President Roosevelt’s announcement formally ended
almost 15 years of duty by the 4th Marine Regiment in Shanghai. Clouds of
war were quickly closing in on the China Marines as Japan and the United
States edged ever closer to active hostilities. “One could sense the
tenseness in the air,” Lieutenant Colonel Curtis T. Beecher remembered,
“There was a general feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty in the air.”
In September 1941, Colonel Samuel L. Howard, USMC, Commanding Officer, 4th
Marines, recommended to Admiral Thomas Hart, USN, Commander-in-Chief,
Asiatic Fleet, that Howard’s regiment be evacuated from its longtime duty
station in Shanghai. The regiment comprised two small battalions, made up of
approximately 800 Marines and attached naval personnel, and was dangerously
exposed to Japanese attack should war come.
Hart had anticipated the withdrawal from Shanghai by no longer replacing
individual members of the 4th Marines as they left China. Instead, he
attached all replacements to the 1st Separate Marine Battalion in the Cavite
Navy Yard, Philippine Islands. Hart had no official authorization for this
plan, and later wrote, “If we couldn’t get all the Regiment out of China we
could at least stop sending any more Marines there until somebody bawled us
out most vociferously. They never did.” On 10 November 1941, Colonel Howard
received the long-awaited orders to prepare the withdrawal of his regiment.
Thursday, 27 November 1941, dawned grey and gloomy in Shanghai. Sunrise was
at 0631, but the rain and low-lying clouds obscured all but a hint of this
fact. Adding to the gloom was the scheduled departure this day of the first
element of the 4th Marines.
A steady drizzle fell as the first echelon to leave, Lieutenant Colonel
Donald Curtis’ 2d Battalion, formed ranks outside its Haiphong Street billet
and prepared to board the double-decker buses of the China Omnibus Company.
At 0900 the Marines loaded the vehicles for their last trip in Shanghai,
down Bubbling Well Road, into Nanking Road, and on to the Bund, where they
boarded the lighter Merry Moller for the short steam down the Whangpoo, past
the mouth of Soochow Creek, to the SS President Madison, bound for—the
Marines knew not where.
At the Bund, friends and sweethearts bid the Marines tearful goodbyes as the
Shanghai Refugee Institute’s brass band struck up the “Marines’ Hymn.”
Before boarding the lighter, Colonel Curtis was approached suddenly by a
Chinese in a long black robe and wearing a little grey felt hat. The native
waved his hand, said “Three cheers for Chiang Kaishek! Three cheers for
President Roosevelt!” and disappeared into the crowd.
Fully loaded at 1420, the Madison slowly made her way out to the Yangtze and
the Yellow Sea beyond, her destination still unknown to the troops she was
The next day, the 28th, was bright and crisp as the regimental headquarters
and Lieutenant Colonel Curtis T. Beecher’s 1st Battalion formed up at Ferry
and Avenue Roads. At 0900, the regimental commander, Colonel Howard, ordered
“Forward march!” and the column stepped off to the sounds of “Glory of the
Trumpets,” followed by “The Marines’ Hymn” and “Semper Fidelis.” Led by
Colonel Howard and his staff and followed closely behind by the 4th Marines
band and colors, the remainder of the 4th Marines moved out through streets
lined with crowds of well wishers waving American flags. On the mezzanine
balcony of the Foreign YMCA was a Scot in full kit, kilt and all, playing
his pipes in tribute to the departing Marines.
When the column neared Jimmy’s Restaurant on Nanking near Szechuan Road, a
complete orchestra of Americans dressed in cooks’ and waiters’ whites formed
up behind the last rank of the Marines and joined the parade, playing
American swing as they marched.
The scene at the Bund was much the same as the day before but the crowds
were greater, with most of Shanghai’s diplomatic and consular corps as well
as prominent citizens of the International Settlement present to wish the
4th farewell. The same unhappy sweethearts and lovers—White Russians and
Chinese—were there. Also present was the international press corps covering
the departure of the Americans. Colonel Howard made a short speech, and at
1400 the final elements of the 4th Marines boarded the tender for the short
trip to where the SS President Harrison was waiting to carry the Marines to
Arrival in the Philippines
Once at sea, orders came from Admiral Hart for the 4th Marines to land at
Olongapo Navy Yard. The voyage to the Philippines proved to be uneventful,
although both ships traveled under war conditions. The vessels were darkened
at night with several of the regiment’s machine guns lashed to the railings
as antiaircraft defense. Two Navy submarines escorted the ships, and
although several Japanese aircraft and ships were sighted, no incidents
On 30 November the Madison arrived at Subic Bay, followed on 1 December by
the Harrison. The regiment hurriedly disembarked with only two lighters of
supplies and field equipment taken from each ship. Unloading the 1st
Battalion became a mass of confusion as every non-commissioned officer tried
to be the first to get his unit’s gear on the lighter. Lieutenant Colonel
Beecher, commanding 1st Battalion, observed the scene from the railing of
the Madison and sent for one of his non-commissioned officers. Beecher told
him, “Duncan, go down and straighten that mess out. Get this stuff off and
move it.” Word of Beecher’s displeasure was quickly passed and the unloading
The rest of the equipment went to the Manila port facilities and was trucked
back to Olongapo. Admiral Hart expressed specific orders for the regiment to
the field as quickly as possible without all of its heavy equipment. “We all
knew,” Hart wrote later, “that they had been cooped up in Shanghai through
all those years where conditions for any sort of field training were very
poor—and we thought that not much time remained.”
The Marines found temporary wooden barracks, converted from warehouses, that
completion, but half the regiment was put under canvas on the rifle range
and naval station. The regiment was quickly put into field training in the
surrounding bush, with the two battalions alternating days and nights in the
Manila Bay, Island of Luzon, the Philippines
Bataan Peninsula, Luzon
The 1st Separate Marine Battalion
The 1st Separate Marine Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John P.
Adams, was based at the Cavite Navy Yard. These 700 Marines were organized
both as a defense and an infantry battalion. On Sangley Point, Company A
organized Battery D for antiaircraft defense. Company B operated out of the
Cavite Yard, with its internal Battery A also located on Sangley Point.
Company C had Batteries B and C which were located in Carridad and Binakayan,
respectively. Company D had two batteries, E and F, in the Navy Yard. All of
the batteries were armed with 3-inch dual purpose guns, 3-inch antiaircraft
guns, or .50-caliber machine guns.
Cavite Naval Yard
Preparing for War
On 3 December, Colonel Howard reported to Admiral Hart in Manila to discuss
the mission of the regiment. The 4th Marines was put under the command of
Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell, commanding the 16th Naval District, and
given the mission of protecting the naval stations on the island of Luzon,
primarily Olongapo and the Navy Section Base at Mariveles. The
Commander-in-Chief, Asiatic Fleet, stressed a more important mission to
Howard. That mission was to prepare his men for mobile field operations.
Hart also underscored the proximity to war with the Japanese.
Howard returned and informed his staff that Hart felt that war was only “a
matter of days if not hours away.” Howard emphasized the point by
emphatically stating, “We will be at war with the Japanese within a week.”
After the staff had left, he revealed to Major Reginald H. “Bo” Ridgely the
anticipated finality of their mission, saying, “they would never see their
On 5 December, Colonel Howard attended a meeting with Admiral Rockwell at
the Cavite Navy Yard to discuss the immediate preparations for war. Rockwell
ordered him to send one battalion of Marines to Mariveles as a guard for
that installation. The following day a reconnaissance was made of the
Mariveles area, camp sites were selected, and preparations made to deploy
Lieutenant Colonel Beecher’s 1st Battalion there by sea on 8 December.
On 7 December, Colonel Howard put into effect a combat training schedule for
the regiment. Marine Barracks, Olongapo, was reduced in strength with men
transferred to the 4th Marines, but Howard retained the organization to
allow for a constant defense of the yard, releasing Lieutenant Colonel
Herman R. “Red” Anderson’s 2d Battalion for quick movement into the field.
At 0257, 8 December, a message arrived at Asiatic Fleet Headquarters
announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Notification of the attack
and instructions to all ships and stations began at 0315. Shortly after
0300, Lieutenant Colonel Adams at Cavite received word from Admiral Rockwell
that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. He instantly placed the 1st
Separate Marine Battalion on Condition One Alert until 30 minutes past
daylight. At 0350 a message came into the 4th Marines’ communications center
in Olongapo from Commander-in-Chief Asiatic Fleet, stating, “Japan started
hostilities, govern yourselves accordingly.” Colonel Howard was notified
without delay and then passed the word on to his officers.
First Lieutenant Austin C. Shofner came through the officer’s billet area
awakening the men by telling them they were at war. An unidentified Marine
shouted, “Why don’t you get out of here and let us sleep?” Shofner soon had
all the officers on duty. The next duty was to inform the regiment. Major
Frank P. Pyzick, officer of the day, rode through the Navy Yard in the side
car of a motorcycle, shouting, “War is declared! War is declared!”
The Marine Barracks Olongapo gong sounded through the night. Many Marines
had no idea what this alarm was about. Corporal Chester C. Alderman
remembered thinking, “What kind of new fangled reveille is this?” until an
Olongapo Marine yelled out, “That’s General Alarm,” and the 4th Marines
tumbled from its racks half asleep to stand formation in the dark.
Lieutenant Colonel Samuel W. Freeny, executive officer of the 1st Battalion,
stood before the assembled Marines still in his night shirt. He announced
Pearl Harbor had been bombed and the United States and Japan were at war.
For many Marines the news was anticlimactical, as one wag was heard to
remark, “They got us up for that?”
All regimental headquarters company personnel were broken out of their bunks
at 0400 and assembled outside the barracks. Sergeant Pat Hitchcock
remembered, “every 15 minutes a quartermaster came by passing out ammunition
. . . they first passed out a 5-round clip . . . a little later they gave us
enough ammunition to fill our rifle belts. Later still they passed out
bandoliers to drape over our shoulders. We looked like Mexican bandits.”
The 1st Battalion was awakened at 0300 to be ready for the daylight move to
Mariveles at 0730. Power for the battalion’s lights was cut with no
explanation, and it readied for the move in blackness. All personnel were
prepared to move by daylight except Company D, the heavy weapons company,
which would join the battalion later. The Marines were leaving the dock at
Olongapo on board the USS Vaga when Beecher was formally informed of the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The battalion sailed for the section base
at Mariveles without air support. Beecher was concerned about a possible
Japanese attack, but the 1st Battalion arrived without incident at 1130.
In the following two days, the 4th Marines and 1st Separate Marine Battalion
worked on their defensive positions. Howard placed 36 machine guns of
Lieutenant Colonel Anderson’s 2d Battalion around the Olongapo Navy Yard as
antiaircraft defense, prepared beach defense positions at Calapacuan Point,
and established a bivouac site two miles outside the Navy Yard.
Fire-fighting parties were organized in Cavite and Olongapo and demolition
details were formed to destroy the bridges north of Olongapo should the
Japanese land there. Other war measures included assigning the regimental
band to Company E as a rifle platoon and Captain Lewis H. Pickup was
assigned as liaison officer to coordinate with the neighboring 31st
Philippine Army Division.
On 8 December, Company D arrived at Mariveles by truck to unite the 1st
Battalion. The men prepared positions in the surrounding jungle, but also
worked 10 to 12 hours a day unloading the many barges bringing rations,
ammunition, and equipment. On 9 December, Howard ordered that the regiment
be fed only twice a day, “breakfast before daylight and dinner after dark,”
to conserve supplies.
On 10 December, a Japanese force was reported approaching along the Bagac
Road within 20 miles of the Section Base. Lieutenant Colonel Beecher without
delay deployed the 1st Battalion into blocking positions along the highway.
Only two Marines were left behind, a cook and the battalion armorer,
Sergeant Louis E. Duncan, who guarded the camp with two .50caliber machine
guns. The reports turned out to be false alarms and the battalion returned
The Marine positions were not immediately attacked as the Japanese, who were
indeed attacking the Philippines, were concentrating on airfields and
Manila, the capital. However, an average of six air-raid alarms occurred
daily. Lieutenant Colonel Beecher at first ordered his men to scatter at the
sound of the air-raid siren, but had to rescind the order as no work could
be accomplished under the constant sirens. Work continued, siren or no
siren. Airraid shelters were constructed, instructions issued in the event
Japanese aircraft should appear, and blackout procedures were strictly
followed. The military police company at Cavite took registered and
suspected enemy aliens and foreign agents into custody.
Bombing of Cavite
Three Marine-manned antiaircraft positions were located outside the Cavite
Navy Yard: Battery A, across the bay at Canacao Golf Course on the tip of
Sangley Point; Battery B at Carridad; and Battery C at Binacayan one mile
south. Each held four 3-inch, .50-caliber, dual-purpose guns with a range of
about 15,000 feet. Battery D was divided to support each position with five
.50-caliber machine guns.
On 10 December, two Japanese combat teams came ashore in northern Luzon,
securing airfields for their Army aircraft to support more landings.
However, there was no alarm in Cavite. As usual, civilian workers came into
the Navy Yard and quickly went to work. The only sign of war was a
detachment of Filipino workers digging an air-raid trench in the yard of the
Commandancia, Admiral Rockwell’s headquarters. The half-completed trench was
the only air-raid shelter in the Navy Yard. Only the antiaircraft weapons
had been revetted. Four 3-inch antiaircraft guns were mounted at the
ammunition depot in the yard, as well as numerous .50-caliber machine guns
mounted around the yard.
A little past noon the droning of numerous aircraft engines was heard,
followed by an air-raid siren. Marines rushed to the veranda of the Marine
Barracks and watched 54 aircraft in three large “V” formations approach. All
eyes in the Yard were focused on the aircraft which were widely assumed to
be Army Air Corps. The first suspicious sign was a dogfight below the
formation. Someone then yelled, “Look at those leaflets come down.” Almost
in unison, many voices yelled out, “leaflets, hell—they’re bombs!” The naval
base was rocked by the first bombs striking the ground. Marines, sailors,
and civilians crouched under the nearest cover with no formal shelters
The first stick of bombs hit the water, as did most of the second, but the
rest of the bombs crisscrossed the Navy Yard and small fires began to spread
among the wreckage. The Marines of Battery E, on top of the Naval Ammunition
Depot, opened fire as bombs hit first on one side of their building and then
on the other, splashing mud and water over them. Private First Class Leslie
R. Scoggin called out the plotting data for the nearby battery, but found
the aircraft were flying above 23,000 feet, far above the range of the
battery. Luckily, no bombs actually hit the depot.
The Marine on the rangefinder at Battery C, stationed at Binacayan, reported
to First Lieutenant Willard B. Holdredge that the aircraft were above the
range of the guns. Holdredge ordered the Marine to take the reading again.
When given the same answer, the lieutenant took the reading himself.
Holdredge knew then that the Japanese aircraft were flying at 21,000-25,000
feet but his guns had a range of only 15,000 feet. He ordered the battery to
First Lieutenant Carter Simpson at Binacayan later wrote, “We were left with
a sense of fatality which was renewed every time our eyes fell on the yard
across the bay . . . A toy pistol would have damaged their planes as much as
we did.” Battery A on Sangley Point ceased fire after the first wave passed
untouched. Battery B on Carridad also tried to hit the Japanese aircraft,
but the 280 rounds expended during the raid fell short.
Captain Ted E. Pulos commanded Battery F, which had two .50caliber machine
guns located on the Guadalupe Pier near the Navy Communications building. He
ordered his men to open fire on the first wave of planes, but after the
initial bombing ordered his men to cease fire as the aircraft were obviously
above range. Private First Class Thomas L. Wetherington was killed by bomb
fragments, becoming the first Marine to lose his life in defense of the
Philippines. Private First Class George Sparks was on guard duty at the
Naval District Headquarters when the bombs hit. He was able to take cover in
a worn path beside the building as the bombs began to fall. Trees were blown
down and one fell over Sparks. Although the path was only a few inches deep,
it was enough to save him from serious injury. One other Marine was wounded
during the bombing.
Captain John Clark ran to the barracks and ordered the Marines not on duty
to draw ammunition and get outside to fire on enemy aircraft which might
strafe the Yard. They ran to the quartermaster’s office and formed in line
to receive ammunition. As bombs fell nearby, the Marines dove for cover, and
then returned to the line, repeating the process several times. Bombs struck
close to them as Private Jack D. Thompson later remembered, “When you hear
one of those bombs coming down, you think it’s coming down the back of your
neck.” The effort proved fruitless as the buildings restricted the fields of
fire for small arms.
The Yard continued to burn as the last Japanese aircraft departed. An aid
station was set up in the library of the Marine Barracks as the hospital had
received a direct hit. Approximately 1,000 civilians were reported killed
and more than 500 wounded were treated in the aid station. Marines formed
firefighting parties to put out the raging fires. The Filipino fire
companies surrounded the ammunition dump and prevented fire from reaching
the explosives, but the torpedo warehouse burned and the warheads
sporadically exploded, preventing the firefighting parties from putting out
The fires trapped Captain Pulos’ Battery F on the Guadalupe Pier and the
exploding torpedo warheads threatened the Marines, sailors, and civilians
who had escaped to the dock. Pulos ordered his Marines to build makeshift
rafts and successfully evacuated men, weapons, and ammunition.
As night neared, all personnel, except a small group of Marines and Manila
firemen, were evacuated out of the Yard and transported by truck to a site
on the road leading to Manila. After travelling 15 miles the trucks stopped
and the battalion set up camp. The following morning Marine detachments were
sent back to guard the abandoned Navy Yard. Field kitchens were established
to feed civilians as well as Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Other
detachments reinforced the Sangley Point radio station as well as the
ammunition depot at Canancao. Marines were also posted at all the gasoline
stations on the road to Manila to guard the fuel supplies for military use.
Marines patrolled the emptied Navy Yard, checking for looters and any new
fires. At noon an administrative force returned and reopened the battalion
offices. A bulldozer dug a trench near the Commandancia and working parties
attempted to bury the civilian dead. Dump trucks were filled with bodies
which were dumped into the trench as Marines buried more than 250 corpses
with shovels. Once the burials in the Yard were finished, the mass grave was
covered with dirt.
The Cavite area remained quiet until 1247 on 19 December when nine Japanese
bombers returned with Sangley Point as their target. The bombers hit the
large radio towers and the fuel depot. Numerous 55-gallon fuel drums were
stored on the golf course, in the hospital compound, and on the beach. Fuel
drums exploded, forcing the evacuation of the wounded. One Marine remembered
“the roar of the fire drowned the sound of the motors (of the bombers) and
the sound of the bombs.”
Mess Sergeant Milton T. Larios, Corporal Earl C. Dodson, and a Filipino cook
named “Pop” were preparing rations for the Marines still in the Cavite Navy
Yard when the air raid siren went off. Larios shouted, “Let’s get this meat
off the fire,” and tried to load the beef into a nearby garbage can when the
bombs hit. Corporal Dodson remembered running until hearing the whistle of
the bombs coming down and then fell to the ground. Explosions covered him
with dirt and debris but he escaped the blast unhurt. He ran back to the
mess area where he found Larios dead and “Pop” dying. He carried the
bleeding Filipino to a collection point where 15 wounded Americans and
Filipinos were lying together.
Admiral Rockwell ordered First Lieutenant James W. Keene to make a fire
break in the rows of barrels to save as much fuel as possible. Keene took 12
Marines into the area of the exploding barrels and began work when another
“stick” of bombs hit, killing Private First Class George D. Frazier. The
bombs started new fires, which forced Keene to pull his men out. Total
Marine casualties were five killed, eight wounded.
Japanese Bomb Cavite Naval Yard
On 12 December, Japanese troops made another landing in southeastern Luzon.
At 1020, Headquarters, 4th Marines, was notified by rifle range personnel of
the approach of enemy aircraft. Air-raid sirens sounded swiftly. Five
minutes passed, and with no aircraft sighted, the field music sounded
“secure.” At once, the roar of Japanese aircraft was heard. Seven Japanese
fighters followed a flight of PBYs of Navy Patrol Wing 10 to the base,
waited for them to land, and attacked. All of the PBYs were soon in flames
and the Japanese then turned to the Olongapo naval station. A single
aircraft flew low over the station to test the level of anti-aircraft fire.
Marines opened fire on the Japanese aircraft with automatic rifles, rifles,
and light machine guns, but with little effect. Sergeant Pat Hitchcock
remembered, “They evidently were not impressed because they were very casual
about their strafing runs.” The Japanese fighters attacked the base for
almost an hour.
Private First Class Thomas S. Allender was stationed on the water tower
armed with a .30-caliber machine gun and soon engaged the aircraft as they
strafed the Navy Yard. “That goddam plane was shooting at him. He’d run
around to the other side of the tank and the guy would go by,” recalled
Master Technical Sergeant Ivan L. Buster, “and then the guy would come back
and he’d run around to the other side of the tank again.” Allender remained
on the tower for the entire raid untouched, although the tank itself was
riddled with machine gun fire, “with water spraying everywhere.” A Marine
gunnery sergeant lay in a ditch on his back firing his .45-caliber pistol at
the aircraft on their strafing runs. When asked between attacks why he was
firing at all, he responded, “This makes me feel better.”
On 13 December, 27 bombers appeared over Olongapo at 1155 and bombs began to
hit the Navy Yard and the civilians in the town. No installations were hit,
although bombs straddled the regimental hospital located at the Riverside
Cabaret. Again, no weapons in the Navy Yard could reach the altitude of the
enemy aircraft. Corporal Earl W. Hettgar remembered staring up at the
Japanese aircraft, which were flying so low the Marines could “look up into
the bomb bays” of the aircraft. Many houses in the town were destroyed with
13 civilians killed and 40 wounded.
Private First Class Neil P. Iovino became the first 4th Marines casualty
when bomb fragments struck him in the abdomen. The fragments shattered his
gun stock first, preventing a more serious injury. Two other Marines were
also wounded. That night, the men of the 2d Battalion were amused when they
heard Radio Tokyo announce that the 4th Marines had been annihilated.
After the bombing, most of Lieutenant Colonel Anderson’s 2d Battalion moved
to the hills on the Manila Road five miles outside the Navy Yard. Several
times, portions of the 2d Battalion were rushed to the beach front to repel
reported landings near Calapacuan Point and permanent defensive positions
were set up along Mauqinaya Beach. Lieutenant Colonel “Red” Anderson calmed
his men by walking among them as they dug, saying, “That’s okay men, they
got nothin’ bigger than 8-inch shells to throw at us!”
The battalion also formed blocking positions on the Manila Road at Mount
Panaigar in the Zambales Mountains in coordination with the Philippine
Army’s 31st Division. On 22 December, the Japanese landed their 48th
Division north of Olongapo at Lingayen Gulf and the main body of the 2d
Battalion returned to protect the Naval Station from any supporting Japanese
The Japanese quickly crushed American and Philippine resistance at Lingayen
Gulf, and united with the troops previously landed on northern Luzon. On 24
December, another major force, the 16th Division, landed just 60 miles from
Manila at Lamon Bay. General Douglas MacArthur, commanding USAFFE (United
States Army Forces in the Far East), knew the situation was hopeless. He
decided to withdraw all American and Philippine forces to the peninsula of
Bataan where a final stand would be made, in conjunction with the fortified
islands in Manila Bay.
The intended use of Marines in the joint defense plan for the Philippines
called for the transfer of the regiment to Army operational control. Admiral
Hart believed that the 4th Marines “were the strongest infantry regiment in
the Philippines,” because of the experience of their veteran officers and
noncommissioned officers. In an 8 December formal letter Admiral Hart
reminded MacArthur that the 4th Marines regiment was available, but the
USAFFE commander requested only a battalion to serve as a guard for USAFFE
headquarters. MacArthur further offered to allow the Fleet Commander to
retain jurisdiction over the unit.
Hart declined to use “his” Marines in such a way. At 1940, 15 December, the
USAFFE staff met and proposed to convert the 4th Marines into two regiments,
and combine them with two regiments of the Philippine Constabulary. The
brigade would be used as a reinforcement unit for USAFFE. The following day,
Lieutenant Colonel William T. Clement, Fleet Marine Officer, responded by
agreeing to the merger with the Philippine troops, and to provide them with
ammunition and supplies. Each Marine battalion would absorb one or two
companies of Philippine troops and Marines would command the Philippine
regiments, with the division commanded by Colonel Howard.
However, Admiral Hart and Colonel Clement changed the proposal and convinced
Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland, MacArthur’s chief of staff, that
the Marines still needed field training after their long stay in Shanghai.
Sutherland then decided that the 4th Marines would be used for beach defense
on Corregidor. Indeed, on 2 January, MacArthur stated to his staff that the
“Marines had no tactical training and were not suitable for use as a
tactical combat unit.”
Admiral Hart informed Howard that the 4th Marines was now under Army
tactical command. Howard proceeded with Colonel Clement to USAFFE
Headquarters and reported directly to MacArthur for duty. MacArthur sent him
to General Sutherland who provided him orders to prepare for duty on
Corregidor. Howard, realizing the assignment would take the 4th Marines away
from the front, asked that his regiment be allowed to guard the western
beaches on Bataan. Sutherland replied that he wanted “the 4th Marines to
take over the beach defenses [of Corregidor] as soon as possible.”
Concentration at Mariveles
On 20 December, Admiral Rockwell ordered Lieutenant Colonel Adams to move
his battalion to the Naval Section Base at Mariveles. The next day, two
batteries and two companies of the 1st Separate Marine Battalion were
ordered to withdraw promptly from Cavite to Mariveles. Lieutenant Carter B.
Simpson remembered, “The Colonel with orders and the transportation arrived
within one minute of one another.” The 1st Separate Marine Battalion
completed its evacuation of the Cavite Sangley Point area on the night of
Christmas day with the last detachment finishing the destruction of the Navy
Private First Class James 0. Faulkner drove a truck loaded with two tons of
candy destined for the Navy commissary at Mariveles. Faulkner noticed the
men from his unit resting along the road and pulled over beside them. He
quietly informed them of the contents of his truck and then said loudly,
“I’m going to get something to eat. I don’t want to see you getting on my
truck!” The Marines understood his meaning and when Faulkner returned, the
truck’s load was considerably lighter.
On 24 December Lieutenant Colonel Donald Curtis, the regimental executive
officer, was directed to move Lieutenant Colonel “Red” Anderson’s 2d
Battalion to Mariveles without delay. Curtis began work at once. At 1800, 24
December, Captain Benjamin L. McMakin, Company F commander, called his
officers and noncommissioned officers together and said simply “Gentlemen,
it is Christmas Eve. We move all night.” The 2d Battalion boarded trucks and
began the move to Mariveles at 2000 with truck convoys continuing for the
following two days and nights to move the regimental ammunition and
equipment. As night fell on 26 December all personnel, equipment, and
supplies were in place in the jungle near Mariveles.
Admiral Rockwell ordered a detail of Marines under Major Frank P. Pyzick to
destroy the Olongapo Navy Yard. At the first blast of explosives, the
powerplant engineer cut off all power to the Yard and disappeared. All
demolition work came to a stop until a Marine working party restored power
to detonate the remaining explosive charges. The obsolete cruiser USS
Rochester was towed into Subic Bay and sunk by depth charges blowing open
her hull. The PBY ramp was destroyed and all aviation fuel and submarine
supplies were burned.
“The hard part,” remembered Private First Class Wilbur M. Marrs, “was
destroying all the footlockers that had the deep carved chests inside filled
with ivory, jade, silk robes, and other souvenirs” that were carefully
brought out of Shanghai. Marrs later wrote, “Buildings and equipment that
were not blown up, we poured fuel on, including these footlockers.” All
structures, except for the main building of the Marine Barracks, were left
in flames as the Marine detachment departed the Navy Yard for the last time
at 1900, 26 December.
On Christmas Eve, Japanese aircraft struck Mariveles, concentrating on the
Free French freighter, S.S. Si Kiang. The ship was interned in Mariveles
harbor, and a guard of eight 1st Battalion Marines prevented the crew from
moving the vessel. A U.S. Army quartermaster proceeded to unload the ship’s
cargo of gasoline and flour, both of which were badly needed ashore. This
daylight movement attracted the attention of the Japanese who bombed the Si
Kiang, sending her to the bottom of Mariveles Bay. The 1st Battalion
suffered its first losses of the war: two Marines killed and three wounded.
The dead were buried with full military honors, in a somber ceremony
presided over by Regimental Chaplain Herbert R. Trump, ChC, USN.
The celebration of Christmas varied throughout the 4th Marines. Captain John
Clark later wrote, this was “probably the worst Christmas I ever spent. No
food. Nip airplanes bombing over the bay and flying over our area all day
long. No damned fun.” Marines of the 1st Battalion enjoyed a turkey dinner
at Mariveles. Corporal George Bue and other members of Headquarters Company,
2d Battalion, feasted on peas and oatmeal as their Christmas dinner.
For Private First Class James 0. Faulkner, the holiday began by driving a
truck in the last convoy out of the Cavite Navy Yard. The vehicles halted
near the village of San Roque when the astonished drivers saw Filipinos
cooking doughnuts alongside the road. Enterprising villagers salvaged the
flour from a ship sunk in Manila Bay and the hungry Marines happily joined
in the holiday feast.
Lieutenant Colonel “Red” Anderson was driving toward Mariveles with some of
his 2d Battalion headquarters staff, when he noticed a bombed-out Filipino
cabaret outside Olongapo. Anderson ordered the vehicle stopped and took his
men inside to celebrate the holiday and “have a Christmas drink.” The
headquarters party found the walls half gone, but the bar still intact and
everyone soon had a drink in hand. Anderson then called for the singing of
Christmas carols, and the group gathered around First Lieutenant Sidney F.
Jenkins as he played the cabaret piano. All joined in the singing as they
sipped their drinks. The high point of the party was when Private First
Class Joseph E. “Frenchy” Dupont sang “Adeste Fideles,” completely in Latin.
For a brief moment, the war was forgotten.
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.
Defenses of Manila Bay
Four islands protected the mouth of Manila Bay from attack. Corregidor, the
largest island, was fortified prior to World War I with powerful coastal
artillery and named Fort Mills. The tadpoleshaped island lay two miles from
Bataan, and was only 3-1/2 miles long and 1-1/2 miles across at its head.
This wide area, known as Topside, contained most of Fort Mills’ 56 coastal
artillery pieces and installations.
The next feature proceeding east from Topside was Middleside, a small
plateau containing more battery positions and barracks. East from Middleside
was Bottomside, the low ground where a dock area and the civilian town of
San Jose was located. Further east was headquarters, hospital, and
communication tunnels contained within Malinta Hill. The narrow tail of the
island continued east, with a small landing strip, Kindley Field, until
ending among the rocky beaches of Hooker Point.
Fort Hughes lay on nearby Caballo Island, and contained 13 heavy guns, while
further south on El Fraile island was Fort Drum, an island which had been
leveled and reformed into a “concrete battleship,” with two steel turrets
mounting four 14-inch guns. Fort Frank, containing 14 large-caliber cannon
on Carabao Island, lay only 500 yards from the Cavite shoreline and was
perhaps most vulnerable to attack.
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.
At 1000, 26 December, the 4th Marines began to move to Corregidor. More than
400 Marines of the 1st Separate Marine Battalion were loaded on board
lighters and taken across the channel. They were then transported by narrow
gauge railway to Middleside Barracks. The forward echelon of the
Headquarters and Service Companies and the 2d Battalion loaded on a
minesweeper and lighters just after darkness the following day. Shortly
after midnight on 27 December, the 336 Marines and their equipment were
completely unloaded on Corregidor.
Two days later at 2010, the 1st Battalion and the remainder of the regiment
completed the transfer to Corregidor’s North Dock. A 1st Battalion Marine
private busily carried a box of .30-caliber ammunition weighing more than 96
pounds to the dock. Lieutenant Colonel Beecher stepped in front of the
sweating Marine and took the box out of his hands. He then dropped the
ammunition off the dock into the water. The private stared dumbfounded as
Beecher informed him, “You’re carrying blanks; we are not using them
anymore.” The 4th took six months of rations for 2,000 men, 10 units of fire
for all weapons, a two-year supply of summer clothing, and medicines and
equipment for a 100-bed hospital, to Corregidor.
Marines were first quartered in the concrete barracks on Middleside. When
they inquired of their Army comrades about protection from bombing, they
were assured the barracks were bombproof. Captain John Clark wrote later, “A
feeling of safety and security came over us as we reached the Rock. We were
told it was impregnable, and that we had nothing to fear from Japanese
At 0800, 29 December, Colonel Howard reported to Major General George F.
Moore, commanding the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bays. He was
immediately appointed commanding officer of beach defense, Corregidor.
Howard then began a prompt inspection of the current beach defenses.
Marines Teach Filipino Cadets to Fire .30-Caliber
4th Marines Train Filipino Cadets on Lewis Machine
At 1140 that same day, a flight of Japanese aircraft approached Corregidor.
Air-raid sirens sounded, but most of the 4th Marines paid little attention
to them, believing in the safety of Corregidor’s antiaircraft defenses.
Lieutenant Sidney Jenkins remembered, “bombs screaming to earth with
shattering explosions, the crack of AA guns, the neat ‘plop plop’ of the AA
shells bursting all over the sky. . . there we were, the whole regiment flat
on our bellies on the lower deck of Middleside Barracks.”
Marines in the upper decks of Middleside Barracks sprinted for the lower
deck for protection. Most of the bombs that hit the building exploded on the
second and third decks, but Private First Class Don Thompson and 20 other
Marines on the first deck felt an explosion and a shower of cement dust. He
looked up and saw blue sky though a hole in the ceiling of the supposedly
bombproof barracks. Bombs continued to fall for the next two hours. Corporal
W. Murphy died of multiple wounds to the head and chest while trying to
clear the building, and nine Marines were wounded in the attack.
Private First Class Charles R. Greer and Private Alexander Katchuck noticed
two wounded men in an abandoned truck. Greer and Katchuck left their shelter
and drove the truck to the hospital despite the falling bombs. They were
awarded Silver Star Medals, the first Marines to be awarded an Army
decoration in World War II, and the first to be mentioned in General
Bombs destroyed or damaged the hospital, antiaircraft batteries, Topside and
Middleside Barracks, the Navy fuel depot, and the officers club. Smoke cast
a black pall over the island as numerous wooden buildings caught fire.
Power, water, and communication lines were disrupted. Total casualties on
Corregidor mounted to 20 killed and 80 wounded.
After the Japanese bombing ended, the 4th Marines was assembled in front of
the barracks to ascertain casualties. As the men stood in formation, someone
dragged a sea bag down the stairs of the barracks, which made a noise like
falling bombs. Instantly, the men broke and ran “pell mell back into the
safe barracks” only to reemerge laughing once the origin of the sound was
Japanese bombers reappeared over Corregidor at 1134, 2 January, and bombed
the island for more than three hours. Private First Class Verdie G. Andrews
was killed by debris from the explosions and six other Marines were wounded.
Periodic bombing continued over the next four days resulting in one Marine
killed and another wounded. Only two more raids occurred in January,
allowing the Marines to improve their positions considerably. On 29 January,
Japanese aircraft dropped only propaganda leaflets which greatly amused the
On 29-30 December the 4th Marines moved from its barracks into field
positions. The 1st Battalion took the east sector, from Malinta Hill to
Hooker Point on the tail of the island. The 2nd Battalion moved into the
west sector and the 1st Separate Marine Battalion was assigned the middle
sector. On 1 January 1941, this battalion was officially redesignated 3d
Battalion, 4th Marines. Fortyfour Marines of the battalion were detailed for
antiaircraft defense for Batteries Wheeler and Cheney. In addition, 46
Marines in two platoons of the 3d Battalion under Second Lieutenant
Frederick A. Hagen were deployed with .30and .50-caliber machine guns to
provide antiaircraft fire and beach defense of Fort Hughes. Another 14
Marines of the 3d Battalion were deployed to Fort Drum for the same purpose.
Work began rapidly on construction of beach defenses. Typical was the
reaction of Lieutenant Colonel Beecher when he first inspected his defense
area. He later wrote, “The task confronting us was appalling. With 350 men
there were 3,500 to 4,000 yards of possible landing beach to defend.” The
Marines began to build barbed wire barriers, tank traps, bunkers, and trench
systems. Working parties began at first light in the morning and halted only
at noon for a rest period in place of lunch. The work progressed well,
slowed only by Japanese shelling, bombing, and darkness.
Tools were carefully guarded, as Lieutenant Jenkins remembered, “We took
care of our tools like gems.” The Marines ran short of sandbags, so
discarded powder cans from the costal artillery guns were filled with dirt
and used in their place. Bottles were filled with gasoline to make “Molotov
cocktails,” to be dropped over cliffs on the Japanese. Empty gasoline drums
were filled with dirt and rock and set up as tank traps on trails leading
from the beach. Each position was carefully camouflaged for protection and
dummy positions were also constructed to attract enemy fire.
Marines of Company B located Army aircraft bombs, and wooden chutes were
constructed to drop the bombs on landing areas. A second line of defense and
reserve positions were also built behind the front line beach defenses, with
the hope of eventual reinforcement.
Battle of the Points
After the movement of the 4th Marines to Corregidor in December, there were
still Marines on Bataan. Two antiaircraft batteries operated in the
Mariveles area and formed part of a naval defense battalion for the southern
coast of Bataan. Battery A, commanded by First Lieutenant William F.
Hogaboom, was stationed at the Mariveles Quarantine Station, protecting an
old Dewey Dry Dock. The battery consisted of two officers and 80 men and was
armed with nine machine guns for low level antiaircraft defense. One Navy
officer and 65 sailors were attached to the battery. Battery C, under First
Lieutenant Wilfred D. Holdredge was posted in an abandoned rice paddy
between the Navy Section Base and the village of Mariveles. The battery was
composed of four 3-inch antiaircraft guns and had an ensign and 40 sailors
General MacArthur learned of the presence of Marines on Bataan and ordered
Battery A to serve as a guard for USAFFE Headquarters. The officer in charge
of the Naval Battalion, Commander Frank J. Bridget, then directed Lieutenant
Hogaboom to return to duty at Mariveles instead. On 14 January, MacArthur
wrote directly to Admiral Rockwell requesting the suspension of Bridget’s
order. Rockwell replied the same day that Battery A had yet to be relieved
of its duties at the Mariveles Section Base, and was not yet under Army
direction. MacArthur ended the dispute by issuing Field Order Number 6,
assigning two officers and 40 enlisted men from Corregidor to serve as
guards for USAFFE Headquarters, relieving Battery A.
At 0800, 23 January, the aircraft lookout on Mt. Pucot reported to Commander
Bridget that a Japanese seaborne landing had been made on Longoskawayan
Point, 2,000 yards west of Mariveles. Bridget ordered Lieutenants Hoidredge
and Hogaboom to move to the point and confirm the landing. Japanese strength
was estimated at only one squad. Unfortunately, Bridget failed to inform the
two lieutenants that two Marine patrols would be in the area. Hoidredge and
Hogaboom had no knowledge of each other’s movements.
Platoon Sergeant Robert A. Clement was ordered by Bridget to command a
hastily gathered platoon of 36 sailors to support the two Marine
lieutenants. Clement asked for another Marine noncommissioned officer, whom
he did get, and led his men into the jungle. Sergeant Clement deployed his
men in loose formation and moved toward Longoskawayan Point. In a few
minutes, he heard a sailor calling, “Hey, Sarge!” “Hey Sarge!” Clement
quickly ran over to him. The sailor held up his rifle and asked, “Sarge, how
do you get the bullets in this thing.” Clement rapidly held school for the
sailor and the platoon moved on.
Clement’s men soon reached the beach where they came upon the Japanese
supply area. More than 150 rifles were neatly stacked as well as Lister bags
of fresh water hanging from poles. Two Japanese cooks were the only enemy in
sight and these men ran at the approach of the Americans. Clement ordered
each of his men to carry off one of the rifles and returned to report his
success. Japanese machine guns caught the patrol in an ambush a short
distance up the trail, and Clement and a Navy lieutenant were hit in the
initial exchange of gunfire.
The firing alerted the two Marine patrols. At the sound of battle both
Hoidredge and Hogaboom deployed. They met scattered Japanese patrols and
drove the Japanese back toward the coast, towards Clement’s men. Machine gun
fire hit the Marines, killing Private First Class Quentin R. Sitton. Despite
the Japanese fire, the two forces joined and together withdrew to a blocking
position on the ridge between Mariveles and Longoskawayan Point. Bridget
gathered the men available at the Section Base and reinforced the detail of
the two Marine lieutenants with 30 sailors. At this point, the Marine
commanders believed they had encountered only about a platoon of the enemy.
On 24 January the Marines and sailors again advanced on the point. Strong
Japanese resistance was encountered and rifle fire and grenades were
exchanged between the two forces. At the first sight of a hand grenade, a
Marine shouted, “Grenade!” and dove for cover. The sailors stood looking
around, asking, “Where?” The untrained sailors learned quickly how to take
cover thereafter. Lieutenant Hoidredge came upon a Japanese light artillery
position and maneuvered to engage the enemy. He soon realized his men were
behind enemy lines and pulled back to the main Marine position. Firing was
spasmodic the rest of the day and at dusk the Americans pulled back to their
The two lieutenants realized they needed more men to engage the enemy the
following day and requested reinforcements from Corregidor. On the morning
of 25 January a machine-gun platoon and an 81mm-mortar platoon arrived under
the command of First Lieutenant Michael E. Peshek. Marine Gunner Harold D.
Ferrell directed two 81mm mortars on the positions the Japanese occupied
during the previous day’s engagement. By midafternoon the Marines again
moved toward the points, Hogaboom to Lapiay Point and Hoidredge to
Longoskawayan Point. Hogaboom found no enemy, but Holdrege's men were met
by an ambush and had heavy losses. Hoidredge and 11 enlisted Marines were
wounded and Private First Class Warren J. Carver was killed.
The Marines again withdrew to their blocking position and shortly after
midnight, 12-inch mortars from Corregidor pounded Longoskawayan Point. On
the morning of 26 January, Marine mortars combined with Filipino artillery
again hit the Japanese defensive positions. The 60 to 75 Marines and 130
sailors probed the Japanese defenses, but the attack became disorganized.
The Japanese counterattacked and again the Americans withdrew. Hogaboom
reported that “we could not hope to continue the attack or even hold our
ground with the troops at our disposal.” Commander Bridget responded by
ordering Hogaboom to dig in and prepare for another attack in the morning.
As the tired men returned to their positions they were met by the 1st
Battalion, 57th Infantry (Philippine Scouts), who relieved them. The
remainder of the Naval Battalion withdrew to Mariveles and three days later
the Philippine Scouts had cleaned out the Japanese landing force. The
platoon that the Marines initially thought had landed turned out to be a
reinforced battalion with attached artillery. These Japanese were part of a
larger landing force but had become separated during the night of 22-23
January and landed unsupported on Longoskawayan Point.
Battery A moved to Corregidor on 17 February, leaving a Marine Air Warning
Detachment, the USAFFE Guard, and Battery C as the only Marines remaining on
Bataan. Disease became a problem for Battery C, as Lieutenant Simpson
recalled, “the heat was terrific, malaria cropped out among the men every
day or so, yet we had to stay manned every day all day because of constant
enemy air activity.” The battery often left one gun unmanned to have full
crews on the remaining guns.
The Bombardment Continues
On 6 February, Japanese artillery opened fire on Corregidor and the
fortified islands from positions in Cavite Province. The forts were shelled
eight more days and bombed twice in February. Occasional shelling and
bombing hit the fortified islands until 15 March, when the Japanese began
preparations to renew their offensive on Bataan. The bombing and artillery
raids now continued unabated until the end of the siege. The Japanese
conducted attacks spaced over every 24-hour period after 24 March to prevent
any rest by the defenders. Japanese harassing artillery fires, conducted
every 25-30 minutes throughout the night, caused the Marines to dub the
annoying cannon “Insomnia Charlie.” The artillery spotting balloon over
Bataan was nicknamed “Peeping Tom.”
The events of 30 March typify the constant Japanese bombardment. There were
two periods of shelling, beginning at 0950 and 1451, and six bombing raids,
beginning at 0040 and spaced throughout the day. One Marine, Private First
Class Kenneth R. Paulin of Company M, 3d Battalion, was killed during the
day by shellfire from the Cavite shore. The bombing raids finally ended at
2205. The attacks were renewed at 0102 on the same schedule, except 10
bombing raids occurred on 31 March.
At this time, the major problems facing Major General Jonathan Wainwright,
USA, commander of U.S. Forces on the Bataan Peninsula, were dwindling food
supply and an increased disease rate. By March, the daily ration of food for
the men on Bataan was 1,000 calories with food for Corregidor rationed to
last until the end of June 1942. On 27 March, Wainwright telegraphed
MacArthur in Australia to report the June deadline and asked for supplies.
He also stated that “with ample food and ammunition we can hold the enemy in
his present position, I believe, indefinitely.”
On 1 April, General Wainwright recognized that little or no food could
arrive through the Japanese blockade and ordered a new reduced ration. The
4th Marines and other defenders of Corregidor now consumed 30.49 ounces of
food per day: 8 ounces of meat, 7 ounces of flour, 4 ounces of vegetables, 3
ounces of beans and cereals, 2.5 ounces of rice, 3 ounces of milk, and
approximately 3 ounces of miscellaneous foodstuffs.
“We were hungry all the time,” remembered Private First Class Ben L. Lohman,
“We ate mule meat . . . when the mules were killed in the bombing . . .
they’d bring the carcasses down and we’d eat ‘em.” Drinking water was
distributed only twice a day in powder cans, but bombing and shelling often
interrupted the resupply. The staple food for the 4th Marines was cracked
wheat, sometimes made into dumplings, sometimes served with syrup. The
continued lack of a proper diet created major problems for the 4th Marines,
as men were weakened and lacked reliable night vision. Some Marines lost up
to 40 pounds during the bombardment.
On 9 April, Bataan fell to the Japanese after a final offensive broke
through the USAFFE defenses trapping more than 75,000 men. Battery C managed
to escape at the last minute, but the Marine guards at USAFFE headquarters
and the Air Warning Detachment were taken prisoner, and endured the infamous
Bataan Death March. The Japanese wasted little time before focusing their
attention on Corregidor, intensifying their bombardment of the island the
same day Bataan fell.
Although food was in short supply on Corregidor, ammunition was relatively
plentiful. As of 7 April, the island had 5,177,900 rounds of armor piercing,
clipped, and tracer .30-caliber ammunition and a total of 161,808 rounds of
.50-caliber ammunition. Gen Wainwright wrote, “Our flag still flies on this
beleaguered fortress.” and added in his memoir, “I meant to see it keep
Japanese Bombing of Corregidor
As men became available on Corregidor from January until after the fall of
Bataan, they were integrated into the 4th Marines to support beach defense.
In February, 58 sailors formerly of the USS Canopus were organized as a
reserve company. Lieutenant Clarence Van Ray with Platoon Sergeant Leslie D.
Sawyer and Sergeant Ray K. Cohen trained and equipped the sailors into an
efficient fighting force. Ten Marines and 40 more sailors were added to the
company after the fall of Bataan.
The largest group of reinforcements arrived after the fall of Bataan. In the
days following 9 April, 72 officers and 1,173 enlisted men from more than 50
different organizations were assigned to the 4th Marines, making the Marine
regiment one of the most unusual units in Marine Corps history. These
reinforcements included members of the Navy, the Army, the Philippine Army,
and Philippine Scouts. Sailors stranded on land after the loss of their
ships found themselves alongside engineers, tankers, and aviators whose
units were captured on Bataan. Filipino Scouts were assigned with members of
the islands’ Constabulary to the 4th Marines. Unfortunately, very few of the
reinforcements were trained or equipped for ground combat. By 29 April, the
4th Marines numbered 229 officers and 3,770 men, of whom only about 1,500
The Formation of the 4th Battalion
With Bataan on the brink of falling, Captain John H. S. Dessez, the
commander of the Navy Base at Mariveles requested permission to transfer his
500 sailors to Corregidor. Approval was granted with the condition that
these men would be part of the beach defense force. On 10 April, the 4th
Battalion was formed under the command of Major Francis H. “Joe” Williams.
His command was built with nine Army officers and 16 Navy officers and
warrant officers commanding 272 enlisted men. This joint service battalion
bivouacked in Government Ravine near Battery Geary and began to train for
Four companies were organized in the battalion and lettered Q, R, S, and T.
Companies Q and R were commanded by Army officers and S and T by Navy
officers. Rifles still packed in cosmoline, a greasy protective coating,
were issued to the sailors. This presented interesting cleaning problems to
the inexperienced mariners. However, rifles were all that was issued to the
battalion in the way of equipment. There were no helmets, cartridge belts,
or even first aid kits.
Williams at once began weapons training for his sailors. With no rifle range
available, the bluejackets used floating debris in Manila Bay as targets on
which to sight in their rifles. Some of the Navy personnel had not fired a
weapon in almost 20 years. Training proceeded with cover and concealment,
and small unit tactics. Evening lectures were given by men experienced in
combat on Bataan. The accelerated infantry training by the battalion was
punctuated by the daily shelling and the fact that each man felt “that this
battalion would be used where the going was the roughest . . . The chips
were down and there was no horseplay.”
1st Battalion Defenses
Lieutenant Colonel Beecher now commanded 360 Marines, 500 Filipinos,
approximately 100 American sailors, and 100 American soldiers, totaling
1,024 effective fighting men. These troops were armed with the 1903
Springfield rifle, grenades, BARs, four 37mm guns, and eight 30-caliber
machine guns. A few 60mm mortars were available, as well as .50-caliber
machine guns taken from immobilized ships. They were emplaced to defend the
beaches. Additionally, the Philippine Scouts had mounted a few 75mm guns.
Initially, the 37mm and 75mm guns could not be traversed quickly enough that
a fast moving boat could not easily escape their fire.
The Japanese shelling caused serious damage to the beach defenses, and
casualties among the officers and men of the battalion, but most of the
heavy weapons were still intact. As of 1 May the battalion had lost only
four machine guns and eight cases of .30-caliber ammunition. Far more
serious was the loss of the water supply and a complete loss of the field
communication lines. Caches of rations were buried or received direct hits
from lucky shells. Casualties among officers and men were equally serious:
Major Harry C. Lang, commanding Company A, was killed; Captain Paul A. Brown
of Company B and one of his platoon commanders were wounded; one of Company
D’s officers was wounded; and three Army officers with the reserve company
also were wounded. Army officers replaced the commanders but the men had
little confidence in them. This acute loss of experienced leaders would be
critical in the coming fighting.
The area held by the 1st Battalion was heavily wooded when first occupied in
December and dotted with coastal artillery barracks and other buildings. By
early May, the area was completely barren of vegetation and scattered with
the ruins of shelled buildings. Sergeant Louis E. Duncan later remembered,
“there was dust a foot thick,” covering the entire area.
On 1 May Beecher had reported to Colonel Howard that the beach defenses on
the eastern portion of the island were practically destroyed by the Japanese
bombardment and that repair under the continuing fire would be impossible.
Beach wire had been repeatedly holed, tank traps filled in, and all the
heavy guns of the 1st Battalion were in temporary emplacements as the
initial ones had been spotted and destroyed by the enemy. The Japanese fire
was so accurate that the men could be fed only at night.
Colonel Howard told this to General Wainwright, who said only that he would
never surrender. When Howard told Beecher this, he replied, “I pointed out
to Colonel Howard that nothing had been said about surrender; I was merely
reporting conditions as they existed in my sector.”
The enemy bombing and shelling continued with unrelenting ferocity. Japanese
aircraft flew 614 missions from 28 April until 5 May, dropping 1,701 bombs
totaling 365.3 tons of explosive. At the same time 9 240mm howitzers, 34
149mm howitzers, and 32 other artillery pieces pounded Corregidor day and
night. Most of the Japanese artillery was based on Bataan with one
reinforced battalion firing from Cavite Province.
Soldiers Batter Corregidor with Captured 12-Inch Guns
On 2 May, a 240mm shell exploded the magazines of Battery Geary, causing
massive casualties to the Army crews manning the guns. A Marine rescue party
ran to assist in clearing the casualties from the resulting fires. Major
Francis H. Williams and Captain Austin C. Shofner were the first two Marines
into the battery, and both were seriously burned about the hands, face, and
ankles in rescuing survivors from the blaze. Both officers refused to be
On 29 April the 61st Infantry Regiment of the 4th Imperial Japanese Army
Division was selected to be the first force to be landed on Corregidor.
Supporting the infantry were elements of the 23d Independent Engineer
Battalion and the 1st Battalion of the 4th Engineer Regiment. Once on shore,
elements of the 1st Company, Independent Mortar Battalion, the 51st Mountain
Gun Regiment, and the 3d Mortar Battalion would provide gunfire support.
The 61st Infantry and attached units, titled Left Flank Force, was to land
on the tail of Corregidor on the evening of 5 May. This 2,400man landing
force would seize Kindley Field and then capture Malinta Hill. The following
night a second reinforced regiment of the 4th Infantry Division would land
on Morrison and Battery Points. The two forces would then join for the
capture of Topside.
On the evening of 4 May, a Philippine civilian arrived in a small fishing
boat on the beach at Corregidor. The civilian carried a message from
Philippine intelligence on Bataan, and was promptly carried to Lieutenant
Colonel George D. Hamilton, the regimental intelligence officer. Hamilton
called for Sergeant Harold S. Dennis of the intelligence section to read the
note aloud, as he was having difficulty deciphering the message. Dennis
read, “Expect enemy landing on the night of 5/6 May.” Hamilton quieted
Dennis, saying, “Hush, hush, hush, don’t say another word! Do you want to
start a panic?” Hamilton took Dennis with the note to Colonel Howard who
listened as the note was read aloud a second time. In the morning of 5 May,
Howard called a meeting of all the regiment’s senior officers. Once
assembled, Howard told them the contents of the note from Bataan. The
Japanese were expected to make their attack that night or the following day.
There followed a discussion of the probabilities of the landing. If the
Japanese were expected that night, the beach positions would be 100% manned
at nightfall. If the landing took place at dawn, the positions would be 50%
manned until dawn so the men could eat and rest for the coming attack.
Curtis asked the assembled officers for their opinions, which was followed
by a spirited discussion. Curtis then called for a vote, which was unanimous
for the men to sleep until one hour before dawn and then fully man the
Colonel Howard then spoke and asked for the opinion of Sergeant Dennis, the
only enlisted man in the room. Dennis had studied Japanese tactics in China
and said that enemy landings were invariably made at night, one hour before
the full light of the moon. Colonel Howard thanked him for his opinion, but
did not change the regiment’s orders. The men would be allowed to sleep for
a predawn landing.
Major Max W. Schaeffer commanded the regimental reserve, which consisted of
two companies lettered 0 and P, formed mainly from Headquarters and Service
Company’s personnel. Schaeffer’s would be the first unit to move to any
Japanese landing on Corregidor. At 1700, 5 May, he made his final
preparation for the night. Major Schaeffer summoned Sergeant Gerald A.
Turner to his headquarters. The sergeant reported by asking “Well, Major,
what’s the trouble now?” Major Schaeffer replied, “It may be a long, long
night for you. The reason I’ve called you down here is because we need a 2d
platoon, and you’re it.” He made Turner a lieutenant and gave him command of
30-35 Filipino army officer cadets formed into a platoon of three squads.
“Don’t go out and try to be a hero.” cautioned Schaeffer, “I want you to
look after these kids and take care of them.” Even with the addition of
Turner’s platoon, the regimental reserve numbered less than 500 men.
Fourth Marines with 37-mm Gun Await Japanese
At nightfall on 5 May Colonel Gempachi Sato assembled his Left Flank Force
at Limay on the Bataan Peninsula. The gathered troops “sang softly the high
thin haunting melody of ‘Prayer in the Dawn,” and then climbed into 19
landing craft for the assault. The landing craft varied in size, the
smallest carrying 30 men and the largest 170. More important, five tanks of
the 7th Tank Regiment were also embarked in two landing craft. The landing
craft and barges approached Corregidor in a three-line formation with
expected landfall at 2300, shortly before the rise of the moon.
At 2240 the artillery shelling concentrated on the north shore beach
defenses in the 1st Battalion sector. At 2300, supplies of food and water
were just reaching the beach positions when landing boats were reported
offshore. A second artillery concentration pounded the beach defenses for 67
minutes. The shelling was particularly intense, ending with phosphorous
shells. Three to four minutes of silence followed the last shell when word
reached Beecher at battalion headquarters that seven Japanese landing craft
were nearing the beach. The initial Japanese landing of 790 men of the
reinforced 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry was headed for the beaches from
Infantry Point to North Point.
Captain Lewis H. Pickup of Company A watched from his command post as the
first force of landing craft in echelon headed for his company’s positions.
Searchlights picked up the landing craft and the 1st Battalion commenced
firing. The 37mm guns had no trouble tracking the landing craft, as Sergeant
Louis E. Duncan had altered the traversing mechanism so it could move more
freely. Gunnery Sergeant William A. Dudley held up the trails to his 37mm
gun to fire down on the incoming boats.
Private First Class Silas K. Barnes heard the boat motors from his machine
gun position on Infantry Point and for a few moments was able to hit the
approaching landing craft that were illuminated by the searchlights. He
effectively enfiladed Cavalry Beach and cut down many of the Japanese
soldiers as they came ashore. The Japanese struggled in the layers of oil
that covered the beaches from ships sunk earlier in the siege and
experienced great difficulty in landing personnel and equipment.
Unfortunately, Barnes’ and one other machine gun position were all that
remained of 13 machine guns from Infantry Point to North Point. The rest had
been destroyed by the Japanese bombardment.
The 1st Platoon, Company A, commanded by First Lieutenant William F. Harris,
defended the beach from Infantry to Cavalry Points, while the 2d Platoon
under Master Gunnery Sergeant John Mercurio held the line from Cavalry to
North Points. “I’ve got word that landing boats will attempt a landing,”
Harris told his men, “They’ll be coming in here someplace. Fix Bayonets.” He
ordered Private First Class James D. Nixon to go to the cliff overlooking
the beach, and report on the location of the Japanese. Nixon looked at the
beach and saw Japanese troops coming ashore only 30 feet away. The Marines
placed a heavy fire on the Japanese as they climbed the steep cliffs and
tossed “Molotov Cocktails” down on the landing craft. In the darkness,
however, the Japanese succeeded in bypassing many of the Marine positions.
Master Gunnery Sergeant Mercurio’s 2d Platoon was spread thin covering the
beach area, with many of his positions right on the water. “At high tide,”
recalled Corporal Edwin R. Franklin, “I could reach out and touch the
water.” The landing craft were only 100 yards away from the beach when
Japanese flares lit up the night. The 2d Platoon began firing, but the
Japanese were too close to halt the landing. A landing craft beached in
front of Franklin’s position and enemy troops began coming ashore. Mercurio,
armed with only a pistol, killed a Japanese soldier “so close he could have
touched him,” as the Japanese overran the beach defenses. The fighting
became particularly bloody, “with every man for himself,” remembered
Franklin. The Japanese 50mm heavy grenade dischargers or “knee mortars” were
particularly effective at close range, and the overwhelming numbers of
Japanese infantry forced Mercurio’s men to pull back from the beach.
Corporal Joseph Q. Johnson, a 31st Infantry soldier attached to the 2d
Platoon, remembered, “the gun next to me chattered, and glancing to my
right, I saw its targets, small, fleeting, darting in the shadows.” Johnson
fired two belts of machine gun ammunition and was firing a third one when a
grenade landed 20 yards away. A second grenade landed closer, and rifle fire
also hit Johnson’s position. When a third grenade landed only 10 yards from
the gunpit, Johnson ran to the next machine gun position and found the two
occupants dead. He kept moving, crawling along the beach with two other
survivors of his platoon, toward Kindley Field.
The survivors of the 2d Platoon found themselves surrounded by the advancing
Japanese as they tried to reach safety. Corporal Franklin saw a grenade land
in the trail in front of him, which exploded and knocked him to the ground
with a head wound. Franklin next hazily saw a Japanese soldier charging with
fixed bayonet. The Marine said to himself, “I ain’t going this f***** way,”
and jumped up to engage the enemy with his own bayonet. Franklin was stabbed
in the chest, but succeeded in killing the Japanese soldier. He ran ahead
down the trail past another enemy soldier, who shot Franklin in the leg, but
the Marine continued moving until he reached Malinta Tunnel.
Lieutenant Harris was forced to pull his platoon out of the area of Cavalry
Point after the Japanese overran Mercurio’s platoon. Most of the men fought
on their own through the night. Private First Class Nixon moved toward the
high ground of Denver Battery, when he encountered a Japanese soldier,
“eyeball to eyeball.” Both men charged with fixed bayonet, and in the
ensuing struggle, Nixon was able to wound the Japanese soldier in the side.
He left his enemy in the darkness and moved toward the sound of firing.
After facing 30-45 minutes of defensive firing the landing craft seemed to
abandon their attempts to land and retired to the bay. The firing then
subsided. Unknown to Captain Pickup, most of the 1st Battalion, 61st
Infantry was ashore in 15 minutes and the barges were returning to Limay.
The Japanese sent up a flare to signal a successful landing at 2315. In 30
minutes, Colonel Sato had his men off the beach and moving inland.
The 785 men of the reinforced 2d Battalion, 61st Infantry were not so
successful. The Japanese planners had not reckoned with the strong current
in the channel between Bataan and Corregidor and the battalion landed east
of North Point where all defensive positions were still intact. The craft
also hit the Corregidor beach 10 minutes after the 1st Battalion, and the
Marines were ready and alert for the attack. The Japanese came under heavy
fire for the next 35 minutes, losing eight of 10 landing craft on the shore
and one more sinking after pulling off the beach.
Private First Class Roy E. Hays manned a .30-caliber machine gun nestled in
the cliffs overlooking the beach area at Hooker Point. He could see the
barges approach his position, but was ordered to hold fire until the landing
craft came closer. Hays decided, “We’re not waiting any longer,” and opened
a devastating fire at point blank range. This was instantly followed by
accompanying fires from all the weapons positions along the beach.
The Japanese who did get ashore were crowded in most cases on beaches that
were only 30 feet wide backed by 30-foot-high cliffs. Most of the officers
were killed early in the landing, and the huddled survivors were hit with
hand grenades, and machine gun and rifle fire.
Private First Class David L. Johnson remembered a sailor named Hamilton
firing a twin .50caliber machine gun up and down the beach, “like shooting
ducks in a rain barrel. The Japanese would run up and down the beach,”
remembered Johnson “and each time there would be less men in the charges.
Finally, they swam into the surf, and hid behind boulders.” For the
remainder of the night, only small bands of Japanese were able to scale the
cliffs and engage the Marines.
Captain Pickup went out to check his platoons, assuming the attack had been
repulsed. He then learned that some of the landing craft had made it ashore
in the North Point area and Japanese troops were moving inland. At the same
time, Beecher sent runners to all of his company commanders alerting them to
the landing. As planned, if the enemy penetration was successful, Company A
would withdraw and join Company B in a line based on Battery Denver, holding
the tail of the island from the Japanese. Before the line could be formed,
the Japanese captured Denver at 2350 and were discovered digging in. Colonel
Sato had led his 1st Battalion soldiers to Denver Hill almost unnoticed.
Platoon Sergeant William Haynes led his 3d Platoon, the reserve platoon from
Company B, from the south beaches at Monkey Point over to reinforce Company
A. Haynes kept his men together in the darkness and reached the beach area.
Hearing Japanese voices ashore, the platoon moved and fired trying to make
contact with the Japanese, but they were firing only at the voices. After an
hour the platoon became scattered in the darkness and each Marine fought the
rest of the night on his own.
Captain Pickup had only just returned to his headquarters, when he
discovered the enemy on Denver. His first reaction was to pull a platoon off
the beach and retake the battery, but in discussion with First Lieutenant
William Harris, he decided to keep his beach defenses intact and await
reinforcements. Marine Gunner Harold M. Ferrell went to 1st Battalion
headquarters to alert Captain Noel 0. Castle, commanding Company D, to the
Japanese landing. He had sent a runner to Denver Battery where he found
Japanese in the gun pits. Castle, a distinguished marksman and pistol shot
who carried two pearl-handled .45-caliber pistols, assembled the Marines of
Headquarters Company and the few Marines available of Company D to drive the
Japanese off of Denver Hill.
Castle dispatched Sergeant Matthew Monk with 15 drivers and cooks to occupy
an abandoned beach defense position and secure his left flank. “Do the best
you can,” he ordered Monk, “Keep the Japanese out of the tunnel.” Castle
also scouted the reserve stations at critical road junctions, and cautioned
the men, “Maintain positions.” He then gathered his men for the
counterattack to Denver Battery, declaring, “Let’s go up there and run the
Ferrell warned Castle from leading the attack himself, but the captain
replied, “I’m going to take these people up there and shoot those people’s
eyes out” and led his men to the hill. Castle met the Marines falling back
from the Japanese advance, and joined in the battle. At 0140, the Japanese
attacked the water tower and ran directly into the reinforced platoon led by
Castle. The two forces collided in furious combat, practically “face to
face,” remembered Corporal Joseph J. Kopacz. The Japanese advance was halted
but the Marine attack was bloodily repulsed.
Castle left the battle line and ran to an abandoned .30-caliber machine gun,
which he put into working order, while “completely covered by enemy fire.”
Castle opened a devastating fire with the machine gun, forcing the Japanese
to cover, which allowed the American advance to continue. The Japanese fell
back from the water tanks to the Denver Battery positions, but Castle was
hit by Japanese machine gun fire and killed. With their commander down, the
attack ground to a halt.
Captain Golland L. Clark of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, then
ordered mortar fire placed on the ridge and for 20 minutes Stokes mortars,
converted to fire 81mm ammunition, pounded the Japanese positions. However,
the Marine with the range card which contained the coordinates which
targeted the entire end of the island could not be found throughout the
night. The mortar firing soon halted as stray rounds were impacting on
Marine positions on the other side of the hill. For the moment only
scattered Marines from every company in the 1st Battalion held the Japanese
from moving on to Malinta Tunnel.
Gunner Ferrell put together what few men he could find from Company D and
formed a line to prevent the Japanese from moving down from the high ground
and taking the northern beach defenses from the rear. Marines from
Headquarters Platoon, Company A, joined the battle on their own. First
Sergeant Noble J. Wells formed 25 to 30 Marines on line to prevent the
Japanese from moving along the north road. The Japanese soon attacked,
screaming, “Banzai! Banzai!” and reached within 15 to 20 yards of the Marine
position before being turned back. The Japanese then tried to infiltrate
behind Wells’ men. He posted two Marines to guard the communication trench.
Corporal Howard A. Jordan heard a noise and shouted, “Who goes there?” A
voice responded, “Me Filipino, got hurt foot,” and a figure began to run.
Both Marines opened fire, and dropped the man who turned out to be a
Japanese soldier. Corporal John H. Frazier later remarked, “Didn’t have to
worry about that foot anymore.”
Before midnight, Lieutenant Colonel Beecher committed his battalion reserve,
a platoon of 30 Philippine Scouts, but the Japanese were obviously firmly
ashore and more reinforcements were needed to drive the enemy back to the
beaches. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel V. Freeny organized a platoon of men,
gathered from Malinta Tunnel, to reinforce the beleaguered 1st Battalion.
One of the U.S. Army enlisted men complained, “I’ve never fired a rifle
before, I’m in the finance department.” Freeny replied, “You just go out and
draw their fire and the Marines will pick them off.” With the 1st Battalion
fully committed, Colonel Howard ordered the regimental reserve under Major
Max Schaeffer to report to Beecher. The 4th Battalion was alerted to be
ready to respond should more men be needed.
Movement of the Regimental Reserve
At the sound of machine gun fire, Major Schaeffer alerted his two companies
which formed the regimental reserve, and sent Sergeant Turner’s Filipino
cadet platoon in advance to Malinta Tunnel. Shortly before midnight, he
moved the rest of his men to the tunnel. The Marines pulled on their
bandoliers of ammunition, fastened grenades to their cartridge belts, and as
Private First Class Melvin Sheya remembered, said to each other, “Well, here
goes nothing.” The two companies moved along the South Shore Road under
Japanese artillery fire, but lost only a few men before reaching the tunnel.
When Sergeant Turner’s platoon reached Malinta Tunnel, he found the passage
blocked by hundreds of “tunnel rats,” soldiers who had no organization on
the island and lived in the safety of the tunnel. These men wouldn’t clear
the corridor for the regimental reserve to pass into. Turner ordered his
men, “Fix bayonets, boys, let’s give them a nudge.” The main passage of the
tunnel was soon cleared.
Lieutenant Colonel Beecher informed Schaeffer of the situation on Denver
Hill as the Marines drew more hand grenades and Lewis machine gun magazines
from caches planted against an eastern attack. All proceeded according to
plan. A few Marines and sailors from the tunnel joined the column as
ammunition bearers. At 0100 Major Schaeffer gave his company and platoon
commanders orders to counterattack and drive the Japanese off the tail of
Corregidor. Company P would advance down the road toward Kindley Field and
upon meeting resistance would deploy to the left of the road while Company 0
would move to the right. Together the companies would sweep to the end of
the island. Officers of the 1st Battalion would lead the two companies into
At 0200 the two companies of the regimental reserve deployed down the road
leading east from Malinta Tunnel. Sergeant Turner’s platoon again led the
advance from the tunnel, literally running into Captain Golland L. Clark,
1st Battalion adjutant, who was directing reinforcements to the battle area.
“Oh, Turner, what’s your unit?” Clark asked. “It’s my platoon. They sent me
out here and I’m supposed to contact you,” answered Turner. “I want you to
go down this road,” Clark ordered, “just keep going as far as you can until
you make contact with D Company.”
Sergeant Turner’s platoon moved less than 200 yards when a green flare went
up right above the men. Turner stopped, turned, and called out, “Hit the
deck,” as Japanese artillery began raking the area. The platoon went to
ground and was prevented from going to the Denver Battery fight. Rifle fire
also ranged into the position and continued to pin the platoon down.
Major Schaeffer’s main force followed behind Turner. Shots were soon
exchanged between Marines of the two companies. Cloaked in darkness it was
impossible to tell friend from foe. At a fork in the road, Company P turned
left and Company 0 took a right turn. First Lieutenant Hogaboom, commanding
Company P, soon ran into scattered Japanese fire and Captain Clark ordered
Hogaboom to deploy his men into line formation. Hogaboom soon found that he
had only his 2d Platoon. The other two platoons were nowhere to be seen.
Company 0, behind Company P, had almost reached the fork in the road when
they began to take Japanese rifle and machine gun fire. Sergeant Carl M.
Holloway remembered, “we had been so accustomed to . . . heavy artillery
fire and bombs for so many months, that the bullets kicking up dust around
our feet seemed at times almost like rain drops hitting the dust.” Flares
then lit up the night sky followed by a thunderous Japanese barrage. The
lead platoon was able to take cover in nearby bomb craters but still lost
eight men in the first few minutes of the shelling. The rest of the company
was caught in the open and cut to pieces. The 3d Platoon was left with only
six Marines unhurt while 2d Platoon had only five.
As soon as the barrage lifted, Quartermaster Clerk Frank W. Ferguson
advanced his 1st platoon as ordered but came under heavy machine gun fire
from Battery Denver hill. Ferguson deployed his platoon to the left of the
road and tried to tie in with Company P. He believed that the two platoons
behind him would soon be up to anchor his right to the beach and to support
his advance. A few isolated Marines did reach him, but only a handful.
Ferguson then led his men up the hill into the face of concentrated machine
gun fire. The commitment of the regimental reserve was now whittled down to
two isolated platoons, each advancing unsupported.
At 0300 Ferguson’s platoon came to a halt on the hillside. The steep slopes
were covered by interlocking machine gun fire and despite three attempts,
only a few yards were gained. The 1st Platoon halted only 30 yards from the
Japanese positions and dug in. The battle now raged around the two concrete
water tanks on top of the ridge, just ahead of the Denver Battery position.
Ferguson’s immediate concern was for his flanks and he moved a Lewis gun and
an automatic rifle to cover the road to his right. His left still had no
connection with Company P, but Quartermaster Sergeant John E. Haskin brought
up his five men of 3d Platoon and Ferguson sent them to the left to extend
that flank. Captain Chambers ordered the five survivors of the 2d Platoon to
Ferguson who also sent them to his left. Soon word reached Chambers that
Company P had been joined.
While Ferguson was battling for the hill, Lieutenant Hogaboom was advancing
along the coastal road toward the Japanese landing areas. He met a platoon
of Marines of Company A under Lieutenant Harris engaged in sweeping out
Japanese snipers from a wooded area. Harris agreed to support Hogaboom,
extending Hogaboom’s left to the beach. Luckily, 1-logaboom’s 1st Platoon
found its way to the front and was placed in reserve. The three platoons
advanced, killing a few scattered Japanese soldiers until they hit the
Japanese main defense line in the draw extending from Battery Denver to the
northern beaches. Hogaboom’s men were stalled by the Japanese fire and even
the 1st Platoon could deploy no further.
With no reserve and a tenuous right flank, Hogaboom was forced to draw a
squad to the right rear. As he was deploying the Marines, Japanese landing
barges appeared from the sea bearing for the beaches on Hogaboom’s left. The
1st Battalion Marines on North Point opened on the barges spraying them with
.50-caliber machine gun fire. “The bullets smacking the armor of the barges
sounded like rivet hammers rattling away,” remembered Hogaboom. Private
First Class Robert P. McKechnie took a Lewis gun to an overlook and
personally disabled two of the barges, leaving them drifting aimlessly.
After savaging the attempted landing, the Marines tried to advance to join
the members of the 1st Battalion at Cavalry Point, but the Japanese machine
gun at the head of the draw proved to be too well protected. The remnants of
both companies settled in their positions and then began a duel of American
grenades against the ammunition of the deadly accurate Japanese “knee”
mortars. Captain Robert Chambers, Jr., met with Hogaboom before dawn to
coordinate the battle line of the two companies. Both commanders agreed that
without reinforcements, the battle would soon go against the Marines.
Marines Move Ammunition and Weapons Forward on
Attack of the 4th Battalion
Before midnight, Colonel Howard gave orders for the 4th Battalion to prepare
to move to Malinta Tunnel and replace the regimental reserve. Major Williams
had already alerted his men based on the view he had of the east end of the
island. The men of the battalion needed little warning, having also watched
the landing take place. At midnight Williams had extra ammunition issued and
all companies ready to move. At 0130 he received Howard’s order to shift to
the tunnel and the 4th Battalion moved at once.
The battalion marched in the darkness in two columns along the road to the
tunnel well spread out to avoid Japanese artillery fire, but were delayed by
a 20-minute artillery barrage and suffered a few casualties. By 0230, Major
Williams had his men into Malinta Tunnel and awaited further orders.
At 0430 Colonel Howard decided to commit his last reserves, the 500 Marines,
sailors, and soldiers of the 4th Battalion. Major Williams’ men were long
ago ready to move out, the Malinta Tunnel being severely congested with a
constant stream of wounded Marines from the early fighting. Morale in the
battalion was strained by the constant concussions from the Japanese
shelling outside and the proliferation of rumors in the tunnel. Lieutenant
Charles R. Brook, USN, remembered, “It was hot, terribly hot, and the
ventilation was so bad that we could hardly breathe.”
Led by Major Williams, the battalion emerged from the tunnel in platoon
column. The men were suddenly subjected to a severe shelling and casualties
began to mount before the last company was able to leave the tunnel.
However, within 10 minutes, the battalion reformed under fire and began to
move forward. Another barrage soon struck, causing more casualties and
confusion. Minutes later, the column was again reorganized and the advance
continued. At 200 yards behind the line of the 1st Battalion, Williams
ordered Companies Q and R to deploy in a skirmish line and guide to the left
of the line. Company T repeated the orders and formed on the right of
Company R and guided to the right. Company S formed the reserve.
The order of the battalion was prudent, for the main line of resistance was
badly in need of reinforcement. In the moonlight, deployment into skirmish
formation was difficult, but eventually accomplished. Contact with the 1st
Battalion was spotty at best and no Marines were found in line ahead of
Company R. Scattered parties of Japanese soldiers had infiltrated behind the
Marine positions all night and their sniping proved worrisome to the
inexperienced sailors. Both Companies Q and R were receiving fire from ahead
and behind as they moved into position.
In the confusion, two sailors, Signalman First Class Maurice C. Havey and
Signalman First Class Frank H. Bigelow, became separated from their command
and came upon an unmanned twin .50-caliber machine gun overlooking the beach
area. They manned the gun and opened fire on the Japanese on the coastline
for 30 minutes. Havey fired until the barrels burned out and Bigelow then
replaced them. Suddenly, Havey dropped from the gun, turned and said, “I’m
hit.” He staggered to the rear toward Malinta Tunnel while Bigelow stayed
with the gun. Havey had traveled only 100 yards when he was killed by seven
machine gun bullets across the chest.
Unbeknownst to the Marines, the Japanese troops on Corregidor received
reinforcements just before dawn. The 3d Battalion, 61st Infantry, engineers,
and light artillery arrived with at least 880 men to join the battle. This
force was originally scheduled to arrive at 0230, but the losses in landing
craft in the initial attack forced the delay. Even so, five tanks and most
of the field artillery were left on Bataan due to lack of landing craft. At
0530, three green flares signaled the successful landing by the Japanese.
From 0530 to 0600 the four company commanders of the 4th Battalion tried to
put their men into position but were hampered by the darkness, lack of
knowledge of the terrain, and the lack of cohesion of the 1st Battalion. In
some cases the 4th Battalion actually formed a line behind the 1st Battalion
positions with no knowledge of the Marines ahead of them. Luckily, the
Japanese artillery was strangely silent. Major Schaeffer came out of the
firing line to confer with Major Williams on the placement of the
reinforcements, asking, “Joe, what in the hell did you bring me?” Williams
responded, “I have my whole battalion here—or what’s left of them. Where is
your unit? and what position do you want my battalion in?” Schaeffer lost
his composure for a moment and replied, “Joe, I don’t know! . . . I don’t
know where in hell my noncoms are, I think they are all dead!” Williams
motioned a nearby corpsman to check the major and said, “Dammit now, you
relax, I’ll take over this situation.” Schaeffer pulled himself together and
indicated the most needy area was the gap between his two companies. Company
S moved out of reserve and forward to fill the breach.
Major Williams and his staff armed themselves with rifles and hand grenades
and entered the front lines where the firing was the heaviest. This command
decision at times prevented tight coordination among the companies as the
commanders often would have little idea how to contact the major. The dazed
battalion settled into its positions and extended its flanks to cover the
island from end to end. A decision was reached to find how many men had been
lost in getting into position, but this effort was unsuccessful. The best
estimate of the strength of the battalion at that time was about 400 men.
At 0600 Williams ordered his battalion to counterattack at 0615, the break
of dawn. In 10 minutes all companies were alerted and jumped off promptly at
the designated time. The order, “Charge,” came down the line and the
Marines, sailors, and soldiers attacked with fixed bayonets, “yelling and
screaming. . . cursing and howling.. .“ Gunner Ferrell tried to use the 1st
Battalion Stokes mortars to support the attack, but again the rounds were
too inaccurate for use. Companies Q and R rapidly gained ground on the left,
but Company S ran at once into heavy machine gun fire and was halted after
moving only 100 yards.
Company T also ground to a halt after gaining little ground. The Japanese
sent up flares which brought a prompt response from the artillery on Bataan.
In 10 minutes the gunfire halted and Company T resumed the attack on the
ground around Battery Denver, but machine gun fire quickly halted the
advance. A machine gun position on the north road was knocked out, as was
another in the ruins on Battery Denver Hill, but at heavy cost.
Major Schaeffer was pinned down in his command post by these two machine
guns and had lost contact with his men. When the fire was silenced, he rose
from his position, a mixture of dirt and blood from wounds running into his
eyes, blinding him. Despite his wounds, Schaeffer tried to reorganize his
men and explain to Williams what had happened. Major Williams had Schaeffer
cared for and calmly took control of the action.
Predictably, contact was soon lost between the two left companies, Q and R,
and the two companies on the right, S and T. The companies on the left had
outdistanced those on the right by 200 yards. Williams halted Companies Q
and R, ordering them to regain contact with the stalled companies and try to
break into the Japanese flank on Denver. The two boatloads of Japanese
soldiers left drifting by Private First Class McKechnie, and now hung up
offshore, were successfully destroyed despite the poor marksmanship of the
sailors in Company Q. At 0630 Williams began to shift men to the right,
which was hard-pressed.
Quartermaster Clerk Ferguson, now in command of Company 0, decided to attack
the two machine guns which covered the beach road by the flank. Ferguson,
with six men, moved down the road covered for some distance by the road
embankment. Unfortunately, two new machine guns opened on the party and they
were bracketed by knee mortars. By the time Ferguson was abreast of the
first guns he had only one man left, Corporal Alvin E. Stewart of the 803d
Engineer Battalion. The two gave up the enterprise and moved to the south
side of the road to place rifle fire on the offending machine guns.
The Japanese on top of the hill evidently thought they were being flanked by
a larger party of men and a reinforced platoon began to file out of Battery
Denver to counter Ferguson’s move. The Japanese were entirely in silhouette
against the skyline and the two Americans by the road had perfect targets.
Ferguson later wrote “There wasn’t a chance to miss them—we were too close
for that.” Within seconds 20 Japanese soldiers were killed or wounded. The
Americans were so intent on firing that they didn’t notice a Japanese
rifleman coming up behind them. Ferguson was shot by a glancing bullet in
the face, leaving blood streaming from his nose and cheek. Stewart was able
to pull him back to the Marine battle line without further wounds.
One of the major impediments to the Marine attack was a Japanese machine gun
placed in a hole in the base of one of the water tanks. Quartermaster
Sergeant John E. Haskin and Sergeant Major Thomas F. Sweeney ran under fire
and climbed up the cement water tower in the predawn darkness. The two
Marines did not expect to survive the battle, and their comrades knew that
both would attempt some extreme action during the expected fighting. Marine
Gunner Ferrell talked to Sweeney as he led his men into action that morning.
Sweeney said as they parted, “Well, this is it. We’ve been in the Marine
Corps for 15 years and this is what we’ve been waiting for. If I don’t see
you, that’s the way it is.”
The two Marines now lobbed grenades into the Japanese positions, promptly
destroying the machine gun in the water tank. Captain Brook remembered, “A
Marine sergeant . . . gathered an armful of hand grenades and climbed to the
top of a stone water tower near our front line. From here, he threw them at
a Japanese sniper position and succeeded in knocking it out.” Another
Marine, Corporal Sidney E. Funk, was crawling beside the water tank when he
heard a voice call down, “Hey Funk, those bastards are right over there in
the brush. If I had enough hand grenades, I’d blow the hell out of them.”
Funk had no idea who the voice belonged to and quickly crawled away for
Despite drawing fire to themselves, Haskin and Sweeney continued to have
some initial success, destroying at least one more machine gun. However,
their supply of grenades was soon exhausted and Haskin was killed while
reclimbing the tower with more ammunition. Sweeney was killed soon after.
The two “were very close friends in life,” remembered Quartermaster Clerk
Frank W. Ferguson, “it was most fitting that they should go out together.”
The American advance on both the right and the left was next halted by an
enemy machine gun located in the gun pit of Battery Denver near the water
tower. From this commanding position the gun could hit any movement from the
north coast to the south. The gun drew the attention of Major Williams who
personally took on the gun with his Springfield rifle with no result. At
0730 Lieutenant Bethel B. Otter, USN, commanding Company T, took Ensign
William R. Lloyd and four volunteers, armed only with hand grenades, to take
out the gun.
Under covering fire of the company, Otter crawled with his volunteers to
within 25 yards of the gun pit and lobbed grenades into the position. For a
few moments the weapon was silent, the gun crew dead. Almost immediately the
gun crew was replaced and all but one member of the assault party was
killed. With the gun still in operation, no movement further east could be
accomplished. Army Captain Calvin E. Chunn of the battalion staff took over
the company and led an advance on a group of Japanese soldiers setting up a
light artillery piece. As the company moved forward, a shell struck amidst
the command group, wounding Chunn and two other officers. By 0900 the 4th
Battalion was stalled and Williams sent to Colonel Howard for reinforcements
and artillery support to resume the attack. Neither were available.
First Lieutenant Mason F. Chronister of Company B, on the south shore
beaches, could see in the growing daylight the Japanese holding the high
ground around Denver Battery. He organized his platoon with volunteers from
the Navy Communications Tunnel and Battery M, 60th Coast Artillery, to
attack the Japanese from the west at the same time Williams was attacking
from the east. The attack proceeded up the ridge, but hit Japanese
reinforcements from the recently landed 3d Battalion, 61st Infantry, also
moving up the hill. Lieutenant Chronister withdrew his men from the larger
force, and moved them along a trail, joining Williams’ line at the watertank.
During the morning action Major Williams fought beside his men, moving from
position to position along the line. Captain Brook remembered, “He was
everywhere along the line, organizing and directing our attack, always in
the thick of it, seeming to bear a charmed life. I have heard men say that
he was the bravest man they ever saw.”
From 0900 until 1030 the firefight proceeded without change in position. The
lines were so close that none of the companies could shift a squad without
drawing machine gun fire and artillery. All of the 4th Battalion was
fighting without helmets, canteens, or even cartridge belts. However, the
Marines had the advantage of being too close for the Japanese artillery to
be of use. Small parties of Marines occasionally were dispatched to take out
Japanese snipers who were firing into the rear of the Marine position from
the beach area.
The Japanese were now facing a serious problem, which threatened to lose the
battle for them. Each Japanese rifleman came ashore with 120 rounds of
ammunition and two hand grenades. The machine gun sections carried only two
cases totalling 720 rounds of ammunition and three to six grenades. The knee
mortar sections had only 36 heavy grenades and three light grenades. A large
quantity of additional ammunition had been loaded on the landing craft due
to the expected problems in resupplying the force. However, the ammunition
crates had been hurriedly dumped overboard by the crews of the landing craft
as they grounded on Corregidor and now few boxes could be recovered in the
murky water. By morning most of the Japanese on Denver Hill were either out
of ammunition or very close to it. Many Japanese soldiers were now fighting
with the bayonet and even threw rocks at the Marines to hold the hill.
At 0900, Captain Herman Hauck, USA, reinforced the Marines and sailors with
60 members of his Coast Artillery battery. Williams placed the soldiers on
the beaches to his left where heavy losses had whittled away at his
strength. With the reinforcements some advance was made, but against strong
enemy resistance. Nevertheless, much of the fighting was done with the
bayonet, as the Japanese were running out of ammunition. The tide was
beginning to turn against the Japanese. As Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma
reflected one year after the surrender, “If the enemy had stood their ground
12 hours longer, events might not have transpired as smoothly as they did.”
The Japanese were able to set up a mortar battery on North Point and opened
with telling effect on Williams’ left companies. Two squads were sent out to
flank the guns, but ran into machine gun fire which wiped out almost the
entire right squad. Three more squads were sent out, two to the left and one
to the right of the mortars. After heavy fighting and loss, the deadly
mortars were silenced.
The machine gun at the head of the draw at Cavalry Point also had held up
the progress of the advance. U.S. Army Lieutenant Otis E. Saalman of the 4th
Battalion staff was ordered by Williams to go to the left and see what he
could do to get the line moving. With the help of Captain Harold Dalness,
USA, Saalman took a party of volunteers up the draw to silence the gun. The
Americans crawled unobserved to within grenade range and then opened fire on
the enemy with rifles and grenades. One of the Japanese defenders picked up
a grenade and lifted it to throw it back at the Americans when it went off
in his hand. The gun was at last silenced and the way lay open to link up
with the 1st Battalion survivors to the east. Saalman was able to observe
the Japanese landing area where he watched three Japanese tanks climbing off
The Japanese landed three tanks, two Type 97 tanks and a captured M-3. Two
other tanks were lost 50 yards offshore while landing with the 2d Battalion,
61st Infantry. The surviving tanks were stranded on the beach due to the
steep cliffs and beach debris and were left behind by the advancing
infantry. In one hour, the tank crews and engineers worked a path off the
beach. When the tanks reached the cliffs, they found the inclines too steep
and were unable to move further. The Marines were alerted to the presence of
the tanks and Gunner Ferrell went to Cavalry Point to investigate the rumors
of tanks, and found the vehicles apparently hopelessly stalled.
At daylight the Japanese were able to cut a road to Cavalry Beach but were
still prevented from moving inland by the slope behind the beach. Finally,
the captured M-3 negotiated the cliff and succeeded in towing the remaining
tanks up the cliff. By 0830, all three tanks were on the coastal road and
moved cautiously inland. At 0900, Gunnery Sergeant Mercurio reported to
Malinta Tunnel the presence of enemy armor.
At 1000 Marines on the north beaches watched as the Japanese began an attack
with their tanks, which moved in concert with light artillery support.
Private First Class Silas K. Barnes fired on the tanks with his machine gun
to no effect. He watched helplessly as they began to take out the American
positions. He remembered the Japanese tanks’ guns “looked like mirrors
flashing where they were going out and wiping out pockets of resistance
where the Marines were.” The Marines still had nothing in operation heavier
than automatic rifles to deal with the enemy tanks. Word of the enemy armor
caused initial panic, but the remaining Marine, Navy, and Army officers soon
halted the confusion.
One of the Marines’ main problems was the steady accumulation of wounded men
who could not be evacuated. Only four corpsmen were available to help them.
No one in the battalion had first aid packets, or even a tourniquet. The
walking wounded tried to get to the rear, but Japanese artillery prevented
any move to Malinta Tunnel. No one could be spared from the line to take the
wounded to the rear. At 1030 the pressure from the Japanese lines was too
great and men began to filter back from the firing line. Major Williams
personally tried to halt the men but to little avail. The tanks moved along
the North Road with Colonel Sato personally pointing out the Marine
positions. The tanks fired on Marine positions knocking them out one by one.
At last Williams ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions just
short of Malinta Hill.
With the withdrawal of the 4th and 1st Battalions, the Japanese sent up a
green flare as a signal to the Bataan artillery which redoubled its fire,
and all organization of the two battalions ceased. Men made their way to the
rear in small groups and began to fill the concrete trenches at Malinta
Hill. The Japanese guns swept the area from the hill to Battery Denver and
then back again several times. In 30 minutes only 150 men were left to hold
The Japanese had followed the retreat aggressively and were within 300 yards
of the line with tanks moving around the American right flank. Lieutenant
Colonel Beecher moved outside the tunnel, shepherding his men back to
Malinta hill. He knew his men would be thirsty and hungry and ordered
Sergeant Louis Duncan to “See what you can do about it.” Duncan broke open
the large Army refrigerators near the entrance to Malinta Tunnel, and soon
was issuing ice-cold cans of peaches and buttermilk to the exhausted
At 1130 Major Williams returned to the tunnel and reported directly to
Colonel Howard that his men could hold no longer. He asked for
reinforcements and antitank weapons. Colonel Howard replied that General
Wainwright had decided to surrender at 1200. Wainwright agonized over his
decision and later wrote, “It was the terror vested in a tank that was the
deciding factor. I thought of the havoc that even one of these beasts could
wreak if it nosed into the tunnel.” Williams was ordered to hold the
Japanese until noon when a surrender party arrived.
At 1200 the white flag came out of the tunnel and Williams ordered his men
to withdraw to the tunnel and turn in their weapons. The end had come for
the 4th Marines. Colonel Curtis ordered Captain Robert B. Moore to burn the
4th Marines Regimental colors. Captain Moore took the colors in hand and
left the headquarters. On return, with tears in his eyes, he reported that
the burning had been carried out. Colonel Howard placed his face into his
hands and wept, saying, “My God, and I had to be the first Marine officer
ever to surrender a regiment.”
The news of the surrender was particularly difficult for the men of the 2d
and 3d Battalions who were ready to repel any renewed Japanese landing.
Private First Class Ernest J. Bales first learned of the surrender when a
runner arrived at his gun position at James Ravine, who announced, “We’re
throwing in the towel, destroy all guns.” Bales and his comrades found the
news incredible, “hard to take . . . couldn’t believe it.” One Marine tried
to shoot the messenger but was wrestled to the ground.
Private First Class Ben L. Lohman of 2d Battalion destroyed his automatic
rifle, but “we didn’t know what the hell was going on,” as Japanese
artillery continued to pound Corregidor long after the surrender. “The word
was passed,” recalled Lohman, “go into Malinta Tunnel.” The men packed up
their few belongings and marched toward the Japanese. Three Marines of 3d
Battalion refused to surrender and boarded a small boat and made their
escape out into the bay.
Sergeant Milton A. Englin commanded a platoon in the final defensive line
outside Malinta Tunnel, and was prepared to deal with the Japanese tanks
with armor-piercing rounds from his two 37mm guns. As he waited for the
Japanese, an Army runner came out of the tunnel, shouting, “You have to
surrender, and leave your guns intact.” Englin yelled back, “No! No! Marines
don’t surrender.” The runner disappeared, but returned 15 minutes later,
saying, “You have to surrender, or you will be court-martialed after all
this is over when we get back to the States.” Englin obeyed the order, but
destroyed his weapons, instructing his men, “We aren’t going to leave any
guns behind for Americans to be shot with.” The 4th Marines, 1,487
survivors, many in tears, destroyed their weapons and waited for the
Japanese to come.
The defenders of Hooker Point were cut off from the rest of the island and
were the last to surrender. They had finished the Japanese survivors of the
2d Battalion, 61st Infantry, in the daylight hours and for the rest of the
day faced little opposition. As evening approached, they heard the firing on
Corregidor diminish, and Forts Hughes and Drum fell silent. First Lieutenant
Ray C. Lawrence, USA, and his second in command Sergeant Wesley C. Little of
Company D, formed his men together at 1700, and marched to Kindley Field
under a bedsheet symbolizing a flag of truce. The Marines soon found
Japanese soldiers, who took their surrender.
Marine casualties in the defense of the Philippines totaled 72 killed in
action, 17 dead of wounds, and 167 wounded in action. Worse than the
casualty levels caused by combat in the Philippines was the brutal treatment
of Marines in Japanese hands. Of the 1,487 members of the 4th Marines
captured on Corregidor, 474 died in captivity.
The Japanese recognized that the five-month battle for the Philippines was
seen by the world as a defining contest of wills between the United States
and Japan. Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma, Japanese commander in the
Philippines, recognized the critical nature of this conflict when he
addressed his combat leaders in April 1942, saying:
The operations in the Bataan Islands and the Corregidor Fortress are not
merely a local operation of the Great East Asia War . . . the rest of the
world has concentrated upon the progress of the battle tactics on this small
peninsula. Hence, the victories of these operations also will have a bearing
upon the English and the Americans and their attitude toward continuing the
And so they did.