General report Operation Love Three compiled by
S/Ldr Overend, C.O. of No.61 Forward Echelon
Engineering diary kept separately by C.0. No. 3 A.C.S.
Conference notes etc. filed where applicable.
7 Dec. 44. Still staging at Leyte. Three aircraft shot down last night, and paratroops landed at Dulag, in three enemy transport aircraft each with 50 troops. Two crashed on landing without survivor’s remainder being contained, one attained entry to sixth Army Headquarters and was killed by guards. Enemy transport aircraft intruded into landing circle Tacloban, and attempted to land with Commandos. Aircraft shot down but fire took four Allied Aircraft.
8 Dec 44. Enemy snipers shot U.S. serviceman on truck one mile from camp, continual light enemy air activity. (Term “Air activity” “aircraft overhead” includes bombing, strafing ack- ack fire)
9 Dec 44. Gun fire through camp last night adjacent unit guards in action against each other. Enemy air activity early this morning. Packed up ready to load as from tonight. Talosa has 4,500 ft. of mat completed. 22 days-schedule with three Aviation Battalion requires 6,500 ft, of mat, asphalted with 70-30 bitumen, plus 25 inserts and large alert areas. Second phase further 22 days includes road works additional 50 inserts taxiways, etc. to be done by one Battalion. General work includes clearing coconut palms; leveling, draining, overlay three inches of coral gravel, planking, and 70-30 bitumen finish. In some cases palm fronds used below matting in lieu of gravel. 1874th, 866th and 3 A.C.S. to on-load at Catnon. Bulk loading proceeding at White Beach with 50 No. 3 A.C.S. men engaged. 3 given authority to collect 6,000 sandbags, but could not collect as none available. Light form of dysentery rife throughout transit camp period. Camp situated on sand spit between river and sea, approximately 100 yards wide. Natives continually in camp and indeed camp area included native village. These crowded conditions pertained right through Leyte.
10 Dec 44, Commenced loading at 0900 hours, and with the exception of L.S.T. “D” carrying Avgas, completed in less than five hours. 3 A.C.S. worked far better than U.S. Battalions. Many U.S. L. S. T’s still working on ramps at noon, and all, in contrast to 3 A.C.S., had wet loading. L.S.T.’s pulled out at 1700 hours, Enormous fire developed Avgas dump, reducing L.S.T. “D” from, the Scheduled 1000 drums to 500. (See separate notes for loading operations,) L.S.T. DD guarding bombed and beached. Second DD shot down 8 enemy aircraft, L.S.T, skipper requires all personnel. to remain below during “general Quarters” (flash red or “battle Stations”.) 3 A.C.S. L.S.T. Nos. 460, 741, 911, 1018.
11 Dec 44. Instructions to all officers committed to writing by Commanding Officer, No. 3 A.C.S. and delivered to each L.S.T. a.m. CO No. 5 BDU given written instructions by Forward Echelon, Commanding Officer 3 A.C.S. still ill - 3rd day in bed. Underway at last on Operation Love-3, with convoy consisting of about 20 L.S.M’s, 30 to 35 L.S.T.’s, a dozen attack destroyers, 15 destroyers, about 5 cruisers and a miscellany of small fry such as PT boats, mine sweepers, LCI rocket, LCI “G” etc. “Tokyo- Rose” remarked last night that we were two days late and that 600 Australians were included in operation. Actually operation postponed 10 days. Whole population of Leyte aware of movement.
12 Dec 44. Missing.
13 Dec 44. U - 2 Battle stations one hour prior to dawn daily, this in¬cludes guns manned fully, R.A.A.F. ammunition passers in pos¬ition, all watertight doors closed, and all personnel below deck. The wearing of lifebelts and tin hats is mandatory. Enemy territory on each side eight miles away with lights visible. Two battleships, two cruisers, five aircraft carriers, 15 destroyers, providing naval escort on horizon. Convoy deployed to full formation entering Sulu Sea.
“Abandon ship” drill. Airmen being allotted to life rafts, about 20 each with officer, life rafts take crew also and are under charge of ship’s officer. Life rafts will hold about 12 people. Water bottle to be taken on this drill. Ship’s orders posted in ward room reads “It is expected that we will be under fire continuously day and night, The enemy has installed IFF and for this reason the screen of escorts may be unable to warn us of their approach. Constant voice radio activity in chart room, e.g. “Roger to Charlie” Enemy planes, unknown number expected between our port bow and our port beam, over “Frenchy to Fish-shop” Bogeys four aircraft bearing 27 Zero, elevation 25 degrees, over etc, etc.
Flash red, official raid No.1 Operation Love Three. Command cruiser hit by suicide enemy dive-bomber. One other twin engines Betty shot dawn by escorting Lightnings, tried to crash adjacent destroyer. Two Corsairs shot down third enemy. Several other actions. GOC and Admiral transferring command ship. Continuous enemy action during night.
14 Dec 44. U-1. Escort aircraft operating from carriers within sight. Forward Task Force and separate Aft Task Force Navy attacked 0900 hours. Bomb bursts on horizon. Aft force reports four enemy shot down. Received signal U - Day, 15 December 1944.
H-Hour 0720 hours. 3 A.C.S. airman operated on for appendicitis and will be evacuated by own L.S.T. Travelling swept flagged fairway. Two mines sighted and exploded Shell five on horizon. Enemy air activity light but continuous.
15 Dec 1944. U day, Up at 0400 hours to general quarters. Coffee and roll breakfast. Naval guns in action as enemy transport picked up by escort. Hit within 3 minutes and large fire lasting some hours, Dead silence. Orders received late last night, 3 A.C.S to go in on first wave. After dawn, Mindoro clear ahead and naval bombardment commenced. Ships forming into beach lines and into waves, Enemy aircraft low down held off by act-ack fire. Small Naval craft passing in lines to Magarin Bay. Beach markers visible. San Jose prominent, red roof, black stack to a sugar mill. Beach has grass verge and infantry landing ankle deep. 8 L.S.T.’S moving inshore at White Beach Infantry moving inland slowly across grass flats. On last lap and enemy aircraft directly overhead. Five shot down by act-ack, sixth successfully suicide dived on rear L.S.T. Second L.S.T. in second wave also hit, both flaring. Even after being shot down in suicide dive, pilots attempt to complete mission, my landing on good beach.
15-L.S.T.’S then 19-L.S.T.’S all beach simultaneously. Light bombing,
(See separate notes with vital recommendations for combat landings.)
Survivors from LST’s are being brought, ashore, in one, only those below survived. R.A.A.F. again first unloaded. Some Jap prisoners and wounded. 3ACS dozers used to push up gun pits. F/Lt. Endean and party back early to report-planned road impassible. Alternative route selected, Weather hot and dry but heavy clouds on mountains, grass verge one-mile square. After bulk unloading completed under bombing, proceeded inland.
(See notes for urgent recommendations, combat landings.)
Natives informed F/Lt Endean that we were expected on 12th Dec 44. Repeating only one of vital needs listed elsewhere, communications, and therefore control is impossible, without Walkie Talkie sets, Surveyors already started on central line Drome “A2”. Railway almost serviceable and built up on soil from side ditches. Almost all area is abandoned cane fields, very soft in spots. By nightfall forward elements of 3ACS in temporary bivouac area halfway to campsite with balance of plant and gear spread along and bogged en route, All American Units in similar predicament.
(Again see separate recommendations,)
Raids with bombs every half hour, and extending through the night. Kunai grass head- height in patches, waist-high elsewhere. Lack of Liaison, general disorganization on U-days would give ideal opportunity for successful paratroop counter attack.
16 Dec 44. On move at dawn to campsite. One 3ACS airman killed and several badly burnt by suicide dive by twin-engine enemy bomber into open doors of POL LST. Red Beach LAC Kelly of Forward Echelon fortunate. Shirt burnt off. Viewed six twin-engine bombers this morning droping their bombs and suicide diving, without success, except sixth one striking new Naval Base at Magarin Bay.
Casualties on Command Cruiser heavy, General Dunckel wounded, Col Hill Chief of Staff blown to smithereens. Fleet Surgeon killed, one complete unit of Marines wiped out to a man, miscellaneous crew missing and killed, 60 killed 80 seriously wounded and 70 wounded. Enemy cleared to perimeter and out of San Jose. Col Ellison Task Force Engineer came to lunch. He has seen both strip sites and assessed “B” site as the better. Bugsanga River has many square miles of perfectly graded river gravel. 3ACS camp erected and work commenced on roads and airdrome. Tracks to beachhead drying as pressing down of ground grass by traffic. A few points of rain only this night. C.O 3ACS is preparing separate engineering diary so will note nothing further than work involved, dozing of grass and ploughed furrows, pushing into windrow lines with petrol graders, picking up soil with scoops and windrowing from inside to outside. Paratroopers expected tonight. Signals station set up by F/O. Williams, but Japs jamming transmission. No telephone communications yet. Quiet night. Japs have not interfered with island here. They have not used buildings in San Jose, but have built own barracks. See (G-2 reports) for enemy ground activity. Night bombing.
17th Dec.1944. Signal station not yet in contact with Morotai. No telephone facilities as telephone truck still bogged down near beachhead. Some thousand feet cleared of timber, 500 feet of grass cleared, and 200 feet rolled to width of 300 feet for taxiway “A”. Armco and empty drums seriously delaying convoys at creek crossing, GOC concerned over preparations against paratroops. GOC wishes railway track to be left untouched as he proposes to set up the complete system immediately to save road transport. 3ACS engine drivers up at roundhouse in charge. 886 putting up marvellous show at airdrome “B”. This could take bombers today (U plus 2) although no dispersals as yet. 1874th and 3ACS doing equivalent job. San Jose is a pleasant village centered round sugar mills. Sugar mill does not appear to have been worked for some years, although it has been a plant of considerable consequence. The railway system of about 20 miles links major cane field areas, and many old steam and oil tractors, multiple ploughs and cultivators etc. remain in the village. More suicide diving today after bombing. U.S P.38 aircraft in vicinity, probably from Tacloban. Artillery blasting hills today. Lights and fires lit in hills during evening, possibly signals for paratroop landing. Ambulance ordered to airstrip to cover causalities. Phone line with command post 19 RCT made today, but broken tonight. Not possible to send men over as guards would shoot, enemy aircraft overhead most of the night, mainly nuisance. It would appear to me now that the enemy has lost his chance of affecting this operation seriously, as construction work is so far advanced that we will be able to take the fighter group by U plus 5 easily.
18th Dec 1944. U plus 5. In that 3ACS has a perimeter of 2,500 yards to man, in addition to the perimeter of their camp, as secondary defence for Task Force against paratroop landing, and amphibious and ground attack, it is quite apparent that the RAAF system of defence training is utterly inadequate. In that enemy resistance is most probable on D-day landings in future, and the Squadrons primary role is the production of airfields, both the CO of No. 3ACS and myself consider that each squadron should include for D-day and combat landings, a strong nucleus of permanent and professional officers and men, and a nucleus of experienced AIF officers, NCOs and men. (See separate notes already forwarded) Interviewed CO No. 5BDU who will now camp with 100th Bomb Disposal Group U.S. Headquarters. Their first commitment is the protection of 3ACS areas, and the second, such work as WVTF may allocate. It was decided that this RAAF Unit should remain here until the next major operation is mounted, when enemy activity over Mindoro will be reduced. Aerial dog fight over camp area between 5 U.S Lightings and three Jap Zeros. All Zeros shot down. I am now almost persuaded to accept U.S combat figures, as all aircraft shot down to date, not a single one has been American. Managers house at San Jose taken over as GHQ with tree, palms, banana groves and swimming pool. Col. Ellison again warned 3ACS against amoebic dysentery from all surface waters. More enemy aircraft over. Two shot down by U.S Corsairs, one by ack-ack. One defending Corsair shot down. Phones out again. Japanese fleet of two heavy battleships and accompanying cruisers and destroyers, ect, reported 80 miles north of Blue Beach steaming south about 1000 hours. Many U.S Thunderbolts and Lightnings from Leyte with 500-lb bombs attacking.
l9th Dec. 1944. U plus 4 Enemy air raids continuous during night, with a series of flares dropped. Bombs very close to camp, No Paratroop landing, and no fleet bombardment. Work on strip progressing well and U plus 5 objectives will be surpassed. One fighter group and 60-C-47’s due in tomorrow, the former at 1300hrs. And the latter at 0900 hrs. Miscellaneous shooting everywhere last night. Cannon fire of dog fighting aircraft above is really remarkably loud, Generally a dull day but a damn uncomfortable night, enemy aircraft every quarter of au hour and over camp, so what with flares and bombing spent night getting in and out of bed and in and out of uniform, usually too late. Avgas dump hit, two lots going up neither near camp, a bright spectacle viewed not too closely nor courageously by CO 3 ACS and myself. Decided finally to sink bed in ground
20th Dec. 1944. U plus 5, first aircraft C-47 touched down at 0854, six minutes early, so that our menace to Manilla becomes a reality, 72 C-47’s in during morning. Terrific dog fight overhead, at least 50 fighters involved at once and at least 5 fights going on simultaneously, Lightnings, Thunderbolts and latest model Zeros. Had bad scare watching belly tanks falling into camp area thinking they were bombs. Watched at least 14 aircraft shot down, and two Lightnings forced landed on strip, one made a perfect belly landing but caught on fire and the second coming in the opposite end with port engine ablaze had to be waved onto the taxiway. He lost speed in swerve, bounced once over one C-47, and then bounced over another C-47, a remarkable sight that can be confirmed by officers of this unit. No aircraft destroyed ¬One Zero suicide dived into strip area but missed C-47. Much fish to fry to tomorrow as U plus 6 convoy of Liberty ships due. Final scores over strip, 12 enemies shot down and six of ours destroyed. One way or another but only one pilot was killed. Constant hit and run raids during afternoon and evening, bomb whistles giving a few seconds warning, At 2250 hours, “Able One” sounded, large formations of enemy transport or heavy bomber aircraft approaching in 3 streams, one from sea and two over land. Aircraft 15 miles distant. This is to be paratroop landing apparently. Subsequent partial confusion in the darkness was aggravated by the fact that this Squadron, on a 24 hourly basis had as its primary role, construction work in scattered areas, and a permanent responsibility for 2,500 yards of battle perimeter Loaned G/Cpt Rooney’s carbine to Mr. Ewen, of Reuter’s Correspondent and had a certain amount of nervous amusement trying to put things together in the dark. In a sincere exhortation S/Ldr. Bouch urged his men to use their bayonets and cut the throat of the bastards. This is amusing now but wasn’t then. All clear at 0300 hours.
21st Dec 1944, Apart from “Able One”, sunken bed very satisfactory,
U plus 6 Convoy delayed one day. This sounds suspicious, CO 3ACS spending day personally checking every detail of our combat arrangements with a rehearsal at dusk tonight. Received letter of condolences from GOC remarking that our first dead casualty represented the first Australian in history killed in the liberation of American soil. This will be a poor consolation to his people. GOC expressed his pride and pleasure, in his Australian unit. We concocted a suitable reply for which, no doubt, in due course we will receive severe reprimand from the all-highest. 50 men from 3ACS now to be engaged indefinitely on unloading Liberty ships as second large convoy expected on U plus 14. A similar number of men have been withdrawn from all other units. Bombings and strafing tonight. It is getting to be a nuisance. G-2 reports giving full details of enemy capabilities in reaction to these landings are not reassuring.
22nd Dec. 1944. U plus 7. Very considerable aerial activity and heavy gunfire heralded the coming of the dawn and the convoy. Went down to Blue Beach with CO 3ACS to witness landing. So far suicide diving and one Liberty ship hit and damaged have sunk two LST’s out of 14. 340th Engineer Aviation Battalion Commanding Officer arriving at conference at 1500 hrs covered with half an inch of dust, remarked that it was a pleasure to taste dry land as he had spent an hour and half in the water before being picked up by a destroyer. 25 per cent of his unit were lost, plus his entire maintenance section. He expected that some of the other destroyers had picked some survivors but that a large proportion of his officers were missing. In view of the narrow escapes that 3ACS has had, it would be tempting providence to expect that exposed combat landings in future will experience losses of less than one ship in four. The notes on LST loading regarding distribution of plant and personnel might well be brought to the attention of the Commanding Officers again. Successful rehearsal “Able One” “Able Two”. Direct phone line not in yet from command post to 19 RCT but contact made on Walkie Talkie. Wave of dengue through camp, myself included. U.S Black Widows fighter aircraft in today, but not airborne tonight. Many enemy aircraft overhead during night some high some very low. Six very large and noisy bangs at far end of strip area and one smaller, one within a few yards of one of our Bren gun post on the camp perimeter. This is like the Melbourne Cup; you can’t lose and you don’t know where he is going to drop them.
The presence of the enemy battle fleet and other enemy naval movements, the fact that U plus 7 convoy was attacked by more than aircraft and was permitted to reach here by the enemy navy would now appear to indicate that the enemy does not plan to retake Mindoro. “Tokyo Rose” this morning however remarked that all the Australians had been wiped out; and that their American Allies had left them to their fate. It appears that dengue is no respecter of the dead. Enemy air gunners indicate a poor quality weapon. In strafing the bullet stream varies and falters. The cannonade of American aircraft in air-to-air gunnery on the other hand is leaving an even pattern of both sight and sound. The new Zero or Tojo can maneuver within any American aircraft yet witnessed. Current G-2 summary indicates enemy capability of landing two divisions here overnight. Love III records kept to date indicate about 100 raids with bombs dropped. Searchlights getting better but ack-ack being reduced to minimum to conserve ammunition. B-23 army reconnaissance Squadron Leader arrived on the strip he is to bring in 15 B-25s on Drome “B” tomorrow.
23rd Dec. 1944 U plus 8. 6C-47s landed this morning and the first mail went out. 16 B-26s due in today on Drome “B” and arrived at dusk. One raid only during daylight hours but continual enemy air activity at night. Phosphorus bombs dropped near camp but most appeared to burn out before striking ground. This is a common Japanese fault. Only heavy ack-ack used as there is a restriction on the smaller stuff. Busiest evening to date, with enemy aircraft overhead continually in one and twos. Bombs dropped right around camp several times without warning. At least one shot down by ack-ack fire. Common practice now appears to be to approach over this headquarters with engines throttled back, then to diving full throttle to bomb and strafe Hill Field.