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Operation Te-Go
Japanese Paratrooper Attack on Leyte December 7, 1944
by Justin Taylan

Background
After the American landing at Leyte and fall of the coastal airstrips to the Americans, Japanese General Yamashita ordered the entire Japanese Army's 3rd Parachute Regiment (Katori Shimpei Force) commanded by C.O. Lt Col Tsunehiro Shirai of two regiments to jump on San Pablo Airfield and Buri Airfield in an attempt to recapture both airfields, part of a coordinated attack with the Japanese Army's 26th Infantry Division attacking from the west of Leyte. The 26th was to cross the mountains and assault during the same night.

Operation WA
MapA total of 409 Japanese paratroopers prepared for battle and then boarded K-49 Helen and Ki-57 Topsy transports at Angeles South Airfield and Del Carman Airfield.

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At about 1800 hours on December 6, 1944, a flight of Japanese bombers approached from the west over San Pablo Airfield. 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."

Counterattack
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 US forces.

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.

References
Nippon News Leyte Paratroopers Attack - December 6-7, 1944
Thanks to Tony Feredo for additional information.

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