1st Cavalry Division Association - Alumni of the First Team with Jonathan Asencio. THE FLYING COLUMN - Freeing the Internees at Santo Tomas University "On 31 January 1945, General MacArthur issued the order "Go to Manila! Go around the Japs, bounce off the Japs, save your men, but get to Manila! Free the internees at Santo Tomas! Take the Malacanan Palace (the presidential palace) and the legislative building!". At the time of the order, nobody knew about the 1,300 or so military and civilian prisoners at the old Bilibid prison which was only a few blocks from Santo Tomas. In an assessment of the situation, the 1st Cavalry Division Commander, MG Verne D. Mudge, decided to attack on a broad front with three mobile tank columns because the positions of the Japanese were vague and the columns had to cross the wide Pampanga River, south of Guimba, en route to Manila. The resulting mission, and the participating units, were dubbed a "Flying Column" by MG Mudge. The rescue operation was divided into three specialized "serial" elements. ORDER OF BATTLE - Flying Column Commanded By BG William C. Chase 1st SERIAL - LTC William E. Lobit •Reconnaissance Platoon, 2nd Squadron, 5th Cavalry • Anti-Tank Platoon •Medical Detachment •"A" Battery, 82nd Field Artillery Battalion •"A" Company, 44th Tank Battalion •3rd Platoon, "A" Troop, 8th Engineers •1st Platoon, "A" Troop, 1st Medical Battalion 2nd SERIAL - LTC Haskett L. Conner, Jr. •Reconnaissance Platoon, 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry •Anti-Tank Platoon • 1 section of .50 caliber machine guns •"B" Company, 44th Tank Battalion •"B" Battery, 61st Field Artillery Battalion •1st Platoon, "C" Troop, 8th Engineers •1st Platoon, "B" Troop, 1st Medical Squadron 3rd SERIAL - LTC Tom A. Ross •302nd Reconnaissance Troop •The balance of the 44th Tank Battalion •A Marine Air Control Group - Cpt Samuel H. McAloney •Communications link to Marine Air Groups 24 and 32 that were used to provide aerial flank and advance cover for the cavalry columns during the mission. At one minute past midnight, 1 February 1945, three serials, led by BG William C. Chase, moved out of Guimba to slice through 100 miles of Japanese held territory. The mission of the 1st Cavalry Division was to dash through the enemy lines and take only force as necessary to get to Manila, not to become embroiled in any large scale battle. At all times during the three day sweep, the nine Marine scout dive bomber patrol, operating as flank guards remained airborne at all times, roaming across the valleys searching every road and trail for signs of enemy movement. Whenever roadblocks were spotted, they reported on the situation and when permission was granted, cleared the area by precision bombing or aerial machine gun screens. Early in the morning, the 5th Cavalry crossed the Pampanga river and encountered enemy resistance. By 1300 hours, the cavalry forces were locked in a bitter fight with the Japanese near Cabanatuan. The 8th Cavalry crossed the river south of town and turned north to catch the enemy in a pincers movement. By dusk, the 7th and 12th Cavalry had advanced and took over the fight from the lead units. The Reconnaissance Squadron had swung farther south early on 1 February and approached the town of Gapan at 1330 hours. As the attack moved on to the bridge across the Penaranda River the commander, LTC Ross was killed. The commander of the 302nd Reconnaissance Troop, CPT Don Walton, took over the Squadron command immediately and the forces were able to secure the bridge and later, with the arrival of "G" Troop, 8th Cavalry, defended it so that the columns could continue their march. The "race" for Manila was now between the 37th Division and the 1st Cavalry Division, with the cavalry in the lead. In addition to the 302nd Reconnaissance Troops, liaison aircraft of the field artillery battalion were used to conduct route reconnaissance and column control. Since the operation began, the reconnaissance units had been fortunate enough to find bridges and fordable crossings almost everywhere they went. The column was able to get around, over, and past each obstacle in its path. The 37th Division, on the other hand, was slowed by difficult crossings which forced it to either ferry its artillery and tanks across or wait for the engineers to build bridges." ================================================================================= Major General Ralph Johnson Mitchell (MCSN: 0-673), United States Marine Corps Ralph J. Mitchell - WikiVisually -- Marine Aviators at their best. . . . AND A FEW MARINES: Marines in the Liberation of the Philippines -- Valor awards for Ralph Johnson Mitchell _ 1st Cavalry Division Association - Alumni of the First Team - FaceBook -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Decorations for Major General Ralph Johnson Mitchell (MCSN: 0-673), most, not all.