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'Corregidor 1941'

The 60th Coast Artillery, (Anti Aircraft)

 Al McGrew

The USAT Republic arrived in Manila April 22,1941 transporting 2250 U.S. Army personnel.

The purpose for this voyage to the Philippines was to furnish 1465 recruits to expand the 59th and 60th Regiments into something resembling wartime strength. Many of the other men would go to the 31st Infantry. My friend, Leon Beck was one of these men, and one day he would escape from the Bataan Death March and become a guerrilla.

 

 

It would not enable all coast defense guns to be manned, but would allow the  60th to expand to six 3" gun batteries, four 50 cal. machine gun batteries, and two searchlight batteries. Also supporting batteries would be enhanced.  3" AA guns also on the Republic would allow for new batteries to be formed in the 60th using these guns and the new personnel, plus non-commissioned officers selected from existing batteries.

Upon arrival at Corregidor's North Dock on the Miley, the new recruits slated for the 59th or 60th, and support batteries, were marched from the North Dock, around Malinta Hill via the South Shore Road and down to the 92nd Garage Area. We would live in tents, and we would commence recruit drill on the concrete tarmac of the old seaplane base.  We were issued mess kits, and G.I. tools, one each Springfield '03 Rifle.  A bayonet was thrown in. I must add that each '03 rifle came together with a substance known as cosmoline. I will not recount in detail the difficulty removing the cosmoline from both outside, and inside a bolt action rifle!

We were soon ready to begin drilling. The manual of arms, close order drill, and bayonet drill were to be accomplished in O.D. shirts! Ever try to just walk around in an O.D. shirt during April and May in the Philippines. My suggestion is, don't try it!  When the training was completed in May, we were much tougher to be sure.

At the end of our training, we received permanent assignments. I was assigned to "D" Battery (Denver), and Spence was assigned to "A" Battery (Albany). A short time later the new batteries were formed and I was moved to H Battery at Middleside. The stage had been set. The happy days of summer moved into fall, and November came.

November 28th arrived and we were ordered to the field! We had to move quickly! Our orders were to dig our AA guns in just in front of Battery Ramsey, which was located just south of the Middleside Parade Ground (Herring Field). I was given orders to build a machine gun pit directly in front of No.1 Gun of Battery Ramsey. I used up two days to construct the pit in the rocky ground. The gun crews, height finder crew and director crew were busily engaged in building their positions and erecting camouflage for each unit of the battery. Identical activity was in progress in each of the  60th AA Batteries on the Rock.

 

 

 

 

 

The 59th Coast Defense Guns were already in place, but many preparations must be completed before they were battle ready. The men in the 60th were quickly stringing communication lines and other men with the toughest task of trying to get the cables buried in the rocky ground. In "H" Battery's area in front of Ramsey's 6" gun parapets, the ground was filled with large boulders and chunks of concrete. Digging ditches in this material proved almost impossible. When the first big bombing raid struck Corregidor, we quickly learned the cable ditches were far from deep enough.

Word spread that Clark Field had suffered bombing, also Manila. Cavite was bombed heavily and the four stack destroyers and subs were scrambling for cover. Some were caught at the docks. I watched through a scope as one of the tall radio antenna slowly went down.  Huge columns of smoke arose from Manila and Cavite. A four stacker came into sight attempting to reach the North Channel from Manila Bay.  A flight of Sally's (Type 97 Bombers) were stalking the Tin Can as it moved diagonally across Manila Bay, from SE to NW. The Jap bombers were operating at a low altitude and on one pass straddled the destroyer and she was covered with water!  I thought she was finished when suddenly her bow shot through the wall of water and swung hard left and shot for the channel opening northeast of the Rock! The Japs were surely out of bombs as the can ripped out the channel for the China Sea because they banked to the right and headed north.

As December wore on, the bombers, after dropping their loads on Cavite, or in Manila, began to fly toward Corregidor. As the formations neared, Denver, Hartford and Chicago began firing, and the bombers would split, then bank away from the island. Capt. Warren Starr, Battery Commander of "H" Battery, guessed they were locating and spotting the AA batteries. He was probably correct.

On December 29th the results of our drilling was tested. Just before noon, the lead formation of twin tailed "Nells", defined as Type 96 medium bombers, came in from the sun. This would become the enemy's normal routine. They would approach from the east, shielded by the intense sun, difficult to track on the scopes of the height finders and the directors. It was necessary to track the lead plane accurately for the 3" guns to fire effectively. Also, to find the correct altitude, the stereoscopic reader; in our case, Sgt. Charlie Jackson, had to be right on, or the altitude fed to the director was a lost cause.

 

The nomenclature we used describing bomber types was as follows;

 

Type 96  (code name Nell) 

Twin tailed medium bomber, unable to achieve an altitude sufficient to escape our model 1918 AA guns.

Type 97  (code name Sally) Capable of climbing beyond the reach of powder-train fuzes used by five of the six batteries of the 60th.
Type 98  (code name Betty) 

The   very capable Japanese Navy Bomber. Even difficult for the mechanical fuzes that only Battery Boston was equipped with. Although reaching 30,000 feet, the window for firing was limited.

 

The stage was now set for main event. On 29 December 1941, the day commenced as previous days. We consumed our morning meal, then sat back waiting for another typical day on Corregidor. For the past two days I had been loading more belts for my machine gun.  Behind Ramsey's No.2 gun sat a long table. On it I had placed the loading device used for loading belts of ammunition. I placed boxes of tracer rounds, ball rounds and armor piercing rounds on the table. I first placed a tracer round in the belt, pulled the loading lever forcing the round in position in the belt, followed this with two ball rounds, then two armor piercing rounds. I repeated this process over and over again until the belt was full. I then folded the belt into the ammunition box and it was ready. On to the next belt. I finally retreated to my machine gun pit to wait.

The morning rolled away, the sun became hot, and we waited.   The flash phones began bleating . "motors in the east.... motors in the east...." then,  "nine bombers coming in the sun!" Shortly the shout from the height finder pit,  "Bombs released, here they come!" The 3" guns began to crack! My friends Krueger and Larson were crowded into my pit with myself and my gun.  We craned our necks to see the planes. "There they are! Larson yelled, pointing.  I picked them up and saw bursts appearing right on the formation, but couldn't tell if the bursts were below or on the planes. There were nine of the silver winged planes, with nine more to the south of the first formation. The bombs began striking the ground in the distance, but coming closer. Several formations crossed the island, and the bombs continued to shake the earth. Smoke filled the air.

After a pause, more shooting and more noise. Someone reported, "DIVE BOMBERS!" This warning was shouted repeatedly. We huddled down behind the sandbags, trying to look in all directions. Heavy bursts of machine guns resounded from Chicago on Morrison Hill and suddenly three single engine planes with large, red insignia's burst over the tree tops bordering Middleside Parade Ground and shot across the west end of our battery. I was offered no opportunity to fire since they were so low they were gone before I could swing my gun around. Larson mentioned the lead plane was trailing a thin stream of smoke. I hadn't noticed, mainly because I was trying to identify the type of plane.  Much firing could be heard in the direction of Topside. Probably Boston and Flint firing at the same three Japs. Again the engines became louder and Bill Krueger said they were coming again, this time from the southwest! Again there were three planes, not in a vee, but each offset from the others. They were after us on this pass!

Bill Krueger grabbed the crank on the water circulating tank and began turning it and realizing I had no time to fire at the low flying Japs, I turned the gun around and directed the tracers to where I envisioned the path of the planes would be. They flew through the tracers, but I could not tell whether I hit anything. Our machine guns at least warned Chicago that more of the enemy planes were on their way. By the time I released the firing flange, the Chicago gunners were already firing!

Several passes were made by the dive bombers during the next few minutes and we fired at those that were possibly in our range. Once the raid seemed over we were all talking at once!  We had witnessed several of the enemy planes smoking and assumed some of them went down.  We learned later from Capt. Starr that all of "dive bombers" were hit by machine gun fire (probably 50 cal.)  And it was unlikely that any survived without being holed numerous times from machine gun fire.

Once again the high level bombers appeared and all of us thinking the raid was over scurried for cover.  When the all clear finally sounded we again wearily climbed from our positions and began to take stock of the damage. I saw a group gathered off to the right of No.1 three inch gun and decided to walk down to see what was up. Nearby, a windowless van was parked and the rear doors were open. I walked around to the rear of the van and was shocked to see two bare feet exposed from under an old canvas tarp. I looked at one of the men and he mumbled, "It's Cliff Arnold." I could hardly believe it!  One of the small anti-personnel bombs had got him. He was one of my favorite people. I think shock set in! He was the first of us to be killed!

 

Flights of Sally's approaching Corregidor

 

The battery had fared very well, except our loss of Arnold. None of the guns were hit,  nor the range equipment. Later, we received damage reports from the rest of the Rock, but everyone was still very quiet, thinking of Arnold. Until today, none had come to full realization that we were in a war! Today's raid had really brought our dilemma home!  We were located on a very small island. We were without any air cover. Our only defense against the Jap air armada was our anti-aircraft batteries. We had no fighters, and no bombers to hit the enemy airfields.  We must fight off the Jap planes with obsolete 3" guns. Most realized that we really had our work cut out for us! Captain Starr passed the word that we must force the bombers to fly very high to prevent accurate bombing. "So be it", Charlie Jackson declared, "Let's keep 'em high!"

Our immediate task lay before us. We realized the cables were vulnerable. The cables were our lifeline. Through the cables flowed the info from the height finder to the director, where the altitude readings were incorporated with the speed, and course readings computed by the director. The combined data was sent by the director to each of the four 3" guns. Two clocks on each gun, one for elevation and one for azimuth, offered a moving pointer for the man at each clock to match his pointer to the moving pointer. If each man capably matched his pointer correctly, (and continually), the info sent to the fuze setter, next to the left side clock, will set the altitude correctly. All of this data must flow through the cables, and for this to unfold the cables must remain intact.

Everyone dived into getting the cables deeper!  I found quickly this more easier said than done. Using a five foot bar, I encountered head sized rocks I found to be almost unmovable. Each of these rocks must be removed from the ground before we could attain any success with deepening the ditches. We all labored for two days with this predicament. The results were questionable. A near miss would sever the cables. The bombers gave us a couple of days to fix and repair the damage. A number of the batteries were practically untouched, while others were suffering from bomb damage. We learned the hospital was hit, though fortunately the sick and injured had been transported to the hospital laterals in Malinta Tunnel. Topside Theater was on the list of damaged surface structures as was Topside and Middleside Barracks.

The enemy bombers returned on Jan. 2nd at lunch time, again flying in from the east in the bright sun. The 60th held its own, keeping the Type 97 Sally's high. Of course, keeping them high made our firing window smaller.  Often, each gun could get only four or five rounds off before the guns hit their elevation stops.  If the bombs fell close, the gun crews took cover, however, if another formation chanced into our range, our guns would await new ranging information,  then begin firing on the new targets.

The enemy bombers returned on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th.  Each bomb run added to the devastation on the surface of Corregidor. There was a continuous pall of smoke and dust in the air. Our kitchen, east of Ramsey's No.3 Gun was hit, together with our power plant. The remnants were quickly moved into Btry. Ramsey's parapets, just behind Ramsey's No.3 Gun where it enjoyed some measure of protection from the bombs and shells.

At this time Capt. Starr informed me he needed a man to serve as a backup for the men on the tracker scopes on the height finder.  I was willing to try, but first everyone was needed to help repair cable runs, camouflage and other equipment break-downs. We all pitched in and began putting everything back together, expecting more air raids the following day. It didn't happen. Nothing appeared but one Photo Joe and he stayed so far out of range we were allowed a day of rest. That is, if you call digging rocks out of cable trenches rest.

 

Corregidor 1941 is 2000 Alfred C. McGrew 

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