At about 1800 hours on December
6, 1944, a flight of Japanese bombers approached from the west over San
The bombers circled overhead and dropped a few bombs while their accompanying
fighters remained high and well out of range. Next, two flights of transport aircraft
aircraft in a “V” of V's” came
in slowly over San Pablo at about seven hundred feet and their paratroopers jumped. About 300 men of the Katori Shimpei
Force landed and attacked in all directions.
Although the Japanese
had picked some of their best men to make the attack, and surprise was complete,
utter confusion was apparent among them once they hit the ground. Many were
killed before they could take up a fighting position. Others inflicted heavy
damage and dug in to make the airstrip untenable. The Japanese paratroopers
had evidently been commanded to destroy the liaison planes and supply dumps.
They set fire to planes and everything flammable in the dumps. They attacked
the bivouac of division personnel manning the supply installation and destroyed
their camp. The only division troops present at this time were from the 127th
Engineers, the Signal Company, and Headquarters Battery of Division Artillery.
Henry J. Muller, Jr. recalls the event:
"At first it sounded like a swarm of bees in the distance. Then it became
clear. No one could mistake the drone of a formation of troop carrier aircraft.
Some one outside shouted "Transports!" "Japs!" "Paratroopers!" The division staff
dashed out of the mess tent looking skyward. By now a dozen parachutes had opened
above us and everyone began firing at them I even emptied two clips from my .45
at the nearest parachutists."
John Tilley 431st FS recalls:
"Pilots spent two nights in a row [on the ground] until the Army cleaned out the Japanese paratroopers. We did not get any sleep for two day's in a slit trench with a M1 Carbine and he added the pilot's were so nervous that if a rabbit had moved it would have been blown to hell."
Frank Widay recalls:
"Ashore at Leyte the 892th Chemical Company was subjected to a Japanese paratrooper attack on December 7, 1944. This was the only time I fired my personal weapon: at descending paratroopers. After a frightening night, the attack was neutralized."
The 674th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was ordered to leave its guns
on Bito Beach and get to the airstrip prepared to fight as infantry. Thereafter,
throughout the Leyte Campaign, this is the way they fought. At daylight on
the seventh, just as an attack by headquarters people got started. Colonel
Hosak arrived with his 674th Artillery-infantry men. The Japanese were holed
up all around the strip but initially the strongest resistance was made in
front of the Engineers. The 674th pushed across the strip and into a coconut
grove some seven hundred yards north of the airstrip. Here they halted and
dug in for the night. On the eighth, Colonel Hildebrand arrived with the First
Battalion of the 187th to take over the task of clearing the airfield. The paratrooper
and infantry attack proved to be disorganized and an abortive effort. Operation WA ended in disaster as IJA paratroops
were not able to hold their initial gains and were wiped out by overwhelming
Japanese Infantry Offensive Fails
The remnants of the Japanese 16th Division were doing their part in the so-called
coordinated attack. Lieutenant Hurster of the 187th set up a perimeter around
the 44th Station Hospital with forty men, including cooks, supply personnel
and drivers. Their line held and no Japanese penetrated it during the night.
Next morning patrols crossed the rice paddies and killed the remaining Japanese.
One regiment of the 16th managed to mount a halfhearted
night attack on the 11th but it was repulsed with heavy losses. About 1500
men, survivors of the 16th Division, assembled northwest of Buri Strip and,
on 6th December, launched an attack through a swamp. Inflicting heavy losses
on American service troops stationed at Buri, they dug in and prepared to fight.
Moving into Burauen Heights at this time, the First Battalion of the 187th
met a portion of this force and destroyed them. The 187th then turned back
to dislodge the Japanese force on the north edge of the Buri strip. While the
First Battalion was clearing the Burauen airfields the Second Battalion of
the 187th relieved elements of the division north of Anonang where they had
contained one of the two main
The other Japanese portion was west of Mahonag, where
the long sought Japanese supply road was found. It was decided to cut this
supply trail at Anas, a deserted village, to sever the Japanese in the mountains
from their supplies. On the night of the 26th, artillery, mortars and machine
guns pounded the Japanese.
On the 27th, the Second Battalion stormed Purple
Heart Hill and stayed atop it. The Japanese who were not killed were scattered
to the north and west. Those moving north ran into the First Battalion of the
187th,which had attacked southward along the gorge. An after-battle search
of the area disclosed 238 Japanese bodies in addition to many fragments of
bodies, arms and legs, mangled by artillery. Also in the Purple Heart Hill
area was found the end of the main Japanese supply trail, which wound over
the hills and through gullies from Ormoc Bay to Anonang.
Nippon News Leyte Paratroopers Attack - December 6-7, 1944
Thanks to Tony Feredo for additional information.