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18 February 1945 (Page 2/2)

 

 

   

Company History
181800I Feb 45

F Company History: "503rd platoon attacked a bunker until no opposition.

 

 

"F" Company now consists of 3 officers & 113 EM." The attack by the 503rd platoon was the 1st platoon's occupation of Battery Smith with no opposition. The three officers were: 1st Lt. Bill Bailey, 1st Lt. Bill Calhoun, and 1st Lt. Dan A. Lee who was assigned this day. He was a replacement officer who had joined us just a short time before the Corregidor jump and had been assigned to 2d Battalion Headquarters Company.


 

The bright, clear early morning sunlight dawned desolate and ravaged upon a collection of forty or more bodies of the enemy dead lying where they had fallen the previous days, mostly within our perimeter.  Although there had been gunfire during the dark hours,  the new day had brought in no stories of night infiltration,  so I had concluded that our evening enemy had been the  wind rattling the tin.

 In the still of the early morning, smoke was still drifting from the magazines of Battery Wheeler, and the odor of burned flesh constantly hung over all of us.   Even the arrival of a morning breeze would not waft it  away. The heat was still radiating from Battery Wheeler quite a distance, discouraging close examination.  One thing was certain, there were no Japs alive there -  no matter how many tunnels might led into it, or tracks lead from it. The great battery, so awesome and impregnable yesterday, was now a tomb. It reminded me of pictures I had seen  of devastated areas in World War I.

Gifford said thirty to forty Japs had run out of the battery just before the flames erupted. Along with the Americans, they had raced shoulder to shoulder toward the cliffs,  with only one thought in mind for a brief moment -  to escape the terrible tongues of flame which were reaching out  to engulf them.  One "D" Company man, Pfc Thomas T. DeLane was killed.   A trooper with a broken leg had been dragged away in terrible pain by his buddies. Later, when the heat would withdraw its violence, and it became required of us to count the dead, we would report "about 85 Japs"   incinerated inside the battery's scorched walls.

It was quiet in our sector, almost peaceful that morning,  as though the war was over. Battery Wheeler was dead.  There were no machine guns in Crockett Ravine. There was not even occasional Jap popping up out of nowhere to shoot someone in the head.  No sniper bullets rattled our eardrums as they cracked within inches of where we had been moments before. The 850 Japs must be dead, the unspoken consensus was.  Todd and some of the others had been moving around, gingerly at first, dispelling the fear of snipers for others not so eager to shift from a point of morning safety, and then  picking up souvenirs, but I could not developed any interest. Some of the mortar men from their position near Building 28-D came out and took pictures standing beside the old M-3 AA guns.  As for the 1st platoon leader, I was tired, dirty, hot, and thirsty.  All this after only two days and nights.

 

My six missing men had arrived on the afternoon of the 17th, together with the 1st Battalion. S/Sgt Charles M. McCurry, Pfc Marion E. Boone, Pfc Ralph E. Iverson, -Pfc Paul A. Narrow, Pfc Theodore C. Yocum and Pfc. Bill McDonald had been photographed in their C-47, en route to Corregidor,  and it would be ironic that of all the men who did jump, those six who did not would be photographed into history as if they had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Near noon we moved back to 28-D.  We were issued two or three K-rations and a canteen of water. I believe this was the second canteen of water we had received on Corregidor. We had jumped with two canteens full so that adds up to four canteens of water for the first three days on Corregidor. Actually we would not get more water until the next day, 19 February.  This would be about the middle of the afternoon when we reached the long barracks.

During the morning,  the 2nd platoon, which had spent the night at the perimeter,  moved into and around 27-D.  They had been at the NCO Quarters, which had been the extreme borderline between our perimeter and Japanese held territory, where one side of the building was in our hands, and the other under Japanese control. This had been Ed Flash's "hornet's nest." Pfc William W. Lee had been amongst the several who began to occupy one of the first floor rooms. Lee slipped off his webbed harness and let it slide to the floor, and saying to no no-one in particular "Boy, I'm glad to be out of there!"  He lay down on the floor and put his head on his musette bag.   Instantly, a large chunk of concrete fell from the wall and crushed his skull, and we had lost him. The company history, strangely,  does not give the date or circumstances of  his death. It still rankles.

 

On this morning, 1st platoon would be given the mission of capturing a battery which was far out on the western end of the island,  located on a ridge running east-west.  I was given my briefing by map since the area was far out of sight. In the course of time, I would discover this was Battery Smith.

 

Originally Smith had been Battery Smith Number One, which differentiated it from Battery Smith Number Two,  one thousand yards closer towards Topside.    They had been known as the "Smith Brothers" in their day, and in the days of the battleships, they presented a fearsome twosome. Because of their barbette mounts they could elevate higher than the disappearing guns of the other batteries, and this gave them a greater range against an approaching fleet.  On October 29, 1937, Battery Smith Number Two had been renamed in honor of Brigadier General Clinton C. Hearn.

West of Battery Smith, several hundred yards beyond on the ridge was Battery Sunset which comprised  six 155mm guns.

 
 

I was not aware of the names Smith, Hearn or Sunset, for no map in my possession or to which I had access contained the names of the Batteries, so the revealing of the names became just that - a revelation.  The name Wheeler, for instance, had revealed to us by a painted sign at its entry. Even though it was for me to lead 1st platoon into harms way that day, the army had determined that a comprehensive map was too  great a secret  as to be known by  a mere Lieutenant.  It never stopped us though, and we would come up with an assortment of names, and we would get the job done. Later we would find out that even Colonel Jones was not in possession of such secrets as the names of the Batteries, or of the purposes or designations of the buildings and installations.

 For this mission, there were no provisions  made for supporting fire from neither the 463nd P.F.A.Bn., nor from the U.S. Navy which was still patrolling the sea lanes which ran both north and south of the Rock. We only had the platoon SCR-536 radio, so we would be out of communications  throughout most of the mission. As we always lamented of the SCR-536, "Out of sight, out of contact."   I was to follow the railroad tracks to Battery Hearn, turn west, and follow the ridge to the objective. The nearest troops would be the remainder of "F" Company upon Topside about 7-800 yards away and no way to contact them. 

In addition to drawing water and rations we replenished our ammo supply. Fortunately the supply of ammo was plentiful. The riflemen filled the pouches on their rifle belts and some picked up an extra bandolier of 8 clips. Thus they all had 128 rounds of ball and some carried 192 rounds. The BAR's and TSMG's were equally well supplied. There were no machine guns or other supporting weapons attached.

The company left before we did. They were going to the west end of the long barracks. We waited until "C" Company moved in to relieve us. They also relieved "D" Company at Battery Wheeler.

So, with water precious in our canteens and ammunition aplenty on our bandoliers, we moved out, following the trolley-line bed.  Lloyd McCarter lead the way, followed by John Bartlett, as 2nd scout.   I followed Bartlett,  in my customary position.  As was his style, McCarter moved swiftly, sometimes getting ahead of us when we paused to investigate suspicious areas.

 

   
   
   
   
   
 

 

 

   

John Bartlett

 

"I remember Lt. Bailey telling us to go take that hill, never knew the name.  The first time I came up out of the cut-down and on to the Hearn Magazine,  McCarter was 1st scout, I was 2nd, and you, Bill,  were third as always.  I had never scouted before.  McCarter was so fast I could hardly keep up.  When  we reached the top without opposition we threw hand grenades down the ventilator shaft."
   

The trolley tracks had been removed near Battery Wheeler. We moved to the northwest, below the lip of Topside.  The area was wooded, having escaped heavy bombardment.  There were a number of parallel tracks leading to the car barn, but we followed the tracks west of these. This set of tracks was in a cut with concrete walls. We moved along the east side of the cut until we came to a cut-down where we could go down through the concrete walls and up to the other side. The cut-down was well constructed with concrete walls. Down at the track level we could see that the railroad cut deepened as it ran to the northwest. The walls appeared to be 12-14 feet tall. The cut curved on out of sight to the left. After we climbed up to level ground on the west side of the cut we could see the bare, bomb scarred hill which covered Battery Hearn Magazine. No foliage was left.

 We came upon Batteries Hearn's 12 inch barbette mounted gun first. It sat in the middle of  large round concrete pad giving it the appearance of a bulls eye from the air,  which indeed it had been as within a few yards of it there was a huge bomb crater, courtesy of aa protracted 'softening up' by  B-24's of the 307th Bomb Group joined by A-20's of the 3rd Attack Group, which between them had dropped 3,128 tons of bombs.

Behind Hearn's concrete pad to the east was its  magazine,  an extensive reinforced concrete building,  smothered by several feet of dirt, topped out by several ventilator shafts, which looked like huge reinforced concrete mushrooms. All in all, it formed a fair sized, steep sided hill, and as a defensive position that same evening, it would save our lives.

Cut into the northwest side of the Hearn magazine was a trolley line spur for the delivery of the heavy munitions directly inside the storage area, the line branching off into the magazine from an access road which extended to the barbette.  The east side of Hearn was more of a gentle slope which was easy to ascend.

Approaching Hearn,  McCarter was so fast Bartlett could hardly keep up. When they reached the top without opposition they threw hand grenades down the ventilator shaft. We had no idea at the time that the magazine still contained thousands of pounds of black powder.

 

 

 

The man-made hills had very steep sides on the north, west, and south. The east side of Smith was steep but not so severe as the other sides.

The ridge is named Sunset Ridge. Way Hill drops toward the sea, as does Sunset Ridge. About 500 yards from the sea and located on Way Hill's ridge is Battery Grubbs. The western end of the valley between Batteries Smith and Grubbs is a rim which drops off sharply into a deep ravine. Although the name is not on the map we feel this must be Grubbs' Ravine because of the battery  at one side and Grubbs Trail on the other. Sunset Ridge drops off sharply on its south side to form the north side of Cheney Ravine; its north side forms the south side of Grubbs Ravine. Way Hill ridge forms the north side of Grubbs Ravine. Grubbs Ravine descends very rapidly to the sea. Like Cheney and James Ravines,  Grubbs Ravine is a natural approach to Topside.  

Beltline Road passes just east of Battery Grubbs, passes into the valley between Sunset Ridge and Way Hill where it intersects the road from Topside to Battery Grubbs and then over Sunset Ridge about midway between Batteries Hearn and Smith. The road then runs along the side of Sunset Ridge (In Cheney Ravine) within about 100 yards of Battery Hearn. It is in a cut in this area and, also  further concealed from Hearn magazine by trees.

A short distance north of the trees concealing Belt Line Road is the beginning of the area of desolation. The area of Batteries Hearn and Smith was almost completely devoid of all vegetation. Only debris and a heavy dust cover remained. During early 1945, 28 January until 16 February, the B-24's of the 307th Bomb Group joined by A-20's of the 3rd Attack Group dropped 3,128 tons of bombs on Corregidor. Other units joined in, but these were the principle units. Actually the destroyed areas included Batteries Cheney, Wheeler, Boston, the parade ground, and surrounding areas.

 As we advanced west along Sunset Ridge, Johnson's squad led the platoon with the 1st squad echeloned on their right covering the area down to the valley and Grubbs Railroad and the parallel road. Bill McDonald led the 1st squad as 1st scout.

 

 

 

 


John Bartlett

"I remember Lt. Bailey telling us to go take that hill, never knew the name.  The first time I came up out of the cut-down and on to the Hearn Magazine,  McCarter was 1st scout, I was 2nd, and you, Bill,  were third as always.  I had never scouted before.  McCarter was so fast I could hardly keep up.  When  we reached the top without opposition we threw hand grenades down the ventilator shaft."

"None of us knew the name of this battery or Smith, either.  The magazine at Hearn simply came to be called Calhoun's Hill.  Way Hill became Bailey's Hill in the same way.  We would name the valley between Sunset Ridge and Way Hill 'Maggot Valley' in a couple of days, so I will use this name from here on. 

We advanced in open squad column until we reached Battery Smith.  No opposition had been encountered. As the platoon approached the northwest side of Smith magazine, one of the Tennessee men, called out to Bill McDonald that he could see a Jap looking at them through field glasses.  Bill looked to check, spotting the Jap officer's head showing slightly above ground level.  At that moment,  the trooper who had called out fired his M-1, and Bill saw the binoculars almost cut in half at the hinge. Of course the Jap died instantly. When they got there the body was on steps leading to a door of an underground room or tunnel (probably the oil house for the battery)"

 


John Bartlett

"I remember the Jap looking through binoculars.  We were on patrol and Aimers said "I just saw a Jap down there, and I shot him, and I want those binoculars when we get there."  The distance was so great that I didn't think he saw a Jap, let alone shot one.  When we got there, sure enough, at the bottom of the steps lay a Jap with binoculars lying beside him.  I tried to throw a hand grenade through the door at the bottom of the steps.  It hit the side of the door and landed beside the dead Jap and the binoculars.  Later on Aimers proved that he anything he could see he could hit.

 

"The flamethrower operator came up and hosed down the doorway.  Several Japs ran out and were shot down.  Later, after things cooled off, and unknown to the rest of the platoon, they opened the steel door.  Moving cautiously inside they went into a room filled with cases of whiskey, San Miguel Beer, and a 5-gallon jug of sake. 


Bill Freihoff
 

"Earlier they had found some liquor, and the best I can remember is after Bill Bailey destroyed the loot."

   
   

"On the afternoon of the 16th, before we'd undertaken any action, some troopers had found a supply of alcohol stored in one of the houses along Senior Officers Row. Lampman recalls it was Bacardi Rum. When Bailey got wind of the find, he broke every bottle which some of the more thoughtful had not hidden. Now at Smith, the 1st squad was making sure that this was kept secret. Actually, the 1st squad were not drinkers, but it was well known that there wasn't anything better to trade, and they liked bread. In this instance, they ended up with bread, and Major General Marquat ended up 'without bread.'  

We occupied Battery Smith at about 1500 hours.  As I was deploying the platoon into a defensive position, a 50 caliber machine gun opened up on us from a wood covered knoll about 100 yards west on Sunset Ridge.  Each time the gun fired, an area of vegetation would shake.  It was very obvious where the fire was coming from.  Pfc. Benedict Schilli, 3rd squad BAR gunner, went down into a prone position right out there on the bare concrete pad with neither cover nor concealment and fired back. I was in the act of yelling for him to get back with us when the 50 caliber fire ceased, it became quiet, and the vegetation ceased moving.

Two days later on patrol we reached this position and found an abandoned 50-caliber machine gun which had been disabled by a bullet striking the receiver. A camouflage net laced with vegetation had been strung up vertically in front of the gun.  The gun actually fired through the net, which was tied to stakes in the ground at the bottom and tree branches at the top.  Whoever prepared this position had little or no knowledge of camouflage techniques.  There was also dried blood on the leaves on the ground.

The dominant feature was the hill built over Battery Smith's magazine.  It could easily be defended because of its steep sides.  I was preparing to move the platoon up on the hill and assign the squads their defensive sectors.  After setting up our defensive positions I intended to search the tunnel and the rooms under the magazine.  This could have been disaster if part of the Japanese force was occupying these large spaces, waiting in position to make the assault that night.

Later developments would reveal that a force of some size had been in the tunnel and the magazine rooms at some time.  If the large Japanese force was there in position to make the attack that night they would hardly have tipped their hand to attack a small force such as ours.  Of course, had we entered their hideout and discovered their presence,  they would very likely have wiped us out with their superior force.  As we rested in our defensive position atop this great unknown, we were all uneasy, feeling so alone and far from home,  way out near the sea, and out of sight and radio contact with our forces. 

Our apprehensions ended when a messenger arrived from Lieutenant Bailey instructing me to withdraw to the battery to our east.  We would receive reinforcements.  I was to set up my force on the bald hill, Battery Hearn magazine, and defend it and the immediate area.  This was about 1700 hours.  I immediately moved the platoon out for the bald hill, glad to be moving back among friends.

I have often wondered if Battery Hearn was our objective,  rather than its brother, Battery Smith.  I did not know at the time that the Company was slated to defend Way Hill, too. Regardless, we got the grand tour,  killed a few Japs and destroyed a 50-caliber enemy machine gun.

 
   

 


Battery Smith as we found it.

 

 

Our route back to the bald hill above the magazine of Battery Hearn was along the crest of the ridge.  We walked across the concrete pad and climbed the concrete stairs to the top of the hill. The reinforcements were just arriving, and were substantial: two rifle squads from the 2nd platoon, the two conventional gun squads from the mortar platoon, a light machine gun section from the 3rd platoon of our battalion headquarters company, and a bazooka team.  We already had a flame thrower team who had accompanied us that afternoon attached to my platoon.  1st Lieutenant Dan Lee had been assigned to our company that day and led the reinforcements over from the other half of the company set up on Way Hill, about 250 yards to the northeast. Battalion sent 2nd Lieutenant John Mara, on loan for the night, to help out.  I never understood why he was not transferred to "F" Company.  Even with the addition of Lee,  "F" Company still only had three officers.  Both "D" and "E" Companies still had six officers at this time. The two F Company forces numbered about seventy men in each for including all reinforcements.  The RCT S-3 overlay shows F Company defending an area extending about a mile from the bottom of Cheney Ravine to the south-west, on northeast to the western slopes of James Ravine: and northwest of Battery Way.  A force of one hundred and forty men could not physically occupy such a distance in a perimeter defense, nor did this appear to be the intention of Lieutenant Brown, because he told Lieutenant Bailey that he wanted him to defend Way Hill and Battery Hearn magazine hill.  The two forces were barely adequate for this task, if indeed they were adequate.

The road to Battery Grubbs was closely paralleled by the railroad.  The distance from our position out to the road was about eighty yards. I placed my machine guns on the north side facing the road so that they could place enfilading fire down the road toward Battery Grubbs.  I had the two mortars zero in on the road and railroad, for the road was a direct approach to topside, so it was logical that an enemy attack toward topside would probably use this road.  We had looked down Grubbs Ravine from Battery Smith and knew there could be many enemy troops down there, though we never thought there might be many in the Smith magazine and tunnel.  Part of Way Hill was still wooded so that Bailey and his men could not see down into Maggot Valley; nor could they see us or we them.  It was for this reason I was given the two conventional mortars.  

There were no trees or vegetation anywhere around our position, with the exception of Cheney Ravine on the south.  About fifty yards south were some clumps of trees.  These helped conceal Belt Line Road as it ran along the upper reaches of Cheney Ravine. The road was also in a cut, and we did not know at the time that there was a road there.  The further down Cheney Ravine the heavier the forest became, so that soon after passing Belt Line Road the forest  was thick and offered complete concealment.  To us, in the late afternoon, it appeared dark and sinister, as it would indeed prove to be.

Our hill was a formidable position.  It was rectangular in shape, about eighty yards long (east-west), and forty yards across (north-south).  As previously stated three sides were very steep.  The west side was so steep that concrete stairs had been built to mount this face.  The north and south side could be climbed only with great difficulty.  In addition the south side had a huge crater in the slope which made climbing it impossible in the central area.  The east slope was a gentle slope down to the road running behind the battery and on to the railroad cut.  Obviously this was the vulnerable side.

I knew Jack Mara to be a very able officer.  He had briefly served as my assistant platoon leader when he joined our unit on Leyte.  Darkness was rapidly approaching.  I assigned the north side of the hill to Mara and told him to put the machine gun section and Staff Sergeant Charles McCurry's 1st squad in position on the north side of the hill to cover the road. Staff Sergeant Johnnie "Red Horse" Phillips put his mortars in position, laying them in on the primary target area, the intersection of the road with Belt Line Road, preparing to traverse along the road toward us. 

I did not know Lee and kept him with me to put the men in defensive positions on the east, south and west sides.  A large ventilator shaft with large openings on each side dominated the hill. Inside the shaft, steel rungs were set in the concrete to form a ladder to the floor of the magazine.  A huge crater was up against the east side of the shaft.  I put my headquarters here and assigned my radio operator and two runners to guard the shaft in case Japs came up the ladder during the night. 

I had an extra runner, George Mikel.  Between 40 to 50 feet east of the large shaft, was a small ventilator with louvered sides. West of the large shaft, about fifteen feet, was another small ventilator shaft identical to the west shaft. At the southwest part of the hill was a concrete platform about four or five feet above the ground.  Concrete steps lead up to this floor, which obviously was the floor of a building.  I know now it was the BC Station (battery command). Underneath it was another vent shaft which I did not notice. 

John Lindgren and Don Abbott have been back to Corregidor since we were there, once in 1987 and again in 1989.  They went over this magazine hill thoroughly, especially in 1989 when they spent a month on the island. They found three more smaller vent shafts.  I might have seen more and forgotten them, but I remember the ones I mentioned very well, possibly because I have snap shots of the large vent and the two smaller vents.  The hilltop was covered with wreckage - heavy timbers, corrugated steel roofing and even at least one railroad rail.  The south side of the hill was badly scarred by one huge crater and several small ones.  This side of the hill fell away into Cheney Ravine.  The first trees began at the concealed Belt Line Road.

 I first put one rifle squad on the west side, one on the north side, two squads on the east, and one on the south side.  This was not right.  It was too easy.  The east side was the dangerous side, but with so few Japs why worry?  I asked Lee what was wrong with this defense. He said the weak place is the east side.  That did it. Even though it was now about dark we moved S/Sgt Leroy Jacob's 2nd squad from my platoon to the east side and stretched Johnson's 3rd squad out to cover the west and south sides.  Now the two 2nd platoon rifle squads and S/Sgt LeRoy Jacob's 2nd squad of my platoon were defending the east side.  This meant about twenty-four rifleman, including three BAR's were defending about forty yards.  The odd thing here is that in the darkness, haste and confusion, the 2nd squad lost their BAR, Richard Lampman.  Somehow, instead of Lampman, the 3rd squad's BAR, Benedict Schilli, ended up on the east line, so there were still three BAR's there.  Later that night we were to need every man we had back there." 

 

 

 

 


Richard Lampman
 

"The BAR I spent the night with was on a cement base and the gun itself had to be elevated and rotated by hand.  The only reason I can come up with why I got left all by myself is the confusion that went on.  The only group near me that I recall was the machine gun - they weren't exactly close either.  I don't remember being fired at directly.  Now and then a shell would bounce off the old gun barrel. I always had my BAR set on what was supposed to be "Single Fire".  As good as I was I could never get off less than two or three rounds at a time.  Maybe the Japs thought it was a rifle.  I often wondered if anyone else that night was by themselves."

 

 

"Down in Maggot Valley by the railroad tracks lay two wrecked trolley cars on their sides, their floors facing us.  Looking to the northwest to Way Hill, where Bill Bailey's force was in position, all we could see was a wooded hill which had escaped the clearing of the heavy bombardment. We could not see them, and they could not see us.  I was told that D Company was at Battery Cheney.  This battery was to our south, about 1000 yards away on the other side of deep, heavily wooded Cheney Ravine.  D Company was strung out on a long, narrow ridge which ran from Battery Wheeler to Battery Cheney. The battery and the ridge running back toward Battery Wheeler could be easily seen from our hill, but the distance was too great to see the men individually.  

They were not incorporated into a perimeter either. Their position was a narrow finger jutting out away from our main defenses.  This was an unsupportable salient.  C Company was nearby to their east at Battery Wheeler, but being at the base of the salient could not support D Company.  Despite being in a position where time was needed to set up a defense which covered all routes of approach, D company were not given that time. I believe battalion gave them their orders even later than they gave F company theirs. 

It is a hard road to hoe for those of us who were at the lower level to understand why two companies were pushed well out from Topside into isolated positions with no provisions made for any fire support. Moreover, there was no way to call for fire support.  At the company level our radio net was closed at dark, and our orders and standard practice was clear, and had been so since Noemfoor - under no circumstances were we to open a radio until dawn. No wire was strung to D or F Companies that night, either.

Every platoon leader, and those above were given a "Special Map" of Corregidor Island, 1:12,500 marked with pre-designated numbers and letters, (e.g., Battery Hearn was #19, the junction of Belt Line Road and the road in Maggot Valley was #25, Battery Cheney was #12 and so on.) When the Japs appeared at point #25 we should have been able to notify higher headquarters who could have called for naval fire from the cruisers and destroyers lying off shore waiting to give fire support, or they could have called in our 75mm howitzers, or our 81mm mortars. This was not done.

But we were muzzled.

We had also been lulled into over-confidence by the failure to correctly estimate the number of Japanese troops on the island.  The prevailing thinking in our combat team when we jumped was formed from a G-2 estimate of 850 defenders. By now, at the higher levels of command, it was known that more Japs had been counted killed than the original G-2 estimate had pronounced upon the island. It was also known to them that our units from Malinta Hill to western Topside were meeting heavy resistance, so a warning down to the companies that "a heavier Jap force occupies the island than had been originally thought" should have been issued. Certainly the disposition of the 2nd Battalion's D and F Companies was unfortunate and should not have happened, but the confident attitude pervaded even Topside, especially Topside, that night, which had no reserve force. The scheme of defense had resulted in a number of strong points, and on this night, the Japanese we weren't aware of were about to test our strong points.

Just after dark two mortar rounds struck the top of our hill, but did no damage.  Sgt. "Red Horse" Phillips and Burl Martin thought they were fired from a mortar near Grubbs Railroad, from a position just after it turns toward Battery Grubbs and bends out of sight. They fired five rounds into this area and we heard no more.  Lee and I were so busy placing the rifle squads into position that we were unaware of the incoming Jap mortar rounds or of our counter-battery fire. Perry Bandt and John Bartlett were in the 3rd squad and on the south side."


John Bartlett
 

"I was aware of the mortars though.  Bandt and I were thinking that there was very little resistance left on the island and we decided not to dig in for the night. About dark a mortar opened up on our position, three or four rounds were fired.  Red Horse and I were talking about this and wondered why they quit firing.  Needless to say Bandt and I dug in quickly."

 
"Bartlett's statement about his and Bandt's frame of mind regarding the Jap resistance being negligible typifies the attitude brought about by the G-2 estimate of 850 Jap defenders.

 

 

   
 

About 2200 hours we started to hear them coming. Along our eastern perimeter, we could hear Japs shouting in the area, we thought, of the railroad cut. It seemed to start with an individual shouting and the group would chant a response. This would increase in volume until it reached a crescendo.  The all out Banzai would follow.

There is sometimes a lot of jocularity, sing-song and camaraderie about being willing to travel to the gates of hell with one's buddies, but truly each of us one's knew that in a short while the gates of hell were marching up the valley towards us.  They were yelling and shouting, marching up the road along Maggot Valley. This seemed to be the signal for a Navy star shell to explode overhead and illuminate the area, though the Navy's timing was simply and randomly fortuitous. The front of the Jap column could be seen clearly near the junction of Belt Line Road and the road,#25.  A long line of a column of fours followed, proving at last to us that the intelligence estimates were carefully crafted fantasy, rather than military science. It was about 2330.  

They seemed to be trying to incite fear into us by their shouting and chanting, and were successful. Any rifleman, put in one position and ordered to stay there, who says he didn't have doubts as the gates of hell came up to meet him that night wasn't there.  We'd all heard and retold the stories of Jap tactics in past battles, such as Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal when the Japs charged chanting "Marine you die!" , "Banzai!", "Totsugeki!" (charge), "Blood for the Emperor!" flashed again to our minds, and we knew that shortly there would be a lot of death to be done. Arranging for things to happen (" Todd, get over to Johnson and get a bandolier of ammo from everyone of his riflemen and so many BAR clips,"  "Crawl up to Lee and Phillips and check the situation," and "Send Mikal over to the north side and check on the 1st squad and the machine guns" etc.) kept me so preoccupied though, that there was no time to lose concentration or presence of mind. At the end of those thousand hours, when dawn's early light came, there was no one among us more relieved than I. 

  Proving it was not a vision, several subsequent star shells floated eerily over the landscape. This was a battalion sized unit, 500 men or more.  They were close enough for us to see that some were sick and throwing up, yet they came.  We felt they were drunk. The booze was certainly plentiful enough. 

Our firepower was cutting swaths into their ranks, and still they came. Groups would crumple from the explosions of our 60mm mortar rounds scoring direct hits in the road, and those still erect would close up ranks and keep on coming. Soon our machine guns were also cutting swaths in their ranks. Each of the two mortars had 40 to 50 rounds of ammunition, but all too soon the supply was exhausted.

Until that hellish sight, there had been no evidence to suggest that there were so many Japanese remaining on the entire island, yet it was no accident that our mortar defense reserves were so robust.  We probably would not have survived with less, and if the command credit should have gone to any single man that night, it should have gone to our Company Commander, Bill Bailey, who was not taken off guard.  He'd planned for the worst, as a good commander should, and had laid in to both positions a large amount of ammunition for the night.  Bill just never did toot his own horn, he was busy doing his job.  Life isn't fair, and neither is recognition in war, but he sure deserved a Silver Star that night. He just wasn't the sort who'd see himself awarded one.

Recognition of uncommon valor that night did come to one man, and though it interrupts the recalling of the fight, I will tell it now because this recognition was to the most extraordinary warrior I ever knew.  Two Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded arising from the retaking of Corregidor, one for action on the USS Fletcher during the pre-invasion bombardment and the other, the only land based award, was for our first scout that evening.  

Being in the 3rd squad, Private Lloyd G. McCarter was initially on the south side of the hill. A few of his squad were on the west side of the hill.  Red Horse was with the gun at the small east ventilator.  McCarter had seen some of the Japs were getting past, and moved to the northeast corner by the 'hump' formed where the tunnel entered the magazine." 

 

John "Red Horse" Phillips
 

"I saw McCarter cross the hill from his position on the south side of the hill and go down near the "bulge" at the northeast corner of the hill.  The "bulge" was the trolley tunnel which ran into this corner of the hill, supplying the magazine with heavy munitions and equipment.

McCarter, as a 1st scout, was armed with a Thompson Sub Machine Gun.  The distance from the hill to the road was too great for effective fire for this weapon.  On his own volition, and without anyone else's knowledge, McCarter climbed his way down the steep slope and took up a position in a shallow gulley by the side of the road,  opposite the upturned trolley cars. From this position he fired directly into the enemy column.  He made several trips back to the hill that night to obtain more ammunition, changing his Thompson for a BAR when it malfunctioned and later, when the Browning failed,  to exchange it for an M-1 Garand rifle.  The BAR had become available after Schilli was wounded.  Finally even the Garand malfunctioned, its operating rod splitting!  How many rounds did he fire to cause this tough weapon to malfunction in such a manner? 

When heavy enemy traffic going up the road had long ceased, McCarter commenced to dueling with Japs who had taker up covered positions around and under the trolley cars.  McCarter, short and stocky, yelled and laughed at the enemy when he was engaged in combat, for he was one of those rare individuals which combat transforms into a state of great exhilaration, so much so that they seem absolutely fearless. I had seen this in him before, and  McCarter was no different that night."  

 

"The Navy flares continued to light up the night, but in no particular pattern, they weren't constant. The most frequent firing took place from about 2000 hours until around 0200 to 0300 hours, though.  A number of Japs did get past us,  and past McCarter, evidently assembling in the area of the rail and road junctions to our northwest toward Way Hill.  Some of them attacked Bill Bailey's force on Way Hill, and others attacked our east perimeter. A few went on to Topside. 

  After repulsing the first attack,  which came at about 2330 hours,  all was quiet for a while.  After an hour or so the chants began again and continued as before, reaching a crescendo, and then the tide of death would flow in again.  Our confidence remained high,  though as the night drew on, there was an ever growing concern that our ammunition might not see us through to the morning. Sometimes it would go dark maybe fifteen minutes at a stretch. It seemed black as pitch for so long as time passed. "Where are the flares?"

The third attack came in the same manner as the first and second attacks, and was repulsed, but we were now to the last of our ammunition. Johnson gathered up ammo from his 3d squad. Bayonets were fixed, and trench knives readied.  Nor did it help to have the SCR536 radio, for the net was closed. "Where are those flares?" Near dawn the chants started again.  The situation was critical. 

Fortunately for us no attack came.  Dawn broke shortly, and the phrase "immense relief" cannot do justice to our feelings.  

Around dawn McCarter was hit hard by a bullet in the chest, and when it was light, he could be plainly seen in the position where he lay down by the road. It looked to us from a ways off he was dead. Some men went down, even though there was some fire still from a Nambu LMG, and only then was he carried, or rather dragged, back up the hill to its relative safety, into a large crater near the big ventilator.

I figured it would be mid-morning before we could get him through to Topside, and with a bullet entry near the middle of his chest, I was worried about him going into shock. Our Medic, Pfc. Roy Jensurd, had used his supply of blood plasma long before. I went to McCarter several times to reassure him we'd get him out as soon as we could. Each time he told me not to worry about him, that he was doing all right. I never saw any symptoms of shock. He was tough and complaint was not in his vocabulary." 

 

Richard Lampman
 

"The next thing I can remember was that two or three of us (I don't know who was with me) came upon a group milling around, trying to get McCarter out of the ravine (RR track area).  The road was wider than most with steep walls on both sides. I do not remember where it went. He was on a stretcher.  The first I knew he had been wounded.  A Jap came out of one of two large concrete double doors, open about a foot or twenty inches behind them and threw a grenade.  It arched up and hit the steel pole that carried the electric wire and dropped back on him. Three others and myself grabbed the stretcher and went out of there in a hurry!!  I don't know what the rest did.

Some of us got to look inside a day or two later. I have never seen so much black gun powder!!  It was in large bins like we used to store oats and wheat on the farm.  We were in some other places loaded with G.P. only not so much."

 

  

THE VENTS ATOP HEARN MAGAZINE

 

Meanwhile there had been much action over on Bailey's Way Hill.