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WWII: The Battle for Leyte     ( 4 of 4 )


MacArthur Operations

But the land campaign which followed was far from easy. Although they had won the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Americans did not have complete naval or air supremacy in the area, and the Japanese were able to rush reinforcements to Leyte, adding two divisions to the one already there when the Americans landed. Adding to the American's woes were the October monsoon rains, which made it all but impossible for MacArthur's men to build the airstrips they needed to gain control of the skies over Leyte. Still, General Walter Krueger's Sixth Army on Leyte at first outnumbered the Japanese two-to-one, and soon seized the key town of Carigara on the north coast. But rather than moving quickly into the mountains west of Carigara toward the Ormoc Valley, Krueger adopted the more cautious course of digging in. This allowed Japanese General Suzuki to prepare elaborate defenses in the already difficult terrain southwest of Carigara, which the Americans began assaulting on November 5. The bloody battle for "Breakneck Ridge," as Krueger's men aptly named it, dragged on for weeks, prompting MacArthur to give in to Krueger's wish for an amphibious assault on Ormoc instead.

Although MacArthur's forces blunted an attempted Japanese counter-offensive in early December, the Leyte campaign proved far more difficult than he had hoped. This meant that invasion of Luzon, originally scheduled for December 20, had to be postponed until January 9; even then, Leyte did not provide the air support MacArthur had envisioned. Still, when one considers how close he came to suffering an enormous setback, MacArthur had to be pleased with the victory, the first step in his long-awaited Philippine liberation campaign.
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