"DENVER"
WAR HISTORY OF BATTERY "D" 60TH CA (AA)

by
Captain Paul R. Cornwall

 

 

Engulfed by the ravenous fangs of war striking fiercely in the  Far East after the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor, a comparatively small army of American and Philippine troops braced itself as well as possible for the inevitable blow.  In view of the size at the defending army, hardly a member of that force was to escape the realism of action. After the first explosion of war, not many days passed before the action encompassed the 60th CA (AA) of Corregidor.  This is the story of one of the units of that Regiment.

 

The Battery Histories which appear on this website are due to a long line of men,  many whose names will never be known.  These men, at the risk of their lives, wrote them from memory and created the original documents whilst incarcerated in Japanese POW Camps. They then concealed  the documents for the duration.   Not every battery history has survived the war, and their loss is part of the tragic story of Japanese indifference to human life in their custody.  

At the end of the line of these men who have preserved these histories, are George Munson and Al McGrew (himself a POW),  who have enabled us to put them into the public domain.

Battery D, 60th CA (AA), a 3” AA battery located at Kindley Field Corregidor (see sketches) found itself inexorably pushed into the Far Eastern fray. Astride the Kindley Field ridge, her guns defied the vultures of the rising sun.  This position allowed the battery excellent observation in its sector and command of the air defense of the east end of “The Rock.” Originally a plan to locate the battery near the Corregidor landing field had been contemplated, but this plan gave way in favor of the one which placed the organization on the ridge.  Superior observation from the ridge was the deciding factor. All of the installations of the battery were east of the water towers with the exception of the original kitchen and storerooms.  In supplement of the 3”guns, a platoon of L Battery  60th CA (AA) manned two machine guns (.50 cal) on the ridge. For added local protection the machine gun section of Battery D manned the four .30 cal machine guns indicated on the sketch. .

    In observing the sketch further the diagram of a tunnel will be noted.  Construction work on this tunnel began about March 20, 1942, under the able and assiduous supervision of Staff Sergeant “Tim” Fackler. Such a tunnel became a necessity for the protection of materiel, supplies, and personnel.  Many of the units in the vicinity used the tunnel as a dressing station for the wounded during the terrific artillery onslaught from Bataan.  Members of the 4th Marines on beach defense in the sector repeatedly expressed gratitude for having such a place available in which to care for their wounded until the arrival of an ambulance.  During intervals, when there was no necessity for having the entire battery at the equipment, individuals were allowed to seek shelter in the tunnel, but they remained subject to instantaneous call.

Most of the time, especially during the last days of the campaign, the situation excluded the use of the tunnel as a place of shelter for the troops. They were required near the materiel constantly; so a blanket and a pile of leaves often sufficed for a bunk.  If fortunate a man might have some sort of mask between himself and the enemy artillery. The entire five months were not like that; during the slack period during the later part of January and first part of February, a fervent program of shack building took place.  Salvaged lumber from demolished structures began to make its appearance at the position.  Soon a small village of shacks sprung from the plans and labor of the defenders of Kindley Field Ridge. These shacks were surprisingly comfortable and a credit to the builders. But war brings many good things to an end.  The heavy shelling in April plowed up the miniature castles.

So heavy and continuous was the shelling and bombing after the fall of Bataan that the personnel and materiel suffered greatly. The position astride the ridge, so propitious before the fall of Bataan, became an excellent target for the Nipponese artillery. The target was not neglected.  The never-ending shelling finally forced the higher command to order a new position prepared.  The work on this new position was in progress when the Japanese invaded Corregidor.   A complete description of this preparation will be covered later in this story. The point has now been reached to determine the sort of human being who found himself it the center of this hell.

He was not an imposing figure -- for the most part just a recruit off the April 1941 Republic.  He was a volunteer enlistment.  By mystical military gyrations he found himself a member of Battery D-60th CA (AA). Most of the battery was composed of soldiers just like him.  Upon the arrival of the recruits off the Republic, the 60th underwent an expansion and reorganization.  It became necessary to distribute the older soldiers over the new regiment in order to sake nucleuses for the new units being formed as well as the old.  D Battery lost many of her older soldiers to H Battery under this distribution.  For replacement D Battery received about 60% of its strength in recruits as did all the other batteries. Luckily for D Battery, a capable veteran, First Sergeant Dewey Brady, remained to propel the new men thru the rigors of their recruit training. Hardly enough can be written in praise of the untiring efforts of Sgt. Brady in molding the men under him into soldiers.

When the Republic unloaded her troops,  the 60th found herself with a preponderance of recruits and a training problem of acute proportion. How the regiment leaped from the infant stage to the efficient fighting unit it became is a study in hard work, tenacity, and perseverance. The panegyric in this endeavor belongs to Col. Barr, Executive Officer of the 60th. who was responsible for the planning and execution of the recruit training.  The excellent results of the regiment during the war reflects the success of the training program.  Regretfully, many of the efforts of Col. Barr met unnecessary adversities of a personal nature, but in overcoming these obstacles he proved himself the more capable.

In Battery D the training of the recruits encompassed every old soldier in the organization.  The battery officers were young and inexperienced but with the inimitable Sgt. Brady to depend upon, an organization of loose ends became a smooth working unit.  Young soldiers sweated at Ordnance Point--drilling, marching, working, learning always with the ebullient rancor only recruits know. Then, at last, a better life - ephemeral as it was.  Topside Barracks,  the Post Exchange,  Spif bars, movies -- but never a cessation of training;  night marches, gun drills, director drills, height finder training, night drills.  The heat was on and necessarily so.   Now the height finder section was able to start an extensive program. As is so familiar to the A-A soldier,  the training of this unit became a lengthy and tedious process. The observers may be the best in the world but without constant practice their ability is to no avai1 because of lack at coordination of their physical actions. Under the able supervision of Sgt. Sullivan Battery D's height finder crew developed into the excellent section it proved itself to be during the war.

Results during wartime is the final and absolute gauge of any military unit. D Battery is proud to be measured by such a gage. Conditions during the war permitted no let up.  All men were 24 hr. soldiers.  There is no relaxation when the enemy is at the front door and there is no back door. The daylight bring bombers to be shot from the skies -- the dark of night brings intermittent raiders. Tomorrow a repetition. Only those actually on Corregidor can know the strain on men and materiel as the 60th wrote its fame in the skies for the whole world to read.

The performance of A.A. materiel brings back pleasant memories. While none of the materiel was impervious to the bombs and shells, the durability of the A.A. equipment on the rock was beyond all expectations. Unless actually hit by the enemy, the materiel gave very little trouble. This was especially true in D Battery --which was equipped with standard materiel; M4 director #177, M-1 height finder #71, four 3” AA Gun M-3 on M2A2 mounts, two M-4 power plants with M-4 data transmission junction box and cables system, and such other minor equipment as was necessary to fire the battery. The organization was also supplied with 3” AA Mk II shell-MK III Schovil (Powder Train) fuzed ammunition.  This ammunition presented a serious handicap due to its limitations. This will be discussed later.  Continuing with the materiel, D Battery itself  manned four .30 cal. AA MG for local security and the position was supplemented by a platoon from L. Co 60th CA (AA) which manned two .50 cal,  AA MGs.

 

 

The immediate air warn system consisted of lookout stations located at several points:  One at each gun, one at the director, one at the height finder, one at an observation tower, and one on top of the water tower.  A telephone system connected all these observation points.  Upon detection of a plane by any of the observers, the height finder and director observers were immediately notified.  The observer on top of the water tower blew a whistle to alert the battery--every man racing to his battle position.  The battery commander, executive, and range officer stationed themselves at the director.  The 1st Sgt., Brady was in direct command of the guns and was atop the water tower. As soon as a target had been located, the aw observer seeing it gave its direction and approximate altitude over the telephone.  The director and height finder went into action attempting to pick the target up and start tracking.  As soon as both were on target and data smooth, the range officer notified Sgt. Brady who commanded the guns to “stand by.”  The guns crews have been matching pointers and are ready to load when the command comes. As the target cores in' range, the range officer signals Sgt. Brady who then commands “Commence Firing!” By regimental order each gun was arbitrarily limited to six rounds per gun so it was unnecessary to give any command to cease firing except when it became immediately evident that the firing was to no avail.  In such a case a whistle signal was used.  It should be noted that in this system a great deal of dependence was placed upon the 1st Sgt. as he was given the actual prerogative of firing the battery. This may appear to be an unusual delegation of command but considering the experience, character, and intelligence of Sgt. Brady, the confidence placed in him was not a mistake. There is an exception.  Such a set up left the battery open to dire consequences in the case of Brady becoming a casualty.

The burden of administration also fell upon the First Sergeant. Regimental headquarters handled the bulk of the paper work but the supervision of the battery in the field was practically in the hinds of Sgt. Brady. Even a great deal of the mess problem fell in his lap early in the war when the mess sergeant broke his leg.  The Mess problem was acute and most important.  Besides the actual members of D Battery the organization fed 8 men from L Battery and a varying number of Air Corps officers who were attached for rations.  Shortly after the fall of Manila, D Battery was able to salvage four truck loads of food from a half sunken barge which had been towed from Manila to Corregidor and grounded near the battery position.  On or about April 24 the kitchen which had been located near the “Love Nest” was blown up by a bomb.  It became necessary to move the kitchen as indicated on the sketch.  This latter kitchen remained until the last night.  In reviewing the mess situation it would be unworthy to omit the splendid and loyal work of the Filipino helpers in the mess. These boys worked assiduously and undaunted to the vary end.  Their morale reflected the attitude of the entire mess crew.

In fact, although the 60th CA (AA) was an organization made up chiefly of men with less than a years service, the morale of D Battery as well as the rest of the 60th CA (AA) was exemplary throughout the campaign. Regretfully, upon the death of Sgt. Brady during the last part of April the battery received a severe shock. The key man was dead and no one of equivalent force remained in the battery to keep the loose ends together.  As a result of this unfortunate death, it became necessary to make a change In the battery to prevent a loss of morale.  Capt. Cornwall was transferred to D Battery from C Battery to take over as battery commander in an effort to stabilize the organization.  This transfer was sufficient to settle the battery; so that the Japanese invasion found D Battery a staunch foe.  Except for the few dismal days which followed the loss of Sgt. Brady Can the efficiency of the battery be questioned.  D Battery was definitely in the war from beginning to end.

The beginning had been anticipated. Over a week before the outbreak of war the entire regiment moved into the field on a wartime basis. Orders were issued to fire on any plane not identified as friendly.  In pursuance of such orders D Battery moved bag and baggage to a permanent position at Kindley Field near the water towers there. Prior to this move preparations were carried on to get the position in this vicinity ready for occupation.  Such preparation continued until completed; fortification, maintenance and improvement continued during the war. The bombing of Hawaii made war a stark reality, but the morning of Dec. 9th made the fact more poignant.  Around 3 AM several flights of planes flew near Corregidor and on to Cavite and Nichols Field where they dropped their bombs. Upon approach of the planes the battery was alerted but the enemy kept well out of range.

Dec. 10th afforded more visual evidence of the enemy.  25 Japanese bombers flying west over Bataan after having dropped their sticks on Cavite and Manila presented a fine sight for the AA artillerymen, but unfortunately the flight did not come in range of any guns. Battery D opened fire but this was ineffective for the reason mentioned above. This was the first time that many of the men had been present when an AA 3” gun fired.  Naturally all the men were green, but the firing was no less than remarkable in view of their inexperience. This flight served as a training medium, as also did the one of Dec. 13th. This time a flight of 17 planes returning from Manila and Cavite did not take the precaution to avoid Corregidor. Coming out of the clouds over the tail of the Island and flying directly in prolongation of Corregidor,  the flight looked for all the world like the real thing. This time the Rock expected bombs for sure, but this experience was to come another day as these bombers had already dropped their loads. But a mistake they had made. With nothing to gain they were in range.  Brain, brawn, and hot steel went into action as the 3” barked and bit. The air bristled with shell fragments.  Mr. Nippon suddenly realized his mistake.  The formation split.  Eight planes flew in the direction of Batangas while the other nine headed towards Bataan.  This later group split up again into groups of threes. Later reports alleged that several of these planes had crashed. This incident gave Japan a poignant lesson. Not until Dec. 25 did the Nipponese venture in range of Corregidor again.

The two firings just mentioned provided the teething-rIng for D Battery. Many a strong tooth was cut on those two flights--teeth that were to gnash and tear through the Japanese air force.  The Republic recruits became full fledged anti-aircraft soldiers. Those callowed youngsters had become men overnight. Japan had provided unintentionally a training schedule far batter than any target practice.  Director men, height finder men,  gun crews,  trackers, officers--all became one machine, smooth and deadly in its effect.

Christmas afternoon brought a present flown in.  Nine planes flew over Monkey Point. D flattery opened fire without visible result.  The planes proceeded to Mariveles Harbor, bombing several objectives.  One bomb hit a Free French ship which immediately flared into flames.  For 59 hours the blaze from this burning ship flashed across the channel as the craft slowly submerged to its grave.  Those kids who were used to fireworks on Christmas day went to bed with a display carved in their memories. They had just finished their Christmas dinner in the field when the alert sounded for the nine planes.  But Christmas day was merely a prelude to the fireworks to follow.

December 29!  A beautiful tropical morning drifted away without a ripple of dissonance.  Then “Flash, flash, Corregidor.”   In a few minutes the skies seemed black with swarms of planes. From all directions they came.  From all directions they came. First the bombers at approximately 4300 yds. altitude, but very rapidly the Japanese realized such an altitude was suicide.  When the second flight came over the altitude was approximately 6800 yds. The altitudes gradually increased with each flight over.  One group of light barbers attempted a dive bombing and strafing attack, but this was a one and only trip. The sheet at lead thrown up discouraged any more such tricks. For 2 1/2 hours Corregidor suffered from aerial bombs and for 2 hours  the 60th blazed away successfully at the Japs. After firing on four flights of bombers D Battery went out of action temporarily. A stick of bombs had cut the cable between the power plant and the junction box.  Sgt.  Brady jumped from his position, gathered a crew and replaced the cable.  By this time the skies were obscured from the battery by heavy black smoke pouring front a near by gasoline storage tank.  This tank had been hit by the same stick which had severed our cable. Bombs continued to fall in the vicinity of the battery.  Bomb fragments put one gun out of action and injured four of the crew. The smoke cleared.  D Battery on target again.  Three more flights came over and D Battery fired on each with devastating results to the enemy. As soon as the sky cleared, work started immediately to restore the position and put all equipment in order.  All night long shifts worked, and at 9:00AM the next morning the battery was able to report it was ready for action with Nippon.

But Mr. Nippon was not ready for action. The rising sun stayed behind the clouds for several days. Not until Jan. 2 did Corregidor have another raid.  From the 2nd thru the 6th visits by the Japanese air force became a daily occurrence.  It is believed that these raids originated at Formosa as they arrived around noon-time.  Now the altitude had increased.  Now the Japs flew from 7200 to 8500 yds altitude--far too high for D Battery to reach on many occasions. Our altitude was definitely limited by the powder train fuzes. Some of the most regrettable moments during the war were the times when we could only watch the bombers pass and drop their loads--because the planes were out of fuze range. When the planes did come in range, the rising sun went into eclipse.  Many bombs hit Corregidor during this period, but surprisingly little damage was done to military objectives.  The60th made the cost too heavy for the enemy. Not until the 14th of Jan. did the enemy return.  One night flight flew over the Rock. The bombs did little damage but the Japanese planes suffered very badly as a result of the AA. The Japs lost heavily during these Jan. raids while the damage done to the Harbor Defenses was slight.  In view of the diminishing returns for the enemy, Corregidor did not experience another air raid until March 24,1942.  Japan could not afford to lose so many planes and obtain so little.

The excellent work of the A.A. Regiment had driven the enemy away, and Corregidor remained untouched for days. Feb. 5 quiet reigned.  Not even then did the planes return.  A new threat had arisen.  Guns from Cavite shore threw shells at Corregidor. During the lull prior to this shelling the men were busy improving the position and constructing wooden shacks for shelter.  From the time of Cavite shelling began D Battery was harassed intermittently. Cables were cut no less than four times and the water lines were repaired at least 3 times. The water problem was a constant source of concern.  Pipes were blown to pieces frequently by the shells and bombs. When these pipes were cut it became necessary to haul water from different parts of the island by truck; precarious trips at best.

On March 24, 1942, the Japanese started a drive which was to seal the fate of the Philippine forces. That morning 60 odd Japanese planes raided the Rock. D Battery’s guns took a heavy toll on the enemy: however, it was quite noticeable that the tactics of the enemy were greatly improved. By maneuvering the planes avoided a great deal of fire. The altitudes had increased again– this time many of the flights were around 9300 yards. These high altitudes handicapped all the batteries, especially those with powder train fuzes. Bombings were daily once more. On March 25 the No. 4 gun was put out of action and five men were injured but none died. The gun was repaired that night and the battery was ready for action prior to midnight.

Probably the most spectacular event took place in the late afternoon of March 30. Two bombers flying high and towards the north flew directly over Corregidor. Several of the gun batteries opened fire as soon as the planes were in range. The bursts appeared directly on the flight. A few seconds passed. Then both planes began to smoke badly. Suddenly one burst into flame, falling like a meteor from the sky. Twisting ball of fire, it fell with a splash in the North Channel. Hardly a trace remained. There were no survivors. All in seconds a scene superior to any of Hollywood’s best flashed by to be obscured in the channel. The other plane was losing altitude fast when it disappeared out of sight.

The next day an enemy bomb landed directly on the mess store room, but fortunately the loss was slight.

Air raids occurred every day nearly to the end of the campaign. The batteries equipped with mechanical fuzes had to bear most of the burden as the altitudes were so high.  Shells continued to arrive from the Cavite guns, but Corregidor was not to know what shelling meant until the fall of Bataan on April 8.

The night of the Bataan breakthrough all of D Battery stared at a spectacular but ominous display of fireworks as the ordnance magazines near little Baguio were destroyed by our troops. Flares of several different colors filled the skies while the flames flooded the vicinity. Making dark shadows, boats played between Bataan and Corregidor. The early morning witnessed all sorts of craft evacuating troops from Bataan to the Rock. The enemy stood at our front door. As soon as Bataan had surrendered, the heavy guns on Bataan started raining their hardware on the Rock. Shell after shell tore at the Harbor Defenses. D Battery along with the other installations experienced a terrific onslaught of artillery. Planes flew higher and dropped more bombs. Still the Battery fought viciously.

During the month of April the Japanese continued to shell and bomb our position. Many times D Battery was unable to fire due to high altitudes, but when it was possible the battery was in action. It was during this period that most of the casualties occurred. On April 13 a shell killed Lt. Levagood and Pvt. Jensen. Then on the 19th Pvt. Bingham was killed. On the 24th D Battery received a terrible blow when Sgt. Brady was killed by the shelling from Bataan. Cpl. Rogers was also killed on this date. On the following day Pvt. Morris also died as a result of the shelling.  After the loss of Sgt. Brady, D Battery was never the same. Even though the outfit was fighting until the last, a spark had died.  

On May  1, 1942 1 took over command of Battery D-6Oth CA (AA), relieving Capt. Guyton.  My orders from the Battalion Commander, Col. Breitung was to prepare a new position of the side of Kindley Field ridge away from the Bataan artillery fire of the Japanese. Authority had been granted for the removal of only two guns from the ridge--the plan as I understood it was to leave two guns on the ridge for beach defense and remove two guns in order to place them in a battery protected position for AA defense.  The director and height finder and other installations were not to be removed until ordered by Regimental Hqs.

At the time I took over command of the battery, the morale of the battery was very poor due to casualties sustained and heavy artillery fire registered on the battery position.  It became necessary to practically reorganize the battery by appointing a temporary 1st Sgt. and impressing on the section leaders and other noncommissioned officers their duties and obligations.

The period May 1-5 was one of continual enemy shelling from Bataan. Battery D's position was hardly ever free from shelling during the entire period, however, work on the new position progressed.  The two guns positions (also new director and height finder positions) were completed and the guns were to be emplaced on the night of the fifth.  Cable trenches from the old height finder and director positions had been prepared earlier, but had become useless due to the fact that on the night of May 2 the height finder was badly damaged by enemy shellfire and on May 4 the director was totally destroyed by a direct hit from 240 mm shell.  Upon loss of these fire control instruments, the battalion commander instructed that the emplacement of the two AA guns continue. They were to be fired at planes regardless of the fact that the battery had no fire control. Work was carried on with this in view.

On the night of May 5, a severe bombardment of the battery's position started about 7:00 PM. The members of the battery were ordered to take cover.  The battery remained under cover until shelling lifted around 10:30PM.  In the mean time all communications had been shelled out. Shortly thereafter a truck passed by on its way to Malinta Tunnel.  The occupants notified us that a landing had been made by the Japanese.  At the same time Japanese MG fire was heard in the vicinity of Kindley Field water towers. The members of D Battery obtained arms and ammunition as rapidly as possible and formed a defensive line from Ordnance Point to the Marine position on the Bataan side of the Wilson Park Ridge.

No contact with the troops on the right or left was made; however, then were several members of the Marine Corps present in the vicinity of the peacetime Hqs of the 92nd CA.  It was decided that an effort be made to clear the water tower of the MG.  Lt. Perkins and Pfc. Cisneros carried hand grenades forward and actually succeeded in clearing the ridge and silencing the enemy MG nest.  Sporadic firing from our line continued until dawn.  During the night our own troops began to withdraw towards Malinta Tunnel.  There seemed to be no coordination of units in the area at all and no reinforcements nor support from the rear.  In the early hours of the morning many members of D Battery became intermingled with other units withdrawing towards Malinta Tunnel.  By 7:00 AM most of the Battery had taken cover in the tunnel.

Signed PRC

 

 

 CD Version 26-10-10  BACK TO TOP

 

 

 

Postwar comments:  The word “Republic” refers to the ship the recruits came to Manila on.

In rereading the end of this account, it dwindles into nothing.  I guess when I wrote it I was unable to write the true events.  Our last night was a total rout* of our troops on the ent of the island.  I lost contact with the Marines, other troops, and any higher command.  Around midnight I told my people (those I could find) that they were on their own and “get to Malinta as soon as possible.”

 

*Rout from fear; we had seen no Japanese troops.

 

Derivation:       Col. Cornwall's comments on the document explain its origin.  “This was written in Prison Camp (Cabanatuan) about May 1944, I think.  Members of Battery D in Prison supplied most of the facts.  It was written at the suggestion of Capt. Ames.”  After composition, this and other Battery histories were buried at Cabanatuan and retrieved after the war.  The original, in the possession of Col. Cornwall,  was loaned to the undersigned, who transcribed this copy in January 1983 while assigned to the Department of History, United States Military Academy.

 

I certify that this is a true copy of the original document

                             /sgd/

Charles E. Kirkpatrick, MAJ,
AD4 Assistant Professor

 

 

Commentary: Cornwall’s charge that the men were fearful describes most on the Rock. The men of "D" Btry were leaderless after Dewey Brady was killed, and "D" was like a ship without a helm. Paul Cornwall was sent down there hold things together, but it was Brady that had held things together, and Cornwall wasn't up to it.  Cornwall fails to mention that he failed in getting the men organized after Dewey Brady was killed. From the info I received from friends in "D", I hardly think they were routed. What they lacked was leadership! Cornwall furnished none of that.  He fails to mention that Ben Guyton, the Btry Cmdr., disappeared to the tunnel and was not seen again. (I am not sure why, but have heard he cracked.) What effect did that have on the men? The location of Denver was enough to unnerve a stone statue. Cornwall has never impressed me. Paul Cornwall was a close friend of Karol Ames for many years after we returned. Karol thought he was a prince. Perhaps he was, but a leader he wasn't.  He did not perform well at Denver and it was all downhill from there.

 

 see also on this topic:        MASSELLO   |     BATTERY CONTROL