Battery“M” 60th coast artillery (a.a.)
by Lt. Col. E. L. BARR
"This is our distinctive insignia of the 60th Artillery Regiment. The 60th had been organised 23 December 1917, and the motto "COELIS IMPERAMUS" means 'We Rule the Heavens.' I wore this badge on my campaign hat throughout the war, through the prison camps, the work details at Pasay, through the hell-ship ordeal, right through my time in Japan - until some bastard stole it off me whilst I was in Okinawa on my way home from Japan. "
This image is faked. The real flag was lowered and destroyed. See Article
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.
The first chapter in the war history of Battery M had already been written in the action in Manila and in the evacuation to Bataan, action for which the battery was later cited and had already achieved the honor of being the first battery in the regiment to see action when it shot down four enemy planes, when it was deemed necessary to return the organization to Corregidor where the remainder of the regiment was located.
The mission of the Battery on Corregidor was to safeguard the landing field against attack by low flying enemy plane, or by paratroops and to assist the beach defense units with its firepower where possible.
The battery took up positions previously used as peacetime alert positions. The first platoon was emplaced on Malinta Hill with one section at the very top above the searchlight tunnel and the other section at a lower level facing south in an old field gun emplacement. The second platoon occupied the ridge running north and south along the west end of the landing field. The third platoon was emplaced on a low narrow ridge along the south side of the east half of the field.
On January 19, l942, by regimental order, the battery commander Capt. Harold B. Wright and the executive officer 1st Lt. R. W. R. were transferred out of the battery and were replaced by Capt. James R. Holmes and 1st Lt. Thomas H. Hackett. 1st Lt. Stanley O. Friedline remained with the organization.
The battery headquarters temporarily located in a grove of trees just east of a group of navy quarters near the south west corner of the field was moved, together with the mess to an ideal spot just north of the center of the field in a heavy wooded area. There a model kitchen and mess hall was set up under heavy natural camouflage.
The kitchen was screened in, fly proof grease traps and sumps built, a handy concrete mess kit washer constructed, and a loading platform set up along the road. Every effort to enforce sanitation discipline was put forth, for not only the health of the battery personnel alone was concerned, but the mess was feeding men on small detachments from no less than twelve organizations, most of whom were on Malinta Hill.
Tables were set up irregularly in the wood giving a rather cheery atmosphere despite the ever present reminder of foxholes dug nearby to shelter the men should a surprise air raid occur during a meal.
The kitchen supplies were placed in a pyramidal tent near the kitchen which also served as quarters for the mess Sgt. The cooks built small bahays for themselves near the kitchen and the Filipino K. P.s built their barrio nearby.
The battery office was located in a tent west of the kitchen. The supply tent was south of the office and the armament tent a little further south.
Water was hauled to the battery position from the distribution point at the west entrance of Malinta' Tunnel in a 1500 gallon water trailer constructed from the tank of an old water sprinkler and the frame and wheels of an old rolling kitchen. A limited storage in powder cans at the kitchen held a reserve for emergency.
The preparation of drinking water presented quite a problem. The medical dept did not leave sufficient chlorination capsules to issue for the purification of water. In order to insure an adequate supply of potable drinking water it was to boil three oil drums full per day. Another set of drums had to be provided in which to cool the water, and another set of cans to store and distribute the cooled water. The cooling took from twelve to fourteen hours if no ice was used. The ice issue was normally so small that not much could be used to cool water. It was not until about the middle of March when bombings ruined most of our containers that water chlorination was begun using HTH. This method, recommended by the medical department proved entirely satisfactory and much more convenient.
During the evacuation of Manila the battery was lucky to get a truck load of canned foods that made a welcome supplement to the half ration we were issued since shortly after the beginning of the war. It was also fortunate to have salvaged a quantity of dried apricots, peaches, pears, and raisins and a small amount of chocolate from barges that had drifted ashore after having been partially burned in bombings.
A motorcycle with side car, a small air corps tractor and a Bantam automobile also brought from Manila were a handy addition to the one ton and a half Chevrolet truck which was assigned to the organization. The motorcycle was used at Malinta Hill for errands and the bantam and tractor by the Battery Headquarters.
A Navy 1.1 inch pompom gun originally intended for the U.S.S. Houston was installed on Malinta Hill about the latter part of January was assigned to Battery M. The heavy gun was brought up the hill under the direction of Maj. Crawford, the Bn C.O. who also solved the problem of installing the water cooling unit. Four men attached from other batteries in the third battalion helped make up the twelve man detail required to man it. Gunner Otto of the navy instructed the detail in the service of the piece. The work of sandbagging and camouflage was capably handled by Lt. Friedline who was placed in charge of the gun.
During the first part of February the battery was engaged in improving the gun pits. Most of the pits had been lined with sandbags. Many of the bags were tearing and rotting. Corrugated iron roofing salvaged from the bombed buildings solved the problem nicely. Emphasis was also placed on camouflage maintenance. All positions were well camouflaged and camouflage discipline was strictly enforced. Several dummy positions were built around the field and equipped with wooden machine guns.
At the same time living accommodations were improved at each position. Fairly comfortable squadromes and an open kitchen where food could be warmed up and served after having been hauled up the hill were built on the lower section level at Malinta Hill. On "off" leaves men could listen to the radio, play cards or read in comfort. The second platoon at the west end of the field had the peacetime alert camp area in a good grove of trees. The pyramidal tents had wooden floors and were very comfortable for the six to eight men assigned to each tent. The recreation tent had a number of easy chairs, a good radio and books lent by the library. Good showers and latrines completed the facilities there. The third platoon had bahays scattered along under the trees at the south east end or the field.
Since the battery positions were so located to be able to aid the beach defense organizations in the advent of a landing attack, conferences were held with the Marine Officers in charge of the beach Defense in that sector. A mutual understanding of each others set up and problems in as much as they concerned us was made. The main points concerned are areas of fire on the water area and routes to be taken in evacuating wounded and routes to be used by messengers and supply details.
A rather quiet period prevailed since enemy bombing operations against Corregidor ceased on January 5th with practically no air raids to interfere with improvement work. A system of allowing one man from each machine gun section to be absent from his position each day from breakfast to supper for the purpose of visiting around "the rock" was begun. It broke the monotony and improved the morale. All men were required to carry their gas masks and rifles whenever they were away from their positions. During this same period groups of men were allowed to go to the beaches in the evening for a short bath or swim. Later, however, this practice was stopped because it interfered with beach defense units.
During the first few months of the war, a news sheet with world, local and personal news was typed out daily by the 1st Sgt. and the battery clerk and posted on the bulletin board for the information and entertainment of all concerned.
World news broadcasts were followed each evening by the several battery radios. A synopsis was given to each section over the telephone net for the benefit of the sections without radios. This practice of letting the men know what was really going on helped to suppress the wild rumors that the American soldier is prone to circulate. We followed the campaigns in Malaya, Singapore, Java, Sumatra and Burma. Each enemy success was a great disappointment for we were certain that the allied might could be mustered somewhere to stop the Japanese tide. We never doubted our ability to hold out until "the convoy" would arrive. That great faith of our country doing the impossible never ever faltered.
There was no qualified barber in the battery and the regular Filipino barber had left the battery when it was in Manila. A Filipino from nearby Battery Keyes consented to act as our barber during his spare time. He charged a very small fee and did good work.
There was a little trouble with men stealing from each other. The thieves were pretty well known by most of the men, however, and the problem was solved by transferring one of the men in the group to another battery and by separating the other men within the battery. Very little stealing occurred thereafter. Several articles were lost from sections in the third platoon but monkeys were discovered to be the culprits.
A supply of razor blades, soap, tooth brushes and other toilet articles which would soon be scarce was purchased from the post exchange by the Battery Fund and resold to the men. The weekly Commissary allowance of tobacco, cigarettes, soap and other supplies was also purchased through the Battery Fund and charged against the next pay day. The tobacco and cigarette supply until the fall of Corregidor was ample.
The ration was enough to give two good meals per day. A good breakfast and supper were always served. At noon a soup made from beef stock and vegetables served to alleviate the hungry feelings.
Breakfasts usually consisted of hotcakes or French toast with jam or syrup and bacon, or a generous serving of cracked wheat with condensed milk. A cup of good coffee completed the meal. Our mess sergeant almost performed miracles in conjuring up various means of serving the same foods. Occasionally he even brought out a change in the breakfast.
Supper was very much like the peace time supper without the frills. Good nourishing meat, bread, vegetables and a dessert were the rule up almost until the "Fall".
By the end of February the extra stock of food was gone. There was enough to maintain health but not enough to give one the "comfortably full" feeling of peace time messes. It became necessary to use rice more and more in the ration for bulk as time went on but there were always enough other foods to flour the rice so that it was always tasty. Sugar and canned fruit were beginning to get scarce. Because of the food situation heavy work was kept to a minimum as far as possible but the men were kept busy doing some work which kept them from the idleness of standing by in their gun pits all day. This policy also helped to alleviate the craving to eat between meals that accompanies idleness.
During the early days of the war we were extremely fortunate that our Quartermaster brought a large supply of cracked wheat that was originally consigned to China by the Red Cross. The health of the troops on Corregidor was undoubtedly kept a high level even during the period of short rations by the high nutritive value of the wheat. It made a delicious breakfast food and when added to the field bread, made loaves that were as nourishing as they were tasty. This supply of cracked wheat lasted until Corregidor fell.
One morning in the early part of February the quiet of our inactivity was broken by the report of guns on the Cavite shore and the whine of shells.
The first shells landed in the dock area about one mile west of us. Later that same day the same batteries, apparently registering on landmarks in our area, put some shells within our second platoon camp area. About five shells landed in the area. They caused little damage however. A few holes in the day room tent and scars in the furniture by shell fragments were our only damage. We figured they were about l05mm shells from the size of the fragments and nose fuzes.
During the lull from January to March 24th the men were given permission to fire the .22 cal. rifle at targets set up in the vicinity of the third platoon. Thousands of rounds of .72 cal. ammunition were on hand for training purposes. The men enjoyed the sport and competition was keen. It was fortunate that we had this training for the greater percent of the men had not fired their cal. .30 rifles except for the ten rounds required prior to going on guard duty. A large amount of cal. .50 ammunitions brought from Cavite before it was occupied was delivered to the organization during February and March. A large amount of armor piercing ammunition enabled us to belt it in the ratio of two ball, two armor piercing and one tracer. This large ratio of AP was to come in handy later in firing against landing barges.
During March a Company of 803rd U. S. Engineers arrived on the landing field to enlarge and improve the field. Their extension on the north east end destroyed our dummy positions and their westward extension cut through the ridge making it necessary to move one gun pit. The gun pit was rebuilt about ten feet to the south when a later survey made it necessary to move that pit entirely. It was placed at about the center of the south side of the field just west of the gun pits of a section in the second platoon.
Enemy batteries on Cavite shelled Forts Fraile and Drum almost daily during March. We would go up into the nearby navy signal tower and watched the artillery duel. The shelling of Ft. Drum was very inaccurate. Only one shell out of every three or four would land on the Fort. Some of the splashes were several hundred yards over or short. Our big guns would return the fire causing great clouds of smoke and dust where the large shells landed.
One day the enemy batteries opened fire on the boats anchored in Caballo Bay just south of Kindley Field. The crews of most of the boats were ashore. Enemy fire was concentrated on one of the navy river gunboats, the "Oahu". The shelling continued for half an hour with the shells landing way over or way short. All of the other boats got up steam and sailed around Hooker Point to shelter north of Corregidor. Finally, a crew went aboard the "Oahu", got up steam, and sailed away. On all, sixty rounds were fired very leisurely from three guns and only one hit was scored, on the last round when the gunboat finally got underway.
Just after dawn about a week later we noticed two boats- about the size of small harbor launches coming toward Corregidor. They came in slowly and on sinuous courses. As they approached within about five thousand yards of the east end of the island our gun opened fire on them. First the 3 inch rapid fire battery at Ft. Hughes opened up, then one battery of 155s on Corregidor, then one 155 gun on Ft. Hughes. The fire from Ft. Hughes was extremely poor and none of the shells came near the target. Our own battery on Corregidor did little better until the boats were almost out of range when there were several near misses. The boats escaped by zig-zagging across one another and throwing out a large amount of smoke from their stacks. Apparently their mission was to feel out our gun positions at the east end of the islands.
A shot fired by one of our anti sabotage guards awakened the sleeping camp one night shortly after midnight. The guard heard a rustling in the brush near one of the gun pits and fired when the intruder failed to reply to his challenge. A thorough search failed to reveal a prowler but we believed that one of the small deer that lived in our area caused the commotion.
A few nights later Pfc. N accidentally shot himself through his leg about half way between the knee and the ankle while he was on anti-sabotage guard. A Navy medical corpsman heard the shot and arrived shortly after we did and applied first aid. He was removed to the hospital within an hour. The delay was caused by an inexperienced ambulance driver not knowing his way about the "rock".
March 24th ushered in another period of bombings. On that day we were fairly heavily hit. A flight of 27 planes passed directly over the field from east to west. They covered practically our whole area. Many of the bombs landed in the wooded area north of the field causing great damage to the 803rd Engineer camp. Our kitchen was damaged badly. The kitchen tent was partially knocked down and the screening ruined. The stoves, pots and pans, lyster bags, food storage cans, canned-goods, tables, and chairs were filled with holes. Many of the large trees in the area were broken. The fox holes saved the lives of the mess personnel even though some of the bombs fell within twenty five feet of them.
Another bomb exploded near the battery office injuring the 1st Sgt. The battery clerk broke his ankle when he jumped into a fox hole that was near the office. Many holes were put through that tent and the supply tent and many smal1 fires were started in the dry woods. The fox holes again proved their worth in saving personnel from injury. The fires were quickly extinguished. The same bombs filled the bantam and the air corps tractor full of holes ending their useful life. The water trailer received a few holes but fortunately it was easily repaired.
Incidentally a gelatin fruit dessert that was cooling in the kitchen was ruined. The fruit in the dessert represented the serving of canned fruit for a couple of weeks and it was the pride of the mess Sgt.
On the south side of the field bombs fell very near the gun pits but there were no direct hits. One gun crew was a bit shaken up when one landed on the very edge of the pit. There were five near misses in this platoon, most of the bombs having gone over the cliff a few feet to the south. Lt. H was badly shaken up and had to be sent to the hospital.
There were also some near misses on the platoon at the west end of the field. One man was injured by a rock falling from a bomb crater. He was lying right next to the battery commander in a gun pit when he was hit and had to be hospitalized. A few of the tents were burned by fires started by these bombs. Some of the communication lines were burned out. Two latrines were destroyed by direct hits. Several fires were started by direct hits. Several fires were started in dry cogon grass in the north west corner of the field which threatened to burn toward the headquarters area. Many of our own air corps bombs were stored in the grass there. A volunteer crew from the third platoon put out the most threatening fires. During a rest a pile of bombs exploded throwing most of the fire fighters to the ground. No one was injured, however, and the fires were eventually extinguished.
Our casualties were one officer injured, the first Sgt. injured and about five men slightly injured. All of the men were back on duty within a week.
The 803rd Engineers had several men killed and many were injured. They also lost much of their heavy equipment which was being used in the landing field just before the bombing.
The morale was still high after that experience and most of the damage was soon repaired. The post Quartermaster was most helpful, having two days food supply delivered to the kitchen within an hour of the request. It was a type of food that could be prepared easily. New utensils for the kitchen and new clothing and equipment was drawn from the Q.M.
Our Bn CO arrived at our position right after the raid and inspected the damage. He was also most helpful in restoring things to normal.
Enemy shelling of the fortified islands increased during the latter part of March and on into April. We often watched the shelling from the navy tower and tried to locate the enemy batteries among. the hills and ravines on the Cavite shore. We also watched the increased aerial bombing of the Bataan rear area from Mariveles to Cabcaben. Great clouds of dust would rise from the airfields as bombs hit but within a few minutes we would get a report over the flash net that a friendly plane would take the air. We would watch the fields and in a few minutes a long trail of dust would rise where a plane was taking off.
We continued work on the tunnel at the west end of the field and finally drove it through the ridge. The inside was enlarged to about six feet high and five feet wide. It was timbered about two thirds of the forty odd feet with railroad ties. At its highest point there was about thirty feet of cover. It was planned to drive a lateral which would serve as a switch-board room and a storage room for valuable unreplaceable equipment.
Several of the water distribution points had been bombed out so it became necessary to go all the way to Middleside or Topside to get the tank trailer filled. It was a ticklish job getting water because many of the roads were impassable due to bomb craters or were under shell fire from Cavite. The truck drivers were exceptionally courageous and resourceful both in getting water for the kitchen and in hauling food to Malinta Hill.
The cold storage plant was damaged by bombs about March 27th. We received quite a large beef issue soon thereafter but it was quite a blow to realize that there would be no more fresh beef. Canned meats continued to be issued but there was no substitute for fresh beef in the ration.
From then on from time to time a forced issue of carabao was received. There was very noticeable difference in the taste but our appetites could little afford to be choosy.
The issue of canned fruit, sugar, soap, milk, and coffee was considerably cut also. While we were receiving the beef issue there was enough fat to make soap at least for kitchen use but now we had to rely more and more on hot water.
The news that General MacArthur had arrived safely in Australia after having successfully eluded the Japanese Navy cheered us quite a bit and we were proud that our Commander had been given control of the allied fighting in the whole Far East. We realized that his leaving put him in a better position for the accomplishment of his task but at the same time we were a bit worried that things in the Philippines weren't going too well. We were sporting enough to realize that if things did look bad for us that the one man who could do something for us would not be captured and would be in a position to help us, Japanese propaganda notwithstanding.
One day during the latter part of March the sound of an aerial combat brought us racing out of the office tent and on to the landing field where we saw a P 40 on the tail of a Jap plane. The firing was brief and the Jap hit the bay. The P 40 circled around us and we watched it cut a few capers above Cabcaben field before it landed to announce its victory.
The enemy used white phosphorus bombs on Bataan during this period and on into April. We heard that a hospital in Bataan had been hit with frightful casualties. Our men were reminded of the precautions to be observed and the first aid treatment for the white phosphorus burns. Bottles of copper sulphate issued by the CWS were distributed to the sections. Finally night bombings on Corregidor were attempted and some WP bombs were dropped. The searchlights blinded the bombardiers and two such loads fell into the bay off of Cavalry point (a few hundred yards north of the 2nd P.I.) making a rather beautiful display.
The sound of guns on Bataan increased in volume and intensity during the first week in April. Rumors were flying thick and fast that the new Jap offensive was pushing back our resistance. As the fires came closer and closer our hearts grew heavy with the realization that the rumors were true.
On April 7th and 8th our big guns poured round after round at Limay and vicinity to hold up the advance. During the night great fires all over Bataan told the story that we were destroying our equipment. A number of small boats heading toward Corregidor bearing refugees from Bataan emphasized the fact that Bataan had fallen.
About midnight as we watched the fires on Bataan a rather sharp earthquake also shook the island for several seconds. It seemed to seal the doom of Bataan.
To us that night it seemed that the story of Hong Kong, Singapore, the East Indies, and Burma would be repeated but we were all resolved that our last stronghold would fall only at a great cost to the Japs. Corregidor was still a formidable fort to assault.
The Japs lost little time hauling artillery into Bataan. On about the fifteenth they opened fire on the forty old boats anchored in north channel. Several were hit. One large tug was hit near the whistle but managed to limp, with a great cloud of steam pouring from it, to Cavalry point where it went aground. Another limped, around Hooker point and soon all boats headed for Caballo Bay. The "Hyde", one of our harbor boats on which we made many trips to and from Manila, was blazing just north of us. It went down during that night.
Later they shelled the large inter-island steamer "Elcano" just off north dock and it sank in a few minutes.
General M (Moore - Ed) and Col. B made many visits to the battery positions all during the war. They were intensely interested in our problems and spent quite a few air raids and bombings with us in the gun pits. Their presence did much to keep the men's morale on a high level.
Japanese activities was seen near two damaged freighters anchored near Cabcaben. Our l55's fired at them and within six or seven rounds the ships were left blazing unfit for further use.
Dive bomber activity increased over Corregidor and we fired on several planes with our pompom and with the .50 cal guns. A couple of planes were seen smoking and they headed toward Cavite losing altitude. :One of the planes crashed in a spectacular manner but we could tell that several suffered severe damage from the way they flew.
The work on the airfield was progressing very well. A landing strip one hundred feet wide was being constructed and the two large carryalls were scraping away eight and ten tons of earth per trip beginning at about the center and continuing east so as to lower the east end about ten feet below its original level. A Power shovel, some trucks, a steam roller and a motor grade were kept busy also. The net effect of all these machines was to raise a dust which made living conditions during the daytime rather miserable for the third platoon.
Several large revettements were built at various places on or near the field which were in effect foxholes for airplanes. The two Philippine Army biplanes still in good condition were kept in revettements near the second platoon positions.
A small group of air corps personnel mostly Filipinos, had their camp in the woods about three hundred yards east of the second platoon position.
The Japanese shelled Corregidor intermittently from the second week in April until they started their intense fire on April 29. The firing was harassing and occasionally did some damage. Our area came in for a little shelling but no serious damage was done. A steam roller used on the field just below the second platoon area was hit one day and wrecked. A 105 mm shell landed just back of the front roller and shell fragments peppered the boiler.
Besides the harassing fire on roads and installations the AA gun batteries were fired upon whenever they began to fire at planes overhead. Battery D received such a shelling on April 24th. Little damage to the battery's equipment was done that day but 1st Sgt. B (Brady-Ed) was killed at his post on the water tower. His death was an inestimable loss to the battery and to most of old soldiers on the "rock" who had known him for years.
During this period the island was under air raid almost continuously during the day and occasionally at night.
On April 17, 1st Sgt. K was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. after many years of good and faithful service. He was certainly very capable and did an excellent job. He was assigned to the second platoon as platoon leader and as battery communication officer. Sgt. B was recommended as 1st Sgt. and Cpl. W was recommended for Sgt. The approval came several days later.
Several planes landed and took off from Corregidor during the latter half of April and the first few days in May. Most of the planes were the PA biplanes. They carried official messages and documents to and from Cebu. The landings were usually made at dusk and the take-off at about three or four o'clock in the morning.
The searchlights on Malinta Hill illuminated the field while a man with a flashlight at the center of the end of the field was the aiming point for the pilot. Apparently the take-off were fairly easy to do. The landings were more difficult.
A portable airport lighting arrangement was lighted up to show the boundaries as soon as the plane was heard and its identity established. Then the Malinta Hill searchlight would illuminate the field and the pilot came in. Those moments during which the field was illuminated caused us some anxiety. Surely the Japs on Bataan could see what was going on and we were well within the range of even. their small field pieces. Any overs would land right in our positions. However, for some reason they never did open fire.
One morning a plane took off at three A.M. after the usual notification. Shortly thereafter a great deal of telephoning from higher headquarters and an automobile load of irate air corps officers informed all of us in the vicinity of the field that the plane had taken off without their knowledge or authority. It transpired that a Philippine Army Lieut. and an American Air corps Staff Sgt., who was formerly attached to the battery to help identify planes, had stolen the plane and had attempted to reach Cebu. A few days later it was learned that the Japs had shot them down as they were landing at Cebu.
Several rumors late in April had it that the Japanese Emperor's birthday was on the 29th. Since Bataan had been fairly quiet we knew that they were bringing in artillery and ammunition. Our little tunnel at the second platoon was almost completed except for several feet of shoring. The men on Malinta Hill had cover at least comparable to our own as protection against the smaller shells The men in the third platoon had reinforced their pits and had started enlarging caves over the bank. None of the positions had even good protection against anything but the smaller shells.
About April 28th an artillery spotting balloon promptly dubbed Peeping Tom was raised near Limay on Bataan. We had no way of shooting it down by aircraft and we have wondered why the big guns never tried firing a few shots in an effort to cut it loose from its moorings.
During the last few days in April and the beginning of May two sergeants in the battery volunteered for a special detail as machine gunner aboard the Nighthawk. The Nighthawk made trips around the bay near Bataan and even up to the breakwater at Manila. They were getting information on Japanese movements there with special reference to their collection of barges. During one of these trips Sgt. Winters opened fire on a Jap launch and set it afire. He had a narrow escape when a bullet tore through his trouser leg only an inch from his thigh. Both sergeants saw action on these trips and both received Silver Stars and Sgt. W an Oak Leaf Cluster for his action on a second trip a few days later.
Promptly at 8 o'clock the morning of April 29th the bombardment of Corregidor began in earnest. It sounded like there must have been hundreds of batteries in action. We were in the gun pits at the second platoon when the firing started. Our whole area was being covered and several shells hit very close so the order was given to get to our tunnel one by one. The order was given none too soon for shortly our ridge was being bombarded by 240mm shells in addition to smaller ones. The tunnel shook violently as the shells burst close by and time and again the tunnel was filled with dust and an acrid, smoke. The noise was terrific. This blasting continued until eleven thirty.
When we came out to inspect the damage we found that all the camouflage had burnt away and many of the sandbags were burning. Several of the tents in our camp were blazing away and the men's clothing and bedding, except that which was put out in foxholes around the area, were being destroyed. The set of navy officer's quarters to the east of us was burning fiercely.
A few men from the switchboard dugout had gone out when the firing slackened and had put out fires in the gun pits thus saving some of the equipment. These were recommended for and received Silver Stars.
Although all three gun pits at the second platoon were destroyed, the guns and other equipment were not severely damaged. The rubber hoses for the water cooling units were damaged the most. There were places on most of the guns where shell fragments had hit them. We could get two complete units out of the three that would function alright. The guns and other equipment were removed to a safer place in bomb craters just over the ridge south of us.
All the communications were knocked out early in the shelling so we did not know how the other units fares.
The third platoon had some shells fall fairly close but most of the shelling has been confined to our area and along the beach.
Our kitchen had not been hit yet but it was impossible to work there during such shellings preparing meals.
Promptly at one o'clock in the afternoon the bombardment was continued on the scale and with the same enthusiasm as the morning bombardment. Although the whole area around our tunnel was swept time and again none of the, shells fell dangerously close.
Most of us realized by that time that we were in an extremely unenviable spot and that from then on this proved go from bad to worse.
At five o'c1ock when the firing ceased we cane out to inspect the damage again. There were fires in the woods all around us and dust still hung heavily in the air as it drifted slowly westward.
Our first thoughts were of food so our supper was hurried along as much as possible. It wasn't until about eleven o'clock that the meal was ready. The men came and got it in shifts.
The truck returning from Malinta Hill brought word that all was well there.
As much of our ammunitions and other equipment that was not too badly damaged was dug out of the gun pits and placed in bomb craters south of our positions.
The communication detail set out to repair the lines and by morning all communications were in again. The communication detail under Cpl. Carrville did excellent work all during the time when shellings were heaviest. After a heavy shelling usually all the lines were broken, however, the detail always had all communications back by morning even though some of the areas were under shell fire at night.
Of all the bad days we were to have April 30th was to be our worst. The shelling began as usual at about eight o'clock in the morning but only a few shells came our way. The barrage was farther west, from D battery's position to Malinta Hill. We watched from our tunnel and saw the small explosions of the 105's and the 150's on D battery's positions. Malinta Hill was being worked over by 240's. The report of the guns was deafening, very similar to our 12 inch mortars at Ft. Hughes. The shells made a long lazy somewhat erratic whine then hit Malinta Hill with a great flash of fire and a cloud of dust. The report, a few second later, gave us an idea of the hell it must have been up there. About mid morning we saw that a good sized fire was raging atop the hill near where the pompom was located. We felt a keen anxiety for our men up there. but figured that they had one of the safest shell proofs that any of our positions had, in the sea coast searchlight tunnel there.
D Battery was taking quite a beating as were some of the beach defense installations north of them. We wondered how anyone could be alive in the area after such a shelling.
Our area was swept over several times but no serious damage was done. Fires were burning all around us. Again the third platoon had some near misses but thanks to the narrowness of the ridge that they occupied only a direct hit in a pit could cause them much trouble.
The afternoon shelling swept along the north shore beach north of us again. A few overs found our kitchen and caused some damage particularly to our pots, pans, & stoves.
The Battery commander Capt. Holmes and Lt. King set out for Malinta Hill as soon as the shelling ceased. We learned from some of our men in Malinta Tunnel that the pompom had been blasted out and that Lt. Friedline and some of our men had been burned to death in the fire that had swept through the searchlight tunnel. A 40 mm shell came down a ventilation shaft and exploded the gas tank of the 25 KV generator and the fire swept all through the tunnel. Lt. Friedline and four men died of burns that afternoon and four other men were seriously burned.
We went up to inspect the damage immediately. The pompon and the other machine gun pit were totally destroyed. A crew of engineers was working to extricate some of the bodies caught in the wreckage of the SL tunnel. The lower section had not been hit but its morale was badly shaken.
The deaths and injuries that day was a distinct shock to all of us. The men had lost some of their good friends, many of them just couldn't believe it. The officers were deeply grieved over the loss of such an excellent and promising officer.
It seemed that from then on the morale of the men started downward. They had borne up well indeed in their position of only being able to duck down in their gun pits as the bombers flew over at an altitude of from 25,000 to 30,000 feet often even beyond range of the AA guns. Had they been able to flight back they would have felt better, but now frequent shellings added to their helpless misery and even our big guns could do little in reply.
On returning to Malinta Tunnel the report was made and the men who had received shell shock on top of the Hill were given a few days of rest.
Since the positions of the second platoon on the north ridge was almost completely destroyed and that position was untenable, plans for new positions on the south side of the ridge were discussed with the regimental commander. New positions to be made in bomb craters were approved. Since our defensive plans for the landing field had to tie in with the defense of Battery D the set up was very good except that now that platoon could not support the beach defense units. The Rgtl CO suggested plans for the battery withdrawing to the main line of resistance in the event of an invasion so our guns could be brought to bear on the water area.
Later that evening the Bn CO arrived at the battery position and went over the plans for the new positions and approved them. We also discussed the plan to withdraw to the MLR near RJ 43.
Work on the new positions was begun that night. The belted ammunition was moved out of storage positions north of the ridge and started in bomb craters. Work progressed fairly well by the light of an almost full moon.
On May 1st shelling again began at eight o'clock in the morning and continued almost until noon. The second platoon was worked over some but most of the shells fell along the north shore. We had to stay under cover most of the day for an occasional shell would come over and land nearby. By comparison we forgot all about the bombers which droned overhead almost constantly.
As usual all communications were knocked out early in the day.
The afternoon shelling was almost a repetition of the morning shelling. There was no real damage to our personnel or equipment. Several near misses frightened the men in the third platoon. Several 105 mm duds and a few 3 inch duds lay within thirty feet of their positions.
It was necessary to go to Malinta Hill that evening to send in the days report and to draw a partial pay that some of the men had asked for. The morale in the tunnel was very low and it was a pleasure to leave the morgue-like gloom behind and return to the battery position. The trip past the burnt over area between the Kindley Field car station and the water tower in the light of the full moon gave an eerie tingling to the spine and made one want to whistle and hurry on.
More work was being done on the gun pits and a shelter for the men was started. A fox-hole in the ditch alongside the road was dug down about twelve feet at that level a room was dug out of the hard sandstone to hold about ten men. It was planned to dig a similar hole about fifteen feet away so that the dugout would have two exits. The marines east of us had one like it that held up very well. The sandstone like soil, although a little difficult to dig, was excellent cover and held up well with a minimum of shoring.
On May second shelling began at about the same time. We could almost plan our work so that a certain amount of the routine battery work could be finished by barrage time. Eight o'clock usually found us within a few feet of a fox hole.
The morning shelling knocked out our communications which had been in only a few hours, but besides that there was little damage.
The afternoon shelling hit the second platoon pretty hard again. We spent the time in our tunnel with some rather anxious moments, especially since quite a bit of cover had been blown away.
The air was full of dust at the whole east end of the island. When the shelling stopped there were many small fires in the woods in our area that were very difficult to extinguish. The fires were burning in the shell scarred tree trunks and stumps on the ridge just west of the second platoon position. The fires were spreading toward the west before the brisk wind that had sprung up and were threatening Battery Bs position. All the men we could spare were fighting the fire along with the men from Battery D. We were making little headway using shovels and wet sacks so it was necessary to get aid.
It was necessary to get that aid from the fire department at Malinta Tunnel. There was absolutely no interest shown by the fire chief and his assistants and every excuse was offered against going out. The attitude was not discouraging, and after making the report to Regimental Headquarters that all was otherwise well, the fire fighting was continued again. It was brought under control early the next morning although a rising wind threatened to undo our work.
Although our kitchen wasnt particularly damaged it was evident that a move had to be made. It was just over an area covered by barrages intended to destroy the defenses along the north shore. A reconnaissance was made to locate a new position and with some difficulty a spot or a ledge about thirty feet down over the cliff near the south east side of the field. Until the time that the new kitchen could be built it was necessary to distribute food which could be broken down among the men in a section and eaten cold. Every effort was made to serve hot soup at least once each day but even this was becoming increasingly difficult.
It was impossible to feed the hundred odd men attached for rations so their organizations were notified and they were dropped.
The roads were being shelled and bombed so that many were impassable and only because of the great courage, initiative, and attention to duty that the truck drivers displayed could the battery be supplied with water and the men on Malinta Hill be supplied with food. Because all the water in Malinta Tunnel, our nearest water distribution point, had to be saved for showers for the headquarters personnel, we had to go to middleside and sometimes Topside to get our powder cans of water.
May third found the usual morning barrage along the north shore. We had only a few shells fall in our area but they kept us under cover nevertheless. No damage was suffered.
We heard a rumor that the Marines who manned the beach defenses just north of us had been having frightful losses. Some even refused to man their positions. It was said that Col. Howard had said that they should keep up them work for just three days more.
The afternoon barrage was right on schedule again and continued with the usual vigor. Suddenly about mid-afternoon our tunnel was rocked by a tremendous explosion. Sand fell down from the roof in places and the shoring shifted slightly. We thought the end had come this time for sure. We were all thrown to the floor and were stunned for a few moments. We couldn't see anything for the air all around us was thick with dust. We hadn't heard planes, the roar of bombs or the whine of a 240.
We didn't learn until that evening that the dynamite cache just about two hundred yards north of us on Cavalry Point had blown up. Six hundred cases of dynamite and some TNT had been stored there. The blast blew a crater big enough to hide a house in.
A check up that evening revealed that all was well in all units of the battery.
That same evening it was necessary to investigate a (Gust) desertion of one of our men. The man had been missing for two days. He was picked up by some navy officers in a small boat in the bay. He and a man from Battery "A" had planned on sailing to Australia. Neither had much of an idea of sailing or navigation or even seamanship for they were discovered by the traces of their vandalism along the outside of the sailing boat that they had intended to use. They had several instruments made of wood.
During the return to the battery position a barrage made it necessary to spend a rather anxious hour and a half in a shallow ditch. Shells screamed overhead and landed at Ordnance point. Some of the shell fragments struck nearby with a rather wicked sound.
Off to the west near Battery Crockett a great shower of sparks every one or two minutes made us wonder if another Battery would be blown up as Battery Geary had been destroyed. It was almost unbelievable that one of the concrete batteries with all its protection would be blown up as had Battery Geary.
Now shellings at night robbed us of what little chance we had to get some sleep. The work on our positions continued but at a slow paces what with the shellings and the necessity of taking time out to rest.
The strain was beginning to tell. The men looked and acted weary and the short rations had begun to tell on their weight.
May 4th was the same old story of shelling morning, afternoon and night. Again our communications were knocked out early in the shelling. As discouraging a job as it was, the communication detail did an excellent job.
What kitchen equipment that could be used was taken to the new location near the south east end of the field during the noon lull and work was started getting the new kitchen in shape. That very afternoon, however, in the course or the barrage the new location was shelled. It seemed that there was no place at all east of Malinta Hill that did not get us share of shells.
Both roads out to Kindley Field were impassable due to shell or bomb craters. Our truck could not get water through during the early morning and our reserve supply was getting low. Had it not been for the fact that the truck drivers "borrowed" an engineer pick up truck that morning, the rood for the men on Malinta Hill would have had to have been carried up most or the way.
The bad roads delayed the ration truck until about eight oclock in the evening. There was enough canned ham to divide among the 2nd and 3rd platoons and the 3rd platoon got some canned fruit, the first we had seen in some time. The ham though cold was quite a treat.
It was necessary to go to Malinta Tunne1 again that night as battery business. The walk there was anything but pleasant despite the bright moonlight. There was little shelter along the way and twice during the trip a barrage cut loose. The very much exposed 92nd area which had to be crossed looked like the movie version of no-man's-land complete with shell holes and burned debris.
May 5th again brought an early morning shelling. Progress on the new gun pits and shelter made it possible to abandon the old positions on the north side of the ridge. Our positions now were perhaps a little safer, being on a reverse slope.
We used the new shelter that morning for the area was being worked over again. Stray shells fell all around us.
During the noon time lull, a trip to the third platoon showed that everything was well there. They had had a few near misses again but suffered no damage other than a further fraying of already rather frayed nerves on the part of some of the men. Most of the men, however, were in good spirits and were anxious to get a chance at the Japs. This chance was to come rather soon.
The afternoon shelling hit the second platoon pretty heavily again and shell fragments whizzed by almost continuously. The positions were not very safe against such a barrage so during a lull the platoon was ordered to the Navy tunnel, about two hundred yards away. That was the first time our men had used that tunnel. We felt rather badly that our record should be broken like that but we had slight consolation in the fact that all the marines located near us bad been using it for some days. From the sounds that we could hear the whole area was taking a terrific beating.
That was putting it mildly for when the barrage ceased the appearance of the area had changed considerably. Trees all about the area were shattered, burned or burning, or scarred. Shell holes were all around and the ground was littered with shell fragments.
The two remaining .50 cal. machine guns that we had were damaged by shell fragments and would require a little time to repair.
The Q.M. ration truck got thru just after dark and we had a fairly good meal from cans again. Each man got some water which had to be chlorinated with HTH in the canteen.
It was again necessary that evening to make the bay trip to Malinta Tunnel to make the daily report, and draw up charges against the alleged deserter. This time the shelling started while crossing the 92nd area, the worst possib1e place. It was an anxious half hour spent in a ditch whi1e shells screamed overhead and landed below the ridge near the garage.
At about ten thirty while talking with the regimental commander in the AACP word came that a Japanese landing was in progress. The gloomy outlook of the "tunnelites" was expressed perfectly when someone said in a tone that expressed his resignation to his fate. "Well here it is".
A shelling of Malinta Hill with 240's prevented anyone leaving the east end of Malinta Tunnel for about twenty minutes when the barrage lifted long enough to start back. It started again after having gone about one hundred yards outside the portal. Again a short wait in a ditch. A chunk of rock or steel hit the ground with considerable force not a dozen feet away. Nothing could be gained by just lying there so the trip was continued by crawling most of the way. Twice the shelling let up along the way only to increase again.
During one of the lulls a marine guard near the old 92nd headquarters gave a challenge on passing. Not five minutes later the shelling was resumed and swept the area that he was in.
Upon reaching the road south of Kindley Field water tank the shelling east of Malinta Hill ceased. Members of Battery D gave a challenge every few yards.
It must have been near midnight when "M" battery men started challenging. They were near the second platoon position and were loading two cal. 30 machine guns onto a truck along with some ammunition and other equipment. They were preparing to withdraw to man the line of trenches near RJ 43.
The platoon Sgt. Alcom told me that the third platoon had already gone and that he was following. We finished loading and took the men together with some of the battery overhead to the line of trenches near RJ 43.
We stopped once beside a soldier lying along the road who appeared to be wounded. It was the marine who had challenged me just a short time before. He was dead.
The machine guns were set up and made ready for action and riflemen were disposed along the trench. The truck was sent back for another load of guns and equipment and whatever men that could be found.
When it returned Lt. King came along with several men and two more cal .30 machine guns and equipment.
Lt. K. and I walked along the top of the trench reconnoitering when suddenly a bullet whizzled by between us. Our ears rang for some time and we cursed some marines below us and yelled at them to be more careful. Presently another whizzled by on the other side of Lt. K. We separated for a few minutes and a third shot just missed him. By that time we decided that one of our men was overzealous or that a Jap sniper had managed to work his way somewhere near the eight inch railway gun.
We continued to set up the defense and watched the occasional streams of tracers near the tail of the island. The Jap tracers were redder than ones were.
Only once did any search light illuminate the area and that was from the light near the cemetery and then only for one quick sweep when it was shot out.
As the watchful morning wore on we were surprised that none of our troops came out to help drive back the Japs. Only a thin stream of wounded, messengers, etc. trickled back to the Tunnel.
Lt. K. was sent to make a report of the situation to the Regimental Commander at about 2:30 A.M. His report was also made to the C.G. of the H.D. and to the Beach Defense Commander.
We could see no target from our position to fire at as yet so the men had time to get a little much needed rest. Everyone was too excited to relax and we all ;watched to the east.
At about four o'clock in the morning another barrage swept our area. Apparently it was meant to keep reinforcements back. Our trench was enfiladed and we were extremely uncomfortable during the hour or so we lay at the bottom of the trench. Most of the shells landed over us.
Soon dawn broke in the east and there was still no sign of reinforcements. Our fatigue was beginning to tell and everyone was very weary.
Shortly another barrage swept by and lasted for may be three quarters of an hour. It was probably eight o'clock or later by then and there was still no sign of reinforcements in our area. We wondered if a defense was actually being put up. The rattle of small arms fire and occasionally a burst of machine gun fire was all we could hear.
After this barrage we again made a report and found that the tunnel was a confusion of men, a mumbling mass of men some carrying wounded, some going out to the battle field. There was many small piles of discarded arms and equipment strewn all about. After 10 o'clock the AACP was being destroyed and everywhere the news of impending surrender at noon was told to us.
Most of us were too tired to really remember how we felt about the surrender except that it was in a sense a relief. We knew that it had been tough but we were now very apprehensive of the future.
The men destroyed their equipment and got sure food from the QM lateral that had been thrown open. The next thing was rest. We lay down in a quiet lateral and didn't awaken until late that afternoon.
It was not until some days later at the 92nd Garage area where we were assembled in a concentration area that we heard what had happened to the third platoon. One section, one at the south west edge of the field had had some men wounded when a shell exploded at the very edge of their gun pit. The injured men were carried to the hospital in the truck which gave the platoon Sgt of the second platoon the idea that the whole platoon had pulled out. The other men in the gun pit were pretty badly shaken and their section leader had taken the men to the Navy tunnel. The section on the south east edge of the field remained there and did some excellent fighting under the direction of Lt. Hachett. They continued to fight as infantry until late in the morning when they were carried back to Malinta Tunnel. Two men were killed during the fighting and several more were wounded.
CERTIFIED TRUE COPY:
RUTH H. ESSARY
CD Version 10-01-11 BACK TO TOP