CORREGIDOR. Coastal defense gun at
Hardly had news of the evacuation of
Manila and the transfer of MacArthur's headquarters to Corregidor
reached Homma on 28 December when he ordered the 5th Air Group
to begin operations against the island. Manila would soon be his and
though MacArthur's army had not yet been defeated, Homma may have
believed that he could soon move against Corregidor. Homma's plans, by
agreement with the Navy, provided for a joint attack in which Lt. Gen.
Hideyoshi Obata's 5th Air Group (Army) would be supplemented by
the planes of the 11th Air Fleet (Navy). The Army air force
would strike first, at noon of 29 December, "with its whole strength."
An hour later the Navy bombers were to take over. The bombardment would
continue for two and a half hours, until 1430, and would, General Obata
hoped, "destroy the center of the American Far East Command."
Almost exactly on schedule, at 1154 of the
29th, the first flight of 18 twin-engine bombers of the 14th Heavy
Bombardment Regiment, covered by 19 fighters, approached Corregidor
at a height of 15,000 feet and in regular V formation. The flight broke
into smaller flights, of 9 and 3 planes, which passed lengthwise over
the island, then back, dropping 225- and 550-pound bombs on the
headquarters buildings and barracks. For the half hour they were over
the target, the planes of the 14th Heavy Bombardment dropped
almost fifty bombs.
At 1230, 22 bombers of the 8th Light
Bombardment Regiment, accompanied by 18 dive bombers of the
16th Light Bombardment Regiment, had their turn. The light bombers
followed the same pattern as the first flight, dropping their sixty-six
225- pound bombs on installations and buildings on Bottomside and
Topside. The dive bombers, loaded with 35-pounders, attacked from an
altitude of 3,000 feet, though to the men on the ground the planes
appeared to be at treetop level.
When the dive bombers left at 1300, the
Navy bombers came in. Numbering about 60 planes, the naval formation
continued the attack against the island and shipping in the bay for
another hour. Altogether, the Americans estimated, the Japanese used
about 81 mediums and 10 dive bombers and dropped about 60 tons of bombs
during these two hours. None of the few remaining American aircraft rose
from the recently established fighter base on Bataan to dispute their
supremacy of the air on this occasion or during any of the attacks that
In this first attack the antiaircraft
defenses at Fort Mills, Fort Hughes, and southern Bataan gave a good
account of themselves, firing a total of 1,200 rounds of 3- inch
ammunition. Score for the 3-inchers was thirteen medium bombers. It was
with considerable satisfaction that Capt. Roland G. Ames, commander of
Battery C (Chicago), 60th Coast Artillery (AA), wrote after the attack
that his men "had performed wonderfully" in their first encounter with
the enemy and had brought down at least three Japanese planes.
The dive bombers, too, were met by strong
and effective opposition. The .50- caliber machine guns of the
antiaircraft command downed four of the planes in their first low-level
strafing attack. Thereafter, according to American sources, the Japanese
did not again attempt to dive-bomb targets on Corregidor until the end
The men had paid little heed to the alarm
when it first sounded, since none of the previous air warnings had been
followed by attack. Some of those who had recently arrived on the island
with the transfer of headquarters from Manila to Corregidor casually
took up a better position to watch the large enemy formation. One
officer in the concrete building on Topside which housed USAFFE
headquarters mounted to the second floor for a clearer view of the
proceedings. Hardly had he arrived there when he heard "an ominous,
whirring whistle, which rapidly increased in crescendo." He made a wild
jump for the stairway, later claiming that "the whistle of my descent
must have rivalled that of the falling bomb."
Others were equally surprised and displayed a tendency to head for the
corners of the rooms where they fancied they were safer than elsewhere.
Fortunately windows and entrances had been sandbagged and broken glass
caused few casualties.
The first bombs hit the vacated station
hospital and many of the wooden structures on Topside and Middleside.
One bomb struck the post exchange, went through the roof and three
concrete floors, buried itself in eight feet of earth, and left a crater
about twenty feet in diameter. Fully half the barracks and headquarters
buildings were demolished and only a part of the foundation of the
officers' club remained after the bombing. Many of the structures were
of corrugated iron, and the danger from flying bits of metal was often
as great as that from the bombs. Bottomside, after the bombing, appeared
to be "one huge mass of jagged and bent sheet iron."
Fire sprang up at many points so that to an observer on Bataan the
island appeared to be enveloped "in clouds of dust and black smoke."
Altogether about 60 percent of all wooden buildings on Corregidor were
destroyed during the first bombings. Headquarters, USAFFE, promptly
moved into Malinta Tunnel the next day.
Fortunately, damage to military
installations, the major target of the Japanese aircraft, was
comparatively slight. Two of the gun batteries suffered minor damage
which was repaired within twenty-four hours. Several of the small
vessels docked at Bottomside and at anchor near the island were hit, and
two Philippine Army planes at Kindley Field on the tail of the tadpole
were destroyed. Power, communication, and water lines were temporarily
disrupted but little permanent damage was wrought. Casualties for the
day were twenty killed and eighty wounded.