|Fourth Marines Band: "Last China Band"|
Japanese Soldiers Advance on Luzon
Three days after the bombardment of Cavite, Lieutenant
Colonel William T. Clement, Fleet Marine Officer, U.S. Asiatic Fleet, was
summoned to Manila for talks with General Douglas MacArthur and his chief of
staff, Major General Richard K. Sutherland. Both Army generals were
persistent in their efforts to obtain the release of the Marines in the
Philippines from Navy to Army control. MacArthur wanted a battalion of
Marines to relieve a battalion of the 31st U.S. Infantry to guard his U.S.
Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) Headquarters and to occupy a section of
the Philippine capital.
This matter was successfully resisted until 20 December. The rapid advance of the Japanese southward from Lingayen Gulf led the USAFFE commander to abandon Manila and to declare it an open city. He departed on 24 December, and on the following day located an administrative USAFFE Headquarters in Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor.
However, some Marines were still destined to perform guard duty for the U.S. Army. On 5 January 1942, MacArthur established a forward tactical USAFFE echelon on Bataan, under the command of Brigadier General Richard J. Marshall. It was sited at KM (Kilometer) 187.5, northwest of Mariveles, near a quarry at the junction of West Road and Rock Road. On the following day, newly promoted Marine First Lieutenant William F. Hogaboom, commanding antiaircraft Battery A, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, from Cavite, mounted out an interior guard there.
Lieutenant Hogaboom was relieved of this duty on 16 January, when his battery received new orders to join the Naval Battalion at the Quarantine Station at Mariveles. For the next month or so, Marine Batteries A and C were a part of this battalion engaged in combat with a Japanese landing force which had come ashore on Longoskawayan Point behind the American lines.
On 10 January, General MacArthur made his only visit to the front lines on Bataan. Six days later, First Lieutenant Ralph C. Mann, Jr., Company F; and First Lieutenant Michiel Dobervich, Company E, received verbal orders from Lieutenant Colonel Herman R. Anderson, commanding the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, on Corregidor, to establish a new guard at the forward USAFFE echelon, now called Signal Hill. The detachment consisted of 43 Marines, apparently selected at random from throughout the 4th Marines, together with five Filipinos.
The Marine guard had just completed its security precautions when another Japanese force landed at Aglaloma Point to the north and sent patrols forward toward Pucot Hill. Sniper fire was received from two directions at the headquarters on 24 January. Lieutenant Dobervich led a patrol of 11 Marine riflemen and one Browning Automatic rifleman out to Pucot Hill seeking any enemy who may have infiltrated the Naval Battalion’s lines. No contacts were made and the patrol returned at dark.
The USAFFE Headquarters moved inland on 27 January, reportedly because of proximity to the offensive being conducted in the vicinity of Pucot Hill and Longoskawayan Point. The new location was KM 167.5, north of the road exiting Mariveles to Bataan’s East Road and east of Hospital No. 1. The site was nicknamed “Little Baguio,” after the elite summer resort in northern Luzon.
Dobervich described the area as that occupied by USAFFE’s Service Command, the headquarters compound being entered through a motor pool north of the highway. An ammunition dump was located to its east side, dangerously near the hospital. Facilities were sparse, one or two corrugated buildings and squad tents clustered beneath a towering canopy of trees, effectively screened from aerial observation. The Marines’ tent camp and mess were located north of the headquarters. The whole was situated on a flat arm of an extinct volcano southeast of the Mariveles Mountains.
Marines in the detachment with bolos cut a perimeter path from the jungle around the headquarters at approximately 500 yards from the outermost structure. Barbed wire was implanted on the outside and smooth wire inside the path to guide sentries in the darkness. Rocks in cans mounted on trip wires strung outside the wire were occasionally disturbed by iguanas, wild pigs, and pythons. Marines manned eight outposts in the perimeter. Watches were four hours on, four off.
Several Marines later testified to the tedium of this duty. There were no incursions this far south by infiltrating Japanese. By this time, rations had been cut more than half, and the content of the ration apparently varied within the command structure. Private First Class James 0. Faulkner compared the tantalizing smell of frying bacon in the commanding general’s cook tent to the unappetizing and unsalted messkit of boiled rice he was repeatedly issued from one day to the next. Apparently some Marines messed with the Army; others recall having gotten all their meals from the Marine galley. The former were probably one sergeant, one corporal, and two privates first class who were assigned as radio operators at Station WTA, USAFFE Headquarters, from January through mid-March.
Former Private Earl C. Dodson was a driver for Lieutenant Mann and acted as mess sergeant. Several of their trips were to acquire rations from the Navy tunnels at Mariveles. He recalls their vehicle being repeatedly strafed by the Japanese. He said that the lieutenant tried to get transferred to Marine antiaircraft duty, feeling that his talents were being wasted in the guard detachment. Mann worried about his wife, the daughter of an American official in the consul’s office in Shanghai, whom he had married there. Mrs. Mann accompanied him to the Philippines in November 1941 and was now a prisoner of the Japanese in Manila.
Lieutenant Dobervich also made trips for supplies, traveling three times to Corregidor, where his friend, First Lieutenant Jack Hawkins, Company H, 2d Battalion, assisted him in acquiring them. However, at the end of February, Dobervich was laid up with malaria for two weeks at Hospital No. 1.
On 22 February, Washington notified General MacArthur that he was relieved as commander in the Philippines and that he was to make his way to Australia. Command of the Philippines devolved onto Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright, of I Corps, and USAFFE was redesignated U.S. Forces in the Philippines (USFIP). When MacArthur departed on 12 March, Wainwright took command of the newly formed Luzon Force at the Little Baguio headquarters. However, when he was promoted to lieutenant general on 20 March, he moved to USFIP Headquarters in Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor. Wainwright selected Major General Edward P. King, Jr., to command Luzon Force Headquarters and its combat forces.
Late in March, MacArthur urged Wainwright by radio to make a major counter-attack northward with both his corps to capture Japanese supplies at Olongapo and Dinalupihan. Before any such plans could be formulated, the enemy struck first with fresh troops. Japanese aircraft became more aggressive, one strike coming straight to Hospital No. 1, plainly marked with a Red Cross, and bombing it without mercy. Manila’s Japanese radio announced on 31 March that the raid was “unintentional,” but the mistake was repeated in following days.
Luzon Force Headquarters and its Marine Detachment came in for their share of subsequent bombings, and Japanese artillery began to find the range. Lieutenant Dobervich urged his Marines to dig foxholes and trenches and directed that a large shelter be tunneled into a nearby hillside. This was enlarged until the Marines turned miners ran into a huge rock in their path which discouraged further progress.
The Japanese Easter offensive broke through the front lines between the two
corps on Good Friday, and armed barges struck the rear flanks from Manila
Bay. By 8 April, the II Corps eastern front had become chaos and, unknown to
Wainwright, General King determined to surrender Bataan’s battered remnants.
Marines at the Luzon Force state that they were aware of some of the
proceedings, that they saw officers in a staff car with a white flag depart
the camp and proceed northward through streams of troops retreating
The capture and subsequent loss in 1942 of the
original 4th Marines’ records prove at first daunting to any researcher of
the period. The search for source material must begin with part IV of LtCol
Frank 0. Hough, Maj Verle E. Ludwig, and Henry I. Shaw, Jr.’s History of
U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, vol 1, Pearl Harbor to
Guadalcanal (Washington: HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, 1958). This work proved to
be the single best account of the regiment in the fall of the Philippines.
Other works of value include Hanson W. Baldwin’s “The Fourth Marines on Corregidor,” Marine Corps Gazette, Nov46-Feb47; Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines, The War in the Pacific: United States Army in World War II (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1953). Also useful were James H. and William M. Belote, Corregidor: The Saga of a Fortress (NY: Harper and Row, 1967); Reports of General MacArthur, vols I and II (Washington: GPO, 1966); Carl M. Holloway, Happy, the POW, (Brandon, Mississippi: Quail Ridge Press, 1981); Donald Versaw, The Last China Band (Lakewood, California: Peppertree Publications, 1990); and William R. Evans, Soochow and the 4th Marines (Rogue River, Oregon: Atwood Publications, 1987).
The 4th Marines records which were brought out from Corregidor by submarine or retrieved from the prison camps after the war are found in the geographical and subject files in the Archives Section, Marine Corps Historical Center. The Personal Papers Collection proved to contain valuable items, including the Thomas R. Hicks journals, which contain a daily record of events of the regiment. Also of use were the Reginald H. Ridgely papers, Curtis T. Beecher memoir, Floyd 0. Schilling papers, Cecil J. Peart papers, James B. Shimel papers, Carter B. Simpson memoir, Wilbur Marrs memoir, and the Charles R. Jackson manuscript.
Many other articles written by Marine participants or about the 4th Marines in the defense of the Philippines were consulted for this work.
The best sources, by far, for the 4th Marines experience in the fall of the Philippines are the survivors themselves. Capt Elmer E. Long, Jr., USMC (Ret) and CWO Gerald A. Turner, USMC (Ret), provided assistance in locating the surviving members of the “Old” 4th. More than 100 Marines have been interviewed as well as men from other services.
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