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February 3, 1945, the Battle for the Liberation of Manila Begins

The battle for the liberation of Manila—waged from February 3 to March 3, 1945, between Philippine and American forces, and the Imperial Japanese forces—is widely considered to be one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War. One hundred thousand men, women, and children perished. Architectural heritage was reduced to rubble—the City of Manila was the second most devastated Allied capital of World War II.

Aerial view of the devastated Manila in May 1945 (

 It was marked by a race between the 37th Infantry Division headed by Maj. Gen Robert Beightler and the 1st Cavalry Division consisted of three flying divisions headed by Brigadier General William Chase.  On February 3, 1945 the cavalrymen reached Grace Park Caloocan, far earlier than the infantrymen.  The seizure of the Malacanan Palace was not that difficult for the cavalrymen, after which, guided by the guerillas in Manila, one of which was Capt. Manuel Colayco, they were able to reach the gates of the University of Santo Tomas.  Meanwhile, the 11th Airborne in the leadership of Maj. Gen Joe Swing approached from the South.  This unit encountered a fight in Imus, Cavite and in Las Pinas, however, there was an interruption in Paranaque because the bridge was totally wrecked.

       That same day, about 3, 500 UST internees were freed.  Few Japanese soldiers retreated to the Education Building and tried to negotiate with the Americans, however, the leader Lt. Abiko who was known for his cruelty was shot in the stomach and died a slow death.  Two days after, the group of Gen. Hayashi negotiated for their escape in exchange of the hostages inside the Education Building.  The Americans agreed and the Japanese went towards Aviles Street.  Unfortunately, the Japanese troops as well as Gen. Hayashi were unaware of the tactical changes in the city, the area that they headed were strong military position of the Americans, most of them were killed in exchange of fires.  The cavalry moved forward but met a stiff resistance in the area near Far Eastern University.  Thanks to the help of the guerillas, the Americans were able to safely return to UST.

The month-long battle marked General Douglas MacArthur’s victory in the campaign of reconquest against Japanese military occupation from 1942 to 1945.

The losing Japanese troops took out their anger and frustration on the civilians caught up in the crossfire, committing multiple acts of severe brutality, later known as Manila Massacre.

For the rest of the month, the Americans and Filipino guerrillas mopped up resistance throughout the city.

An estimated 100,000 Filipino civilians were killed, both deliberately by the Japanese and from artillery and aerial bombardment by the U.S. military forces. About 12,000 Japanese soldiers died, mostly sailors from the Japanese Manila Defense Force.

With Intramuros secured on March 4, 1945, Manila was officially liberated.

Before the fighting ended, MacArthur summoned a provisional assembly of prominent Filipinos to Malacanang Palace and in their presence declared the Commonwealth of the Philippines to be permanently reestablished.

“My country kept the faith,” he told the gathered assembly. “Your capital city, cruelly punished though it be, has regained its rightful place — citadel of democracy in the East.”

Hence, in memory of the victims of the war, on February 18, 1995, the Shrine of Freedom, also known as Memorare Manila Monument, was erected at the Plaza de Santa Isabel, also known as the Plaza Sinampalukan, at the corner of General Luna and Anda Streets in Intramuros.


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