"U.S.N.  K.I.A.'S  AT CORREGIDOR"
_________________
Paul F. Whitman


 

 

During the period of 13 February through 17 February, 1945, the U.S. Navy participated in pre-invasion shore bombardment, counter-battery fire, minesweeping and mine-sweeper covering operations in the Manila Bay area, in support of the amphibious landings of Task Group 78.3 at Mariveles and Corregidor.

During this period and subsequently it was necessary to silence numerous Japanese gun positions, which sought to interfere with the progress of the invasion and naval forces. There was also the constant necessity of sinking floating mines which had been cut adrift by the mine sweepers.

During the operations, the navy lost minesweeper YMS-48, and sustained damage to the destroyers Fletcher, Hopewell, Radford and La Fallette. As part of the "Corregidor's Other Casualties" project, we have been endeavouring to ascertain the true number of men killed in the retaking of Corregidor.

Initially, I had been challenged by the lack of detail in any single published authority covering the topic. Lt. Gen. E. M. Flanagan, in his Corregidor, the Rock Force Assault (Presidio Press 1995) says next to nothing about the challenge that the Operation presented the Navy. A superior book, though not widely known because it isn't available in paperback, is Gerard M. Devlin's Back to Corregidor.

Devlin deals with the loss of the YMS-48 thus;

"The Fletcher was not the only American vessel to be damaged by the deadeyed enemy gunners on Corregidor. Moments after she had been hit a wooden-hulled minesweeper, the YMS-48, took a first round hit that set her ablaze and caused heavy casualties. When this occurred a second destroyer, the U.S.S. Hopewell, closed on the stricken minesweeper at flank speed to take on survivors. The Japanese had the proper range now, and they quickly scored three hits on the well-intentioned ship. With several small fires burning out of control along her starboard side, the Hopewell was ordered to withdraw from the battle area. A fourth shell struck her while she was retiring, knocking the main battery out of operation and cutting communication and control circuits forward. It was only through the herculean efforts of her damage and control parties that the Hopewell managed to remain afloat and live to fight another day. Her losses during this encounter were seven killed and twelve wounded."

 

USS HOPEWELL (DD-681) smoking amidships, just after she was hit four times by a Japanese shore battery while moving in to help damaged YMS-48 supporting minesweeping operations in the North Channel off Corregidor. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center.

Devlin continues:

Upon the Hopewell's withdrawal from the battle scene, the mission of rescuing survivors of the still-burning minesweeper passed to the Fletcher, which by now was back in action thanks to Watertender Second Class Bigelow. With her remaining guns firing on Corregidor, the wounded Fletcher steamed over to the minesweeper where her crewmen pulled numerous dazed survivors from the water. Then on orders from Captain Cavanaugh, the division commander, the Fletcher turned her guns on the abandoned hulk of the YMS-48, which had burned to the waterline, and sank her so she would not become a navigational hazard for oncoming vessels.

Minesweepers Before Corregidor by Commander Dwight Shepler USNR, Watercolor, February 1945

Searching for better details of this action brought me initially to the listings of the US Navy's Administrative Battle Order, at http://pacific.valka.cz/forces/index.htm. Corregidor is listed in association with Operation MIKE VI, which is the sixth iteration of MIKE 1, the codename for the Luzon landings commencing in Lingayen Bay.  Mike VI included three landings, namely at Nasugbu Bay (31 January), at Mariveles Harbor (15 February) and the presence of two Task Forces (77.3 and 78.3) at Corregidor.  You might note I didn't put the date in brackets after mentioning Corregidor. Well, curiously, the date given from this source cites the Corregidor landing as being 17 February, which of course was the landing of the 1st Battalion, 503d PRCT on the second day of the Corregidor Operation. I don't think the error is significant.

I have no information as yet concerning the number of casualties on YMS-48 - or even if there were any.

I am aware that there had been at least three fatal casualties on YMS-46, though as yet have not been able to locate their names. Searching on YMS-46, I came upon a statement of  Bruce E. Thompson, mine sweeping officer of YMS-46, who recalled in an extended interview first published in the John Carroll University alumni magazine (Summer 2008)  that...

"We (on YMS-46) went through mind sweeping operations in New Guinea. We went to the Admiralty Islands and swept mine fields in that area. Then we started preparing for the operation on the Philippines.

There are wood hulled mine sweepers and metal. The metal ones were old WWI destroyers or larger mine sweepers. The reason they have wood-hulled ones is because wood-hulled ones can go into a field of magnetic mines.

Most of the mines were planted 20 feet or deeper. The draft of the mine sweeper was nine feet. We could go through a mine field almost totally impervious to hitting a mine. Every once in a while a mine sweeper would hit a mine.

YMS-9 struck a mine in Corregidor and sank in 10 seconds. I saw it. It was right in front of us. YMS-9 was our companion ship."

YMS-9? Perhaps Mr. Thompson is in error? I haven't found any mention of YMS-9 at Corregidor as yet. Could he have mistaken the sinking of YMS-48? Anything's possible, but his description that the boat "struck a mine" and "sank in 10 seconds" is inconsistent with the detailed loss described by Devlin. YMS-9 appears to have survived the war, being struck from the Navy Register 19 June 1946, which makes the suggestion that it sank "in 10 seconds" appear more dubious.  Nor does Thompson mention that on 15 February, his own YMS-46 was damaged by a shore battery at 14 23'N, 120 36'E. (off Corregidor), suffering three fatal casualties.  Memory is such a fickle thing.

 

 Task Force 78

Details of the Mariveles/Corregidor Task Force 78.3
 

Corregidor Mike VI Taskforce

Details of the Task Force 77.3

The entry concerning YMS-48 being sunk is at a map reference identical to that at which the USS HOPEWELL was recorded as damaged, with both having been hit by a coastal defense gun.

War Diary 14 Feb 1945

Extract details of War Diary

The site at Navsource.org corroborates that YMS-48 was "Sunk 14 February 1945 by USS Fletcher (DD 445) after being damaged by coastal defense guns at Corregidor, Philippines."  So what of YMS-46? Was it brought in the next day  to replace the loss of YMS-48, only to suffer almost the same fate? The entry for Thursday 15 February contains the possible answer.

 

Extract details of damage to YMS-46 from War Diary

NavSource Online does suggest that as YMS-46 was struck from the Naval Register on 10 June 1947, so it was not sunk off Corregidor.

War Diary 16 Feb

Extract details of damage to PC-1119 from War Diary

Also serving as part of the fire support during the assault against Corregidor was a submarine chaser, U.S.S. PC-1119 As the first amphibious wave approached the beach, she poured gunfire into enemy pillboxes and gun positions and silenced two Japanese guns. She was briefly caught in an enemy crossfire between Corregidor and Caballo, and was damaged "off Luzon" at 1423'N, 12035'E by an enemy shell.  She continued to operate, embarking casualties from LCMs and evacuating them while under fire to an offshore LST.

Extract details of damage to USS Hidatsa from War Diary

On the morning of 17 February, while returning from the initial assault landings at Corregidor, the fleet ocean tug U.S.S. Hidatsa (ATF-102) struck a mine in Mariveles Harbor, killing 8 of her crew and injuring another 12.  The location of the incident is identical to that of U.S.S. Fletcher and U.S.S. Radford. She was towed to Subic Bay for repairs, and survived the war, remaining in the Philippines for salvage operations until 7 April 1946.

 

                  U. S. N.    L O S S E S     O F F   C O R R E G I D O R                  

 

 

 

             C O R R E G I D O R ' s    O T H E R   C A S U A L T I E S               

 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: As one of my many impossible quests, I have embarked upon compiling a list of KIA's involved in the Corregidor Operation,  so as to be able to arrive at an accurate appreciation of the number of fatalities that were directly attributable to it.  The listing is at Corregidor http://rockforce.org/rock_force/taps/lia_draft_listing.htm  With respect to the USN casualties, I have found the following:  Fletcher - (7);  La Valette - (7);  Radford - (3);  Hopewell - (1);  YMS-46 - (3);  LCI(R) - (3) and Hidatsa - (8).  Any assistance and further information or leads will be readily accepted and gratefully appreciated.

 

 

             U. S. N.   A C T I O N    O F F   C O R R E G I D O R           

 

 

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