside Village.

From Riverside, we drove for Calinan, over 5,000 yards north of Riverside on Highway 1. Calinan was the final strongpoint before the Mount Money wilderness, where we were trying to pen the Japs.

        Paired with infantry squads, the 105 mm assault tanks battered on into Calinan Village. Tanks then pushed 700 yards more until infantry found aerial bombs mining the road.

            After Engineers lifted the mines, A's tanks pushed 1300 yards more. At night, tanks tried to bivouac in Calinan, but long range fire menaced them. While 163 held Calinan, they bivouacked in Riverside.

Northwest of Calinan, 162 Infantry teamed with A Company tanks to force the Japs west to Mount Money. After taking Malagos, 24 Division's 34 Infantry - they were attached on Biak, to the 41st- hammered the Japs off Mount Monoy. Operation closed on 30 June.

And on that 30 June 1945 when the southern Mindanao Operation closed, A-716 helped win probably the 41st Division's last large shoot-out. Two days before that 30 June, L Company 162 Infantry without tanks had advanced down a narrow road into a vicious Jap advance. From strong positions, two Jap machine guns raked the road, killed 5, wounded 12 162's men. Cannon Company 162 then pounded the Jap positions while riflemen of 3rd Battalion slew stragglers, pin-pointed pillboxes.

So on 30 June, two days after the ambush, A-716's tanks plus Infantry struck the Japs' positions and killed 22 pillboxes. We neutralized two mine fields, exploded ammo and fuel dumps. We drove through to Davao River, harried fleeing Japs upstream and downstream - had no casualties, infantry or tankmen.

In early 1945, A Company 716 Tank Battalion fought for 162 and 163 Infantry in the Zamboanga, Jolo, and southern Mindanao Operations. With damage only to a few tanks, we surely saved many Yanks' lives. We were lucky to have no Jap tanks at all to fight, but our victories still required skillful and efficient soldiering by tankmen.

 

 

CREDIT: Most important source was 716 Tank Battalion's report - 14 pages, single-spaced typescript- 5 on Zamboanga, 2 on Jolo, 7 on what was named "The Davao Sector." (Davao portion was mostly not on the 41st outfits, but on 24 Division.) Especially important were two Jungleer histories by Captain William Schacht on Zambo and southern Mindanao. (Zamboanga history was No. 128 in Jan 1981 Jungleer; southern Mindanao history was No 142 in Oct 1982 Jungleer.) Also useful were RR Smith's Triumph in the Philippines, Eichelberger's Jungle Road to Tokyo, with official narratives of 24 Division and 162 Infantry.