The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Operation "WA"

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

Captain Kenneth A. Murphy, 11th Airborne Division United States Army, was stalking the Japanese and the Japanese were also stalking him. The night was pitch black, so it was almost impossible to tell friend from foe. Suddenly a light chain of bright tracer bullets headed towards him, so Captain Murphy leaped headfirst into a deep two-man foxhole nearby. It was already occupied by one person, who was a shadow in the darkness. The Captain was glad to have company with all the commotion that had suddenly erupted. Neither man dared say a single word,  as the enemy was all around and any sound could possibly bring a barrage of hand grenades. All night long the two men tried to stay awake and stand guard over each other and each was wondering just who the other fellow might be.

When dawn broke, much to Captain Murphy's surprise, he recognized the man's steel helmet. His fox hole "Buddy" was one of the enemy, a Japanese paratrooper. At the same time the enemy paratrooper recognized Captain Murphy as a United States soldier, for he quickly raised his rifle with fixed bayonet and hacked the Captain on the side of his neck. Captain Murphy tried to raise his carbine but received another bayonet thrust deep into his shoulder. Then, as the Japanese paratrooper poised the third and fatal bayonet thrust, Captain Murphy managed to pull the trigger on his carbine. The Japanese dropped dead at his feet, shot in the forehead.

The Captain took a small Japanese silk battle flag and a pistol off the dead man. They would forever remind him just how close he came to being killed.

Cecil Owen

On May 6, 1942, the Philippines fell to the Japanese.

On March 11, commander of the U.S. Army Forces, General Douglas MacArthur, was ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to leave for Australia. The General said good-bye and  made a solemn pledge to the Filipino people; "I shall return." And on Friday October 20, 1944, he fulfilled that pledge as he left the USS warship, the Cruiser Nashville, and boarded a small landing craft. With him were all members of his staff, a corps of  newspaper reporters and the Philippine President. However, the landing craft ran aground in shallow water and became stuck fast. So General MacArthur, along with his entourage, had to wade about 35 yards to reach the beach.

Once on the beach, he stepped before a

Signal Corps microphone and began a very emotional speech:

"This is the voice of freedom, General Douglas MacArthur speaking. .. People of the Philippines, I have kept my word, I have returned, by the grace of almighty God, our armed forces stand again upon Philippine soil, and at my side stands your President, Sercio Osmena. Therefore the seat of your government is once again established on Philippine soil."

To invade Leyte Island, four divisions of the sixth U.S. Army under Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, landed on Leyte Island's east coast between Tacloban and Dulag. Tacloban was the island capitol and had an airport. Dulag was a coastal town also with an airport.

Of all the islands in the Philippine chain, why did the General pick Leyte Island?

It was centrally located within the island chain  and had a large valley that stretched from the landing beaches to the center of the island. The valley housed several towns, a road network and a friendly population. Here General MacArthur planned to establish a complex of air-bases, supply depots, and troop staging areas.

From these bases, planes could reach anywhere in the Philippines, Formosa, and the Chinese coast. He would be able to cut Japan's lifeline to Southeast Asia, with its oil and other raw materials.

Three days later, General MacArthur moved his headquarters off the cruiser USS Nashville, to the city of Tacloban. He moved into a mansion built by an American business tycoon before the war. The Japanese had been using it as an officers club.

Opposing General MacArthur in this campaign were two very formidable Japanese warriors, General Tomoyuki Yamashita and Lieutenant General Kyoji Tominaga. General Yamashita was known as the tiger of Malaya because of his success in conquering that country. He was known for his cruelty, and after the war ended, he

was executed for the war crimes he and his soldiers committed. Together these two came up with a plan that they called "Operation WA." It would be an all out air and ground assault on the American airfields in the Burauen area.

The San Pablo, Buri and Bayug airfields were all near the town of Burauen. First the airfields would be attacked and heavily bombed for several days. Next, a special unit of 80 paratroopers,  the Kaoro airborne raiding detachment would crash land three transport planes on San Pablo and Buri airfields. This should give Japan temporary air superiority.

The Japanese could also then bring in supply and troop ships. Then they could send two regiments of paratroops to land on the Burauen airfields and seize control. However, "Operation WA"  got off to a very bad start. For two days Kamikaze planes and

bombers attacked the Leyte airfields and U.S. ships in Leyte gulf.

Three Japanese transport planes carrying the demolition raiders took off from an airfield in southern Luzon Island. (The time was 2:30 am and the date was Tuesday November, 27, 1944.) One plane was shot down by U.S. anti-aircraft fire and everyone on board was killed when it crashed. The other two planes did crash-land without injuring any of the raiders but in the pre-dawn darkness, they came down in the wrong place and became lost no where near any of the American airfields.

Next the Japanese paratroopers 2nd parachute raiding brigade were scheduled to drop on the Burauen airfields Wednesday, December 6th. The men were superbly trained, fresh and well equipped for their mission. Besides being heavily armed with infantry weapons, they carried all kinds of signaling equipment, even scores of musical instruments; harmonicas, bugles, whistles, clappers, gongs, and flutes. (Were they expecting to play at a party or what?)

The paratroopers had unit flags, luminous material sewed onto their uniforms for identification in the dark. The men were also stocked with food rations and bottles of Sake (Japanese wine). But the Japanese paratroopers lacked one very important item .. not enough transport airplanes to carry all 1,400 of them at one time. Since the planes were not available, they were to be dropped in three waves. This would cause a considerable delay because the Japanese airfield on Luzon Island was over 300 miles from Leyte Island.

The first wave of paratroopers, about 360 men, dropped from the sky that evening. Captain Kenneth A, Murphy was standing in a chow line at San Pablo airfield. He was also casually watching a flight of transport airplanes. Two planes were directly overhead, so Captain Murphy could see the doors were open and men standing in each door. Suddenly, the sky over him became full of parachutes. The descending Japanese paratroopers dropped down right on top of the 11th U.S. Airborne Command Post, and the nearby Buri airfield. Needless to say, as darkness fell, Bedlam broke out everywhere.

Some of the invaders went systematically around blowing up small airplanes, gasoline dumps and buildings. But most of them seemed confused, or drunk, or both. They ran madly up and down the airfield screaming Banzai, Banzai!

Flares were shot off at random and grenade blasts pierced the air. Adding to the confusion, many of the Japanese were rushing up and down sounding off on the musical instruments! No one could be certain if a shadowy figure was friend or foe. This continued for several days until finally, on December 10th, the last Japanese were either dead or driven into the mountainous jungle.

Meanwhile the second wave of paratroopers were forced to turn back to Luzon airfield. The third wave was grounded because of the bad weather. So much for the bold scheme of General Yamashita and Lieutenant General Tominaga. It had all been for nothing and the paratroopers had died for nothing. (There were also Japanese infantry ground troops involved in this scheme, which I did not have space to mention.)

General MacArthur had already stopped work on all three of the Burauen airfields as he had deemed them unsuitable. And a new airfield was under construction at Tanauan, an east coast town. This was completely unknown to Japanese intelligence.

Return to the Philippines
World War ll. Time-Life books
Unexplained Mysteries of World War ll.
William B. Breuer
Illustrated World War ll. Encyclopedia Volume
H.S. Stuttman Inc.