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Historical Photos of ‘The Battle of Manila’ from World War II that depict the Brutal Liberation

The Battle of Manila, fought from February 3rd to March 3rd, 1945, marking the end of Japanese occupation in the Philippines. The battle was a brutal fight, leaving behind a city in ruins and a heavy toll on civilian lives.

Background: The Philippines under Japanese Occupation

The Philippines fell under Japanese occupation in 1942, following the Battle of Bataan and the subsequent Bataan Death March, which saw the capture of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers. The Japanese occupation was brutal, with widespread atrocities, forced labor, and the imposition of harsh control over the civilian population. By 1944, as the tide of the war turned against Japan, plans were set in motion by the Allies to liberate the Philippines, a strategic move aimed at cutting off Japan from its occupied territories in Southeast Asia and paving the way for an eventual invasion of the Japanese mainland.

The Road to Manila

The campaign to retake the Philippines began in October 1944, with General Douglas MacArthur’s landing on Leyte Island, fulfilling his famous vow to return. The subsequent battles in Leyte and Mindoro set the stage for the invasion of Luzon, the largest and most strategically important Philippine Island. American and Filipino forces landed in Lingayen Gulf in January 1945 and began a rapid advance towards Manila.

The Battle Begins

The Battle of Manila commenced on February 3, 1945, when American forces entered the city’s northern outskirts, meeting fierce resistance from the Japanese, who had fortified Manila, preparing for a last stand. What followed was a month-long battle characterized by intense urban combat, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The Japanese, knowing defeat was inevitable, resorted to scorched earth tactics, destroying vital infrastructure and committing mass atrocities against the civilian population.

The Liberation and Its Cost

The battle reached its climax with the intense fighting for Intramuros, Manila’s historic walled city, where Japanese forces made their final stand. American artillery and air strikes were called in, leading to the complete devastation of Intramuros but eventually forcing the Japanese to surrender. Manila was officially declared liberated on March 3, 1945, but the victory was bittersweet. The battle left much of the city in ruins, earning it the moniker “The Pearl of the Orient Destroyed.”

The human cost of the battle was staggering, with an estimated 100,000 Filipino civilians dead, victims of both the fighting and deliberate massacres by retreating Japanese forces. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers lost their lives, and the Japanese defenders were virtually annihilated. The cultural and historical loss was also immense, with numerous historical landmarks and centuries-old heritage sites reduced to rubble.

#1 Filipino women rescued by American soldiers, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines, March 1945

#2 American sailors on the north bank of the Pasig River east of the Jones Bridge, Manila, Philippines, September 1945

#3 American soldiers helping a Filipino lady to safety and help, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#4 Arched bridge at O’Campo Pagoda, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#5 Battle for Manila, a lone soldier, Philippine Post Office Building, Manila, March 1945

#7 Everywhere are ruins, just after the Battle for Manila, Manila, Philippines, March 1945

#8 Filipino citizens find safety, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#9 Filipino citizens find safety, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#10 Filipino citizens fleeing the fighting, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#11 Filipino citizens fleeing the fighting, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#12 Filipinos returning home after the Battle for Manila, March 1945

#13 Friends during a troubled time, north of Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#14 Injured Filipino woman being help by American soldiers, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#15 Japanese barricaded road, Manila, Philippines, March 1945

#16 Jose M. O’Campo complex during the Battle for Manila, February 1945

#17 Jose M. O’Campo complex during the Battle for Manila, February 1945

#18 Just after the Battle for Manila, March 1945, Manila, Philippines

#19 Ladies having their hair done at a hair salon, Manila, Philippines, September 1945

#20 Legislative Building, Manila, Philippines, WWII damage, September 1945

#22 Life after the war and lucky to be alive, Manila, Philippines, 1945

#23 Manila to Cavite bus being checked by Military Police, September 1945

#24 Metropolitan Theater after the Americans took control, Battle for Manila, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#25 O’Campo Pagoda, Quiapo, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#26 Philippines, February 1945, Executive Order No. 24

#27 Quezon Boulevard, Times Theater, Manila, Philippines, May 1945

#28 San Augustin Church and destroyed Intramuros, Manila, Philippines, September 1945

#29 The eyes tell the truth, sadness, and innocence stolen, WWII Manila, Philippines, 1945

#30 Shoes in a market, near the WWII ruins of Santa Cruz Church, Manila, Philippines, May 1945

#31 The shambles that was Manila, Philippines, March 1945

#32 WWII destruction of Santa Cruz Church and area, Manila, Philippines, May 1945

#34 Toyko Bazar. Manila, Philippines, Dec. 1, 1941. A view of Toyko Bazar still open and doing business in Manila one week before Japan bombed and invaded the Philippines.

#35 Inside Quiapo Church looking out just before the bombing and invasion by the Japanese late 1941. Manila, Philippines.

#36 American machine gunners and riflemen defend against Japanese forces from positions at a Manila stadium’s back wall, Philippines, 1945.

#37 Tanks from the 1st Cavalry position for an offensive against Japanese forces at Rizal Stadium, aiming to secure the Walled City of Intramuros in Manila, 1945.

#38 American troops navigate the destroyed business district of Manila en route to the front during the Battle of Manila, 1945.

#39 A building on the Escolta in Manila is dislodged and tipped over by an explosion during the battle for Manila, 1945.

#40 Japanese prisoners of war are supervised by American military personnel, assisting in Manila’s cleanup after the battle, 1945.

#41 Looking east across Quezon Blvd. with Times Movie Theater from the east tower of the church, Quiapo Church, Manila, Philippines, May 1945

#42 Looking south into Intramuros from the Puerta Isabel Gate, Manila, Philippines, March 1945

#43 Looking west down Carriedo Street from the west church tower, Quiapo Church, Manila, Philippines, May 1945

#44 Manila, looking southeast across the Pasig River, September 1945

#45 Manila, Philippines right after the Battle for Manila, 1945

#48 O’Campo Pagoda, Quiapo, Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#49 Older Filipino woman giving a child a bath by the ruins of her home, Manila, Philippines, March 1945

#50 Rubble that was Manila just after the Battle for Manila, March 1945

#51 Santo Domingo Church just after the Battle for Manila, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines, March 1945

#52 Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines, early February 1945

#53 The fruits of war is destruction, Manila, Philippines, September 1945

#54 The innocent, WWII Battle for Manila, Philippines, February 1945

#55 The shambles that was Manila, near San Marcelino Street, Philippines, February 1945

#56 View from Quiapo Church, Manila, Philippines, May 1945

#57 G. Koba Yashi Building (1940) just before the bombing and invasion by the Japanese. Manila, Philippines, late 1941.

#58 American soldiers entering Intramuros. Manila, Philippines, March 2, 1945.

#59 Filipinos citizens fleeing the fighting. Manila, Philippines, Feb. 1945.

#60 The Metropolitan Theater after the Americans took control at the Battle for Manila. Manila, Philippines, Feb. 1945.

#61 War-torn remnants photographed just after the Battle for Manila, March 1945. Manila, Philippines.

#62 Intramuros, Manila, Philippines March 1945. Filipino survivors from the Santa Clara Monastery being rescued by American soldiers right after being liberated from the Japanese.

#63 An arch with the sign ‘Manila Welcomes Distinguished Guests’ in a traffic circle in Manila, the Philippines, 1945. The photo was taken from Manila City Hall looking south-southwest down Padre Burgos Ave.

#64 Legislative Building, Manila, Philippines, WWII damage, 1945.

#65 View from Quiapo Church, Manila, Philippines, May 1945.

#68 Lourdes Church, Recoletos Church, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines, July 1946.

#69 WWII veterans against MacArthur petition signing event, University of California, USA, March 1948.

#71 Rizal Monument, Luneta Park, Manila, Philippines, Oct. 10, 1949.

#72 Medics with the 37th Infantry Division administer plasma to a wounded soldier amid the Battle of Intramuros, 1945.

#73 Fire engulfs a row of houses on Avenida Tayuman near Bilibid prison in Manila, illustrating the city’s devastation during an intense battle, 1945.

#74 A U.S. Army M4 Sherman tank enters Fort Santiago through an enlarged gate during the Battle of Manila, 1945.

#75 Troops from the 5th Troop, 1st Cavalry, advance cautiously down Taft Avenue in Manila, Philippines, 1945.

#76 A barrage of 155mm high explosive phosphorous shells strikes the Intramuros sector in Manila during the Battle of Manila, 1945.

#77 The walled city of Intramuros, a historic Spanish fortress, faces intense shelling from 155mm long guns, highlighting the Metropolitan Theater and ice house’s damage, 1945.

#78 From La Salle Girls College’s roof, tanks approach a football field behind Rizal Stadium in Manila, overcoming a moat barrier with an American bulldozer, 1945.

Avatar of Andrew Thompson

Written by Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson is an archaeologist and historian who specializes in the study of war and conflict. He writes about the brutal history of warfare, including the World Wars and other significant conflicts. Through his work, he aims to deepen our understanding of the human cost of conflict and inspire us to work towards a more peaceful future.


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