Marine 155mm Gun Battalions in the Philippines

Posted on April 12th, 2016 by:

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Marine 155mm Gun Battalions in the Philippines:

The role played by two Marine 155mm Gun Battalions during the Liberation of the Philippines is a little known chapter in the colorful and hallowed story of the US Marine Corps in WWII.

After being ordered to escape the Philippines by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, General Douglas MacArthur first made his famous “I shall return” speech on March 20, 1942, at the Terowie railway station in South Australia.

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General MacArthur wades ashore on Leyte

From that day forward, General MacArthur’s ultimate ambition was to liberate the Philippines and avenge his disastrous losses at Bataan and Corregidor.

After fighting the Japanese in grueling, leap-frogging campaigns in New Guinea and across the Southwest Pacific, MacArthur landed his forces on the Philippine island of Leyte on October 20, 1944.

The next day, Marines of the 11th 155mm Gun Battalion, 5th 155mm Howitzer Battalion and V Amphibious Corps Artillery Headquarters Battalion landed to support Army units of the XXIV Corps which were engaged in fighting Japanese forces on the island.

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Marine shirt Corps from the 5th 155mm Howitzer Battalion

Although it was unusual for Marine Artillery outfits to support Army units and vice versa, an exception was made in this case as the Army’s XXIV Corps heavy artillery had been detached to support Marine landings in the Mariana Islands and had not returned in time for the Leyte operation, prompting commanders to send Marine Artillery, then stationed at Pearl Harbor to support the Army landings in the Philippines.  

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Close up of the markings. The shirt is identified to a Marine PFC (1) from the Headquarters and Service Battery (H) of the 5th 155mm Howitzer Battalion (5)

Manning an artillery piece of the 11th 155mm Gun Battalion, PFC’s Frank Pinciotti, Shelby Heimback and Walter Dangerfield decided that the Marines deserved some recognition for their part in the battle. Pinciotti painted a sign on the cover of a wooden ammunition box that read: “By the Grace of God & and the help of the Marines, MacArthur has returned to the Philippines” and hung it from the barrel of their  gun. An officer soon ordered the sign taken down, as General MacArthur was expected to arrive and inspect the men, but not before other Marines saw it and began duplicating it in other parts of the island.

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                               Marine Sign on Leyte

The Marine 155mm Gun Battalions continued to support the XXIV corps from October to December 1944, fighting in heavy rains and harsh tropical conditions. Due to the difficult terrain of Leyte, one of the greatest assets available to the Marines was a squadron of twelve L-4 Piper Cubs who acted as spotters to pinpoint targets for the artillery. On the night of December 6, Japanese Paratroopers were dropped near the Buri airfield, the base of the Piper Cubs, and after joining local Japanese forces, attacked the Americans stationed there. After three days of fighting that involved American Army and Marine units, the Japanese were eliminated and the American’s took back full possession of the airfield. On December 11, 1944, XXIV artillery arrived on Leyte and relieved the Marines, who were soon on their way to the Mariana Islands with an Army commendation for their “splendid performance”.

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