The Japanese Imperial General Staff was Supremely confident that they could
take the Philippines with little difficulty— so confident that they did not
even allot the whole of their XIV Army to the job. At first it seemed that
they were justified; for their landings were only lightly opposed, and their
troops advanced rapidly against an untrained and ill-equipped enemy. But the
siege of Bataan, on which the American and Filipino forces planned to make
their last stand, disrupted their progress. Disease and hunger struck both
besiegers and besieged, and Japanese victory was delayed for three months
until they could bring up fresh reinforcements.
On July 22, 1941, with the acquiescence of the Vichy government, Japan
occupied naval and air bases in south-east Indochina, and to counter this
threat the armed forces of the Philippines were brought into the service of
the United States. On the same day—July 26—the US War Department established
a new command: the US Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), based at Manila under
the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who was recalled to active duty.
By the first day of December 1941, the line troops in USAFFE comprised ten
infantry divisions, five coastal artillery units, two field artillery
regiments, and a cavalry regiment equipped with horses and a few scout cars.
The elite troops were the Scouts — highly trained members of the cavalry and
artillery regiments — and the 45th Battalion.
On Luzon (see map below) there were two army groups, the North and South
Luzon Forces. Major-General Jonathan M. Wainwright’s North Luzon Force was
the stronger: there were the 11th, 21st, 31st, and 71st Infantry Divisions,
the cavalry regiment, the 45th Battalion, and three field artillery
batteries. Brigadier-General George M. Parker’s South Luzon Force stood in
the area generally south and east of Manila, and consisted of two infantry
divisions and a battery of field artillery.
A Visayan-Mindanao Force, under Brigadier-General William F. Sharp, was
given the rest of the archipelago to defend. This force consisted of three
infantry divisions, and the remaining division, the US Army’s Philippine
Division, was positioned between North and South Luzon Forces. The defence
of the entry to Manila Bay and Subic Bay depended on five small fortified
islands and their garrisons, commanded by General Moore.
Major-General Brereton commanded the US Air Force in the Philippines, which
was given the title of Far East Air Force. Brereton’s most useful aircraft
were the B-17s (Flying Fortresses) of Lieutenant-Colonel Eubank’s 19th
Bombardment Group. All but one of the fighter squadrons in the 24th Pursuit
Group were equipped with modern P-40s (Kittyhawks), under the command of
Brigadier Clagett. Within 80 miles of Manila there were six airfields
suitable for fighters and only one — Clark Field — suitable for heavy
bombers; and although there were seven radar sets in the islands, only two
had been set up by December. A makeshift system of air-raid watchers
communicated by the civilian telephone or telegraph to the interceptor
command at Nielson Field on the outskirts of Manila. The two coast artillery
anti-aircraft regiments protected Clark Field’s B-17s and Manila with 3-inch
and 37-mm guns, .50 machine-guns, and 60-inch Sperry searchlights.
The US Navy in the Philippines was based at Cavite, on the southern shore of
Manila Bay. Under Admiral Thomas C. Hart, the fleet consisted of the heavy
cruiser Houston, two light cruisers, 13 old destroyers, 29 submarines, six
gunboats, six motor torpedoboats, miscellaneous vessels, and an air arm of
32 PBY Catalinas.
Despite the inadequate training the infantry had received, the shortage of
air warning devices, and the lack of airfields, there was an expression of
optimism in Washington and in the Philippines that the garrison could
withstand an attack by the Japanese.
The Japanese Imperial Staff, however, was completely confident that their
XIV Army would conquer the Philippines within three months, and that Luzon
Island would be in their hands within 50 days. They based their plan on a
detailed knowledge of the American and Philippine forces — their equipment,
training standards, fighting ability, and displacement. They were so
confident that, instead of committing the whole of the XIV Army, its
commander, General Homma, was allotted only two divisions, XVI and XLVIII,
supported by two tank regiments, two infantry regiments, and a battalion of
medium artillery, five anti-aircraft battalions, and various service units.
The Japanese V Air Group (army) and the XI Air Group (navy) were to provide
500 bomber and fighter aircraft for the invasion.
At Formosa on December 1, General Homma received final instructions from
Southern Army Headquarters: operations would begin on the morning of
December 8 (Tokyo time). The air forces were to open the attack — planned to
coincide with the beginning of hostilities against Malaya— soon after the
raid was made against the American fleet in Pearl Harbor. The Japanese
Navy’s III Fleet, commanded by Admiral Takahashi, was organised into
numerous special task forces which comprised transport and amphibious units
supported by cruisers and destroyers. A close cover force of three cruisers
would support the main landings.
On Formosa, the experienced and highlyskilled aircrews of the V Air Group
readied their Betty bombers and Zero fighters. Then at midnight on December
7/8 a heavy fog closed in over the airfields, preventing the scheduled
take-offs at dawn. The Japanese commanders were filled with nervous
apprehension as they realised that the Americans on Luzon would have news of
the raid on Pearl Harbor and could, with the B-17s of the Far East Air
Force, attack the planes lined up on the Formosan airfields.
All hope of surprise was lost.
Japanese "Co-Prosperity" propaganda:
These match-box labels
were part of the constant Japanese attempts to turn the native
populations of conquered territories against the allies. the matches
were circulated through the normal trade channels, and were dropped
on Allied-controlled territory as well. Churchill and Roosevelt were
main subjects of ridicule.
Caught on the ground
‘Air raid on Pearl Harbor. This is no drill.’ This was the dramatic message
tapped out from Hawaii at 0800 hours and received at the US Navy
Headquarters in Manila, where it was still dark and the time 0230 hours. A
Marine officer passed the message to Admiral Hart, who immediately advised
the fleet. General MacArthur was not advised by the navy but heard of the
attack from a commercial broadcast shortly after 0330 hours. He then ordered
the troops to battle stations.
The man most able to do something about an outbreak of war was General
Brereton at Clark Field, but he too only heard the news from a commercial
broadcast, and it was 0500 hours before he could reach MacArthur’s office to
seek permission to attack Formosa. Warned by a telephone call from General
Arnold in the US not to be caught with his aircraft grounded and suffer the
same fate as the anchored ships in Pearl Harbor, Brereton sent the heavy
bombers on patrol— but without bombs — at 0800 hours. Eventually, at 1045
hours, orders were given for two squadrons of B-17s to attack airfields on
southern Formosa ‘at the earliest daylight hour that visibility will
permit’, and the patrolling bombers were brought back to Clark Field to
bomb-up and refuel. By 1215 hours the armed bombers and fighters of the 20th
Pursuit Squadron were lined up on Clark Field ready for take-off.
On Formosa, the fog had lifted enough by dawn to allow 25 Japanese army
bombers to take off for Luzon. At 0930 hours they were over north Luzon, and
attacked barracks and other installations at Tuguegarao and Baguio without
interference from American fighters. By 1015 hours, the fog had further
dispersed to allow the naval aircraft of the Japanese XI Air Fleet to take
A force of 108 bombers, escorted by 84 fighters, arrived over Clark Field at
1215 hours, achieving complete tactical surprise and catching the US bombers
and fighters, with their tanks full of fuel, perfectly lined up for strafing
runs. While anti-aircraft shells exploded 2,000 to 4,000 feet below them,
two flights of 27 bombers accurately hit aircraft, hangars, barracks, and
warehouses, starting fires that spread to the trees and the cogon grass
around the field. The place became a mass of flame, smoke, and destruction,
and for more than an hour the Zero fighters sprayed the grounded B-17s and
P-40s with bullets. At the Iba Field fighter base, another group of 54
Japanese bombers, escorted by 50 fighters, destroyed barracks, warehouses,
and the radar station. Then Zero pilots found P-40s of the US 3rd Pursuit
Squadron circling to land at Iba:
all but two were shot down.
In the first few hours of the war in the Philippines, the Japanese airmen
had therefore achieved success beyond all expectation. For the loss of seven
Zeros, they had destroyed 17 B-17s, 56 fighters, some 30 miscellaneous
aircraft, and damaged many others, while important installations had been
blasted or burned, and 230 men killed or wounded. That afternoon, the US Far
East Air Force had ceased to be a serious threat to the invaders.
It is doubtful that even if the Far East Air Force had been spared on the
first day of war it would have survived for very long, and if the bombers
had raided Formosa it is doubtful if many of them would have returned after
a meeting with swarms of Zeros. Losses at Clark Field would have been less
had there been sufficient warning; but there had been none. Nielson Field
was advised of the approaching Japanese, but the two squadrons that took off
covered Manila and Bataan while Clark Field was shattered.
The following day the invaders continued their preliminary tactics of
destroying air and naval power, attacking Nichols Field to hit aircraft and
ground installations. The next day, December 10, a two-hour attack in the
Manila Bay area was made on the Del Carmen Field near Clark, the Nichols and
Nielson Fields near Manila, and on the Cavite naval base south of the city.
At Cavite the entire yard was ablaze after the first wave of 27 bombers
accurately dropped their loads in the target area. Repair shops, warehouses,
the power plant, barracks, the dispensary, and the radio station received
direct hits. Casualties amounted to some 500 men. The submarine Sealion
received a direct hit and a store of over 200 torpedoes was lost.
Fortunately, about 40 merchant ships in the bay were unscathed and
eventually escaped from the island. As a result of the raid Admiral Hart
ordered away two destroyers, three gunboats, tenders, and minesweepers,
planning to continue submarine and air operations ‘as long as possible’.
Another Formosan fog made December 11 a quiet day but the next day over 100
bombers and fighters swarmed over Luzon, attacking any suitable target
without much fear of retaliation: by now the Americans had less than 30
serviceable aircraft left. Seven PBYs were shadowed as they returned from a
patrol and were shot down as they approached to alight on the bay. The next
day the raiders numbered almost 200. On December 14 Admiral Hart sent the
remaining PBYs south to sanctuary; on December 17 the intact B-17s were sent
1,500 miles away to Darwin in northern Australia.
By now the Far East Air Force ceased to exist as a fighting force. Except
for a few patched fighters, the army was without air cover and the navy was
forced to rely mainly on submarines to protect the thousands of miles of
beaches against hostile landings — which had already begun on the northern
coast of Luzon.
Philippine Island of Luzon
Bataan Peninsula, Luzon
Six Japanese advance landings
The first landing on Philippine territory was made on the little island of
Bataan, about halfway across the strait separating Luzon from Formosa. This
was one of six advance landings planned for General Homma’s XIV Army — the
others were at Aparri and Vigan (on the north and north-west coast of
Luzon), at Legaspi (near the southern tip of Luzon), at Davao on Mindanao,
and at Jolo Island, between Mindanao and Borneo. The immediate objectives
were airfields from which fighters could operate to cover the main landings
which would follow. The captured Legaspi base would be a threat to American
reinforcements from the south, and the landings at Davao and Job Island were
designed to secure advanced bases for a later move southwards against the
Netherlands East Indies.
The Japanese took a calculated risk in using quite small forces for these
first landings — the largest force was only a regiment. On Bataan Island a
Japanese combat naval unit of 490 men landed unopposed at dawn on December
8. Two days later, Camiguin Island was seized, to provide a seaplane base
some 35 miles from Aparri.
Cautiously supported by strong naval and air forces, the Tanaka Force (named
after the commander of the II Formosa Regiment) approached undetected, and
landed 2,000 men at Aparri and Gonzaga, 20 miles further on. The regiment’s
other one and a half battalions, known collectively as the Kanno Detachment,
landed simultaneously at Pandan, near Vigan, at dawn on December 10. Here
the Japanese luck ran out: a patrolling P-40 alerted the Far East. Air
Force, and the remaining US heavy bombers, with fighter escort, attacked the
invaders’ convoy at the landing area. The Japanese fighter screen failed to
hold the attacks, and two transports were damaged and beached. But the
landing was successful, despite rough seas and the air raid, and by the
following evening a small detachment had pushed 50 miles north along the
coast to occupy the town and airfield of Laoag.
With three airfields in their hands and no signs of a counterattack, the
Japanese commanders decided to move the entire regiment down the west coast
and join up with the main forces of the XIV Army that were to land on the
beaches of Lingayen Gulf. There were delays while bridges were repaired and
a light brush with Philippine troops at Bacnotan was resolved, and Colonel
Tanaka’s regiment arrived a few hours after the main landings began.
The 3rd Battalion of the Philippine Army 12th Regiment was in the Aparri/Gonzaga
district, and quickly retreated south down the Cagayan valley, offering no
opposition. By the evening of December 12, Tuguegarao airfield (50 miles
inland) had been lost, and there was no opposition by the Philippine Army at
Vigan, and the nearest American and Filipino force was that at Legaspi — 150
miles away. In south Luzon, General Jones ordered road and rail bridges to
be demolished, and outpost defences prepared.
At 0400 hours on December 20, the Japanese landed at Davao. A machine-gun
squad of the 101st Regiment inflicted numerous casualties until it was
silenced by a direct hit from a Japanese naval gun. Nine bombers from
Batchelor Field, near Darwin, made a surprise raid on the Japanese force
collected to invade Job, but visibility was poor and only near-misses were
registered. Jolo fell on Christmas Day.
Within two weeks, General Homma’s advanced landing parties had occupied
airfields in north and south Luzon, in Mindanao, and Job. The Japanese air
forces had almost liquidated the Allied opposition, and the main invasion
troops were carried safely to the Lingayen beaches. Here the main strength
of Homma’s XIV Army began to disembark at 0500 hours on December 22. The
XLVIII Division, the IX Infantry Regiment, four artillery regiments with
75-mm, 105-mm, 150-mm guns and 150-mm howitzers, two tank regiments with
80/100 tanks, and a large number of service and special troops were put
ashore on the north coast of Lingayen Gulf. Nevertheless, choppy seas, an
attack by the Darwin-based B-17s, and shelling from two 155-mm guns provided
anxious moments for General Homma and his staff.
Along the 20-mile section of the main Japanese landing strip ran the
all-weather Highway 3, which formed part of the road network that led into
Manila. South of the landing beaches and between the gulf and Manila Bay,
was the central plain of Luzon, a flat area of cleared farmland with many
towns and villages. Here — and on the beaches — the Japanese had expected to
find the main force of American and Filipino defenders. Yet the only beach
resistance was at Bauang, where a .50 machine-gun inflicted heavy casualties
until the Japanese were able to establish a foothold ashore. Then the
Colonel Tanaka sent a battalion to take the Naguilian airfield, and at Agoo—at
the southern end of the landing front—the XL VII Regiment, supported by
artillery, made a sweep inland to Rosario while the XLVIII Reconnaissance
and IV Tank Regiments came ashore and routed a battalion of Philippine Army
Because of poor landing conditions (due to rough seas), General Homma
suspended unloading and disembarking operations during the afternoon, and
moved his transports further south to a point off Damortis during the night;
and the rest of Lingayan Force was thus ready to land the next day —
On south Luzon, General Morioka’s incomplete XVI Division, numbering 7,000
fighting troops, landed at Siam and Antimonan on the narrow strip of land
between Tayabas Bay and Lamon Bay, and at Mauban, further north. By the
evening of December 24, the landing was complete, and the only real
resistance came from Philippine regulars at Mauban. Army short-range
fighter-bombers and aircraft from the seaplane-carrier Mizuho gave close and
deadly support to the Japanese troops who were in control of the neck of the
peninsula by nightfall.
With only a strong action on December 24 to delay them, the Japanese had
secured their initial objectives and had established a firm grip on northern
Luzon. They were now in a position to march south to Manila along the broad
highways of the central plain. Only the southern route to the capital
remained to be seized. And MacArthur knew that his defence there was weak.
He needed reinforcements and was relying on the convoy of seven ships
escorted by the cruiser Pensacola to bring in troops, planes, and supplies.
But the convoy failed even to test the Japanese barrier of warships and
aircraft, and a request by MacArthur to have planes flown in from
aircraft-carriers was turned down by a navy which was now so sensitive to
the situation that the submarines were also evacuated. Torpedo-boats,
minesweepers, gunboats, and tugs were all that remained of the Manila Bay
naval force. Marines and sailors ashore were taken into the command of the
army, and so too were the remnants of the air force, while the few fighters
left were hidden.
Appalled at the inability of the Philippine army to stand up to the
Japanese, General MacArthur announced on December 23 a plan for withdrawal
to Bataan. He planned to declare Manila an ‘open’ city after he had moved
his headquarters to the island fortress of Corregidor, and the large
quantities of ammunition and fuel which had already been stored on the
Bataan peninsula, were now augmented as small barges and boats hastily
carried more supplies from Manila to Corregidor and Bataan.
By Christmas Day, 1941, when MacArthur moved into Corregidor, the main
defence line ran from near Binalonan—where the cavalry had made such a good
stand — along the other side of the Agno river and past Carmen to the
foothills of the Zambales mountains.
General Tsuchibashi’s infantry and tanks attacked the centre of the defence
line and soon moved through Villasis and crossed the river to take Carmen by
the evening of December 26. With the main road under his control Tsuchibashi
forced the Americans to use the railway to evacuate the rest of the 11th
Division, and Tsuchibashi’s troops then moved quickly along Route 3 to
intercept the train at Moncada but a road block of three tanks and a 75-mm
half-track delayed them, and the Philippine infantry got through.
After the Americans moved back from their third to their fourth defence
line, extending from foothills to foothills across the 40-mile plain, the
Japanese XLVIII Division broke through at Cabanatuan, and both the 11th and
21st Philippine Divisions were forced into another withdrawal. Aggressive
artillery action by the Filipino gunners slowed down the Japanese advance,
but by December 31 General Homma’s troops were only 30 miles from Manila.
With the Philippine army forced back to Bataan, General Homma was convinced
that the campaign would now be brought to an early and successful
conclusion. Another Japanese general, Morioka, believed that the ‘defeated
enemy’ was entering the peninsula like ‘a cat entering a sack’ — but he did
not foresee the consequences of joining the cat in the sack.
Against the line at Porac, Homma sent the IX Regiment, which penetrated
2,000 yards on January 2. The next morning, the Takahashi Detachment,
supported by 105mm guns, moved up to intercept an attack by a battalion of
21st Division. The Japanese found the opposing infantry easy to deal with,
but withering fire from the Filipino artillery stopped the Takahashi
Detachment from causing a rout. On the marsh flank, the Japanese advance was
made along the highway, where fighting was continuous and confused, infantry
and artillery battling it out with occasional use of tanks by both sides.
The defenders continued to withdraw, and the Japanese followed, harassing
the retreating infantry with small-arms and artillery fire. Then, from tanks
forming a road-block on the Lubao/ Sexmoan road, accurate firing cut some of
the Japanese columns to pieces. That night the attack was renewed across an
open field in bright moonlight, and again the American guns drove back the
Japanese; repeated attempts resulted in more heavy casualties.
As a result of the battering the Japanese had received, their fast pursuit
slowed down to cautious probing, while the Americans and Filipinos crossed
the Culo bridge at the Layac road-junction in a confused congestion of
vehicles, guns, and troops. Once again an obvious target was ignored by the
Japanese air force, and the Culo bridge was blown up after the retreating
army had crossed.
MacArthur realised that the Japanese success was achieved mainly because of
their superiority at sea and in the air, and although he pleaded with his
superiors for an Allied effort in the Pacific—the first step would be to
land an army corps on Mindanao — he accepted the fact that relief was
virtually impossible. He posted his defence across the mountainous peninsula
of Bataan and prepared for the final stand.
The first defense line on Bataan extended from the precipitous slopes of the
northern mountain, Santa Rosa, down to the sea on either side. Wainwright
had three reinforced divisions, the cavalry, and supporting artillery in his
1st Corps on the left flank, and on the right Parker had four divisions plus
a regiment from the Philippine Division. Eight miles behind was the rear
battle position served by the PilarBagac road. Preparing this line for a
final defense was the USAFFE reserve — the rest of the Philippine Division,
the tank group, and a group of self-propelled 75-mm guns. Corps and USAFFE
artillery was emplaced to cover the front lines as well as the beach
defenses in all sectors.
Some 80,000 troops were now on Bataan and about 26,000 civilians had also
fled there. Food and motor fuel had been stored to satisfy the requirements
of 43,000 men for six months. Now there would only be enough food for a few
weeks. There was no mosquito netting and the shortage of quinine tablets was
already reflected in the number of malaria cases admitted to the hospital. A
few fighter aircraft were miraculously still serviceable and engineers
prepared fields for them as well as helping the infantry and artillery to
The Philippine army was as ready as it could be, under the circumstances,
for General Homma to begin the battle.
A concentrated artillery barrage against 2nd Corps began at 1500 hours on
January 9. The defending guns replied effectively against the attacking
infantry. The II Battalion crossed the Calaguiman river and managed to reach
the cover of a sugar cane farm before midnight, where they were only 150
yards from their enemy’s 3rd Battalion. While it was still dark, the
Japanese opened up with artillery and mortar fire, then rushed out of the
cane field in a screaming banzai charge in the face of intense fire. As the
leading men dived across the barbed wire coils those following ran over
their backs unimpeded, only to be shot down by the defenders — and on the
following morning, January 11, between 200 and 300 Japanese lay dead on the
field, while the Philippine Army Scouts, who had been rushed up from the
reserve, were almost back to their original line.
Colonel Takechi’s IX Regiment moved against General Parker’s left flank to
circle behind the Americans while pressure was maintained at the other end
of the line. Little headway was made and both sides suffered heavy losses,
yet the pressure was maintained again the following day when
II Battalion attacked the 43rd Regiment. Artillery fire helped to prevent
the Japanese from gaining ground but the next day’s fighting left them in
possession of a hill between two Philippine army regiments.
Here, a counterattack took the Japanese by surprise and a Philippine
regiment pushed so far into their lines that the Japanese were almost able
to surround them. Attacked from three sides the Filipino troops fled to the
rear in disorder. Across the peninsula, Japanese attacks against
Wainwright’s 1st Corps successfully pushed them back to the main defense
line where fighting became intense. Beginning on January 18, it lasted until
January 25, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. One of Wainwright’s
divisions was forced to escape along the coast without rifles and in
complete disorder. Disease and lack of food were beginning to take their
toll on the defenders as Japanese pressure forced a general withdrawal,
which began on January 23.
In a bold move to open up a front behind the main defense lines and draw
away infantry and artillery, two Japanese battalions landed at two points
near Mariveles at the tip of Bataan. At first contained in the very rough
country by a miscellaneous force of airmen, sailors, and service troops, the
two battalions were destroyed after three weeks of bitter fighting.
But General Homma’s troops were running into more trouble as they pressed
against the last barricade — the Orion-Bagac line. With American artillery
shooting accurately from high positions, attacks were costly; but even so
they made several intrusions against the long, thinly defended line. General
Nara and General Kimura were both successful in making deep penetrations
which were then consolidated. But then these strong pockets were gradually
wasted by long, arduous fighting in the rough country.
It was now Homma’s turn to withdraw and lick his wounds. By the end of
February, the XIV Army had suffered 7,000 casualties, including 2,700 dead,
and between 10,000 and 12,000 were down with dysentery, beriberi, and
various tropical diseases. Homma could barely muster three effective
battalions — if the Philippine army had launched an offensive at this time
it could have recaptured Manila. But a lull settled over no-man’s-land, and
sections and platoons patrolled the area between the lines, General Homma
awaited reinforcements and the American generals prepared for the final
In Washington on February 8, the War Department received a startling message
from Philippine President Manuel Quezon, proposing that the US immediately
grant the Philippines their independence, that the islands be neutralised,
that American and Japanese forces be withdrawn and the Philippine army be
disbanded. At the same time General MacArthur sent a supporting message to
the Chief-of-Staff, General Marshall, explaining that the Philippine
garrison had sustained a casualty rate of 50%. ‘There is no denying the fact
that we are near done,’ he added.
President Roosevelt repudiated the neutrality scheme, insisting that the
fight must continue. He authorised MacArthur to surrender Filipino troops if
necessary but forbade the surrender of American troops: ‘so long as there
remains any possibility of resistance.’ Meanwhile, America and its Pacific
allies had agreed to place MacArthur in command of a new Allied HQ in the
south-west Pacific. MacArthur had earlier advised Marshall that he intended
to ‘fight to destruction’ on Corregidor. When commanded by his President and
urged by his senior staff officers, MacArthur accepted the proposed move. He
left when the fighting on Bataan had reached a stalemate. With him to
Mindanao on four PT boats went his wife and son, and the boy’s nurse,
Admiral Rockwell, General George (air force), General Sutherland, and 14
other staff members. At Mindanao they were met by General Sharp who took
them to Del Monte airfield. In the early hours of March 12 the entire group
took off in B-17s and, at 9 am, landed safely at Darwin.
In his first public statement on reaching Australia, MacArthur said that the
relief of the Philippines was his primary purpose. ‘I came through and I
shall return’ he pledged.
General Wainwright was appointed the new commander of the Philippine forces,
and selected General King to command the Luzon forces on Bataan. Here the
most pressing problem was food: army-built rice mills threshed the local
palay; Filipino fishermen netted fish; horses, mules, carabao, pigs,
chickens, dogs, monkeys, snakes, and iguanas were slaughtered; everything
edible on the peninsula was harvested—but the troops’ diet became more and
more meagre. The absence of sufficient vitamins resulted in outbreaks of
beriberi, scurvy, and amoebic dysentery, and malaria and dengue fevers
spread with disastrous rapidity.
Before MacArthur left he advised Wainwright to ‘give them everything you’ve
got with your artillery. That’s the best arm you have’. But on Good Friday,
April 3— which was also the anniversary of the legendary Japanese Emperor
Jimmu — it was General Homma’s guns, howitzers, and mortars which opened up
the final offensive.
Homma’s XVI Division and 65th Brigade had been reinforced with healthy
troops — the IV Division, arriving from Shanghai, and a detachment of
infantry, artillery, and engineers also reaching Bataan. Some 60 twin-engined
bombers were flown in to Clark Field for a co-ordinated air and artillery
assault against the whole American line. The initial objective was Mount
Samat, a 2,000-foot rise behind the centre of the Philippine army’s
coast-to-coast defense line.
On April 3 the awesome bombardment began. For five hours the Japanese guns,
mortars, and howitzers pounded the sick and weary troops defending the last
few miles of Bataan. More than 60 tons of bombs were dropped on the
devastated line in front of Mount Samat. By evening, the stocky brown men of
65th Brigade and IV Division had advanced 1,000 yards; the shell and bomb
battering had made the preliminary move much easier than Homma expected, so
he repeated the formula the following day, ordering his infantry to continue
the attack without bothering to consolidate the earlier gains.
Bombing attacks by the XXII Air Brigade were particularly successful on
April 4. By sheer chance the bombs fell among two battalions — the 42nd and
43rd — who stampeded south for 4,500 yards, thus opening the centre for the
Japanese 65th Brigade, which pushed deeply behind Mount Samat and threw
fresh strength against the flank of 2nd Corps. By dawn on April 7, the
Japanese had pushed a bulge 4 miles deep into the centre of the defenders’
line, and were commanding the heights of the northern slopes of the
General King planned to use a counterattack to stop the Japanese offensive.
The 45th Brigade, supported by a few tanks, attacked the point of the bulge
on the slopes of the Mariveles. But the attempt was futile: there were no
flanking attacks to support the brigade, and the corps began to
disintegrate. Whole units disappeared into the jungle, communications broke
down, and roads and trails became choked with stragglers. Japanese aerial
and artillery bombardment was maintained over the whole front, concentrating
whenever a stand was made—and as 2nd Corps retreated, 1st Corps became
exposed to flanking movements, and also withdrew.
General Wainwright could see that the rout could only be stopped by a strong
attack by 1st Corps against the Japanese 65th Brigade and IV Division. He
made this suggestion to General King but the Luzon commander refused to
issue the order, for he had only a disorganised, routed, decimated, sick and
demoralised army which would be slaughtered piecemeal if he did not
surrender it. It was his decision, therefore, which ended the fighting on
Bataan. On April 9, he sent two emissaries forward with a white flag to meet
the Japanese commander.
That night the ammunition dumps were exploded and some 2,000 people —
nurses, US army and navy personnel, some Cavalry Scouts, and other
Philippine Army troops — escaped in small boats and barges to Corregidor.
On Bataan, 78,000 men of the starved and beaten army went into captivity.
The conquerors concluded their victory by forcing their captives into a
‘death march’, from Mariveles to San Fernando. With the barest rations of
food or water, the prisoners were forced to march the 65 miles under the hot
sun, and many of them were clubbed and bayonetted on the roadside — a
vicious end to a vicious battle. Now General Homma turned to the siege of
Corregidor — the formidable ‘Gibraltar of the East’ — in order to claim
possession of Manila Bay and demand the capitulation of the whole of the
Corregidor, ‘the Gibraltar of the East’, was said to be invulnerable; but
after the fall of Bataan, the fate of the island was sealed. It could no
longer be supplied, it could not ‘sail away’, and hunger, disease, and
incessant shelling had so weakened the garrison that the final assault could
not be resisted for long. With 15,000 troops on the island, the Americans
were unable to find a reserve capable of containing 1,000 Japanese.
When the 4th Marines at Bataan climbed aboard the barges and started across
the channel to Corregidor they were apprehensive about the trip. They had
heard a radio announcer in Manila tell the world, and certainly the
interested Japanese, that the Marines were making the crossing that night.
Previously, the 4th Marines had been stationed in the International
Settlement in Shanghai to protect American lives and property, and in that
capacity had many small clashes with the Japanese. The Marines didn’t think
that the Japanese would miss a chance to take a crack at them while they
were sitting ducks on the barges.
‘You can’t bomb Corregidor,’ the radio announcer taunted them. ‘You are
afraid to bomb Corregidor.’ But the Japanese ignored the invitation and the
trip was uneventful. It was December 27, 1941.
Once ashore on Corregidor, the Marines began to gain a little confidence in
the invulnerability of the ‘Rock’. In their sweat stained khaki, most of
them unshaven, they stared in amazement at the military police who met them
at the dock at Bottomside. The MPs were in starched suntan khaki, their
shoes were spit-shined, and the brass on their white belts was highly
polished. Was there really a war on?
Electric trains whisked the Marines to the barracks at Middleside; and as
the guides escorted them to quarters, they saw soldiers playing quietly at
pool and billiards in comfortable orderly rooms. ‘What is this,’ grunted a
‘We’ll know for sure if Alice comes and kisses us goodnight,’ wise-cracked a
The next day Colonel Samuel Lutz Howard and his staff conferred with
Major-General George F. Moore, US Army, Commander of the Harbour Defenses
and the Fortified Islands of Manila Bay, on the strategic deployment of the
4th Marines. The rank and file of the regiment were left free to clean their
weapons, shave, and wash clothes. That afternoon they found the canteens and
clubs were open and many slaked their thirst and told sea stories over cold
bottles of San Miguel beer. As late as midnight, a dance band still played
softly at the officers’ club.
By this time the Marines were convinced that the Rock was a pretty solid
place but they were still cautious. Several times during the day the air
raid warning sounded, and the Marines dutifully took cover — much to the
amusement and scorn of the regular garrison. Ologapo was demolished, the
Navy Yards at Cavite and Sangley Point in ruins, major airfields and other
military installations were bombed out of existence; but the ‘Rock’ was
invulnerable . . . so the soldiers said. Their uncomplimentary remarks to
the Marines, who continued to keep one eye on the skies even while shooting
craps and playing poker, caused several small riots.
The last Allied footholds off Luzon:
The defenses of Manila Bay
were centered on the "Gibraltar of the East", the island fortress of
Corregidor; Fort Mills.
On the 29th, the Marines were given a briefing on the harbour defenses by
their company officers. Many of the old-timers in the regiment had been
stationed in the Philippines before and had already circulated stories about
the ‘Gibraltar of the East’. The fabulous tunnels, the heavy armament, Fort
Drum the concrete battleship—all had been embellished with the purple prose
of the master raconteurs.
The harbour defenses in Manila Bay were made up of four forts built on
islands. Fort Mills was the island of Corregidor. Shaped like a tadpole, it
was 3 1/2 miles in length and 1 1/2 miles at its widest point. Its head
pointed towards the west, and its tail stretched eastward; and at the
junction of its head and tail, it was only 600 yards wide. This narrow low
area was called Bottomside, and it contained a small village, docks, shops
and warehouses, the power plant, and the cold storage plant. To the west of
Bottomside the promontory rose to a small plateau known, appropriately
enough, as Middleside. Here were the hospital and barracks.
Topside was another plateau, the highest point on the island. It had a
parade ground with officers’ quarters, headquarters, and barracks grouped
around it. The cliffs from Topside dropped to the sea; but cutting into the
cliffs were two ravines, Cheney Ravine and James Ravine, which gave access
from the beaches to the Middleside and Topside areas.
The largest part of the tail end of the island was Malinta Hill and under it
was the most extensive construction on the island — Malinta Tunnel. Its main
tunnel, connecting Bottomside with the tail end of the island, was 1,400
feet long and 30 feet wide. It had 25 laterals, each about 400 feet long,
branching out at regular intervals. Malinta ran almost due east and west. A
hospital was housed in its own set of laterals and had an entrance facing
north. The Quartermaster Corps had another complex that went south and fed
into the navy tunnel, which had an entrance on the south side of Malinta
From Malinta Hill the island stretched out to the tip, at which point the
terrain was level enough to support Kindley Field, a small airfield. There
were 65 miles of roads on Corregidor and an electric railroad with 13 1/2
miles of track.
On paper, the armament of Corregidor was awesome. Fifty-six coastal guns
ranging in calibre from 3 to 12 inches ringed the island. Two of the 12-inch
guns had a range of 15 miles and in addition there were six 12-inch guns
with a range of 8 1/2 miles and ten mortars of the same calibre. Nineteen
other 155-mm guns could also reach out to 17,000 yards. In the anti-aircraft
department there were 24 3-inch guns, 48 .50calibre machine-guns, and five
The main worry in the ordnance situation was the ammunition supply. There
was plenty of ammunition but little of it was of the type suitable for
attacking land targets, and there were no shells to provide illumination for
night fire. And what was really needed — mechanically fused 3-inch
highexplosive shells for anti-aircraft defense — was in short supply.
Fort Drum, the concrete battleship.
To build it, El Fraile Island had to be shorn off, encased in concrete
and armed with 14-inch guns.
In addition to Fort Mills was Fort Hughes on Caballo just south of
Corregidor, a quarter of a square mile island that rose to a height of 380
feet on its western side and armed with 17 guns ranging from 14-inch to
3-inch anti-aircraft; 4 miles south of Hughes was Fort Drum.
To build Fort Drum, the engineers cut away the entire top of El Fraile
Island down to the water line; using the solid rock as a foundation, they
built a battleship 350 feet long and 144 feet wide with walls of concrete up
to 36 feet thick. USS Drum, as the sailors called it, was armed with four
14-inch guns, four 6-inch guns, and antiaircraft defense of three 3-inch
guns. This brute was built to withstand anything in the armament of the 1941
The southernmost of the fortified islands was Fort Frank on Carabao Island,
only 500 yards from the shore of Cavite Province. Carabao rose 100 feet
straight out of the sea and was armed with 21 guns ranging from 14-inch to
75-mm beach defense guns.
In peace time the combined force on the fortified islands in Manila Bay was
under 6,000 men, most of whom were stationed on Corregidor. But the war
changed that. As the areas were bombed out, first came the survivors from
the Cavite Naval Base and then the troops from the headquarters and service
establishments in Manila. On Christmas Day, General Douglas MacArthur
established his headquarters there and with him came a military police
company, two ordnance companies, an engineer company, and service
detachments. By the time the 4th Marines arrived, the island was crowded
with men of all services, of several nationalities, under a host of command
On December 29 briefing was over for the Marines at about 1130, and they
milled about collecting their mess gear on the third and second decks of the
Middleside barracks where they were quartered. Some had gone below and were
having a smoke outside when the air-raid warning sounded.
Prodded by their NCOs, the Marines moved to cover on the first deck of the
barracks running the gauntlet of the jeers of the headquarters and service
army billiard players.
There was a moment of silence, broken only by the click of the billiard
balls, and then the guns of the 60th Coast Artillery (AA) opened up. The
curious flocked to the windows and even to the rooftops to see what was
going on when the incoming flight of 18 twin-engined bombers of the Japanese
XIV Heavy Bombardment Regiment released its first load.
The saga of Corregidor had started.
Lieutenant-General Masaharu Homma was a practical soldier and a good
tactician. He did not believe that Corregidor was an impregnable fortress,
but his first task was to seize Manila and defeat MacArthur’s army . . .
Corregidor could wait. It could not slip away in the night.
Once Manila had fallen he issued his orders for an air attack on Corregidor.
Lieutenant-General Hideoshi Obata’s V Air Group (Army) would strike at noon
on December 29 ‘with its whole strength’, and an hour later navy bombers of
the XI Air Fleet would take over.
They were six minutes early. At 1154 the first flight, covered by 19
fighters, hit the ‘Rock’. They criss-crossed the island for half an hour
dropping 225- and 550-pound bombs. At 1230, 22 light bombers and 18
dive-bombers had their turn, and they were relieved by the navy. Using about
60 aircraft, the Japanese continued the attack on the island and shipping in
the harbour for at least another hour.
General Douglas MacArthur’s USAFFE headquarters (United States Army Forces
Far East) were located Topside on the ‘Rock’ and he came out to observe when
the air raid sounded. He remained in a casual posture, chomping on his cigar
as the first wave released its bombs.
‘Get down, General, get down,’ an aide shouted. But the general remained
standing through another wave before his aide could convince him to get in a
staff car and go to Malinta Tunnel.
In the entire mêlée, the happiest men were those manning the anti-aircraft
guns of the 60th Coast Guard Artillery. They were in action from start to
finish in the 2k-hour air-raid. The cheers heard by those huddled in the
ground floor of the barracks and in the pseudo air-raid shelters came from
the gun crews as they shot down Japanese planes. Three high-flying bombers
were downed by the 3-inch guns, and the .50-calibre batteries took care of
four of the Japanese dive-bombers.
But after the ‘All Clear’ sounded, the dazed non-combatants moved out of the
rubble of what was once ‘The Gibraltar of the East’, and started to
The island was in shambles. The first rack of bombs had smashed the
Officers’ Club, the vacated station hospital, and many of the other wooden
and corrugated-iron buildings from Topside to Bottomside. Other bombing runs
hit more important targets, but the results were the same. Under the cloud
of dust and smoke, Corregidor looked like one mass of jagged and bent sheet
iron. Before the dust had cleared, the troops were organised and moved out
to their combat posts. The bandsmen who played at the officers’ club became
stretcher bearers, and everyone on the ‘Rock’ not assigned to a duty station
in Malinta Tunnel started to dig in. But everything was anti-climactic after
the first air raid. It was a routine of
The bombers were back again on January 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, dropping their
bombs from an altitude of from 24-27,000 feet. The anti-aircraft batteries
did yeoman duty.
To fire effectively at such extreme altitudes, men of the 60th had to
overcome many difficult problems. Only after the aircraft released their
bombs were they in range of the 3-inch guns. Men would stay at their
positions, tracking the attacking aircraft until the bombers were directly
overhead; then they would get in only four to six rounds before the bombs
hit the target area. These tactics demanded stern discipline and iron nerves
but the boys of the 60th had it. Battery Chicago, for example, became so
efficient even under these trying conditions that its men ran up the almost
unbelievable rate of 34 rounds per minute.
The 60th was credited with shooting down at least 25 aircraft during this
six-day period but the record does not tell the complete story. The
batteries kept the Japanese bombers flying so high they were inaccurate in
their bombing and many important targets, such as the power plant and the
pumping stations, survived.
For the rest of the month the ‘Rock’ enjoyed an uneasy rest from the bombers
for the Japanese V Air Group had left the Philippines. Life turned into a
dreary routine of digging in and looking for food.
It was at this time that the rumours started. Many of the men took President
Franklin D. Roosevelt literally when he announced: ‘Hundreds of ships . . .
thousands of planes . . . are coming to your rescue.’ Men waited for this
dream convoy daily and in the sunset would climb to a high point looking to
sea for it.
A few learned the real score when a submarine carrying AA fuses arrived from
Hawaii in February. The working party unloading the submarine were told
about the tremendous damage the Japanese had inflicted on the American fleet
at Pearl Harbor. The propaganda radio station in Manila played on this nerve
factor by using a familiar American song as its theme . . . ‘Waiting For
Ships That Never Come In’.
Up to this point the ‘Rock’ had been spared from artillery tire; but late in
January a small Japanese artillery unit, under Major Toshinori Kondo, had
set up near Ternate in Cavite province just 12 miles from Corregidor. Well
concealed in valleys, his guns opened up on February 6 and continued to fire
at one-minute intervals for three hours. Everyone attempted but no one
succeeded in—getting a fix on Kondo’s guns. They did little damage and
everyone soon got familiar with the new sound of incoming artillery, but it
was an ordeal.
While the shooting was going on, President Roosevelt worried about the fate
of Bataan and Corregidor; but in particular he worried about the fate of
MacArthur. The United States could not afford to lose its most famous
soldier; so on February 22, he ordered MacArthur to leave and proceed to
Australia. The general obeyed the order but waited until the last minute and
did not leave until March 12. When he left he turned to General George Moore
at the dock. ‘Keep the flag flying,’ he said, ‘I am coming back.’
For the people on Corregidor, MacArthur’s departure seemed a ray of hope.
They knew that if anything humanly possible could be done to help them,
MacArthur would do it.
Major Kondo’s little guns had stopped firing; but in the middle of March,
Colonel Masayoshi Hayakawa and his 1 Heavy Artillery Regiment moved into the
Pic de Loro hills, much closer to Fort Frank. The I Regiment was armed with
ten of the most powerful artillery pieces in the Japanese army—240-mm
(9.4-inch) howitzers. With these brutes he proceeded to clobber Fort Frank
and Fort Drum. He did considerable damage to Fort Frank but the 36 feet of
concrete on top of Fort Drum held magnificently. Each shell that hit would
chip up at least 4 inches of concrete; and living inside the concrete
battleship was like living in a steel barrel with someone pounding the
outside. But the men and the fort held up well.
On March 22 the Hayakawa Detachment pulled out and went to join the final
assault on Bataan. The forts of Corregidor had a short breather, but on
March 24 the bombers came back and General Homma had started the last stage
of his drive to take the ‘Rock’.
The attack came from 60 army and 24 navy aircraft. Using Clark Field as a
base, each plane could make three or four trips in the day so they were able
to start their attack at 0930 hours and kept it up until 1630. That night
they came back for their first night raid of the campaign, and for the next
three days they continued the attack with at least 50 bombers a day.
The raids did some damage but again it could be said that the gunners of the
60th had saved the ‘Rock’. The Fort Mills power plant was still intact; a
few beach positions had been hit but casualties were light; and Corregidor
was still in fighting shape.
But now the food shortage was taking its toll. From January 1, the troops
had been on half rations.
‘The best meal we had,’ a soldier wrote, ‘was the day the bombs hit the mule
stables.’ In addition to the starvation, the quinine supply was low, and the
malaria rate high.
The men on Corregidor accepted the fall of Bataan stoically. They had
watched with awe the purple-green skies as demolition men blew up the
ammunition dumps and military installations on the mainland and knew it was
to be their turn next.
With the fall of Bataan, the Japanese had a straight shot at Corregidor,
just 3 miles across the north channel. They didn’t hesitate to set up
everything from 75-mm to their big 240-mm guns, all bearing on Corregidor —
the bullseye of the target. For the siege they assembled the best in the
Imperial Japanese Army: an Intelligence team of 675 men with flash and sound
gear; a squadron of observation planes and a balloon company; 46 155-mm
guns; 28 105-mm guns, and 32 75s; but the weapons that were to do the most
damage were Colonel Hayakawa’s 240-mm monsters. With the artillery team
assembled and with the observation balloon up, the duel started. Observers
in the balloon were able to pinpoint targets on Corregidor, by now stripped
of protective covering and camouflage, and direct battery fire into any and
all positions. It was an uneven fight.
The Corregidor batteries had some good days. Battery Geary dropped some of
its 670-pound mortar shells on a Japanese artillery concentration destroying
a battery, then another battery and an ammunition dump, and finally on a
group of tanks.
But when the big 240s started to slam back with their 400-pound time-fused
projectiles it was just a matter of time. Battery James suffered 42 killed
on April 15 when heavy fire collapsed a cliff over a temporary dirt tunnel
the batterymen had constructed. The men suffocated before rescue teams could
dig them out. Battery Crockett had been hit, batteries Geary and Craghill
were plastered as soon as they opened fire. Only the 14-inch rifles of
Battery Wilson on Fort Drum were able to stay in action constantly.
April 29 was Emperor Hirohito’s birthday and the Japanese gunners prepared a
celebration. For several days they stockpiled their ammunition, and on
signal began the salute to their Emperor at 0725.
The din was terrific with the big guns firing almost — it seemed to the
dazed defenders — with the rapidity of machine-guns. The huge 240s came in
with a sound like tearing silk, and their tremendous detonations literally
picked the beach defenders up and threw them out of their foxholes. Bombers
attacked from overhead, but the men on Corregidor didn’t realise that an
air raid was going on at the same time — so intense was the artillery fire.
By noon, fires had broken out all over the ‘Rock’ and exploding ammunition
dumps added to the danger of the artillery and bombing. Jagged pieces of
steel flew, trees were uprooted and hurtled through the air, and solid rock
cliffs were pounded into rubble until it seemed that no living thing could
exist on Corregidor.
The barrage continued for the next two days; then on May 2 the Japanese
intensified their fire: in a five-hour period they rained a total of 3,600
rounds on to the Geary/Crockett battery area. Finally one of the time-fused
armour-piercing 240 shells crashed through the weakened concrete of a main
powder magazine at battery Geary; and to the Japanese in the observation
balloon it looked like Corregidor blew up.
The defenders thought so too. As far down as Bottomside the concussion was
great enough to start men haemorrhaging through the nose and ears. Several
13-ton mortars flew through the air like toy guns; one was found on what was
left of the golf course 150 yards away, and debris mixed with unexploded
12-inch mortar shells came down all over the island. Men staggered out of
their foxholes after the smoke had settled to start rescue operations, and
it was fortunate the Japanese ceased their firing operations for the day or
the casualties would have been trebled.
In the meantime, General Homma was having his problems. He had landing craft
for the final assault, but they were in the Lingayen Gulf or Subic Bay area
on the west side of Bataan. In order to move the landing craft into the
Manila Bay area, it was necessary to pass through North Channel under the
guns of Corregidor. After several feints during the daylight hours, the
necessary landing craft were brought down during the night under cover of
Now the Japanese were ready. The Americans were tired, sick with malaria—but
ready to fight back after having lain in their foxholes without a chance to
On the morning of the 5th, the Japanese opened up with everything they had.
But from Corregidor there was little answering fire: most of the batteries
were out of operation. By late afternoon, all wire communications were
knocked out, searchlights were put out of action, land mines were detonated,
machine-gun positions caved in, barbed wire entanglements were torn up, and
beach defences were in a hopeless shape.
‘It took no, mental giant,’ wrote General Wainwright, ‘to figure out that
the enemy was ready to come against Corregidor.’
Homma’s IV Division was indeed ready. The men had completed landing
manoeuvres, and thousands of bamboo ladders had been built to scale the
cliffs of Corregidor. The moon was to be full that night.
By 1830 hours, all the harbour forts were being pounded with the full
Japanese arsenal but then the concentration of fire went to the island’s
tail and to the beaches of the north shore. At 2100, with the shelling
growing more intense rather than slacking off as it usually did with the
approach of night, word went out from Colonel Howard to bring all weapons
out of cover and man the beaches.
Half an hour later the sound locators of the 60th picked up the sound of
landing barges being warmed up in the vicinity of Limay. The Japanese were
on their way.
It was a curious situation. The beaches were manned with a heterogeneous
group of Marines, soldiers, sailors, civilians, and Filipino scouts, as
ragged and bob-tailed an outfit as has ever been gathered together in
combat. Their armament ranged from Enfield rifles to bomb chutes constructed
to drop 30-pound air bombs on the beaches. But few of the defenders had ever
fired a shot in anger against other troops.
It would seem that Homma’s well-trained IV Division would have no trouble in
going ashore against such a defence after the preinvasion bombardment. But,
even in the moonlight, the coxswains of the landing barges were having
trouble hitting their assigned landing areas. An unexpected current,
sweeping through the North Channel, drove the landing force out of its
assigned area to the tail of the island, thousands of yards from their
objective — Malinta Tunnel.
As they drifted sideways towards the east, fighting the current, the beach
defences took aim on them. They opened up with 75s, 37s, machine-guns, and
rifles. The defenders fired until the grease ran out of their weapons, and
the Japanese, who had been expecting an easy landing, were shocked at their
But at least 30% got ashore and established a beach-head. A few of the
barges, one carrying Colonel Gempachi Sato who commanded a unit of the 61st
Infantry Regiment, slipped ashore unseen.
While the beach defenders continued to slaughter the second wave of
Japanese, Colonel Sato organised the survivors and started. his move toward
The fighting that followed was so confused that no clear picture emerges.
Small groups set up strong points and defended them to the death, but lack
of communication among the defenders finally led to defeat. As late as
daylight the next day, some of the beach groups did not know the Japanese
Colonel Howard didn’t learn of the landing until almost midnight, and when
he ordered his regimental reserve into action, it had trouble getting
through Malinta Tunnel into the zone of action. With 15,000 men on
Corregidor, 4,000 or 5,000 of them concentrated in Malinta Tunnel, Howard
and Moore found themselves unable to scrape together a reserve capable of
combating 1,000 Japanese. There were many administrators, technicians, and
commanders available, but what the ‘Rock’ needed at this point was some
On the other hand, General Homma was biting his nails in frustration. When
he received the report that between half to two-thirds of the landing craft
had been destroyed, he felt there was a real danger that his men might be
driven back into the sea. Although he had 14,000 men available he had only
21 boats left. When he heard that the Americans were counterattacking. he
went into panic.
However, the attack had not failed. Small detachments of the Japanese had
outflanked the American counterattacking elements, light artillery had
landed and was firing effectively in support, and they delivered the final
blow at about 1000 hours when they threw into action three tanks which they
had brought across.
Corregidor was finished. All reserves had been committed, all effective guns
were out of action, and the Japanese had a beach-head established in force.
At 1000 hours on May 6, General Wainwright had his aide broadcast a
surrender message to General Homma, and orders went out to the troops to
destroy their weapons. Corregidor, the ‘invulnerable’ fortress, had fallen.
The men on the ‘Rock’ reacted in many ways. Some got into the stores of
medical alcohol and got drunk, others got into the hoarded food supplies and
went on an eating binge, but most of them looked into the future and
wondered how long it would take MacArthur to come back.