Dear Members of the 6th Infantry Division:
I have had the occasion to search for available statistics over the internet regarding World War II and have discovered that the Battle for Luzon is commonly and, unfortunately, overlooked by the public when we recall World War II. Luzon was the second largest battle of the Pacific, surpassed, only by Okinawa.
Here is some information for comparison:
I. Normandy Invasion And Battle.
On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000: 23,250 on Utah Beach, 43,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed (61,715 of them British): 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7900 airborne troops.
Total Allied casualties on D-Day are estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. British casualties on D-Day have been estimated at approximately 2700. The Canadians lost 946 casualties. The US forces lost 6603 men. Note that the casualty figures for smaller units do not always add up to equal these overall figures exactly, however (this simply reflects the problems of obtaining accurate casualty statistics).
Casualties on the British beaches were roughly 1000 on Gold Beach and the same number on Sword Beach. The remainder of the British losses were amongst the airborne troops: some 600 were killed or wounded, and 600 more were missing; 100 glider pilots also became casualties. The losses of 3rd Canadian Division at Juno Beach have been given as 340 killed, 574 wounded and 47 taken prisoner.
The breakdown of US casualties was 1465 dead, 3184 wounded, 1928 missing and 26 captured. Of the total US figure, 2499 casualties were from the US airborne troops (238 of them being deaths). The casualties at Utah Beach were relatively light: 197, including 60 missing. However, the US 1st and 29th Divisions together suffered around 2000 casualties at Omaha Beach.
The total German casualties on D-Day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4000 and 9000 men.
Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged.
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners.
II. The Invasion And Battle for Luzon.
Ultimately ten U.S. divisions and five independent regiments would see action on Luzon, making it the largest campaign of the Pacific war and involving more troops in any invasion than the United States had used in North Africa, Italy, or southern France.
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 preassault 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 twenty-mile beachhead within a few days. While the I Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Innis P. Swift, protected the beachhead’s flanks, Lt. Gen. Oscar W. Griswold’s XIV Corps prepared to drive south, first to Clark Field and then to Manila. Only after the Manila area had been secured was Swift’s I Corps to push north and east to seize the vital road junctions leading from the coast into the mountains of northern Luzon.
American casualties were also high. Ground combat losses for the Sixth and Eighth Armies were almost 47,000, some 10,380 killed and 36,550 wounded. Non-battle casualties were even heavier. From 9 January through 30 June 1945, the Sixth Army on Luzon suffered 93,422 non-combat casualties, including 260 deaths, most of them from disease. During that same period, the battle casualties for the 6th Army, alone, totalled 37,854 of which 8,140 were killed in action. (This from Page 7, of the Assistant Chief of Staff Report, of the Sixth United States Army, Luzon Campaign, Vol. III, (restricted)(I have an original of this report). Only a few campaigns had a higher casualty rate.
The largest American Battle Monument Commission Cemmetary outside of Arlington Virginia, is on Luzon where over 17,000 Americans are buried.
III. The Invasion And Battle of Okinawa:
This is the only Campaign in the Pacific I could find that surpassed the Battle for Luzon. Iwo Jima and Guadacanal, even combined, are only about half the casualties of either Luzon or Okinawa.
The Battle of Okinawa, fought on the island of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands (south of the four big islands of Japan) was the largest amphibious assault during the Pacific campaign of World War II. (In which over 60,000 troops were involved in the landing). [ Statement does not seem to be accurate if compared with Luzon] It was noted as the largest sea-land-air battle in history, running from April through June, 1945.
American losses were were over 72,000 casualties, of whom 12,000 were killed or missing, over twice Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal combined. Compare this with Luzon.
About a quarter of the civilian, and Japanese and American populations about the island in spring 1945 were killed. There were about 100,000 Japanese killed or captured; many preferred suicide to the disgrace of capture.
The battle of Okinawa (and for that matter the Battle of Luzon) have landed in a strange black hole, as far as the United States in concerned. The war was over (or nearly over at the outset) in Europe; the end in Japan was in sight, and American’s were returning to peacetime pursuits; president Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, the end of an era. The horrific carnage often draws blank stares from Americans.
The land campaign was controlled by 10th Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner.
The army had two corps under its command, III Amphibious Corps, consisting of 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, with 2nd Marine Division as an afloat reserve, and XXIV Corps, consisting of the 7th, 27th, 77th and 96th Infantry Divisions.
The battle took place over about 82 days after April 1, 1945. The American’s swept across the thin part of the south-central part of the island with little difficulty, soon taking the entire north, and Kadena Air Base, which at present writing (August, 2003) is still the largest American air base in Asia.
The island fell on about June 21, though some Japanese continued fighting, including the future governer of Okinawa Prefecture, Masahide Ota.
Admittedly, nothing in history compares to Europe and the Normandy campaign for the United States in World War II. Especially, considering the greater threat of Hitler and Germany and this battle as the turning point for the allies along with Stalingrad. And there is a battle to surpass all of these I’ve just mentioned.
However, if we objectively examine the Pacific Theater of operations during World War II, the Battles for Okinawa and Luzon rank #1 and #2, respectively, for the shear size of the operations and the loss in terms of casualties. Certainly, Iwo Jima and Guadacanal were significant and horrific battles, but they tend to overshadow even Okinawa and Luzon in our imagination as if the two never existed.
The symbol of the Pacific continues to be the raising of the flag on Mt. Surabachi on Iwo Jima where 70,000 Marines landed and suffered over 26,000 casualties of which 5,521 were killed in action; or it tends to be the Guadalcanal campaign in which there were a total of only 5,775 casualties, of which 1,592 were killed in action (1,042 Marines and 550 US Army soldiers). Yet even if we combine these two campaigns, they represent significantly fewer casualties compared with either the battles of Luzon or Okinawa.
The reason for this over-focus on Iwo Jima and Gudalcanal seems to be because of several factors including the fact that Guadalcanal was America’s first major battle in the Pacific and Iwo Jima had such a high casualty rate. Other reasons seem to be that Okinawa and Luzon took place against the backdrop of: (1) the end of the War in Europe; and (2) the death of FDR. This is partially why the larger campaigns of Luzon and Okinawa became secondary news. Then, in the wake of the use of the Atomic Bomb, much of the story was largely forgotten. Most Americans will give you a blank stare if you mention the subject. American dignitaries follow suit and visit and mention the Pacific with references to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima as do many journalists and historians with little mention of the rest of the Pacific Theater.
Another problem was the Army’s inability or unwillingness to engage in public relations. By contrast, the United States Marines had then and have now a terrific public relations arm to tell the story of their service. The Army at the time had very little of that and what it had was unfortunately, overshadowned by focus on Douglas MacArthur. It is unfortunate also that many of the Armyâ€™s service records for World War II were destroyed in a fire in the 1970s at their repository in St. Louis Missouri. In my opinion, that even is a further example of neglect, incompetence, and disrespect for the branch of the service that actually did most of the fighting and dying in the War and in the Southwest Pacific.
I cannot even count the number of times I have had to tell some relative of an Army veteran of the Pacific that, unfortunately, their loved one’s service records may be gone. We must never forget that the largest American Cemetery outside of Arlington, VA, is near Manila on Luzon in the Philippines. It is not in Normandy, France.
Soon, a new Stephen Spielberg film is coming out to retell the story of Iwo Jima. I am all for it because it is a great story that in many respects symbolizes, and exemplefies the heroic sacrifices of all of the troops in the Pacific which is difficult to fathom it its enormous scale. I will certainly want to see the film. However I am still disappointed that, the largest stories of the Pacific War: Okinawa and Luzon still go largely untold. American dignitaries and politicians visit and revisit Normandy, but when was the last time a Senator, Congressman, or President showed up at the Manila Cemetery in the Philippines to pay homage to these fallen heros of the Pacific?
It is a sad oversight and needs to change, especially for the sake of those who fought and died there and the over 36,000 unknowns who were never found and who can only be memorialized at the cemetery. To see an image and read a description about the Manila Cemetery go to the second page of our photo gallery under the topic “Memorial To The War Dead Of The Pacific.” or go to the American Battle Monuments Commission’s website.
(Son of Robert E. Price, (63rd Inf. Cos. L, D & Med. Det.)).