Battle of Manila
Part of the 1944–1945 Philippine Campaign and the Pacific Theater of World War II, "The Stalingrad Of Asia"

An aerial view of the destroyed walled city of Intramuros taken in May 1945
Date3 February – 3 March 1945
Manila, Philippines
14°35′N 120°58′E / 14.583°N 120.967°E / 14.583; 120.967
Result Allied victory

 United States


Commanders and leaders
Douglas MacArthur
Oscar Griswold
Robert S. Beightler
Joseph M. Swing
Emmanuel Ocampo
Marcos V. Agustin
Tomoyuki Yamashita
Akira Muto
Sanji Iwabuchi 
35,000 US troops
3,000 Filipino guerrillas
12,500 sailors and marines
4,500 soldiers[1]: 73 
Casualties and losses
1,010 killed
5,565 wounded[1]: 195 
16,665 killed (counted dead in Intramuros alone)[1]: 174 
100,000+ killed
250,000 total casualties[1]: 174 

The Battle of Manila (Filipino: Labanan sa Maynila; Japanese: マニラの戦い, romanizedManira no Tatakai; Spanish: Batalla de Manila; 3 February – 3 March 1945) was a major battle of the Philippine campaign of 1944–45, during the Second World War. It was fought by forces from both the United States and the Philippines against Japanese troops in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. The month-long battle, which resulted in the death of at least 100,000 civilians and the complete devastation of the city, was the scene of the worst urban fighting fought by American forces in the Pacific theater. During the battle, Japanese forces committed mass murder against Filipino civilians, while American firepower killed many people. The resistance of the Japanese and American artillery also destroyed much of Manila's architectural and cultural heritage dating back to the city's founding. The battle is widely considered to be one of the most intense and worst urban battles ever fought, with it being the single largest urban battle ever fought by American forces.[2][3][4]

Manila became one of the most devastated capital cities during the entire war, alongside Berlin and Warsaw. The battle ended the almost three years of Japanese military occupation in the Philippines (1942–1945). The city's capture was marked as General Douglas MacArthur's key to victory in the campaign of reconquest. It is, to date, the last battle fought within Manila.


The first wave of American troops approaching the beaches of Luzon, January 9, 1945

On 9 January 1945, the Sixth U.S. Army under Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger waded ashore at Lingayen Gulf and began a rapid drive south in the Battle of Luzon. On 12 January, MacArthur ordered Krueger to advance rapidly to Manila.[1]: 83  The 37th Infantry Division, under the command of Major Gen. Robert S. Beightler, headed south.[1]: 84 

After landing at San Fabian on 27 January, the 1st Cavalry Division, under the command of Major Gen. Vernon D. Mudge, was ordered by MacArthur on 31 January, to "Get to Manila! Free the internees at Santo Tomas. Take Malacanang Palace and the Legislative Building."[1]: 83–84 

On 31 January, the Eighth United States Army of Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, including the 187th and 188th Glider Infantry Regiments of Col. Robert H. Soule, and components of the U.S. 11th Airborne Division under Maj. Gen. Joseph Swing, landed unopposed at Nasugbu in southern Luzon and began moving north toward Manila.[1]: 182  Meanwhile, the 11th A/B Division's 511th Regimental Combat Team, commanded by Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen, parachuted onto Tagaytay Ridge on 4 February.[1]: 85–87 [5][6] On 10 February, the 11th Airborne Division came under the command of the Sixth Army, and seized Fort William McKinley on 17 February[1]: 89 

Swing was joined by the Hunters ROTC Filipino guerrillas, under the command of Lt. Col. Emmanuel V. de Ocampo, and by 5 February, they were on the outskirts of Manila.[1]: 87 

Japanese defense

Map of the capture of Manila

As the Americans converged on Manila from different directions, they found that most of the Imperial Japanese Army troops defending the city had been withdrawn to Baguio, on the orders of General Tomoyuki Yamashita, commander in chief of Japanese Army forces in the Philippines. Yamashita planned to engage Filipino and U.S. forces in northern Luzon in a co-ordinated campaign, with the aim of buying time for the build-up of defenses against the pending Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands. He had three main groups under his command: 80,000 men of the Shimbu Group in the mountains east of Manila, 30,000 of the Kembu Group in the hills north of Manila, and 152,000 in the Shobu Group in northeastern Luzon.[1]: 72 

General Yamashita did not declare Manila an open city, although General Douglas MacArthur had done so before its capture in 1941.[7] Yamashita had not intended to defend Manila; he did not think that he could feed the city's one million residents[1]: 72  and defend a large area with vast tracts of flammable wooden buildings.

Yamashita did order the commander of Shimbu Group, Gen. Shizuo Yokoyama, to destroy all bridges and other vital installations and then evacuate the city as soon as any large American forces made their appearance. However, Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi, commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy's 31st Naval Special Base Force, was determined to fight a last-ditch battle in Manila, and, though nominally part of the Shimbu Army Group, repeatedly ignored Army orders to withdraw from the city. The naval staff in Japan agreed to Iwabuchi's scheme, eroding a frustrated Yamashita's attempts at confronting the Americans with a concerted, unified defense.[8][1]: 72–73  Iwabuchi had 12,500 men under his command, designated the Manila Naval Defence Force,[1]: 73  augmented by 4,500 army personnel under Col. Katsuzo Noguchi and Capt. Saburo Abe.[1]: 73  They built defensive positions in the city, including Intramuros, cut down the palm trees on Dewey Blvd. to form a runway, and set up barricades across major streets.[1]: 73  Iwabuchi formed the Northern Force under Noguchi, and the Southern Force under Capt. Takusue Furuse.[1]: 74 

Iwabuchi had been in command of the battleship Kirishima when she was sunk by a US Navy task force off Guadalcanal in 1942, a blot on his honor which may have inspired his determination to fight to the death. Before the battle began, he issued an address to his men:

We are very glad and grateful for the opportunity of being able to serve our country in this epic battle. Now, with what strength remains, we will daringly engage the enemy. Banzai to the Emperor! We are determined to fight to the last man.[9]


Santo Tomas internees liberated

Main article: Santo Tomas Internment Camp

Citizens of Manila run for safety from suburbs burned by Japanese soldiers, 10 February 1945

On 3 February, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division under Maj. Gen. Verne D. Mudge pushed into the northern outskirts of Manila and seized a vital bridge across the Tullahan River, which separated them from the city proper, and quickly captured Malacanang Palace.[1]: 91  A squadron of Brig. Gen. William C. Chase's 8th Cavalry, the first unit to arrive in the city, began a drive toward the sprawling campus of the University of Santo Tomas, which had been turned into the Santo Tomas Internment Camp for civilians and the US Army and Navy nurses sometimes known as the "Angels of Bataan".

For 37 months since 4 January 1942, the university's main building had been used to hold civilians. Out of 4,255 prisoners, 466 died in captivity, three were killed while attempting to escape on 15 February 1942, and one made a successful breakout in early January 1945.

Capt. Manuel Colayco, a USAFFE guerrilla officer, became an allied casualty of the city's liberation, after he and his companion, Lt. Diosdado Guytingco, guided the American First Cavalry to the front gate of Santo Tomas.[1]: 91  Struck by Japanese bullets, Colayco died seven days later in Legarda Elementary School, which became a field hospital. At 9 PM, five tanks of the 44th Tank Battalion, headed by "Battlin' Basic", headed into the compound.[1]: 93 

The Japanese, commanded by Lt. Col. Toshio Hayashi, gathered the remaining internees together in the Education Building as hostages, and exchanged pot shots with the Americans and Filipinos.[1]: 95  The next day, 5 February, they negotiated with the Americans to allow them to rejoin Japanese troops to the south of the city, carrying only individual small arms.[1]: 95  The Japanese were unaware the area they requested, was the now American-occupied Malacañang Palace, and soon afterwards were fired upon and several were killed, including Hayashi.[1]: 95 

On 4 February, the 37th Infantry Division freed more than 1,000 prisoners of war, mostly former defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, held at Bilibid Prison, which had been abandoned by the Japanese.[1]: 96 

Encirclement and massacres

Main article: Manila massacre

Early on 6 February, General MacArthur announced that "Manila had fallen";[1]: 97  in fact, the battle for Manila had barely begun. Almost at once the 1st Cavalry Division in the north and the 11th Airborne Division in the south reported stiffening Japanese resistance to further advances into the city.

General Oscar Griswold continued to push elements of the XIV Corps south from Santo Tomas University toward the Pasig River. Late on the afternoon on 4 February, he ordered the 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment, to seize Quezon Bridge, the only crossing over the Pasig that the Japanese had not destroyed. As the squadron approached the bridge, Japanese heavy machine guns opened fire from a formidable roadblock thrown up across Quezon Boulevard, forcing the cavalry to stop its advance and withdraw until nightfall. As the Americans and Filipinos pulled back, the Japanese blew up the bridge.

On 5 February, the 37th Infantry Division began to move into Manila, and Griswold divided the northern section of the city into two sectors, with the 37th responsible for advancing to the south, and the 1st Cavalry Division responsible for an envelopment to the east.[1]: 101  The Americans secured the northern bank of the Pasig River by 6 February, and had captured the city's water supply at the Novaliches Dam, Balara Water Filters, and the San Juan Reservoir.[1]: 103 

On 7 February, Gen. Beightler ordered the 148th Regiment to cross the Pasig River and clear Paco and Pandacan.[1]: 109  The bitterest fighting for Manila – which proved costliest to the 129th Regiment – was in capturing the steam-driven power plant on Provisor Island, where the Japanese held out until 11 February.[1]: 103, 122  By the afternoon of 8 February, 37th Division units had cleared most of the Japanese from their sector, but the residential districts were damaged extensively. The Japanese added to the destruction by demolishing buildings and military installations as they withdrew. Japanese resistance in Tondo and Malabon continued until 9 February.[1]: 104 

American infantrymen advancing though a ruined building in Manila, February 1945

Trying to protect the city and its civilians, MacArthur had stringently restricted U.S. artillery and air support,[1]: 103  but by 9 February, American shelling had set fire to a number of districts.[1]: 114  "If the city were to be secured without the destruction of the 37th and the 1st Cavalry Divisions, no further effort could be made to save buildings, everything holding up progress would be pounded."[1]: 122  Iwabuchi's sailors, marines, and Army reinforcements, having initially had some success resisting American infantrymen armed with flamethrowers, grenades and bazookas, soon faced direct fire from tanks, tank destroyers, and howitzers, which blasted holes in one building after another, often killing both Japanese and civilians trapped inside, without differentiation.[10]

Subjected to incessant pounding and facing certain death or capture, the beleaguered Japanese troops took out their anger and frustration on the civilians caught in the crossfire, committing multiple acts of severe brutality, which later would be known as the Manila Massacre.[1]: 96, 107  Violent mutilations, rapes,[1]: 114–120  and massacres of the populace accompanied the battle for control of the city.[11] Massacres occurred in schools, hospitals and convents, including San Juan de Dios Hospital, Santa Rosa College, Santo Domingo Church, Manila Cathedral, Paco Church, St. Paul's Convent, and St. Vincent de Paul Church.[1]: 113  Dr Antonio Gisbert told of the murder of his father and brother at the Palacio del Gobernador, saying, "I am one of those few survivors, not more than 50 in all out of more than 3,000 men herded into Fort Santiago and, two days later, massacred."[1]: 110 

The Japanese forced Filipino women and children to be used as human shields into the front lines to protect Japanese positions. Those who survived were then murdered by the Japanese.[12]

U.S. troops at the Rizal Baseball Stadium, Manila, 16 February 1945

By 12 February Iwabuchi's artillery and heavy mortars had been destroyed, and with no plan for withdrawal or regrouping, "each man had his meager supply of rations, barely sufficient arms and ammunition, and a building in which his life would end..."[1]: 144  The 1st Cavalry Division reached Manila Bay on 12 February, but it was not until 18 February that they took Rizal Stadium, which the Japanese had turned into an ammunition dump, and Fort San Antonio Abad.[1]: 144  On 17 February, the 148th Regiment took the Philippine General Hospital, freeing 7,000 civilians, the University of the Philippines Padre Faura campus, and Assumption College San Lorenzo's original Herran-Dakota campus.[1]: 150 

Iwabuchi was ordered by Gen. Shizuo Yokoyama, commander of the Shimbu Group, to break out of Manila on the night of 17–18 February, in coordination with counter-attacks on Novaliches Dam and Grace Park.[1]: 142  The breakout failed and Iwabuchi's remaining 6,000 men were trapped in Manila.[1]: 142 

By 20 February, the New Police Station, St. Vincent de Paul Church, San Pablo Church, the Manila Club, City Hall and the General Post Office were in American hands.[1]: 156–157  The Japanese retreated into Intramuros on the night of 19 February, and the Manila Hotel was liberated on 22 February, where MacArthur found his penthouse in ashes.[1]: 155–156  Only Intramuros, plus the Legislative, Finance, and Agricultural Buildings, remained in Japanese hands.[1]: 157 

Intramuros devastated

U.S. troops fighting in the Walled City, Manila, 27 February 1945
An American stretcher party carrying a wounded soldier through the ruins of Intramuros, 23 February 1945

The assault on Intramuros started at 07:30 on 23 February, with a 140 gun artillery barrage, followed by the 148th attacking through breaches made in the walls between the Quezon and Parian Gates, and the 129th crossing the Pasig River, then attacking near the location of the Government Mint.[1]: 164–167 

The fighting for Intramuros continued until 26 February.[1]: 171  On 23 February, the Japanese released about 3,000 civilians held as hostages, after killing most of the men in the group.[13] Colonel Noguchi's soldiers and sailors killed 1,000 men and women.[14]

Iwabuchi and his officers committed suicide at dawn on 26 February.[1]: 171  The 5th Cavalry Regiment took the Agricultural Building by 1 March, and the 148th Regiment took the Legislative Building on 28 Feb. and the Finance Building by 3 March.[1]: 171–173 

Army Historian Robert R. Smith wrote:

"Griswold and Beightler were not willing to attempt the assault with infantry alone. Not expressly enjoined from employing artillery, they now planned a massive artillery preparation that would last from 17 to 23 February and would include indirect fire at ranges up to 8,000 yards as well as direct, point-blank fire from ranges as short as 250 yards. They would employ all available corps and division artillery, from 240mm howitzers down. (...) Just how civilian lives could be saved by this type of preparation, as opposed to aerial bombardment, is unknown. The net result would be the same: Intramuros would be practically razed."[15] "That the artillery had almost razed the ancient Walled City could not be helped. To the XIV Corps and the 37th Division at this state of the battle for Manila, American lives were understandably far more valuable than historic landmarks. The destruction stemmed from the American decision to save lives in a battle against Japanese troops who had decided to sacrifice their lives as dearly as possible."[16]

American artillery and military operations, according to one estimate, may have caused 40 percent of total non-combatant Filipino deaths during the battle.[17][18]

Before the fighting ended, MacArthur summoned a provisional assembly of prominent Filipinos to Malacañang Palace and in their presence declared the Commonwealth of the Philippines to be permanently reestablished. "My country kept the faith," he told the gathered assembly. "Your capital city, cruelly punished though it be, has regained its rightful place—citadel of democracy in the East."[19]


For the rest of the month the Americans and Filipino guerrillas mopped up resistance throughout the city. With Intramuros secured on 4 March, Manila was officially liberated, albeit completely destroyed with large areas levelled by American bombing. The battle left 1,010 U.S. soldiers dead and 5,565 wounded. At least 100,000 Filipinos civilians were killed, both deliberately by the Japanese in the Manila massacre and from artillery and aerial bombardment by U.S. and Japanese forces. 16,665 Japanese dead were counted within Intramuros alone.[20]

The following months, the 6th Army and Philippine guerrillas shifted towards east of Manila to confront the Shimbu Group in mountain warfare in the Battle of Wawa Dam, and secure Manila's water sources.[21]

In 1946, General Yamashita was executed for war crimes committed during the battle.[1]: 143 

Destruction of the city

A TBF-1 Avenger dropping a bomb over Manila

The battle for Manila was the first and fiercest urban fighting fought by American forces in the entire Pacific War. Few battles in the closing months of World War II exceeded the destruction and the brutality of the massacres and savagery of the fighting in Manila.[1]: 186, 200  In Manila's business district only two buildings were not damaged and those two were looted of their plumbing.[22]

A steel flagpole still stands today at the entrance to the old U.S. Embassy building in Ermita, pockmarked by numerous bullet and shrapnel hits, a testament to the intense, bitter fighting for the walled city.

Filipinos lost an irreplaceable cultural and historical treasure in the resulting carnage and devastation of Manila, remembered today as a national tragedy. Countless government buildings, universities and colleges, convents, monasteries and churches, and their accompanying treasures dating to the founding of the city, were ruined. The cultural patrimony (including art, literature, and especially architecture) of the Orient's first truly international melting pot – the confluence of Spanish, American and Asian cultures – was eviscerated. Manila, once touted as the "Pearl of the Orient" and famed as a living monument to the meeting of Asian and European cultures, was virtually wiped out.[23][24]

Most of the buildings damaged during the war were demolished after the Liberation, as part of rebuilding Manila, replacing European style architecture from the Spanish and early American era with modern American style architecture. Only a few old buildings remain intact.[25][26]


Battle of Manila (1945) Historical Marker, Malacañang Palace

On 18 February 1995, the Memorare-Manila 1945 Foundation dedicated a memorial called the Shrine of Freedom to honor the memory of the over 100,000 civilians killed in the battle. It is also known as the Memorare Manila Monument and is located at Plaza de Santa Isabel in Intramuros. The inscription for the memorial was penned by National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin and reads:

"This memorial is dedicated to all those innocent victims of war, many of whom went nameless and unknown to a common grave, or even never knew a grave at all, their bodies having been consumed by fire or crushed to dust beneath the rubble of ruins."

"Let this monument be the gravestone for each and every one of the over 100,000 men, women, children and infants killed in Manila during its battle of liberation, 3 February – 3 March 1945. We have not forgotten them, nor shall we ever forget."

"May they rest in peace as part now of the sacred ground of this city: the Manila of our affections."

See also


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az Connaughton, R., Pimlott, J., and Anderson, D., 1995, The Battle for Manila, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 0891415785
  2. ^ Intrec Inc (1974). "Weapons Effects in Cities. Volume 1". Technical Report – via DTIC.
  3. ^ Hartle, Anthony E. (1975). Breaching Walls in Urban Warfare (Master's thesis). United States Army Command and General Staff College. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  4. ^ Ling, Caleb M. (2019). The Smart City: Achieving Positions of Relative Advantage During Urban Large-Scale Combat Operations (Master's thesis). United States Army Command and General Staff College. Retrieved 4 March 2024.
  5. ^ Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen
  6. ^ History of the 511th Airborne Regiment Archived 15 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Ephraim, Frank (2003). Escape to Manila: from Nazi tyranny to Japanese terror. University of Illinois Press. pp. 87. ISBN 978-0-252-02845-8.
  8. ^ Sandler, Stanley – World War II in the Pacific: An Encyclopedia, p.469; Taylor & Francis, 2001; ISBN 0815318839, 9780815318835
  9. ^ The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia: Iwabuchi Sanji
  10. ^ Echevarria de Gonzalez, Purita. Manila – A Memoir of Love and Loss, Hale & Iremonger, 2000. ISBN 0-86806-698-2.
  11. ^ "Atrocities by Nipponese in Manila Bared". Times Daily. Times Daily. 17 April 1945. p. 7. Retrieved 21 November 2023 – via Google News Archive.
  12. ^ Perry, Mark (April 2014). The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur. Basic Books. p. 320. ISBN 9780465080670.
  13. ^ Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, United States Army in World War II, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1961, p.299
  14. ^ Raphael Steinberg, Return to the Philippines, Time-Life, p.143;
    ^ Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, p.294, 299.
  15. ^ Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, United States Army in World War II, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1961, p.294
  16. ^ Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, United States Army in World War II, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1961
  17. ^ "Manila 1945, the Destruction of the Pearl of the Orient: A Review of Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila". The National WWII Museum. 18 October 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  18. ^ Nakato, Satoshi. "The Death of Manila in World War II and Postwar Commemoration". Research Gate. Senior Council of Japan. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  19. ^ Morison 2002, p. 198
  20. ^ Russell Wilcox Ramsey; Russell Archibald Ramsey (February 1993). On Law and Country: The Biography and Speeches of Russell Archibald Ramsey. Branden Books. pp. 41. ISBN 978-0-8283-1970-6.
  21. ^ Smith, Robert Ross. "HyperWar: US Army in WWII: Triumph in the Philippines [Chapter 22]". Retrieved 18 April 2023.
  22. ^ "War Scars". Time. 16 April 1945. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  23. ^ Capili, Maria Angelica A. (2008). Bantayog: Discovering Manila through its Monuments. Foreign Service Institute. p. 18. ISBN 978-971-552-075-1. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  24. ^ Mancini, J.M. (3 April 2018). Art and War in the Pacific World: Making, Breaking, and Taking from Anson's Voyage to the Philippine-American War. Univ. of California Press. p. 7. ISBN 9780520294516.
  25. ^ Doeppers, Daniel F. (11 April 2016). Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850–1945. University of Wisconsin Pres. pp. 333–335. ISBN 9780299305109.
  26. ^ Felton, Mark (15 November 2007). "16; The Rape of Manila". Slaughter at Sea: The Story of Japan's Naval War Crimes. Casemate Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84468-858-6. Retrieved 26 January 2022.


Further reading