Holding the Line: The 45th Infantry Regiment (PS) at the Abucay Line, Part 4

January 20-21 on the Abucay Line found much of a continuation of the previous days. Both the 31st Infantry and 45th Infantry (PS) continued attacks against the Japanese right flank, even as enemy pressure increased on the battalions at the far left of the Fil-Am line.

In return, the Japanese were shifting the larger part of their 141st Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Takeo Imai westward, trying to maneuver around the refused left flank at the end of the Abucay Line, where the 3rd Battalion of the 45th Infantry held the end position. They planned for a final assault to turn the Abucay Line after nearly two weeks of being stymied. Japanese forces across the rest of East Asia were advancing, but IJA 14th Army in the Philippines was not.

Patrolling action from the Scout’s L Company on the right of the 3rd Battalion’s front detected a large enemy force some 1,000 yards east of the battalion’s position, an indication of the buildup of enemy troops in the ravine beyond the MLR. The buildup was not just a movement of troops, as the pressure the Japanese exerted on the Fil-Am left included attacks. The 31st Infantry recorded that between January 20 and 24 they repulsed 10 enemy attacks on their positions.  Both sides were wearing each other down.

Imperial Japanese Army soldiers firing a Type 92 (1932) 7.7-mm. heavy machine gun, gas-operated and air-cooled. This was the standard Japanese heavy machine gun.  (Courtesy Allworldwars.com)

Imperial Japanese Army soldiers firing a Type 92 (1932) 7.7-mm. heavy machine gun, gas-operated and air-cooled. This was the standard Japanese heavy machine gun. (Courtesy Allworldwars.com)

Scout Patrols toward Mt. Natib recovered a very rare person in the form of a Scout deserter, a six-month recruit from Company L who joined the Scouts just before the war, whom they brought back to the unit. It was the first known deserter in the battalion, a development in stark contrast to the high standards of the Philippine Scouts.

But on the left-most flank of the line there were no major enemy attacks against Scout-held positions. That did not mean all was quiet – far from it. When a Scout rifleman in I Company sat a little too high in his frontline foxhole, a Japanese sniper shot him dead with a bullet through his forehead.

On the end of the line, where K Company was, an exposed hill south of the company’s dangling (refused) flank, machine gun positions were only occupied in hours of darkness. During the day the position was covered by machine guns guarding the battalion left rear and from K Company’s position.

Philippine Scout reenactors man an M1917 .30 caliber machine gun.  (LRRP HK Team courtesy Pbase.com)

Philippine Scout reenactors man an M1917 .30 caliber machine gun. (LRRP HK Team courtesy Pbase.com)

Even the 3rd Battalion Rear at the Abucay Hacienda was at risk. A HQ soldier using the Battalion’s 3-inch telescope from the roof of a Hacienda building attracted enemy attention, with a bullet smashing the lens of the scope, hundreds of yards from where any enemy forces should have been.

It wasn’t always one way either. When alert Scouts of I Company spotted a Japanese observer in a tree across the Balantay River, the enemy was shot out of the tree. A lone Japanese soldier who tried to get water from the river at dusk was also shot.

The Scouts were able to occasionally see some enemy movement in the distance across the river, towards the left flank. But the Japanese apparently did not initiate any major attacks in this time along the portions of the line held by the 45th.

To the west more evidence of Japanese infiltration with hostile raiding patrols south and east in the Abo-Abo River Valley were received. A Philippine Army Regiment secured the Guitol Hacienda trail until it was attacked by enemy forces from the north and east at 2100 hours. With the pressure building on the Abucay Line’s left flank, coupled with the deep flanking movement over the “impassable flanks of Mt. Natib, the situation was growing more dire.

The rugged slopes of Mt. Natib, thought to be impenetrable, loomed beyond the western end of the battlefield.  (Courtesy Mapcarta.com)

The rugged slopes of Mt. Natib, thought to be impenetrable, loomed beyond the western end of the battlefield. (Courtesy Mapcarta.com)

On 21 January, Headquarters II Corps sent a Lieutenant Colonel staff officer to the 3rd Battalion, 45th Infantry (PS) Battalion Command Post at the Abucay Hacienda. The Commanding Officer of the 31st Infantry, to which the Scout 3rd Battalion was attached in this action, was present for the conference and discussed the subject of withdrawal from their position on the Abucay Line. As if to underline the danger of the developing situation, a Japanese light bomber dropped a bomb 75-feet away from the group.

Mitsubishi Ki-30 ANN light bomber looks for a target.  (Courtesy Mission4today.com)

Mitsubishi Ki-30 ANN light bomber looks for a target. (Courtesy Mission4today.com)

Sustaining the troops on the front line was not an easy task. Getting supplies and food forward was not possible during the day given the battle situation. With all these challenges, these activities largely took place at night.

When the barrel of a heavy machine gun in L Company burned out, the heavy weapons company, M Company, sent a replacement to that rifle company aboard the kitchen truck. In all, 12 meals reached the Scouts at the 3rd Battalion’s front lines in the eight days or so it was on the Abucay Line.

And what, you might ask were the Philippine Scouts receiving in their half rations? Theoretically, they were supposed to receive 10 ounces of rice and four ounces of meat or fish in a single ration of food. Through January and February, 1942, the daily intake rarely exceeded 30 ounces total, and on Bataan the full half ration was never really attained due to the poor planning and execution which resulted in a pathetic supply situation. The 30 ounce daily total compares unfavorably to the peacetime standard of 64 ounces for Filipino soldiers.

Supplied well or not, the Philippine Scouts on the western end of the Abucay Line held their positions against increasing enemy pressure. They held the line with determination even as signs emerged that they were being outflanked farther to the west. In fact, it would take orders from Headquarters to remove them from their positions on the MLR, and direct enemy action had failed to dislodge them from their portion of the Abucay Line. It was a stand which all Philippine Scouts, their colleagues, families, countrymen and women can be proud of.

Philippine Scout reenactors hold the Abucay Line.  (Courtesy Panzergrenadiers.net)

Philippine Scout reenactors hold the Abucay Line. (Courtesy Panzergrenadiers.net)

References

Besbeck, Louis B., “The Operations of the 3rd Battalion, 45th Infantry (Philippine Scouts) at the Hacienda at Mt. Natib, Luzon, 16 – 25 January 1942 (Bataan Campaign) (Personal Experience of a Battalion Executive Officer).” The Infantry School, Ft. Benning, GA, Advanced Officers Course, 1946-1947, at: http://rodhall.filipinaslibrary.org.ph/PDF/MS%20RH%206_Besbeck_005806-The%20Operations%20of%20the%203rd%20Battalion%2045th%20Infantry%20%28Ph.pdf

Morton, Louis, “The Fall of the Philippines,” Chapter XXI, The Battling Bastards, at: http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/005/5-2-1/CMH_Pub_5-2-1.pdf

Pierce, Henry, J., “The Operations of Company L, 45th Infantry (P.S.) (Philippine division) on the Abucay Hacienda Line, Bataan, P.I., 15 – 25 January 1942 (Philippine Islands Campaign) (Personal Experience of the Company Commander).” The Infantry School, Ft. Benning, GA, Advanced Officers Course, 1949-1950, at: http://www.benning.army.mil/library/content/Virtual/Donovanpapers/wwii/STUP2/PierceHenryJ%20MAJ.pdf

Whitman, John W. “Bataan – Our Last Ditch.” Hippocrene Books, Inc., NY, 1990

Photos from

IJA machine gunners, at: http://www.allworldwars.com/The-War-Against-Japan-Pictorial-Record.html

Philippine Scout machine gunners, at:  http://www.pbase.com/kalashnikov/image/135166782

Mt. Natib, at: http://mapcarta.com/Bataan/Gallery

Ki-30 ANN, at:  http://www.mission4today.com/index.php?name=ForumsPro&file=viewtopic&t=14431&start=15&finish=15&printertopic=1

Philippine Scouts on line, at:  http://www.panzergrenadier.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=20482

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