Chapter 3: The Siege and Capture of Corregidor

The Japanese Plans1

On 9 April the victorious Fourteenth Army paused on the shore of Bataan with its next target--Corregidor--dead center in its sights. Many enemy staff officers, both in Tokyo and on Luzon, wanted to launch an immediate amphibious attack, taking advantage of the army's success on Bataan. The dearth of landing craft in Manila Bay, however, effectively served to postpone the operation. Most of the Japanese landing barges and boats were located in Lingayen Gulf or Subic Bay and had to be moved past Corregidor's guns to the designated staging areas on the eastern coast of Bataan. (See Map 8, Map Section)

Map 8: Corregidor with Inset Showing Manila Bay

On the night of 14 April the first small group of boats slipped by The Rock, hugging Bataan's shore while the enemy shelled and bombed the island's north coast to prevent their discovery.2 Because they were forced to follow this method of moving a few boats at a time and these only at night and behind a curtain of protective fire, the Japanese took more than three weeks to assemble the necessary assault craft.

The need for extreme caution in making the risky passage into Manila Bay was not the only factor which acted against rapid execution of the Japanese assault plan. In mid-April a severe outbreak of malaria in the ranks of the 4th Division, Homma's chosen landing force, severely hampered attack preparations, but amphibious training and rehearsals continued despite the temporary decrease in the division's effective strength. Emergency supplies of quinine tablets were flown to Luzon in time to check the spread of the disease and restore fighting trim.

The Fourteenth Army was obsessed with the need for deception and secrecy and stringent security measures were taken to conceal the preparations for the attack on Corregidor. A consistent effort was made to create the impression that Cavite Province was the Japanese amphibious base and that Forts Frank and Drum were the targets. Landing craft maneuvered off Cavite's shores while the army's air and artillery pounded the defenses of the southern islands. Two battalions of the 16th Division feigned preparations for an attack on Frank and Drum, but there was little doubt at USFIP Headquarters that Corregidor was the primary Japanese objective.

Every day in April starting with the day Bataan fell, an increasingly heavier concentration of enemy artillery pieces found firing positions in the peninsula's jungled hills. At least thirty-seven batteries, whose weapons ranged from 75mm mountain guns to 240mm howitzers, covered Corregidor with a continuous pattern


island's defenses.3 Nine Japanese bombing squadrons, capitalizing on the gradual weakening of antiaircraft fire, were overhead to add their bombardment to the attack preparation.

The enemy 4th Division was reinforced for the assault with two independent engineer regiments to man the transport and support landing craft as well as a tank regiment and three mortar battalions to provide additional firepower. The actual landing operation was to be made in two stages with Colonel Gempachi Sato's 61st Infantry Regiment (two infantry battalions, a tank company, a mountain artillery battery, and mortar units) designated the initial assault force. Sato was to land his unit in successive waves, battalions abreast along the beaches between Infantry and Cavalry Points on the night of 5 May. After establishing a beachhead, he was to send most of this men against Malinta Hill while the remainder of the regiment drove across the tail of the island to isolate and contain the defenders east of Infantry Point. The plan called for the 61st Regiment to be in possession of Malinta Hill by dawn, ready to support a second landing.

Twenty-four hours after Sato's force landed, the division's main assault effort would strike beaches between Morrison and Battery Points, near James Ravine, and the neck of the island. This second landing force, four heavily reinforced infantry battalions, would have the assistance of Sato's unit which was scheduled to make a concurrent attack against Ramsay battery hill. Throughout the whole operation the artillery on Bataan, operating under army control, was to deliver preparatory and supporting fires, and in daylight hours the army's air squadrons were to fly close support missions.

The 4th Division had three infantry battalions in reserve for its attack but did not expect that they would be needed. The Japanese were confident that their preparatory bombardment had knocked most of the fight out of Corregidor. Every terrain feature on the island was plotted and registered on artillery target maps and any signal for support from the assault forces would call down a smother of accurate fire on the defenders. The enemy felt certain that dusk of 7 May would see their assault troops in control of Corregidor.

Life on a Bull's Eye4

During the 27 days between the fall of Bataan and the assault on Corregidor, life on The Rock became a living hell. The men in the open gun pits and exposed beach defenses were subjected to an increasing rain of shells and bombs. It became virtually impossible to move about the


AERIAL VIEW OF CORREGIDOR ISLAND showing in the foreground the area of the battle between the Japanese landing force and the 4th Marines. (SC 200883-S)

EFFECT OF JAPANESE BOMBARDMENT OF CORREGIDOR is shown in this photograph taken the day after the surrender near the main entrance to Malinta Hill. (SC 282343)


island by daylight; enemy artillery spotters aloft in observation balloons on Bataan and in planes overhead had a clear view of their targets. The dense vegetation which had once covered most of Corregidor was stripped away by blast and fragmentation to reveal the dispositions of Howard's command. The tunnels through Malinta Hill, their laterals crowded with headquarters installations and hospital beds, offered refuge for only a fraction of the 11,000-man garrison and the rest of the defenders had to stick it out with little hope of protection from the deadly downpour.

Most of the escapees from Bataan were ordered to join the 4th Marines, thus adding 72 officers and 1,173 enlisted men to its strength between 9 and 12 April.5 The majority of the Army combat veterans, however, "were in such poor physical condition that they were incapable of even light work,"6 and had to be hospitalized. The mixed collection of infantry, artillery, aviation, and service personnel from both American and Philippine units assigned to me beach defense battalions was in little better shape than the men who had been committed to the hospital under Malinta Hill. The commander of 1/4's reserve, First Lieutenant Robert F. Jenkins, Jr., who received a typical contingent of Bataan men to augment his small force commented that he:

... had never seen men in such poor physical condition. Their clothing was ragged and stained from perspiration and dirt. Their gaunt, unshaven faces were strained and emaciated. Some of them were already suffering from beri-beri as a result of a starvation diet of rice for weeks. We did what we could for them and then put them to work on the beach defenses.7

The sailors from Mariveles, mostly crewmen from the now-scuttled Canopus, were kept together and formed into a new 275-man reserve battalion for the regiment, the 4th Battalion, 4th Marines.8 Not only was the designation of 4/4 unusual, but so was its makeup and its personnel. Only six Marines served in the battalion: its commander, Major Francis H. Williams, and five NCOs. The staff, company commanders, and platoon leaders were drawn from the nine Army and 18 Navy officers assigned to assist Williams.9 The four rifle companies were designated Q, R, S, and T, the highest lettered companies the men had ever heard of. Another boast of the bluejackets turned Marines was that they were "the highest paid battalion in the world, as most of the men


were petty officers of the upper pay grades."10

The new organization went into bivouac in Government Ravine as part of the regimental reserve. The reserve had heretofore consisted of men from the Headquarters and Service Companies, reinforced by Philippine Air cadets and Marines from Bataan. major Max W. Schaeffer, who had replaced Major King as reserve commander, had organized this force of approximately 250 men into two tactical companies, O and P. Company O was commanded by Captain Robert Chambers, Jr. and Company P by Lieutenant Hogaboom; the platoons were led by Marine warrant officers and senior NCOs.

A good part of Schaeffer's men had primary duties connected with regimental supply and administration, but each afternoon the companies assembled in the bivouac area where the troops were instructed in basic infantry tactics and the employment of their weapons. Despite the constant interruptions of air raids and shellings, the Marines and Filipinos had a chance "to get acquainted with each other, familiarize themselves with each others' voices, and to learn [the] teamwork"11 so essential to effective combat operations. Frequently, Major Schaeffer conducted his company and platoon commanders on reconnaissance of beach defenses so that the reserve leaders would be familiar with routes of approach and terrain in each sector in which they might fight.

While Schaeffer's unit had had some time to train before the Japanese stepped up their bombardment of the island in late March, Williams' battalion was organized at the inception of the period of heaviest enemy fire and spent part of every day huddled in foxholes dug along the trail between Geary Point and Government Ravine.12 Any let-up in the bombardment would be the signal for small groups of men to gather around the Army officers and Marine NCOs for instruction in the use of their weapons and the tactics of small units. Rifles were zeroed in on floating debris in the bay and for most of the men this marksmanship training was their first since Navy boot camp. When darkness limited Japanese shelling to harassment and interdiction fires, the sailors formed eager audiences for the Army Bataan veterans who gave them a resumé of enemy battle tactics. Every man was dead serious, knowing that his chances for survival depended to a large extent upon how much he learned. "The chips were down; there was no horseplay."13

To a very great extent the record of the 4th Battalion in the fighting on Corregidor was a tribute to the inspirational leadership of its commander. During the trying period under enemy shellfire and bombing when the battalion's character was molded, Major Williams seemed to be omnipresent; wherever the bombardment was heaviest, he showed up to see how his men were weathering the storm. When on separate occasions Battery Crockett and then Battery Geary were hit and set afire, he led rescue parties from 4/4 into the resulting holocausts of flame, choking smoke, and exploding ammunition to rescue the wounded. He seemed to have


an utter disregard for his own safety in the face of any need for his presence. Survivors of his battalion agree with startling unanimity that he was a giant among men at a time when courage was commonplace.

Raw courage was a necessity on the fortified islands after Bataan's fall, since there was no defiladed position that could not be reached by Japanese 240mm howitzers firing from Cavite and Bataan. The bombers overhead, increasingly bold as gun after gun of the antiaircraft defenses was knocked out, came down lower to pinpoint targets. Counterbattery and antiaircraft fire silenced some enemy guns and accounted for a number of planes, but nothing seemed to halt the buildup of preparatory fires.

On 28 April Howard issued a warning to his battalions that the next day would be a rough one. It was the Emperor's birthday and the Japanese could be expected to "celebrate by unusual aerial and artillery bombardment."14 The colonel's prophecy proved to be a true one, and on the 29th one observer noted that even "the kitchen sink came over."15 The birthday celebration marked the beginning of a period when the enemy bombarded the island without letup, day and night. The men manning the beach defenses of Corregidor's East Sector found it:

... practically impossible to get any rest or to repair any damage to our positions and barbed wire. Our field telephone system was knocked out; our water supply was ruined (drinking water had to be hauled from the other end of the island in large powder cans) ... Corregidor was enveloped in a cloud of smoke, dust, and the continuous roar of bursting shells and bombs. There were many more casualties than we had suffered in the previous five months.16

About three days prior to the Japanese landing, lieutenant Colonel Beecher reported to Colonel Howard that defensive installations in the 1st Battalion's sector were:

... practically destroyed. Very little defensive wire remained, tank traps constructed with great difficulty had been rendered useless, and all my weapons were in temporary emplacements as the original emplacements had been destroyed. I told Colonel Howard at this time that I was very dubious as to my ability to withstand a landing attack in force. Colonel Howard reported the facts to General Wainwright, who, according to Colonel Howard, said that he would never surrender. I pointed out to Colonel Howard that I had said nothing about surrender but that I was merely reporting the facts as it was my duty to do.17

The increase in the fury of the Japanese bombardment with the coming of May, coupled with the frequent sightings of landing craft along the eastern shore of Bataan, clearly pointed to the imminence of an enemy landing attempt. The last successful effort to evacuate personnel from the island forts was made on the night of 3 May. The submarine Spearfish surfaced after dark outside the mine fields off Corregidor and took on a party of officers and nurses who had been ordered out, as well as a load of important USFIP records and a roster of every person still alive on the islands.18 The 4th Marines


sent out their regimental journal, its last entry, dated 2 May, the list of the five men who had been killed and the nine who had been wounded during the day's bombardment.

To one of the lucky few who got orders to leave on the Spearfish the receding island looked "beaten and burnt to a crisp."19 In one day, 2 May, USFIP estimated that 12 240mm shells a minute had fallen on Corregidor during a five-hour period. On the same day the Japanese flew 55 sorties over the islands dropping 12 1,000 pound, 45 500-pound, and 159 200-pound bombs.20 The damage was extensive. Battery Geary's eight 12-inch mortars were completely destroyed as was one of Battery Crockett's two 12-inch guns. The enemy fire also knocked out of action two more 12-inch mortars, a 3-inch gun, three searchlights, five 3-inch and three .50 caliber antiaircraft guns, and a height finder. Data transmission cables to the guns were cut in many places and all communication lines were damaged. The beach defenses lost four machine guns, a 37mm, and a pillbox; barbed wire, mine fields, and antiboat obstacles were torn apart.

The logical landing points for an assault against Corregidor, the entire East Sector and the ravines that gave access to Topside and Middleside, received a special working over so steady and deadly that the effectiveness of the beach defenses was sharply reduced. Casualties mounted as the men's foxholes, trenches, and shelters crumbled under the fire. Unit leaders checking the state of the defenses were especially vulnerable to the fragments of steel which swept the ground bare. By the Japanese-appointed X-Day (5 May) the 1st Battalion had lost the commander of Company A, Major Harry C. Lang, and Captain Paul A. Brown, commanding Company B, had been hospitalized as a result of severe concussion suffered during an enemy bombing attack.21 Three Army officers attached to the Reserve Company, an officer of Company B, and another of Company D had all been severely wounded.

Despite the damage to defenses it had so laboriously constructed, the 4th Marines was ready, indeed almost eager, to meet a Japanese assault after days and weeks of absorbing punishment without a chance to strike back. On the eve of a battle which no one doubted was coming, the regiment was perhaps the most unusual Marine unit ever to take the field. From an understrength two-battalion regiment of less than 800 Marine regulars it had grown until it mustered almost 4,000 officers and men drawn from all the services and 142 different organizations.22 Its ranks contained 72 Marine officers and 1,368 enlisted


Marines, 37 Navy officers23 and 848 bluejackets, and 111 American and Philippine Air Corps, Army, Scout, and Constabulary officers with 1,455 of their men.

The units that actually met the Japanese at the beaches--1/4, 4/4, and the regimental reserve--had such a varied makeup that it deserves to be recorded:24

Service component HqCo SerCo 1st Bn 4th Bn
Off Enl Off Enl Off Enl Off Enl
USMC & USMCR 14 80 6 63 16 344 1 5
USN (MC & DC) 3 7 ------ 1 3 13 2 6
USN 1 16 ------ 1 1 78 16 262
USNR ------ 21 ------ ------ ------ 30 ------ ------
USA 1 ------ 1 ------ 26 286 9 2
Philippine Insular Navy ------ 4 ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Philippine Army Air Corps 6 83 ------ ------ 7 217 ------ ------
Philippine Scouts ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ 33 ------ ------
Philippine Army ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ 22 ------ ------
Philippine Constabulary ------ ------ ------ ------ 1 1 ------ ------
Totals 25 211 7 65 53 1,024 28 275

The Japanese Landing25

The area chosen by the Japanese for their initial assault, the 4th Marines' East Sector, was a shambles by nightfall on 5 May. Two days earlier the regimental intelligence journal had noted that:

There has been a distinct shifting of enemy artillery fire from inland targets to our beach defenses on the north side of Corregidor the past 24 hours.26

This concentration of fire continued and intensified, smashing the last vestiges of a coordinated and cohesive defensive zone and shaping 1/4's beach positions into an irregular series of strong points where a few machine guns and 37mm's were still in firing order. A pair of Philippine Scout-manned 75mm guns, located just


east of North Point, which had never revealed their position, also escaped the destructive fires. Wire lines to command posts were ripped apart and could not be repaired; "command could be exercised and intelligence obtained only by use of foot messengers, which medium was uncertain under the heavy and continuous artillery and air bombardment."27

Along the northern side of the hogback ridge that traced its course from Malinta Hill to the bend in Corregidor's tail, Company A and the reserves of 1/4 waited doggedly for the Japanese to come. There was no sharp division between unit defense sectors, and the men of the various units intermingled as the bombardment demolished prepared positions. Along the battered base and sides of Malinta Hill, a special target for enemy fire, were the men of Lieutenant Jenkins' Reserve Company. Next to them, holding the shoreline up to Infantry point, was a rifle platoon organized from 1/4's Headquarters Company; Captain Lewis H. Pickup, the company commander, held concurrent command of Company A, having taken over on the death of Major Lang. The 1st Platoon under First Lieutenant William F. Harris defended the beaches from Infantry to Cavalry Points, the landing site selected in Japanese pre-assault plans. Master Gunnery Sergeant John Mercurio's 2d Platoon's positions rimmed the gentle curve of land from Cavalry to North Point. Extending from North Point to the tip of the island's tail were the foxholes and machine-gun emplacements of First Sergeant Noble W. Well's 3d Platoon.

Positions along the top of the steep southern face of the East Sector's dominant ridge were occupied by the platoons of Company B under First Lieutenant Alan S. Manning, who had taken over when Captain Brown was wounded.28 The machine guns and 37mm's of Captain Noel O. Castle's Company D were emplaced in commanding positions along the beaches on both sides of the island; the company's mortars were in firing positions near Malinta Hill.

At about 2100 of 5 May, sensitive sound locators on Corregidor picked up the noise of many barges warming up their motors near Limay on Bataan's east coast. Warning of an impending landing was flashed to responsible higher headquarters, but the lack of wire communication kept the word from reaching the men in the foxholes along the beaches of the East Sector. They did not need any additional advice of enemy intentions anyway, since the whole regiment had been on an all-out alert every night for a month, momentarily expecting Japanese landing barges to loom out of the darkness. The men of 1/4 had withstood some pretty stiff shellings, too, and they waited, but nothing to compare with the barrage that began falling on the beach defenses manned by Harris' 1st Platoon at about 2245.

The Japanese had begun to deliver the short preparatory bombardment designed to cover the approach of Colonel Sato's assault waves which was called for in their operation plan. If Sato's boat groups adhered to their schedule they would rendezvous and head in for the beaches just as the artillery fire lifted and shifted to the west, walling off the landing area from American reinforcement efforts. The regiment would be ashore before the moon rose near midnight to give Corregidor's gunners a clear target. In two respects the


plan miscarried, and for a while it was touch and go for the assault troops.

The artillery shoot went off on schedule, but Sato's first waves, transporting most of his 1st Battalion, were carried by an unexpectedly strong incoming tide hundreds of yards to the east of the designated landing beaches. Guides in the oncoming craft were unable to recognize landmarks in the darkness, and from water level the tail of the island looked markedly uniform as smoke and dust raised by the shelling obscured the shoreline. The 61st Regiment's 2d Battalion, slated to follow close on the heels of the 1st, was delayed and disrupted by faulty boat handling and tide currents until it came in well out of position and under the full light of the moon.

When the Japanese preparatory fires lifted shortly after 2300, the troops along the East Sector beaches spotted the scattered landing craft of the 1st Battalion, 61st heading in for the beaches at North Point. The few remaining searchlights illuminated the barges, and the island's tail erupted with fire. Enemy artillery knocked out the searchlights almost as soon as they showed themselves; but it made little difference, since streams of tracer bullets from beach defense machine guns furnished enough light for the Scout 75's near North Point and 1/4's 37's to find targets. A Japanese observer on Bataan described the resulting scene as "sheer massacre,"29 but the enemy 1st Battalion came in close enough behind its preparation to get a good portion of its men ashore. Although the Japanese infantrymen overwhelmed Mercurio's 2d Platoon, the fighting was fierce and the enemy casualties in the water and on the beach were heavy. Colonel Sato, who landed with the first waves, sorely needed his 2d Battalion's strength.

This straggling battalion which began heading shoreward about midnight suffered much more damage than the first waves. The remaining coast defense guns and mortars on Corregidor, backed up by the fire of Forts Hughes and Drum, churned the channel between Bataan and Corregidor into a surging froth, whipped by shell fragments and explosions. The moon's steady light revealed many direct hits on barges and showed heavily burdened enemy soldiers struggling in the water and sinking under the weight of their packs and equipment. Still, some men reached shore and Colonel Sato was able to organize a drive toward his objective, Malinta Hill.

Individual enemy soldiers and machine-gun crews infiltrated across Kindley Field and through the rubble of torn barbed wire, blasted trees, and crater-pocked ground to Denver Battery, a sandbagged antiaircraft gun position which stood on relatively high ground south of Cavalry Point. The American gunners, whose weapons were out of action as a result of the bombardment, were unable to beat back the encroaching Japanese who established themselves in a commanding position with fields of fire over the whole approach route to the landing beaches. Captain Pickup's first word that the Japanese had seized Denver Battery came when he sent one of Company D's weapons platoon leaders, Marine Gunner Harold M. Ferrell, to establish contact with the battery's defenders. Ferrell and one of his men found the battery alive with enemy soldiers digging in and setting up automatic weapons. Ferrell immediately went back to his defense area west of Infantry Point and


brought up some men to establish a line "along the hogsback to prevent the enemy from coming down on the back of the men on the beach."30

Pickup came up shortly after Gunner Ferrell got his men into position and considered pulling Lieutenant Harris' platoon out of its beach defenses to launch an attack against the enemy. After a conference with Harris the company commander decided to leave the 1st Platoon in position. Japanese landing craft were still coming in, and the platoon's withdrawal would leave several hundred yards of beach open. The fact that enemy troops were ashore had been communicated to Lieutenant Colonel Beecher's CP just inside Malinta Tunnel's east entrance, and small groups of men, a squad or so at a time, were coming up to build on the line in front of Denver Battery. The enemy now fired his machine guns steadily, and intermittent but heavy shellfire struck all along the roads from Malinta to Denver. Casualties were severe throughout the area.

By 0130 surviving elements of 1/4 on the eastern tip of the island were cut off completely from the rest of the battalion. Beecher was forced to leave men in position on both shores west of Denver Battery to prevent the enemy landing behind his lines. All the men who could be spared from the beaches were being sent up to the defensive position astride the ridgeline just west of Denver, but the strength that could be assembled there amounted to little more than two platoons including a few Philippine Scouts from the silenced antiboat guns in 1/4's sector. No exact figures reveal how many Japanese were ashore at this time or how many casualties the 61st Infantry's assault companies had suffered, but it was plain that the enemy at Denver Battery outnumbered the small force trying to contain them, and Japanese snipers and infiltrating groups soon began to crop up in the rear of Pickup's position.

The situation clearly called for the commitment of additional men in the East Sector. Colonel Howard had made provision for this soon after getting word of the landing attempt. He alerted Schaeffer's command of two companies first, but held off committing Williams' battalion until the situation clarified itself. There was no guarantee that the Japanese would accommodate the 4th Marines by landing all their troops in the East Sector; in fact, there was a general belief among the men manning the defenses which commanded the ravines leading to Topside that the East Sector landing was not the main effort and that the enemy would be coming in against West and Middle Sector beaches.31 Complicating the entire problem of command in the confused situation was the fact that only runners could get word of battle progress to Beecher's and Howard's CP. And any runner, or for that matter any man, who tried to make the 1,000-yard journey from the Denver line to the mouth of Malinta Tunnel stood a good chance of never completing his mission. The area east of Malinta Hill was a killing ground as Schaeffer's men soon found out when they made their bid to reach Denver Battery.


The Commitment of the Reserve32

In Government Ravine the 4th marines' reserve companies saw and heard the machine guns along the East Sector beaches hammering at the Japanese landing craft. Major Schaeffer's command was already standing by to move out, and near 2400 Companies O and P filed down the trail and started for Malinta. There was little confusion, for the men had rehearsed their movements often. Crossing Bottomside by means of a tank trap which protected them from enemy shellfire, they moved into Malinta Tunnel where company and platoon commanders supervised the distribution of machine-gun ammunition and grenades cached there for just such an emergency. Volunteers from the Navy and Marine headquarters installations joined the companies to serve as ammunition carriers "although they were neither officially or morally obligated to do so."33

Major Schaeffer reported to Colonel Howard and received his instructions; he was to take his men out into the East Sector and counterattack the Japanese position. At 0200 the companies began to move out of the oppressive heat and foul air of the crowded main tunnel onto the deeply cratered roads which led to Denver.34 Lieutenant Hogaboom's' Company P was in the lead, following the left fork of the road behind its guide, Captain Golland L. Clark, Jr., the 1st Battalion Adjutant. As the last platoon of the company cleared the tunnel it was diverted to a vicious fire fight raging on the right of the Marine line by an officer who had come back seeking reinforcements. Several enemy machine guns had been set up near the base of a stone water tower forward of Denver Battery and to the right front of the Marine positions. The platoon, in common with most of the rest of the units that tried to reduce this strong point, was chopped to pieces by interlocking bands of machine-gun fire.

On Clark's order, Hogaboom deployed his remaining two platoons in line of skirmishers once they were well clear of the tunnel. The advancing line made contact with Lieutenant Harris and the remnants of Company A's 1st Platoon holding the left of the Denver defensive position and tied in with them. Hogaboom found that his right flank was open; Captain Chambers' Company O which was to have followed him out of the tunnel and come up on his right was not to be found.

Chambers' men had left the tunnel all right, but almost immediately after the company column cleared the entrance bright flares were seen going up over the Japanese position. Chambers and his 1st Platoon leader, Quartermaster Clerk Frank W. Ferguson, concluding that the flares were a signal to the artillery on Bataan, passed the word along the line to look for the nearest shelter. The guess on


the flares was right, and Ferguson's platoon was fortunate in taking its shelling in an area where the Japanese had provided deep bomb craters. The platoon came through with only eight casualties. As soon as the bombardment lifted, Ferguson moved toward Denver until he was forced to deploy by heavy machine-gun and mortar fire. He looked for the 3d Platoon to come up on his right according to plan, but only its commander, Quartermaster Sergeant John E. Haskin, and five men appeared, the rest had been lost in the shelling. Captain Chambers sent up the reserve platoon, which was in even worse shape, having been caught in the open near the tunnel entrance. Quartermaster Clerk Herman L. Snellings had only four survivors alive and unwounded.

Company O now contained but one platoon and had not yet made its attack.

Major Schaeffer established control over the scattered groups of men from the 1st Battalion and the reserve and launched three separate counterattacks on the dug-in Japanese. Sometimes the men would get up the slopes leading to the battery gun pits, but they were always driven back, fewer in number each time. On the right flank, Sergeant Major John H. Sweeney and Sergeant Haskin took advantage of the water tower's battered elevation to hurl grenades down on the machine guns that were holding up the advance; Haskin was killed trying to get more grenades up to Sweeney, and Sweeney was picked off after he had knocked out at least one of the guns. Ferguson, who knew and had served with both these long-time regulars, wrote their simple epitaph:

They were very close friends in life and it was most fitting that they should go out together.35

Many close friends died that morning in the darkness and choking dust as the Japanese and the Americans and Filipinos faced each other from positions less than forty yards apart. Some men cut off behind the enemy lines still kept firing at occasional landing craft that were coming in to reinforce Sato. Hogaboom could see the tracers of a single .50 caliber and felt that "the bullets smacking into the armor of the barges sounded like rivet hammers rattling away."36 Every movement of the Japanese boats which stood in number offshore was counted as an attempt at landing, although many of them were improvised gunboats whose mission was protecting and supporting the landing craft. But detachments of Sato's force kept coming in all night, and one enemy lieutenant, probably a member of one of the 61st's supporting units, gave a vivid description of the helpless feeling of the men in the barges as they were caught in Corregidor's fire:

American high powered machine guns poured a stream of bullets on us from all directions. Rifle fire added to the hail of death. Our men who were huddled in the center of the boat were all either killed or wounded. Those who clung to the sides were hit by shells that pierced the steel plating. The boat had already sprung several leaks when we finally came within landing distance of Corregidor. Desperately I gave the signal and led the charge against the shore defenses. I don't remember how many men responded. I know I heard only a small chorus. In that mad dash for shore many were drowned as they dropped into the water mortally wounded. Many were killed outright ... If it had not been for the fact that it was the dark hour before the dawn, pitch black, I doubt if any of us would be alive today to tell the story.37

However heavy the Japanese casualties were, they did not measurably weaken the


firepower of the Denver position. Each attack by Schaeffer's men thinned the Marine line still more. Lost were officers and NCOs whose leadership was vital to he operations of mixed units such as those which held the Japanese at bay. Captain Castle of Company D was killed trying to silence a machine gun, and many small unit leaders who still held their place in line were badly wounded. The situation was so desperate that Colonel Howard could no longer hold his last reserves out of the action. He ordered the 4th Battalion to move into the East Sector and join the embattled defense line.

The 4th Battalion in Action38

Major Williams' 4th Battalion had been alerted early in the night's action, and he had ordered the issue of extra ammunition and grenades. At about 0100 he got the word to move the battalion into Malinta Tunnel and stand by. The sailors proceeded cautiously down the south shore road, waited for an enemy barrage which was hitting in the dock area to lift, and then dashed across to the tunnel entrance. In the sweltering corridor the men pressed back against the walls as hundreds of casualties, walking wounded and litter cases, streamed in from the East Sector fighting. The hospital laterals were filled to overflowing, and the doctors, nurses, and corpsmen tended to the stricken men wherever they could find room to lay a man down. At 0430, Colonel Howard ordered Williams to take his battalion out of the tunnel and attack the Japanese at Denver Battery.

The companies moved out in column. About 500 yards out from Malinta they were caught in a heavy shelling that sharply reduced their strength and temporarily scattered the men. The survivors reassembled and moved toward the fighting in line of skirmishers. Companies Q and R, commanded by two Army officers, Captains Paul C. Moore and Harold E. Dalness, respectively, moved in on the left to reinforce the scattered groups of riflemen from Companies A and P who were trying to contain the Japanese in the broken ground north of Denver Battery. The battery position itself was assigned to Company T (lieutenant Bethel B. Otter, USN), and two platoons of Company S,39 originally designated the battalion reserve, were brought up on the extreme right where Lieutenant Edward N. Little, USN, was to try to silence the enemy machine guns near the water tower. The bluejackets filled in the gaps along the line--wide gaps, for there was little that could be called a firm defensive line left--and joined the fire fight.

The lack of adequate communications prevented Colonel Howard from exercising active tactical direction of the battle in the East Sector. The unit commanders on the ground, first Captain Pickup, then Major Schaeffer, and finally Major Williams made the minute-to-minute decisions that close combat demanded. By the time Williams' battalion had reorganized and moved up into the Marine forward positions, Schaeffer's command was


practically nonexistent. Williams, by mutual consent (Schaeffer was senior), took over command of the fighting since he was in a far better position to get the best effort out of his bluejackets when they attacked.40

At dawn Major Williams moved along the front, telling his officers to be ready to jump off at 0615. The company and platoon command posts were right up on the firing line and there were no reserves left; every officer and man still able to stand took part in the attack. On the left the Japanese were driven back 200-300 yards before Williams sent a runner to check the advance of Moore and Dalness; the right of the line had been unable to make more than a few yards before the withering fire of the Denver and water tower defenses drove the men to the deck. The left companies shifted toward Denver to close the gap that had opened while the men on the right tried to knock out the Japanese machine guns and mortars. Lieutenant Otter was killed while leading an attack, and his executive, Captain Calvin E. Chunn, took over; Chunn was wounded soon after as Company T charged a Japanese unit which was setting up a field piece near the water tower.41 Lieutenant Little was hit in the chest and Williams sent a Philippine Scout officer, First Lieutenant Otis E. Saalman, to take over Company S.

The Marine mortars of 1/4, 3-inch Stokes without sights, were not accurate enough to support Williams' attack. He had to order them to cease fire when stray rounds fell among his own men, who had closed to within grenade range of the Japanese. Robbed of the last supporting weapons that might have opened a breach in the Denver position, the attack stalled completely. Major Schaeffer sent Warrant Officer Ferguson, who had succeeded to command of Company O when Captain Chambers was wounded, to Colonel Howard's CP to report the situation and request reinforcements. Ferguson, like Schaeffer and many of the survivors of 1/4 and the reserve, was a walking wounded case himself. By the time Ferguson got back through the enemy shelling to Malinta at 0900, Williams had received what few reinforcements Howard could muster. Captain Herman H. Hauck and 60 men of the 59th Coast Artillery, assigned by General Moore to the 4th Marines, had come up and Williams sent them to the left flank to block Japanese snipers and machine-gun crews infiltrating along the beaches into the rear areas.

At about 0930 men on the north flank of the Marine line saw a couple of Japanese tanks coming off barges near Cavalry point, a move that spelled the end on Corregidor. The tanks were in position to advance within a half hour, and, just as the men in front of Denver Battery spotted them, enemy flares went up again and artillery salvoes crashed down just forward of the Japanese position. Some men began to fall back, and though Williams and the surviving leaders tried to halt the withdrawal, the shellfire prevented them from regaining control. At 1030 Williams sent a message to the units on the left flank to fall back to the ruins of a concrete trench which stood just forward of the entrance to Malinta Tunnel. The next thirty minutes witnessed a scene of utter confusion as the Japanese opened up on the retreating men with rifles, mortars, machine guns, and mountain howitzers. Flares signalled


the artillery on Bataan to increase its fire, and a rolling barrage sung back and forth between Malinta and Denver, demolishing any semblance of order in the ranks of the men straining to reach the dubious shelter of the trench. "Dirt, rocks, trees, bodies, and debris literally filled the air,"42 and pitifully few men made it back to Malinta.

Williams, who was wounded, and roughly 150 officers and men, many of them also casualties, gathered in the trench ruins to make a stand. The Japanese were less than three hundred yards from their position and enemy tanks could be seen moving up to outflank their line on the right. The Marine major, who had been a tower of strength throughout the hopeless fight. went into the tunnel at 1130 to ask Howard for antitank guns and more men. But the battle was over: General Wainwright had made the decision to surrender.


Colonel Howard had personally reported the landing of the Japanese tanks to General Wainwright at 1000. The USFIP commander, who had kept current on the situation in the East Sector throughout the night's fighting, made the fateful decision to surrender. He later related that "it was the terror that is vested in a tank that was the deciding factor," for he "thought of the havoc that even one of these could wreak if it nosed into the tunnel, where lay our helpless wounded..."44 He did not believe, nor did any other officer he consulted, that the defenses outside Malinta could last more than the remaining hours of the day, and he set the hour of surrender for noon in order "to avoid the horrors which would have accrued had I let the fight go on until dark."45

The order to surrender was passed to the troops on Topside and Middleside along with instructions to destroy all weapons larger than .45 caliber. The sickened men of the 4th Marines' 2d and 3d Battalions, who had been forced to stand by helplessly as they heard and watched the battle to the east, carried the order even further, smashing their rifles against the rocks. Veterans of fighting in World War I and a dozen "banana wars" stood unashamedly crying as they were told they would have to surrender. Inside Malinta, Colonel Howard ordered the regimental and national colors of the 4th Marines burned to prevent their falling into enemy hands. Two 1st Battalion officers, Captain Clark and Lieutenant Manning, a field music, and an interpreter were selected to carry Wainwright's flag of truce to the Japanese. As the white flag was carried out of the tunnel, Major Williams ordered survivors of the East Sector fighting to move inside the hill and take shelter from the Japanese bombardment which still was falling.

Captain Clark's party passed the last American outpost; the music sounded off and Manning was a pole which bore a piece of sheeting. The enemy infantrymen, who had been given special instructions regarding the reception of flags of truce, did not fire, and Clark was taken to the senior Japanese office on the island who contacted Bataan and arranged for a parley on the peninsula with General Homma. When Wainwright, accompanied


by a few senior officers and aides, walked out of the tunnel and up the long slope toward Kindley Field, he saw dead and dying men on every hand, a grim record of the ferocity of the fighting in the past 12 hours.

No complete figures exist for the casualties suffered by either side on 5-6 May; estimates of the Japanese losses range from 900 to 4,000.46 The strait between Bataan and Corregidor was heavily dotted with enemy bodies, and American prisoners on Corregidor estimated that they helped collect and cremate the remains of hundreds of Japanese soldiers.47 The detailed losses of the 4th Marines will probably never be known because of the joint-service nature of the regiment at the time of battle and the scarcity of contemporary records. The casualties of Marines alone are know, however, and they may be considered indicative of the fate of soldiers and sailors who served with them. In the whole Philippine campaign the regiment had 315 officers and men killed, 15 missing in action presumed dead, and 357 men wounded;48 the great majority of these casualties occurred during the battle for Corregidor.

The bloody battle for the island fortress did not end with Wainwright's decision to surrender. The Japanese went right ahead with their assault plan and preparatory bombardments, paying no heed to the white flags displayed on all the islands in the bay. Eighty-eight tons of bombs were dropped on 6 May, a good part of them after the surrender.49 Wainwright, who had released his southern Philippine commanders to MacArthur's control before he attempted to meet the enemy commander, tried to surrender only the fortified islands to the Japanese. He was rebuffed coldly by Homma's emissary and told that the Japanese knew that he was commander of all the forces in the Philippines and that they would not accept his surrender unless it meant the capitulation of every man in his command, everywhere in the islands. The American general, convinced that the Japanese would treat the men on the fortified islands as hostages, perhaps even massacre them if the fighting continued in the south, finally acceded to the enemy demand and broadcast a surrender message at midnight on 6 May to all his commanding officers. There was considerable dissension regarding this order, especially on islands where the Japanese had not made much effort to subdue the Philippine Army troops, but eventually most of the organized units of USFIP came out of the hills to lay down their arms. Wainwright felt, as did most of his advisors at the time, that the Japanese were quite capable of slaughtering the men surrendered on the fortified


islands if he did not insure a complete surrender of all his forces.

The struggle for control of Manila Bay finally ended on 7 May when the Japanese occupied the last of the island forts, but for most of the captured men "the fight for life had just begun."50 Thousands succumbed in the next three years to brutal mistreatment, malnutrition, and disease in Japanese prison camps in the Philippines, in the enemy home islands, and in Manchuria. Two hundred and thirty-nine officers and men of the 4th Marine Regiment died in enemy hands.

[See Volume V for further information on the fate of the captives.]


The battle for Corregidor was bitter and confused; relatively few men survive who fought in the East Sector through the night and morning of 5-6 May 1942. Hundreds of well trained infantrymen in positions within a mile of so of Malinta Hill were only spectators and auditors of the fighting. The poorest-trained elements of the 4th Marines constituted the vital mobile reserve. on the surface and in hasty consideration it would seem that the tactics of the beach defense left much to be desired.

Corregidor, however, was not a fortress with only one entrance. The beaches fronting the ravines defended by 2/4 and 3/4 led directly to the island's major defensive installations. The threat of amphibious assault existed all around the island's perimeter, but especially along the northern and western shores. The Japanese laid down preparatory fires all along the north side of the island, devoting as much attention to James Ravine and Bottomside west of Malinta as they did the eastern beaches. Until the night of 5 May there was no compelling reason to believe that the East Sector would draw the first assault. And even after the enemy landed at North Point the very present threat to western Corregidor existed and could not be ignored. To meet it, a number of Army units were alerted to back up the positions of 2/4 and 3/4.51

The problem which Colonel Howard faced of when, where, and what strength to commit the reserves available to him was a classic one for commanders at all troop levels. If he committed all his reserve at one time and in the area of greatest existing threat, he distinctly increased the vulnerability of other sectors to enemy attack. If he committed only part of his reserve and retained the capability of reinforcing against further attacks, he stood the chance of not using enough men to have a decisive effect in any sector. The decision to commit the reserve piecemeal reflected the regiment's estimate of the enemy's capabilities and intentions in light of their actions.52 The Japanese, although opposed by a relatively small force, did not or could not vigorously pursue their advance after reaching the Denver position. The continued presence of numerous small craft off Corregidor's north shore indicated a possible, even probable, early attempt at a second landing. Under these circumstances the East Sector assault might well be a secondary effort which had stalled, with the enemy's main attack still to come. Actually this was the Japanese plan, with the difference that the second landing was to follow the first after a day's interval


rather than as soon as the Marines expected.

In large part the 4th Marines' reserve strength was already committed on 5 May. The Japanese preparatory fires, especially those which were laid on areas in plain sight of Bataan, made movement by any body of troops extremely difficult--witness the fate of Company O. The bombardment had the effect of tying the regiment to its defenses. The trained infantrymen in its ranks were kept where they could do the most to bolster the crucial beach positions.53 If any sizable number of these men had been withdrawn from the beaches to form a reserve, it is questionable whether the remaining men could have withstood any enemy assault. Once the Japanese began to bombard Corregidor in earnest there was no such thing as a strong beach defense position; the very fury of the bombardment, destroying as it did most of the prepared defenses and demolishing the major supporting weapons, placed a high premium on having the best infantrymen at the point where their value would be greatest--the beaches.

The fall of Corregidor was inevitable; the garrison simply did not have enough food to hold out until relief could arrive. Although the enemy, primarily for prestige and propaganda reasons, chose to assault the island, they could easily have starved its defenders into submission. When the Japanese did make their attack they paid a high price for their haste, but extracted as great a one from the defenders. In the immediate tactical sense, however, the enemy artillery was the victor in the siege and fall of Corregidor; no defending force could have withstood its devastatingly accurate bombardment.

Although it was a defeat, the battle of Corregidor is marked down in the annals of the 4th Marines as a fight to be proud of. Those who fought and died in its ranks, whatever their service of origin, were, if only for a brief moment, Corregidor Marines.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (Part V, 1)


[1] Unless otherwise noted the material in the section is derived from 14th Army Rept; Philippine AirOpsRec; Fall of the Philippines.

[2] 4th Mar Jnl, 374.

[3] Many survivors and a number of accounts of this siege credit the Japanese with having as many as 400 artillery peices firing on the fortified island by 5 May. The figure of 37 batteries (approximately 150 pieces) reporesents only the enemy artillery units listed in 14th Army Rept, 187 as part of the Corregidor attack organization.

[4] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from USAFFE-USFIP Rept; Moore Rept; 4th Mar Jnl; Hayes Rept; Capt C.B. Brook, USN, Personal Experiences 8Apr-6May 56, n.d., hereinafter cited as Brook; Maj H.E. Dalness, USA, "The Operations of the 4th Battalion (Provisional) 4th Marine Regiment in the Final Counterattack in the Defense of Corregidor 5-6 May 1942," AdvInfOff Course 1949-50, The InfSch, Ft. Benning, Ga., hereinafter cited as Dalness; Ferguson; Jenkins; 1stLt O.E. Saalman, USA, Personal Experiences 12Apr-6May42, n.d., hereinafter cited as Saalman.

[5] The former sergeant major of 2/4 believes that the regiment joined substantially more men than this figure which appears in the regimental journal. He recalls that the 2d Bn "picked up for rations, and on the crudest rolls, at least 600 men" and believes that the other battalions did the same. Jackson.

[6] Wainwright's Story, 87.

[7] Jenkins, 13.

[8] Most survivors of 4/4 refer to the battalion as having had approximately 500 men in its ranks. Strength breakdowns of the 4th Mar exist up through 1May42, however, and nowhere do they support the larger figure. The S-3 of 4/4 is certain that the total strength of the battalion of 6 May was no more than 350 men. Maj O.E. Saalman ltr to CMC, 22Oct56, hereinafter cited as Saalman 1956.

[9] Survivors of 4/4 are unable to agree on the identity of the man who served as ExO of the battalion; at least five Army or Navy officers have been mentioned. In addition, the possibility that a Marine who was closely connected with 4/4 was de facto ExO was brought out by one of the NCOs who recalls that "Major Williams always considered Gunner Joe Reardon [QMClk Joseph J. Reardon] as his Executive Officer and Adjutant." MSgt K.W. Mize ltr to CMC, 1Nov56.

[10] Brook, 1.

[11] Ferguson, 10.

[12] Dr. C.E. Chunn ltr to CMC, 12Nov56, hereinafter cited as Chunn.

[13] Dalness, 7.

[14] 4th Mar Jnl, 392.

[15] Parker, 20

[16] Jenkins, 15-16.

[17] BriGen C.T. Beecher ltr to Mr. G.J. Berry, 17Mar50 (deposited by Capt G.J. Berry, USMCR, in the USMC Archives, 30Oct56).

[18] Submarines were the beleaguered garrison's only contact with Allied bases outside the Philippines during most of the siege. Although the subs brought in rations, antiaircraft ammunition, and medical supplies on scattered occasions, the amount that they could carry was only enough for stop-gap relief. For the interesting story of the diversified submarine actions in support of USAFFE-USFIP see, T. Roscoe, United States Submarine Operations in World War II (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1949), 23-39.

[19] Parker, 22.

[20] Philippine AirOpsRec, Plate 8.

[21] Beecher ltr to Berry, op. cit.

[22] The last complete contemporary breakdown of strength of the 4th Mar by component units is contained in 4th Mar Jnl, 390. It was corrected through 1 May. A slightly earlier list dated 28Apr42, detached from the journal book but unmistakably once part of it, has an interesting appendix which gives the units from which attached personnel originated. It shows that 26 Navy, 104 American and Philippine Army, 9 Philippine Scout, and 3 Philippine Constabulary organizations furnished men to the 4th Mar.

[23] The five Marine officers, two Navy doctors, and 96 Marine enlisted men previously captured in China and on Bataan have been omitted from these figures.

[24] The 1May42 listing of regimental strength does not indicate the tactical breakdown of Hq and SerCos into Cos O and P. The figures shown, therefore, include a number of regimental staff officers, probably two-thirs of the total, and a few enlisted men who did not serve in Maj Schaeffer's command. One officer and five enlisted men have been deducted from SerCo's USMC Strength and added to that of 4/4.

[25] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from USAFFE-USFIP Rept; Moore Rept; 14th Army Rept; Howard Rept; MG H.M. Ferrell, Personal Experiences 5-6May42, n.d., hereinafter cited as Ferrell; Jenkins; H.W. Baldwin, "The Fourth Marines at Corregidor," MC Gazette, in 4 parts November 1946-February 1947, hereinafter cited as Baldwin Narrative; Fall of the Philippines; K. Uno, Corregidor: Isle of Delusion (China: Press Bureau, Imperial Japanese Army Headquarters, September 1942) (located at OCMH), herinafter cited as Isle of Delusion.

[26] 4th Mar R-2 Jnl, 8Dec41-3May42, last entry.

[27] USAFFE-USFIP Rept, 77.

[28] LtCol R.F. Jenkins ltr to CMC, 30Oct56.

[29] Quoted in Isle of Delusion,, 17.

[30] Ferrell, 1.

[31] Hayes Rept, Statement of LCdr E.M. Wade, 65. The general existence of this belief was question by one survivor. Jackson.

[32] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from USAFFE-USFIP Rept; 14th Army Rept; Howard Rept;Ferguson; Ferrell; Hogaboom; Jenkins; Baldwin Narrative; Isle of Delusion; Fall of the Philippines.

[33] Ferguson, 14.

[34] By the time the Japanese landed, the only road into the East Sector was that which led through Malinta Tunnel. The road cut out of the side of the hill on the north had been completely demolished, and Col Howard, looking for an alternate route of approach, had discovered shortly before the landing that enemy artillery had blown a deep, ravine-like depression in the southern circling road that rendered it impassable to organized troop movement. Howard Interview.

[35] Ferguson, 18.

[36] Hogaboom, 16.

[37] Quoted in Isle of Delusions, 34.

[38] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from USAFFE-USFIP Rept; 14th Army Rept; Howard Rept; Brrok; Dalness; Sgt C.E. Downing, Personal Experiences 5-6May42, n.d.; Ferguson; Ferrell; Hogaboom; Jenkins; Baldwin Narrative; Isle of Delusion; Fall of the Philippines.

[39] Saalman, 1956.

[40] Mize ltr, op. cit.

[41] Chunn.

[42] Dalness, 18.

[43] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from USAFFE-USFIP Rept; 14th Army Rept; Howard Rept; Baldwin Narrative; Fall of the Philippines; Wainwright's Story.

[44] Wainwright's Story, 119.

[45] Ibid., 186.

[46] Most American survivors of the battle mention that they heard from the Japanese later in prison camp that the enemy had suffered almost 4,000 casualties in trying to take Corregidor. However, Japanese officers commenting of Dr. Morton's draft manuscript of The Fall of the Philippines wrote that the total casualties of the Japanese in the Corregidor operaton between 14Apr-7May42 were 903. MilHistSec, SS, GHQ, FEC, Comments of Former Japanese Officers Regarding "The Fall of the Philippines," 19Apr42 (located at OCMH), Chap XXXI, 3.

[47] Saalman, 1956. Saalman recalls having remarked to Maj Williams shortly after daybreak on 6 May, "I believe we could walk from Corregidor to Bataan over dead bodies." In light of the number of bodies that were collected and cremated, Saalman is convinced that the 903 figure supplied by the Japanese in commenting on the draft of Fall of the Philippines reflects only enemy dead rather than total casualties.

[48] See Appendix D for Marine casualties.

[49] Philippine AirOpsRec, Plate 8.

[50] Jenkins, 19.

[51] Col F.P. Pyzick ltr to CMC, 30Oct56.

[52] Howard Interview.

[53] Ibid.

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