|Eyewitness Reports - Balanacan Bombing
Neri Layag 9 year old boy in Balanacan:
I remember it was in the morning. The first I knew that something was going on
was that the trumpets started sounding on the ships. We went outside and looked
to the east and you could see planes in a "V" formation coming towards the harbour
from out of the sun. People were yelling and pointing at the ships " There they are"
trying to help the pilots of the planes. The ships started firing their cannons but this
stopped after the first bomb dropped. It was a large explosion and I hide under the
table with my father. We could hear the planes using their machine guns when the
sound of the bombs weren't heard. After the bombing stopped my father went to
see what happened and he said that all that was left was part of a ship near the
shore. The Japanese that had been at Balanacan prior to the bombing left
afterwards toward Boac and there were never any Japanese after that at
The ships had made a mistake when they entered the harbor and I think this is what
led to them being found. Normally when the Japanese ships came into the harbour
they got close to the pier and covered the decks with nets and palms branches from
the shore as a disguise. These ships failed to do this, maybe because they arrived
late and didn't have time.
Aurora Layag (Natolla) A young girl in Nangka (Next to the Mogpog River)
We heard and saw the planes flying north along the east side of the island. We
watched as they flew towards Balanacan and could see the bombs dropping from
the planes. The bombs disappeared behind the hills but we could hear the
explosions and it scared us. At first we hid under a coconut tree. Later my brother
put me on his shoulders and we went into the hills to hide, afraid the Japanese
would get us.
JOHN FORSYTH BOMBING SQUADRON 18, USS INTREPID
A scout had reported four Jap ships in a protected bay off the island of Marinduque,
in the North Sibuyan Sea, south of Manila. They were warships, long and sleek,
destroyers of some type. The mission of such ships was to transport men and
ammunition from Luzon to the Japanese forces fighting our men on Leyte. Their
tactics were to wait for dark, then run down the island chain to reinforce and supply
their troops. They chose not to move in daylight, when we were in the area.
Often, the destroyers used for these missions were old or obsolete, but they were
still fast warships; they had to be to make the run to Leyte, unload and be safely
away from the battle zone by dawn. During the day, they'd seek a sheltered cove or
even tie up to an island and cover themselves with camouflage and nets if possible.
According to Japanese records, these four ships had left Ormoc Bay near manila on
November 24,1944. The first night they reached Marinduque Island and hid in a bay.
The record shows that there were 3,470 soldiers and sailors aboard. The record
further states that, of all those men, only ten survived.
Two of the four ships had been attacked and sunk by VB-18's first strike of the day.
Now, an hour later, we were after the remaining two. We had six 1,000 pound
packages to deliver to each ship. There were 1,670 men on those two ships-not one
Our scout plane had reported the correct position and we navigated right to the
island. The day was clear and the sun was high in the sky. We came over the island
at 14,000 feet and flew slightly past the ships to be directly up-sun from them. The
ships were slender, not easy to hit, but they were at anchor.
Six bombers attacked each ship. At the chosen point, the first bomber pulled up in a
smooth, soaring, graceful wingover; rolled inverted; and started down. Each
following bomber pulled up, over and down, almost in cadence. We came directly
out of the sun. The AA fire was minimal. After the first thousand-pounder went off,
either on or right beside the ship, the AA fire, if anymore came, was ineffectual. A
1,000 pound bomb exploding on a light ship destroys the ship and disables its crew.
This day each ship took six 1,000 pound bomb hits or near misses. The ships
disappeared in the smoke and fire of the bomb blasts and the 100 foot tall geysers
of water from the near misses. When the smoke and spume cleared away, the
ships were gone. They had been blown to pieces and sunk in about one minute!
There was no trace of the crews. They died, all of them. 1,670 men died without
even a chance to radio they were under attack. As far as the Japanese knew, they
Once more I was appalled at the devastation of the ships and the complete
annihilation of so many men. Yet, I felt like cheering each time a bomb hit home. But
then I shuddered as bomb after bomb exploded with fearful intensity, sending forth
shattering shock waves and flying shrapnel that churned the water. In a sense it
was unreal and impersonal. I saw the ships being blown apart but I couldn't picture
the violent deaths of the men aboard them.
As the bombers completed their dives,they met to the north to leave for home
together, but I had a job to do. My rear gunner carried a camera to record the
results of our attacks. So when I pulled out of the bomb run, I circled the targets
while he took pictures. It was the only way the Air Combat Intelligence officers could
be sure that we had done what we said. We took four pictures. They were graphic
and are now part of Navy archives.
After the photo passes, I caught up to the group as it started back for the Intrepid.
Twenty minutes later, the radio squawked, we were ordered to change course and
proceed to Leyte Island and land at Tacloban airstrip there. No reason was
given,but we knew. Our ship had been hit or sunk, and we were on our own.
Passage from the book "Helldivers, US Navy Dive-Bombers at War" by John F
Forsyth, Motorbooks International Publishers Wholesalers
The first account is from the book "Double Life Sentence", an 2000 autobiography
by E.B. Miso Jr., former Director of the Bureau of Corrections. ISBN 971-92126
The second account is from one of the American pilots involved in the second wave
of the attack.
They next two reports are from (then) young children.