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The Destruction of the United States Manila Mint: Black Dragons Unleashed



Today is the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the United States Manila Mint during the largest and most destructive urban battle fought by U.S. troops during the Second World War.

In recognition of the important role the Manila Mint played in our nation's numismatic heritage I am posting a series of four journal articles on this often forgotten mint.

My first Journal article http://coins.www.collectors-society.com/JournalDetail.aspx?JournalEntryID=16394 covered the establishment of the Mint and the Mint's historical context. Yesterdays Journal article http://coins.www.collectors-society.com/JournalDetail.aspx?JournalEntryID=16397 covered the coins and medals of the Manila Mint. Today's Journal article will cover the battle of Manila and the destruction of the Mint during the fierce fighting that took place in and around the Mint on 2/22/1945 and 2/23/1945. Tomorrow's Journal article will chronicle the final allied assault on the Japanese stronghold in the Mint and will present the bibliography of my research on the Manila Mint.

During WWII Manila was occupied by the Japanese from January 2, 1942 until March 1945. On January 9, 1944 U.S. forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur landed at Lingayen Gulf on the Island of Luzon and proceeded to fight their way south to liberate Manila. As the forces of liberation neared Manila the Japanese general in command of the Philippines ordered all of his forces to withdraw from the city. Unfortunately the commander of the Japanese Naval Defense Force in Manila disobeyed his orders and fortified the city.

The key to the cities defenses was the Intramuros, an ancient walled fortress built by the Spanish, and the strongly-built public buildings constructed by the Spanish and American administrations.

" a defensive plan centered on the inner stronghold of the ancient walled city of Intramuros. Beyond the walls was a semicircle of public buildings prepared for defense to the last man. Streets and structures were mined, and each building was adequately victualled to be self-sufficient. Intermixed with and beyond the public buildings was a cats cradle of mutually supporting antitank, machine-gun and rifle fire covering existing obstacles." (Connaughton, 1995, p. 108)

The Mint of the Philippine Islands was located in the Intendencia Building which was constructed by the Spanish in 1876 to earthquake-proof specifications. This made the mint building extremely strong and a natural fortress for the Japanese garrison of Manila which deployed strong defenses in and around the mint building. The mints location on the south bank of the Pasig River was only yards away from the only gap in the forty foot wide, 20-feet-high stone-block walls of the ancient walled fortress of the Intramuros.

"The great wall ended at the Intendencia building, or Government Mint, so that a gap like an open door led through into the enclosed city." (Connaugton, 1995, p. 163)

This placed the mint building directly on the Allied main axis of attack during the month long (February 3, 1945 - March 3, 1945) Battle of Manila.

The final allied attack on the Intramuros was an amphibious assault(on 2/23/1945), by the 3rd Battalion, 129th Regiment, across the Pasig River, past the government mint, and through the gap in the walls of the Intramuros. In order to prevent heavy allied casualties during the attack, it was necessary for U.S. artillery to knock out the Japanese strongholds in and around the mint building.

The important task of neutralizing the Japanese strong point in the government mint was assigned to the biggest and most powerful field guns in the allied arsenal the 240-mm. (9.4 inch) "Black Dragon" howitzers. The "Black Dragon" fired a massive 360 pound artillery shell which was incredibly effective against fortifications. On the morning of February 22, 1945 "the 240-mm. howitzers of Battery C, 544 Field Artillery, began bombardment to breach the north wall (of Intramuros) and knock out a Japanese strong point at the government mint." (Smith, 1963, p295)

To learn more about the U.S. Manila Mint please visit my Custom Registry Set, The United States Manila Mint, Complete at:



I was honored that NGC selected this set as the 2014 Most Creative Custom Registry Set. The set presents a complete fully illustrated and annotated set of the coins and medals of the United States Manila Mint as well as numismatic references, circa 1920 photographs (from the National Archives), and original color photographs taken by my father during the World War ll liberation of the Philippines.

Photo: World War II photo of 240mm M1 Black Dragon howitzer and crew.


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