The 11th Airborne Division (nicknamed Angels) was a US Army Airborne formation, first activated on February 25 1943. Different from their sister divisions, the 13th Parachute Infantry Division, the 17th Parachute Infantry Division, the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division, the 11th Airborne Division consisted only of one Parachute Infantry Regiment and two Glider Infantry Regiments, with supporting units and troops. The Angels Division underwent rigorous training throughout 1943.

The Division played a vital role in the successful Knollwood Maneuver, organized to determine the viability of large-scale American airborne formations after their utility had been called into question following a disappointing performance during the Allied invasion of Sicily. So, on Nov 15, 1943, the 11th Airborne Division received its mission from the Headquarters, Airborne Command at Camp Mackall. The Division, reinforced by the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment was to assault on D-Day, Dec 7, 1943, capture Aberdeen, North-Carolina and the Knollwood Airport (now the Moore County Regional Airport), establish an airhead around the Airport, and prevent reinforcement of the Red Army at Raeford, North-Carolina (17th Airborne Division and the 541st Parachute Infantry Regiment) from the north and northwest. Defending Knollwood and selected critical points was a Regimental Combat Team (minus). An Infantry Battalion, an AT Co, a Field Artillery Battery and a Medical Detachment from the 17-Abn were combined with a battalion from Col Ducat M. McEntee’s independent 541-PIR. These elements were training at Camp Mackall.

The Knollwood Maneuver convinced Gen Gerorge C. Marshall (CoS US Army) and Gen Lesley J. McNair (Army Ground Forces) to retain the Airborne Divisions. The successful execution of all missions by the 11-Abn validated the concepts in Training Circular #113 concerning employment and support of airborne forces. As a result, significant portions of TC-113 were included verbatim in WD FM 71-30, Employment of Airborne Forces, dated Jul 3, 1947, and WD FM 1-30, Tactical Doctrine of Troop Carrier Aviation, dated Aug 12, 1947. FM 1-30 became the Bible for troop carrier operations in support of airborne forces. The Knollwood Maneuver had saved the 11th, 13th, 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. Camp Mackall and Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base would continue to be training centers for airborne forces throughout World War II.

Today, Camp Mackall has a similar distinction as the Army’s training center for Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations soldiers.

Held in reserve in the USA for the first half of 1944, the 11-Abn was transferred in June, to the Pacific Theater of Operations. Upon arrival it entered a period of intense training and acclimatization, and by November was judged combat-ready.

The 11-Abn saw its first action on the island of Leyte in the Philippines, but in a traditional infantry role. In Jan 1945, the division took part in the invasion of Luzon. The two glider infantry regiments again operated as conventional infantry, securing a beachhead before fighting their way inland.

The parachute infantry regiment was held in reserve for several days before conducting the division’s first airborne operation, a combat drop on the Tagaytay Ridge. Reunited, the division participated in the Liberation of Manila, and two companies of divisional paratroopers conducted an audacious raid on the Los Banos internment camp, liberating two thousand civilians.

The 11-Abn last combat operation of World War II was in the north of Luzon around Aparri, in aid of combined American and Philippine forces who were battling to subdue the remaining Japanese resistance on the island.

New Guinea
Southern Philippines
Days of combat: 204

KIA: 494
DOW: 120
WIA: 1926
MIA: 11
Total battle casualties: 2431

Congressional Medal of Honor: 2
Distinguished Unit Citations: 13
Distinguished Service Cross: 9
Silver Star: 432
Bronze Star: 1515
Legion of Merit: 10
Soldier Medal: 56
Air Medal: 41

Commanding General
Maj Gen Joseph M. Swing: Feb 25, 1943 – Feb 25, 1946

Order of Battle – 1944

HQs Company
HQ Battery, Division Artillery
HQ Special Troops
Military Police Platoon
11th Parachute Maintenance Company
127th Airborne Engineer Battalion
152nd Airborne AA Battalion
187th Glider Infantry Regiment
188th Glider Infantry Regiment
511th Parachute Infantry Regiment
221st Airborne Medical Company
408th Airborne Quartermaster Company
457th Parachute Field Artillery Bn (75-MM)
511th Airborne Signal Company
674th Glider Field Artillery Bn (75-MM)
675th Glider Field Artillery Bn (75-MM)
711th Airborne Ordnance Maintenance Company

Order of Battle – 1945

HQs Company
HQ Battery, Division Artillery
HQ Special Troops
Military Police Platoon
11th Parachute Maintenance Company
127th Airborne Engineer Battalion
152nd Airborne AA Battalion
187th Glider Infantry Regiment
188th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Converted into PIR 07-45)
221st Airborne Medical Company
408th Airborne Quartermaster Company
457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion (75-MM)
472nd Glider Field Artillery Bn (75-MM)
511th Airborne Signal Company
511th Parachute Infantry Regiment
674th Glider Field Artillery Bn (75-MM)
675th Glider Field Artillery Bn (75-MM)
711th Airborne Ordnance Maintenance Company

11-Abn LeyteNarratives
(Additional info from Wikipedia)

XXIV CorpsUS 7th Infantry DivisionLeyte In Jan 1944, the 11-Abn was moved by train from Camp Mackall to Camp Polk in Louisiana. After four weeks of final preparation for its combat role, in April the division was moved to Camp Stoneman, California, and then transferred to Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, between May 25, and June 11. From June to September the division underwent acclimatization and continued its airborne training, conducting parachute drops in the New Guinea jungle and around the airfield in Dobodura. During this period, most of the glider troops became parachute-qualified making the division almost fully Airborne. On Nov 11, the division boarded a convoy of naval transports and was escorted to Leyte in the Philippines, arriving on Nov 18. Four days later it was attached to the XXIV Corps and committed to combat, but operating as an infantry division rather than in an airborne capacity. The 11-Abn was ordered to relieve the 7th Infantry Division stationed in the Burauen, La Paz, Bugho area, engage and destroy all Japanese forces in its operational area, and protect the XXIV Corps rear-area supply dumps and airfields.

Joseph May Swing, Feb 28, 1894 – Dec 9, 1984, was a US Army officer who fought in World War I and commanded the 11th Airborne Division during the campaign to liberate the Philippines in World War IIGen Joseph M. Swing ordered the 187th Glider Infantry Regiment to guard the rear installations of XXIV Corps, while the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment was to secure the division’s rear and conduct aggressive patrols to eliminate any enemy troops in the area. The 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assigned the task of destroying all Japanese formations in the division’s operational area, which it began on Nov 28, when it relieved the 7-ID. The 511-PIR advanced overland with two battalions abreast and the third in reserve, but progress proved slow in the face of fierce Japanese resistance, a lack of mapped trails, and heavy rainfall (with more than twenty-three inches (60 CM) falling in November alone).

Japanese Paratroopers embarking for LeyteAs the advance continued resupply became progressively more difficult; the division resorted to using large numbers of Piper Cub aircraft to drop food and ammunition. Several attempts were made to improve the rate of advance, such as dropping platoons of the 187-GIR from Piper Cubs in front of the 511-PIR to recon, and using C-47 transport aircraft to drop artillery pieces to the regiment’s location when other forms of transport, such as mule-trains, failed.
On Dec 6, the Japanese tried to disrupt operations on Leyte by conducting two small-scale airborne raids. The first attempted to deploy a small number of Japanese airborne troops to occupy several key American-held airfields at Tacloban and Dulag, but failed when the three aircraft used were either shot-down, crash-landed or destroyed on the ground along with their passengers. The second larger raid, was carried out using about 30 transport aircraft supported by fighters. Despite heavy losses, the Japanese managed to drop a number of paratroopers around the Burauen airfield, where the headquarters of 11-Abn were located. Five L-5 Sentinel recon aircrafts and one C-47 transport were destroyed, but the raiders were eliminated by an ad hoc combat group of artillerymen, engineers and support troops led by Gen Joseph M. Swing.

US 32nd Infantry DivisionThe 511-PIR was reinforced by the 2/187-GIR, and continued its slow but steady progress. On Dec 17, it broke through the Japanese lines and arrived at the western shoreline of Leyte, linking up with elements of the 32nd Infantry Division. It was during this period that Pvt Elmer E. Fryar earned a posthumous Medal of Honor when he helped to repel a counter-attack, personally killing twenty-seven Japanese soldiers before being mortally wounded by a sniper.

The regiment was ordered to set up temporary defensive positions before being relieved on Dec 25, by the 1/187-GIR, and the 2/188-GIR, who would themselves incur considerable casualties against a heavily dug-in enemy. The 511-PIR was reassembled at its original base-camp in Leyte on Jan 15, 1945.

Luzon On Jan 22, the division was placed on alert for an operation on the island of Luzon, to the north of Leyte. Five days later the 187-GIR and the 188-GIR were embarked for Luzon by sea, while the 511-PIR flew by C-46 Commando transport aircrafts to Mindoro. At dawn, on Jan 31, the 188-GIR led an amphibious assault near Nasugbu, in southern Luzon. Supported by a short naval barrage, A-20 Havoc light bombers and P-38 Lightning fighter aircrafts, a beach-head was established in the face of light Japanese resistance.
The regiment moved rapidly to secure Nasugbu, after which its 1st Bn advanced up the island’s arterial Highway 17 to deny the Japanese time to establish defenses further inland. The 2nd Bn moved south, crossing the River Lian and securing the division’s right flank.

Amicedo Farola, of Dulag, Leyte, is a Philippine guerrilla scout, operating with a recon squadron of the 24th Division. The hair dress may be unusual, but Farola has more Japanese kills to his credit than he will admit to strangers. His associates confirm his scouting and fighting ability. Digos, Mindanao, March 26, 1945By 1030, elements of the 188-GIR had pushed deep into southern Luzon, creating the space for the 187-GIR to come ashore. The 2/188-GIR was relieved and the regiment continued its advance, reaching the River Palico by 1430, and securing a vital bridge before it could be destroyed by Japanese combat engineers. Meanwhile, troops of the 188-GIR made their way through the town of Nasugbu.

Following Highway 17 to Tumalin, the regiment began to encounter heavier Japanese resistance. At midnight the 187-GIR took over the lead and the two glider regiments rested briefly before tackling the main Japanese defensive lines. These consisted of trenches linked to bunkers and fortified caves, and were manned by several hundred infantry with numerous artillery pieces in support. At 0900, on Feb 1, the gliders launched their assault, and by midday had managed to break through the first Japanese position; they spent the rest of the day conducting mopping up operations. On the morning of Feb 2, the second line was breached, and by midnight the third line was overun. The divisional recon platoon was now in the vicinity of the Tagaytay Ridge, the intended site of the 511-PIR’s first combat drop.

The 511-PIR’s airborne operation had originally been scheduled for Feb 2, but with Gen Swing’s insistence that the drop was only to go ahead if his ground forces were in range to offer support, the dogged Japanese resistance encountered delayed the operation. With only forty-eight C-47 Skytrain transport aircrafts available, the 511-PÏR was forced to deploy in three waves. The regimental staff, the 2/511 and half of the 3/511 would drop first, the rest of the regiment would arrive in the second lift. The 457-PFAB would drop in the third.

At 0700, on Feb 3, the first lift left Mindoro protected by an escort of P-61 Black Widow night fighters. Arriving over Luzon, they followed Highway 17 to Tagaytay Ridge. The ridge itself was an open space some two thousand yards (1800 M) long and four thousand yards (3700 M) wide, plowed in places, and had been largely cleared of Japanese troops by local Filipino soldiers and recognized guerrillas.

At 0815, the first echelon of the first lift, approximately 345 men, successfully parachuted into the drop zone. The second echelon, consisting of approximately 570 men, were dropped prematurely and landed about eight thousand yards (7300 M) to the east. The next lift also encountered problems, with 425 men dropping correctly but another 1325 dropping early due to pilot error and poor jump discipline. However, the entire regiment was assembled within five hours of the first landings.

11th Airborne Division men assemble at a pre-destined point in the Philippines. This was just after their parachute landing at Appari Airstrip in Northern Luzon Island, Philippines. The landed gliders on the upper left carried field pieces, jeeps, and a trailer equipped with a long-range radio stationAfter overcoming minor Japanese resistance, by 1500, the 511-PIR had made contact with the 188-GIR and the 187-GIR, and the entire division was once again assembled as a single formation. The ridge having been cleared of its remaining defenders, the division began to advance towards Manila, with the national highway in Silang, Dasmarinas, Imus and Bacoor where cleared by Fil-American Cavite Guerilla Forces (FACGF) under Gen Mariano Castaneda and reaching the Paranaque River by 2100. The city was protected by the Genko Line, a major Japanese defensive belt that stretched along Manila’s southern edge. The line consisted of approximately 1200 two to three-story deep blockhouses, many of which emplaced naval guns or large-caliber mortars. Entrenched heavy anti-aircraft weapons, machine-gun nests and booby-traps made of naval bombs completed the defenses, which were manned by around 6000 Japanese soldiers.

The 11-Abn was ordered to breach the Genko Line and drive into Manila where it would link up with other American forces attacking the city from the north. All three regiments were committed to the assault. Spearheading the division’s attack on Feb 5, the 511-PIR overcame fierce resistance and broke the crust of the Japanese position, but was soon relieved by the 188-GIR. As the glider regiment took up the push westwards in the face of heavy opposition, the 511-PIR changed their axis of advance and attempted to move into the city from the south. By Feb 11, the division had penetrated as far as the Nichols Field, an airfield that formed the center of the Genko Line. This was heavily fortified with a number of entrenched naval guns and a series of bunkers; after ashort artillery bombardment on the morning of Feb 12, the 2/187-GIR attacked the airfield’s north-west corner while the 1/187-GIR and the entire 188-GIR moved in from the south and south-eastern corners. This pincer movement succeeded in taking the airfield and, despite a local counter-attack, by nightfall the position was secured. The following day the division thrust towards Fort William McKinley, the headquarters of RAdm Iwabuchi, commander of the Japanese defenders on Luzon. It was during this advance that Pfc Class Manuel Perez Jr. neutralized several Japanese bunkers which were impeding the division’s progress, capturing one single-handedly and killing eighteen Japanese soldiers. Pfc Perez was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
On Feb 15, the 1/187-GIR, alongside other American units, launched an attack on the Mabato Point. This was an extremely heavily fortified position featuring the same defensive measures as the Genko Line, and it would take six days of hard fighting, multiple airstrikes, and the frequent use of napalm and heavy artillery, before the point was secured. Meanwhile, having taken heavy casualties on its approach to Fort McKinley, particularly when the Japanese detonated a quantity of buried naval depth charges, on Feb 17, the rest of the 11-Abn assaulted the fort. The 511-PIR led the break-in, and by Feb 18 the area had been cleared of its defenders. Sporadic fighting continued in Manilla until Mar 3, when all organized Japanese resistance ended.

Raid at Los Baños A large number of civilian prisoners had been detained by the Japanese on Luzon, mostly in internment camps scattered throughout the island. The largest of these was located on the campus of the Agricultural College of the Philippines at Los Baños, some forty miles (64 Km) south-east of Manila. Gen Douglas MacArthur had tasked the 11-Abn with rescuing the Los Baños internees on Feb 3, but the division’s ongoing combat operations around the Genko Line left it unable to divert any resources at that time. All that could be accomplished during the month of February was to gather information, primarily through liaison with the guerilla groups operating in Southern Luzon and around Los Baños. Gen Swing and his command staff were briefed daily by the officer working with the guerilla groups, Maj Jay D. Vanderpool. From the guerillas and a few civilians that had escaped the camp, Maj Vanderpool established that it was surrounded by two barbed-wire fences approximately six feet tall. Several guard towers and bunkers dotted its perimeter, each containing at least two guards. Prisoners left each morning under armed guard to gather food supplies and firewood from a nearby town. Vanderpool was informed that the camp’s population consisted of American civilians in three distinct groups: Protestant missionaries and their families; Roman Catholic nuns and priests; and professional workers such as doctors and engineers, and their families. The latter group included several hundred women and children. While all the inmates appeared to be in good health, many had become weak from food rationing.
On Feb 20, Gen Swing was finally able to release sufficient troops for a raid on the Los Baños camp, and a four-phase plan was devised by Maj Vanderpool and the divisional staff officers.

The divisional recon platoon would travel across a nearby lake and move to the outskirts of the camp, securing a large adjacent field as the drop zone for a company of paratroopers. Having landed, the paratroopers would eliminate Japanese resistance in the area, secure the camp, and prepare for its evacuation. Fifty-four amphibious Amtracs would transport two additional companies of paratroopers to the lake shore, where a beachhead would be established while the Amtracs continued to the camp to evacuate its occupants. Simultaneously, a task force consisting of a reinforced infantry battalion, two battalions of heavy artillery and a tank destroyer battalion would advance down Highway 1 towards Los Baños to interdict any Japanese attempts to interfere.

Assisted by a group of guerrillas during the night of Feb 21, the divisional recon platoon made their way to the lake and collected ten canoes. Despite navigational difficulties, the platoon came ashore near Los Baños at 0200 the following morning, and after securing the paratroopers’ drop zone, concealed themselves in the jungle near the camp. During the afternoon, Baker Co, 1/511-PIR was transferred to the airfield from which they would be deployed, while the rest of the battalion rendezvoused with the Amtrac convoy. At 0700 Feb 23, Baker Co took off in ten C-47 Skytrain transport aircrafts, arriving over their DZ shortly afterwards. As the first paratroopers landed, the recon platoon and the supporting guerilla fighters opened fire on the camp’s defences, using Bazooka rounds to penetrate the concrete pillboxes, and then entered the camp to engage its garrison. The paratroopers soon joined the battle, and by 0730 the Japanese guards had been overcome and the internees were being rounded up and readied for evacuation.

At the lakeshore, the 511-PIR’s other two companies had secured their beachhead, and the convoy of Amtracs reached the camp without incident. Priority during loading was given to the women, children and wounded; some of the able-bodied men walked alongside the Amtracs as they returned to the beach. The first evacuation convoy left the camp at approximately 1000, with Baker Co, the recon platoon and the guerrillas remaining behind to provide a rearguard. By 1130, all of the civilians had been evacuated and at 1300 the Amtrac convoy returned for the rearguard, with the last paratroopers leaving the beach at approximately 1500. Meanwhile, on Highway 1, the task force that had been deployed to protect the operation met heavy Japanese resistance and suffered several casualties, but was able to block Japanese forces that advanced on the camp, before retreating back to American lines. The raid had been a complete success, liberating 2147 civilians.

US 6th ArmySouthern Luzon and Aparri On the day that the Los Baños internees were freed, the headquarters of Sixth United States Army assigned the 11-Abn the task of destroying all Japanese formations in southern Luzon, south of Manila. The bulk of the division moved south the following day, with the 187-GIR and the 511-PIR advancing abreast. The 188-GIR was detached from the main advance by Gen Swing; it was to eliminate all Japanese units still operating in the Pico de Loro hills along the southern shore of Manila Bay. These forces belonged to the 80.000-strong Shimbu Group, one of three groups of the Japanese Fourteenth Area Army under Gen Tomoyuki Yamashita.

It would take until the end of April for the 11-Abn, often acting in conjunction with Filipino soldiers and the recognized guerillas with elements of the 1st Cavalry Division, to subdue the Shimbu Group. Conducting combat operations was extremely difficult in the mountainous terrain, and many Japanese units lected to fight to the death rather than surrender. However, all organized resistance in southern Luzon ended on May 1, when the division captured Mount Malepunyo near the city of Lipa. The 11-Abn established a base centered around the former Japanese airstrip on the outskirts of Lipa, the runway of which was lengthened by the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion to accommodate C-47 transport aircrafts. Once the engineering work was completed, the division’s combat troops participated in several refresher-training courses.

The 11-Abn’s next operation took place on Jun 23, in the province of Aparri in northern Luzon. By this time the only Japanese forces remaining on the island were positioned to the far north and belonged to the 52.000-strong Shobu Group. This last of Gen Yamashita’s three groups proved to be the most tenacious, forcing Gen Walter Krueger, commander of the 6-A, to commit four infantry divisions, an armored task force, and a large band of the Filipino recognized guerrillas. While these forces pinned down the Japanese, the 37th Infantry Division began an advance northwards, defeating a weaker formation and encircling the main Japanese force. To ensure the success of the 37th’s drive, Krueger called for an airborne force to land near Aparri and move southwards to meet the advancing 37-ID.

The 11-Abn was to drop a battalion-sized combat team on Camalaniugan Airfield, approximately ten miles (16 Km) south of Aparri. It would then advance southwards, eliminating all Japanese resistance, until it linked up with the leading elements of the 37-ID. To accomplish this Gen Swing formed a special unit, the Gypsy Task Force, comprising the 1/511-PIR, George and Item Cos of the 2/511-PIR, an artillery battery from the 457-PFAB, and a platoon of engineers and miscellaneous signal and medical detachments. Gypsy Task Force would be transported by fifty-four C-47 Skytrain and thirteen C-46 Commando aircraft, as well as six Waco CG-4A Gliders which would land jeeps and supplies for the task force. On Jun 21, a detachment of pathfinders from the division was flown in to secure Camalaniugan Airfield, and two days later the transport aircraft carrying the troops of Gypsy Task Force were escorted by fighters to the area. At 0900, the pathfinder detachment set off colored smoke to mark the drop-zone, but fierce winds and uneven ground around the airfield proved hazardous to the parachutists, causing two deaths and seventy injuries during the drop. Despite these casualties the force was rapidly concentrated, and began its advance southwards. Japanese resistance was stiff, forcing the airborne troops to rely on flamethrowers to eliminate bunkers and fortifications along their route. After three days of fighting and having eliminated a significant portion of Shobu Group, the task force encountered the lead elements of the 37-ID. Although Shobu Group would continue its resistance until September, its encirclement marked the 11-Abn’s final combat operation of the war.

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