PRELUDE TO BATTLE OF LEYTE
The squat PBY "Black Cat" flying boat dropped down from the sunlit and taxied to a halt just off the beaches near the town of Tacloban on the western shore of the Leyte Gulf. It was a risky business. Leyte
was held by the Japanese, and the lumbering aircraft was a sitting duck or enemy artillery. A door swung open and out hopped the peripatetic Commander Charles Parsons, the American master spy. With him was a U.S. Army colonel, Frank Rouelle. It was October 10, ten days before 'MacArthur was to hit Leyte.
This was Parsons eleventh mission in the Philippines, and one of the most crucial. His task was to scout the landing beaches, inform guerrilla leaders nearby of the impending invasion, and to gather intelligence for MacArthur's headquarters.
Chick Parsons had been a resident of Manila when war broke out, and posing as an honorary consul to Panama he had managed to remain there when the Japanese invaded. In 1942 he had slipped out of the country, eventually reached New York, and was given' a commander's rank by the Navy. Sent to Australia, Parsons had promptly become one of General Whitney's most successful agents.
Now, clad in soiled cotton shirt and trousers and a straw hat, Parsons headed for the small port of Tacloban, the only community on the large island of Leyte that could lay claim to any modernity. It was at Tacloban, with a population of some 25,000, that General MacArthur planned to establish his headquarters.
But Tacloban first would have to be heavily bombed and shelled ¬without prior warning. The Allied command was sure it was an impor¬tant center of Japanese resistance or a major headquarters and supply base. Slipping into the town, the barefoot Parsons wandered up one street and down the other, soaking up everything he saw. After three hours of snooping, he stole back to his hiding place in the jungle.
"Q-10," as he was listed at the Allied Intelligence Bureau, sent an urgent message to headquarters at Hollandia: No enemy soldiers or facilities in Tacloban. The town was thereby spared destruction and the lives of many civilians were saved. Over the next week Parson's radio signals informed MacArthur's headquarters of the absence of underwa¬ter obstacles to the landing beaches, of enemy strong points on the heights at Carmon and other hills inland, of mines in waters around Leyte Gulf, as well as the disposition of Japanese units. Commander Parsons also contacted Colonel Ruperto K. Kangleon, one of the ablest guerrilla leaders, and found that the Filipino had already deployed his forces to knock off the Japanese as they pulled back in the face of MacArthur's amphibious assault.
Alerted by the lookout on Suluan, and by air reconnaissance, that an American armada of over seven hundred ships, stretching out for a hundred miles, was heading for the entrance to Leyte Gulf, Lieutenant General Sosaku Suzuki was confidant that MacArthur's highly adver¬tised return to the Philippines would meet with disaster. Suzuki, com¬mander of the Thirty-fifth Army in the central islands, was almost euphoric as he told his staff: "My only worry is that the American leader [MacArthur] might attempt to surrender only the troops in this opera¬tion. We must demand the capitulation of MacArthur's entire forces, those in New Guinea and other places as well as on Leyte.".