| 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
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
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 carrying.
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
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 the Philippines.
Arrival in the
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 occurred.
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 progressed
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 get into 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
The Marines found temporary wooden barracks, converted from warehouses,
that were nearing 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 field.
Manila Bay, Island of Luzon, the Philippines
Peninsula, Luzon Island
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
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 families again.”
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
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 to camp.
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
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 available.
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 fire anyway.
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
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
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 fire.
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
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
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.
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 landing.
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.”
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 Yard.
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.
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.
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 attack.”
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
Teach Filipino Cadets to Fire .30-Caliber Machine Gun
Marines Train Filipino Cadets on Lewis Machine Gun
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 Verle
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 MacArthur’s dispatches.
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
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 determined.
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 beach defenders.
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 attached.
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 blocking position.
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.
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
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
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 flying.”
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 were
The Formation of the
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 ground combat.
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
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
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
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
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.
Japanese 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 evacuated.
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 defenses.
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
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
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
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
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 bastards off.”
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
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
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 position.
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
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
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
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.
Move Ammunition and Weapons Forward on Corregidor
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
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
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
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 cover.
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
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 beach.
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.
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 line.
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 Marines.
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
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
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 war.
And so they did.