Possible Wolfpack Stuart pops up in the PI

The municipality of Medellin Cebu, in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, recently had an M5A1 Stuart light tank pulled from the muck of the Dagusungan river by troops of the 53rd Engineer Brigade (PI) in a 10-day operation.

Medellin Municipal Planning and Development Officer Giles Anthony Villamor told local media that, according to the local mythos, the U.S. tank was crossing the Dagusungan bridge during WWII when it was bombarded by Japanese troops causing the tank to fall into the water. Salvage efforts in the 50s, 60s, and 70s proved fruitless, and the armored vehicle was left to the mud until recently renewed interest.

The Stuart apparently had its turret salvaged in 2016 and is on display at Bogo-Medellin Milling Company, Inc. (Bomedco) plaza, so possibly the two can be reunited.

75 Years ago this month…

One of the most densely populated islands in the archipelago, Cebu served as a large Japanese base during their 35-month occupation in World War II, although they were harassed the whole time by local Cebuano guerrillas under American mining engineer, Lt. Col. James M. Cushing.

In late March 1945, the Sixth Army’s 23rd Infantry (Americal) Division landed on Talisay Beach during Operation VICTOR II and fought for Cebu City and the outlying airfield for several weeks, along with the 82nd Philippine Infantry, before the Japanese withdrew to the northern end of the island, where they only surrendered post-VJ-Day. The Americals suffered 2,100 casualties for Cebu.

The Americal’s supporting armor unit, the 716th Tank (Wolfpack) Battalion, had a mix of three companies of M4 Sherman medium tanks (about 60 tanks) and one of M5A1 Stuart light tanks (about 20 tanks). In the Philipines in 1945, they fought against elements of the Japanese 2nd Armored Division, one of the few armor-on-armor clashes of the Pacific War, engaging the Emperor’s Type 95 and Type 97 tanks in decidedly one-sided battles.

Light Tank M5A1 from 716th Tank Battalion, Philippines, 1945. Note the 5 kills on her hull, certainly a rarity for any U.S. tank in the Pacific, especially a Stuart

The 716th regularly painted a large wolf’s head on the hull or turret side as a battalion marking.

A 716th M4A3 Sherman medium tank named “Classy Peg” passes the hulk of a destroyed Japanese Type 97 Shinhoto Chiha tank on Luzon-in the Philippines 17 Jan-1945. Note the wolf on the Sherman’s hull.

One comment

  • Thank you for this blog. I’ve been conducting anthropological research in Cebu since 2017, and I have encountered narratives during the Second World War, so I’ve checked the archives and read ‘Tabunan’ by Segura, and a recent publication, ‘Cushing’s Coup’ by Barrenveld. Your blog is a good source for a (future) visit and talk with locals.

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