22 March 1945
One of the most unusual guerrilla operations in the Philippines during World War II was the guerrilla raid on Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, which was conducted with the assistance of the US Navy to eliminate and wipe out the Japanese garrisoned at this key objective.
Amphibious in nature, the operation involved guerrilla units of the 110th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division, 10th Military District (Mindanao), United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) with an original strength of 200 men but which rose to 350 when a call for volunteers was issued. The US Navy Task Group 70.4 coordinated the operation.
Task Group 70.4 was created to aid Filipino Guerillas in the southern areas of the Philippines. As originally constituted, the Task Group consisted of Landing Craft, Support (Large) LCS (L) 9 and 10, and Landing Craft Infantry (Large) LCI (L) s 361 and 363 under the command of Lieutenant Albert C. Eldridge.
Organized on 24 January 1945, the Task Group was charged with the supply and support of Filipino guerrillas in Mindanao.
Guerrillas had been previously supplied by submarines through the Spyron operation, which however, limited the amount of material they could receive. With the increasing American air and naval presence in the Philippines, it was now possible to use surface craft for supply.
The Spyron submarine missions ceased in December 1944, when surface deliveries began. It was this role that the two LCS (L) s and two LCI (L) s were assigned. From February 1945 to May 1945, Task Group 70.4 completed thirteen missions.
It was during one of these missions that the genesis for the Talisayan Operation was subtly intimated by Commander Charles “Chick” Parsons, whose work in organizing the submarine supply of the guerrillas had given him a great deal of expertise in the matters facing Task Group 70.4.
The way the suave Parsons proposed the raid to the new commander of the Task Group as described later by Eldridge in the ship’s history is a rather amusing read in hindsight.
“While we were waiting for darkness and the return run to Leyte, the skipper and Cmdr. Charles (Chick, Chico) Parsons talked of this and that. Parsons had been the mentor of the previous work by sub and was starting us off in the right foot by giving advice now and then as to what had been done previously and how we might best work with the guerrillas. He had a background as large as all outdoors in Filipino affairs before the war and exploits as long as your arm in spying activities against the Japs in Manila.”
It was during this trip that Eldridge conferred with Parsons, leading to the first raid against Japanese installations. Their conversation went as follows:
“I imagine there’re quite a few Nips ‘round here, Commander.”
“Helluva lot of ‘em right close.”
“Right over there-across the strait.”
“Mmmm. Doesn’t appear more than twenty miles. Wonder why how much hot water we’d get into, going over to say hello.”
“Can’t say. They have quite a few men, and are building barges in Talisayan.”
“No, that’s not the kind of hot water I mean. I mean we have no orders to go running over here and there shooting people up. And someone back in Tolosa might not like my straying from the path on the first run.”
“You’re right. Some few can cause a lot of trouble. But there’s a mighty nice concentration of them there.”
“Think we could get at them?”
“They’re right on the coast.”
“Mmmm. Like to take a trip! Let’s go look at a chart and see what kind of water there is down there.”
Plain smooth Chico. Silky smooth!
Plans of operation were laid out in a conference between Major Paul H. Marshall, commanding officer, 110th Div (Guerrilla) and Major Harvey Harcourt, Inf, Capt. T.R. Daniel, Inf., Capt. William V. Pritz, Inf., Lt. William Griffin (USNR), and Lt. Albert E. Eldridge (USNR), of Task Group 70.4.
The Talisayan garrison was selected as the target of an amphibious operation because of its value as a barge staging base midway between Cagayan and the Mindanao Sea, as Parsons aptly stated in his earlier conversation with Eldridge.
Reports indicated that the garrison had an approximate strength of 250 Japanese in the town center with another seventy in an outpost at a barrio two kilometers south.
Guerrillas coached in Amphibious Landings
Marshall, following instructions, proceeded to Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, and undertook the training of the guerrillas to be utilized as a landing force. Rigid training lasted ten days.
The 110th Infantry Regiment headed by Maj. Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr. covered the area from Tagoloan River to Lenugos (present day Magsaysay), Misamis Oriental with headquarters at Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.
The regimental staff under Dongallo included Capt. Clyde Abbot (Executive Officer); Capt. Benjamin Pacana (Adjutant, S1); Lt. Fabian Villaroya (Intelligence, S2); Lt. Ireneo Villano (Plans & Training, S3); Lt. Papias Tiro (Finance Officer); Dr. Julian Tolentino (Regimental Surgeon); and Alfredo Hojas (Food Procurement Officer).
The company commanders included Capt. Benjamin Hernandez, Capt. Fernandez, Lt. Emeterio Moreno, Lt. Nilo Moreno, Lt. Jose Docdocil, and Lt. Atilano Labuntog.
Dr. Gerardo Sabal was the 3rd Battalion medical officer stationed in Sta. Ana, Tagoloan.
During a later reorganization, Dongallo handpicked the following officers, assigned them to responsible positions and assigned to strategic areas of the 110th Regiment: Lt. Eustaquio Carpio, Eustaquio Embate, Felino Pangilinan, George Ramos, Realino Edquila, Benjamin Valmores, Natividad del Pilar, and Bonifacio Pailagao.
On 19 March 1945, the two LCIs supported by two LCS’s of Task Group 70.4 arrived at the barrio of Lagonglong, seven miles north of Balingasag for its Mission No. 7, where the LCIs picked up 380 guerrillas.
This task force proceeded immediately to Talisayan arriving there at dawn the following day.
The Mighty Midgets cometh
On the following afternoon, 20 March, the entire group bombarded Talisayan Poblacion, Lipata, Sipalong and Bugdan, Misamis Oriental, all barrios within five miles of each other, for about an hour, destroying houses, ammunition dumps, straddling the Jap headquarters in the area, and flushing 8 Japs who left their rifles, packs, bayonets, ammunition, and other assets behind.
According to Private Alfonso Sumastre, a Filipino guerrilla from the 110th Infantry Regiment who served as a guide in one of the LCS gunboats, Parsons accompanied them on the mission.
“We boarded at Camiguin (island). I was assigned to one of the gunboats that attacked the garrison at Talisayan. Each of the boats had two scouts with them. Parsons directed us to Calamcam, (a coastal barrio in Talisayan) where I pointed out the location of the Japanese and their fuel storage tanks. There were big explosions on the shore and the smoke rose up very high. The raid was very successful. The Japanese did not return there”
In retrospect, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise why the garrison troops turned tail when the naval bombardment started.
Affectionately known in US Navy lore as The Mighty Midgets, these ‘amphibious gunboats’ usually provided close-in fire support for the first assault wave on the beach; barreling at flank speed in a straight line, making two runs and firing rocket barrages at 1,000, 800, and 500 yards. After the rocket barrages, the LCS (L) s would turn broadside and fire at any targets of opportunity. Then they were followed by the Landing Craft itself. After the troops were on the beach head, the LCS (L) would pick off any targets of opportunity.
Originally designated as LCS(L)(3), for “Landing Craft Support (Large) Mark 3”, these 158-foot-long, shallow-draft LCS (Landing Craft Support) ships were small compared with the more glamorous Navy warships — less than half the length of a destroyer. But they more than made up for their size with their firepower.
The LCS (L) (3) ships provided more firepower per ton than any ship ever built for the US Navy. Descriptions of the ships during battles include one comparing them to a lethal 4th of July fireworks show.
LCS (L) s 9 and 10 were among the first group of LCS (L) completed during the war. Both built at the George Lawly & Sons Shipyard near Boston, Massachusetts, each mounted a 3”/50 gun in the bow that could shoot an exploding projectile nearly nine miles. Additional armament included two twin-mounted 40mm anti-aircraft guns, four single-mounted 20mm guns, rocket racks for 4.5 inch rockers, a .50-cal. Machine gun and an 80mm mortar.
With the addition of the mortars, the ships had an enhanced ability to attack shore installations where needed. These mortars were not usually found on the ships but had been acquired locally in order to enhance their capabilities.
As Eldridge wrote later in the ship’s history: “That was the start of our favorite pastime. On the first bombardment by the Nine and Ten (i.e., LCS (L) 9 & 10) we knocked out barrels and barrels of fuel oil and gasoline burned up the huts the Nips lived in. We won our spurs by crippling barge traffic in the area when the fuel was destroyed. We were credited enthusiastically but slightly optimistically by Filipino reports with killing 600.”
A ‘Milk Run’
By 0600 Hrs, the attacking force occupied Sipaca and the barrios of Sipalong and Bugdang. The ammunition dump at Sipaca was blown up by supporting shell fire.
Included in the material captured were two trucks with Chevrolet motors, two usable type A steel barges complete with diesel engines, 20 rifles, many cases of ammunition, 60 sacks of polished rice, canned goods, an excellent automotive repair shop with motor maintenance tools, three radio sets, gasoline, fuel oil, and documents giving the disposition and strength, as well as defense plans, of the entire Jap forces on Mindanao.
To date these plans have been followed fairly closely by the Japanese retreats inland. The trucks were conditioned by the motor machinist mates of the LCS 10 and were running the same afternoon.
The group remained in the area to discourage any counter attacks by the Japanese and when the guerrillas had the situation well in hand, the group returned to its home port, towing one captured Jap steel barge to Mambajao for repairs on the way.
A total of 32 Japs were killed during the initial landings by the guerrillas, with no guerrilla casualties.
During the operation, a total of 145 Japs were killed and 6 captured, with 6 guerrilla casualties and none on the 70.4 Task Force. No doubt The Mighty Midgets made short work of the Japanese garrison.
Archival film footage of the raid was featured in Peter Parson’s documentary about the intelligence missions of his father Chick in “Secret War in the Pacific”. Click here to view the footage along with voice clips from Maj. Paul H. Marshall and Filipino Guerrilla Private Alfonso Sumastre who served as a guide aboard one of the LCS gunboats.
In fact, the landing and occupation of the mission area was such a “milk run” that the Air Force was requested to cancel all bombing and strafing missions in the Talisayan area.
It should be mentioned here that this Talisayan operation was the first amphibious guerrilla offensive against the Japanese- the first of several successful operations in conjunction with Task Group. 70.4.
News of the raid eventually reached Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, Commander Allied Naval Forces South West Pacific Area under General Douglas MacArthur and Commander of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet,
Pleased with their success, Kinkaid authorized them to conduct similar raids on future missions whenever the opportunity presented itself. (compiled by Mike Baños)
1. History of the Mindanao Guerrillas,10th Military District, United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USFIP) unpublished manuscript
2. Summary report of thirteen missions to supply guerrilla forces on various enemy held islands in the Philippine area by units of task group 70.4 under command of Lt. Albert C. Eldridge, NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive. Task Group 70.4
4. Riley, Brendan: Brendan Riley’s Solano Chronicles: Mighty Midget Ships had key role in WWII battles
5. Ilogon, Jesus B., Memoirs of the Guerrillas: The Barefoot Army (unpublished manuscript)
7. Landing Craft Support, World War II Wiki
8. Photo Archives. National Association of USS LCS (L) 1-130
9. Parsons, Peter. Moon River Productions. Secret War in the Pacific. DVD Video @2004, Riverside, CA.