Relief map of Cebu

Cebu is one of the Visayan Islands of the central Philippines and is located between Negros to the west and Bohol to the east. It is the ninth largest of the Philippine Islands, being 135 miles (217 km) long and about 20 miles (32 km) wide with an area of 1695 square miles (4390 km2). In 1941 it had a road around most of its coast and a railroad along the east coast. Another road crossed the island from Cebu City to Toledo in the west. The island has a central mountain chain reaching to 3599' (1097 meters).

Cebu City (123.8944E 10.3033N) is the oldest port in the Philippines, founded by the Spanish in 1565.  It was the Spanish capital of the Philippines until 1571 and was still the commercial center of the southern Philippines in 1941.

The town had an airstrip (Lahug) and was the headquarters of the Visayan-Mindanao Force and was garrisoned by 82 and 83 Regiments of 81 Philippine Division when war broke out. Over 10,000,000 rounds of ammunition were at the docks awaiting distribution. Another airstrip was located at Bogo at the northern end of the island.

Elements of 124 Regiment (Kawaguchi) took Cebu City and Toledo on 10 April 1942.  An attempt was made to establish a last-ditch bastion in the rugged interior, but the troops here felt compelled to surrender upon the fall of Corregidor.

The Japanese heavily garrisoned the island, establishing the headquarters of 35 Army (Suzuki) here and concentrating 14,500 troops by 1945. This was the largest garrison in the Visayas. However, the only real combat formations were 102 Division (Fukei), which had lost most of its battalions when they were redeployed to Leyte, and the remnants of 1 Division (Kataoka), whose three regiments were down to a battalion each after fighting in Leyte and evacuating to Cebu. The remaining Japanese units were cobbled together from service troops. These included Navy troops from 33 Special Base Force and 36 Guard Force (Harada). About 85% of the Japanese troops were concentrated in the Cebu City area.

In accordance with Japanese doctrine at this point in the war, Suzuki established his main defense line about two and a half miles (4 km) inland, at the base of the foothills rising from the coastal plain. During the five months following the Leyte landings, Suzuki heavily fortified his line with pillboxes and cave positions. His troops also improvised large numbers of mines from 60mm mortar shells. These were placed both offshore as anti-boat mines and along the roads leading into Cebu City. At the urging of Manjome Takeo, commanding the Cebu garrison, Suzuki departed from tactical doctrine to the extent of setting up antitank ditches, sharpened bamboo stakes, and other obstacles among the mines and putting up more than token resistance on the beaches.

Elements of Americal Division (Arnold) were landed on 26 March 1945 four miles (6 km) south of Cebu City. Preliminary bombardment by Cruiser Division 15 (Berkey) was successful in neutralizing the Japanese sailors detailed to defend the beaches, but did not neutralize the mines, which knocked out ten of the 15 LVTs in the first wave and held up the landings for 90 minutes while the covering force tried to identify the mortar batteries they thought were responsible. Mine clearing was hampered by a lack of equipment in 8 Army, which had never encountered significant numbers of beach mines before. However, once ashore, the troops found the defensive positions abandoned and were able to secure Cebu City the next day. They found the city almost completely demolished by the retreating Japanese.

During the landings, a midget submarine was sighted and caused brief consternation. The submarine was sighted again the day after the landings by destroyer escort Newman and sunk by automatic weapons fire.

102 Division had retreated to a stronghold northwest of the city, near the airfield, and was not cleared out until 18 April. About 7500 Japanese escaped to the north where 1 Division was deployed.  The American renewed the attack in early June with the help of two Filipino guerrilla regiments, driving the Japanese further into the mountains. American Division then withdrew to prepare for the invasion of Japan, leaving the remaining Japanese to the guerrillas.

Casualties were 5500 Japanese dead and 405 taken prisoner, and 420 Americans dead, another 1730 wounded, and over 8000 ill with hepatitis and malaria.

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