The war tent was a buttoned-down pyramidal tent sitting in the open with
the sun beaming down upon it. It quickly became a sweat bath when
occupied by a small group - and we were a large group crowding into it
it . As noted in the Company journal, the briefings did not
begin until 14 February, so large groups, such as all the battalion
officers, and later entire platoons, were necessary to give
everyone some briefing. Of course these were not ideal conditions;
however, there were only 850 Japanese defenders, so there was not too
much to worry about. Every platoon leader had thirty minutes in the tent
to brief his platoon.
respects, the rush to complete the briefings was good. Not one hint of
the operation leaked out. Had the information been disseminated earlier,
there might have been a leak. The slightest forewarning to the Japanese
that a paratroop unit was considering Corregidor would have resulted in
a disaster for us. As it was, the Japanese commander, Captain
Itagaki, (Imperial Japanese Navy) had been warned of the possibility of
a parachute attack, but being familiar with the island he ruled that out
as an impossibility - or at least so improbable that a defense against
airborne attack need not be planned.
intelligence reports on Corregidor-related activities during the
late fall and winter of 1945, one learns that Japanese shipping
activities did increase during this time. Then why was it that our
intelligence was so well deceived? It must have been because we observed
so few signs of activity on the island. One lone set of foot prints
across Topside parade ground would be deceiving. We know now they were
holed-up, protected from our bombings and shelling, awaiting our
amphibious landing. If we were on the receiving end of 3,128 tons of
bombs plus heavy shelling from cruisers and destroyers, we'd have been
holed up, too. This brings up an obvious question. If there were so few
defenders, why was the fortress receiving such a record breaking pasting
from B-24's and A-20's? I think the reason was that the retaking of our
fortress was to be a picture book operation. Everything was to be
perfect even though minimal resistance was expected. This operation was
to receive maximum news coverage.
We did not
wear jump suits. I do not know if there was a shortage of jump suits or
if someone used good sense. 'Fatigues were much more practical in the
tropical heat. If we jumped in jump suits we would have been confined to
wearing them for our stay on the island. There was a shortage of jump
boots. Some had to wear the infantry combat boots. some even with WWI
leggings. There weren't enough jump boots to supply all the rear base
personnel and the people who required them. Bill McDonald never had a
pair of jump boots issued him while he was overseas, and this was not
our supply failure. He was not alone.
parachutes and Mae West life preservers were issued in a large kit bag.
The bag was canvas, had two large handles, and was closed by a zipper.
When we jumped we put our musette bag in the kit bag. We placed the
chest band of the parachute harness through the carrying handles
suspending the kit bag in front of us. It hung low enough to bang our
knees when we walked. When we put the reserve chute on, the broad belly
band was over the carrying handles or straps holding the kit bag down so
that it could not fly up into the jumper's face on the opening impact.
It was difficult to walk. We shuffled, and even then, awkwardly.
were slung over the right shoulder with the flat of the butt against the
shoulder. The belly band was placed over the weapon to hold it snugly.
The muzzle of the weapon hung near the ground when one crouched, so it
was necessary to have the weapon on the right to clear the plane when we
exited the door. We were also loaded with ammunition and grenades and,
many of us, multiple knives.
musette bags were packed with a poncho, weapons cleaning equipment,
extra sox, underwear, four rations, toilet articles, cigarettes, and
personal items. Add to this our entrenching tools, map cases for some,
binoculars for some, and other necessary items; one could say we were
loaded. The average equipment weight load was around ninety pounds.
We were so keen to get into action that I doubt if many of us paused to
reflect upon what could be awaiting us had the Japs been
preparing for a parachute attack. I reflected only in passing upon how
easily a relatively small Japanese force, with their lashings of
automatic weapons fire and barrages of mortar rounds, could have cut
through us on "A" Field, had they been dug in and waiting in some of the
deep drains or shelters nearby. Nor would it have taken a great number
of them to set a similar death trap around and overlooking the area of
the old golf course which was to be our "B" Field. We were not jumping
en mass, not even one aircraft load at a time, but only about
sixteen men per pass, divided between two streams of aircraft separated
by three or four hundred yards, and with the following aircraft fighting
the gusts and headwinds to place over the jumping point a bare 25
seconds later. Some in HQ knew that it was mathematically impossible to
place all of our stick within the landing zones available. That's what
it came down to , 16 to 20 men, every 25 seconds, spread over a rough
half mile by gusty winds. We were paratroopers, dammit, and Corregidor
was the best shot at being Paratroopers that our training and years
overseas could ever have afforded us, and wild horses would not have
stopped us from it.
the Japs set up on the north side in the heavy masonry barracks, on the
east in the post theater or post headquarters, on the south in the
senior Officers Row, and to the west in Battery Wheeler. The same death
trap would be present around "B" Field. The Senior Officers Row bordered
the north side, the deep ravine on the west, Geary and Crockett
(Batteries) on the south, and the drop off to Middleside on the east. As
we were to learn later the Japanese had the troops to make this defense,
too. A formidable force was hidden out on the west end of the island in
several large bomb roof caves and tunnels. These troops could easily
have defended the cliffs and deep ravines had we chosen foolishly to
attempt a landing here, but their main mission was evidently to be held
as a large, intact reserve force ready to hit our amphibious forces when
they threatened Topside. Taking all this in cosideration makes one
realize that this was absolutely a brilliant operation. It completely
achieved that most sought after element, surprise. It was so successful
that a smaller force attacked and defeated a larger entrenched in one of
the world's greatest fortresses. Even more amazing is the casualty
ratio. '209 Americans were killed, 19 missing, and 725 wounded. The
Japs' total casualty list will probably not ever known exactly, but the
official body count was 4,506, killed by the Army and 1,014 killed my
the Navy. How many were sealed in tunnels and caves, blown to bits, or
disappeared at sea will never be known.
what were the Japanese doing on Corregidor as we prepared to attack? Don
Abbott and John Lindgren were in contact with several of the surviving
twenty Japanese who surrendered to our forces 1 January 1946 after Pfc.
Kanehiro Ishikawa picked up an American newspaper with a picture of
General MacArthur and the Japanese emperor on the front page.
Fortunately Ishikawa spoke and read English.
Japanese who was not a member of the surrender group, but was stationed
in Formosa has been writing a history of the Shin-Yo-Tai troops (suicide
boats). He sent Don a paper he had written on Corregidor. He wrote that
in "early October of the year of Shawa 19 (1944), an anti-aircraft troop
was organized, then late that month crew of the warship which sank
offshore Leyte joined them to restore American Batteries for the defence
of the Corregidor Island. In November, construction units was sent over,
and seven Shin-Yo-Tai troops, from the 7th to the 13th, were dispatched
also to defend the island." He states the Shin-Yo-Tai men were moved to
Corregidor between the period of November and the next January.
(I am selecting statements and not attempting to give his entire
writing) that: "On December 20th, with the reorganization of the Marines
in the Manila region, Captain Itagaki was assigned as the director of
the Manila Bay area defense troops, with Commander Oymada as director of
marine special attack troops. Hence, the Corregidor attack force
consisting of the 7 troops, or 300 Shin-Yo-Tai boats and 6 torpedo boats
23rd of December, the message "the enemy fleet is moving up north from
Mindoro area with possibility of attacking Corregidor was sent from
Itagaki, and Shin-Yo-Tai was ordered to sortie". He says an on board
explosion in a boat caused 50 boats to explode and 100 men were lost. On
January 7th a similar explosion killed many more men. "By the end of
January total number of men stationed on the Corregidor was about
fleet started shooting from ships on December 10, then added large
formation airplane attacks from January 23." "On January 30, American
troops landed on Spik (Subic) Bay area. On February 10, battleships,
cruisers, destroyers, submarines entered in the Manila Bay, then started
attacks of the Corregidor."
of the twenty who surrendered was Sadashichi Yamagishi. In a letter to
Don Abbott, Yamagishi recalled that he entered the Marine Corps on 1
August 1944 and was assigned to a construction party consisting of 650
men. His party, the "333rd Construction Party" left Kure on 5 October
aboard the Tatsu-ura Maru, which was damaged by torpedoes but limped
into Manila and then to Corregidor. Along with Army units they set
out to build seven gunbatteries armed with guns of 14 cm. calibre (about
5.5 inches). These guns were taken from a Japanese warship which had
been sunk in Manila Bay. The 332 Construction Party joined them about
the middle of November, and they were combined as the "Yoshida Party"
indicating they were under the command of a Colonel Yoshida". The number
one, two, and three batteries were built in the area from Rock Point in
an easterly direction towards James Ravine. The other four batteries
were built from Wheeler Point in a westerly direction. They
successfully test fired the guns on 10 January. "We thought at this time
that we would defeat the U.S. military with our underground batteries.
We did not suspect that the U.S. military would attack using
recalled that the first air attack occurred the morning of 16 January,
when two planes strafed them. "It was a kind of notice that they finally
began the battle against us. They started the full-scale attack from the
reconnaissance plane came at around 7:00 A.M. and, then five to ten
formations of bombers strafed in zigzags. We had almost no place to
hide. They came to attack every hour. We could hardly do our work
because of these attacks."
attack became more intense day by day. They dropped bombs from bombers
from the following day. Especially the attack from the bomber's attack
exploded about 10 meters above the ground because they had the
mechanical device called instant fuse. They broke up trees, grasses and
buildings. We had to avoid enemy's attack, hiding in the caves because
we could not go outside in the daylight." "(The) U.S. military continued
their attacks from 7:00 in the morning till 5:00 in the evening every
day like a scheduled flight.."
the island became like a field, because the trees and grasses
disappeared and the surface of the ground was exposed and was turned
explosion occurred during the night of 28 January which caused a
landslide that buried 100 men alive." Then he makes this strange
statement: "Someone set this accident on purpose. We had dead before we
fought the enemy." "I heard many petty officers were regretfully talking
with each other that they wished they had not applied to come to the
Philippines. Like them, we had thought that the Philippines was the safe
place to go. But, since the Japanese militarily lost in the Leyte
Battle, the war situation got worse. We could no longer expect the
Japanese military would win. The dream has been killed. We had to be
prepared for death."
consisted of three squads and had 400 soldiers in total. We were living
separately in two caves. We got accustomed to air raids when they lasted
for almost one month. We went out between bombings and took outside
February 14, we felt something was wrong. The U.S. warships were
offshore and reconnaissance airplanes were flying. Are they preparing
for firing from warships? When will they start the attack? We felt
weird. We were in great fear. The day ended with nothing happening. The
night is the time when we should be active. There was no sign that the
warships started moving."
"It was the
time when special attack boats, which have been reserved in the caves,
special attack boats from the Army and Navy rushed about 30 U.S.
warships standing offshore. It was around 10:00 PM. The huge noise
caused by engines of 60 boats made the enemy's warships think that it
was an air attack. They started firing toward the sky but immediately
they noticed the attack was from the sea. They attacked fiercely against
our boats. Instantly we saw big pillars of fire shoot up. It was like
seeing fireworks on the water. The pillars of fire shot up in several
places. We thought we (had made) outstanding gains. Great shouts of joy
were raised by our fellow soldiers."
garrison for Corregidor Island consists of: ( ? ) party in the Navy,
Kaneda air defense party, special torpedoes in which soldiers ride and
operate in special attack parties in the Army, Kurata machine gun party
and some crew (survivors) of the battleship Yamato in addition to the
Construction party." [ He is confusing the
battleship Yamato with the battleship Musashi.] "Total number of
soldiers was 5,500."
next-morning they) saw the U.S. battleships were laying offshore
in the morning on February despite our attack yesterday. We fired No. 1,
No. 2 and No. 3 batteries which we constructed. We fired from
underground, but the enemy found our position due to the powder smoke
made by firing. The U.S. battleships delivered a volley of fire against
us. We had a fierce exchange of fire. Our batteries were destroyed
instantly. We could not get any gains like we did yesterday."
no contending against such heavy odds. Most soldiers who were in the
battery were killed or seriously injured. They were put in the caves.
Some of them had their skin torn by artillery bombardments. They asked
for help but we could do nothing for them. They died suffering from
pain. It was as if a child were fighting a man."
military, which was superior in numbers and arms, sent some
reconnaissance air-planes over the island. When they found something was
wrong, they instantly fired from the warships. "
not move except at night".
account, and last, is from Pfc K. Ishikawa. He was born in 1915 and
drafted by the army on 15 July 1944. He had missed the draft up until
this date because he was not qualified. On 18 July, after
just a month in training, he was shipped out for Burma." Due to heavy
damage the convoy was diverted to Manila. arriving 8 August. He landed
on Corregidor 8 November.
bombing and bombardment from warships started Jan. 1945."
intelligence estimates of the numbers of troops on Corregidor, he wrote
that "your computed strength of 850 on Corregidor, Is. may have been
correct up to around Sept. 1. I think reinforcement of strength was made
afterward. There were no Filipino working, as I have not seen any of
poorly armed Navy Soldier-group (one rifle for 4-5 men) landed in Dec.
44 and Jan. 45, survivors of warship Musashi which sunk at Leyte war".
was one of Japan's new super battleships armed with 18-inch guns. Our
planes sunk it in the Sibuyan Sea 24 October during the sea battle at
Leyte. The largest battleship ever built sank at 1935 taking down with
her over 1000 officers and men. She never fired her 18.1-inch guns at
enemy ships. This ship was'slightly heavier than her sister ship, the
Yamato,waa 20,000 tons. _heavier.than our largest. Of the 112 officers
39 were lost and 984 men were lost of the crew of 2287; therefore, some
1,376 officers and men were saved by destroyers.
There is no
indication of how many of these survivors were carried to Corregidor.
Ishikawa goes on:
"It is said
to be total strength was 6850 when U.S. Army attacked." "We did not
expect Parachute Troop attack on the small island top side but prepared
for landing from North & South Dock and others area of seaport."
is a copy of a captured document which gives a roster of the Japanese
units defending Corregidor.