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    Prelude to Cagayan’s Liberation: The Tagoloan-Bugo Operation

    This is our second special feature on the events leading to the Liberation of Cagayan on May 12, 1945 by Filipino Guerrillas in commemoration of the 79th Anniversary this coming Sunday, May 12, 2024.

    Before the Liberation of Cagayan, Misamis on May 12, 1945 by local guerrillas of the 10th Military District, preliminary operations were already being carried out at the Bugo-Tagoloan areas in coordination with US Army X Corps.

    Late in April, when it became apparent that the Japanese Imperial Army (IJA) was planning to consolidate for a final stand in the hills northwest of Davao. Lt. Gen. Richard L. Eichelberger, commanding general, 8th Army, decided to land a regimental combat team at the rear of the enemy in the Macajalar Bay area of northern Mindanao.

    This force would drive down the Sayre Highway to meet the 31st Division advancing from the south. The 108th Regimental Combat Team of the 40th Division from Leyte was selected for the operation.

    Prelude to Macajalar Bay Landing

    Col. Wendell W. Fertig, commanding officer of the 10th Military District, was authorized by Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert, commanding officer of the X Corps, to eliminate the Japanese forces at the Bugo-Tagoloan area. Fertig ordered the 1st Battalion (Bn), 110th Infantry Regiment, 110th Division to undertake the operation.

    The 110th Division garrisoned portions of Misamis Oriental east of the Tagoloan River and the provinces of Agusan, Surigao and Davao. Activated on November 20, 1942, it consisted of the 110th, 113th, 114th and 30th Infantry Regiments. The division had 317 officers and 5,086 enlisted personnel.

     It was commanded by Lt. Col. Edward Ernest McClish with headquarters at Medina, Misamis Oriental, which was later moved to Buenavista, Agusan (when it was still one province.) McClish organized one of the first guerrilla units in 1942 that later joined the 10th Military District under Fertig.

    The 110th Infantry Regiment headed by Maj. Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr. covered the area from Tagoloan River to Lenugos (present day Magsaysay), Misamis Oriental with headquarters at Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.

    The 110th Regimental staff under Dongallo included Capt. Clyde Abbot (Executive Officer); Capt. Benjamin Pacana (Adjutant, S1); Lt. Fabian Villaroya (Intelligence, S2); Lt. Ireneo Villano (Plans & Training, S3); Lt. Papias Tiro (Finance Officer); Dr. Julian Tolentino (Regimental Surgeon); and Alfredo Hojas (Food Procurement Officer).

    Major Rosauro P. Dongallo, Sr., Commanding Officer, 110th Infantry Regiment, 10th MD, USFIP

    The company commanders included Capt. Benjamin Hernandez, Capt. Fernandez, Lt. Emeterio Moreno, Lt. Nilo Moreno, Lt. Jose Docdocil, and Lt. Atilano Labuntog. Dr. Gerardo Sabal was the 3rd Battalion medical officer stationed in Sta, Ana, Tagoloan.

    During a later reorganization, Dongallo handpicked the following officers, assigned them to responsible positions and assigned to strategic areas of the 110th Regiment: Lt. Eustaquio Carpio, Eustaquio Embate, Felino Pangilinan, George Ramos, Realino Edquila, Benjamin Valmores, Natividad del Pilar, and Bonifacio Pailagao.

    The ‘Eastern Front’

    At 1700 Hrs on 27 April 1945, battalion units crossed the Tagoloan River and occupied Tagoloan and Baluarte without any opposition. Earlier, enemy positions were bombed by American B-24 Liberators and B-25 Mitchell bombers.

    Six Japanese were killed in an encounter with no guerrilla casualties when they attempted to escape by fording the Tagoloan River at Nabulod.

    A-GUER_1

    On 28 April 1945, troops of “A” Co., 1st Bn, ambushed an enemy patrol while on combat patrol towards Kimaya, at Tacpon, in the vicinity of Sta. Ana, inflicting 25 enemy casualties. The remaining Japanese dispersed in twos and threes but were hunted down.

    On the same day, four more enemy stragglers were cornered and killed in action (KIA) by  “A” Co. troops at Inablayan.

    The 2nd Bn was ordered to pull out on 01 May 1945 to reinforce the 1st Bn at Tagoloan River perimeter. The 1st Bn perimeter ran from Sabaya to Tagoloan Ferry, with the 2nd Bn securing the perimeter from Ferry to Balacanas.

    On the same day, Japanese troops re-occupied Tagoloan and Baluarte.

    Clearing the beach head

    On 07 May 1945 the 1st and 2nd Battalions were ordered to cross the Tagoloan River and form a beach head at the beach areas of the shoreline from Baluarte to Bugo for the expected American landing and clear the rear areas of Japanese.

    At 1700 HRS the next day 08 May 1945 the two units crossed the Tagoloan River and re-occupied Tagoloan and Baluarte without any opposition.

    By the next day 09 May 1945 patrols made a three-pronged attack on the Japanese in Bugo to establish the beach head. Six Japanese were reported KIA and 2 guerrillas killed with 3 wounded.

    However, when Japanese reinforcements arrived by truck from Alae, Bukidnon, the guerrillas were again  forced  to withdraw to Baluarte.

    Later, all troops were ordered to withdraw further north of the Tagoloan River to avoid the scheduled air and naval bombardment of the area scheduled the following day to clear the way for the American landing at Tin-ao, Barangay Agusan, Cagayan, Misamis.

    The Americans return

    The Visayan Attack Group Task Force 78.3  was a 67 ship-strong flotilla under Rear Adm. Arthur D. Struble  with the USCGC Ingham (Cmdr. K.O.A. Zittel) as flag and guide. On 09 May 1945, the Macajalar Bay Attack Unit (Task Unit 78.3.4) was formed and departed for Mindanao.

    On 10 May 1945 (Q-Day) a line of departure was established 3,000 yards off Brown Beach, the designated beach head, and destroyers commenced shore bombardment of the beach area at 0730 Hrs., with Ingham directing operations.

    At 0803, Landing Ships, Tanks (LSTs) began discharging the 1st Battalion of the 108th Regimental Combat Team (40th Division) Tracked Landing Vehicles (LVT’s) for the first and second waves, the first wave hitting the beach with no opposition at 0830 and the second landing four minutes later.

    Guerrilla Clear the Way

    They found the beachhead at Tin-ao, northeast of Agusan near Bugo in the Macajalar Bay Area already secured by the guerrillas.

    The close coordination between the guerrillas and the invasion force is illustrated by the official chronology of this operation which details how guerrilla officers reported on board the Ingham at 0928 Hrs. to discuss the situation ashore, departing at 0942.

    Later the same day, two LCIs shuttled guerrillas from Villanueva and Gingoog to Brown Beach, and again on May 12 ferrying more guerrillas from Gingoog, Balingasag and Babamoo to secure the beachhead.

    Landing at Tin-ao, Agusan

    Following an aerial bombardment, the 78.3.46 Inshore Support Unit consisting of LCS (L) 30, 42, 79 and 80 under Lt. Sendree lay down a close covering fire on the beaches starting at 0810, followed by a rocket barrage at 0825, before receiving orders to lift gunfire by 0827 to allow the first wave of the LVTs to land.

    At 0908 Medium Landing Ships (LSM) began beaching and unloading. The operation proceeded as planned and the Army forces pushed inland.

    This landing, which was known as the Victor-V-A Operation was made in accordance with General Eichelberger’s plan for the clearance of the Sayre Highway in Bukidnon.

    It marked the first time American forces landed in Cagayan at exactly the same date three years earlier when the USAFFE Vis-Min Forces under Maj. Gen. William F. Sharp surrendered to the Japanese in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

    The Liberation of Cagayan de Oro during World War II will be commemorated by the “War of our Fathers” World War II Exhibit starting May 12, 2024 at the 2nd Floor of SM CDO Uptown. This is brought to you by the Philippine Veterans Bank, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), City of Cagayan de Oro, Province of Misamis Oriental, SM CDO Uptown and the Cagayan de Oro World War II & Veterans Studies Committee. Exhibit is open during mall hours. Admission is free.

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