"CEBU"
 

The Combat History of Battery "C",

91st Coast Artillery,
(Philippine Scouts)

by

Captain John Gulick

 

 
On December 28,1941 Battery C 91st CA (PS) (AA) was located at the barrio of San Jose near Dinalupihan, Bataan. The organization at that time consisted of Battery C 91st CA Philippine Scouts,71 men; detachments from Batteries A and C 2d CA' (PA), 70 men; detachment from Headquarters Fort Wint, Philippine Army Regulars, 5 men; detachment from Battery D and Headquarters 91st CA, Philippine Scouts, 17 men; and finally miscellaneous civilian truck drivers, Philippine Army Medical Personnel, and a few stragglers. The total strength at that time amounted to about 180 Filipinos and 3 American officers. The Armament of the augmented battery comprised: four 3" M2Al AA guns with T8E3 director, power plant, and data transmission system; one T2 height finder; two 1941 Sperry Searchlight sections complete; two Philippine Army water cooled .50 machine guns; eight .30 cal. Browning machine guns. Both armament and personnel represented salvage from the disastrous evacuation of Ft. Wint. In addition there was a miscellaneous assortment of cargo trucks and commandeered vehicles.
At about 2p.m. on this day Lieut. Calloway of the 2d Bn 60th CA (AA) reported from Little Baguio with orders that C 91st was to move to the vicinity of Bataan Field as soon as the transportation provided by the 2d BN could arrive, C 91st having no prime movers. Since the Battery Commander C 91st with all trucks was at Fort Stotsenberg obtaining supplies, Lt. Shoss, the executive kept the gerno in position making what preparations he could while in action that afternoon. Since December 25th the C 91st had been informally and unofficially attached to the 1st BN 200th CA. The Battery Commander arrived at 6 P.M. and because the 60th transportation was not to come until 8, immediately had Lt. Calloway to reconnoiter a position. The orders conveyed by Lieut. Calloway were to move C 91st under cover of darkness to a position that would enable it to protect Bataan Field and the Cabcaben and Lamao docks. The outfit was to be ready to fire at dawn. Bataan Field was approximately 60 kilometers away.
This reconnaissance, made in the dark, under blackout and in haste, resulted in the selection of Bataan Field itself as the position with an alternate on the outskirts of Cabcaben.
The Battery itself in two convoys arrived at Bataan Field by 2A.M. December 29th. The road had been jammed with convoys of infantry proceeding to the front to attempt establishing a line The bridges were one way, the road was narrow, and traffic control was difficult. C 91st lost one truck and personnel with cargo in an accident near Hermosa, but all else arrived safely, no enemy activity.
The two searchlights themse1ves had been left at San Jose in a state of wreckage from having been towed over the Zig Zag from Olongapo.
None of the cargo trucks were suitable for carrying the lights and any further towing was impossible because of their condition. Later at Cabcaben, effort was made to get these lights;  but again suitable transportation was lacking and they were finally abandoned, about Jan. 4, in a wrecked though possibly repairable condition. The enemy was then reported to have advanced to Dinalupihan.
Dawn of December 29th saw C 91st set up on the center of Bataan Field. Every possible aid was furnished by the civilian in charge of the field workman. They pointed the best location for the kitchen (some distance away), gave sandbags for revetting the guns, offered hospitality that could not be used, and finally produced six bottles of stale, hot beer. Their solicitude was conditioned by the fact that they had been bombed several times in the past, and their morale was low. Because the field was surrounded by a large quantity of high explosive bombs of all sizes, C 91st, they hoped, would be accurate and had the only weapons capable of action visible to them. Some 500 Filipino civilian workmen arrived about 7:30 and, seeing the AA battery cheered loudly. All hands on the field set about work with an inspired frenzy. Today they promised themselves they would not have to run from the bombs.
This happily inspired enthusiasm had unfortunate results, however. The bulldozers raised huge clouds of dust, the tractors(?) rattled, the workmen shouted. It was apparent that enemy planes could scarcely be heard, seen, or fired upon in time. The battery commander immediately re-reconnoitered his alternate position and ordered Lt. Shoss to move two guns there, the rest of the equipment was to follow in the evening. The workmen on the field were quite depressed to see the guns go.
Promptly at 10 A.M. the first Japanese planes came into sight. From then until three in the afternoon they came in flight after flight of heavy bombers, bombing Corregidor, circling Bataan, and coming in again. No bombs fell upon Bataan Field that day for the target was Corregidor. Their course, however took them over C 91st time after time, and the guns were in action continually for five hours. Targets were so plentiful that all could not be engaged. At least one heavy bomber type 97 staggered and smoked as a result of this battery's fire, and later this claim was granted as one hit.
From Bataan Field the bombing of Corregidor was plainly visible. Great clouds and columns of smoke and debris rose continuously for five hours. An oil dump went up, rolling billows of flame and black smoke in the air. The roar and thunder of bombs was incessant. The AA guns could be seen flashing back. Many bursts were close and many planes seemed to have been damaged. Several flights lost altitude as they flew away and many ships lost their places in formation. Towards evening the fires glowed redly on Corregidor and a burning ship drifted down the shore towards Monkey Point. This same day too, Mariveles was leveled.
Early the morning of the same day Major Breitung, commanding the 2d BN 60th CA at Little Baguio had visited the battery, offering help and looking over the set-up. He informed the battery commander that the order to move had come from Major General Sutherland. He confirmed the decision of the battery commander to move off the field and approved the new position at Cabcaben. He asked if the battery would like to be attached to the 2d Bn and, upon being so assured, stated that orders would be obtained as soon as possible. Thus C 91st joined the 2d Bn actually if not officially December 29th. The date of the order itself is not known.
At about 4 P.M. the enemy air activity appeared to have ceased though the damage they had initiated was still in progress and much of the sky was overhung with smoke. C 91st pulled its two remaining guns out ( the ones that fired all day), and with the balance of the equipment moved to the Cabcaben position where the other two had already been emplaced. The battery was ready to fire as a complete unit by 7 that night. All men, however were completely exhausted having been without sleep of any sort since 6:00 A.M. of December 28th, made a move of some 60 kilometers, occupied two new positions and fired some 200 rounds. Meals had been served with regularity, however, and the observed success of the firing kept morale high.
On December 30th, early in the morning, the battery engaged an observation plane known to the troops on Bataan as "Foto Joe". Bursts were exceedingly close, some obscuring the plane at times, and shortly after it had flown away at low altitude to the north, Lt.Col. Breitung drove up and announced that Barbari Hill, an O.P., reported the plane had crashed considerably north of them. Since no other battery had fired near the time, immediate confirmation was given by HDM&SB.
From December 30th until January 5th, C 91st or Cebu, the code name under HDM&SB, was busy improving its position, facilities, communications, and organization. The searchlight sections, having no longer any lights, were converted into a machine gun platoon while the sound locators were used as listening posts to aid in the location of planes. From December 31st until January 5th, the enemy air activity was great. The battery fired daily engaging many planes though none of the hits claimed were allowed. The Cabcaben docks and the shipping between there and Lamao were daily bombing targets. Because the battery was so near and in the path, many planes fell close to the position. Also whenever the AA batteries on Corregidor fired, Cebu received a generous serving of shell fragments. Yet no one was even scratched. The evening of January 4, Lieuts R.A. Krantz and T.J. Majors AC joined the organization as observers.
The morning and early afternoon of January 5th were much the same as on other days at Cabcaben. About 4 P.M., however, the battery engaged a flight of three dive bombers which appeared from behind the mountains and were diving towards Cabcaben. Fire was opened at fuze range 12 and continued to descent to 6. At this latter figure a muzzle burst occurred. It came from the gun at that time firing over the CP and fire control positions. The blast of fragments swept across the height finder blowing the top off PFC Javier's head and wounding Pvts Denaja, Mojrea, and Gacrlan. In direct line the pieces shattered Lt. Charles Page, a visiting Air Corps officer; punctured the chest and lungs of Lt. Majors; creased the head of the battery commander; and wounded Lt. Shoss in the foot. Further down the trench Pvt. Albano standing in the entrance to the direction pit absorbed all the rest of the fragments. Lt.Shoss had been standing to one side near the guns. Lt. Page had been on the other side of the CP outside the sandbags. All the others killed or wounded had been in the emplacements. The C.P., a small circular pit, became a bath tub of blood. Lt. Majors died in the arms of Capt. Gulick. The height finder observer, his brains out, screamed horribly and flopped around for half a minute. Lt. Page atrociously mangled,  had been killed instantly. Pvt. Albano, the whole half of his body almost laid open lengthwise, still lived somehow. All dead and wounded were rushed to General Hospital #2 with the kind assistance of Lt. Rice who opportunely came up with his car. Apart from the loss of life and morale the damage was negligible. The height finder tube had been pierced and shaken but was optically intact. Despite a later report by a QM officer that one of the dive bombers had fallen into the bay, the battery went to bed that evening in gloom. The claim was never allowed.
Investigation of causes of the muzzle burst laid blame upon a defective fuze. All fuzes were customarily examined before issue of a round to the guns. M8 fuze cutters were those used. Rounds were, by previous orders, checked after being cut but before being loaded. Many of the rounds in the lots of ammunition then in use were corroded around the fuzes. Prior to firing, of course, they were cleaned, checked, and even cut. Nevertheless these precautions could not guarantee the functioning of the powder train and it was concluded that it had been defective because of age.
On January 7th Cebu moved to Cemetry Ridge called Lilimbri by the Filipinos. This position was on a prominent ridge overlooking Mariveles Harbor. It afforded protection to the installation there and to Mariveles Field then under construction. It also provided a more integrated anti aircraft defense, in conjunction with Globe, of certain approaches to Corregidor. The move itself was done in daylight with a minimum of two guns capable of firing at any one time.
From January 8th until 14th the battery improved its position and facilities. During the period it fired no rounds, partly because of orders from Corregidor not to engage single planes and partly because it was felt that its position should not be disclosed until a worthwhile target appeared. Japanese air activity over the area was slight that week also. On January 14, however, about 10:30 A.M. a flight of nine heavy bombers appeared from the northwest headed directly over Cubu towards Corregidor. Fire was opened at maximum range, bursts were in the formation obscuring several planes. When directly overhead one of the planes staggered, smoked, and began to lose altitude. Flames were visible on its left engine; the plane jettisoned its bombs in the water. The rest of the formation was broken up. Another plane began to lose altitude, more bombs were jettisoned. Globe took up the fire when Cebu left off. The flight was shattered and the remaining planes headed east towards Manila. Troops in the adjacent valleys cheered. Cebu had again made a score on its first firing in a new position. Confirmation was received for two planes downed.
Until January 29th however, Cebu received no more confirmations. Planes were fired upon but they were mostly flights of three dive bombers, all heavies having apparently given up for a while. Orders were again received not to fire upon single planes unless of a new type. Coincidentally at this time the Japanese began to introduce several new styles of planes. Lt. Irish, the range officer, began work on a set of corrections to enable the battery to undertake maneuvering targets. Nothing could have been lost by such experimentation as the T8E3 was too slow anyhow. The range section drilled constantly and perfected its handling of the director which now bore eight "setting suns", circles of red paint commemorating the score (3 under the HDM&SB). General Sellik the sector commander visited the position early in the morning.
A flight of three dive bombers about 9:30 A.M.  January 29 came in at medium altitude from the west over the China Sea. The results of Lt. Irish's work was good. The center plane claimed and granted as a hit, confirmation being given through the 57th Infantry near Vegra Point (?) which found the wreckage. Later the battery obtained a small piece of the wing and a plate from the motor as souvenirs.
About the 23d of January the Engineers began work on the trail over Lilimbin Ridge. It was obvious that when the road was completed, the noise and dust of traffic would greatly hamper the battery. The battery commander made a reconnaissance of many positions by January 27th but selected the ridge just west of the Lilimbin position, about 100 yards away. Preparations were made to move at any time and dummy guns and instruments were constructed to be left behind. The new position was planned in detail and arrangements were made with the Pacific Naval Air Base Contractors to use their road machinery to open up several new roads.  It was while building one of these that the battery commander was injured the night of January 29th. Lt. Shoss continued to work admirably.
On February 6 the battery moved under the cover of dark and was ready to fire and did so the morning of the seventh.
On February 9th Cebu claimed and received credit for one dive bomber. Again on February 12 the battery engaged a flight of two dive bombers and received credit for downing them both. The Battery commander just out of the hospital witnessed the firing from Globe.
About February 10 the detachment from D 91st was recalled to Fort Mills despite the strenuous objections of Lt. Col. Breitung and Captain Gulick. The battery was operating alone without any AA machine gun support except its own. It had at that time four .50 cal. machine guns and dive bombers were becoming very prevalent if not actually attacking the position, yet bombing the vicinity. Personnel was not sufficient to man both guns and machine guns and apparently Harbor Defense naively believed that the men could hop from weapon to weapon. Brig. Gen. Marquart, however was able to order a Phil. Army platoon of 50 men to be attached. And while these men were untrained they could be and were used as replacements until broken in.
This Phil. Army platoon arrived February 13 and Lt. Krantz who had been handling the machine gun defense immediately undertook their training. Lt. Krantz, although an air corps pilot, had shown remarkable energy and ability in assuming anti-aircraft duties with the battery. 3rd Lt. Alejandro Hufana was in command of the Phil. Army platoon a part of Btry F 2d CA (PA). This same day too, Captain Gulick returned to the battery and received a very emotional and inimitably Filipino welcome from his men. Col. Wm Braly, HD S-3 inspecting the 2d Bn 60th CA on Bataan, witnessed the reception and expressed great praise for morale, position, and record of Cebu as a whole.
Visits and inspections from authorities higher than that of Bn Cmdr were all too few on Bataan. Lt. Col. E.L. Barr executive of the 60th CA, had visited Cebu at Lilimbin, February 2. He came over from Corregidor again on the 15th. Naturally such visible display of interest raised the spirits of the organizations in the field. It was to be regretted that so few field officers could find themselves able to do so. Lt. Col Barr, as a result of his visits, was able to procure certain supplies on Corregidor, vitally necessary for Cebu's functioning but incapable of any except person to person and on the spot explanation. Also except for the executive's action the batteries were inclined to feel that they were part of the 2d Bn rather than the 60th CA as a whole.
The Filipinos called the new position Tagumpay, or Victory Hill. As time went on Cebu was able to make quite an installation there. In addition to well-constructed, camouflaged trenches, pits, and fortification the battery began tunnels for the storage of ammunition, built a bamboo swimming pool and erected squad "bahays" against the rainy season.
In the meantime training of the new men progressed. An additional T2 Height Finder was put to use because the old one was showing the effects of damage sustained in the muzzle burst. Two more .50 cal. machine guns were emplaced and the crews were composed of the PA men. On February 28, Cubu was awarded claim for one dive bomber fired upon that that day. The directior was functioning well and its crew understood it thoroughly. During this period and up till March 24 enemy air activity was very slight1y, although no day went by without seeing a Japanese plane. No heavy bombers, however, were sighted or reported for some time.
On March 24 the final Japanese offensive began. It opened with the bombing of Corregidor for one week. From Tagumpay Hill Cebu could see day after day great plumes of dust and smoke rising from the island like distorted groves of bamboo in the distance. The batteries on Corregidor fired in the midst of rising and falling debris. The bombers, however, after losses, flew higher and higher. They soon bombed out of the range of the 21 sec fuze. Yet the 30 sec projectiles took heavy toll. Major General Moore visited Cebu during this period, probably March 27.
Soon the Japanese turned all their attention to Bataan. On March 30 a dive bomber attack of about 9 planes was directed against the Mariveles area. C 91st threw everything it had at them. Planes flew low over the battery scattering bombs and machine gunning. One diving on the "Dewey" drydock was claimed as a hit and later granted by Lt. Col. Breitung. Daily, however, hereafter heavy bombers and dive bombers delivered attacks on Mariveles, Little Baguio and the air fields. The constant thunder and explosion of heavy bombs on the the front lines could be heard. Cebu engaged these later for the heavy bombers were flying too high. The tempo of the attacks intensified. Again on April 6 there was a dive bomhing attack on Mariveles, this time by seaplanes. They flew very low and one was forced to the water just west of Cebu. The battery, claiming that it had done the damage so far, endevored to finish the job with shrapnel at horizontal fire. About two hours later the plane sank. Afterwards this plane was designated as a hit, by Lt. Col. Breitung. In this period also the Japanese began night bombing with small flights of one to two planes. These too, however, flew too high to be properly taken under fire by the battery.
Disquieting rumors began to filter back from the front as enemy attacks increased. The heavy and light bombing raids were more frequent and more severe. The hospitals at Little Baguio were hit. The dumps and installations around Marive1es were constant targets. Cebu, however, owing to its position on a knife-like ridge, suffered no casualties though fragments fell upon it from nearby bombs. The evening of April 7 Lt. Col. Breitung instructed Capt. Gulick to have the batteries standby as reserve reinforcements for the front but in the meantime to continue as AA.
Early in the afternoon of April 8th the Bn Cmder telephoned to say that he was going to attempt to establish a reserve line with the 60th troops at Little Baguio. Units from the PA had begun to drift down the road and news from the front was very bad. The 60th troops if necessary would be ordered up and would proceed in their own transportation. After that had been freed it would be sent back for C 91st. Towards evening Lt.Col. Brietung telephoned again to say that attempts to stem the tide of retreating troops was hopeless, the break through had become a rout. The Navy at Mariveles had been blowing its tunnels late that afternoon. There were sounds of distant disturbances but the immediate vicinity seemed ominously quiet- that is each noise that was made sounded excessive.
At 9 P.M. the Bn Cmdr telephoned again to announce that everything was off. No reserve line would be established, Hqs, E, &G batteries were to move to Corregidor by barge, withdrawal to the hills for the battalion as a whole was unfeasible, Cebu must destroy its guns by dawn. In the meantime every effort was to be made to locate the 37mm and 3" AA guns belonging to the 200th C.A. C 91st was to recieve and hold them until further orders.
Captain Gulick alerted the battery, explained the situation, and made preparations for destroying the equipment. About this time ammunition dumps began to detonate. The "Canopus" blew up in Mariveles Harbor settling in shallow water. The sky flashed oddly with explosions and the air resounded spasmodically with erratic trajectories of exploded particles. An earthquake, a natural one, of medium severity shook the ground for about ten minutes. An excited group of about seven men arrived with a truck load of tires. They belonged to the 200th C.A., and had escaped from Bataan Field when it was surrounded by the enemy at supper time.
Lt. Col. Breitung telephoned for the last time. He had no orders for Cebu except to destroy its equipment before dawn. Shells were falling around his C.P. He urged protection of the left flank where Japanese infantry were supposed to have penetrated. It was good luck and goodbye.
The battery commander placed two machine guns on his left flank and forward. Beyond this he organized patrols. Lt. Irish was sent to contact the Air Corps Group in the next valley so that a line might be established. About this time the ammunition dump at Little Baguio went off. The Navy at Mariveles blew their tunnels, it rained fragments. Lt. Irish reported back that the Air Corps Group intended to do nothing but that there was a barge at Mariveles reserved for the 60th. Major Massello had said that it Cebu were to represent itself as part of the 60th 2d Bn it might evacuate to Corregidor provided it was able to be at Mariveles within two hours. Captain Gulick decided to evacuate what he could and not delay the destruction of the equipment.
Lt. Balfonz was ordered to take the.5O cal machine guns and crews including the outposts to Mariveles immediately. Other men were to destroy equipment and be taken to the dock in relays, the battery having only three trucks altogether. Unfortunately two trucks were wrecked in the darkness and the third containing the machine guns and crews failed to return. The director and other instruments were smashed, the guns were fired minus oil with all parts removed. Lt. Pflager and Sgt. DeLeon set the small arms on fire, the 3" ammunition tunnels, ratinated with gasoline, exploded like gigantic cannon. Two kilometers away the big (?) depot raised their (?) upward. Tagumpy Hill itself was ablaze with burning trees and bahays. By 6 A.M. the battery, some 150 men had collected on the cut-off (?) awaiting for transportation. At length Lt. Irish made a trip in a passenger car and returned to say that the barge for Corregidor was about to pull out and could wait no longer. The trucks had been wrecked to block Mariveles airfield. The battery commander and his remaining officers and men then marched to Mariveles. Dawn was breaking, the sky was lightening and explosions still resounded.
At Mariveles no barge was visible, only a small launch working for the Engineer demolition squad. As Cebu turned wearily toward Cochinos Point all seemed over. Yet at the last minute Lt. Shoss prevailed upon the launch captain to tow an empty barge at anchor. Back came Cebu. An Engineer officer gave his permission to use the launch and barge, preferring an unhampered and speedier boat just arriving. The risk and responsibility he said were Captain Gulicks. At that time three dive bombers were in action beyond Cabcaben. The choice was obvious. Cebu and miscellaneous other troops made that last trip, anxiously watching the strafing enemy planes. Somehow the slow barge and its tug were ignored. All reached Corregidor in time for a bombing. Three men were lost in the evacuation it appeared when roll was called, but Cebu was ready to go though it again as an anti-aircraft battery.
Cebu had reached Corregidor with some 202 officers and men properly its own. From this time on its duties were seacoast and belong properly to its original regiment, the 91st CA (PS). From the beginning of the war until December it had been part of the Ft. Wint Garrison and while there accounted for two dive bombers. December 26-28 it had been with the 200th at Dinalupihan and had been (?) two heavy then. At Bataan Field whether under the 200th or the 60th it claimed one plane. Under the harbor defenses it added ten more to the score. The total planes downed and so confirmed was 15.

 

Captain John Gukick was Commanding Officer of Battery "C" of the 91st Coast Artillery (Philippine Scouts).  He was captured at Corregidor and survived the war. . 
 

 

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