by Jack McKillop
Mindoro Island (13°04'49"N, 120°55'16"E) is located about 11-miles (18-kilometers) southwest of Luzon Island and about 204-miles (328-kilometers) northwest of Leyte Island. With an area of 3,759-square-miles (9,773-square-kilometers), it is the seventh largest island in the Philippine Islands. A broad mountainous range stretches from north to south with mountains reaching 8,000-feet (2,438-meters). The tallest mountain, Mount Halcon, reaches 8,471-feet (2,582-meters). A coastal plain extends from the northeast coast to the south coast and then up to the northwest coast. The average depth of this coastal plain on the east coast is 15-miles (24-kilometers); on the southwest coast, the average depth is 10-miles (16-kilometers)
History during World War II & Base Facilities
Japanese forces landed on northeastern Mindoro on 27 February 1942 and captured Calapan, the provincial capital, and the airfield to the east but they do not make effort to secure the rest of the island.
The island was invaded by United States forces on 15 December 1944 at a point about 15-miles (24-kilometers) northwest of San Jose (12°21'34"N, 121°03'13"E). The area along the southwestern coast, where the landings were made, was low, sandy, and covered with scrub growth. Beyond the beaches, a cultivated plain extended inland for 5-miles (8-kilometers), rising gradually to the mountains of the interior. There was little jungle. High mountains form an impassable barrier between east and west coasts and have a direct effect on the rainfall, so that from October to May the southwest coast is virtually without rainfall. The island was invaded to secure a site where four airfields could be developed, free from the rain and mud of Leyte and Samar.
On D-Day, Seabees landed with Army forces at Caminawit Point (12º19'47"N, 121º05'13"E) in San Jose City and they started work immediately on an advance motor torpedo (PT) base which they completed in February 1945. Tents were used for the housing and messing of 1,800 men; tents and native huts for offices; two Quonset huts for a post office and radio communications; several large tents and a Quonset warehouse for storage; a 70-by-100-foot (21-by-30-meter) frame building for repair shops, a dispensary and sick bay. A 230-foot (70-meter) timber pier was also built.
On 14 January 1945, additional Seabees disembarked at Caminawit Point with orders to build an advance naval base in the area. During their stay at Mindoro, the Seabees constructed headquarters for a section base, a port director's office in a Quonset hut, three Quonset huts for communications offices and transmitters, a post office, a 40-by-60-foot (12-by-18-meter) frame building, 3 acres (1.2 hectares) for open storage, four Quonset huts for a dispensary, a service apron at the USAAF’s Elmore Field for Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) planes, a tent camp for base personnel, and a 266-foot (81-meter) timber pier for small craft.
The Navy utilized one of the four airfields built on the island. The Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) operated three Douglas R4D Skytrain shuttle flights daily to McGuire Field (now San Jose Airport, (12º21'42"N, 121º02'46"E) from Guiuan Airfield, Samar delivering mail, personnel and equipment for the US Navy squadrons based at the airfield. A small detachment of NATS was based at the airfield consisting of two officers and 15 enlisted men to handle these flights.
In February 1945, a Navy patrol bomber squadron equipped with Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberators arrived at McGuire Field and flew searches over the northwest coast of Borneo, the coastline of Indochina and the waters in between until the end of the war. Detachments of Martin PBM Mariners from several squadrons operated from seaplane tenders in the bay at San Jose flying search missions to the west.