Citizens running for safety during the 1945 Battle of Manila

battle of manila 1945

Powerful photograph showing citizens of Manila running desperately from the burning suburbs bombed by the Japanese on February 10th, 1945. A closer look seems to reveal some smoke in the background, although it might also be just an imperfection of the picture.

The Battle of Manila was a one month conflict between February 3rd and March 3rd 1945, with Filipino and US forces attempting to free the capital from Japanese rule. The battle was a major part of the 1944-1945 Philippine campaign (and one of many battles fought in the city’s history).

It is said that the Battle of Manila saw the most harrowing urban fighting in the Pacific campaign (and only second to Stalingrad overall). The fighting resulted in over 100.000 civilians deaths, with people being deliberately and horrifically massacred by Japanese soldiers and heavily bombed by both the Japanese and the Americans.

After the one month long conflict, Manila (initially seized by the Japanese in 1942) was liberated by US forces on March 4th, 1945, but with great cost. The city was leveled by US and Japanese bombings, losing inestimable cultural, historical and architectural heritage. To understand the level of destruction, we can look at how in Manila’s business district only two buildings escaped damage. It is agreed that Berlin and Warsaw are the only two capitals to suffer comparable damage during World War II, and even to this day Manila has not yet fully recovered from the devastation of the 1945 battle.

Book suggestions ⤵️

📖 Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita, and the Battle of Manila (James Scott, 2018)

📖 Return to the Philippines (Rafael Steinberg, Time-Life Books, 1978)

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