Shanghai Jim (shanghai_jim) wrote in little_details,
Shanghai Jim

Help Me Recapture An Airfield?

When: February 4-12, 1945
Where: Nichols Field, Manila, Philippines

This may be the most quixotic request you will ever read on this comm. But I might as well try my luck, you people are amazing.

I need to reconstruct a battle. The target is an airfield serving the capital of the Philippines. The combatants are the Marines and sailors of the Manila Naval Defence Force of Rear Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji, and the 11th Airborne Division of Maj. General Joseph Swing. The American force is composed of the 511th parachute infantry regiment and the 187th and 188th gliderborne regiments. The Japanese force is arrayed along a seven-mile long, 6,000-yard deep complex of pillboxes, artillery positions, and repositioned naval guns--the Genko Line. It cuts off the southern end of Manila from attack. One end is at Manila Bay, the other at rocky heights above a very large lake named Laguna de bay. The airfield is almost merged into this line.

The US forces have come up from the south and have been facing growing resistance the closer they get to the objective. To breach the line, the three regiments split up. The 511th, with half of the 187th attached, proceeds northwest along the coast of Manila Bay, breaking through the Line after 3 days and circling up around the airfield and attacking from the vulnerable north. The 188th and the remainder of the 187th attack from the southeast. Their mission is to take the airfield and clean out the Line from the inside.

Question: How would the companies of the 511th regiment be arranged, in this attack scenario? Which battalion would lead? What factors would weigh in for the regimental commander to set up his attack? Attack in a column or in a broad line of companies?

These are paratroopers, with typical WW2 paratrooper equipment and training; they have limited armor and air support; they are almost all combat veterans of jungle fighting a few months earlier. The route of attack takes them over a half-blown bridge, along a coast of abandoned mansions of the local elite, into a poor area south of the capital itself, and down into the airfield, through flat land with almost no trees, with grass from knee to shoulder height. All of this takes place under hard but intermittent fire from artillery, mortars, machine guns, and huge naval guns emplaced on land, growing more and more pervasive the closer they get to the Line.!

Research done: I've been working on this book for about a year and have done Internet and library searches and been in close correspondence with 511th regimental association archivist who runs their website. The several books I have about this part of the Philippine Campaign leave things either at the division/regimental maneuver level, what I've stated above, or are firsthand accounts with hard to decipher clues about location. I have one veteran's story from B-511th but he does not say exactly where the company was. I'm waiting on a couple of other letters, but snail mail across the Pacific from World War II vets you've never met who may or may not want to talk about this to a stranger writing a novel with a completely fictional squad inserted into their company, is not a hopeful situation.

This is the first revision of my novel; the draft of this chapter features a lot of solipsistic ground-level POV of the US soldiers, but I feel I need this slightly broader view, which is lacking.

I think what I would ideally have are the after-action reports for this particular company (B-511th), but I don't know how to get them, or even if I can. In lieu of that, I think I need what in the movies they call a military advisor.

Thanks for your patience.
Tags: usa: military: historical, ~military (misc), ~world war ii

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