The Sixth Army landings on an 18-mile (29km) front on the east coast of Leyte were the first step in retaking the Philippine Islands. Following a massive pre-invasion naval bombardment and air strikes, Tenth Corps came ashore between Palo and Tacloban. The landing conditions were close to perfect, with clear weather and light surf for the planned attack at 1000 Hours. The seizure of the key objectives of Palo and Tacloban Airfield would guarantee control of San Pedro Bay and the San Juanico Strait. (Note: gridlines are shown at intervals of 1K (0.62 miles).
The 3-D Leyte map tells a story by the use of numbered yellow triangles that link a location with an event in time. Pick a number of a yellow triangle (above) and click on the corresponding blue box link (below). A text box will open. The blue numbered boxes on the map are U.S. Army infantry devisions. The red lines are Japanese infantry positions. USS Elmore (APA-42) and Hill 522 are highlighted.
All along the landing beaches, Admiral Kinkaid's Task Group (TG) 77.2 (Bombardment and Fire Support Group) and TG 77.3 (Close Covering Group) conduct direct fire support. Battleships, cruisers and destroyers hit the coast to silence Japanese artillery and to shock any defending troops. At 0945, naval gunfire is lifted from the landing beaches and targeted further inland and to the flanks.
LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry) are prepared for the landings. Rocket and mortar-barrage LCIs lead the way in the assault waves, and at 0945, 15 minutes before H Hour, they lay down heavy fire on the beaches.
The lead elements of Task Force 78 Northern Attack Force, comprising the 1st Calvary Division of X Corps, land on White Beach. The 5th and 12th Cavalry regiments (1st Brigade, X Corps) land at the southern end of the beach. These troops were transported by landing craft from USS Elmore (APA-42) and USS DuPage (APA-41).
The 7th Cavalry Regiment (2nd Brigade, X Corps) hits the northern end of White Beach. The 5th and 12th Cavalry regiments (1st Brigade, X Corps) land at the southern end of the beach. These troops were transported by landing craft from attack transports USS Fuller (APA-7), USS Wayne (APA-54) and attack cargo ship USS Aquarius (AKA-16).
The lead troops of 19th and 34th regiments from 24th Infantry Division land on Red Beach above Palo. These troops were transported by landing craft of USS Elmore (APA-42) and USS DuPage (APA-41).
Japanese 75mm artillery and mortars strike the follow-on waves of landing craft off Red Beach, some 2-3km off shore. Four LSTs suffer damage and one catches fire.
Japanese mortar fire scored hits on two LCVPs from Elmore and sank a boat from Aquarius, killing three men and injuring 15 more. Elmore Coxswain Franklin Burgess is fatally wounded. (The coxswain is the person in charge of a boat, particularly its navigation and steering.) Burgess' boat was hit by a Japanese mortar shell, and he died a short time later. He was Elmore's only war casualty.
The 7th Cavalry Regiment secures San Jose by 1230, then advances to secure Tacloban Airfield on Cataisan Point by 1600.
A platoon from the Japanese 33rd Infantry Regiment attempts to counterattack the 19th Infantry Regiment as it moves southward towards Palo. The attack is repulsed by U.S. troops.
At Guidapuinan, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment encounters stiff resistance from Japanese pillboxes some 450m inland.
The 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment (24th Division) captures Hill 522, which dominates the city of Palo, Highway 2, and the shoreline; Japanese troops had established strong defenses there, comprising pillboxes, trenches and tunnels. This successful action opens up the entrance to northern Leyte Valley for future advances.
After minor resistance in Palo, 19th Regiment troops seize a bridge across the Bangon River. Despite their success, Japanese resistance west of the town slows movement for the 24th Infantry Division towards Carigara.
By the end of A-Day, 7th Calvary Regiment has advanced 2.7 km westward, and establishes its perimeter for the night.
Although the 5th and 12th Cavalry regiments have been slowed by waist-deep swamps as they push westward from White Beach, both regiments reach their objective lines by day's end.
Elements of the 5th Cavalry Regiment approach Cibaan and the hills west of Marasbaras. American cavalrymen face intense rifle fire from Japanese defenders. The cavalrymen kill 13 Japanese. After facing more opposition and tough terrain, the 5th Cavalry receives orders to halt their advance into the hills.
Continuing their advance north, elements of the 7th Cavalry Regiment enter Tacloban, Leyte's capital. Japanese defenders have entrenched themselves in hills west of Tacloan and in the city.
The 7th Cavalry Regiment secures the city of Tacloban. General MacArthur establishes the Philippines Civil Government in the city the following day.
The 8th Cavalry Regiment continues to probe northwest of Tacloban.
The 12th Cavalry Regiment pushes through Utap into the foothills to the west of Tacloban.
Source: Leyte 1944: Return to the Philippines
Ospry Publishing, Campaign 282. 2015
By Clayton Chun
Illustrated by Giuseppe Rava