Battle of Bessang Pass
The combined forces of the 14th Infantry, United States Army Forces in the Philippines – Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL), under the command of Lt Col. Romulo A. Manriquez, and the 37th Division of the U.S. Sixth Army liberated the town of Ilagan, Isabela on 19 June 1945 as part of the Isabela-Nueva Vizcaya liberation campaign which lasted from December 1944 to June 1945. The liberation was not an easy feat for the troops as the 103rd Division of the Japanese Army was scattered along Highway 5 after the run-off of the remaining Yuguchi Forces from Santa Fe crossing the Cagayan River.
In order to weaken the enemy presence in the area, the 14th Infantry of the USAFIP-NL, which lacked arms and ammunition, resorted to using various warfare tactics such as ambushing, destroying enemy patrols along Highway 5, cutting off the Japanese’s communication and supply lines, and burning Japanese supply dumps and garrisons. This proved to be effective in the liberation campaign as the attacks on enemy strongholds led to the diminished capacity of the Japanese to control the area, making it easier for the 37th Division to enter the area and eventually seize the towns of Isabela one after another.
The liberation of Ilagan, and the whole province of Isabela, was crucial in the Northern Luzon liberation campaign. After retaking the town, the 37th Division established a bridgehead across the Pinacauan de Ilagan (now referred to as the Ilagan River). The establishment of the bridgehead proved that enemy control in Isabela was immensely diminished. The retaking of Ilagan and its nearby towns also affected the Japanese Army’s ability to execute a coordinated enemy defense in Northern Luzon. The 14th Infantry was also successful in preventing the escaping Japanese Forces to seek refuge in Ifugao by guarding the Highway Four connecting Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, and Kiangan, Ifugao.
Kimpo, Phillip, Pobre, Cesar P. “The Freedom Fighters of Northern Luzon: An Untold Story.” Quezon City: 2010, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.