- Historic Sites
The Fall Of Corregidor
“The Rock” was a proud island fortress, impregnable to attack from the sea. Unfortunately, the Japanese didn’t come that way. Its capture climaxed the bitterest defeat in our history
August 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 5
It was time for the coup de grâce. James Ravine and the eastern end of Corregidor were battered all day on May 5; about 10:40 that night a terrific barrage was put down all over the island, particularly on the eastern end. The motors of barges were heard off the north and south shores, and at long last, after four months of siege, suffering, and bombardment, the defenders of Corregidor were face to face with their foes.
The enemy landed first a few minutes after eleven, before the moon rose, near North Point on the low tail of the island, and immediately extended his landings to the west. “On the high ground between the [north and south] shores,” Lieutenant Sidney F. Jenkins, Jr., later wrote, “there was a small landing field [Kindley Field] and on the ridge or hogback, extending westward from the airfield there were several 3-inch A.A. batteries"—among them Battery Denver. Their guns were depressed, and the gunners were ordered to hold the center of the Marine 1st Battalion line.
The 1st Battalion was responsible for everything east of Malinta to the tail of the island, a shore line of at least 10,000 yards. The 3rd Battalion held the middle sector of the Rock, and the 2nd the western end.
In reserve were the headquarters and service company of the regiment and the 4th Battalion of attached supernumeraries—who never before had fought as infantrymen and who would never do so again.
Some Japanese landing boats veered off from the 1st Battalion’s defensive fire and lay to, but the enemy filtered through a weak point to the east and drove in over his own dead. Some of the barges were sunk, and at least one of the landing attempts was turned back. The remaining guns on the outlying islands, answering the call for help from Corregidor, blasted Japanese troops and boat concentrations at Cabcaben on Bataan. Tracers flickered over North Point, Infantry Point, Artillery Point, and all the low tail of the island; shell splashes rose white and shining from the dark waters of the North Channel. But the enemy came on.
Company A of the ist Battalion got the brunt of the attack. The Marines lobbed hand grenades onto the beaches and died in their positions—but the Japanese came on.
Back at Marine regimental headquarters in Malinta Tunnel, communications were bad; the wires to battalions were in and out; field radios, runners, and patrols were used. The Marine commander, Colonel Samuel L. Howard, and the Army’s Major General George F. Moore, commander of the fortified islands, knew only that the Japanese, perhaps 500 or 600 of them, were ashore in the eastern end of the island. About midnight a clearer picture emerged; the hogback in the center extending from Kindley Field toward Malinta was the key. At all costs, Battery Denver, on the hogback, must keep the Japanese clear of Malinta Hill.
Colonel Howard and General Moore did not know it then, but Battery Denver had pulled back, leaving the flanks of A and B companies wide open. The first sergeant of the battery (Philippine Scouts) had been killed by artillery fire, and without a leader his men had gone to pieces. The Japanese had gotten through the hole on the hogback and were in behind the 1st Battalion’s beach-defense positions. Colonel Howard ordered in the reserves, a heterogeneous outfit of all ranks and services.
The 2nd and 3rdl battalions had orders to hold their beach-defense positions in the middle and at the western end of the island against the threat of further enemy landings. Here at the narrow eastern end, some platoons of the 1st Battalion were engaged in counterattacking Japanese troops already ashore; others, in repelling enemy boats still in the water. Some platoons had taken heavy casualties. Before the night was old there were more casualties than there were replacements. One squad had but two men left.
About 4 A.M. General Wainwright received a final message from President Roosevelt in Washington, ending in sad exaltation: “. . . You and your devoted followers have become the living symbols of our war aims and the guarantee of victory.” At about the same time, the last reserves, moving to attack, loaded down with hand grenades and ammunition, walked silently in two single-file columns on either side of the South Shore Road from their bivouac area down through Middleside—which was under desultory enemy shellfire—and then across low ground, where they were held up by an artillery barrage for about fifteen minutes. Then, passing silently, the reserves entered the west entrance to the hot and breathless Malinta Tunnel. Battalion headquarters was set up in the eastern end of Malinta Tunnel, and after a company-officers’ conference, the battalion filed out of the tunnel at 4:30 A.M. to the attack.