Author Topic: The Battle of Sibalu Hill  (Read 1759 times)


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The Battle of Sibalu Hill
« on: September 27, 2016, 03:16:45 AM »
The Battle of Sibalu Hill (the Philippine version of Hamburger Hill)

Originally posted by Pachada
on: July 21, 2006, 12:48:48 pm

In September 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law, claiming that the insurgents had put the state in grave danger. Far from suppressing the pockets of armed rebellion, however, the dictatorship only succeeded in further fanning insurgent flames. Over the next 14 years, the Air Force would give government troops the mobility and firepower to keep the well-entrenched rebels at bay despite often-heavy casualties on both sides. The cost of the long counter-insurgency war to the PAF would go far beyond human lives, misplaced strategic priorities and rapid depletion of meager resources. It led to a steady decline in the external defense capability of the Air Force.

"We almost lost that war," recalls Brig. Gen. Ciriaco Reconquista (ret.), who as a transport plane pilot flew hundreds upon hundreds of dead and wounded soldiers from the battlefields of Mindanao and ferried troops repeatedly from NPA-infested areas in Luzon to the MNLF front. "The (Muslim) rebels were better-armed." In terms of firepower, the military had only one sustainable advantage: the Air Force. At no time was this power wielded more dramatically than in November 1972 at the battle of Sibalu Hill in Sulu near the southern tip of the Philippines.

T-34 Mentor trainers, fitted with weapons, also saw combat action against insurgents. From their staging area in Mactan, some 60 fighters and gunships flew in successive waves toward Sibalu Hill in Sulu in the biggest single operation against the secessionists. General Reconquista - then a lieutenant in charge of A3 (Air Force operations) - remembers having been on duty that Sunday at Villamor Air Base. Shortly after noon, he received the first of a series of frantic calls from Jolo, Sulu, requesting air support to extricate a battalion of marines trapped within the MNLF strong- hold. Lt. Col. Reconquista immediately alerted Basa Air Base to make available all aircraft and sent transport planes to load armaments. By the time General Rancudo, then PAF chief was located to give the deployment orders, no less than 60 planes and choppers were ready to fly to Mactan - the staging area for the air assault. Air Force Col. Pompeyo Vasquez was flown in from Jolo to brief the pilots on the situation at Sibalu Hill. The marines and the rebels were within shouting distance of one another: it was imperative to determine their exact positions.

That same evening, Colonel Vasquez flew back to Jolo where he would orchestrate the attack as air controller the following morning. By dawn, wave upon wave of F-5 and F-86 fighters, as well as T-33 jets and C-47 gunships, took off for Jolo every minute - bombarding the enemy camp accurately and relentlessly. After each sortie - some pilots flew three sorties during that attack - the aircraft would dart back to Mactan to reload. Before the morning was over, helicopters landed at Sibalu Hill to extricate the marines that narrowly escaped a massacre. A few months later, the Air Force would again play a vital support role in the massive military counter-offensive in the central Mindanao province of Cotabato. By early 1973, the MNLF forces had virtually surrounded Cotabato City and the Awang airport complex. With overseas support for training and arms, the rebels were gearing up for riverine and land attacks to seize the seat of government in Central Mindanao. This would complete the first step in their grand plan to turn Mindanao, Palawan and the Sulu chain of islands into the Bangsa Moro Republic. page 11 of 14 pages

Counter- insurgency troops hop on board the C-47. To thwart the Cotabato rebel attack, the Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM), headed by Brig. Gen. Fortunato Abat of the Philippine Army, enlisted the support of every branch of the Armed Forces, as well as paramilitary civilian home defense forces. Aside from airlifting troops from Manila and Cebu to the war zone, the PAF swooped into the thick of battle. Composite Air Support Force Cotabato (CASFCOT) fielded Huey choppers, rocket-bearing U-17 aircraft and C-47 gunships as CEMCOM troops advanced to recapture town after town from rebel hands.

The liberation of the town of Maganoy on 2 April 1973 hinged on a risky air mobile operation in which six Hueys had to execute a tight spiral - one after the other - from 5,000 feet to a marked landing spot at the town plaza to insert elements of the 22nd Infantry Battalion. From March to August 1973, the PAF provided air cover and tactical support to ground forces, interdicted waterborne rebel reinforcements, broke up rebel concentrations and blasted fuel and ammunition dumps. The military attack culminated in the two-month campaign to destroy the well-secured rebel logistics base in Barrio Tran, Lebak and to restore government control over the town. Secondary explosions following a series of air strikes heralded the success of the mission. From there, CEMCOM gained the initiative and shifted to unconventional warfare as the rebels, in Gen. Abat's assessment, began resorting to "harassment, limited attacks, depredations, sabotage and keep their image of strength." Even as the Muslim secessionist movement waned in the face of peace and diplomatic initiatives, the military found no respite as it confronted the growing NPA threat on several fronts.

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Info on Philippine Air Power...
Post by Cygnus

Quote from: rock  on: October 28, 2006, 08:52:07 am
       My uncle is one of the Scout Rangers who attack the Sibalu hill. He told us that the marine landing is a disaster.  As soon as the Naval bombardment and Heavy machinegun fire from government troops stop as a signal for the marines and army to attack the rebels would go out to their bunker and open fire.
     My uncle told me that everytime the landing ship open it bows for the the marines  to wade they are raked by machinegun fire. 
     The commanders decided a continous bombardment and machinegun fire,while the Hueys execute a dangerous scout ranger insertion to the rebels perimeter position.
      He told me that they also have flamethrower made available for the assault to clear enemy bunkers.
  If I remember it right he told me that their is a natural cave that the spaniards made some improvement to fortify the places.

Obsolete weapons do not deter. You do not base a defence policy on someone else's good intentions.
- Apr 7, 1989 [Baroness Margaret Thatcher, UK PM (1979-90)]

Red Justice

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Re: The Battle of Sibalu Hill
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2016, 08:22:34 AM »
My father's ship BRP Pangasinan was in the vicinity, they transported 24th MC and provided NGFS for troops at Sibalu Hill.


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Re: The Battle of Sibalu Hill
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2018, 08:56:07 PM »
My uncle fought and died on this battle... earned him the medal of valor at the cost of his life...


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Re: The Battle of Sibalu Hill
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2018, 08:10:28 PM »
My uncle fought and died on this battle... earned him the medal of valor at the cost of his life...

Thank you for your sacrifice Mr S.