Saturday, January 22, 2011

Catmon Hill (Hill 120) Dulag Leyte

Deployed in 1944 to Schofield Barracks Hawaii, the 96th Infantry Division (The "Deadeye" Division) led the "Return to the Philippines Assault".

USS TENNESSEE BB-43 took up her position off Dulag before dawn on 19 October and, at 0645, began to bombard the landing area north of the town. Her main battery opened up from 8,300 yards, and her secondaries chimed in a few minutes later as she aimed at fortifications and antiaircraft gun emplacements. Catmon Hill, received particular attention from the ships.

Following four hours of heavy naval gunfire on A-day, 20 October, Sixth Army forces landed at Dulag Leyte on Leyte Island assigned beaches at 10:00. By the end of A-day, the Sixth Army had moved 2 mi inland and controlled Panaon Strait at the southern end of Leyte. In the XXIV Corps sector, the 96th Infantry Division held the approaches to Catmon Hill (Hill 120).

On the evening of 22 October General Makino, commander of the 16th Division on Leyte, made changes in his plans. The 16th Division was divided into the Northern and Southern Leyte Defense Forces. The Northern Leyte Defense Force, consisting of the 9th Infantry Regiment reinforced by elements of the 22d Field Artillery Regiment, would defend the Catmon Hill area against the 96th Division.

According to the COMMANDER, THIRD AMPHIBIOUS FORCE "The only smoke mission called for was the smoking-off of Catmon Hill which commanded the northern beach area. This was accomplished expeditiously by smoker aircraft and white phosphorous projectiles from the fire support ships. The smoke was very effective."

Catmon Hill (Hill 120) Dulag LeyteU.S. M7 howitzer fires on Japanese positions at Catmon Hill, Leyte, 27 October 1944.

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LtGen Thomas E. Bourke "The 11th Gun Battalion, near the beach, found itself swinging its guns around to fire on dug-in Japanese positions on Catmon Hill from which the beach and rear area installations were receiving fire."

Before moving inland and defeating major Japanese resistance with attacks at Tabonatabon and the Central Leyte Valley airfields from the XXIV Corps beachhead Gen. Hodge had sent his two divisions into the southern Leyte Valley, which already contained four airfields and a large supply center, Maj. Gen. James L. Bradley's 96th Infantry Division was to clear Catmon Hill (Hill 120), a ridge some 500 yards long 1,400 ft (430 m) promontory, the highest point in both corps beachheads, and used by the Japanese as an observation and firing post to fire on landing craft approaching the beach on A-day. Keeping the enemy on Catmon Hill occupied with intermittent artillery and naval gunfire, Bradley's troops made their way through the swamps south and west of the high ground. The 96th assaulted Catmon Hill on 28 October. By the 31st, when the mop-up of Catmon Hill was completed, American troops had cleared fifty-three pillboxes, seventeen caves, and many other prepared positions.

The Division seized Dulag Leyte beaches and Catmon Hill (Hill 120) this is where the first American flag was raised by the Liberating Forces of Sixth Army, XXIV Corps, 96th Infantry Division.

The Division completed the Leyte mop-up and prepared to depart for the Ryukyus Campaign. The 96th Infantry Division made amphibious assault landings on Okinawa April 1, 1945, the Division captured Dick Hill and Conical Hill and broke resistance. The Division completed the Okinawa mop-up in late July 1945 and sailed to Mindoro Island in the Philippines to prepare for the planned invasion of Japan.

On Leyte 20th October is celebrated as Liberation Day. On Blue Beach where the 3d battalion, 392 infantry landed the 96th Infantry Divisions Memorial Park is now located.

RELATED: General Douglas MacArthur Returns Leyte, Philippine


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