Part Four -- Marines in the Philippines

Chapter 1: China and Luzon

In the first few months after Pearl Harbor, it seemed that nothing could stop the Japanese. One by one, the western outposts in the Far East were overwhelmed. Allied ground troops, in desperately unequal contests, were forced to retreat, fight, and retreat again; at sea and in the air the pitifully few ships and planes which had survived the initial onslaught were hoarded against the surety of further enemy advances. A grim holding battle was joined along a line protecting Australia and New Zealand and their South Pacific lifeline to the States. Yet, despite its strategic importance, this vital defensive action gave first place in the news to the outcome of a hopeless struggle hundreds of miles behind the enemy's forward positions.

For almost five months, two names--Bataan and Corregidor--dominated the headlines, taking fire in the minds of the Allied peoples as symbols of courage and devotion to duty. To the Japanese, who realized that they could starve out the embattled defenders at little cost to themselves, it became imperative that the issue be decided forthwith in battle. On the eve of the all-out offensive that brought the end on Bataan, the Japanese commander, addressing his combat leaders, clearly stated the importance of the isolated strong points in the eyes of the world:

The operations in the Bataan Peninsula and the Corregidor Fortress are not merely a local operation of the Great East Asia War. This battle has lasted for about three months as compared with our speedy victories in Malaya, Dutch East Indies, and other areas in the Philippines. As the Anti-Axis powers propagandize about this battle as being a uniquely hopeful battle and the first step toward eventual victory, the rest of the world has concentrated upon the progress of the battle tactics on this small peninsula. Hence, the victories of these operations do not only mean the suppression of the Philippines, but will also have a bearing upon the English and Americans and their attitude toward continuing the war.1

Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma was right: the outcome of the battle did have a direct bearing on the Allied attitude toward vigorous pursuit of the war. Perhaps in no instance since the defense of the Alamo stirred Americans in another century did an unsuccessful battle carry within its waging and its ending the source of so much national pride and dedication.

The Shadow of War2

On 26 July 1941, shortly after Japan occupied military bases in Indo-China, President Roosevelt authorized the mobilization of the Philippine Army. The War


Department, which had requested this move, followed through with a directive organizing a new command, USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East), which included all American Army and Commonwealth troops in the Philippines. To head USAFFE the Army called out of retirement its former chief of staff, General MacArthur, who had served as Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government since 1935. He was given rank as a lieutenant general and with characteristic energy tackled the enormous job of putting the Philippines into a state of readiness against attack.[sic]

The bulk of USAFFE's troop strength was drawn from the Philippine Army which was, in July 1941, an army in name only. It consisted of the islands' police force, the 6,000-man Philippine Constabulary, a token air force and inshore naval patrol, and ten territorial reserve divisions. Since the start of the Commonwealth's defense training program in 1936 about 110,000 Filipinos had received a few months of basic military instruction, but most of these reservists had no experience with crew-served weapons and only rudimentary knowledge of their own pieces. The divisions had never operated as such in field maneuvers and were scantily provided with arms and equipment. In order to mold an effective fighting force from the Philippine Army, MacArthur needed just about everything in the military supply catalogs, but most of all he needed time--time for training, time for materiel and men to reach the Philippines from the United States.

The instructors and cadres needed for training the Philippine Army were drawn from the Constabulary and the regular Army units available to USAFFE. Most of the 22,000 U.S. Army troops in the islands were service in Coast Artillery regiments, the Army Air Corps, or the Philippine Division, sole regular infantry division in the islands. Over half of these men were members of crack Philippine Scout units.3 The regulars suffered, too, from a general lack of up-to-date weapons and equipment,4 but they were well trained to use what they had.

The War Department supported MacArthur's request for additional troops and supplies to the fullest extent possible in light of the country's world-wide commitments; USAFFE received priority in almost every manpower and material category. More than 7,000 men, mostly members of service and air units, and the


major portion of the United States' heavy bomber strength reached the Philippines prior to the outbreak of war. Much more was promised and planned, but the Japanese surprise attack effectively cut off the flow of reinforcement. It also forced a revision of MacArthur's defensive strategy.

In view of his healthy reinforcement prospects, the UESAFFE commander had adopted an aggressive defense plan that conceded the enemy nothing. He did not expect the Japanese to attack before April 19425 and by that time he considered that his air and ground strength would be such that he could successfully hold his position against any attacking force. He was confident that the Philippine Army, when adequately trained and equipped, would be a match for the Japanese.

The Commander in Chief of the U.S. Navy's Asiatic Fleet (CinCAF), Admiral Thomas C. Hart, was in substantial agreement with MacArthur's philosophy of an aggressive defense. He recommended that in the event of war his fleet units remain based at Manila Bay and fight the Japanese in Philippine waters. The Navy Department, however, adhered to its long-established plan that the major ships of the fleet would retire to the south at the imminence of war, to a base of operations in the Netherlands East Indies or Malaya, where they could cooperate with Allied naval units.6 Hart's slim collection of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and auxiliaries, was certainly no match for the Japanese fleet, nor was it intended to be. The U.S. Pacific Fleet, based at Pearl Harbor, was the American striking force, and war plans envisaged its fighting advance to the Philippines if the Japanese attacked.

The Asiatic Fleet's major shore installations were located at Olongapo on Subic Bay and at Mariveles and Cavite within Manila Bay. Since denial of Manila Bay to the enemy was a key point in war planning, the activities of the 16th Naval District (Rear Admiral Francis W. Rockwell), the shore establishment supporting the Asiatic Fleet, were closely coordinated with USAFFE's defensive preparation. Contact mines were laid to connect with controlled mine fields of the Army's harbor defenses, completely closing Manila Bay. On Corregidor, site of the prospective command post for the defense of Luzon, protected installations for naval headquarters, a radio intercept station, and a torpedo replenishment depot were prepared and equipped. Large quantities of fuel and ammunition stored at Cavite were moved to dumps away from the naval base to lessen their vulnerability to bombing. (See Map 7 and Map 8, below.)

Map 7: Japanese Landing on Bataan Map 8: Corregidor with Inset Showing Manila Bay

If the Japanese attacked, the most dangerously exposed elements of the Asiatic Fleet were those stationed in China: seven Yangtze River gunboats; Colonel Samuel L. Howard's 4th Marine Regiment at Shanghai; and the Marine embassy guard detachments at Peiping and Tientsin.


Admiral Hart had begun making informal proposals that his China forces be withdrawn early in 1941, and after July, when he was "entirely convinced that the war was coming,"7 he followed up with emphatic official recommendations that his men be gotten out before it was too late. Japanese war preparations were so evident by 1 September that the American Consul-General at Shanghai, the commander of the Yangtze Patrol, and Colonel Howard jointly recommended that all naval forces in China be withdrawn. Hart naturally concurred and further recommended to the Navy Department that the troops be evacuated in late September when the transport Henderson made a routine call on Chinese ports to pick up short-timers and other returnees.

Hart's request was turned down as far as withdrawal on the Henderson was concerned. He was told, however, that joint State-Navy conferences would be held within a couple of weeks time to consider the problem of a withdrawal and its effect on negotiations for a settlement of Japanese-American differences. Despite CinCAF's protest that this "was not a question that could be delayed for weeks but must be acted upon immediately,"8 he did not receive permission to withdraw the gunboats and the Marines until 10 November, "embarrassingly late" as he later noted.9 Five of the gunboats were able to reach Manila without hindrance once clearance to leave was given.10

Two President liners, the Madison and the Harrison, were chartered to transport the Marines, attached naval personnel, and their supplies and equipment; provision was also made to evacuate some American civilians from Shanghai on the same ships. After it reached the Philippines and unloaded, the Harrison was to return to North China and pick up the embassy guards and their gear at Chinwangtao. All signs pointed to the necessity for haste in the withdrawal.

The Japanese were replacing their seasoned troops around Shanghai with recruits, and large numbers of special armored landing barges which had previously been seen near the city disappeared; intelligence pointed to movement southward of both veteran units and landing craft. Intelligence also indicated that the Japanese Army was eager to take over the International Settlement, by force if necessary, and that it was only being restrained by the Nipponese Navy's desire for an "incident" which would seem to justify such action. Several attempts were made to manufacture incidents, but the Marines refused to knuckle under to the pressure, and Colonel Howard initiated prompt action which kept the American defense sector clear. A copy of a Japanese warning order was obtained which stated that "in the event of war the 4th Marines would attempt to break through [our] lines;"11 ample evidence of this belief was seen in the increase in size and number of the patrols in the city and in the construction


of concrete blockhouses on all roads leading out of Shanghai.

Both the Madison and Harrison needed to be converted to troop use after their arrival at Shanghai, and the first ship was not ready until 27 November. By 1600 that date, the Madison with half the regiment and half its equipment on board sailed for Olongapo. While this forward echelon, the 2d Battalion and half of the Regimental Headquarters and Service Companies, was loading out, a message was received from CinCAF to expedite the evacuation. Even though the conversion work on the Harrison was three days short of completion, the decision was made to clear Shanghai the following day with the rest of the regiment and its remaining equipment.

Despite the short notice and the harassing tactics of the Japanese,12 the Regimental R-4 and Quartermaster, Major Reginald H. Ridgely, Jr., was able to load all organizational gear, over 500 tons, by 1300 on the 28th. At 0900 that morning, the regiment assembled at the 1st Battalion's billet, formed up behind its band, and marched down Bubbling Well-Nanking Roads to he President Line's dock on the Bund. Thousands of cheering people lined the route of march, and the banks of the river were alive with flag-waving Chinese as a power lighter took the Marines downstream to their ship. At 1400 the Harrison weighed anchor and sailed for the Philippines, marking the end of a colorful era in Marine annals.

As soon as the Harrison cleared the Whangpoo River, machine guns were broken out and manned for antiaircraft defense, and blackout regulations were put into effect.13 Flights of Japanese aircraft checked the liner regularly as it moved out into the China Sea, but there were no incidents, and contact was made on the 29th with submarine escorts dispatched by Admiral Hart. On 30 November and 1 December the two transports arrived at Olongapo where the troops disembarked. Only a few supplies were unloaded at the naval station, ostensibly because CinCAF had issued orders that the ships must pass through the mine field into Manila Bay by nightfall on the day of arrival. Actually, Admiral Hart had given oral orders to his staff that the Marines were to be landed with field equipment only, because it was his intention that:

...they would get into the field, near Olongapo, as soon as they could. We [Hart and his staff] all knew that they had been cooped up in Shanghai through all those years where conditions for any sort of field training were very poor-and we thought that not much time remained.14

While the regiment's heavy equipment was unloaded at Manila and trucked to Olongapo, the Harrison was readied for a return voyage to pick up the Marines from Peiping and Tientsin. It was already


too late, however, to rescue the North China Marines. The Japanese war plans had been activated, and the carrier task force that would strike Pearl Harbor was at sea en route to its target. The troops, ships, and planes that would be sent against the Philippines were concentrated at Formosa, the Ryukyus, and the Palaus with orders to begin their attack on X-Day--8 December 1941 (Manila Time).15

8 December 194116

When the dawn of the first day of the Pacific War reached the China Coast, the attack on Pearl Harbor was over and the troops in the Philippines had been alerted to their danger. At the Chinwangtao docks, Second Lieutenant Richard M. Huizenga was supervising the stockpiling of supplies for the expected arrival of the President Harrison. A truck driver brought him word that the radio at his railhead, Camp Holcomb, was full of news of Pearl Harbor. Although the Japanese made half-hearted attempts to stop him on his three-mile drive back to the camp, Huizenga was able to get through to his unit. He found the 21 Marines of the loading detail surrounded, at a respectful distance, by a cordon of Japanese troops. The men, under Chief Marine Gunner William A. Lee, were setting up a strong point amid the boxcars of supplies; two machine guns and several Tommy guns and BARs had already been broken out of their cosmoline packing. Despite their desperate situation the Marines were ready to fight.

Huizenga and a Japanese captain held an armed parley where the lieutenant was given time to communicate to his superior at Tientsin, Major Luther A. Brown, the enemy's demand that he surrender the detachment. orders soon came back to offer no resistance and the Marines were stripped of their weapons. later in the day they were returned under Japanese guard to the Marine barracks at Tientsin.17

The situation of the detachments at Tientsin and Peiping was similar to that of the one at Camp Holcomb; Japanese troops surrounded their barracks in strength and demanded their surrender. Since the embassy guard was not required to maintain a continuous watch on CinCAF's command radio circuit,18 the first word that the senior Marine officer, Colonel William W. Ashurst, had of the outbreak of hostilities came from the Japanese. He was given till noon to make his decision whether to fight or not and was allowed to communicate by radio with CinCAF and by phone with Major Brown. In a sense Ashurst had been given a Hobson's choice: he could surrender or he could let his troops, fewer than 200 officers and men, be overwhelmed. If discipline and spirit would have won the day,


Ashurst could have opened fire on the besiegers--his men had already demonstrated at Camp Holcomb that there were willing to take on hopeless odds. But there was no purpose in fighting if the end result could only be useless bloodshed.

In the absence of instructions to the contrary, Colonel Ashurst took the only sensible course open to him and ordered his men to lay down their arms. A strong possibility existed that if no resistance was offered the embassy guards would be considered part of the diplomatic entourage, entitled to repatriation. As the initial treatment of the Marines was relatively mild and they repeatedly received informal assurances from the Japanese that they would be exchanged, few attempted escape. When these rumors proved false, the opportunity had passed.19

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

By the time Ashurst's report of his decision to surrender reached Hart in Manila, the Philippines were in the thick of the war. The first news of the Japanese attack was picked up at 0257 by a radio operator at CinCAF Headquarters who, recognizing the technique of the sender, vouched for the reliability of the now famous message, "Air raid on Pearl Harbor. This is no drill."20 The duty officer, Marine Lieutenant Colonel William T. Clement of Hart's staff, immediately notified the admiral who sent a war alert to all fleet units. Minutes later, by a combination of intercepted official and commercial broadcasts and the spreading of the word by the first agencies notified, the report had reached all major USAFFE headquarters.

A cacophony of sound broke the stillness at Olongapo when the alert reached the naval base at 0350; the bugler of the guard blew "Call to Arms;" the steam whistle at the power plant blasted a recall signal to PBY crewmen; and the ship's bell at the main gate clanged continuously.21 Companies immediately mustered in front of their wooden barracks and in the streets of tent areas and were put to work setting up machine guns for antiaircraft defense and digging individual protective holes. Colonel Howard initiated the first moves in what was to be a hectic period of redisposing, reorganizing, and reinforcing the regiment which lasted throughout the month of December.

When the 4th Marines arrived from Shanghai its strength stood at 44 officers and warrant officers and 728 enlisted men; organic naval medical personnel raised the total strength to 804. The regiment "had been permitted to dwindle by attrition"22 in China so that it consisted only of Headquarters Company, Service Company, and two battalions--the battalions short one of their rifle companies and the companies each short one of their three rifle platoons. By utilizing the members of the regimental band and absorbing the Marine Barracks Detachment, Olongapo. Howard was able to form some of the missing platoons.


In keeping with previous orders from Admiral Rockwell, he sent the 1st Battalion by tug, lighter, and truck to Mariveles to relieve the Marine detachment there. The men of the Mariveles guard had been taken from the other major Marine unit in the Philippines, the 1st Separate Marine Battalion at Cavite.

The battalion was organized to function either as an antiaircraft or an infantry unit, but its primary mission was the antiaircraft defense of the naval installations in the Cavite-Sangley Point area. Its firing batteries, 3-inch guns and .50 caliber machine guns, had been on partial alert since 14 October and as the threat of war grew stronger the guns and their crews had reached a high degree of readiness. On 4 December, the battalion's one long range radar set and the necessary operating personnel were assigned to USAFFE's control and moved to a position of the west coast where the radar could scan the approaches to Manila from the south;23 the set was one of two operating in the Philippines on 8 December. When the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel John P. Adams, passed the word of the Pearl Harbor attack there was little left to be done but to "cut fuzes, going into the last stage of readiness."24 But the Marine guns were not to see action. The Japanese reserved their first day of attack for their primary target, MacArthur's Far East Air Force (FEAF). And when that day was over, the Japanese figured that their "supremacy, at least in the air, was established conclusively."25

Except for 16 B-17's at Del Monte on Mindanao, the bulk of FEAF's strength in first-line planes was stationed at fields in central Luzon. Dawn of the 8th found most of these planes airborne, waiting to engage or evade Japanese attackers. But the land-based naval fighters and bombers of the Japanese Eleventh Air Fleet, charged with making the main air assault, did not appear at dawn. The enemy plan had called for such a surprise attack, timed to coincide with the start of operations in Malaya and at Pearl Harbor, but thick clouds and heavy fog delayed the take-off from Formosa of the major attack formations. It was noon before the enemy planes could reach their targets, Luzon's airfields, and the Japanese pilots very reasonably assumed that with the loss of surprise they would be met in force.26

But this was not to be, for "shortly after 1130 all American aircraft in the Philippines, with the exception of one or two planes, were on the ground."27 The fighters were refueling after their fruitless morning patrols or awaiting a warning of imminent attack; the bombers were arming for an offensive mission against Formosa. By an incredible chain of circumstances, compounded by poor communications, a woefully inadequate air warning system, and a generous amount


of pure bad luck, the Japanese were given a sitting target. After a day of violent action, when all concerned tried to make up for what hindsight calls mistakes, the strength of the FEAF had been reduced by half. The way was open for the Japanese to begin landing operations.28

The enemy had in fact made his first landing by the time of the main air attacks. A small force came ashore at dawn on Batan Island midway between Luzon and Formosa and immediately began work to set up an air base on an already existing strip to accommodate the relatively short-ranged Army fighters. The next day elements of two fighter regiments of the Japanese 5th Air Group were using the field and flying reconnaissance and strike missions over northern Luzon, site of the next planned landings.

The First Days29

On 9 December only a few enemy bombers attacked, but these planes filtering through the early morning darkness reached Nichols Field outside Manila unscathed where their bombs increased the damage and added to the toll of American planes. An all-out attack on the Manila Bay area had been planned for the second day of the war, but fog over Formosa prevented the take-off. Although the weather was again bad on the 10th, the enemy naval squadrons were on their way to their targets by midmorning.30 Radar and ground observers spotted the incoming flights, but to no avail. When the outnumbered American interceptors rose to greet the raiders, the enemy fighters swarmed all over them, not giving as good as they got, but more than making up for their losses whenever they downed one of the few remaining planes of FEAF.

The Japanese bomber groups were heading for the best protected area in the Philippines; almost all of the antiaircraft units in USAFFE were concentrated near Manila. But the gunners below had an insoluble problem; they had plenty of ammunition, but very little of it was fused so that it could reach above 24,000 feet. After a few false starts the enemy learned that they could bomb from heights of 25,000 feet with relative impunity. There was a limited supply of mechanically-fused ammunition which could reach 30,000 feet, but there were not enough such rounds to materially increase antiaircraft defenses.

The gunners of the 1st Separate Marine Battalion of Cavite scored a kill on 10 December when they downed an overeager dive bomber that strayed from the pack over Nichols Field, lured by the target of two PBY's taking off from Sangley Point. But that was the end of it. The three-inch batteries turned back the first flight of bombers, which came in too low, but all subsequent flights approaching the


naval base stayed well out of range and the gunners were helpless spectators to the destruction that followed.31

Stick after stick of bombs rained down on the naval base as successive flights of bombers criss-crossed the area laying a perceptible pattern. Fires sprang up everywhere as small dumps of ammunition and gasoline were hit and the old town of Cavite was soon a raging mass of flames. All the ships that could possibly get away from the yard headed out into the bay, but the bombers caught and fatally damaged a submarine and a mine sweeper. Everyone feared that the ammunition depot, which still had large quantities of powder and ammunition in it, would be hit, but the bombers missed their most promising target. Still, the fires being blown toward the depot from Cavite might touch it off,32 and the rescue parties searching amid the flaming ruins for the hundreds of civilian casualties were in constant danger. Long after the raid was over, into the night and the early morning of the next day, the fires raged and Admiral Rockwell ordered all personnel to evacuate the base. Only a small group of men from Lieutenant Colonel Adams' battalion and a few Manila firemen remained. These volunteers localized the fire and were able to save the commissary stores; the ammunition depot soon was out of danger.33

Admiral Hart had watched the air attack from the roof of his headquarters building in Manila and had seen the end of Cavite as a base of operations. Rockwell's damage report confirmed his observations. On the night of the 10th Hart ordered most of the remaining ships of the Asiatic Fleet still in Manila Bay to sail south to comparative safety. The next day he advised the captains of all merchant ships in the bay to get their vessels out while they still could; fortunately, only one merchantman out of 40 was caught by enemy bombers.34 The strongest element of Hart's fleet, his 29 submarines, continued to operated from the bay for a short while, until Japanese control of the air made this base untenable. By the year's end only the submarine tender Canopus and a small collection of yard craft, motor torpedo boats, and auxiliaries remained in Manila's waters.

In the judgment of a naval historian of this period the Asiatic Fleet was "sadly inadequate" and therefore "unable to prevent the enemy from landing wherever he chose, or even to delay his efficient timetable of conquest."35 Nor were FEAF or the ground troops of USAFFE able to do the job. In some instances there was a temporary delay when planes hit the landing forces, but nowhere were the Japanese stopped and forced to turn back. On 10 December two combat teams from the 2d Formosa Regiment of the 48th Division came ashore at Aparri in northern Luzon and at Vigan on the northwest coast. Their mission, which was to secure airfields for use by Army planes, was successful. In a day the Japanese, despite the loss of several ships to American bombers, were firmly established ashore and in practical control of the northern tip of Luzon. The one Philippine Army division in the area, the 11th, was responsible for the defense


of the island north of Lingayen Gulf and was of necessity spread so thin that it could offer no effective resistance.

The same situation held true in southern Luzon where the defending forces, two Philippine Army divisions, were completely unable to cover all possible landing beaches. On 12 December, when a Japanese convoy carrying the advance assault detachment of the 16th Division, staged from the Palaus, reached Legaspi in southeastern Luzon, there was nothing to oppose their landing. The troops were ashore, had taken their airfield objective, and were moving north by nightfall. In all there were less than 10,000 enemy troops ashore at this time, but they had behind them the rest of the Fourteenth Army and command of the sea and air to insure its arrival on schedule.

The heavy air attacks of the 8th and 10th were only harbingers of further aerial assaults. Reinforced by Army fighters and bombers operating from newly-seized airfields, the naval planes of the Formosa-based Eleventh Air Fleet spread out over Luzon seeking new targets. The first turn of Olongapo and the 4th Marines came on 12 December, the day that marked the end of effective U.S. air support.

A flight of Japanese fighters followed the PBY's based at Olongapo into their anchorage after the flying boats had made a fruitless search for a supposed enemy carrier task force. The enemy pilots caught the seaplanes at their moorings and destroyed them all. As the Japanese strafed the naval station Marine machine gunners attempted to bring them down; Colonel Howard noticed that the tracers of Company H's .30's seemed to be "bouncing off these planes indicating sufficient armor plate to prevent penetration."36 The enemy attacked again on the 13th, this time bombing from altitudes beyond the range of the Marine automatic weapons. The few hits scored were all in the town of Olongapo; there was no damage to the naval station and only a few Marine casualties. The Filipinos who ignored the air raid warning suffered heavily; a bomb hit right in the midst of a large group of townspeople who were "standing under a tree watching the performance,"37 killing 22 and wounding at least as many more. Although alarms were frequent thereafter, the Japanese did not attack again until the 19th and then their aim was bad and they liberally plastered the bay with bombs.

During this period, while the original Japanese landing forces were advancing toward Manila, top-level discussions were held between Hart and MacArthur and their staff regarding employment of the 4th Marines.38 On 20 December, MacArthur formally requested that the regiment be assigned to his command "as developments of the Navy plan can make it available."39 Admiral Hart concurred and directed Howard to report to USAFFE for such employment as MacArthur


might deem necessary in the defense of Luzon.40 In a covering memo to Rockwell, he pointed out that the assignment of the 4th Marines was the sole commitment that he had made and that he had verbally made it clear that it was his policy that excess naval personnel be organized and equipped and then "fed up into the combat areas on shore with the Fourth Regiment of Marines. A command exercised over them by the Army would normally be via C.O. Fourth Marines."41

The Navy Department had directed Hart on his departure from the Philippines to place all naval personnel, munitions, and equipment at the disposal of USAFFE. Rockwell, who was to relieve Hart as senior naval officer in the Philippines, nominally retained independent status. He adhered firmly, however, to the principle of unity of command and cooperated closely with MacArthur's headquarters.

On 22 December, the reinforced Japanese 48th Division landed in Lingayen Gulf. It was the logical landing point for any force whose objective was Manila, for the gulf stood at the head of a broad valley leading directly to the capital. The landing was expected and it was resisted, but the combined efforts of American air, submarine, and ground forces could not prevent the Japanese from putting their men ashore and effecting a juncture with Vigan-Aparri landing forces which had driven down from the north. Resistance, although sparked by the 26th Cavalry of the Philippine Scouts, was spotty and ineffectual, and the Japanese soon proved that the partially-trained men of the Philippine Army were not yet a match for their troops. Covered by the Scout cavalrymen, the Filipino reservists fell back in disorder to reorganize in positions below the Agno River.

The enemy was ready to drive on Manila from the north.

On the 24th, the last major assault element of the Fourteenth Army, the 16th Division from the Ryukyus, landed at Lamon Bay only 60 miles cross-island from Manila. Here the story was much the same as Lingayen Gulf. The enemy overwhelmed scattered, ill-trained troops and made good his beachhead. The American South Luzon Force began to fight a delaying action along the roads leading to Manila. The decision, however, had already been made to declare the capital an "open city," and the troops were headed for the Bataan Peninsula.

Bataan, northern arm of Manila Bay, had long been considered the ultimate stronghold in a defense of Luzon. While it was held, and with it the fortified islands across the mouth of the bay, no enemy could use the harbor, and it was possible to gain succor from friendly naval forces which might break through a blockade. MacArthur had rejected the concept of a static, last-ditch defense when he took over USAFFE and had expected with the forces underway to him from the States and trained Philippine Army divisions to be able to repulse or contain enemy landing attempts. When the Japanese won


control of the sea and air, however, he lost all chance for successful execution of his orders to "attack and destroy"42 any landing force, and he was forced to adopt the only course of action that would save his army: a desperation withdrawal to Bataan. He made the fateful decision on 23 December and the following day preparations to effect it were begun.

Basically the withdrawal plan called for Major General Jonathan C. Wainwright's North Luzon Force to fight a series of delaying actions in the central island plain which would allow the South Luzon Force (Major General George M. Parker, Jr.) to reach the peninsula. Then Wainwright's units would pull back to Bataan, join forces with Parker, and stand off the enemy. In the time gained by the delaying actions, USAFFE would make every effort to augment the supplies already gathered in scattered dumps on Bataan with food, ammunition, weapons, and equipment from installations in the Manila area.

The role of the 4th Marines in this plan was laid out for Colonel Howard in a series of conferences which took place in Manila on 24 December. Admiral Hart, who was preparing to leave for Java the following day, informed the Marine commander that the 1st Separate Battalion would be added to his regiment as soon as it could clear Cavite and that he was to report immediately to MacArthur for duty. At USAFFE headquarters, amidst the bustle attendant on its move to Corregidor, Howard got a cordial welcome from his new chief and then received orders to move the 4th to Corregidor and take over its beach defenses. In a meeting with Admiral Rockwell, after he had made a final call on Hart, Howard was told to destroy the Olongapo Naval Station when he pulled out.

Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan had been designated the assembly area and transshipment point for the Marine units and their supplies. The 1st Battalion had already spent two weeks in bivouac near the base weathering a series of air attacks and furnishing guard details, unloading parties, and dump construction crews. Two men were killed and three wounded on 24 December during a bombing raid that struck shipping in the harbor. It was an inauspicious portent for the reception of the forward echelon of the regiment which left for Mariveles at 2000 that night.

Shortly after the truck convoy had cleared Olongapo, Colonel Howard received warning from naval headquarters of an impending Japanese landing, and "sounds of motors could be distinctly heard from seaward"43 in Subic Bay. All available men manned beach defense positions, but fortunately the report proved false and the motors turned out to be those of American torpedo boats. Early on Christmas morning a message for Rockwell's new headquarters on Corregidor ordered Howard to expedite evacuation and destruction lest the regiment be cut off by advancing Japanese troops. The Philippine Army's 31st Division had pulled back to Bataan from its coastal positions northwest of Olongapo on the 24th and the Marines' north flank was now open; a threat also existed to seaward, since the Army's coast defense troops were withdrawing from Fort Wint in Subic Bay. Motorcycle patrols ranging north of the base could find no sign of the enemy, however, and the movement of men and


supplies was completed without undue haste. At 1410 Howard's new CP opened outside Mariveles, and the fate of Olongapo was left in the hands of a demolition detail under Captain (later Major) Francis H. Williams.

Using charges improvised from 300-pound mines, "Williams set out with his demolition gang to do a good job of erasing the Naval Station from the face of the globe."44 They sank the hull of the old armored cruiser Rochester in the bay and blew up or burned everything of value except the barracks which closely bordered the native town.45 The last supplies were loaded early Christmas evening, and the rear echelon pulled out with darkness.

Christmas also saw the completion of destruction at Cavite where a Marine demolition party from the 1st Separate Battalion blew up or fired all remaining ammunition stocks and destroyed the submarine damaged in the 10 December air raid. The naval radio station near Sangley Point was already a shambles, for in a raid on 19 December enemy bombers leveled the buildings and set afire large quantities of gas and oil scattered in dumps throughout the surrounding area.46 Lieutenant Colonel Adams received orders on 20 December to evacuate the Cavite area, and for the next few days men and supplies were trucked to Mariveles; the Christmas day demolition detail was the last element to leave.47

After darkness fell on 26 December, the first Marines to move to Corregidor, 14 officers and 397 men of Adams' battalion, made the seven and a half mile voyage from Mariveles' docks to North Dock on "The Rock."

The Fortified Islands48

The four islands that guarded the mouth of Manila Bay were fortified in the decade prior to World War I before air power changed the concept of coastal defense. Most of the powerful 14- and 12-inch guns were sited in open emplacements for the purpose of repelling an invasion from the sea. Disarmament treaty obligations and drastically reduced defense expenditures in the period between the wars allowed little concession to be made to the threat of air attack. Some antiaircraft guns were added to the fort's defenses, however, and a start was made toward providing underground bombproof shelters, especially on Corregidor (Fort Mills).

Corregidor was at its closest point just a little over two miles from the tip of Bataan Peninsula. The island was tadpole-shaped, three and a half miles long and one and a half miles wide at its head. This wide area, called Topside, loomed high above the rest of the island, its 500-foot cliffs dropping sharply to a narrow beachline. Most of the coast defense batteries and permanent quarters were located here, and the only access routes to he top from the western shore were two ravines, James and Cheney. East of Topside, along the neck of land that connected the tadpole's head and tail, was Middleside, a plateau which held several more battery positions and permanent buildings. A


third ravine, Ramsay, which led from the southern beaches to Middleside, was a critical defensive point.

A logically-named third distinctive portion of the island, Bottomside, consisted of the low ground occupied by the industrial and dock area and the native town of San Jose. The nerve center of Luzon's defenses was an extensively-tunneled hill, Malinta Hill, which rose directly east of San Jose. The headquarters of MacArthur, Rockwell, and Major General George F. Moore, commanding the fortified islands, were all eventually located in the tunnels and laterals that spread out beneath the hill. From Malinta the long, low narrow tail of the island bent away to the east; a light plane landing strip, Kindley Field, had been built along the spine of the tail.

The other three island forts, Hughes, Drum, and Frank, complemented the defenses of Fort Mills, and Marines served as part of the beach defense troops on all but the last named. Caballo Island (Fort Hughes), a quarter-mile square in area, stood less than two miles from Corregidor; its low-lying eastern shore rose abruptly to a 380-foot height which contained most of the battery positions. Four miles south of Caballo was the "concrete battleship," Fort Drum. Tiny El Fraile Island had been razed to water level and on its foundation a steel-reinforced concrete fortress had been erected with sides 25- to 36-feet thick, and a top deck 20-feet deep. Two case-hardened steel gun turrets, each sporting a pair of 14-inch guns, were mounted on the deck and the sides of the fort boasted four 6-inch gun casements. Its garrison could be completely contained within its walls, and "the for was considered impregnable to enemy attack."49 The island which seemed most vulnerable to assault was Carabao (Fort Frank) which lay only 500 yards from the shore of Cavite Province. However, since some of its guns were capable of firing inland and most of its shoreline was ringed with precipitous cliffs, the job of taking Fort Frank promised to be quite a task.

General Moore later noted that "the fortresses were not designed to withstand a landing attack from adjacent shores supported by overwhelming artillery emplaced thereon;"50 and that of his big guns only the turrets of Fort Drum, the 12-inch mortars, and two 12-inch long-range guns were capable of all-round fire. A tabulation of the major coast defense armament of the forts shows:

TypeNumber of Guns
Mills Hughes Drum Frank
14" guns -- 2 4 2
12" guns 8 -- -- --
12" mortars 10 4 -- 8
10" guns 2 -- -- --
8" guns 2 -- -- --
6" guns 5 2 4 --
155mm guns 19 3 -- 4
3" guns 10 2 1 --

The forts had in addition a small number of 75mm beach defense guns. For antiaircraft defense, including tied-in batteries on southern Bataan, there were 17 searchlights, 40 3-inch guns, and 48 .50 caliber machine guns.51

Marines from the 1st Separate Battalion were able to add a few .50 caliber


machine guns and a battery of four 3-inch guns taken from Cavite to the antiaircraft defenses, but the primary function of the battalion was now that of infantry. It was reorganized and re-equipped at Mariveles to fill the role of the missing battalion of the 4th Marines; the formal change of title to 3d Battalion, 4th Marines came on 1 January.

With the exception of batteries A and C and the radar detachment of Adams' battalion which remained on Bataan, the whole of the 4th Marines moved to Corregidor in successive echelons on the nights of 27 and 28 December. Enough rations for 2,000 men for six months, ten units of fire for all weapons, two years' supply of summer khaki, and the medicines and equipment to outfit a 100-bed hospital accompanied the move. Fortunately, the Quartermaster, Major Ridgely, dispersed these supplies in small, scattered dumps as they arrived and they emerged relatively unscathed from the first Japanese air raid on Corregidor.

Many of the Marines in the bamboo jungles surrounding Mariveles, who had to shift camp constantly to avoid bombing and sleep "on the ground near a foxhole or some convenient ditch into which [they] could roll in the event of an air attack"52 looked forward to moving to The Rock. They had "watched the Jap bombers steer clear of its antiaircraft barrages" and it had been pointed out to them "that Corregidor's antiaircraft was so good that the Japs had not even dared to bomb it--yet!"53 An additional lure of the island to some men was the vision of a Gibraltar, and they talked knowingly of the (non-existent) intricate underground system of defenses.54

At 0800 29 December, Colonel Howard reported to General Moore for orders as Fort Mills' beach defense commander and then started out to make a reconnaissance of the island. His men, temporarily quartered in Middleside Barracks, were startled to hear the air raid sirens sound shortly before noon. No one paid too much attention to them as Corregidor had never been bombed, but soon their trusting attitude changed. "All hell broke loose," and as one 1st Battalion officer described the scene, "there we were--the whole regiment flat on our bellies on the lower deck of Middleside Barracks."55

The Japanese planes, 40 bombers of the 5th Air Group with 19 covering fighters, attacked at 1154. For the next hour a parade of Army aircraft flew the long axis of Corregidor dropping 200- and 500-pound bombs from 18,000 feet, and dive bombers attacked the antiaircraft batteries, strafing as they plunged down. At 1300, the Army planes gave way to the Navy and bombers of the Eleventh Air Fleet continued to attack until 1415. None of FEAF's few remaining fighters, which were being save for vital reconnaissance missions, took to the air, but Corregidor's gunners exacted a good price from the enemy--13 medium bombers fell to the 3-inchers and the .50 calibers shot down four of the dive bombers in a vivid demonstration of the folly of flying within reach of these guns. But the damage done by the enemy was considerable.


Almost all of the barracks and headquarters buildings and a good half of the wooden structures on the island were battered, set afire, or destroyed. A thick pall of black smoke and clouds of dust obscured the island from observers on Bataan, and the detail left to load out Marine supplies wondered at the fate of the regiment in the center of this maelstrom.56 The casualty score was miraculously low, only one man killed and four wounded. With a single exception, bombs used by the Japanese did not penetrate all the way through to the bottom deck of the concrete barracks, but the building, shaken repeatedly by hits and near misses, was a shambles. In all, the island's defenders suffered about 100 casualties, and 29 December marked the end of "normal" above ground living for The Rock's garrison.

As soon as the air raid was over, Howard assigned beach defense sectors to his battalions, and the troops moved out to their new bivouac areas before dark. The 1st Battalion, 20 officers and 367 enlisted men under Lieutenant Colonel Curtis T. Beecher, drew a possible enemy landing point--the East Sector which included Malinta Hill and the island's tail. The beaches of Bottomside and most of Middleside (Middle Sector) up to a line including Morrison Hill and Ramsay Ravine were occupied by Lieutenant Colonel Adams' battalion with 20 officers and 490 men. The defense of the rest of the shoreline of Corregidor was the responsibility of the 2d Battalion (lieutenant Colonel Herman R. Anderson) which mustered 18 officers and 324 enlisted men. A general reserve of 8 officers and 183 men, formed from the Headquarters and Service Companies, commanded by Major Stuart W. King,57 bivouacked in Government Ravine, on the southern shore of the island below Geary and Crockett Batteries.

Not all of Adams' battalion was assigned to the Middle Sector; besides the units left on Bataan, the 3d Battalion furnished most of the other special detachments. One platoon (1 officer and 28 men) with four .50 caliber machine guns and a second (1 officer and 46 men) with four .30's left for Fort Hughes on the 30th to bolster the antiaircraft and beach defenses; the 2d Battalion added ten men and four more .30 caliber machine guns to the beach defenses on 3 January.58 Fort Drum got a section of 15 men and two .50's to augment its crew. A third antiaircraft platoon with six .50's (1 officer and 35 men) was directly assigned to Fort Mills' air defenses and attached to a similarly-equipped battery of the 60th Coast Artillery which was emplaced near the Topside parade ground.

By 1 January the pattern had been set for the Marines' duties on Corregidor. The men were digging in, stringing barbed wire, emplacing their 37mm's, mortars, and machine guns, and tying-in for a coordinated and protracted defense. Ahead lay more than four months of waiting and preparations for a battle, months in which more than one survivor likened life on Corregidor to existence in the center of a bull's eye.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (Part III, 5) * Next Chapter (2)


[1] HistSec, G-2, GHQ, FEC, Japanese Studies in WWII No. 1, 14th Army Ops, 2 vols., n.d. (located at OCMH), 141-142, hereinafter cited as 14th Army Rept.

[2] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from Adm T.C. Hart, Narrative of Events, AsFlt Leading up to War and From 8Dec41 to 5Feb42, written before 11Jun42 (located at NHD), hereinafter cited as Hart Narrative; Adm T.C. Hart, Supplementary Narrative to Hart Narrative, 8Oct46 (located at NHD); Gen J.C. Wainwright, Rept of Ops of USAFFE and USFIP in the Philippine Islands 1941-42, 10Aug46 (located at TAGO), hereinafter cited as USAFFE-USFIP Rept; Annex VIII to USAFFE-USFIP Rept, MajGen G.F. Moore, Rept of CA Comd and the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bay, 19Feb41-6May42, 15Dec45 (located at TAGO), hereinafter cited as Moore Rept; BriGen S.L. Howard, "Report of the operation, employment and supply of the old 4th Marines from September, 1941 to the surrender of Corregidor, May 6, 1942," 26Sep45, hereinafter cited as Howard Rept; 14th Army Rept; L. Morton, The Fall of the Philippines--United States Army in World War II (Washington: OCMH, DA, 1953), hereinafter cited as Fall of the Philippines; Rising Sun in the Pacific.

[3] The Philippine Scouts was a US. Army organization in which the enlisted men were native Filipinos and most of the officers were Americans. The Scouts had and merited a high reputation for fielding units with good morale, excellent discipline, and a consistently superior level of combat readiness.

[4] At the outbreak of the war, "the Philippine Division, less than two-thirds strength, had only three (3) new 37mm automatic firing cannon, three (3) 81mm mortars per infantry regiment and no (0) 60mm mortars...", USAFFE-USFIP Rept, 94.

[5] Gen J.C. Wainwright, General Wainwright's Story, R. Considine, ed. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1946), 13, hereinafter cited as Wainwright's Story.

[6] After the war, in supplementary comments to his original report, Adm Hart agreed that the Navy Dept decision was the best that could have been made considering the situation at the time. He added, however, that if his original proposal of 27Oct41 to continue to base at Manila had been turned down sooner he might well have made a better disposition of his fleet units; he had acted on the assumption that his proposal would be accepted until it was disapproved in late November.

[7] Adm T.C. Hart ltr to CMC, 10Oct56, hereinafter cited as Hart Comments.

[8] Quoted in Howard Rept, 1.

[9] Hart Narrative, 29.

[10] The smallest of the gunboats, the Wake, was stripped and left at Shanghai to be used as a station ship and radio outlet for the remaining American; it was captured on 8 December. The Tutuila at Chungking was turned over to the Chinese Nationalist Government under lend-lease since it could not get downstream through the Japanese blockade.

[11] Howard Rept, 3.

[12] "All supplies had to pass through the Japanese Sector on the way to the Customs dock. About 3:00 p.m. November 27th they closed teh Garden Bridge over Soochow Creek to traffic and out trucks were delayed nearly an hour before contact could be made with the Japanese Admiral to get this bridge repopened to traffic. Customs officials ostensibly at the instigation of the Japanese were insistent that our supplies pass through the Custom House, but we ignored such orders and loaded them on lighters. The Japanese instigated three strikes during the night by the laborers loading the lighers." Ibid., 4.

[13] No special defensive arrangements were made by the 4th Mar elements on the President Madison. CWO C.R. Jackson ltr to CMC, 10Oct56, hereinafter cited as Jackson.

[14] Hart Comments.

[15] Campaigns of the Pacific War, 26-27, 50.

[16] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from Hart Narrative; USAFFE-USFIP Rept; 14th Army Rept; Howard Rept; 4th Mar Jnl and Rec of Events, 8Dec41-2May42, hereinafter cited as 4th Mar Jnl; Capt A.F. Metze Rept to CMC, "Surrender of U.S. Marine Forces in North China," 24Aug42; Fall of the Philippines; Rising Sun in the Pacific.

[17] MIS, G-2, WD, Escape Rept No. 665, Capt R.M. Huizenga, 12Jul45.

[18] LtCol W.T. Clement Rept to CMC, "Dispositions and employment of U.S. Marines on the Asiatic Station during the initial stages of the war," 6APr42, hereinafter cited as Clement Rept.

[19] Huizenga, op. cit.; MIS, G-2, WD, Escape Rept No. 666, Capt J.D. McBrayer, Jr., 12Jul45.

[20] Clement Rept.

[21] Capt F.W. Ferguson, Personal Experiences 8Dec41-6May42, n.d., hereinafter cited as Ferguson.

[22] Howard Rept, 8. As the threat of war with Japan increased, Adm Hart initiated a policy of withholding replacements from Marine units in China. Almost all of the men held back were assigned to the 1st SepMarBn at Cavite. Hart felt that if by some mischance he was unable to get the 4th Mar out of China he "could at least stop sending any more Marines there until someone bawled us out most vociferously. They never did." Hart Comments.

[23] LtCol H.L. Davis ltr to CMC, 31Oct56.

[24] 1stLt W.F. Hogaboom, Personal Experiences 14Oct41-6May42, n.d., 1-2, hereinafter cited as Hogaboom. This narrative was published in the MC Gazette, April 1946, under the title, "Action Report--Bataan."

[25] HistSec, Japanese Research Div, GHQ, FEC, Japanese Studies in WWII No. 11, Philippines AirOpsRec, 1Feb52, 7, hereinafter cited as Philippines AirOpsRec.

[26] Ibid.

[27] W.S. Craven and J.L. Cate (eds.), Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942--The Army Air Forces in World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), 209.

[28] See Craven and Cate, op. cit., 201-213 and Fall of the Philippines, 79-90 for an examination of the contradictory statements and chronology of misadventures that marked what may well have been the blackest day in the history of the Army Air Corps.

[29] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from Hart Narrative; USAFFE-USFIP Rept; Moore Rept; RAdm F.W. Rockwell, Narrative of Naval Activities in the Luzon Area, 1Dec41-19Mar42, 1Aug42 (located at NHD), hereinafter cited as Rockwell Narrative; Howard Rept; 4th Mar Jnl; 14th Army Rept; Fall of the Philippines; Rising Sun in the Pacific.

[30] HistSec, G-2, GHQ, FEC, Japanese Studies in WWII No. 13, NavOps in the Invasion of the Philippines, 15May46 (located at OCMH), 7.

[31] Hogaboom, 3.

[32] LtCol J.V. Lyon ltr to CMC, 31Oct56.

[33] LtCol J.W. Keene, Narrative and tactical dispositions of the 1st SepMarBn at Cavite, 8-26Dec41, n.d.

[34] Hart Comments.

[35] Rising Sun in the Pacific, 181.

[36] Howard Rept, 9.

[37] Jackson.

[38] Although the war plan for the Philippines had long called for the available Marines to be assigned to the defending ground forces under Army control, USAFFE made no effort in the first few days of the war to contact CinCAF regarding his Marine forces. After a reminder from Hart, "there came back a request to send one battalion into Manila City to guard USAFFE Headquarters. Feeling that it would be a wrong use of the best infantry available, [Hart issued] no order to that effect." Hart Comments.

[39] Copy of CG, USAFFE ltr to CinCAF, 20Dec41, in 4th Mar Jnl, 237; Clement Rept, 6.

[40] According to the Hart Narrative, 45, one plan considered for the employment of the 4th Mar entailed the brigading of the regiment (reinforced by a naval battalion from Mariveles) and a constabulary regiment under a Marine brigade commander. The Marines were to furnish officers and NOC's to the Constabulary unit. Time did not permit the execution of this scheme.

[41] CinCAF memo to ComSixteen, 22Dec41, in 4th Mar Jnl, 239.

[42] Wainwright's Story, 28.

[43] Howard Rept, 11.

[44] Ferguson, 3.

[45] The town's natives later burned their own houses and the barracks was consumed in the resulting fire.

[46] Hogaboom, 4.

[47] Keene, op. cit., 10.

[48] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from Moore Rept; Howard Rept; 4th Mar Jnl; Philippine AirOpsRec; Fall of the Philippines.

[49] Moore Rept, 4.

[50] Ibid., 9.

[51] Ibid., Annex C.

[52] Statement of Lt(jg) R.G. Hetherneck in Cdr T.H. Hayes Rept on MedTactics, 4thRegt USMC, 7Dec41-6May42, 15Feb46, 79, hereinafter cited as Hayes Rept.

[53] LtCol R.F. Jenkins, Jr., Personal Experiences 28Dec41-6May42, n.d., 1, hereinafter cited as Jenkins.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ferguson, 6.

[57] Howare Rept, 14, lists Maj (then Capt) Max W. Schaeffer as commander of the regimental reserve at this point; however, the contemporary muster rolls at HQMC and survivors' comments indicate that Maj King held this poistion until 17Feb42 when Maj Shaeffer took over and King became ExO of the beach defense force at Fort Hughes.

[58] Lyon ltr, op. cit.

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