THE weather on 9 January (called S-day) was ideal. A light overcast dappled the predawn sky, and gentle waves promised a smooth ride onto the beach. At 0700 the pre-assault bombardment began and was followed an hour later by the landings. With little initial Japanese opposition, General Krueger’s Sixth Army landed almost 175,000 men along a 20-mile beachhead within a few days.” [https://www.6thinfantry.com/the-battle-of-luzon-compared-with-other-battles-of-world-war-ii/]
Not the Traslacion, not Manila, not the Black Nazarene. This was Operation Mike 1 of 1945, the major American landing on Luzon on the last year of World War II. “General MacArthur’s campaigns in the Southwest Pacific Area now neared their climax.”
“The Third Fleet struck its first blows in support of the Lingayen operation on 3 January 1945 in the Formosa and Nansei Shoto regions…On 6 January, the Third Fleet moved back into position to begin its neutralization strikes against Japanese installations on Luzon, preparatory to the imminent Sixth Army landings…Initial intelligence from photographs and numerous guerrilla reports indicated that the shores of the Gulf had been fortified by the Japanese…(09 January) by 0940 all landing waves had hit the beach. Initial opposition on the beaches was limited to mortar fire from the hills in the San Fabian region which damaged some of the landing craft. By late afternoon, the four division commanders had assumed control ashore…By the morning of 10 January, troops of the 43rd Division were in positions from San Jacinto to Rabon.” [https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/MacArthur%20Reports/MacArthur%20V1/ch09.htm]
Like Leyte, the operation was a success, and guess who was the star?
“Our forces have landed in Luzon. In a far-flung amphibious penetration our troops have seized four beachheads in Lingayen Gulf. The movement was covered by a blistering naval and air bombardment, using both land-based and carrier-based planes. The enemy’s air force made repeated and desperate attacks against our naval force formations in an endeavor to break the cohesion of our movement but, beyond inflicting some loss and damage, was unsuccessful. In these encounters were destroyed seventy-nine enemy planes, one midget submarine, two destroyers, one coastal cargo ship, and many small harbor and coastal craft. The enemy evidently had not prepared for a landing in the Lingayen sector and as a result of this strategic surprise our landing losses were insignificant. We are now in his rear. His main reinforcement and supply lines to the Philippines are cut and his ground fight for Luzon will have to be made with such resources as he now possesses there. The back door is closed. The decisive battle for the liberation of the Philippines and the control of the Southwest Pacific is at hand.”
“General MacArthur is in personal command at the front and landed with his assault troops.
His ground forces of the Sixth Army are under General Krueger, his naval forces of the Seventh Fleet and Australian Squadron are under Admiral Kinkaid, and his air forces of the Far East Air Force are under General Kenney. The Third Fleet under Admiral Halsey is acting in coordinated support.” [G.H.Q. Southwest Pacific Area Communique No. 1008, 10 January 1945]
Was the area marked for historical role? In the second decade of the 20th century, a traveler observed: “We have also had the Cabaruan fiasco in Pangasinán, in the course of which a new town with several thousand inhabitants sprang up in a short time. There was a place of worship where the devout were at prayer day and night. There was also a full-fledged holy Trinity made up of local talent. Unfortunately, some of the principal people connected with this movement became involved in carabao stealing and other forms of public disorder, and on a trip to Lingayen I saw the persons who had impersonated God the Son and the Virgin Mary in the provincial jail.” [Dean Conant Worcester. The Philippines Past and Present (Volume 2 of 2). NY: The Macmillan Company, 1914, p. 945]
With comparable fervor as that of Quiapo’s Black Nazarene and the Traslacion, inspiring nostalgia as well at the dawn of the Philippine Commonwealth: “I long to stroll on the silver sand in old Lingayen beach, And look out on the gulf as far as the eye can reach. I’d love to watch the fishermen combing the sea with their oars, And the men pulling in their net of fishes to the shore.” [Victorio Velasco, “Yearning for Home,” Philippine Advocate, March 1936]
But in the mid-1940s, this part of Pangasinan attracted violence due to its position on the map. “It may be expected that important landing areas affording direct approach to the air centers, to focal points on the road net and other features of strategic importance will be highly organized and held in strength. Of all landing areas on Luzon, none is more certain to fall within this category than Lingayen Gulf which is the most direct and inviting route into the vital Central plain. The enemy is known to have already mined its waters, and by target date it is expected that its shores will be strongly organized and manned for sustained defense.” [G.H.Q. Southwest Pacific Area, Staff Study Operations – “Mike One,” 07 October 1944]
“Lingayen Gulf provides the best area for amphibious assault due to its access to rail and 22 road networks leading to the capital of Manila at the southeast of the central plain.”
[Command and Control of Guerrilla Groups in the Philippines, 1941-1945. A Monograph by MAJ Thomas R. Nypaver, Texas Army National Guard. School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2017, p. 22]
This Lingayen Landing was indeed a key event in history, and as far as the Filipinos are concerned, the guerrillas of 1945 are true heroes of the Lingayen Landings. “When the US Sixth Army landed on Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945 and pushed towards Manila, the Pangasinan Hunter units cooperated with it.” [Brief History and Evolution of the Hunters ROTC Guerrillas, as recorded by Lt. Col. Eleuterio “Terry” Adevoso; compiled by Lt. Col. Gustavo C. Ingles]
It was an Allied effort. “The ran participated in support of the occupation of Akyab and a larger Australian force including the cruisers Australia and Shropshire, two destroyers, two frigates and three LSI supported the landing of the American 6th Army at Lingayen Gulf on the west coast of Luzon.” [Robert Deane, The Balancing Act: The Australian Government And The War In The South-West Pacific, 1944-45]
This writer was in Lingayen for the 60th anniversary of the landing of U.S. troops (See Malaya Business Insight column for January 16, 2005). This Thursday is the 75th anniversary, and how relevant is it today? World War III, anyone?